New Fort for New London Harbor

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the beginning of the War of 1812. That summer, as the war got underway, Secretary of War William Eustis wrote to Capt. C. D. Wood in New London, Connecticut. “Sir, You will immediately commence the repairs of the magazine at Fort Trumbull and the block house at Fort Griswold and will forward estimates with your opinion of the enclosed plan & works for the harbour of new London.”

Below is the plan Eustis enclosed. Rarely do we find anything so colorful among our manuscripts!

Plan for New London harbor, 1812, Ms 84137. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

The scale in the upper right corner of the document shows that the scale is 20 feet to one inch. Various letters, listed in the lower left corner, denote distances between points, a well, and magazines for powder and fixed ammunition. Structures visible are the officers quarters and barracks. The plan is on a single sheet of paper, approximately 11×17 inches. An image of the profile is on the reverse side.

Plan for New London harbor, 1812, Ms 84137. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

Fort Trumbull, in New London, was in fact rebuilt in 1812. We do not know what Wood thought of the plan, nor if it was ultimately used. The fort that was built was torn down in 1839, replaced by the structure that still stands.

This collection is open for research. Come visit!


It is funny how things seem to come in batches. Recently, as part of our NHPRC grant, I cataloged several documents related to the War of 1812, one right after the other.  The most interesting document, at least to me, was what appeared to be a draft of a message written by Marsh Ely, commander of American forces at Lyme, Connecticut. He wrote  “To the officer commanding the detachment of his Britanick [sic] Majestys Marine Forces now gone against the shiping [sic] lying near the mouth of Connecticut River.” Ely appealed to the British commander’s honor to “avoid the effusion of human blood” a battle would surely cause.  Since the American forces are superior in number (which they were not), Ely suggested “to you[the British commander] the propriety of surrendering your selves as prisoners of war”. The letter is dated April 8, 1814. That same day, the British fleet sailed up the Connecticut River to Essex and destroyed 20 vessels. I guess the British commander did not take the surrender suggestion seriously.

Marsh Ely calling for the British to surrender, 1814. Ms 37848.

Friday Fun (or why I love the archives)!

Today I was finishing up a catalog entry for the papers of Captain Christopher Riley. During the War of 1812 Riley served with the 37th Regiment U.S. Infantry. As I flipped through a letter book he kept, I found a draft for an advertisement to be placed in the Connecticut Courant:

Letter book, Christopher Riley papers, 1812-1821, Ms 64088. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

Just for fun, I searched the Historical Hartford Courant (available to Connecticut residents through iConn) to see if the ad actually ran. It did!

"Front Page 2 -- No Title. " Connecticut Courant (1791-1837) 8 Jun 1813,ProQuest Historical Newspapers Hartford Courant (1764 - 1922), ProQuest. Web. 25 Feb. 2011.

Part of what makes working in the archives so enjoyable is the ability to make connections such as this.

If the War of 1812 is your interest, check back in the next week or so for a post by Barbara about several other collections on that topic. In the meantime, you are welcome to visit and study any of our collections.