by Macklin K. Reid
The Battle of Ridgefield wasn’t an isolated encounter, but part of a four-day incursion by British forces under Major Gen. William Tryon into southwestern Connecticut, known as The Danbury Raid.
Some 2,000 British troops sailed from New York, landed in what is now Westport from ships anchored off Compo Beach, marched to Danbury and burned colonial supplies there. As they made their way back the British were harassed by colonial forces and were confronted in Ridgefield — the Battle of Ridgefield — then fought the colonials again in Westport as they returned to their ships, waiting in Long Island Sound.
As Ridgefield’s battle re-enactment on April 29 nears, related events are being planned in Ridgefield and by other towns around the area — celebrations of those communities’ involvement in the historic events of April 1777.
In Ridgefield, events planned in support of the battle reenactment on Saturday, April 29, including encampments that day, a black tie gala that night. The reenactment on the 240th anniversary of the battle are being organized by local Masons from Jerusalem Lodge 49 in honor Gen. David Wooster, the founder of Freemasonry in Connecticut and an organizer and leader of the colonials’ resistance to the raid, who was fatally wounded in fighting along North Salem Road.
Here’s a look at upcoming events in Ridgefield, Danbury, Westport and Wilton:
- Connecticut During the Revolutionary War — Provision State and Arsenal of the Revolution,” lecture by Eric Chandler, Thursday, April 20, 5:30-7:30, Danbury Museum and Historical Society, Huntington Hall, 43 Main Street, Danbury. Free.
- “Monument Madness Minuteman Monument” by Kathie Bennewitz Thursday, April 20, noon, Lunch and Learn, at Westport Historical Society, 25 Avery Place, Westport; $10 donation, reservations recommended, 203-222-1424.
- Why Danbury? talk at Danbury Museum & Historical Society, 43 Main St., Danbury, by museum board member Robert Young, at Cocktails and Conversation event, Sat., April 22, 4-6 p.m.; 203-743-5200 or danburymuseum.org
- “The Not-So-Good-Life of the Colonial Goodwife” — a “funny, frank an interactive presentation about little-known issues faced by New England’s colonial women” including “sex, birth control, childbirth, sickness, medicine and cooking,” presented by Velya Janz-Urban, Sunday, April 23, 2 p.m., Danbury Museum and Historical Society, Huntington Hall, 43 Main Street, Danbury. $10 per person.
- Music George Washington Would Have Heard, concert of period songs and instrumental performances, Greens Farms Congregational Church, Westport, Sunday, April 23, 5 to 6. Sponsored by Westport Historical Society, $10 donation suggested.
- The 1777 Danbury Raid Talk, by Ed Hynes, Wednesday, April 26, 7 to 8, Westport Historical Society, 25 Avery Place, Westport. $10 donation. Register at 203-222-1424.
- “Separating Fact from Legend” Lecture on the Battle of Ridgefield by Keith M. Jones III, author of Farmers Against the Crown, the definitive account of battle, and the founding president of Ridgefield Historical Society, Friday, April 28, 7 p.m. St. Stephen’s Church. Free. Reservations recommended at Ridgefieldhistory@sbcglobal.net or 203-438-5821.
- Wilton Historical Society, 224 Danbury Road (Route 7), 203-762-7257: The Raid on Danbury & the Battle of Ridgefield lecture by Ed Hynes, a native of Wilton, who has traveled extensively to U.S. battlefields, with intro by state Rep. Gail Lavielle, Fri., April 28, 12:30 p.m., light colonial fare; info: wiltonhistorial.org
- British Encampment, Ballard Park, Saturday, April 29, 9-5: Reenactors from His Majesty’s 54th Regiment of Foot in character, army drills, musket-ball smelting. Free.
- American Encampment, Keeler Tavern, Saturday, April 29, 9-4: reenactors from Fifth Connecticut Regiment in character, artisans demonstrating crafts. Historic characters on grounds will include: Gen. Benedict Arnold, who led colonial troops at Battle of Ridgefield; Sybil Luddington, who rode through New York countryside sounding the alarm of British raid; and Timothy and Esther Keeler, local patriots and keepers of the tavern. Visitors may view the cannonball lodged in Tavern wall during the battle. Saturday, April 29, 9-4. Free.
- Field Hospital and Encampment, Ridgefield Historical Society’s Scott House on Sunset Lane, Saturday, April 29, 10-5. Features Dr. Amos Baker with 18th Century medical tools, also encampment by reenactors from Connecticut Fourth and Sixth Regiments. Camp followers will demonstrate campfire cooking. Germantown Ancients’ Fife and Drum Corps will performing in afternoon. Free.
- Walking tours of battle area, Saturday, April 29, leaving periodically from battle monument in stone wall by Casagmo. Battle history, and landmarks such as historic homes and churches. Reservations with Ridgefield Historical Society at firstname.lastname@example.org or 203-438-5821 Free.
- The battle! British redcoat and Continental Army reenactors clash on Main Street, from near Casagmo down to the Keeler Tavern, with barricades near the library, Saturday, April 29, 10:30 to 2.
- Honoring of wounded war veterans. At conclusion of battle reenactors of both armies will march to Masons’ Jerusalem Lodge 49 just south of town hall to honor wounded war veterans. Address by First Selectman Rudy Marconi. Saturday, April 29, 2 p.m.
- Anniversary Black Tie Gala, with dinner, Saturday, April 29, Lounsbury House, Main Street. Swing music by Glenn Hansen Orchestra, dinner with 1777 ingredients by chefs Tyler Anderson on Luke Venner. Cocktails at 5, dinner at 6:30. Tickets, $175 each, available at battleofridgefield.org.
- Patriot Dinner, a colonial dinner and story of Wilton’s part in the Raid on Danbury told by Bob Russell, Saturday, April 29, 6:30-9:30 Wilton Historical Society’s Burt Barn. $50 for Wilton Historical Society members, $75 for non-members. Reservations at wiltonhistorical.org or 203-762-7257.
- Outdoor religious service in Ballard Park by a period chaplin, Sunday, April 30. 9 a.m.
- Graveside memorial service at Danbury’s Wooster Cemetery for General David Wooster, the father of Connecticut Freemasonry, who was mortally wounded at Battle of Ridgefield; Sunday, April 30, 11 a.m. Free.
- “Conversion 1777, Loyalist to Patriot,” lecture, Ridgebury congregational church Sunday April 30, 11:30, followed by guided tour of Ridgebury Cemetery’s graves of Revolutionary War veterans. Free.
- Olde Town Cemetery self-guided walking tours, visiting the graves of Revolutionary War soldiers. Volunteers in Revolutionary War era attire will tell the stories of some graveyard residents. Sunday, April 30, 1 to 4. The cemetery is along Route 116, North Salem Road, and adjoins other cemeteries off Mapleshade Road and North Street. Free.
- Bus Tour of the Danbury Raid, Sunday, May 7, 9 to 4, starting at Compo Beach Westport. Reservation required, Westport Historical Society, 203-222-1424. $60 includes lunch.