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Jack Borden Watson

scout and pioneer of the West, was one of the free blacks in Texas who experienced some degree of freedom under four different governing entities—Spain, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, and the United States. Free blacks never constituted a large population in Texas in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. For example, a census in 1860 put the number of free blacks at four hundred, but later estimates by historians suggest that their numbers approached eight hundred. Despite their small numbers free blacks made a significant contribution to the early history of Texas. Hendrick Arnold played a pivotal role in the Texas Revolution (1835–1836) and beyond.

The date of Hendrick Arnold's birth is not known. He emigrated from Mississippi with his parents, Daniel and Rachel Arnold, in the winter of 1826 His father was likely white while his mother was black nothing else is known about ...

Article

Kate Tuttle

James P. Beckwourth, born of mixed-race parentage in Fredericksburg, Virginia, escaped an apprenticeship to a St. Louis, Missouri blacksmith and went west, taking a job with the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. He became an experienced trapper and fighter in the sparsely settled western territories. In 1824 the Crow Indian tribe adopted Beckwourth, who then married the daughter of the chief and earned such renown in battle that he was renamed Bloody Arm. Although he left the tribe after several years—and after earning honorary chief status—he continued a lifelong friendship with the Crows.

Criss-crossing the western and southern frontiers, Beckwourth worked as a guide, prospected for gold, served as a United States Army scout during the third Seminole War and was a rider for the Pony Express He also worked with California s Black Franchise League in an effort unsuccessful at the time to repeal a law barring blacks from ...

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Lisa E. Rivo

mountain man, fur trapper and trader, scout, translator, and explorer, was born James Pierson Beckwith in Frederick County, Virginia, the son of Sir Jennings Beckwith, a white Revolutionary War veteran and the descendant of minor Irish aristocrats who became prominent Virginians. Little is known about Jim's mother, a mixed-race slave working in the Beckwith household. Although he was born into slavery, Jim was manumitted by his father in the 1820s. In the early 1800s, Beckwith moved his family, which reputedly included fourteen children, to Missouri, eventually settling in St. Louis. Some commentators suggest that Beckwith, an adventurous outdoorsman, was seeking an environment less hostile to his racially mixed family.

As a young teenager, after four years of schooling, Jim Beckwourth as his name came to be spelled was apprenticed to a blacksmith Unhappy as a tradesman he fled to the newly discovered lead mines in Illinois s Fever ...

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Trevor Hall

His father, Giovanni da Ca’ da Mosto, and mother, Giovanna Querini, married in 1428, and the couple had four sons and two daughters. Cadamosto came from a Venetian family of some standing. His reason for renown is that he was the first European to sail from Portugal to West Africa and back, to write a long travel narrative of his maritime voyages. He also described the Islamic West African kingdoms he visited during the the 1450s. Cadamosto wrote his narrative many years after the voyages to West Africa, and there is evidence that later historical events where incorporated into his narrative—a process historians call “feedback.” Thus, Cadamosto’s dates and chronology have been called into question by scholars. However, the Venetian must be taken seriously because he presented some of the first eye-witness descriptions of West Africa and Portuguese voyages to the tropics during the fifteenth century.

Since the Middle ...

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Minor Ferris Buchanan

slave, soldier, hunter, guide, and pioneer, was born on Home Hill plantation, Jefferson County, Mississippi, the son of slaves Harrison and Daphne Collier. Little is known of Daphne Collier, although it is believed that she had some Native American ancestry. In 1815Harrison Collier accompanied the famed General Thomas Hinds when he fought alongside General Andrew Jackson during the War of 1812 at the Battle of New Orleans. As house servants the Colliers maintained a higher status on the plantation, and from all indications young Holt was a favorite of the Hinds family. At age ten he was taken into the upriver wilderness to serve as a juvenile valet and hostler on Plum Ridge plantation in what would later become known as Washington County in the Mississippi Delta.

At Plum Ridge plantation Holt was trained to hunt and kill anything that could be used as food for the growing ...

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Charles Rosenberg

was the first African American and perhaps the first of any color to become a millionaire in Texas. His life reflects substantial changes in the social and legal implications of skin color from the late eighteenth century to the mid-nineteeth century, distinct from, but closely related to, changes in the institution of slavery.

His father was a “free colored” man named William Goyens Sr. (or Goin), born in 1762, who enlisted in a company of the Tenth North Carolina Regiment May 1781–May 1782 for the Revolutionary War. After discharge from the militia, Goyens Sr. married an unknown woman referred to as “white,” who was the mother of the younger William Goyens. Goyens Sr. then remarried a colored woman named Elizabeth in 1793. Goyens Sr. received an invalid pension for North Carolina militia service in 1835, at the age of seventy-two (Research of Cindy Goins Hoelscher ...

Article

Elizabeth Heath

A son of missionary parents, Frederick John Dealtry Lugard was born in Fort St. George, Madras, India. He was educated in England and trained briefly at the Royal Military College, which he left at the age of twenty-one to join the British army. While in the army, Lugard was posted to India and also served in Afghanistan, Sudan, and Burma (present-day Myanmar). In the late 1880s, however, Lugard left the army to fight slavery in East and Central Africa. In 1888 Lugard led his first expedition in Nyasaland (present-day Malawi) and was seriously injured in an attack on Arab slave traders. A year after he established the territorial claims of British settlers, in the hire of the British East African Company, Lugard explored the Kenyan interior. In 1890 he led an expedition to the Buganda kingdom in present day Uganda Lugard negotiated an end to the civil war in ...

Article

Russell H. Davis

George Peake, whose name was variably spelled Peek and Peak, was a native of Maryland. After living in Pennsylvania, he became the first permanent black settler in Cleveland, Ohio. He was a British soldier in the French and Indian War (1752–1763) and served at the battle of Québec under General James Wolfe. He was later reported to be a deserter from the British army with money entrusted to him to pay the soldiers.

Peake's residence in Cleveland dates from 1809 when he arrived with his family He bought a forty hectare 100 acre farm on the western outskirts of the city Along with his four sons he was remembered for giving to the community a highly prized labor saving device a new type of hand mill that he invented Prior to this mill grain was processed with a rather crude instrument called a stump mortar and ...

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Stephanie Gordon

the first black deputy marshal west of the Mississippi, was born in Paris, Texas, although some historians believe he was born near Van Buren, Arkansas. The son of slaves, Reeves spent his early years on a small farm in Grayson County, Texas, owned by George Reeves a former colonel in the Confederate army Very little is known about Reeves s early life and even less is known about his parents Early on he labored in the Texas cotton fields as a water boy where he learned stories and songs about black outlaws He liked them so much according to one source that he worried his mother with his preoccupation with badmen violence and guns Reeves was chosen as companion for Colonel Reeves s son and he served in this capacity until he was a young adult The relationship came to a quick end however when the two argued during ...

Article

Ari Nave

Born in Bideford, Devon, England, John Hanning Speke began serving in the British Indian Army at age seventeen. After serving in Punjab, he explored the Himalayas and then took a leave from the army to hunt in Africa.

In 1855 Speke accompanied explorer Richard Burton to Somaliland (present-day Somalia). When their party was attacked by Somalis, Burton was wounded and Speke was captured and stabbed eleven times, bringing the expedition to an abrupt end. In 1856 the two men met again in Zanzibar and headed for the Great Lakes region of East Africa, determined to find the source of the Nile River.

By the time they reached Lake Tanganyika in February 1858 Burton was too ill to continue so Speke although also sick went on alone He arrived in July on the shores of Ukerewe a vast body of water that he renamed Lake Victoria When local inhabitants told ...

Article

Tim Stapleton

Born in what is now southern Namibia around 1825, Hendrik Witbooi was a member of the chiefly family of the Nama people. The Nama had originated from the Khoikhoi and other African groups, but also from some Malaya slaves and European fugitives who generations earlier had fled north away from colonial rule in the Cape. They developed as a decentralized trans-frontier society of horse-mounted raiders who had adopted aspects of Western culture and Christianity. Educated as a Christian by German Lutheran missionaries, Witbooi became literate and thus was one of the few nineteenth-century hereditary African leaders to leave behind a significant collection of personal documents. An eager writer of letters, his correspondence from the 1880s and 1890s reveals a leader determined to dominate his African neighbors and preserve his independence from German colonialism In his letters Witbooi insisted on his equality with the German Kaiser and emphasized ...