Blog Your Blessings: Fort Griswold and the Blood of Col. Ledyard
Adam: "Is his blood still on it?"
Adam's big blue eyes were inches from the sword Col. Ledyard surrendered to the British after the Battle of Groton Heights in New London, Connecticut, on September 6, 1781. Ledyard was looking to spare the remainder of his men after an overwhelming battle. Of course.
But of course, the British, who had been led by the traitor Benedict Arnold, killed Ledyard with his own sword and killed many of the remaining Patriot soldiers. It was a massacre.
Seems the British were mightily annoyed with their enemy because they had misread the Patriots' flag. Once during the battle it faltered, and the British took that as a signal of surrender. But no. The flag had only faltered, and the Patriots hoistered her back up. When the surrender came, though, it was for real. Yet the British were brutal in response.
"The Battle of Groton Heights was a key moment in the Revolution because the killing of Col. Ledyard and the massacre turned popular opinion agaist the British," said the docent in the museum in Groton that held this artifact that piqued Adam's curiosity.
That was a lot to take in, so we gave up on the souvenirs in the museum and stepped outside.
Up we went to the top of the obelisk commemorating this Revolutionary War battle to study the fort where the battle took place and to take a look at its companion across the river, Fort Trumbull (though Fort Griswold is an archaeological site of a First System fort and Fort Trumbull is a Third System fort that was in active military use until the end of the Cold War). From the top of the tower Adam and his brother and cousin noticed the granite slab surrounded by a fence that commemorates the exact spot that Ledyard was executed.
Out of that tower and back on solid ground, the kids made their way to the fort and checked out the granite slab. They were there a while, going on about Benedict Arnold, wondering what it was like to be Col. Ledyard and taking in what exactly it must have been like to fight there and then--even as one of the children honored on the plaque outside the battleground.
I found myself feeling downright happy this patch of ground had been left to be. That it hadn't been paved over or turned into something else. The kids could walk where so many local boys and men had fought in the interest of pursuing their own wealth and well-being long ago. Where women worked to preserve the lives of many of those men. There was a palpable silence there that was similar to the silence of other battlefields where souls linger.
The kids could look up and get a load of General Dynamic, where Electric Boat has produced many a submarine. Past met present there and left an incredible impression on these kids.
"Is his blood still on it?" tells me the fight for independence wasn't so long ago, that little kids in Connecticut could walk it, touch it, and imagine it anew. That an old struggle is real and immediate for kids who will grow into a world for which they will be responsible.
So what's that about? If you must fight, fight well. And when you fight, you honor your enemy. Unless, of course, he is Benedict Arnold. Because you never turn your back on the people you love.
Battlegrounds and military museums are important places for kids to visit that they might understand the legacy of sacrifice, commitment, and vision that shapes home. If we don't want a command performance of the Revolution, then we can't afford to forget what it was all about.
I hope the blood on Ledyard's sword never dries. That these kids never forget the treachery that was endured in the name of freedom. On a personal level, I hope these kids appreciate that decency, integrity, and honor can't be legislated; they come from loving your neighbor as yourself.