In the early morning hours of January 13, 1776, British forces raid Prudence Island, Rhode Island, in an effort to steal a large quantity of sheep. But, upon landing on the island’s southern beaches, the British were ambushed by fifteen Minutemen from Rhode Island’s Second Company led by Captain Joseph Knight, who had been tipped off to the Brits’ plans and rowed across Narragansett Bay from Warwick Neck the previous morning.
A brief but deadly battle ensued before the British were forced to retreat. Three British marines were killed and seven injured during the ambush. Two Minutemen were wounded; one died and the other was taken prisoner. Afraid of further violence, residents abandoned the island between 1776 and 1777, and the island’s homes and windmill were burned.
Rhode Island’s Second Company continued to guard the area between Providence, Warwick Neck and Chopmist on Rhode Island for the next three years. Captain Knight rose to the rank of major in 1777, taking command of the Third Providence County Regiment. The Rhode Island General Assembly chose to end the Minutemen system in 1777 and the Second Company was reorganized as the Fifth Company of Scituate Militia. Major Knight and his regiment served the Patriot cause throughout the Rhode Island campaign of 1778. Knight received a further promotion to the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1778 and remained in the militia until his retirement in 1800, by which time he had served 34 years in the service of Rhode Island. During his tenure, Rhode Island had progressed from colony to independent state to member state of the federal union.