The Rhode Island Historical Society (RIHS) has been awarded a National Historical Records and Publication Commission (NHPRC) grant supporting a project entitled: “Brave, Enterprising Spirits”: Documenting Rhode Island Soldiers in the American Revolution. The project will create over 6,400 digital images and over 1,400 item-level catalog records of manuscripts in the Revolutionary War Military Records (MSS 672 SG2).
The Revolutionary War Military Papers generally consist of documents from Rhode Island Continental regiments, including the Rhode Island Black regiment formed by Col. Christopher Greene and Lt. Col. Samuel Ward, Jr. during the summer of 1778. It includes records of Rhode Island Continental regiments, county militia regiments, and independent companies, Massachusetts Continental regiments, Connecticut and New Hampshire regiments, naval records, and Providence General Hospital records, all ranging from 1775 to 1783. Militia regiments from all Rhode Island counties are also present, with Providence, Kent, and King’s counties the most widely represented. Papers from Rhode Island independent militia companies include those of the Kentish Guards, Pawtuxet Rangers, Smithfield, and Cumberland Rangers, and North Providence Rangers.
The documents in the Revolutionary War Military Records demonstrate the diversity present in Rhode Island’s ranks. Muster rolls, payrolls, weekly returns, certificates of enlistment, etc. reveal the participation of Rhode Islanders, including free and enslaved Africans, Native Americans, and women in the war. Publications of the Revolutionary War tend to focus on officers from Rhode Island (Nathanael Greene, Esek Hopkins, etc.) and major strategic battles. Once available online, access to this collection will enable researchers to better study the rank and file, enabling more robust documentation for social and economic history.