Also shown is a 1943 MP-40 submachine gun.
This Rhode Island Civil War Artillery officer’s frock coat and pants belonged to a member of the 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery, Capt. James E. Chace. His unit was a storied regiment with a lot of combat experience in many of the biggest battles of the Eastern theater. At Gettysburg, Chace was a member of Battery G as a Lieutenant. He later became a Captain in Battery B.
The shoulder board on this frock coat shows that it was originally for a Lieutenant and then a single bar was later added to make it right for a Captain. So, it is quite likely this jacket was a witness to the great Battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863. So far, we’ve spent about 8 hours cleaning these items. They were both covered in moth cocoon remnants and waste. It’s tedious work; removing the waste without also removing fragile fabric or making existing holes bigger. It requires great care and slow progress. But the result is very rewarding.
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).
On the night of July 9, 1777, Barton’s Raiders captured the British Commander-in-Chief, General Prescott, in Middletown, RI. At the Varnum Memorial Armory Museum, we have a sword that is purported to be the one taken from Prescott on that night.
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New technology met “the way we’ve always done things” in a big way on March 8, 1862, off the coast of Virginia. The old war sloop, the USS Cumberland, and four other wooden Navy sailing ships faced off against the CSS Virginia (formerly the Merrimack), the world’s first steam-powered and iron-clad warship. This ship instantly made every Navy ship in the world obsolete. The Union ships were all defeated or run aground. The Cumberland was sunk.
Cleaning out one of the cases at the Varnum Memorial Armory Museum, we found this great memento from this landmark sea battle that changed naval history forever. The painting shows the USS Cumberland on fire and being rammed by the CSS Virginia.