2nd Rhode Island Reg't

Back in Rhode Island the officers of the old 11th Continental Reg't recruited a new regiment that would be enlisted for 3 years or the war. This new establishment was named the 2nd Rhode Island Regiment and was commanded by Israel Angell. The recruits were quartered at Brown University where they received an issue brown Regimental coats faced in red and brown breeches.

In early April, after being inoculated against small pox, the men marched westward to join up with Washington's Army at Morristown, N.J.. While at Morristown the Regiment had their arms stamped "US" and were issued tenting. (1 tent for 6 men).

In June the 2nd R.I. marched north to the New York Highlands where they remained for the summer. By August the men's uniform had been worn into rags, prompting Col. Angell to write home, "In fine ye Regiment is scandallous in its appearance in ye view of every one---and has because of this incurred from surrounding regiments, from ye inhabitants of Towns thro which they have lately passed, ye disagreeable and provoking Epithets of the Ragged Lousey Naked Regiment."

On October 7th Gen. Varnum's Brigade of Greene's 1st RI and Angell's 2nd RI was ordered to the village of Red Bank, N.J. on the Delaware River. The Brigade of 500 men took position inside Fort Mercer and detachments were sent across the Delaware to repair Fort Mifflin.

At 1PM on October 22nd, Hessian Count Von Donop with 1200 men surrounded Fort Mercer. Donop sent a flag to the fort at 4:30 PM which was met on the field by Lt. Col. Jeremiah Olney of the 2nd R.I. Reg't. The British messenger asked to see the commander with the intent of asking for surrender to which Olney replied that the commander, Christopher Greene, would defend the fort to the end. The messenger insisted on seeing the commander and urged that if the fort was not surrendered that no mercy would be shown. Olney replied that the commander neither asked nor expected quarter. With this the flag returned to the Hessian lines and Olney returned to the fort.

Immediately 7 field pieces and 2 howitzers opened fire upon the fort. Within minutes two columns of Hessians advanced toward the fort from the south and north. Fort Mercer was designed to be defended by 1500 men and Col. Greene had but 500 men so he ordered the fort reduced in size by two-thirds so it could be defended by his force. The reduction was done by abandoning the outerworks and blocking it with breastworks. The Hessians broke thru the abattis that protected the outerworks and scaled up to the parapet. Finding no soldiers defending this outerwork the Hessians cried "Huzzah" and thought victory was theirs. Flushed with premature success, the men climbed down into the ditch and advanced toward the innerwork which was ringed by a breastwork with palisades and abattis. A tall salient which held a handful of men, stood between the inner and outerwork. Till this time no shots were fired.

When the Hessians were within 30 yards of the innerwork the Rhode Islanders stood up from behind their breastworks. The R.I. line erupted into a blaze of grape shot from cannon and musketry. Frightened soldiers in the salient whom were caught in a crossfire, stood and took aim at the Hessians. The Hessians continued to advance under a withering fire. A few made it to the palisades but the defense was too strong to overcome and within 45 minutes the Hessians retreated.

Left behind were over 150 Hessian dead and 200 wounded. The Rhode Island Regiment's suffered about 6 dead and 20 wounded.

That night Capt. Stephen Olney placed the sentries around the fort which "was cover'd with dead, Dying and wounded Hessians, the groans and cries of the two latter were quite solitary musick...several of the wounded and about dying appeared to suffer with the cold."

On the morning of the 23rd the Hessian dead were buried in mass graves in the ditches of the fort's outerworks. During the battle several Hessian officers were killed or wounded. The Col. Von Donop, who was struck by grapeshot, said shortly before his death, "I fall a Victim to my own ambition & to the avarice of my prince; but, full of thankfulness for my generous Enemy." Donop was buried with the Honors of War by the Rhode Island Regiment's.

With the successful defense of Fort Mercer attention turned to Fort Mifflin. Fort Mifflin was on the opposite side of the Delaware River and upstream about a mile. Located on a small island known as Mud Island, Fort Mifflin had the same task as Fort Mercer: protect Philadelphia from attack by warships.

Major Thayer of the 2nd R.I. volunteered to join the garrison of 300 men on Fort Mifflin and aid in its defense. If Thayer was successful, British warships would be threatened as they tried to sail up to Philadelphia.

On the 14th of November a British barge armed with cannon was floated down to the fort. It took two hours for the garrison to silence the battery on the barge. The next morning the British opened a new battery on an island near the fort and seven ships sailed up the Delaware River to join the barrage. The British warships sailed up so close to Fort Mifflin that grenades were thrown from the tops of the masts directly into the fort. By evening the walls of the fort were leveled to the mud, the cannons dismounted, the barracks and blockhouses were destroyed and the palisades were beat down. The garrison inside was completely exposed and were unable to return the enemy fire.

At midnight the cannons were spiked, barracks burnt and the fort evacuated. Major Thayer safely passed over to Fort Mercer with all the supplies and men.

The tattered Rhode Islander's, some wearing captured Hessian clothing, reassembled. The Brigade marched out of Fort Mercer, heading northward to avoid Sir William Howe's army and to rejoin Washington. Once rejoined with Washington, the 2nd Rhode Island marched for Valley Forge where they arrived on December 19th and 'drawed axes to build huts for ye winter.'

To return to the Chronology of 2nd RIR.
last modified 1/20/03