As part of Rhode Island Brigadier General James Varnum's Brigade, the 2nd R.I. joined the 1st R.I., 4th Conn. and 8th Conn. in winter camp at Valley Forge, PA. Since both Rhode Island battalions were understrenghted the men of the 1st R.I. were transferred into the 2nd R.I. to form one regiment of nearly full strength. The officers of the 1st R.I. were sent home to raise a new regiment; one that would enlist slaves and Indians. This regiment, in time, would be known as the "Black Regiment." The staff officers of the 2nd R.I. also returned home to recruit.
At Valley Forge the 2nd R.I. was drilled in the new manual exercise by Baron Von Steuben. In spring the recruits from R.I. along with wagons of clothing arrived in camp. Lt. Greenman writes, "all ye Rijtm draw'd froks hats & overhalls." Within a few days the Army broke winter camp and marched eastward into New Jersey. Washington planned to attack the British forces under Sir Henry Clinton and in preparation of this the Regiment "draw'd 40 rounds of Cartireges."
The 2nd R.I. under Lt. Col. Jeremiah Olney was part of General Charles Lee's division that would lead the attack. (Angell was on command in R.I.) Lee's division struck at the British column at about noon near the village of Monmouth, New Jersey on June 28th. Lee's division was hit on the front and both flanks by superior British infantry and dragoons. Lee retreated back along the dusty main road towards the main army and redeployed the battalions. Under a scorching sun the 2nd Rhode Island was placed in a ravine with a swamp at their back. Under cover of American artillery, the 2nd R.I. retreated thru the swamp and rejoined the main army. It was at this moment that Washington repremanded Lee for retreating. Washington rallied the troops and ordered the counterattack. By five o'clock the attacks ended and both sides withdrew. The American and British army both lost about 350 men, many from heat exhaustion.
Monmouth was of particular significance because it was the first engagement of the newly trained American army. The British were surprised at the steadfastness of the Americans and realized that much of the British advantage had disappeared over the winter. Secondly, Monmouth was the only occasion during the entire war in which both commanders-in-chief, Washington and Clinton, would face each other in battle.
On July 6th Glover's and Varnum's brigades began the march to Rhode Island to assist in the Allied effort to remove the British from Newport. The 2nd R.I. landed in Portsmouth on the 9th of August and began preparing for the siege of Newport. A fierce storm struck four days later and nearly destroyed the French fleet that had come to help the Americans. The French fleet left Rhode Island Sound and sailed up to Boston to put in for repairs. At Middletown the 2nd R.I. continued to work on the batteries that would hold American artillery.
On the 21st, American and British artillery began the bombardment. The British were at Green End Fort and the Americans lines on a nearby hill in Middletown. The bombardment was constant for three days. Word was spread that British reinforcements were on their way from New York. With the French in Boston the Americans would be outmanned and outgunned. Plans were quickly made to end the siege and withdraw all forces from Aquidneck Island. By the 26th the baggage and heavy artillery was quietly removed from the front lines and drawn north to Portsmouth. The 2nd R.I. remained on the lines to keep the British from attacking the retreating American army. Fearing such an attack, nervous sentries on the line took to firing upon each other.
On the evening of August 28th the 2nd R.I. quietly struck their tents and marched north to Butts Hill where they stayed till morning. The British and Hessians quickly followed the Americans north. At sunrise the British advance force met the 2nd R.I. pickets at Union Street in Middletown. The pickets held off the British for a short while. Upon the arrival of enemy field pieces the pickets gave up their ground and retreated to Butt's Hill. The Hessians marched up West Main Road and took Turkey Hill as the British went up East Main Road and took Quaker Hill.
All the Americans were now on Butt's Hill, which had to be held if a withdrawal from the Island was to succeed. The British moved down into the valley that separated Quaker Hill from Butt's Hill hoping to trap the Americans. As the British entered the valley Glover's Brigade on the slopes of Butt's Hill opened fire and turned back the British.
On Turkey Hill the Hessians made a move for a small artillery redoubt that was just west of Butt's Hill. Seeing this General Sullivan ordered the 2nd R.I. to reinforce the position. The Regiment literally ran to the redoubt and entered it just before the Hessians. Here the 2nd R.I. aided the Black Regiment in turning back the enemy attack. The Hessians retreated across the valley to Turkey Hill where they regrouped. Under covering fire from British ships in the East Passage of Narragansett Bay, the reinforced Hessians made another try for the redoubt. Cornell's and Lovell's brigades were quickly called up to aid Varnum's brigade of the 1st and 2nd R.I. at the redoubt. For an hour the Hessians tried to take the redoubt but failed By four in the afternoon the firing had ceased and the soldiers slept in their arms.
The following day neither side made a move from the hills. Except for the occasional cannon fire there was no military action. During the night the American army retreated from Butt's Hill to Howland Ferry where they crossed over to Tiverton.
Since most of the firing was at long range there were few casualties during the Battle of Rhode Island. Col. Angell of the 2nd R.I. estimated his losses at only three or four men.
Following the retreat the 2nd R.I. camped in Bristol. Here the Regiment turned in their old arms and received new ones which left them fully equipped. In October the Regiment moved to Warren where they camped and built barracks along the Kickamuit River. Some soldiers were also housed in old shops and barns in the village.
On December 25th the worst blizzard of the 18th Century struck Rhode Island. Since that time it has been known as the "Hessian snowstorm" due to the great number of Hessians and British that died in Newport due to its severity. Lt. Greenman of the 2nd R.I. wrote, "laying in our barracks wich is very bad indeed, & cold snowy wether...two or three men fros'd to death." Angell wrote that "the Soldiers barracks many of them were almost blown full of snow." One such victim of the storm was Abial Weaver, ancestor of Phil Weaver of the recreated 2nd N.Y. Abial was so badly frozen while on sentry duty that he was an invalid there after.