The First Rhode Island Regiment
In 1778, the dwindling First Rhode Island Regiment needed men. The state’s assembly decided to recruit enslaved African Americans, offering them freedom in return for their service. The 225-man regiment eventually included 140 black soldiers, the highest proportion of any Continental Army unit.
After fighting in primarily northern battles, the regiment marched south, where its troops helped secure American victory at Yorktown in 1781.This watercolor of American foot soldiers during the Yorktown campaign depicts a member of the First Rhode Island Regiment on the far left. From the diary of Jean Baptiste Antoine de Verger, 1781. Courtesy of the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University