Gold Selleck Silliman (1732–1790) was born in Fairfield, Connecticut, graduated from Yale University and practiced law and served as a crown attorney before the American Revolution. He became a militia General during the American War for Independence.
Silliman was appointed as a Colonel of the Fourth Regiment Connecticut militia in May, 1775 and became Brigadier General in 1776. He patrolled the southwestern border of Connecticut, where the loyalists of Westchester County, New York caused constant irritation and concern for patriot towns and farms along the Connecticut coast. He also fought with the main army during the New York Campaign of 1776 and opposed the British raid on Danbury in 1777. At the beginning of Tryon’s raid on Danbury, Connecticut, the General was at his home in Fairfield. As soon as he heard word of the British landing on the coast, he sent out expresses to alarm the nearby towns and to collect the militia. By Noon the next day he arrived in Redding, Connecticut with five hundred men and was joined by Major General David Wooster and Brigadier General Benedict Arnold in the Battle of Ridgefield.
One night in May 1779, nine tories crossed the sound in a whale boat from Lloyd’s Neck. One of the tories had been previously employed by Silliman as a carpenter, so he knew the house well. Eight of the men forced their way into the house at midnight and took the general and his son. They were taken to Oyster Bay, New York and finally to Flatbush.
The Americans had no prisoner of equal rank to exchange for General Silliman, so they captured one. The Honorable Thomas Jones, a highly reputed loyalist, was captured in November 1779 by U.S. Naval Captain David Hawley and brought back to Connecticut. Silliman and Jones were exchanged in May 1780, with the General’s son being exchanged as well. These heroic events were accurately depicted in the 1994 TV movie Mary Silliman’s War by Heritage Films based on the 1984 biography by Richard & Joy Buel. General Silliman died in 1790.
The General’s son Benjamin Silliman was born in a tavern, originally the home of Ebenezer Hawley in Trumbull, Connecticut, after his mother, Mary Silliman, fled Fairfield ahead of the invading British troops. Benjamin Silliman was the first professor of science at Yale University and the first to distill petroleum.