Did Paul Revere and John Hancock actually fight in the Battle of Rhode Island? So many online resources mention them being there.

Howland Ferry Crossing Site from Tiverton to Aquidneck. (Fage Map 1778)

Yes, they came on Aquidneck Island with Sullivan’s forces. Lieutenant Colonel Paul Revere and his son, who was a lieutenant and about 17 years old, were sent to to reinforce General John Sullivan. Among the 10,000 or so of the forces that gathered at Tiverton were John Hancock and his Massachusetts Militiamen including Paul Revere. As a senior major general Hancock took command of 6000 soldiers. Hancock delayed going to camp in Rhode Island, but his role wasn’t working on strategic plans. His presence was more of a symbolic one. When the Americans crossed over to Aquidneck Island, Revere’s regiment was responsible for erecting and maintaining artillery batteries on the island.

The plan was that the American forces and the French Navy would combine to rout the British from their occupation of Newport. Unfortunately the French ships were damaged in a storm. French Admiral d’Estaing decided to head to Boston for repairs. Hancock wrote d’Estaing asking him to reconsider, but the French left at midnight on August 21, 1778. The Americans knew that their mission of freeing Newport was nearly impossible without the help of the French. The militias began to desert. Hancock and his militia, including Paul Revere, headed home to Boston. Hancock asked Lafayette for a letter of introduction to d’Estaing and the Frenchman obliged. John Hancock was home in Boston by August 26th. Sullivan would safely retreat from the island beginning on August 29th. A Tory newspaper in New York would publish a parody of Yankee Doodle and one of the stanzas mentioned Hancock.

“In dread array their tatter’d crew, Advanc’d with colors spread Sir, Their fifes play’d Yankee Doodle do, King Hancock at their Head Sir.”

No, Revere and Hancock did not fight in the Battle of Rhode Island. They went home to Boston before the battle began.


Fowler, William. The Baron of Beacon Hill: A biography of John Hancock. Boston, Houghton-Mifflin, 1979.