Many African Americans that fought in the war did not do so because they wanted to. During the war, if you were drafted, it was permissible to buy your way out of army service, or to send someone in your place, a mercenary. Often the cheapest mercenary available was a slave. One of the main events preceding the Revolution was the “Boston Massacre.
” It was hardly a massacre — only five people were killed, but one of them was an African American, Crispus Attucks. Even though he was a runaway slave, he was buried with the other four martyrs of the “massacre.” And at thefirst battles of the Revolution, Lexington and Concord, there were ten African Americans.
One, Prince Easterbrooks, was described as “thefirst to get into the fight.” At the battle of Bunker Hill, another early battle, the African American, Salem Poor, performed so well that fourteen officers sent a petition to the legislature declaring that he “behaved like an experienced officer, as well as an excellent soldier” and added that “a reward was due to so great and distinguished a character.” (Meltzer 130) African Americans played a role on the battle field from the beginning.
One, in particular, played an important role at the end of the war. The leader of the British Army was General Cornwallis. One of Cornwallis’s servants was an African American. He was also a patriot spy. For months he gave Lafayette details concerning Cornwallis’s plans.
This information was invaluable in eventually defeating Cornwallis at Yorktown, the final battle of the Revolution. Even though many African Americans played important roles in the American Revolution, slavery survived the Revolution intact. True in some areas the process of abolition had been accelerated by the ideas of the Revolution, but in other areas, notably the south, slavery not only continued but expanded during the war and afterwards…