A Brief History of the 1st Rhode Island
The 1st Rhode Island
Volunteer Infantry, Co. K at Camp Alger, Dunn Loring, Virginia.
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The following is a brief history of the 1st Rhode Island Volunteer
Infantry. The regiment served its term of service in the continental
Recruiting for the regiment began immediately following President
William McKinley’s call for volunteers. Recruiting stations were set
up at Providence, Woonsocket, Newport and Pawtucket, Rhode Island. The
newly enlisted men were sent to Camp Elisha Dyer, located at Quonsett
Point at North Kingstown. The camp had been set up and was being run by
the Rhode Island Militia.
The First Rhode Island Volunteer Infantry was mustered into service
between May 10 and May 17, 1898 at Camp Elisha Dyer and placed under the
command of Colonel Charles W. Abbott. At the time of muster in, the unit
consisted of forty-six officers and 958 enlisted men. This regiment
was the only infantry regiment raised on Rhode Island during the war.
The regiment departed Quonsett Point on May 26, with orders to proceed to
Camp Alger at Dunn Loring, Virginia, where it arrived two days later. The
regiment had boarded the Steamer RHODE ISLAND which carried the regiment
to Jersey City, New Jersey. There the regiment boarded the Baltimore and
Ohio Railroad bound for Washington DC and then to Dunn Loring.
Once at Camp Alger the regiment was assigned to the First Brigade, Third
Division of the First Army Corps. The first task was to clear the land on
which they were to place their camp. One their camp At Camp Alger was set
up, the regiment began training in earnest. On June 17, the regiment was
ordered to take a practice march to Difficult Run in Fairfax County,
Virginia. The regiment returned to Camp Alger on June 19. At about this
time, the regiment was expanded in size with McKinley’s
second call for volunteers. With the new recruits in place, the regiment
made a second practice march on June 27th to 30th.
The 1st Rhode Island remained at Camp Alger until August 2 when it was
ordered to Camp Meade located at Middletown, Pennsylvania along with the
remainder of the division. The regiment would march part of the distance
from Camp Alger to Camp Meade before boarding a train for the remainder of
the trip. It is the march that was burned into the memory of the men of
On the first leg of the march, of the division's eleven thousand troops on
the march, made under the hot August sun, only four thousand of the men
completed the march that day. To allow for the stragglers to catch up, the
division did not take up the march again until August 5. From this point
on the march, the regiment was broken up and did not complete the march
together. First, companies B, C, E, I G and K marched together under the
command of Lt. Col. Cook. Companies A, D, F, H, L and M took a different
route and marched through Bristow to Chapel Hill. Companies C and K
departed the four companies that they had been marching with and were
marched to Bristow and then apparently on to Chapel Hill. They were
followed by companies E and I which also marched to Chapel Hill. Company G
also followed but, unfortunately, was forced to ford a swollen stream
through water up to the mens' necks. As the men linked arms to survive the
crossing, many lost their packs and their rifles. The entire regiment
eventually arrived at a camp near Manassas, having marched for the last
two days through a drenching downpour that made the muddy roads nearly
impassable. After staying at this location for nearly two weeks, the
regiment was loaded onto railroad cars bound for Camp Meade, arriving at
Middletown on August 23.
While the regiment was enroute for Camp Meade an armistice had been
agreed to between the United States and Spain, ending the war’s
On August 27, President McKinley arrived at Camp Meade for an informal
visit. On the same day, John Sullivan of Company
A was one of two men killed when they were hit by the engine of a
mail train on the Pennsylvania Railroad. By the end of the month there
were rumors that the regiment would be sent to the Philippines as part
of the army of occupation. The rumors proved to be untrue.
On November 13, the 1st Rhode Island was ordered to depart Camp Meade,
bound for Columbia, South Carolina, where it arrived two days later. While
the regiment was at Columbia, the Treaty of
Paris was signed by the United States and Spain, ending the Spanish
The regiment was mustered out of service on March 30, 1899 at Columbia,
South Carolina. At the time of muster-out, the regiment included
forty-five officers and 1, 039 enlisted men. During its term of service,
the unit lost eleven enlisted men who died from disease and one enlisted
man who died as the result of an accident (Sullivan). Thirty-five more
enlisted men were discharged for disability. Interestingly, the unit also
had thirteen enlisted men court-martialed and eighty-nine men desert the
"1898 Spanish American War, Camp Meade, Pennsylvania, A Roster and
Souvenir, 1st Rhode Island Regiment," (Harrisburg, PA: Clepper &
Sigler, 1898), 3-4.
Correspondence relating to the War with Spain And Conditions
Growing Out of the Same Including the Insurrection in the Philippine
Island and the China Relief Expedition. Vol. 1 (Washington:
Government Printing Office, 1902) 617.
"Delicacies for the Sick," The Scranton Republican. August 31,
"Soldiers Killed by Train," Boston Globe. August 28, 1898, 4.
Statistical Exhibit of Strength of Volunteer Forces Called into
Service During the War with Spain; with Losses from All Causes.
(Washington: Government Printing Office, 1899).
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