Newport, Rhode Island during the Revolution

Charles Blaskowitz (surveyor) / William Faden (publisher), A Plan of the Town of Newport in Rhode Island, London, September 1, 1777.
Engraving, 13.25"h x 14.5"w plus margins, uncolored

The most detailed plan of Newport made during the the Revolutionary War.

This plan depicts the town of Newport and its harbor in immense detail. Numerous quays jut into the harbour along the length of Thames Street, evidence that up until the Revolution this was one of colonial America’s leading ports. Every street is detailed, with an apparent attempt to depict each individual dwelling and block of buildings. A legend at the lower right identifies nineteen of the most important buildings in town. These include the Trinity Church, the Court House, the Goal [sic], the Alms House, and the meeting houses of different Protestant congregations. Evidence of Protestant`s relatively open culture is the presence of the Touro Synagogue, built in 1759, which today has the distinction of being the oldest such edifice in the United States.

Another interesting feature is the “battery raised by the Americans,” referring to light fortifications hastily leveled by departing Continental troops in an effort to prevent them from being used later by the British. Also shown is Goat Island, featuring Fort George protecting the approaches to the inner harbour.

Newport easily fell into the control of the American side in the early days of the Revolution. After the British seizure of New York City in the Fall of 1776, however, Sir Peter Parker seized Rhode Island as a Winter base for the British fleet. In the Summer of 1778, the British repelled a combined land and sea attack by American General John Sullivan and French Admiral, d’Estaing. However, in an effort to reinforce New York, the British abandoned Newport in October, 1779. In July, 1780 the Comte de Rochambeau, the new French commander in North America, made Newport his base.

William Faden, London’s preeminent mapmaker, published this town plan based on an original manuscript by Charles Blaskowitz, which survives today in the Faden Collection at the Library of Congress. Blaskowitz, one of the most talented military surveyors in British service, carefully mapped all of Narragansett Bay over a decade commencing in 1764. He used the most advanced techniques. and his charts were viewed by his peers to be of the highest quality and precision. The Newport plan was included in Faden’s North American Atlas, now regarded as one of the most prized and important books relating to the Revolutionary period. Faden also used Blaskowitz as the primary source for a 1777 chart of Narragansett Bay.

Interestingly, in 1776 J.F.W. Des Barres had issued an earlier plan of Newport based on Blaskowitz’ work. Though at the same scale as the Faden plan and covering a larger area, the Des Barres version is far less detailed, lacking much architectural detail as well as the American fortification shown by Faden at the northern edge of town. The likely explanation is that for his version Faden incorporated up-to-date information obtained from the British force that occupied the town in late 1776.

Guthorn, British Maps of the American Revolution, 145/8; Nebenzahl, A Bibliography of Printed Battle Plans of the American Revolution, #35; Tooley (ed.), “North American City Plans,” Map Collector’s Circle no. 20 (1965), p. 18.


Light even toning and some mended tears