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The Black Phalanx - African American soldiers in the War of Independence, the - War of 1812, and the Civil War
by Joseph T. Wilson
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THE

BLACK PHALANX

AFRICAN AMERICAN SOLDIERS IN THE WAR OF INDEPENDENCE, THE WAR OF 1812, AND THE CIVIL WAR

BY

JOSEPH T. WILSON

LATE OF THE 2ND. REG'T. LA. NATIVE GUARD VOLS. 54TH MASS. VOLS. AIDE-DE-CAMP TO THE COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF G. A. B.

AUTHOR OF

"EMANCIPATION," "VOICE OF A NEW RACE," "TWENTY-TWO YEARS OF FREEDOM," ETC., ETC.

New Foreword by

DUDLEY TAYLOR CORNISH

DA CAPO PRESS NEW YORK

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

Wilson, Joseph T. (Joseph Thomas), 1836-1891.

The Black phalanx: African American soldiers in the War of Independence, the War of 1812, and the Civil War / by Joseph T. Wilson; foreword by Dudley Taylor Cornish.—1st Da Capo Press ed.

p. cm.

Previously published: Hartford, Conn.: American Pub. Co., 1890.

Includes bibliographical references.

ISBN 0-306-80550-2

1. Afro-American soldiers—History. 2. United States—History—Civil War, 1861-1865—Participation, Afro-American. 3. United States—History—Revolution, 1775-1783—Participation, Afro-American. 4. United States—History—War of 1812—Participation, Afro-American. I. Cornish, Dudley Taylor. II. Title. E185.63.W632 1994 93-40117 973.7-dc20 CIP

First Da Capo Press edition 1994

This Da Capo Press paperback edition of The Black Phalanx is an unabridged republication of the edition published in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1887. It is here supplemented with a new foreword by Dudley Taylor Cornish.

Foreword (C) 1994 by Dudley Taylor Cornish

Published by Da Capo Press, Inc. A Subsidiary of Plenum Publishing Corporation 233 Spring Street, New York, N.Y. 10013

All Rights Reserved

Manufactured in the United States of America



INTRODUCTION.

By way of introduction to the American public, of the author and editor of this book, we beg to say that Mr. Wilson is not altogether unknown to the literary world, having already published several works relative to the Negro race.

His services during the war of the Rebellion secured for him a flattering recognition. He served in the 2nd Regiment Louisiana Native Guard Volunteers, also the 54th Massachusetts Volunteers,—the most famous of the Union negro regiments that engaged in the struggle, receiving several wounds. He was the first negro member of the National Council of Administration of the Grand Army of the Republic, and a delegate to the National Encampment, and was appointed Colonel—A. D. C. to the Commander-in-Chief G. A. R. He was chosen by his comrades to be the historian of the negro soldiers, and has overcome many almost insurmountable difficulties in gathering the scattered facts, particularly those of the early wars of the United States, that were necessary to complete this work.

THE PUBLISHERS.



DEDICATION.

To the Brave Men Who Commanded the Black Phalanx.

SOLDIERS:—As a mark of esteem and respect for your patriotic devotion to the cause of human freedom, I desire to dedicate to you this record of the services of the negro soldiers, whom you led so often and successfully in the struggle for liberty and union during the great war of 1861-'65.

Your coming from the highest ranks of social life, undeterred by the prevailing spirit of caste prejudice, to take commands in the largest negro army ever enrolled beneath the flag of any civilized country, was in itself a brave act. The organization and disciplining of over two hundred thousand men, of a race that for more than two centuries had patiently borne the burdens of an unrequited bondage, for the maintenance of laws which had guaranteed to them neither rights nor protection, was indeed a magnificent undertaking.

You were outlawed by the decrees of Jefferson Davis, criticised by many friends at home, and contemptuously received by brother officers at headquarters, in the field, in the trenches, and at the mess table; yet, you did not waver in your fidelity to principle or in your heroic leadership of those whose valor was denied until it was proven in carnage and victory.

The record of the Black Phalanx invites the scrutiny of all who have been disposed to taunt you for associating with "armed barbarians." No massacre of vanquished foe stains the banners of those who followed you, giving quarter but receiving none. It was your teaching that served as a complete restraint against retaliation, though statesmen hinted that it would be just. Your training developed patriotism and courage, but not revenge. Ungrateful as Republics are said to be, ours has aimed to recognize merit and reward it, and those who at first hailed you with contumely, are now glad to greet you as heroes and saviors of a common country.

No true soldier desires to forget the price of his country's liberty, or that of his own; it is the recollection of the terrible bloody onset—the audacious charge—the enemy's repulse, which sweetens victory. And surely no soldiers can appreciate the final triumph with a keener sense of gladness than those who fought against such odds as did the Black Phalanx. Beating down prejudice and upholding the national cause at the same time, they have inscribed upon their banners every important battle from April, 1863, to April, 1865.

If what I have written here shall call to your minds, and present justly to the patriotic public, the indescribable hardships which you endured on the march, in the bivouac, and in the seething flames of the battle's front, my task will have served its purpose. In the name of and as a token of the gratitude of a freed race, this book is dedicated to you.

JOSEPH T. WILSON.

Navy Hill, Richmond, Va.



PREFACE.

It was a dark, stormy night in the winter of 1882, when less than a hundred men, all of whom had served their country in crushing the great Rebellion of 1861-'65, gathered around a camp-fire. The white and the colored American were there; so were the German, Frenchman, and Irishman,—all American citizens,—all veterans of the last war. The empty sleeve, the absent leg, the sabred face, the bullet-scarred body of the many, told the story of the service they had seen. It was the annual Encampment of the Department of Virginia, Grand Army of the Republic, and the comrades of Farragut Post had tastefully arranged their quarters for the occasion.

At midnight a sumptuous soldiers fare—baked beans, hot coffee and hard tack—was spread before the veterans, who ate and drank heartily as in the days when resting from the pursuit of the enemy. In the morning hour, when weary from the joy of song and toast, it was proposed that the history of the American negro soldier should be written, that posterity might have a fuller and more complete record of the deeds of the negro soldiers than had been given in the numerous already published histories of the conflicts in which they played so important a part.

The task of preparing the history fell to my lot, and it is in obedience to the duty laid upon me by my former comrades, with whom I shared the toils and joys of camp, march, battle and siege, that this volume, the result of my efforts, is launched upon the sea of war literature.

Whether or not there is any merit in the work, the reader must judge. His charity is asked, however, toward such defects as may be apparent, and which, perhaps, might be expected in the literary work of one whose life has been largely spent amid the darkness of the South American countries and the isolation of the South Sea Islands. It was not until May, 1862, while domiciled at the capitol of Chili, that I first learned of the war in the United States, when, hastening to this country, I fell into the ranks with the first negro soldiers that left the Touro Building at New Orleans, in November, 1862, and marched out on the Opelousas road, to serve in defence of the Union.

With whatever forebodings of failure I entered upon the work of collecting the literature of the war, from which to cull and arrange much of the matter contained herein,—which has required years of incessant search and appeal,—I can but feel that it has been thoroughly done. The public libraries of the cities of Boston, Cincinnati, New Bedford, New York, the War Department at Washington, and the private libraries of several eminent citizens, have alike been made use of by me.

It seemed proper, also, that the memory of our forefathers should not be allowed to remain in longer obscurity; that it was fitting to recall their deeds of heroism, that all might know the sacrifices they made for the freedom their descendants were so long denied from enjoying. In gathering together the scattered facts relating to the negroe's participation in the wars of 1775 and 1812, difficulties well-nigh insurmountable have been overcome, and it has been only through patient and persistent effort that I have been able to prepare the chapters devoted to the early wars of the United States.

Descriptions of a number of the battles in which negro troops took part in the late war of the Rebellion, are given to call attention to the unsurpassed carnage which occurred, and to give them proper place in the war's history rather than to present a critical account of the battles. My aim has been to write in the spirit which impelled the soldiers to go forth to battle, and to reverse the accounts given in the popular histories which ascribe to the generals and colonels who commanded, instead of the soldiers who did the fighting, victory or defeat. "The troops who do what can neither be expected nor required, are the ones which are victorious. The men, who, tired and worn and hungry and exhausted, yet push into battle, are those who win. They who persist against odds, against obstacles, against hope, who proceed or hold out reasonably, are the conquerors," says Gen. Grant's historian. With no desire of detracting from the commanders—if I were able—the honor due them, my aim is to credit the soldiers with whatever heroism they may have displayed.

I acknowledge it has been a labor of love to fight many of the battles of the war of the rebellion over again, not because of a relish for blood and the destruction of human life, but for the memories of the past; of the bondage of a race and its struggle for freedom, awakening as they do the intense love of country and liberty, such as one who has been without either feels, when both have been secured by heroic effort.

To those who have responded to my appeal for information regarding the negro soldier, I have aimed to give full credit; if any are omitted it is not intentionally done. To no one am I more indebted for assisting in collecting data, than to Lt. J. M. Trotter, of the 55th Mass. Reg't. nor am I unmindful of the kindness of Hon. Robert Lincoln, late Secretary of War, nor that of Col. James D. Brady, member of Congress from Virginia, for copies of public records; to Col. H. C. Corbin, for the record of the 14th Reg't.; and to Col. D. Torrance for that of the 29th Reg't. Conn. I am also indebted to Maj. Gen. Wm. Mahone for a map of the defences of Petersburg, showing the crater; to the librarian of the Young Men's Mercantile Library, of Cincinnati, for the use of Col. Albert's carved map of Fort Wagner, and to Col. G. M. Arnold and Hon. Joseph Jergenson for copies of historical papers; also to Hon. Libbey.

J. T. W.



CONTENTS.

PART I.

THE WARS FOR INDEPENDENCE.

CHAPTER I.—THE WAR OF 1775. PAGE.

The Sentiments of the Colonists—The Agreement of 1774—The Resolutions of Ga.—The Virginians Boycotting a Slaver—Tories Opposed to a Negro Army—Caste Prejudice not strong—The Militia Law of Mass. in 1652—Negro Sentinels at Meeting houses—Crispus Attucks leads the whites to an attack upon British Soldiers—Resolution of the Committee of Safety—Battle of Bunker Hill—Peter Salem Kills the British Maj. Pitcairn—Petition to the General court of Mass. Bay—Biographical account of Peter Salem—Manumitting of Slaves to allow them to become Soldiers—Meeting of the Committee of Conference—Gen. Washington writes the President regarding Negro Soldiers—Action of Congress sustaining Gen. Washington—The First Question of "color" in the Army—Negroes allowed in the S. C. Militia—Dr. Hopkins' Article concerning Slavery—Lord Dunmore visits Norfolk, 1775—Proclamation of Lord Dunmore—The Dread of the Colonists—An Unreasonable Fear—Action of the Conn. General Assembly, 1777—Letter from Gen. Green to Gen. Washington—Daring Exploits of Prince and other Negroes at Newport, R. I.—The Storming of Fort Griswold—Action of the State of R. I.—Action of the State of New York, 1781—Proclamation of Sir Henry Clinton—The Colonists beginning to favor Negro Troops—Gen. Washington's Emphatic Language—Re-enslavement of Discharged Negro Soldiers—Action of the Legislature of Virginia 21

CHAPTER II.—THE WAR OF 1812.

The Principal Cause of the War—Seizure of American Negro Sailors—Outrages upon American Ships—The Declaration of War—The Battle of Lake Erie—Negroes on American Privateers—Action of the Legislature of La.—Review of Negro Troops in New Orleans—The Battle of New Orleans 72

PART II.

THE WAR BETWEEN THE STATES.

CHAPTER I.—PUBLIC OPINION.

Existing Prejudice—No Prejudice in Europe—DeTocqueville's Views—The New Race—Southern Opinions—The Negro's Ambition—The Coast Pursuit in the Navy—A Change of Policy—Public Opinions Changed 81

CHAPTER II.—RECRUITING AND ORGANIZING.

The Unpleasant duties of a Recruiting Officer—Henry Wilson's Bill in Congress for the Arming of Negroes, 1862—Mr. Stevens' Amendment to the Enrollment Act, 1864—Orders for the Enrollment of Negroes in the Miss. Valley—Curious way of Keeping ranks full—The Date of the First Organization of Colored Troops—The Organization of the 24th Mass. Regiment—Their Quarters at Morris Island—Refusing to do Menial Service—Short Pay for Negro Troops—Negroes Enlisting for Bounty—Record of total number of Negroes who Served in the Army 93

CHAPTER III.—RECRUITING AND ORGANIZING IN SOUTH CAROLINA.

Private Miles O'Reilly's Account of Gen. Hunter's Black Troops—The First Negro Troops in the Field—Gen. Hunter's Humorous Report to Congress—Jefferson Davis declares Gen. Hunter and his Officers Outlaws—Gen. Hunter's suppressed Letter to Jefferson Davis—Miles O'Reilly's Humorous Poem, "Sambo's Right to be Kil't" 145

CHAPTER IV.—OFFICERS OF THE PHALANX.

Officers of the Phalanx—Character and Qualifications of the men who commanded Negro Troops—The Examination of Candidates for Commissioners—Some of the Negroes who rose from the Ranks—Gen. Banks' idea of Officering the Corps d'Afrique 166

CHAPTER V.—DEPARTMENT OF THE GULF.

The Surrender of Confederate Negro Troops at New Orleans—Slaves flocking to the Union Camp—Gen. Phelps desires to Arm them—Butler Refuses—Gen. Phelps' Resignation—Gen. Butler converted to the Policy of Arming Negroes—Negroes Enlisted at New Orleans—Gen. Weitzel placed in Command—The fight at Mansfield—The Battle of Milliken's Bend—Indignities offered to Phalanx Soldiers—The affair at Ship Island—Port Hudson—The Struggle—Desperate Fighting of the Phalanx—A Useless Effort—Perilous Duties of the Engineers—Boker's Poem on the fight at Port Hudson 183

CHAPTER VI.—THE ARMY OF THE FRONTIER.

Iowa's splendid Response to the Call—Refusal of the Phalanx Troops to Accept the Pay offered by the Government—Active times at Helena—The Confederate General Dobbins makes an Attack—A Spirited Fight—A Critical Situation—Re-enforcement by White Cavalry—The Honor Due to Kansas—The report of the Service of Kansas Negro Troops—Col. Crawford's report for the 2nd Kansas Regiment 220

CHAPTER VII.—DEPARTMENT OF THE SOUTH.

Gen. Hunter's Important Action—Organization of the 1st South Carolina—An Expedition up the St. Mary's River—Fort Wagner—Description of the Fort—Plans for the Assault—The forming of the line—The Assault—Magnificent Fighting—Death of Col. Shaw—Useless Slaughter—The Confederate Account of the Assault upon Fort Wagner—Movements in Florida—The Landing at Jacksonville—Raids on the surrounding country—The Advance towards Tallahassee—The Troops reach Barbour's Station—The Battle of Olustee—Desperate Fighting on both Sides—A Terrible Defeat—The Union Troops routed—Drawing away the Wounded on railway cars—Return to Baldwin's—The 54th Mass.—Boykin's Mill—The "Swamp Angel"—Inquiries Respecting Negro Troops—Labor Days of the Negro Troops 249

CHAPTER VIII.—THE ARMY OF THE CUMBERLAND.

Services in the West—The Mississippi River Guarded by the Phalanx—Gen. Morgan's Historical Sketch—The Rendezvous at Gallatin—The Place Threatened by Guerillas—Organizing a Regiment—Negro Soldiers ordered to Alabama—An Incident—A School in camp—The Battle at Dalton, Ga.—Good Behavior of the troops there—Honors to the 51st Colored—Sharp Fighting at Pulaski, Tenn.—An Incident of the Fight—An Engagement at Decatur—Ordered to Nashville—Severe Fighting at that place—A Reconnoissance—The Defeat of Gen. Hood—A Pursuit to Huntsville—A Glorious Record 286

CHAPTER IX.—THE PHALANX AT MARION, TENN.

Sherman's March to the Sea—Destruction of the Confederate Bridge over the Big Black river—Confederates Attack Federals near Morristown—Gillem's Troops Driven into Knoxville—The Confederates Retreat—Federals Pursued to Marion—Struggle for the Possession of the Salt Works—The Charge of the 6th Regiment—Gen. Brisbin's account of the Battle—The Salt Works Destroyed—Personal Bravery 308

CHAPTER X.—THE BLACK FLAG.

The Phalanx acquiring a Reputation—No Blacks Paroled—Gen. Grant's Letter to the Confederate General Taylor—Jefferson Davis' Proclamation respecting Negro Soldiers—Mr. Davis' Third Annual Message—Action of the Confederate Congress—Negro Soldiers Captured by the Confederates receive Punishment—Retaliation by the Federal Government—Refusal to Exchange captured Negro Troops—Order from President Lincoln in relation thereto—Report of the Congressional Committee in regard to Barbarities Inflicted upon captured Union Prisoners—Report of the Congressional Committee in regard to the Fort Pillow Massacre—Testimony given—Sketches of Prison Life—Schemes for Escaping from Confederate Prisons—Life in Libby Prison—The Effect of the Fort Pillow Massacre on the Black Soldiers—Their Desire to Retaliate—Correspondence between Gens. Forrest and Washburn—A Confederate Account, written in 1883—A Confederate Account of Price's Cross-Roads—Heavy Fighting—Gallant Conduct of the Federal Cavalry—The Rout of the Federal Force—The Phalanx Saves the White Troops from Capture—Gen. Sturgis Criticised 315

CHAPTER XI.—THE PHALANX IN VIRGINIA.

Transfer of Negro Troops from the West and South to Virginia—Preparations for a New Campaign—9th Army Corps passing Through Washington—Army of the Potomac—Battle at Bailey's farm—Siege of Petersburg—Digging a Mine—Phalanx Troops preparing to lead the Assault—Disappointment—Explosion of the Mine—Terrible Slaughter—Failure of the Attempt to Take the Redoubt—New Movement Against Richmond—New Market Heights—Capture of Petersburg—Fall of Richmond—Appomattox—Surrender of Lee 377

Chapter XII.—THE ROLL OF HONOR.

Phalanx Soldiers who received Medals of Honor from the United States Government for Heroism 463

CHAPTER XIII.—THE ROSTER OF THE BLACK PHALANX.

Complete list from the Government Records, as far as can be obtained, of Negro Military Organizations in all branches of the Service, with their Chief Commanders—Battles—Dates of Organization and Dismissal 464

CHAPTER XIV.—THE CONFEDERATE SERVICE.

Preparation in the South for Hostilities—Early Organizations of Battalions of Free Negroes—Review of Troops in New Orleans—Employment of Negroes in Constructing Fortifications—Early Enacting of State Laws authorizing the enrollment of Negroes for Military Service—The Appearance of a few Negro Troops announced by the Press—Apparent Enthusiasm of some Blacks—Effect on the Negroes of the Change in Northern Policy—Necessity for Negro Troops—Strong Opposition throughout the South—Letters from Gen. R. E. Lee urging the Organization of Black Regiments—Exciting Debates in the Confederate Congress—Passage of the Negro Bill—The Clerk's of the War Department Record—Letter from Jefferson Davis—Enlistment began, etc. 481

PART III.

MISCELLANY.

CHAPTER I.—THE PHALANX AT SCHOOL.

Efforts of Negro Soldiers to Educate themselves—Studies pursued in the Army—Officers acting as Teachers—Contributions to Educational Institutions 503

CHAPTER II.—BENEVOLENCE AND FRUGALITY.

Personal Economy practiced for Benevolent purposes—Contributions to the Lincoln Institute as a Monument—Magnificent Contributions to the Lincoln Monument—Some figures in reference to the Freemen's Bank 508

CHAPTER III.—BIBLIOGRAPHY.

List of Publications made use of 517

APPENDIX.



ILLUSTRATIONS

1. Portrait—JOSEPH T. WILSON Frontispiece. 2. DEATH OF CRISPUS ATTUCKS Face Page 26 3. BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL 34 4. ON PICKET 52 5. NAVAL BATTLE 77 6. UNSHACKLED 90 7. Portrait—ROBERT SMALLS 96 8. " —WILLIAM MORRISON " 9. " —A. GRADINE " 10. " —JOHN SMALLS " 11. QUARTERS FOR CONTRABANDS 103 12. DRIVING GOVERNMENT CATTLE 104 13. SCENE IN AND NEAR A RECRUITING OFFICE 110 14. TEAMSTER OF THE ARMY 112 15. HEADQUARTERS OF SUPERINTENDENT OF THE POOR 116 16. PROVOST GUARD SECURING CONSCRIPTS 123 17. NEW RECRUITS TAKING CARS 126 18. SCENE AT NEW BERNE, N. C. 134 19. MUSTERING INTO SERVICE 138 20. ORGANIZING AND DRILLING 142 21. FORTIFICATIONS AT HILTON HEAD 148 22. BUILDING ROADS 154 23. OFF FOR THE WAR 160 24. Portrait—MAJOR MARTIN R. DELANEY 166 25. Portrait—CAPT. O. S. B. WALL 172 26. Portrait—CAPT. P. B. S. PINCHBACK. 176 27. " —LT. JAMES M. TROTTER " 28. " —SURGEON A. T. AUGUSTA " 29. " —LT. W. H. DUPREE. " 30. Portrait—SERG'T W. H. CARNEY 180 31. WASHING IN CAMP 184 32. COOKING IN CAMP 191 33. POINT ISABEL, TEXAS 199 34. THE RECRUITING OFFICE 200 35. BATTLE OF MILLIKEN'S BEND 204 36. UNLOADING GOVERNMENT STORES 211 37. CHARGE OF THE PHALANX AT PORT HUDSON 214 38. PRESENTATION OF COLORS (1) 223 39. REPELLING AN ATTACK 231 40. CAVALRY BRINGING IN PRISONERS 236 41. CAPTURING BATTERY OF ARTILLERY 242 42. THE WOODEN HORSE 249 43. AT FORT WAGNER 255 44. BRILLIANT CHARGE OF THE PHALANX 270 45. RIVER PICKET DUTY 277 46. CHANGED CONDITIONS 286 47. SERVING REFRESHMENTS TO UNION TROOPS 306 48. SCOUTING SERVICE 312 49. FIGHTING BLOODHOUNDS 320 50. NEGROES FEEDING ESCAPING UNION PRISONERS 342 51. MASSACRE AT FORT PILLOW 350 52. PHALANX REGIMENT RECEIVING ITS FLAGS (2) 377 53. PARADE OF THE 20TH REGIMENT U. S. C. T. IN NEW YORK 378 54. SCENE IN THE ARMY OF THE POTOMAC 391 55. AT WORK ON RIVER OBSTRUCTIONS 401 56. PHALANX CHARGE AT PETERSBURG, VA. 402 57. IN THE TRENCHES 411 58. BEFORE PETERSBURG, BURYING DEAD UNDER FLAG OF TRUCE 425 59. A GOVERNMENT BLACKSMITH SHOP 445 60. GENERAL GRANT AND THE NEGRO SENTINEL 446 61. ABRAHAM LINCOLN ENTERING RICHMOND 452 62. ON DUTY FOR THE CONFEDERATES 484 63. A CONFEDERATE SHARPSHOOTER 499 64. "PAYING OFF" 506



PART I.

THE WARS FOR INDEPENDENCE

1775-1812.



CHAPTER I.

THE WAR OF 1775.

The history of the patriotic Negro Americans who swelled the ranks of the Colonial and Continental armies has never been written, nor was any attempt made by the historians of that day to record the deeds of those who dared to face death for the independence of the American Colonies. W. H. Day, in addressing a convention of negro men at Cleveland, O., in 1852, truly said: "Of the services and sufferings of the colored soldiers of the Revolution, no attempt has, to our knowledge, been made to preserve a record. Their history is not written; it lies upon the soil watered with their blood; who shall gather it? It rests with their bones in the charnel house; who shall exhume it?" Upon reading these lines, it occurred to me that somewhere among the archives of that period there must exist at least a clue to the record of the negro patriots of that war. If I cannot exclaim Eureka, after years of diligent search, I take pride in presenting what I have found scattered throughout the pages of the early histories and literature, and from the correspondence of men who in that period discussed the topics of the day—who led and fashioned public opinion, many of whom commanded in the field. Not a few biographers have contributed to my fund of knowledge. To avoid as much as possible the charge of plagiarism I have aimed to give credit to my informants for what shall follow regarding the colored patriots in the war of the Revolution. I have reason to believe that I have gathered much that has been obscure; that I have exhumed the bones of that noble Phalanx who, at Bunker Hill and Yorktown, in various military employments, served their country. It is true they were few in number when compared to the host that entered the service in the late Rebellion, but it must be remembered that their number was small at that time in the country, and that the seat of war was at the North, and not, as in the late war, at the South, where their numbers have always been large.

Of the three hundred thousand troops in the Revolutionary war, it has been estimated that five thousand were colored, and these came principally from the North, whose colored population at that time was about 50,000, while the Southern colonies contained about 300,000. The interest felt in the two sections for the success of the cause of independence, if referred to the army, can easily be seen. The Northern colonies furnished two hundred and forty-nine thousand, five hundred and three, and the Southern colonies one hundred and forty-seven thousand, nine hundred and forty soldiers, though the whole population of each section was within a few hundred of being equal.

The love of liberty was no less strong with the Southern than with the Northern colored man, as their efforts for liberty show. At the North he gained his freedom by entering the American army; at the South, only by entering the British army, which was joined by more than fifteen thousand colored men. Jefferson says 30,000 negroes from Virginia alone went to the British army. I make the digression simply to assert that had the colored men at the South possessed the same opportunity as those at the North, of enlisting in the American army, a large force of colored men would have been in the field, fighting for America's independence. Of the services of the little band, scattered as they were throughout the army, two or three in a company composed of whites, a squad in a regiment, a few companies with an army, made it quite impossible for their record, beyond this, to be distinct from the organizations they were attached to. However, enough has been culled from the history of that conflict, to show that they bore a brave part in the struggle which wrested the colonies from the control of Great Britain, and won for themselves and offspring, freedom, which many of them never enjoyed. I have studiously avoided narrating the conduct of those who cast their fortune with the British, save those who went with Lord Dunmore, for reasons too obvious to make mention of.

The sentiments of a majority of the people of the colonies were in full accord with the declaration opposing slavery, and they sought to give it supremacy by their success in the conflict. Slavery, which barred the entrance to the army of the colored man at the South, had been denounced by the colonist before the adoption of the articles of confederation, and was maintained solely by local regulations. As early as 1774, all the colonies had agreed to, and their representatives to the congress had signed, the articles of the Continental Association, by which it was agreed, "that we will neither import nor purchase any slave imported after the first day of December next, (1774), after which we will wholly discontinue the slave trade, and will neither be concerned in it ourselves, nor will we hire our vessels, nor sell our commodities or manufactories to those who are concerned in it." Georgia not being represented in this Congress, consequently was not in the Association, but as soon as her Provincial Congress assembled in July, 1775, it passed the following resolutions:

"I.Resolved, That this Congress will adopt and carry into execution all and singular the measures and recommendations of the late Continental Congress.

"IV.Resolved, That we will neither import or purchase any slave imported from Africa or elsewhere after this day, (July, 6.")

The sincerity with which this agreement was entered into may be seen by the action of the colonists at Norfolk, Virginia, where, in March, 1775, a brig arrived from the coast of Guinea, via Jamaica, with a number of slaves on board consigned to a merchant of that town. To use a modern phrase the vessel was boycotted by the committee, who published the following:

"TO THE FREEMEN OF VIRGINIA. { COMMITTEE CHAMBER, { NORFOLK, March 6th, 1775.

"Trusting to your sure resentment against the enemies of your country, we, the committee, elected by ballot for the Borough of Norfolk, hold up for your just indignation Mr. John Brown, merchant, of this place.

"On Thursday, the 2nd of March, this committee were informed of the arrival of the brig Fanny, Capt. Watson, with a number of slaves for Mr. Brown; and, upon inquiry, it appeared they were shipped from Jamaica as his property, and on his account; that he had taken great pains to conceal their arrival from the knowledge of the committee; and that the shipper of the slaves, Mr. Brown's correspondent, and the captain of the vessel, were all fully apprised of the Continental prohibition against the article.

"From the whole of this transaction, therefore, we, the committee for Norfolk Borough, do give it as our unanimous opinion, that the said John Brown has wilfully and perversely violated the Continental Association, to which he had with his own hand subscribed obedience; and that, agreeable to the eleventh article, we are bound, forthwith, to publish the truth of the case, to the end that all such foes to the rights of British America may be publicly known and universally contemned as the enemies of American liberty, and that every person may henceforth break off all dealings with him."

This was the voice of a majority of the colonists, and those who dissented were regarded as Tories, and in favor of the crown as against the independence of the colonies, although there were many at the North and South who held slaves, and were yet loyal to the cause of the colonies; but the public sentiment was undoubtedly as strong against the institution as it was in 1864. But the Tories were numerous at the South, and by continually exciting the imagination of the whites by picturing massacre and insurrection on the part of the negros if they were armed, thwarted the effort of Col. Lauren's and of Congress to raise a "negro army" at the South. The leaders were favorable to it, but the colonists, for the reason cited, were distrustful of its practicability. Though a strong effort was made, as will be seen, the scare raised by the Tories prevented its success. Notwithstanding, hundreds of colored men, slave and free, at the South, not only followed the army but in every engagement took an active part on the side of the colonist. They were not enrolled and mustered into the army, it is true, but they rendered important service to the cause.

The caste prejudice now so strong in the country was then in its infancy. A white man at that time lived with a colored woman without fear of incurring the ostracism of his neighbors, and with the same impunity he lived with an Indian Squaw. So common was this practice, that in order to correct it laws were passed forbidding it. The treatment of the slaves was not what it came to be after the war, nor had the spirit of resentment been stifled in them as it was subsequently. Manifestations of their courage and manliness were not wanting when injustice was attempted to be practiced against them, consequently the spirit and courage with which they went into the conflict were quite equal to that of the whites, who were ever ready to applaud them for deeds of daring. It is only through this medium that we have discovered the meed of praise due the little Phalanx, which linked its fortune with the success of the American army, and of whom the following interesting facts can now be recorded.

It is well for the negro and for his descendants in America, cosmopolitan as it is, that his race retains its distinctive characteristics, color and features, otherwise they would not have, as now, a history to hand down to posterity so gloriously patriotic and interesting. His amalgamation with other races is attributable to the relation which it bore to them, although inter-marriage was not allowed. By the common consent of his enslavers, he was allowed to live clandestinely with the women of his own color; sometimes from humane considerations, sometimes from a standpoint of gain, but always as a slave or a subject of the slave code. Reduced from his natural state of freedom by his misfortune in tribal war, to that of a slave, and then transported by the consent of his captors and enemies to these shores, and sold into an unrequited bondage, the fire of his courage,—like that of other races similarly situated, without hope of liberty; doomed to toil,—slackened into an apathetic state, and seeming willing servitude, which produced a resignation to fate from 1619 to 1770, more than a century and a half. At the latter date, for the first time in the history of what is now the United States, the negro, inspired with the love of liberty, aimed a blow at the authority that held him in bondage. In numerous instances, when the Indians attacked the white settlers, particularly in the Northern colonies, negroes were summoned and took part in the defense of the settlements.

As early as 1652, the militia law of Massachusetts required negroes, Scotchmen and Indians,—the indentured slaves of Cromwell, who encountered his army at the battle of Dunbar,—to train in the militia. Nor was it an uncommon occurrence for them to be manumitted for meritorious and courageous action in defending their masters' families, often in the absence of the master, when attacked by the red men of the woods. It was not infrequent to find the negro as a sentinel at the meeting-house door; or serving as a barricade for the master's mansion. The Indian was more of a terror to him than the boa-constrictor; though slaves, they knew that if captured by the Indians their fate would be the same as that of the white man; consequently they fought with a desperation equal to that of the whites, against the common enemy. So accustomed did they become to the use of arms, that one of the first acts of the settlers after the Indians were driven from the forest, was to disarm and forbid negroes keeping or handling fire-arms and weapons of every sort. This was done from a sense of self-preservation and fear that the negroes might (and many did) attempt to revenge themselves when cruelly treated, or rise in mutiny and massacre the whites.



But it was not until 1770, when the fervor of rebellion had influenced the people of the colonies, and Capt. Preston, with the King's soldiers, appeared in King Street, Boston, to enforce the decree of the British Parliament, that the people met the troops face to face. This lent force to the rebellious spirit against the Mother Country, which the people of the United Northern Colonies had felt called upon to manifest in public meetings and by written resolutions. The soldiers were regarded as invaders. And while the leading men of Boston were discussing and deliberating as to what steps should be taken to drive the British troops out of the town, Crispus Attucks, a negro runaway slave,[1] led a crowd against the soldiers, with brave words of encouragement. The soldiers fired upon them, killing the negro leader, Attucks, first, and then two white men, and mortally wounding two others. A writer says:

"The presence of the British soldiers in King Street, excited the patriotic indignation of the people. The whole community was stirred, and sage counsellors were deliberating and writing and talking about the public grievances. But it was not for the 'wise and prudent' to be first to act against the encroachments of arbitrary power. A motley rabble of saucy boys, negroes and mulattoes, Irish Jeazues, and outlandish Jack tars, (as John Adams described them in his plea in defence of the soldiers), could not restrain their emotion, or stop to enquire if what they must do was according to the letter of the law. Led by Crispus Attucks, the mulatto slave, and shouting, 'The way to get rid of these soldiers is to attack the main guard; strike at the root; this is the nest;' with more valor than discretion they rushed to King Street, and were fired upon by Capt. Preston's company. Crispus Attucks was the first to fall; he and Samuel Gray and Jonas Caldwell were killed on the spot. Samuel Maverick and Patrick Carr were mortally wounded. The excitement which followed was intense. The bells of the town were rung. An impromptu town-meeting was held, and an immense assembly was gathered. Three days after, on the 17th, a public funeral of the martyr took place. The shops in Boston were closed, and all the bells of Boston and the neighboring towns were rung. It is said that a greater number of persons assembled on this occasion, than ever before gathered on this continent for a similar purpose. The body of Crispus Attucks, the mulatto, had been placed in Fanueil Hall with that of Caldwell; both being strangers in the city. Maverick was buried from his mother's house in Union Street, and Gray, from his brother's, in Royal Exchange Lane. The four hearses formed a junction in King Street, and then the procession marched in columns six deep, with a long file of coaches belonging to the most distinguished citizens, to the Middle Burying Ground, where the four victims were deposited in one grave; over which a stone was placed with the inscription:

'Long as in Freedom's cause the wise contend, Dear to your country shall your fame extend; While to the world the lettered stone shall tell Where Caldwell, Attucks, Gray and Maverick fell.'

"The anniversary of this event was publicly commemorated in Boston by an oration and other exercises every year until our National Independence was achieved, when the Fourth of July was substituted for the Fifth of March, as the more proper day for a general celebration. Not only was the event commemorated, but the martyrs who then gave up their lives were remembered and honored."

Thus the first blood for liberty shed in the colonies was that of a real slave and a negro. As the news of the affray spread, the people became aroused throughout the land. Soon, in every town and village, meetings were held, and the colonists urged to resist the oppressive and aggressive measures which the British Parliament had passed, and for the enforcement of which troops had been stationed in Boston, and as we see, had shot down those who dared to oppose them. In all the colonies slavery was at this time tolerated, though the number of slaves was by no means large in the Northern Colonies, nor had there been a general ill treatment of them, as in after years in the Southern States. Their war-like courage, it is true, had been slackened, but their manhood had not been crushed.

Crispus Attucks was a fair representative of the colonial negro, as they evinced thereafter, during the prolonged struggle which resulted in the Independence of the United States. When the tocsin sounded "to arms, to arms, ye who would be free," the negro responded to the call, and side by side with the white patriots of the colonial militia, bled and died.

Mr. Bancroft in his history of the United States says:

"Nor should history forget to record, that as in the army at Cambridge, so also in this gallant band, the free negroes of the colony had their representatives. For the right of free negroes to bear arms in the public defense was, at that day, as little disputed in New England as other rights. They took their place, not in a separate corps, but in the ranks with the white men; and their names may be seen on the pension-rolls of the country, side by side with those of other soldiers of the Revolution."

It was not the free only who took up arms in defence of America's independence; not alone those who, in preceding wars,—Indian and French,—had gained their liberty, that swelled the ranks of the colonial militia; but slaves, inspired by the hope of freedom, went to the front, as Attucks had done when he cut the Gordian knot that held the colonies to Great Britain. "From that moment we may date the severance of the British Empire," said Daniel Webster, in his Bunker Hill oration, referring to the massacre on the 5th of March, 1770. The thirst for freedom was universal among the people of New England. With them liberty was not circumscribed by condition and now, since the slave Attucks had struck the first blow for America's independence, thereby electrifying the colonies and putting quite a different phase upon their grievances, the people were called upon to witness a real slave struggling with his oppressors for his freedom. It touched the people of the colonies as they had never been touched before, and they arrayed themselves for true freedom.

Dr. Joseph Warren thus heralds the sentiment of the colonist, in his oration delivered at Boston, March 5th, 1775:

"That personal freedom is the natural right of every man, and that property, or an exclusive right to dispose of what he has honestly acquired by his own labor, necessarily arises therefrom, are truths which common sense has placed beyond the reach of contradiction. And no man, or body of men, can, without being guilty of flagrant injustice, claim a right to dispose of the persons or acquisitions of any other man or body of men, unless it can be proved that such a right has arisen from some compact between the parties, in which it has been explicitly and freely granted."

The year previous, John Hancock was the orator on the occasion of the 4th anniversary of the shedding of the first blood for the Independence of America, and he thus presents the case to a Boston audience yet smarting under the insult and sting given them by the British soldiery:

"But I forbear, and come reluctantly to the transactions of that dismal night, when in such quick succession, we felt the extremes of grief, astonishment and rage; when Heaven, in anger, for a dreadful moment suffered Hell to take the reins; when Satan with his chosen band opened the sluices of New England's blood, and sacrilegiously polluted our land with the dead bodies of her guiltless sons. Let this sad tale of death never be told without a tear; let the heaving bosom cause to burn with a manly indignation at the barbarous story, through the long tracts of future time; let every parent tell the shameful story to his listening children 'til tears of pity glisten in their eyes, and boiling passions shake their tender frames; and whilst the anniversary of that ill-fated night is kept a jubilee in the grim court of pandemonium, let all America join in one common prayer to Heaven, that the inhuman, unprovoked murders of the 5th of March, 1770, planned by Hillsborough and a knot of treacherous knaves in Boston, and executed by the cruel hand of Preston and his sanguinary coadjutors, may ever stand in history without a parallel. But what, my countrymen, withheld the ready arm of vengeance from executing instant justice on the vile assassins? Perhaps you feared promiscuous carnage might ensue, and that the innocent might share the fate of those who had performed the infernal deed. But were not all guilty? Were you not too tender of the lives of those who came to fix a yoke on your necks? But I must not too severely blame you for a fault which great souls only can commit. May that magnificence of spirit which scorns the low pursuit of malice; may that generous compassion which often preserves from ruin, even a guilty villain, forever actuate the noble bosoms of Americans! But let not the miscreant host vainly imagine that we feared their arms. No, those we despised; we dread nothing but slavery. Death is the creature of a poltroon's brains; 'tis immortality to sacrifice ourselves for the salvation of our country. We fear not death. That gloomy night, the pale-face moon, and the affrighted stars that hurried through the sky, can witness that we fear not death. Our hearts, which, at the recollection, glow with rage that four revolving years have scarcely taught us to restrain, can witness that we fear not death; and happy it is for those who dared to insult us, that their naked bones are not now piled up an ever-lasting monument of Massachusetts bravery. But they retired; they fled, and in that flight they found their only safety. We then expected that the hand of public justice would soon inflict that punishment upon the murderers, which, by the laws of God and man, they had incurred. But let the unbiassed pen of a Robertson, or perhaps of some equally famed American, conduct this trial before the great tribunal of succeeding generations. And though the murderers may escape the just resentment of an enraged people; though drowsy justice, intoxicated by the poisonous draft prepared for her cup, still nods upon her rotten seat, yet be assured, such complicated crimes will meet their due reward. Tell me, ye bloody butchers! ye villains high and low! ye wretches who contrived, as well as you who executed the inhuman deed! do you not feel the goads and stings of conscious guilt pierce through your savage bosoms? Though some of you may think yourselves exalted to a height that bids defiance to human justice, and others shroud yourselves beneath the mask of hypocrisy, and build your hopes of safety on the low arts of cunning, chicanery and falsehood; yet do you not sometimes feel the gnawings of that worm which never dies; do not the injured shades of Maverick, Gray, Cadwell, Attucks and Carr, attend you in your solitary walks; arrest you in the midst of your debaucheries and fill even your dreams with terror?"

The orators of New England poured out upon this once slave,—now hero and martyr,—their unstinted praise. We have but to recall the recollection of the earliest conflicts which the colonist had with the British, in order to see the negro occupying a place in the ranks of the patriot army. Their white fellow-citizens were only too glad to take ground to the left, in order that they could fall in on their colors. And they did good service whenever they fought, as the record shows.

The Committee of safety upon reviewing the situation and the army, before the first great battle of the Revolution had been fought, adopted the following resolution:

"Resolved, That it is the opinion of this committee, that as the contest now between Great Britain and the Colonies respects the liberties and privileges of the latter, which the Colonies are determined to maintain, that the admission of any persons, as soldiers, into the army now raising, but such as are Freeman, will be inconsistent with the principals that are supported, and reflect dishonor on this Colony; and that no Slaves be admitted into this army upon any consideration whatever."

The exception was well taken, and this act of the Committee, excluding slaves from the army, placed the rebels upon the basis of patriots, fighting for freedom. This, however, did not detract from those who had already distinguished themselves, by their bravery at Bunker Hill a few weeks previous, where Peter Salem, once a slave, fought side by side in the ranks with the white soldiers. When the British Major Pitcairn mounted the redoubt, upon that memorable occasion, shouting, "The day is ours!" Peter Salem poured the contents of his gun into that officer's body, killing him instantly, and checking, temporarily, the advance of the British. Swett, in his "Sketches of Bunker Hill Battle," says:

"Major Pitcairn caused the first effusion of blood at Lexington. In that battle, his horse was shot under him, while he was separated from his troops. With presence of mind he feigned himself slain; his pistols were taken from his holsters, and he was left for dead, when he seized the opportunity and escaped. He appeared at Bunker Hill, and, says the historian, 'Among those who mounted the works was the gallant Major Pitcairn, who exultingly cried out, 'The day is ours!' when a black soldier, named Salem, shot him through and he fell. His agonized son received him in his arms, and tenderly bore him to the boats.' A contribution was made in the army for the colored soldier, and he was presented to Washington as having performed this feat."

Mr. Aaron White, of Thompson, Conn., in a letter to George Livermore, Esq., of the Massachusetts Historical Society, writes:

"With regard to the black Hero of Bunker Hill, I never knew him personally, nor did I ever hear from his lips the story of his achievements; but I have better authority. About the year 1809, I heard a soldier of the Revolution, who was present at the Bunker Hill Battle, relate to my father the story of the death of Major Pitcairn. He said the Major had passed the storm of fire without, and had mounted the redoubt, when, waving his sword, he commanded, in a loud voice, the 'rebels' to surrender. His sudden appearance, and his commanding air, at first startled the men immediately before him. They neither answered nor fired; probably not being exactly certain what was next to be done. At this critical moment, a negro soldier stepped forward, and, aiming his musket directly at the Major's bosom, blew him through. My informant declared that he was so near, that he distinctly saw the act. The story made quite an impression on my mind. I have frequently heard my father relate the story, and have no doubt of its truth. My father on the day of the battle was a mere child, and witnessed the battle and burning of Charlestown from Roxbury Hill, sitting on the shoulders of the Rev. Mr. Jackson, who said to him as he placed him on the ground, 'Now, boy, do you remember this!' Consequently, after such an injunction, he would necessarily pay particular attention to anecdotes concerning the first and only battle he ever witnessed."



Salem was undoubtedly one of the chief heroes of that ever memorable battle. Orator, historian, poet, all give this sable patriot credit for having been instrumental in checking the British advance and saving the day.

At the unveiling of the statue erected to the memory of Gen. Joseph Warren, who fell at Bunker Hill, the orator of the occasion, Hon. Edward Everett, said:

"It is the monument of the day of the event, of the battle of Bunker Hill; all of the brave men who shared its perils,—alike of Prescott and Putnam and Warren, the chiefs of the day, and the colored man, Salem, who, is reported to have shot the gallant Pitcairn, as he mounted the parapet. Cold as the clods on which it rests, still as the silent Heaven to which it soars, it is yet vocal, eloquent, in their individual praise."

The following is a copy of a petition now in the Archive Department of Massachusetts:

"TO THE HONORABLE GENERAL COURT OF THE MASSACHUSETTS' BAY.

"The subscribers beg leave to report to your Honorable House, (which we do in justice to the character of so brave a man), that under our own observation, we declare that a negro man named Salem Poor, of Col. Frye's regiment, Capt. Ame's company, in the late battle at Charleston, behaved like an experienced officer, as well as an excellent soldier. To set forth particulars of his conduct would be tedious. We only beg leave to say, in the person of this said negro, centers a brave and gallant soldier. The reward due to so great and distinguished a character, we submit to Congress.

"JONA. BREWER, Col. THOMAS NIXON, Lt. Col. WM. PRESCOTT, Col. EPHM. COREY, Lieut. JOSEPH BAKER, Lieut. JOSHUA ROW, Lieut. JONAS RICHARDSON, Capt ELIPHALET BODWELL, SG'T. THOMAS NIXON, Lt. Col. WM. PRESCOTT, Col. EPHM. COREY, Lieut. JOSEPH BAKER, Lieut. JOSHUA ROW, Lieut. JONAS RICHARDSON, Capt.

CAMBRIDGE, Dec. 5, 1775.

"In Council Dec. 21, 1775.—Read, and sent down. PEREZ MORTON, Dep'y Sec'y."

A biographical account of Peter Salem is given in the following newspaper extract:

"April, 1882, the town of Framingham voted to place a memorial stone over the grave of Peter Salem, alias Salem Middlesex, whose last resting place in the old burial ground at Framingham Centre has been unmarked for years. For this purpose $150 was appropriated by the town. The committee in charge of the matter has placed a neat granite memorial over his grave, and it bears the following inscription: "Peter Salem, a soldier of the revolution, Died Aug. 16, 1816. Concord, Bunker Hill, Saratoga. Erected by the town, 1882." Peter Salem was the colored man who particularly distinguished himself in the revolutionary war by shooting down Major Pitcairn at the battle of Bunker Hill, as he was mounting a redoubt and shouting, "The day is ours!" this being the time when Pitcairn fell back into the arms of his son. Peter Salem served faithfully in the war for seven years in the companies of minute men under the command of Capt. John Nixon and Capt. Simon Edgell of Framingham, and came out of it unharmed. He was a slave, and was owned, originally, by Capt. Jeremiah Belknap of Framingham, being sold by him to Major Lawson Buckminster of that town, he becoming a free man when he joined the army. Salem was born in Framingham, and, in 1783, married Katie Benson, a Granddaughter of Nero, living for a time near what is now the State muster field. He removed to Leicester after the close of the war, his last abode in that town being a cabin on the road leading from Leicester to Auburn. He was removed to Framingham, where he had gained a settlement in 1816 and there he died."

Salem was not the only negro at the battle of Bunker Hill. Says an authority:

"Col. Trumbull in his celebrated historic picture of this battle, introduces conspicuously the colored patriot. At the time of the battle, the artist, then acting as adjutant, was stationed with his regiment at Roxbury, and saw the action from this point. The picture was painted in 1786 when the event was fresh in his mind. It is a significant historical fact, pertinent to our present research, that, among the limited number of figures introduced on the canvas, more than one negro soldier can be distinctly seen."

Of the others who participated in the battle we have knowledge of Salem Poor, whose bravery won for him favorable comment.

Major Wm. Lawrence, who fought through the war for independence, from Concord, until the peace of 1783, participating in many of the severest battles of the war. Says a memoir:

"At Bunker Hill, where he was slightly wounded, his coat and hat were pierced with the balls of the enemy, and were preserved in the family for several years. At one time he commanded a company whose rank and file were all negroes, of whose courage, military discipline, and fidelity, he always spoke with respect. On one occasion, being out reconnoitering with his company, he got so far in advance of his command, that he was surrounded, and on the point of being made prisoner by the enemy. The men, soon discovering his peril, rushed to his rescue, and fought with the most determined bravery till that rescue was effectually secured. He never forgot this circumstance, and ever took special pains to show kindness and hospitality to any individual of the colored race, who came near his dwelling."

The Committee of Safety having excluded slaves from the army, many were thereafter manumitted, that they might enlist. There was no law regulating enlistment in the army at the time which required the color of a soldier's skin to be recorded or regarded. A prejudice existed in the legislature that prompted that body to begin a series of special enactments, regarding negroes, which did not exclude them altogether from the army, but looked to their organization into exclusive companies, batallions and regiments.

Notwithstanding the record made by the negroes who had swollen the ranks of the American army a few weeks after the battle of Bunker Hill, General Gates, then at Cambridge, issued the following order to the officers, then recruiting for the service:

"You are not to enlist any deserter from the Ministerial army, nor any stroller, negro, or vagabond, or persons suspected of being an enemy to the liberty of America, nor any under eighteen years of age. As the cause is the best that can engage men of courage and principle to take up arms, so it is expected that none but such will be accepted by the recruiting officer. The pay, provision, &c., being so ample, it is not doubted but that the officers sent upon this service will, without delay, complete their respective corps, and march the men forthwith to camp. You are not to enlist any person that is not an American born, unless such person has a wife and family, and is a settled resident in this country. The persons you enlist must be provided with good and complete arms."

This was in July, and on the 26th of the following September, Edward Rutledge, of South Carolina, moved in the Colonial Congress that all negroes be discharged that were in the army. As might be expected, his proposition was strongly supported by the Southern delegates, but the Northern delegates being so much stronger, voted it down. The negroes were crowding so rapidly into the army, and the Northern colonists finding their Southern comrades so strongly opposing this element of strength, submitted the question of their enlistment to a conference committee in October, composed of such men as Dr. Franklin, Benjamin Harrison and Thomas Lynch, with the Deputy Governors of Connecticut and Rhode Island. This committee met at Cambridge, with a committee of the council of Massachusetts Bay. The object and duty of the meeting was to consider the condition of the army, and to devise means by which it could be improved.

General Washington was present at the meeting, and took part in the discussions. Among others, the following subject was considered and reported upon: "'Ought not negroes to be excluded from the new enlistment, especially those such as are slaves?' All were thought improper by the council of officers. 'Agreed, That they may be rejected altogether.'"

In the organization of the new army, were many officers and men, who had served with negroes in the militia, and who had been re-enlisted in the colonial army. They protested against the exclusion of their old comrades, on account of color. So very strong were their protests that most of the rank and file of the Northern troops regarded the matter as of serious import to the colonies, and of danger to the wives and families of those in the field. There was quite a large number of free negroes in the Northern Colonies at this time, and the patriotism displayed by those who had the opportunity of serving in the militia during the early stages of the war, aroused a feeling which prompted a great many masters to offer to the commander of the army the services of their slaves, and to the slaves their freedom, if their services were accepted. So weighty were the arguments offered, and to soften the gloom which hung about the homes and the camps of the soldiers, Gen. Washington wrote to the President of Congress regarding the matter, from Cambridge, in December, 1775:

"It has been represented to me that the free negroes who have served in this army are very much dissatisfied at being discarded. As it is to be apprehended that they may seek employment in the Ministerial army, I have presumed to depart from the resolution respecting them, and have given license for their being enlisted. If this is disapproved by Congress, I will put a stop to it."[2]

The letter was submitted to Congress, and General Washington's action was sustained by the passage of the following resolution: "That the free negroes, who had served faithfully in the army at Cambridge, may be re-enlisted therein, but no others."

The question of color first entered the army by order of Washington's predecessor, Gen. Artemus Ward, who in his first general order required the "complexion" of the soldier to be entered upon the roll. In October, 1775, Gen. Thomas wrote the following letter to John Adams. The general was in every way competent to draw a true picture of the army, and had the opportunity of observation. He says:

"I am sorry to hear that any prejudices should take place in any Southern Colony, with respect to the troops raised in this. I am certain that the insinuations you mention are injurious, if we consider with what precipitation we are obliged to collect an army. In the regiments at Roxbury, the privates are equal to any that I served with in the last war; very few old men, and in the ranks very few boys. Our fifes are many of them boys. We have some negroes; but I look on them, in general, as equally serviceable with other men for fatigue; and in action many of them have proved themselves brave. I would avoid all reflection, or anything that may tend to give umbrage; but there is in this army from the southward, a number called riflemen, who are the most indifferent men I ever served with. These privates are mutinous, and often deserting to the enemy; unwilling for duty of any kind; exceedingly vicious; and I think the army here would be as well off without them. But to do justice to their officers, they are, some of them, likely men."

Despite all prejudice, the negro, as in all conflicts since, sought every opportunity to show his patriotism, and his unquenchable thirst for liberty; and no matter in what capacity he entered the service, whether as body-servant, hostler or teamster, he always displayed the same characteristic courage. In November of the same year the Provincial Congress of South Carolina, by the passage of the following resolution, gave permission to her militia officers, to use slaves in the army for certain purposes:

"On motion, Resolved, That the colonels of the several regiments of militia throughout the Colony have leave to enroll such a number of able male slaves, to be employed as pioneers and laborers, as public exegencies may require; and that a daily pay of seven shillings and six-pence be allowed for the service of each such slave while actually employed."

The foregoing resolution must not in any way be understood as sanctioning the employment of negroes as soldiers, notwithstanding some of the ablest men of the State advocated the enlistment of negroes in the army; the opposition was too strong to carry the measure through either Congress or the legislature. The feeling among the Northern colonists may be shown by citing the views of some of their leading men, and none perhaps was better calculated to give a clear expression of their views, than the Rev. Dr. Hopkins, of Newport, R. I., who wrote a "Dialogue Concerning the slavery of the Africans," published soon after the commencement of hostilities. Here is an extract from a note to the Dialogue:

"God is so ordering it in his providence, that it seems absolutely necessary something should speedily be done with respect to the slaves among us, in order to our safety, and to prevent their turning against us in our present struggle, in order to get their liberty. Our oppressors have planned to gain the blacks, and induce them to take up arms against us, by promising them liberty on this condition; and this plan they are prosecuting to the utmost of their power, by which means they have persuaded numbers to join them. And should we attempt to restrain them by force and severity, keeping a strict guard over them, and punishing them severely who shall be detected in attempting to join our oppressors, this will only be making bad worse, and serve to render our inconsistence, oppression, and cruelty more criminal, perspicuous, and shocking, and bring down the righteous vengeance of Heaven on our heads. The only way pointed out to prevent this threatening evil is to set the blacks at liberty ourselves by some public acts and laws, and then give them proper encouragement to labor, or take arms in the defence of the American cause, as they shall choose. This would at once be doing them some degree of justice, and defeating our enemies in the scheme that they are prosecuting."

Therefore it will be observed that public opinion regarding the arming of negroes in the North and South, was controlled by sectional interest in the one, and the love of liberty in the other. That both desired America's Independence, no one will doubt, but that one section was more willing than the other to sacrifice slavery for freedom, I think is equally as plain. While the colonists were debating with much anxiety the subject of what to do with the negroes, the New England States were endeavoring to draw the Southern States or Colonies into the war by electing George Washington as Commander of the army at Cambridge, and accepting the mis-interpretations of the declarations of war. The Punic faith with which the Southern States entered the war for liberty humiliated the army, and wrung from its commander the letter written to Congress, and its approval of his course in re-enlisting free negroes. Meanwhile the British were actively engaged in recruiting and organizing negroes into their army and navy.

In November, 1775, Lord Dunmore visited Norfolk, Virginia,[3] and, as Governor, finding his authority as such not regarded by the whites, issued a proclamation offering freedom to the slaves who would join the British army. A full description of the State of affairs at that time, is thus given by an English historian:

"In letters which had been laid before the English Parliament, and published to the whole world, he (Lord Dunmore) had represented the planters as ambitious, selfish men, pursuing their own interest and advancement at the expense of their poorer countrymen, and as being ready to make every sacrifice of honesty and principle, and he had said more privately, that, since they were so anxious for liberty,—for more freedom than was consistent with the free institutions of the Mother Country and the charter of the Colony,—that since they were so eager to abolish a fanciful slavery in a dependence on Great Britain, he would try how they liked abolition of real slavery, by setting free all their negroes and indentured servants, who were, in fact, little better than white slaves. This to the Virginians was like passing a rasp over a gangrened place; it was probing a wound that was incurable, or one which had not yet been healed. Later in the year, when the battle of Bunker's Hill had been fought, when our forts on Lake Champlain had been taken from us, and when Montgomery and Arnold were pressing on our possessions in Canada, Lord Dunmore carried his threat into execution. Having established his headquarters at Norfolk, he proclaimed freedom to all the slaves who would repair to his standard and bear arms for the King. The summons was readily obeyed by the most of the negroes who had the means of escape to him. He, at the same time, issued a proclamation, declaring martial law throughout the colony of Virginia; and he collected a number of armed vessels, which cut off the coasting trade, made many prizes, and greatly distressed an important part of that Province. If he could have opened a road to slaves in the interior of the Province, his measures would have been very fatal to the planters. In order to stop the alarming desertion of the negroes, and to arrest his Lordship in his career, the provincial Assembly detached against him a strong force of more than a thousand men, who arrived in the neighborhood of Norfolk in the month of December. Having made a circuit, they came to a village called Great Bridge, where the river Elizabeth was traversed by a bridge; but before their arrival the bridge had been made impassable, and some works, defended chiefly by negroes, had been thrown up."

During the same month Edmund Pendleton wrote to Richard Henry Lee that many slaves had flocked to the British standard:

"The Governor, * * * * marched out with three hundred and fifty soldiers, Tories and slaves, to Kemp's Landing; and after setting up his standard, and issuing his proclamation, declaring all persons rebels who took up arms for the country, and inviting all slaves, servants and apprentices to come to him and receive arms, he proceeded to intercept Hutchings and his party, upon whom he came by surprise, but received, it seems, so warm a fire, that the ragmuffins ran away. They were, however, rallied on discovering that two companies of our militia gave away; and left Hutchings and Dr. Reid with a volunteer company, who maintained their ground bravely till they were overcome by numbers, and took shelter in a swamp. The slaves were sent in pursuit of them; and one of Col. Hutching's, with another, found him. On their approach, he discharged his pistol at his slave, but missed him; and he was taken by them, after receiving a wound in the face with a sword. The number taken or killed on either side is not ascertained. It is said the Governor went to Dr. Reid's shop, and after taking the medicines and dressing necessary for his wounded men, broke all the others to pieces. Letters mention that slaves flock to him in abundance: but I hope it is magnified."

Five months after he issued the proclamation, Lord Dunmore thus writes, concerning his success:

[No. 1]

"Lord Dunmore to the Secretary of State. {SHIP 'DUNMORE,' IN ELIZABETH RIVER, VA., { 30th March, 1776.

"Your Lordship will observe by my letter, No. 34, that I have been endeavoring to raise two regiments here—one of white people, the other of black. The former goes on very slowly, but the latter very well, and would have been in great forwardness, had not a fever crept in amongst them, which carried off a great many very fine fellows."

* * * * *

[No. 3]

{"SHIP 'DUNMORE,' IN GWIN'S ISLAND HARBOR, VA., { June 26, 1776.

"I am extremely sorry to inform your Lordship, that that fever of which I informed you in my letter No. 1 has proved a very malignant one, and has carried off an incredible number of our people, especially the blacks. Had it not been for this horrid disorder, I am satisfied I should have had no doubt of penetrating into the heart of this colony."

The dread in which the colonists held the negro was equal to that with which they regarded the Indians. The incendiary torch, massacre, pillage, and revolt, was ever presenting a gloomy and disastrous picture to the colonists at the South. Their dreams at night; their thoughts by day; in the field and in the legislature hall, were how to keep the negro down. If one should be seen in a village with a gun, a half score of white men would rush and take it from him, while women in the street would take shelter in the nearest house. The wrongs which they continued to practice upon him was a terror to them through their conscience, though then, as in later years, many, and particularly the leaders, endeavored to impress others with their feigned belief of the natural inferiority of the negro to themselves. This doctrine served them, as the whistle did the boy in the woods; they talked in that way simply to keep their courage up, and their conscience down.

The commander of the American army regarded the action of Lord Dunmore as a serious blow to the national cause. To take the negroes out of the field from raising produce for the army, and place them in front of the patriots as opposing soldiers, he saw was a danger that should be averted. With this in view he wrote to Joseph Reed in December, saying:

"If the Virginians are wise, that arch-traitor to the rights of humanity, Lord Dunmore, should be instantly crushed, if it takes the whole army to do it; otherwise, like a snowball in rolling, his army will get size, some through fear, some through promises, and some through inclination, joining his standard; but that which renders the measure indispensable is the negroes; for, if he gets formidable, numbers of them will be tempted to join, who will be afraid to do it without."

Notwithstanding this, the Southern States still kept the negro out of the army. It was not until affairs became alarmingly dangerous, and a few weeks before the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, that the subject of arming the slaves came again before the people.

In May, 1777, the General Assembly of Connecticut postponed in one house and rejected in the other the report of a committee "that the effective negro and mulatto slaves be allowed to enlist with the Continental battallions now raising in this State." But under a law passed at the same session "white and black, bond and free, if 'able bodied,' went on the roll together, accepted as the representatives of their 'class,' or as substitutes for their employers." At the next session (October, 1777), the law was so amended as to authorize the selectmen of any town, on the application of the master—after 'inquiry into the age, abilities, circumstances, and character' of the servant or slave, and being satisfied 'that it was likely to be consistent with his real advantage, and that he would be able to support himself,'—to grant liberty for his emancipation, and to discharge the master 'from any charge or cost which may be occasioned by maintaining or supporting the servant or slave made free as aforesaid.' Mr. J. H. Trumbull, of Connecticut, in giving the foregoing facts, adds:

"The slave (or servant for term of years) might receive his freedom; the master might receive exemption from draft, and a discharge from future liabilities, to which he must otherwise have been subjected. In point of fact, some hundreds of blacks,—slaves and freemen,—were enlisted, from time to time, in the regiments of State troops and of the Connecticut line."

The British were determined, it seems, to utilize all the available strength they could command, by enlisting negroes at the North as well as at the South. They conceived the idea of forming regiments of them at the North, as the letter of Gen. Greene to Gen. Washington will show:

"CAMP ON LONG ISLAND, July 21, 1776, two o'clock.

"SIR:—Colonel Hand reports seven large ships are coming up from the Hook to the Narrows.

"A negro belonging to one Strickler, at Gravesend, was taken prisoner (as he says) last Sunday at Coney Island. Yesterday he made his escape, and was taken prisoner by the rifle guard. He reports eight hundred negroes collected on Staten Island, this day to be formed into a regiment.

I am your Excellency's most obedient, humble servant, N. GREENE. "To His Excellency Gen. Washington, Headquarters, New York."

Occasionally the public would be startled by the daring and bravery of some negro in the American army, and then the true lovers of liberty, North and South, would again urge that negroes be admitted into the ranks of the army. When Lt.-Col. Barton planned for the capture of the British Maj.-Gen. Prescott, who commanded the British army at Newport R. I., and whose capture was necessary in order to effect the release of Gen. Lee, who was then in the hands of the British, and of the same rank as that of Gen. Prescott, Col. Barton's plan was made a success through the aid of Prince, a negro in Col. Barton's command. The daring of the exploit excited the highest patriotic commendations of the Americans, and revived the urgent appeals that had been made for a place in the armed ranks for all men, irrespective of color. The Pennsylvania Evening Post of Aug. 7th, 1777, gives the following account of the capture:

"They landed about five miles from Newport, and three quarters of a mile from the house, which they approached cautiously, avoiding the main guard, which was at some distance. The Colonel went foremost, with a stout active negro close behind him, and another at a small distance; the rest followed so as to be near but not seen.

"A single sentinel at the door saw and hailed the Colonel; he answered by exclaiming against and inquiring for, rebel prisoners, but kept slowly advancing. The sentinel again challenged him and required the countersign. He said he had not the countersign; but amused the sentry by talking about rebel prisoners, and still advancing till he came within reach of the bayonet, which, he presenting, the colonel struck aside, and seized him. He was immediately secured, and ordered to be silent, on pain of instant death. Meanwhile, the rest of the men surrounding the house, the negro, with his head, at the second stroke, forced a passage into it, and then into the landlord's apartment. The landlord at first refused to give the necessary intelligence; but, on the prospect of present death, he pointed to the General's chamber, which being instantly opened by the negro's head, the Colonel, calling the General by name, told him he was a prisoner."

Congress voted Col. Barton a magnificent sword, but the real captor of Gen. Prescott, so far as known, received nothing. A surgeon in the American army, Dr. Thacher, writes, under date of Aug. 3d, 1777, at Albany:

"The pleasing information is received here that Lieut.-Col. Barton, of the Rhode Island Militia, planned a bold exploit for the purpose of surprising and taking Maj.-Gen. Prescott, the commanding officer of the Royal army at Newport. Taking with him, in the night, about forty men, in two boats, with oars muffled, he had the address to elude the vigilance of the ships-of-war and guard boats; and, having arrived undiscovered at the quarters of Gen. Prescott, they were taken for the sentinels; and the general was not alarmed till the captors were at the door of his lodging chamber, which was fast closed. A negro man, named Prince, instantly thrust his beetle head through the panel door, and seized his victim while in bed. This event is extremely honorable to the enterprising spirit of Col. Barton, and is considered an ample retaliation for the capture of Gen. Lee by Col. Harcourt. The event occasions great joy and exultation, as it puts in our possession an officer of equal rank with Gen. Lee, by which means an exchange may be obtained. Congress resolved that an elegant sword should be presented to Col. Barton, for his brave exploit."

To recite here every incident and circumstance illustrating the heroism and the particular services rendered the patriotic army by negroes, who served in regiments and companies with white soldiers, would fill this entire volume. Yet, with the desire of doing justice to the memory of all those negroes who aided in achieving the independence of America, I cannot forbear introducing notices,—gathered from various sources,—of some prominent examples.

Ebenezer Hill, a slave at Stonington, Conn., who served throughout the war, and who took part in the battles of Saratoga and Stillwater, and witnessed the surrender of Burgoyne.

Prince Whipple acted as bodyguard to General Whipple, one of Washington's aids. Prince is the negro seen on horseback in the engraving of Washington crossing the Delaware, and again pulling the stroke oar in the boat which Washington crossed in.

At the storming of Fort Griswold, Maj. Montgomery was lifted upon the walls of the fort by his soldiers, and called upon the Americans to surrender. John Freeman, a negro soldier, with his pike, pinned him dead to the earth. Among the American soldiers who were massacred by the British soldiers, after the surrender of the fort, were two negro soldiers, Lambo Latham and Jordan Freeman.

Quack Matrick, a negro, fought through the Revolutionary war, as a soldier, for which he was pensioned. Also Jonathan Overtin, who was at the battle of Yorktown. The grandfather of the historian Wm. Wells Brown, Simon Lee, was also a soldier "in the times which tried men's souls."

"Samuel Charlton was born in the State of New Jersey, a slave, in the family of Mr. M., who owned, also, other members belonging to his family—all residing in the English neighborhood. During the progress of the war, he was placed by his master (as a substitute for himself) in the army then in New Jersey, as a teamster in the baggage train. He was in active service at the battle of Monmouth, not only witnessing, but taking a part in, the great struggle of that day. He was also in several other engagements in different sections of that part of the State. He was a great admirer of General Washington, and was, at one time, attached to his baggage train, and received the General's commendation for his courage and devotion to the cause of liberty. Mr. Charlton was about fifteen or seventeen years of age when placed in the army, for which his master rewarded him with a silver dollar. At the expiration of his time, he returned to his master, to serve again in bondage, after having toiled, fought and bled for liberty, in common with the regular soldiery. Mr. M., at his death, by will, liberated his slaves, and provided a pension for Charlton, to be paid during his lifetime.

* * * *

"James Easton, of Bridgewater, a colored man, participated in the erection of the fortifications on Dorchester Heights, under command of Washington, which the next morning so greatly surprised the British soldiers then encamped in Boston."

"Among the brave blacks who fought in the battles for American liberty was Major Jeffrey, a Tennesseean, who, during the campaign of Major-General Andrew Jackson in Mobile, filled the place of "regular" among the soldiers. In the charge made by General Stump against the enemy, the Americans were repulsed and thrown into disorder,—Major Stump being forced to retire, in a manner by no means desirable, under the circumstances. Major Jeffrey, who was but a common soldier, seeing the condition of his comrades, and comprehending the disastrous results about to befall them, rushed forward, mounted a horse, took command of the troops, and, by an heroic effort, rallied them to the charge,—completely routing the enemy, who left the Americans masters of the field. He at once received from the General the title of "Major," though he could not, according to the American policy, so commission him. To the day of his death, he was known by that title in Nashville, where he resided, and the circumstances which entitled him to it were constantly the subject of popular conversation.

"Major Jeffrey was highly respected by the whites generally, and revered, in his own neighborhood, by all the colored people who knew him.

"A few years ago receiving an indignity from a common ruffian, he was forced to strike him in self-defense; for which act, in accordance with the laws of slavery in that, as well as many other of the slave States, he was compelled to receive, on his naked person, nine and thirty lashes with a raw hide! This, at the age of seventy odd, after the distinguished services rendered his country,—probably when the white ruffian for whom he was tortured was unable to raise an arm in its defense,—was more than he could bear; it broke his heart, and he sank to rise no more, till summoned by the blast of the last trumpet to stand on the battle-field of the general resurrection."

Jeffrey was not an exception to this kind of treatment. Samuel Lee died on a tobacco plantation after the war.

The re-enslaving of the negroes who fought for American Independence became so general at the South, that the Legislature of Virginia in 1783, in compliance with her honor, passed an act directing the emancipation of certain slaves, who had served as soldiers of the State, and for the emancipation of the slave Aberdeen.

James Armistead during the war acted as a scout and spy for LaFayette during his campaign in Virginia, and at one time gave information of an intended surprise to be made upon the forces of the Marquis, thereby saving probably a rout of the army. Armistead, after the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, was returned to his master three years after the close of the war. He was manumitted by especial act of the Virginia Legislature, whose attention was called to the worthiness of the service rendered by Armistead.

The opposition to the employment of negroes as soldiers, by the persistency of its advocates and the bravery of those who were then serving in white regiments, was finally overcome, so that their enlistment became general and regulated by law. Companies, battalions and regiments of negro troops soon entered the field and the struggle for independence and liberty, giving to the cause the reality of freedmen's fight. For three years the army had been fighting under the smart of defeats, with an occasional signal victory, but now the tide was about to be turned against the English. The colonists had witnessed the heroism of the negro in Virginia at Great Bridge, and at Norfolk; in Massachusetts at Boston and Bunker Hill, fighting, in the former, for freedom under the British flag, in the latter for liberty, under the banner of the colonies. The echoing shouts of the whites fell heavily upon the ears of the black people; they caught the strain as by martial instinct, and reverberated the appeal, "Liberty and Independence."

The negro's ancestors were not slaves, so upon the altar of their hearts the fire of liberty was re-kindled by the utterances of the white colonists. They heard Patrick Henry and Samuel Adams, whose eloquence vehemently aroused their compatriots, and, like them, they too resolved to be free. They held no regular organized meetings; at the North they assembled with their white fellow-citizens; at the South each balmy gale that swept along the banks of the rivers were laden with the negro's ejaculations for freedom, and each breast was resolute and determined. The advocates and friends of the measure for arming all men for freedom, were on the alert, and now the condition of the army was such as to enable them to press the necessity of the measure upon the attention of the American people. Washington needed reinforcements; nay, more, the perilous situation of the army as it lay in camp at Valley Forge, at the conclusion of the campaign of 1777, was indeed distressing. The encampment consisted of huts, and there was danger of a famine. The soldiers were nearly destitute of comfortable clothing. "Many," says the historian, "for want of shoes, walked barefoot on the frozen ground; few, if any, had blankets for the night. Great numbers sickened; near three thousand at a time were incapable of bearing arms."

Within fifteen miles of them lay the city of Philadelphia and the British army. These gloomy circumstances overshadowed the recent victory at Bennington, and the surrender of Burgoyne. Under these circumstances, the difficulty of recruiting the patriot army may be easily imagined. A general enlistment bill had failed to pass the legislature in the spring, because, perhaps, the spirit of the patriots were up at the time; but now they were down, and the advocates of arming negroes sought the opportunity of carrying their plan. It was not attempted in Connecticut, but in the General Assembly of Rhode Island an act was passed for the purpose. Here are some of the principal provisions of this act:

"It is Voted and Resolved, That every able-bodied negro, mulatto, or Indian man slave in this State, may enlist into either of the said two battalions to serve during the continuance of the present war with Great Britain; that every slave so enlisted shall be entitled to receive all the bounties, wages, encouragements allowed by the Continental Congress to any soldier enlisted into their service.

"It is further Voted and Resolved, That every slave so enlisting shall, upon his passing muster before Col. Christopher Greene, be immediately discharged from the service of his master or mistress, and be absolutely free, as though he had never been encumbered with any kind of servitude or slavery. And in case such slave shall, by sickness or otherwise, be unable to maintain himself, he shall not be chargable to his master or mistress, but shall be supported at the expense of the State.

"And whereas slaves have been by the laws deemed the property of their owners; and therefore compensation ought to be made to the owners for the loss of their service,—

"It is further Voted and Resolved, That there be allowed, and paid by this State to the owners, for every such slave so enlisting, a sum according to his worth at a price not exceeding one hundred and twenty pounds for the most valuable slave, and in proportion for a slave of less value; Provided the owner of said slave shall deliver up to the officer who shall enlist him the clothes of said slave; or otherwise he shall not be entitled to said sum."



To speak of the gallantry of the negro soldiers recalls the recollection of some of their daring deeds at Red Bank, where four hundred men met and repulsed, after a terrible, sanguinary struggle, fifteen hundred Hessian troops led by Count Donop.

"The glory of the defence of Red Bank, which has been pronounced one of the most heroic actions of the war, belongs in reality to black men; yet who now hears them spoken of in connection with it? Among the traits which distinguished the black regiment was devotion to their officers. In the attack made upon the American lines, near Croton river, on the 13th of May, 1781, Col. Greene, the commander of the regiment, was cut down and mortally wounded; but the sabres of the enemy only reached him through the bodies of his faithful blacks, who gathered around him to protect him, and every one of whom was killed."

Now the negro began to take the field; not scattered here and there throughout the army, filling up the shattered ranks of white regiments, but in organizations composed entirely of men of their own race, officered, however, by white officers, men of high social and military character and standing. The success of the measure in Rhode Island, emboldened the effort in Massachusetts, where the advocates of separate negro organizations had been laboring zealously for its accomplishment. Officers of the army in the field, expressed their desire to be placed in command of negro troops, in separate and distinct organizations. Every effort, however, up to this time to induce Massachusetts to consent to the proposition had failed. Rhode Island alone sent her negro regiments to the field, whose gallantry during the war more than met the most sanguine expectations of their warmest friends, and fully merited the trust and confidence of the State and country. As the struggle proceeded, re-enforcements were more frequently in demand; but recruits were scarce, and the question of arming negroes became again prominent in the colonies and the army.

In April, 1778, Thomas Kench, then serving in an artillery regiment, addressed letters to the Massachusetts Legislature urging the enlistment of negroes. He wrote:

"A re-enforcement can quickly be raised of two or three hundred men. Will your honors grant the liberty, and give me the command of the party? And what I refer to is negroes. We have divers of them in our service, mixed with white men. But I think it would be more proper to raise a body by themselves, than to have them intermixed with the white men; and their ambition would entirely be to outdo the white men in every measure that the fortunes of war calls a soldier to endure. And I could rely with dependence upon them in the field of battle or to any post that I was sent to defend with them; and they would think themselves happy could they gain their freedom by bearing a part of subduing the enemy that is invading our land, and clear a peaceful inheritance for their masters, and posterity yet to come, that they are now slaves to."

The letter from which this extract was made was duly referred to a joint committee "to consider the same and report." Some days later "a resolution of the General Assembly of Rhode Island for enlisting negroes in the public service" was referred to the same committee. They duly reported the draft of a law, differing little from the Rhode Island Resolution. A separate organization of negro companies, by Kench, does not appear to have been deemed advisable at that time. The usage was continued of "taking," in the words of Kench, "negroes in our service, intermixed with the white men."

The negroes of Boston and their abolition friends, rather insisted upon the intermingling of the races in the army, believing that this course had a greater tendency to destroy slavery, and the inequality of rights among the blacks and whites; though it deprived the negroes, as we now see, of receiving due credit for their valor, save in a few individual cases. It was not in Massachusetts alone, but in many other States that the same idea prevailed; and now the facts connected with the services of the negroes are to be gathered only in fragments, from the histories of villages and towns, or among the archives of the State, in a disconnected and unsatisfactory form.

The legislature of New York, two months after the murder of Col. Greene and his faithful negro troops at Point's Bridge, in that State, by the British, passed an act (March, 1781) looking to the raising of two regiments. The sixth section of the act reads as follows:

"And it is further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that any person who shall deliver one or more of his able-bodied male slaves to any warrant officer, as aforesaid, to serve in either of the above regiments or independent corps, and produce a certificate thereof, signed by any person authorized to muster and receive the men to be raised by virtue of this act, and produce such certificate to the Surveyor-General, shall, for every male slave so entered and mustered as aforesaid, be entitled to the location and grant of one right, in manner as in and by this act is directed; and shall be, and hereby is discharged from any further maintenance of such slave, any law to the contrary notwithstanding. And such slave so entering as aforesaid, who shall serve for the term of three years or until regularly discharged, shall, immediately after such service or discharge, be, and is hereby declared to be, a free man of this State."

In 1821, in the convention which revised the constitution of New York, Mr. Clark, speaking in favor of allowing negroes to vote, said in the course of his remarks:

"My honorable colleague has told us, that, as the colored people are not required to contribute to the protection or defence of the State, they are not entitled to an equal participation in the privileges of its citizens. But, Sir, whose fault is this? Have they ever refused to do military duty when called upon? It is haughtily asked, Who will stand in the ranks shoulder to shoulder with a negro? I answer, No one, in time of peace; no one, when your musters and trainings are looked upon as mere pastimes; no one, when your militia will shoulder their muskets and march to their trainings with as much unconcern as they would go to a sumptuous entertainment or a splendid ball. But, Sir, when the hour of danger approaches, your white 'militia' are just as willing that the man of color should be set up as a mark to be shot at by the enemy, as to be set up themselves. In the War of the Revolution, these people helped to fight your battles by land and by sea. Some of your States were glad to turn out corps of colored men, and to stand 'shoulder to shoulder' with them.

"In your late war, they contributed largely towards some of your most splendid victories. On Lakes Erie and Champlain, where your fleets triumphed over a foe superior in numbers and engines of death, they were manned, in a large proportion, with men of color. And, in this very house, in the fall of 1814, a bill passed, receiving the approbation of all the branches of your government, authorizing the Governor to accept the services of a corps of two thousand free people of color. Sir, these were times which tried men's souls. In these times it was no sporting matter to bear arms. These were times, when a man who shouldered his musket did not know but he bared his bosom to receive a death wound from the enemy ere he laid it aside; and in these times, these people were found as ready and as willing to volunteer in your service as any other. They were not compelled to go; they were not drafted. No, your pride had placed them beyond your compulsory power. But there was no necessity for its exercise; they were volunteers; yes, Sir, volunteers to defend that very country from the inroads and ravages of a ruthless and vindictive foe, which had treated them with insult, degradation and slavery.

"Volunteers are the best of soldiers. Give me the men, whatever be their complexion, that willingly volunteer, and not those who are compelled to turn out. Such men do not fight from necessity, nor from mercenary motives, but from principle."

Hon. Mr. Martindale, who represented a District of the State of New York, in Congress in 1828, thus speaks of the negro soldiers:

"Slaves, or negroes who have been slaves, were enlisted as soldiers in the War of the Revolution; and I myself saw a battalion of them, as fine martial-looking men as I ever saw, attached to the Northern army."

Up to this time the East had been the theatre of the war, with now and then a battle in some one of the Middle Colonies, but the British discovering that the people of the South acted indifferently in maintaining and recruiting the army, transferred their operations to that section. Maryland then stood as a middle State or Colony. Her statesmen, seeing the threatened danger of the invasion of Pennsylvania, endeavored to prepare to meet it, and taking council from her sister States at the East, accepted the negro as a soldier. In June, 1781, John Cadwater, writing from Annapolis, Md., to Gen. Washington, says:

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