Joseph Burdick lay in a hospital at Haynes Bluff, just north of Vicksburg, Miss., as his brothers-in-law Isaac Saunders and Abel Kenyon marched off with the rest of the 7th Rhode Island Infantry to capture Jackson, the state capital. By the time they returned, Burdick, a native of Hopkinton, was dead. He wasn’t the victim of shot or shell, but of a more insidious killer — disease.
First in. Last out. It sounds like an accounting term, but it could have been the rallying cry of the 2nd Rhode Island infantry regiment during the Civil War.
Early in the morning of July 21, 1861, at the first battle of Bull Run (also known as Manassas), the 2nd R.I. became the first Union unit to engage the Confederates forces.
Metal and fire rained down on the deck of the U.S.S. Oneida as she passed the entrance to Mobile Bay on Aug. 5, 1864.
On deck, David Naylor carried black powder charges in a passing box from the ship’s magazine to the 30-pounder Parrott gun. Red-hot pieces of metal, wooden splinters and sparks flew around the young Navy recruit, while steam screamed from the rear of the vessel from a direct hit on one of the boilers. Ahead, the ironclad C.S.S. Tennessee was bearing down.
As the sun rose on Sunday, April 2, 1865, the curtain was rising on the final act of the Confederate States of America. James Barber of Westerly and Charles Ennis of Charlestown would become stars on that stage.
The VI Corps of the Army of the Potomac had been chosen to spearhead the final assault on the Confederate Army trapped in Petersburg, Va. At the tip of that spear, armed only with their rammers and lanyards, would be Corporal Barber, Private Ennis and 15 other volunteers from Battery G of the 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery.
The ceremonial Civil War-era sword at the middle of an ownership duel in federal court between Brown University and a Virginia artifacts collector has had quite a journey.
The sword, from a colonel who received it in New York City from his decorated Civil War regiment, was placed in the Annmary Brown Memorial at Brown, named for the colonel’s wife, a daughter of one of the university’s founders.