U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal visited the Ridgefield Historical Society on Tuesday morning, Aug. 8, 2023 to celebrate a $117,714 Preservation Planning Grant through the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program. Joining Sen. Blumenthal at 1714 Scott House were Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi, Town Historian Kay Ables, State Archaeologist Emeritus Dr. Nicholas Bellantoni, as well as Historical Society President Tracy Seem, Executive Director Stephen Bartkus, and board members and a number of invited guests.
The second phase of the Battle of Ridgefield study administered by the Ridgefield Historical Society will not only put “boots on the ground” with archaeological field tests in the battlefield, but will also involve a search for as-yet-undiscovered resources in England that may give a fuller picture from the British point of view.
“This important funding is critical to keeping alive the storied history of the Revolutionary War’s Battle of Ridgefield by fostering a greater understanding and appreciation of this event,” said Sen. Blumenthal. “The Ridgefield Historical Society has embarked on a major project to map out the battle sites throughout the town, and this American Battlefield Protection Program grant will support their efforts in preserving the land and uncovering new findings.”
This two-year grant follows on a 2020-22 NPS award that began the process of mapping the battlefield and documenting the action, which was part of General William Howe’s Danbury Raid to destroy the supply depot there. That first effort, involving many Ridgefield Historical Society volunteers and staff, and researchers from Heritage Consultants LLC, showed that in addition to the three well-known engagements on Route 116 and Main Street, there were many other skirmishes as the assembling American forces arrived to harass the British.
In the Phase I final report, Heritage Consultants wrote:
“The scope of the grant has included 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. Ridgefield Historical Society staff and researchers from Heritage Consultants, LLC have documented areas in town where fighting occurred in addition to the three most well-known engagements along Route 116 and Main Street.
“The research team mapped battle-related artifacts recently identified through historical research and public outreach efforts. The results suggest that skirmishing between British and American forces occurred throughout the day in areas well beyond the three famous engagements. With landholder permission, an archaeological survey of these newly identified areas could yield additional evidence of battle and enrich our understanding of what happened during the Battle of Ridgefield.”
There is much to discover, historians and archaeologists believe, and the Phase II NPS ABPP grant work will continue to add to a fuller understanding of the battle and bring the battleground closer to a National Register Nomination. Once an advisory committee is organized in the next weeks, the committee will put out a request for proposals; the team that is hired will work with Historical Society staff and volunteers. Newly appointed executive director of the Historical Society Stephen Bartkus will be project manager. As with the Phase I grant, community engagement will be a high priority and there will be regular updates posted at the Ridgefield Historical Society website.
Guests and Historical Society board members celebrated with a reception catered by Elizabella’s Bake Shop. Representatives of the 5th Connecticut Regiment, who participated in last year’s re-enactment of the Battle of Ridgefield, attended the announcement and provided music.