The Battle of Rhode Island Association

John K. Robertson Ph.D. "The French Fort at Butts Hill"

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The Battle of Rhode Island Association Lecture Series sponsored by the Whalley Family Foundation and the Portsmouth Historical Society continued with the Col. Burton C. Quist Lecture Series featuring Dr. John Robertson and his presentation: “The French Fort at Butts Hill.” on Monday June 17th, Portsmouth Friends Church, Portsmouth, RI. This talk is the second annual under the banner of “The Col. Burton C. Quist Lecture Series”, in memory of our late founding Director, friend, and mentor who passed away in January, 2023. This lecture focused on additional research, some done in concert with Dr. Robert A. Selig, a noted historian on Rochambeau whose engineers built the last phase of Butts Hill Fort.

John K. Robertson, Ph.D., is a Colonel (Ret.), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, with 23 years of service and served on the faculty at West Point. He is the co-owner/editor of the website. He published “Revolutionary War Defenses in Rhode Island” in 2023. The book was a 10-year research effort and contains almost 300 maps and plans showing defensive fortifications along most of the coast of Narragansett Bay and southern Rhode Island. Many of the maps are of fortifications on Aquidneck Island, which was occupied during the Revolutionary War at various times by the Americans, British, and French. Dr. Robertson presented 3 lectures in RI for BoRIA last May.

Portsmouth Town Historian Jim Garman gave a brief history of the Friends Meeting House before the lecture.

The Portsmouth Friends Church has history dating back to the 17th century. A brief history from their website states: “During the Revolutionary War the British drove out the Quakers and used the building as a barracks and its basement as a magazine for storing ammunition. After the Battle of Rhode Island, the victorious Americans took possession of the meetinghouse for similar purposes. During this time, the Friends were meeting in private homes. Later, in cleaning out the cellar, workmen found several cannonballs. Two of these are still in the building today.”