Spinning Litchfield's Revolutionary Stories
This exhibition was made possible by the generous support of Clai and Andy Bachmann.
Ebenezer Hazard to Horatio Gates, New York, July 12, 1776
New York Historical Society, Gates Papers
Bullet Mold found in
the orchard of the
“N.B. An Equestrian Statue of George the Third of Great Britain, was erected in the City of New York on the Bowling Green, at the lower End of Broad Way. most of the materials were lead. but richly Guilded to resemble Gold. At the beginning of the Revolution, this Statue was overthrown; Lead being then Scarce & dear, the Statue was broken in pieces & the metal transported to Litchfield as a place of Safety:_ The Ladies of this Village converted the Lead into Cartridges for the Army...”
Connecticut Historical Society Museum, Oliver Wolcott Papers
The account Wolcott made this note on lists the participants and how many bullets were made by each. A reproduction is included in the exhibition.
While word of the event quickly spread across the world and provided inspiration for lithographs like the one above, those responsible for the destruction did not gain universal approval. George Washington wrote in his general orders of July 10,1776,
“Tho the General doubts not the persons, who pulled down and mutilated the Statue, in the Broadway, last night, were actuated by Zeal in the public cause; yet it has so much the appearance of riot, and want of order, in the Army, that he disapproves the manner, and directs that in future these things shall be avoided by the Soldiery, and left to be executed by proper authority.”
George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799: Series 3g Varick Transcripts
The story of the bullet melting has a tradition of being a local favorite. Henry Guy Gould recounted the incident in 1872, saying, “The lead was a true satire on the dull heavy old King George-Indeed, I wonder that a proud English nation should condescend to make a statue of their honored King of lead.”
Litchfield Historical Society, Woodruff Collection, Henry Guy Gould, October 20, 1872
More recently, reenactments of the incident in 1936 for the state's tercentenary celebration and in 1976 for the country's bicentennial demonstrate that it continues to capture the imagination of the local community.
Half a mile this side [Harwinton side] of Litchfield, I noticed on the right a shed surrounded by palisades which looked to me like a guardhouse; I approached it, and saw in this small enclosure ten handsome pieces of brass cannon, a mortar, and a swivel. This I learned was a part of Burgoyne's artillery, which fell to the share of the state of Connecticut, and was kept in this place as the most conveniently situated for the army, and at the same time the least exposed to the incursions of the English”
Travels in North America in the Years 1780, 1781 and 1782 by Marquis de Chastellux, translated by Howard C. Rice, Jr. vol. 1, p. 81
In addition to supplying the army with military stores, the Litchfield quartermaster also provided food and clothing for the soldiers. Several Litchfield men held that post throughout the war, including Julius Deming and Oliver Wolcott, Jr. The following quotes provide evidence of the difficulty they faced in raising adequate supplies, and the hardships the army endured without them.
“We have been anxiously waiting for Arms, which we expected to have drawn near Hd Qrs_ [Headquarters] Disappointed in this an order was given to obtain them from the Magazine at Litchfield. An officer was sent to receive them, but finding none at that place proceeded on to Springfield, & is finally returning without any. I am extremely anxious to have the men properly armed, for which purpose the Officer Capt. Edgar who will Commd [Command] them goes with this letter to Hd Qrs to receive your Excellency's further directions~”
Litchfield Historical Society, Tallmadge Collection, Benjamin Tallmadge to George Washington, August 11, 1779
“I am told, one landing South of this Place has a considerable Quantity of Wheat, & will not sell it_ use your own wisdom in the matter_ John Smith a little west of the Church_ has 30 Busshells to sell for hard money, but will have no hard damd Congress money_ pray sir impress it as your orders allow it, & justice demands it.”
Litcfield Historical Society, Miscellaneous Collections, Simon Newell to Moses Seymour, n.d.
“…it is my friend a hard Case that our Army should sustain the fatigues of War in this rigorous Season & at the same time be unprovided with the necessities of life although we live in a land of plenty. I assure you it affects me sensibly when I sit down to an excellent dinner & at the same time reflect that many of those brave men who are exposing their lives in the field for my sake have neither food to eat nor raiment to put on.”
Litchfield Historical Society, Pierce-Loring Collection, David Witherspoon to John Pierce January 18, 1780
“I believe the French Army cannot Contract for Supplies on Account that they have very little Cash and must procure their supplies with bills of exchange - bills of exg - are £75 hard Mo [Money] for £100 and no better and I think not like to be - Col. Wadsworth has of them to sell - his price is £80 hard for 100 in bills he ensists on £35 in hard the rest he will take in State Mo at the exchange I suppose at 2 ½ for 1 now”
Litchfield Historical Society, Quincy Collection, Epaphroditus Champion to Julius Deming, July 1, 1779
The following communication highlights the severity of the situation: “But at all events send on all the public Flour within your reach or we starve.”
I have only time to acquaint you that a powerful Enemy is now before N. London, where it is expected they mean to make a decent_ Our Militia are called out to the aid of the Conti- nental Troops there_ a large detachment is marched that way from Reding_ I expect the whole Camp must follow you will in this case see the necessity of sending forward Flour; lose not a moments Time_ pick up every bush [bushel] of public Flour on the Road & send it forward_ and purchase all the Flour, Wheat Rye & Corn in your District every thing that will make bread is
wanted_ you will secure all you can, and in a silent Manner other ways people will take the alarms and disappoint you_ If you find any Quantity that is hourded up, Seize it at once_ But at all events send on all the public Flour within your reach or we starve
Capt [Captain] Moses Seymour
Reverend Judah Champion
From a portrait by Ralph Earl
At the Litchfield County Centennial Celebration in 1851, Frederick A. Tallmadge relayed the Reverend Judah Champion's words, as told him by his father, Colonel Tallmadge, “...the reverend divine addressed the God of battles thus: ‘'Oh Lord, we view with terror and dismay, the approach of the enemies of thy holy religion; wilt thou send storm and tempest, and scatter them to the utter-most parts of the earth; but peradventure, should any escape thy vengeance, collect them together again, Oh Lord, as in the hollow of thy hand, and let thy lightnings play upon them.’”
A closer look at the town reveals the reality of hardships faced by women left behind to care for families and businesses and the men who left home to fight, as well as the difficulties presented by impressment, the forcible talking of goods, by the army. Inflation and scarcity of goods meant that people were reluctant to part with necessities. Resident David Buel had a violent reaction to the impressment of his blanket:
“...the sd [said] Buel at sd Litchfield on or about the same 7th Day of Decr [December] aforesd [aforesaid] did with force and arms oppose the sd Constable & the sd Gibbs from going into another room, and from impressing sd Blanket; by stepping between sd Gibbs and the door of sd other room & by violently wrestling the Candle out of the hands of the sd Gibbs who had the same in his hand, in order to light them into sd other room (it then being Evening) and the sd Buel did also hold up his Fist in a menacing manner and threatened to charge his Guns & Pistols in case he could not otherwise prevent sd Blanket from being impressed and immediately took hold of sd Gibbs in an angry manner and him did assault and commanded him forthwith to leave & go out of his sd house and by means thereof the sd Buel did totally hinder and prevent them from impressing sd Blanket.”
Litchfield Historical Society, Revolutionary War Summonses, December 31, 1778
Continental Currency, Front
Connecticut Historical Society, Wolcott Papers, Oliver Wolcott to Laura Collins Wolcott, March 8, 1776
Elisha Mills wrote to Colonel Henry Champion about the continuing problem of money later in the war, “The Money affaire grows daily more & more alarming and a Considerable number of People with us there are that Decline Taking of it.___The Towns in the county have Called Meetings, and Desired to have a County Convention, which was attended on the 10th day of this month__ among other things the Convention Recommended that the Several Towns in the County without loss of time should Chuse Large Comm.tees to prevent any further Depretiation Taking place and thereby make a full Stand until it could be known what other counties in this State wood do…should you be of Opinion that it is Duty to attempt any method to prevent the moneys Running Out aske leave to Request your Influence amongst the People may be Extended in favour of similar measures_in my Opinion the Soul power of Appretiation of the
Currency is with the People of the Confederate States. and in the Power of no other body of men whatever.”
Litchfield Historical Society, Quincy Collection,
Elisha Mills to Henry Champion, August 16, 1779
Continental Currency, Back
Connecticut Historical Society, Wolcott Papers, Oliver Wolcott to Laura Collins Wolcott, June 11, 1776
Several months later he demonstrated perspective on the sacrifices being made, “I am not able to give you the least Advice in the Conduct of any Business, your own Prudence in the Direction of it I have no doubt of. I can only Wish that the cares which must oppress you were less, but if the present Troubles shall terminate in the future Peace and Security of this Country (which I trust will be the Case) the present Evils and Inconveniences of Life ought to be borne with Cheerfullness.”
Connecticut Historical Society, Wolcott Papers, Oliver Wolcott to Laura Collins Wolcott, January 21, 1777
Map showing Gaol
George C. Woodruff, 1845
Map showing Gaol
George C. Woodruff, 1845
William Franklin, Royal Governor of New Jersey and son of Revolutionary hero Benjamin Franklin, was sent to the Litchfield Gaol after abusing his parole. He wrote, “They hurried me away about 40 Miles to Litchfield, where I was thrown into a most noisome filthy Room of I believe, the very worst Gaol in America.” Franklin went on to describe his surroundings, “In this Dungeon, for I can call it no other, it having often been appropriated to condemn'd Criminals, I was closely confined for about eight Months, overrun and molested with the many kinds of Vermin, debarred of Pen, Ink, and Paper and of all Conversation with every Person, except now and then, a few Words with the Sheriff, Gaoler, or Centries. In short I was in a manner excluded human Society, having little more connexion with Mankind than if I had been buried alive. My Victuals was generally pok’d thro’ a Hole in the Door, and my servants but seldom permitted to come into the Room, and then only for a few Minutes in the Presence of the Goaler and the Guard.”
William Franklin to Lord George Germaine, November 10, 1778
The National Archives, United Kingdom
Moses Seymour House
Litchfield Historical Society, Woodruff Collection, Governor Jonathan Trumbull to Major Moses Seymour, August 22, 1776
Before further orders could be given, Seymour escaped. Loyalists in Litchfield were not limited to prisoners. Many local Anglicans remained loyal to the King, who was also the head of their church. Matthews later acknowledged the assistance of a local man, Joel Stone, in his escape. “I found...that from the confidence placed in him he would be a proper person to assist me in making my escape to New York which he readily undertook and carried me through the country at a very great risque of his life and property.”
Great Britain, Public Record Office, Treasury, Class I, Volume 634, folio I95.
Joel Stone attempted to Litchfield after the war to collect debts owed to him from before the conflict. He was unsuccessful in this endeavor, and was forced to flee the area. Eventually he went to Ontario, Canada, where he founded the town of Gananoque. Timothy J. Compeau, Curator and Public Historian for the town, authored the Web site An American Refugee: Joel Stone, United Empire Loyalist where visitors may learn more about this former Litchfield resident.
From a sketch
by John Trumbull,
“Memoir of Colonel
The Society of the
Sons of the Revolution, 1904
Tallmadge established the Culper Spy Ring and provided Washington with critical intellegence throughout the war. One of his most brilliant successes was the detection of Benedict Arnold's treason and the capture of Major John Andre. For Tallmadge, Andre's execution was difficult. Despite his memories of his friend and classmate Nathan Hale, who was hanged earlier in the war as a spy, Tallmadge lamented the loss of Andre. He wrote in his memoir, “I became so deeply attached to Major Andre, that I can remember no instance where my affections were so fully absorbed in any man. When I saw him swinging under the gibbet, it seemed for a time as if I could not support it. All the spectators seemed to be overwhelmed by the affecting spectacle, and many were suffused in tears.” Memoir of Colonel Benjamin Tallmadge, The Society of the Sons of the Revolution, 1904, p. 57
Litchfield Historical Society,
Tallmadge's work as an intellegence officer required the creation of a secret code, the use of invisible ink, and a level of discretion that resulted in continued mystery about the identity of all participants. Today, spies and intelligence agencies are looked upon as mysterious and interesting, whereas during the Revolution, espionage was viewed as a very low activity that few wanted to be involved with. Even in his memoir, Tallmadge remained silent about much of the operation.
The Ingraham Memorial Research Library houses the Society's large collection of Benjamin Tallmadge Papers. To read more of his writings to Washington and his family, visit the library.
Litchfield's citizens have been fond of remembering the town's role in the war for many years. Centennial celebrations for the nation, county, state, and town have all meant citizens participating in events to commemorate the town's efforts during the Revolution. This year, we celebrate the 225th anniversary of Rochambeau's march through Connecticut to Yorktown with our exhibition and events to accompany it.
Reenactment of the melting of the statue
Connecticut Tercentenary Celebration, 1936
Litchfield Historical Society,
Mary Perkins Quincy Collection,
Daughters of the American Revolution, 1899
Reproduction Military Flag
Courtesy of Robert Allegretto