Erich A. O’D. Taylor’s pamphlet “Campaign on Rhode Island 1778” is among the resources in Jim Garman’s collection. It is richly illustrated with woodcuts by noted artist John Norman Benson. We always have to doublecheck the information in older histories, but I found some interesting information in this source that I believe is worth sharing. Some of the information is based on the diary of a Hessian soldier (Johann Conrad Döhla).

On October 22, 1777 there were rumors of a landing on Fogland. American General Spencer did not try that, but British General Pigott strengthened the works at Butts Hill, Fogland Ferry and Lawton’s Valley in Portsmouth. He enclosed Newport with enceinte (encircling walls), cutting off even the main roads with gates that were locked at night. This line was first manned December 17, 1777. NOTE: This confirms what I read in a letter by Mrs. Bannister in Desrosiers, The Banisters of Rhode Island in the American Revolution: Liberty and the Costs of Loyalties.

Turning to the Fogland Ferry area off Glen Road:

Ferries had crossed between the Glen area and Fogland in Tiverton since the 1640s. This was another narrow spot on the Sakonnet shore and the British considered this a very vulnerable spot. Barracks and defensive fortifications were constructed there.

Taylor wrote:
“The commander at Fogland Ferry had no small task before him to safeguard the nearby farms. It is interesting to learn therefore that this important position was usually assigned to Hessian regiments and was so well defended and its duties so well executed that the inhabitants complimented the commanders when they were relieved and returned to town. Among those who returned thanks to Captain Baron de Malsburg of the regiment Ansbach-Bayreuth on his leaving this post are to be found – Mr. Bowler, Restcome Sanford, Elisha Coggeshall, George Martin, Jonathan Davenport, John Lawton, Giles Slocum, George Taber, Giles Lawton and John Sanford… The farmers thoroughly understood the Hessian soldiers who came of a range of agriculturalists like themselves. During the quiet summers of 77 and 79 when no ‘assault was intended on the city,’ many of these Hessians hired themselves out to farmers, working for the small wage of (about 51 cents ) a day.”

Metcalf Bowler, Giles Slocum, John Sanford and others did indeed have farms in that area. The idea that the Hessians helped out on the farms is something new to me. I will be able to read Dohla’s diary and I will look for sources to confirm this. Metcalf Bowler, we discovered later, was acting as a British spy. Taylor hints that there were Loyalists among the Portsmouth farmers, but with the severe damage done to the farms during the Occupation I doubt many Portsmouth farmers appreciated the British Occupation.