On this special day in our country’s history, I take pride in the pivotal role that Rhode Island, and Newport specifically, played in the American Revolution. The fiercely autonomous colony was the scene of some of the earliest and most violent protests against British authority. In May of 1776, Rhode Island became the first of the thirteen colonies to officially renounce its allegiance to King George III (two months before the signing of the Declaration of Independence).
Given Newport’s excellent harbor, the British forces occupied our town (headquartered at the Redwood Library and Athenaeum) for almost three years, from December of 1776 to October 1779. After the British evacuation, Newport became the base of operations for the army of 6,000 men, under the leadership of General Rochambeau, that France sent to this colony to aid in our war for independence. In 1781, General George Washington traveled to Newport to meet with the Comte de Rochambeau, the Marquis de Lafayettte and three French admirals to formulate the historically significant plans for the final campaign of the American Revolution. On June, 1781, General Rochambeau and his army left Newport to join the American forces on the Hudson; in August, the combined armies under the command of General Washington began their victorious march south. On October 19th, 1781, British General Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, Virginia.