This American Revolutionary War commission document at the Varnum Memorial Armory Museum was presented to James Mitchell Varnum of East Greenwich, RI (Varnum House Museum) on May 10, 1779, naming him Major General of all Rhode Island Militia forces opposing the Crown troops of Britain. It is now properly framed and on display for the first time thanks to the generous donations made by our Facebook followers. Thank you!
At the Varnum Memorial Armory Museum, we have the wool undershirt worn by East Greenwich-native Sergeant George Byron Bennett (of the 1st Rhode Island Cavalry) in the last year of the American Civil War. It’s in amazing condition, and wear and staining reveals a lot about the soldier, his habits, and his day-to-day life.
Visible on the shirt are sweat, dirt, and urine stains. You can see that the shirt was worn tucked in (and that he wiped his hands on his stomach…). The urine stains appear at the bottom-center where it would be tucked in over his crotch.
At the Varnum Memorial Armory Museum, we have the .44-caliber New Model Army revolver that was carried by Sergeant George Byron Bennett (of the 1st Rhode Island Cavalry) in the last year or two of the American Civil War. It is marked with his initials.
The pistol was made by Eliphalet Remington & Sons in Ilion, NY, in 1863 or early 1864. Over 230,000 were made with many being purchased for military use (as the Colt M1860 revolver became hard to get due to massive fire at their factory in Hartford, CT). Cavalrymen were heavily armed, so Bennett also would have carried a sword and a breech-loading carbine.
Now in the Varnum Memorial Armory Museum collection, this is classic four-pull “spyglass” used by East Greenwich-native Sergeant George Byron Bennett (of the 1st Rhode Island Cavalry) during the American Civil War. A primary role of the Cavalry was scouting and reconnaissance, where a telescope like this would be very useful.
The Rhode Island Historical Society (RIHS) and Varnum Continentals have joined forces to save and bring home a unique piece of Rhode Island American Civil War and African American history! It will soon be on display at the Varnum Memorial Armory Museum. This is an excerpt from an upcoming issue of the “Rhode Island History Journal”:
“Written just two weeks after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, this letter was sent to Governor William Sprague (1830–1915) from Lorenzo Thomas, Adjutant General, inviting Rhode Island to contribute ‘an infantry regiment of volunteers of African descent’ to fight for the Union. Hundreds of black men volunteered for service from Rhode Island and served mostly in the 14th Heavy Artillery regiment, which ultimately joined the astonishing 74% of Northern black men of military age who enlisted as soldiers and sailors to fight for the Union.
The RIHS acquired this letter at auction with the generous support from the Varnum Continentals, which owns both the Varnum House Museum and the Varnum Memorial Armory & Military Museum.”
The Varnum Continentals look forward to hosting this amazing exhibit of national importance at the Varnum Memorial Armory Museum!