Filed Under Wars

Ft. Greble on Dutch Island

"Dearest Friend Elsie, say sweetheart we had our pictures taken, all 14 of us and they are good ones, I will send you one, please send me yours. Please write to me two or three times a week. I am always so lonesome and so glad to hear from you, your friend, Clarence." -Postcard, Sept. 30, 1913, Ft. Greble

Dutch Island, in the West Passage of Narragansett Bay, is an uninhabited, irresistible place that for decades has lured local kids across the water to camp or climb around the remains of what was once an impressive, self-sufficient, military fortification named Ft. Greble.

Named for John T. Greble, the first U.S. Military Academy graduate to die in the Civil War, Fort Greble was established as an Endicott fortification in 1897 and was part of the RI Coastal Defense. The fortifications were open-topped reinforced, concrete walls protected by sloped earthworks with large-caliber breech-loading artillery and mortar batteries.

In 1898, troops arrived and the construction of permanent housing and facilities began and continued for five years. Barracks for over 300 enlisted men were constructed as well as significant homes for officers and their families. A 12-bed Post Hospital was built in 1904, and at one point, temporary buildings housed as many as 495 men. There were two large docks, a tennis court, a commissary, a bowling alley, and a bakery that provided 280 rations daily. Letters from home were important to soldiers and a post office was established in 1910.

In the early 1900s, Jamestown was a bustling summer destination. The town boasted five resort hotels on its eastern side. On its western side, Jamestown and Ft. Greble were inextricably linked via underwater communication and power cables. The Jamestown Ferry, carrying visitors to the mainland and back, displayed a panoramic view of the impressive structures on the little island. Particularly notable were the large warehouses along the shore close to where the troops disembarked on arrival.

Two batteries at Ft. Greble remained armed at the beginning of WWII but were considered obsolete by 1942. Today, only concrete defense positions of the once powerful weapons remain. Dutch Island is currently closed to the public. Since 2015, the Army Corps of Engineers has been securing the remaining structures so that visitors may visit safely.

Images

Raising the Flag at Ft. Greble, July 1924
Raising the Flag at Ft. Greble, July 1924 The flag is shown reverence by raising it every morning and lowering it every evening. This long military tradition is part of life at all military installations, even today. Source: https://jamestown.pastperfectonline.com/photo/48581212-DF24-40CE-98A1-004531681500
Artillery Soldiers, July 1922
Artillery Soldiers, July 1922 Rhode Island National Guard deploys from one of the large docks where transports and ferries tied up for embarkation or demarcation. The large docks could handle vehicles, horses, and hundreds of men. Jamestown is in the background. Source: https://jamestown.pastperfectonline.com/photo/35939D2E-1975-44CE-90E0-355157251542
Lecture, July 1922
Lecture, July 1922 Capt. C.H. Fleck gives members of the 346th Company a training lecture. Remnants of the 30' tall fire commander's station behind them can still be found on the island. Also visible is one of the officer's quarters. Source: https://jamestown.pastperfectonline.com/photo/416B0D7B-8C57-47AA-BB33-561917421139
Ft. Greble's Barracks, c. 1910
Ft. Greble's Barracks, c. 1910 The arched red brick building to the right, often erroneously referred to by locals as the hospital, was always a special landmark, parts of it remain today. The two large wooden buildings on the left were barracks that could house up to 250 men. Source: https://jamestown.pastperfectonline.com/photo/1B3126E7-990A-4F42-A615-828774461240
Officers' Row, c. 1901
Officers' Row, c. 1901 The homes of officers were built along a macadam road uphill from the dock areas. A tennis court was laid out in front of them and the colors from a nearby 75 foot flagstaff could readily be seen from Jamestown. Source: https://jamestown.pastperfectonline.com/photo/A4D1D388-359E-45D4-8A0D-782863414831

Location

Metadata

The Jamestown Historical Society, “Ft. Greble on Dutch Island,” Rhode Tour, accessed May 20, 2024, https://rhodetour.org/items/show/291.