The First New England Cavalry was the brain child of Rhode Island Governor William Sprague IV, who wanted all New England states to contribute to a new cavalry regiment in the Fall of 1861. The unit ended up being comprised of only two states: two Rhode Island battalions and one battalion from New Hampshire.
After just a few months, the federal government made them change their name to the First Rhode Island Cavalry, as only state units were allowed at the time (much to the outrage of the New Hampshire men in the unit). Documents having the cavalry’s original name are extremely rare. And here we have an enlistment document for a man who went on to become the First Rhode Island Cavalry’s regimental quartermaster.
Also in this gallery is a carte de visite (photograph) of Rhode Island’s “boy governor” William Sprague IV (circa 1861) when acting as Aide de Camp of General Ambrose Burnside, head of the Rhode Island Brigade. Sprague was the only acting Rhode Island governor to fight and lead men in battle, and had his horse shot out from under him at the First Battle of Bull Run (July 21, 1861).