Skeletal remains discovery renews interest in Battle of Ridgefield anniversary

Photo of Alyssa Seidman

RIDGEFIELD — While past celebrations saw costumed actors reenacting history right on Main Street, the Ridgefield Historical Society’s observance of the 244th anniversary of the Battle of Ridgefield this month will remain virtual amid the coronavirus pandemic.

But a recent discovery in the clay-laden grounds not far from where the battle was fought may drum up more excitement for the anniversary on April 27 than previous years.

Between late 2019 and early 2020, four skeletons believed to be the remains of Revolutionary War soldiers were unearthed near the historic site. The research, however, remains largely on pause since the pandemic closed university laboratories — at Yale, UConn and Quinnipiac — where the bones had been sent.

Historian Ed Hynes, of Norwalk, believes the discovery has created “more interest in the story of the Battle of Ridgefield and understanding what happened exactly,” he said.

Hynes will host a live webinar at 7 p.m. April 29 to discuss the British’s raid on Danbury and the subsequent battle.

A brief history lesson

Society volunteer Sally Sanders said the battle’s “main engagement” occurred on the north end of Main Street, where the Casagmo condominium complex now stands. It was there that Gens. Benedict Arnold and Gold Silliman set up a barricade after learning of their opponent’s plans to pass through Ridgefield on their way to Compo Beach (now Westport).

On April 25, 1777, British Maj. Gen. William Tryon’s army seized and burned supplies from “inland citizens” in Danbury who were disloyal to the crown. Arnold and Silliman combined their troops in preparation for Tryon’s arrival in Ridgefield, assembling a force of roughly 500 volunteers and militia men.

When the British arrived in town on April 27, their 2,000 troops bested the barricade and eventually drove the patriots off, Sanders said. “It wasn’t a very long battle,” she added. “The Americans were outnumbered and the British had heavier guns.”

The British victory galvanized patriot support in Connecticut, and although their troops pillaged other communities along the state’s coastline, they were unsuccessful in raiding other towns in the countryside.

“This (event) was really important because it was the only inland battle in Connecticut during the Revolutionary War,” Sanders explained. “It was the place where Benedict Arnold was still a hero.”

Tracing the past

New for this year’s anniversary is a self-guided walking tour of the Battle of Ridgefield available on the ConnTours app, sponsored by CT Humanities. The 45-minute tour takes participants to major sites in downtown Ridgefield associated with the event and includes a picture and narrative of each location cited.

Sanders also emphasized ongoing efforts by Heritage Consultants LLC to assemble a database related to the battle.

The researchers were hired through the society’s National Parks Service grant to “identify lesser-known actions that occurred at different stages of the battle, learn more about the arms and equipment carried by American and British forces that day and assist in developing early battlefield boundaries,” according to a statement.

Anyone with relevant information or in possession of an item they believe to be from the Revolutionary War is asked to contact the society at

To register for Hynes’ webinar, visit