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‘i Expected My Time To Come With The Rest”

July 2024
3min read

John Hempsted,
Connecticut Militia:

I now Setdown to give a narrative of My proseding on the 6th Day of Sept., 1781. … In the morning of the sd day I was att my house in bed, between Brake of Day and Sunrise. I hard the Signel of an-larm by the fireing of thre Cannon … I turn’d Out and ask’d my wife to git Brakefast as soon as possabel for I must go off. I went Down on the hill … Whare the fleet was in fare Site in a line acrost the haber. There was 15 Sale of Ships an other Square rig’d Vessels, besides other Vesels. I came home. My brakefast was redy. After Brakefast … My hors Being redy I Slung my Musket & Cartrig Box and mounted with my littel Black Boy to bring the hors Back. … After I got Under Way my wife Called to me prety loud. I Stopt my hors and ask’d her What She wanted. Her answer was Not to let me hear that you are Shot in the Back.

Brigadier General Benedict Arnold,
British Army:

At 10 o’clk the troops, in two divisions and in four debarkations, were landed, one on each side of the harbor, about three miles from New London, that on the Groton side consisting of the 40th and 54th regiments, and the 3d battalion of the New Jersey Volunteers, with a detachment of Yaggers [Hessian jaegers] and artillery, were under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Eyre.

The division on the New London side consisted of the 38th regiment, the Loyal Americans, and the American Legion Refugees, and a detachment of 60 Yaggers, who were immediately, on their landing, put in motion. …

Sergeant Stephen Hempstead,
Connecticut Militia:

… The enemy were soon in motion, and marched with great rapidity, in a solid column, to within a short distance of the fort [Griswold], where, dividing the column, they rushed furiously and simultaneously to the assault of the southwest bastion and the opposite sides. They were, however, repulsed with great slaughter. … The enemy rallied and returned the attack with great vigor, but were received and repulsed with equal firmness. During the attack a shot cut the halyards of the flag, and it fell to the ground, but was instantly remounted on a pike-pole. This accident proved fatal to us, as the enemy supposed it had been struck by its defenders, rallied again, and rushing with redoubled impetuosity, carried the southwest bastion by storm. …

Colonel Ledyard, seeing the enemy within the fort, gave orders to cease firing, and to throw down our arms, as the fort had surrendered. We did so, but they continued firing upon us, crossed the fort and opened the gate, when they marched in, firing in platoons upon those who were retreating to the magazine and barrack-rooms for safety.

Thomas Hertell,
witness to the action:

On entering the works the officer, on whom had devolved the command of the remnant of the British forces, demanded, “ Who commands this fort? ” The gallant Col. Ledyard advancing, answered, “ Sir, I had that honor but now you have ,” —and presented … his sword to the victor, who … immediately with Col. Ledyard’s own sword run him through the body .

Sergeant Rufus Avery,
Connecticut Militia:

The column then continued marching toward the south end of the parade. … They killed and wounded nearly every man in the fort as quick as they could, which was done in about one minute. I expected my time to come with the rest. One mad-looking fellow put his bayonet to my side, and swore, “bejasus, he would skipper me.” I looked him very earnestly in the face and eyes, and asked for mercy and to spare my life. He attempted three times to put the bayonet in me, but I must say I believe God forbade him, for I was completely in his power. … A platoon of about ten men marched up near where I stood, where two large outer doors to the magazine made a space wide enough for ten men to stand in one rank. They discharged their guns into the magazine among the dead and wounded. …

Brigadier General Benedict Arnold:

The attack was judicious and spirited, and reflects the highest honor on the officers and troops engaged. … Eighty-five men were found dead in Fort Griswold, and sixty wounded, most of them mortally. … The officers and troops in general behaved with the greatest intrepidity and firmness. …

Sergeant Stephen Hempstead:

Those that could stand were then paraded, and ordered to the landing, while those that could not (of which number I was one) were put in one of our ammunition wagons, and taken to the brow of the hill (which was very steep, and at least one hundred rods in descent), from whence it was permitted to run down by itself, but was arrested in its course, near the river, by an apple-tree. The pain and anguish we all endured in this rapid descent, as the wagon jumped and jostled over rocks and holes, is inconceivable; and the jar in its arrest was like bursting the cords of life asunder, and caused us to shriek with almost supernatural force. Our cries were distinctly heard and noticed on the opposite side of the river … amidst all the confusion which raged in burning and sacking the town. …

The cruelty of our enemy cannot be conceived. … We were at least an hour after the battle within a few steps of a pump in the garrison, well supplied with water, and, although we were suffering with thirst, they would not permit us to take one drop of it, nor give us any themselves. Some of our number, who were not disabled from going to the pump, were repulsed with the bayonet. …

Such was the battle of Groton Heights; and such, as far as my imperfect manner and language can describe, a part of the sufferings which we endured. …

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