The Rhode Island 11th United States Colored Heavy Artillery had originally been raised and organized as the 14th Regiment Rhode Island Heavy Artillery. On August 28, 1863, the first company was mustered into Federal Service.
As customary for African-American units raised in the north during the Civil War, the officers were white, all of whom had seen previous service. These officers were commissioned by the President of the United States after passing a rigid examination conducted by a military board in Washington, D. C., which was presided over by Major General Silas Casey of the U.S. Army.
In December of 1863, the first battalion left Providence for Newport, RI, from where they sailed to New Orleans, Louisiana, to eventually serve under General Nathaniel P. Banks who was in command of the Department of the Gulf. On January 8, 1864, the second battalion left Providence to join their brothers in arms in New Orleans. While units of the 14th Rhode Island United States Colored Heavy Artillery were stationed at Fort Esperanza, Matagorda Island, Texas, in March of 1864, Companies A, C, and D were placed under arrest for refusing to accept their pay, which was three dollars a month less than what regular white troops were receiving. The ringleaders of the protest were tried by general court-martial, and sent to Fort Jefferson, Florida. (continued)