The Battle of RI Association (BoRIA) has announced announce that an archaeological assessment of Butts Hill Fort has been completed. This work was done by Joseph (Jay) Waller, an archaeologist with the Public Archaeology Laboratory (PAL), one of the leading firms in New England. BoRIA expresses thanks to Mr. Waller and PAL who did this work pro bono.

In “Technical Memorandum, Butts Hill Fort Restoration Master Plan, Portsmouth, Rhode Island – Archaeological Reconnaissance and Assessment August 2022”, Mr. Waller reviews the history of the Fort and all previous archeological surveys in the vicinity. Butts Hill Fort is a significant historical feature associated with the American Revolution. The site is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, is a National Historic Landmark, and is a contributing site to the National Park Service’s Washington-Rochambeau (WARO) Trail.

Any potential ground-disturbing work at the Fort, including archaeological investigations, may require compliance with relevant federal and state historic preservation regulations
and laws and is subject to review by the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission (RIHPHC).

If future work uses federal monies or require federal permits or permissions, the National Historic Preservation Act “requires that Federal agencies exercise a higher standard of care when considering undertakings that may directly and adversely affect” National Historic Landmarks and “to the maximum extent possible, undertake such planning and actions as may be necessary to minimize harm to such landmark”. Future work at this National Historic Landmark may require consultation with the National Park Service.

PAL recommends that the committee avoid or minimize future ground disturbing activities within and around the fort to the best extent possible. Future walkways and paths should be raised above existing grade to cap and protect the historical and archaeological features below as opposed to impacting them.

Much of the fort is vegetated. Large trees and secondary vegetative growth to be removed should be cut flush to the ground to prevent inadvertent disturbances to and compromise the underlying integrity of the fort. Signage, flagpoles, or other features should be replaced in-kind or in disturbed areas of the site if at all possible, to avoid further impacting the site.

As the Fort is a National Historic Trust property under the direction of the RIHPHC, the report was sent to Ms. Charlotte Taylor, the Commission’s archeologist, for comment. Ms. Taylor wrote “It’s a thorough overview of the site and should be a very valuable aid to ongoing planning. Jay’s recommendations are on point, and we concur with them all.” and “RIHPHC continues to commend your committee for your stewardship of this important site…”

The Waller report and RIHPHC letter are available at www.battleofrhodeisland.org under the “News” tab. This report will be part of an informational “Concept Master Plan” for the Fort to be released in early 2023. BoRIA has gained the support of 29 partner organizations as noted on the website.

  The BUTTS HILL FORT RESTORATION COMMITTEE is a committee of the BATTLE OF RHODE ISLAND ASSOCIATION. The mission of the Committee is to restore and maintain the Revolutionary War fort to provide a safe and accessible educational and recreational site that raises public interest in this National Historic Landmark and its role in the Battle of Rhode Island. The Association is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit committed to raising awareness of Rhode Island’s role in the War for Independence.  Donations may be made payable to “BoRIA” at PO Box 626, Portsmouth, RI 02871.Archaeological Assessment of Butts Hill Fort, Portsmouth, RI

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