Two Encounters: Captain Abraham Van Dyck, the “Negro Man,” and Prince Pitkin

Critical Thinking

February 9, 2023
by Benjamin L. Carp Also by this Author


Journal of the American Revolution is the leading source of knowledge about the American Revolution and Founding Era. We feature smart, groundbreaking research and well-written narratives from expert writers. Our work has been featured by the New York Times, TIME magazine, History Channel, Discovery Channel, Smithsonian, Mental Floss, NPR, and more. Journal of the American Revolution also produces annual hardcover volumes, a branded book series, and the podcast, Dispatches

Captain Abraham Van Dyck of New York faced military justice twice during the Revolutionary War: first by the British for burning his hometown, and then by his fellow Continental Army officers for killing a Black soldier in camp. In each case, imperfect evidence presents historians with a puzzle. Notably, African American men were central to each incident.

I came across the stories of Van Dyck and his encounters with two Black men while researching the Great Fire of New York City in 1776. Although pieces of Van Dyck’s life survive in archives, it was difficult to recover much about the inner thoughts and motivations of the two Black men. Yet Van Dyck’s story offers a telling account of race and justice during the Revolutionary War.

Abraham Van Dyck was fifty-seven years old in 1776. A former feltmaker, he kept an inn with an enclosed tennis court at the corner of Broadway and John Street in New York City, and he treated his customers to spectacles like an eleven-foot cow and a chained leopard. He had apparently served as a marine lieutenant during the Seven Years War. Then, as captain of the New York Grenadiers, an independent company of volunteer militiamen, he hosted drill exercises and weekly meetings of local militia officers. An elite company formerly commanded by Lord Stirling, the Grenadiers wore blue coats with red facings over white waistcoats, breeches, and stockings.[1]

When the war broke out and British troops evacuated their Manhattan barracks on June 6, 1775, Marinus Willett and a crowd of active rebels stopped the soldiers and confiscated the spare weapons they were carting out of town. To hide the weapons, Willett chose the tennis court of Van Dyck, “a good Whig.” Willett and other captains in the 1st New York Regiment were soon using the tavern as a recruiting center and distributed some of the British soldiers’ arms to their men. On October 19, the “Captain of Grenadiers” helped lead a funeral procession for Michael Cresap, a Maryland rifleman (and notorious murderer of Native Americans) who had died in town.[2]

The Continental Army and New York Committee of Safety soon began fortifying Manhattan in anticipation of the British military’s return. Van Dyck’s grenadiers volunteered to build a circular battery on the Hudson River, just outside the city, “on the first Alarm of danger from the Enemy.” Upon completion, they received special commendation from General Stirling and Gen. George Washington, who had recently arrived in town on April 13, 1776.[3]

Then things took a darker turn. Later that spring, the Grenadiers led a hostile crowd that harassed one of Van Dyck’s neighbors. After two days of threats and thrown stones, the Loyalist Christopher Benson heard “that the Grenadiers were just coming” to murder him. He escaped, but the crowd moved on to ride four other Loyalists on rails. The grenadiers understood that “the army would not interfere . . . let what would be done among the Inhabitants.” In other words, if the grenadiers wanted to assault the town’s remaining Loyalists, Washington was willing to look the other way. Even so, Van Dyck’s grenadier company was quickly incorporated into Col. John Lasher’s regiment of New York levies.[4]

Van Dyck and his comrades failed to defend New York City from the British. When the redcoats landed at Kip’s Bay on September 15, most of his men fled with the rest of the Continental Army to northern Manhattan. But Van Dyck himself was left behind. “He being a heavy fat man,” wrote Gen. Alexander McDougall, “became so fatigued in the retreat from the City of New York, that he could not retire with that corps, and secreted himself in the Cedars between the City and Harlem.” British troops marched westward across the island and cut off his retreat. “Finding no prospect of escape,” he trudged back southward and “concealed himself in the City.” He later insisted that he was in the process of trying to surrender when the British found him.[5]

How and when the British found him became a matter of dispute. The records indicate that Van Dyck was arrested and imprisoned on September 16. Yet somehow, five days later, Van Dyck was still at large. On the morning of September 21, the Great Fire of New York burned a fifth of the city. British soldiers believed the fire was deliberate, and they caught perpetrators in the act. They killed several of them and imprisoned dozens more. Witnesses vividly remembered that Van Dyck was apprehended on the 21st. How could Van Dyck have suddenly emerged from his prison? Although the Americans insisted that Van Dyck was put in close confinement after he was captured, perhaps he was paroled and allowed to wander the streets of the city?[6]

September 1776: The “Negro man”

Van Dyck had chosen the Leary family’s livery stables on Cortlandt Street for his hiding place. He was just across Broadway from his own inn, and he probably knew the Learys, who were fellow officers in his regiment. Rather than scrounge for food himself—perhaps because he feared being recognized—he dispatched a Black man to bring him sustenance. Perhaps this man was enslaved by the Learys, or by Van Dyck himself. Regardless, Van Dyck’s choice turned out to be a mistake.[7]

Lt. John Innes of the Royal Artillery remembered that on September 21, as the fire raged, a “Negro man . . . accosted” him “in the Street” and offered to“show him a Man that set fire to the City.” Innes followed the informant to Leary’s house and found Van Dyck, “secreted in a Closet of one of the Bed-Chambers, which a young Lady endeavored to prevent his going into.” Innes’s encounter comes from the 1783 testimony of Maj. Stephen Payne Adye, another artillerist as well as deputy judge advocate general in the British army. As he listened to Adye’s testimony, Brig. Gen. William Martin (one of the investigating officers) piped up, recalling that he remembered Innes—one of his subordinates—telling the same story; he also recalled that he “saw this Man Vandyke soon after going by to the Provost under Guard.” The firefighter John Burns also pinpointed the timing of Van Dyck’s arrest to September 21:

I particularly remember that one Ab. Vandyke a Captain of Grenadiers in the American service was found on the morning of the fire hid in the Leary’s stables . . . I saw him taken out of these Stables when I was assisting in pulling them down to stop the progress of the fire.[8]

The British claimed that they had either first laid hold of Van Dyck on the 21st or recaptured him during the fire, and they believed he was responsible for “setting the City on Fire.”[9] Adye recalled examining Van Dyck, “whose Person he had before known,” in the Provost afterwards.[10] The British officers asked around, and they discovered that Van Dyck had threatened to burn New York “the Summer before the Town was taken,” though Van Dyck denied this.[11]

Americans disputed the date of Van Dyck’s capture—they insisted that he had been closely confined from the 16th onward—but they agreed that his Black emissary was important to the story. McDougall wrote that “the Negro, who brought him victuals betrayed him.” What motivated this man to turn Van Dyck in? Perhaps he was trying to gain favor with the British army. Perhaps he resented Van Dyck specifically, particularly if Van Dyck was his enslaver—many Black people at this time were running away, tying up the local militia, engaging in espionage, and enlisting with the British against their former masters. Or perhaps he saw it as a collective act of Black solidarity against a white officer. And what exactly did McDougall mean by “betrayed”? Had the “Negro Man” merely betrayed Van Dyck’s hiding place, or whites’ expectation that Blacks ought to serve faithfully? Van Dyck may have believed that this man owed him obedience, or at least secrecy. This anonymous Black New Yorker apparently disagreed.[12]

Van Dyck languished in the Provost for almost twenty months, because his political career as a terrorizing militia captain had made him “peculiarly Obnoxious to the Enemy.” The British were “much exasperated against him, because the Granadier Company and other Corps, used to exercise in his Tenis Court, and inclosures.” Reports surfaced that he and his fellow prisoners were victims of “the greatest Cruelty.” All the while, Van Dyck seems to have been seething over the Black man who ostensibly betrayed him.[13]

January 14, 1780: Prince Pitkin and Abraham Van Dyck

The winter of 1779–80 found Van Dyck bivouacked with the Continental Army encampment in Morristown, New Jersey. It was a bitter season, one that “proved the most intense of any winter for the last half century,” according to Capt. Samuel Richards. At one point, provisions were suspended for three days, and Richards considered killing his dog, Hector, for food. The officers huddled in worn-out clothes and their increasingly worthless pay was withheld for months. Yet Richards and his fellow officers fared better than their men, and at least he had the good grace to be abashed: “our soldiers looked up to us urging a fulfillment of promises.”[14]

Prince Pitkin of Hartford, Connecticut, was among these suffering soldiers. His first name hints at his enslaved status, while his last name was bestowed by one of Connecticut’s first families. William Pitkin III, who preceded Jonathan Trumbull as governor, died in 1769. His sons included the minister of Farmington, a superior court clerk, and a state legislator. The eldest, William Pitkin IV, manufactured gunpowder at the mill he inherited from his father, served on the state’s Council and Council of Safety; later he sat on the Superior Court and in the Continental Congress. Prince Pitkin used the family’s august surname without quite sharing in the benefits that the white Pitkins claimed as their birthright.[15]

Prince Pitkin enlisted in Capt. John Barnard’s company in Col. Samuel Wylly’s 3rd Connecticut regiment as a private soldier on May 14, 1777, for the duration of the war. Pitkin was part of a new wave of Black enlistment in the Connecticut Line, a way of filling the state’s quotas while keeping wealthier white men out of the service. He became one of dozens of Black soldiers in his regiment—one of thousands to fight for Independence. For many enslaved Black people, the burdens of Continental Army service were worth the bounty: Councilor William Pitkin apparently offered Prince and the other enslaved men on his estate their freedom in exchange for enlistment. Prince helped fill Hartford’s quota; he drew the same pay and clothing allowance as white privates. He spent many months of his service too ill to fight, which was hardly uncommon. His commanders occasionally gave him assignments away from camp. In March 1779, Col. Thomas Grosvenor granted him a furlough. Surviving muster and pay rolls give a monthly account of him until the night of January 14, 1780, when Van Dyck apparently took Prince Pitkin’s life.[16]

The men had been “starving and freezing” in a six-foot stratum of snow. As Dr. James Thacher recalled, “the sufferings of the poor soldiers can scarcely be described”—many lacked shoes, and the men slept with just a single blanket around them. “The soldiers are so enfeebled from hunger and cold, as to be almost unable to perform their military duty, or labor in constructing their huts.” In response, soldiers took up “the practice of pilfering and plundering” livestock from local farms. Did Pitkin, desperately cold and hungry, resort to stealing food or a blanket? Did he raise a hand against his officers? The evidence does not say, but Thacher noted that some men received “exemplary punishments” after a “fair trial, and conviction by a court martial.” (Washington did sentence two Pennsylvanians to death for robbery in February.) But perhaps when the offender was Black, an officer like Van Dyck might decide to skip the formalities and enact a more brutal justice. Or perhaps Pitkin had done nothing wrong at all.[17]

One way or another, Van Dyck appears to have slain Pitkin, a “Negro man” and “Negro soldier” who was “killed on the night of the 14th. day of January.” On March 7, Van Dyck requested a court martial to clear the matter up. Washington’s staff ordered the Maryland and Pennsylvania brigades to furnish captains to serve as jurors. With Col. Oliver Spencer of New Jersey presiding, these officers “made strict examination” into Van Dyck’s conduct and found it “highly justifiable.” The killing of Prince Pitkin was something Van Dyck had done “in the line of his duty” or “in the Execution of his Duty.” Washington approved the judgment.[18]

Pitkin’s Connecticut regiment treated him equally—at least on paper—but the officers of the mid-Atlantic treated him as disposable. They called his killing “highly justifiable.” This may have been true—at least in their eyes—on the basis of the evidence. Still, the war had already motivated thousands of enslaved people to flee their masters, masters that included Washington and Spencer themselves. As aggrieved slaveholders, these army officers had little reason to doubt that the taking of a Black man’s life was “justifiable” on the basis of custom, property rights, and a belief in white superiority. The Revolution inspired not just a radical “black revolt” against slavery, but also a white reaction to that radicalism.[19]

Pitkin himself, though, did not die a slave. “Prince a Free Negro” had £44.11.7 to his name—almost two years’ pay—when a probate judge back in Hartford settled his affairs. William Pitkin IV, his erstwhile master, agreed to administer Prince’s humble, hard-earned estate. It was the legacy of Prince’s short life as a soldier and a free man.[20]

After winter’s end, Washington and Gen. Philip Schuyler took a personal interest in Van Dyck’s service. In May 1780, Washington recommended him to Congress’s Board of Admiralty to be appointed a marine captain: he noted that Van Dyck “was particularly obnoxious” to New York City Loyalists “on account of his fixed opposition to their measures,” and those Loyalists’ “influence” had led to harsh treatment of “uncommon rigor” during his “long captivity.” Washington was convinced, “from a knowledge of his character and his circumstances,” that “no man, considering his abilities, has made greater sacrifice for the cause.” It was quite an endorsement for a man imprisoned for incendiarism—though Washington and his men, of course, denied that anyone in the Continental Army had acted as incendiaries.[21] Schuyler concurred: “everybody about headquarters speaks well, very well of him;” he was grateful that Van Dyck had “maintained his principles” even “under the severest tryals.” Congress assigned Van Dyck to service as a marine lieutenant aboard the frigate Saratoga, but before the year was out, he had resigned his commission. By the end of the war, he was dead.[22]

Race, Justice, and the Revolution

Van Dyck remained angry at the “Negro man” who had “betrayed” him; maybe the big grenadier captain recalled this betrayal during the snowy winter of 1780 when he killed Prince Pitkin at the Morristown encampment. We can only speculate. What seems clearer is this: Van Dyck was a freeman, a property-owner, and an officer who probably expected obedience from Black men. The “Negro man” of Manhattan and Prince Pitkin, by contrast, were waging their own fights for respect, security, and freedom despite the heavy obstacles that stood in their way.[23]

During the Great Fire of New York, a “Negro man” may have exacted a bit of revenge against the injustices of the slave system: he exposed Van Dyck as a guilty man—or framed an innocent one. We do not know what happened to this Black New Yorker. Perhaps he enlisted with a Loyalist unit and fought for the Crown. If he survived the war, he may have joined the exodus of Black Loyalists who settled in Canada, England, Sierra Leone, and elsewhere. If he stayed put, he may have remained enslaved (there were slaveowners named Van Dyck and Leary in the 1790 census) or walked free, as a third of the city’s Black population soon did.[24]

Van Dyck himself endured almost twenty months imprisoned in the Provost, no doubt at great cost to his health. A year and a half after his release, he killed Pitkin, a free “Negro soldier.” Pitkin, too, fought for American freedom, until a harsh winter and a looming officer snuffed out his dreams. We probably ought to conclude that Pitkin was the one betrayed. This time, Van Dyck went unpunished.


[1]Warren B. Stout, “Ancestral Line of the Somerset Van Dykes,” Somerset County Historical Quarterly 4, 4 (Oct. 1915), 264; William B. Aitken, Distinguished Families in America Descended from Wilhelmus Beekman and Jan Thomasse Van Dyke (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1912), 226; “The Burghers of New Amsterdam and the Freemen of New York, 1675–1866,” Collections of the New-York Historical Society 18(1885),183; General Orders, August 21, 1776, in Philander D. Chase and Frank E. Grizzard Jr., eds., The Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1994), 6:96, 97 n4 (PGW:RS); William Dunlap, History of New Netherlands, Province of New York, and State of New York, to the Adoption of the Federal Constitution(New York, 1840), 2:CLXXXVI; New York Packet, February 20, 1787; Alexander McDougall to George Washington, February 17, 1778, PGW:RS(2003), 13:572; Alan C. Aimone and Eric I. Manders, “A Note on New York City’s Independent Companies, 1775–1776,” New York History63, 1 (January 1982): 59–73; New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, August 1, November 7, 1768.

[2]“Colonel Marinus Willett’s Narrative,” in New York City during the American Revolution . . . from the Manuscripts in the Possession of the Mercantile Library Association of New York City (New York, 1861), 53–65 (quote 65); William M. Willett, A Narrative of the Military Actions of Colonel Marinus Willet, Taken Chiefly from His Own Manuscript (New York, 1831), 29–32; Joseph S. Tiedemann, Reluctant Revolutionaries: New York City and the Road to Independence, 1763–1776 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997), 231–32; New-York Journal, July 20, 1775; T. W. Egly, Jr., History of the First New York Regiment, 1775–1783 (Hampton, NH: Peter E. Randall, 1981), 1–5; Robert G. Parkinson, “From Indian Killer to Worthy Citizen: The Revolutionary Transformation of Michael Cresap,” William and Mary Quarterly 63, 1 (2006): 97–122.

[3]General Orders, April 29, 1776, PGW:RS(1991), 4:163 (“Alarm”), 163–64 n2; New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, May 6, 1776; Force, American Archives […], ed. Peter Force, 4th ser. (Washington, D.C., 1844), 5:218–20; John Varick, Jr., to Captain Richard Varick, May 14, 1776, New York City during the American Revolution, 92.

[4]Deposition of Christopher Benson, June 16, 1776, Frederick Mackenzie Papers, Box 1, folder 2, William L. Clements Library; Gaine’s Universal Register, or American and British Kalendar, for the Year 1776 (New-York, 1776), 160–61; Calendar of Historical Manuscripts Relating to the War of the Revolution . . . (Albany, N.Y., 1868), 223–24, 260, 288, 340, 370–72; PGW:RS, 6:97 n4; Force, American Archives, 4th ser. (1840, 1846), 3:149–50, 1627–29, 6:1152, 1173–74, 1179, 1366; Aimone and Manders, “Independent Companies,” 71.

[5]McDougall to Washington, PGW:RS, 13:572 (quotes); David L. Sterling, ed., “American Prisoners of War in New York: A Report by Elias Boudinot,” William and Mary Quarterly 13, 3 (July 1956): 388; see also Minutes of a Commission to Investigate the Causes of the Fire in New York City, New-York Historical Society [hereafter CCM], 68.

[6]Sterling, “American Prisoners,” 388; Joshua Loring, “Return of Prisoners taken on the Island of New-York 15th and 16 of Septr. 1776,” enclosed in George Washington to John Hancock, September 25, 1776, Letters from George Washington, vol. 2, transcripts 1776, 260, Papers of the Continental Congress, National Archives and Records Administration [hereafter NARA]; New York Committee of Safety to George Washington, Feb. 13, 1777, in Frank E. Grizzard, Jr., ed., PGW:RS(1998), 8:326–27; see also J. J. Boudinot, ed., The Life, Public Services, Addresses and Letters of Elias Boudinot […] (Boston and New York, 1896), 1:94; Helen Jordan, ed., “Colonel Elias Boudinot in New York City, February, 1778,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 24, 4 (1900): 456, 461–62; Benjamin L. Carp, The Great New York Fire of 1776: A Lost Story of the American Revolution (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2023).

[7]CCM, 15 (“Negro man”), 16, 59; Gaine’s Universal Register, 161; Michael J. O’Brien, “The Story of Old Leary Street, or Cortland Street: The Leary Family in Early New York History,” Journal of the American Irish Historical Society 15, 1 (April 1916): 112–17.

[8]CCM, 15 (“secreted”), 16 (“saw”), 59 (“particularly”).

[9]McDougall to Washington, PGW:RS, 13:572; Edwin G. Burrows, Forgotten Patriots: The Untold Story of American Prisoners during the Revolutionary War (New York: Basic, 2008), 21–23, 269 n2.

[10]CCM, 16, 51.

[11]Sterling, “American Prisoners,” 388.

[12]McDougall to Washington, PGW:RS, 13:572 (“betrayed”); CCM, 15–16;Leslie M. Harris, In the Shadow of Slavery: African Americans in New York City, 1626–1863 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), chaps. 1–2.

[13]New York Committee of Safety to Washington, Feb. 13, 1777, in PGW:RS, 8:326–27 (“Obnoxious”); Elias Boudinot to Washington, June 26, 1777, PGW:RS, ed. Frank E. Grizzard, Jr. (2000),10:128, 129 (“Cruelty”); McDougall to Washington, PGW:RS, 13:572 (“exasperated”). For Van Dyck’s exchange on May 8, 1778, see “A List of Prisoners of War, and State Prisoners Confin’d in the Provost Goal, New York, 5th. November 1777,” [John Fell], Memorandom in the Provost Goal, New York, New York Society Library.

[14]Diary of Samuel Richards: Captain of Connecticut Line, War of the Revolution, 1775–1781 (Philadelphia: Leeds and Biddle, 1909), 64 (“intense”), 65, 66 (“soldiers”).

[15]“Revolutionary War Rolls, comp. 1894–1913, documenting the period 1775–1783,” NARA M246, RG 93, roll 8, Connecticut, 3d Regiment, 1777–80, folder 43, 386; Prince-Pitkin Papers, 1780–82, Connecticut Historical Society; A. P. Pitkin, Pitkin Family of America: A Genealogy of the Descendants of William Pitkin […] (Hartford, Conn, 1887); Joseph O. Goodwin, East Hartford: Its History and Traditions (Hartford, Conn, 1879), chap. 21; John Wood Sweet, Bodies Politic: Negotiating Race in the American North, 1730–1830 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), 69–70; Judith L. Van Buskirk, Standing in Their Own Light: African American Patriots in the American Revolution (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2017), 11–12, 110.

[16]Henry P. Johnston, ed., “The Record of Connecticut Men in the Military and Naval Service during the War of the Revolution, 1775–1783,” in Record of Service of Connecticut Men in the I. War of the Revolution […] (Hartford, Conn., 1889), 177; “Revolutionary War Rolls,” NARA M246, RG 93, rolls 8–9, folder 43: 386, 398, 402, 416, 427, 449, 472, folder 46: 1–62, 95–129; Connecticut Archives, Revolutionary War, ser. 1, 30:3e; ser. 2, 56:6–15, Connecticut State Library; Receipt for balance due the soldiers of 3rd Regiment due to Depreciation of Currency, January 1, 1780, in Continental Army 1777–81, 3rd Conn. Reg.’t, Extracts from an Orderly Book 1778–79 and Papers Connected with Adjustment of Pay of Soldiers of Col. Wyllys’ Reg.’t, 1778–81, Connecticut State Library; Prince-Pitkin Papers (including informal notation), 1780–82, Connecticut Historical Society (“Free Negro”); see also Benjamin Quarles, The Negro in the American Revolution (1961; Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996), 54, 58, chap. 5; David O. White, Connecticut’s Black Soldiers, 1775–1783 (Chester, Conn.: Pequot Press, 1973), 18–21.

[17][Joseph Plumb Martin], Narrative of Some of the Adventures, Dangers and Sufferings of a Revolutionary Soldier […](Hallowell, Maine, 1830), 125 (“starving and freezing”); James Thacher, A Military Journal during the American Revolutionary War, from 1775 to 1783 (Boston, 1823), 221 (“sufferings,” “enfeebled”), 222 (“pilfering,” “exemplary,” “fair trial”); see also S. Sydney Bradford, “Discipline in the Morristown Winter Encampments,” Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society 80, 1 (January 1962): 15–17; Almon W. Lauber, ed., Orderly Books of the Fourth New York Regiment, 1778–1780, The Second New York Regiment, 1780–1783 […] (Albany: University of the State of New York, 1932), 266–67, 269, 272.

[18]For this and the following paragraph, see General Orders, March 7, 1780, in Benjamin L. Huggins, ed., PGW:RS (2016)24:646 (“Negro man,” “killed on the night”); General Orders of March 7, 12, 1780, The Writings of Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745–1799, ed. John C. Fitzpatrick (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1937), 18:81, 108 (“examination,” “Negro soldier”), 109 (“line,” “highly justifiable”); Orderly Book, February 21 to May 15, 1780, Numbered Record Books Concerning Military Operations and Service, Pay and Settlement of Accounts, and Supplies in the War Department Collection of Revolutionary War Records, Record Group 93, NARA Microfilm Publications M853, ser. 6, 35:29–30, 39, 40 (“Execution”). Fritz Hirschfeld, George Washington and Slavery: A Documentary Portrayal (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1997), chap. 15, argues that Washington treated black soldiers with equity in accordance with military protocol, but also upheld the slave system.

[19]For “black revolt,” see Graham Russell Hodges, “Black Revolt in New York City and the Neutral Zone, 1775–1783,” in Slavery, Freedom and Culture among Early American Workers (1998; New York, Routledge, 2015), 65–86. In the “Book of Negroes,” Luke Spencer was “[Formerly slave] to Oliver Spencer” and had emancipated himself in 1777; Graham Russell Hodges, ed., The Black Loyalist Directory: African Americans in Exile after the American Revolution (New York: Garland, 1996), 16, 35–36 (quote), 111–12; see also David Waldstreicher, “The Hidden Stakes of the 1619 Controversy,” Boston Review(Jan. 24, 2020),

[20]Prince-Pitkin Papers, 1780–82, Connecticut Historical Society.

[21]George Washington to Board of Admiralty, May 29, 1780,Writings of Washington, 18:443–44 (quotes), 444 n82.

[22]Philip Schuyler to James Duane, June 5, 1780, “The Duane Letters (Continued),” Publications of the Southern History Association 8, 5 (Sept. 1904): 383; Gaillard Hunt, ed., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1910),17:650–51, 661; PGW:RS 6:97 n4; At a general meeting of the Committee of Mechanicks, at Mrs. Van Dyke’s, the 27th December, 1783 (New York, 1783); New-York Packet, May 5, 1785, February 20, 1787;Daily Advertiser (New York), October 26, 1786.

[23]White, Connecticut’s Black Soldiers, 29–35, 39–43; Gwendolyn Evans Logan, “The Slave in Connecticut during the American Revolution,” Bulletin of the Connecticut Historical Society 30, 3 (January 1965): 73–80; Van Buskirk, Standing, chaps. 2–3.

[24]Ned Benton and Judy-Lynne Peters, eds., New York Slavery Records Index: Records of Enslaved Persons and Slave Holders in New York from 1525 though the Civil War (New York: John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 2017), (accessed July 30, 2018); Harris, Shadow of Slavery, 55–56.


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