Celebrate July 4 at a salute to city’s Revolutionary War patriots
Numerous New Haveners will assemble on the morning of Saturday, July 4 at the grave of “a man of approved integrity; a cool, discerning Judge; a prudent, sagacious politician; a true, faithful, and firm patriot,” as Roger Sherman is described on his burial marker in the Grove Street Cemetery.
The event, organized by the General David Humphreys Branch Number One of the Connecticut Society of the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR), marks the 64th annual ceremonies to honor all 56 signers of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, including Sherman.
All are welcome to attend the morning celebration, which begins promptly at 9 a.m. at the cemetery, 227 Grove St., near campus.
Sherman holds the distinction of being the only person to sign all four major documents establishing the United States and its governance structure: the Declaration, the earlier Articles of Association, the Articles of Confederation of 1777, and the Constitution.
He served with Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Robert Livingston on the Committee of Five charged with drafting the Declaration. His peers held him in high regard; in fact, Jefferson is reported to have said that Sherman was “a man who never said a foolish thing in his life.” He was likewise an active and influential member of the 1787 Constitutional Convention, remembered as author of the “Connecticut Compromise” that yielded the nation’s bicameral legislative structure with proportional representation in the House and equal representation for the states in the Senate.
Sherman, who died in New Haven in 1793 at age 72, was also a devoted local resident and leader. Born in Massachusetts, he moved to Connecticut in 1743, and eventually settled in New Haven in 1761. He served for many years as the treasurer of Yale College and was awarded an honorary master’s degree. He held numerous local and state offices. In 1784, Sherman was elected as the newly incorporated City of New Haven’s first mayor, a position he held until his death.
The SAR has honored Sherman and his fellow signatories every Fourth of July since the early 1950s and the event in New Haven, the first of its kind, has spurred similar celebrations at the graves of other signatories across the 13 founding states.
The New Haven July 4 ceremony, which lasts about an hour, features patriotic music and includes the participation of the Second Company Governor’s Foot Guard and its Field Music Unit. Other participants include the Mary Clap Wooster Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Children of the American Revolution, local Boy Scouts, and the 6th Connecticut Regiment, Company of Light Infantry. Each year, a local historian offers a brief address about Sherman’s life and legacy. The event also pays tribute to the 30 original members of the 1775 Second Company of the Governor’s Foot Guard who are buried in Grove Street and to other New Haveners who fought for independence in the American Revolution.
The event also celebrates another patriot buried in Grove Street Cemetery: Yale alumnus David Humphreys, who served and was a leader in the Continental Army from 1776. In recent years, the July 4 celebrations have included the presence of David Loda, a historian and re-enactor who appears, on horseback, in the guise of Humphreys.
An aide de camp to George Washington during the revolutionary war, Humphreys was also a friend of the nation’s first president. George Washington said of Humphreys, “This gentleman was several years in my family as aide-de-camp — his zeal in the cause of his country — his good sense, prudence and attachment to me, rendered him dear to me.”
After the revolutionary war, Humphreys continued to serve his nation, and holds the distinction of being the first person appointed as an ambassador to a foreign country under the U.S. Constitution. He served first as minister to Portugal, beginning in 1791, and then was appointed minister to Spain in 1796.
This year’s July 4 morning celebrations at the Grove Street Cemetery will be followed by the re-dedication at 11 a.m. of a plaque honoring George Washington at 91 Church Street in downtown New Haven. The plaque marks the site of the original Trinity Episcopal Church, where Washington attended morning services on Sunday, Oct. 18, 1789.
Members of the public —including all students, staff, faculty, alumni, and friends of Yale who will be in the area on July 4, — are welcome to attend the patriotic. For further information about the cemetery, which is open to the public every day of the year, visit its website at http://www.grovestreetcemetery.org/.