3 Replies Latest reply on Jan 4, 2018 11:44 AM by Hollis Gentry

    Did slaves fight for the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War?

    Anne Zieger Newbie

      I am researching the history of a slave named Cato who apparently fought in the Continental Army during the Revolution. All I know about him is that he was "owned" by Hercules Mulligan, who provided living space for Alexander Hamilton early in Hamilton's life.

        • Re: Did slaves fight for the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War?
          Rebecca Collier Navigator

          Dear Ms. Zieger,

           

          Thank you for contacting the History Hub! There is documentation that indicate slaves fought on both sides because they were promised freedom. The National Archives has various resources concerning the Revoluntionary War at https://www.archives.gov/research/military/american-revolution.

           

          On the Colonial Williamsburg web site, there are various articles written that may be of interest at http://www.history.org/foundation/journal/autumn07/slaves.cfm

           

          For additional information and assistance, please contact NARA's Archives I Reference Section (RDTR1), National Archives Main Building, 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC  20408-0001. The email address is archives1reference@nara.gov.

           

          We hope this is helpful. Best of luck with your research!

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          • Re: Did slaves fight for the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War?
            Hollis Gentry Newbie

            Try checking Alexander Rose's Washington's Spies: The Story of America's First Spy Ring, Bantam Dell, 2007 for preliminary research that has been done on Cato's story.  You can also consult a wiki article on what's been assembled regarding Cato's involvement in the American Revolution. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cato_(spy).

             

            It does not look as though Cato "fought" in the revolution but rather served as a courier assisting someone with spying activities.

             

            Try consulting sources listed in a wiki article on Cato https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cato_(spy), publications by Alexander Rose Washington's Spies: The Story of America's First Spy Ring, Bantam Dell, 2007, and Stephen Knot Secret and Sanctioned: Covert Operations and the American Presidency, Oxford University Press, 1996.

             

            In attempting to document the story I suggest that you first work on documenting Mulligan's life, his family, residency, occupation, business, social activities, and other associates, before attempting to document Cato.

             

            You need to document Hercules Mulligan in historical context (dates, places, events, etc.) in order to lay a foundation for possible/plausible insertions of Cato's historical contexts in a Revolutionary War timeline, since Cato's "service" in the revolution is tied to serving as a courier for his master who spied for the patriots.

             

            Be mindful that spies tended to obscure their true identities.  Thus you may not be able to locate documentation of Mulligan and Cato's spy activities.  Since it appears that Mulligan operated a business and lived in New York during the British occupation of that city, you may have to search through British as well as colonial (American) sources for documentation on Mulligan.  Post-war sources may also reveal evidence on Mulligan and possibly on Cato as well.

             

            Although I assisted with the research on identifying African American participation in the Revolutionary War, I cannot recall locating resources on Cato's service.  Fortunately the DAR has made the research freely available in two PDF documents which can be downloaded from their website: Forgotten Patriots Book | Daughters of the American Revolution

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