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"African Americans In The Revolutionary War" Topic

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Tango0108 Jan 2022 9:02 p.m. PST

"At first, neither George Washington nor the Continental Congress approved of enlisting African Americans in the new army. Nevertheless, Black men—both slave and free—filled the ranks and served in all of the early battles. Black sailors also saw action in every major naval battle of the Revolution, including members of John Paul Jones's crew aboard the Bonhomme Richard. At least thirteen Black Americans served in the newly formed U.S. Marine Corps during the war.

Bravery among African Americans was commonplace, as recognized by their commanders and state governments, and their bravery is recorded here in the stories of citizen Crispus Attucks at the Boston Massacre; militiaman Price Esterbrook at Lexington Green; soldier Salem Poor at Bunker Hill; and marine John Martin aboard the brig Reprisal…"


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Frederick Supporting Member of TMP09 Jan 2022 9:26 a.m. PST

Interesting – looks like a good read

Just as a statistical note, while 5,000 or so African Americans served in the Continental Army, there were about 20,000 in British service; I think Gerald Horne from NYU published on this a while back

Tango0109 Jan 2022 3:16 p.m. PST



historygamer10 Jan 2022 2:26 p.m. PST

Care to expand on that assertion Frederick?

Bill N10 Jan 2022 3:58 p.m. PST

Which part are you looking for information on HG?

I have quibbles with the numbers, even if they do match Wikipedia. I don't think it is fair to count African Americans who served in the Continental army but not those who served in the militia or on American ships. Likewise I think the number of those "in British service" may include a number better described as being in the employ of Royal officials, military and/or civilian. That substantial numbers of African Americans served British interests during the war is correct.

lucky1oldman11 Jan 2022 5:35 a.m. PST

Please forgive my ignorance, but what is everyone doing regarding African-American representation within Continental units? Can I assume they were scattered throughout units from the North only? (Excluding the Rhode Island Regt.)

historygamer11 Jan 2022 6:39 a.m. PST

I find it very hard to believe that the number of African Americans (20k) approached the numbers of men serving in the Crown army at its high watermark (38k). Is this throughout the entire war? Who compiled such info? "In British service" is pretty vague. Many run away slaves served briefly as servants to British officers – especially in the South, but as you know, they were turned out at Yorktown, or made a break for freedom on their own. I just suspect that number is an estimate. Curious to know what is based upon? I'd also look at how many were evacuated at the end out of NYC, which is no where near that number.

historygamer11 Jan 2022 6:42 a.m. PST

I do recall reading of some African American Loyalist raiders operating around the NJ/NY area, IIRC. Kind of some cool stories there.

Au pas de Charge Supporting Member of TMP11 Jan 2022 10:48 a.m. PST

Did Frederick mean that all those African soldiers were serving in the AWI 13 colonies theater or were they also units in the Caribbean and elsewhere?

Sometimes the terms African-American, African, African descent and black get thrown around without concern for exact categorizations.

Tango0111 Jan 2022 3:10 p.m. PST

Good questions….


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