Forgotten Hero Of The Revolution
By Paul Locher,
The Wooster Daily
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
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
His final words were, "I am dying,
but with a strong hope and persuasion that my country will gain her
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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