Dutch Island is an island lying west of Conanicut Island at an entrance to Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island, USA. The island is a part of the town of Jamestown, Rhode Island, and has a land area of 0.4156 km² (102.7 acres). It was uninhabited as of the 2000 census.
Dutch Island's Indian name was Quotenis or Quetenesse. Around 1636 Abraham Pietersen van Deusen of the Dutch West India Company established a trading post on the island to trade with the Narragansett Indians, trading Dutch goods, cloths, implements, and liquors for the Indians' furs, fish, and venison. Several years later the Dutch built Fort Ninigret nearby. In 1654 English colonists purchased the island from the Indians. In 1825 the federal government acquired 6 acres (24,000 m2) at the southern end of the island, and on January 1, 1827, Dutch Island Light was established to mark the west passage of Narragansett Bay and to aid vessels entering Dutch Island Harbor. The first 30-foot (9.1 m) tower was built of stones found on the island. The government constructed a new 42-foot (13 m) brick tower in 1857 with a fog bell added in 1878. As of 2007, the island is part of the Bay Islands Park system of Rhode Island owned by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM). The island is easily accessible by kayak today off the coast of Conanicut Island (Jamestown). No remnants of the Dutch trading post exist today, but a lighthouse and military buildings remain on the island.
The Fort was named in honor of 1st Lt. John Trout Greble, 2nd Artillery, USA, who was the first officer of Regular Army killed in Civil War. In 1863, the land was sold to the United States government, and the island was taken over by the Army by 1864.
American Civil War
During the American Civil War the island was used as a training site by the 14th Rhode Island Heavy Artillery (Colored). The soldiers of the 14th Rhode Island constructed first earth work defenses on the island, and sporadic construction continued on the island after the Civil War ended.
Spanish American War
Following the Civil War, gun batteries were placed on Dutch Island, and by the late 19th century the defensive works had grown to become Fort Greble. Construction was spurred by the Spanish–American War, which included tunnels and gun emplacements, and the fort was enlarged until 1902. In 1897, Battery Hale was completed with the emplacement of Endicott Period 10" disappearing guns. This was followed by the establishment of Battery Mitchell with 3 - 6" disappearing guns, and Battery Sedgwick with 8 - 12" mortars. Finally 1900 saw the completion of Battery Ogden with it 2 - 3" rapid fire guns.
Inter-war period training exercises
The New York Times reported that on June 26, 1908, a combined arms training exercise, between regular and militia military units from Fort Adams, and Fort Greble were conducted. Soldiers and their commanders launched a combined land and sea, simulated attack on the island. The residents of Newport and Jamestown were kept awake all night by the sound of the fort's guns going off. A copy of this newspaper report can be found here.
While posted at Fort Greble, on April 2, 1912, Corporal William W. Lee, loaded two pounds of the wrong powder into the morning reveille gun (re-enactors typically use about 4 ounces or 8 tablespoons of black powder), Cpl Lee pulled the lanyard to discharge the ceremonial gun to awaken the troops and the breech blew up. Parts tore through his jaw and lodged in his brain. His wounds were fatal. His grave is not located on the island, but in Jamestown's town cemetery on Narragansett Ave.
World War I & II
The fort was active till the mid-1920s as part of the Harbor Defenses of Narragansett Bay. It was deactivated because the fort's cisterns were defective and could not hold sufficient water to support the garrison.
During World War II, Fort Greble was used as a German prisoner-of-war camp and was discontinued from service in 1947.
Post World War II
Since the Second World War, there have been no redevelopment or preservation efforts on Dutch Island. The island has been used as a training site for the Rhode Island National Guard. The island's fortifications have become overgrown but are largely intact and free from vandalism.
The island is owned by the State of Rhode Island and is designated as a management area by the state's Department of Environmental Management.
- Dutch Island: Block 4050, Census Tract 415, Newport County, Rhode Island United States Census Bureau
- Dutch Island Lighthouse History
- Lighthouse Details
- Frederic Denlson, Narragansett Sea and Shore, (J.A. & R.A. Reid, Providence, RI., 1879)
- George L. Seavey, Rhode Island's Coastal Natural Areas.
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