What was going on around Butts Hill as the Americans set up camp? The Rhode Island Campaign had just begun and with the arrival of the French Fleet, the British abandoned their fortifications in Portsmouth and moved their troops south to defend Newport. When American General Sullivan saw that the fortifications at Windmill Hill (Butts HIll) had been abandoned, he started to move his troops over to Aquidneck (Rhode) Island. This account is from the orderly book of Col. Christopher Greene’s 1st Rhode Island Regiment. It gives us some clues to what was happening during this transition time. Orderly books are books kept at military headquarters that record the orders and instructions from higher authorities. This particular entry in Greene’s orderly book has been transcribed for us and I will be sharing information from the modern English translation provided.
1. Housing all the men was a problem. The commanding officers ordered that all spare tents be brought over and distributed. When there are no more tents, the men were to build huts and “brush houses” to protect them from the weather.
2. The commanders were to take care that the men were furnished with cartridges suitable for their muskets.
3. Aids to the commanders were to meet each morning at 10 AM and in the evening at 6 PM.
4. The commanders were to prevent their men from destroying the abbatis around the forts and redoubts on the island. Abbatis is a defensive obstacle around military positions. A row of tree branches are laid around a position with the sharpened tops of the branches directed at the enemy.
5. “…As the General expects that the Enemy have a Number of Spies among us already,” commanders are ordered not to let any inhabitant to cross the military lines.
6. Major General John Hancock was to command the 2nd line of the Army. Col. William West was to command the reserve. Col. Dyer’s Regiment and Col. Noyes Regiment were to cover the left flank.