America Was Always Diverse. By JIM GERAGHTY
Excerpt: ...All of this added up to more than a few black men in the ranks: By February 1778, the survivors [of the winter at Valley Forge] were marching with white comrades through the snow, practicing Baron von Steuben’s as yet unfamiliar drill. When the Steuben-trained army proved its mettle at Monmouth in June, about 700 blacks fought side-by-side with whites. Eight weeks later, an army report listed 755 blacks in the Continental Army, including 138 Blacks in the Virginia Line. Meanwhile, Rhode Island was desperate for men; the general assembly voted to allow slaves to enlist, promising freedom after their military service. This led to it being called “the black regiment” even though only slightly more than half the men in it were black. The regiment held off British forces during the Battle of Rhode Island while General John Sullivan’s army retreated. There are few records left of the Bucks of America in Massachusetts, but they were reportedly an all-black militia company operating in that state. Slave James Armistead’s master freed him to join the Marquis de Lafayette’s French forces. Lafayette used him as a spy in 1781, and the unsuspecting British ultimately gave him access to General Cornwallis’s headquarters. Armistead provided key intelligence leading up to the Battle of Yorktown. Baron von Closen, a member of Rochambeau’s French army at Yorktown, estimated that a quarter of the American forces at that decisive battle were black.