1st Rhode Island Regiment

1st Rhode Island Regiment ("Black Regiment") January 1777 to January 1781

Many of the officers and men for the 1st Rhode Island came from the disbanded 9th Continentals. Through the 9th the battalion was a direct descendant of Varnum's 12th Continentals of 1775. Authorized strength of 712 was reduced to 539 in March of 1779, which made no difference as the battalion never had more than 350 actual strength. Men enlisted for three years or the duration. From beginning to end the battalion commander was Christopher Greene. On parole until July 1777 he was not able to exercise command until that date. Lieutenant Colonel Archibald Crary acted as commanding officer. from January 1777 to April, Lieutenant Colonel Adam Comstock from April to July. During the battle of Rhode Island, 29 August 1778, Greene took over command of a brigade. The 1st Rhode Island was led by Major Samuel Ward, Jr. Comstock had been detached.

From April 1777 trough February 1778 the battalion served as part of Varnum's brigade, which included also the 2nd Rhode Island and the 4th and 8th Connecticut. In February 1778 the 1st Rhode Island was merged into the 2nd Rhode Island. Colonel Greene and some of his officers returned to Rhode Island to try to raise a battalion of freed slaves. This 'black' unit was given the name of the 1st Rhode Island. In August 1778 the battalion joined Varnum's brigade, which also included the 2nd Rhode Island and the battalions of Sherburne, Webb, and Livingston. After the battle of Rhode Island Jackson's battalion was added. The brigade remained in the state until October 1779, when the British withdrew. The brigade then marched south, but the 1st Rhode Island remained in place until consolidation in January 1781.

Red Bank (Fort Mercer), New Jersey, 22 October 1777
Rhode Island, 29 August 1778


Walker, Anthony. So Few The Brave (Rhode Island Continentals 1775-1783). Newport, Rhode Island: Seafield Press, 1981.

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