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East End Lighthouses of Long Island Sound

Updated: Jan 21

One of the most important and relevant features usually portrayed on a sea chart is the Lighthouse.  The lighthouses of America are well documented and many have played their part in the birth of the nation and the struggles with the British in particular.  The lighthouses of the east end of Long Island sound around Block Island, Fisher Island, Gardner Island, Connecticut and Long Island itself are no exception.

On this previously unseen chart of 1813, surveyed and drawn during the British blockade of the sound throughout the 1812-15 war the Lighthouses each have a story to tell.  In the first two instances the Lighthouses in question were apparently more valuable strategically with their light extinguished than they were lit!

The lighthouse on Little Gull island overlooked naval activities between the Americans and the British in the vicinity of ‘the Race’.  It was constructed in 1806 and was 51ft high.  The light on the tower was forceably removed by British marines on the instructions of Sir Charles Hardy, commander of the British squadron patrolling the sound in 1813, after the lighthouse keeper, Giles Holt, refused to extinguish it.

The New London harbour lighthouse depicted at the mouth of the Connecticut River, south of New London, was constructed in 1801 and stood 89ft.  The octagonal brownstone tower still stands and is the oldest existing lighthouse in Connecticut.  This light was extinguished during the War of 1812, this time at the request of the American Commander, Commodore Stephen Decatur, Jr., who spent most of the war confined, along with his fleet, by the British in the Connecticut River. 

The East-end lighthouses depicted on the Heritage Charts chart A211 also include the construction on Watch Hill Pt. and Montauc Pt. both of which share the history of the region.

The light at Watch Hill (‘Watchill’) Point was reputedly first established to warn local residents of attack from the sea, not as an aid to navigation.  The lighthouse depicted here, an 81ft wooden tower, came into operation in 1808.  It was Rhode Island’s second lighthouse.  During his 27 year incumbency, lighthouse keeper Jonathan Nash, recorded 47 wrecks.

Finally, the lightouse on Montauk (‘Montuc’) Point was completed and came into operation in 1796 and was the first public works project of the United States of America.  It is alleged that the infamous pirate Captain Kidd buried treasure at the ‘money ponds’ near where the lighthouse was built nearly a hundred years later.  Maybe!…



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