Monday, December 3, 2018

Colonel Tye, Black Loyalist Guerrilla in the American Revolution

At the beginning of the American Revolution, the British offered freedom to any black slaves who joined them to fight the Americans. Of the many slaves who managed to escape and ended up as soldiers, sailors, or workers in the British army, one became the most feared and respected guerrilla commander of the Revolution. Born in 1753, Titus was the slave of a cruel, quick-tempered Quaker named John Corlies of Shrewsbury in eastern Monmouth County, New Jersey. When the Quakers in that region began to free their slaves, Corlies refused to do so and by 1775 was one of the few remaining Quaker slaveholders in the county.

Ethiopian Regiment.soldier
by Bantarleton
Things changed when on November 7, 1775, after being forced to flee onto a British warship off Norfolk by the patriot militia, Virginia’s royal governor, Lord Dunmore, issued a proclamation offering emancipation to any slaves belonging to rebels who were willing and able to bear arms for the crown. Twenty-two-year old Titus escaped the following day, joining a flood of blacks from Monmouth County who made their way to Norfolk to enlist in Dunmore’s newly formed Ethiopian Regiment. In spite of warnings by outraged slaveholders that runaway slaves would be executed and that any who joined the British would be sold to sugar cane plantations in the West Indies if caught, within a month about 800 slaves had escaped, many bringing their families with them.

The Ethiopian Regiment served in 1775 and 1776, and with its uniform emblazoned with “Liberty to Slaves” became a symbol of hope for black Americans. Although the men were most often used for foraging, constructing fortifications, and other work, they also saw battle. They fought effectively alongside the Regulars to defeat patriot militia forces at the Battle of Kemp’s Landing. After Dunmore’s defeat at the Battle of Great Bridge, he loaded his black troops onto ships of the British fleet headed for New York, where he hoped to give them better training. The cramped conditions led to the spread of smallpox, however, and with only 300 of the original 800 soldiers surviving, Dunmore disbanded the regiment in 1776.

Death of Major Peirson by John Singleton Copley
January 6, 1781
Nothing further is known of Tye until the Battle of Monmouth in June 1778, the first military action he’s known to have fought in and during which he captured an American militia captain. As the leader of the Black Brigade, an elite guerrilla unit of 24 men that served in New Jersey alongside the Loyalist Queen’s Rangers, he became known as Colonel Tye, an informal rank given out of respect since the British Army didn’t formally commission black officers in the 18th and 19th centuries. He and his band raided and plundered Shrewsbury the next month, capturing two of the town’s inhabitants. During the severe winter of 1779 they and the Queen’s Rangers provided protection for the British in their stronghold at New York City and launched raids to obtain food and fuel for the garrison.

Thomas Peters, Nigerian-born slave and black Loyalist
in British Black Company of Pioneers
By 1780 the Black Brigade had become a significant military force and the most feared Loyalists in New Jersey with a reputation as fierce and canny fighters. Tye’s familiarity with the area’s swamps, rivers, and inlets enabled his Black Brigade to strike swiftly and unexpectedly, and then disappear before the Americans could respond. In one week in June he led three raids in Monmouth County. On June 9, he and his men killed Joseph Murray, hated by Loyalists for executing captured Tories under a local vigilante law. On June 12, while Washington’s hard-pressed army fought the Regulars, he and his band made a daring raid on the home of militia leader Barnes Smock, captured him and twelve of his men without taking casualties, plundered their homes, destroyed their cannon, then took their captives to New York without being detected, thus depriving Washington of badly needed reinforcements and terrorizing local patriots. The British paid Tye and his men well for their efforts, sometimes as much as five gold guineas, and as a result of their exploits the number of slaves escaping to the British kept growing.

That September Tye and his Black Brigade attacked the home of Captain Josiah Huddy, an officer who had been wanted by the Loyalists for several years. Huddy and a friend, Lucretia Emmons, managed to hold off their attackers for two hours, until the Loyalists torched the house. Tye was shot in the wrist during the battle, a minor wound that became infected, and he died from gangrene within weeks.

With Colonel Stephen Blucke of the Black Pioneers in command, Tye’s raiders continued fighting long after the British defeat at Yorktown. And Tye left behind a reputation that lived on among his comrades as well as among the patriots who fought against him.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Black Heroes of the Revolution

George Washington by John Trumbull, 1780
with Will Lee in background
Black Americans served in the Revolution, as they have in every war this country has been involved in. By the beginning of the war black men already had a long history of serving in colonial militias, though they were often assigned to support duties like digging ditches. And in the spring of 1775, as opposition to Britain turned into a shooting war, a number of both slave and free black men fought bravely at Lexington and Concord. A couple of months later at the Battle of Bunker Hill, the actions of a former slave named Salem Poor were so heroic that 14 officers wrote to the Massachusetts legislature to commend him as a “brave and gallant Soldier” and recommending that he be rewarded.

General George Washington, however, like other slaveholders, opposed recruiting blacks into the newly formed Continental Army, whether slave or free, fearing a slave uprising. Not long after his appointment as commander in chief, he signed an order forbidding their recruitment in spite of the valor of black soldiers like Poor. Hoping to divide the colonies on this issue, Lord Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia, promptly offered freedom to any escaped slave who joined the British forces, and thousands of slaves grasped the opportunity. As a result Washington compromised by allowing blacks already in the army to stay but prohibiting new enlistments. But as the war continued and the need for more soldiers grew, he turned a blind eye to new enlistments, while still refusing to approve them. By the end of the war the army was actively recruiting black soldiers, and some in the New England regiments rose to the rank of colonel. Watching a review of the army at Yorktown, a French officer estimated that about a quarter of Washington’s troops were black, though today most historians believe that 10 to 15 percent is more likely.

General John Glover
When John Glover, a prosperous businessman in the Atlantic fishing trade, became the commander of the 21st Massachusetts Regiment, he recruited experienced seamen and fishermen, many of whom had been his shipmates. Among them were many of the Indians and Blacks who lived in the New England seaport villages. Thus when the regiment became the 14th Continental Regiment, dubbed the “amphibious regiment” for these soldiers’ naval skills, it was the first fully integrated unit in the Continental Army. Washington came to depend heavily on Glover’s well-armed and disciplined Marbleheaders. Among other noteworthy accomplishments, they made possible the army’s miraculous escape from Long Island after a disastrous defeat as well as the crossing of the Delaware on Christmas Day 1776, that led to the victory at Trenton.

Washington Crossing the Delaware
by Emanuel Leutze
Speaking of which, the famous 1851 painting by Emanuel Leutze depicts a black soldier at the far side of the boat’s bow that some historians believe might represent Prince Whipple, a former slave of General William Whipple, who served in exchange for his freedom. After the battle of Princeton a week later, a free black soldier named Primus Hall reportedly tracked down and captured several British soldiers single-handedly. And Washington’s personal servant, Will Lee, a mulatto slave whose equestrian skills were equal to his master’s, accompanied Washington wherever he went, even in the thick of battle. He was the only one of Washington’s slaves freed outright in his will.

Battle of Cowpens, William Ranney 1781

During the terrible winter of 1777-1778 at Valley Forge, with soldiers dying of starvation and exposure and deserting in droves, Congress turned to the states to supply more troops. Faced with the reality that their required quota was higher than the number of available white men in the state, the Rhode Island legislature not only promised to free all black, mulatto, and Indian slaves who enlisted, but also offered to compensate their owners for freeing them. By now Washington was so desperate for men that he agreed to the proposal. More than 140 black men signed up for the 1st Rhode Island Regiment, better known as the “Black Regiment,” which served until British Gen. Charles Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown. During the battle of Newport, Rhode Island, in 1778, the regiment repelled three fierce Hessian assaults, fighting so fearlessly and inflicting so many casualties on the Hessian mercenaries that one of their officers resigned his commission rather than lead his men to certain slaughter against them.

1781 watercolor showing a black infantryman
of the 1st Rhode Island Regiment at Yorktown at left
Units from Connecticut and New Jersey also had high rates of black enlistment. Black soldiers served in almost every unit and every battle from Concord to Yorktown. During the Revolution the United States Army was the most integrated it would be until the Korean War. The 1st Rhode Island was the Continental Army’s only segregated unit, commanded by white officers, with white and black soldiers assigned to separate companies. Throughout the rest of the army, however, black soldiers fought, drilled, marched, ate, and slept with their white comrades and shared hardships equally.

When the war ended, some black soldiers like those in the 1st Rhode Island returned to new lives as freemen. Others, however, returned to slavery. While a few were eventually freed, many who served as substitutes for their masters ended up fighting for freedom they would never receive. But all of these black heroes were forgotten over time. The new Congress passed laws forbidding blacks to serve in the military, and by the time it got around to offering pensions to the veterans of the Revolution, most of the black men who served had died.

Today the heroism of black soldiers in the Revolution is finally being remembered and celebrated. These men stepped up at a time when our country desperately needed all the fighting men it could get, and they performed with heroism and honor equal to that of any white soldier for little, if any, reward. That’s why I included black soldiers in my American Patriot Series—to bring this history to the fore, along with the involvement of women and Native Americans in the Revolution.

How much did you know about black soldiers in the Revolution before reading this article? Do you recall learning anything about black Revolutionary War heroes when you were in school?

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The Native American War for Independence

Pontiac Calls for War
Refiner’s Fire is scheduled to release April 15 next year. In this episode of the story Jonathan Carleton returns to the Shawnee as an emissary for George Washington. The issues he has to confront as an adopted member of this proud tribe in its fierce push-back against the incursions of white settlers into their ancestral lands have radically changed my way of thinking about Native Americans.

We celebrate the American Revolution as the seminal event in which we Americans won our independence from Britain. It’s ironic that throughout our history we’ve largely remained blind to the fact that Native Americans fought us for exactly the same reason: to preserve their liberty, rights, and way of life from an oppressive power. I’ve been deeply impressed by this fact while doing research for this series. In delving into how the war affected women as well as men, blacks as well as whites, I couldn’t avoid the question of what impact our Revolution had on the native peoples who inhabited this continent long before white people showed up. How did they view the colonists’ claim that England denied their lawful rights while at the same time denying Indians the freedom to live unmolested on their own lands, feed and protect their families, and maintain their long-held traditions?

This struggle goes all the way back to the arrival of the first Europeans on the shores of North America. In treaty after treaty, Indian lands and freedoms were whittled away. The loss of land accelerated in the late 1760s and 1770s as settlers increasingly pushed their way into the fertile western territories where land could be had for the taking. And the taking was often bloody, with atrocities committed on both sides.

Sketch of Stockbridge Mahican warrior
in Continental Army by Von Ewald
Long before the Revolution the Ohio Valley became a fiercely contested war zone. The Lenape, Shawnee, Mingo, and other tribes made Ohio Territory their homeland due to its rich hunting grounds; fertile cropland; expanding trade opportunities, first with the French, then with the English; and the ever increasing pressure of white settlers’ westward expansion. When the British won the French and Indian War and took control of the trans-Appalachian country, the opposition of the native peoples stiffened. Between 1763 and 1764 a coalition of tribes led by the Ottawa chief Pontiac and Guyasuta, a Seneca-Mingo chief, unsuccessfully tried to push British soldiers and settlers out of Ohio Territory. Then in 1774, in what became known as Lord Dunmore’s War, the Shawnee went to war to keep white settlers out of their Kentucky hunting grounds. Their towns and crops were put to the torch, forcing them to give up claim to the land and agree to recognize the Ohio River as the boundary between Indian lands and the British colonies.

Cornstalk by Sherman
When the Americans went to war with England the following year, it came as no surprise to the Indians that their lands were once again up for grabs. At the beginning of the conflict, the majority of the tribes tried to remain neutral, but that was not a viable option for long. The Stockbridge, or Mahican, Indians of western Massachusetts were one of the first to join forces with the Americans. Later some Lenape, along with the Oneida and the Tuscarora, did the same. But in the end most of the tribes came to see the Americans as the greater threat to their liberty and way of life than a distant English king.

In 1776 the Cherokee independently attacked frontier settlements to drive trespassers off, only to have their communities devastated. Other native nations formally allied with the British and suffered the same result. Among the Shawnee, the great chief Cornstalk tried to cultivate peaceful relations with the Americans, only to be murdered along with several companions by militia soldiers in 1777. Even so, his sister, Nonhelema, continued to assist the Americans and work for peace. But as Kentucky militia crossed the Ohio River almost every year to raid Shawnee villages, about half of the nation migrated across the Mississippi to Spanish-held lands, while others moved farther and farther west to put space between them and the Americans, and increasing numbers joined the war of resistance. By the end of the Revolution most of the Ohio Indians were concentrated in the region’s northwestern area.

General John Sullivan's Campaign against the Iroquois
The Iroquois Confederacy, or Haudenosaunee, was shattered by the war, with the Oneida and Tuscarora fighting on the side of the Americans, while the Mohawk and Seneca allied with the British, tearing apart clan and kinship ties. Like the Cherokee, many Iroquois lost their homes during the Revolution. In 1779 George Washington dispatched General John Sullivan to conduct a scorched-earth campaign in Iroquois country. During Sullivan’s Expedition, his troops burned forty Iroquois towns, cut down orchards, and destroyed millions of bushels of corn. Thousands of Iroquois fled to the British fort at Niagara, where they endured exposure, starvation, and sickness during one of the coldest winters on record. In desperation their warriors attacked American frontier settlements as much for food as for scalps. At the end of the Revolution many Iroquois relocated in Canada to avoid American reprisals.

Gnadenhutten Massacre
The Lenape were also initially reluctant to take up arms or support the British. Their chief White Eyes led his people in concluding the Treaty of Fort Pitt in 1778, the first treaty Congress made with Indians,  in which the two nations agreed to a defensive alliance. But American militiamen murdered White Eyes, America’s best friend in Ohio Territory, and claimed he died of smallpox. Then in 1782 a detachment of American militia marched into a community of Moravian Lenape named Gnadenhütten, or “Tents of Grace.” That these Indians were Christian pacifists made no difference to the soldiers. They separated the men, women, and children, and with their victims kneeling in front of them singing hymns, used butchers’ mallets to beat 96 people to death. Outraged, the Lenape allied with the British and exacted brutal retribution whenever American soldiers fell into their hands.

David Zeisberger
As the Revolution began, in spite of American assurances, Indian nations feared that the Americans’ ultimate goal was to steal their lands. Those fears turned out to be well founded. In April 1783 Britain recognized the United States’ independence at the Peace of Paris and transferred to America all her claims to the territory between the Atlantic and the Mississippi and from the Great Lakes to Florida. No Indians were invited, nor did they receive any mention in the treaty. When they learned that their British allies had sold them out and given away their lands, they understandably felt betrayed.

The United States won its Revolution, but in the west the Indians continued their war for independence for many years afterward. Once subdued, they were confined to reservations and were denied their culture and even their language. You’ll find accurate and heartrending accounts of what the native peoples suffered in their struggle against white expansion in Black Coats Among the Delaware by Earl P. Olmstead, based on the diaries and letters of the Moravian missionary David Zeisberger, who lived and ministered among his beloved Lenape until his death. It’ll change the way you view the history of our country.

Monday, October 1, 2018

New Release for Janet Grunst!

Today is the release day for my friend Janet Grunst’s latest novel, A Heart for Freedom, book 2 in her series set during the American Revolution, and I’m celebrating with her! Below are the details. I encourage you to get your copy, and if you haven’t read book 1, A Heart Set Free, you’ll want to get it too! You’re going to love the characters and the setting of this series!


A Heart for Freedom
Book 2

Matthew Stewart wants only to farm, manage his inn, and protect his family. But tension between the Loyalists and Patriots is mounting. When he’s asked to help the Patriots and assured his family will be safe, he agrees.

She’s seen the cost of fighting England, and she wants no part of it. In Scotland, Heather Stewart witnessed the devastation and political consequences of opposing England. She wants only to avoid war and protect the family and peace she finally found in Virginia. But the war drums can be heard even from their home in the countryside, and she has no power to stop the approaching danger.

The consequences are deadly. When Matthew leaves for a short journey and doesn’t return, Heather faces the biggest trial of her life. Will she give up hope of seeing him again? Will he survive the trials and make his way home? What will be the consequences of his heart for freedom?


A Heart Set Free
Book 1

2017 Selah Award Winner for Historical Romance

In 1770, Heather Douglas is desperate to escape a brewing scandal in her native Scotland. Penniless and hoping for a fresh start far away, she signs a seven-year indenture and boards a British merchant vessel headed to Virginia.

Widowed planter Matthew Stewart needs someone to help raise his two young children. The tall blond standing on the Alexandria quay doesn’t look like much after her harrowing sea voyage, but there’s a refinement about her that her filthy clothing cannot hide. Could God be leading him to take this unknown indentured servant as his wife?

When Matthew purchases Heather’s indenture, marries her, and takes her to his farm, she is faced with new and constant challenges. And Matthew wonders if they can ever bridge their differences and make a life together.

But in the Virginia countryside, Heather begins her greatest journey, one of self-discovery and of maturing faith. Here, she discovers that her emotional and spiritual scars bind her far more than her indenture . . . and love will finally set her heart free.
~~~
Janet Grunst is a wife, mother of two sons, and grandmother of eight. She lives in the historic triangle of Virginia (Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown) with her husband and West Highland White Terrier. Before pursuing a long-held dream of writing fiction she was employed in the banking industry for ten years and as a freelance writer for two regional publications. After taking a break to raise her children, she worked for an international ministry, Community Bible Study, most recently as the Executive Assistant for the Executive Director. She continues to serve as a leader in her local Community Bible Study class and in her church.

Her love of writing fiction grew out of a desire to share stories that can communicate the truths of the Christian faith, and entertain, as well as bring inspiration, healing, and hope to the reader.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Unveiling Refiner's Fire Cover!

We have a cover, and a lovely one it is, with all the credit going to my designer, Marisa Calvin Jackson! We just received the proofs I ordered so we could check how the central image would print. It was smaller than we like to have for print, but it turned out amazingly well.

The image, of course, is the one in this blog’s new header, which I mentioned might turn out to be the cover when I introduced our new look. It’s a painting titled L’Attesa, or The Expectation, by Arturo Ricci (1854-1919), an Italian artist of genre subjects. This particular painting perfectly illustrates the French setting for much of the story, with the central figures stunningly similar to my vision of my characters. The man on the left and the beautiful lady on his arm represent Caledonne’s son, Lucien, and Elizabeth beautifully. The older woman, the little girl, and the seated man at the painting’s center are wonderful stand-ins for Tess Howard, Abby, and Caledonne himself. It was indeed a serendipitous find, and it was free on Wiki Commons! I couldn’t  ask for more or be more pleased.

What do you think? Don’t you just love the colors Marisa chose to complement this painting? I’d love to hear your feedback!