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British Account of the Burning of Fairfield

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

A British writer gives the following account of the burning of Fairfield:—”About five o’clock in the afternoon [July 8] the British troops landed about a mile and a half west of the fort at Fairfield. One division, consisting of Jagers, flank companies of guards, Fanning’s corps, and regiment of Landgrave, with General Tryon, moved up in columns to gain the right of the town, and were cannonaded from the fort hill above it, without suffering any loss. The advanced corps drew up a little short of the town, where they proposed remaining; but the enemy bringing a six-pounder on their left to enfilade them, they were obliged to move towards, and drive the enemy from the lower heights in front of the town, which they occupied with this field-piece. This they effected with little loss and difficulty, Jonathan very prudently removing himself to the upper heights, at a very decent distance, where he amused himself with firing long shot till about eight o’clock; when, upon the approach of General Garth with another division, he thought proper to retire entirely, after a narrow escape of being cut off by the forces under that general. Not a single house was touched, as the general had taken some pains the two days before to circulate their address and proclamation;1 and New Haven, though so fine a town, and of so much use to the rebellious colonists, was spared, in hopes these deluded people would at last be made sensible that lenity, whilst it could be shown without prejudice to ourselves, was the wish of British souls and British commanders. New Haven, except one or two storehouses and one or two small vessels, was left unhurt.

“Uninfluenced by this gentle treatment, their hearts seemed hardened like the hearts of Pharaoh’s servants. Fairfield, till six in the evening, remained as before, when an order came for the advanced troops to retire a little nearer the town. Jonathan, imagining the dread of him had inspired this motion, felt very bold, and advancing nearer, got in behind some houses in front of the town, and flattering himself he was then in security, threw his shot something thicker about him. The troops faced about, drove Jonathan from his fancied fortress, and then set fire to these few alone which had emboldened and afforded cover to their enemies; these houses were in front of the town. General Tryon then sent a flag to them by the clergyman of the place, offering, if they would return to their allegiance, the town should be spared, and those who would come in should remain unmolested. This generous offer Jonathan did not think fit to comply with, but cannonaded his own town all night; the consequence of which was, in the morning the troops set it on fire, and they re-embarked, leaving their conduct in these two instances to inspire proper reflections in their enemies.”2


1 See Collier’s and Tryon’s Address.
2 Rivington’s Gazette, July 14.