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Portsmouth Places: Patriots Park

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Battle of Rhode Island map at Patriot’s Park

Patriots Park
West Main Road at split with Route 24.

This is a memorial to the 1st Rhode Island Regiment, known as the “Black Regiment” located at the junction northbound of Routes 114 and 24. Flagpole commemorates the site where the Black Regiment courageously fought off a Hessian attack, saving the American line, on August 29,
1778 during the Battle of Rhode Island.

The August 30, 1778 diary entry of Liet. Col. Samuel Ward of the First Rhode Island Regiment provides an eyewitness account.
“The army retreated the evening of the 28th. Early yesterday morning, the enemy moved out after us, expecting that we were leaving the island, and took possession of the Heights in our front. They sent out parties in their front, and we made detachments to drive them back again. After a skirmish of three or four hours, with various success, in which each party gave way three or four times, and were reinforced, we drove them quite back to the ground they first took in the morning, and have continued there ever since. Two ships and a couple of small vessels beat up opposite our lines, and fired several shots, but being pretty briskly fired upon from our heavy pieces, they fell down, and now lay opposite the enemy’s lines. Our loss was not very great, it has not been ascertained yet; and I can hardly make a tolerable conjecture. Several officers fell, and several are badly wounded. I am so happy to have only one captain slightly wounded in the hand. I believe that a couple of the blacks were killed and four our five wounded, but none badly. Previous to this, I should have told you our picquets and light corps engaged their advance , and found them with bravery.” Ward believed that “our loss was not very great,” but later estimates were for 500 American deaths and a thousand for the British and Hessians. Ward believed that the British ships had been deterred by the American cannon fire, but the Captain’s log of the HMS Vigilant suggests that the wind direction and shallow depths of the area prevented the ships from reaching Bristol Ferry.

David Durfee Sherman: Recording Everyday Life in Pre-Civil War Portsmouth

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Our Portsmouth history research often focuses on people who accomplished great things or were notorious in some way.  The focus of this blog is on an ordinary person who represents the lives of many of our unheralded Portsmouth citizens.  David Durfee Sherman (Shearman) recorded his daily life in a diary.  Several volumes of his diary are in the collection of the Portsmouth Historical Society.   His writing has been a valuable glimpse into daily life in Portsmouth before the Civil War.  He records people, places and activities in Portsmouth life.  Through the diary entries we learn about the steps in rebuilding the dam at Glen Farm and how the Sherman mill was moved from Fall River and re-assembled in Portsmouth.  (That mill still stands today at Prescott Farm.)  He commented on the weather, religious meetings, barn raising, the amusements at the Portsmouth Grove, and even raiding a local brothel.

About David Durfee Sherman:  He was born in 1830 and died at the age of thirty-seven in 1868.  As a young man he married  Cynthia Dixie and they had seven children.  Only three of them lived to adult life – George, Charles and Clarence.  Like most men in Portsmouth, David spent most of his time farming, but he worked at construction projects as well.  He did his public duty as a town marshal and he served in the Union Army in Company D of the Rhode Island 12th Infantry Regiment.  At age twenty-nine he served as a traveling book salesman.  It is hard to imagine walking from Portsmouth to Somerset or Swansea to peddle his books, but David would do that.

His writing is clear and enjoyable to read.  He comes across as an intelligent and inquisitive person who takes every opportunity to develop his intellect.  He didn’t have much money, so he was very creative in using his own skills to improvise and craft what he needed.

David’s diary entries will be included in some blogs to come and his entries will be a focal point for the 2018 Exhibit at the Portsmouth Historical Society. Marge Webster, a past curator and member of the Curator’s committee, has done extensive work with the diaries and has compiled an index of names and places in them.

Parts of his diary have been digitized and are available online through the Portsmouth History Center Digital Archives:  Click on the link to the right.  Digital Archives

 

 

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