The Soldiers and Sailors Monument in downtown Providence memorializes the 1,727 Rhode Islanders who lost their lives in the Civil War. This includes the 14th Rhode Island Heavy Artillery (Colored); a plaque added later also acknowledges the famous 1st Rhode Island Regiment who gained their freedom by fighting against the British during the Revolution. Surrounding the monument are twelve bronze tablets listing the names of those who died in service to their country.
Being a colored regiment, we work with mostly inner-city kids, who are not usually exposed to this type of programs. Everything is period correct, from the clothes that they wear, to the food that they eat. They get trained in safely using 1863 musket rifles and marching.
The 1st Rhode Island Regiment was a Continental Army regiment formed during the American Revolution. Although it was known as the “Black Regiment” it was never exclusively African American.
Seen here is one of four allegorical figures, this one depicting “Freedom.” She faces City Hall on the Dorrance Street side. Below is a plaque added by the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society.
In 2016 the Downtown Providence Parks Conservancy launched a fundraising campaign to allow for some much needed refurbishing and restoration. The ProJo reported that this would include a cleaning of the name plaques so they will be more easily read:
Those names include members of the 14th Rhode Island Heavy Artillery Regiment, a so-called “colored” unit, according to Theresa Guzman Stokes, managing director of the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society. Guzman Stokes said the Soldiers and Sailors Monument is significant for the state’s black history.
“The contribution of African Americans in general in the Civil War is important to remember,” she said. “We don’t have a lot of monuments around the state.” She hailed the restoration project. “It’s about time we start taking care of our monuments.”
The Providence Foundation had this update in 2018:
As of today, the DPPC has raised just over $216,000 and has reached the point at which they can start working on phase one of the project, while continuing to fundraise for the additional money needed to complete phase two.
I can see no obvious signs that the restoration has begun. This may be due to the state’s new plans for rearranging the bus routes. The Providence Foundation site includes a short video:
To learn more about the Soldiers & Sailors Monument and its significance to the history of Rhode Island, please watch this short film by local filmmaker Jamie McGuire. In this film, we meet people whose ancestors are named on this monument, hear from local dignitaries and end with a special appeal by documentarian Ken Burns.
(The commenter is justifiably confused. This is a Civil War monument after all. The above plaque, attached by the Black Heritage Society at a later date, acknowledges the 1st Rhode Island Regiment which served in the Continental Army for the duration of the Revolution. After several name changes and consolidations, that regiment disbanded in 1783. So I tried to shoehorn the two regiments into this one post . . . not my best writing. I have edited the first paragraph a bit for clarity. Thank you John! BC)