During the American Revolution, war came early to Rhode Island. At the time hostilities commenced, the city of Newport (located on the southern end ofAquidneck Island) was the fifth largest city in the thirteen colonies-ranking just behind Boston to the northeast. Because the town was precariously located near the sea and the proud possessor of one of the finest natural harbors in all of British North America, few gave the town any hope of remaining independent of Great Britain for very long. In fact, soon after fighting broke out at Lexington and Concord, the Royal Navy proved just how vulnerable Newport and its environs were to British military power. Arriving in Narragansett Bay in the summer of 1775, a small British naval squadron under the command of its aggressive Captain, James Wallace, immediately set about making the patriots of Rhode Island regret their decision to support the Massachusetts malcontents to the northeast. Forming a landing party of sailors and Royal Marines, Wallace bombarded and burned part of the town of Bristol, Rhode Island, and immediately threatened to do the same to Newport unless it met his demands to re-provision his ships at their expense.
Neimeyer, Charles P.
"Rhode Island Goes to War: The Battle of Rhode Island, 1776-1778,"
Newport History: Vol. 72
, Article 8.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.salve.edu/newporthistory/vol72/iss249/8