American military history in Rhode Island began with the organization of the colonial militia early on in the 17th century primarily to battle against assaults from native inhabitants. The benefits and significance of Rhode Island military records in genealogical research for ancestors who were veterans are apparent but Rhode Island military records can also be important to researchers whose immediate ancestors just weren’t soldiers in any war. Because of the quantity of genealogical facts covered in several Rhode Island military pension documents they ought to not be overlooked throughout the research process.
In colonial times, Rhode Island’s seafaring and sea trading businesses were booming. It was common for smuggling, slave trading and privateering ships to be docked in Rhode Island’s ports. Rhode Island was also a major part of the colonial wars because of all of the sea trade that went on in the state. Many military records are on file at the Rhode Island State Archives. The Rhode Island Historical Society, which is located in Providence, has published Rhode Island in the Colonial Wars: A List of Rhode Island Soldiers and Sailors in King George’s War, 1740-48; Rhode Island Privateers in King George’s War, 1739-48; and Rhode Island Soldiers and Sailors in the Old French and Indian War, 1755-62. It is a three-volume set containing valuable genealogical and historical information regarding Rhode Island’s role in the wars.
In 1777, a military census was taken for Rhode Island. It listed all men in the state and their ability to serve in the military, or inability to do so. They were separated into three age groups, which were those from 16 to 50, those from 50 to 60 and those older than 60. No returns from Newport, Portsmouth or Middletown exist for that census because the British had control of those towns at the time that the census was taken. Also, although census records were taken for New Shoreham, Exeter and Little Compton at the time, they have been lost or destroyed. An index of all Rhode Island men who served in the Revolutionary war can be found at the Rhode Island State Archives.
The Adjutant General’s Office has military records dating from the Civil War until the end of World War I on file.
Rhode Island in the Colonial War
Colonial War Website Links
Rhode Island in the Revolutionary War
Revolutionary War Website Links
- Research in the Revolutionary War 1775-1783 (uswars.net)
- Organized military Rhode Island units in the Revolutionary War (uswars.net)
- Revolutionary War links from fold3.comwith original data from the National Archives:
- Rhode Island Final Payment Vouchers Index for Military Pensions, 1818-1864 These slips serve as an index to final and last payments to over 65,000 veterans of the Revolutionary War and some later wars.
- Rhode Island Revolutionary War Pensions Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files.
- Rhode Island Revolutionary War Prize Cases – Captured Vessels Prize cases heard on appeal from Colonial and state courts by the Continental Congress and the Court of Appeals in Cases of Capture.
- Rhode Island Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783 Muster rolls, payrolls, strength returns, and other miscellaneous personnel, pay, and supply records of American Army units, 1775-83.
- Rhode Island Revolutionary War Service Records Compiled service records of soldiers who served in the American Army during the Revolutionary War, 1775-1783.
- Revolutionary War links from http://search.ancestry.com:
- Rhode Island Revolutionary War Books (amazon.com)
Rhode Island in the War of 1812
War of 1812 Website Links
Rhode Island in the Civil War
Civil War Website Links
- Research in the Civil War 1861-1865
- Civil War links from fold3.com with original data from the National Archives:
- Rhode Island Civil War Infantry Regiments and Units
- Rhode Island Civil War Cavalry Regiments and Units
- Rhode Island Civil War Artillery Regiments and Units
- Civil War links from ancestry.com:
- U.S., Confederate Soldiers Compiled Service Records, 1861-1865 – This database contains an index to compiled service records (CSRs) for soldiers who served with units in the Confederate army. Most of the men whose names appear in this index served with units from 15 different states or territories; others were soldiers raised directly by the Confederate government, generals and staff officers, and other enlisted men not associated with a regiment. Compiled service records are files of cards that abstract original military records relating to an individual soldier. A typical CSR will include an envelope that lists a soldier’s name, rank, unit, and card numbers, followed by cards with details extracted from muster rolls, rosters, hospital rolls, Union prison records, payrolls, and other records, with a new card being created each time a soldier’s name appeared on a new document. The CSRs may also include original documents pertaining to the soldier. The CSRs do not constitute an exhaustive list of all men who served in the Confederate army.
- U.S., Union Soldiers Compiled Service Records, 1861-1865
- History of the Fifth Regiment of Rhode Island Heavy Artillery : during three years and a half of service in North Carolina
- The Fourteenth Regiment Rhode Island Heavy Artillery (Colored) in the War to Preserve the Union, 1861-1865
- Forty-six months with the Fourth R.I. Volunteers in the War of 1861 to 1865
- Rhode Island Civil War Books (amazon.com)
Rhode Island Modern Wars
War Website Links