The Ridgefield Historical Society is excited to announce that it has been awarded in partnership with the Town of Ridgefield, a $20,000 Historic Preservation Enhancement Grant from the State of Connecticut’s Historic Preservation Council, to support the forensic analysis of the skeletal remains discovered on the Revolutionary War battlefield in Ridgefield, Connecticut. A total of $30,000 is needed to complete this work; please help the Historical Society raise the remaining amount needed for this important project by making a tax deductible donation at this link:
In December 2019, construction activities working to lower the dirt floor under a house basement dating to 1790 uncovered human skeletal remains in Ridgefield, CT. Local police were contacted and reported the discovery to the Office of the Chief State’s Medical Examiner, whose forensic team identified the remains as being historic and not part of a modern criminal investigation. In compliance with state statutes, the state archaeologist was notified to assume the enquiry. Subsequent excavations yielded four skeletons of young, robust adult males hastily buried in a common, shallow grave where the bodies were commingled with overlapping arms and legs. The discovered burials are located on the battlefield of the Revolutionary War “Battle of Ridgefield” (April 27, 1777). The working hypothesis is that the burials were victims of this Revolutionary War confrontation who were hurriedly buried on the battlefield.
Two of the burials had been stripped of clothing prior to the burials; two individuals still wore waistcoats or jackets. From those two individuals, archaeological excavation uncovered 37 brass and two pewter buttons. The buttons were thread-covered and the design is a checkerboard or “basket” pattern common in the 18th and early 19th centuries. No regimental insignia were identified on any of the buttons. However, a finial detached from a powder horn was uncovered with one of the individuals.
The recovered human remains will be cleaned and will undergo osteological analyses. Dr. Gary Aronson, biological anthropologist at Yale University, is overseeing the forensic studies. Researchers are considering multiple lines of evidence, including osteological and dental analyses, DNA analyses of each individual (sex, ancestry, epigenetics; pending sufficient preservation of the genetic material), radiocarbon dating of bone collagen to supplement the dates recovered from the associated artifacts, x-ray and CT imaging to better understand injuries and possible pathologies, oral microbiome analyses and DNA analyses of soil samples from various locations within the burials (like the abdomen, cranium, etc.) to look for pathogen DNA to get a better picture of their health, and isotopic analyses to help with ancestry/origin.
The research presents the opportunity to learn a great deal about the backgrounds, health, life experiences, and deaths of these Revolutionary War soldiers and to determine if they are British or Patriots, and possibly even determine the identity of each individual through genetic genealogy.
The research team includes scientists from various universities and museums across the country including, Yale University, University of Connecticut, University of Florida, Gainesville, Quinnipiac University, University of Louisville and the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport. A total of $30,000 is sought for these institutions to conduct their analyses. Interest has been generated within local and national media and the Connecticut National Guard will advise on military aspects of the burials. Once the forensic analyses are completed, the recovered soldiers will be reburied in Ridgefield with full military honors. Please consider making a donation to support this exciting project of the Ridgefield Historical Society.