Unit History – 1st Rhode Island Infantry

23 06 2022

Col., Ambrose E. Burnside; Lieut.-Col., Joseph S. Pitman; Majs., John S. Slocum, Joseph P. Balch, William Goddard. This regiment was organized at Providence early in April, 1861, from the state militia, whose services were accepted by Gen. Scott in Jan., 1861, having been previously rejected by Pres. Buchanan. In April Gov. Sprague was authorized to send to the front one regiment of infantry and a battery of light artillery. From the large number of volunteers 1,200 men were chosen, and the organization was completed as follows: Co. A, Providence National Cadets; B, Providence “Artillery“; C and D, Providence 1st Light Infantry; E, Pawtucket Light Guard; F, Newport Artillery; G and H, Providence Mechanics Rifles; I, Westerly Rifles and K, Woonsocket Guards. With Col. Burnside, already a man of broad military knowledge and experience, in command, the regiment left Providence in two detachments, embarking on transports for New York, amid scenes of the wildest enthusiasm. From New York it was ordered to Annapolis, Md., where it was quartered at the Naval academy for a few days and then marched to Washington , arriving there during the last week of April. It was quartered at the Patent Office until May 2, when it was mustered into the U. S. service for three months and ordered into camp near the Bladensburg road. The sanitary condition of the camp was excellent and the men were little affected by sickness. After a month of drill the 1st was assigned to the forces gathering under Gen. Patterson to attack Harper’s Ferry and joined his command at Chambersburg, leaving camp Sprague on June 8. Camp Duncan at Greencastle was occupied on the 12th, and here it was learned that the enemy had withdrawn from Harper’s Ferry. At Falling Waters orders were received for the return of the regiment to Washington and Camp Sprague was re occupied on June 19. On July 8, the regiment was brigaded with the 2nd R. I., Reynolds’ Battery, 2nd N. H. and 71st N. Y., under command of Col. Burnside and became a part of Hunter’s division. The Bull Run movement commenced on July 16 and on the 21st the regiment was closely engaged. The 2nd R. I. was first thrown into action and other regiments of the brigade soon hurried to its support. The approach of a Confederate force under the Union flag gave the enemy opportunity to fire at close range with resulting heavy loss of life, when the brigade was relieved by Sherman’s division. When the retreat was ordered, the 1st returned to Washington and a few days later to Providence, where it was mustered out on Aug. 2, 1861. During the three months that the command was at the front, 12 members were killed, 33 wounded, 22 captured, of whom 12 were wounded and 1 man was reported missing.

From The Union Army, Vol. 1, p. 244


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