From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol II. Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.
September 6.—This morning about daybreak, twenty-four sail of British shipping appeared to the westward of the harbor of New London, in Connecticut. By many they were supposed to be a plundering party, after stock. Alarm guns were immediately fired, but the discharge of cannon in the harbor has become so frequent of late, that they answered little or no purpose. A few of the inhabitants who were equipped, advanced towards the place where the enemy were thought likely to make their landing, and manoeuvred on the heights adjacent, until the British, at about nine o’clock, landed in two divisions of about eight hundred men each, one of them at Brown’s farm, near the light-house, the other at Groton Point. The division that landed near the light-house, marched up the road, keeping out large flanking parties, who were attacked in different places on their march by the inhabitants, who had spirit and resolution enough to oppose their progress; the main body proceeded to New London, and set fire to the stores on the beach, and immediately after to the dwelling-houses lying on the mill cove. The scattered fire of the little parties of Americans, unsupported by their neighbors more distant, galled them so that they soon began to retire, setting fire to stores and dwelling-houses promiscuously in their way; the fire from the stores communicated to the shipping that lay at the wharves; a number were burnt, others swung to singly and remained unhurt. At four o’clock they began to quit the town in great precipitation, and were pursued with the spirit and ardor of veterans and driven on board their boats. Five of the British were killed, and about twenty wounded; among the latter is a Hessian captain, who is a prisoner, as are seven others. The Americans lost four killed, and ten or twelve wounded, none mortally.
The most valuable part of New London is reduced to ashes, with all the stores. Fort Trumbull not being tenable on the land side, was evacuated as the British advanced, and the few men in it crossed the river to Fort Griswold on Groton Hill, which was soon after invested by the division that landed at, the point. The fort having in it only about one hundred and twenty men, chiefly militia hastily collected, was defended with the greatest resolution and bravery, and the British were once repulsed; but the fort being out of repair, could not be defended by such a handful of men, though brave and determined, against so superior a number. They did all that men of spirit and bravery, in such a situation, could do; but after having a number of their party killed and wounded, they found that further resistance would be in vain, and resigned the fort. Immediately on their surrender, the valiant Colonel Ledyard, whose fate in a particular manner is much lamented, and seventy other officers and men, most of whom were heads of families, were murdered. The British lost a Major Montgomery, and forty-one officers and men in the attack; they were found buried near the fort; their wounded were carried off.
Soon after the British got possession of the fort, they set fire to and burnt a number of dwelling-houses and stores on Groton Bank, and embarked about sunset, taking with them sundry of the inhabitants of New London and Groton. A Colonel Eyre, who commanded the division at Groton, was wounded, and, it is said, died on board the fleet. About fifteen sail of vessels with effects of the inhabitants of New London, retreated up the river on the approach of the enemy, and were saved, while four others remained in the harbor untouched. The troops were commanded by that infamous traitor to his country, Benedict Arnold, who headed the division which marched into New London.
By this calamity, it is judged that more than one hundred families are deprived of their habitations, and most of them of their all. The neighborhood feels sensibly the loss of many deserving citizens, and though deceased, cannot but be highly indebted to them for their spirit and bravery in their exertions and manly opposition to the merciless enemies of our country in their last moments.1
1 New York Journal, Sept. 24:—The following savage action, committed by the troops who subdued Fort Griswold on Groton Hill, ought to be recorded to their eternal infamy:
Soon after the surrender of the fort, they loaded a wagon with the wounded Americans, by order of their officers, and set the wagon off from the top of the hill, which is long and very steep; the wagon went a considerable distance with great force, till it was suddenly stopped by a tree; the shock was so great to those faint and bleeding men, that part of them died instantly. The officers ordered their men to fire on the wagon while it was running.