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
|Thomas Peters, Nigerian-born slave and black Loyalist|
in British Black Company of Pioneers
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.