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General Wooster

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol I. Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

May 3. –Major-General David Wooster died this day, of the wounds he received in the late affair at Danbury, in Connecticut. He was born at Stratford, in that State, on the second of March, 1710-’11, and was educated at Yale College, where he graduated in the year 1738. Soon after the Spanish war broke out in 1739, he was employed, first as lieutenant, and then as captain, of the armed vessels built by Connecticut for a Guarda Coasta. After this he engaged in the military service of this country, and was a captain in Colonel Burr’s regiment, in the expedition against Louisburg in 1745.

After the reduction of that place, he was sent to France, with a part of the prisoners taken there, and from thence went to England, where he received the honor of a captaincy on the establishment, in Sir William Pepperell’s regiment. During the peace which soon followed, he received his half pay, and was chiefly employed in his private affairs. When the war with France was renewed in 1755, he was soon thought of as a gentleman qualified for a higher sphere of command, and served his country as colonel and commandant of a brigade to the end of the war.

From the first rise of the present controversy with Great Britain, in 1764, though his interest as a half-pay officer might have apologized for him, if he had observed a perfect neutrality, yet so fully convinced was he of the ruinous measures of the British court, and so jealous was he for his country’s rights, that regardless of his private interest, he took an open and decisive part, and avowedly espoused the cause of America, and persisted in that line of conduct to the day of his death. As soon as hostilities were commenced in the Lexington battle, the General Assembly of Connecticut set about raising an army, and Colonel Wooster, from his approved abilities, well-known courage, and great experience, was appointed to the chief command. The same summer he was appointed a brigadier-general in the continental service. Honored with these commissions, he first commanded the troops sent to guard New York, where it was expected that part of the British army, which came over in 1775, would land. In the latter part of that campaign, he, with his troops, went into Canada, and assisted much in the reduction of St. John’s, Montreal, &c., and after General Montgomery’s death, had the chief command in that province. He returned home in the summer of 1776, and not long after was appointed first major-general of the militia of Connecticut.

He had been out the whole of the last winter, at the head of a body of men raised by the State for its own security, and was but lately returned, when on Saturday the 26th of April last, he received the news that the enemy, in a large body, had landed at Compo. He immediately set off for Fairfield, leaving orders for the militia to be mustered and sent forward as fast as possible. When he arrived at Fairfield, finding General Silliman had marched in pursuit of the enemy with the troops then collected, he followed on with all expedition, and at Reading overtook General Silliman, with the small body of militia, of which he of course took the command, and proceeded that same evening to the village of Bethel. Here it was determined to divide the troops, and part were sent off under Generals Arnold and Silliman, the rest remained with General Wooster, and them he led by the route of Danbury, in pursuit of the enemy, whom he overtook on the Sabbath, about four o’clock, near Ridgefield. Observing a part of the enemy who seemed to be detached from the main body, he determined to attack them, though the number of his men was less than two hundred; he accordingly led them on himself with great spirit and resolution, ordering them to follow him. But being inexperienced militia, and the enemy having several field-pieces, our men, after doing considerable execution, were broken and gave way. The general was rallying them to renew the attack, when he received the fatal wound. A musket ball from the distance of fifty rods, took him obliquely in the back, broke his back bone, lodged within him, and never could be found. He was removed from the field, had his wounds dressed by Doctor Turner, and was then conveyed back to Danbury, where all possible care was taken of him. The surgeons were from the first sensible of the danger of the case, and informed the general of their apprehensions, which he heard with the greatest composure.

The danger soon became more apparent, his whole lower parts became insensible, and a mortification, it is thought, began very early. It was designed to carry his remains to New Haven, to be interred there, but that being found impossible, they will be interred at Danbury.1


1 Connecticut Journal, May 14.

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