The 13th R.I. Volunteer Infantry

Standard of the Thirteenth Rhode Island Volunteer Infantry

The heroic 13th R.I. was a small Union regiment which, at the time of its victory at  Pussy Willow Creek, numbered 632 souls, both white and black –    an extraordinary exception to practices of the period.  In addition, 290  of its members were either women or children who, although never officially recognized as such, considered themselves to be full-fledged US Army soldiers.


Click on player below to see an excerpt about the 13th Rhode Island from the documentary.

13th RI Regimental History:

Organized at East Providence in July of 1861 by Mexican War veteran Colonel Francis A. Pleasant. Two weeks training near the old racetrack at Pawtucket. July 7, trampled garden of a Narranganset tribe member. Colonel Pleasant killed on July 9 by a rogue minié ball (the incident variously attributed to the Narraganset –  said to have placed a curse on the regiment, and Private Charles Yardley –  a known klutz from Woonsocket.) Command assumed by Colonel Francis (Frankie) Pleasant, Jr.  July 13, left R.I. for Washington.  July 15, attached to Richardson’s Brigade, Tyler’s Division, McDowell’s Army of Northeastern Virginia.  July 16 – 21, advanced on Manassas, VA. Skirmish at Blackburn’s Ford on July 18.  12:00 pm, Colonel Pleasant, Jr. crushed to death during panicked retreat; command assumed by Lt. Colonel Patrick Blaine.  July 21, Battle of Bull Run, Lt. Colonel Blaine killed by enemy fire at 11:45 am, his replacement, Major J. Frederick Runson, killed by friendly fire at 3:20 pm.  Command assumed by Captain Thomas Pitcairn.  3:25 pm, Private Charles Yardley killed by Captain Thomas Pitcairn.  July 22, returned to Washington. Captain Pitcairn court martialed; found innocent and returned to service.  Command given to Colonel Pierre Caré, formerly of the 1st New Hampshire.  Captain Raphael Peters promoted to Lt. Colonel under Caré.  Duty at Arlington Heights, VA. and at Fort Corcoran through October.  October 31, Colonel Caré dies of unexplained causes (incident attributed to Narranganset Indian curse.)   Lt. Colonel Peters made provisional commander against his wishes.  November 1, duty at Hall’s Hill, defenses of Washington (busy work.)

13th RI 550x

March 26, 1862, Colonel Jonathan Franklin Hale given command, Lt. Colonel Peters moved to second-in-command position.  April 20, Lt. Colonel Peters’ duties as advisor to Colonel Hale effectively usurped by new “executive officer”, General Li Shao-zu, formerly of the Chinese Imperial Army (most recently under Emperor Xian Feng.)  July 2, moved to North Carolina and assigned to Colonel Stevens’ brigade.  Occupation duty (busy work) in and around New Berne, NC through mid December; skirmishes with other elements of the occupation force on August 17, September 8, October 2 – 5,  November 10, 12, & 23, December 1, 3, and 6-11.  December 12, regiment assigned brigade’s so-called “Contraband of War” and  permanently detached from rest of army.  Moved into Wake County (enemy territory).   December 24, former “Contraband” Elijah Swan breveted “Captain of Technological Innovations” (a rank that, strangely, did not exist.)  Kung-Fu training with General Li until February 2, 1863; contemplation of  I Ching through March 11.  February 26, new drummer boy (Nicholas Brody)  enlisted.  March 11, drummer boy’s body possessed by a Divine spirit, effective command of the regiment seized by drummer boy and/or God speaking through drummer boy.  March 12-13, advanced on Fort Anderson.  March 14, Battle of Fort Anderson.  March 15, abandoned battle at the command of drummer boy and/or God speaking through drummer boy, advanced on Washington, NC.  March 30, Battle of Washington.   March 31, abandoned battle at the command of drummer boy and/or God speaking through drummer boy and advanced on Suffolk, VA.  April 13, abandoned Battle of Suffolk.  April – June, brief participation in, then abandonment of the battles of Chancellorsville, Fredericksville, Salem Church, Brandy Station, Winchester, Aldie, Middleberg, Upperville.

Many battles

July 2, the Battle of Pussy Willow Creek; sneak attack on Washington thwarted, Union saved.  July 18, scandal breaks regarding details of certain regiment members’ lives; Colonel Hale arrested, regiment disbanded, troops dispersed amongst other R.I. outfits.  May 18, 1864, President Lincoln adds rider to Massachussetts Senator Henry Wilson’s resolution “to provide for the printing of the official reports of the armies of the United States” stating that all reference to the Battle of Pussy Willow Creek be omitted.  May 19, resolution adopted by both House of Representatives and Senate.

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