On a morning in August of 1778, American troops ambushed a British advance group nearby at the corner of Middle Road and Union Street. The Americans were waiting behind some stone walls. As the British troops marched from Newport half went straight ahead on the East Path and the rest turned left on Union Street. The Americans rose from their hiding places and slaughtered one quarter of the British. Some historians refer to this corner as “Bloody Angle.”

Image from in 1940s – PHS President Fred Sherman and Vice President Ms. Chase

This skirmish was commemorated with the dedication of a monument on the grounds of the Christian Union Church, now the headquarters of the Portsmouth Historical Society. This skirmish was only one event in what we call the Battle of Rhode Island. This battle was the only major action in Rhode Island during the Revolutionary War and fighting took place up and down East and West Main Roads in Portsmouth. Action took place at earthen fortifications at Fort Butts, on Quaker Hill, and on Turkey Hill. Although the American troops were forced to retreat to Tiverton, the patriots lost few troops.

Chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Newport and Portsmouth worked together to erect a monument to the “patriots who fought here in the first skirmish of the Battle of Rhode Island, August 29th, 1778.” The monument is made of Westerly granite and is dressed on one side but left natural on the other side. The stone itself weighs about two tons. The dedication ceremony took place on August 29, 1910. Festivities included a “stirring and patriotic speech” by Congressman William Paine Sheffield. Descendants of soldiers who took part in the battle unveiled the inscription and the program ended with the singing of the Star Spangled Banner.