On July 4, 1776, delegates of the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence; a document that announced the fledgling 13 colonies would gain freedom from rule under Great Britain -- a landmark decision during the early years of the Revolutionary War.
Today, we typically celebrate the birth of American independence with barbecues, fireworks, and parades. But another way to celebrate is to become immersed in the rich history of Connecticut and the early days of what has since become the United State of America.
The Burning of Fairfield (including Westport, Weston, Easton, and Black Rock)
Back when Fairfield included two-thirds of Westport, Weston, Easton, and Bridgeport's Black Rock section, the area played a significant role in the Revolutionary War. That role is commemorated every year by Fairfield with a walking tour of an event known as the Burning of Fairfield.
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detailed how Fairfielders helped the cause for independence. Troops were sent from Fairfield to fight in Lexington, Mass. in 1775 and to New York to fight in 1776.
On July 7, 1779, British Major General William Tryon and 800 troops landed at Black Rock Harbor and by that evening had taken Fairfield's Town Green. Seventeen hundred more British troops joined Tryon later that evening and, by 8 a.m. on July 8, had burned 97 homes, 64 barns, two meetinghouses, a church, and the county jail.
Fairfield and the 'Second War of Independence'
This year -- the bicentennial of the War of 1812 -- Fairfield will focus its July 4th festivities on its role in that war, according to a report in the Fairfield Citizen.
The War of 1812 -- sometimes known as the "second war of independence" -- began a mere 29 years after the Revolutionary War was concluded.
Members of the Daughters of the American Revolution will participate in the town's festivities, which begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday on the Town Hall Green. According to the report in the Citizen, DAR member and president of Connecticut Society, U.S. Daughters of 1812 Betty Oderwald will discuss Fairfield's role in the war.
, a building erected by Fairfield farmers in 1814 to store ammunition to support the cause against the British.
Continental Army at Putnam Park
Camp Reading, now known as Putnam Park in Bethel, .
The troops, under the direction of Gen. Israel Putnam, were encamped on the northern border of Redding throughout that harsh winter. Battle-weary and ill-supplied, the troops were doing so poorly that Gen. George Washington himself felt it was his responsibility to right the situation.
The commander of the Continental Army personally urged that the Connecticut troops be furnished with shirts, stockings, and shoes.
The Battle of Ridgefield
Near the start of the Revolutionary War, Ridgefield's Keeler's Tavern served as a hub for Patriots to discuss the moves of the British Army.
On April 27, 1777, talk among neighbors became reality when British Major General Tryon with 1,500 troops, a cavalry group, 300 loyal colonials, and a six-piece artillery unit attempted to keep Patriots at bay
Patriot General David Wooster and 700 soldiers camped in Bethel forced Tryon to head south toward Ridgefield, where troops under the direction of General Benedict Arnold and General Gold Selleck Silliman were waiting.
Barricades were erected in Ridgefield as Wooster attacked the British from the rear. Tryon overran the Patriot troops in Ridgefield and burned the town, but not before Arnold displayed legendary heroics -- escaping after taking nine musket balls.
Though the Patriots lost, the battle slowed the British, who never fought in Connecticut again, Angela Liptak, associate director of the Keeler Tavern Museum, .
Washington Stops in Westport
It was known as West Parish during George Washington's time -- a conglomerate of parts of Westport, Fairfield, and Norwalk -- .
After he crossed the Saugatuck River on horseback, Washington met with local minister Rev. Hezekiah Ripley of the West Parish Meetinghouse (now known as Green's Farms Congregational Church). The men enjoyed a walk together talked about rebellion before Washington headed north.
Before leaving, Washington supposedly remarked that the meetinghouse was a "comely little church."
War Veterans Buried in Monroe
Stepney Cemetery, located in Monroe's Stepney Village, .
Thirty-one of the tombstones belong to Civil War veterans, six to men who fought during the War of 1812, and five to soldiers of the Revolutionary War.
The village will mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War in September with a special ceremony on Stepney Green. The service will include reading the names of all the Civil War veterans.
East Haven Houses Encampment of Gen. Lafayette
On the East Haven Town Green is a memorial dedicated to Continental Army General Marquis de Lafayette, who set up camp in East Haven with 2,800 troops during a trek to Rhode Island in July 1778.
According to the East Haven Historical Society's website, local minister and Patriot Rev. Nicholas Street offered Lafayette "to enjoy the hospitalities of his home during his stay, which he very willingly accepted."