2008-07-31 / News

Jamestown's organizations work to maintain Battery Park

By Rudd Hall

Located just off Beavertail Road, south of Fort Getty is the Conanicut Battery National Historic Park. The Battery, as it is referred to, is a 22- acre plot of land with historical signifi cance - to Jamestown, and the birth of our nation.

The Battery, which is free and open to the public, offers marked trails that lead into the main attraction of the park, the earthen fortifi cations. It was here during the Revolutionary War that colonists constructed this crescent shaped earthworks fort, under the order of the Rhode Island General Assembly. The idea behind it was very similar to that of trench warfare used during both World Wars. The colonists could attack by cannon fire, but also be concealed because they were partially underground. During the four-year British occupation of Aquidneck Island, the earthworks dug by the colonists were destroyed and rebuilt to what visitors to the park see today. They can get a good idea of how it all worked by reading the detailed plaques located on the grounds of the original fortification.

After the war, the Battery was used as private farmland until 1916, when it again was used as a military fortification, this time as an underground observation area, and remained as such through WWII. In 1963, the land was deeded to the town and in 1972 was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and has been preserved by the

Jamestown Historical Society.

Due to the site's historical importance, other groups have played an active role in the maintenance of the park and this has become a joint responsibility of the JHS, the Friends of Conanicut Battery and the town who work together to provide services, such as landscaping. Historical Society President Rosemary Enright promises, "The Friends and the Historical Society have no intention of letting the park fall into neglect." Enright said , "You should, however, get used to higher grass on the earthworks themselves. Too much traffic and too little rooted vegetation have taken their toll and caused some erosion." She explained further that "the answer is to seed with native grass and to let it grow rather than mow it, especially since mowing it in and of itself promotes the erosion."

Rather than simply walking the park and reading the plaques about the park's history, visitors can see history in action during the Battery Day Celebrations that have taken place in May 2002, in June 2004 and 2005. After the 2005 celebration, the Friends of the Conanicut Battery and the JHS and Program committees waited two years to present

the next Battery Day,

held in May 2007. This event was much better attended due to the involvement of community groups, like the Cubs Scouts, Boy Scouts, the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Jamestown Community Band. On these days, flags of The United States, Great Britain, and France are flown, Revolutionary War reenactments are played out, national anthems played, and cannons fired across the West Passage. The Historical Society and Friends of the Battery look forward to the next Battery Day Celebration, now slated for spring of 2009.

Return to top