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Winter At Valley Forge

Washington's winter at Valley Forge is viewed today as perhaps the greatest test of willpower of the fledgling American government and their quest for independence from Britain. One of our ancestors is listed on the rollcall for Valley Forge.

On September 11, 1777 British, and American troops met and fought at the Battle of Brandywine. It was a defeat for the Revolutionary Army enabling the British to occupy Philadelphia, the American capitol. Congress had fled to York where the seat of government was established. Valley Forge was chosen as the location for the winter encampment of 1777 - 1778 because it was located near the main road between Philadelphia and York.

Rollcall Note:

Last Name: LOWING     First Name: SAMUEL        Suffix: 

Rank:      PRIVATE    Rank Type:  RANK AND FILE Ethnicity: 


State:     RI Regiment: 1 RI Division: 1ST DIVISION

Monthly Muster Roll Status

January  1778: ON COMMAND
February 1778: ON COMMAND
March    1778: ON COMMAND
April    1778: ON DUTY AT RADNOR
May      1778: 
June     1778: 

Additional information

From American Revolution Journalsee also

When the 1776 enlistments were about up, the RI General Assembly voted to raise two regiments numbering 1,430 men combined The recruiting did not go well. In spite of additional bounties offered, by February 1777, only 50 men had enlisted in the two regiments. As veterans of 1776 returned home, the situation improved a bit.

By March, the two regiments had a total of about 400 men. (Various excuses have been advanced to explain this poor showing. RI had an estimated 1,200 men serving on ships, mostly privateers, and another 1,800 serving in the state's brigade, keeping an eye on Newport).

General Washington ordered the 1st and 2nd RI to join him despite the lack of strength. On Washington's suggestion, Christopher Greene was appointed commander of the 1st RI. Because he was still a prisoner at this time (he was captured during the Arnold expedition to Quebec), Lt. Colonel Comstock was put in command until Greene could join his unit.

Upon arrival in the American encampment, the RI regiments were brigaded with the 4th and 8th Connecticut and the four units were placed under the command of General Varnum, who used some political clout at home to get a promotion to brigadier.

Valley Forge

During the summer of 1777, the two RI regiments peaked in strength at 600 men combined. At this point, Christopher Greene managed to join his regiment. In October and November of 1777, the RI units fought in the battle at Red Bank. After the battle, Greene evaded the British and got the two RI units back to Valley Forge for winter camp.

In camp, the RI offlcers, concerned about the very low numbers in the ranks, came up with the idea of raising a regiment from slaves. Washington wrote Gov. Cooke of Rl asking his opinion of the scheme. The governor expressed cautious optimism and said 300 men could be expected. So the troops of the 1st RI were transferred to the 2nd RI, numbering 400 as a result. This regiment served at Monmouth under Lee.

Greene and his staff were sent back to RI to raise a black regiment to fill the ranks of the depleted 1st RI. The General Assembly voted that every able bodied Negro, Mulatto and Indian slave could enlist for the duration of the war. Bounties and wages would be the same as those of free men. Once enlisted and approved of by the officers of the regiment, the recruits would be free. At this time, there was a Black and Indian population of 3,331 in Rhode Island. The scheme, which did compensate owners, produced less than 200 men. Seeing how expensive the plan was becoming, the Assembly cut off recruiting of slaves on June 10, 1778.

This incarnation of the 1st RI first saw action in the battle of Rhode Island in August 1778. The Continental troops that fought in the battle (1st and 2nd RI; Sherburne's, Webb's and Jackson's and Livingston's) remained in RI for the winter of 1778-79. On October 25, 1779, the British evacuated Newport, RI.

All the Continental units in RI were ordered to march. However, at the last minute, the 1st Rl was told to stay in the state and guard the wharves and streets of Newport. The 1st RI remained home into 1780. In July of that year, Rochambeau arrived in Newpon with 4,000 French troops. An officer with Rocharnbeau, von Clausen, provides us with a description of one of the Black soldiers wearing a cast-off French waistcoat with long sleeves and red cuffs, as well as the waved helmet with bluish plumes.

In October of 1781, Congress reconstructed the army again. The 1st RI, the 2nd RI, and Sherburne's battalion were all merged into one regiment called the 1st Rhode Island. Greene maintained command, with subordinates Jeremiah Olney and Ebenezer Flagg. Sherburne, Isreal Angell and Ward were all forced to retire. The merger took place at West Point. Although authorized for 650 men, the actual strength was about 450 men.

In May of 1781 the 1st RI was stationed along the Croton River, north of Manhattan. On the 14th, a raiding party of Delancey's refugees surprised the Rhode Islanders at two points. To make the story shorter, Greene and Flagg were killed. Lt. Colonel Jeremiah Olney assumed command. Coggeshall Olney and John Dexter were promoted to major and made his subordinates. Though the official designation was still the 1st RI, it became known as Olney's battalion.

The 1st RI was one of the first to head south to Yorktown. It was brigaded with New Jersey troops under Colonel Dayton, and placed in Lincoln's division. Stephen Olney's light infantry detached from the regiment and were given to Lafayette's Division of Light Infantry. In February of 1782, the regiment numbered 31 offlcers and 413 men. The regiment was disbanded in November 1783 when Congress decided to consolidate all regiments with less than 500 men and the state refused to spend additional recruiting money.

posted by Trevor Lowing

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