African-American Patriots and Loyalists


by Melissa Shimkus

During the American Revolution, many freed blacks and slaves fought as soldiers in the war that founded our country. “African-American Patriots in the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution” by Bobby G. Moss and Michael Scoggins (call number 973.34 Aa1moa) is an impressively well-documented account of those individuals who served.

In 1775, the Continental Congress decided to recruit free blacks in their efforts to offset the larger force of British troops. Slaves in the southern states, including Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, were already being recruited by the British, who offered them freedom for their service, but many slaves refused and instead fought on the American side. Georgia and South Carolina refused to acknowledge slave service in the war, but recognized that of freed blacks.

“African-American Patriots” provides an alphabetical roster of approximately 800 who served in the southern states. The entries give details on each soldier or patriot and an abbreviated citation and page number for the source material. The abbreviations are explained in the bibliography of the book which supplies the full citation to the source. The information accumulated in the book is from national, state, and local documents held in many locations.

Many genealogical details are supplied for these patriots. The entry for Saul Matthews of Virginia, slave of Thomas Matthews, provides information concerning his service in the war, including spying activities, his petition for freedom, and the approval of his request. The seven sources cited for his entry verify the information in the book, and provide further avenues for research.

Claudius Pegues, a patriot from South Carolina, granted his female slave, Courtney, and her son, Martin, freedom, land, and a house for her years of service. The entry includes Claudius’ death date and residence.

Arthur Toney (Tony) of North Carolina was a free mulatto. His entry provides genealogical information concerning his birth, siblings, enlistment and re-enlistment, payment for service from the state, marriage, pension, and bounty land. Twelve sources are cited, including a pension record, bounty land warrant record, and various North Carolina State Records.

“African-American Patriots in the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution” is a wonderful source for African-American researchers. It provides well-documented historical and genealogical details concerning these remarkable, yet sometimes, unacknowledged patriots of our country. A companion volume, “African-American Loyalists in the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution,” provides similarly detailed information on almost 2,800 individuals who sided with the British crown (call number 973.34 Aa1mob).

Genealogy Gems[1]: News from the Fort Wayne Library
No. 61, March 2009