by Daniel J. Cormier | Senior Private, Newport Artillery Company
In the early morning hours of July fourth, while most of us will still be sleeping, citizen-volunteers of the Artillery Company of Newport (ACN) will begin arriving to celebrate our nation’s founding. They will assemble at a stone and mortar building that is wedged between a row of historic houses along Clarke Street. This is the home of the ACN, the oldest military unit in the United States operating under its original charter.
The company maintains a museum in this historic armory that contains one of the most extensive collections of military artifacts. The museum’s most prized items are four bronze cannons, cast by Paul Revere in his Boston foundry in 1798 for the State of Rhode Island. The museum also has an extensive collection of military equipment and uniforms from notable American heroes, such as U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and General Creighton Abrams. It also houses many interesting exhibits of the State of Rhode Island, including items belonging to Rhode Island Civil War General, Ambrose Burnside, for whom we get the term “sideburns.”
But the company is more than its museum. It is staffed by a group of citizen-volunteers who carry on our nation’s tradition of public service, while also honoring our national heritage. The company’s men and women enrich our community by marching in a dozen parades every year, conducting historical encampments and reenactments, as well as providing color guards and salute batteries for official functions throughout the Ocean State. Their efforts preserve our history and provide a model of public service. Next Thursday, the company will honor the nation’s Independence Day.
The hallmark of Americans has been their commitment to the march of freedom. Never was this more true than during our nation’s founding. In a summer long ago, a consensus emerged and was declared that dissolved the political bonds that kept the people of the American colonies beholden to the Kingdom of Great Britain. The congress that assembled in Philadelphia asserted that the thirteen states of America were united and sought an equal station with the other nations of the world. But the story of this revolt did not end with words in 1776. In fact, it only began a period of conflict. At several points in the war the colonists nearly lost and it was only after decades of turmoil and sacrifice, numerous battles, and the loss of many livelihoods and lives that the goal of independence was finally achieved and the United States became an equal among the world’s great nations.
On Thursday, 4 July, 2019, the ACN will honor two Rhode Islanders who served with honor in this cause, as well as performing a salute to the nation. First, the company, resplendent in full-dress and period uniforms, will assemble at the gravesite of William Ellery, a distinguished Newport native and signer of the Declaration of Independence. The volunteers will then move to and recognize the efforts and sacrifice of Oliver Hazard Perry, in front of his burial place. Commodore Perry was a native of South Kingstown and served with distinction in several of the nation’s early conflicts, before giving the ultimate sacrifice during the War of 1812. Both will be honored with a revolutionary era musket salute.
At 11:30 am, the Artillery Company will honor the United States of America. This event will present the company’s four Revere cannons and be held in Newport’s historic Washington Square. The sight is aptly named for the occasion, as General and the nation’s first President George Washington believed it was almost a miracle that the Americans won the revolutionary war. The smell of gunpowder and clouds of smoke that will drift over the area will mark the spirit of patriotism that defined a new nation and the ideal of citizen-service that the Artillery Company of Newport preserves to this day.
For more information on ACN, visit www.newportartillery.org.