Maps provide a prime source of information on the British fortifications on Aquidneck Island, and the North Portsmouth map from the Huntington Digital Library provides some interesting information. From the notes we get a glimpse of what the American fortifications were before the British Occupation. In some cases the British enlarged what had already existed. In other cases they constructed fortifications to secure their own needs.

Starting at the Bristol Ferry area:

Looking at a modern map the location of this redoubt seems be where the Bristol Landing Condos are today. The note says “Left by the Rebels ___1775 nearly finished.” The diagram in the Henry Clinton Collection of the William Clements Library gives us more details.

A diary entry from a British soldier, Frederick Mackenzie, gives us an idea of the fort changing hands in the initial actions after the occupation.

“Dec 8th 1776 – The Army landed this morning at Weaver’s Cove near Mr. Stoddards House…
The first embarkation under General Prescott, marches as soon as formed to the high road from Newport to Bristol Ferry, a short distance from the landing place, and finding that the few of the Enemy who were on the Island, had retired in haste towards the N. End of it, he pursued them to the ferries, where he took a few prisoners and a 9 lb cannon; and save a great many cattle and sheep which they had not time to Carry off.

The Rebels abandoned a well situated fort at the N. End of the Island yesterday, without attempting to defend it. It in some measure commands the passage to Bristol by the ferry.”

Heading east on the map we see the fortifications heading toward Common Fence Point.

The redoubt by the Lawton house was labeled “made a Redoubt July 1776 now demolished”. That would have been an American fortification. Looking at a map today, it seems to be in the Anthony Road/Boyd’s Lane area to the south of Town Pond. In the direction of Common Fence Point there is a line of “abbatis” which is an obstacle made by cutting down trees, interlacing them and having the sharp points face the enemy. What we call Anthony Road was labeled Common Fence Road on the map.

The map labels a “Common Fence Redoubt” but the modern location is actually closer to East Main Road. There were fortifications toward Howland Ferry. We don’t think of a bridge being on Park Avenue, but early maps show a bridge there. The Bridge Redoubt is listed as September of 1776 which would have made it an American fortification originally.

A map made by Fage in 1778 that is part of the Clinton Collection at the Clements Library helps us to view the fortifications as a whole. One would think that the Common Fence Redoubt would be on Common Fence Point and the Bridge Redoubt would be close to the bridge to the Howland Ferry, but their locations on the map seem to be somewhat puzzling. Perhaps they were guarding the way from Common Fence Point and guarding the way from the bridge. The positions of the redoubts put them closer to established central roads. Howland Ferry was an important location. It is close to where the remains of Stone Bridge are today. It was a narrow spot between Aquidneck Island and the mainland at Tiverton. From Mackenzie’s Diary: Oct. 20, 1777 In order to strengthen the post at Howland’s bridge, an abbatiss of large apple trees from the neighboring Orchards was thrown across the Neck about 200 yards this side of the bridge, which will prevent the enemy from advancing in that part with Cannon or any considerable number of troops without first removing them, which will take u some time and must be done under our fire.”

Oct 21, 1777 – “We have had some convincing proofs of late of the bad construction of Howland Bridge Redoubt.  The 9 pounders place in the right embrasure could not be brought to bear on the ground from which the Rebels fired the night of the …”

Nov. 26, 1777 – “An Abbattis was made this morning from the shore at the Mouth of the town pond for 300 yards o the right along the edge of the pond, which is passable at low water.”

March 16, 1778
“The 43rd regiment having undertaken to supply themselves with the necessary quantity of wood from Commonfence Neck, during the time they continued on duty at the advanced posts,& having employed several carts yesterday in drawing away what had been cut near Hick’s orchard…”

Fage Map 1778