July 4, 1999
Editor: Hans DePold, Bolton Town Historian
This newsletter is to provide a means for keeping historians, re-enactors, and other interested people aware of the activity to list the Revolutionary Road in the National Register of Historic Places. The Revolutionary Road was the choice of Rochambeau’s French army when they marched from Newport to Yorktown and back to Boston. The goal is also to encourage registration not only the Connecticut portion, but also the Revolutionary Road that passes through Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.
Putnam Memorial State Park
We visited the Putnam site at Redding CT, early this past week and I now know why re-enactors love it so much. It is a treasure. The site is a naturally fortified area not unlike the site at White Plains that General Washington selected for his war office. But in contrast, the location of Washington’s War Office at White Plains is a national disgrace. It has parking for perhaps 20 cars and is in an industrial area that looks like a dump. And isn’t it Washington’s 200th anniversary? There should be an outcry from everyone who sees it.
We need to revitalize and renew. We are the stewards of heritage and should be its builders not liquidators. It is time to take our heritage to a higher level, a level where it is attractive, something communities are proud to show off and something people will travel to see, a destination. Yet it seems harder than ever to maintain our heritage even though the United States has the world’s highest standard of living and now has more than 400 billionaires. Bill Gates alone has more than 90 billion. Why does the National Park Service leave Washington’s War Office in White Plains looking like a dump? And what has happened to philanthropy in the world’s wealthiest country?
We then went to Trumbull and visited the orchard site behind the Trumbull Historical Society. Local legend has it that the French once camped there. Rochambeau’s map shows Lauzun took his legion through somewhere between Putnam and Trumbull. But it is also known that Lauzun split his men up and spread across several routes. If you want to visit the orchard campsite in the fall they will let you can pick half a bushel of apples to take home. Within a year we should know more precisely where Lauzun and Rochambeau camped in western Connecticut.
Nathan Hale Muster July 24/25
I have scanned part of one of the oldest maps of the ‘Revolutionary Road” and enhanced the image with Corel Photo software and enlarged it. I then overlaid it with the French map of Bolton and the latest topographical map of the area. I knew the French map was accurate but I was surprised to see the oldest map was accurate over intertown distances to within 15%. I discovered that not only did the Lebanon/Providence road shift 3 miles shortly after the Revolution, but so did the Boston Road just before the French passed through. It appears that early in the Revolutionary War the Boston Road forked off at Andover near the Times Farm Road and merged into South Road and ran past the Nathan Hale Homestead. Arnold Carlson an historian of Coventry says it makes sense since that part of South Road has some of the oldest houses, and the oldest houses are usually on the oldest roads. By June of 1781 the French maps show that the Boston Road forked off at the center of Bolton.
I think the best ancient fife and drum corps muster is the one Coventry has on a July Sunday afternoon every year. I always try to go to it. It is an incredible competition of some of the best corps in the country. The rumor is that this will be the last year the two days of activity will be free. The Nathan Hale anniversary is in 2005. We can expect great things to come.
The Revolutionary Road project in Connecticut has two years to go.
At the end of each phase there is an opportunity for community events. There is an opportunity for the historians and archaeologists involved to speak in the community. This year there were three events. Much of the work will now be in western Connecticut so I think if you want to sponsor a talk next year in that region it could be arranged. Lafayette, Washington and others used the Revolutionary Road as well. I know that when I wrote the legislation for the project we had in mind that while Rochambeau defined the route, we intended that the trips of the other patriots living on and using the route would be documented as well. In Bolton we list two visits from Washington, five from Lafayette, and we know Nathan Hale and Jonathan Trumbull had passed through as well as several Continental regiments.