Image: Pvt. James Tefft Oately, Jr., Co. E, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry

7 10 2022
James Tefft Oately, Jr., Co. E, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry (Courtesy of David Matthew Procaccini)

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Image: Co. G, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry

6 10 2022
Co. G, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry (Courtesy of Patrick Donovan)

Image: Pvt. Samuel Wight, Co. I, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry

20 09 2022
Samuel Wight, Co. I, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry. (Courtesy of Rob Grandchamp)

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Image: Capt. Isaac Peace Rodman, Co. E, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry

18 09 2022
Capt. Isaac Peace Rodman, Co. E, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry (Courtesy Paul Loane)

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Unit History – 2nd Rhode Island Infantry

23 06 2022

Cols., John S. Slocum, Frank Wheaton, Nelson Viall, Horatio Rogers, Jr., Samuel B. M. Read, Elisha H. Rhodes; Lieut. Cols., Frank Wheaton, William H. P. Steere, Nelson Viall, Nathan Goff, Jr., Samuel B. M. Read, Henry C. Jenckes, Elisha H. Rhodes; Majs., Sullivan Ballou, Nelson Viall, Nathan Goff, Jr. Thorndike C. Jameson, Henry C. Jenckes, Stephen H. Brown, Henry H. Young. The 2nd infantry was organized at Providence and was composed of one company from Bristol, one from East Greenwich, one from South Kingston, three from Providence and a battery of light artillery from Providence. It was mustered into the U. S. service at Providence June 5 and 6, 1861, for three years. The command, over 800 strong, went into camp at the Dexter training grounds until June 19, when it embarked for the front. Landing at Elizabeth, N. J., the troops proceeded by rail to Baltimore and on the 22nd arrived at Camp Sprague, Washington, where they were warmly greeted by their comrades of the 1st. The 2nd was assigned to the 2nd brigade (Col. Burnside), 2nd division (Col. Hunter), and moved toward Manassas on July 16. In the battle which followed on the 21st the 2nd fired the opening volley and early showed its fighting qualities. Its loss in this engagement was 98 killed, wounded and missing, among the mortally wounded being Col. Slocum and Maj. Ballou. On the return to Washington Camp Sprague was occupied until Aug. 6, when the regiment moved to Brightwood and in the general reorganization of the army was brigaded with the 7th and 10th Mass. and 36th N. Y., under Gen. Couch in Buell’s division, whose command was later taken by Gen. Keyes. Camp Brightwood was left on March 26, 1862, at which time the brigade, commanded by Col. Charles Devens, Jr., moved into Virginia for the Peninsular campaign. The regiment shared in the wearisome marches on the Peninsula, a number of sharp skirmishes, and was closely engaged at Malvern hill, after which it encamped at Harrison’s Landing until the middle of August, when it moved to Yorktown. The troops suffered much from sickness during this campaign. On Aug. 31 the 2nd moved to Alexandria and the next day to Chantilly, where it was assigned to Robinson’s brigade, Birney’s division, 3d corps. During the Maryland campaign it was ordered from place to place in support of the army and finally was attached to the 6th corps, which became its permanent assignment. At Fredericksburg the regiment was in action and occupied winter quarters at Falmouth until late in April, 1863, when it participated in the Chancellorsville campaign. At Marye’s heights, in the victorious dash of May 3, the regiment distinguished itself under Col. Rogers and lost 7 killed, 68 wounded and 5 missing, receiving complimentary notice for gallantry in action. On June 6, it left camp at Falmouth and was present at Gettysburg, but was held in reserve. In the pursuit which followed and the movements of the Army of the Potomac during the autumn, the regiment participated and went into winter quarters at Brandy Station, Dec. 3, 1863, where it remained until May 4, 1864, when it broke camp for the Wilderness campaign, in which the entire regiment was active until June 11, when the original members not reënlisted were mustered out, the recruits and veterans making up the reorganized regiment, which, under command of Col. Rhodes, remained with the 6th corps. In the fall and winter five new companies were added to the regiment, which shared in the operations before Petersburg; was active at Winchester, Sept. 19, remaining there until Dec. 1; was engaged at Hatcher’s run, in Dec., 1864, and Feb., 1865; was in action at Forts Fisher and Stedman, and in the final assault on April 2. The regiment joined in the pursuit of Lee’s army and was engaged at Sailor’s creek, where it lost 49 men in killed and wounded. Guard duty followed at Burkesville, Danville and Wells’ station until May 16, when faces were turned homeward. After participation in the grand review at Washington, the 2nd was stationed at Hall’s hill, Va., and there mustered out on July 13, 1865, having earned by long and effective service the warm welcome awaiting it at Providence. The total loss of the regiment was 9 officers and 111 men killed or died of wounds, and 76 deaths from accident or disease, in all 196. The regiment is mentioned by Col. Fox as one of the “three hundred fighting regiments.”

From The Union Army, Vol. 1, pp. 244-246

Image: Sgt. Nicholas Taylor Dixon, Co. E, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry

8 06 2022
Nicholas Tayor Dixon from Spared & Shared

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Sgt. Nicholas Taylor Dixon, Co. E, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry, On the Battle

7 06 2022

Headquarters 2nd Regt. R. I. V., Co. E
Camp Clark
Thursday, July 25, 1861

Dear Father,

Your letter of the 23rd I received last evening. I am glad to answer yours that I am alive and well. Uncle Sam Rodman arrived here last night and told us the news. I am sorry to hear the neighborhood is so filled with anguish on first hearing of the battle. But never mind. Cheer up all of you. We are not at all scared to death yet. We expect to sacrifice our lives—some of us—if we expect to conquer the enemy.

The South is pretty sharp in playing her games on us while with us we have secession generals & guides to lead us into the rebels snare. But I think if our own officers was more careful and go by orders more than by their own forwardness in rushing on two or three days before the appointed time, we would not have to lose our lives so foolish. I would that all of the regiments was like ours & stand up in front of the whole secession army showering shot & shell upon us like hailstones. Capt. [Isaac Peace] Rodman is one of the bravest men that New England can boast of—and Gov. Sprague [too].

Col. [John S.] Slocum was the first man I saw fall. He was off his horse in front of the battle, gave it [the reins] to one of our company to hold—Tom Flaherty. He was getting over a fence within three feet of me & Capt. Rodman and several more of Co. E when a shot struck him in the head from the rebels. [With] my own handkerchief I tried to stop [the bleeding from] his wound for a minute or two but [could] see it was no use. It was fatal & I went to firing again. I never got hit nowhere on the flesh. Got two holes through my tunic and a ball hit the heel of my shoe when I though my heel was knocked off but on looking, it did me no damage.

But I tell you, we fought like tigers until the rebels retreated and we were ordered to go and lie down when they were reinforced & attacked us again. But the Rhode Island regiments & several others which were in the first engagement was not ordered out. We—the 2nd Rhode Island Regt.—was formed in a line of battle when we was the last that retreated.

We are getting along comfortable at Camp Clark at present. The 1st [R. I.] Regt. leaves today or tomorrow for home, their time being out. I suppose we will take their quarters.

I guess I must close. You can see more news in the papers than I can tell you. All of Company E is present but those you have heard was missing & dead. [Corp.] Steph[en] Holland & [Pvt.] Billy Nichols I saw dead on the field. [Henry] L. Jakeways [Jaques] was most dead when I saw him. He is dead, of course, now. John Clark died there. Church not heard of yet & Esic [B.] Smith. Henry Dixon is getting along first rate & J. Dockry.

Give my love to all,
— N. T. Dixon

Contributed and transcribed by Will Griffing

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Unknown Officer, Co. G, 2nd Rhode Island Volunteers, On the Battle

19 07 2021

The following letter from an officer in Company G, Second Regiment Rhode Island Volunteers, giving an account of the battle of last Sunday, will be read with interest. It was addressed to a prominent citizen of this town. It seems that our Company passed thirty-six hours wholly without food, drink, or sleep.

Camp Clark, Washington, D. C.,
July 23d, 1861.

Friend ——:– I suppose, were this, you have heard of our battle and defeat; but thinking that you would like an account from an eye-witness, I will give it to you. We left our camp at Centerville at two o’clock on Sunday morning, and, after marching about ten miles, we engaged the rebels. The Second Rhode Island Regiment, was in the advance, two companies on each side of the road acting as skirmishers, and my own company was the advance company on the road, marching by the flank in four ranks. We were marching in the woods, and could not see where the enemy were, when Col. Hunter came riding down to us and said, “Now, Rhode Islanders, we expect much of you – give it to them!” We assured him we would do it. We then leaped over a fence and found the enemy drawn up in a line and ready for us. We rushed down upon them, firing as fast as we could, but they outnumbered us, and being armed with Minie rifles, cut us completely to pieces. Through some mismanagement, our regiment was engaged with the rebels thirty minutes before any other troops came on the field, receiving a most galling fire. Within the space of ten minutes, Cols. Hunter and Slocum, Major Ballou and Capt. Tower fell, which was a severe loss to commence with. Our men fought like bull-dogs. During the thirty minutes we were all alone on the field out men expended all their ammunition, and we had to rob the dead to last till we were ordered off to replenish. The rebels are armed with first-rate arms, and use them well. They would bring out an American flag in their line and keep it there until they could rally their men in the bushes, and then make a rush upon us. In this way they deceived us.

Our light battery worked first-rate, but was obliged to leave the field for want of ammunition. After a fight of about five hours we were ordered to retreat. On our way back the enemy opened a masked battery upon us, and killed a great many men and horses, and took the light battery, except one piece. The Rhode Island Second Regiment received the highest praise from army officers and the citizens of Washington, for the prompt manner in which they went into battle. The greatest compliment I heard was than of an officer of the army, saying, that if it became necessary to cover the retreat, he would be obliged to take the Rhode Island Regiments and the Regulars to do it, which I thought was very good.

Major Ballou was in the midst of the battle, acting bravely, when a cannon ball passed through his horse, shattering the Major’s leg to pieces, so that they had to take it off. Our retreat was so hasty that we left both dead and wounded. How they will fare the Lord only knows. The rebels are a blood-thirsty set.

You can imagine the shape the men are in at present, when you know that we marched from 2 o’clock in the morning, without any breakfast, ten miles, and immediately attacked the enemy without resting at all; and then our retreat was so sudden that we could not rest. The distance to Washington was thirty miles, which we were obliged to mad before we halted, all without any food except what we could carry in our haversacks, and this we were obliged to throw away. So you see we were on our feet without rest from 2 o’clock Sunday morning, till eight o’clock Monday morning, when we arrived at Long Bridge. The men’s feet are in very bad condition. I never knew what it was to suffer for water before, being obliged to dip it up in the road all muddy, and drink it mud and all. It does not become me to give my opinion of this battle and its management, but I have one and you will, after you have read the whole account.

You must excuse the manner in which this is put together, for I have been writing all day making reports, and thought I would write you, if it was late.

Warren (RI) Telegraph, 7/27/1861

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Pvt. Charles E. Perkins, Co. I, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry

11 06 2021
Charles E. Perkins, Co. I, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry, Contributed by Rob Grandchamp

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Image: Pvt. Charles W. Gleason, Co. A, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry

9 06 2021
Charles W. Gleason, Co. A, 2nd RI Infantry, Contributed by Rob Grandchamp

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