Israel Angell, Soldier and Hero of the American Revolution

August 24, 1740–May 4, 1832 — Rhode Island Hero of the American Revolutionary War

Israel Angell was an officer in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. Born in Rhode Island, Angell is most famous for his actions at the Battle of Springfield in 1780 and the diary he kept during the war.

Israel Angell, American Revolutionary War, 2nd Rhode Island Regiment Uniform

Uniform of the 2nd Rhode Island Regiment of Infantry, 1779, Continental Line, Continental Army from Uniforms of the Armies in the War of the American Revolution, 1775-1783. By Lt. Charles M. Lefferts. Image Source: Wikimedia.

Israel Angell Quick Facts

  • Israel Angell was born in Providence, Rhode Island, on August 24, 1740.
  • Angell was working as a cooper — barrel maker — and living in Johnston, Rhode Island, at the start of the American Revolutionary War.
  • During the Siege of Boston, he was a Major in Colonel Daniel Hitchcock’s Rhode Island regiment.
  • In January 1776, when the Continental Army was reorganized, Angell’s regiment became the 11th Regiment of the Continental Army. Later, it was renamed the 2nd Rhode Island Regiment.
  • At the Battle of Springfield (1780), Angell and his regiment held their own against a larger force, which was led by General Wilhelm Knyphausen, a Hessian mercenary.
  • Angell retired in January 1781 when the two Rhode Island Regiments were merged into one.
  • He died on May 4, 1832, in Smithfield, Rhode Island.
  • Angell was married three times and had 17 children.

Who Was Israel Angell?

Israel Angell, an American military officer born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1740, initially worked in his father’s cooperage business. However, in 1775, he became a Major in Colonel Daniel Hitchcock’s Rhode Island Regiment. After participating in the siege of Boston, he rose to the rank of colonel in the 2nd Rhode Island Regiment on January 13, 1777. He joined this regiment throughout the Philadelphia Campaign.

Angell distinguished himself in the Battle of Brandywine and later joined forces with the 1st Rhode Island Regiment under Colonel Christopher Greene, defending Fort Mercer in New Jersey from October 22 to November 21, 1777. During the siege, he courageously led his troops against a fierce Hessian attack on the first day.

In 1778, his troops played a significant role in the victorious Battle of Monmouth, earning further praise for their actions.

On June 23, 1780, in Springfield, New Jersey, under the command of General Nathanael Greene, Israel Angell, leading the 2nd Rhode Island Regiment within General William Maxwell’s brigade, was tasked with defending the Galloping Hill Road bridge over the Rahway River. Colonel Henry Lee’s force also guarded the nearby Vauxhall Bridge.

General Nathanael Greene, Portrait, Illustration
General Nathanael Greene. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Hessian General Wilhelm von Knyphausen led a force of 5,000 British and German troops in a strong attack. Angell and his troops held their ground for 40 minutes, causing significant enemy casualties. When Knyphausen attempted to flank them, Angell withdrew but later received reinforcement from New Jersey militia.

Knyphausen eventually called off the attack, burned the village of Springfield, and retreated to New York. Although several American units performed admirably, General George Washington specifically commended Israel Angell for his outstanding performance in the battle.

In January 1781, both Rhode Island regiments merged into one unit. Rather than accepting a demotion to lieutenant colonel, Israel Angell chose to resign. He returned to his profession as a cooper, remarried three times, and had 17 children. He passed away in the town of Smithfield on May 4, 1832.

Israel Angell’s Battles in the American Revolutionary War

Angell served in the following engagements during the American Revolutionary War.

  1. Siege of Boston (1775)
  2. Battle of Brandywine (1777)
  3. Battle of Red Bank (1777)
  4. Battle of Monmouth (1778)
  5. Battle of Rhode Island (1778)
  6. Battle of Springfield (1780)

Facts and Perspectives About Israel Angell

Rhode Island Sons of the American Revolution

The Rhode Island Sons of the American Revolution has a short biography of Colonel Israel Angell. Facts about Angell’s service during the war are listed below.

  • At the start of the trouble with Great Britain, Israel Angell took an active part. 
  • When the Army of Observation was ordered raised by the General Assembly of Rhode Island in 1775, Angell was commissioned as a Major in the regiment commanded by Colonel Daniel Hitchcock. 
  • Hitchcock’s regiment, including Angell, was part of the American Army that carried out the Siege of Boston.
  • When the 2nd Rhode Island Regiment was created, Daniel Hitchcock was elected Colonel, and Israel Angell was elected Lieutenant-Colonel. The regiment was sent to join the Continental Army under the command of General George Washington.
  • Hitchcock died at Morristown, New Jersey, on January 13, 1777. The command of the regiment transferred to Angell and his commission was dated January 13, 1777. Angell held the position until the 1st and 2nd Regiments were consolidated.
  • Angell participated in the Battle of Brandywine and the Battle of Red Bank and was with Washington and the Continental Army during the Winter at Valley Forge (1777–1778).
  • The 2nd Rhode Island Regiment played an important role in the Battle of Monmouth.
  • After Monmouth, Angell and his regiment were sent to Rhode Island to unite with General John Sullivan in the operations against British forces at Newport, Rhode Island.
  • For distinguished services at the battle of Springfield, on June 23, 1780, he was the subject of special mention by General Washington in a letter to Governor William Greene of Rhode Island.
  • Upon consolidating the two Rhode Island regiments, Angell retired from the army.
Battle of Rhode Island, 1778, Siege, LOC
Battle of Rhode Island. Image Source: Library of Congress.

Encyclopedia of the American Revolution

These facts are taken from the entry on Israel Angell found in the Encyclopedia of the American Revolution.

  • Angell’s reputation comes from his performance at the Battle of Springfield, New Jersey, on June 23, 1780.
  • General Nathanael Greene ordered Angell and Major Henry Lee to hold the bridges over the Rahway River for as long as possible.
  • Greene and Angell were engaged by General Wilhelm Knyphausen and his larger force of 5,000 British and German soldiers.
  • Angell and his regiment took the brunt of the attack and inflicted heavy losses on Knyphausen’s forces, who were forced to retreat after burning the town.
  • General George Washington was present at the battle and witnessed Angell’s heroics.
  • Military historians believe Angell’s leadership during the Battle of Springfield to be one of the classic military actions of the American Revolutionary War.

Rhode Island College, North Burial Ground Project

These facts are drawn from the North Burial Ground Project’s short biography of Israel Angell.

  • He was the son of Oliver and Naomi (Smith) Angell.
  • Before the war, Angell served as captain of the Johnston Militia.
  • The Rhode Island General Assembly formed the Army of Observation after the Battles of Lexington and Concord.
  • The regiment was first named the 11th Continental Regiment.
  • Colonel Hitchcock died from tuberculosis.
  • Angell commanded the 2nd Regiment at the Battle of Rhode Island.
  • Following the Battle of Rhode Island losses and illnesses took their toll on both the 1st and 2nd New Hampshire Regiments so they were consolidated in 1781 as the 1st Rhode Island Regiment.
  • Angell was buried in the family graveyard on his farm in Johnston on the South Scituate road. In 1918 his remains were relocated to the North Burial Ground.

Primary Sources for Israel Angell

Israel Angell kept a diary during the war. He also wrote several letters to George Washington which are available from the National Archives Founders Online.

  1. Israel Angell’s Diary — Library of Congress
  2. Israel Angell’s Diary — Providence College, Digital Commons
  3. Letter to George Washington, January 31, 1778
  4. Letter to George Washington, April 8, 1780
  5. Letter to George Washington, June 2, 1780
  6. Letter to George Washington, January 1, 1781

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Israel Angell, Soldier and Hero of the American Revolution
  • Date August 24, 1740–May 4, 1832
  • Author
  • Keywords Israel Angell, American Revolutionary War, 2nd Rhode Island Regiment
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date February 27, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update January 9, 2024

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