David Wooster was a Connecticut militia leader who served in King George’s War, the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. He died in 1777, during the American Revolution, soon after the Battle of Ridgefield.
David Wooster had a long, distinguished career in the Connecticut militia. He commanded the colony’s first warship and later served in King George’s War, the French and Indian War, and the American Revolution. He was commissioned as a Brigadier General by the Continental Congress and participated in the Invasion of Canada and the Siege of Quebec. He died in 1777 from wounds he received in the Battle of Ridgefield.
Facts About His Early Life, Education, and Family
- Born in Stratford, Connecticut on March 2, 1711.
- Son of Abraham Wooster and Marcy Walker Wooster, who were Puritans.
- He was the youngest of six children.
- Graduated from Yale in 1738.
- Married Mary Clapp on March 6, 1746. They had three children together.
- Father-in-law was Thomas Clapp, President of Yale.
Facts About His Early Military, Political, and Professional Career
- Appointed Lieutenant of the first warship built in Connecticut, a sloop named Defense, in 1741. He was promoted to Captain of the Defense in 1742.
- Helped organize one of the first Masonic lodges in Connecticut in 1750.
- Became the Customs Collector in New Haven in 1763.
- Any early records detailing his life were lost in 1779 when the British burned New Haven.
Facts About His Role in King George’s War
- Served as a Captain in the Connecticut regiment under the command of Andrew Burr during the Siege of Louisbourg in 1745.
- Sailed to France in July to exchange French prisoners.
- Commissioned as a Captain in the garrison at Louisbourg under the command of Sir William Pepperell on September 24, 1745.
- He retired in 1748 after the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle returned Louisbourg to the French.
Facts About His Role in the French and Indian War
- Served as a Colonel in the Connecticut militia in 1756 and again from 1758-1760.
- Participated in operations in Canada under the command of Jeffrey Amherst.
- Participated in the Battle of Carillon in 1758. His time at Carillon (later renamed Ticonderoga) proved invaluable at the outset of the American Revolution and the plan to capture the fort and its cannon and artillery.
Facts About His Role in the American Revolution
- Commissioned as a Major General in the Connecticut militia after the Battles of Lexington and Concord. He was the highest-ranking officer in the colony.
- Gave the keys to the storehouse in New Haven, Connecticut to Benedict Arnold on April 22, 1775, in what is known as Powder House Day.
- The Connecticut Governor’s Council ordered him to take his regiment to New York City on June 19. Throughout the summer, he commanded troops on Long Island and at Harlem.
- On June 22, 1775, he was commissioned as a Brigadier General by the Continental Congress. He was unhappy with the position because it placed him below men with less military experience, and Israel Putnam, who was ranked below him in the Connecticut militia.
- He was ordered to report to Major General Philip Schuyler in the Northern Department and left New York City on September 28.
- Participated in the Siege of Fort St. John’s under the command of Schuyler and General Richard Montgomery. The Siege took place from September to November 2, 1775.
- American forces led by Brigadier General Richard Montgomery took control of Montreal on November 13, 1775. When Montgomery left to march to Quebec, Wooster was left in charge of the city, but he was heavily criticized for how he ran things and developed a reputation for an inability to lead.
- Montgomery died during the Battle of Quebec on December 31, 1775, and Wooster took command of the American forces on January 1, 1776.
- Wooster was replaced as commander of the American forces by John Thomas on May 1.
- When Thomas died on June 2, it left Wooster as the senior officer in Canada, but the Continental Congress recalled him and he was court-martialed over his conduct as commandant of Montreal. Although he was acquitted and retained the rank of Brigadier General, he was not given another command in the Continental Army.
- Appointed Major General in the Connecticut militia on October 23, 1776.
- Participated in the Battle of Fort Independence in January 1777, under the command of Brigadier General William Heath. The American assault failed and Heath’s troops were forced to withdraw.
Facts About His Role in the Battle of Ridgefield
- On April 25, 1777, Wooster learned that a large British force, under the command of William Tryon, was marching towards Danbury, Connecticut in order to destroy the magazines.
- Wooster was in New Haven when he heard the news and so was Benedict Arnold. They called out the militia and marched toward Danbury, but were slowed by rain.
- By the time they reached Danbury in the evening of April 26, the British had already burned the magazines and marched away in the direction of Ridgefield.
- Wooster and Arnold pursued the British and engaged them the next day at Ridgefield. Wooster was shot and mortally wounded during the battle.
- He died on May 2 at the Dibble House in Danbury.
- His last words were supposedly “I am dying, but with a strong hope and persuasion that my country will gain her independence.”
Facts About the Legacy of David Wooster
- On June 17, 1777, the Continental Congress voted to have a monument erected in his memory, but it was never acted on.
- His gravesite was identified in 1854 and the cornerstone of a monument was put in place there by the Connecticut legislature on April 27, 1854. The monument was eventually completed.
- The monument was renovated and rededicated on April 28, 1996.
- Wooster, Ohio is named after him. Residents from New Haven settled in Wayne County, Ohio after the Revolution, and named the county seat after him.