1.   Historical note

2.   Scope and content

3.   Provenance

4.   Processing note

5.   Inventory

6.   Subjects

    List of finding aids

    R.I.H.S. Library page

    R.I.H.S. home page

 Rhode Island State Militia Records


 Records, 1774-1920.

 Size: 1.5 ft.

 Catalog number: MSS 673 sg 7

 Processed by: Rick Stattler, November 1997

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

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Scope and content:

            This collection documents the peace-time local militia units from the post-Revolutionary period to the early twentieth century. The militia was composed of regular citizens who might meet once a month or less for drills and conviviality. Service was mandatory for able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 45. In many towns there was the option of serving in an "independent" company, specially chartered by the General Assembly, that maintained local traditions and distinctive uniforms. During times of war, the state or federal government would create new regiments for combat duty. Although the militia units themselves rarely took an active role in any conflict, they helped supply trained troops to the regular army. In addition, the militia remained active during the various wars; men unable to serve in combat acted as a home guard in case of emergency while the regular troops were at the front.

            The militia units were only called into active service when a local emergency presented itself. Generally, this meant a natural disaster, or the use of state force against popular unrest. The militia was sometimes used to break or subdue strikes by labor unions. The most famous use of the Rhode Island militia was undoubtedly the Dorr Rebellion, when it was used to suppress a movement for popular sovereignty. There are several documents in the collection relating to the Dorr Rebellion; a list is provided at the end of the finding aid.

            The Rhode Island Militia was organized into brigades consisting of one or more counties; the brigades were divided into regiments, which were then divided into companies. Each town had at least one company of the regular militia, in addition to any independent companies that might exist within its bounds.

            This collection includes records of various state militia units not on active duty. For records of soldiers in federal service, or the colonial militia, see the guide to the Rhode Island Military Papers collection. Also, the records of five militia companies have been cataloged separately because of their volume: the Providence Marine Corps of Artillery, the Kentish Artillery, the First Light Infantry Company, the Westerly Rifles and the First Machine Gun Battery.

            This collection consists mostly of the miscellaneous records that had remained in the hands of company officers; it is far from a comprehensive file. For a more complete collection of state militia records, the researcher should investigate the resources at the Rhode Island State Archives.

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            This collection was built up through dozens of small donations over the past 175 years. Accession numbers are written on the right side of the folders when known; the accession records at the repository will provide more information on individual gifts if needed.

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Processing note:

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Sub-subgroup 1. STATE-WIDE RECORDS


Box 1, Folder 1. Militia return, 12/16/1807 (tallies for all regiments)

Box 1, Folder 2. Two orders re militia coast guard steamer Narragansett, 5/1861

Box 1, Folder 3. Civil War draft lottery cards, A through K

Box 1, Folder 4. Civil War draft lottery cards, L through Z

(This set of about 100 cards seems to be a random assortment of men who never actually served, mostly from Kent and Washington counties.)

Box 1, Folder 5. Miscellaneous

            1794/7 Letter, Maj-Gen. Simeon Martin to Brig-Gen. William Barton, mustering militia

            1797/06 List of captains, lieutenants and ensigns to command quota troops

            1845/10/27 Receipt for musket and ammunition from Quartermaster office

            1856/5/26 General order re uniforms

            1858/10/04 Letter, Brig. Gen. William Greene to Col. Wingate Hayes, mustering militia

            1863/06/27 General order for executive staff to meet at governor's residence

            1866/05/31 Appointments to staff of Commander-in-Chief

            1920/05/28 Order to militia to suppress "state of insurrection" in Bristol (2 copies)

See also the Elisha Hunt Rhodes Papers (MSS 1089) for the orderly book kept by Gen. Rhodes from 1879 to 1892.

2nd Battalion of Infantry (Warren, Newport, Pawtucket, Woonsocket)

Box 1, Folder 6. Letter and endorsement book, 1879-1882

Box 1, Folder 7. Order and record book, 1879-1882

Sub-subgroup 2. BRISTOL COUNTY

Box 1, Folder 1. Order to 4th Regiment to collect state-owned arms, 4/5/1815


Box 1, Folder 2.          Ferry bill, Eben Peck's Company, 10/29/1798

                        Roll of troops, Emerson Humphreys' company, 1842


Box 1, Folder 3.         Roll of troops, Capt. Wardwell's company, 8/14/1792

Box 1, Folder 4.          Bristol Train of Artillery - 100th anniversary celebration, 1894

Box 1, Folder 5.          Bristol Train of Artillery - Minutes, 1906-1917


Box 1, Folder 6.         Roll, Capt. Barton's 2nd Company, 8/17/1792

Box 1, Folder 7.          Roll, Capt. Fessenden's Company, 10/15/1842

Box 1, Folder 8.          Warren Artillery - Roll, 1842

Sub-subgroup 3. KENT COUNTY

Box 1, Folder 1.          Regimental returns and orders, 1792 and 1794. 8 items.

Box 1, Folder 2.          4th Brigade regimental returns and orders, 1816-1820. 9 items.

East Greenwich

Box 1, Folder 3.          Roll of Capt. Whitmarsh's Company, 1794

Box 1, Folder 4.          Kentish Guards - Record book, 1853-1864

Box 1, Folder 5.          Kentish Guards - Bills paid, 1774, 1811-1812

Box 1, Folder 6.          Kentish Guards - Miscellaneous, 1774-1775, 1812-1854

Box 1, Folder 7.          Kentish Guards - Miscellaneous, 1774-1775


Box 1, Folder 8.          Rolls and returns, 1st Company, 1811-1838. 6 items.

See also the following separate collection:

Kentish Artillery Company Records (MSS 673 sg 6). 0.75 feet, 1818-1952.

West Greenwich

Box 1, Folder 9.          Summons to meeting of Capt. Elisha Whitford's Company, 1833

Sub-subgroup 4. NEWPORT COUNTY

Box 1, Folder 1.          Return, Newport & Bristol County Brigade, 7/26/1794


Box 2, Folder 1.          2nd Regiment (Providence and North Providence) record book, 1825-1837

Box 2, Folder 2           2nd Regiment, miscellaneous 1810-1837

Box 2, Folder 3.          6th Regiment (Johnston and Cranston) miscellaneous, 1798-1799

Box 2, Folder 4.          6th Regiment miscellaneous, undated circa 1798

Box 2, Folder 5.          Captain General's Cavaliers - Minutes and members, 1776-1829

Oversized:      2nd Brigade, order book, 1864-1865. Also includes rolls of officers.


Box 2, Folder 6.          Order, 3rd Company, 1838


Box 2, Folder 7.          Resolution of 1st Company re pantaloons, 1821.

Box 2, Folder 8.          Pawtuxet Artillery - Record book, 1818-1838

Box 2, Folder 9.          Pawtuxet Artillery - Minute book, 1814-1843

Box 2, Folder 10.        Pawtuxet Artillery - 2 membership certificates, 1823

                                                       - Orders to recruit volunteers for Mexican War, 1846

In oversize:     Pawtuxet Artillery - Three muster rolls, 1847 and undated.

Box 2, Folder 11.        Sprague Rifles - Secretary's book, 1883-1884


Box 2, Folder 12.        Cumberland & Smithfield Light Dragoons - List and order, 1824

Box 2, Folder 13.        Cumberland Cadets - Petition to General Assembly, 1843

Box 2, Folder 14.        1st Company - Pay list circa 1785; and list, 1801


Box 2, Folder 15.        Summons of 1st Company, 1841

Related papers: Foster Town Records Collection (MSS 198).

                                    Foster Artillery Company - Lists of men who served, 1844

                                    7th Regiment, 5th Brigade, Comp. A - lists of men who served, 1864

                                    7th Regiment, 5th Brigade, Comp. F - certifications of service, 1864

                                    16th Regiment, Comp. F - list of men who served, 1864

                                    Westconnaug Guards - list of men who served, 1861


Box 2, Folder 16.        Return, Capt. John Arnold's company, 1805

Box 2, Folder 17.        Glocester Grenadiers - Return, 1795

Box 2, Folder 18.        Glocester Light Infantry - Summons, 1792; discharge, 1810


Box 2, Folder 19.        List and summons of 1st Company, 10/1815

                        Writs against delinquents Caleb Alverson, 1815; and Job Waterman, 1819

                        Summons listing members of 2nd Company, 14th Regiment, 9/1837

North Providence

Box 2, Folder 20.        Returns, 2nd Regiment companies, 1820. 2 items.


Box 2, Folder 21.        Pawtucket & Central Falls Volunteer Company ("Law and Order Men") -

                                    Enrollment and record of initial meeting, 6/26/1842.


Box 2, Folder 22.        1st Regiment - Company F record book, 4/1863 - 5/1864

                        (militia company formed by veterans of Co. D, 10th R.I. Infantry in Civil War)

Box 2, Folder 23.        2nd Regiment - 2nd Company returns and rolls, 1801-1807

Box 2, Folder 24.        2nd Regiment - 6th Company list, 1804

Box 2, Folder 25.        2nd Regiment - Returns of Providence companies, 1820. 5 items.

In oversize:     Two roll and order books, 1st Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 1863.

Box 2, Folder 26.        Special enlistments in the chartered companies of Providence "for the present emergency", 8/28/1844 and 8/29/1844.

Box 2, Folder 27.        Ellsworth Phalanx ("The High School Company")

                                                                        - enlistments, 1861; and company history

Box 2, Folder 28.        Fourth Ward Company of Volunteers - List of volunteers for service, 9/1862.

                        Most but not all men served in the 11th and 12th R.I. Infantry in Civil War.

In oversize:     Fourth Ward Drill Corps - List, 1861.

                        (Men who later volunteered for active duty in the 10th R.I. Infantry are marked)

Box 2, Folder 29.        Mechanics Rifles - Roll book, 1854-1856

Box 2, Folder 30.        Mechanics Rifles - Miscellaneous, 1856-1858

Box 2, Folder 31.        Mechanics Rifles - Miscellaneous, 1862-1865

Box 2, Folder 32.        Mechanics Rifles - Miscellaneous, 1866, 1868

Box 2, Folder 33.        National Cadets - Volunteers for Mexican-American War, 5/1846 and 1/1847

Box 2, Folder 34.        Naval Reserve Artillery Company of Providence - Minutes, 1896-1900

Box 2, Folder 35.        Naval Reserve Artillery Company of Providence - Drill reports, 5/1898

Box 2, Folder 36.        Providence Artillery Company - Miscellaneous, 1862

Box 2, Folder 37.        Providence Horse Guards - Miscellaneous, 1845-1868

Box 2, Folder 38.        Rhode Island Carbineers - List, 6/26/1842

Box 2, Folder 39.        Sea Fencibles - Lists, 6/14/1842, 10/9/1844 and --- 1844.

Box 2, Folder 40.        Second Ward Volunteer Police Company - Lists, 4/1842, 5/1842, 8/1844

Box 2, Folder 41.        United Company of the Train of Artillery of Providence -

                        Return, 4/27/1795

                                    Roster, 6/25/1796

                                    Draft of letter re return of cannon to U.S. government, ca. 1815?

See also the following separate collections:

First Light Infantry Company Records (MSS 673, sg 5). 5 feet, 1818-1952.

First Machine Gun Battery Records (MSS 673, sg 10). 1 foot, 1885-1930.

Providence Marine Corps of Artillery Records (MSS 673, sg 12). 4 feet, 1801-1970

James U. Arnold Papers (MSS 269). Includes delinquent lists from 2nd and 6th companies, 1801-12


Box 2, Folder 42.        Summonses of 2nd and 3rd Companies, 1816, 1832, 1834


Box 2, Folder 1.          Description of movements of 3rd Brigade in the Dorr Rebellion, by William A. Shaw, M.D., 1842.


Box 2, Folder 2.          1st Company, miscellaneous, 1796-1845

Box 2, Folder 3.          Washington Guards - Miscellaneous, 1822-1824

North Kingstown

Box 2, Folder 4.          Roll, 1st Company, ca.1840

Box 2, Folder 5.          North Kingstown Rangers - Return, 4/25/1795


See the following separate collection:

Westerly Rifles Records (MSS 673 sg 8). 1 foot, 1871-1963

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Barrington (R.I. : Town) - Militia.

Bristol (R.I. : Town) - Militia.

Bristol Train of Artillery (militia unit)

Burrillville (R.I. : Town) - Militia.

Captain General's Cavaliers (militia unit)

Cranston (R.I.) - Militia.

Cumberland & Smithfield Light Dragoons .

Cumberland Cadets (militia unit)

Dorr Rebellion, 1842.

East Greenwich (R.I.) - Militia.

Ellsworth Phalanx (militia unit)

Exeter (R.I. : Town) - Militia.

Foster (R.I. : Town) - Militia.

Fourth Ward Drill Corps (militia unit)

Fourth Ward Company of Volunteers.

Glocester Grenadiers (militia unit)

Glocester Light Infantry (militia unit)

Glocester (R.I. : Town) - Militia.

Johnston (R.I.) - Militia.

Kentish Guards (militia unit)

Mechanics Rifles (militia unit)

Mexican War, 1846-1848.

Militia - Rhode Island.

Narragansett (Coast guard steamer)

National Cadets (militia unit)

Naval Reserve Artillery Company.

North Providence (R.I. : Town) - Militia.

North Kingstown (R.I.) - Militia.

North Kingstown Rangers (militia unit)

Pawtucket & Central Falls Volunteer Co.

Pawtucket (R.I.) - Militia.

Pawtuxet Artillery (militia unit)

Providence (R.I.) - Militia.

Providence Artillery Company (militia unit)

Providence Horse Guards (militia unit)

Rhode Island Carbineers (militia unit)

Sea Fencibles (militia unit)

Second Ward Volunteer Police Company.

Shaw, William A.

Smithfield (R.I. : Town) - Militia.

Sprague Rifles (militia unit, Cranston R.I.)

United States - History - Civil War, 1861-1865.

United Company of the Train of Artillery.

Warren (R.I. : Town) - Militia.

Warren Artillery (militia unit)

Warwick (R.I.) - Militia.

Washington Guards (militia unit)

West Greenwich (R.I. : Town) - Militia.

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