What I've been doing today--the British raid Prudence Island (January 12, 1776)

A few months ago, it seemed like a great idea to give a talk about Rhode Island in the Revolutionary War (from an archaeological perspective) to a local high school. Now that it's tomorrow, it seems like a rather less great idea.

However, I am going to show the students my favorite historical drawing of all time:
This is a sketch by the Rev. Ezra Stiles (President of Yale from 1778-1795) who was a phenomenal recorder of information.* It shows the British Marines (the little stick figures marching from the boats) invading Prudence Island, in Narragansett Bay, meeting resistance from the Sons of Liberty. The sidebar says: "Here one left killed" "Here one taken wounded" and "Houses burnt. 8." The only house on the island not burned belonged to Thomas Allin and his family. His wife and seven of their eleven children were blind, and the British commander took pity on them and spared their home. The family moved west after the war, and all that is left of the Blind Allin house is its collapsing cellar hole, surrounded by brambles.

That is just one of the many thrilling stories of Rhode Island in the Revolution that I hope will keep my audience interested. I am also going to bring a few cannon balls with me. Nothing breaks the ice like a cannon ball.

*from Abbass, D.K. 2006 Rhode Island in the Revolution: Big Happenings in the Smallest Colony. The Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project, Newport.


  1. I grew up on Prudence Island....where did you find that drawing?

  2. You can find it in a book called "What a Difference a Bay Makes" in the RI Library System, or you might be able to find it in an on-line version of Stiles. Cool, isn't it!


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