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Mount Hope Bay raids

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mount Hope Bay raids
Part of the American Revolutionary War

General Sir Robert Pigot (portrait by Francis Cotes), the organizer of the raids
DateMay 25 and 31, 1778
Result raids successful
 United States  Great Britain
Commanders and leaders
William Barton (May 25)
Joseph Durfee (May 31)
James Campbell (May 25)
Edmund Eyre (May 31)
May 25: 500 regulars and volunteers
May 31: 40 militia
May 25: 500 regulars
2 frigates
May 31: 100–150 regulars
Casualties and losses
May 25: 69 civilian prisoners taken[1]
May 31: 1 captured[2]
May 25: 11 wounded, 2 captured[1]
May 31, at Freetown: 2 killed, 5 wounded[2]
May 31, at Bristol Ferry: 2–3 killed, 1–2 wounded[3][4][5]

The Mount Hope Bay raids were a series of military raids conducted by British troops during the American Revolutionary War against communities on the shores of Mount Hope Bay on May 25 and 31, 1778. The towns of Bristol and Warren, Rhode Island were significantly damaged, and Freetown, Massachusetts (present-day Fall River) was also attacked, although its militia resisted British attacks more successfully. The British destroyed military defenses in the area, including supplies that had been cached by the Continental Army in anticipation of an assault on British-occupied Newport, Rhode Island. Homes as well as municipal and religious buildings were also destroyed in the raids.

On May 25, 500 British and Hessian soldiers, under orders from General Sir Robert Pigot, the commander of the British garrison at Newport, Rhode Island, landed between Bristol and Warren, destroyed boats and other supplies, and plundered Bristol. Local resistance was minimal and ineffective in stopping the British activities. Six days later, 100 soldiers descended on Freetown, where less damage was done because local defenders prevented the British from crossing a bridge.

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[I] wish to play in the band and there was no high school band and it provided free music lessons a Shack which was quite scarce during the depression and I Had fantasies about getting away from home Well, I joined it to get my year old with because of the dress I Hadn't even registered for the dress [I] Wanted to get my year [low] We laid in the Town square Every Wednesday night which was our drill nights we would March from the old armory to the town square and play along The Way and all the kids would come and Run and steal so we were sort of the combination of the army national guard and [Town] [band] we did not fire weapons and Technically in time of war we were supposed to be ancillary personnel for the medical company world we declared we went to San Diego and We spent [about] three months in San Diego guarding the consolidated aircraft They broke up some of us incentives to Fort Lewis, Washington Camp Murray And we organized a new company there And it was the third Battalion 37 [Tm] telephone And we stayed there [for] two months And then we boarded your ship at Seattle and we went to dutch harbor They told us unload the unload the potatoes and boy No idea where we were and they marched us up to where some barracks have been built [and] we got there there was [not] [menem] but I said sleep on the floor use your blankets and morning militia material for put the beds together and so forth a first actual It was by high-altitude bombers, and that was followed by stray furs who of course Bombed the Main Camp I heard The noise had shattered - exactly like what it was a pom-Pom gun, and it was a boom boom boom I saw a trail of smoke and I knew then that we were being attacked. [I] got my platoon all together [I] had what they call a guy who was the assistant, but in theater. He said where should I go? I should I? Only want to know I said when we get outside you take yours and go that way, and I'll take my angle this way we were strafed, but we were all in foxholes and Dug in A few of us who had rifles fired and of course the anti-aircraft? Crews were quite active Secondly flames came over and they bombed and they did the oil tanks that were on the island which created huge fires and They hit a couple of the barracks which one occupied And came [back] the second they had they bombed again you the day that the Japanese bombed Dutch harbor [cornrows] was my animation because [they] had located some japanese ships He had [closed] a mission with a B-26 And had been carrying a torpedo He dropped the torpedo Apparently it was more effective, but anyway he came back and landed that Called Lay, but he came back and loaded with bombs and went back out to try to find the chips And he came back in it was dark. It was night It was cloudy no lights on the ground and no radio aides to help him they heard him play over All [day] and knew that he knew about where he was But apparently he flew [up] north of the [islands] trying to let down and it was [in] the water without ever seeing it we didn't hear about anybody getting [hurt] till the next day and we of course saw the camp burning and Knew they were bound to be some people there particularly in the hospital which was pretty much demolished and We were Instructed to go help with some of the cleanup We lost one kid at the dutch Harbor. I was possibly Hundred feet from where he was and a piece of shrapnel went right across his back in just severed his spine In memory of those gallant, men whose lives were lost during the air raids in Dutch Harbor June 3rd and 4th? 1942 Let those [words] stand permanent salute to Washington's [let] them stem Simply as a tribute to Americans who held no price too high to pay for freedom Their offering was the opening Throughout the world today and for many days to come will this scheme Will there be dedications in Memory those gallant? Let us be certain we are not and who works that we do not lose sight events which have occasions the American way of living the American ideas are very precious and [that] quality was mostly cherish his freedom We're inclined at times to promote our objective you convey rob-stuart Tape we are impatient. We grow restive because we're momentarily experiencing personal discomfort above all Unless ever remember that our ultimate goal warrants any personal sacrifice Every effort even at the price of personal comfort which we may put forth [to] keep that goal And that goal is The word has a profound meaning becomes almost a prayer belongs only to men men of spirit men of courage From a dawn of Liberty in 76 down to the present time Americans have Readily Laid aside their tools of trade Or sworn the comforts of their family life to stand shoulder to shoulder against any aggressor Who might Challenge that Liberty? Savas pay dearly for that way to live as free men the blood of courage has washed our land Enriching the soil in which the tree of Liberty is rooted To those who have offered their lives our [debt] [is] [great] We cannot repay them in any measure which will compensate for [the] effort they put forth We can only insure their efforts in every way approach involve [our] [teas]. They are endeavor Through that [gallants] silent company men we've gone before us and those who get to go we dedicate this memorial Will weather many storms? stand strongly against the elements Firmly implanted in this American soil [a] mass head of strength symbol of courage crowned by the flag of freedom



In December 1776, after completing the conquest of New York City, British Lieutenant General William Howe detached a body of troops from his army which occupied Newport, Rhode Island without significant opposition.[6] The Newport garrison came under the command of Brigadier General Sir Robert Pigot when the original commander, Brigadier General Richard Prescott, was captured in the summer of 1777 in a daring commando operation led by Continental Army Major and Warren, Rhode Island, native William Barton.[7]

Since the British occupation began American and British forces had been in a standoff. Major General Joseph Spencer had been ordered by Major General George Washington to launch an assault on Newport in 1777, but he had not done so, and was removed from command of the Rhode Island defenses. In March 1778 Congress approved the appointment of Major General John Sullivan to Rhode Island. By early May, Sullivan had arrived in the state and produced a detailed report on the situation there.[8] He also began logistical preparations for an attack on Newport, caching equipment and supplies on the eastern shore of Narragansett Bay and the Taunton River. General Pigot was alerted to Sullivan's preparations by a local Loyalist, and organized an expedition to raid Bristol and Warren.[9][10] On the evening of May 24 he ordered a force of 500 British and Hessian soldiers under the command of the 22nd Regiment's Lieutenant Colonel James Campbell to march to the northern end of Aquidneck Island, from where they took whaleboats across to the mainland.[11]

Warren and Bristol raid

Arriving early on May 25, Campbell's forces landed on Bristol Neck, between Bristol and Warren. Campbell divided his force in two, sending one detachment into Warren, and the other to areas along the Kickemuit River where boats and other supplies were cached. The latter force destroyed 58 of 70 small boats that General Spencer had originally stored there, along with other military supplies and a corn mill. They burned down a bridge that crossed the river, and set fire to a sloop. After the British left, locals put out the fire on the sloop, which only suffered minor damage.[11]

A 1984 USGS map showing Mount Hope Bay and the communities that were raided. Fall River was then part of Freetown.
A 1984 USGS map showing Mount Hope Bay and the communities that were raided. Fall River was then part of Freetown.

The Warren detachment had expected some resistance upon reaching the town, but Continental Army forces, numbering about 300 under the command of Colonel Archibald Clary, had fled the town upon rumors that the British force was much larger than it actually was. The British destroyed military supplies, and set fire to the local powder magazine. The ensuing explosion destroyed six homes and the town's meeting house. The troops also burned a sloop and destroyed five cannon.[11] As they marched from the town, the first signs of organized resistance began to appear. The two British detachments rejoined and headed for Bristol.[12]

Word of the British landing had reached Providence, and Colonel Barton immediately sprang into action. Recruiting about 200 volunteers, he rushed south, turned Clary's retreating force around, and caught up with the British shortly after they left Warren, heading for Bristol. The two forces skirmished as the British marched southward, with both sides incurring minor casualties. The notable exception was Colonel Barton, who took a musket ball that did him sufficient damage that it effectively ended his military career, although he continued to fight on that day. Campbell's men reached Bristol in good order despite the ongoing skirmishes, and engaged in a destructive rampage.[12] In addition to military supplies and cannon, they destroyed 22 homes and a church, and looted everywhere, making, according to one account, "no distinction between their Friends and Foes".[1]

Their work completed around noon, the British returned to their boats. They embarked, covered by the guns of the frigate HMS Flora and HM galley Pigot, and returned to Aquidneck Island and Newport. The raid prompted General Sullivan to renew calls to area governors for increased militia assistance. This recruiting did not have material effect before the next raid occurred.[1]

The May 25 raids also included the capture of an anchored American galley, the Spitfire, near the entrance to the Taunton River.[13]

Freetown raid

Pigot next organized a smaller raiding force to go to lower Freetown (a portion that was later separated to form Fall River). On the night of May 30, a force of 100 men led by Major Edmund Eyre (who had served under Campbell in the previous raid) embarked from Arnold's Point on Aquidneck Island in flat-bottomed boats under the escort of several naval vessels, including the aforementioned HMS Flora and Pigot.[3][4] The Pigot ran aground while passing through Bristol Ferry,[3][4] but the rest sailed up the Taunton River,[2] and landed near the mouth of the Quequechan River in lower Freetown on the morning of Sunday, May 31.[14][3]

The local militia was under the command of Colonel Joseph Durfee (going by the title of Captain at the time), a Continental Army veteran, and had established a watch. The British landing was spotted by a sentinel and the alarm was raised. Forty men, including militia from Freetown and nearby Tiverton, mustered to give resistance. Eyre's men fired grapeshot from a small cannon and slowly pushed the militiamen uphill.[15] As this took place, some of his men proceeded to burn a house, grist mill and sawmill, nine boats, and 15,000 feet of planking. The militia eventually reached a bridge across a stream, where about 25 men established a defensive line behind a stone wall on the far side. In a battle lasting about 90 minutes, Durfee's men repulsed repeated attempts by Eyre's men to gain control of the bridge.[2] The British soldiers then took one local resident prisoner, set fire to his property, and retreated to their boats. The militia followed, harassing the soldiers with musket fire.[15]

On their return to port, the British naval vessels worked to assist the Pigot, which had been grounded; in the process of doing so, they came under fire from an American battery on shore (which, by at least one account, included cannon-launched stone and spare iron)[16] and suffered additional casualties (three killed and one wounded according to one account).[4] The Pigot also sustained significant damage from the American battery.[4] Some accounts describe the American prisoner (an elderly man named Richard Borden) as being aboard one of the boats coming under fire; these accounts describe the prisoner seeking shelter by laying flat on the floor of the vessel, despite attempts of his captors to have him stand (perhaps to try to dissuade the attackers); according to these accounts, one or two of the captors were eventually hit by shots from the Americans on shore.[17][18] The prisoner was eventually released several days later. In addition to the casualties at Bristol Ferry, the British suffered two killed and five wounded in the battle at Freetown, while the Americans suffered no casualties beyond the one captive, who apparently emerged without any noteworthy injury.[2][19]


The destruction of the boats and supplies was a minor setback to American plans. In mid-July, General Washington informed Sullivan that a French fleet was available to assist in operations against Newport.[20] This had a galvanizing effect on recruiting, and local shipbuilders embarked on a crash boatbuilding program to replace the boats destroyed in the raid.[21] By early August, the French fleet of the Comte d'Estaing had arrived off Newport, and Sullivan commanded a force of 10,000 militia and regular army troops.[22] Bad weather and the timely arrival of a British fleet to oppose d'Estaing frustrated allied plans.[23] Sullivan, who had occupied the northern part of Aquidneck Island, was forced to retreat by the mass desertion of militia after the French withdrew their fleet and troops. General Pigot then broke out of his lines in pursuit, but Sullivan successfully fought off his attack in the Battle of Rhode Island on August 29 before retreating off Aquidneck Island.[24]

The British occupied Newport until October 1779, when the garrison was withdrawn for operations elsewhere.[25] The raided communities continued to contribute to the American war effort despite the damage and difficulties caused by the raids.[26][27]

Major Edmund Eyre, leader of the Freetown raid, was by 1781 promoted to lieutenant colonel, when he again led British forces during a raid on New London and Groton, Connecticut on September 6 of the same year. He was wounded early in the Battle of Groton Heights, and his troops were accused of engaging in atrocities in the aftermath of the battle.[28]


  1. ^ a b c d Dearden, p. 27
  2. ^ a b c d e Dearden, p. 28
  3. ^ a b c d Pigot, pp. 25-26
  4. ^ a b c d e Lieutenant Frederick Mackenzie diary, May 31, 1778 entry
  5. ^ Journal of H.M. frigate Flora, Captain John Brisbane, May 31, 1778, transcribed in "Naval Documents of the American Revolution, Volume 12", p. 496-497
  6. ^ Dearden, p. 7
  7. ^ Dearden, p. 13
  8. ^ Murray, p. 6
  9. ^ Murray, p. 8
  10. ^ Dearden, pp. 25–27
  11. ^ a b c Dearden, p. 25
  12. ^ a b Dearden, p. 26
  13. ^ Lieutenant Frederick Mackenzie diary, May 25, 1778 entry
  14. ^ Deane, p. 216 (note that Deane incorrectly dates the raid to May 25, the date of the Warren/Bristol raid)
  15. ^ a b Deane, p. 217
  16. ^ J. R. Elsbree, 1895, "Battle of Fall River: Stray Leaves from a Note Book of the Happenings of Olden Days", reproduced in Reed, p. 256
  17. ^ Durfee, p. 7
  18. ^ S. A. Chase, March 24, 1897 article in Fall River Evening News, reproduced in Reed, p. 251
  19. ^ Deane, p. 218
  20. ^ Dearden, p. 38
  21. ^ Dearden, pp. 49–51
  22. ^ Ward, p. 588
  23. ^ Ward, pp. 590–591
  24. ^ Ward, p. 592
  25. ^ Field, p. 246
  26. ^ Munro, pp. 240–242
  27. ^ Baker, p. 23
  28. ^ Allyn, p. 102; see accounts in Allyn for detailed accusations.


Further reading

This page was last edited on 16 November 2019, at 04:57
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