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Gen. David Wooster:

A Largely Forgotten Hero Of The Revolution

By Paul Locher,

Staff Writer,

The Wooster Daily Record

 

General David Wooster So, who in the heck was David Wooster, and why was he so important that the seat of Wayne County government wound up being named for him?

Plenty of people who live in Wayne County and the city of Wooster have asked that question many times over the years, and there really is a good reason.

Face it, in the American Revolution there were plenty of great leaders who simply wound up being overshadowed by the larger-than-life figures of George Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette, Ethan Allen and other titans of the period.

David Wooster, perhaps in somewhat of a cruel quirk of history, turned out to be one of these lesser known heroes.

Wooster was born in Stratford, Conn., on March 2,1711. While few details of his boyhood appear to have survived, Ben Douglas in his 1875 history of Wayne County characterizes Wooster as "a man of prepossessing appearance, of rare intellectual culture, and accomplished education."

The latter would appear to be true, since Wooster was graduated from the exacting course work at Yale College in 1738.

The following year, when the colony of Connecticut formed what was called the "guard-a-costa" protect against assault by Spanish cruisers then plying the American coastline Wooster was designated second in command and shortly thereafter appointed captain.

At the close of this service, Wooster married a daughter of President Clapp of Yale College.

In 1745, when Col. Aaron Burr raised a regiment in Connecticut to go against Louisburg a seaport village on the eastern coast of the Island of Cape Breton, an insular colony of British North America. Wooster was appointed to command the company and eventually reduced its fortifications and forced its surrender. After the capitulation, Wooster was ordered to take charge of the cartel which. was sent to France to negotiate the exchange of prisoners from the conflict.

At that time Wooster was not permitted to land on French soil, but conducted his negotiations aboard ship in neutral territory.

After that Wooster traveled to Great Britain, where he was received by aristocrats and royalty, becoming a favorite of King George, who presented the American with a captain's baton in the regiment of Sir William Pepperell, with half pay for life.

After returning from his travels abroad, Wooster retired to private life and for a while lived in New

Haven. In 1750, however, Wooster came out of retirement to become a colonel in a regiment. He eventually advanced to brigadier general, a rank he held until 1763 when he entered a second retirement.

While in New Haven, Wooster proved an enterprising and public spirited businessman. At one point he was appointed Collector of Customs for the Port of New Haven.

But when the clouds of the American Revolution gathered on the horizon, Wooster re-entered the army with the rank of general.

While Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold are credited with the actual capture of Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain in New York on May 10, 1775, it was Wooster who masterminded the strategy for the operation, which ended in capture without loss of a single life.

After that, Wooster was sent to Canada where he served with Gen. Montgomery in commanding American forces. When Montgomery was killed, Wooster became supreme commander of all U.S. troops. in Canada.

In 1775, when the Continental Congress formally voted to create an army, Wooster was appointed third in rank among the brigadier generals.

In 1776, he was appointed a major general in the militia of Connecticut, having supervisory control of all military stores which were housed near the town of Danbury.

These provisions, however, were a prime target for the British army, and a force of 2,000 men under Gen. Tryon attacked Danbury in a successful effort to capture the supplies.

On April 27, 1776, Wooster attempted to head off Tryon's advance at the nearby town of Ridgefield and attacked him with 700 raw recruits, but was forced to retreat.

During the battle Wooster suffered a fatal wound.

He was sent home to New Haven, where he languished for a year before succumbing to infection on May 2, 1777. ( Note: The actual date for the Battle of Ridgefield was April 27, 1777. General Wooster was mortally wounded while attacking Tryon's forces. He was taken to Danbury, where he died five days later on May 2, 1777.)

His final words were, "I am dying, but with a strong hope and persuasion that my country will gain her independence."

Wooster's body was transported to Danbury for interment.

On June 17,1777, Congress voted that a suitable monument should be erected in his memory, but measures were never inaugurated to execute the resolution. His grave was not identified until 1854, when, by an act of the Connecticut legislature, the cornerstone of a monument was laid.

Today a 30-foot high monument marks his final resting place. Wooster's monument can be found in the Wooster Cemetery on Wooster Street. It is the oldest cemetery in Danbury, dating back to 1684.

Wooster's monument, surrounded by a stone and iron railing, is heavily carved with a variety of military and Masonic symbols, as well as classical Greek motifs. Among extensive information carved into the monument is this missive:

"Of his country Wooster said, `My life has ever been devoted to her service from my youth up, though never before in a cause like this, a cause for which I would most cheerfully risk and lay down my life.' "

 

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