Reuben Ballou, of Rhode Island, and Mark Noble, of Massachusetts, both served
in the American Revolution in companies from the Colonies where they were born.
And both men left Revolutionary War records in Rhode Island. Genealogists
looking for evidence of military service or other participation during the
Revolutionary War should not overlook the possibility of resources in the
colonies where companies were stationed. A researcher might automatically check
Rhode Island records for Reuben Ballou but overlook resources available for
their Massachusetts ancestor, Mark Noble.
Many Revolutionary War companies, including non-Rhode Island-based military
units, stationed their men in the Colony of Rhode Island. It is fairly well
known that the British occupied Newport from 1776 to1780, but how many
genealogists are aware that soldiers from French and Hessian armies found
themselves stationed in Rhode Island? The Revolutionary War created a myriad of
records that survive at local and national repositories. Clues to military
service appear in vital records, cemetery inscriptions, court documents, and
CensusIn the spring of 1777, the General Assembly ordered an
enumeration of all resident males in the colony between the ages of 16 and 60.
Mildred M. Chamberlain transcribed the list in her volume, The Rhode Island
1777 Military Census (Baltimore: GPC, 1985). Soldiers stationed in the
Colony are not part of the census. Unfortunately, records for several towns
could not be located for publication specifically: Exeter, Little Compton,
Middletown, Newport, New Shoreham, and Portsmouth.
The 1840 federal census has a column that designates whether an individual
was receiving a federal pension for military service. It does not necessarily
refer to Revolutionary service but does indicate that military service records
might be available.
Compiled Service RecordsThere are several sources for manuscript
material relating to compiled service records for Rhode Island units. The
National Archives, the Rhode Island State Archives, and the Rhode Island Historical Society all
have relevant collections.
At the National Archives, the War Department Collection of Revolutionary War
Records (RG 93) contains pension roll lists, copies of commissions,
resignations, enlistment papers, orders and accounts, and papers transferred
from other agencies.
The Rhode Island Historical
Society (121 Hope St., Providence, RI 02908) has a large collection of
Revolutionary War Military Records relating to various regiments, both
Continental and militia, and their officers. Interested individuals should write
to the Manuscripts Curator of the Society for a copy of their Guide to
Revolutionary War Military Records (1997). Their holdings include:
The Rhode Island State Archives (337 Westminster St., Providence, RI
02903-3302) has muster rolls from the regiments of Crary, Topham, and Elliott.
They also own the Revolutionary War Names Card Index, 1770-1785. This file
indexes material in the U.S. Pension Office, U.S. War Department, the U.S.
Treasury Department (last payment of pension or date of death listed),
Congressional Library Record, Military Census of 1777, Military Returns at RISA
[Rhode Island State Archive], and Military Papers at the Rhode Island Historical
Society. Unfortunately, some of the locations mentioned in this catalog are no
longer accurate. (Many items originally kept in scrapbooks at the Rhode Island
Historical Society are now arranged chronologically.)
Published Compiled Service RecordsMost town histories mention the
Revolutionary War service of its citizens, but colony-wide lists exist in only a
few volumes. Bear in mind there is no comprehensive list of Revolutionary War
soldiers from Rhode Island. To locate additional publications on the
Revolutionary era in Rhode Island, search the catalogs of the Library of Congress and this site's
library, and consult the following
Hospital RecordsReturns of the Officers and Nurses (female) for
the General Hospital at Providence (1778), a military facility, are at the Rhode
Island Historical Society. Patient data includes date of admission, full name,
company, regiment, disorder, and the event that caused them to be hospitalized.
There is currently no index for this material.
Newspaper NoticesDuring the American Revolution three newspapers
published notices of military deserters: the American Journal and General
Advertiser, 1779-1781, the Newport Mercury, 1758-1800 (ceased publication with
the December 2, 1776 issue and resumed on January 5, 1780), and the Providence
Gazette. The advertisements included the name of the deserter, a physical
description, place of belonging, unit they served with, and the name of the
officer who placed the notice. For instance, Reuben Ballou placed several
advertisements for men that deserted his unit. Original copies of the newspapers
are available at the Rhode Island Historical Society and on microfilm at various
academic and research libraries. The notices from the Providence Gazette have
been published in myRunaways, Deserters and Notorious Villains (Picton,
Pension PapersLists of pensioners from 1820, 1835, and 1840 appear
in vol. 12 of Arnold's Vital Records of Rhode Island, 1636-1850. The published
1820 list includes the name of the soldier, rank, service and date of death. The
1835 list includes the name, rank, annual allowance, sum total of what was
received, description of service, when placed on the pension roll, the date the
pension commenced, age at the time of commencement, laws under which they were
placed on the rolls, remarks and date of death. The 1840 list is shorter and
includes just name, age and place of residence. If living in another's
household, the name of the head of that house is provided.
The Rhode Island State Archives also has the list of Invalid Pensioners
(1790) and Revolutionary Pension Correspondence (1850-58). The largest
collection of pension records is found at the National Archives. The records are
available on microfilm (M804) at branches of the National Archives and through
the mail. Their website has
additional information. Virgil D.White, in Genealogical Abstracts of
Revolutionary War Pension Files, 4 vols, (Waynesboro, TN: National Historical
Publishing, 1990-1992) abstracted these pensions.
Special IndexesIn addition to the card index at the Rhode Island
State Archives, the Rhode Island Historical Society has a card file that indexes
all the yearly volumes of the D.A.R. material compiled by local chapters. The
actual volumes are available in their library and at the Daughters of the
American Revolution Library in Washington, D.C.
Transient ExaminationsTown councils routinely interviewed
individuals that were not official town residents. While these examinations can
be difficult to locate, they can prove military service. Their value is clearly
illustrated by Mark Noble 's examination. It lists where he was born and
outlines his life history and military service. According to his testimony, he
"...enlisted into the Army of the United States and served as one of the
Hadley quota part of the time in Col. Patersons Regiment......He also
Further saith that after having been duly discharged from Col. Patersons
Regiment he enlisted into Col. Voses Regiment......then he enlisted as one
of the Quota of Cranston in Col. Olney's Regiment, three years till peace took
place when he had General Washingtons Discharge that he belonged to Capt.
William Allen's Company while in Col. Olneys Regement. Providence. 9/15/98
Some of these transient examinations are found in the minutes of town
meetings. Unfortunately no comprehensive list of these records currently exists.
OrganizationsOnce you've located that Revolutionary War ancestor,
you may want to contact one of the following organizations for membership