The Battle of Rhode Island Association (BoRIA) grew out of an effort started in February 2021 by the Portsmouth (RI) Historical Society to restore Butts Hill Fort, the largest period earthwork still extant in southeastern New England. Started by colonial militia in 1775, the Fort was in succession occupied by British, American, French, and finally Rhode Island State troops. It was the headquarters of American forces during the Rhode Island Campaign in 1778 and anchored the American defensive line in the Battle of Rhode Island.
This history is not just of local importance. The Campaign was the first American-French combined operation of the War. It included militia, not only from Rhode Island, but also from Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, along with Continental Line units under General Nathanael Greene and General le Marquis de Lafayette. The Rhode Island Campaign taught both allies lessons that were critical to the victory at Yorktown.
Despite its historical importance, the existence of the Fort has not been generally known, even to long time Portsmouth and Aquidneck Island residents. It is overgrown with trees, vines, briars, poison ivy, etc. One would have to know exactly where to look and what to look for, to find it. The Butts Hill Fort Restoration Committee (BHFRC) began efforts in earnest in April 2021 and scored an immediate success by having the Fort officially listed on the National Park Service’s Washington-Rochambeau National Historic Trail (NPS WARO). However, it became obvious that the effort to restore and maintain the Fort would require support from far beyond the Town of Portsmouth, its owner. It was also obvious that before we could count on that support, we would need to conduct our own campaign to broaden the public knowledge of the Campaign, the Fort, and moreover the role of Rhode Island’s significant role in the Revolutionary War.
Thus BHFRC in October 2021 formed a non-profit, the Battle of Rhode Island Association (BoRIA), which subsumed the BHFRC, leaving the Committee to deal with the restoration and the Association to provide the wherewithal to do so.
Our Goals & Plans
BoRIA has a twofold mission:
- To research, document and share RI’s unique Revolutionary War history, particularly the Rhode Island Campaign and Butts Hill Fort; and
- To support the BHFRC with funding and publicity.
Accordingly, the BoRIA has established the following goals:
- Participate in the web of historical, educational, military, and patriotic groups interested in the Rhode Island Campaign.
- Enhance history education by broadening recognition of Rhode Island’s unique Revolutionary War experiences, particularly those pertaining to the Rhode Island Campaign, the British Occupation, the arrival of the French, and their departure.
- Create a website to serve as an exchange of historical information and documentation, educational resources, and events related to Rhode Island’s role in the War for Independence.
- Share RI’s unique story by talks, events and outreach.
- Partner with local, State, and federal groups and tourism agencies to encourage visits to Revolutionary Era sites.
- Fund the restoration and reconstruction of the Fort and provide for its long-term maintenance.
Immediate plans for the Association include:
- Creation of the BoRIA website (Launched on the anniversary of the Battle on August 29th , 2022)
- Development of educational materials and scheduling of events.
- Creation of a Master Plan for the restoration and maintenance of Butts Hill Fort. The plan will be required to gain approval of State of Rhode Island, Town of Portsmouth, and other authorities.
Long term goals include:
- 2026: host the 250th celebration of Declaration of Independence at BHF and other RI locations
- 2028: host the 250th celebration of the Battle of RI at BHF and other locations
- Raise funds for:
- Development and maintenance of the BoRIA website
- Sharing the story by talks and events.
- Restoration of the Fort including use as a recreational site with signage, toilets, picnic facilities, etc.
- Endowment for BHF maintenance or preferably transfer property to RI Department of Environmental Management or the National Park Service.