During the occupation, many of Portsmouth’s farms were damaged. The occupation was harsh and civilians were killed and injured. Not even children were safe. In 1776 a fourteen-year-old boy, Darius Chase, was killed when the British destroyed his family farm. He made the mistake of trying to save his shotgun. British soldiers were quartered in farmhouses throughout the island. Families were allowed to leave the island with some of their possessions, but many who had property to defend stayed and endured the hardships. Portsmouth lost only about ten percent of its population during this time. The cattle and sheep had been ordered off the island so they couldn’t be taken by the enemy for food.

Blaskewicz Revolutionary War Map

The Portsmouth landscape was beautiful before the occupation. British officer Frederick Mackenzie was quartered there, and his December 16th journal entry described the beauty of the local area, even in winter.

“There is a hill about 7 miles from Newport, and on the Eastern side of this Island called Quaker Hill, from there being a Quaker meeting-house on it, from whence there is a very fine view of all the N. part of the Island, and the beautiful bays and inlets, with the distant view of towns, farms, and cultivated lands intermixed with woods, together with the many views of the adjacent waters, contribute to make this, even at this bleak season of the year, the finest, most diversified, and extensive prospect I have seen in America.”

This beauty did not last. Wood was the major source of fuel at the time, and it became difficult to provide enough wood from the mainland to supply both the local residents and the occupying troops. The British and Hessians chopped down most of the trees on Aquidneck Island and burned many houses. The fuel shortage was so severe that they regularly sent men in transports to Long Island to cut wood for Rhode Island. Mackenzie records that the citizens were given an opportunity to help feed themselves. They could keep one gun to hunt birds and they could keep a boat for fishing. During most of the occupation the British were particularly careful not to damage the mills on the island that ground corn.  The British ordered all Portsmouth men to work three days a week on the defensive works for the village.