|Updated April 2, 2013
Revolutionary War Waypoints
The Years from 1619 to 1798
Copyright © 2004, 2005, 2013 by Bob Sweeny
All Rights Reserved
At King's Mountain
After the War
Prior to the Revolution
Dutch land 20 Africans at Jamestown,
Virginia: 17 men and 3 women. Purchased by the colony, they were
"distributed" as indentured servants, since they were
baptised. Under English law, their baptism made them free.
Virginian Hugh Davis found guilty of "defiling his
body" by "lying with negro."
Massachusetts imports slaves, although they are normally
called servants, not slaves, north of Maryland.
John Punch and two white indentures run away and are caught.
Their indentures are lengthened, but Punch':s is made for
life, making him, in effect, a slave.
Maryland recognized slavery.
Virginia declared that baptism does not make a
The Carolinas recognized slavery.
New York recognized slavery.
A Quaker Meeting spoke out against slavery as being against
the Golden Rule.
George Fox, William Penn, and George Keith published the
first antislavery tract.
South Carolina required planters to have one white servant
for each six blacks. This requirement was the same as in Jamaica
In Massachusetts, Reverend Cotton Mather advocated literacy for
African-Americans and started free schools that featured bible
By 1700, indentured servitude declined in popularity, and
slavery increased. The number of slaves increased, and Britain
became a major slave trader.
In Pennsylvania, three Quakers advocate "mental improvements"
From 1700 to 1750, John Woolman traveled among Quakers, seeking their
"Christian" treatment of their slaves. At the same time,
fellow Quaker Anthony Benezet advocated abolition and taught
African-Americans to read.
In Massachusetts, Samuel Sewell's The Selling
of Joseph advocated ending slavery, the first American
book known to do so. There was little support for abolition
in Massachusetts, since Puritan Church membership gave slaves
the right to vote.
In London, Church of England clergy formed the
Society for Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts.
The Society for Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts
founded a negro school in New York.
The Society for Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts
founded a negro school in Charleston, South Carolina.
Georgia recognized slavery. The number of slaves in
greatest in the Southern colonies that grow commercial
crops, such as rice, indigo, and tobacco. The lowest
African-American population in the South in 1750 is in North Carolina.
Increasingly, African-Americans were trained for crafts, although
Northern colonies regularly banned black craftsmen and merchants
to minimize competition.
The individual colonies indepently established codes of slave
conduct with infrequent interference from Britain. The
harshest code was in South Carolina, where the provisions
were based on the codes in the British Caribbean islands of
Jamaica and Barbados.
A slave in Massaschusetts, Jenny Slew, sued her master on
grounds he restrained her liberty. Similar suits occurred elsewhere
Anthony Benezet founded a school with mostly African-American
Five years before Lexington and Concord opened the Revolution,
African-American Crispus Attucks was killed in the Boston Massacre.
Pennsylvania taxed imported slaves.
A group of slaves in Massachusetts petition the legislature
unsuccessfuly for their freedom.
England overturned a 1771 Massachusetts law outlawing the slave trade.
The Crown acts to protect British shipping interests.
Connecticut and Rhode Island prohibited the import of slaves.
Virginia and North Carolina restrict slave imports.
Patriots in the Revolution
In the French and Indian War, many African-Americans served
in the militia of the colonies. New York and Connecticut
had African-Americans in 25 militia companies.
Early in the Revolution, African-Americans were generally
kept out of the militia. As manpower shortages occurred,
the prohibitions on African-Americans in the militia were
Acceptance of African-Americans varied throughout the
Revolution. Often an African-American's name was not recorded,
only a "Negro man." African-Americans usually served mixed
with whites. Only a few African-Americans
served in the dragoons (cavalry) or artillery. Usually, an
African-American was a private, an orderly, or in a support role
as wagon driver, forager, in the commissary, a drummer, servant,
cook, or waiter.
African-Americans also served in large numbers in the
Continental Navy, the state navies, and aboard privateers (private
vessels licensed by the colonies or Congress to act as armed
ships attacking British, mostly, merchant ships. As with the
militia and army, service was driven by manpower availability.
In the Continental Navy, African-Americans served usually as
"officer's boys" or "powderboys." In
Virginia and Maryland, they often served as pilots. In
all the states, they served as seamen.
In Virginia, a slave, Caesar, served as a pilot on the schooner
Patriot. Another Virginia pilot, Minny, died attempting
to board a British ship in the Rappahannock River.
Five years before Lexington and Concord opened the Revolution,
African-American Crispus Attucks, along with four whites,
is killed in the Boston Massacre.
Virginia's William Flora served with distinction as a
sentinel at Great Bridge, a battle that was a loss for Virginia's
Royal governor. Following Great Bridge, Governor Dunmore
abandonned Norfolk and Virginia.
The Continental Army excluded free or slave African-Americans. When
those already serving ask to reenlist, George Washington asked Congress
to allow their reenlistment.
With the exception of Virginia, the states excluded African-Americans
from their militia. (Virginia did limit freemen to serving as drummers, fifers,
or pioneers.) However, difficulty in recruiting soon caused
states and the Continental Army to ignore the bans.
The Continental Congress prohibited import of slaves in all
Abandonning its earlier policy, the Continental Army allowed the
enlistment of African-Americans.
Virginia actively recruited African-Americans for the Continental Army,
enlisting by the end of the war up to 500.
755 African-Americans served in the Continental Army. The New England
regiments had a greater proportion than other regions. Connecticut had the
largest number of African-Americans serving. In the South, Virginia had the
In the Battle of Rhode Island, the 3-month-old First Rhode Island withstood
three British assaults to ensure victory.
The Continental Congress urged Georgia and South Carolina to raise slave
batallions, since white recruitment failed to raise the numbers required. The
proposal of Congress would pay the owners $1,000. The slaves would receive
$50 and their freedom. Both Georgia and South Carolina rejected the idea.
The most famous black privateer, James Forteu, serving aboard the
Royal Louis, was captured in held captive in New Jersey. Later he
was a successful sailmaker in Philadelphia, leaving an estate of $100,000. He
was also a prominent abolitionist.
James, of New Kent County, Virginia, spied on deserter, and now
British General, Benedict Arnold.
Rhode Island freed its slaves and required educating the
children of the freed slaves.
British Side in the Revolution
Possibly 1,000 African-Americans served with the British and Loyalist
forces as soldiers, mostly in the South. Perhaps another 10,000 served
as laborers and craftsmen. Many served as spies, seamen, and pilots.
Virginia's Royal governor, Lord Dunmore, declared free all
slaves who joined the British army. He was driven from Williamsburg
soon after, but 700 slaves joined his army.
Sampson guided the British in the unsuccessful British assault on
Henry Clinton offered freedom to slaves living within the
Britain evacuated over 15,000 former slaves at the end of the war. Tragically,
Britain also sold some African-Americans into slavery in the Caribbean.
In Patriot Army at King's Mountain
Dr. Bobby G. Moss has identified five African-Americans who served
in the Patriot army at Kings' Mountain:
- Essius (Esaius) Bowman From southwest Virginia, he
was one of the seven or
more men Draper says shot Ferguson. Except for Draper's mention,
nothing else is known about him.
- John Broddy He was described as a servant for
William Campbell, but he
was the only slave in the Patriot army known to be present. Draper describes
how he rode within 200 yards of the battle. He was also described as
resembling Campbell and is
thought to be the source of reports that Campbell was not at the battle. Late
in life, John Sevier
and Isaac Shelby questioned whether Campbell joined in the fighting. Draper
assumes this came about from jealousy. Draper
quotes at least one of Sevier's men as certifying Campbell was in the thick
of the battle. No comments
from John Broddy are known to exist.
- Andrew Ferguson He was born in July, 1765, in Virginia. At
age 13 or 15, the British
seized him and his father. They escaped. He was drafted in 1780 at
age 15. He served in ten battles that
year and the next. He was wounded at Camden and Guilford Court House. He
served in the major southern
campaigns of 1780, including the Patriot militia victories at Musgrove's
Mill and King's Mountain, Cowpens,
and Guilford Court House. He died in 1856 in Bloomington, Indiana.
- Primes (Primus) He enlisted in 1777. He was captured
at Charleston and paroled. He
violated his parole, was captured again, paroled, and again rejoined the
army! He was wounded at
Camden. He also served at King's Mountain, Cowpens, Guilford Court
House, Eutaw Springs, and
Yorktown. He died in 1848 or 1849 in Roane County, Tennessee.
- Ishmael Titus He was born a slave in Amelia County,
Virginia, about 1743. He was
sold twice, finally to a man in Roane County, North Carolina (possibly
Rowan County). He was
freed for substituting for (serving in
the army in place of) his master's son. After serving that enlistment,
he reenlisted. He just missed
Camden. He did serve at Deep River, King's Mountain, and Guilford
Court House. He was captured by
Tories and aided Colonel Benjamin Cleveland, also a Tory prisoner,
to escape. He was living in
Berkshire County, Massachusetts, in 1832.
After the Revolution
As the war nears its end, Pennsylvania abolished slavery.
A Methodist assembly in Baltimore called for an end to slavery and for
itinerant ministers to free their slaves.
The Articles on Confederation, the first document setting up a
multistate government for the U.S., provided that freemen in one state
are free in all the states. However, only the white population is
counted for representation purposes.
The Silver Bluff, South Carolina, Baptist Church is formed, the
first African-American Baptist church in the United States.
Jefferson proposed prohibiting slavery west of the Mississippi, but
The New York Manumission Society founded the African Free School.
The Northwest Territory prohibited slavery north of the Ohio River.
The Consitution requires that nonslave states must respect the slave status
of slaves from slaveholding states, counted slaves as 3/5th of a person when
determining population for representation in Congress, and provided that
Congress could not prohibit the importation of slaves for 20 years.
While abolition of slavery is discussed, the belief is that slavery is
ending. Southern states oppose abolition on both economic and social grounds.
A national conference of abolitionist socities met. Ten states, including
Maryland and Virginia sent representatives.
Joseph Willis, an African-American, preaches the first American sermon
west of the Mississippi in Louisiana.
This account is based, in part, on information from these sources:
- The Negro in the American Revolution,
by Benjamin Quarles, 1961, University of North Carolina Press, the graddaddy of
all studies on African-Americans in the Revolution
- The Patriots at King's Mountain, by Dr. Bobby Gilmer Moss,
- African-American Patriots in the Southern Campaign
of the American Revolution, by Dr. Bobby Gilmer Moss & Michael C. Scoggins,
2004, Scotia-Hibernia Press
- Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery
in North America, by Ira Berlin, 1998, The Belknap Press
of Harvard University Press
- American Slavery 1619 - 1877, by Peter Colchin,
1993, Hill and Wang
- Blacks in Colonial America, by Oscar Reiss,
1997, McFarland & Company
- King's Mountain and Its Heroes, by Dr. Lyman D.
Draper, 1881, Reprint by Overmountain Press
Check the park
bookstores for these titles.
- American Revolution.org's page
on African-Americans offers a nice summary with good detail on Lord Dunmore's efforts
and the all-black Continental Army regiments. There are a wealth of source documents
and links to interesting Web sites.
- Royal Provincial.com's
page for Loyalist African-Americans is another gem.
This page is copyright
© 2004, 2005, 2013 by Bob Sweeny