The Conanicut Battery is Revolutionary Rhode Island that we can see and experience. It helps us to understand some of the evolution of Butts Hill Fort. The Rhode Island General Assembly ordered the building of this battery in 1776. A battery was built at Butts Hill by the American militia either in 1776 or before that in 1775 as part of Rhode Island’s preparations for war. The battery was built by hand using shovels and picks. The earth dug from a ditch was used to build up the parapet and its steep walls, the glacis which would have protected soldiers in the battery from attack by infantry. The parapet on the west side would protect against cannon fire from ships in the Bay.

What is a military battery? In the case of Conanicut Battery, it is a parapet or fortification equipped with artillery. So what is a parapet? It is a protective wall or earth defense along the top of a trench or other place of concealment for troops. This definition helps us to understand Conanicut Battery and even Butts Hill Fort.

The original Conanicut Battery was probably a simple, crescent shaped earthwork to protect six to eight cannon and those that operated them. In December of 1776 the British occupied the battery and they held the position until October of 1779. In his diary entry for December 7, 1776, British soldier Frederick Mackenzie writes: “…at 12 made the Light House on the S. point of Connonicut Island at the entrance of Rhode Island harbour….and about 1 o’clock that ship (The Experiment with Capt. Wallace) took the lead, and stood up the Western Channel between Connonicut, and the Main(land)… About 2 miles from the Light House, Rebels had a Battery or Redoubt with 4 Embrazures towards the Channel, But it appeared to be abandoned.”

What you see at the battery today is a shape the British formed. Ditches surround the earthen barricades on all sides and there is a ditch around all sides. When French forces came in July of 1780, they manned the battery until 1781.

Conanicut Battery can be found in Jamestown (Conanicut Island) at the end of Battery Lane which is off of Beavertail Road.

Plan de Rhode-Island Newport en ast la Capitale, 1778. Rhode Island Historical Society Collections RHiX34292

This French map mislabels Conanicut as Connecticut, but it does seem to show the location of the battery.