Category Archives: Telling Stories

Book Talk: Benedict Arnold, ‘Homegrown Terror and the Burning of New London’

Author Eric Lehman, one of this year’s finalists for the Connecticut Book Award, will speak about his book Homegrown Terror: Benedict Arnold and the Burning of New London, on Thursday, Dec. 14, 7 p.m., Russell Library, Hubbard Room, Middletown, CT. Arnold’s connections to Middletown both before and after his betrayal will be discussed. Sponsored by the Middlesex County Historical Society; for more information call (860) 346-0746 or visit https://mchsct.org. Free; all are welcome. Handicapped accessible.

Fort Griswold is a Connecticut state park.

Excerpt from The Day – Sept. 8, 1913 – about the attack on Fort Griswold decades afterwards. Digitized newspaper via Google is linked to this snippet.

“On September 6, 1781, Connecticut native Benedict Arnold and a force of 1,600 British soldiers and loyalists took Fort Griswold and burnt New London to the ground. The brutality of the invasion galvanized the new nation, and “Remember New London!” would become a rallying cry for troops under General Lafayette. In Homegrown Terror, Eric D. Lehman chronicles the events leading up to the attack and highlights this key transformation in Arnold–the point where he went from betraying his comrades to massacring his neighbors and destroying their homes. This defining incident forever marked him as a symbol of evil, turning an antiheroic story about weakness of character and missed opportunity into one about the nature of treachery itself. Homegrown Terror draws upon a variety of perspectives, from the traitor himself to his former comrades like Jonathan Trumbull and Silas Deane, to the murdered Colonel Ledyard. Rethinking Benedict Arnold through the lens of this terrible episode, Lehman sheds light on the ethics of the dawning nation, and the way colonial America responded to betrayal and terror. Finalist in both Historical Nonfiction and Regional Nonfiction for the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.” – from Amazon book synopsis

In September 1781, Connecticut native Benedict Arnold and a force of 1,600 British soldiers and loyalists took Fort Griswold and burnt New London to the ground. The brutality of the invasion galvanized the new nation, and “Remember New London!” would become a rallying cry for troops under General Lafayette. Eric D. Lehman will chronicle the events leading up to the attack and highlight this key transformation in Arnold—the point where he went from betraying his comrades to massacring his neighbors and destroying their homes. His talk will also touch on the connections Arnold had with Middletown during the war, both before and after his betrayal.

Lehman teaches literature and creative writing at the University of Bridgeport. In addition to his contributions to numerous newspapers, journals, and magazines, Lehman is the author of 12 books of fiction, travel, and history, including the Insider’s Guide to Connecticut, A History of Connecticut Food, and Shadows of Paris, for which he was a 2017 Connecticut Book Award Finalist. He will have copies of Homegrown Terror for sale and will inscriptions.

In related news – the Middlesex County Historical Society was selected this year for significant national recognition – the American Association for State and Local History’s prestigious national Leadership in History Award of Merit, presented at a special banquet. The regional historical society was recognized for the exhibit A Vanished Port: Middletown & the Caribbean, 1750-1824. Additionally, the society was honored to receive the Michael Kammen Award for outstanding effort for an institution with an annual budget under $250,000. Funding for the exhibit was provided by grants from Connecticut Humanities, the Hoffman Foundation, and the Meigs Fund at Wesleyan University. Additional funding was provided by private donors.

The American Association for State and Local History’s prestigious national Leadership in History Award of Merit was presented at a special banquet. (Left to right) Katherine Kane, AASLH Council Chair, Debby Shapiro, Executive Director MCHS, Brenda Milkofsky, exhibit designer, and John Dichtl, AASLH President & CEO. Photo courtesy of MCHS, linked to their Facebook page.

The award-winning exhibit is currently on display, located on the first floor of the society’s headquarters, the General Mansfield House. Artifacts and documents help tell the stories of enslavement, wealth and commerce in 18th and early 19th century Middletown.

A floor plan of the award-winning exhibit ‘A Vanished Port: Middletown & the Caribbean, 1750-1824’ at MCHS headquarters – the Mansfield House on Main Street, Middletown, CT. Image is linked to the MCHS site for more information.

Founded in 1901, MCHS is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to “preserving the history of Middlesex County and providing programs for adults and children to increase their understanding of the area’s past.”

Note: The Thames River Heritage Water Taxi is a new way to see and tour historic sites along the river throughout the summer and early fall – Fort Trumbull, Fort Griswold, the New London State Pier. Jackie and David Dietrich started the Thames River Water Taxi LLC because “we love being on the water and what better way to be on the water and meet new people from all over the country. My husband and I are sure you will enjoy your trip on the water taxis and we believe you will also enjoy all the historical sites in the downtown Thames River Area as well as the great restaurants downtown on the Groton and New London waterfronts. There are numerous events and sites to see and some will be posted here on the website to share our experience.”

Thames River Water Taxi is a new way to tour historic sites in summer and early fall. Image is linked to the company page.

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