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The Burning of Fairfield, CT

One of my favorite witness accounts was preserved by my great grandmother and comes from my fourth great grandfather, Isaac Banks, who lived in Fairfield, Connecticut. He was born in 1766 so he wasn’t old enough to serve in the Revolution himself, but he saw his older brothers enlist with local militias and they all experienced firsthand one of the most terrifying and destructive battles in Connecticut.

British troops led by General William Tryon set their sights on Black Rock Harbor and Fairfield County in 1779 as it was an important hub for supply lines to the Continental forces. As his troops entered the area prepared for raiding and looting, a group of soldiers stopped at Isaac’s house to demand a drink. Isaac was thirteen years old and was acting as head of the household while his father and brothers answered calls to defend with the local militia. He brought one hogshead (keg) of cider up from the cellar. The British soldiers made him drink from it first to show it wasn’t poisoned and they were amazed at his strength in lifting it. After drinking their fill, they twerked his nose and went on to burn his hometown of Fairfield, stating it would be “Blackfield” by night.

The Banks family and homestead miraculously survived the assault, but 97 homes and 67 barns were destroyed in less than one day by British flames. Short descriptions of the Banks brothers' service follows:

Gershom Banks, Jr (1752-1835) : (Isaac’s older brother)

Enlisted 1775, defended New York and Governor’s Island. Enlisted 1776-1777 and defended New York with General Washington. Enlisted 1778 at the Fort at Black Rock in Fairfield. Was in battles and skirmishes including the Burning of Fairfield and Norwalk and Greens Farms meeting house, and the battle of Compo in Westport. Served as a Minute Man in the Fairfield Guard from 1779 to the close of the war.

Joseph Banks (1754-1830) : (Isaac’s older brother)

Enlisted 1775 to serve as a private in Waterbury. Enlisted 1778 and was on guard and on the lines at Horse Neck until the end of the war.

Elijah Banks (1762-1816) : (Isaac’s older brother)

Enlisted as a substitute in 1778. Enlisted 1779 in the Fairfield Guard (aka Shore Guard) protecting Black Rock and Southport.

Hyatt Banks (1764-1857) : (Isaac’s older brother)

Enlisted 1780 as Minute Man on the Fairfield coast and Mill River. In 1781 he was tasked to guard and convey a group of Tories to Danbury.

For sources and more reading on the Burning of Fairfield:


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