Wednesday, July 18, 2012

1st Regiment Rhode Island Detached Militia, 1861

On Monday, April 15, 1861, President Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for 75,000 militia to suppress the rebellion. Among the many units responding to the president’s call were those that made up the 1st Rhode Island Regement.

This regiment is interesting in many respects. With peculiar thoroughness, the state government had integrated a fine battery of rifled artillery, the 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery, into the regiment. The regiment also had a detachment of “carbineers” to act as skirmishers, and two men were designated as “aeronauts” to conduct aerial surveillance of Confederate positions. But for accidental damage to their balloons, they might actually have done so.

Uniform. The uniform of the 1st Rhode Island, which it shared with the 2d Rhode Island, was unique to those two regiments. The famous Civil War artist A. R. Waud made a sketch of the uniform, reproduced above. Waud’s own notation on the back of the original gives the following description: “This uniform is dark blue shirt, belted around waist, black felt hat and grey pants; the blanket is scarlet with black bar near edge….” To Waud’s description it is only necessary to add that the blouse is the famous “Burnside” or “Rhode Island blouse,” and to note that many of the men wore the kepi or forage cap with a white havelock. Augustus Woodbury, the regimental historian felt that the uniform “formed a good combination of the national colors.” The figures in the drawing represent, from left to right: Enlisted Man, Full Dress with blanket; Fatigue; Officer (Captain); Full Marching Order; and Enlisted Man with Burnside carbine.

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