By Roxann Riskin
Penn State University 2001
Today, yachting on sailing, water-skiing, jet skiing, all types of pleasurable, recreational water sports are enjoyed by many on the usually serene waters of Long Island Sound in Milford, Connecticut.
The peaceful tranquility of the Sound, the magnificent view of majestic sailboats sailing out of Milford Harbor; Breathing in the salty air leaves you feeling relaxed and serene.
You shouldn’t become too comfortable because you are now going to be traveling to a time over 200 years ago. You arrive in the year 1776. Long Island Sound wasn’t so sound or by any means serene at this time in history. In fact the New England colonies were at war with Britain. The war for American independence was being fiercely fought on land as well as sea. Although, Thomas Jefferson had already written and signed The Declaration of Independence, the Revolutionary War had already begun.
On the shorefront in Milford, 6 cannons were readied at Fort Trumbull Beach, awaiting any sign of attack from the British. The colony lived in fear now not only from the Indian attacks but from British ships as well. Milford’s harbor wasn’t exactly the safest place to be in 1776.
One bitterly cold winter night in Milford Harbor unseen events would soon change the lives of many Milford residents forever… a very sorrowful story till this present day was unfolding. The small colony was totally unaware of was about to happen…
Jersey Prison Ship
The story unfolds this way:
“Last Wednesday, a flag of truce vessel arrived at Milford from New York, after a tedious passage of several days, having on board upward of 200 American prisoners, whose rueful countenances too well discover the ill treatment they received while prisoners in New York.
On that cold bitter December night, in 1776, Captain Isaac Miles and retired, Captain Stephen Stow heard strange, unidentifiable sounds outside their homes.
With no knowledge that during the night of December 31st, 1776, 200 men were released into the bitter cold waters of Long Island Sound from a British prison ship, they were too soon quickly realizing the extent of the tyranny on the Sound.
Early morning on January 1, 1777, Captain Stephen Stow took matters into his own hands. For what he found early morning was devastating to the entire colony. Two hundred men desperately clinging to life, after being held captive in filthy conditions were found wandering inland from the mouth of the harbor. Some accounts say that a ship was seen in the harbor but it quickly disappeared into the fog.
Captain Stow and Captain Miles would soon open their kitchen doors to 200 nearly frozen, starving and dying men. In acts of mercy, citizens of Milford welcomed these sickly soldiers into their homes, without ever knowing that an epidemic of small pox would soon bring illness and death to many colonial residents.
Dr. Elias Carrington offered to inoculate those who were willing to help. But in spite of the precautions, many Milford residents were stricken and great numbers of them died in the resulting small pox epidemic.
But Stephen Stow, became a self evident hero, “when after making his will, an act which gives evidence that he realized the uncertainty of his return, he turned his face o all that was dear to him, home, friends, and wife, and taking his life in his hands, ministered day and night to those sick and dying men, until at last, worn out by constant attendance, he too succumbed to the dread disease.”
“Forty-six of the sufferers were laid to rest in the burial ground at Milford and with them their faithful friend and nurse, Stephen Stow.”
A 35-foot state supported monument is a testimony to our self-sacrificing Patriot hero, Stephen Stow who succumbed to the small pox virus on February 8, 1777 and to the 46 brave men, whose names are permanently inscribed here.
If your remember anything about the small Milford Connecticut colony, remember the name Stephen Stow, Revolutionary Patriot.
Recall the words of one who for the love of suffering humanity made the supreme sacrifice: “Greater love hath no man than this: that a man lay down his life for his friend”, these words written on this memorial monument in Milford Cemetery.
46 men died with dignity at home, in America.
46 men, their names remembered here on this American Soldier’s Monument.
“These men were not invisible.”
Shape the Invisible by Martin Page (Lyrics From the Song)
There’s a broken man
Praying for a wounded land.
Oh why can’t we shape the invisible
For faith that’s blind
The voice of reason cries
Oh why can’t we shape the invisible
A mother’s son
Is now a soldier marching on
He’s been told to shape the invisible
Under poisoned skies
The children wonder why
Our fathers can’t shape the invisible
Somewhere a small boy playing with his toys
Someday his innocence will
Shape The Invisible
New Haven Colony History
Patriot Saints DAR Chapter on Freelove Baldwin Stow
History of Milford Connecticut
I am dedicating this video and storyboard production to Mrs. Norma Fitzpatrick and Mrs. Barbara Ortaleva. Without these dedicated Milford teachers, mentors, mothers, grandmothers, and co-workers, I would not have known many things about Milford, where I grew up, but in fact I have never heard of this one, in particular, most memorable-historical Milford story that I am documenting here, on video and in print. Upon researching facts in the genealogy room of Milford Library, I suddenly felt compelled to revisit the Revolutionary Monument with my son, Ross. To my utmost surprise it had been on the 8th day of February 2001, exactly 224 years ago to the date of Stephen Stow’s death. And while in the genealogy room, when looking for Mrs. Freelove Stow’s DAR Patriot Saint information, I had turned to the exact page in the DAR book, as witnessed by the librarian who was attending my research needs. I gratefully thank those 46 men, especially the Stow family, whose kindred spirits are feeling the need to be heard once again to remind us of our duty to American patriotism. A special thanks to Pam Ward for historical documents!