Sunday’s Battle of Ridgefield event pays tribute to four possible Revolutionary War soldiers

Photo of Sandra Diamond Fox

RIDGEFIELD — On a spring Sunday under clear blue skies at the Olde Town Cemetery, several hundred people gathered to witness the reenactment of a scene that may have taken place in that same location more than two centuries ago — in the Battle of Ridgefield.

The event, called the Battle of Ridgefield Ceremonial Salute, included a horse-drawn carriage procession, the firing of cannons and “soldiers” in period costumes.

The salute, which was part of the Battle of Ridgefield’s 245th anniversary weekend, paid tribute to the skeletal remains of four possible Revolutionary War soldiers who died in battle in 1777.

The remains were discovered in 2019 under the cellar of an 18th century house in town close to where the Battle of Ridgefield took place.

During Sunday’s service, Chaplain Henry Cooke of the 5th Connecticut Regiment compared the soldiers to those buried in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va.

Cooke said the soldiers in both locations have names that are known “only to God.”

He added, however, it’s not relevant as to which side of the battlefield the soldiers fought on — all of them deserve a proper and respectable burial, he said.

“We bring them — knowing not whether they are American Colonial Continental, British Regular or Provincial ... For in death, all are united as equals,” Cooke said.

As a result of the Battle of Ridgefield, the lives of so many, both near and far, have been forever changed, Cooke said.

“In a few short hours, fathers, sons, brothers, lovers, all became amongst the slain,” Cooke said. “Some with brethren and family here in Ridgefield and in the surrounding towns, some whose brethren were thousands of miles away across the Atlantic Ocean.”

The crowd grew silent as they listened closely to Cooke describe the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for freedom.

“They came here full of life. They came here with hopes. They came here dedicated to their ideals — whether it was to maintain the law and order of King George or to strive for the independency of a newly created nation. They came serving those ideals,” Cooke said. “They gave their all. Their lives were taken away from them, cruelly, wantonly.”

Cooke continued, “Let this day remind us of the terrible toll of war and how war can be visited upon ordinary people on a beautiful spring day like this.”

The ceremonial salute was organized by the Fifth Connecticut Regiment and The Brigade of the American Revolution and hosted by the Ridgefield Historical Society.

Danbury resident Elijah Crehan, a volunteer with the Ridgefield Historical Society who was one of the period reenactors during the weekend’s events, said the burial was “metaphorical.”

“No one was actually put in the ground today. We reenacted a burial and had a musket salute from both sides, since we don’t know who the bodies necessarily are,” Crehan said. “It was a metaphorical burial just to put closure in that regard. We still don’t know if it was British soldiers or American soldiers, but likely people involved with a battle.”

What’s next?

Plans are in the works for more research that may shed light on details of the lives of the four soldiers.

Additionally, the Ridgefield Historical Society has submitted a National Park Service American Battlefield Protection Program grant to support additional research on the Battle of Ridgefield, soldiers and community members involved, plus archaeological work exploring the newly defined expanse and boundaries of the Battlefield, said Sally Sanders at the Ridgefield Historical Society.

Further study on the discovered remains is planned, and, coming soon, are community charrettes — large planning workshops — to learn more and collectively discuss how Ridgefield can best preserve the special history that occurred here, Sanders said.

The charrettes are being conducted by the Ridgefield Historical Society in collaboration with FHI Studio of Hartford and with the support of the Ridgefield Library.

“Each charrette is scheduled for 90 minutes (attendees are asked to register for only one) and begins with David Naumec Ph.D., historian and field researcher from Heritage Consultants, who will provide background on recent developments and discoveries regarding the Battle of Ridgefield,” Sanders said. “This overview will set the stage for the team from FHI Studios, who will lead structured brainstorming and discussion regarding the future of Battle of Ridgefield research and the preservation and sharing of the history by the town.”

The charrettes will take place virtually May 12 at 7 p.m. and in person June 12 at 2 p.m. at the Ridgefield Library. Register at ridgefieldhistoricalsociety.org/.