Remembering Connecticut’s revolutionary past

MILFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Plenty of places around the country commemorate Independence Day, but Connecticut actually played a big role in the revolution.

New Haven’s Grove Street Cemetery hosts a ceremony every July 4. A man on horseback is portraying Connecticut General David Humphries, George Washington’s aide-de-camp, and they march to the grave of Roger Sherman, who signed the Declaration of Independence we celebrate today.

Girls place flags at the grave of Declaration of Independence signer Roger Sherman in New Haven, July 4, 2014.
Girls place flags at the grave of Declaration of Independence signer Roger Sherman in New Haven, July 4, 2014.

“And it kinds of reminds us why we have these freedoms that we do have,” said Timothy Wilkins of Sons of the Revolution. “These people actually signed the Declaration of Independence, putting their signature to a death warrant if they were caught.”

Of course Connecticut had many far-less famous people who fought, sacrificed, and died for America’s independence, and every July 4th folks here in Milford march to a monument to remember some of them.

“There was a minuteman on my street, 139 North Street, by the name of John Downes,” explained Richard Shea of Milford. “He participated in about five campaigns during the Revolutionary War, and so I feel like I’m walking in his footsteps this morning.”

Those footsteps take him to a monument to 200 American prisoners of war. In January, 1777, they were thrown off a British prison ship in Milford Harbor because some of the prisoners had smallpox.

A ceremony in Milford honors 200 American prisoners from the Revolutionary War, July 4, 2014.
A ceremony in Milford honors 200 American prisoners from the Revolutionary War, July 4, 2014.

“The British captain decided he was going to just dump them on the beach and get away from them because they didn’t want to catch the disease themselves,” Tom Beirne of Milford said.

The town took them in, led by Milford Captain Stephen Stow. Many prisoners recovered and went home, “but over the course of January and February, 46 of them died, and Captain Stow. He died too, taking care of them,” Beirne said.

Captain Stow is one example of the kind of sacrifice required for American to become and to remain free.

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