What is the stone marker under a tree on the green in Litchfield?
Photo by Mary Beth Lawlor
November 1776 was a dark month for the fledgling country that had formally declared its independence from Great Britain that year. The British and their mercenary Hessian forces had beaten the Continental Army and militia badly in and around New York. The war seemed to be nearing an inglorious end with General George Washington and his army on the run.
According to Peter Vermilyea, a history teacher at Housatonic Valley Regional High School and Western Connecticut State University, and author of Hidden History of Litchfield, in November 1776 a company of Litchfield men under Captain Bezaleel Beebe set off for New York to aid the cause.
The 36 handpicked men were sent to reinforce the American garrison at Fort Washington (today at the Manhattan end of the George Washington Bridge). The men marched into a trap and were forced to surrender with the entire 2,600-man garrison of the fort. It was another crushing blow. Although the men were exchanged about a month later, for various reasons only 11 of them made it home to Litchfield.
In addition to those men who were killed and wounded in battle, 20 Litchfield men reportedly died while held captive on squalid British prison ships.
They are not forgotten. A small stone marker stands at the foot of a tree on the green and is dedicated to Litchfield soldiers who served in the Revolutionary War.