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Butler, Nace  

M. Kelly Beauchamp

a fifer in the Second Maryland Regiment during the War of Independence, enlisted in 1776 and served for the duration of the war. At least two other black men served in the same regiment. A position as a musician was not an uncommon assignment for African Americans, particularly in the first years of the conflict. The army raised by the Continental Congress was initially multiracial, but soon after George Washington took command in the spring of 1775 he ordered recruiting officers not to enlist African Americans. In a council of war on 8 October 1775, Washington and other prominent officers decided unanimously to bar all slaves and—by a wide majority—all African Americans from enlisting in the Continental army. Confronted with a shortage of soldiers, Washington reversed this decision. By the end of the war African American soldiers had usually served longer terms of enlistment than their white counterparts.

Early ...


Cheswell, Wentworth  

Richard Alperin

teacher, coroner, scrivener, selectman, and justice of the peace, was born in New Market (now Newmarket), New Hampshire, the only child of Hopestill, a Portsmouth, New Hampshire, housewright, and Catherine Cheswell. The name is sometimes spelled “Cheswill.” Wentworth's grandfather, Richard Cheswell, a black slave in Exeter, New Hampshire, purchased twenty acres of land from the Hilton Grant after he gained his freedom. The deed, dated 18 October 1716/17 (the discrepancy arises from the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar) is the earliest known deed in the state of New Hampshire showing land ownership by a black man. The land was located in what was to become the town of Newmarket. Richard's only child, Hopestill (1712–? became a housewright and worked mostly in Portsmouth He took part in building the John Paul Jones House as well as other important houses Hopestill was active in local affairs and ...


Estabrook, Prince  

Marlene L. Daut

the first black soldier in the American Revolution and slave to Benjamin Estabrook, was born around 1740 in an unknown locale and of unknown parentage. Estabrook was the first known African American soldier to fight in the American Revolution and earned his freedom by serving throughout most of the War of Independence, but he is most famous for his involvement at the inaugural battle of the American Revolution, the Battle of Lexington and Concord, where he is said to have fought beside his master's eldest son, Joseph Estabrook, then only seventeen years old. Little is known of how Prince ended up in the Lexington area, but he had reportedly lived with the Estabrook family since at least 1773.

Estabrook was a part of Captain John Parker's Company in West Lexington, referred to as the Lexington Minutemen, and may have joined the militia as early as 1773 ...


Mongoula, Nicolas  

David Wheat

master mason, militia captain, and property owner in colonial Mobile, Alabama, was a prominent free black man whose last name meant “my friend” in Mobilian Jargon, a major Native American pidgin used throughout the region during his lifetime. His first name used the French spelling “Nicolas.”

Born in roughly 1720 according to his burial record, the exact place and date of Mongoula's birth are unknown. Nor is much certain about his parentage. He was possibly one of two children named “Nicolas” born the same year to enslaved black mothers in Mobile, which is now a port city of Alabama but which in the colonial era changed hands among France, Great Britain, and Spain. Just as little is known of Nicolas Mongoula's early life; how he came to be identified—and to identify himself—with Mobilian Jargon remains unresolved.

This pidgin also known as the Mobilian Trade Language was used ...


Redman, John  

Jane Ailes

veteran of the American Revolution and farmer, enlisted at Winchester, Frederick County, Virginia, served for four years in the First Regiment of Light Dragoons of the Continental Army, and was later a resident of Hardy County, Virginia (later Grant County, West Virginia). Nothing is known of John Redman's life prior to his enlistment in probably late 1778. Information about his service in the Continental Army comes from his and his widow's applications for pensions (Revolutionary War Pension Application File, roll number 2013, application number W5691).

It is not easy to estimate the number of black men who served in the Continental forces. Skin color and ethnicity were recorded in very few of the military records that survive, making it difficult to quantify their numbers. Benjamin Arthur Quarles refers to earlier works that estimate there were a total of about 5 000 black soldiers in the Continental ...


Salem, Peter  

Harvey Amani Whitfield

slave, patriot, and soldier, was born in Framingham, Massachusetts. Jeremiah Belknap owned Salem for the first twenty-five years of Salem's life. Before the outbreak of hostilities between the American colonies and Great Britain, Belknap sold Salem to Major Lawson Buckminster. The War of Independence offered African Americans an opportunity to exploit several roads to freedom. Some hoped to escape to British lines, while others simply ran off into the interior of the colonies to form alliances with Native Americans. Still others, such as Salem, used the War of Independence to obtain freedom. At the beginning of the war, Salem negotiated his own freedom in return for service in the Continental army.

During the first stages of the war, Salem served under the command of Captain Simon Edgell at Concord in April 1775 After this engagement Salem enlisted in Colonel Thomas Nixon s Fifth Massachusetts Regiment In ...