The Battle of Rhode Island
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At 8 AM the British forces under the command of Von Der Malsburg chased Col. John Laurens and his American troops. There were skirmishes up West (Main) Road as the two sides made contact. Malsburg’s troops charged the Americans who were positioned behind stone walls. At times the Americans could not hold their ground. Laurens was outnumbered, so his advanced guard withdrew with Malsburg’s Hessians (Germans) in pursuit. A group of Americans hid in tall stalks of Indian corn and fired at the Hessians. A German officer, Noltenius, was wounded by a musket ball to the abdomen. Malsburg came to his friend’s assistance and that gave the Americans a chance to make an escape. Local civilians were casualties of the combat. There were reports of German Ansbach troops killing an elderly Quaker man in the back.
Lauren was fighting from a position just below Turkey Hill. Captain Malsburg’s hand was wounded in the fighting. Lauren’s men took a strong defensive position on Turkey Hill. He asked for reinforcements, but Sullivan ordered Lauren’s to fall back to the main lines. To protect Lauren’s troops, Sullivan sent Webb’s Regiment of Connecticut Continentals under Major Huntington and forty soldiers from Jackson’s detachment.
By 8:30 AM the Hessians were stationed on the top of Turkey Hill. Von der Malsburg led his soldiers down into the valley between Turkey Hill and Durfee’s Hill. Out of ammunition, Malsburg had his troops take cover behind stone walls to wait for more supplies. American artillery on Butts Hill kept Von der Malsburg’s troops pinned down. He sent his own artillery back to the top of Turkey Hill to pound the American right wing.
Heritage Park is at the top of Turkey Hill today. Good signage at the park narrates the story of the Battle of Rhode Island. The natural environment gives us a chance to imagine the skirmish there.
Christian McBurney’s The Rhode Island Campaign 2011 was the basis for this narrative.
Fage Map 1778 – Clement Library
Signage by Nate Minese