On This Date In American History as it Relates to the American Revolution
It seems only fitting that on this the last day of February, we acknowledge and give homage to Black American History Month. In addition, this seemed the appropriate date to honor Black Americans because on February 28, 1778, Rhode Island General Assembly authorized the enlistment of slaves.
From even before the first shots on Lexington Green, African Americans had a role in America’s fight for independence. Among the dead at the Boston Massacre was an African American by the name of Crispus Attucks. On April 19, 1775, African Americans were among the Minutemen who defended the stores of ammunition that the colonists accumulated in Concord and Lexington, Massachusetts. In the early months of the war, concern among whites over the arming of free African Americans and slaves increased. Recognizing the need for manpower against superior British forces, General George Washington authorized the enlistment of free African Americans on December 30, 1775. In turn, Congress relented and allowed the re-enlistment of those free men who had served their country at the beginning of the war.
For slaves seeking freedom in return for military service, life in the army was a step up in society. For free African Americans, service was looked upon as a way to increase their community standing and earn cash and land bounties. Desertion rates among African Americans were lower than among other ethnic groups. By 1777, whites and African Americans served side-by-side in the Continental Army. But not all African Americans fought on the side for independence; some fought for the British.
While numerous soldiers captured by the British Army suffered and died in the holds of prison ships, many white soldiers were exchanged for captured British soldiers. However, African American soldiers were rarely exchanged for British prisoners of war, and many of the African Americans were sold into slavery in the West Indies.
According to Thomas Fleming in Washington’s Secret War: The Hidden History of Valley Forge, the Valley Forge encampment included many African Americans. The First Rhode Island Regiment, in General James Varnum’s Brigade, consisted largely of African American and Native American soldiers. According to pension records and other source documents, at least five hundred African Americans were at Valley Forge. They include Shadrack Battles, a 32-year-old “free man of color” who enlisted in the Tenth Virginia Regiment in December 1779, and Windsor Fry, another free black man who served with the First Rhode Island Regiment. Salem Poor of Massachusetts, who purchased his freedom, came to Valley Forge after distinguished service at Bunker Hill and Saratoga. African Americans at Valley Forge included slaves serving as substitutes for their masters; one of these was Samual Surphen in the New Jersey Brigade. A belated hats off to the African Americans who fought for America’s Independence from Great Britain.
The End of Another Week, The End of the Month
Can you believe that another week has come and gone? Can you believe that it is the end of the month as well? It has certainly been a busy one for me. In addition to writing this blog, I have written a hub on hubpages every day this week since Monday. Below are the links to the hubs I have written.
Monday I wrote
Wednesday I wrote:
Friday I Wrote: