Year
1777
Month Day
April 21

British rampage Danbury, Connecticut

On April 21, 1777, British troops under the command of General William Tryon attack the town of Danbury, Connecticut, and begin destroying everything in sight. Facing little, if any, opposition from Patriot forces, the British went on a rampage, setting fire to homes, farmhouse, storehouses and more than 1,500 tents.

The British destruction continued for nearly a week before word of it reached Continental Army leaders, including General Benedict Arnold, who was stationed in nearby New Haven. Along with General David Wooster and General Gold Silliman, Arnold led a contingent of more than 500 American troops in a surprise attack on the British forces as they began withdrawing from Danbury.

Although they prevented the complete destruction of Danbury, the outnumbered American troops were unable to stop the British retreat. The British continued marching through Ridgefield and Compo Hill, Connecticut, en route to their ships anchored at Long Island Sound.

General Wooster was hit by a musket ball during the action; he died from his injuries May 2. General Arnold survived and notoriously became a traitor to his nation, plotting to turn over West Point and with it the Hudson River to the British in 1780. General Gold Silliman also survived, but two years later was kidnapped from his home and imprisoned by a gang of local Loyalists.

Silliman’s wife, Mary Silliman, kept a detailed diary of her experiences during the American Revolution. Accounts of her life in The Way of Duty by Richard and Joy Day Buel and the subsequent documentary, Mary Silliman’s War, reveal the internecine nature of the revolution in Connecticut—General Gold Silliman’s own Loyalist neighbors, not British Redcoats or foreign mercenaries, kidnapped him. Mary Silliman’s diary also demonstrates the ways in which the war affected all colonists, including non-combatants, pregnant mothers and farm wives like Mary. On her own, Mary Silliman managed to run her family farm, flee attack from the British army and negotiate her husband’s release from his Loyalist captors. She also nursed her own midwife and neighbor, after the woman was raped by Redcoats for refusing to relinquish her house to their control.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

“Sip-In” takes place at Julius' Bar in New York City

On the afternoon of April 21, 1966, a bar crawl in New York’s West Village leads to an important early moment in the gay liberation movement. In what will be dubbed the “Sip-In,” Dick Leitsch, Craig Rodwell and John Timmons publicly identify themselves as gay and demand to be ...read more

Prince performing in 1985

Legendary Musician and Megawatt Star Prince Dies at 57

On the morning of April 21, 2016, Prince, the polymathic musician who created more than 30 albums and won seven Grammy Awards over a 40-year career, is found dead in Paisley Park, his Minnesota home and recording studio. The cause of death was an accidental overdose of the opioid ...read more

“Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree” tops the U.S. pop charts and creates a cultural phenomenon

The yellow ribbon has long been a symbol of support for absent or missing loved ones. There are some who believe that the tradition of the yellow ribbon dates back as far as the Civil War era, when a yellow ribbon in a woman’s hair indicated that she was “taken” by a man who was ...read more

Texas militia routs Mexicans in the Battle of San Jacinto

During the Texan War for Independence, the Texas militia under Sam Houston launches a surprise attack against the forces of Mexican General Santa Anna along the San Jacinto River. The Mexicans were thoroughly defeated, and hundreds were taken prisoner, including General Santa ...read more

Chinese students protest at Tiananmen Square

Six days after the death of Hu Yaobang, the deposed reform-minded leader of the Chinese Communist Party, some 100,000 students gather at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square to commemorate Hu and voice their discontent with China’s authoritative communist government. The next day, an ...read more

Rome founded

According to tradition, on April 21, 753 B.C., Romulus and his twin brother, Remus, found Rome on the site where they were suckled by a she-wolf as orphaned infants. Actually, the Romulus and Remus myth originated sometime in the fourth century B.C., and the exact date of Rome’s ...read more

German flying ace, “Red Baron,” killed in action

In the well-trafficked skies above the Somme River in France, Baron Manfred von Richthofen, the notorious German flying ace known as the Red Baron,” is killed by Allied fire on April 21, 1918. Richthofen, the son of a Prussian nobleman, switched from the German army to the ...read more

Rosie Ruiz fakes Boston Marathon win

Rosie Ruiz, age 26, finishes first in the women’s division of the Boston Marathon with a time of 2:31:56 on April 21, 1980. She was rewarded with a medal, a laurel wreath and a silver bowl; however, eight days later Ruiz is stripped of her victory after race officials learned ...read more

Abraham Lincoln's funeral train leaves D.C.

On April 21, 1865, a train carrying the coffin of assassinated President Abraham Lincoln leaves Washington, D.C. on its way to Springfield, Illinois, where he would be buried on May 4. The train carrying Lincoln’s body traveled through 180 cities and seven states on its way to ...read more

Charlotte Brontë born

Charlotte Brontë, the only one of three novelist Brontë sisters to live past age 31, is born. Brontë, one of six siblings who grew up in a gloomy parsonage in the remote English village of Haworth, surrounded by the marshy moors of Yorkshire. Her mother died when she was five, ...read more

First movie projector demonstrated in United States

On April 21, 1895, Woodville Latham and his sons, Otway and Gray, demonstrate their “Panopticon,” the first movie projector developed in the United States. Although motion pictures had been shown in the United States for several years using Thomas Edison’s Kinetoscope, the films ...read more

Prisoners left to burn in Ohio fire

A fire at an Ohio prison kills 320 inmates, some of whom burn to death when they are not unlocked from their cells. It is one of the worst prison disasters in American history. The Ohio State Penitentiary was built in Columbus in 1834. Throughout its history, it had a poor ...read more

Union Colonel Abel Streight’s raid into Alabama and Georgia begins

Union Colonel Abel Streight begins a raid into northern Alabama and Georgia with the goal of cutting the Western and Atlantic Railroad between Chattanooga, Tennessee and Atlanta. The raid ended when Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest captured Streight’s entire command ...read more

GM celebrates 100 millionth U.S.-made car

On April 21, 1967, General Motors (GM) celebrates the manufacture of its 100 millionth American-made car. At the time, GM was the world’s largest automaker. General Motors was established in 1908 in Flint, Michigan, by horse-drawn carriage mogul William Durant. In 1904, Durant ...read more