Fourth skeleton discovered in Ridgefield
A likely fourth Revolutionary War skeleton has been unearthed on private property near the Battle of Ridgefield’s kill zone.
State archaeologist Nicholas Bellantoni has found another skeleton he believes could be the remains of someone who fought in the battle in April of 1777.
The newest discovery also yielded 28 brass buttons, according to the Ridgefield Historical Society.
Bellantoni said his team “continued a very difficult excavation, under tunneling for almost three feet to remove the new person.”
“We were able to remove this individual completely and he turned out to be most interesting,” he said. “Burial No. 4 had 28 brass buttons associated throughout his chest and arms, including cuff buttons. All buttons were badly corroded and need to be cleaned in the lab to look for insignia.”
The address and location of the excavation is a closely kept secret, but the site is well within the area of the historic battle.
“We would like to figure out who these people were and what their life histories were,” Dr. Bellantoni told UConn Today in a recent interview. “We might even be lucky enough to get to the point to be able to identify some of them in terms of actual family names.”
Major General David Wooster and and Brigadier General Benedict Arnold — a hero of the battle who later turned infamous traitor — were among the combatants on the American side.
Major General William Tryon, New York’s royal governor, commanded the British troops.
The startling skeleton discoveries began in December, when the first set of human bones was discovered during construction work in a basement at the private home.
The individual’s bones were removed by the state medical examiner’s office and determined to be very old. Bellantoni was called in to assess the site and then discovered two more skeletons.
All of the skeletons belonged to robust young men.
Working with the Ridgefield Historical Society, which provided context for the discovery in relation to the Battle of Ridgefield, Bellantoni proceeded to disinter the two additional skeletons that were buried somewhat haphazardly, but in the Christian tradition (on their backs, feet to the east).
The extraction of the bones was difficult because of the hard packed soil surrounding the second and third skeletons and concerns about the stability of the site led to a delay in removing one of the skeletons, Bellantoni said.
Work resumed in January to retrieve this skeleton — designated “Burial No. 2” — and it turned out that there was yet another individual, further under the foundation.
Throughout the process of retrieval and study, Bellantoni emphasized the care and respect that is being accorded the unknown 18th century remains.
Whether it can be determined that they were in fact soldiers — British or American — are questions to be answered.
“We’re not 100 percent sure, but I think it’s safe to say we’re 85 to 90 percent sure or we wouldn’t be here,” said Bellantoni at a press conference in Ridgefield last month. “There are a lot of things that could disprove our hypothesis that these men were soldiers but I have yet to find any of those things.”
The recently unearthed artifacts will undergo testing by a team of forensic experts at the University of Connecticut, Quinnipiac University, Yale University, the University of Florida and the University of California-Santa Cruz.
The Ridgefield Historical Society will provide financial support for the forensic work and for the eventual reinterment of the remains.
Should they prove to be fallen soldiers of The Crown, they may be repatriated to England.
State Historian Walter Woodward, who has also been involved in the project since the beginning, has informed the British Consulate of the discovery and will keep consular officials apprised of developments.
If the studies reveal these were Americans, efforts will be made to more precisely identify them and then determine where their final resting places should be.
A special Battle of Ridgefield fund has been established by the Ridgefield Historical Society and donations to help identify and honor the men who died on Ridgefield’s battleground are welcome.
Donations may be made online at ridgefieldhistoricalsociety.org or checks may be sent to the Ridgefield Historical Society, with the notation “Battle of Ridgefield,” 4 Sunset Lane, Ridgefield.
For more information about the skeletons and updates on research, visit ridgefieldhistoricalsociety.org or call 203-438-5821.