PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis is marking the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War by inviting the public to learn more about Rhode Island’s role in the War Between the States at free exhibit at the State Archives in downtown Providence.
“A Battle Hard Fought” features an array of photos, volunteer enlistment papers, reports of battles and casualties, correspondence from Abraham Lincoln and battlefield maps, as well as documents relating to Rhode Island’s African - American regiment, the 14th Heavy Artillery.
“Rhode Island responded to the call of duty with enthusiasm, vigor and sacrifice. We are celebrating the patriotism of the 25,000 Rhode Islanders who served the Union cause,” said Mollis. “Fighting at Bull Run, Antietam and Gettysburg, 1,000 were wounded and 2,000 made the ultimate sacrifice.”
The Civil War officially began on April 12, 1861, when Confederate gunners began their bombardment of Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charlestown, S.C. The war essentially ended with General Robert E. Lee’s surrender to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox on April 9, 1865.
A July 3, 1862 telegram from President Lincoln to R.I. Gov. William Sprague sheds light on the heart-breaking mathematics of recruiting troops as the war that many believed would be over in six months dragged into its second year.
“If I had fifty thousand (50000) additional troops here now I believe I could substantially close the war in two weeks but time is everything & if I get fifty thousand new men in a month I shall have lost twenty thousand 20000 old ones during the same month having gained only thirty thousand. With the difference between old & new troops against me the quicker you send the fewer you will have to send,” wrote Lincoln.
Other featured items include images of Rhode Island soldiers, Civil War-era military instruction manuals and a Union recruitment poster from 1861.
“I hope exposure to history like this will inspire Rhode Islanders and remind them of the unique treasures the State Archives has to offer,” said Mollis.
“A Battle Hard Fought” is on display through Aug. 31 at the State Archives, 337 Westminster St., in downtown Providence. Free validated parking is available at the In-Town Parking lot across Snow Street from the State Archives.
In addition to presenting exhibits, the State Archives is also home to tens of thousands of historic documents such as the 1784 law that granted slaves in Rhode Island their freedom and Roger Williams’ handwritten copy of the original 1638 deed buying Providence from the Wampanoag tribe.
Secretary of State Mollis is committed to making it easier to vote, helping businesses grow and making government more open and accessible. For more information about the exhibit or visiting the State Archives, call (401) 222–2353 or visit sos.ri.gov.