Timeline of the Formation and Service of the 1st Rhode Island Regiment

- Part 5 -

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Compiled by Robert A. Geake



January 19

A detachment of Rhode Islanders that had remained at West Point arrived in Philadelphia. Among them was Lieutenant Jeremiah Greenman who would record the following day that he “found the Regiment very Sickly, & much reduced with Deaths.”277

January 31

Letter from Gen. George Washington to Lt. Col. Jeremiah Olney


Having forwarded , under a flying seal278 to your care, Dispatches of immense consequence, on the subject of compleating the Regt of your State to the Establishment, I must request you will lose no time in delivering them to His Excellency, the Governor; and that you will use your utmost influence to have this business put upon such a footing as will be attended with the desired success.

As I am certain, from your experience in service, and the knowledge you have of our present circumstances & prospects you are convinced that the events of the ensuing Campaign will depend principally upon the exertions of the States, this Winter, in filling the Army & making provisions for its support; I have only to authorize & desire you to devote your whole time, attention, & abilities (as far as possible) to the accomplishment of these interesting objects – to consult and advise with the Legislature, or such persons as they may please to appoint for the purpose – to enforce the Arguments I have made use of – and to suggest whatever may occur to you as obviously calculated to promote the public interest…

It will be necessary to give every assistance in your power, towards making the Midwinter arrangements for collecting & forwarding the Recruits, who are to be sent on to the Army at the expence of the State, by the Resolution of Congress of the 18th of Decr which I request may be done as speedily as possible after they are inlisted, in any numbers from 10-100 upwards – this will not only prevent desertion but to inure them to Camp life & give them the habits of discipline before the opening of the Campaign, which we hope will be at an early period…

I have enclosed to you a copy of the last Letter from the Financier to me, on the subject of Supplies; you will readily perceive this is an object of equal importance with the former…Unless the States should comply with the Requisitions of Congress, you see how our prospects will fade, and all our hopes may be blasted. I wish you to make the best use you can of it…persevere, and be so good as to let me know…what aid of Men and Money may be expected from thence…”279

This same day, Major Coggeshall Olney wrote to Colonel Jeremiah Olney of the continued loss to the regiment. and to inform him that Minister of Finance Robert Morris had supplied the regiment with wooden boards for coffins, bunks, and other needed items.280


February 3

Lieutenant Oliver Jenckes281 became the latest casualty of the epidemic sweeping the hospital. Just a month before, he had undergone an arduous journey to Kings Ferry, to meet a baggage train that carried clothing and supplies for the troops at Philadelphia. On his return with the baggage he fell ill almost immediately, and died within a few days.

February 4

From the Diary of Jeremiah Greenman:

“This day attended the Funeral of Lieut. Jencks who was attended with a Suitable Number of Men from the Regiment, agreeable to his Rank with the officers of the Regiment and a Number of Officer from Deferent lines, and a Number of Respectable Citicens / was carried to the Presbyterian buring yard where he was Desently Entered –“282

February 14

Lieutenant Colonel Jeremiah Olney wrote to General Washington on this day in response to the letter of January 31st. He explained that he had arrived in Providence on the 9th, but too late to deliver Washington’s appeal, “the General Assembly having that day Completed their Affairs.”
He delivered the appeal to the Governor “who immediately lay them before as many of the legislators as could handily be assembled at Providence…”, and though Olney considered it a “Dangerous delay”, the full Assembly would not meet until the 25th of the month to vote for the recruitment of troops and payment of expenses.283

February 25

The General Assembly met in special session to take up the appeal of Lt. Colonel Jeremiah Olney on the Commander-in-Chief’s behalf for the raising of recruits for the Rhode Island Continental Battalion. The Assembly ultimately voted to raise an additional two hundred and fifty-nine men for nine month’s service. Each recruit would be supplied with towcloth, stockings, knapsacks, and leather caps. Once again, the requirements for recruitment stated that people of color would not be accepted into the Regiment, nor for that matter, were foreigners of any race to be enlisted..


March 9

An advertisement published this day in the Providence Gazette outlined the stricter terms for enlistment:

“The Honorable General Assembly having at their last Session ordered the State’s Continental Battalion completed to the Establishment, the Subscriber informs the Public, that constant Attendance will be given by Captain Brown at East Greenwich, and himself at the State House in Providence, for receiving and mustering the Recruits. It has been found, from long and fatal Experience, that Indians, Negroes, and Mulattoes, do not (and from a total Want of Perseverence and Fortitude to bear the various Fatigues incident to an Army) cannot answer the public Service; they will not therefore on any Account be received. Experience also confirms how little Reliance we can place on Foreigners, who, not being interested in the Event of the present important Contest, mean only to be Soldiers of Fortune, and no sooner do they riot away their Bounties, or meet with uncommon Fatigues in the Field, than they seek the earliest Opportunity shamefully to desert the Service…”284

March 7

From the Diary of Lieutenant Jeremiah Greenman:

“went on Guard at the New Gaol – 15 Prisoners dug through a flower (floor) of one of the rooms and got in to a bomproff (or one of the dunjand) where they dug a hole under the foundation of the prison. 4 of them made their escape before the Sentinel discovered them –
Took the remaining 11 & put them into one of the Dungeons.”285

March 17

Captain Stephen Olney, commander of the Light Infantry which served with such distinction in the Battle of Yorktown, resigned his commission this day. He had tried unsuccessfully before submitting his resignation to obtain back pay for his men of the Light Infantry who had served through much of the previous year. His requests were turned down by Robert Morris of the Continental Office of Finance.286

This same day Lieutenant Ebenezer Macomber was promoted to Captain. He would lead the Second Company of the Rhode Island Regiment while the 2nd’s old commander Captain William Allen, would replace Lt. Colonel Olney as commander of the Light Infantry Battalion.

March 18

Letter from General Washington to Colonel Richard Humpton
“Sir: You will immediately have all the recruits raised for the Pensilvania Line collected at the General Rendezvous and Armed and Equipped for the Field, and as fast as any more are recruited you will have them Collected and Equipped in the same manner. You will embrace every Opportunity to Exercise and Discipline the recruits and have them held in readiness to March at the Shortest warning. I am &c.”
This same letter was sent to the officer commanding the Rhode Island regiment.287

March 22

With the arrival of Major General Baron von Steuben in Philadelphia, the able-bodied men of the Rhode Island Regiment, dressed in newly arrived clothing and equipped with new muskets, bayonets, and musical instruments; practiced drills and maneuvers in the morning and again in the afternoon.

The following day, the Regiment, along with other battalions were paraded before the Army’s Inspector General.

March 25

The Rhode Island Regiment was paraded and drilled again on the Philadelphia Commons before an assembled gathering that included the current president of the Continental Congress, John Hanson of Maryland.

From the Diary of Lieutenant Jeremiah Greenman:

“This day paraded with the Regiment / went on the Commons in the rear of the Town where went through a number of Manoeuvers in presents of the President of Congress, after which came to our barracks when was dismissed – Soon after came on Guard at the New Gaol.”288

March 29

The Rhode Island Regiment was presented with a new standard, believed to be made by seamstress Rebecca Young.289 The standard is believed to be the R.I.R. banner long held in the Rhode Island State House. The staff and restoration team of the James Mitchell Varnum museum have raised an effort recently to restore the flag, and retrieve it from storage in a conservation facility.


April 7

The Rhode Island Regiment assumed guard detail of the “Flag of Truce” site at Philadelphia harbor the first week of April. On this night the guard detail under command of Lieutenant John Hubbart of the 3rd Company, was charged with guarding a brig that had anchored under a flag of truce. Major General Benjamin Lincoln had given strict orders as Secretary of War to prevent anyone from leaving or removing anything from the vessel.

As the guard were on their passage to the brig, they noticed a small boat coming from the flag vessel. Lieutenant Hubbard ordered the craft to halt, but his command was ignored and he ordered the guard to fire upon the boat.

Two inhabitants of the city were wounded in the craft, though they managed to reach shore. Lieutenant Hubbard was later confined to his room at the barracks and replaced in the guard by Lieutenant Jeremiah Greenman who noted the event in his Diary:

“Returned in the Evening to the Barracks where continued ‘till Eleven o’clock when was called to relieve Lt. Hubbard who was on a Flagg of Truce Guard, & had order’d Sum of his Men to fire upon a boat which would not bring too, & wounded two persons, at which he was ordered to be confn’d to his Rome…

April 8

… This morning the officer of the Flagg & Capt. of the Brig went on Shore / Continued with the Flagg ‘till 12 o’clock when was relieved by Ensign Welch after which came to my quarters where continued the Remainder of the Day very Much Indisposed, by a cold cetched in lying on the Vessels Deck all Night.”290

April 9

Letter from Gen. George Washington to Lt. Colonel Jeremiah Olney:
“Sir: Your two letters of the 26th of Febry and 19th ulto. have been received.
I am so well persuaded of your Care and Attention to the Business committed to your charge, that no Arguments are needfull to press your utmost Diligence. The Recruits as they are forwarded, may be directed the nearest Rout to peekskill, where on their Arrival, they will report themselves and receive further Orders.
The Time of your comg on to Camp dependg on your Success in Recruitg, and other Circumstances not as yet decided, you will be duly noticed of the period at which you are to join your Regiment.”291

April 18

After a lengthy and difficult march, some seventy, now seasoned recruits under adjutant John Rogers arrived from Providence to be added to the rolls of the Rhode Island Regiment for ninety days service. Eight days later, another fifty-six recruits under Lieutenant Benjamin L. Peckham marched into Philadelphia.292


May 1

Captain Thomas Cole resigned his commission on this day. Lieutenant David Sayles was promoted to Captain and assumed command of the Regiment’s 1st Company.293

May 6

After a winter of disciplinary hearings and courts-martials of numerous soldiers during their stay in Philadelphia, the officers of the Rhode Island Regiment appeal to Major General Benjamin Lincoln for his assistance in deploying the regiment to the encampment of the Grand Northern Army.

From a letter from Major General Benjamin Lincoln to Gen. George Washington:

“…I beg leave to suggest to your Excellency the expediency of removing the Rhode Island regiment from the vices and follies of the City, by calling Them to Camp. The commanding Officer informs me that a great proportion of them must be committed to the Surgeon’s care before they will be fit to take the field—and that some of them unless they are soon attended to, will be lost to the service for the campaign—The Recruits, who appear to be a good set of Lads, will too soon from the example of the others be led astray.
I think we had better submit to the necessity of calling a few Militia to do duty in this City than ruin one of the best regiments in service. I have the honor to be, with the most perfect esteem and respect, my dear General, Your most obedient servant, B. Lincoln”294

May 13

As the Grand Army begins the campaign, discussion of how best to provide medical treatment, and avoid the scourge of illness that occurred at hospitals in Head of Elk and Philadelphia, Major General Benjamin Lincoln wrote to Washington of these plans:

From a letter from Major General Benjamin Lincoln to General Washington

“My knowledge of your Excellency’s aversion to sending troops to Hospitals, where crowded numbers increase the disorders by incurring the infection, which in warm weather especially, cannot be guarded against, and our soldiers who are sent with slight complaints are frequently attacked with the Hospital fever, by which many of them are lost and others rendered useless for a whole campaign—besides when they are from under the eye of their Officers they lose their discipline, frequently desert, and always contract habits of idleness injurious to service—These considerations induce me to suppose, that as we have contractors who will supply Hospital stores, it would be expedient to furnish each regiment with a large Hospital tent or Marquée so that the sick of each corps shall be the particular care of its own Surgeons, excepting certain obstinate cases, of which the Director Genl who will always be with the Army will be the Judge—This mode will considerably reduce the number of sick in the Hospitals, and render them less contagious, consequently safer for sick Patients as are obliged, from the nature of the disorders, to be sent there.

Should Your Excellency think with me that supplying the regiments with proper hospital tents, for the reception of the sick, will promote the safety and happiness of individuals, while it advances the good of the service, I will endeavor to have them immediately furnished.”295

May 13

The Continental Congress, having put aside this date as a day of celebration of the recent birth of the Dauphine of France, invited the Hon. The Chevalier de la Luzerne, Minister Plenipotentiary of France to join the celebration. As the Rhode Island Regiment was the largest Continental battalion in the city, they were paraded with great ceremony before the visiting dignitary and his suite.

From the Philadelphia Independent Gazette:

“In Pursuance of Orders from the Secretary at War, issued by special Direction of Congress, the Continental Troops in Garrison paraded, at nine o’Clock in the Morning, upon the Commons, where they were joined by a Troop of Volunteer Cavalry of the City of Philadelphia, consisting of the Gentlemen elegantly mounted and accoutred, and a Battalion of the City Artillery, composed of a Number of very respectable Citizens, with thirteen pieces of Artillery. The whole being formed into one Brigade, with Colours, Standards, & etc. properly disposed, and attended by an excellent Band of Musick, marched in great Order down Market Street to Front Street, and from thence up Chestnut Street to the State House, where the Brigade was displayed with the right towards the Minister’s House.”296

After an exchange of speeches in the State House, the Minister was brought back out to the steps and conducted to the foot of the stairs where

“A Continental Salute was then fired by the Artillery; the vessels in the harbor gave a general Salute, and the Troops fired a Feu de Joye of Artillery and Musquettry.”297

From the Diary of Lieutenant Jeremiah Greenman:

“This day the Regiment paraded with the City Light hors & artelery & fired a fude Joy on the Berth of the Dauphin of France – the Evening a very Ellegant Fireworks was displayed in the State house yard…”298

May 15

General order to Coggeshall Olney or commander of the Rhode Island Regiment from General George Washington:
“Sir: Immediately upon the receipt of this, you will put the Rhode Island Regt. in motion, and conduct it by easy marches and the most convenient route, to join the Army on the North River. You must take care to bring on with you every man who is able to march, except such a Detachment as the Secry at War may think proper to order as an Escort for the British Office who is to be sent to the Jersey Line for the purpose of Retaliation; this detachment which ought to be composed of picked Men.”299

May 18

From the Diary of Lieutenant Jeremiah Greenman:

“This day received orders from the Commander in Chife to march immediately for the North river, at the same time Major (Coggeshall) Olney received orders to have the British Capt. carefully conducted to the Jersey Line, at Elisebethton, where he is to be executed in Retalliation for Capt. Huddy who the Refugees had hung.”300

May 23

A letter from Major General Lincoln to General Washington seems to refer to an examination of Thomas Nichols, the waggoner from The 1st Rhode Island regiment who had gone On Command with the French officer Chastellux, and had been with the Corps of Invalids in Boston since February1781.

“I do myself the honor to inclose your Excellency a Certificate from Doctor Warren of Boston relative to the inability of a Soldier there as also an Extract of a Letter from Mr Green on the Subject—I saw the Man when I was in Boston and supposed him quite unfit for the Service but did not think myself authorized to Discharge him—”301

May 23-26

From the Diary of Lieutenant Jeremiah Greenman:

T. 23. This day… a ticket received from the Governor & Counsell of this State to dine with them [.] went to the City Tavern where there was an Elegant Dinner prepared for all the Officers of the Continental Army which was in Town & the Imbasidor & Minnister at war &c &c &c / at entering the Dineing rome was fired thirteen Cannon / after Dinner drank the 13 following Tosts (viz) United States, 2 King of France, 3rd the Duphin, 4th Queen of France & the Royal Family 5th King of Spain, & all the Friendly Powers 6th Genl. Washington & the Army, 7th Count Rochambeau & the French Army 8th Genl. Green & the Southern Army 9th Count de Grasse & the allied fleet 10th Perpetual alliance between France & America 11th May the year 82 be animated with the zeal of 76. & obtain the Sucseses of 81, 12th [In]Dependence to all wether Princss or Private Men who wish the [In}Dependency of America 13th A pease established our Independency, Liberty, Safety Honour or no Peace – after which was fired 13 mor Cannon…”302

W. 29. This morning left Philadelphia at 10, o’Clock / came as far as Frankford 5 miles from the City where we made a halt an hour, & parted with Sum of Our friends who came here with us from the City. From here proceeded to Bensalem where encamped.”303

The Philadelphia Independent Gazetteer paid tribute to the Officers and soldiers of the Rhode Island Regiment who had barracked in the City:

“Wednesday last, the Rhode Island Regiment of Regulars, commanded by Major [Coggeshall] Olney.left the Barracks, in order to join the main army, on the Banks of the Hudson. The Politeness, Decorum, and orderly Conduct of the Officers and Soldiers, during their Winter’s Quarters in this City, have been such, as entitle them to the Esteem and Regard of the citizens in general, who acknowledge, in the highest Terms of Applause, the Approbation of their Behavior, which, by a uniform Adherence, will ever redound to their Honor as Citizens and Soldiers.”304


Private Fortune Stoddard who had shot the marauding sea captain at Elks Head, Maryland, was tried by a civilian court for murder and while acquitted of that crime, was convicted of manslaughter, and sentenced to be “to be burnt on the brawn of the left thumb with a hot iron.”

Stoddard was also ordered to pay all court costs, but as he could not raise the full amount owed the court, the County sought to sell him into slavery in order to cover the costs owed.

June 2-3

From the Diary of Lieutenant Jeremiah Greenman:

“This morning the General beat at half an hour before Sun wrise the Assembly at the Sun 3 Quarters high, when the March commenc’d from the right / Came 4 miles where halted then came to the half Moon Tavern where breakfasted – from whare proceded to Morris Town halted & incamped on a hill in Front of the Town…

M. 3. Continuing in Morris Town – whare drew Provision & our men washing their Cloaths &c fitting for the March…”

June 5

Letter from Major General Benjamin Lincoln to Gen. George Washington:

“Colonel Olney writes me that he has taken up and confined at Providence Ensign Johnson of the Rhode Island Regiment for shamefully deserting from his Arrest occasioned by his ungentleman like conduct towards you. I shall be obliged to you to inform me what you know of the Affair, that I may be able to give the necessary directions.”

June 8-9

From the Diary of Lieutenant Jeremiah Greenman:

“This morning the Genl. Beat at day break and in half an hour the assembly when the March commenced from the right – Came 7 Miles to Haverstaw where we halted 2 hours, after which came a Mile and a half & incamped in Order to wait General Washingtons Orders wether to cross the River or tarry the West Side – at two oClock received Orders to cross the river, at 4 oClock the Genl. Beat when we struck our Tents & proceeded on Our March to Kings Ferrt where we crossed the North River. Sent our Baggage up by Water / came one Mile & lay in the Woods / very Cold…

S. 9. At day break the Revally beat in half an hour the Assembly when the Troops paraded and marched from the right / Came to the Continental Village where breakfasted after which proceeded on our March as far as N Battery where halted an hour, then came to the Connecticut huts where halted two hour, after which received orders to incamp / came one Mile below the Mountain Nigh the North River where incamped – “305

June 13

The Rhode Island Regiment was paraded for inspection before Colonel Walter Stewart, the Inspector of the Northern Army who was joined by Major General Baron von Steuben. The Inspector’s report noted that the men were “ clean and neat, but the Cloaths are very much worn.”306


July 1

From the Diary of Lieutenant Jeremiah Greenman:

“This morning about half an hour before Sun wrise was alarmed, we immediately took Post on a hill jest in our rear where we continued a quarter of an hour, when marched back to our former Post. The Alarm was ocasinoed by a party of hors thieves who was fired upon by Some Militia…”307

July 8

Letter from Patrick Hamilton of Cecil County, Maryland to Col. Jeremiah Olney:

“Last June Negro Fortune Stoddard had his tryal, he was acquitted of the Murder, but found guilty of Manslaughter. He is ready to be delivered on payment of his fees, which if not speedily done he must be sold agreeable to the laws of this State. The fees will amount, (at present) to Twenty five pounds Specie if not more. Every day he remains in custody adds something to the sum. I request you would as speedily as possible favor me with a letter, informing me, whether you intend to pay his fees, & by whom the money is to be paid…”


August 4

From a letter from Col. Jeremiah Olney to Gen. George Washington:

“I beg leave to lay before Your Excellency the Case of Fortune Stoddard a Negroe Soldier of my Regmt who is now in the State of Maryland in Civil Custody in the County of Cecil, for killing one James Cunningham, who with others bred a Riot in the Soldier’s Quarters on the 21st Decr/81…it appears from the Sherrifs letter the Soldier had his Tryall…and was aquitted of murder but found Guilty of man slaughter, and that from the Laws of this State he will be sold to pay the Cost of Prosecution &c. Except Some person appears to Settle the Charges…it appears to me very Cruell, the Soldier should be Sold to pay the Charges, as he was in the line of duty defending himself and Quarters against the Insults of the Rioters – I confess myself at a loss to know the Necessary measures to be pursued for Recovering the Soldier again into Service….
…Sharper Gardner who was Tried by a Genl Court martial in April, at Philadelphe, for Desertion and Sentenced to Suffer Death & is now in confinement at West point, I Cannot find that any order has been Published Respecting him – Major Olney informs me the Proceedings of the Court were transmitted to Headquarters by the Secretary at War – I have made Enquiries into the fellows Character & Can Say nothing favourable in his case – but wheather an Example after so long Confinement will be productive of the same good Consequences, as in a more recent case, I Submitt Inteirly to your Excellency’s Decision…”308

August 5

Letter from Gen. George Washington to Major General Benjamin Lincoln:

“I have the honor to inclose you a Letter from Colo. Olney with some other Papers relating to a soldier of the Rhode Island Regiment who has been in confinement in the state of Maryland since last Winter.
As it would be extremely unjust and cruel that the Soldier should be any longer confined or should be sold to pay the charges of his Prosecution I must request you to take the matter up as soon as possible and procure his Release…”309

From Washington’s General Orders:

“The Light companies of the 1st Connecticut, Rhode island and the 3d 6th & 10th Massachusetts regiments will march on Thursday the 8th instant under the command of Major Ashley to relieve the infantry now on the lines.”310

August 21

From the general orders of General Washington:
“The Light infantry of this army is to be organized and commanded in the following manner:
The four flank companies of Massachusetts from the 1st. to the 4th. regiment inclusive to compose a battallion under the orders of Major Oliver, four others from the 5th. to the 8th. to compose another battallion under the orders of Major Ashley; these two to form a regiment and to be commanded by Colonel Henry Jackson.
The two remaining flank companies of Massachusetts, the flank company of the 5th. Connecticut and that of Rhode Island is to form a Battalion under the command of Major Dexter.”311
From the Diary of Lieutenant Jeremiah Greenman:
“this day received orders for the Regiment to relieve the Troops on the Lines at Dobbs Ferry, Stonney and Virplanks Point, the Infantry ordered to be imbodyed / Major Dexter od our Regiment ordered to take Command of one Battallion…

August 22

… This morning agreeable to yesterdays Orers the Regt, paraded to go to the lines / the Genl. Beet at 4. oClock when the Tents were struck and carried to the Shore to be put into a Vessel which I procured yesterday to carry the baggage down the river in – the Assembly beet at 5 & soon after the March commenced came as far as the Continental Village, where we made a small halt, from where we proceeded on to Kings Ferry, where we left two Companys one at Virplanks & the other at Stonny Point, we then proceeded with 6 companys as far as Kearkiat where halted & put our men into Barns.”312 The six companies of the Rhode Island Regiment took garrison duty at the blockhouse at Dobbs Ferry, New York. The southernmost outpost of the Grand Northern Army on the Hudson River, the blockhouse was the site of flags of truce received from Great Britain, those ships carrying prisoners to be exchanged that occurred throughout the war despite hostilities. The Rhode Island Regiment maintained guard at the blockhouse, the Flag of Truce landing, the beacon at Dobbs Ferry as well as the light above Nyack, New York, and along the Closter Road. In addition, a small water guard patrolled the river.313

August 23

From Washington’s general orders:
“The Army being now to assemble and take the field in the immediate presence of their general, He announces his resolution that perfect dicipline shall be observed, as well on parade, in the duties of the Camp and service of the guards, as in the general œconomy and order of the Line.
The General expects the same unabating ardor and attention will be seen in perfecting the troops in their exercise and Manœvres which have already been productive of such astonishing effects; relying on the ability, experience and zeal of his officers, the patience docility and fortitude of the soldiers, he promises himself the good conduct of this army will hereafter be cited as a pattern of imitation for Military men, and that their past service and atchevements are but a presage of a richer harvest of glory in prospect; under such auspicious circumstances he contemplates with infinite pleasure the moment which shall again unite our standards with those of our generous and gallant Allies in the face of the common enemy; that happy moment he flatters himself is not far distant.”314


September 4

Letter from Gen. George Washington to Major General Benjamin Lincoln:

“Yesterday Colo. Olney transmitted to me from Dobbs Ferry, a passport given from Gen. Hazen, admitting Mr Taylor, a British Commissary of Cloathg to pass from Lancaster into N. York with his Servants & Horses—mentiong in the passport that Liberty had been given by the Secty at War for this purpose.
My Genl Instructions at that post mentiong that no passports are sufficient, but such as are signed by the President of Congress—Secty at War—or Govrs or Executives of the several States, Admission could not be given without sendg to Head Quarters.
I take the Liberty to mention this Circumstance to you—& beg when Permission is given to any prisoners of War to go into N. York, that their passports may be signed by yourself—and the going in of Horses may be particularly attended to by you, & not permitted but in very extraordinary Cases…”315

September 8

From a Letter from Lieutenant Colonel Jeremiah Olney to Gen. George Washington:

“I have the pleasure to inform your Excellency the State of R. I. have order’d 200 men to be Rais’d for Filling the Regmt, this I have in a Letter (Recd this morning) from his Excellency the Gover. of 26th Ulto the Term & Condition on which they are to be ingag’d is Express’d in the act which I daily Expect by Major Olney when I shall Communicate it to your Excellency—the State have declin’d makeing a Single New appointment, tho’ it was So Essential—I am at a loss to account for their Policy…”316

On this day the Rhode Island Regiment was relieved of duty from at Dobbs Ferry by the New Jersey Continental Line. The Regiment assembled with their detachment at Stony Point and joined the encampment of the American army at Verplancks Point the following day.

September 10

Having seen his regiment depart, the commander of the Rhode Island Regiment reported to the Commander-in-Chief, and conveyed the concerns of his successor:

From a letter from Lieutenant Colonel Jeremiah Olney to Gen George Washington:

“The Field officer Commanding the advance post at Dobbs Ferry on the Hudson from 24th Augt to 8th Septr 1782, begs leave to Report, that he has (from time to time) Communicated to your Excellency every occurrence that has Come within the Sphere of his Observations—that he has nothing Further to Report that the State of the Garrison &c. &c., agreeable to the Inclos’d Reports—Save only that the Beacon’s (order’d by your Excellency for Communicating an alarm in Case of movement by the Enimy) are Compleated as far as they Can be ’till the arrival of the Tarr Barrells—Two Deserters that Came from the Enemy have been Sent to Head Quarters—a Spy Glass would be of great use to the Commanding officer at the Post.”317

September 19

Letter from General Washington to Major General Benjamin Lincoln:

“I inclose to you Copies of a Report of the Engineer Maj. Villefranche & a Representation of Maj. Genl Knox—respectg the magazine which was proposed to be erected on Constitution Island.
Immediately upon the Plan being determined on, Fatigue Parties from the army were ordered to be employed on the Work of Digging & preparing for the foundations as often as they were applied for by the Engineer, which was very constantly attended to till the Work was compleated to its present State—By the Enclosed papers you will see there has been a total failure on the Port of the Q. masters, both in point of masons and materials—by which means, & the advanced Season, the probability of effectg any thing to any purpose this Year, is totally lost.
Under these Circumstances, & agreeable to Genl Knox’s Representation, I have directed the Work to cease for this Season—& to apply our attention to preparating for the Accomodation of the Troops which will be assigned to that Garrison, as soon as the army retires to its Winter Quarters.”318

From the Diary of Lieutenant Jeremiah Greenman:

“Implying myself this day in superintending the Company, in the woods who was a cutting their [quota] of wood for the Garrison of West Point.”319

September 20

A detachment from the Rhode Island Regiment was sent with soldiers from the 2nd Connecticut Continental Regiment to quartermaster Timothy Pickering in order to transport supplies of wood to West Point.320

September 30

From Washington’s General Orders concerning safety in camp:
“In the orders of the 8th. instant the Commander in Chief pointed out the danger of a carless use of fire in Camp. He now directs that officers on guard may prevent their sentinals or others from making fires in the woods where there is no encampment; and after the publication of this order it is expected that the Field officers and the Quarter Masters of the day will see that all fires made in or about the Camp except at the usual and necessary places of Cooking and Washing be immediately extinguished, and those who make them confined and brought to trial for disobedience of orders.
Commanding officers of brigades are requested to point out the places where their brigades are to wash and give strict orders that fires made for that purpose are not left burning when the persons who make them return to Camp.”321


October 2

From Washington’s General Orders:

“The Commander in Chief forbids the sending or permitting Boats to go down the river, from this Camp without his leave; Non-commissioned officers or soldiers, who are detected in going down the river by Water, or below the advanced posts of the army, by land without proper authority will be severely punished…
Lieutenant John Welch is appointed Quartermaster to the Rhode island regiment from the 1st of May last vice Lieutt. Sayles promoted.
Lieutenant Greenman of the Rhode island regt. is appointed Adjutant to the same from the 1st of september last vice Lieutenant Rodgers37 resigned that office.”322

October 14

From Washington’s general orders concerning maneuvers the following week:
“For a Monoevre to be performed on Thursday next, the disposition for which will be hereafter communicated.95
The Jersey Line will give one, the York line two, the Connecticutt line including the Rhode island regiment two, and the Massachusetts line three battallions; each battallion to consist of two Field and twelve Platoon officers, twenty five Noncommissd. officers, and eight Platoons of fifteen Files each. Four field Pieces to be attached to this Corps.
The Jersey battallion to be furnished with 12, the two Connecticutt and that battalion of Massachusetts which forms immediately on the left of the Connecticut, with four rounds of blank cartridges per man. The Field pieces with ten rounds each the battallions to be provided with colours.”323

In the same orders, among the issued reports of recommended sentences at courts-martials:
At the same Court Samuel G. Dyer of the Rhode Island regiment, “charged with Desertion from the regiment in April 1781, and joining the enemy, was found guilty in breach of article 1st. section 6th. of the rules and articles of war and sentenced to suffer Death (more than two thirds of the court agreing thereto).
The Commander in chief approves the sentence of the court.”324

October 22

The French Army began their march for Boston and prepared to depart North America for the Caribbean.

From the general orders:

“For duty tomorrow the 2nd Connecticut and Rhode Island regiments.
The Army is to Manoevre on Thursday next the dispotition for it will be previously given out and the troops are to be served with an extra gill of rum pr. man on that day.”325

October 24

Per Washington’s orders, the entire Grand Army of America is paraded and put through maneuvers. The Rhode Island Regiment was positioned in the right wing between the Connecticut and Massachusetts Lines, assigned to a brigade led by Colonel John Greaton of the Massachusetts Line in a division led by Major General Robert Howe of North Carolina.326

From General Washington to the Troops:

“Before the Army marches from this ground the Commander in chief Orders it to be signified to the several corps which have been in the field, that he has been particularly satisfied with ~he internal Police and order the Encampments as well as the perfect regularity with which every species of duty has been performed the present Campaign. The alacrity and dispatch the troops have shown in procuring fuel for Westpoint and its dependences are extremely satisfactory to him.
The honorable the secretary of war having expressed his entire approbation of the splendid and soldierlike appearance the army exhibited this morning in passing in review and performing all the Manoevres with the gratest exactness and celerity, and having requested it might be made known to the officers and men that he entertains the highest sense of their attention, perseverance and zeal, in making such astonishing proficiency in their profession since he had last the pleasure of seeing any part of them under arms.”327

October 25-27

From the Diary of Lieutenant Jeremiah Greenman:

“This day agreable to yesterdays orders the whole armey paraded & went through Several Manouvers which was, thought by his Excellency Genl. Washington to surpass all of the like kind since the commencement of the present War…

F. 25. This morning the Armey ordered to march by wings, by the left, the left wing to march tomorrow morning at 7 o’Clock, & the right wing to March the Next day at the Same Hour –

S. 26. This day wrain which provented our marching

S. 27. This morning agreable to wing orders, by Genl. Gates struck our tents & put them in Vessels procured for that purpose – at 10 o’Clock the March commenced, from the Left our Regiment in front, (as it was the left of the right wing) / came as far as Peekskills where we made a small halt, from where proceeded to Nelson’s Point, from where crossed the North River, went on west Point / went about two miles up Butter Hill, & very much fatigued, halted & built fires…”328

October 29

From Washington’s general orders:
“Parole Peekskill. Countersigns Croton, Crumpond.
As it is expected the troops will have sufficient time to cover themselves commodiously before the setting in of the winter; the General directs that regularity, convenience , and even some degree of elegance should be attended to in the construction of their hutts; the plan and dementions of which will be furnished by the Quarter Master General, as soon as the positions for the several corps shall be fixed upon. Any huts that shall be built irregularly, in violation of this order will be demolished. All the Levies and draughts from the Rhode Island regiment are to join that corps near Newburgh immediately. They will bring their tents and baggage with them..”329
Upon their arrival in Albany, the Rhode Island Regiment fell under the command of Major General William Alexander, Lord Stirling. They were immediately ordered into Winter Quarters at Saratoga, New York.


November 9

From the Diary of Lieutenant Jeremiah Greenman
“This morning wrode to Saratoga Garrison where companies of the Regiment had arrived & took possession of the Barracks which was very poor….
S.10. Continuing at Saratoga fixing our Barracks &c. – During the remainder of the Month Nothing happened worthy of remarks excepp a flagg of Truce from Canada.”330


December 17

A planned dispatch of an expedition through New England to seek out deserters leads to correspondence between General Washington, Major General William Alexander, Captain Ebenezer Macomber, and Lieutenant Colonel Jeremiah Olney:
Letter from Major General William Alexander, Lord Stirling to Lieutenant Jeremiah Olney:

“I yesterday received a Letter from His Excellency the Commander in Chief, on a subject you will best understand by reading that Letter, of which I now enclose you a Copy, as well for that purpose as to inform your mind fully how delicately His Excellency wishes this business should be handled. The Execution requires the utmost dexterity and secrecy, and from every circumstance I cannot commit the direction to a more proper person than yourself.

I think the detachment need not exceed a Captain two Subs. and fifty privates, but if you think any less number sufficient I leave it to your discretion. There are at present a number of deserters from the Continental Army dispers’d over the Country call’d the Grants, the apprehending of whom would be of signal service to the public, on this occasion will serve as an excellent blind to the main object of the expedition. The party should be furnished with actual orders to take and secure those deserters; none of them except the commanding Officer need to know of any other design, they may give out that they are going as far as Connecticut River or perhaps as high as Cahos, but they must take care their routs naturally lead to the habitations of the two men wanted, and at a proper distance on this side of them should divide into two parties, and to manage their march as to arrive at the two houses nearly at the same time and the moment they have made their stroke to push off South into the Massachusetts State where I believe they will find the people more friendly to them, especially when they come to understand how high the crimes are, for which these men are apprehended, which may then be freely communicated to them, however no such confidence is to be plac’d in them as may endanger the escape or rescue of the prisoners.”

December 18

Letter to George Washington from Lord Stirling:
On the 16th I was honord with the receipt of your Excellency’s letter of the 9th with the enclosures there in mentioned. after fully Considering the busyness; I concluded it would be best to Commit the Management of it to Lt Colonel Olney who is at Saratoga, and will best know which of his Officers are the most proper for the interprize; the enclosed letter which went off Yesterday contains such Matters as occured to me as necessary to say to him on the Occasion.
Later that month, a sizeable detachment from the Rhode Island Regiment including one subaltern officer, three sergeants, and forty-three rank and file marched under command of Captain Ebenezer Macomber to the State of Vermont ostensibly to search for deserters. The actual objective of the mission was the capture of Judge Luke Knowlton of Newfane and Colonel Samuel wells of Brattleboro; two known loyalists who were suspected of passing letters between the British in Canada and officers in New York, deemed “inimical to American interests.”331

Congress had passed a resolution for their capture on November 27th.

In the waning weeks of December, another expedition was being considered, one put forward by Colonel Marinus Willett to raid the British fort on the eastern end of Lake Ontario, known as Fort Ontario or Fort Oswego. The present fort had been rebuilt on the ruins of a previous fort that dated from the “Indian Wars”.

Fort Oswego was often used during the war for raids upon local farmers in the Mohawk River Valley to increase British supplies which were stored in the star shaped fortification as well. If Colonel Willett’s plan succeeded, he would put an end to the raids in his home state, and garner some provisions to haul back to headquarters. Willett had detailed plans of the fort and access points which he passed along to General Washington.

December 18

Letter from General Washington to Col. Marinus Willett:

“Your letter of the 29th… from Albany, came safe to my hands. I am glad to find you enter so readily into a measure which appears very practicable in my eyes, provided the Troops for the Enterprise can be properly accommodated.
I have again written to the Secretary at War respecting clothing for the York State Troops, and desired Colo. Tilghman, who left this on Sunday last for Philadelphia to enforce it, not only on him, but on the Clothier General also; that, if it can be had, it may be sent up without delay. From the Deputy Clothier’s Store at this place, I could furnish Vests and Woolen hose enough for the State Troops, and Woolen Caps, Socks, and Mitts sufficient for the whole party. Indian Shoes or Moccasons, I must depend upon you to procure; as also the Snow Shoes, of which I do not see the necessity for each Mans having a pair; tho’ some may be indispensably necessary I well remember to have directed (two years ago) a number of Snow Shoes to be made; and if I mistake not it was done; but I do not suppose any dependence is to be had on them at this time. It may not be amiss however, to enquire of General Schuyler (to whom I think I wrote on this subject) the Qr Master, or any other who may be likely to give information, whether they are yet in being. To provide and carry Scaling Ladders from the Settlement would at once announce your design, and more than probably defeat the Enterprise; at any rate they would be troublesome to transport, and must impede the rapidity of your movement, on which every thing depends. it appears to me therefore that the attempt would be improper, and that the difficulty may be surmounted by carrying a few Tools (to wit Axes, Saws, Augers and a Gouge) with which at a convenient time and place, a sufficient number of Ladders might [soon and easily be made].
The mode you p[ropose for obtain]ing the Sleighs, and assembling [the Troops, I] approve of preferably [to the Qr Masters] having any Agency in the [business as] I do of the time named for th[e execution if the] Clothing can be got to you [in Season, but] having doubts on this hea[d I should be glad] to know to how late a perio[d can be delayed with safety, on Acct. [of the] Ice on the Oneida Lake. and goodness of the Sleighing. If there is a necessity for a Party to preceed the Sleighs a day or two, to mark the rout, it ought to consist of picked men of tried fidelity; and even then, the chance of discovery is greater than it otherwise wd. be…
P S. It will be essentially necessary to fix your Eyes upon some one or more persons (deserters or otherwise) who have been in and are well acqd. with the Enemies works, and seize them at the moment they are wanted that you may have them as guides.”332
General George Washington continued to be actively involved in the coming weeks of planning and provisioning the expedition. He wrote at length with both news of provisions, and advice on planning to ensure the success of what would be a long and grueling march for the troops chosen.


(277) Greenman, p. 242 The threat of deadly disease wrought havoc on the troops, leading to careless abuse of alcohol and a general lapse in discipline that led to several courts-martials that the Lieutenant would attend during the coming weeks.

(278) The name given to swift carriers carrying sealed, confidential documents.

(279) From George Washington to Jeremiah Olney 31 January 1782 Founders Online, National Archives https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/99-01-02-07759.

(280) Lieutenant Colonel Jeremiah Olney Papers MSS 18, Box 1 Folder 2, 1781 Correspondence

(281) Commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 2nd Rhode Island Regiment on 1 January 1777, he was promoted to 1st Lieutenant the following June and served in Olney’s Rhode Island Battalion since May 1781 (Greenman fn1 p. 274)

(282) Greenman, p. 243

(283) Letter from Jeremiah Olney to George Washington, 14 February 1782 https://www.loc.gov/resource/mgw4.083_0260_0262/?sp=1&st=image

(284) Advertisement for recruitment, Providence Gazette, March 9, 1782 p. 3 RIHS MSS Microfilm. Olney had reached this conclusion largely because of the high rate of death among the former enslaved men who had enlisted in the regiment, as well as the high desertion rate for many of the foreign apprentices and indentured servants who had enlisted for the war. Popek makes the point as well, that the loss of enlistees of color was some 40%, with over half of the recruits that enlisted in January 1781 dying that November and December. Despite this order, communities needing to fill the quotas for enlistment continued to enroll veterans of color into the 6th Month Battalions raised by the army through the end of the war. (see Geake, “In Their Masters Stead: Patriots of Color who Served for Another” The Cocumscussoc Review, https://smithscastle.org)

(285) Greenman, p. 245

(286) Letter of Robert Morris to Stephen Olney, February 26, 1782 The Papers of Robert Morris 1781-1784 (Pittsburg, University of Pittsburg Press 1978) pp. 309-310

(287) Letter of George Washington to Richard Humpton, 18 March 1782 https://tile.loc.gov/storage-services/service/mss/mgw/mgw3b/015/015.xml

(288) Greenman, p. 246

(289) Popek cites Rebecca Young as the “noted flagmaker” who delivered a finished “Continental Standard” to the military store in Philadelphia, March 12, 1781 (Entry in Daybook of Military Stores, Philadelphia July 1781-September 1782).

(290) Greenman, p. 246

(291) Letter from George Washington to Jeremiah Olney, 9 April 1782 https://tile.loc.gov/storage-services/service/mss/mgw/mgw3b/015/015.xml

(292) Popek, p. 554

(293) May 1782 Muster Roll of the First Company of the Rhode Island Regiment, NARA Microfilm M246, Revolutionary War Rolls, Roll 87

(294) Letter of Benjamin Lincoln to George Washington, May 6, 1782 https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/99-01-02-08343

(295) Letter of Benjamin Lincoln to George Washington, 13 May 1782 Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/99-01-02-08411.

(296) The Independent Gazetter, or, The Chronicle of Freedom newspaper, May 18, 1782, p. 2. A large portion of this article is reprinted in Popek’s work, and can be seen in its entirety at https://phw02.newsbank.com/cache/ean/fullsize/pl_012062013_0724_21.pdf

(297) Ibid.

(298) Greenman, p. 248

(299) George Washington Papers, Series 3, Subseries 3B, Varick Transcripts, Letterbook 15: March 1, 1782 – Nov. 29, 1782

(300) Greenman, p. 249 The Lieutenant refers to the capture of Captain Joshua Huddy and his guard detail at an American blockhouse under construction at Toms River, New Jersey the previous April. The Tory refugees had hung the Captain without benefit of a trial. The act caused outrage that was reflected in American newspapers, leading Congress to ask Washington to choose a random prisoner for execution when the British refused to turn over the Loyalist officer who had ordered the hanging. The unfortunate prisoner chosen for execution was Lieutenant Charles Asgill of the British 1st Regiment of Foot Guards. (Popek, p. 590)

(301) Letter from Benjamin Lincoln to George Washington, 13 May 1782 https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/99-01-02-08506.

(302) Greenman, p. 249

(303) Ibid.

(304) Philadelphia, The Independent Gazetteer, June 1, 1782 p. 3. Again, Popek prints much of the article in his work, p. 591

(305) Greenman, p. 251

(306) Inspection Return of the Rhode Island Regiment of Foot…for the Month of June 1782 NARA war Department Collection of Miscellaneous Numbered Revolutionary War Records, Record Group No. 93, Item No. 35229 NARA Microfilm M859, Roll 123

(307) Greenman, pp. 252-253

(308) Letter from Jeremiah Olney to George Washington, 4 August, 1782 https://rotunda.upress.virginia.edu/founders/default.xqy?keys=FOEA-print-01-02-02-3019 Sharper Gardner was pardoned by Washington, rejoining the regiment in September 1782. He later successfully petitioned for a pension.

(309) “From George Washington to Benjamin Lincoln, 5 August 1782,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/99-01-02-09032.

(310) “General Orders, 5 August 1782,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/99-01-02-09021

(311) General Orders, August 21, 1782 https://www.loc.gov/resource/mgw3g.006/?sp=227&st=text

(312) Greenman, p. 256

(313) Popek, p. 592

(314) General Orders, August 23, 1782 https://www.loc.gov/resource/mgw3g.006/?sp=231&st=text

(315) “From George Washington to Benjamin Lincoln, 4 September 1782,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/99-01-02-09382

(316) “To George Washington from Jeremiah Olney, 8 September 1782,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/99-01-02-09421

(317) “To George Washington from Jeremiah Olney, 10 September 1782,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/99-01-02-09440.

(318) “From George Washington to Benjamin Lincoln, 19 September 1782,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/99-01-02-09527

(319) Greenman, p. 259

(320) Popek, p. 593

(321) General Orders, August 30, 1782 https://www.loc.gov/resource/mgw3g.006/?sp=310&st=text

(322) General Orders, October 2, 1782 https://www.loc.gov/resource/mgw3g.006/?sp=313&st=text

(323) General Orders, October 14, 1782 https://www.loc.gov/resource/mgw3g.006/?sp=327&st=text

(324) Ibid. https://www.loc.gov/resource/mgw3g.006/?sp=328&st=text

(325) General Orders, October 22, 1782 George Washington Papers, Series 3, Varick Transcripts, 1775-1785, Subseries 3G, General Orders, 1775-1783, Letterbook 6: Sept. 6, 1781 – Dec. 31, 1782

(326) Popek, p. 594

(327) From the General Orders October 24, 1782 George Washington Papers, Series 3, Varick Transcripts, 1775-1785, Subseries 3G, General Orders, 1775-1783, Letterbook 6: Sept. 6, 1781 – Dec. 31, 1782

(328) Greenman, p. 260

(329) General Orders, October 29, 1782 George Washington Papers, Series 3, Varick Transcripts, 1775-1785, Subseries 3G, General Orders, 1775-1783, Letterbook 6: Sept. 6, 1781 – Dec. 31, 1782

(330) The Barracks had been partially burned in a previous raid by Tories, and had yet to be repaired. Greenman, p. 262

(331) Popek, p. 597 The two suspects had fled to Canada by the time of the expedition’s arrival, but the detachment did capture fourteen deserters.

(332) Letter from George Washington to Marinus Willett, December 18, 1782 George Washington Papers, Series 3, Varick Transcripts, 1775-1785, Subseries 3B, Continental and State Military Personnel, 1775-1783, Letterbook 16: Dec. 1, 1782 – June 11, 1785

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