Eyewitness accounts help us to understand what was going on during the Siege of Newport and the Battle of Rhode Island. Robert Geake has provided researchers with a glimpse of the life of a young private in the local militia. Titled “Fired a Gun at the Rising of the Sun,” Geake transcribes and richly annotates the diary entries of Noah Robinson, an Attleboro soldier. I am very grateful to Robert Geake for making this diary accessible to researchers. Transcribing and annotating are tedious jobs but they contribute greatly to our understanding of events in Revolutionary Rhode Island.

Volume III is entitled: “Journal of a Six Month Campaign by God’s Permition in the State of R. Island in a Company Commanded by Capt. Caleb Richardson…from the town of Attleboro.

“Boys to Play

The horn does blow for us to go

And fight our Enemies

We’ll take our guns & swing our packs

In God we Trust

and Fear em’ not

Brave Sullivan’s

to Lead us on.”

Noah Robinson had gone out to war with the militia on a number of occasions. This time he served in place of his uncle who was paying him. Robinson was educated and often served as a scribe in his units.

In the entries below, I have chosen to share the pieces of writing that speak most about the Rhode Island Campaign. Noah Robinson was among the troops being gathered for General Sullivan in Tiverton to take part in a French and American effort to take Aquidneck Island from British control.

Wednesday, August 5, 1778: Noah reports that he “Heard one of the Enemies ships was blown up. ….Towards Night heard two more British ships were blown up.” This is a reference to the Cerebus, Orpheus, the Juno and the Lark, British ships whose captains were given the order that under no circumstances would they allow their ships to be captured. With the French ships threatening, the British captains rain their ships aground and set them on fire.

Friday 7th: Gen. Varnum’s & Gen. Glovers brigade, Col. Jackson & Col. Shearburne’s Regt of Continental troops crossed the ferry ..

Saturday 8th: “…about Twelve o’clock marched on through heat and dust to Howland’s Ferry and encamped on the ground. Heard some firing towards Newport.”

Sunday 9th August: “…About eight o’clock pack up, took boat & crossed Howland Ferry on to R. Island. Formed and marched boldly up to the Fourth on the N. end of ye island then was informed ye enemy had retreated to the end of ye island so we lay on our post until about four o’clock when a shower came up so that we got very wet..”

Monday, 10th August: ” ..Much firing below ye island. ” Geake notes that day there was an exchange of fire between the French ships and the British batteries. By the next day, August, 11th, the whole army paraded and they had general orders to march by 6 AM to Newport. By August 15th they marched to within two and a half miles of Newport. August 16th Noah comments that “since last night our men have been very delinquent in trench making.” In his annotations Geake comments the some 800 men were digging trenches for the coming assault. 400 men were digging a four cannon battery just north of Green End Road in Middletown. Another 400 were making a concealed trench from the first battery down the west slope of Honeyman Hill.

Wednesday, August 19th, Noah could hear cannonading and he heard that some of the men were killed at the lines the night before. On Thursday the 20th of August Robinson reports that he washed his clothes, there was cannonading and he heard that the French fleet returned to Newport harbor. By August 24 he heard the French fleet had definitely left the harbor.

Geake’s notes add needed background to the brief entries. On the eve of battle, August 28th, Robinson noted that “At 2 o’clock a man was hanged in our camp.” Geake tells us that a soldier from Webb’s Regiment of Continentals was hanged for desertion because Sullivan wished to set an example.

On Saturday, August 29th, Noah reports that “Last night (8/28/1778) about 8 o’clock struck tents and returned back to the N. end of Island, about 9 o’clock an action began, the enemy pressing on our light party. It appeared there would be a general action however our Army looking for the rights of their country; fighting like heroes, the enemy dare not press on our main body.” Geake’s notes tell us that Robinson was one of about the 120 Bristol County men which were in the rear guard of Titcomb’s brigade.

Robinson writes that action ceased at about 4 PM but cannon shot continued. He writes on Sunday, August 30: “Last night returned to our former station (from the wall) and blanketed down. (Some cannonading on both sides). Dug an intrenchment, drawer some provision and Rum &c. The loss of killed and wounded yesterday I can not certify but it appeared considerable on both sides.

Denison Map

August 31st Robinson reported that “Last night (August 30) mustered up about 5 o’clock, evacuated the lines. The whole Army crossed H(Howland) Ferry. Encamped for the night…


“Fired a Gun at the Rising of the Sun.” Transcribed and Annotated by Geake, Robert. Privately printed by author. 2018.