Emerging from the Shadows, 1775-1819:
Blacks in the Revolutionary War

The American Revolution was not broadly supported by whites, and the revolutionary leaders, who acted out of their commercial interest, found it difficult to recruit anyone else to fight for them. For example, it was necessary to promise political rights to "Sons of Liberty" recruited from Boston workers, and farmers in Massachusets were offered Indian land in upper New York state as a bribe. Not surprisingly, then, especially since there was no real conviction that Blacks were inherently inferior, the white ruling class recruited Blacks to be fighters and die for their cause.

Flag of Bucks of America Connecticut was rather slow to bring Blacks into its militias, and so Blacks who sought to gain land or freedom through the war had to join the militias in neighboring states. For example, the Black Rhode Island Regiment fought at the important Battle of White Plains.

Shown here is the flag of the Bucks of America, c. 1786, (Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society) which was a Massachusetts unit that was almost entirely Black. At the upper left is a square with the gold stars of the thirteen original colonies on a blue ground, and a buck is leaping near a pine tree. Many members of this unit came from Hartford and elsewhere in Connecticut before Blacks were allowed into the Connecticut militia.

Brister Baker discharge Copy of the Honorable Discharge for Brister Baker, 1783, from Colored Patriots of the American Revolution, by William C. Nell. Brister Baker was a Black soldier who fought in the Second Connecticut Regiment. The meritorious discharge notes that Baker was enlisted into the Army in April 1777 and served six years faithfully.

The discharge does not make note of the fact that Baker was Black, as would census records in the next century when biological racism emerged.

Pension receipt to Gad Asher Of course, the issues over which the War of Independence were fought was a matter of complete indifference to Blacks because they were not involved in commerce. Consequently, there had to be rewards.

Pensions were an obvious choice, for they did not make the recipient a property owner able to vote. If the person happened to be a slave, the obvious thing to do with his pension reward would be to assign it over to their owners to pay for their freedom. Here is a pension receipt for the Black soldier, Gad Asher, signed with his mark on 4 March, 1795. While Asher was from New Haven at the time, his son, Jeremiah Asher, later moved to Hartford where his descendents continued to live.

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