My last post featured the sign in Southbury commemorating the march of General Rochambeau’s French army across the southern border of the county during the Revolutionary War. A second Revolutionary War army had traveled across the northern edge of the county three years earlier. This march is commemorated by a marker along Sand Road in North Canaan.
Following the victories of the American army at Saratoga in September and October 1777, British General John Burgoyne surrendered his army of about 6,000 men on October 17th. The terms of the surrender – known as the Saratoga Convention – stated that these British soldiers were to be paroled upon a promise to never fight against the Americans again. As the terms required approval by King George III, the British prisoners were marched to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to get them away from the approaching Adirondack winter. They arrived there in early November, taking up quarters that had been built by the British in 1775. Many of these men were sent to work for local farmers during the day. Approximately 1,500 British escaped, as legend holds that they became romantically involved with the daughters of these farmers.
In November 1778, with the terms of the convention still unratified and with Burgoyne refusing to provide a list of names of his officers so that Americans could ensure they would not fight again, the terms of the convention were revoked. The remaining British soldiers departed Boston, bound for Charlottesville, Virginia. This was, as the monument in North Canaan testifies, the longest march of the Revolutionary War. Entering Connecticut at Suffield, the British (and German Hessian) prisoners and their American escorts passed through Litchfield County’s Barkhamsted, New Hartford, Winchester, Colebrook, Norfolk, North Canaan, Salisbury and Sharon. A separate column comprised primarily of the Hessian soldiers passed through Kent and New Milford as well. In Sharon, A detachment of Hessians reportedly camped on the Norfolk green, where one prisoner escaped, married a local woman, and settled down. Other Hessian soldiers encamped opposite the Stone House (along what is now Stone House Road), where local residents long remembered the soldiers singing devotional songs in German.
For more on the Convention Army, see this excellent post by Tim Abbott.