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Yale and the Revolution: the war comes to New Haven

Two hundred and forty years ago today, British troops landed on both sides of New Haven Harbor. President Ezra Stiles, who had spotted the invading force from the top of Yale’s chapel, immediately saw to the removal of the college's records and valuables from the town. (He later drew the map of the invasion shown here, now in the Beinecke Library.) After landing, the troops made their way toward the New Haven, meeting resistance along the way from local militia. Among the resisters was former Yale president Naphtali Daggett, Class of 1748, who was captured and beaten by the British.

After destroying supplies and seizing armaments, the invaders returned to their ships instead of burning the town as they had intended. Three stories persist as to why they didn’t: first, that the commanding officer declared the town "too pretty to burn”; second, that British officer Edmund Fanning, Yale Class of 1757, had interceded on his alma mater’s behalf; and third (and most likely), that the British were spooked by reports that large numbers of militia were assembling outside the town.

Filed under Naphtali Daggett, Ezra Stiles, American Revolution

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