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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

Lyde Cullen Sizer

Union spy during the Civil War, was born a slave on the Richmond, Virginia, plantation of John Van Lew, a wealthy hardware merchant. Very little is known about her early life. Upon Van Lew's death in 1843 or 1851, his wife and daughter, Elizabeth, manumitted his slaves and bought and freed a number of their family members, Mary among them. Like most of their former slaves, Mary remained a servant in the Van Lew household, staying with the family until the late 1850s. Noting her intellectual talent, Elizabeth, a staunch abolitionist and Quaker, sent Mary to the Quaker School for Negroes in Philadelphia to be educated.

Mary returned from Philadelphia after graduating to marry Wilson Bowser, a free black man. The ceremony was held on 16 April 1861 just days after the Civil War began What made the ceremony so unusual was that the parishioners of ...

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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 ...

Article

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

Julie Walters

Civil War Union spy, was born in Virginia and married Michael Louveste around 1840. Nothing is known of her parentage or early life. Both she and her husband were Union sympathizers living in Norfolk at the time of the Civil War. Though some commentaries have described her as a slave during the time of her espionage for the Union, the 1860 U.S. Census lists her and her husband as free inhabitants of the area who could both read and write. The census also records Michael Louveste as a barkeeper possessing a personal estate valued at $1,000.

Mary Louveste's location near the southern coast of Virginia placed her at the heart of Confederate naval operations. She was further well-situated for Union espionage through her employment in Portsmouth, Virginia, at the Gosport Naval Shipyard (renamed the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in 1862 Three days following Virginia s vote to secede ...