British Occupation

British Occupation 

Roughly 6,500 British and German troops occupied Newport, Rhode Island between December 8, 1776 and late October 1779. British volunteers made up half of the occupying force. These “red-coats”, as they were often referred to because of their bright red uniform jackets, were career soldiers. The average age of the British men who served in America was mid-30s, and a majority of them had enlisted between the ages of 20 and 25. These men received standardized training in England and were paid regularly.

The other half of the occupying army was a mercenary force from the German principalities. The largest contributors to the British cause were the rulers of Brunswick and Hesse-Kassel, both relatives of the King George III through marriage. British and American soldiers alike respected the Germans because they received superior training and were highly specialized. In addition, recruits from the German principalities could expect to receive as much as four times the wages they could receive at home.  By the end of the war, Friedrich II of Hesse-Kassel made approximately 17,000 troops available for use in America, which led to German soldiers being referred to as “Hessians.”

The following excerpts from the diaries of Frederick Mackenzie, Stephan Popp, and Fleet Greene give voice to the experiences of the troops on the ground in Newport during the Revolutionary War.

Image: This map depicts Aquidneck Island during British occupation. A number of faint red x's indicate buildings that were destroyed by the occupying force, primarily as a source of firewood for freezing British regulars.
"Plan of Rhode-Island Surveyed and Drawn by Edw[ard] Fage Captn [sic] Royal Artillery in the years 1777, 78 & 79"
Clements Library, University of Michigan (Maps 3-J-14)