Special Town Meeting, Wednesday, December 7th, 7:30 p.m. at the High School auditorium. Please click here for details.
Old farm houses line the highways leading to Lebanon in eastern Connecticut between Norwich and Willimantic, where the town center resembles many picturesque New England villages with a library, churches and town hall clustered around the green.
But it is like no other green in New England. A mile in length and with a major portion still in agricultural use, the Lebanon green is unique because of its size, its preservation as an example of an early town settlement, and its association with great events in the American Revolution.
Around the green are some of the most important buildings connected with Connecticut’s role in the Revolution when the town was the home of the war governor and the focal point of the state’s contributions to the patriot cause. It is these activities that earned Lebanon its place in history as "the heartbeat of the Revolution.”
From the raising of a Liberty Pole by local Sons of Liberty during the Stamp Act crisis to the outbreak of the war, the free men of Lebanon were active protestors against British policies. During the Revolution, at least 677 Lebanon men served in the American units, from the Battle of Bunker Hill to the end of the campaigns in 1782. This represents more than 50 percent of the adult population at that time.
Among Lebanon’s best known patriots are William Williams, member of the Continental Congress and signer of the Declaration of Independence, and Jonathan Trumbull, the only Colonial governor to become the governor of a state.
Williams was a fiery orator who traveled throughout the state to inspire support for the war and spent much of his personal fortune on supplies for the troops.
Governor Trumbull’s leadership galvanized Connecticut’s astounding contribution of men, munitions, supplies and provisions to the Continental Armies, as well as to the militia and the state’s navy. George Washington and Lafayette visited the town, along with military leaders including generals Knox, Putnam and Rochambeau, to confer with the man Washington affectionately called "brother Jonathan.” This outpouring of supplies, which several times rescued Washington’s troops from starvation at Valley Forge and Morristown, earned Connecticut its nickname as "The Provisions State.”
The town was a bustling, vital center of war activity with special courier service to major centers to keep the governor informed. Here Governor Trumbull convened hundreds of meetings of the Council of Safety to direct the war effort. Meeting in the Trumbull family store, the little gambrel-roof building became known as the War Office. It remains on the green today.
In the winter of 1780, French soldiers under the Duc de Lauzon camped in the fields for six months, baking their bread in ovens erected on the green before marching to Yorktown in June, 1781.
The Governor’s son, Jonathan Trumbull, Jr., became the first comptroller of the U.S. Treasury in 1778. In 1781, Washington named him his private secretary. After the war, he served in the first Congress elected under the new Constitution, was speaker of the House, a U.S. Senator, and state governor from 1798 to 1809.
Another son, John Trumbull, is principally known as one of the greatest artists of his time. His most famous works are a series of magnificent paintings of Revolutionary War scenes, four of which hang in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. He also designed the First Congregational Church on the green, the only extant example of his architectural work.
Because of the significance of the green and the number of buildings associated with figures prominent in state and local history, the Lebanon green was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Of the 68 structures listed on the Register, 49 are considered historically significant and include a variety of styles from Colonial to modern.
Most of the buildings are private homes. Among these are the William Williams house, the birth-site of William A. Buckingham, the Civil War governor; and Redwood, a masterpiece by Isaac Fitch.
With its ancient green preserved intact and surrounded by dozens of historic buildings, visitors can stroll around Lebanon center two centuries after the great events of the American Revolution took place here and feel a part of the past come alive.