On January 1, 1777, the 1st Rhode Island Regiment was organized, commanded by Colonel Christopher Greene. Most of the officers and men came from the 9th Continental Regiment, who in turn had come from Varnum’s 12th Continental Regiment. By 1778, Rhode Island faced difficulties recruiting enough soldiers to meet the quota set by the Continental Congress. On February 14, the Rhode Island Assembly voted to allow "every able-bodied negro, mulatto, or Indian man slave" to enlist; the reward for service would be freedom from slavery. Approximately 140 African Americans volunteered, and were mustered into the 1st Rhode Island Regiment over the course of the Revolutionary War. The public dubbed it the "Black Regiment," although it was never exclusively African American. The regiment saw action at the Siege of Boston and the battles of Red Band and Rhode Island.
The 2nd Rhode Island Regiment was organized on January 13, 1777, from Hitchcock's Regiment, after the death of Colonel Daniel Hitchcock. The regiment fought at the battles of Monmouth, Rhode Island, and Springfield (New Jersey). From 1781-1783, the 1st and 2nd combined to form the Rhode Island Regiment.