BoRIA Commemorative Coin #4
BoRIA Commemorative Coin Program
Brigadier General James Mitchel Varnum, celebrated in the fourth coin of a series commemorating Rhode Island’s contributions to the American Revolutionary War, epitomizes commitment and leadership. A Brown University alumnus, Varnum’s military journey began with his election as captain of the Kentish Guards, a militia in East Greenwich, during the pre-war tensions of 1774. His leadership in this unit, which included future Continental Army officer Nathanael Greene, was a precursor to his significant role in the Continental Army, demonstrating his influence in nurturing military leadership.
Varnum’s impact during the Revolutionary War was marked by his rapid rise through the military ranks. After the Battles of Lexington and Concord in May 1775, he was commissioned as a colonel, leading a Rhode Island regiment during the Siege of Boston under General Greene. His regiment, known as Varnum’s Regiment and later as the 9th Continental Regiment, was actively involved in major battles, including the Siege of Boston and the confrontations at Long Island and White Plains in New York.
General Varnum’s legacy extends beyond military tactics to include significant contributions to social change within the army. He was a strong advocate for the enlistment of freed African American slaves, a stance instrumental in the reorganization of the Rhode Island First Regiment as a racially integrated unit in 1778. This progressive move was a landmark in American military history, reflecting Varnum’s commitment to inclusivity and equality. His critical views on military organization, influenced by his association with Major General Charles Lee and critiques of Baron Von Steuben’s role as Inspector General, underscore his dedication to improving the Continental Army. This coin is a tribute not just to Varnum’s military prowess, but also to his visionary ideals and enduring influence on the ethos of American military service.
Use the form below to order a limited edition Battle of Rhode Island Association Challenge Coin featuring General James Mitchell Varnum.