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Money will help unearth Ridgefield’s Revolutionary War past

Four years after remains were discovered beneath a home, the town is getting money to dig up its Colonial secrets.

John Craven

Aug 8, 2023, 4:09 PM

Updated 283 days ago


Ridgefield is known for its quaint New England charm, but just underground could lie dozens of Revolutionary War soldiers and other artifacts. Now, four years after remains were discovered beneath a home, the town is getting money to dig up its Colonial secrets.
Tuesday morning, the Ridgefield Historical Society announced a grant from the U.S. National Park Service to unearth artifacts from the Battle of Ridgefield.
“This $117,000 – and I hope more will be coming – is an investment,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut).
The grant comes after human remains were discovered during a home basement renovation in 2019. Believed to be four male soldiers who were between 20 and 40 years old, archaeologists at Yale University hope to identify them in the next year.
“Because of the good preservation, we can do analysis like DNA, stable carbon isotope, that will really tell us a lot of the specifics of these individuals,” said Nick Bellantoni, the Connecticut state archaeologist emeritus.
Bellantoni said work was delayed because of the COVID pandemic and funding issues.
The new grant money will allow researchers to search under even more homes.
“This grant will enable us to employ state-of-the-art technology and expert archeologists to explore the battle sites and identify areas of archeological integrity,” said Stephen Bartkus, executive director of the Ridgefield Historical Society. “The archaeologists will employ ground-penetrating radar to look into the ground. Also, metal detectors.”
If possible remains are found, Bartkus said researchers will then follow-up with a small “dig test” about one foot into the ground.
The excavations are completely voluntary. Homeowners who want to sign up should contact the Ridgefield Historical Society.
Signs of the Battle of Ridgefield are all over town, including a cannonball lodged into the side of an old tavern. But much about it remains unknown.
Historians say the “battle” was more like a skirmish. But it came at a pivotal time in 1777, turning public opinion against the British – and encouraging more Connecticut residents to join the Colonial Army.
The Red Coats had just raided a critical Colonial supply depot in nearby Danbury, burning dozens of homes in the process. On their march back to Long Island Sound, local militias formed a human roadblock on Main Street in Ridgefield.
It didn’t last long. The Americans were outmanned and outgunned, although the British suffered casualties as well. Historians believe dozens of men from both sides may be buried in Ridgefield.
Bartkus hopes to make the town a tourist destination for history buffs, but also to give names – and a proper burial – to the men who died there.

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