April 26: British Troops Attack Danbury, Connecticut

During the American Revolution, the western Connecticut town of Danbury served as a critical supply depot for Continental Army troops stationed in the New England and mid-Atlantic states, including the strategically-important Hudson River Valley area.

In early 1777, Royal Governor William Tryon of New York attempted to sever the American supply line that ran through Danbury by staging the first of what became many destructive coastal raids on Connecticut’s shores undertaken by loyalist and British troops.  On April 25th, 1777, Tryon landed with over 1,800 troops on the shores of Compo Beach, located in modern-day Westport, and began a grueling 24-hour trek northward to Danbury.

A 1924 map depicting the route of William Tryon’s raid of April 1777. (Click to enlarge.)

Tryon’s raid was a bold and unexpected move: American forces were confident that Danbury, located 25 miles inland, was too far from the coast to be at risk from a British attack, and the depot was guarded by only two small companies of militia.  Local minutemen and scouts who spotted the British and Loyalist troops marching inland sprinted away to warn their local communities of the incoming threat, but the Americans were unable to muster any effective or organized resistance before Tryon reached Danbury.

Thanks to reports received from these local scouts, Danbury patriots were able to relocate a few critical items — including a considerable amount of medical supplies — out of town before Tryon’s men stormed in, outnumbering the local defense forces over 10 to 1.  Lacking the means to transport any captured supplies back to the Connecticut coast, the British troops opted to destroy them instead, dragging massive piles of dry goods and military stores into the streets of Danbury and setting them on fire.  The troops also set nearly two dozen houses and businesses on fire, being careful to spare those belonging to known loyalists.

While the town was spared from complete destruction, the Danbury Raid of April 26, 1777 was a major setback for a Continental Army that was already struggling with keeping its troops properly supplied with food, equipment, and munitions.  Unfortunately, for the residents of western Connecticut, the threat from Tryon’s forces was far from over: a contentious battle would erupt between British and American forces in the nearby town of Ridgefield the very next day.

A memorial near Westport’s Compo Beach, where William Tryon landed in April 1777 with over 1,800 troops, commemorates the local minutemen who warned nearby communities about the impending British raid.

Further Reading

Richard Buel, “The Burning of Danbury,” connecticuthistory.org

Juan Miguel Fernandez, “Connecticut Raids,” George Washington Digital Encyclopedia

William Hanford Burr, “The Invasion of Connecticut by the British,” The Connecticut Magazine