Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in History



First Advisor

William D. Metz


The purpose of this thesis is to trace the economic and military effort put forth by Rhode Island during the period from April, 1775, to September,1778. Particular emphasis will be placed on the Battle of Rhode Island in August, 1778.

The introductory remarks review briefly the critical pre-war period from 1763 to 1775 and provide a background for the development of the problem. The British imperialistic policy and the reactions of the colonists created an ever widening gap between England and the colonies. The external commerce of Rhode Island was clearly affected and the colony supported the efforts made to repeal the British acts. The turbulent era was concluded with the skirmish at Lexington and the beginning of the period of militant activity.

The Revolutionary period necessitated extraordinary legislative measures to regulate the economic activity of the state and to provide the necessary militia forces for the protection of the inhabitants. The British occupation of Newport intensified the military requirements of the state and fostered two expeditions to deprive the British of this important base in New England.

The primary emphasis of the thesis is on the efforts put forth by the state in 1778 to recapture Newport from the British. The military buildup of men and supplies, the difficulties encountered, the Franco-American plans and disunity, the conduct of the Battle of Rhode Island, and a critique and analysis of the campaign are presented in detail.

Rhode Island’s contribution following the Battle of Rhode Island in 1778 was confined to providing men, money, and supplies to the Revolutionary cause. The British withdrawal from Newport in 1779, and the arrival of the French in 1780, were highlights of this period.

Rhode Island’s efforts during the war were impressive, particularly when the size of the state and its meager population are considered. The British occupation of Newport and control of the bay brought a major portion of the state's external commerce to a halt. The damage inflicted by the marauding British soldiery was incalculable. The more than 9,000 recorded enlistments in the state (some men enlisted more than once) out of a population of 54,000 in 1774 was an important contribution. Finally, the major effort put forth to relieve the town of Newport in 1778 exhausted much of the financial strength of the state. After 1779, the conflict shifted to the South and the Rhode Island countryside remained peaceful for the duration of the war.



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