Patriots at Rest in Newport!

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Lew Keen

While wars are often described as country against country they have historically been fought by people. Some people die participating in the war and others are fortunate to return to their prewar lives. At some point they all die.

newport rhode island burial sitesThis article focuses on the final resting place of the people who participated in the American Revolution and are buried in Newport, Rhode Island. It intends to include everyone known to have served during the war with the knowledge that some people may have been omitted. The article highlights some of the people who served the emerging country. It is fair to state that everyone living in Newport during the war “participated” in some way, but those listed served in the military, served politically in Philadelphia, or made a noted contribution to the war effort. Certainly the efforts of many during the revolution is undocumented or perhaps, recorded in documents lost or undiscovered.

Interest in the American Revolution has been the focus of historians and genealogists for more than a century. The Daughters of the American Revolution, The Sons of the Revolution, and the Rhode Island Genealogical Society have documented graves of these patriots in Newport. John Sterling and his team documented colonial-era graves in Newport in the 2009 . Their work is displayed on the Rhode Island Cemetery Commission website and includes known participants in the revolutionary war. Sterling’s list of burials in the Common Burying Ground are presented in Table #1 at the end of this article. Charlene K. Butler & Robert S. Butler (DAR & SAR respectively) documented graves of revolutionary war participants buried in the Common Burying Ground more recently. Their work is presented in table #2 at the end of the article. Most recently, Charlotte Johnson and John Hattendorf documented veteran graves in the Trinity Churchyard. Their work has not been included in this article.

The majority of Revolutionary War graves in Newport are in the Common Burying Ground (map #3). This site contains the most (85.4% of all burials in the city) burials for 17th and 18th Newport. While every person included in the tables at the end of the article deserves to have their story shared, only a few have been selected to highlight.

William Ellery (1727-1820)

William Ellery was born at Newport, Rhode Island, in December of 1727. He attended Harvard College and graduated at the age of 15. He was active in the Rhode Island Sons of Liberty, and was sent to the Continental Congress in 1776 to replace Samuel Ward, who had died. He was immediately appointed to the Marine committee and later participated in several others including the committee for foreign relations. Meanwhile he held the office of judge of the Supreme Court of Rhode Island. In 1785 he became a strong and vocal advocate for the abolition of slavery. He was appointed First (customs) Collector of the port of Newport, under the provisions of the Federal Constitution, where he served until his death in February of 1820.

Governor Samuel Ward (1725-1776)

Governor Ward was an ardent defender of the American colonists’ rights to liberty and representation. He was reportedly the only colonial governor to refuse to sign the oath to enforce the Stamp Act of 1765. His death in Philadelphia in March, 1776, just weeks before he would have signed his name to the Declaration of Independence, seems, in this light, almost a tragedy in the classic sense.

Governor Ward was born May 27, 1725 in Newport of Richard and Mary (Tillinghast) Ward. His father was a Newport merchant and Colonial Governor of Rhode Island from 1740 to 1743. Little is known of Ward’s youth.

Before becoming a public figure, Ward was a farmer and store owner. His public life began in 1756 when he was elected one of Westerly’s two deputies to the Rhode Island General Assembly. In 1757, a feud developed between Ward and Governor Stephen Hopkins when Ward published statements against Hopkins during his campaign for governor against William Greene. Ward ran for governor against Hopkins four times between 1758 and 1761, losing each time. In 1762 Ward succeeded in his bid for governor of the colony. He was elected again in 1765 and 1766, the period during which the Stamp Act was to take effect. While he served in a public capacity, he also was concerned with farming and merchant activities on the home front.

In 1774, the Rhode Island legislature elected Ward and Stephen Hopkins as delegates to the first Continental Congress to be held in Philadelphia. The pair were elected again to the second Continental Congress which convened in Philadelphia in May, 1775. Approximately three months prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, on March 25, 1776, Ward died of smallpox. His place at the Continental Congress was taken by William Ellery of Newport. Bernhard Knollenberg’s biography of Ward observes that, by the end of 1775

...Ward, perhaps because in better health than Hopkins, perhaps because of his bolder stand, seems to have become more of a figure in Congress than Hopkins. Ward was now usually chosen Chairman when Congress resolved itself into a Committee of the Whole, and he, rather than Hopkins, was elected a member of the especially important standing committees of Congress, the Secret Committee for supplies from foreign sources and the Committee on Claims, both established in September, 1775.

Knollenberg also notes that a diary kept by Yale president Ezra Stiles (1727-1795) listed “the Cardinals…or men of greatest Abilities and Influence” in the Congress in order of importance, and that Ward was third after Samuel and John Adams.

Ward was originally buried in the First Baptist Churchyard in Philadelphia. In 1860, his remains were re-interred by his descendants in the Common Burial Ground in Newport, Rhode Island. (Photo by Barbara Austin)

Dr. Isaac Senter (1753-1799)

Isaac Senter GraveDr. Isaac Senter (1753-1799) was born in Londonderry, New Hampshire and came to Rhode Island in his youth. He studied under Dr. Thomas Moffat, then began his practice in Cranston. After the battle of Lexington, he joined Rhode Island volunteers marching for Boston.

He was appointed surgeon on the secret 1775 expedition to Quebec under Col. Benedict Arnold. The expedition turned out to be disastrous for the regiment. All the troops were either killed or taken prisoner. While Senter was a prisoner he cared for the sick and wounded. He was released after several months and returned to Cranston. He was choses Surgeon-General of Rhode Island in 1776 and from 1778-1780 he was the Cranston representative to the Rhode Island General Assembly. He resigned from continental service in 1779.

Dr. Senter was one of Rhode Island’s most eminent physicians, holding honorary memberships in several American and European medical societies and writing for several medical journals in both America and Europe. He had an extensive library of medical, scientific, and literary lore. He was the physician/surgeon in the State Officers of Militia from 1779-1799 and was director of military hospital from 1794-1799.

Dr. Senter treated General Nathaniel Greene and his family briefly and named his second son after the General. In a 1776 letter to his wife Catherine, Gen. Greene writes “tell Dr. Senter to write me how recruiting goes on, and the temper of the people. The success of privateers, and everything of an interesting nature.”

Dr. Senter had his portrait painted in 1793 by Samuel King, a well-known Rhode Island artist. King also was hired by Senter to paint his chaise and sulky and gild his chaise and picture frames. King also painted a posthumous miniature of Senter. Senter died at the age of 46 and left an estate worth over $15,000.

Henry Marchant (1741-1796)

A Delegate from Rhode Island to the Continental Congress, Marchant was born at Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts April 9, 1741. He attended school in Newport, R. I., where his father had moved, and later graduated from Philadelphia College (now the University of Pennsylvania) at Philadelphia in 1762. While there he studied law and was admitted to the bar about 1767 and commenced practice in Newport, R. I. Marchant served as attorney general of Rhode Island 1771-1777, was a prominent in ante-Revolutionary affairs. As a member of the Continental Congress 1777-1780, 1783, 1784, he was one of the signers of the Articles of confederation. He was a delegate to the Rhode Island State Convention in 1789 for the adoption of the Federal Constitution and served as United States District Judge for the district of Rhode Island 1790-1796. Marchant died in Newport, R. I., on August 30, 1796 and buried in the Common Burial Ground. (photo by Barbara Austin)

Solomon Southwick (1732c-1797)

Southwick was born and raised in Newport. Local merchant Henry Collins funded Southwick’s education at the College of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania). When he returned to Newport, he bought the Newport Mercury from heirs of the Franklin family. He was considered a prominent supporter of the American struggle against British colonial rule and printed in the paper “Undaunted by tyrants, we’ll die or be free!” He printed copies of the Declaration of Independence for the Governor of Rhode Island and for sale to the general public. When the British invaded Newport in 1776, Southwick reportedly buried his press in the city and fled the colony. After the British evacuated Newport in October 1779, Southwick returned and began publishing the newspaper again, issuing a new edition of the Newport Mercury on June 5, 1780. The printing press is currently on exhibit at the Newport Historical Society Museum at the Brick Market. (photo by Barbara Austin)

William Vernon (1720-1806) and Samuel Vernon (1757-1834)

Samuel and William, patriots, along with their loyalist brother Thomas, were prominent Newport merchants. William is more celebrated as a leader of the Stamp Act Riot and a founding member of the Redwood Library. He served as president of the library following the death of Abraham Redwood. William was the president of the Navy Board (1777) and is sometimes referred to as the first Secretary of the Navy. He also served as a member of the Second Continental Congress. He is known mostly because of his house in Newport which served as the residence of Rochambeau during the French occupation of the city. It was in his house Washington met with the French to plan war strategy that resulted in the victory at Yorktown. (photo by Barbara Austin)

Mary (1735c-1808) and Benjamin Almy (1724-1818)

Mary Almy Grave
(photos by Barbara Austin)

Mary was born in Newport Rhode Island to James and Martha Gould as the fourth of their eight children . Born into a Quaker home, she was later baptized at Trinity Church (1754). Her marriage to become the second wife of Benjamin Almy took place in 1762 at Trinity. Benjamin, also born in Newport, was previously married and fathered three children in his first marriage. Only two children survived at the time he married Mary. The couple welcomed eight additional children into the household between 1763 and 1776, and during the siege of Newport, August 1778, six of the children were at home with Mary.

In 1775 Benjamin Almy was questioned by authorities who suspected he was a loyalist. He joined the patriot effort and was not in Newport during British occupation (1776-1779). This situation was the reason Mary wrote a journal for her husband detailing life in the city at this troubled time. Her words indicate not only a loving relationship with Benjamin but a difference in opinion with regarding the war. Mary supported the King while Benjamin fought for American independence from the crown. At this time, few women expressed their disagreement in writing with their husbands on important matters like the war. One indication of this was a journal excerpt she wrote for Benjamin on August 13, 1778: “I am for English Government and an English fleet. I Care not who takes the Frenchmen.”

How odd that despite her loyalist ideas, Mary and Benjamin moved into the Jahleel Brenton townhouse in 1775, a property that was confiscated by local authorities because of Brenton’s loyalist views. In addition to serving as the family home, Mary conducted the Brenton house as a boarding house and was likely the finest in the city. This idea may be supported by the fact that in June 1784 Thomas Jefferson was a guest at the house, and President Washington spent the night of August 17, 1790 in Mrs. Almy’s boarding house.

Mary’s journal of her experiences in British-controlled Newport during the war is one of the most important historic documents of the American Revolution. Her loyalist views, patriot husband, and diary make her a remarkable woman in colonial America. Documentation of events from the American Revolution penned by women are rare, and the Almy diary is incredibly valuable to historians today.

Daniel Rogers (1753c-1792)

Rogers is perhaps best known as a colonial American silversmith who apprenticed with John Tanner in Newport. Starting in 1774 he served in the Newport Artillery Company and attained the rank of Sergeant. He was captured by British forces in 1775 and imprisoned for a time. In 1776 he enrolled in a militia company known as the North Company that was part of Col Joseph Noyes regiment. He helped procure blankets for soldiers in July, 1780 and served as justice of the peace in Westerly RI that year and 1781. He returned to Newport in 1783 and among his customers was Dr. Isaac Senter, Newport doctor and revolutionary war icon. He was active in the militia and by 1787 was lieutenant colonial commander. He served as a trustee for Brown University and in 1792 he was elected Newport representative to the Rhode Island General Assembly

Trinity Church Yard (map #10) is the final resting place for revolution era veterans, second in number only to the Common Burying Ground. The chart below shows veterans noted on the Rhode Island database and a search of the internet revealed very little information about these men. The database includes British and French burials in the site but does not note their involvement in the war. In November 2021, Charlotte Johnson and John B. Hattendorf compiled the most complete document of veterans buried in Trinity churchyard. Here lie American, British, and French soldiers and sailors.

Perhaps the most noted revolutionary war related burial in Trinity Church Yard is for Admiral Charles de Ternay who died in Newport in 1780 . He was the commander of the French fleet that arrived under the command of Rochambeau. De Ternay’s death from typhus was a noted event in the city. His very public Catholic funeral and burial was the first in the colony. In 2022 the church marked the graves of two additional French sailors buried in the churchyard, Pierre du Rousseau de Fayolle and First Lieutenant de Villemarais [sometimes spelled Villemarets, Valernais or Vilernais] who predeceased de Ternay) are also buried there in previously unmarked graves.

Buried in the Coggeshall Burial Ground (map #16) is Benjamin Ellery (1725c-1797)

Benjamin Ellery is more well known for his relatives than himself. His brother, William Ellery, signed the Declaration of Independence for the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. His wife (married 1769), Mehitable, was the daughter of Abraham Redwood and Martha Coggeshall, which is the reason he is buried here. Benjamin was a patriot during the American Revolution. Before and after the war he operated the Conanicut Ferry between Jamestown and South Kingston

Perhaps the most recognized name of revolutionary war fame in Newport is Benedict Arnold. The officer who became a traitor during the revolution is, however, not the Benedict Arnold buried in the Arnold burial site (map #11) in Newport but his name-sake and great-grandfather.

A final notable grave related to the revolution is located in the Island Cemetery (map #1) Island. John Handy (1756-1828) stood on the steps of the Colony House in Newport on July 20, 1776 and read the Declaration of Independence to the gathered citizens of the city. Fifty years later, 70-year-old Handy repeated his historic reading .

Table #1– This chart is from the list of Revolutionary War burials noted on the Rhode Island Historical Cemetery Commission website.

loc #

Last Name

First Name

Stone Material

Carving

Birth Year

Death Year

War

Bh 168

ALMY

BENJAMIN, CAPT

slate

no carving

1724

1818

REVOLUTION

Bh 428

ALMY

JONATHAN

slate

urn/willow

1747c

1821

REVOLUTION

Bf 507

BARKER

NOAH

slate

no carving

1756c

1826

REVOLUTION

Bj 285

BILLINGS

SAMUEL

slate

no carving

1740c

1825

REVOLUTION

Bc 315

BOSS

JOHN L

slate

 

1756c

1824

REVOLUTION

Ba 328

BRIGGS

AMOS

slate

urn/willow

1762c

1828

REVOLUTION

Ba 395

BRIGGS

JOSEPH

slate

urn/willow

1749c

1830

REVOLUTION

Bf 399

BURDICK

JAMES, CAPT

slate

no carving

1760c

1801

REVOLUTION

Bb 249

BURNS

WALTER

marble

urn/willow

1743c

1822

REVOLUTION

Bd 031

BURRILL

EBENEZER

slate

winged cherub/other

1735

1788

REVOLUTION

Bj 242

BUSH

RICHARD

slate

no carving

1754c

1835

REVOLUTION

Bf 158

CAHOONE

JOHN

slate

urn/willow

1728c

1792

REVOLUTION

Bf 155

CAHOONE

JOHN, CAPT

marble

no carving

1757c

1836

REVOLUTION

Bi 139

CHAMPLIN

CHRISTOPHER, CAPT

slate

no carving

1760c

1782

REVOLUTION

Bd 374

CHAMPLIN

GEORGE, ESQ

marble

no carving

1739c

1809

REVOLUTION

Bh 742

DAVENPORT

CHARLES

slate

no carving

1754c

1824

REVOLUTION

Bi 726

DAVIS

EDWARD

slate

winged cherub/other

1740c

1800

REVOLUTION

Bd 17

DAYTON

HENRY, CAPT

marble

no carving

1752c

1792

REVOLUTION

Bh 207

DENNIS

WILLIAM, CAPT

marble

no carving

1750c

1843

REVOLUTION

Bf 527

DUNBAR

ROBERT

marble

urn/willow

1744c

1821

REVOLUTION

Bf 365

DUNHAM

DANIEL

slate

no carving

1739c

1815

REVOLUTION

Bh 518

ELLERY

CHRISTOPHER

slate

no carving

1736c

1789

REVOLUTION

Be 391

ELLERY

WILLIAM

slate

no carving

1727

1820

REVOLUTION

Bc 327

ENNIS

WILLIAM, ESQ.

slate

urn/willow

1758c

1831

REVOLUTION

Be 027

FINCH

JOHN

slate

winged cherub/other

1753c

1778

REVOLUTION

Table # 2a and 2b– created by Charlene and Robert Butler. The # refers to the location on the map after the table

Resources:

[1] John Eylers Sterling, Barbara J. Austin, Letty R. Champion, Newport, Rhode Island Colonial Burial Grounds, Special Publication No. 10, Rhode Island Genealogical Society, 2009

[1]Rhode Island Historical Cemetery Commission, Home Page, July 23, 2022. http://rihistoriccemeteries.org

[1] Sterling, pxvii

[1] Independence Hall Association, Signers of the Declaration of Independence, William Ellery, July 23, 2022. https://www.ushistory.org/declaration/signers/ellery.html

[1] Robin Flynn, November 1999, Rhode Island Historical Society Manuscripts Division, “Ward Family Papers, July 23, 2022. https://www.rihs.org/mssinv/Mss776.htm

[1] Lori Salotto, March 2000, Rhode Island Historical Society Manuscripts Division, “Dr. Isaac Senter Papers”, July 23, 2022. https://www.rihs.org/mssinv/Mss165.htm

[1] : Biographical Directory of the American Congress 1774-1971. United States Printing Office: 1971. Page 1336.

[1] Wikipedia, July 23, 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solomon_Southwick_(American_Revolution)

[1] Robert A Geake, Unfortunate Ends: Gleanings from the Death Notices of Early Rhode Island Newspapers

 http://smallstatebighistory.com/unfortunate-ends-gleanings-from-the-death-notices-of-early-rhode-island-newspapers/

[1] Rhode Island Historical Society Postal Stamp Collection, July 23, 2022, http://thesaltysailor.com/rhodeisland-philatelic/rhodeisland/stampless27.htm

[1] John B.Hattendorf, Mary Gould Almy’s Journal 1778, Rhode Island Sons of the Revolution, Bookbaby (2018) p 11

[1] Hattendorf 12

[1] The building was located on Thames Street between Church and Mary Streets.  The site is currently a parking lot.

[1] Cherry Fletcher Bamberg, Daniel Rogers and his wife Anne Saunders of Newport, Rhode Island Roots, June 2022, vol 28, No.2, p82

[1] Pamela Rochette, Newport Historical Society, History Bytes: The Burial of Admiral Charles de Ternay, 2017, https://newporthistory.org/history-bytes-burial-de-ternay/.

[1] Norman Desmarais, French Soldiers who died at Newport During the Revolutionary War, Small State, Big History March 4, 2022, http://smallstatebighistory.com/french-soldiers-who-died-at-newport-during-the-revolutionary-war/

[1]Newport Historical Society, History Bytes: John Handy, June 26, 2021,  https://newporthistory.org/history-bytes-john-handy/

About the author

Lew Keen is a former teacher who shared information in a concise, clear, interesting format for decades. In recent years, these skills have been honed as a tour guide in Newport, Rhode Island, presenting the history of the city to visitors and residents. An interest in burial sites began in the 1980s after visiting Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia. With his avid interest in all things related to the nineteenth century, cemetery visits to Victorian cemeteries were part of any travel plans. A fascination with Newport’s history exposed the need for action to preserve historic gravestones. Lew led the effort in 2016 that resulted in the renewal of the city’s Historic Cemetery Advisory Commission. Since that time, he has served as the chair of the commission and, later that year, was appointed to the state Historical Cemetery Commission. Much of what he knows about Newport burials and sites can be found on his website, ripnewport.com, or in his 2021 book, A Guide to Historic Burial Grounds in Newport

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