Ridgefield Battlefield study begins with group's formation
Work has begun on a major study of the Battle of Ridgefield with the formation of an advisory group to oversee the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program grant obtained this year by the Ridgefield Historical Society.
The two-year grant aims to deepen understanding of the Ridgefield events that were part of General Tryon’s raid on Danbury early in the Revolutionary War.
The advisory group will be responsible for hiring historical researchers to arrive at the best understanding of what occurred on April 27, 1777, as Tryon’s troops marched through the town on their return to ships off Westport. There are many accounts by historians as well as primary resources to be evaluated; new evidence is still coming to light, as happened in 2019.
The impetus for this new study was the discovery a year ago in Ridgefield of skeletons that may be the remains of soldiers who fell in the battle. (Those skeletons’ analysis has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, but preliminary assessments suggested young men who were hastily buried in the 18th Century).
In addition to the project’s research component, the goal of the grant is also to build community consensus for preservation related to the Battle. All of the documentation prepared by the researcher(s) will be indexed, annotated and provided to the Historical Society and a final report will include the methods undertaken, a summary history of the Battle, preliminary assessment of the battlefield boundaries, and professional recommendations for additional research or archaeological surveys.
Sharon Dunphy, who was president of the Ridgefield Historical Society at the time the skeletons were discovered and who worked in the effort to obtain the National Park Service grant, is the Project Coordinator and recruited and serves on the Battlefield Advisory Group, which includes:
Kay Ables, Ridgefield Historical Society board member and Ridgefield Town Historian;
Julie Carmelich, State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) - Historian;
Mary Dunne, SHPO - State Historic Preservation Officer; Certified Local Government & Grants Coordinator;
Erin Fink, SHPO - Architectural Preservationist;
Keith Jones, former president of the Ridgefield Historical Society and author of “Farmers Against the Crown,” about the Battle of Ridgefield;
Cathy Labadia, SHPO - Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer; Staff Archaeologist;
Rudy Marconi - First Selectman, Town of Ridgefield;
Dan O’Brien, Chairman, Ridgefield Historic District Commission;
Robert Ross, Executive Director, Connecticut Office of Military Affairs;
Jenny Scofield, SHPO — National Register Coordinator;
Sarah Sportman, State Archaeologist; and
Walter Woodward, Connecticut State Historian.
Establishing the parameters of the Ridgefield battleground will be one of the tasks under this grant and will result in a formal assessment of the integrity of the core engagement areas and other key features and the creation of a database of properties. The Ridgefield Historical Society will work with the researchers to share information with property owners as well as with the general public. As part of the grant, at least four public meetings will be scheduled to share progress and discoveries. There will also be frequent research updates on the Historical Society’s website.
The Society and the State Historic Preservation Office will also sponsor two planning charrettes about preserving the battlefield, with the goal of creating policies for areas under the highest risk of development. The two-year grant is anticipated as the beginning of a multi-year project to document and protect the site of Connecticut’s only inland battle during the Revolutionary War, one in which General Benedict Arnold was a hero for the Patriots.
The Advisory Group has also formed a subcommittee to interview and hire the researcher(s) by Dec. 31 and also another subcommittee to plan for publicizing the project’s work and discoveries across a variety of platforms.
“The members of the Ridgefield Historical Society are thrilled to be starting this fascinating project! Please keep checking the Ridgefield Historical Society’s website for updates,” Dunphy said.