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Scripto | Transcribe Page
Memorial of John Mercer Langston for Colored People of Ohio to General Assembly of the State of Ohio
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BLACK STATE CONVENTIONS
distinguishing traits of this regiment was devotion to their leaders. Then on the 13th of May, 1781, the American forces were near Croton river; Col. Green, the commander, was cut down and fatally wounded; but the weapons of the enemy could only reach him through the bodies of his faithful black guards. They defended him till every one of them was killed.
The late Rev. Dr. Harris of Dunbarton, New Hampshire, a revolutionary veteran, in speaking of the perilous condition in which the regiment was placed, to which he belonged, and their brave and manly conduct, in the same connection makes honorable mention of a "regiment of the blacks in the same situation--a regiment of negroes fighting for our liberty and independence, not a white man among them but the officers--in the same dangerous and responsible position." Had they been unfaithful," he says, "or given way before the enemy, all would have been lost. Three times in succession were they attacked with the most desperate fury by well disciplined and veteran troops, and three times did they successfully repel the assault, and thus, preserved an army. They fought thus through the war. They were brave and hardy troops."
Hon. Tristram Burgess, of Rhode Island in a speech delivered in Congress, in January 1828, said: "At the commencement of the Revolutionary War, Rhode Island had a number of slaves. A regiment of them were enlisted into the continental service, and no braver men met the enemy in battle; but not one of them was permitted to become a soldier until he had first been made a freeman."
The Hon. Charles Pinckney5 of South Carolina, in a speech on the Missouri question made use of the following language: "They (the colored people) were in numerous instances the pioneers, and in all, the laborers of our armies. To their hands were owing the largest part of the fortifications raised for the protection of the country. Port Monteriel gave, at an early period of the inexperience and untried valor of our citizens, immortality to the American arms. And in the Northern States numerous bodies of them enrolled and fought side by side with the whites in the battle of the Revolution." And in addition to all this, if history be true, the first man that fell in the Revolutionary War--the first man whose life and blood were yielded up in defence of the freedom of this country was a colored man. He died on the plains of Boston the first revolutionary martyr in the massacre of the 5th of March, 1770.6
Let us now see what the conduct of colored men was some forty years afterward. Said Martindale of New York, in Congress, on the 22d of January, 1828: "Slaves, or negroes who had been slaves, were enlisted as soldiers in the war of the revolution, and I myself say a battalion of them, as fine martial looking men as I ever saw, attached to the northern army in the last war, on the march from Plattsburgh to Sackett's Harbor."
Said the Hon. Charles Miner of Pennsylvania, in Congress, on the 7th of February, 1828: "The African race make excellent soldiers. Large number of them were with Perry, and helped to gain the brilliant victory of Lake Erie. A whole battalion of them were distinguished for their ordinary appearance."
In the constitutional convention of New York, held in 1821, Dr. Drake, the delegate from Delaware country, in speaking of the colored people of that State, said: "In your late war they contributed largely towards some of your most splendid victories. On Lake Erie and Champlain, when your fleets triumphed over a foe superior in numbers and engines of death, they were manned in a large proportion with men of color. And in this very House, in the fall of 1814, a bill passed receiving the approbation of all branches of your government, authorizing the Governor to accept the services of a corps of 2000 free people of color. Sir," he continues, "these were times which tried men's souls. In these times it was not sporting matter to bear arms. These were times when a man who shouldered his musket did not know but he bared this bosom to receive a death wound ere he laid it aside, and those times these people were found as ready and as willing to volunteer in your services as any other. They were most compelled to go. They were not drafted. No! Your pride had placed them beyond your compulsory power. But there was no necessity for its exercise; they were volunteers; yes, they were volunteers to defend that country from the inroads and ravages of a ruthless and vindictive foe, which had treated them with insult, degradation, and slavery."
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