Eileen P. Driscoll – Sergeant Daniel Easton (1782 – 1845)
Sergeant Daniel Easton is one only two veterans of the War of 1812 who are buried in Center Cemetery. He was born in 1782 as a member of a large and prominent settler family living on the east side of the Great River.
In 1812, a still young United States went to war against Great Britain during the period of the Napoleonic Wars. New England was a stronghold of the Federalist Party and the Federalists in Connecticut were definitely not in favor of the war, although in 1813 the state did mandate an East Hartford quota of eight or so men who were to serve in the military. The War of 1812 was viewed as an unconstitutional aggression and a violation of state’s rights. It was thought it would jeopardize economic activity, a sizable part being the slave trade, which had been banned by the British. There had even talk by some radical Federalists of secession from the Union.
The Connecticut General Assembly refused to support the Congressional declaration of war. Federalist leader Timothy Pitkin of Farmington, a nephew of the Governor William Pitkin who is also buried in Center Cemetery and has his own podcast site, was among those angry assemblymen who rejected the call to war.
The British blockade of Long Island Sound brought coastal trade to a near standstill. Only by turning their ships into privateers were some shipowners able to survive. In the end, forced by circumstances, Connecticut gave in and furnished some 10,000 men in support of the war effort. Unfortunately there was no strategic plan and the coastal ports and river mouths were left unprotected.
In 1814 the British navy cornered a U.S. naval squadron in the Thames River, and some 6,000 militiamen were rushed to the defense of New London. They came under the command of General William Trumbull Williams.
His father, William Williams, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and his uncle, Reverend Eliphalet Williams, who also has a podcast, was the esteemed minister for many years of East Hartford’s Congregational Church.
A small contingent of militiamen from East Hartford, including Sergeant
Easton, were among those defending New London. They were part of the encampment surrounding Fort Griswold on the Groton side of the Thames River. Fort Trumbull was on the New London side.
In April 1814, the British parked four warships at the mouth of the Connecticut River they were tired of the American privateers who had become a continual and growing problem, as they were working on capturing British merchant ships as spoils of war. From those four warships 6 heavily armed boats with 136 marines passed by the fort at Saybrook and traveled upriver 6 miles to attack the shipyard at what we know call Essex.
They set fire to to 28 privateer and merchant ships, destroyed thousands of dollars in naval supplies, and were even able to get their hands on barrels of rum. The local economy was devastated. It has been said that the raid on Essex was the single most destructive raid on American shipping in US history.
Fortunately for Sergeant Easton, he made it back to East Hartford. He died on May 3, 1845, thirty years after the end of the War of 1812.