William M. Rodman

Violence in Chepachet!

“Infantry! To the Rescue!” shouted a lieutenant as the militia prepared to overtake the rebels at a tavern in Chepachet, wrote William M. Rodman in 1842. Rodman (1814-1868), a merchant tailor with a shop on Westminster Street, served as Master Clerk of Providence Marine Corps during the Dorr Rebellion. The Providence Marine Corps was one of the militias mobilized to counter the perceived threat posed by Dorr’s return to Rhode Island in June 1842. Rodman, who later became mayor Providence, recorded his account of the events that transpired:

The Infantry immediately started at double quick time from the rear of the column, and were instantly joined by our Company, which with its Guns and Ammunition Cart, rushed into the Village -- The two Companies instantly surrounded the Tavern, where the assailing rebels had taken refuge, and after the passing of one or two pistol shots, (the exact account of which seems to be difficult) the prisoners were secured save one who took flight across a field. He was ordered to stand, but refused to do so, whereupon Lieut. Tower ordered his platoon to fire, which order was promptly obeyed, but the prisoner was not taken, he having succeeded in secreting himself in the dense foliage of a tangled bracken; this scene over, the Col. ordered the remains of the column march into the village. A national salute was then fired by our Company, from the brass pieces, which made the hills and valleys echo with the glad notes of joy -- joy for the triumph of law over misrule, and mobocracy -- joy, for the victory of truth over error--joy, for the safety of our institutions, our lives, our privileges, our kindred and our homes.

After their victory, the soldiers ransacked Sprague’s Tavern and other residences and captured 140 prisoners. When they reached Providence, they were met with a remarkable welcome:

Brilliant was the spectacle, which old Westminster presented. From the side walk to the house tops, all was life, aye, life in its most attractive forms -- and with boquets [sic] and wreaths, only excelled in beauty by their own personal attractions, they literally smothered the advancing columns.

Given his profession as a tailor, it is perhaps no surprise that Rodman noted what he and his compatriots had donned as uniforms: “Scarlet cap, trimmed with Brass -- Black fountain plume, with scarlet tips, Blue coat trimmed with scarlet, with scarlet epaulets and white pantaloons. Black belts. Cartouch box, etc.”

Note on Location: 27 Westminster Street was the location of Rodman’s tailoring firm and on the path of  the parade following the Charterite success at Chepachet

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27 Westminster Street, Providence, RI 02903