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David W. Bishop

James Armistead had been the slave of William Armistead of New Kent County, Virginia, before being granted permission by his master in March 1781 to serve with General Lafayette, a French statesman who was fighting on the side of the colonists. By July 7, 1781, Armistead was able to infiltrate the headquarters of British general Charles Cornwallis, ostensibly as a servant hired to spy on the Americans but in reality a patriot who spied on the British. Although his birth and early childhood remain in obscurity, he is remembered for his written intelligence reports relating to the Yorktown campaign that ended the Revolutionary War. In the spring of 1781 Cornwallis had moved his British forces from the Carolinas into Virginia quartering near Portsmouth and practically controlled Virginia Lafayette quartered near Richmond at New Kent County Court House and Williamsburg with American forces half the size of ...

Article

Balthazar Becker

and entrepreneur, is presumed to have been born in New York in 1736. Most of what is known of Blue’s biography we owe to an 1823 petition, in which he details his participation in both the Seven Years’ War and in the American Revolution, and through his testimony in a court case in 1832. Earlier scholars had discredited these accounts as Blue’s fabrication and had speculated that Blue was born around 1767 in Jamaica. Yet, recent archival research by Ian Duffield and Cassandra Pybus has vindicated the key dates and locales of Blue’s autobiographical accounts, which encompass pivotal eras in the histories of North America, Europe, and Australia. This scholarship has established Blue as a central figure among the black founders of modern Australia.

In all probability William Billy Blue was born in colonial New York It is now assumed that Blue was recruited as a seaman for ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

fugitive slave, abolitionist, Union spy, and state senator, was born in Smithville (now Southport), Brunswick County, North Carolina, the son of Hester Hankins, a slave, and John Wesley Galloway, the son of a white planter who later became a ship's captain. In 1846 Hester Hankins married Amos Galloway, one of John Wesley Galloway's slaves. Abraham Galloway later recalled that his biological father “recognized me as his son and protected me as far as he was allowed so to do” (Still, 150), but John Wesley Galloway did not own Abraham. Abraham's owner was Marsden Milton Hankins a wealthy railroad mechanic from nearby Wilmington who may also have owned Hester Hankins Abraham considered Marsden Hankins a fair master but he was less forgiving of Hankins s wife who was overly fond of the whip Abraham apprenticed as a brick mason and as was common ...

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Patrick G. Williams

Lafayette, James (1748–09 August 1830), patriot spy, also known to history as James Armistead, was born in slavery; little is recorded of his parentage or early life except that he belonged to William Armistead of New Kent County, Virginia. In the summer of 1781 James was attending his master while Armistead worked as a commissary in Richmond, supplying patriot forces under the command of the Marquis de Lafayette. Lafayette’s men had been sent south to counter British units under Charles Cornwallis then operating in eastern Virginia. When it became known that Lafayette was recruiting spies to keep better track of Cornwallis’s intentions, James (with his master’s consent) volunteered, believing such service might win him his freedom.

By late July James had crossed into the British camp at Portsmouth and apparently was employed as a forager His work enabled him in the course of gathering food to ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

the name bequeathed to history and literature of a trusted agent of the Pinkerton intelligence network during the Civil War. According to Allan Pinkerton's own memoirs, this agent was born into slavery on the Mississippi plantation of James MacFarland Scobell, and taken by his then-master, a soldier in the 2nd Mississippi infantry regiment, to Manassas Junction, Virginia.

The 2nd Mississippi was assigned to the third brigade, Army of Northern Virginia. However, none of the rosters that have been compiled, listing the officers and enlisted men serving in the 2nd Mississippi, include a James McFarland Scobell. Nor do census records from Mississippi in 1860, 1850, or 1840. In fact, there is no such person in any roster of any unit of the confederate army. There was a W. J. S. Scobell originally from New Orleans who published a newspaper for the confederate settlement in British ...