Rhode Island in the Civil War commemoration at RIC, April 8

The event marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War and the R.I. connection, with musket demonstrations and re-enactments that include an encampment and an 1864 baseball game.

Student re-enactors, above and below, will be a part
of 'Rhode Island in the Civil War: Public History and
Popular Memory' at RIC on April 8.
The history books tell us basic facts about the American Civil War, but on April 8, Rhode Island College will hold a daylong event that will go beyond the textbooks of the state’s involvement in the war, and a take a look at the battle from a soldier’s point of view, through exhibits, period music, historical interpretations, and re-enactments that will be showcased throughout the campus.

Poster with schedule

The event, “Rhode Island in the Civil War: Public History and Popular Memory,” is part of RIC’s history symposium series, presented in conjunction with the R.I. Historical Society, the R.I. Council for the Humanities, and R.I.’s public television station WSBE-TV, to observe the sesquicentennial (150th) anniversary of the attack on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, in Charleston, S.C., which started the Civil War.


Students from Providence’s Met School will kick off the day by recreating an encampment of the 14th Heavy Artillery, a black regiment from Rhode Island. The student re-enactors will be in full Civil War costume, perform drills, and tell the story of the regiment in a play that highlights the social and political problems caused by the war.

The encampment will include tents, cookery, and other Civil War equipment and artifacts, plus demonstrate musket shooting and even a baseball game as it was played in 1864.

The Providence Brigade Band will play period music known to the soldiers serving in the Union Army.

John Franklin, associate director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, will offer the keynote.

“The diversity of participants and approaches to the past highlights the RIC public history program’s emphasis on helping everyone in the community to forge connections between past and present,” said Erik Christiansen, history professor at the college and one of the event organizers.

A panel discussion will feature noted Civil War historians, including Chief Justice (ret) Frank Williams, chair of the Lincoln Forum; Mark Dunkelman of the R.I. Civil War Roundtable; and URI professor emeritus Maury Klein.

“Examining history and memory of the event through scholarly interpretation and re-enactments, bringing scholars in direct contact with popular interpretations, only livens the study of history,” said Karl Benziger, RIC history professor and event co-organizer.

During the American Civil War, Rhode Island as one of the Union states, supplied 25,236 fighting men, of which 1,685 died. Along with the other northern states, Rhode Island used its industrial capacity to supply the Union Army with the materials it needed to win the war. Continued growth and modernization in the state led to the creation of an urban mass transit system, and improved health and sanitation programs. After the war, in 1866, Rhode Island abolished racial segregation throughout the state.

The event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact RIC’s Office of News and PR at (401) 456-8090/onpr@ric.edu.