Log In

Reset Password

By Light From The Fire: Elegy for the Unknown Soldiers Who Died in the Battle of Ridgefield, 1777



Text Size

By Lauren Clifford

By light from the fire atop candles’ wicks,

He wrote to his family, his name he affixed

To letters describing the battles he fought,

And dreams, aspirations, and glories he sought.

A husband, an uncle, a brother, a son—

He might have been all of these things or just one.

He knew he’d been loved, and he hoped he was missed,

But if he fell victim to Fate’s callous twist,

He feared that his memory would cease to exist.

By light from the fire that wrecked what was left

Of storehouses loaded with rations of heft,

He watched from a distance as Danbury burned,

Unsettled, and anxious with cause for concern.

His hands might have carried a torch or a pail,

His throat might have sounded a sigh or a wail.

When given his orders to stop or persist,

He thought of the reasons he chose to enlist,

And feared that his purpose would cease to exist.

By light from the fire of camp, he stayed warm,

And patched up the tears on his worn uniform.

He cooked up his meal in the small bivouac,

And knew at the dawn there’d be no turning back.

A battle was eminent; guns would be drawn—

The chess game resumed with a king and his pawns.

He knew of his duty; defeat he’d resist.

If life was suspended and death had him kissed,

He feared that his courage would cease to exist.

By light from the fire of barrels discharged,

The cannons and bullets had foray enlarged.

Each man that was fighting was both friend and foe,

Condemning and praising the force of each blow.

His oath to his country might stay unfulfilled,

For war meant he might need to kill or be killed.

Among all the angst in the battlefield’s midst,

And whether he died by a weapon or fist,

He feared that his honor would cease to exist.

By light from the fire that burned in the stars,

These four fallen men with heroical scars,

Were quietly buried without any pomp

In Ridgefield’s soft earth where their boots had once stomped.

No funerals, no gravestones, no sympathies bade,

No gloves given out, and no mourning rings made.

They could have been British, or staunch Loyalists,

Or possibly Patriot-sworn colonists,

But no one had marked where they ceased to exist.

By light from the fire that burns in us all,

We recognize soldiers whose efforts weren’t small—

Without their brave combat, or strength of resolve,

Our country would never have come to evolve.

These four men who died among Ridgefield’s terrain,

Had sacrificed all and had not died in vain—

Their memory and purpose will not be dismissed,

Their courage and honor are here, we insist—

Since freedoms they gave us, today, still exist.

About This Poem

Newtown resident Lauren Clifford recently attended a seminar concerning the 1777 Battle of Ridgefield, sponsored by Ridgefield Historical Society. The seminar also concerned the skeletal remains of four soldiers discovered under the foundation of a house that was being renovated in 2019.

Having lived in Connecticut most of her life, Clifford said she found the topics fascinating, and she was inspired to write an elegy for the men as a way to pay tribute to them.

Each of the first four stanzas represents what one of the soldiers might have been doing on the days leading up to the Battle of Ridgefield and also on the day itself, and that they feared specific aspects of themselves would be forgotten.

The fifth stanza shows how they weren’t given proper funerals. The final stanza, she said, “emphasizes that it doesn’t matter if the fallen soldiers were British, Loyalists, or Patriots — their deaths resulted in giving us a gift that we still hold dear and value each day: freedom.”

While doing research for the elegy, Clifford said, she came across an April 2003 Newtown Bee article about the Battle of Ridgefield and how some of the militia were from Newtown, “including Mary Hawley’s maternal great-grandfather William Edmond, the namesake of Edmond Town Hall.

“So it is not out of the realm of possibility that one of these fallen soldiers might have been from Newtown,” she said.

Clifford and her family also attended Ridgefield Historical Society’s American Revolutionary War funeral on May 1 at Olde Town Graveyard in Ridgefield.

It was a symbolic funeral, Clifford noted.

“The bones are still being analyzed in labs across Connecticut,” she said.

There were four caskets, two draped with the British flag and two draped with the American flag “just to show an even representation. The scientists have not been able to determine which sides the soldiers fought on,” she added.

“I couldn’t help but make parallels to the present-day war being fought in Ukraine — how there aren’t winners in war, how small the amount of glory is compared to the consequences, mainly the loss of life,” she said.

A symbolic funeral for the four men who fought in the Revolutionary War Battle of Ridgefield, whose skeletal remains were unearthed just a few years ago, was celebrated in Ridgefield on May 1. The funeral procession included reenactors of both the red-coated British army and the blue-and-beige-coated Continental army. There were four caskets, two draped with the British flag and two under an American flag. The event, and a recent Ridgefield Historical Society seminar, inspired Newtown resident Lauren Clifford to compose an elegy for the unknown soldiers. —Lauren Clifford photo
Both sides of the Revolutionary War were represented during a ceremonial funeral parade conducted in Ridgefield earlier this month. —Lauren Clifford photo
Comments are open. Be civil.

Leave a Reply