During the American Revolution Connecticut was the leading supplier of food, clothing and munitions for the Continental Army earning the nickname “The Provisions State”. When the British occupied New York City and Long Island Sound in 1776 it left neighboring Connecticut vulnerable to attack.
Major General William Tryon, the Royal governor of New York, led attacks on Danbury, Greenwich, New Haven, Faifield and Norwalk between 1777 and 1779. The most devastating attack occurred when former Connecticut Patriot Benedict Arnold attacked the forts at new London and Groton in October of 1781. This tour follows the path of Major General Tryon’s raid of the Greenwich salt works.
Throughout the American Revolution several squirmishes took place in Greenwich. Connecticut had declared itself for the Patriot cause however, being so close to New York and the British Army made politics more complicated at the local level. Being on the boarder of New York the town was susceptible to cowboys who would raid livestock and goods from patriots homes. Several families had split allegiances and many didn’t announce their views hoping to survive the war and continue on with their lives no matter who won. When Major General Tryon raided the town it was the most devastation attack and it would take years for the community to fully recover.
If you visit these locations in order you will be following the same path that Major General Tryon and the British Army took during its retreat from burning down the town’s saltworks. You can go in the other direction but it easier to see some of the sites from the car in this order.
On Feb. 26, 1779 Major General Tryon led 1,500 British troops, hessians and loyalist fighters into Greenwich to burn down the saltworks at this location. Salt was used to dry out and preserve food during the winter. This was a strategic attack to limit resources available to the Continental Army.
Justice Bush purchased the land where Bush-Holley house now stands in 1728. At the time a small saltbox structure occupied the site. The largest portion of the house was built between 1730-1733. In 1763 Justus’ son David applied for a grant to build a grist mill on the property. The grant was successful and David Bush continued to grow the family business and home on the property.
The Bush-Holley house and the grist mill were directly on the path to the saltworks that were the target of Major General Tryon however, both structures were left untouched. The British soldiers stole valuables from many nearby homes and set fires to businesses and other structures. This left the many of the Bush neighbors suspicious of the David’s allegiance. In the spring of 1779 he was arrested and sent to prison in Fairfield under the suspicion of being a loyalist. David Bushes allegiance was never confirmed for either side of the war. He was released and returned to his family after three months.
During his time in prison Patriot troops took firewood from his property which would have been forfeit if he was proven a loyalist. He sued for reimbursement in 1783 and received compensation for the firewood in 1786.
Strickland Road is an historical district. During the time of the American Revolution this area was a thriving maritime community. The Mill Pond was created when David Bush built the damn for his tide mill and harbor provided access to Long Island Sound where fish and oysters thrived. Later in the 19th c. oystering would become a lucrative and competitive business. After the British troops raided the area on their way to the saltworks the community began to rebuild and would continue to the be the commercial center of Cos Cob until the end of the 19th c.
At the end of Strickland Road is a park with the second oldest cemetery in Greenwich. The site was laid out by the selectman 1723-24 and the oldest Gravestone belongs to Benjamin Mead who died on Feb. 22, 1746 at the age of 80.
General Israel Putnam was inspecting an American Outpost in the area when General Tyron’s troops were discovered. He was able to assemble 150 men but quickly realized that this was not enough to oppose the British troops. He ordered the men to retreat while he rode to Stamford for reinforcements. The accounts of his ride indicate that he began his ride on the main rode but was pursued by several British Dragoons.
At the time the hill was so steep that the road had to curve around it. Steps had been carved into the hill to allow pedestrians a more direct route up. Putnam rode his horse down the steep incline of rocky steps while his pursuers reigned in their horses allowing him to continue onto Stamford. Upon his return the British army had mostly retreated from the area raiding many of the homes along the way.
General Putnam reported to Governor Trumbull that he was able to capture 38 “stragglers” and two wagons filled with ammunition and baggage.
The easiest way to see the hill without getting out of the car is to drive west on Putnam Ave. The hill and reconstructed stone steps are located just after the Greenwich High School football field.
Built in the late 1600’s this Historical Tavern and Inn housed many travelers including General Israel Putnam and hosted General Washington and his entourage for lunch. The tavern was the center of town social life and often people would congregate to learn the latest news or conduct business transactions.
The tavern has been restored to reflect life during the American Revolution including a colonial herb garden in the back.
The land surrounding the church during the time of the raid was mostly farmland and private residences. Major General Tryon’s troops raided many of the homes that they passed on their way out of town.
President George Washington paused here on Oct. 16, 1789. He noted the incident in his journal with these words, “the superb landscape which is to be seen from the meeting house is a rich regalia”
A plaque is mounted next to the front door of the church commemorating the event.While the parish of Second Congregational church did worship at this location during the American Revolution the current structure was built in 1858. The wooden church that existed during President Washington’s rest was lost in a fire.
Built as a private residence in 1725 by the Bullis Family. It became the home of John Addington, the first postmaster in Greenwich appointed in 1776 by Benjamin Franklin, the first Postmaster General. That same year the house was deeded to John’s third son Henry. In 1781 the land and house were confiscated because Henry Addington had gone over and joined the British. In 1804 the treasure of the state of Connecticut deeded the the property to Hannah Addington who had to transfer the property to Henry Jr in order to pay off her debt. Over the centuries the house changed hands a few more times and Greenwich continued to develop around it. This building has undergone several additions but was restored as far as possible to its original appearance in the 1980s.
Built circe 1695 this the oldest unaltered colonial house in Greenwich. The Lyon family was one of the first European families to settle in Greenwich with Thomas Lyon Sr. first appearing on the town land records in 1676. The house was moved in 1925 across the Boston Post Road to its current location at 1 Byram Road to accommodate the construction of US Route 1.
After the raid General Tryon returned to New York. In July of 1789 he raided the Connecticut ports of New Haven, Fairfield and Norwalk. Militia forces were ineffective. Tryon destroyed military and public stores as well as targeted private homes, churches and other public buildings. General Washington commanded the Connecticut division to defend the coast but they would arrive too late to do so.
After the war 500,000 acres with the state’s Western Reserve (modern day Ohio) was designated to be used as compensation for the citizen’s of Connecticut that suffered losses at the hands of the British raiders.