Revolutionary Slave Spy

Revolutionary Slave Spy


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“At the peril of his life, Armistead found means to frequent the British camp, thereby faithfully executing important  commissions entrusted to him by the Marquis.” 

How did slaves react to the ideas of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness discussed in the Declaration of Independence?

James Armistead played a role in the Revolutionary War as a “Slave spy”, under General Lafayette; the commander of allied French forces. By working as a spy he gained trust of the British General Cornwallis and the British spy Benedict Arnold. His job was to provide information that allowed the American forces to prevail at the Battle of Yorktown. He gathered information such as the British battle plans towards the end of the war.  This key information helped French General Lafayette and American General George Washington to prevent the British from sending 10,000 reinforcements to Yorktown, VA.  This allowed the American and French to blockade Yorktown and it ultimately helped win the war.

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

When the British surrendered in 1781, James Armistead returned home to continue his life as a slave. He was not eligible for emancipation because he was known as a slave soldier. Marquis de Lafayette wrote him a recommendation for his freedom. Later in 1787, he was finally granted his freedom. After receiving his freedom, he moved nine miles south of New Kent and bought 40 acres of land which he began farming.

This is an outstanding story of American History.  James Armistead played a big role in the Revolutionary War but never was recognized as a real hero in the way that George Washington and other Patriots were.

Did you know that?  Have you ever heard of this man?  I wonder if there were more slave spy’s.  If there were, would the outcome of the Revolutionary War be different had they not fought on the side of the Patriots?

James Armistead1

The state of Virginia pays tribute to devoted American Revolutionary James Armistead, who as a slave had been permitted to enlist in the Revolutionary Army of the Patriots.

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