George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Samuel Holden Parsons, 20 July 1779

From Brigadier General Samuel Holden Parsons

20th July 1779

Dear General

Inclosd is a Report of the Number of Houses Stores &c. burnt at Norwalk the 11th Inst.1 the Enemy were so necessarily attentive to their own Safety whilst they remaind in Town and retird with so much Precipitation when they began their Retreat, as left them no Time to perpetrate those Acts of Cruelty & Brutal Savageness they were guilty of in other Places.2

they had however Opportunity to convince Us they retaind the same Temper of Mind and wanted only Leisure to carry their infernal Malice to as great Lengths of Inhumanity as at New Haven and Fairfield.

In Norwalk a Soldier was Shot through the Breast, and after he fell the Enemy dischargd several Peices into his Head & blowd his Skull of[f]—another was found dead with his Hands bound together & peircd with Bayonets not Shot having ever enterd any Part of his Body. a third was made Prisoner and orderd to deliver up his Arms which he complied with, and was then wounded with Bayonets in several Parts of Body and about a Dozen of the Enemy presented their Peices to fire upon him when their Prisoner on which he broke from them & receivd their fire, One Ball pasd thrô his Arms but he escapd & is now in Danbury Hospital—I have taken Measures to assertain the Loss of Property & Acts of Barbarity committed at New Haven & Fairfield, which I soon expect & beleive the black Catalogue would disgrace the History of the most Savage Nation.3 I am with the greatest Respect Yr Excellency’s Obedt Servt

Saml H. Parsons


1The enclosed report, which Parsons signed, reads: “Destroyed at Norwalk July 11th 1779 by Genl Tryon—Dwelling Houses 130—Barns 87. Stores 22. Shops 17. Mills 4. Vessels 5[.] 1 Church[.] 1 Meeting House[.] Grain & Hay in the Barnes” (DNA:PCC, item 152). GW’s secretary Robert Hanson Harrison made a copy of this report that inadvertently omitted vessels (DLC:GW). Parsons apparently sent to GW on a different occasion a “Return of Buildings Burnt at Fairfield 8 & 9th July 79.” This return, which Parsons signed, reads: “Dwelling Houses 97—Barns 67—Stores 48—Meeting Houses 2—Church 1[.] Court House 1—Goal 1—School Houses 2” (DNA:PCC, item 152). GW enclosed both signed items from Parsons in his letter to John Jay of 6 Aug. (DNA:PCC, item 152).

2For a letter to Connecticut governor Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., in which Parsons used less temperate phrasing, see Parsons to GW, 11 July, n.9.

3For the handling of depositions describing British excesses at New Haven and Fairfield, Conn., see Parsons to GW, 31 July, and notes 1 and 2 to that document; see also GW to Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., 7 July, source note.

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