New London has earned its place in regional and national history in a number of ways, but perhaps the most striking event in the city's past happened 230 years ago. In the waning days of the Revolutionary War, Norwich native Benedict Arnold led a brutal attack against two forts along the Thames River in an unsuccessful attempt to relieve pressure against faltering British troops in the South.
Today's eBay item is a reproduction 1781 map depicting the events of that day. It is offered by user khiramaddie, of Oregon, who specializes in posters and maps covering a wide variety of topics.
You can get a fascinating overview of the battle and subsequent history of the site at , but since they're closed for the season we'll do a brief recounting here. By September of 1781, the Revolutionary War was nearly at its conclusion; the siege of Yorktown would begin at the end of the month, a successful colonial effort that would lead to the end of hostilities in October and the Treaty of Paris in 1783. With New London privateers a constant annoyance to British shipping and a turncoat general who hailed from the area at British disposal, this area was a perfect target for an attack aimed at drawing off troops from elsewhere on the Eastern Seaboard.
Arnold and his divisions arrived in a fleet on Sept. 5, 1781. The next day, they landed on both sides of the Thames River and advanced upon Fort Trumbull and Fort Griswold. Capt. Adam Shapley commanded only 23 defenders at Fort Trumbull, and his orders were to retreat to Fort Griswold if the fort was directly attacked. They did so, destroying the guns and heading across the river. Arnold directed the destruction of anything of military value in New London, but the fire spread out of control and soon much of the town was aflame.
The battle at Fort Griswold is perhaps more well-known. Arnold's account says the flag of surrender was refused, and that dozens of dead or mortally wounded men were found inside after "the superior bravery and perseverance of the assailants" overcame a "most obstinate defense." Traditional American accounts say the outnumbered defenders were perfectly willing to surrender but were slaughtered in a massacre carried out by British troops. Eighty-five men, including Fort Griswold commander Col. William Ledyard, were killed and 35 injured, many fatally. The British lost 51 troops and suffered 127 wounded.
The map, measuring two feet by 18 inches, is selling for $29.99 plus $6.49 shipping and handling. There are nine copies available. This auction ends at about 12:36 p.m. on Saturday.