Remembering a Few of Our Local Heroes

by | May 23, 2024

Above: Beloved by his men, Henry Prescott was one of the first Rhode Islanders to be killed in the Civil War at the First Battle of Bull Run on July 21st, 1861. 

Memorial Day is close at hand. It is a sacred occasion that honors the ultimate sacrifice of our brave men and women in uniform, who have given their lives in defense of our nation’s freedom and values. It is a day to remember and pay tribute to the fallen heroes who have fought for our country’s liberty, from the Revolutionary War to the present day. As we gather at parades and memorials, we are reminded of the immense debt we owe to these courageous individuals and their families, who have borne the burden of war.

Today, Memorial Day remains as relevant as ever, serving as a poignant reminder of the human cost of war and the importance of preserving peace. As we face political and cultural divisions at home and ongoing global challenges and conflicts abroad, it is crucial that we continue to honor the legacy of those who have fought and died for our nation’s security and prosperity. By doing so, we ensure that their sacrifices are not forgotten and that future generations understand the true meaning of courage, duty, and patriotism. Moreover, Memorial Day provides an opportunity for us to come together as a nation, transcending political and social divides, to acknowledge our shared values, our shared story of our national birth, and the freedoms we all enjoy as Americans.

As we reflect on the significance of Memorial Day, let us remember the faces, names, and stories behind the statistics and headstones. And let us continue to support and care for the families and loved ones left behind, who bear the scars of war with dignity and resilience. By doing so, we will ensure that the spirit of Memorial Day endures, inspiring future generations to defend our nation’s values and freedoms with the same courage, honor, and sacrifice that have defined our military heroes throughout history.

Let’s reflect now on a few Rhode Island heroes who gave the ultimate sacrifice and who are memorialized today with permanent exhibits in the Varnum Armory Museum.

MATTHEW J. AUGUST of North Kingstown

West Point Graduate and Army Captain Matthew J. August was 28 years old when he became a Rhode Island fallen hero. He was assigned to Company B, 1st Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division (Mech) in Fort Riley, Kansas. Captain August was killed January 27, 2004, in an improvised explosive device attack in Khalidiyah, Iraq. Sensing something was not right, he had stopped his entire convoy and continued on ahead, alone, to investigate. His sacrifice saved the lives of his men under his command. 



After his father had abandoned the family in the middle of the night on the eve of the Civil War, 16-year-old William with his mother’s permission enlisted into Battery G, 1st RI Light Artillery so that he could support her and his four siblings with his pay. On October 19th, 1864, just a few months after having this photo taken, William would be mortally wounded while fighting to recapture one of his battery’s guns from attacking Confederate forces. His best friend buried him and wrote William’s mother, 

“All the men that are left in our Battery feel deeply with you; and Mrs. Lewis, no heart can tell how bad I feel, the last words he said to me, ‘tell my Dear Mother if my wound should prove to be fatal that I died an honor to my Mother and my Country.’ He died happy and said he was willing to go to his God for he said, ‘I die a Christian.’”

MAJOR JACOB BABBITT, 7th Rhode Island Volunteers. 

He would be mortally wounded at the Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13th, 1862. His last written words were, “Should it be my lot to fall, know that it was in defense of our beloved Constitution.”

“As an officer he was cool, brave, and prompt.  He entered the Battle of Fredericksburg with his regiment and, while cheering on his men, was wounded in the arm and chest (a bullet had entered his shoulder and passed through and out his other arm). He died from the effects of his wounds, December 23rd, 1862, at the Mansion House Hospital in Alexandria, Va.  His last hours were soothed by the presence of his wife, and others of his family.” 

– “Memoirs of Rhode Island Officers Who Were Engaged in the Service of Their Country During the Great Rebellion of the South” by John Russell Bartlett


CYRIL MOSHER of East Greenwich, 12th US Field Artillery

“He was one of the most courageous and dependable soldiers in the service”, said the Captain of East Greenwich native, Sgt. Cyril Mosher.

Cyril had quit school at Yale to serve his country in World War I. On 18 June 1918, at the Battle of Belleau Wood, Cyril fired his cannon scoring a direct hit on a German trench. At this moment, a German shell exploded nearby, and a shell fragment hit young Cyril. He lived but a couple of minutes before succumbing to his wound. He would be one of five East Greenwich residents to have died on the battlefields of France in World War I.

On 21 July 1918, his wake was held at the Varnum Memorial Armory Museum, and he was laid to rest at Quidnessett Cemetery. The family donated his personal things to the Varnum Memorial Armory Museum, where they are on display today. His grief-stricken father, the Reverend Gabriel Mosher, promptly enlisted and served in France as a Chaplain. He would survive the war.

HENRY A. PRESCOTT of Providence, RI

Beloved by his men, Henry was one of the first Rhode Islanders to be killed in the Civil War at the First Battle of Bull Run on July 21st, 1861. 

“Poor Prescott, while standing there encouraging his men, received a shot in the head; clasping his hands over it, he exclaimed “Boys, I am going,” and fell. We cannot mourn for him, for he has gone to his reward, one of the noblest men and best of Christians I ever say. His men cannot speak of him with dry eyes. He was universally beloved.” 

– Unknown soldier in co. C, 1st RI Detached Militia writing about the First Battle of Bull Run.

ALFRED G. GARDNER of Providence RI, Battery B, 1st RI Light Artillery

“Adelia [his wife], tell Mary and Sarah Willborn that I find the grace of God sufficient for me on the battle field and that I expect to meet them in heaven. There will be no more fighting then; all peace and love will begin. Alfred”

 Written by Alfred Gardner of Battery B, 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery, in the margin of a page in his family bible on display at the Varnum Armory. Soon after, he would be mortally wounded on Cemetery Ridge at Gettysburg, PA on the afternoon of July 3rd, 1863. His dying last words to his best friend, Albert Straight, were, “Please tell my wife I died happy…please make sure she gets my bible. Glory be to God Hallelujah…I AM HAPPY, AMEN!” Moments later he would bleed out and die. 

Please, never forget these heroes. Let’s allow their example to inspire us and to make us all better friends, neighbors, and fellow Americans.

NOTE: The Varnum Armory Museum and Varnum House Museum will be open following the East Greenwich Memorial Day parade (roughly 11 a.m. til 3 p.m.)


Patrick Donovan, President
Varnum Continentals, Inc.

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May 24, 2024 8:28 am

Bravo Zulu to all!

Chet Sutphen
Chet Sutphen
May 24, 2024 7:51 pm
Reply to  Mark

Beautiful rememberance on real heros.


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