J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Quintal on Black Soldiers in the Continental Army, 7 Feb.

On Tuesday, 7 February, at 7:30 P.M. in Lincoln’s Bemis Hall, George Quintal, Jr., will speak on the role of black soldiers in the American Revolution. The Lincoln Minute Men will host this presentation.

Back in 2005, Quintal assembled a study of African-Americans and Native Americans in the provincial forces during the Battles of Lexington and Concord and Bunker Hill for the National Park Service, and I know he’s continued to research since. (There’s a preview of that study on Google Books. Unfortunately, but the Government Printing Office says it’s no longer available.)

Anyone reading the Massachusetts Provincial Congress’s report about the opening day of the war saw that among the wounded was “Prince Easterbrooks (a Negro man)” of Lexington. Salem Poor fought notably in the Battle of Bunker Hill.

But for a major slaveholder like Gen. George Washington, the sight of armed black men was at the least novel, and probably a bit disturbing. He saw it as evidence the New England recruiters had scraped the bottom of the barrel. In his first report back to the Continental Congress, he wrote:
From the Number of Boys, Deserters and negroes which have inlisted in this Province, I entertain some doubts whether the Number required, can be raised here…
That news seems to have produced even more anxiety among the some of the Congress delegates, particularly those from colonies with large enslaved black populations. In September the South Carolina delegate Edward Rutledge (shown above) proposed discharging all African-American men from the army.

According to New Jersey delegate Richard Smith, Rutledge “was strongly supported by many of the Southern Delegates but so powerfully opposed that he lost the Point.” Like a lot of other controversial matters, that debate was kept out of the Congress’s official record. But the vote didn’t settle the question.

TOMORROW: John Adams writes home for reassurance.

1 comment:

rfuller said...

Additionally, as part of the Friends of Minute Man National Park's Winter Lecture Series for 2012, Mr. Quintal will be speaking about "Patriots of Color at Battle Road and Bunker Hill" on Sunday, March 18, at 3 PM, at Minute Man Visitor Center, 250 North Great Road (Rte 2A) in Lincoln, MA.