Born a slave, Romeo Smith of Windham, Maine, entered the Continental Army with the promise of freedom in exchange for military service. He served in the 7th Massachusetts for three years and was supposedly manumitted. Yet in January 1784, the threat of being reclaimed as a slave surfaced and Romeo sought the assistance of General Henry Knox. The document featured here is Knox’s retained draft certifying Smith’s freedom.
- ›› Eras and Sub-Eras : The War for Independence
Sometimes a simple document can open the door to a great story. In this statement dated 1781, Richard Lamb and John Nutter verify that Cuffee Wells enlisted in the Continental Army in May 1777 and earned a bounty of 30 pounds, part of which was given to his master. Likewise, Justice of the Peace Benjamin Huntington confirmed that Cuffee’s commanding officer, Captain Jedediah Hyde of Norwich, “always understood that the money that was given to Wells at his Enlistment Purchased his Freedom.” It...
Between the pages of his math exercise book John Barstow jotted down a patriotic tune called “The Amaricans Challing” on January 2, 1777. Carefully written in a youth’s unsteady hand, the text appears to be a transcript of a popular camp song from the Revolutionary era. How this declaration of patriotism found its way into Barstow’s math lessons is unknown. The book is filled with conversion tables for weights and...
“I come as a friend to offer my help to this very...
No Native people affected the course of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century American history more than the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois, of present-day upstate New York. Historians have been attempting to explain how and why ever since, and central to their explanations is the remarkable political and diplomatic structure, the League of the Iroquois.
Quakers sponsored not only radical ideas like abolitionism and pacifism but also initiatives that contributed significantly to mainstream American cultural traits like the belief that traumatizing children is an evil idea and that each child contains a divine spirit; that women should be at least equal to men in public secular and religious forums; that religious toleration is beneficial; that slavery is evil and had to be ended immediately; and that a handshake is a better greeting than a groveling bow or a curtsy.
One of the most surprising connections of the American Revolutionary era emerged at the very beginning of the war between the African American poet Phillis Wheatley and the commander in chief of the American forces, George Washington.