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Elijah Churchill

Elijah Churchill
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CT's RevWar Heritage, People & Stories

Born Sept. 5, 1755 in Newington, Connecticut, Elijah Churchill (who shares a common ancestor with Sir Winston Churchill), was one of three known recipients of the Badge of Military Merit established by George Washington.

In the “General Orders” for August 7th, 1782, General Washington ordered: “The General, ever desirous to cherish a virtuous ambition in his soldiers, as well as to foster and encourage every species of Military Merit, directs that whenever any singular meritorious action is performed, the author of it shall be permitted to wear on his facings, over his left breast, the figure of a heart in purple cloth, edged with a narrow lace or binding. Not only instances of unusual gallantry, but also of extraordinary fidelity and essential service in any way shall meet with due reward.”The orders then specified a very strict reporting system that required the Commander-in-Chief’s final approval. Finally, the order stated: “Men who have merited this last distinction to be suffered to pass all guards and sentinels which officers are permitted to do . . . “

Sgt. Churchill was a member of the 2nd CT Light Dragoons. Under the command of Maj. Benjamin Tallmadge (Nathan Hale’s classmate and intimate friend), he and others rowed eight whaleboats from Connecticut across Long Island Sound to raid a British supply depot at Mastic, NY. They captured 300 prisoners, and burned supply vessels and more than 300 tons of hay to disrupt the enemy supply lines.

Apparently, Sgt. Churchill was good at this kind of urban warfare, since on Oct. 2, 1781 he led a group of 100 Light Dragoons and infantry from the 5th Connecticut of the Continental Line in another daring raid. They rowed from Westport, CT to Long Island (again in whaleboats, each of which will seat approximately 8 men, so there had to be about 10 in all), to attack Ft. Slongo near present-day Northport. In addition to destroying the fort, they captured 21 prisoners, and destroyed a quantity of military stores and hay.

The order conferring the Badge of Military Merit to Sergeant Elijah Churchill reads in part:

General George Washington, Esquire
General and Commander-in-Chief of
the Forces of the United States of America, Etc.

That Sergeant Elijah Churchill of the 2nd Regiment of Light Dragoons, in the several enterprises against Fort George and Fort Slongo on Long Island, acted in a very conspicuous and singularly meritorious part; that at the head of each body of attack he not only acquitted himself with great gallantry, firmness and address; but that the surprise in one instance, and the success of the attack in the other, proceeded in a considerable degree from his conduct and management.

 Now therefore Know Ye, that the aforesaid Sergeant Elijah Churchill, hath fully and truly deserved, and has been properly invested with the Honorary Badge of Military Merit, and is authorized to pass and repass all guards and military posts as fully and amply as any Commissioned Officer whatever; and is hereby recommended to that favorable notice which a Brave and Faithful Soldier deserves from his Countrymen.

After the war, Elijah Churchill and his family moved to Massachusetts. He died there on April 11th, 1841 and is buried in the Bell Cemetery at Middlefield, Massachusetts.


Sun Tavern

Sun Tavern

Fairfield’s prominence brought many important visitors to town, including President George Washington, who recorded his October 16, 1789 visit in his journal. The newly inaugurated president of the United States likely spent the night at Samuel Penfield’s Sun Tavern on his tour surveying damage from the Revolutionary War. The destruction from the 1779 burning was so widespread that it was still evident ten years later when Washington wrote: “The destructive evidences of British cruelty are yet visible both in Norwalk and Fairfield, as there are chimneys of many burnt houses standing in them yet.”

Sun Tavern was among a handful of taverns in town that were newly built at that time, replacing structures that had been destroyed by the British. At the time, it took two days to travel from New York to Fairfield by carriage on the Boston Post Road, so travelers needed a place to stay overnight and refresh their horses. The Sun Tavern was a lively establishment where Samuel Penfield provided much needed food, drink and lodging. Sun Tavern was also a popular meeting place for lawyers and judges attending court next door. Local farmers and sea captains, along with mill and shop owners would have enjoyed a beer or cider and a plate of oysters here as well.

The Sun Tavern closed its doors by 1818. Over the next 160 years the building became a private residence to pastors of First Congregational Church, New York City businessmen and a stage actor and his family, who used it primarily as a summer getaway. By the 1970s, the structure had fallen into disrepair.

Burr Mansion

Burr Mansion
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CT's RevWar Heritage, Places & Buildings

Peter Burr, chief justice of the Superior Court of colonial Connecticut, built the Burr Homestead around 1732. He passed it on to his grandson Thaddeus Burr and his wife Eunice Dennie Burr after their marriage in 1759. In 1775, the Homestead sheltered Dorothy Quincy, fiancée of patriot leader John Hancock, after she fled from the Battle of Lexington, where on April 19th the “shot heard ‘round the world” was fired. She remained in town until Hancock, president of the Continental Congress, joined her.

On August 23, 1775 Reverend Andrew Elliot of First Congregational Church married the Boston couple at the Burr residence. Local lore tells that, before the wedding, a young Aaron Burr came to visit his second cousin Thaddeus and pay his respects to Miss Quincy.

On July 7, 1779, the American Revolution came to Fairfield. British troops led by General Tryon came ashore from ships on Long Island Sound. Many of the town’s men, including Thaddeus Burr, were away fighting or working on behalf of the patriot cause when Fairfield was attacked and set ablaze.

Families fled inland, but Eunice Burr remained at home. General Tryon, who had visited with the Burrs, sent a guard to protect Eunice. Despite his assurances, Eunice wrote in her diary, British soldiers ransacked her house, destroyed furniture, stripped the silver buckles from her shoes, then set the Homestead ablaze.

Not to be defeated, in 1790 the Burrs hired Daniel Dimon, a Fairfield architect and carpenter, to build a new house based on plans sent to them by John Hancock of his own Boston residence.

The present house was built on the original foundation.

In the mid 1800s the Burr Homestead was enlarged and remodeled into a 15-room Greek Revival mansion with a stately colonnaded porch and classical details.

Today the mansion is owned by the Town of Fairfield and managed by the Fairfield Museum; it can be rented for events.

Book Trailers & the Revolution

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Have you discovered the phenomenon of the book trailer yet? If not, it’s exactly what it sounds like: a short video “preview” of a book’s content & style, designed to inspire you to Like, Follow, and hopefully buy.

Book trailers have been around for fiction for a few years now, but they’re starting to become the norm for non-fiction, too. Here, for example, is the link to the trailer for Reporting the Revolution, a new book coming out November 1, 2012.

With the advent of digital stock photography, high-quality editing software, and YouTube, producing really snazzy videos has become ridiculously easy and cheap (by comparison to just 5-10 years ago). So, here’s our thought: if the book industry can do it, why not others in the cultural sector? Why not museum/historical society/history organization trailers? Why don’t we make a trailer for Revolutionary Connecticut?

What do you think?

Reporting the Revolution

Jabez Huntington, 1719-1786

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CT's RevWar Heritage, People & Stories

Jabez Huntington was born in Norwich, CT on August 17, 1719. After his graduation from Yale in 1741, he entered the West Indies trade and became wealthy. In 1742, he married Elizabeth Backus and they had two children. She died in 1745 and he married Hannah Williams in 1746. The couple had six children.

Jabez was elected as a representative to the General Assembly from 1750 to 1764. He served as the assembly’s clerk from 1757 to 1760 and as speaker from 1760 to 1764. He was appointed to the Governor’s Council in 1764. The following year he was one of seven council members that refused to take an oath to enforce the
Stamp Act. Starting in 1754, he held various ranks in the 3rd and 5th Regiments of Connecticut Militia. He was promoted to the rank of Major-General of all Connecticut Militia in 1776. He was one of the original members of the Council of Safety in 1775 and served until 1779. His business suffered during the war due to the capture of his vessels. As a result of overwork, he suffered a stroke in 1779 and remained in poor health until he died in Norwich on October 5, 1786.

Reenactors/Costumed Guides Needed!

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Derby Historical Society is looking to hire a few new costumed, museum docents for their Day in 1762 program in the childhood home of David Humphreys (Aide-de-camp to George Washington). This is seasonal, part-time, paid work. Please send resume to Julia Baldini, Executive Director at Thank you!!

The Council of Safety

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CT's RevWar Heritage, People & Stories

In 1775, Connecticut’s General Assembly was even more part-time than it is today, usually meeting only two or three times from May through September. After the Lexington Alarm in April, the Assembly recognized that Gov. Jonathan Trumbull would need to be able to act far more quickly in war time, and authorized the formation of a special committee of advisers handpicked by the governor to assist him. The Council of Safety, as it was called, held its first meeting on June 7, 1775, in Governor Trumbull’s storehouse in Lebanon, soon dubbed the War Office. Attending were Governor Trumbull, Deputy Governor Matthew Griswold, the Honorable Jabez Huntington, along with William Williams (serving as clerk), Nathaniel Wales, Jedediah Elderkin, Joshua West, and Benjamin Huntington (Esquires). At the first meeting they decided to send fifty barrels of gunpowder to brigadier generals Spencer and Putnam, leading the Connecticut troops at Boston. The powder would come from Connecticut’s public stores at Norwich, Windham, and Lebanon. Thus began the important role of Trumbull and the Council as a source of logistical support to Washington and the Continental army throughout the Revolutionary War.

In all, forty-seven men served on the Council from June 1775-November 1783. Here are their names, copied from a calligraphied list in the collection of the Connecticut Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, dated 1843:

Hon. Gov. Jonathan Trumbull

Matthew Griswold

Eliphalet Dyer

Jabez Huntington

Samuel Huntington

William Williams

Nathaniel Wales, Jr.

Jedidiah Elderkin

Joshua West

Benjamin Huntington

Richard Law (1776)

Titus Hosmer (1776)

William Hillhouse (1776)

Thomas Seymour

William Pitkin (1777)

Benjamin Payne (1777)

Daniel Sherman (1777)

Andrew Adams (1777)

Abraham Davenport (1777)

Jeremiah Wadsworth (1777)

Thaddeus Burr (1777)

James Wadsworth Jr.

Roger Sherman (1777)

Joseph Platt Cook(e)

Jesse Root

Samuel Bishop

Samuel Mott (1779)

Oliver Ellsworth

Col. Williams

Jedediah Strong

David Mumford

Samuel Bishop Jr.

John Canfield

Jabez Hungerford

Joseph Spencer (1780)

Jabez Perkins

Joshua Porter (1783)

Ebenezer Ledyard

Oliver Wolcott

Joseph Hopkins

Col. John Chester

Jeremiah Halsey

Roger Newberry

John Chandler

James Hillhouse (1782)

Thomas Mumford

Jabez Hamlin


CT Needs a Revolutionary Trail?

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Recently, the Norwich Bulletin suggested that Connecticut needs a Revolutionary War “trail,” a pathway of sites and organizations that have ties to our state’s Revolutionary history.

That’s exactly what we’ve felt for some time now! Thus, we created this nifty web site. But here’s where we need your help: tell all your friends. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Make sure the Powers That Be know about and its sponsoring organizations.

We’re in this for the long haul. The Revolution wasn’t won in a day, right? (1775-1783, in case you were wondering.) We can fight for what’s important, and we need every assistance we can get.

Happy Fourth!

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Happy Independence Day to all our readers and fans!

As you probably know, we’re working on a Timeline of Connecticut During the Revolution, and as we’ve been assembling facts and dates, we’ve been struck by how often July 4 seems to come up. It’s probably coincidence, but since in another life we write speculative fiction, we can’t help feeling that behind the coincidence lies some greater significance.

Here are a few of the July 4’s we’ve found:

1768: Jonathan Trumbull writes that disputes between the colonies are discouraging, and that, “The Clouds seem to thicken up and Blacken upon us…”

1773: Connecticut forms its own Committee of Correspondence.

1775: Benjamin Tallmadge writes to Nathan Hale to encourage him to join the army.

Know of any others? Drop us a line!