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Discovery of Revolutionary War skeletons inspires research into Battle of Ridgefield and new grant

Ridgefield Historical Society (Ridgefield Historical Society/Facebook)
August 09, 2023

The Ridgefield Historical Society received a Preservation Planning Grant from the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program. These grants are the broadest and most diverse from the program and focus on “promoting the preservation of any battlefield or associated site on American soil,” according to the National Park Service website.

The Ridgefield Historical Society was awarded the grant to conduct a second phase of archaeological field tests and complete its multi-year effort to map the Revolutionary War battlefield through present day Ridgefield, the National Park Service states.

Bartkus said the “highly competitive” grant will also empower the historical society to dive even deeper into history, breathe new life into the past, create a more inclusive story of the Battle of Ridgefield, and protect and preserve the battlefield for future generations. He said their investigations will also help foster a greater sense of community pride and enhance the town’s tourism.

“Money will be spent to continue the military history of our Revolutionary heritage where men and women put their lives on the line to fight for our freedom,” said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.. “It’s an investment in a historic treasure, in a stewardship to protect it. It’s an investment in people, frankly, who want to come live in Connecticut…. People can come to Ridgefield to see history, living history.”

Blumenthal, historical society members, volunteers and donors gathered in front of the historic David Scott House on Tuesday morning to celebrate the grant announcement with local and state representatives. Four representatives from the Fifth Regiment of Connecticut dressed in Revolutionary War costumes set the ceremony in motion with a performance of songs played on the fife.

Ridgefield Historical Society President Tracy Seems marveled at how the historical society’s long-term project started with a simple home renovation in 2019 that led to unearthing human skeletal remains.

The skeletal remains were found by construction workers who were renovating the basement of an early 18th century home on Main Street. The skeletons were believed to belong to Revolutionary War soldiers that fought in the Battle of Ridgefield in April 1777.

The skeletons are being researched and will undergo DNA analyses and genealogical research, Bartkus said, along with research to see if the soldiers have living descendants.

Seems said the historical society is trying to raise $30,000 to complete the research on the skeletons.

Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi said he hopes the forensics research will be completed by 2027, and the town can host a reburial for the soldiers for the 250th anniversary of the Battle of Ridgefield.

Nicholas Bellantoni, state archaeologist emeritus, said the grant will not only help the town recover artifacts from the battle but also “allow new interpretations of the battle and better understand the sacrifices of that battle.”

“Archaeology completes that history with material artifacts,” he said. “Together, it will give new and important insight. We now know patriots were buried on the battlefield in mass graves. We’re preserving the remains of human souls that made the ultimate sacrifice.

“By the end of this year, we will have a great deal of forensic information,” Bellantoni said. “We have a long way to go but we’ll prepared for the 250th anniversary.”


(c) 2023 Journal Inquirer

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