Greetings! In February 2011, the Rhode Island General Assembly passed a Joint Resolution creating the Rhode Island Civil War Sesquicentennial Commemoration Commission to observe and remember the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and Rhode Island's major role in that vast conflict. The twenty-seven member Commission is charged with collaborating with other state and national organizations; acknowledging the contributions of Rhode Island's soldiers, sailors and citizens; and developing programs, projects and activities relating to the Civil War that have lasting educational value within our state. The creation of this website is one effort to achieve these objectives.

When the Confederate States of America opened fire on Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina, on April 12, 1861, Rhode Island was among the first of the Northern states to answer President Abraham Lincoln's call for 75,000 troops. Our state's quota was 780, yet 3,147 volunteered for three month's service. This spirit lasted throughout the war. Enlistments totaled 23,236 and exceeded the quota of 18,893, thus preventing a draft. Rhode Island's contribution in manpower exceeded any other state proportionately, with 13% of its population of 174,620 enlisting. Rhode Island contributed eight infantry regiments, three cavalry regiments, eight batteries of artillery, and three heavy artillery regiments. The troops suffered 1,681 deaths, with 486 killed in action and the remainder dying of disease. Rhode Islanders fought at First and Second Bull Run, New Bern, Yorktown, Williamsburg, Malvern Hill, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, Fort Wagner, Front Royal and Appomattox. Sixteen Rhode Islanders received the newly created Medal of Honor.

Rhode Island impacted the northern war effort on the home front as well as on the battlefield. Our state's extensive textile industry was hampered by a scarcity of southern cotton but still excelled in manufacturing from cotton reserves. Rhode Island workers produced rifles and cannons at the Burnside Rifle Company, the Providence Tool Company, and the Builders Iron Foundry, and other war materiel in many other shops. Narragansett Bay was busy with shipping. The U.S. Naval Academy moved from Annapolis, Maryland, to Newport for the duration of the war. A large army hospital opened in Portsmouth Grove (today's Melville). The war bolstered Rhode Island's transformation from a largely rural environment to a growing industrial power and ushered in years of economic growth in the state.
The Commission and its advisory council will explore and publicize this important history – military, political, and cultural – in a myriad of ways during the years 2011 through 2015. We will support projects to restore Civil War monuments and to digitize Civil War related data; we will endorse reenactments and exhibits, expand this website, and produce publications; and we will devote much energy to the education of our citizens – especially students – about this crucial era of our history. The volunteer efforts of the Commission, its advisory council, supportive educators, and Rhode Island citizens in general – all without remuneration – will strive to meet these goals.

We look forward to serving you during these eventful years as we seek your advice and recommendations.

Yours sincerely,

Frank J. Williams



Abraham Lincoln and the Fort Adams Trust present
A Tribute to the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln
Friday, April 17, 2015 from 7:00pm-9:00pm
Jane Pickens Theater, 49 Touro Street, Newport, RI

To finish the Civil War Sesquicentennial, please join us for a musical-theatrical commemoration in which we honor the valor and devotion of all soldiers who fought in this epic struggle which launched our country into a new era. You will witness scenes from my presidency, including the fateful meeting with my cabinet in September, 1862, when I announced the Emancipation Proclamation, and also the reading of the Gettysburg Address.
You will hear a 46-piece orchestra play period and other music selections including Variations on a Shaker Theme by Aaron Copland, selections from the films Gettysburg and Lincoln by John Williams, and America the Beautiful.
Yours, sincerely,
A. Lincoln

For more information, click here
or contact Fred Zilian (
For tickets, go to

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