Keeler Notes: A skirmish in America, an engraving in the museum

April 27, 2018, marks the 241st anniversary of the Battle of Ridgefield, the only inland battle of the American Revolution to take place in Connecticut. This singular event was memorialized in an engraving by an anonymous engraver and printed in London in April 1780.

The action-packed print depicts the fighting at the barricade on Main Street. The infamous General Benedict Arnold, who commanded the local militia during the fight, is shown in the forefront, his horse shot out from under him, bravely facing down a British soldier. This engraving is unique, as it is quite unusual to depict a battle in which the bravery of the enemy commander is the subject.

In September, six months after the image was printed, the “hero” of the battle, Benedict Arnold, turned traitor to the American cause — his plot to turn over the fort at West Point was discovered, leading to his flight to the British Army. Arnold’s reputation, even among the British, was destroyed as the British spymaster (and darling of British society), Major John Andre, was captured and killed in the plot.

In the aftermath of this scandal, it is believed that all copies of the print, save one, were destroyed, likely on the order of the British government. Though historians have searched, only a single print of the engraving has been found. This only-known surviving print is the jewel of the museum’s collection. Visitors may view the print on a guided tour during museum open hours, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, from 1 to 4 p.m.