April 20, 2014

Local Battlefield Site Moves Closer to Federal Recognition

Archeologists investigated sites along the Connecticut River in Old Saybrook and Essex and discovered a variety of objects linked to the 1814 Raid.

Archeologists investigated sites along the Connecticut River in Old Saybrook and Essex and discovered a variety of objects linked to the 1814 Raid.

ESSEX – Following nearly six years of planning, historic research and archeological digs, the War of 1812 era battlefield site along the mouth of the Connecticut River is moving closer to receiving federal recognition.  The British Raid on Pettipaug (Essex, CT) occurred on April 7 and 8, 1814.  During this engagement, 27 American vessels were destroyed, resulting in the country’s largest loss of ships during the War of 1812.

The Connecticut River Museum in Essex has spearheaded this effort.  In 2012, the Museum received a grant through the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program to identify and document the British Raid in preparation for nominating it to the National Register of Historic Places as a battle site. If accepted, the battle site would include several locales: the Village of Essex; portions of Watrous Point; Ayer’s Point; and Saybrook Point. These areas along the Connecticut River include the peninsula of Essex which served as the British landing site, several period buildings, and locations of former shipyards where ships were burned.  Also included are sites along the River in Old Saybrook, where Americans fired on the enemy in an attempt to prevent their escape.

Speaking on behalf of the Connecticut River Museum, executive director Christopher Dobbs said “This will be a significant honor for our region.” Dobbs went on to say, “National recognition is yet one more way to elevate the importance of the River and bring tourists to the area.”  Stacey Vairo, State Historic Preservation Officer, noted that “Battle site designation is largely symbolic and recognizes the area’s significance in State and National history.”

As a next step for battle site designation, the State Historic Preservation Board will meet to review the nomination at their scheduled meeting on January 27, 2014.  In preparation for this meeting, the Connecticut River Museum will host a short information meeting with project archeologist Kevin McBride from the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, whose team has conducted the field work in this project, and Stacey Vairo, State Historic Preservation Officer.  The meeting is free and open to the public and will take place on Tuesday, January 21at 5:30 PM at the Connecticut River Museum, 67 Main Street, Essex, CT. Following the State review, the application will most likely move to the national level.  It is the intent by many in Essex to have the nomination completed in time for the bicentennial of the event in 2014.

For more information about the proposed nomination and National Register process, please contact the State Historic Preservation Office at 860-256-2766.

The Connecticut River Museum is located on the Essex waterfront at 67 Main Street and is open Tuesday – Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Connecticut River Museum, located in the historic Steamboat Dock building, offers exhibits and programs about the history and environment of the Connecticut River. For a full listing of event details, go to www.ctrivermuseum.org or call 860-767-8269.