Kentish Guards history: The 1800s

All the officers of the Kentish Guards were court-marshaled in 1808

In the early 1800s, the four officers of the Kentish Guards were court-marshaled.

Background: In 1807, the commander, Colonel David Pinnegar, had been ordered to select six members of the Kentish Guard to be drafted for federal service. Colonel Pinnegar opposed this, asserting that the Kentish Guards Charter allowed for the call up of the whole unit for state duty, but not for drafting individual members for federal service.

This resulted in Colonel Pinnegar, Lt. Col. William P. Maxwell, Major Nathan Whiting, and Capt. Allen Tillinghast being court-marshaled for disobedience of orders and neglect of duty.

The politically controversial trial took place before a General Court-Martial at the court-house in Providence on April 27, 1808, and ended in the officers being removed from office without any further penalty.

The Kentish Guards elected replacement officers, and no member of the guard was drafted.

In order to get the true story out and protect themselves from unwarranted aspersions in the future, the Kentish Guards published the pamphlet “Trial of Colonel David Pinniger, Lt. Col. William P. Maxwell, Major Nathan Whiting, Capt. Allen Tillinghast, officers of the Kentish Guards, before a General Court-Martial holden at the court-house, in Providence, April 27, 1808, for disobedience of orders and neglect of duty” in 1808. It was printed by Nathaniel & John F. Phillips, in Warren, Rhode Island.

The War of 1812

During the War of 1812, the Kentish Guards served guard duty at the old Fort Adams in Newport.

The Dorr Rebellion (1841–1842)

Understanding the context

Lead by the politician Thomas Wilson Dorr, the Dorr Rebellion was an attempt by disenfranchised Rhode Island residents to achieve more influence in the state. At the time of the rebellion, a small rural elite was in control of the state government, using the 1663 colonial charter as the state constitution. Because of the colonial charter, land-owning was a prerecquisite to qualify as a voter in Rhode Island.

Thomas Wilson Dorr mobilized the disenfranchised and demanded changes to Rhode Island´s electoral rules. Dorr and his followers established a parallel government and wrote a new constitution for Rhode Island. Even though the Dorr rebellion was crushed by the military, it resulted in the state of Rhode Island´s constituation being rewritten and the rules for voting eligibility in the state were changed in a way that gave more people voting rights.

The Kentish Guards during the Dorr Rebellion

As mentioned above, two rival state governments existed in Rhode Island in 1842. The old one operated under the 1663 colonial charter granted by Charles II, and the other was led by Thomas Dorr. In May 1842, members of the Dorrite movement attempted to seize a state armory in Providence and this resulted in a confrontation on May 17th. The Colonial Charter government called upon the militia to help them, and the Kentish Guards received their call to arms personally from Adjutant General Elisha Dyer, who had put on a disquise and travelled in secret to East Greenwich in wagon during the night. Originally, the Kentish Guards were to go by railway to Providence, but the rebels blocked this plan, so the Guards marched to Providence instead, and were not present for the initial battle.

On June 27, the Kentish Guards were called out to quell a riot in Pawtucket. This became one of the bloodiest scenes of the whole Dorr Rebellion, as a determined rebell group was preparing to attack Pawtucket when they were intercepted by the militia companies. The Kentish Guards Commander, Colonel George Allen, took charge of six militia companies in addition to the Kentish Guards to stop the rebels and restore order.


The state for Rhode Island rewarded the Kentish Guards with $1,000 as a sign of gratitude, which the Guards used to build an armory – one which still stands today. Completed in 1843, it is located on the corner of Peirce and Armory Streets in East Greenwich.

The Kentish Guards during the Civil War

On 5 June, 1861, the Kentish Guards enlisted as Company “H” of the 2nd Rhode Island Volunteers.

They participated in the Peninsular Campaign in Virginia with the Army of the Potomac; the principal Union Army in the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War.

In total, the Kentish Guards fough in 14 major battles during the Civil War. Among other things, they covered the retreat of the Union Army at the First Battle of Bull Run, were the 2nd Rhode Island Volunteers were one of only three regiments to hold their ground.

At the Battle of the Wilderness, the 2nd Rhose Island Volunteers were the last unit out. The Battle of the Wilderness was fought in Virginia on May 5–7, 1864, and both sides suffered heavy casualties.

On 22 May, 1862, the Kentish Guards recruited and suppled the officers for Company “H” of the 7th Rhode Island Volunteers. They saw service with the Army of the Potomac and Army of the Ohio.

You can read more in our article Kentish Guards history: The American Civil War

Spanish-American War of 1898

The Kentish Guards were on alert during the Spanish-American War of 1898, as the Spanish Navy was a threat to the Eastern Coast of the United States.The Spanish–American War (April 21 – August 13, 1898) was a period of armed conflict between Spain and the United States, where a key issue was

Cuba´s struggle to attain independence from Spain.