Black Military Service during the Revolutionary War
Sentiment against the institution of slavery reached a peak in the year leading up to the Revolutionary War. Such vocal criticisms of slavery would not be heard again until the abolitonists of the Antebellum Era. Thousands of Native Americans and Blacks paid close attention to the impending dissolution of the British Empire. African Americans, both free and enslaved, viewed the conflict with Great Britain as an opportunity to challenge the legal, social, or economic obstacles that bound their lives.
Black Patriots at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse
The Battle of Guilford Courthouse pitted 4,400 Americans, commanded by Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene against 1,900 British and Hessian soldiers, commanded by Lt. Gen. Charles, Earl Cornwallis. In the ranks of the 4,400 Americans, 33 Black soldiers have been identified as participants. An unknown number of enslaved Blacks joined their enslavers and followed them on campaign. Cyfax Brown wrote a letter, dated May 15, 1822 to St. George Tucker, his enslaver, reminding Tucker of his service at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse and asking for financial assistance in his advanced age.
Biographical Sketches of Black Patriots
Isaac Brown enlisted for the term of eighteen months at Charles City Courthouse, Virginia on September 12, 1780 at the age of 18. He was mustered in the regiment commanded by Col. Richard Campbell of the Virginia Line. He fought in the battles of Guilford Courthouse, the Siege of Ninety-Six, and Eutaw Springs. He applied for a pension on May 19, 1829 at Charles City Courthouse. In the application, he stated that he owned 70 acres of exhausted land and that his family consisted of a "wife who is now old and infirm, a son of about 20 years of age, who has been for years past afflicted with a grievous issue, and is a weighty expense to him, being unable to work except in light and indifferent matters, his right arm and right leg being almost entirely disabled, and a daughter above 21 years of age who has an infant Child of four years of age."
Andrew Ferguson was about 15 years old when he fought at the Battle of Cowpens. In his pension application, he stated that he arrived late to the Battle of Kings Mountain. He also said, “While we were at the River Pacolet, the British under Colonel Tarleton came upon us and Colonel [sic] Morgan marched us on towards the Cowpens but before we got there we made a stand and whipped the British completely. This took place I think sometime in the month of January 1781. Immediately after this Battle we started back to North Carolina…” At Guilford Courthouse, he suffered a wound to the head. Ferguson settled in Indiana after the war. He died in 1855 and was buried in an unmarked grave. In 1984, the Daughters of the American Revolution placed a marker on his grave.
Micajah Hicks enlisted in the Continental Army for three years in June 1779 and was attached to the 1st Regiment of the North Carolina Line. He became a prisoner of war after the surrender of Charleston. After six months of confinement on a prison ship, he escaped and joined General Nathanael Greene's army at Charlotte, North Carolina. He participated in the Battles of Guilford Courthouse and Eutaw Springs. A farmer by profession, Hicks applied for a pension in May 1829, citing no family members and poor health.
Agrippa Hull was born free in Northampton, Massachusetts on March 7, 1759. He enlisted in the Continental Army in 1777. He was first assigned as an orderly to Gen. James Patterson of Massachusetts. Hull participated in the Saratoga campaign and observed the British surrender. Hull then endured the winter encampment of Valley Forge and the Battle of Monmouth Courthouse. In May 1779, Hull was reassigned to Col. Tadeusz Kosciuszko, a Polish military engineer. After Nathanael Greene's appointment to command the Southern Department, he selected Kosciuszko to serve as his chief engineer. Hull followed Kosciuszko to the South where he witnessed the horrors of plantation slavery and the bloody fighting of the Southern Campaign. Hull served in the battles of Cowpens, Guilford Courthouse, the Siege of Ninety-Six, and Eutaw Springs. Hull returned to Massachusetts after the war with a prized possession, discharge papers personally signed by General George Washington. He gradually became Stockbridge's largest Black landowner. Hull traveled to West Point in 1831, where he had served in the Hudson River fortifications, and visited the Military Academy. He died on May 21, 1848, Stockbridge's last surviving Revolutionary War veteran.
Thomas Mason, a free man of color, was born in 1760 and served tours with the Caswell County, North Carolina militia. He was wounded in the hand at Guilford Courthouse; he survived the war but died before the government began issuing pensions. When his wife and son applied for his pension, they were denied, likely due to lack of evidence.
Andrew Peebles, a free man of color, was born in 1744 and served numerous tours in various Virginia units. He served in Light Horse Harry Lee's Legion at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. He suffered three wounds at the Battle of Eutaw Springs, fought outside of Charleston on September 8, 1781. Peebles survived the war, received a pension, and after his death, the state of Virginia awarded a land bounty to his heirs for his service.
Primes Record or Record Primus, a free man of color, applied for a pension December 16, 1846 while residing in Roane County, Tennessee when he was 86 years old. He stated that he enlisted in 1777. Part of the time he served under Captain Garter, Captain Abbott, Captain Locke, and Colonel Williams. He was taken prisoner at the surrender of Charleston and paroled. He violated his parole and rejoined the army. He was taken prisoner and released again at Gum Swamp. He was wounded in the head at Camden. He stated that he was also in the Battles of Kings Mountain, Cowpens, Guilford Courthouse, Eutaw Springs, and the siege of Yorktown. However, his pension claim was denied because he did not furnish the required proof of six months service.
Last updated: September 27, 2023