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Battle between the Americans under General Sullivan, and the British, commanded
by Sir Robert Pigot-Stone Bridge-Tiverton-State of Rhode Island --Its boundaries and divisions--Original Settlement-State of Religion and LearningCommon Schools.
TUESDAY, September 23, we left Newport after dinner; and rode to Tiverton: twelve miles. In our journey we passed through almost the whole length, and the whole breadth, of the island of Rhode-Island. Every where we found the same finely rounded swells, elegant slopes, and handsome vallies; which, beginning, as a characteristic feature, at South Kingston, and continuing through Canonicut, terminated here. Except a few cliffs which in some places form the shore, and are hanging and solemn, the surface is every where easy and graceful. The soil also is excellent, and especially fitted for grass. From thirty to forty thousand sheep are annually fed here, beside many neat cattle. The island abounds also in orchards ; and yields a considerable quan: tity of garden fruit; particularly pears, of many varieties ; some of them very fine. Peaches are neither excellent, nor prosperous. They are injured by the peach-worm. In the spring, the sea winds are supposed to chill and shrink, and sometimes to destroy every kind of fruit. The inhabitants, therefore, surround their orchards and fruit yards with a shelter of forest or other hardy trees. Among these, cherry trees are found firmly to resist the influence of the winds. They are said to bear well: but many of those, which we saw, still exhibited evident marks of British ravages during the late war.
The fences on this island are generally stone walls, moderately well-built, and in tolerable repair. The wood was chiefly cut down by the British. In some places is has grown again to a considerable height. We passed the remains of several British works.
In a valley, just below the hill, called Meeting House Hill, and sometimes Quaker Hill, a battle was fought between the Americans under General Sullivan, and the British under Sir Robert Pigot. The Americans had crossed the river with an intention of attacking the British force in Newport; while the French fleet, under the command of the Count D’Estaing, was expected to second their efforts by sea. The Count, being drawn from his station by the address of Lord Howe, put to sea, in pursuit of the British fleet. Here he was overtaken by a violent storm, August 11th, and suffered so severely, that he concluded to return to Boston with his fleet. A small number of his ships, only, came up with the British; and those were roughly handled. Thus the enterprise was abandoned by the French Admiral. Had the Americans marched for Newport immediately after they had landed, or had D'Estaing returned to Newport, after his pursuit of Lord Howe was ended, it is not improbable, that the British force might have been obliged to surrender; especially as they were ill supplied with provisions. Neither of these efforts was, however, made. Lord Howe, in the mean time, having sailed back to New York, took on board 4000 additional troops; and proceeded as fast as possible for Rhode Island. The American General, having received intelligence of this measure, resolved to retreat as early as he could do it with safety. To cover this design, he employed his men in throwing up works ; and made the appearance of continuing his operations with spirit. On the 28th he withdrew his army from the neighbourhood of the British works in the evening; and at three the next morning had reached his destined position, near the North end of the island, without molestation or loss. At seven the British, who, as soon as they discovered their retreat, pursued them, began a brisk fire upon an advanced body of their troops, in this valley. Detachments were sent out from both armies, until the battle became in a great mcasure general. At the close of the engagement the advantage lay on the side of the Americans. They were commanded by General Greene: and behaved, (the militia no less than the regular troops,) with a gallantry, highly honourable to their character,
especially as they were discouraged by the desertion of Count D'Estaing; and had scarcely recovered from their severe sufferings, occasioned by the long-continued violence of a furious storm. The next day General Sullivan, being informed, that Lord Howe was on his way to intercept his retreat with a body of men, em ployed himself with great diligence and success to deceive the enemy, and convey his army, together with their tents, baggage, stores, and artillery, to the main. Both these purposes he accomplished in a manner very honourable to himself. All his men, and every thing belonging to them, arrived safe, except those, who were killed or missing in the action. The Americans lost on this occasion thirty killed, one hundred and thirty-two wounded, and forty-four missing. The British lost thirty-eight killed, two hundred and ten wounded, and twelve missing.
Narrhaganset Bay is formed by the influx of Taunton and Paw. tucket rivers. The island of Rhode-Island lies in this bay, about six miles from the Western, three from the Northern, and where narrowest half a mile from the Eastern, shore. At this place we crossed the ferry, known here by the name of Howland's ferry. Two bridges have been erected over it; the first at the expense of $30,000, and the second at that of $26,000. The latter was ruined by the sea-worms. Had the wooden piers, on which it was built, been painted with verdigrise, the loss might possibly have been prevented. A ship, whose bottom was covered with this pigment, lately returned from India to Newport; and was so sound, that the owner, it is said, sold the copper, with which she was to have been sheathed. Since the loss of the second bridge it has been proposed to form a communication between the main and this place by filling up the whole breadth of the river, except a narrow passage, with stone, dropped into the water, and suffered to fall as chance may direct. One third of the depth is said to be filled with the foundation laid for the bridges already mentioned. On the Tiverton side stone can be obtained in any quantities, and in the most convenient positions. Seventy thousand dollars, it is supposed, would cover the whole expense.. When it is considered how necessary this work is for the defence of the VOL. III.
island; how desirable for the trade of the neighbouring inhabitants; and bow convenient for the purposes of general intercourse ; it is impossible not to wish success to such an undertaking.
In the year 1806, the proposed bridge, mentioned in the last paragraph, was finished. Masses of granite of various sizes were, according to the plan specified, brought to the spot, dropped into the water, and suffered to fall ad libitum. In this manner two vast heaps, with a passage between them, were raised to the lowwater mark. Above this a bridge of the same materials was raised, of mason-work, to the proper height above high-water mark; when strong walls of stone were built at the sides, and the flooring covered with gravel. This is undoubtedly the best bridge, which has been erected in the United States. The work was executed under the superintendence of Daniel Lyman Esquire, the gentleman mentioned above; and cost $70,000.
On the ferry we had a full view of Mount Hope, now Bristol ; one of the residences of Massassoit, the celebrated Sachem of the Wampanoags, and of his son Philip.
We lodged at Tiverton, and the next morning rode to NewBedford ; eighteen miles; through Westport; nine.
Tiverton is the North-Eastern corner of this state. On the South it has Little Compton, on the East Westport in Massachusetts, and on the North Somerset in the same State. The parts of this township, visible on the road, were generally rocky, and lean. At some distance on both sides of the road, the land as we were informed, is good; yielding not unfrequently forty bushels of maize, and twenty of barley, per acre. On the shore near the ferry the hills are high, rocky, and barren. The only pleasant object on the land side is a small village, consisting principally of new and neatly built houses, the inhabitants of which carry on a little commerce.
Tiverton contained in 1790, 2,453 inhabitants; in 1800, 2,717; and in 1810, 2,837.
The State of Rhode Island is situated between 41° 17', and 42° North Latitude, and between 71° 6' and 71° 52' West Longitude.
On the North it is twenty-nine miles in extent; on the South forty-three ; on the West forty-nine; and on the East thirty-nine. Almost the whole State lies on the Western side of Narrhaganset bay. On the East are the townships of Tiverton, and Little Compton; and on the North, those of Bristol, Warren, and Barrington. The state of Massachusetts borders upon Pawtucket river, from the falls to the mouth of Providence bay; an extent of about twelve or fourteen miles; and includes the head of Mount Hope bay, into which Taunton river discharges its waters. Narrhaganset bay, formed by the influx of these rivers into the ocean, contains Rhode Island proper, Canonicut, Prudence, Patience, Hog, Dutch, Gould, and Hope, islands; together with several, which are still smaller. Block-Island, which lies off the coast of Charlestown, belongs also to this state. The whole number of islands contain about ninety square miles; Narrhaganset bay about two hundred; and the remaining part of the State about one thousand three hundred ; in the whole about one thousand six hundred.
This State is bounded on the West by Connecticut; on the North and East, by Massachusetts ; and on the South by the Atlantic. The climate and seasons are the same with those of the neighbouring countries. The soil on the islands, and a narrow border on the bay, and the ocean is rich; the remainder is partly a lean sand, and partly a cold loam, replenished with stones and rocks, cultivated with difficulty, and yielding a slender reward to the labours of the husbandman.
There are no mountains in this State.
The principal rivers are Pawcatuck in the South-West ; Pawtucket on the North-East; and Patuxet in the middle: and these are only large mill-streams.
The State of Rhode Island is divided into five counties. Proyidence containing ten townships ; Newport seven; Washington seven ; Kent four; Bristol three.