Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Two Verses In "My Shot" (Hamilton Musical) That Refer To Black Patriots In The American Revolution

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post highlights verses in the song "My Shot" from the musical Hamilton which refer to Black people serving in military services during the American Revolutionary War.

Some information about Black Patriots in the American Revolutionary War is given as an Addendum to this post.

The content of this post is presented for historical and educational purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those Black people who served during the American Revolutionary War. Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post and thanks to all those who are featured in the video which is embedded in this post.

For a previous pancocojams post on the song "My Shot" from the Hamilton musical, click What "I Am Not Throwing Away My Shot" REALLY Means In The Hamilton Musical

From 22 'Hamilton' Lyrics, Explained by Erin McCarthy
But we’ll never be truly free
Until those in bondage have the same rights as you and me
You and I. Do or die. Wait till I sally in
On a stallion with the first black battalion...

Like Hamilton, John Laurens served as an aide-de-camp to Washington (a position initially obtained for him by his father)*. The London-educated Laurens was an abolitionist, urging Washington to free his slaves, and in 1778 came up with a radical—and controversial—idea: Recruit slaves to the patriots' cause, then free them when their service was done. Though the Continental Congress considered his plan, it ultimately rejected the idea.

Later, Laurens would participate in a duel against Charles Lee, a general who, embarrassingly, retreated at the Battle of Monmouth against Washington’s orders, then proceeded to badmouth both Laurens and Washington. The duel is outlined in the musical's “Ten Duel Commandments.” (Hamilton served as Laurens's second and, after Laurens hit Lee in the side, convinced them not to go a second round.) Laurens was killed in August 1782 in a skirmish with British soldiers in South Carolina.”
*Here's some information about John Laurens from
"John Laurens (October 28, 1754 – August 27, 1782) was an American soldier and statesman from South Carolina during the American Revolutionary War, best known for his criticism of slavery and efforts to help recruit slaves to fight for their freedom as U.S. soldiers.[1]

Laurens gained approval from the Continental Congress in 1779 to recruit a brigade of 3,000 slaves by promising them freedom in return for fighting. He was killed in the Battle of the Combahee River in August 1782."
John Laurens' father, Henry Laurens, who is mentioned in an excerpt of a pbs article given below, was an ardent slave trader and prominent South Carolinian politician.
Here's information about the etymological meaning of the verb "sally" "a sudden attack in which a group of soldiers rush forward against an enemy"
The information given above helps explain this subsequent "My Shot" verse:

...Laurens, I like you a lot
Let’s hatch a plot blacker than the kettle callin’ the pot."...
For the complete lyrics to the song "My Shot" by Lin-Manuel Miranda as well as comments from Mr. Miranda and others, click
Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording) (2015).
Information about John Laurens is given after the second Addendum excerpt.

SHOWCASE VIDEO: Hamilton the Musical on Broadway Published on Aug 7, 2015

Check out scenes and songs from Broadway's blockbuster new musical Hamilton. Katherine Brooks
Senior Arts & Culture Editor, The Huffington Post.

..."Prior to the revolution, many free African Americans supported the anti-British cause, most famously Crispus Attucks, believed to be the first person killed at the Boston Massacre. At the time of the American Revolution, some blacks had already been enlisted as Minutemen. Both free and enslaved Africans had served in local militias, especially in the North, defending their villages against attacks by Native Americans. In March 1775, the Continental Congress assigned units of the Massachusetts militia as Minutemen. They were under orders to become activated if the British troops in Boston took the offensive. Peter Salem, who had been freed by his owner to join the Framingham militia, was one of the blacks in the militia. He served for seven years. In the Revolutionary War, slave owners often let their slaves enlist in the war with promises of freedom, but many were put back into slavery after the conclusion of the war.[5]

In April 1775, at Lexington and Concord, blacks responded to the call and fought with Patriot forces. Prince Estabrook was wounded some time during the fighting on 19 April, probably at Lexington.[6] The Battle of Bunker Hill also had African-American soldiers fighting along with white Patriots, such as Peter Salem; Salem Poor, Barzillai Lew, Blaney Grusha,[7] Titus Coburn, Alexander Ames, Cato Howe, and Seymour Burr. Many African Americans, both enslaved and free, wanted to join with the Patriots. They believed that they would achieve freedom or expand their civil rights.[8] In addition to the role of soldier, blacks also served as guides, messengers, and spies.

American states had to meet quotas of troops for the new Continental Army, and New England regiments recruited black slaves by promising freedom to those who served in the Continental Army. During the course of the war, about one fifth of the northern army was black.[9] At the Siege of Yorktown in 1781, Baron Closen, a German officer in the French Royal Deux-Ponts Regiment, estimated the American army to be about one-quarter black.[10]

African American sailors
Because of manpower shortages at sea, both the Continental Navy and Royal Navy signed African Americans into their navies. Even southern colonies, which worried about putting guns into the hands of slaves for the army, had no qualms about using blacks to pilot vessels and to handle the ammunition on ships.

In state navies, some blacks served as pilots: South Carolina had significant numbers of black pilots.[11]
Some African Americans had been captured from the Royal Navy and used by the Patriots on their vessels.

Patriot resistance to using African Americans
Revolutionary leaders began to be fearful of using blacks in the armed forces. They were afraid that slaves who were armed would rise against them. Slave owners became concerned that military service would eventually free their people. [12]
In May 1775, the Massachusetts Committee of Safety, enrolled slaves in the armies of the colony. The action was adopted by the Continental Congress when they took over the Patriot Army. Horatio Gates in July 1775 issued an order to recruiters, ordering them not to enroll "any deserter from the Ministerial army, nor any stroller, negro or vagabond. . ." in the Continental Army.[13] Most blacks were integrated into existing military units, but some segregated units were formed."
Click that link for information about Black people serving in the British military services during the American Revolutionary War.

From Black Revolutionary seamen; 1775 - 1783
"Unlike the Continental Army, the Navy recruited both free and enslaved blacks from the very start of the Revolutionary War -- partly out of desperation for seamen of any color, and partly because many blacks were already experienced sailors, having served in British and state navies, as well as on merchant vessels in the North and the South.

To both the enslaved and free, privately owned vessels were more attractive than the Continental or state navies. For runaway slaves, there was less chance of being detected by slavecatchers, and for all crew members, there were greater financial rewards. Philadelphia's free blacks, for instance, were more inclined to serve on privateers than in Pennsylvania navy.

One of the most famous black seamen was James Forten, who enlisted on the privateer Royal Louis as a powder boy, was captured along with his ship's crew, and spent time on a British prison barge before being released in a prisoner exchange. Forten went on to become a successful businessman and a leader of Philadelphia's African American community.

Although Black seamen performed a range of duties, usually the most menial ones, they were particularly valued as pilots. Others served as shipyard carpenters and laborers. Both Maryland's and Virginia's navies made extensive use of blacks, even purchasing slaves specifically for wartime naval service. Virginia's state commissioner noted that it was cheaper to hire blacks than whites, and that whites could get exemption from military service by substituting a slave.

In his memoirs, U.S. Navy Commodore James Barron, who served as a captain in the Virginia navy during the war, recalled several black men among the "courageous patriots who... in justice to their merits should not be forgotten." He mentions four slaves: Harry, Cupid, Aberdeen (who subsequently befriended Patrick Henry and was freed by the Virginia General Assembly) and the "noble African" pilot known as "Captain" Mark Starlins.

In 1775, Jeremiah Thomas, a pilot, fisherman, "and Free Negroe of considerable property," was hanged and burned in Charleston for allegedly plotting an insurrection, timed to coincide with the arrival of the new British governor. Henry Laurens*, a slave trader and the president of South Carolina's patriotic First Provincial Congress, reported that Thomas was "puffed up by prosperity, ruined by Luxury and debauchery and grown to an amazing pitch of vanity and ambition."

Two slaves, one of them Thomas's brother-in-law, testified that Thomas had urged other blacks to assist the British Royal Navy in capturing Charleston harbor, assuring them that "the War was come to help the poor Negroes."

Thomas was not the only African American seaman to ally himself with the British. Many royal naval vessels were piloted by blacks -- some of them runaways, other enslaved to loyalist masters, and still others pressed into service. Possibly a quarter of the slaves who escaped to the British made their way onto ships, some signing onto the ships' crews or joining marauding expeditions of bandits commonly referred to as "Banditti."...
*Note that the "Laurens" in the Hamilton musical is John Laurens. John Laurens was the eldest son of Henry Laurens, who is mentioned in this pbs article were from South Carolina. Information about John Laurens is given above.

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