January 8, 2015 at 5:30pm
Colony House, Washington Square
$5 per person, $1 NHS members
Please RSVP below or call 401-841-8770
The British occupation of Newport during the Revolutionary War, 1776 through 1779, forced residents to make difficult choices. For some, restored British rule brought the promise of renewed trading with the rest of the Empire and a return to earlier prosperity dampened by protest and war. Others took part in the lavish entertainments organized by British officers or mingled with common soldiers in taverns and brothels. Many, perhaps most residents, welcomed the king’s troops with open arms.
A handful of people resisted imperial authority, crafting ingenious methods of communicating with the revolutionary mainland and sabotaging British troops’ efforts. Regardless of political persuasion, everyone living on the island endured privation, over-crowding, harsh winters, and disease. As the occupation wore on and conditions deteriorated, hearts and minds changed. By the time the troops withdrew after three long years, only a tiny fraction of those who had sided with them in 1776 remained loyal.
In British-occupied territories from Boston to Savannah, the experience of military rule alienated many of the British Empire’s most stalwart supporters. While many did not openly resist the presence of the British, their experience of life during the occupation played a crucial role in the success of the Revolutionary cause.
The NHS hosts Don Johnson discussing “Occupied Newport: Tales from a Revolutionary City under British Rule.” This lecture will examine the complex experiences of Newporters living under British military rule and, in the process, recovers their vital contribution to American independence.
Don Johnson, Ph.D. Candidate, Northwestern University Department of History, was Newport Historical Society’s 2014 Buchanan/Burnham Fellow; he researched and developed an interpretive plan for the Society’s “Revolution House” which will incorporate Newport’s unique Revolutionary heritage with cutting-edge scholarship on the founding era. Don earned an M.A. in American Material Culture from the Winterthur Program and is in the final stages of writing a doctoral dissertation on military occupation during the American Revolution.
This program is generously sponsored by The Hotel Viking.