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New Book Identifies African American Patriots of Revolutionary War

List of Free African Americans in the American Revolution

Genealogists and historians will be eager to examine Paul Heinegg’s third major contribution to the literature of African American history and genealogy of 2021: List of Free African Americans in the American Revolution: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, and Delaware (Followed by French and Indian Wars and Colonial Militias) In this new book, Mr. Heinegg presents the records of nearly 1,000 Free African Americans who served in the War for Independence from one of the five states referred to in the book’s title. 

According to the author: “Over 420 African Americans who were born free during the colonial period served in the Revolution from Virginia. Another 400 who descended from free-born colonial families served from North Carolina, 40 from South Carolina, 60 from Maryland, and 17 from Delaware. At least 24 from Virginia and 41 from North Carolina died in the service.” At the back of the book, Paul Heinegg identifies an additional 75 free blacks who served in colonial militias and the French and Indian Wars in Virginia and the Carolinas.

While the descriptions of these free black patriots vary considerably depending on the individual’s circumstances, state, sources and other factors, here are several illustrations, from page 99 of the book, of what researchers may expect to find.

Charles and Ambrose Franklin, sons of Martha Walden, wife of Micajah Walden of Northampton County, North Carolina, died while serving in the Revolutionary War. According to the testimony of Micajah Walden, administrator of their estate, their heirs were granted land warrants for 228 acres. They were also granted an additional 412 acres to be released when there was additional proof of their death. The additional land was released on 13 December 1805 when Micajah Walden presented the testimony of Samuel Parker, Henry Parker, and James Bradley, Captain of the North Carolina Regiment of Halifax [NCGSJIII]. Martha was counted as one of the 5 “other free” persons in Micajah Walden’s Northampton County household m 1790 and 8 “other free” and a slave in 1800, but in her 1807 Northampton County will she named her son Noah Franklin who was counted as white in the 1800 census for Northampton County. Sarah Boon was listed as the heir of Charles Franklin on 4 December 1806 when she assigned her right to his warrant for 412 acres of land to Darrell Young [North Carolina and Tennessee, Revolutionary War Land Warrants, 1783-1843, Roll 11: William White Warrants (1800-1811), no. 128. (http://ancestry.com)].

Roger Freeman was a “Negro” man taxable in Bladen in 1768 and 1770. He was head of a Bladen County household of two Blacks from 12 to 50 years old and six Blacks over 50 or under 12 years in 1786 [Byrd, Bladen County Tax Lists, 1:12, 40, 51 ; II: 169; 1784 Bladen County Tax List, 13]. He enlisted as a substitute from Bladen County in Lieutenant Wilkinson’s Company Of the 10th North Carolina Regiment Of Colonel Abraham Sheppard on 19 February 1782 [NARA, M246, roll 79, frame 165 of 323; http://fold3.com/image/10200648. He was head of an Onslow County household of 7 “other free” in 1790 [NC:197], and 8 in 1800 [NC:14].

William Freeman was a “Black” taxable in Bladen County, called “free Will” in 1771 and called William Freeman when he was a “Mixt Blood” taxable on 1 male and 1 female in 1774. He enlisted as a substitute from Bladen County in Lieutenant Wilkinson’s Company of the 10th North Carolina Regiment of Colonel Abraham Sheppard on 19 February 1782 [NARA, M246, roll 79, frame 165 of 323, http://fold3.com/image/10200648.He was head of a New Hanover County household of 2 “other free” in 1790 [NC:194].

Anthony Garnes enlisted in the Revolution for 3 years on 14 January 1777 and was listed in the 1st North Carolina Regiment in the roll of Captain Tilman Dixon’s Company on 8 September 1778  [NARA M246, Roll 79, frame 70 of 323, http://fold3.com/image/10198780].He was head of a Hertford County, North Carolina household of 2 “other free” in 1790 (called Anthony Gamer) [NC:26]. He was a “free man of color” who applied for a pension at the age of 59 while residing in Wilson County, Tennessee, on 27 October 1820. He stated that he enlisted for three years and was in Colonel James Hogan’s Company of the 7th North Carolina Regiment, was in the Battles Of Brandywine and Monmouth and was taken prisoner in Charleston [NARA, S-38723, M804, Roll 1050, frame 940; http://fold3.com/image/20879404].He was one of the heirs of Jeffrey Garnes who received military land warrant no. 737 which was issued for 640 acres on 15 September 1787 [N.C. Archives S.S. file no. 375, call no. S. 108.352; http://archives.ncdcr.gov/doc/search-doc].

Gabriel/ Gaby Garnes, son of Lucy Garnes, was bound out as an apprentice in Mecklenburg County in 1766 [Orders 1765-8, 173, 380]. Lucy was head of a Mecklenburg County, Virginia household of 4 “free colored” in 1820 [VA: 153b]. Gaby enlisted in Dixon’s Company of the 10th North Carolina Regiment on 25 May 1781 and was omitted in 1781 [Clark, The State Records of North Carolina, XVI: 1069]. A warrant for 640 acres was issued to the trustees of the University of North Carolina on 17 February 1824 for Gabriel’s service in the Revolution [North Carolina and Tennessee, Revolutionary War Land Warrants, 1783-1843, Roll 15: William Hill Warrants, 1811-1837 (Nos. 1132-4409), 1144 (http://ancestry.com)].

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