Nero Hawley (c.1742-January 30, 1817) – On April 20, 1777, Nero Hawley joined Captain Granger’s Company the 2d Connecticut Regiment, when his wife Peg was pregnant with their son, Peter Titus Hawley.1 Nero Hawley had enlisted in place of his slaveholder Daniel Hawley, who had forced him to work in a sawmill, brickyard, and cider mill.2 Yet, before joining the military, Nero Hawley had lived with his wife Peg and her slaveowner, Reverend James Beebee. At Valley Forge, Nero Hawley had the reverend’s son as company commander, and he served alongside members from his home community. The muster roll for January 1778 lists him as “On Command,” meaning that commanders had attached him to the headquarters unit.3 During the winter encampment, the reverend’s parish of North Stratford, Connecticut entrusted Nero Hawley and fourteen other company members to distribute donated money, cheese, and gammon (cured or smoked ham), sent to alleviate their supply shortages.4 Later, Nero Hawley fought at Monmouth Courthouse. During the capture of Stony Point in July 1779, he received severe injuries, and the muster rolls list him as “Sick Absent” through October 1779.5 On November 4, 1782, however, Nero Hawley officially obtained his freedom from slavery in return for his military service.6 In 1785, Nero Hawley started his own brick-making factory in Trumbull, Connecticut, which allowed him to purchase freedom for at least two of his children.7 He received a veteran’s pension before dying on January 30, 1817 at age 75. His grave at Riverside Cemetery has since become a stop on the Connecticut Freedom Trail.8
1. List of Connecticut Troops, 1776-1783, Hawley, Nero, US Revolutionary War, Fold3 - Historical Military Records, Publication No. M853, Record Group 93, Roll 0014, Image 101, No. 600983, August 11, 2020; and “Connecticut, Church Record Abstracts, 1630-1920: Volume 115 Trumbull,” Ancestry.com, accessed August 11, 2020, https://www.ancestrylibrary.com/imageviewer/collections/3032/images/41107_620303988_0408-00023; and “Connecticut, Hale Collection of Cemetery Inscriptions and Newspaper Notices, 1629-1934 for Nero Hawley: Connecticut Newspaper Notices Vol 64,” Ancestry.com, accessed August 11, 2020, https://www.ancestrylibrary.com/imageviewer/collections/2900/images/32971_302233-00571.
2. Judith A. Shiff, “Book Review: From Valley Forge to Freedom: A Story of a Black Patriot by E. Merrill Beach, Connecticut History Review No. 17 (January 1976), 65-68.
3. “U.S., Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783: Connecticut, 02d Regiment, 1777-1780 (Folders 22-25),” Ancestry.com, accessed August 11, 2020, https://www.ancestrylibrary.com/imageviewer/collections/4282/images/miusa1775a_113553-00347.
4. Samuel Orcutt, A history of the old town of Stratford and the city of Bridgeport, Connecticut (New Haven, CT: Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor, 1886), 380-81, Internet Archive, accessed August 11, 2020, https://archive.org/stream/historyofoldtown01orcu#page/380/mode/2up/search/Nero+Hawley.
5. U.S., Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783: Connecticut, 02d Regiment, 1777-1780 (Folders 30-32), Ancestry.com, accessed August 11, 2020, https://www.ancestrylibrary.com/imageviewer/collections/4282/images/miusa1775a_113555-00063; and https://www.ancestrylibrary.com/imageviewer/collections/4282/images/miusa1775a_113555-00126; and https://www.ancestrylibrary.com/imageviewer/collections/4282/images/miusa1775a_113555-00072.
6. “A Connecticut Slave in George Washington’s Army,” ConnecticutHistory.org, January 30, 2020, https://connecticuthistory.org/a-connecticut-slave-in-george-washingtons-army/.
7. Jonathan Sutherland, African Americans at War: An Encyclopedia, Volume 1 (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2004), 216.
8. “Travel the Freedom Trail: List of Sites,” Connecticut Freedom Trail, accessed October 5, 2020, http://www.ctfreedomtrail.org/trail/freedom/sites/#!/nero-hawley-gravesite.
Last updated: December 16, 2020