Fort Griswold

Fort Griswold

River or Lower battery.
Location Bounded by Baker Ave., Smith St., Park Ave., Monument Ave., and Thames River
Groton, Connecticut
Website Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park
NRHP Reference # 70000694
Added to NRHP October 6, 1970
Classical drawing of Fort Griswold

Fort Griswold is a former American military base in Groton, Connecticut. Named after then Deputy Governor Matthew Griswold, the fort played a key role in the early stages of the American Revolutionary War. In tandem with Fort Trumbull on the opposite side of the harbor, Griswold served to defend the port of New London, a supply center for the new Continental Army and a friendly port for Connecticut-sanctioned privateers who preyed on British ships.[1] The 17-acre site is maintained as Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.[2][3]


In September 1781, British troops under Benedict Arnold raided and burned New London in the Battle of Groton Heights with the objective of ending the harassment at sea. Fort Griswold had a key strategic position above the Thames River, but the British knew the fort's inner workings thanks to the turncoat (Arnold) who gave numerous secrets of American defenses to the British forces he commanded. Arnold, knowing Griswold's layout and precise position, approached the harbor from such an angle that Griswold's gun positions could never draw an effective shot on the British fleet. Arnold's troops eventually made landfall, and the fort's garrison fought back. Artillery barrages and musket fire brought (relatively) heavy casualties to each side, the fighting continuing even past commands to stop. The British eventually captured the fort and tried to destroy it, though the plan was foiled as a patriot put out the British fire before it could reach Griswold's gunpowder stores. When the British finally made it in, Colonel William Ledyard surrendered, gave the commanding officer his sword, and was killed with his own sword. Arnold only commanded a raiding party, not a conquering force, so the fort was abandoned as Arnold left New London in flames.[4]

Later use

The fort was rebuilt and manned in several other conflicts, but the Battle of Groton Heights was its most prominent use. It was used during the War of 1812 by United States Navy sailors commanded by Commodore Stephen Decatur when Decatur's squadron was blockaded by a superior British force in 1814.

After the American Civil War the lower battery of the fort was redesigned to mount 10-inch Rodman cannons. It was a subpost of Fort Trumbull for most of its use as a fort by the U.S. Army. It was never actively garrisoned after the Civil War and was under the care of an ordnance sergeant.

From 1863 to 1879 Fort Griswold was in the care of Ordnance Sergeant Mark Wentworth Smith, a Mexican War veteran who was wounded at the Battle of Chapultepec. Sergeant Smith was 76 years old when he died and was probably the oldest soldier on active duty at that time.

After the Spanish–American War, Fort Griswold became obsolete when Fort H.G. Wright was established on Fishers Island in Long Island Sound.

Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park

The State of Connecticut now owns and operates the site as Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park. The site includes the restored earthwork battery, cannons, and a later period shot furnace and powder magazine. The grounds include several monuments and memorials to state residents who fought in different wars:

See also


  1. "Fort Griswold". Michael Meals. Retrieved October 4, 2005.
  2. "Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park". State Parks and Forests. Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. August 18, 2016. Retrieved September 20, 2016.
  3. "Appendix A: List of State Parks and Forests" (PDF). State Parks and Forests: Funding. Staff Findings and Recommendations. Connecticut General Assembly. January 23, 2014. p. A-1. Retrieved September 20, 2016.
  4. Constance Luyster, Administrative Trainee, State Historical Commission (July 30, 1970). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form: Fort Griswold" (PDF). National Park Service. and accompanying photographs
  5. "Avery House". Avery Memorial Association.
Wikisource has the text of a 1920 Encyclopedia Americana article about Fort Griswold.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Fort Griswold.

Coordinates: 41°21′19″N 72°04′55″W / 41.3553°N 72.082°W / 41.3553; -72.082

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 9/25/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.