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Jedediah Elderkin to Governour Trumbull



Windham, November 15, 1775.

Whereas your Honour and Council of Safety, on the 2d day of November, instant, appointed me, with Major Dawes, (now residing in Norwich,) with such Engineers as your Honour should procure from his Excellency General Washington, to repair to and view the circumstances


of the harbour and port at New-London, and neighbouring places, and consider of the most proper places and manner of fortifying the same against our enemies, &c˙, according to act of Assembly, &c˙, after which it so happened that no Engineers could be procured; that on the 8th of said November, your Honour directed me to wait on said Major Dawes, and with him to attend on and perform said service in the best manner we could.

That on the 9th day of said November, I, at Norwich, waited on said Major Dawes, informed him of his being appointed in manner aforesaid, and requested him with me to attend said service; which service the said Major Dawes declined, for reasons which he judged sufficient to excuse him; on which, by the advice of some of your Honour' s Council of Safety, I went forward to New-London and Groton, to execute said trust, and do the service in the best manner I could, by the assistance, information, and help of the principal gentlemen of said Towns. On my arrival, sent to considerable part, and gave notice to almost all the gentlemen living on the banks and near the harbour in New-London, among whom were many who, by travelling and otherwise, had gained considerable knowledge in fortifications, batteries, and securing harbours, &c. I then informed them of your Honour' s orders, and that I would wish them to view the several places mentioned by the Assembly' s Committee, and any other they would propose as suitable to build works on for the security of the harbour; on which, it was the voice of all, that the places mentioned in the Committee' s report were far the best on the harbour, and were so formed and situated that, with much the least expense and danger, they might be improved for the security of that port.

We then went on and viewed the island or point called Mammicock, with the make, rise, and fall of the ground, to and from the point or place where the battery must stand; found the distance from thence to the old fort, to the harbour' s mouth, and directly across the river. On viewing, all were of opinion that the places were good for the purpose. The top of the east part is near twenty feet above the water; on the top, principally flat rocks; near by plenty of turf, suitable for constructing and making of a rampart or bank — suppose a bank eighty feet, fronting near east, the same length south, the same north, not on right angles, with five embrasures in each rampart or bank, without bastions or trenches without the works, and five cannon, eighteen or twenty-four pounders, well mounted, which might with ease be removed from place to place, as the service might require. This battery, if built, would be one hundred and eighty-two rods from the old fort, a little over two miles from the harbour' s mouth, and the waters of the river on the harbour near east opposite one hundred and ninety-two rods; would command the harbour in every place northeast and south within reach of their shot.

We then viewed the place called Winthrop' s Point, and find the south bluff part of that point is twenty feet above the water, very steep, mostly hard gravel, pointing down the harbour to the harbour' s mouth; a fine level on the top, near the water, to build a battery or breastwork, for the improving of cannon, to secure the port of New-London; the land leading to the point so rises and has sundry hills and vales, that any number of men may pass and repass entirely safe from ships in any part of the harbour; materials, viz: turf and gravel, plenty and handy. Suppose ten guns, eighteen or twenty-four pounders, would be well to be planted at this place.

Then viewed sundry places at Groton, and were attended by and had the advice of many of the gentlemen of that Town, who all manifested their desire that the port of New-London might be fortified; which they, as well as the people at New-London, supposed might be done with as little expense as any harbour or port equally valuable on the Continent. On examination, viewing, &c˙, find there is in Groton, nearly opposite the old fort, at New-London, a hill or eminence, the summit or top of which is about one hundred and twenty feet above the surface of the water, and within fifty rods of the water' s edge, at which place the ship channel is not more than one hundred and sixty rods in width. On the summit of this hill, the harbour, from the entrance to the north part thereof, and some way up this river, is open and in view. On this hill, it seems, nature had prepared a place to plant cannon for the protection


of that port or harbour; the top, running near the same part of the harbour north and south for some distance, is considerable level, sufficient to improve such number of cannon as would be necessary, and east and west sufficient for breastwork, platform, &c˙, for the cannon; then the declivity of the hill is such east, that any number of men, by slipping a few saps back of the works, would be out of danger. The form of the land is such, that all passing to and from a battery there could be secure from the enemy. It is thought no large man-of-war can so elevate her cannon in her lower tier as to annoy a battery at this place: if she could reach thence, they would be random shot. I suppose no works would be necessary here for the improvement of cannon, only a breastwork, or bank of turf and gravel, not more than ten feet thick, of suitable height for the cannon to play over, without embrasures, bastions, or trenches; turf and gravel plenty; ten twenty-four pounders would answer, but some larger would be better. I need not observe the great advantage the defenders would have at this place over their enemy; the elevation is such, that they may plunge into their ships, if within reach of their guns.

Also viewed the new works at the old battery, executed by Colonel Saltonstall, which are well done, and nearly finished; the cannon well mounted; the situation good, if other batteries, at some or all the other places, are built, and cannon planted, so that the enemy' s fire be drawn to different places, and not centre there. But if the batteries were built at all the proposed places, and with a suitable number and proper weight of cannon, the situation and different angles that those places bear one to the other would expose any ship that should come within reach of their shot, within the harbour, to be distressed, annoyed, and raked fore and aft.

As to the expense of the works at those places, I endeavoured, by the help of some best acquainted, to make some estimate; but found, on trial, that it was not possible to be done with any degree of certainty. The people of Groton, at their own expense, have, at sundry places near the water' s edge, made breastworks and intrenchments to protect them in the use of their fire-arms, on the landing of troops on or near their wharves and other places, which they are determined to oppose to the last. These works are very well done, and at very considerable expense, in which the people appear free and spirited.

As to floating batteries to defend the port and harbours against the enemy' s ships, when they come with defiance and a determination to possess themselves of that part of our Country, they cannot be sufficient without fixed batteries at some or all the places proposed, to secure and defend the port from invasion and falling into the possession of the enemy. I own I never till lately gave much attention to the business or art of fortifying harbours or building forts, batteries, &c˙, but the alarming situation and distress which our Country is in, and ministerial designs and vengeance aimed at our sea-coasts, has called my attention to look into matters of that kind, and, so far as I can judge, it is of the utmost importance to secure the port and harbour of New-London from falling into the hands of our enemies, which will be an asylum for ships, vessels of force, floating batteries, &c˙, that may be by the Continent or any particular Government built for the protection of our sea-coasts or Country, which shall come that way; but, on the contrary, if left destitute of protection, and fall into the hands of our enemies, it would let them into the bowels of our Country, and give them great advantage against us. That the best and only sure and eligible manner of fortifying and securing said port and harbour is in erecting batteries at the several places and in some manner as before mentioned.

All which is submitted to your Honour' s wisdom; and am your Honour' s most obedient humble servant,


To the Hon˙ Jonathan Trumbull, Esq˙, Governour of the Colony of Connecticut.