General David Wooster
Brig. Gen. David Wooster

Gen. David Wooster:

A Largely Forgotten Hero Of The Revolution

By Paul Locher,
Staff Writer,
The (Wooster, Ohio) Daily Record

So, who in the heck was David Wooster, and why was he so important that the seat of Wayne County government wound up being named for him?

Plenty of people who live in Wayne County and the city of Wooster have asked that question many times over the years, and there really is a good reason.

Face it, in the American Revolution there were plenty of great leaders who simply wound up being overshadowed by the larger-than-life figures of George Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette, Ethan Allen and other titans of the period.

David Wooster, perhaps in somewhat of a cruel quirk of history, turned out to be one of these lesser known heroes.

Wooster was born in Stratford, Conn., on March 2, 1711. While few details of his boyhood appear to have survived, Ben Douglas in his 1875 history of Wayne County characterizes Wooster as "a man of prepossessing appearance, of rare intellectual culture, and accomplished education."

The latter would appear to be true, since Wooster was graduated from the exacting course work at Yale College in 1738.

The following year, when the colony of Connecticut formed what was called the "guard-a-costa" to protect against assault by Spanish cruisers then plying the American coastline Wooster was designated second in command and shortly thereafter appointed captain.

At the close of this service, Wooster married a daughter of President Clapp of Yale College.

In 1745, when Col. Aaron Burr raised a regiment in Connecticut to go against Louisburg—a seaport village on the eastern coast of the Island of Cape Breton, an insular colony of British North America— Wooster was appointed to command the company and eventually reduced its fortifications and forced its surrender. After the capitulation, Wooster was ordered to take charge of the cartel which was sent to France to negotiate the exchange of prisoners from the conflict.

At that time Wooster was not permitted to land on French soil, but conducted his negotiations aboard ship in neutral territory.

After that Wooster traveled to Great Britain, where he was received by aristocrats and royalty, becoming a favorite of King George, who presented the American with a captain's baton in the regiment of Sir William Pepperell, with half pay for life.

After returning from his travels abroad, Wooster retired to private life and for a while lived in New Haven. In 1750, however, Wooster came out of retirement to become a colonel in a regiment. He eventually advanced to brigadier general, a rank he held until 1763 when he entered a second retirement.

While in New Haven, Wooster proved an enterprising and public spirited businessman. At one point he was appointed Collector of Customs for the Port of New Haven.

But when the clouds of the American Revolution gathered on the horizon, Wooster re-entered the army with the rank of general.

While Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold are credited with the actual capture of Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain in New York on May 10, 1775, it was Wooster who masterminded the strategy for the operation, which ended in capture without loss of a single life.

After that, Wooster was sent to Canada where he served with Gen. Montgomery in commanding American forces. When Montgomery was killed, Wooster became supreme commander of all U.S. troops. in Canada.

In 1775, when the Continental Congress formally voted to create an army, Wooster was appointed third in rank among the brigadier generals.

In 1776, he was appointed a major general in the militia of Connecticut, having supervisory control of all military stores which were housed near the town of Danbury.

These provisions, however, were a prime target for the British army, and a force of 2,000 men under Gen. Tryon attacked Danbury in a successful effort to capture the supplies.

On April 27, 1776, (Note: See correction a few lines below. I have been informed that Paul Locher researched History of Wayne County, Ohio: from pioneers and first settlers to the present, 1875, compiled by Ben Douglas. From there he apparently acquired the misinformation concerning the date of the Battle of Ridgefield and the location of David Wooster's final interment.) Wooster attempted to head off Tryon's advance at the nearby town of Ridgefield and attacked him with 700 raw recruits, but was forced to retreat.

A sign and a monument on Route 116 (North Salem Road), just a few yards south of its intersection with Tackora Trail, mark the spot where General David Wooster fell, mortally wounded, during the Battle of Ridgefield in 1777.

During the battle Wooster suffered a fatal wound.

He was sent home to New Haven, where he languished for a year before succumbing to infection on May 2, 1777. (Correction: The actual date for the Battle of Ridgefield was April 27, 1777 — not 1776 as stated a few lines above. General Wooster was mortally wounded while attacking Tryon's forces. He was not taken home to New Haven. Rather he was was taken to the Dibble house in Danbury, where he died five days later on May 2, 1777.)

His final words were, "I am dying, but with a strong hope and persuasion that my country will gain her independence."

Wooster's body was transported to Danbury for interment.

On June 17, 1777, Congress voted that a suitable monument should be erected in his memory, but measures were never inaugurated to execute the resolution. His grave was not identified until 1854, when, by an act of the Connecticut legislature, the cornerstone of a monument was laid.

Today a 30-foot high monument marks his final resting place. Wooster's monument can be found in the Wooster Cemetery on Wooster Street. It is the oldest cemetery in Danbury, dating back to 1684. (Correction: The Wooster Street Cemetery is indeed the oldest cemetery in Danbury, dating back to 1684, but General Wooster is buried in the Wooster Cemetery on Mount Moriah, which dates from the middle of the nineteenth century.)

Wooster's monument, surrounded by a stone and iron railing, is heavily carved with a variety of military and Masonic symbols, as well as classical Greek motifs. Among extensive information carved into the monument is this missive:

"Of his country Wooster said, `My life has ever been devoted to her service from my youth up, though never before in a cause like this—a cause for which I would most cheerfully risk and lay down my life.'"


Sources, notes, credits, links, etc.

The file for this page was adapted from the one that Janet N. Welty designed for the Wooster-Wayne Chapter of the D.A.R. of Wooster, Ohio (Wayne County). The inspiration for my design came from the companion page for General "Mad Anthony" Wayne. Both pages can be accessed from the Wooster-Wayne D.A.R. home page, if one follows first the link to Chapter History. From the page on Chapter History one can go directly to the General Wooster file by following the link to General Wooster

Paul Locher, the original author of the work is a staff writer for the Daily Record, which is published in Wooster, Ohio.

Two of the pictures came from articles which were published in Danbury, Connecticut by The News-Times. The picture of the site where Wooster was mortally wounded was from an article published just prior to Independence Day in 1997. The picture of the Wooster Monument was from an article dated April 16, 1996. Another view of the Wooster Monument can be found in an article dated April 29, 1996.

Several more files containing information about general David Wooster can be found on my Wooster and Jennings Genealogy Page.

Return to Wooster and Jennings Genealogy Page
Return to my General Wooster Page

Page design by Kenneth Jennings Wooster
Property rights to basic underlying text are reserved to Paul Locher and The Wooster Daily Record.
File created: December 19, 1999.
File modified: December 19, 1999; June 16, 2000; October 28, 2001; October 25, 2002; January 4, 2003, March 4, 2006; June 11, 2006.