At the time of the burning of New London, in Connecticut, a detachment of the army of the traitor Arnold was directed to attack Fort Griswold, at Groton, on the opposite side of the river. This fort was little more than a rude embankment of earth, thrown up as a breast-work for the handful of troops it surrounded, with a strong log-house in the centre. The garrison defending it, under the command of the brave Colonel Ledyard, was far inferior to the force of the assailants; but the gallant spirits of the commander and his men could not brook the thought of retreat before a marauding enemy, without an effort at resistance. They refused to yield, and stood their ground, till, overwhelmed by numbers, after a fierce and bloody encounter, hand to hand, with the foe, it was found to be impossible to maintain the post. No mercy was shown by the conquerors - the noble Ledyard was slain in the act of surrender, with the sword he had placed in the hand of the commander of the assailants - and after an indiscriminate butchery, such of the prisoners as showed signs of life, were thrown into a cart, which heaped with mangled bodies, were started down a steep and rugged hill towards the river.
The course of the cart being interrupted by stones and logs, the victims were not precipitated into the water; and, after the enemy had been driven off by the roused inhabitants of the country, friends came to the aid of the wounded, and several lives were preserved. Their sufferings before relief could be obtained were indescribable. Thirty-five men, covered with wounds and blood, trembling with cold, and parched with thirst, lay all night upon the bare floor, almost hopeless of succor, and looking to death as a deliverance from intolerable anguish. With the first ray of morning came a ministering angel to their aid - one who bore a name imperishably connected with the event - Miss Fanny Ledyard, a near relative of the commander who had been so barbarously murdered. She brought warm chocolate, wine, and other refreshments; and while Dr. Downer of Preston was dressing their wounds, she went from one to another, administering her cordials and breathing into their ears gentle words of sympathy and encouragement. In these labors of kindness she was assisted by another relative of the lamented Colonel Ledyard - Mrs. John Ledyard -who had also brought her household stores to refresh the sufferers, and lavished on them the most soothing personal attentions. The soldiers who recovered from their wounds were accustomed, to the day of their death, to speak of these ladies in terms of fervent gratitude and praise.
The morning after the massacre at Fort Griswold, a young woman, now Mrs. Anna Bailey, left her home, three miles distant, and came in search of her uncle, who had joined the volunteers on the first alarm of invasion, and was known to have been engaged in the disastrous conflict. He was among those wounded unto death. His niece found him in a house near the scene of slaughter, where he had shared the attention bestowed on the rest. His wounds had been dressed, but it was evident that he could bear no further removal, and that life was fast departing. Still perfect consciousness remained, and with dying energy he entreated that he might once more behold his wife and child.
Such a request was sacred to the affectionate and sympathizing girl. She lost no time in hastening home, where she caught and saddled the horse used by the family, placed upon the animal the delicate wife, whose strength could not have accomplished so long a walk; and taking the child herself, bore it in her arms the whole distance, and presented it to receive the blessing of its expiring father.
With pictures of cruelty like the scene at Groton fresh in her recollection, it is not surprising that Mrs. Bailey, during the subsequent years of her life, has been noted for bitterness of feeling towards the ancient enemies of her country. She was emphatically a daughter of the Revolution, and in those times of trial was nourished the ardent love of her native land for which she has ever been distinguished, and the energy and resolution which in later days prompted the patriotic act that has made her name so celebrated as "the heroine of Groton." This act was performed in the last war with Great Britain. On the 13th July, 1813, a British squadron appearing off New London harbor, an attack, evidently the enemy's object, was momentarily expected. The most intense excitement prevailed among the crowds assembled on both sides of the river, and the ancient fort was again manned for a desperate defence. In the midst of the preparations for resistance, it was discovered that there was a want of flannel to make the cartridges. There being no time to cross the ferry to New London, Mrs. Bailey proposed appealing to the people living in the neighborhood, and went herself from house to house to make the collections, and took even a garment from her own person to contribute to the stock. A graphic account of this incident, and of "Mother Bailey," appeared in the Democratic Review for January, 1847. But as a piece of historical justice, it is due to this heroine to state that she denies having used the coarse and profane expression there attributed to her. The highly intelligent lady residing in New London, who received the particulars I have mentioned from Mrs. Bailey's own lips, also says that she has never claimed the credit of being among those who ministered to the wants of the wounded, after the massacre at Fort Griswold. This characteristic instance of enthusiasm in the cause of her country, with the impression her remarkable character has produced, has acquired for her a degree of popularity, which brings many curious visitors, from time to time, to see and converse with the heroine of whom they have heard so much, and to look at her museum of Revolutionary relics.
Her maiden name was Anna Warner, and she married Captain Elijah Bailey, of Groton. She is still living, in her eighty-ninth year, in the possession of her mental faculties, able to describe the scenes of hardship and peril in which she shared in the nation's infancy, and still glowing with the ardent feelings of love to America and hatred to America's foes, which have given a coloring to her life.