Henry C. Robinson, LL.D., in his address to the advanced scholars of the public schools at Hartford, CT, in 1897, states, "Trumbull had become the special hate of the British. Halters were waiting for him and his sons. But no threats moved nor fear deflected him from the straight line of patriotic duty. There were thirteen colonial governors; only he was loyal to the cause. Thirteen governors entrusted with the interests of the colonists from Georgia to Maine! Where were the twelve? Tories all. But he had no fear to walk alone, supported by his love of country and his unbounded faith in God. It required more "sand" to be, and continue to be, that solitary rebel governor than to play left tackle in the Hartford Public High School eleven." Benson J. Lossing, LL.D., goes on to say that, "Trumbull was the only Colonial governor who espoused the cause of the people in their struggle for justice and freedom." And that, "Washington always placed implicit reliance upon his patriotism and energy for support." It is no wonder, upon hearing of Governor Jonathan Trumbull's death, George Washington wrote in a letter to Col. Jonathan Trumbull, Jr., the governor's son, "A long and well spent life in the service of his country, justly entitled him to the first place among patriots."
An early usage of the term "Rebel Governor" appears in several articles published in "The Political Magazine and Parliamentary, Naval, Military, and Literary Journal," published in London in 1780 and 1781. The second of the three articles, the "History of Jonathan Trumbull, the present Rebel Governor of Connecticut, from his Birth, early in this Century, to the present Day," would today be referred to as a, "hit piece," an article written specifically to discredit the character of Jonathan Trumbull. The article was written by a Connecticut Tory, the Rev. Samuel Peters (1735-1826) of Hebron, an Anglican minister. He personally knew Jonathan Trumbull, and he knew the people and local history of Eastern Connecticut, specifically Lebanon. Due to rising tensions and his Tory views, he left the colonies for England in late 1774. He wrote in 1781, from a Royalist perspective, "A General History of Connecticut, from its First Settlement under George Fenwick, Esq., to its Latest Period of Amity with Great Britain: . . .," which was published in London.
Keep in mind, these articles were written and published during the American Revolution.
The first is an article from November 1780 titled, "Examination and Commitment of JOHN TRUMBULL, Esq; for High Treason," where John Trumbull (Col. John Trumbull, the Artist of the American Revolution) is listed as the "son of the rebel Governor Trumbull, of the Province of Connecticut in America, . . ." This article is in regard to the arrest of John Trumbull, who was accused of being an American spy, and who was imprisoned in England for "seven months." You can read more about this episode in "The Autobiography of Colonel John Trumbull," Chapter Three, "The Rebel at London and His Enforced Return to America 1780-83." In that autobiography there is a great line by Col. Trumbull, during an examination by three police magistrates, stating who he was, "I am an American -- my name is Trumbull; I am a son of him whom you call the rebel governor of Connecticut; I have served in the rebel American army; I have had the honor of being an aid-du-camp to him whom you call the rebel General Washington."
The one saving grace of this article is, there is a lot of early Connecticut history here, "The spirit of independence appeared in this colony from its first settlement in 1636. Even then they formed two dominions, Hartford and New Haven, choosing Jesus their King, and the Bible their Code of Laws, . . ." This is true, the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut were inspired by a sermon of the Rev. Thomas Hooker, preached at Hartford. The article goes on to say regarding Connecticut, ". . . they accepted a charter under Charles II. but declared at the same time, Jesus was their King, and themselves sole legislators and lords of Connecticut; admitting no law of England to be of any validity, until it had received the sanction of their General Assembly." The motto, "No King but King Jesus," was popular in the colonies during the American Revolution.
This same spirit is evident in the writings and proclamations written by the rebel Gov. Jonathan Trumbull, who studied at Harvard to be a minister. "Immediately after he graduated, he commenced the study of theology with the Rev. Solomon Williams (1700-1776) of Lebanon." (Solomon Williams was minister at Lebanon, and the father of William Williams (1731-1811), a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Gov. Jonathan Trumbull's daughter, Mary Trumbull (1745-1831) would marry William Williams.) "In due time, he was licensed to preach, and was soon after invited to settle in the ministry at Colchester." The Rev. John Bulkeley (1679-1731) (my ancestral grandfather), first minister at Colchester, CT, was preparing to retire, and likely exercised his influence to obtain the Colchester Pulpit for Jonathan Trumbull. The Rev. John Bulkeley was the father-in-law of Jonathan Trumbull's older brother, Joseph Trumble, Jr., who married his daughter, Sarah Bulkeley (my ancestral grandparents). With the loss of his older brother, Joseph Trumble, Jr., who was lost at sea aboard the Trumbull's merchant vessel, the brigantine "Lebanon," bound for the West Indies on December 29, 1731. Jonathan Trumbull, "who at the urgent request of his father [Captain Joseph Trumble, Sr.], with great reluctance declined the call of the church at Colchester." He would take his place in the Trumbull family business, and he would enter into Connecticut politics. Following the Revolution, "In October, 1783, Gov. Trumbull declined any further election to public office." Jonathan Trumbull served in some form of public office from 1733 to 1784. In his address to the General Assembly, he stated, "I have had the pleasure to serve the State; contemplating, with pleasing wonder and satisfaction, at the close of an arduous contest, the noble and enlarged scenes which now present themselves to my country's view; and reflecting, at the same time, on my advanced stage of life -- a life worn out almost in the constant cares of office -- I think it my duty to retire from the busy concerns of public affairs; that at the evening of my days I may sweeten their decline by devoting myself with less avocation and more attention to the duties of religion, the service of my God, and preparation for a future and happier state of existence; in which pleasing employment I shall not cease to remember my country, and to make it my ardent prayer that Heaven will not fail to bless her with its choicest favors."
In a letter to the rebel General George Washington, dated at Lebanon, Connecticut, July 13, 1775, the rebel Governor Jonathan Trumbull writes, "Suffer me to join in Congratulating you, on your appointment to be General and Commander in Chief of the Troops raised or to be raised for the Defense of American Liberty." He goes on to write, "Now therefore be strong and very courageous, may the God of the Armies of Israel, shower down the blessings of His Divine Providence on You, give you Wisdom and Fortitude, cover your Head in the Day of Battle and Danger, add Success -- convince our Enemies of their mistaken measures -- and that all their attempts to deprive these Colonies of their inestimable constitutional Rights and Liberties are injurious and vain."
The rebel General George Washington himself, shares this spirit in his General Order, dated Headquarters, Valley Forge, May 2, 1778, he "directs that divine Service be performed every Sunday at 11 oClock" and that "while we are zealously performing the duties of good Citizens and soldiers we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of Religion. To the distinguished Character of Patriot, it should be our highest Glory to add the more distinguished Character of Christian. The signal instances of providential Goodness which we have experienced and which have now almost crowned our labours with complete Success, demand from us in a peculiar manner the warmest returns of Gratitude and Piety to the Supreme Author of all Good."
The third article is from August 1781 titled, "Trumbull, the Rebel Spy discharged." Again referring to Col. John Trumbull, the Artist of the American Revolution. "John Trumbull, the youngest son of the present Rebel Governor of Connecticut, was discharged about a month ago, from Tothill-Fields Bridewell, after being confined there from the month of November last year."
The Governor had sentries or sentinels who were stationed at his house and War Office.
In the book, "Jonathan Trumbull, Governor of Connecticut 1769-1784," written by the Governor's great great grandson Jonathan Trumbull, he states that in 1781, "In order to be nearer to the scene of military operations, and to expedite the payment of the soldiers, Governor Trumbull in the following month of August set out for Danbury, thus carrying out a plan already suggested by Washington of holding the meetings of his Council near the scene of action, and encouraging the troops by his presence, and by the welcome payment of a portion, at least, of their much needed wages." He goes on to say, "According to the meager entries in the Governor's diary at this time, we learn that his sojourn at Danbury partook of the nature of a military encampment. Guards were set at night, owing, no doubt, to threats of personal violence to the Governor, which he himself records in his diary in the following words: "At Newtown one said he would kill me as quick as he would a Rattle Snake."" The Governor stayed in Danbury, "about a fortnight in the month of August,", this is corroborated in the Records of the State of Connecticut, where the minutes of the meetings of the Council of Safety are recorded at Danbury from August 16, 1781 to August 23, 1781.
There was always a remote chance of British and/or Tory activity in the area.
"Cornwallis at Yorktown, closely besieged in front by
There is a modern illustration of this "secret tunnel," depicting Gov. Trumbull walking from the Gov. Trumbull House to the War Office, published in the book, "Historic Lebanon," by Rev. Robert G. Armstrong, D.D. The problem with the illustration is it is based on the sketch by Barber, published in 1836, depicting the Gov. Trumbull house and the War Office in their locations on West Town Street after their first move in 1824. The War Office would be moved a second time to its present location in 1844. Ground penetrating radar or similar technology could probably settle the question of the tunnel's existence once and for all, as well as provide the exact location and position of the War Office during the American Revolution.
In the Governor Jonathan Trumbull House there is, "A door found in the panelling of the work room now opening against a part of the chimney may have been a secret passage to this inside room, for the sides beyond the chimney are plastered. It has been intimated in some old accounts that a passage way extended from the house, underground to the war office or store, where the councils of safety held over 1,200 meetings."
"A secret passage, possibly behind the panelling set about the fireplace, led to a tunnel which opened on the War Office, boarded up years later, but much in use during the war years."
This story of a secret passage, passed down through the years, generation to generation, may have been embellished, and become the basis for the legend of a secret tunnel?
4. Harpers' Popular Cyclopedia of United States History, from the Aboriginal Period to 1876, . . ., Benson J. Lossing, LL.D., Vol. II, Harper & Brothers, Publishers, New York, 1882, Page 1421.
6. George Washington to Jonathan Trumbull, Jr., Mount Vernon, October 1, 1785, George Washington Papers, Series 2, Letterbooks 1754-1799, Library of Congress.
7. Early Lebanon. An Historical Address delivered in Lebanon, Conn., by request on the National Centennial, July 4, 1876, Rev. Orlo D. Hine, with an Appendix of Historical Notes, Nathaniel H. Morgan, Hartford, 1880, Pages 91-92.
9. Record of Service of Connecticut Men in the War of the Revolution, Adjutant General, Hartford, 1889, Page 594.
10. Autobiography, Reminiscences and Letters of John Trumbull, from 1756 to 1841, John Trumbull, B. L. Hamlen, New Haven, 1841, Page 35.
11. A General History of Connecticut, from its First Settlement under George Fenwick, Esq., to its Latest Period of Amity with Great Britain: . . ., By a Gentleman of the Province, London, 1781.
12. Examination and Commitment of John Trumbull, Esq; for High Treason, The Political Magazine and Parliamentary, Naval, Military, and Literary Journal, For the Year M,DCC,LXXX., Volume I, London, November 1780, Pages 738-740.
13. The Autobiography of Colonel John Trumbull, Patriot-Artist, 1756-1843, edited by Theodore Sizer, Kennedy Graphics, Inc., Da Capo Press, New York, 1970, Page 72.
14. Ibid. Pages 58-83.
15. Ibid. Page 66.
16. History of Jonathan Trumbull, the present Rebel Governor of Connecticut, from his Birth, early in this Century, to the present Day, The Political Magazine and Parliamentary, Naval, Military, and Literary Journal, For the Year M,DCC,LXXXI., Volume II, London, January 1781, Pages 6-10.
17. Ibid. Page 10.
18. Ibid. Page 8.
20. Brief Memoir of Governor Trumbull, The American Quarterly Register, conducted by B. B. Edwards and S. H. Riddel, Vol. XIV, No. 1, August, 1841, Published by the American Education Society, Press of T. R. Marvin, 24 Congress Street, Boston, 1842, Page 2.
21. Ibid. Page 2.
22. Ibid. Page 10.
23. Ibid. Page 12.
24. Ibid. Page 13.
25. To George Washington from Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., 13 July 1775, Founders Online, National Archives, founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-01-02-0062. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series, Vol. 1, 16 June 1775-15 September 1775, ed. Philander D. Chase. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1985, pp. 112-113.]
27. George Washington, May 2, 1778, General Orders, The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799, John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor, The George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799.
29. Trumbull, the Rebel Spy discharged, The Political Magazine and Parliamentary, Naval, Military, and Literary Journal, For the Year M,DCC,LXXXI., Volume II, London, January 1781, Page 481.
31. The Governor Jonathan Trumbull House, Reprinted with the permission of the Waterbury Republican, Distributed by The Daughters of the American Revolution of Connecticut, October 1935, page 4.
33. American Guide Series, Connecticut, A Guide to its Roads, Lore, and People, Written by Workers of the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration for the State of Connecticut, Sponsored by Wilbur L. Cross, Governor of Connecticut, Houghton Mifflin Company, The Riverside Press Cambridge, Boston, 1938, Pages 414-415.
34. Connecticut Historical Collections containing a general collection of interesting facts, traditions, biographical sketches, anecdotes, &c. relating to the History and Antiquities of every Town in Connecticut, with geographical decriptions, John Warner Barber, 1836, Page 323.
35. History of New London County, Connecticut, with Biographical Sketches of many of its Pioneers and Prominent Men, Compiled under the supervision of D. Hamilton Hurd, Philadelphia, 1882, Page 489.
36. Jonathan Trumbull, Governor of Connecticut 1769-1784, by his Great-Great-Grandson, Jonathan Trumbull, Little, Brown, and Company, Boston, 1919, Page 278.
38. Ibid. Page 279.
39. The Public Records of the State of Connecticut, from May, 1780, to October, 1781, Inclusive, with the Journal of the Council of Safety from May 15, 1780 to December 27, 1781, Inclusive and an Appendix, compiled by Charles J. Hoadly, LL.D., Press of the Case, Lockwood & Brainard Company, Hartford, 1922, Pages 490-497.
41. Historic Lebanon, Highlights of an Historic Town, Rev. Robert G. Armstrong, D.D., published by the First Congregational Church, Lebanon, Connecticut, 1950, Page 36 (illustration).
42. Connecticut Historical Collections containing a general collection of interesting facts, traditions, biographical sketches, anecdotes, &c. relating to the History and Antiquities of every Town in Connecticut, with geographical decriptions, John Warner Barber, 1836, Pages 322-323.
43. The Governor Jonathan Trumbull House, Reprinted with the permission of the Waterbury Republican, Distributed by The Daughters of the American Revolution of Connecticut, October 1935, Page 9.
44. Store-Keeper to the Revolution, Jonathan Trumbull (1710-1785), Leonard Byrne, Alarums & Skirmishes, The Revolutionaries of Connecticut (limited to 50 printed editions), The Bulletin Company, Norwich, Connecticut, 1976, Page 34.