The Struggle for Survival: Siege and Battles of Saybrook Fort and the Pequot War
In the summer of 1635 Lion Gardiner, an engineer with experience in constructing forts, signed a contract with English noblemen to build a fort and layout a town in the new world for “gentlemen of quality.”
Gardiner and his wife Mary along with twelve men, two women and supplies arrived at Pashbeshauke at the mouth of the Connecticut River in 1636 and quickly began constructing a fort, planting corn, and eventually building a grist mill.
Saybrook Fort was a military outpost that became the site of the most prolonged fighting of the Pequot War. There were more than 20 Pequot attacks and more than 30 English settlers and soldiers and an unknown number of Natives were killed.
This first fort, built between 1636-1637 on the highest point on Saybrook Point, was destroyed by fire during the winter of 1647-1648. Its precise construction and layout have never been determined. Until now, much of what we knew about the first fort was based on the writings of Lion Gardiner or first governor John Winthrop, Jr.
However, archaeologists are now confident that they have identified the fort’s location in the east-central area of Saybrook Point and, in addition, several battle sites have been identified.
Displayed in the Exhibit Gallery is a large map which locates 12 significant sites related to the siege and battles of Saybrook Fort and provides interpretative commentary. This map is reproduced and available for all visitors as a take-away brochure to encourage visiting these sites.
Two large, two-dimensional cut-out figures, represent the Native inhabitants of the Saybrook area (Pequots and Niantics) and the English immigrants who settled in the area.
Numerous artifacts are displayed from the archaeological work done by the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center along with additional artifacts from the Society’s collection.
Visitors to the exhibit are encouraged to begin a journey to better understand historic events and see, and save, these incomparable historic resources in Old Saybrook and elsewhere.
The Old Saybrook Historical Society is grateful for funding from:
- The American Battlefield Protection Program
- National Park Service
- Exhibit by the CT Humanities
- The Historic District Commission for the interpretive signs
- The Planning Commission for publishing the 5000 brochures
- The Saybrook Point Inn for the publication on the siege and battles.
Through the exhibit we hope attendees will:
- Gain increased knowledge and understanding of the events associated with the struggle for survival by the English settlers and the Pequot inhabitants
- Recognize that early American historic events are recorded and reported by the “victors” and that historic events are subject to change with new discoveries and new interpretations
- Value the importance of local connections to historic events and protect these memories and sites for future generations.
- Become engaged citizens, in advancing the mission of the Old Saybrook Historical Society, tho preserve, protect and promote the history of Old Saybrook and beyond.