Printer Friendly

Out of the shadows: African descendants--revolutionary combatants in the Hudson River Valley; a preliminary historical sketch.

One key battleground in the Revolutionary War of 1776 was the Hudson River Valley, located in the British colony of eastern New York. The valley was a microcosm of other such war theaters in the thirteen mainland colonies in which the British engaged colonial combatants in a desperate attempt to squelch what was perceived as an act of treason. Among the combatants on that battlefield on both sides could be found nobility, landed gentry, small farmers, merchants, bankers, and common laborers. Strategically, the Hudson River was an important lifeline for British Canada to the Atlantic Ocean, while the valley linked the New England colonies to those of the Middle and Southern regions. In order for the British to bring a quick end to the rebellion, it first had to capture the Hudson River Valley, thus severing the thread that linked the rebellious thirteen colonies. The victory, in augmenting the war effort, would allow the free flow of men and supplies on the river between New York City and Canada. Moreover, the valley would become an ideal staging ground for punitive military raids, and eventual mopping up campaigns into the Middle and New England colonies.

A presence among the combatants that is seldom if ever mentioned on this crucial Hudson River Valley battlefield is that of African Descendants--both free and enslaved. It was their presence in the battles fought in this theater of the Revolutionary War that aided the Americans in their military efforts to hold the valley, and eventually use it as the staging ground for the final assault against the British by a combined force of American and French soldiers under General George Washington headed for Yorktown, Virginia. This paper, therefore, is about that presence of African Descendants who were on that battleground but, because of a glitch in historical methods, were relegated to the shadows of their white, fellow combatants. Yet, nevertheless, their heroic deeds afforded the Americans ultimate victory. For those who fought with the British, either as black Englishmen or were with the Hessian Drummer Corps, unfortunately their heroic deeds were overwhelmed by defeat.

Since this paper is a preliminary attempt to tell the role of African Descendants in the Revolutionary War of 1776, and because most of the evidence speaks to African Descendants in New York, the core of the paper will reconstruct their involvement. Two later sections will succinctly address those African Descendants who supported the British war effort, either within the ranks of England's fighting forces or with her ally, the Hessians. The second of the two, a tantalizing postscript composed of some recently unearthed historical shards, will demonstrate the potentially rich possibilities for research into those African descendants who supported the British war efforts. Thus it can be said that no longer should these unsung Heroes be relegated to the margins of history. Now they can come out of the shadows and claim center stage.

FOREVER THE WARRIOR--BOTH THE FREE AND THE ENSLAVED

When Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence in July 1776, he, and his co-conspirators, had only white colonists in mind. What he did not anticipate was that thousands of Africans held in bondage (and those that were free) would view the Declaration and the ensuring conflagration between the two groups of whites as a means to their own freedom. Because the modus vivendi between masters and the enslaved in New York remained precarious, the African had no qualms about choosing either of the combatants to assist him in becoming his own liberator. In the words of Benjamin Quarles, "Insofar as [the African] had freedom of choice, he was likely to join the side that made him the quickest and best offer in terms of those 'inalienable rights' of which Mr. Jefferson had spoken." (2) For the African the Declaration of 1776 was his call to arms to battle for independence and freedom. Caught up in the rhetoric of the Declaration, the African's undeclared war on the peculiar institution became an open campaign against the evil of slavery. For him, "whoever invoked the image of liberty, be he American or British, could count on a ready response from the [B]lacks." (3)

There were many incentives for Africans--free and enslaved--to seek the challenge of war, the foremost being personal freedom. Free Africans saw the offer of a land and cash bounty as a way to begin a new life filled with much promise as well as a way to be adventuresome and "express support for the revolutionary ideals of freedom." (4) Runaway slaves viewed enlistment as a means of security, employment, and eventual freedom. The fate of the enslaved was at the mercy of the whims of their owners, who, if they so desired, could send the enslaved in place of themselves or could accept cash or a land bounty. The enslaved were promised that they would be free after serving three years or after the war. For the enslaved, free, and runaway Africans, the Revolution also afforded them the opportunity to demonstrate their prowess as combatants and as men--something denied to them in a slave society that defined them as infantile, and untrustworthy Sambos.

The efforts to dispel, to demystify, and to destroy these notions of the majority community toward Africans mobilized the slave community of the Hudson River Valley from the time of the Dutch. Continual African resistance to the peculiar institution was demonstrable proof, in its own subtle way, that those white society held in bondage did not fit the pejorative descriptions which were merely figments of white imagination. Although slavery for the African was a trek into "the valley of the shadow of death," where he was abandoned to confront the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune," it was, nevertheless, a temporary sojourn for Ethiopia's children. During their accommodation to slavery, the Africans awaited the day Gabriel would blow his horn at the dawn of a new day of freedom. (5)

The African American participation in the quest for freedom was nothing new. Impatient of oppression, Africans were ever alert to ways of hastening freedom. Two decades before the Revolution, African warriors, under the Dutch and English, comprised part of the fighting force in the European colonial conflicts. Because of their need to pacify the "owners of the land" (the Native Americans) in the Hudson Valley, the Dutch, under their Governor Peter Stuyvesant, sought "clever and strong" Africans. In his request to officials on the Caribbean island of Curacao, Stuyvesant indicated that he needed such men to "pursue the Indians," because it was "evident that in order to possess this country in peace and revenge affronts and murders we shall be forced into a lawful offensive war against them [the Indians]." (6) Under the British, Africans--free and enslaved--were very conspicuous among colonial enlistees in the French and Indian War fought in New York. Among the 1762 enlistees in the company of Captain Van Dyck were Peter Lucus and Peter Primus both laborers from Schenectady, New York. (7) John Murray, a cordwainer, served in the Ulster, Orange, and Dutchess 1762 detachment under Captain George Brewerton. (8) Cato Thomas, a laborer from Rye, New York, was in the 1760 Westchester County Company of Captain William Gilchrist. (9) Peter Lucus, Sr. and Peter Lucus, Jr., both farmers; William Sisco, a laborer; and Francis Matysa, cordwainer, served in the 1759 Orange County regiment of Colonial Abraham Hering. (10) These fighting men were proud African warriors in support of the British war effort, as well as in quest of their own manhood and freedom. In a letter to his Philadelphia cousin from Lake George, a white soldier wrote of a fierce fire-fight with enemy forces under the French and Native Americans: "The Blacks fought more valiantly than the whites." (11) What this lone, white combatant shared with his cousin was a fact of history that lay buried, forgotten, and unsung. African warriors and their deeds of valor were forgotten and unsung, and such was repeated during the American Revolution. (12)

A CALCULATED NECESSITY: THE AFRICAN FACTOR IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION

The heroism of these unsung African warriors became evident at the inception of the revolutionary conflict at the battles of Lexington and Concord and even at the Boston Massacre of 1770. (13) As with previous wars, it was the Africans distributed throughout the forces of the Continental lines, state levies, and militias, who were to turn the tide of war in favor of the Americans. The American army suffered defeat at Brandywine, Schuykill, and Germantown after having been driven out of New York City by British forces, and lingered "dispiritedly" in winter quarters at Valley Forge, apparently on the verge of defeat in the winter of 1777-1778. (14) "In the midst of his starving, half-naked, freezing rabble, Washington saw hopes of an American success fast ebbing away ... plagued by [mutinies and] by continual departure of recruits whose time had expired (three-months enlistment for state militia men), [he had] tartly commented in 1776 that 'short enlistments--a mistaken dependence upon militia--have been the origin of all our misfortunes.'" (15) Short enlistments were an important variable prolonging revolutionary conflict. Of the 395,858 men recruited into the Revolutionary armed forces, those in the field at any one time never exceeded 35,000. Because the British forces in America never exceeded 42,000, if half of the 395,858 had "been available regularly, the Americans should easily have overwhelmed the British." (16) But this was not the case by 1777 and would not be the case until General George Washington, in that memorable winter of 1777-1778, concluded that the presence of Africans--free and enslaved--was necessary for the eventual defeat of British forces. (17)

AFRICAN WARRIORS ON THE FIELD OF BATTLE

An important strategic objective of the American forces was to hold the Hudson River Valley against British attempts to cut a wedge between the New England states and others further south. The job of insuring valley security fell to the forces of the Northern Army (first under General Philip Schuyler and later under Horatio Gates) and to those of the Valley Command (under Major-General William Heath and others). Integrated among the forces were Africans from the valley, many from regiments in New England and New Jersey, and from various southern regimental units.

The Africans' presence among white combatants predated the official acknowledgement of their use in the revolutionary struggle. (18) When Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys accompanied by Benedict Arnold, made their dash to the northern slopes of the valley in the region of Lake Champlain in order to capture Fort Ticonderoga and Crown Point in 1775 (subsequently turned over to the command of the Northern Army under General Schuyler), African American warriors were among the regimental units. (19) Barzillai Lew of the Twenty-Seventh Massachusetts regiment and Lamuel Haynes of a Connecticut unit both saw duty at Fort Ticonderoga. (20) In addition to Lew and Haynes, many other African Americans were dispersed among the assult troops that captured the two British fortifications: Cash Affrica, Caesar Parkhurst, Caesar Spensor, Prince Done, and Samuel Pomp. The men were enlistees in four of Connecticut's fighting units: the First, Sixth, Ninth, and Tenth regiments. Later that year when Arnold dashed through the woods of Maine to rendezvous with the New York regiments of General Clinton and General Montgomery to join in their disastrous invasion of Canada, Jack Roosa, Cato Dederick, Jack Gaul, Cato Van Aken, and Prince Danforth of various Ulster County regiments and from mid-Hudson towns such as Kingston, Marbletown, and New Windsor, participated in the failed attempt on Quebec City. (21)

As the valley developed into a prime theater of war, adequate space and provisions had to be made available to support the fighting forces. The Peekskill, New York command post for the valley forces had the strategic task of protecting the passes at the foothills of the Highlands against British intrusion. Near there the Continental Village sprang up not only to quarter the troops but also to supply them with materiel. (22) When regiments were not engaged in combat in the valley, they were in winter quarters. In 1780-1781, Connecticut regiments wintered in Connecticut Village above the Tory estate of Beverly Robinson, "opposite West Point, about one mile and a half from the river" and in what is today Putnam County. (23) Further south and southwest at Philipsburg and White Plains, continental forces bivouacked and wintered.

To help shore up the American's position in this war theater, African Americans assumed an array of roles in addition to combatants. They were drivers, orderlies, waiters, cooks, bakers (especially at Tarrytown, Continental Village, and at Fishkill where there were numerous ovens for baking bread), skilled craftsmen, and common laborers. (24) Many were also engaged at New Windsor on the "works," a point on the Hudson River where the huge iron chain, manufactured at the Sterling Iron Works in Orange County, was assembled in sections and floated down to West Point. There, sometime after 1777, its five hundred yards was assembled and stretched across the Hudson to Constitutional Island in order to prevent British ships from ascending the river. (25)

As combatants, orderlies, drivers, or cooks, Africans in the revolutionary struggle were America's unsung heroes. Their deeds of valor are not usually praised and, therefore, do not live on after them: they lay buried in the annals of history. African descendants from New York and other states who were engaged in the revolutionary campaigns in the valley were steadfast and valiant in their contributions to the war efforts. Black warriors of the First and Second regiments of Rhode Island repeatedly demonstrated their military prowess. They performed extraordinary feats of valor defending Rhode Island and Red Bank, New Jersey. African Americans of the Rhode Island First Regiment under the command of Colonel Christopher Greene held the British guerrilla group, the "Cowboys," at bay in the Neutral Zone, a region of the lower Hudson Valley which stretched across the extent of southern Westchester County into parts of eastern New Jersey. (26)

Immortalized in James Fenimore Cooper's The Spy, the Neutral Zone was a desolate, sparsely populated buffer zone between the forces of the English to the south and the Americans to the north. It was a zone in which those few brave families who elected to remain had to contend with theft, murder, and destruction by renegades, such as the "Cowboys" and "Skinners," who cloaked their plundering under an alleged allegiance to one of the combatants. (27) In it, the major combatants foraged for goods to sustain both men and beasts of burden: "the Americans foraging from a point on the Long Island Sound extending west from Rye, Mamaroneck, East Chester, and Chester to a point as close as possible to King's Bridge." (28)

Major-General Heath ordered Colonel Greene and his Black regiment into the Neutral Zone to hold Pines Bridge on the Croton River against the marauding "Cowboys," who frequently made incursions from their base at Morrisiania (South Bronx) under the command of Colonel James Delancey. In an early morning raid on 14 May 1781, Delancey and his "Cowboys" caught Greene and his command by surprise and overran the Pines Bridge post at Davenport House, killing Colonel Greene, another officer, and many of the Black troops. The Black troops "defended their beloved Col. Greene so well that it was only over their dead bodies that the enemy reached and murdered him." (29) These are some of America's unsung heroes from the Hudson River Valley.

General Benedict Arnold's treasonous attempt to sell the plans for West Point and the capture and execution of his co-conspirator, Major John Andre, are recorded in history (30). Yet, the heroic deed of the Black revolutionary fighter, James Peterson, of Cortlandt in Westchester, remains unsung. At Croton Point on the Hudson, it was, "ironically, the sharp-shooting of Peterson that [forced Andre to seek escape] overland through Westchester rather than to a waiting ship in the river and down the Hudson [but instead] led ultimately [to his] capture" and hanging in October 1780. (31)

Another unsung deed of a Black hero involved Pompey Lamb. General "Mad" Anthony Wayne's successful capture of Stony Point on the west bank of the Hudson then held by the British forces, was as a result of Pompey's ability to move unobtrusively between his owner's home and the fort to sell fresh fruits and vegetables, eventually acquiring the secret password from the British guards. Using the password "the fort is ours," Pompey was among those who overpowered the sentries and allowed Wayne's 1,350 continentals (many African American warriors) to successfully capture Stony Point on 16 July 1779. (32)

Among those who died at Valley Forge during the cold winter spent there were heroic sons of the enslaved like Philip Field, Second New York Regiment, Dutchess County. (33) Private Field had enlisted in the Second New York with a number of African Americans from the Hudson Valley region. Those enlistees included Cornelius Woodmore of Sedman's Cove, Henry Smith of Fishkill, and William White of Kingston, New York. In addition, it is believed that the revolutionary pensioner Lewis Bradley, of Pawling in Dutchess County, was also a member of the Second New York. (34)

There were other young African American warriors who gave of themselves so that white America might be free of colonial oppression and enslaved, Black America might be free of the yoke of the peculiar institution. These included Henry Crandle, who also suffered through that severe winter of 1777-1778. He was a private in a company of the Third New York Regiment, under the command of captain Aorson. Private Crandle had been sent to serve in the army by his owner John Crandle of Fishkill. (35) John Ripley of Albany County served in the Third Massachusetts Regiment of Colonel Greaton and was at the battles and surrender of General Burgoyne at Saratoga in October 1777. After the war, he took up residence in Kinderhook, New York, Columbia County. (36) On the muster rolls of a revolutionary regiment from Orangetown, Rockland County, New York, is the name of an African American known only as "Negro Tom," who, as early as 18 March 1776 is listed as a drummer in the regimental company of Captain Egbert.

Although the African Americans' deeds of valor lay unsung, unheralded, and forgotten, they were fighters in most of the Hudson Valley engagements of the Revolutionary War. In addition to the early exploits of battle in the Lake Champlain region and the capture of Stony Point, African Americans fought and died at the Battle of White Plains in 1776; at the several skirmishes at Horseneck/Greenwich within the Neutral Zone; and the Burgoyne/Gates campaign of Bennington, Stillwater and Bemis Heights, as well as at the formal surrender of British forces and their Hessian allies at Saratoga in October 1777. These young warriors were involved in the cannonade by shoreline batteries along the Hudson River directed at the British frigates HMS Phoenix and HMS Rose as they attempted to ascend the river in July and August 1776. (37) Many of these young brave African Americans gave of themselves as defenders of the river and the American cause during the cannon fire directed at a British flotilla under the command of General Henry Clinton, which had successfully penetrated the river as far north as Kingston, New York, in 1777. The ultimate goal of the flotilla was to join General Burgoyne's army in Saratoga. Foiled in this attempt, Clinton had to content himself with the burning of Kingston, the capture of three African slaves of Colonel Abraham Hasbrouck (Henry, Nancy, Flora), and the destruction and burning of vessels and buildings to the east of the river around Poughkeepsie as the Flotilla, under bombardment from shoreline batteries, retreated down the river. (38) African American soldiers were conspicuous at the 1777 defeat of General St. Ledger's forces by General Herkemer in the Mohawk Valley. St. Ledger had moved down the valley in an attempt to join with General Burgoyne and Sir Henry Clinton on the Hudson at Albany, New York in a three-pronged move to cut the American forces and, thereby, isolate New England. (39)

African American involvement was also evident in other campaigns in the Mohawk Valley: with American forces under General Sullivan in campaigns in the western part of the valley against the Onadaga Indians and their allies as well as against the forces of Sir John Johnson of Canajoharie. (40) In the little-known July 1779 Battle of Minisink in the southwestern part of Orange County, fought between the combined forces of British agent Colonel Joseph Brant, the famous Mohawk chief, and those of Colonel John Harthorn of Warwick, New York, African Americans were combatants on both sides. (41)

THE AFRICAN DESCENDANT WARRIOR FOR "WHOMEVER INVOKED THE IMAGE OF LIBERTY"

Thousands of African Descendants in Virginia who heeded the declaration of Lord Dunmore to escape to British lines as well as those in the Hudson River Valley who responded to Sir Henry Clinton's 1779 declaration from his Westchester headquarters, took up arms for "whomever invoked the image of liberty" and could guarantee them their freedom. (42) In the Hudson Valley in addition to unnamed African Americans who manned the British "Negro Fort" on the point east of King's Bridge in the vicinity of New York City (in what is now Riverdale), there were many other African Descendants in the service of the British who, because they were familiar with the back country and knew the rivers and stream beds well, aided fellow Blacks and whites in their efforts to reach British lines. (43) Pompey and James Week, both enslaved, were apprehended attempting to reach British lines and were sent to the "works at New Windsor." (44) Jonathan, a mulatto, had conspired to convey "draft dodgers" in the vicinity of Poughkeepsie and Beekman Precinct in Dutchess County to Long Island. (45) A "Negro" was found to have assisted loyalists and others in a safe passage through the Neutral Zone. He was charge with conducting them "through the woods in Westchester County cross Croton River, at a point three miles above the bridge, into British held territory." (46) A 1777 letter to Pierre Van Cortlandt in Poughkeepsie reported that "a mulatto wench had lately passed through this place from New York; she brought intelligence to the inhabitants from their friends in New York, and in all probability she [has] gone to Burgoyne's army." (47) Perhaps even the foiled attempt of all the Van Cortlandt female enslaved, led by Bridget, to reach the British lines was a response to Sir Clinton's proclamation because it invoked the "image of liberty." (48)

The African known as Colonel Cuff, who at times commanded the British "Negro Fort," had responded to that "image of liberty" invoked by the British. (49) When not at his command post, Colonel Cuff, like his New Jersey counterpart colonel Tye, often combined his regimental efforts with those of Delancey's "Cowboys" in their rampages in the Neutral Zone. (50) Cuff and his men were part of Sir Henry Clinton's advanced guard the Ethiopian Regiment operating in the Neutral Zone. The twenty or so African descendant warriors among Rodgers's Rangers posted at King's Bridge were part of that advanced guard as well. (51)

PATRIOTS, ALLIES, AND THE AFROCAN DESCENDANT WARRIOR: ON THE ROAD TO VICTORY

The heroism of African Descendants enabled the English to prolong the war and enabled the Americans to achieve victory. Whether enslaved, free, or runaway, the African American was equal to the challenge of war. He put to rest the sambo myth. As a crack infantryman in the personal bodyguard of General Washington or as a fifer and teamster in the Fifth New York, he was every inch that "stout Black man" sent off to war in place of his owner. (52) Baron Ludwig Von Closen's description of Blacks in the American fighting forces is far from pejorative. While at While Plains with his French contingent, he remarked that "a quarter of them [American fighters] were Negroes, merry, confident, and sturdy." (53)

Indubitably, when conventional historians write the true history of the African Descendant's role in the Revolution, they will have to confront the assessment not only of Von Closen but also that of General Rochambeau's aide, Jean-Baptiste-Antoine de Verger. As the French and American allies prepared to cross the Hudson River from Verplanck Point at King's Ferry for the Long march south to confront the forces of Cornwallis at Yorktown, Verger observed in July 1781:
 The whole effect was rather good. Their arms were in good condition;
 some regiments had white cotton uniforms. Their clothing consisted of
 a coat, jacket, vest, and trousers of white cloth, buttoned from the
 bottom to the calves, like gaiters. Several battalions wore little
 black caps, with white plumes. Only General Washington's mounted guard
 and Sheldon's legion [including among both were African Americans]
 wore large caps with bearskin fastenings as crests. Three-quarters of
 the Rhode Island regiments consists of Negroes, and that regiment is
 the most neatly dressed, the best under arms, and the most precise in
 its maneuvers. (54)


On 22 January 1828, Congressman Martindal of New York recalled the African American soldiers as they had marched through the counties of Clinton, Franklin, Saint Lawrence, and Jefferson on their way to Lake Ontario. "Slaves or Negroes who had 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 ever saw, attached to the Northern army ... on its march from Plattsburg to Sackett's harbor." (55) Of the 2 September 1781 passage of the allied armies through Philadelphia, James Forten, an African American sail maker, remarked: "And I remember ... for I saw them, when the regiments from Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts marched through Philadelphia, that one or two companies of colored men were attached to each." (56)

The African Descendant's quest, therefore, for his own freedom was intertwined with that of whites who confronted one another in what was essentially a family feud. The family member who won would do so only as he effectively appealed to the Africans. It didn't matter which of the major combatants won; freedom from the peculiar institution for the enslaved Africans was assured.

POSTSCRIPT

The recently discovered evidence for African Descendants who supported the British war effort comes from runaway advertisements and threads of information found in a few studies on the American Revolution. Before pointing out a few names and the roles of those who served among British combatants, let us first look at three African Descendants who were attached to contingents of the Hessians.

When I concluded my initial look at African descendants' involvement in the Revolution, I included a statement from one source that indicated upon surrender by the British at the Battle of Saratoga in 1777, her ally, the Hessians (Germans), had to evacuate their Drummer Corps with them. The Drummer Corps was composed of Afro-Hessians, and was a Brunswick contingent under Baron Von Riedesel. (57) The African Descendants were part of a long European tradition where fighting forces went into battle to the sound of beating drums. This was especially true for the Province of Hesse in Prussia.

Some years later that piece of evidence was supported by further research into colonial ads for runaways. The ads were for individuals who either ran away from their owners or, during the Revolution, from foreign fighting contingents. One ad from The Royal Gazette of March 29, 1780 speaks of a nineteen-year old drummer, Robert Kupperth, who deserted while hospitalized in New York City. The ad stated:
 DESERTED on 25th inst. From the General Hospital where he has been
 sick with the small pox, a Negroe, named Robert Kupperth, about 19
 years of age, five feet three inches high. He was a Drummer of the
 Hessian Regiment Landgrave, and had on when he went away his old
 Regimentals. He is of a pretty dark complexion, and very much pitted
 with the smallpox. As it is supposed that he is gone on board of a
 vessel, or is secreted in the city, every one is warned at his own
 peril, [not] to harbour the said Negro Drummer, and whoever will
 secure, give intelligence, or deliver him to the said regiment
 Landgrave, now garrisoned in this city, will be handsomely rewarded.


De KEUDELL, Colonial of the Regiment Landgrave.

New-York, March 29, 1780 (58)

Two other ads for African descendants with the Hessians were one for January 27, 1781 and another for April 18, 1781. The April 18 ad was for an Afro-Hessian Drummer, Prince Dermen, attached to a regiment of Brunswick Dragoons at Flatland on Long Island. Dermen is described as "about five feet ten inches high, stout built, had on a suit of light blue cloaths [sic] quite new ..." (59) The January 27 ad is for Sim Sampson, eighteen years old, who, if caught, should be returned to "Lieut. Le Moledar, of the Hessian Hussars, at 192 Queen Street [in New York City]." (60)

The African descendants attached directly to British forces served, as stated above, in a number of capacities. Their combatant roles were those with Rodger's Rangers, as well as that role assumed by the mulatto female who carried intelligence from New York City to Poughkeepsie. The runaway ads paint a picture of the diverse roles held by African descendants, such as the two laborers, James Herbert and Tom Whit[]en, who in October of 1781 deserted "from the Civil Branch of the Royal Artillery." (61) Caesar Augustus, a driver in the horse department of the Royal Artillery, deserted in June of 1782. He was said to have had on when he left "a regimental blue coat with red collar, red waistcoat, linen trowsers [sic] and round hat ... " (62) One ad in The Pennsylvania Gazette of June 14, 1780 was for "a mulatto slave who is supposed has been seduced to undertake to carry letters or intelligence into New York ... His name Michael Hoy." (63) A July 18, 1778 ad was for George Watkins, sailor, age twenty-one years, who "deserted from his Majesty's ship Phoenix Tender." (64)

An interestingly challenging role that some African descendants assumed was that of forager--one who goes out to acquire (through raids, of which the Neutral Zone was ideal for such activity) supplies, i.e. food, wood, farm animals, etc. to bolster the war effort. A final example of those colonial ads for runaways is that of May 20, 1778 for James Hulse. It reads:
 FIVE DOLLARS REWARD ... paid ... who will give information of a
 mulatto man, name James Hulse, who was lately absconded ... he is
 about five feet nine inches high; straight made, about 30 years of
 age; was a few weeks discharged from his Majesty's service in the
 forage department, at Tuttle Bay; and, as he plays on the violin it is
 probable that he may be skulking in some part of this city ... (65)


CONCLUSION

W.E.B. DuBois in his seminal book, Black Reconstruction, referred to the Reconstruction Period in the United States as the country's "Glorious Revolution." (66) It was a time when democracy truly worked: black and white together rebuilt a war-torn region through some of the most progressive legislation and liberal state constitutions ever before legislated or written. The American Revolution, on the other hand, was the crucible out of which that democracy sprang. It was a democracy forged on the fields of battle in the theaters of the Revolutionary War of 1776. One of those theaters was the Hudson River Valley, and like the others the blood that was spilled flowed from the veins of black and white, and Native American (another left in the shadows). If that democracy so valiantly fought for is to be forever that on-going "Glorious Revolution," then it is most appropriate that these unsung African Descendant Heroes come out of the shadows of history and assume their rightful place at center stage.

(1) A.J. Williams-Myers is a member of the African American Studies unit at the State University of New York at New Paltz.

The paper is a revised version of Chapter Six, "The Revolution, The Struggle for the Control of the Hudson River Valley, and the Road to Victory: The African American Factor," in A. J. Williams-Myers, Long Hammering Essays on the Forging of an African American Presence in the Hudson River Valley to the Early Twentieth Century (Africa World Press: Trenton, New Jersey, 1994): 99-114. In its revised form it was first presented at Dutchess County Community College for Black History Month celebration, Feburary 2005. The paper as well is dedicated to my adopted father, The Rt. Rev. C. Kilmer Myers, who first introduced me as a thirteen year old to the Revolutionary era through the historical sites of the Saratoga Battlefield and the Schuyler Mansion.

2. Benjamin Quarles, The Negro in the American Revolution (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1961): viii.

3. Ibid., vii.

4. Lisa A. Bull, "The Negro," in Westfield Bicentennial Committees and Historical Journal of Western Massachusetts, ed. Frederick F. Harling and Martin Kaufman (Westfield, Mass.: Bicentennial Committee, 1976): 69; cf. Quarles.

5. Cf. Clement Alexander Price, Freedom Not Far Distant A Documentary History of Afro-Americans in New Jersey (Newark: New Jersey Historical Society, 1980).

6. Quoted in Roi Ottley and William J. Weatherby, eds., The Negro in New York: An Informal Social His-tory (Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.: Oceana Publications, Inc., 1967): 12.

7. Collections of the New York Historical Society for the Year 1891 (New York: New York Historical Society, 1892): 476.

8. Ibid., 446.

9. Ibid., 316.

10. "Men Enlisted Out of Colonel Abraham Hering's Regiment in Orange County, Mustered the 24th Day of April 1759, and Appendix D," Orange County Historical Society 3 (1973-1974): 34-35; Collections of the New York Historical Society for the Year 1891, 332.

11. E.B. O'Callaghan, ed., Calendar of Historical Manuscripts in the Office of the Secretary of State (Albany, N.Y.: Weed, Parsons and Company, 1866) 6: 1005.

12. Cf. Debra Scacciaferro, "Blacks in the Revolution," in Times Herald Record, 3 July 1988. "Sunday Magazine" quotes Williams-Myers on his research into the African factor in the American Revolution in the Hudson River Valley.

13. Quarles, 4, 9.

14. Robert W. Cookley and Stetson Conn, The War of the American Revolution (Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, United States Army, 1975): 101, 111; Lorenzo J. Greene, "Some Observations on the Black Regiment of Rhode Island in the American Revolution," Journal of Negro History 37 (April 1952): 144-45.

15. Francis V. Greene, The American Revolution (New York, 1911): 292.

16. Willard W. Wallace, Appeal to Arms (New York: Harper & Row, 1951): 271.

17. Walter H. Mazyck, George Washington and the Negro (Washington, D.C.: Associated Publishers, 1932): 44. In addition to manpower needs, Washington "bowed before the fear of the Negro in enemy's ranks" (Quarles, 52). Wishing to create two regiments of African combatants, commanded by whites (which never materialized), the New York State Legislature offered a land grant bounty, on 20 March 1781, "To any person who delivered his able-bodied slave(s) to a warrant officer. The slave was to serve for one to three years, or until 'regularly' discharged." (Laws of the state of New York [Poughkeepsie, N.Y.: 1782]): 179, quoted in Mazyck.

18. Mazyck, 38; Quarles, 10-13. Cf. David F. Phillips, "Negroes in the American Revolution," Journal of American History 5 (1911): 143-46; New Hampshire Provincial and State Papers (Durham: University of New Hampshire, 1886): 434-39; David White, Connecticut Black Soldiers 1775-1783 (Chester, Conn.: Pequot Press, 1973); Morris J. MacGregor and Bernard C. Nalty, eds., Blacks in the United States Armed Forces: Basic Documents (Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources, 1977), 1: 11; Robert Ewell Greene, Black Defenders of America 1775-1973 (Chicago: Johnson Publishing Company, 1974); Robert Ewell Greene, Black Courage 1775-1783, Documentation of Black Participation in the American Revolution (Washington, D.C.: National society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, 1984); William C. Nell, The Colored Patriots of the American Revolution (New York: Arno Press, 1968).

19. Cf. Henry P. Johnson, ed., The Record of Connecticut Men in the Military and Naval Service during the War of the Revolution 1775-1783 (Hartford, Conn.: State Library, 1889): 29-30. James A. Roberts, New York in the Revolution as Colony and State, 2nd ed. (Albany, N.Y.: Press of Bandow Printing Company, 1889): 8; Heath's Memoirs of the American War, 1798 reprint (Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries, 1970): 40, 405-6.

20. R.E. Greene, Black Courage, 9, 31, 42, 48; Quarles, 11; White. 17; Johnson, 39-44, 75, 99.

21. Edwards Park, "Could Canada Have Even Been Our Fourteenth Colony? Or Arnold's Dash to Quebec," Smithsonian 18 (December 1987): 41-49; Ruth P. Heidgerd, ed., Ulster County in the Revolution: A Guide to Those Who Served (New Paltz, N.Y.: Huguenot Historical Society, 1977): 4, 20, 57, 99, 204, 251; Alan and Barbara Ainone, "The History of the 2nd New York, 1775-1783," United States Military Academy Library, West Point, N.Y.; Cookley and Conn, 92-94.

22. Otto Hufeland, Westchester County during the American Revolution 1775-1783 (Harrison, N.Y.: Harbor books, 1974): 209-10; Samuel Tallmadge et al., Orderly Books of the Fourth New York Regiment, 1778-1780 and the Second New York Regiment, 1780-1783 (Albany: University of the State of New York, 1932): 31; Heath's Memoirs, 95.

23. Johnson, 303; Heath's Memoirs, 95; George F. Scheer, Private Yankee Doodle (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1962): 164, note 4.

24. Conte Jean-Francois-Louis de Clarmon-Crevecoeur, "Journal of the War in America During the Years 1780, 1781, 1782, 1783," in The American Campaigns of Rochambeau's Army 1780, 1781, 1782, 1783, ed. Howard C. Rice, Jr. and Anne S. K. Brown (Princeton, N.J. and Providence, R.I.: Princeton University Press and Brown University Press, 1972), 1: 34 note 39, 35. Jared Spards, ed., Correspondence of the American Revolution: Being Letters of Eminent Men to George Washington from the Time of his Taking Command of the Army to the End of his Presidency (Boston: Little, Brown, 1853), 1853), 1: 417; The Hudson Valley and the American Revolution (Albany, N.Y.: New York Historic Trust, 1968): 17; Quarles.

25. Hudson Valley and the American Revolution, 6; Scheer, 278; Spards, 2: 59. In the winter "when military operations were suspended," the chain was hauled out of the Hudson by windlass for repairs.

26. L.J. Greene; Philip S. Foner, Blacks in the American Revolution (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1975): 57; William Nell, Services of Colored Americans in the War of 1776 and 1812 (Boston: Prentiss & Sawyer, 1851): 10; Sidney Kaplan, The Black Presence in the Era of the American Revolution 1770-1800 (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1973): 42, 55-56; George H. Moore, "Historical Notes on the Employment of Negroes in the American Army of the Revolution," in The Negro Soldier: A Select Compilation (New York: Negro Universities Press, 1970): 19; Laura A. Wilkes, "Missing Pages in Ameri-can History Revealing the Services of Negroes in the Early Wars in the United States of America, 1641-1815," in The Negro Soldier, 34-35; Quarles, 73, 77, 79, 80-82. Cf. R.E. Greene, Black Courage; Sidney S. Rider, "The Black Regiment of the Revolution," Rhode Island Historical Tracts 10 (1880): 1-50.

27. James Fenimore Cooper, The Spy (Philadelphia, Pa.: MacRae-Smith, 1821); Louis de Clermon-Creve-coeur, 30 note 28; Robert Bolton, The History of the Several Towns, Manors, and Patents of the County of Westchester from its First Settlement to the Present Time (New York: Charles F. Roper, 1881), 2: 678.

28. Howard C. Rice, Jr., and Anne S.K. Brown, eds., The American Campaigns of Rochambeau, 1: 249.

29. Allison Albee, "The Defenses at Pines Bridge," Westchester Historian, 1958-1961 editions, see especially vol. 37 (January, February, March 1961): 15-20. Kaplan, 56; Wilkes, 35; Heath's Memoirs, 303; Rider, 3-4; Hufeland, 279-82; L.J. Greene, 169-70; Bolton, 678-80, 686.

30. Heath's Memoirs, 267, 268, 269.

31. "A Hudson River History Narrative," Westchester African-American Historical Society Newsletter, 8 August 1987: 2-3. As a militiaman Peterson apparently manned the cannon "that blew a hole in the British ship Vulture as it waited [on the Hudson] for the British spy, [Major] John Andre, to return from Haver-straw on the west shore, where he had met with General Benedict Arnold, who had given him the plans to West point."

32. Herbert Aptheker, Essays in the History of the American Negro (New York: International Publishers, 1969): 108-9; Benson J. Lossing, The Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution (Rutland, Vt.: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1972), 2: 744-46 not 3. Cf. Henry P. Johnson, The Storming of Stony Point (New York: James T. White & Co., 1969). Pompey Lamb does not appear as a significant actor in the capture of the Point, nor is there any mention of other African combatants from among various regimental units, such as those of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, and New York, who participated in the capture of the fort as described in the text by Johnson.

33. Aptheker, 100; Ainone, 6; Berthold Fernow and E.B. O'Callaghan, eds., Documents Relating to the Colonial History of the State of New York, 15 (Albany, N.Y.: Weed, Parsons and Company, 1887, State Archives, vol. 1): 188. Cf. Howard H. Peckham, The Toll of Independence Engagements: and Battle Casualties of the American Revolution (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974).

34. Death Certificate, Lewis Bradley of Pawling, New York, 13 May 1837, Dutchess County Surrogate Office, Poughkeepsie, New York.

35. Cf. T.W. Egly, Jr., History of the First New York Regiment 1775-1783 (Hampton, N.H.: Peter E. Randall, 1981): 205-9.

36. MacGregor and Nalty, 181; R.E. Greene, Black Courage, 32, 42, 60, 81.

37. Cf. Richard J. Koke, "The Struggle for the Hudson: The British Naval Expedition under Captain Hyde Parker and Captain James Wallace, July 12-August 18, 1776," in Narratives of the Revolution in New York (New York: New York Historical Society, 1975): 36-79; Spards, 1: 277.

38. George Pratt, "An Account of the British Expedition above the Highlands of the Hudson River and of Events Connected with the Burning of Kingston in 1777," in Ulster County Historical Society Collections, (1860 reprint, Kingston, N.Y.: Ulster County Historical Society, 1977): 111, 115.

39. Cf. Roberts, 9; The Champlain Valley In The American Revolution (Albany, N.Y.: New York State Revolution Bicentennial Commission and Champlain Valley Committee for the Observance of the Bicentennial of the American Revolution, State Education Department, 1976): 12.

40. Cf. Frederick Cook, Journals of the Military Expedition of Major General John Sullivan 1779 (Ann Arbor, Mich.: University Microfilms, 1967), especially "Journal of Lieutenant John L. Hardenbergh, 2nd New York Regiment," 115-36.

41. Vernon Leslie, The Battle of Minisink: A Revolutionary War Engagement in the Upper Delaware Valley (Middletown, N.Y.: T. Emmett Henderson, 1976). Cf. R. Emmet Deyo, "Colonel Lewis DuBois and the 5th N.Y. Continental Regiment in the Revolution," Historical Papers (Historical Society of Newburgh Bay and the Highlands) 13 (1906): 191-98.

42. Quarles, vii, 19-32, 113-14; Hufeland, 296-97. Clinton's proclamation read in part: "I do most strictly forbid any Person to sell or claim right over any Negro, the property of a rebel, who may take refuge with any part of this army. And I do promise to every Negro who shall desert the rebel standard, full security to follow within these lines, an occupation which he shall think proper" (Hufeland, 277).

43. Cf. Bolton, 2: 528; Hufeland, 189; Heath's Memoirs, 119-21; Lossing, 2: 625. The Negro Fort was situated on the Post Road east of King's Bridge and slightly southwest of the Valentine's Hill, in what is today Riverdale. It was on the "point," and undoubtedly was the "tripline" for the British giving evidence of an advance south by the American forces. Given its name, it was manned by Black troops fighting for the British, who were probably composed of elements from either the British Company of Pioneers raised in Philadelphia in 1772 or the Negro Horse unite raised in New York in 1782. See Philip R.N. Katcher, Encyclopedia of British, Provincial, and German Units 1775-1783 (Harrisburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 1973): 83,92. Private Joseph Plumb Martin recorded that the Negro Fort was "garrisoned by a gang of fugitive Negroes, commanded by a black by the name of Cuff--Colonel Cuff ..." (Scheer, 205).

44. Minutes of the Committee and the First Commission for Detecting and Defeating Conspiracies in the State of New York, December 11, 1776-September 23, 1778 and Minutes of the Council of Appointment, State of New York, April 2, 1778-May 3, 1779, 2 vols. (New York: New York Historical Society Collections, 1925), 1: 70.

45. Ibid., 1: 57-58.

46. Ibid., 1: 271-72.

47. Ibid., 2: 443.

48. Jacquetta M. Haley, "Slavery in the Land of Liberty: The Van Cortlandt Response," in The Van Cort-landt Family in the New Nation (Tarrytown, N.Y.: Sleepy Hollow Restorations, 1984), 46-47.

49. Scheer, 205: While on patrol one night in the lower Hudson Valley in 1780, Private Martin encountered a runaway slave who asked: "Is this Colonel Cuffee's blockhouse?" Unfortunately for the runaway it wasn't, and he was apprehended and returned to the American lines.

50. Cf. Price, 68.

51. Minutes of the Committee and the First Commission for Detecting and Defeating Conspiracies, 1: 121. For additional evidence of Blacks among British fighting units, see Minute Book of Proceedings of General Officers of the British Army at New York 1781 (New York: New York Historical Society, 1916) and Kenneth Scott, comp. Rivington's New York Newspaper: Excerpts from a Loyalist Press, 1773-1783 (New York Historical Society, 1973).

52. Cf. Evelyn M. Acomb, ed. and trans., American Revolution: 1776-1783, The Revolutionary Journal of Baron Ludwig Von Closen 1780-1783 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1958): xxxv; Scacciaferro, 6. One known Black member of Washington's Bodyguard was Tobias Gilmore in the Massachusetts regiment of Colonel George Williams. See Moore, 32; John C. Miller, Triumph of Freedom 1775-1783 (Boston: Little, Brown, 1948): 510.

53. Acomb, 89. It is estimated that 5,000 African Americans served as regular soldiers in the Continental forces during the Revolution (Acomb, 89 note 17/89). Cf. Aptheker, 30-32; Quarles.

54. Clermon-Crevecoeur, 33 note 36.

55. Quoted in Cook, 150.

56. Nell, Services of Colored Americans, 16; Scheer, 222.

57. Quarles, 158-81; Kaplan, 67.

58. The Royal Gazette, (New York) March 29, 1780. Cited in "Pretends to Be Free": Runaway Slave Advertisements from Colonial and Revolutionary New York and New Jersey (New York: Garland, 1994).

59. The Royal Gazette, (New York) #475 April 18, 1781, in "Pretends to Be Free": 245.

60. The Royal Gazette, (New York) #452 January 27, 1781, in "Pretends to Be Free": 242.

61. The Royal Gazette, (New York) #525 October 10, 1781, in "Pretends to Be Free": 257

62. The Royal Gazette, (New York) #596 June 15, 1752, in "Pretends to Be Free": 268

63. The Pennsylvania, Gazette (New York) #2609 June 14, 1780, in "Pretends to Be Free": 230.

64. The Royal Gazette, (New York) #475 April 18, 1781, in "Pretends to Be Free": 215.

65. The Royal Gazette, (New York) #172 May 20, 1778, in "Pretends to Be Free": 214. (Tuttle Bay was on the East River in the vicinity of the United Nations).

66. W.E.B Du Bois, Black Reconstruction (New York, 1935). See his "Reconstruction and Its Benefits," American Historical Review, XV (July 1910): 781-99.

A.J. Williams-Myers (1)
COPYRIGHT 2007 Afro-American Historical Association of the Niagara Frontier, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Williams-Myers, A.J.
Publication:Afro-Americans in New York Life and History
Date:Jan 1, 2007
Words:7891
Previous Article:Ira Aldridge's relatives in New York City.
Next Article:Women's Radical Reconstruction: The Freedmen's Aid Movement.


Related Articles
From art to architecture: geometric design in architecture inspired these intricately balanced drawings.
Nature's palette: the landscapes of Jasper Francis Cropsey.
William B. Gould, IV. Diary of a Contraband: The Civil War Passage of a Black Sailor.
Mighty Change, Tall Within; Black Identity in the Hudson Valley.
Kara Walker: Sikkema Jenkins & Co.
Serengeti silhouettes: a year-long African adventure.
African American Heritage in Upper Housatonic Valley.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2022 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |