National Park Service grant funds in-depth Revolutionary War battlefield study in Middletown

The Middletown battleground where one of the largest military operations of the Revolution took place in what was the first combined French-Colonial offensive of the war will be researched and mapped in depth by Salve Regina University students working in partnership with the Middletown Historical Society.

The project is being funded by a $67,200 grant awarded to the Middletown Historical Society from the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program. Salve Regina students, under the guidance of Cultural and Historic Preservation Assistant Professor Jon Marcoux and History Professor John Quinn, will conduct most of the work, which will begin immediately. The project is expected to last through August 2017.

“We are really excited to have our students get hands-on experience doing historical and archaeological research, as well as getting training in these cutting-edge technologies,” said Marcoux. “Ultimately, the goal of the project is to locate these battlefield sites so we can preserve them and protect them. This project is another example of the unique experience-based education we offer here at Salve.”

Salve students will conduct historical research, generate computerized mapping using sophisticated software to overlay digital scans of historic maps onto modern aerial photos, and use ground penetrating radar surveys to map what lies beneath the ground.

The project will aim to define in detail the location of Colonial and British fortifications involved in the siege of Newport. The French Navy and a Colonial army, under the command of Generals Sullivan, Lafayette, and Greene, attacked the British defensive positions using canon fire and trench warfare.

The British and Hessians (6,000 regulars and naval gunners) in fortified positions on the west side of Valley Road in Middletown, were attacked in August 1778 by the French Fleet under Adm. D'Estaing and about 8,000 Colonial regulars and militia under Maj. Gen. Sullivan. Although unsuccessful, the combined French-Colonial assault contributed to the decision for the British withdrawal from Newport in 1779 and opened the way for Gen. Rochambeau in 1780.

The study will form the basis for follow-up effort that will employ ground penetrating radar (GPR) and other nonintrusive measurement methods to refine the location of these places so that they may be preserved.

“The American Battlefield Protection Program supports projects that safeguard, preserve and tell the stories of America’s battlefields,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis. “These places are symbols of individual sacrifice and national heritage that we must protect to help this and future generations understand the struggles that shaped and define us as a nation.”