On a September afternoon in the peacetime year of 1821, a regiment of Rhode Island militia completed its annual review and prepared to go home. Suddenly the regiment’s parade field in Providence became the scene of a spontaneous military riot.
In a confrontation that exploded over the space of a few minutes, the regimental commander was arrested and men in the ranks shouted for fellow militiamen to “fix bayonets” and resist orders by force. Ordered to take command in place of his arrested colonel, the senior battalion commander instead marched his men off the field, breaking the regiment apart to prevent the possibility of its obedience. Finally, as men in the ranks lashed out to strike a brigadier general’s horse with the butts of their weapons, a staff officer grabbed the general and dragged him away to safety.