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John Stanton Slocum

1 November 1824 – 21 July 1861

Born in Richmond, RI, he attended Trinity College in CT.  Showing an early interest in the military, he became a member of the National Cadets of Providence, RI.  On the breaking out of the Mexican War, he hastened to Washington DC and applied to the President for a commission in the Army.  He was commissioned as a 1stLieutenant of the infantry on February 18, 1847, and assigned to the Ninth Regiment.  Being engaged in the battle of Contreras, he was breveted to Captain for gallant conduct.  He fought in the battle of Churubusco.  At Chapultepec, he commanded one of the storming companies, which won him the full rank of Captain.

After the Mexican War, with his unit disbanded, Slocum went back to Rhode Island.  With his wartime experience, many Rhode Island militia units asked for Captain Slocum to lead them.  He agreed to serve as Colonel of the Mechanics Rifles of Rhode Island in 1858. After that, he re-titled the Slocum Light Guard.  He married Abby Allen James, daughter of Major General Charles T. James, on February 18, 1858.  He helped his father-in-law develop and sell the James rifled cannon, widely used in the Civil War. He was appointed to the examining board of the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York in 1860 and served as secretary of the board for that year.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, he was commissioned as a Major in the First Rhode Island Volunteer Infantry and he went to Washington DC on April 20, 1861, with that unit.  Rhode Island was required to raise another regiment, and Governor William Sprague gave the command of the 2nd Rhode Island Volunteer Infantry Regiment to Slocum.  He was promoted to Colonel on June 5, 1861.  Colonel Slocum and the 2nd Rhode Island left for war on June 19, 1861.  Upon arrival in Washington DC, the unit camped near Camp Sprague, and Colonel Slocum was key in preparing his regiment for battle.  

On the morning of July 21, 1861, the 2nd Rhode Island was part of Colonel Burnside’s 2nd Brigade marching to Manassas, Virginia.  They approached the battle after crossing Sudley Ford.  The 2nd Rhode Island Regiment was on the far left of the Confederate line and Slocum was ordered to put out skirmishers in front and on the flanks.  Colonel Slocum and his regiment advanced onto the open field.  For nearly an hour the Regiment fought on alone, against Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina units.  Colonel Slocum stood high on a fence to be better seen by his troops and to gain situational awareness.  He was struck by much enemy fire and never regained consciousness.  He died later on July 23, 1861, at Sudley Ford Church and was buried in a plain pine box in the vicinity along with other casualties.  

The Confederates held the area around Sudley Ford until March 1862, and a Georgia regiment sought retribution against the 2nd Rhode Island and their dead officers.  The Georgians, supposing they had disinterred the body of Colonel Slocum, desecrated the body buried over him and dumped it in a ravine in the vicinity of Sudley Ford.  Governor Sprague and a contingent of Rhode Island officials visited Sudley Ford on March 21, 1862, to exhume their fallen sons and return them to their native soil.  Led to the defiled body, the party examined the remains and a tattered remnant of his uniform insignia and discovered that the Confederates had mistakenly uncovered and abused the body of Major Sullivan Ballou also of the 2nd Rhode Island Volunteers, not Colonel Slocum.  Colonel Slocum’s body was exhumed from his original resting place, and positively identified by his red bushy mustache and his clothes.  The remains of these soldiers were transported back to Rhode Island, with a stop in New York City, where the dead were laid in state at John Jacob Astor’s house.  Colonel Slocum was buried in Swan Point Cemetery, Providence, RI and his substantial monument mentions his four battles – Contreras, Churubusco, Chapultepec, and Bull Run.

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