An area on Portsmouth’s west side (known as Portsmouth Grove, Bradford or Melville) was an important tourist destination “On the Water.” Edmund Cole operated the “Portsmouth Grove House” before the Civil War. During the Civil War Portsmouth served as the location for Lowell General Hospital near the Melville area of Portsmouth (known as Portsmouth Grove).
The Portsmouth Historical Society has the diaries of David Durfee Sherman in our collection, and he writes about the amusements there. Portsmouth Grove welcomed hundred of guests who arrived on steamships. For their recreation pleasure, Portsmouth Grove offered visitors picnics, swimming, shore dining, a “fandango” and flying horses. Groups like the Sons of Temperance came a thousand strong for clambakes and chowder. There were even moonlight and torchlight excursions to Portsmouth Grove.
All that ended as the Civil War wore on. The Portsmouth Grove House became the administration building for the Lovell Hospital. The hospital, built in 1862, cared for wounded Union and Confederate troops. Again, these soldiers arrived at Portsmouth Grove by steamships. The Rhode Island Hospital Guard which was made up of soldiers too disabled for battle, kept the peace and watched over prisoners. After the war the hospital was dismantled and there are no signs of it left. Frank L.Grzyb has written a book, Rhode Island’s Civil War Hospital: Life and Death at Portsmouth Grove and he will be speaking at the Annual Meeting of the Portsmouth Historical Society on June 18th.