Battlefield Research Blog: Entry #8, August 2021

A British Musket from the Battle of Ridgefield

In early August 2021, Dr. Kevin McBride and Dr. David Naumec of Heritage Consultants documented significant artifacts recently shared with the battlefield research team: a British musket and bayonet used during the battle. This flintlock arm is known as a “Short Land, New Pattern Musket,” more commonly referred to as a “Brown Bess,” and was made at Dublin Castle, Ireland, circa 1775. The wrist plate on the musket stock is engraved with three lines: “27 / 1 Co / No 3,” indicating 27th Regiment, 1st Company, Number 3. The matching bayonet is similarly marked “27/1/3.” After years of research, the owner of this unique Brown Bess Musket traced its history to the home of Captain John Gray of the 4th Connecticut Militia in Redding, Connecticut. Based on the unit markings on the wrist plate and its connection to Captain Gray of Redding, the musket was most likely carried by an Irish soldier from the British 27th (Enniskillen) Regiment of Foot, one of several infantry regiments that participated in the April 1777 Danbury Expedition.

The 27th Regiment was recruited in Ireland, and they sailed to Staten Island in July 1776 to support General Howe’s invasion of New York. They were a reserve unit and did not participate in the invasion of Long Island but later fought at Harlem Heights, White Plains, and Fort Washington.

In April 1777, about half of the 27th Regiment, 250 soldiers, were selected to accompany General Tryon on the Danbury Expedition. On this expedition, the 27th Regiment suffered 20 casualties, including one soldier killed in action, three officers and 10 soldiers wounded, along with six soldiers missing. One of these soldiers lost this Brown Bess musket perhaps sometime during the April 26 march from Redding to Danbury or during the fighting in Ridgefield on April 27.

Captain Gray of Redding was with the 4th Connecticut Militia when they fought back British attacks near Grove Street east of the North Salem Road barricade on April 27 and was involved in fighting the next day. It is unclear how Captain Gray came in possession of this musket, but it remained in his home until the estate was inherited by the current owner’s father. It is hoped that this amazing piece of history can be displayed in Ridgefield as part of a future exhibit.

The Ridgefield Historical Society is currently accepting permission forms from landholders along the Route 116 battlefield route, the George Washington Highway, High Ridge, and Soundview Road. Please contact the Society at bor.grant@ridgefieldhistoricalsociety.org or call (203) 438-5821 if you would like to participate in this exciting project.

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In recognition of the national significance of the April 27, 1777 Battle of Ridgefield, the National Park Service, American Battlefield Protection Program (ABPP) awarded the Ridgefield Historical Society and the Connecticut State Office of Historic Preservation a research and documentation grant to study the engagement. The scope of grant includes renewed historical research efforts to reconstruct the Battle of Ridgefield, determine where actions occurred related to the battle, assess the integrity of contributing properties for a possible future archaeological survey, and build community support and seek landholder permissions. In recent months, Ridgefield Historical Society staff and researchers from Heritage Consultants, LLC have focused on mapping the 1777 landscape along the battlefield route in town, paying special attention to artifacts related to the Battle of Ridgefield that were found in years past and in recent months. These maps will help illustrate where actions occurred and to determine what properties contributed to the battle.

David Naumec

By David Naumec

Dr. David Naumec has 20 years’ experience in Colonial and American history and specializes in African and Native American history, American military history and Connecticut history. He has served as military historian and field coordinator on 14 National Park Service American Battlefield Protection Program projects.