At the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, there are numerous accounts of black men serving in the Continental Army and within the militia. But not all of their stories will ever be told. An unfortunate reality of "doing history" is that the further back we reach the details of life become sparser for common citizens.
For some of the men all we have are names and where they came from.
For others, our evidence of their service comes from British records.
For the men whose details survive much clearer through history, veteran’s pension applications often serve as our guide. Part of the process of applying for a pension involved giving verifiable testimony of your service.
Thomas Mason was a “free mulatto” born in 1760 who served numerous tours with the Caswell North Carolina Militia. He was wounded in the hand at Guilford Courthouse; he survived the war but would die before the government began issuing pensions. When his wife and son applied for his pension they were denied, likely due to lack of evidence. A common theme you see across many veterans of the time is that they recall receiving discharge documents, but very few hold onto them.
One of the most unique stories to occur with Guilford Courthouse is the events surrounding Edward “Ned” Griffin. Ned was an enslaved man, and came to serve in the army because of another man’s desire to flee his duty. William Kitchin was a deserter from the North Carolina Brigade, and having been caught, he was threatened with the prospect of being returned to service. William had Ned serve in his place, on the understanding that once he finished his service, Ned would receive his freedom. Ned served honorably at Guilford Courthouse but upon his discharge in July 1782, William reneged on their agreement.
Last updated: February 28, 2021