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Monday, January 21, 2013

New Haven and Desolation Warfare

William Tryon, the Loyalist governor of New York and a military commander, espoused a theory of "desolation warfare" that targeted civilian property in an effort to demoralize the population.  It was part of a total war philosophy.  This was not universally accepted by British officers and was opposed by many, though accounts of the war in South Carolina reveal similar attitudes by Banastre Tarleton and even Cornwallis.  Tryon had the opportunity to put this into practice when he was authorized by British General Henry Clinton to conduct raids in Connecticut.  Here, on July 5, 1779 at Black Rock Fort with New Haven in the distance, 18 men under Lieutenant Daniel Bishop fired upon and engaged Tryon's far superior force of 700 that landed at East Haven.  They spiked their guns, attempted to withdraw, and were captured.  Other British forces landed in West Haven and proceeded to New Haven where, per the July 14, 1779 Connecticut Gazette, committed "the brutal ravishment of women, the wanton and malicious destruction of property, the burning the stores on the wharf, and eight houses in East Haven" and "carried away between 30 and 40 of the inhabitants . . . " 

The Connecticut Gazette reported that the Americans lost 27 killed and 19 wounded.

Today we have, among others, the Syrian government exercising a comparable "devastation warfare" approach to civilians, and in Sudan are reports of cluster bombs being used against civilians as well.
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