Monday, 28 November 2016

Paint it black

Quite some time since I last picked up the paintbrush, but I cleared up some space on a table so I can leave it where it is and have a good lamp close by.

Started and finished a bunch of riflemen and black militia members. The ones in the long coats would probably end up with northern units. The ones in shirt sleeves in the south.

In the former case they probably fought on the American side, where manpower shortage saw the enlistment of quite a few free blacks and slaves, who did so because this meant a job and a chance to be freed after service. Didn't always work out that way apparently according to Ray Raphael's brilliant The American Revolution. A People's History.

Raphael also shows how in the latter case, tens of thousands of southern slaves escaped from the plantations to the freedom promised them by the British. They joined the British and loyalist units, or accompanied them as servants. Many died of hunger and disease and by the time of the British retreat, they were often left to their own devices.

Jim Piecuch, in his Cavalry of the American Revolution devotes an article to the Black Dragoons, a cavalry unit composed of and led by escaped slaves in South Carolina. They appear to have performed to the satisfaction of the British, but their existence enraged the white planters in the south, making it less likely that they would accept a return of British rule.

As far as  I am concerned, A People's History is an indispensable companion to the military history of the American revolution. Apart from showing how blacks could end up fighting on both sides, there's good stuff on the role of women, native Americans, Loyalists and common American males sympathetic to the revolution. It shows how this war affected them, but also, how they tried to make the best of it, or even turn it to their advantage.

I'll come back to this book, because it was an eye opener for me on the vastly different experiences of native American tribes. But worth every penny and widely available in second hand.


  1. What a surprise, there are lots of copies of Ray Raphael's book in the Houston library ! I'll take a read.


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