The BoRIA Post

The official newsletter of the Battle of Rhode Island Association featuring news, events and Rhode Island history. Learn more at www.battleofrhodeisland.org.

April 1st, 2024

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New Web Partners

The Battle of Rhode Island Association (BoRIA) finalized the addition of two new web partners to our growing list – The North Kingston 350th Committee and the Varnum House Museum. The North Kingston 350th Committee was created to engage the community in the the year-long celebration of the 350th year of the founding of North Kingstown. The Varnum House Museum educates and connects the community with the civil and military contributions of General James Mitchell Varnum and other patriots whose visions and actions set the course of our nation during the American Revolution and its founding years.

BoRIA’s web partners allow us to spread our vision to our partners and their followers and lets us share their message as well.

Archaeological Study at Butts Hill Fort

Map by Lafayette’s cartographer, Michel Duchesnoy. August 30, 1778.

Dr. Alexandra Uhl, Stonehill College, and Jay Waller, Senior Archaeologist at The Public Archaeology Laboratory, will conduct a non-invasive archaeological survey in support of locating structures of Butts Hill Fort, Portsmouth. This Revolutionary War earthworks was constructed by the Patriots (1775), British (1776-1779), and the French (1780-1782). The Fort was abandoned in 1783 and fortunately is about 80% intact. Although there has been some archaeologic work at or near the Fort it was limited in scope and there is still much to be learned about how it was built and how best to restore it. The work will be conducted in May – July with the assistance of 2 graduate students and some undergraduates. We would like to find the locations of the barracks, magazines, privies, and sally port. Primary tools will be ground penetrating radar and 3D scanning.

Dr. Uhl was the principal investigator at the Newport Historical Spring and Mr. Waller has extensive experience throughout New England. Approvals were obtained from the Town of Portsmouth, owner of the Fort, and the RI Historic Preservation and Heritage Commission as the Fort is a National Historic Landmark. This work was funded by a grant from the Van Beuren Foundation.

Upcoming Events:
Butts Hill Fort Cleanup

Portsmouth, RI. The Butts Hill Fort Restoration Committee (BHFRC) is inviting volunteers to our Spring Cleanup on Saturday, April 6th. ( Rain date April 7th ) Cleanup starts at 9 AM and goes on until 1 pm. Come anytime. The meeting point is the Fort gate on Butts St. off Sprague Street. Google “26 Butts Street” for directions to the Main Gate. No parking is allowed on Butts Street. Participants are asked to park along Dyer Street or at the PHS Tennis Courts.

 

This will be a general cleanup of the parade grounds, pathways and open spaces. Every participant will need to sign a town liability form upon arrival. BHFRC staff will be on hand throughout the day, so if you join in progress, please sign in with a team members. Participants are asked to bring gloves, protective eye gear, loppers, shears, weed whackers, and rakes. Please RSVP to publicrelations@battleofrhodeisland.org

 

The largest Revolutionary War earthwork still standing in southern New England, Butts Hill Fort, is in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. It was started by Patriot militia in 1775, enlarged and completed by British troops occupying Aquidneck Island. It served as the headquarters for General John Sullivan during the Rhode Island Campaign in 1778 and was occupied and enlarged by allied French troops under Comte de Rochambeau during 1780-1781. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and on the National Park Service’s Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail. The goal of the Restoration Committee is to return it to public use as an historical, educational, and recreational asset.

Two Lecture Videos
Added to our YouTube Page

Education Outreach
Gloria Schmidt

We have been focusing on two aspects of BoRIA’s educational outreach – preparing for Battlefield and Fort tours and working on resource materials for students in 4th and 9th grade.  

We are sponsoring two tours this spring. On May 21st, 60 Portsmouth High School Advanced Placement students will be touring battlefield sites in Portsmouth. The morning will culminate in a tour of Butts Hill Fort. Before the tour, students will have an introduction to the Battle and we will share the primary sources we use. All our tour guides need to be prepared and so we have a battlefield guide available for them in print and online at our website. A trifold tour guide will be available to the students who take the tour. We are hopeful that a similar tour can be scheduled with Middletown students and include the Siege of Newport. A second tour will be for college level students who will be doing an archaeology workshop at the Fort in June.  

A Zoom meeting with Geralyn Ducady of the Rhode Island Department of Education provided us with a path to be helpful to Rhode Island students who are studying the Revolution in Rhode Island. There are new curriculum standards that will be in force by 2026. Revolutionary Rhode Island is a focus of the 4th grade and 9th grade curriculum. We already have activities and resources posted on our website on many of the essential questions the students will be exploring, but they need to be organized for easy use by educators.

Among the students tasks are:

4th Grade Questions:

  • Explain what privateers were, and analyze their role in establishing the Navy
  • Explain the conditions of the occupation of Newport and analyze how it affected Newport’s economy
  • Identify the location and circumstances of the Battle of Rhode Island and explain what happened
  • Explain the roles Rhode Island women fulfilled during the American Revolution
  • Explain the formation of and recruitment for the 1st Rhode Island Regiment (e.g., enslaved Black Rhode Islanders, free Black and Indigenous people), and analyze the reasons men decided to join the Regiment (e.g., promise of freedom after the war for enslaved soldiers, belief in the ideals of the Revolution).

9th Grade Questions:

  • Identify military personnel of the American Revolution (e.g., George Washington, Nathanael Greene), analyze their contributions, and argue their impacts on the War
  • Explain the involvement of different social groups in the American Revolution (e.g., Black and Indigenous soldiers of the Rhode Island Black Regiment, female camp followers), analyze their contributions, and argue their impacts on the War
  • Explain Rhode Island’s role in the Revolutionary War and the Battle of Rhode Island
  • Analyze European involvement in the War and argue how they impacted the course of the War.

Upcoming Lectures

April 18th, 6:30 PM: Christian McBurney on Wickford’s American Revolutionary War Heroes @ North Kingstown Town Hall, 80 Boston Neck Rd.

April 20th, 1:00 PM: Dr. Robert Selig on Translating Rochambeau’s Orderly Book on Butts Hill Fort @ St. John’s Lodge No.1 Portsmouth. Research funded by the Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati.

April 21st, 1:30 PM: Dr. Robert Selig on “The Culture of Death: Military Burial Practices during the American War of Independence” @ the Varnum House Museum.

Partner Events

Shared Articles

Why Newport Scorned
the French in 1780 By Norman Desmarais

One would expect that a country that had been at war for five years would welcome its first ally with open arms. We might have mental images of civic officials leading throngs of eager citizens to greet the allies or of platoons of soldiers firing salutes. It didn’t happen. No government officials, no military officers or soldiers, nobody was at the pier to greet the French troops when they arrived at Newport.

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Featured Item: Commemorative Coin #5 – 1st Rhode Island Regiment

The fifth coin in our series of commemorative coins to raise awareness of Rhode Island’s role in the American Revolutionary War honors the 1st Rhode Island Regiment.

 

Did You Know?

That Newport was an important city in British North America when the Revolutionary War started.

In addition to being an active trading center as it was a deepwater port, it was the fifth largest. Less than four percent of the 2.5 million people in mainland British North America lived in a city in 1776. Most lived in small towns.

The largest cities in the American colonies in 1775 in terms of population were Philadelphia (~43,000), New York City (~25,000), Boston (~16,000), Charleston (~12,000), and Newport (~11,000).

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