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Mr. Redwood’s Gardens

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Today we think of Redwood Farms as a neighborhood in Portsmouth by West Main Road and Union Street. In colonial days this area was the country home of the Redwood family We know the Redwood name from the famed Redwood Library in Newport.

Abraham Redwood Sr. made his way to Aquidneck Island by way of Bristol, England, Antigua and Salem, Massachusetts. He settled in Newport. Born in Bristol, England, in 1665, he came into possession (by marriage) of a large sugar-plantation in Antigua, known as Cassada Garden. He resided there until 1712, when he moved to the British American colonies. After spending a few years in Salem, he settled permanently in Newport, Rhode Island.

His son (Abraham, Jr.) was born in Antiqua in 1710. He was sent to school in Philadelphia and returned to Newport before he was 18. Soon after he married Martha Coggeshall, a Quaker and a decendent of John Coggeshall, a founder of Portsmouth.

Abraham Redwood, Jr. inherited the Antiqua sugar works and took to the slave trade early. He divided his time between his Newport town and Portsmouth country residences. In 1727 he settled on his father’s estate at Portsmouth, known as Redwood farm, which came into his possession on the death of his elder brother. By 1745 the estate was some 140 acres in size. Some of that land was from the Coggeshall land grant and may have been purchased from his wife’s family. The Redwood estate in Portsmouth was particularly known for its gardens. The Redwoods were a merchant family and they brought plants from their travels. He took great pride in his gardens and they were considered one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in North America. There were plants and trees imported from all over the world.

These are a few descriptions from the National Gallery of Arts work on “hot houses.” 1

Redwood, Abraham, Jr., c. 1760, in a letter to his plantation manager, describing Redwood Farm:
“I would desire you send to me one hhd (might be hogshead about 63 gallons) of good rum and one hhd of good sugar and I desire that you speak to your overseer to put up in Durt one dozen of Small orange Trees that has bore one or two years with the young fruit upon them, if to be had that has bore two or three years of Saffadella trees, four young figg trees and some Guavas roots, to put in my greenhouse, for I have made a garden of 1 1/2 acres of land and I have built a green house twenty-two feet long, Twelve feet wide and Twelve feet high, and a hotte house Sixteen feet long Twelve feet wide and Twelve feet high, and I have growing in my greenhouse Fifty young fruit trees from six inches to four feet high, and my Gardner says ye largest will not bear fruit these two years, and I have hotte house Strawberries, Bush beans and Crownations in Blossom.”

Redwood describes a greenhouse 22 feet long, 12 feet wide and 12 feet high.

Drowne, Samuel, June 24, 1767, describing Redwood Farm:
“Mr. Redwood’s garden. . . is one of the finest gardens I ever saw in my life. In it grows all sorts of West Indian fruits, viz: Oranges, Lemons, Limes, Pineapples, and Tamarinds and other sorts. It has also West Indian flowers—very pretty ones—and a fine summer house. It was told by my father that the man that took care of the garden had above 100 dollars per annum. It had Hot Houses where things that are tender are put for the winter, and hot beds for the West India Fruit. I saw one or two of these gardens in coming from the beach.”

Tropical West Indian fruits were grown in Rhode Island with the help of a hot house. It was well known that the Redwoods paid their garden manager very well

What happened to the Redwood Farm?

The Redwood Farm estate stayed in the family until 1882. In her book “This Was My Newport,” Maud Howe Elliott (daughter of Julia Ward Howe) describes the garden when she was a child in the 1850s and 60s.

“The garden at “Redwood” was a marvel of taste and neatness. The high bush blackberries that topped the wall were known to every child within a radius of miles. At the corners of the long beds were enormous clumps of peonies. Flowers, fruit and vegetables amicably shared the sunny garden — a pair of acres in size — gooseberry and currant bushes forming the borders, while pear trees were planted at intervals in the center of the beds. There was a little garden-house where Miss Rosalie, the youngest daughter, held a Sunday school for children of the neighboring farmers. I have had cause all my life to bless Miss Rosalie for her gentle ministrations. The seeds of culture and breeding she sowed in the minds of her boys and girls have borne fruit and sweetened the life of generations.” 4

You can still see the “little garden-house.” It was moved to the grounds of the Redwood Library in 1917. It was originally designed by famed architect Peter Harrison for the Redwoods in 1766.

The Redwood home on West Main Road was allowed to deteriorate, but we do have an image of it from 1934. (5) According to British diarist Frederick Mackenzie, the home was used as a headquarters for soldiers during the British Occupation of Aquidneck Island.

Resources:

  1. National Gallery of Art: https://heald.nga.gov/mediawiki/index.php/Hothouse
  2. https://americangardenhistory.blogspot.com/2018/12/the-greenhouse-conservatory-in-early.html. About Early Hot Houses.
  3. https://stories.usatodaynetwork.com/slaveryinrhodeisland/abraham-redwood-antigua-and-the-west-indies-trade/ Redwood in the Slave Trade.
  4. Elliott, Maud Howe. This Was My Newport. Mythology Company, A. M. Jones, 1944.
  5. From the collection of the Providence Public Library.
  6. Berthier Map from John Robertson’s book “Revolutionary War Defenses in Rhode Island.”2022, Rhode Island Publications Society.
  7. Garden House Image from Library of Congress.

Butts Hill Fort 1781: Palisades, Ditches and Ordnances

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Letters written by American forces during the 1780-81 time that Americans and French were working on Butts Hill Fort give us some details that enable us to visualize the fort to some extent.

There is a remarkable new book by John Robertson (Revolutionary War Defenses in Rhode Island) that provides more clues to what the fort might have looked like in 1781. Robertson relates information from letters from Major General William Heath and Col Jacobs.

“On 30 August MG Heath requests the Deputy Quarter Master to supply 3,600 palisades ten feet long and from five to eight inches in diameter for use at the fort.” (Robertson p. 75)

With the scarcity of wood for heat and cooking after the brutal British Occupation, I doubt that 3,600 palisades were put up at the fort.

Robertson also gives us information from a letter from Col. Jacobs to Heath on September 5th.

  1. The circumference of the ditch in rods is 111 (about 1,830 feet)
  2. 81 of which are solid stone
  3. 4 rods have been dug to 6 ft, 26 to 5.5 ft. 27 to 5 feet, 38 to 3ft, and 16 to 1.5 ft.
  4. The depth from surface to stone was 18 inches.

It is difficult for me to even imagine this and I hope that someone can take these measurements and draw what it might look like.

What kind of ordnance did they have at Butts Hill Fort?

Robertson found a return of Ordnance document (in and near the fort) on September 26, 1780

Listed are:

  1. 6 iron 18 pounders. (Five are on garrison carriages.)
  2. 2 four pounder brass cannon on field carriages.
  3. The magazine had 643 dozen musket cartridges.
  4. Four spiked cannons,
  5. Four dismounted cannons.

When the French left Aquidneck Island in June of 1781 the fort was complete but the French guns had been removed. The fort was occupied until July of 1782. There was no longer fear of a British attack on Rhode Island (Aquidneck Island). On September 19th, 1782, a Rhode Island resolution passed that authorized Col. Archibald Crary to call on the commanding officer at Newport for help in removing the cannon and stores from Butts Hill and move them to Providence.

In June of 1783, a Rhode Island resolution passed to authorize William Anthony, Jr. “to sell at public venue the gates, timber, etc on Butts’s Hill in Portsmouth” (Bartlett, Records IX, p. 709). There were reports that the wooden barracks building was taken by the Town of Portsmouth to use for a poor house, but it was in rough shape and was quickly broken up. From the French maps we know there was a barracks there, but I don’t have a confirmation of what happened to the building. Perhaps Portsmouth town records may shed some light on that question.

Butts Hill Fort was no longer fortified.

What do the letters and documents tell us about what Butts Hill Fort might have looked like?

  1. It had a gate
  2. It had a barracks
  3. There was timber at the fort – but we have no confirmation palisades were installed
  4. There was a magazine for ammunition
  5. 6 (18 lb) cannons – five on garrison carriages
  6. 2 (4 lb) brass cannons
  7. There was about1830 feet of ditches around the fort (some ditches deeper than others).

Archaeological study-Babit

Butts Hill Fort 1781: French Masons and Sally Ports

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We can get clues to what Butts Hill Fort may have looked like in 1781 from the orderly books of the American units who were helping the French reshape the fortifications into a proper fort. One of these orderly books was written by Ebenezer Thayer Jr. It covers August 16 to November 28, 1780. It is available through the Huntington Digital Library. There is another orderly book at the John Hay Library at Brown. It is difficult for me to transcribe the one at Brown. Thayer’s book was less difficult to transcribe and covered a greater period of time, so it was easier for me to draw material from it. Thayer, a Harvard educated minister, was in charge of a three-month regiment of a Massachusetts militia raised to support the Expédition Particulière, the French expeditionary army under the command of Rochambeau. The regiment was placed under the command of William Heath and stationed in Rhode Island at Butts Hill.

Oct 17. 1780 – Thayer’s orderly book. Transcription adapted for understanding.

The wagon masters of the Brigade are directed to attend on the works with their Wagons at the time the Fatigue party (Non Military chores) goes on the works and fetch one Load of Stones each for the purpose of Building the pillows (could that be pillars?) of the Fort every morning until they Receive further Orders from the Commandant. And they will apply to the (Linguister?) at the fort to know where the Stone shall be brought from.

One group that were assured of good provisions were those actively helping the French masons.

October 16th “There are four men to be detached from the brigade to attend constantly on the French Masons until the stone pillows (pillars?) of the Fort are completed and two masons detached to assist the French Masons until the works are finished and for their service they shall receive half a pint of rum a day when in the store.” Their provisions are ready for them so that they can complete the Fort works in a timely manner.”

Fort building was hard work. One entry records that the American wagons are bringing loads of stone to the works at Butts Hill Fort. They are building a “sally port” which is a secure, controlled entry way to an enclosure like a fort. All tools must be returned to the engineer. Members of the Black Regiment continued the “works” at Butts Hill Fort once the Massachusetts militias departed.

October 25, 1780: “The wagoners will attend on the works tomorrow and fetch two load of stones each for the building of the pillows of the sally port”

They are building a “sally port.” All tools must be returned to the engineer. What could a sally port to an earthenware fort look like? We have an example that gives us an idea. Below are examples of sally ports with earthen fortifications. Both images are in the collection of the Library of Congress. The image on the left is of Fort Wayne in Detroit. The image on the right is from Yorktown.

What have we learned about Butts Hill Fort in 1781 from the Orderly Book of Thayer?

  1. In 1780 a sally port was being constructed.
  2. French and American masons worked on the sally port.
  3. Wagon loads of stone were being brought up to the fort.
  4. “Pillows” or could they be pillars, were part of the sally port design.

I would welcome the help of those who understand more about military fortifications to guide me on the meaning of the “pillows.” The wagoner’s were getting guidance from the “Linguister” (Singuister) on where to get the stone. Who in the military could that be?

Butts Hill Fort 1781 – the Shape of It

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I am continuing to find clues to what Butts Hill Fort looked like in 1781 after the French and Americans had made it into a true fort. In this blog I am gathering images that might help us figure out the shape of the fort.

The first three images are from French made maps. The top two are Rochambeau maps in the Library of Congress. The third map is in the Pierce Collection of the Portsmouth Free Public Library and is also a French map.

What do we learn from the maps?

  1. The entrance was on the Southeast.
  2. There was a road leading from the entrance to East Main Road.
  3. There was a barracks inside the fort.
  4. The last map seems to show some defenses to the northeast – outside of the fort.
  5. The last map shows were Col. Greene’s men were camped while working on the fort with the French.
  6. The triangular defensive (ravelins) positions are most prominent to the south.

The image below is LIDAR- Light Detection and Ranging. It uses light to measure distances and is also known as laser scanning or 3D scanning. It shows us what is under the vegetation on Butts Hill today. We still have the elementary outlines of the fort under the vegetation today.

What did Butts Hill Fort look like in 1781: Searching for clues

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It is hard for us to picture what Butts Hill Fort looked like when it ceased operation in 1781 (some say 1782). The French and Americans took the British fortifications, enclosed them and really make them into a real fort. I am searching for clues among the records of that time, maps, orderly books and those like Benson Lossing who record what they saw at the fort years after the abandonment of the fortification. I am trying to do this in an orderly way, putting together the clues of the primary sources. I have needed an education in military terms, so I have tried to put a definition next to words I had to research.

Today I am working with the Pictorial Field Book of the Revolution, Vol. 1. This was published in 1850 by Benson Lossing.

The remains of the old fort on Butts’s Hill, the embankments and fossé, with traces of the hastily-constructed ravelins, are well preserved. Even the ruts made by the carriage-wheels of the cannons, at the embrasures (for the ordnance was composed of field-pieces), were visible. The banks, in some places, are twenty feet high, measuring from the bottom of the fossé. Fortunately for the antiquary, the works were constructed chiefly upon a rocky ledge, and the plow can win no treasure there; the banks were earth, and afford no quarry for wall builders, and so the elements alone have lowered the ramparts and filled the ditches. Southward from this eminence, I had a fine view of Quaker and Turkey Hills – indeed, of the whole battle-ground.

What clues does this source give us?

  • Remains of hastily-constructed ravelins (Ravelins – Ravelin: a triangular fortification in front of bastion. (Bastions are generally curved or angular in shape. This allows the soldiers to keep a watch on the approaching enemy from many directions. as a detached outwork.
  • Ruts from carriage wheels of the cannons
  • Embrasures visible. (Embrasures – An opening for a gun to fire through)
  • Banks 20 feet high from bottom of fosse. (Fosse – ditch or moat)
  • On rocky ledge
  • Banks of earth,
  • Elements had lowered ramparts and filled ditches. (Rampart) main defensive wall of a fortification)
  • View of Quaker Hill and Turkey Hill from the south rampart.

I will work with one source at a time.

Wampanoag Thanksgivings

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Portsmouth has its roots in Wampanoag culture and we should celebrate that. This is a reblog from a couple of years ago but it is relevant today.

portsmouthhistorynotes

At Thanksgiving time I am thinking about the Wampanoag heritage of Aquidneck Island. I recently read Mayflower by Philbrick for a book club. There is more scholarly work about the roots of our Thanksgiving feast. Often our focus is on the Pilgrims, but maybe we forget about the Native American traditions of thanksgiving. So many of our Thanksgiving stories are more legend than good historical research.

The Pilgrims did not introduce the concept of a harvest celebration. Wampanoag culture celebrated at least five thanksgivings – some believe there was one for each full moon. I came across the celebrations when I was a librarian at Elmhurst School. There were beautiful picture books about “Strawberry Thanksgiving” and the origins of the Cranberry Thanksgiving. Strawberry Thanksgiving is a summer celebration when the first berry ripens. Green Bean and Green Corn Harvest come in mid summer. Cranberry Thanksgiving celebrates the ripening of the…

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A Hessian View of the Rhode Island Campaign

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The diary of Johann Conrad Dohla gives us a unique account of the Rhode Island Campaign. Dohla was one of the Hessian (German) troops whose services were sold to George III to fight against the Rebels in the American Revolution. He arrived in America in 1777 as a private in the Ansbach-Rayreuth group of Hessians. In June of 1777 he arrived in Newport, Rhode Island. In this blog I will include part of his diary entries from August 1778 that help us understand what was happening on Aquidneck Island (Rhode Island) during the Rhode Island Campaign.

August 7, 1778


Our Bayreuth Regiment sent a large command to the region beyond Tonimy Hill. All Turkish and Indian corn and all other grains on Rhode Island were destroyed. All stone walls and fences around the fields were torn down. All trees were chopped down, and many houses torn down and burned down in order to detect sooner the arrival of the enemy crossing over from New England.

August 9, 1778

…. During the night, after tattoo (a military lights out), our regiment had to fall out in the greatest haste and march forward three English miles because the rebels were crossing over to Rhode Island in many boats. We remained under the open sky throughout the night and the next morning returned to our camp. Also during the night a Hessian ensign and three men, and an English lieutenant and two men, went over to the enemy.

August 11, 1778.

We moved our camp about one hour forward and again set up our tents near Tominy Hill. This Tominy Hill, an exceptionally strong hill fortification on a high cliff, is the place to which our troops would fall back in an emergency.


August 17, 1778

At work on the fortifications. We laid out a line and dug the trench. Everywhere batteries and redoubts, as well as connecting trenches, were completed all along our line, and everything soundly reinforced with wood. The fortifications work continued day and night without let up, and we had many hardships. Within or lines ten principal fortified points were played out namely: 1. Stone Battery, 2. The North Trench, 3. Somerset, 4. The Irish Redoubt, 5. Fort Fanning, 6. Fort Clinton, 7. Fort Percy, 8. the Ice Redoubt, 9. Prince Dauneck, and 10, Conanicut. The enemy, in a little less than an hour, set up a big camp opposite, set his posts and sentries very near us, and fortified himself in the region of Boxland Ferry.

August 19, 1778

At noon today the enemy, after completing his battery on this side of the heights, began to fire cannon at our camp and defenses and to throw in bombs. Therefore we had to change our front and camped all together behind the fortifications of Tominy Hill as we camped in front of it previously. eHere we were safe from the balls and bombs. The batteries and fortifications of both sides fired heavily, and that continued unceasingly, only ending during the blackness of night.

August 22, 1778

In the morning I went on work detail at the fortifications. During the night the French ships, which had been before the Newport Harbor, disappeared and no one knew where they had gone.

August 28, 1778

This night a 25 man picket from our regiment, commanded by Lt. Ciracy, was attacked by a strong party of Americans, who had crept up through a field of Indian corn. One of our men was killed in this action, and three men were wounded. The enemy, however, had to pull back and take flight. Also tonight, the Americans withdrew the artillery with which they had been firing at us and their heavy baggage to New England, but continuously harassed our outposts in order to cover their withdrawal.

August 29, 1778

When during the early morning, we began to fire our cannon at the enemy, there was no answer in return. Therefore, two thousand men from the army, including our two regiments, were ordered to search out and pursue the retreating enemy, They marched for about three English miles, where they caught up with the enemy, who opposed us as much as possible and, grouped together in order to frustrate our attack, amounted to about ten thousand men. Finally, when the cannon began firing at them, they took flight. They were pursued, and the firing from both sides lasted throughout the day. In our advance we had to climb over many stone walls, five to six feet high, which served as fences around the fields. The enemy often took post behind these and fired through the openings where stones had been removed. Despite this difficulty, we chased them back into their fortifications, of which one, called “Windmill Hill,” had many heavy cannon. Since a farther advance was not advisable, we stood still until the cannon arrived; from which time, throughout the day, each side fired against the other.

During this heavy fighting our regiment, as we were on the left wing, engaged in combat the entire day. We lost no more than three me….They were killed by a cannonball, and two men were wounded. …

August 31, 1778

In the morning, as it became apparent that the enemy had completely left the island, the vacated defenses were immediately occupied by the English and Hessians, and we began to set up camp near Windmill Hill.

Resources

Map: Partie de l’etat de Rhode-Island, et position des armees Americaine …

Dohla, Johann. A Hessian Diary of the American Revolution. Norman, Oklahoma,University of Oklahoma Press. 1990.

Durfee’s Account of Rhode Island Campaign

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This is an account by an eyewitness, but Joseph Durfee is penning his reminiscences many years after the events. At the time of the Battle of Rhode Island, Durfee was a major in Col. Whitney’s Regiment. The last blog related Durfee’s account of the “Battle of Fall River” and this blog entry is a continuation of the account beginning with the Americans crossing to Aquidneck Island.

Preparation for invasion of Aquidneck

” During a considerable part of the month of August following (the Battle of Fall River – see the previous blog), we were busily engaged in procuring arms, ammunition, and provisions for the soldiers, and in building flat-bottomed boats and scows for the troops to cross over the river on to Rhode Island, with a view to dislodge the British army, who then had possession of the island. A barn, now standing near the Stone Bridge, was occupied for a commissary store, of which I had the charge until things were in readiness and the troops prepared to cross over to the island, when I left the store in charge of my friend and relative, Walter Chaloner.

The Expedition Begins

In the fore part of August 1798, the American troops embarked in the boats and scows prepared for them and landed on Rhode Island, where I joined them, having been appointed a Major in Colonel Whitney’s Regiment. Our troops were then marched to a spot but a short distance to the North of what is called Butts’ Hill; where they encamped for the night with nothing but the canopy of heaven for a covering and the ground for our beds. But we were animated with the hope of liberty–with a belief that we were engaged in a righteous cause—and that He, who sways the sceptre of the universe would prosper our undertaking.

Waiting on the French

At this time we were anxiously looking for the French fleet from which we hoped for assistance against the enemy, whose numerous bodies of troops were before us. Soon the French fleet bore in sight, when the British set fire to the shipping in the harbor and blew up most of the vessels within their reach. Not long after the French fleet came up, the British fleet appeared in the offing. Immediately the French fleet tacked about, went about and attacked the British squadron, when broadsides were exchanged and a bloody battle ensued.

The Storm

A tremendous storm came on long remembered as the Angust storm, in which the two fleets were separated, and many who had escaped the cannon’s mouth found a watery grave. The French feet, or so much of it as survived the storm, went into Boston to repair and the remnant of the British fleet went into New York.

Siege of Newport

Soon after this storm, our troops marched in three divisions towards Newport. One on the East road, so called one on the West road, and the Brigade, commanded by General Titcomb moved in the centre, until we came in sight of Newport–when orders were given to halt, erect a marque and pitch our tents. General orders were issued for a detachment from the army of three thousand men – our number being too small to risk a general engagement with the great body of British troops then quartered on the South end of the Island. Early on the next morning a detachment of troops, of which I was one, was ordered to proceed forthwith and take possession of what was called Hunneman’s Hill. The morning was foggy and enabled us to advance some distance unobserved by the enemy — but the fog clearing away before we reached the hill, we were discovered by the British and Tory troops, who commenced such a heavy cannonade upon us, that it was deemed expedient by the commanding officers, to prevent the destruction of many of our brave troops, that we should fall back and advance under the cover of night. Accordingly when night came, we marched to the hill undiscovered by the enemy. We immediately commenced throwing up a breast work and building a fort. When daylight appeared, we had two cannon mounted–one twenty-four pounder and one eighteen–and with our breast work we had completed a covered way to pass and repass without being seen by the enemy. The British had a small fort or redoubt directly under the muzzles of our cannon, with which we saluted them and poured in the slot so thick upon them that they were compelled to beat up a retreat. But they returned again at night to repair their fort, when they commenced throwing bomb shells into our fort, which however did but little damage. I saw several of them fiying over our heads and one bursting in the air, a fragment fell upon the shoulder of a soldier and killed him.

Retreat

At this time, we were anxiously waiting the return of the French fleet from Boston, where they had gone to repair. But learning that they could not then return, and knowing the situation of the British troops, that they were enlarging and strengthening their furts and redoubts, and that they had reinforcements arriving daily from New York, it was deemed expedient by our commanding officers, Lafayette, Green and Sullivan, all experienced and brave Generals, that we should retreat to the North end of the Island. Accordingly, on the 29th day of August, early in the morning we struck our marque and tents and commenced a retreat. The British troops followed, and soon came up with our rear-guard and commenced firing upon them. The shots were briskly returned and continued at intervals, until our troops were joined by a part of our army a short distance to the South of Quaker Hill, so called, when a general engagement ensued, in which many lives were lost on both sides. At night, we retreated from the Island to Tiverton. On the following day we left ‘Tiverton, crossed over Slade’s ferry and marched through Pawtucket and Providence to Pawtucket where we remained until our service expired.”

Resources:

“Plan of the works, which form the exterior line of defence, for the town of New-Port in Rhode Island : Also of the batteries and approaches made by the rebels on Honeymans Hill during their attack in August 1778 / This plan surveyed and drawn by Edward Fage, lieutt of artillery, November 1778.”. https://quod.lib.umich.edu/w/wcl1ic/x-8373/wcl008443. University of Michigan Library Digital Collections. Accessed November 21, 2022.

Reminiscences of Col. Joseph Durfee : relating to the early history of Fall River and of Revolutionary scenes. (1830s)

Prelude to Battle: Two Views of the “Battle of Fall River”

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In May of 1778, American forces were preparing the flatboats they would need to cross the Sakonnet River to drive the British out of Aquidneck Island in what would become known as the Rhode Island Campaign. The British were aware of these preparations and earlier in May they had successfully raided Warren and Bristol to destroy boat making facilities and saw mills. On May 31st the British turned their attention across to the mainland at Fall River. Fall River had a sawmill by the shore and nine longboats were being constructed for the Rebel invasion. At that time, Fall River was just a cluster of houses along the Taunton and Quequechan Rivers.

British soldier Frederick Mackenzie and American Colonel Joseph Durfee provide us with accounts of the May 1778 British raid on Fall River. Mackenzie’s diary entry was written at the time. Durfee’s remembrances were written much later. He incorrectly states that the raid was on Sunday, May 25th. The raid was actually on a Sunday, but it was May 31st instead. It is clear from both views that the raid was part of the prelude to the Rhode Island Campaign by the Americans.

Mackenzie’s View:

31st May…The General and the Commodore having determined to attempt destroying some Saw Mills, and a quantity of Plank for building boats, which they had upon Fall River; the Pigot Galley, A Gunboat, some Flat boats, and the boats of the Flora, Juno, Venus, Orpheus, & Kingfisher, under the direction of Captain Christian of The Kingfisher; with 100 men of the 54th Regiment under the Command of Major Eyre of that Regiment; were ordered for this service. At 12 oClock last night they passed through Bristol ferry, unperceived by the Rebels, and proceeded up Mount Hope Bay, except the Pigot, which unfortunately ran aground in the upper part of the Passage, which gave an alarm to The Rebels, who immediately communicated it by firing Signal Guns which were repeated on both sides of the Bay. The boats waited some time in hopes of being joined by the Pigot, but finding the Alarm was given, they moved on to their destination without her, and on approaching the shore near Fall River, they were fired on by a Guard of about 40 men; but pushing directly in, the Troops landed and dispersed the Enemy. They then proceeded to the First mills, where one Saw-Mill, a Corn Mill, 9 large boats and about 15000 feet of Plank were burnt. On advancing a small distance toward the other Mills, they found a considerable Number of the Enemy posted at, and above them, from whom they received a heavy fire by which 2 men were killed, and an Officer & 4 men wounded. It being then judged imprudent to attempt forcing the post, or to continue longer on shore, the troops returned to the boats, and re-embarked without molestation.

Durfee’s Remembrances

On the 25th May, 1778, early Sabbath morning, about one hundred and fifty British troops under the command of Major Ayers, landed at Fall River and commenced an attack upon the few people then residing here. The men rallied under the command of Col. (then Major) Joseph Durfee, and after a brave and spirited resistance, which took place near where Main street crosses the stream, repulsed the invaders, and compelled them to retreat. They left one man dead, who was killed directly opposite where the Pocasset House now stands, and about four rods from the front door; and another mortally wounded, and lying five or six rods further west, who soon died. When the enemy first landed, they set fire to the house of Thomas Borden, then nearly new, and standing at the head of the present Iron Works Co.’s Wharf, and also to his grist-mill and sawmill standing near the mouth of Fall River, which were consumed. When they were retreating they set fire to several other buildings, which were saved by the vigilance of the little Spartan band who had given them so warm a reception, and who closely pursued them in their retreat, killing one of the retreating party after they had entered their boats….. Much praise was due to the defenders of Fall River for their firmness and bravery, in resisting and repelling five times their number. But few, if any battles were fought, during the Revolution, in which so large a force was repulsed by so small a number. Through the interposing mercy of Divine Providence, not an individual of our defenders was either killed or wounded.

Keeping in mind the difference between an eyewitness account recorded at the time and one that is remembered later, can we compare the accounts.

Both agree that it was on a Sunday around midnight.

Both have the British commander being Major Ayers (Eyre).

Durfee said there were 150 British troops. Mackenzie writes of 100 of the 54th Regiment, but obviously there were other forces to operate the number of boats used in the attack.

Mackenzie said the British passed by Bristol Ferry without detection, but the Pigot ran aground and that set off Rebel signal guns which gave the alarm. The British were fired upon by a Guard of 40 men, but they overwhelmed the Rebels and advanced to burn a saw mill, a corn mill, 9 large boats and 15,000 ft. of plank. Advancing toward other mills they found Rebel resistance and they suffered two killed and 5 men wounded. At this point they went back to their boats.

Earlier in Durfee’s account he writes that by 1777 the citizens of Fall River proposed raising a guard to ward off the harassment from British troops. He sought the aid of General Sullivan and was given provisions for a guard of 20. They devised a warning system of night sentinels. In that early Sunday morning one of the guards discovered the British ship. He fired upon the boat and “this created an alarm and the whole neighborhood were soon in arms.” The British fired their cannons and fired grapeshot at the Americans. The enemy set fire to the Thomas Borden house and took Borden prisoner. They set fire to Borden’s gristmill and saw mill. The British set fire to some other buildings, but they retreated in a hurry and the citizens were able to save the buildings.

Both accounts are similar. Mackenzie mentions setting fire to boats and planks. In both cases the citizens of Fall River seem more on-guard than the communities of Bristol and Warren. The Fall River Rebels had a more organized guard system.

Note: If you want to learn more, you can visit Joseph Durfee’s house in Fall River. The Lafayette Durfee House is a house museum and is open to the public.

Resources:
Durfee, Joseph, Reminiscences of Col. Joseph Durfee : relating to the early history of Fall River and of Revolutionary scenes.,
[Fall River, Mass.? :s.n.,1834?]
Public Domain, Google-digitized.
Permanent URL 
https://hdl.handle.net/2027/hvd.32044019879204

Diary of Frederick Mackenzie, Vol. I

“Plan of the adjacent coast to the northern part of Rhode Island, to express the route of a body of troops under the command of Lieut Colonel Campbell of the 22d: Regiment to destroy the enemies batteaux, vessels, galley &c &c &c which was accomplished May 25th 1778 / laid down and drawn by Edwd Fage, lieutt. of artillery.”. https://quod.lib.umich.edu/w/wcl1ic/x-628/wcl000739. University of Michigan Library Digital Collections. Accessed November 09, 2022.

Prelude to Battle: Campbell’s Raids in Warren and Bristol

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As the American forces were preparing for an attack on Aquidneck Island in Spring of 1778, the British forces were active in trying to crush the Rebel capability to transport troop across the river from Tiverton. British soldier Frederick Mackenzie’s diary shows that they were well aware of the impending invasion.

May 19, “The intelligence received from all quarters agree in stating that an attack on this Island is intended, and will probably be soon attempted.”

May 22, “The Rebels are certainly preparing for an attack on this Island; and the General having intelligence of the situation of their boats, is making arrangement for the destruction of them.”

The Rebels would need to reach Rhode Island (Aquidneck) by boat and the British planned to attack shipyards, lumber mills and military stores. On May 25, 1778, Mackenzie records that the 22nd Regiment, Companies of the 54th, Notenius’s Company of Hessian Chasseurs, ..etc. (500 men in total) moved to Arnold’s Point in Portsmouth. They embarked in flatboats and landed at the mouth of the Warren River. Campbell’s men were divided into two columns. In the town of Warren itself they burned down the Baptist meeting house and other buildings, ransacked homes and property. The other group of Campbell’s men headed to the Kickemuit River. By the Kikemuit Bridge they found and burned 125 boats, large batteaux capable of carrying 40 soldiers. They found a sloop loaded with military stores, a store house, and a corn mill and they burned them. They also burned houses, a bridge and gun carriages. They spiked cannons and set fire to new Privateer Sloop as well as magazines of gun powder.

Campbells troops returned by way of Bristol. About 300 Rebels were assembled behind walls, trees and houses. They burned houses, a church, ammunition magazines and twenty of the principal houses. The British boats came round from Papasquash Point to the Bristol Ferry. The British ships Flora and Pigot covered the British troops as they crossed over from Bristol Ferry.

Mackenzie writes: “69 Rebel prisoners were brought over from Bristol to Windmill Hill” (Butts Hill Fort).

Having raided Warren and Bristol and destroying American flatboats, Campbell’s forces made their way back to Newport on their own flatboats.

The raids certainly delayed the American troops as they prepared for the Rhode Island Campaign.

The next blog will cover the British Raid at Fall River.

Resources:

Diary of Frederick Mackenzie, Vol. 1

Map: “Plan of the adjacent coast to the northern part of Rhode Island, to express the route of a body of troops under the command of Lieut Colonel Campbell of the 22d: Regiment to destroy the enemies batteaux, vessels, galley &c &c &c which was accomplished May 25th 1778 / laid down and drawn by Edwd Fage, lieutt. of artillery.”. https://quod.lib.umich.edu/w/wcl1ic/x-628/wcl000739. University of Michigan Library Digital Collections. Accessed November 09, 2022.

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