The Battle of Rhode Island

Skirmish at East Main Road and Union Street

Early in the morning of August, 29, 1778, British General Pigot sent General Smith up the East (Main) Road toward Quaker Hill. He had General Prescott send the 45th Regiment and the Prince of Wales Regiment up the East (Main) Road as reinforcements, but he held back some troops in case the Rebels were planning on doubling back to Newport. This gave Smith more than 1800 troops. Smith’s men moved toward American Col. Livingston’s advanced guard and Wade’s pickets. In the lead for Smith’s forces were Captain Thomas Coore’s elite flank companies of the 38th and 54th Regiments, followed by the 22nd Regiment of John Campbell.
At 8 AM, Coore’s and Campbell’s troops encountered Wade’s pickets who were behind stone walls on the western side of the East Road at Union Street.

Francis Smith in 1763 by Francis Cotes
Francis Smith circa 1763 By Francis Cotes
Map of East main road Skirmish
East main Road Skirmish- Christian McBurney's book, The Rhode Island Campaign, has the best description of this skirmish. His map is the clearest illustration of the fighting.

American General John Sullivan had placed an advanced unit commanded by Livingston and the New York 4th as well as Henry Jackson’s soldiers. This gave the Rebels around 950 men. A short way up Union Street was the beginning of Middle Road which runs parallel to East Main Road. Colonel Nathaniel Wade’s Rebel troops were hidden in the fields between East Road and Middle Road. Wade instructed his men not to fire until he gave the order. Then they were to reload, fire again, and retreat. Half of the British 22nd Regiment headed up Union Street to cross to Middle Road. At Wade’s signal his men rose up from their hiding spots and fired the two volleys at the British troops. There were heavy losses for the Red Coats. As Lieutenant Colonel Campbell’s 22nd Regiment came up to help, it too began to take casualties. Musket balls tore through Campbell’s coat without harming him. The 22nd Regiment suffered many casualties that day, most of them from this ambush. Livingstone did not linger. Like Laurens on West Main Road, he pulled back to safer ground. The picket line retreated towards Quaker Hill. The 43rd Regiment of Foot (RoF) took pursuit up Middle Road. The 22nd Regiment continued up East Main Road.


Christian McBurney, The Rhode Island Campaign

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