This work by Paul Heinegg summarizes the Revolutionary War (and in some cases earlier military) service of free African Americans who resided in the states of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and the Carolinas. As such, the book is a distillation of the Revolutionary War and other military service found in Mr. Heinegg’s two larger works, Free African Americans of North Carolina, Virginia, and South Carolina from the Colonial Period to About 1820 and the companion volume, Free African Americans of Maryland and Delaware to About 1810, where the full family histories of the combatants may be found.
Over 420 African Americans who were born free during the colonial period served in the American 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. Over 75 free African Americans were in colonial militias and the French and Indian Wars in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Although some slaves fought to gain their freedom as substitutes for their masters, they were relatively few in number. By the same token, those who were not serving under their own free will are not included in this list. It was simply not their fight.
While the information on each of the free black veterans of the War for Independence varies, in most cases the author has provided the individual’s name, state and county, unit served in, military theater, some family information, often a physical description, pension applied for or received, sometimes other information, and the source. The case of Isaac Brown of Charles City County, Virginia, is illustrative of many of the descriptions found in the volume:
Isaac Brown was born in Charles City County and enlisted there in the Revolution for 1-1/2 years on 12 September 1780: complexion black, 5’2-1/2″ high, a farmer [Register & description of Noncommissioned officers & Privates, LVA accession no. 24296, by http://revwarapps.org/b69.pdf (p.45)]. He was taxable in Lower Westover Precinct of Charles City County in 1786 [PPTL, 1783-7], head of a Charles City County household of 10 “other free” in 1810 [VA:959] and 4 “free colored” in 1820 [VA:13]. He applied for a pension in Charles City County at the age of 69 on 19 May 1829, stating that he enlisted in Charles City County in the fall of the year 1780 and served in Captain Sanford’s Company in Colonel Campbell’s Regiment for 18 months. He was in the Battle of Guildford Courthouse, the Siege 14 of Ninety Six, and the Battle of Eutaw Springs. He owned 70 acres in Charles City County [NARA, S.39,214, M804, Roll 366, frame 240 of 893; http://fold3.com/image/11713004].