Rhode Island Provincials
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Origin and History
In 1745, 150 Provincials from Rhode Island were supposed to take part in the expedition against Louisbourg but they arrived too late for embarkment.
In January 1755, the Assembly of Rhode Island agreed to enlist 100 men as Provincial troops. In February, upon Governor Shirley's request, 13 men were added to this unit, bringing it to 113 men. In March, the Assembly agreed to raise 400 men, organised in 4 companies, for the planned expedition against Fort Saint-Frédéric (present-day Crown Point) and cancelled its initial commitment to raise 113 men. The Rhode Island Provincials were placed under the command of Colonel Christopher Harris.
During the Seven Years' War, the regiment was under the successive commands of:
- from March 1755 to 1756: Colonel Christopher Harris
- from February 1757: Colonel Samuel Angel
- from May 1758 to 1759: Colonel Henry Babcock
- from February 1760: Colonel Christopher Harris
- from March 1761: Colonel John Whiting
- from March 1762: Colonel Samuel Rose
Service during the War
In August 1755, about 400 Rhode Island Provincials took part in the expedition against Fort Saint-Frédéric (present-day Crown Point) led by William Johnson of New York. A fort initially known as Fort Lyman (soon renamed Fort Edward) was built on the Hudson River at the carrying place leading to Lake Saint-Sacrement (present-day Lake George). During the same month, Rhode Island raised 3 new companies of 50 men each and hurried them by land to Albany. At the beginning of September Johnson's force resumed its advance and reached Lake Saint-Sacrement. On September 8, during the Combat of Lake George part of Johnson's force was initially ambushed by a French force under Dieskau. The Colonials were badly mauled and retired to Johnson's camp. The French followed up but their attack on Johnson's camp was repulsed, Dieskau being wounded and captured. Johnson did not organize any counteroffensive but built Fort William Henry on the shore of Lake Saint-Sacrement. By that time 2 of the 3 new companies had joined the Rhode Island Provincial Regiment. The third company, which had been delayed, embarked in a sloop to join Johnson's Army. Furthermore, Rhode Island raised 4 additional companies of 50 men each and sent them forward in all haste to join the Rhode Island Provincial Regiment which now counted about 750 men in 11 companies. On November 27, when Johnson retreated to the Hudson, he left contingents from each province (including 85 men from Rhode Island under Captain Whiting) to garrison Fort William Henry during the winter. Furthermore, the Assembly of Rhode Island kept another 100 men under arms within the province while the rest of the regiment was disbanded.
In February 1756, the Assembly of Rhode Island voted to raise a regiment of 500 men (including the men forming part of the garrison of Fort William Henry) in 10 companies for the incoming campaign. On May 5, the Assembly ordered the regiment to be completed by impressment if necessary. In July, the Assembly resolved to raise 2 additional companies of 50 men each to take part in the operations on Lake Champlain. In mid-October, the Assembly received intelligence that a French Army could advance on Lake Saint-Sacrement and immediately voted to raise 400 men and to send them forward with all haste to Albany. But in mid-November, the Earl of Loudoun countermanded thir march and they were soon disbanded.
In February 1757, the Assembly of Rhode Island resolved to raise a Provincial Regiment of 450 men in 5 companies to serve for one year with the British Army. In May, the Assembly, upon Loudoun's request, agreed to raise 150 men to be ready in case of requisition from Major-General Webb then in command at Fort Edward. At the end of July, when Webb received intelligence about the French expedition against Fort William Henry, he called for the 150 men of the Rhode Island Provincials. The Colonial Army was disbanded for the winter, only 70 rangers from Rhode Island were retained for winter service. However, upon Loudoun's protest, 30 additional rangers were authorised by the Assembly who also resolved to re-enlist 250 men of the returning regiment to be billeted on the colony, ready for any emergency.
In mid-March 1758, the Assembly of Rhode Island resolved to raise a Provincial Regiment of 1,000 men. In mid-May, General Abercombie ordered the Rhode Island Provincial Regiment (Babcock) to be sent forward to Albany. In July, the Rhode Island Provincial Regiment took part in the expedition against Carillon (present-day Ticonderoga). On July 5, they were embarked at the head of Lake George. On July 6, at daybreak, the British flotilla reached the narrow channel leading into Lake Champlain near Fort Carillon and disembarkation began at 9:00 a.m.. On July 8, they fought in the disastrous Battle of Carillon. At daybreak on July 9, the British army re-embarked and retreated to the head of the lake where it reoccupied the camp it had left a few days before. In August, 312 Rhode Island Provincials under Major Wall took part in the successful expedition against Fort Frontenac. The entire Rhode Island Provincial Regiment was retained in service throughout winter.
In February 1759, Lord Jeffrey Amherst, the commander-in-chief in North America, wrote to order the Rhode Island Provincial Regiment (1,000 men in 13 companies) to be at Albany by April 10. However, as the British Royal Navy also needed sailors, it was agreed that the latter would be accounted part of the 1,000 men that Rhode Island had to supply to Amherst. The Rhode Island Provincial Regiment took part in the expedition against Carillon. After the campaign, the regiment was disbanded for winter.
In February 1760, the Assembly of Rhode Island voted to raise a Provincial Regiment of 1,000 men. The regiment took part in the three pronged attack against Montréal. At the end of October, after the victorious campaign, the regiment was disbanded.
At the end of March 1761, the Assembly of Rhode Island agreed to raise a Provincial Regiment of 666 men in 7 companies. In fact only 395 were raised. In July, Amherst asked the assembly to keep one company of 64 men in pay for the next winter. They garrisoned Fort Stanwix.
In February 1762, Amherst asked the Assembly of Rhode Island to raise a contingent of 178 Provincials for the reinforcement of the expedition against Havana. The Assembly voted to raise a Provincial Regiment of 666 men to serve on the continent bust postponed its decision about the supplementary contingent required by Amherst. In April Amherst ordered to send 207 men of the Provincial Regiment to New York to embark for Havana and he instructed to send the rest of the regiment to Albany. The contingent destined to Havana was under the command of Lieutenant-colonel Hargil. Only 112 men of this contingent survived the siege of Havana.
Rhode Island Provincials had no uniform. They were issued civilian clothing by their colony.
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This article contains texts from the following book which is now in the public domain:
- Arnold, Samuel Greene: History of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Vol. II 1700-1790; New York: Appleton, 1860, pp. 189-241
N.B.: the section Service during the War is mostly derived from our articles depicting the various campaigns, battles and sieges.