Battle Apron: 5th Connecticut Regiment

Editor’s note: This is the fourth of eight columns provided to The Press in lead-up to the Battle of Ridgefield re-enactment Saturday, April 29.

The 5th Connecticut Regiment (5CR) was first raised in May of 1775 at Danbury. It was reconstituted Jan. 1, 1777, as one of 88 regiments established by Continental Congress for three-year service. The new unit, mostly Fairfield County men, was commanded by Colonel Philip Burr Bradley (Yale ’58), whose fine residence stood along Ridgefield’s storied Main Street when Major General William Tryon’s 2000-strong British invasion force on April 27, 1777, came calling.

Tryon, after destroying the Patriot supply depot at Danbury with little resistance, found his return to Long Island Sound blocked at Ridgefield by some 600 militia under Continental Brigadier General Benedict Arnold. With Arnold was Colonel Bradley, recently appointed to oversee smallpox inoculation of Continental levies in western Connecticut. Although the 5CR was then mustering at Peekskill along the Hudson River, a small cadre — no more than a few dozen — were at their commander’s side. And Colonel Bradley, rather than permit regimental rum supplies to slake redcoat throats, distributed “about 120 gallons of rum for the refreshment of the troops.” Nearly a quart for every Patriot present!

Spirited resistance notwithstanding, the American position was overrun in “about fifteen minutes” and the village itself secured in a “smart action which lasted about an hour.” At least fourteen Patriots were killed, including 5CR private Bradley Dean, a Ridgefield lad who had enlisted but four days earlier. Sergeant Clement Lloyd died next day when General Arnold resumed action against the retreating redcoats at Compo Hill. 5CR privates Solomon Brown and Jack Congo (a black servant who was sold into the army) survived the action at Ridgefield, only to be among 35 members of the regiment to perish at Valley Forge.  

Sources: Jones, Keith Marshall III. Farmers Against the Crown (Baltimore: Connecticut Colonel Publishing Company, 2002, 2004, 2014).

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