Honoring the legacy of Black Soldiers is Essential

Freedom Center Voices
November 11, 2022

Honoring the Legacy of Black Soldiers is Essential

The American Revolution officially ended on September 3, 1783, with the signing of the Treaty of Paris. Along with the Civil War, the American Revolution is one of the most noteworthy events in American history. Generations of Americans have honored and commemorated the Revolution by erecting monuments to various peoples, places, and events. According to the Journal of the American Revolution, there are approximately 450 monuments, memorials, statues, and plaques to the American Revolution across the country. This reflects the significance of the event, but where are the stories of the Black soldiers who fought?

During the American Revolution, thousands of Black people fought on both sides of the conflict. But unlike their white counterparts, they were not just fighting for independence or to sustain British rule. At a time when the majority of Black Americans lived in bondage with their labor seeding the economy of the fledgling nation, many accepted to call to arms hoping for freedom from the despotism of chattel slavery.

Historians estimate that between 5,000 and 8,000 Black Americans participated in the Revolution on the Patriot side, and that upward of 20,000 served with the British. More than a few fought with bravery and great prowess, but their exploits have faded from our collective memory. There are many notable and exceptional Black American figures including Crispus Attucks, Peter Salem, and James Armistead Lafayette. Their crucial contributions to the conflict have often gone unnoticed or unacknowledged within the American narrative.

Despite the patriots’ rhetoric about liberty and justice for all, America’s war for independence did not herald widespread emancipation for countless enslaved persons. But for some, the Revolution’s promise of liberty became a reality. The story of Pvt. John Scott is a brilliant example of that reality.

Pvt. John Scott's Replacement Headstone
Daughters of the American Revolution - Turtle Creek Chapter

Pvt. John Scott was born 15 Aug 1760 and died 17 Dec 1847 in Maineville, Ohio. He served as a Private with Prince Edward Company, Virginia in 1778 and did a second tour in 1779. Pvt. Scott is listed in “Forgotten Patriots: African American and American Indian patriots in the Revolutionary War: a guide to service, sources and studies,” an extensive study published by Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). The Turtle Creek Chapter in Lebanon, Ohio was apprised of Pvt. Scott and his final resting place in 2019 and filed an application for a historic preservation grant to the DAR Historian General in August 2020. Approval was received in August 2021 and the Turtle Creek Chapter worked to replace the broken headstone of American Revolutionary War Patriot John Scott in the Maineville Cemetery in preparation for a Patriot insignia marker.

On May 21, 2022, my colleague and I were able to represent the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center at the Grave Marking Ceremony honoring Revolutionary War Patriot Pvt. John Scott. Scott served as a private in the 10th regiment of the Virginia Continental Line in Company F commanded by Colonel Thomas Posey. The regiment would fight in the Battle of Monmouth, the largest and longest one day battle of the Revolutionary War.

Picture of Novella Nimmo, Christopher Miller, and Gael T. Fischer (Regent with Turtle Creek Chapter, NSDAR) , May 21, 2022
Provided By Christopher Miller

Although the war ended on September 3, 1783, Scott was paid through November 15, 1783. His pension file indicates he was entitled to bounty land available to eligible veterans. He received his certificate for one hundred acres of land and in 1811 he received arrearages in pay in the amount of $452.

It was a privilege to stand for the legacy of Black soldiers like Pvt Scott, reminding us that Black American have been critical contributors with their lives towards the ideals of America. Let us not forget the essential role Black American soldiers have played from the very beginning of America!

Christopher Miller

Senior Director of Education & Community Engagement
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

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