As early as 1700 there was a fort located at Goat Island. Royal officials deemed Newport an important port to defend. The Goat Island fort was originally named “Fort Anne.” It would later be called “Fort George,” “Fort Liberty” and then “Fort Washington.” In his “Revolutionary Defenses in Rhode Island,” Edward Field states that it was the only fort in the colony at the start of the War for Independence. Men were not permanently stationed there, but it was well supplied and had fifty guns mounted. Those guns were shifted to Providence, but in 1776 it was furnished with twenty-five guns, 18 and 24 pounders and fifty men manned it.

On April 29, 1776 a town meeting was held in Newport “to enter, at once into the defense of the town.” A large group of Newport citizens erected fortifications at Brenton Point where Fort Adams is today. Townspeople were ordered to work on the defenses and were fined if they did not. Newport citizens also worked on the “North Battery” on Washington Street.

When the British occupied Aquidneck Island in December of 1776, it appears that they used the defenses at Brenton Point and Goat Island. British soldier Frederick Mackenzie wrote in his diary on May 19, 1778:

“As there appears a great probability of the Rebels receiving assistance from the French, and affairs may have undergone a great change since the date of our last accounts from England, I think it would be prudent to mount some heavy Cannon in the Battery at Brenton’s point, and on Goat Island. The entrance of the harbour is at present totally undefended, and a few guns at those places may be of great service.”


Field, Edward. Revolutionary Defenses in Rhode Island

Fage Map, Clinton Collection – Clement Library

History of Fort Adams:

Frederick Mackenzie Diary