Butts Hill Fort in Portsmouth now part of national historic trail

Revolutionary War earthwork added to National Parks Service Washington-Rochambeau Route

Posted 6/7/21

PORTSMOUTH — The National Parks Service has made Butts Hill Fort a location on the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail. 

The Butts Hill Fort …

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Butts Hill Fort in Portsmouth now part of national historic trail

Revolutionary War earthwork added to National Parks Service Washington-Rochambeau Route

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — The National Parks Service has made Butts Hill Fort a location on the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail. 

The Butts Hill Fort Restoration Committee was notified of the designation in late April.

The trail follows the route taken by French forces under command of Lt. General le comte de Rochambeau as they left Aquidneck Island en route to join Gen. George Washington’s Continental Army north of New York City. The combined force then marched to Virginia and defeated the British Army at Yorktown in the climactic battle that ended the Revolutionary War. 

Butts Hill Fort was built in 1776 by Colonial militia. It was used by the British when they occupied Aquidneck Island and later by French forces when they arrived as allies to support the Continental Army. 

During the Battle of Rhode Island in August 1778, The Fort was the headquarters of the Colonial forces under Gen. John Sullivan. The battle is often noted for the participation of the 1st Rhode Island Regiment (The Black Regiment). Today the fort remains the largest Revolutionary War earthwork in southern New England. 

While Butts Hill Fort has been named a National Historic Landmark and has over the years been of local interest, it has been little known or enjoyed by the public because it has become overgrown with vegetation and is not easily accessible. In January, the Portsmouth Historical Society formed a committee, Butts Hill Fort Restoration, to restore and maintain the fort as a historical, educational and recreational venue. 

The plan is to complete restoration by the 250th anniversary of the Battle of Rhode Island in 2028. The Rhode Island Historic Preservation and Heritage Commission, which oversees National Historic Landmarks for the state, has approved the committee’s 2021 plan. 

Since its inception, the committee, in addition to getting the Fort added to the Washington-Rochambeau Route, has received support of the Portsmouth Town Council and begun raising funds to meet its goals. Early financial support has come from the Aquidneck Land Trust and the Rhode Island Society Sons of the Revolution.

Public financial support is critical to restoring and preserving this important, unique and historic site. Tax-free donations can be made through the Portsmouth Historical Society’s website, portsmouthhistorical.org/membership/membership. See “Just Donate” at the bottom, and in the box to designate where the donation goes, type “BHFR.”

The committee is also seeking volunteers to help clean up the site. If you wish to volunteer or would like further information on the project, e-mail Seth Chiaro at seth.chiaro@gmail.com.

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.