North Battery, Newport

In early 1776, the residents of the Point neighborhood in Newport awoke to see the British frigate HMS Scarborough anchored just offshore. With the threat of war suddenly looming, the town hastily threw up a semi-circular earthwork fort at the northern end of the neighborhood on the pastureland of “Quaker Tom” Robinson.

When the British occupied Newport in December of 1776, they took possession of the earthwork and began to improve it. In December 1777, British officer Frederick Mackenzie noted in his diary that one corporal and six privates manned the fort. As the British prepared for imminent attack by combined French and American forces in 1778, they thickened the battery’s walls and installed guns. The North Battery became one of three British sea batteries designed to protect Newport from attack by water. During the aborted siege of Newport, the battery stood ready to defend its position with two 24-pound and three 12-pound cannons.

Before the British abandoned Newport and Aquidneck Island in 1779, they destroyed many of the earthworks and fortifications. When the Americans returned they went to work to repair the damage. Jeremiah Greenman, a young soldier from Rhode Island, reported in his diary entry of October 29-31, 1779: "Continuing in Newport fixing the North battery on the point which the enemy had layed almost level".

The North Battery was re-named Fort Greene in 1798 to honor Rhode Island’s General Nathanael Greene, one of George Washington’s most trusted officers. The fort was abandoned a few years later, after the construction of Fort Adams at the entry of the passage to the Atlantic Ocean. During the War of 1812, Fort Greene was again repaired, this time with a semi-circular brick wall facing the water. In 1814 – 1815, the Secretary of War granted responsibility of the fort to the Newport Artillery Company. In 1891, the Secretary of War approved use of the property as a park, and the City of Newport filled in remaining trenches and levelled the surface.

By 1905, the fort and its wall were in ruins. The semicircular brick wall was nearly destroyed and covered with water. In 1926, the War Department offered the property for sale, and former Newport mayor Frederick P. Garretson bought the site and gave it to the city. During World War II, the government purchased the site back from the city of Newport and used it for ship repair and storage, but in 1964 sold it back into private hands for commercial purposes. Local citizens banded together and raised funds to preserve the property, and in 1973 Fort Greene again became a city park, this time permanently.

Images

Postcard, Fort Greene

Postcard, Fort Greene

The curved wall of Fort Greene is visible in this postcard from the first quarter of the 20th century. View File Details Page

The <em>USS Constellation</em> from Battery Park.

The USS Constellation from Battery Park.

During the twentieth century, Battery Park became a place of picnics and sunsets. This image is from 1894 – 1920 when the USS Constellation was moored in Newport and used as a U.S. Navy training vessel. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project, D. K. Abbass, Ph.D., “North Battery, Newport,” Rhode Tour, accessed May 27, 2017, http://rhodetour.org/items/show/54.
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