Militia unit, Westerly, R.I.
Size: 1 linear foot
Catalog number: MSS 673 sg 8
Processed by: Rick Stattler, November 1997
©Rhode Island Historical Society
The Westerly Rifle Company was chartered by the R.I. General Assembly in August of 1854. Many of its members served in the Civil War. In 1875, the Company became part of the newly formed Third Battalion of Infantry. Starting in 1879, the designation "Westerly Rifles" disappears from the adjutant's reports, and the unit is reported simply as a regular militia company. In 1883, it was reassigned to the First Battalion of Infantry, which in turn became the First Regiment of Infantry in 1887. Many of its members served in the Spanish-American War as Company K, First R.I. U.S. Volunteer Infantry. An act of the General Assembly reorganized the entire militia in January of 1908, and the Westerly militia unit became the 5th Company of the First Artillery District of the Coast Artillery Corps. In 1917, it was called up for duty at Fort Getty as the 19th Company, Coast Artillery Corps, and was disbanded at the close of the First World War. For a period of a few months, Westerly had no militia company, but the 5th Company Coast Artillery Corps of the Rhode Island National Guard was reformed in 1921. This was soon changed to the 394th Company, and then to Battery E, 243rd Regiment Coast Artillery, R.I.N.G. by 1924. The unit was called up for active duty to suppress the Saylesville textile strike in 1934, and to protect property in the wake of the 1938 hurricane. It was called up to provide coastal defense at Newport on September 24, 1940, when all unmarried members were mustered into federal service as a unit. In 1942, the battery was broken up, and its members assigned to various units on active duty.
The full history of this unit is difficult to determine. The 243rd Coast Artillery celebrated its 180th anniversary in 1935, implying some sort of continuous history dating back to 1755. While a separate Westerly company in the state militia dates back to 1714, no "Westerly Artillery" or "Westerly Rifles" independent unit shows up in Smith's Civil and Military List through 1850. In summary, there have been one or two companies of state militia in Westerly almost since the town's founding, operating under many different names and jurisdictions. This collection contains records for some of the later ones.
Dowding, George E. Military History of Westerly, 1710-1932 (Westerly: 1932)
Smith, Joseph Jenckes. Civil and Military List of Rhode Island, 1647-1850 (Providence: 1900).
Annual reports of the Adjutant General of the State of Rhode Island, 1874-1921.
Charter and By-Laws of the Westerly Rifle Company (Westerly: 1871)
"History of the Battery", found in this collection.
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Scope and content:
This collection contains miscellaneous records of the successive Westerly militia units from 1871 to 1942. There are also some papers of officer Elmer R. Sherman relating to his military service in this and other units through 1949. See the inventory below for a full description of the collection.
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These records were donated in 1977 by Frank Roberts, building inspector for the Rhode Island Department of Public Buildings. It is not known whether he disposed of them in an official capacity. Donated along with these records were personal papers of Everett E. Whipple, the long-time officer in the Westerly militia, which are filed in the Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection. These papers are mostly related to his service in the militia.
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These records were originally organized by Nathaniel Shipton in 1977 as two separate collections: the records of the Westerly Rifles, and of the 243rd Coast Artillery. In 1997, the two units were found to have a continuous history. The records also shared a common provenance, and so were brought together.
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Box 1 (Westerly Rifles)
Descriptive roster, 1871-1892. Large volume.
Orderly book, 1891-1908. Orders received from R.I.M. 1st Infantry headquarters.
Target practice scores, October 7, 1887
Rosters, 7/10/1885 and 7/16/1892; incomplete muster roll, circa 1898.
Box 2 (243rd Coast Artillery, Rhode Island National Guard)
Folder 1. General correspondence, 1921-1937
Folder 2. Memoranda and orders, 1908-1911
Folder 2a. Memoranda and orders, 1917-1922
Folder 3. Memoranda and orders, 1923
Folder 4. Memoranda and orders, 1924
Folder 5. Memoranda and orders, 1926-1943 (5 f)
Folder 6. Courts martial, 1942
Folder 7. Military property receipts, 1940-1942
Folder 8. Artillery training instructions, 1929-1934
Folder 9. AAA School - Gunnery, 1940
Folder 10. AAA School - Searchlights, height finders, sound locators, 1940
Folder 11. AAA School - Class notes, 1940
Folder 12. AAA School - Extension courses, 1949
Folder 13. Artillery training certificates, Elmer R. Sherman, 1928-1949
Folder 14. History, 1920-1942, with 9/26/1940 roster
Folder 15. 180th anniversary celebration, 1935
Folder 16. Yankee Division Veterans Association, 1943-1945
Folder 17. Reunions, 1958-1963
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Artillery - Rhode Island - Westerly
5th Company, Coast Artillery Corps, Rhode Island National Guard
1st Regiment, Rhode Island Militia
1st Regiment, Rhode Island Volunteer Infantry (Spanish-American War)
Militia - Rhode Island - Westerly
Rhode Island. National Guard
Sherman, Elmer R.
349th Company, Coast Artillery Corps, Rhode Island National Guard
243rd Company, Coast Artillery Corps, Rhode Island National Guard
Veterans - Rhode Island - Westerly
Westerly Rifle Company
World War, 1939-1945
Yankee Division Veterans Association
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