Today, the Connecticut Tercentenary Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin remembers the British invasion of New Haven 237 years ago.
An excerpt from the British Invasion of New Haven by Charles Hervey Townshend, published in 1879:
Old Diary kept on slip of paper.
DIARY OF PRESIDENT EZRA STILES OF YALE COLLEGE. VOL. IX, PAGE 66.
1779, July 4th, Lord’s day, 10 o’clock evening, advices received in town.
Fleet off Westfield (Bridgeport) when our sentries gave alarm and we, here, fired the alarm of three cannons. I earnestly pleaded to send for militia immediately. But would not believe the enemy intended landing.
July 5th, Monday morning about 1:30 a. m. Alarm guns again.
Rang bells and beat to arms in earnest — received advices, fleet had anchored.
At daylight saw the ships distinctly from steeple of College Chapel.
Began to remove all property, etc. Militia meeting. Tories calm.
With telescope from the tower or steeple clearly saw the boats putting off from the ship and landing a little after sunrise.
Immediately I sent off College records and papers and my plate three miles out of town and a bag of my own things.
Sent my daughter off on foot for Carmel (Mt. Carmel) about 6.
Our artillery and militia moved to West bridge, pulled it up and planted artillery to make a stand.
Our people crossed, however, and went forward to Milford hill, where they received the enemy in a marching column.
Here Mr. John Hotchkiss was killed, and soon after Dr. Daggett wounded and taken.
The enemy turned and avoided the bridge, marched through the Westfield to the bridge on Derby Road, about half a mile from town.
One corps of about 100 volunteers; militia harassed them on their march, hanging on their left flank.
They crossed Derby Road bridge and came into town at 12:40 p. m.
The action became general at entrance of town, on corner (Ditch corner) when several were killed. We retreated to Neck bridge and made stand.
The militia rushed in and formed into 4 divisions, — at East Haven, at Neck bridge, at Mill Lane and Ditch corner and fought all day.
At 8 o’clock firing ceased.
Enemy plundering the town from entrance till 8 evening.
July, 6th, a. m., 1:30 morning. Enemy paraded.
Sailors came on shore and took their turn at plunder.
About sunrise began (enemy) to march. Crossed Ferry to East Haven.
Last about sun one hour high or half hour high.
Gen. Ward entered 7 morning, 4 stores, 7 vessels fired; Gen. Tryon and Gen. Garth. Enemy 3,000.
All day engaged at East Haven at Beacon Hill, etc.
Gen. Ward there and Gen. Hart in town; 4 regiments in East Haven, Col. Russell, Col. Cook, Col. Worthington, Col.— .
Sunset, enemy embarked and sailed. I went into town a few hours after evacuation, 10 a. m.
July 7th. About 11 p. m. enemy landed and burnt Fairfield, leaving only 15 houses in two miles around.
Town composed 80 or 90 dwelling houses. About 70 were burnt, also meeting house and church.
July 8th. Removing my furniture broke my Fahrenheit Thermometer which I have had since 1762.
July 9th. British army at Byram river.
July 10th. Fleet anchored off Norwalk. Burnt. Inhabitants New Haven removing, expect return of enemy.
British army at Byram river. 6 Regiments Green Light Infantry; Queen’s Rangers, 300 men; Emerick Corps (sic), 150 men; British Legion, Cathcart’s, 200 men; 22d Reg’t., 300; 23d Reg’t., 37th Reg’t., Horse (total 800). Total 3,000. Infantry say 6,000. Total British Army, New York, 12,000 men.
July 11th. Lord’s day. Heard, 1:11 p. m., Stamford in flames. (Later, crossed out.)
July 12th. The whole town moving. Mr. Baldwin came in (town supposed).
Enemy left Norwalk this morning. Mr. Baldwin entered upon enemy’s departure, all but few houses, burnt church.
Clergymen of both places fled with enemy.
July 27th. Went to East Haven to recover some of President Clapp’s MSS [manuscripts].
July 28th. Returned to Yale College.
The Connecticut Tercentenary Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin shows with an image of artillery, circa 1779.