In 1780 Newport Rhode Island was in ruins. The garrison of British and Hessian troops had finally evacuated Aquidneck Island the previous October, after three years of occupation. The occupation cost the island somewhere between 300-500 buildings, its wharves, warehouses and many small boats were broken and destroyed, and the economy was devastated. The Redwood Library was to not be exempt from these depridations. Legends state that the Redwood Library was used by British and Hessian officers as a recreational area during their station on the island. During that usage, the building fell into disrepair, and numerous books were removed by various thieves. We know this to be certainly true due to the numerous requests in advertisements for the books to return, One such advertisment is seen here;
This may be the earliest attempt of the Redwood Library attempted to restore the collection. From our records it seems that several of the books that were stolen included books involving various entertainments, such as plays and poetry. Medical books were also taken, but the folios were noted to remain behind.
If you are interested in learning more about the British Occupation of the Redwood libary, be sure to attend our living history event Redcoats at the Redwood, November 17th from 2pm-7pm.