Olive Oyl LbNA # 8228 (ARCHIVED)
|Placed Date||May 13 2004|
Fort Griswold: Eastern Shore of the Thames
From northbound I95, take exit 85 and bear right towards Thames St. Turn right at the stop sign. After Napa Auto Parts, turn left on Monument St.
From southbound I95, take exit 86. At the light go straight across, leaving the old VW dealer to your left, Olios’ restaurant to the right.. Bear right at the next intersection and then straight through the last stoplight. Turn left after Napa Auto Parts onto Monument St.
Follow Monument St to the corner of Park Avenue and park along the road by the park.
Thanks to thr Drewclan for the local directions!
During the Revolutionary War, New London harbor on the Thames River was home port for many privately owned armed ships that preyed upon British supply vessels and merchant ships. The privateers were licensed by the State of Connecticut according to the rules established by Congress. Each year they increased in number and captured more British shipping. Their exploits peaked with the taking of the Hannah by the Minerva in the summer of 1781. Seizure of the Hannah's rich cargo, which included personal supplies for the British officers, stationed in New York City, helped prompt the events that soon followed.
New London's bulging warehouses brought great wealth to adventurous ship owners and merchants, but they were a potential target for enemy reprisal. From the earliest days of the war, state officials had seen the need for harbor fortifications, but construction proceeded slowly. By 1781 the largest structure on the New London side, Fort Trumbull, was still unfinished and vulnerable to attack from land.
East of the river on Groton Heights, a completed work, Fort Griswold, commanded the harbor and the surrounding countryside. It was somewhat square with projecting fortifications on two corners and a projection on the east side. A deep trench surrounded the fort on three sides. The lower walls were faced with stone and were topped with a barrier of cedar pickets projecting outward. Above this was an earthen wall with openings (embrasures) for cannon. A tunnel-like passageway (sally port) led to a covered ditch, which ended at a battery for cannon southwest of the fort. A V-shaped earthen mound protected the gate at the north end. Barracks for 300 men paralleled the innermost wall and the magazine was set into the southwest bastion near the flagpole. The fort was in good condition and the magazine was full in 1781.
THE BURNING OF NEW LONDON
Late that summer, the British generals were anxious to distract Washington who was then marching south. They decided to create a diversion by attacking an important northern supply center, New London, and, with the same stroke, destroy the "Rebel pirate ships". The command of the expedition fell to Benedict Arnold who had deserted the American cause the year before, and who, being a native of nearby Norwich, knew the harbor area well.
At sunrise on September 6, 1781, the people of the town were awakened with the news that a large force of British Regulars had landed on both sides of the river's mouth and were coming upon them fast. They could do nothing but flee. A number of rigged ships in the harbor caught a favorable breeze and escaped upstream, but the rest were trapped. The 800 men led by Arnold into New London met only scattered resistance as they set about the task of destroying the "immense" stockpile of goods and naval stores kept there. Buildings, wharfs and ships were soon in flames. One hundred and forty-three buildings, nearly all the town, were consumed.
THE BATTLE OF GROTON HEIGHTS
Tangled woods and swamps slowed the British force of 800 that landed on the east side of the Thames River. A battalion of New Jersey loyalists responsible for moving the artillery could not keep pace with the Regulars who came within striking distance of Fort Griswold at 10 a.m. Meanwhile, the fort had been garrisoned with about 150 colonial militia and local men under the command of Colonel William Ledyard. Colonel Ledyard and his officers, expecting reinforcements momentarily, elected to defend the post against the superior force. Colonel Eyre, the British commander, sent forward a flag demanding surrender. Ledyard refused. The demand was made again and Eyre threatened that if he were forced to storm the fort, no quarter would be given to its defenders. The response was the same.
The British force immediately spread their ranks and advanced on Fort Griswold. As they neared the ditch, they were met with an artillery barrage that killed and wounded many, but the seasoned and disciplined troops continued their charge. Some tried to gain the southwest bastion but they were repulsed and Colonel Eyre was badly wounded. Under heavy musket fire, another group dislodged some pickets and by hand to hand combat reached a cannon and turned it against the garrison. Another party led by Major Montgomery charged with fixed bayonets. They were met with long spears and the major was killed. A few of the Regulars managed to reach the gate and open it and the enemy force marched in, in formation. Seeing this, Colonel Ledyard ordered his me to stop fighting, but some action continued on both sides.
American and British accounts of the subsequent events are at odds. The American version holds that after Ledyard gave up his sword in surrender he was immediately killed with it and that a massacre ensued. Before the "massacre" it is claimed that less than ten Americans had been killed, but when it was over, more than eighty of the garrison lay dead and mutilated and more than half of the remainder were severely wounded. the British version makes no mention of the massacre or the manner of Ledyard's death. The entire battle had lasted only 40 minutes.
Major Montgomery was buried in the fort's parade ground. The other British dead were placed in unmarked graves and their wounded were carried down the steep hill to the river. The American wounded were placed on a heavy artillery cart, which as it was being moved down the hill broke away and smashed into a tree causing terrible suffering. The bleeding wounded men were then carried to the nearby Avery house. Prisoners who were able to walk were placed aboard ship. As evening approached, the British troops embarked leaving a detachment behind to lay a powder train from the full magazine to the barracks and then burn the barracks. This attempt to destroy the fort failed when a patriot put the fire out. Arnold reported his losses for the expedition at 51 dead and 142 wounded. Many of his wounded men and prisoners soon died aboard the ship.
Fort Griswold was the scene of military defense preparations in at least four other wars. The water battery was rebuilt and rearmed several times but the fort itself retains its original form.
THE GROTON BATTLE MONUMENT AND MUSEUM
This granite monument was dedicated in 1830 to the men who had defended Fort Griswold. In the centennial year, 1881, the top was enclosed and the monument was increased to a height of 134 feet.
MONUMENT AND MUSEUM HOURS
Memorial Day through Labor Day
Open daily, 10-5
EBENEZER AVERY HOUSE
This colonial house is located on the park grounds, west of the fort. Many Avery men were killed and wounded during the battle. After the battle on the heights, the story goes that some of the wounded soldiers were put in a wagon by the British and rolled down the hill. Occupants of the house brought the soldiers in and tended to their wounds; there is a sign on the house to this affect. It was moved from its original location on nearby Thames Street in 1971.
The Avery Memorial Association and its period contents are either on loan by members or owned by the Association own the house.
Season: June-Labor Day
Hours: Saturday, Sunday
1:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m."
All year: 8:00 a.m. - sunset
A relatively easy find this should take perhaps 20 minutes if you just go find the box and then go back to the car. Be sure to enjoy the views of the river and beyond, and absorb some of the history of this old fort where blood was spilled for freedom long ago. The view from there is well worth the climb.
All bearings are magnetic.
Enter the park via the main gate, through two stone pillars with an iron gate, flanked by benches and to great iron cannon. Bear to the left towards the three signs, and enter the fort itself.
Be sure to read the two inscriptions once you are in the fort, one onside the small iron fence, and one on the bronze placard across from you.
Exit the fort via the sally port (watch your head!) and follow the covered way towards the shore battery to the west. Enjoy the view of New London across the river as you descend the slope. As you reach the end of the covered way, when it gets to be about shoulder height (or 5 feet from your foot to the top) note Fort Trumbull across the river through the trees at a bearing of 220 degrees you should see the flagpole and “white stripes and bright stars.” Popeye is hidden over there, as well as one of the two boxes from the “Letter from a traitor” series left by the Drew Clan (their other box is here at Fort Griswold).
Take 19 paces down the path from this spot and turn to a bearing of 180 degrees and face the shot furnace. Note the flagpole and the monument over your left shoulder. Proceed from here along a bearing of 155 degrees over hill and dale towards the tree with a dog on it (doggonnit!). Stop walking when the Fort Griswold flagpole and the monument are in line.
Now turn to a bearing of 070 degrees and pace up the hill through a field strewn with boulders to the most prominent boulder. When you reach this boulder stop, be very quiet and listen very carefully. If the folks down at Electric Boat are not making to much noise, and the wind isn’t blowing to hard, you should be able to hear that familiar plaintive squeal of Olive Oyl shouting “Haaaaaayelp….Haaaaayelp! Popey, saaaave me!” Did you hear it? No?!? Eat a can of spinach and try again!
If you follow the sounds of Olive’s voice along a bearing of 090 degrees to the base of a stone wall, you will find her trapped beneath a small pile of stones. Make sure you hide her well, as this is a somewhat exposed spot. Be sure to go see Popeye at Fort Trumbull!