Was some of Battle of Ridgefield’s destruction not documented? Researchers want to know

Photo of Alyssa Seidman

RIDGEFIELD — New research from Heritage Consultants is raising new theories about how the Battle of Ridgefield was fought almost 245 years ago.

The Newington group is assembling a database to reconstruct the events through the Ridgefield Historical Society’s American Battlefield Protection Program grant, administered by the National Park Service.

The battle is historically understood as a series of three encounters: Gen. David Wooster’s first engagement at Barlow Mountain Road, where a few hundred American troops overran the British rearguard; a second engagement near the intersection of Tackora Trail, where Wooster was wounded in action; and a third engagement at a barricade near Olcott Way, where patriots blocked the enemy for nearly an hour before retreating through town.

Researchers are now theorizing, however, that the fighting on that day occurred throughout the route the British blazed as they came through entered Ridgefield on April 27, 1777.

“They think this is a much more expansive battlefield than we thought,” said Sally Sanders, a volunteer for the historical society. “Everybody in the historical society was really excited to understand more about it.”

Heritage’s research indicates the fighting began almost as soon as the British entered Ridgefield and continued until nightfall. According to British accounts, “random American gunshots” were fired at their forces from behind stonewalls, trees and thickets, and from houses and outbuildings well before the first engagement.

Sanders said Heritage is looking for evidence the enemy set fire to those structures.

“There’s some folklore about it, but proving it is another thing,” she said. “That’s why a dig would show if there is an old foundation we don’t know about or burnt materials.”

The society is soliciting landowners who will allow Heritage to search their properties for physical evidence proving this theory. The consultants hope to find bullets, buttons, cannonballs and other war artifacts.

Using a metal detector, operators will sweep an area and mark spots for further investigation. Those spots will be excavated to determine the exact location of a possible artifact. If one is found, the object will be bagged, the soil returned and the sod restored, leaving no trace of a “dig,” Sanders said.

Artifacts that appear to be from the Revolutionary War era will become the property of the National Park Service and stored in the society’s climate-controlled vault. Any items that are not of that period will be returned to the landowner.

Areas of interest include a parcel of land between Wilton Road West and Soundview Road and parcels surrounding Main Street, North Salem Road and Ridgebury Road. Researchers are also trying to determine the latitudinal width of the battlefield route, which would include parcels located farther east or west of Main Street.

Sanders said the site surveys would take place next fall, but if the society qualifies for more grant funding, the detecting and digging could occur sooner.

“There are still things to be found,” she said. “That’s why we want people to sign up and let us look at their property.”

Interested landowners can email bor.grant@ridgefieldhistoricalsociety.org or call 203-438-5821 for more information.