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View Poll Results: British Army or the Continental Army?
British Army 21 72.41%
Continental Army 8 27.59%
Voters: 29. You may not vote on this poll

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Old December 4th, 2012, 08:18 AM   #31

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I'd say the future advantages a black sought in fighting for either side essentially disappeared almost immediately after the war for most. The British proclamations of freedom for those who served in their army only applied to slaves of American patriots. During the war, runaway slaves of Loyalists were returned to their masters. With few exceptions, blacks sent or given permission to serve by Loyalist masters were still held to be slaves, with the vast majority later transported to labor on British holdings in the Carribean. Ex-slaves of Patriot masters that managed to be evacuated ended up settled in Canada, with a few hundreds carried to England. Almost all of these were later decamped and sent to West Africa where it was thought life for them would be better. I'd have to say that overall the "freedom for fighting" thing did not do much for the black man in America during that day, though he did fair slightly better under the British programme. Which is not saying a whole lot measured against their efforts from which the crown benefited.
I strongly agree with this. Both sides made a lot of promises but neither side really kept them.

I think a slave in the British army would've been treated more as an equal with his piers. On the other hand, the British army had stringent rules and would hang a man over the slightest infraction. For that reason, a slave might choose to fight for the Colonies instead. Though, we should note, that slaves didn't always have the best information. They probably didn't know what they were really getting into with either side.
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Old December 5th, 2012, 07:56 AM   #32

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And most of the hundreds who found their way to London were members of the Royal Navy, where, curiously, they seemed to have experienced less racial discrimination than in other professions.

.
I was reading a book on Nelson's Navy last year "Jack Tar" by Roy Adkins. An 18th C sailor slept and messed with his mates, used the same "head" and within his rank ( landsman, seaman, able seaman, Boy First class, Boy second class, Boy third class) had the same responsibilities; there was no possibility of segregation as with the Army. In fact Army formations often segregated themselves with the Colonials, the Irish and non-Whites being placed in different tents or bivouaks, eating apart.
Black sailors were mostly volunteers rather than pressed men and thus prized by Navy Captains, but this acceptance did not translate to a lack of discrimination in merchant navy service, with the exception of the EIC fleet.
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Old December 7th, 2012, 08:52 AM   #33

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But technically, if the British had been able to put down the
rebellion, there still would have been slavery in the colonies, i.e. England.
By winning, the crown would have been forced to deal with millions still in bondage,
and only a few thousand free, who had fought for them. What of
the bondsmen's families? Were they free as well?
TJAdams makes a good point here. Even slaves were "promised freedom" if they joined the British, what would that freedom look like? Would they still have to fight to stop seggration many years later or for civil rights? I apologize but I do not see how if slaves joined the redcoats it be far better.
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Old December 8th, 2012, 12:43 AM   #34

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The British did not apparently concern themselves with promises of freedom on an official basis. The slaves (usually those who had escaped although some tory owners told them to fight for the Crown) were not removed from the region or given any specific rights - bear in mind that Britain lost the war and could not easily honour such promises anyway.
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Old December 8th, 2012, 02:06 PM   #35

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TJAdams makes a good point here. Even slaves were "promised freedom" if they joined the British, what would that freedom look like? Would they still have to fight to stop seggration many years later or for civil rights? I apologize but I do not see how if slaves joined the redcoats it be far better.
I can imagine a scenario of the free slave/British soldier, living in
the states, but, can you not predict the cold shoulder the colonist would
have given him for his part in the Revolution? He would be hard pressed
to function in the region and would have to move, hoping his reputation
didn't travel faster than he did. Being free was no guarantee of
a great life.
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Old December 9th, 2012, 02:30 AM   #36

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It is true that loyalists sometimes received some very harsh treatment. I recall reading one account how a settlement threw a family literally into a ditch outside town because they had british sympathies. However, there were alternatives, and some people remained loyalists throughout. Apparently a suprising number sought sanctuary with native americans, usually after loss of property, but also to live among people allied to the british cause.

I would also point out that there was no obvious difference between in appearance between civilians of both sides. Unfortunately those that knew them also travelled as easily and given the low population levels, anonymity would have been fortuitous.

The question of whether slaves (escaped or assigned) serving in the armies of either side led great lives is probably a predictable one. Army service wasn't a pleasant experience in those times after all, and the rebel side had significant attitudes toward negroes.
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Old December 9th, 2012, 03:03 AM   #37

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Apparently a suprising number sought sanctuary with native americans, usually after loss of property, but also to live among people allied to the british cause.


Yep, Loyalists fleeing persecution to the tribes took place all along the frontier.

In the south, very significant numbers of loyalists followed Alexander Cameron (Cherokee agent) into Cherokee country and fought with Dragging Canoe in the 2nd Cherokee War of 1776. Later on, Thomas Browne's Florida Rangers had significant contact and coordination with some of the Creek Indians around Augusta. After King's Mountain, Cornwallis had Browne (Cameron's successor agent) call up the Cherokee again to take the Overmountain Men away from South Carolina. Worked well for him as Sevier and the others were forced to make a quick return to face another of Dragging Canoe's risings. This one seems to have bit Cornwallis in the butt. Never had total proof but this event seems to have been the motivating factor in Andrew Pickens return to the Cause after having given parole in June.

Of course the Butlers very famously led their loyalists alongside Joseph Brandt and the Iroqois in New York. They joined forces in the Wyoming Valley and at New Town as well as several others in the Mohawk Valley.

On the far west, Simon Girty is a famous example of loyalist joining the Indians to fight against the Patriots. Most of French population of Illinois, Michigan, and Missouri remained loyal also.
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Old December 21st, 2012, 10:47 AM   #38

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I recently had opportunity to research the Dunmore story in a number of texts. It seems as if his call brought in about 400 slaves from patriots. The offer did not extend to slaves of loyalists or to his own 57 slaves. Only to able-bodied men who could serve. One source indicated a total of 400 slaves joined Dunmore at Norfolk. The men were formed into the Ethiopian regiment. At the battle of Great Bridge, a few of these men were captured. Dunmore showed little interest in trying to exchange for them. As they continued, the only muster results reflected a total regiment of 128 rank and file (the officers were white) with only 84 present and fit for duty. In August of 76, Dunmore evacuated some 300 men, women, and children who may all have been the ex-slaves to be freed under his proclamation. He abandoned those who were sick.

The sources cited etc. are in this thread: http://www.historum.com/american-his...ml#post1270580

Probably also worth noting that some 5,000 black soldiers (some free, some slave) served in the Continental Army during the revolution. A number far exceeding the ex-slaves known to have served in militia units under the British.
If you read that same thread, you will see that I've said time and again that Dunmore was opportunistic in his offer of freedom to blacks who fought on the side of the British, in order to undermine Patriot ranks, a move that could well have backfired. But there are some factors you're overlooking.

1) Some blacks, mainly free blacks, fought on the side of the Patriots, but that was restricted mainly to those who were already free. As the War went on, the Continental Army strongly resisted moves by Laurens and others to get Congress to accept slaves into the Army.

2) While the numbers who actually held weapons in their hands to fight for Dunmore may have been in the hundreds, those who provide the support services behind the lines were significantly more.

3) As I've pointed out in that thread, Quarles and Winks in their analysis of the sources show that several thousand black slaves gained their freedom by fighting on the side of the British. At least three thousand ex-slaves were evacuated to Nova Scotia after the War, about 600 found their way to London, and hundreds more left for Florida and the Caribbean. Interestingly, some of those who went to the Caribbean were unscrupulously sold by traders into slavery, even though they had secured their freedom fighting for the British.

However, it does seem that a significant majority of those Black Pioneers who fought on the side of the British kept their freedom, whatever Dunmore's cynical motives may have been. Given that the black slaves who stayed with the Loyalists remained slaves, then I would say that those black slaves who chose to fight for the British, and gained their freedom as a result, were better off. No matter how hard life was a free man in a racially-prejudiced country, I'm sure if you asked them, they would say it's preferrable to being a slave. After all, you didn't see them leaving the poverty of the streets of London to beg to be put back in chains by American slave owners....
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Old December 21st, 2012, 11:12 AM   #39

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Originally Posted by shivfan View Post
If you read that same thread, you will see that I've said time and again that Dunmore was opportunistic in his offer of freedom to blacks who fought on the side of the British, in order to undermine Patriot ranks, a move that could well have backfired. But there are some factors you're overlooking.

1) Some blacks, mainly free blacks, fought on the side of the Patriots, but that was restricted mainly to those who were already free. As the War went on, the Continental Army strongly resisted moves by Laurens and others to get Congress to accept slaves into the Army.

2) While the numbers who actually held weapons in their hands to fight for Dunmore may have been in the hundreds, those who provide the support services behind the lines were significantly more.

3) As I've pointed out in that thread, Quarles and Winks in their analysis of the sources show that several thousand black slaves gained their freedom by fighting on the side of the British. At least three thousand ex-slaves were evacuated to Nova Scotia after the War, about 600 found their way to London, and hundreds more left for Florida and the Caribbean. Interestingly, some of those who went to the Caribbean were unscrupulously sold by traders into slavery, even though they had secured their freedom fighting for the British.

However, it does seem that a significant majority of those Black Pioneers who fought on the side of the British kept their freedom, whatever Dunmore's cynical motives may have been. Given that the black slaves who stayed with the Loyalists remained slaves, then I would say that those black slaves who chose to fight for the British, and gained their freedom as a result, were better off. No matter how hard life was a free man in a racially-prejudiced country, I'm sure if you asked them, they would say it's preferrable to being a slave. After all, you didn't see them leaving the poverty of the streets of London to beg to be put back in chains by American slave owners....
I think we have a couple of competing threads going on. However, a couple of comments to your points.

1. actually, many of the black soldiers who were original to the CA were slaves who were serving in their master's place. It was later decided not to enlist any more slaves but Washington did allow the existing soldiers to reenlist.

2. According to the source. 400 was it. All inclusive. The actual number of soldiers never appears to have gotten that high. Of the 300 who later left with Dunmore, some were women.

3. hmmmm, unscrupulous traders. Must have been British.
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Old December 21st, 2012, 11:42 AM   #40

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I think we have a couple of competing threads going on. However, a couple of comments to your points.

1. actually, many of the black soldiers who were original to the CA were slaves who were serving in their master's place. It was later decided not to enlist any more slaves but Washington did allow the existing soldiers to reenlist.

2. According to the source. 400 was it. All inclusive. The actual number of soldiers never appears to have gotten that high. Of the 300 who later left with Dunmore, some were women.

3. hmmmm, unscrupulous traders. Must have been British.
Yes, you're quite right...I'd forgotten about that - it is true that better off plantation ownes did put up slaves to serve on their behalf so they didn't have to fight. Of course, those black slaves mainly ended up returning to slavery after the War....

And yes, we do have two competing threads, so let's restrict this one to the title of this thread only! I feel exhausted after my last post!

There is a major flaw with the Book of Negroes - it only looks at some of the ships leaving New York, not all of them. Ships were evacuating Loyalists from several ports along the New England coast. Also, there were slaves fleeing Patriot plantations who found their way to Canada by land. In the end, the new settlements around Birchtown ended up with about 3000 Black Loyalists in the decade after the War. As you probably know, they became so dissatisfied with conditions in Nova Scotia that over a thousand of them chose to leave Canada for Sierra Leone, which was another adventure in itself.

And yes, the unscrupulous trader(s) were/was British!

But my main point on this thread is this - if I was one of the 20% of black slaves who existed at the time of the outbreak of War, I would've taken my chance to fight for the British, because even a difficult freedom in poverty is preferable to life in slavery under a Patriot-ruled America....
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