Battle of Fall's river



"Stray Leaves from a Note Book of the Happenings of Olden Days. "


Early in 1778, a corps of Tories were organized upon the Island, and under their leadership raids were made from the Island upon that towns and villages along the shores of tNarragansett Bay. An expedition landed in Warren, plundered and burnt the town, and passing down the neck, burnt a church and 18 houses in Bristol, retreating in safety to the island. In May, 1778, a party under Colonel Ayers, of 150 Purchase soled shoes and Tories, who were natives of this vicinity, at 3:08 o'clock A.M. , landed at "High Hills," the present site of the Iron Works company's manufactories. The extensive flat, now covered by wharves, depots and manufactories, was the farm of Richard Borden. They burned the farm house, grist and saw-mills of Mr. Borden, and hurried to South Main Street, up Anawan street which was then but a cart path to the shore.


Between Anawan street and the river was a strip of wild, rocky woodland; near the corner of Pocasset and South Main streets was a large rock in the corner of Simeon Borden's garden. At this rock a sentinel was stationed to guard the bridge which was in front of where the City Hall is now located. This Sentinel was surprised and captured, but as the invaders proceeded to disarm him he began to talk very loud and tried to break his gun across the rock. This sentinel just north of the bridge heard heard the noise and gave the alarm. The bridge had been torn up for some time, and the river had been crossed on a simple planks. The Sentinel, on giving the alarm, rushed to the bridge and pulled the planks into the north side, thereby cutting off the escape of Mrs. Hope Borden, who had fled from her burning home at the shore through the woods in rocks along the river, as the enemy occupied the only road way to Main street. Finding the planks removed, she rushed across the road and laid, sheltered by the rocks and bushes, with the bullets whistling around her, in a pasture now covered by the Borden block.


The alarm had now become general. The women and children of the village had fled to the woods of New Boston and the Patriots of the vicinity had rallied at the Four Corners armed for the fight. Co. Joseph Durfee took command. There was a stone wall came down to the corner of North Main and Bedford sree, and behind this wall, as a breast work, Col. Durfee placed his men, 14 in number. As the British forces approached the bridge, they poured a volley of bullets upon them, which was a surprise, as the enemy had been told they would meet but little opposition to their plans.


They approached the bridge to find it in passable, but they still upon the bank to the river and poured Pauley lease volley upon the unseen foe, whose rapid-fire deceived them as to the number.


The Quequechan River at this time was a wild, dashing stream coming down from the heavy forest land reaching out to the lakes, while below the bridge it rushed to the shore like a mountain torrent. The boats of the expedition had the tides against them in coming up the bay, and their arrival at 3:00 A.M. had been 3 hours later than they had planned. The gray dawn was approaching; the whole country was alarmed by the reports of musketry and the blazing of buildings, and recruits came pouring in to swell the band behind the stone walls. A regiment on the march for Fort Barton, at Tiverton Heights had encamped for the night a few miles north of the village. They were aroused by the conflagration and steady report of musketry firing, and at once marched towards the scene of the conflict, though they were without a single round of ammunition. Col. Ayers had drawn his forces back from the galling fire at the bridge, and when he heard the drums and fifes of an approaching regiment he at once ordered a retreat to the boats. The retreat was safely accomplished, but the invaders were followed, step by step, by the Patriots from behind the stone wall, who fired upon them from every sheltering rock or tree on thier march to the shore, giving them a parting volley after they had embarked.


Their killed and wounded were carried to the boats, except two, who were buried on the south bank of the river, where the south end of the Watapee mill now stands. When the mill was built the bones of the 2 British soldiers were taken up and reburied in the north cemetery.


As the boats of the expedition approached Bristol ferry on their return in Newport, the patriot forces encamped there opened fire upon them for musketry and cannon loaded with stones and scrap irons, whereby many other soldiers were killed an wounded.


J. R. Elsbree, Rochester, N.Y., October 16th, 1895


An Account of the Battle

a project sponsored by



Historical Foundation