Eunice Forsythe Latham
Patron Saint of the Revolutionary Period
Eunice Forsythe Latham was the wife of Captain William Latham, an officer stationed at Fort Griswold, under command of Col. William Ledyard. His house was near the fort and in quiet times he was allowed to sleep at home. It was about three o’clock in the morning of September 6, 1781, that Captain Latham was aroused by his orderly sergeant and informed that a fleet of thirty-two vessels was entering the harbour [sic]. Captain Latham aroused the house and ordered the slaves to take the women and children to the old Avery house, the home of a relative about two miles away.
The Captain’s son, William, about ten years old, begged permission to remain with his father at the fort. There was a remarkably strong bond of affection between the father and son and the tw were seldom separated, consequently the permission was granted and that is how the boy came to be in the battle of Groton.
Lambo, Captain Latham’s old body-servant, had put his mistress and the other children in an ox cart and started them on the road to the Avery home and then taken his gun and turned toward the fort.
“Lambo,” called his mistress, “your master told you to take care of us.”
“Yes’m,” the old man answered, “but there are enough to care for you, an’ I’ve summered an’ wintered Master Billy now for over thirty years an’ I’m not goin’ to leave him today.” With that he went back to the fort.
Captain Latham and Sergeant Rufus Avery were assigned by Colonel Ledyard to take charge of the two largest guns. The firing of these guns, one after the other, was a signal for the neighbouring [sic] troops to come to the fort. This plan was frustrated by Benedict Arnold who had charge of his expedition against his countrymen. Arnold had knowledge of this prearranged signal for help and caused a gun to be fired from one of the British vessels with just interval enough to indicate that there were three guns fired from the fort, instead of two. During the entire terrible morning little William Latham worked without stopping, carrying powder from the magazine to his father and Lambo.
Toward noon the British carried the outer works and a hand-to-hand struggle ensued during which a British soldier tried to stab Captain Latham with a bayonet. Lambo who had never left his master’s side shoved the bayonet to one side and lost the fingers of one hand doing so. The next moment he interposed his body between that of his master and another bayonet and died almost instantly.
In a few moments Captain Latham fell beside his old slave, badly wounded and unconscious. His little son crept to his father’s side and placing his arms about him shielded the body as much as he was able until the father recovered consciousness. After the surrender of the fort the British found the Lathams and forced the wounded father to his feet to identify the dead. He had discarded his uniform and the British did not recognise [sic] him as an officer. He was placed in a cart with a pile of wounded and dying, and the cart was started down the hill toward the steep bank of the river. The cart struck a tree greatly adding to the bruises and suffering of the injured, some of whom it killed. Captain Latham had thrown himself from the cart and so escaped the shock. His son had been held a prisoner by Benedict Arnold.
Later in the day, the women came in search of their loved ones, Mother Anna Bailey Warner, Fannie Ledyard and many others of whom were Mrs. Latham and her daughter Mary, who did not arrive until nightfall. All night they searched in vain. In the morning Mrs. Latham learned that little William was a prisoner in Arnold’s hands. She had met Arnold socially many times before his desertion to the British. She at once sought headquarters and walking boldly in, she saw her little son pale and trembling from the effects of the day before. In his hand he held a piece of bread which he did not offer to eat. Walking straight to Arnold, Mrs. Latham said: “I have come for my child, Benedict Arnold.”
“Is this a request?” asked Arnold, lightly.
“It is not a request but a demand,” said the woman.
“Well take him, but do not bring him up as a—rebel.”
“I shall take him and teach him to despise the name of a traitor,” was her response as she took the boy by the hand and hurried away. At the old Groton meeting-house the following communion Sunday it is recorded that there were ninety-three members of the congregation present, five men and eighty-seven widows. Captain Latham soon recovered from is wounds, but the boy was never the same light-hearted [sic] lad as before, but always remained the close companion and friend of his father, who died in 1792.
Reference: The Pioneer Mothers of America: A Record of the More Notable Women of the Early Days of the Country, and Particularly of the Colonial and Revolutionary Periods by Harry Clinton Green and Mary Wolcott Green, A.B. Third Volume, Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons.