April 27: Patriot Payback – The Battle of Ridgefield


Today in 1777, one day after troops under William Tryon destroyed the Continental Army’s supply depot in Danbury, Patriot soldiers and militiamen struck back in the town of Ridgefield.

A 1924 map depicting the route of William Tryon’s raid of April 1777.
Tryon’s raid on Danbury took local Patriots by surprise. They had assumed the Connecticut town was safe from a British coastal raid. And though regulars and militiamen raced to respond to riders’ reports of the British assault, it took nearly a full day to assemble a large enough contingent of men to strike back at the Redcoats.

The town of Ridgefield was located several miles south of Danbury along the route Tryon’s forces were taking back to their ships. There, some 700 Continental Army troops and Connecticut militiamen converged, under the leadership of Connecticut-born generals David Wooster, Gold Selleck Silliman, and Benedict Arnold. In two major confrontations, they opened fire on the British column of nearly 2,000 troops.

A 1785 mezzotint of General David Wooster of the Continental Army, who was mortally wounded during the April 27, 1777 Battle of Ridgefield.
While the fiercest fighting occurred at a ridge top near the town’s center, the Battle of Ridgefield evolved into a running battle, as the Patriot forces harassed Tryon’s column from all directions and attempted to impede their progress with roadblocks and ambushes. General David Wooster, an older man and veteran of the French and Indian War, was one of an estimated 20 Connecticut defenders who were killed or mortally wounded during the battle. Benedict Arnold, who rallied the Patriot soldiers during the fiercest fighting despite having a horse shot out from under him, was the battle’s standout hero. Congress recognized his valor with both a promotion and a new horse.

The British ultimately reached present-day Westport and the safety of their ships, but at a significant cost: 100 to 150 British and Loyalist men had been killed or wounded, and another 40 captured. The Patriots, in addition to their 20 fatalities, had 40 to 80 men wounded.

As the fighting moved south, graves were hastily dug and the fallen interred. A mass grave was reportedly placed near the site of the ridgetop fighting, which is said to hold the bodies of 16 British and eight American combatants. It’s specific location is unknown, and an archeological investigation using ground penetrating radar in 2010 failed to locate it.

In December, 2019, however, workmen conducting home renovations in a basement along the line of battle uncovered human bones. Subsequent investigations by the state medical examiner and a recovery exhumation by state archaeologist Nicholas Bellamtoni revealed the presence of five robust male skeletons dating from the 18th century and buried in a manner that suggests hasty interment. Forensic investigations of the skeletal remains currently being conducted at a number of universities may confirm the hypothesis that these are the remains of men who fell in the Battle of Ridgefield’s fiercest encounter, whose lives are remembered today in Connecticut history.


The Battle of Ridgefield is depicted in the award-winning children’s book My Brother Sam is Dead by Christopher and James Lincoln Collier, and in “Mary Silliman’s War,” a feature-length film produced by PBS. It was the only inland battle fought in Connecticut during the Revolutionary War; thanks in part to the resistance encountered during their retreat, the British Army never again staged an attack on any Connecticut location beyond the immediate coastline.

Further Reading

Nathaniel Philbrick, “Benedict Arnold and the Battle of Ridgefield,” Excerpt from Valiant Ambition (Reprinted with permission in Connecticut Explored)

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

Zak Failla, “Fourth Skeleton Found in Ridgefield,” dailyvoice.com