Monthly Archives: December 2014

Norwich’s history pre-dates the arrival of Europeans

Miantonemo 1Miantonemo 2Indian Leap

 

The eastern Connecticut city we know as Norwich was founded in 1659 by a group of English settlers, 69 founding families, who came there from Old Saybrook and bought land from the Mohegan Tribe.  As important as that date is to Norwich, its significant and varied history hardly begins there.

Sixteen years before the English arrived, Mohegan warriors, led by Uncas repulsed an attack by a numerically superior force of Narragansetts led by Miantonemo. It has been called The Battle of The Great Plain , an area we know today as the East Great Plains section of Norwich.

The Mohegans, who learned of the approaching army, quickly prepared for battle. In short order, they routed the invaders and tracked down their leader whom they later killed where he was captured, but only after Uncas got the green light from the English.

The battle that helped the English Puritan settlers consolidate their hold on southern New England, is largely forgotten, but visitors interested in early Connecticut history can visit two battle-related sites.

They could not be more different. One, Indian Leap, is at Yantic Falls, not far from where the deadly enemies squared off. Even today almost 400 years later it is visually striking. A foot bridge spanning the raging waters below affords visitors a direct view of the place where fleeing Narragansetts leapt to their deaths from a high escarpment in a desperate attempt to elude the pursuing Mohegans.

Across town in the city’s Greenville section, visitors can walk the site where Miantonemo was captured and later killed. By comparison, it is more modest, even mundane in appearance, but it is, arguably, the more significant location of the two. The capture and subsequent execution of Miantonemo removed an opponent, not only of the Mohegan tribe, but the English. He was trying to reverse the tide of English conquest by uniting the indigenous peoples who stood in their way.  It was a dispute with Uncas who favored cooperation with the English that would lead to the fateful encounter in Norwich. (Ironically, the two bitter enemies were briefly united with the English only six years earlier in the Pequot War.)

A small cut-granite monument erected two hundred years after Miantonemo’s death is perched atop a natural rock outcropping at the Greenville capture site. An information tablet outlines the significance of what took place there.  The location on a dead-end street in a residential neighborhood offers an opportunity to reflect on a part of the long and sometimes bloody march to Connecticut we know today.

Although Miantonemo lost the battle and shortly thereafter his life, he has been remembered in a number of ways. These include a large public park in Newport, Rhode Island that bears his name, Miantonomi Memorial Park.  Located on a hilltop that was later used a lookout spot during the Revolutionary War, it was the Narragansett leader’s sea of power until it was purchased by English colonists in 1637.

Although the spelling of his named varied, the U.S. Navy would name four ships after the respected Narragansett leader, including one, the USS Miantonomoh, that assisted in the D-Day landings at Normandy in World War II, and would be sunk by enemy action three months later off the coast of France.

Uncas certainly has not been forgotten, either. In 2008, the Mohegan Tribe dedicated a memorial at a traditional burial site in Norwich that had been desecrated in centuries past. Located at the intersection of Washington and Sachem streets, not far from the Indian Leap, the park is at the edge of the Royal Mohegan Burial Ground, where it is believe Uncas himself was laid to rest.

In 1833, a cornerstone to Uncas set there attracted national figures, including President Andrew Jackson and his Secretary of War, Lewis Cass. In 1840 money was raised to erect a stone obelisk at the site in memory of Uncas and in 1906 Buffalo Bill visited to honor the famed Mohegan leader. Two years later President William Howard Taft visited the Uncas Monument.

The park created in recent years by the modern Mohegan Tribe after a long struggle is a place of peace and reflection, a fitting remembrance of those who once lived and sometimes fought near there.

Directions to the Royal Mohegan Burial Ground and Indian Leap:

Take I-395 to exit 81E (state routes 2/32). At the end, turn right and follow Rts 2/32, Washington Street, to the intersection of Sachem Street, location of the burial ground. Afterwards, drive down Sachem Street for about 1/4 mile. Make a left onto Yantic Street. Indian Leap and the Yantic Falls are on the right. There is parking and the site is open year round.

 

Directions to the Miantonemo Monument:

Take I-395 to exit 81E and go to the end of the divided highway. Once there, go straight Instead of turning right as you would for the Indian Leap site and the Royal Mohegan Burial Ground. This will put you on Harland Road (Route 169). Drive until you reach Hunters Road, where you will take a right. Stay on that until the intersection of Norwich Road (Route 12), where you turn right. The monument is on Elijah Street, a left turn opposition St. Joseph’s Cemetery.

Remembering the Civil War in Connecticut

The Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Arch in Hartford’s Bushnell Park commemorates the service of the more than 4,000 Hartford men who served in the Union Arrmy during the Civil War, or as an inscription on the towering monument describes it “The National Cause”.  Nearly ten percent of those who served died in the conflict.

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The Civil War was fought far from Connecticut, but this state played a critical role on the front lines and on the home front to defeat forces of the southern Confederacy.

More than 55,000 Connecticut men served in the Union Army, 47 percent of the state’s male population between 15 and 50, the historian Matthew Warshauer has written. A significant number, ten percent, were killed and many more wounded, some horribly. Connecticut women were active in caring for the many who were wounded and engaging in other war-related tasks. Those included attending funerals for those were killed in battle, or died afterwards of their wounds. The state’s manufacturers provided a significant amount of arms and munitions, ships for the navy and everything from brass buttons and the military uniforms on which they were attached.

Professor Warshauer reminds us in an article that the state has a complicated history when it came to the slave trade and its efforts to grant its black residents a measure of equality. But, it is clear, Connecticut was committed to preserving the union.

Today, reminders of that commitment  are located throughout the state, with more than 130 memorials, including the prominent Soldier’s & Sailors Arch in Hartford and the more modest Kensington Monument in Berlin, which is recognized on the National Register of Historic Places as the country’s oldest, permanent Civil War monument.

The New England Civil War Museum in Rockville provides an interesting look at the war and those who fought in it and worth a visit.

The Lebanon Historical Society museum has an excellent Civil War exhibit that remains there until September, 2015, and the Connecticut State Library is a repository of Civil War-related information, including the names of those who served in Connecticut units.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Civil War was fought far from Connecticut, but this state played a critical role on the front lines and on the home front to defeat forces of the southern Confederacy.

More than 55,000 Connecticut men served in the Union Army, 47 percent of the state’s male population between 15 and 50, the historian Matthew Warshauer has written, with ten percent killed and many more wounded. Connecticut women were active in caring for the many who were wounded and engaging in other war-related tasks. Those included attending funerals for those were killed in battle, or died afterwards of their wounds. The state’s manufacturers provided a significant amount of arms and munitions, ships for the navy and everything from brass buttons and the military uniforms on which they were attached.

Professor Warshauer reminds us in an article for Connecticuthistory.org, the state had a complicated history when it came to the slave trade and its efforts to grant its black residents a measure of equality. But, it is clear, Connecticut was committed to preserving the union

http://connecticuthistory.org/connecticut-and-the-civil-war/

 

Today, reminders of that turbulent time in our nation’s history are scattered throughout the state, with more than 130 memorials, including the prominent Bushnell Arch in Hartford and the more modest Kensington Monument in Berlin, which is recognized on the National Register of Historic Places as the country’s oldest, permanent Civil War monument.

The New England Civil War Museum in Rockville provides an interesting look at the war and those who fought in it and worth a visit.

 

The Lebanon Historical Society museum has an excellent Civil War exhibit that remains there until September, 2015, and the Connecticut State Library is a repository of Civil War-related information, including the names of those who served in Connecticut units.

 

http://www.historyoflebanon.org/index.htm

 

http://www.newenglandcivilwarmuseum.com/visitingus.htm

 

http://www.ctstatelibrary.org/subjectguides/pages/civil-war/2151/0/page