Opposition to the British landing at Cedar Point happened as the troops assembled on Compo Hill. Some of the inhabitants began to fire on the redcoats and their loyalist allies, and General Tryon responded with infantry and artillery fire, including a very long musket shot that instantly killed one of the Connecticut defenders, and a cannonball (said to be a 9 pounder) that crashed through the second floor of the Kent family's house and struck the chimney. This incident set the tone for Tryon's Danbury Raid, with militia harrying the British in small but increasingly numerous groups and the British using their ordinance and heavy musket volleys to clear the way.
About 10 o'clock on night of their landing (April 25th, 1777) Tryon's force set off for Danbury on the Redding Road in a light rain, with the Prince of Wales American Regiment in the lead. The alarm was spreading far and wide, but it would take time for the militia and any available continental forces to concentrate. It was up to those nearest the invading column to do what they could, and the British next met resistance about three miles into their march while in Fairfield. According to a 1907 article in The Connecticut Magazine:
"[Captain Disbrow] was home on furlough when he learned of the movements of Tryon. He gathered about 30 men [others say his "Gallant 17", Ed.], stationed them in a sheltered position, and as the British advanced in the moonlight they challenged with "Who goes there?" The answer was: "You will know soon." The Americans thereupon fired and a number of the enemy fell; the advancing column returned the fire, wounding one American. The British secured an ox-cart and returned their dead and wounded to the vessels."
The British casualties were in the loyalist regiment that lead the column, Captain Lymond of the light infantry company and 5 or six others. The Captain and two of the injured were taken back to the ships. The others continued on the march.
The article continues:
"The invaders encamped that night in the northern part of the town of Fairfield. Early the next morning, the troops resumed their march, Tryon breakfasting with a Tory in Redding."
It is curious that the British would march a few miles in darkness and then encamp after meeting light armed resistance, rather than pressing on toward Danbury. It may be that the article has this part of the story wrong, along with the moonlight on a night with light rain. More likely, they kept their march and reached Redding (20 miles from the beachhead) in time for Tryon's breakfast. It is certain that the patriots did not rest that night, but mustered the forces nearest at hand and called in support for much farther afield.
Before we resuming the march on Danbury, let us examine what is known about those who opposed them. Although the landing was observed, Tryon's objective was not known for certain until he was on the Redding Road. Militia General Gold Selleck Silliman was responsible for the defense of southwest Connecticut and he happened to live in nearby Fairfield. It was he who sent the alarm to raise the militia even before the British had landed, including his own 4th Connecticut militia under the command of Lt. Colonel Alexander Gold who
"mounting his horse, formed the men in line on the village green as they came pouring in by two and threes, in squads and companies. By nightfall 500 men had been collected, and the the regiment slept on its arms with orders to march at daybreak."
Others heard the call and hurried to take part in repelling the invaders. Brigadier General Benedict Arnold was at his sister's home in New Haven, furious at having been passed over for promotion after his defense of lake Chaplain the previous fall, but he quickly grabbed a horse and with a few others rode hell for leather toward Redding. Along the way he met Connecticut militia Major General David Wooster, who he had known during the failed invasion of Canada in 1775-1776. Together they had perhaps 100 men when they met up with Silliman and Gold with the 4th Militia at Redding on the afternoon of April 26th. The British had already reached Danbury ahead of them, and as the rain was heavy and they decided to wait the night at Bethel three miles from Danbury and then plan to waylay the raiders on their return to Compo Hill.
The British had reached Danbury in the early afternoon of April 26th, though not without incident. In Weston, Zalmon Read's militia Company stumbled into the British vanguard in the dark and were taken prisoner. A lone horseman waving a sword and shouting as if to an unseen force confronted the British in the morning and delayed their march. Lt. Lambert Lockwood, carrying a message from the defenders of Danbury to General Silliman, encountered the British when they paused in Redding and was wounded and captured, while another patriot was shot dead as the British left the town.
Danbury was commanded by Colonel Jedediah Huntington of Norwich, CT, whose garrison consisted of 50 regulars from his 1st Connecticut Regiment and 100 militia, and these along with another militia company under Col. Joseph P. Cooke where all he had to oppose the British. after bringing off just a few of the store and leaving a small rearguard to delay the British, Huntington withdrew to the hills above the town to wait for a better opportunity. Tryon's men used cannon to clear the streets after they were fired on from a house (subsequently burned with the bodies of the patriot defenders, one of whom was black). The 17th dragoons chased a man with a bolt of cloth under his arm throughout he town, and the regulars soon found that along with considerable military equipment including a large number of tents, the the depot at Danbury stored a large supply of rum.
What could not be burned in the streets was piled into barns and set alight. In the end, the meeting house, all the town records, 19 houses and 22 storehouses were consumed by the flames, with those of the loyalists spared. The morning of the 27th saw part of Danbury a smoking ruin, but the British could not linger, for they had news that the countryside was in arms, and Wooster and Silliman just three miles behind them in Bethel. They decided to return to the shore by a circular route, taking to road to Ridgefield close to the border with New York. It was a much harder road than the one they took inland, starting with the Battle of Ridgefield later that day. We'll have more to say about that battle, and who fought there, in tomorrow's post, its 231st anniversary.