Revolutionary War Units
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While Most of the engagements were generally small in scale, number of participants and duration. Perhaps most are now forgotten. There were however contests that involved numbers over two hundred as on Prudence Island and at Setauket. Submitted by & Written by Jerome J. Levans [ JerryL17@Hotmail.com]
Rhode Island State Troops
In Continental Service
|Officers of Richmond's Regiment at its inception were as follows||Officers of Richmond's Regiment in Aug 1776|
Submitted by & Written by Jerome J. Levans [ JerryL17@Hotmail.com]
On October 31st, 1775, just before the official ouster of Governor Joseph Wanton, the Rhode Island General Assembly authorized a regiment of eight companies totaling 500 men to be raised to protect Rhode Island. There were already well lead and organized bands of militia in Rhode Island. However, unlike other New England colonies that relied upon such forces to protect themselves, Rhode Island chose to raise a regiment that would be employed full time for its defense.
During late 1775 and into the spring of 1776 the Royal Navy conducted raids up and down the Narragansett Bay. They bombarded Bristol on Oct 7, 1775 and landed foraging raids on Prudence Island and Conanicut Island. They burned buildings, carried away live stock, slaves, impressed sailors, took supplies, anything they fancied. They threatened to bomb Newport on at least one occasion holding the town under threat until supplies and provisions were provided the fleet. The leader of the British fleet in Rhode Island waters was the notorious Capt. James Wallace. A name every Rhode Islander knew since his arrival aboard the H.M.S. Rose in 1774.
Most of Rhode Island's soldiers were with Washington outside of Boston and unable to help defend their homes. The militia system was not very effective against these raids because the British did not venture to far inland and away from the support of their ships. Although some of the militia units in Rhode Island were very probably the best trained, well led and equipped units of their kind in all the union, they were often too few and too late to confront their tormentors. When they did get the chance they certainly gave a very good account of themselves to the great displeasure of their British and Hessian adversaries.
The eyes on shore were always watching the Royal Navy ships and word spread quickly but it did take time to assemble a response to an incursion. This is precisely why William Richmond’s and Henry Babcock’s (later k/a Christopher Lippitt’s) Regiments were formed. They were full time soldiers organized to meet a full time threat. The two regiments fortified many positions around Newport harbor and engaged the Royal Navy when any opportunity arose. Their very effective efforts coupled with the Continental Navy, scheduled refitting in Halifax and the assembling of the British Army for the invasion of New York, saw the Royal Navy leave the bay. It was not until later in the year, December 7th, when the British would return but in doing so, they occupied the Island of Newport in 1776.
William Richmond Esq. was the commanding officer. Like many others of his age in the community he possessed prior military experience. Almost all had an assignment with some militia duty. During the French and Indian War in North America, Richmond served initially as a Lieutenant under his brother, Col. Barzillai Richmond. He was to see action as part of the British expedition commanded by William Johnson, ordered to capture Fort St. Frederic during 1755. Richmond was later promoted in 1756 to the rank of Captain serving under Colonel Joseph Champlin who then commanded the Kings County Regiment. After his French and Indian War service he became one of ten Assistants to Gov. Stephen Hopkins at the convention of the Governor’s Council as the supreme ordinary of the English colony of Rhode Island held in Newport, in May of 1760. By 1770 he was serving as a Rhode Island Colony Assistant, representing the town of Little Compton.
As Colonial tensions intensified with Great Britain, he was not only vocal but active in his support of the rights of Rhode Islanders. He is somewhat suspected to be among those with his brother Barzillai Richmond who boarded and set fire to His Majesty's armed schooner H.M.S. Gaspee on June 9, 1772. In 1775, he became a member of the Committee of Safety and was as ardent a patriot, in the cause of Liberty, as one could be. He was chosen by the General Assembly to serve as a field officer in October 1775. The regiment would become known as Richmond's Regiment, named after its commander, as was then the custom. The agreed upon term of enlistment for this regiment was one year from November 1775, through November 1776. They would be under the overall command of the States Governor, Nicholas Cooke. The State of Rhode Island provided money for its raising, training, equipment and payroll.
The Lieutenant Colonel assigned to the Regiment was Gideon Hoxie. The Major, Benjamin Tallman. Caleb Gardner the 1st company commander, also served as Major after Tallman left the regiment to supervise the building of the Continental Navy ship Warren. Tallman returned to the regiment in August of 1776, at which time Gardner had become Lieutenant Colonel, as Gideon Hoxie resigned. The Regimental Staff included: William Barton and later Benjamin Steele as Adjutants and Nathan Miller served as the Commissary. John Handy served as Quartermaster and later as an Adjutant. The Paymaster's name appears to be lost to the passage of time. The Surgeons mates in the Regiment were Isaac Ross Bliven, Joseph Rhodes, Ebenezer Richmond, the Colonel's nephew and John Chace. Joseph Pratt is indicated as being the Drummer and Drum-Major for the Regiment. He was a veteran of the Army of Observation at Boston having served in Thomas Church's Regiment, as a private.
An Artillery company was attached to Richmond's Regiment and it was commanded by Captain Edward Spaulding and later by Captain Robert Elliot who replaced him after Spaulding's resignation in March of 1776. The enlistments for the Artillery Company ran from December 1, 1775 through December 1, 1776.
It is likely that the dress of the unit was what was worn by the individual at the time of entering service. Some members would have had the means to purchase one or perhaps they got into old French and Indian War uniforms. Perhaps because of its dress they are often referred to as, or stated to be Militia, by witnesses and some historians. It is in all likelihood probably what they looked like.
Richmond's Regiment began active duty December 22nd, 1775, and began building and manning fortifications primarily in Newport but also elsewhere. They also assisted in erecting firing platforms at various locations such as Quidnessett Neck that suited engagement with Captain Wallace's squadron of approximately 13 to 16 vessels.
The British raids caused extreme concern for the population of Rhode Island. Many atrocities were committed against the various communities' inhabitants. The coastal communities were especially susceptible to such occurrences but by no means were British actions restricted to land. The British also interrupted the States shipping, firing upon ships that failed to heave too, boarded ships confiscating needed supplies declaring it contraband, used impressment to fill out their crews and blockading others in harbors effectively interrupting Rhode Island's maritime commerce.
In accordance with the restructuring of the Continental Army in the field for 1776, Richmond's Regiment was expanded during January of 1776 by the addition of four new companies. It now fielded a total of 12 companies with the number of effectives being approximately 763 men. The four additional company’s enlistments would also be a year running from January 1776 through January of 1777. The Regiment was part of the Eastern District Command structure for the Continental Army and designated as being "State Troops" meaning they were primarily to be used in the role of State defense.
A second Regiment of State Troops was raised in January of 1776 and was commanded by Col. Henry Babcock who was appointed its commander in February. The enlistees in
this regiment would receive “two month’s pay in advance, and we were to find our own clothes. Pay for a private was 40 shillings per month.” It is likely that at least the additional four companies of Richmond's Regiment signed under the same or similar terms.
Prudence Island, located in the center of the Narragansett Bay, became the first punitive target of Captain Wallace for the New Year. The H.M.S. Glasgow and H.M. Sloop Swan landed a raiding force of approximately 200 Soldiers and Royal Marines on January 12, 1776. The British drove off a company of militia and began confiscating supplies, carrying away live stock, and burning numerous homes and barns. They continued their plunder and burning into the following day of the 13th until they were challenged by Captain William Barton leading a contingent of Richmond's Regiment of State Troops and others near the Farnham’s Farm. The contest raged for three hours near the farm until the British were compelled to retire. Being driven back to their ships they left behind 14 dead and suffered many wounded. Four of Richmond’s Regiment were wounded and one was taken prisoner. Private Job Greenman, of the 2nd Company led by Captain Billings, was wounded in the battle suffering the loss of the use of his left knee and leg. He continued in active service and appears on one of the few remaining muster rolls dated October 10, 1776. His Captain, Billings Throope was not so fortunate. He was mortally wounded and passed away from his wounds on January 24, 1776. After this attack, there were almost no structures left on the island. Soon thereafter, the remaining residents and livestock not previously evacuated were relocated to the mainland. The Island never fully recovered from the effects of the raid which destroyed its economy and saw most of its population, unfortunately, never return.
Since the beginning of the year of 1776 and for some months previous, Captain James Wallace commanding the H.M.S. Rose had his way throughout the Narragansett Bay. This changed during the month of April. On April 6th, 1776, “American troops, with two row-galleys, bearing two eighteen pounders each, arrived from Providence. (The British fleet was then anchored about a mile above New Port.) Two eighteen pounders, brought by the provincial troops, were planted on shore in view of the enemy, and without any works to protect them. These, commanded by Captain Elliot, with the row-galleys under Captain Grimes, promised Wallace such great and immediate danger, that he weighed anchor and left the harbor with his whole squadron without firing a shot. " Soon afterward, the H.M.S. Glasgow, of twenty-nine guns, came into the harbor and anchored near Fort Island, having been severely handled in an engagement with Admiral Hopkins off Block Island. ” The engagement off Block Island occurred on the same day that Captain Wallace was challenged by Richmond's Regiment and left Newport. “Hopkins, with his little fleet, was on a cruise eastward, having left the Capes of the Delaware in February, visiting the Bermudas, and was now making his way toward Massachusetts Bay. On the 4th of April (1776), he fell in with a British schooner on the east end of Long Island, and took her. About one in the morning of the 6th he fell in with the Glasgow, of twenty-nine guns and one hundred and fifty men. The American brigantine Cabot, Captain Hopkins, and the Columbus, Captain Whipple, raked her as she passed. The American brig Annadona and sloop Providence were also in the engagement, yet the Glasgow escaped and fled into Newport Harbor, whither Hopkins thought it not prudent to follow. ”
The Glasgow’s troubles were not yet over. She entered the Narragansett Bay and anchored near Fort Island and within the range of the cannon placed on Brenton's Point at the entrance to Newport Harbor, “On Sunday morning April 7th the battery opened fire at about 5 o'clock AM when the fort fired on the frigate H.M.S. Glasgow and a hospital ship which were anchored near Goat Island. Colonel Richmond of the Rhode Island militia fired 35 cannon shots at the ships in the space of half an hour. The ships cut their anchor cables and went across the passage to relative safety near Jamestown. ”
On April 10th, 1776, the Battery at Brenton's Point, was called again to action as two of his Majesties ships were entering the Bay during darkness. “11PM , Wednesday, fired on the H.M.S. Scarborough and H.M.S. Cimetar. This action forced the ships to seek refuge beyond Rose Island towards Jamestown.” On the14th of April the two ships returned and a brief exchange of gunfire ensued as the two ships forced their way past and out to the sea. After this engagement the Narragansett Bay was temporarily free from British warships.
On May 4, 1776, Rhode Island declared her independence from Great Britain, two months prior to the other colonies. Soon after the Continental Congress retroactively accepted the two Rhode Island State Regiments into the Continental Army for 1776. As a result, the Regiments now fell under the direct command of General Washington and the Continental Congress. In four months time, this would present a real problem for the defense of Rhode Island.
Many still held mixed emotions about the cause for Liberty and breaking from the Mother Country. Such vacillation would continue for the rest of the year until it was realized that Britain meant to subdue them without compromise. They were now on their way. In a portent of what was to arrive …Writing from New Port Rhode Island on August 10th, Colonel William Richmond advised General Washington by letter, of the following:
New Port Island Aug. 10th day 1776
This morning arrived Captain Harris who brings us the following intelligence. That Thursday last he fell in with a fleet and distinctly counted 153 sail, 17 of which he took to be ships of war. The rest transports about 15 leagues S. W. S. from Nantucket Shoals their course W. N. W. close to the wind about the latitude of Sandy Hook. The said morning 10 O’clock saw 9 sails supposed to be part of the same fleet. I thought it my indispensable duty to give your Excellency the earliest intelligence by express, of so important a piece of news as without doubt they are destined for New York.
I am with respect your
Excellency said obedient humble Servant Col. William Richmond
In August the Regiment's officers received commissions in the Continental Army as ordered by the Continental Congress. By this time there had been numerous changes in those holding officer positions since the Regiment was originally raised in November of 1775. Many officers had declined further service in the Regiment knowing they would have to leave Rhode Island. The disaster suffered by the Continental Army at the Battle of Long Island on August 27th, proved their point.
Following the evacuation to Manhattan Island General Washington ordered the two Regiments of State Troops in Rhode Island to join the main Army in New York. Governor Cooke was less than enthusiastic over the loss of these two regiments from the States defense. Should there be an invasion or another raid there would be no troops left, except Militia to defend a penniless Rhode Island, who could not afford to pay even them.
The Regiments were made ready and Lippitt's marched to New York on September 13th and arrived in camp at Harlem Heights on Oct 2, 1776. Richmond’s Regiment would be initially held back by Governor Cooke because 8 of the 12 Companies enlistments would expire in November of 1776. It seemed nonsensical to send them there for only two months. In response to Governor Cooke’s concerns regarding the defense of Rhode Island, Congress ordered a neighboring Massachusetts Regiment to Rhode Island to replace Lippitt's Regiment. But this was all the assistance available to be spared Rhode Island. Upon the Massachusetts Regiments arrival in Rhode Island, Richmond’s Regiment immediately began its march to New York following that of Lippitt's.
Richmond's Regiment was again delayed, in Connecticut while en route to New York. Governor Cooke offered the Regimen an early exit out of their service commitments if they agreed to join the Continental Navy or signed on as a Privateer. General Washington agreed to allow the men to leave for those purposes as service in same was desperately needed. After those who left for said services, subtracting desertions and those with sickness the Regiment was reduced to a little less than 50% of its' of its original compliment. Many of the Regiment had been sailors before their enlistment and some of the officers owned ships already in such service. Privateering was by far, a much more profitable venture than service in the Continental Navy or Army. It should not be surprising that many left the Regiment to serve their country in this capacity.
The Regiment remained in Connecticut eventually joining with two other regiments of New York Continentals led by Col. Henry B. Livingston. The Regiments engaged in evacuation efforts of persons and equipment from Long Island and participated in an amphibious landing and attack upon the North Shore of Long Island.
The crossing to the North Shore of Long Island was made in whale boats during a foul, cold and stormy condition. Their arrival on November 2, 1776, was soon detected but they continued to approach the shore and were fired upon. Despite loosing surprise they landed and aggressively moved inland seeking the opposition and a hot battle soon commenced. In the short engagement, they were matched against a force from Oliver DeLancy's Loyalist Brigade led by Captain Jacob Smith (of Smithtown, L.I.). Captain’s Smith's force was overwhelmed at or near the Mill Pond at Setauket. The Rhode Islanders captured Captain Smith and twenty three others. The Loyalists lost six killed and an unknown number of wounded. Richmond's Regiment lost one killed and had five wounded. There were no other losses. Seventy-five muskets were also captured by the Regiment and these along with the prisoners were taken back to Connecticut. The American regiments continued with their mission and retired before British reinforcements could arrive.
The men of the first eight Companies were discharged at New London, Connecticut upon their return from Long Island. The Artillery Company was discharged on December 1. The remaining four companies now numbered only about "100 souls" and were sent to bolster Col. John Cooke's forces then assembled at New Port. Here they remained until the British landings forced them to evacuate New Port. Unfortunately, the Americans had not fortified and manned the West Passage into the Narragansett Bay as they did so well the Eastern. On December 7, 1776, Commodore Sir Peter Parker in command of a British fleet including seven ships of the line, four frigates, and seventy transports, sailed unopposed up the West Passage and around the northern end of Conanicut Island. The following day he landed six thousand troops unopposed near Coddington Cove on Rhode Island. These troops under the command of Major General Henry Clinton marched into the town of New Port beginning a three year long occupation of the city of New Port and Rhode Island.
The remaining men of Richmond's Regiment were discharged a short time later and those who would rejoin the Army for 1777 had their names given to the General Assembly. Among the recommendations for officers for the following year appears Captain Josiah Gibbs, commander of the 9th Company. Private Francis Bates jr., of Captain Gibbs Company, "together with others like minded" traveled North to Fort Ticonderoga joining the forces there under the command of General Arthur St. Clair. With that, the Regiment melted away into history. A small part played in a large and eight year long, American Revolution.