"I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves." —Harriet Tubman ( March 1822 - 10 March 1913 ), abolitionist

James Armistead was an African American spy during the American Revolution and a genuine war hero. Born in Virginia as a slave to William Armistead in 1760, he volunteered to join the army in 1781. After gaining the consent of his owner, Armistead was stationed to serve under the Marquis de Lafayette, the commander of French forces allied with the American Continental Army. Lafayette employed Armistead as a spy. While working for Lafayette he successfully infiltrated British General Charles Cornwallis's headquarters posing as a runaway slave hired by the British to spy on the Americans.

While pretending to be a British spy, Armistead gained the confidence of General Benedict Arnold and General Cornwallis. Arnold was so convinced of Armistead's pose as a runaway slave that he used him to guide British troops through local roads. Armistead often traveled between camps, spying on British officers, who spoke openly about their strategies in front of him. Armistead documented this information in written reports, delivered them to other American spies, and then return to General Cornwallis's camp.

James Armistead Lafayette was an enslaved African American who served the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War under the Marquis de Lafayette. As a double agent, he was responsible for reporting the activities of Benedict Arnold after he had defected to the British, and of Lord Cornwallis during the run-up to the Battle of Yorktown. He fed the British false information while disclosing very accurate and detailed accounts to the Americans. Active: 1781 - 1783.

In the summer of 1781, General George Washington sent a message to General Lafayette, instructing him to keep his forces strong and to inform him of Cornwallis's equipment, military personnel, and future strategies.

Lafayette sent several spies to infiltrate Cornwallis's camp, yet none proved able to produce valuable information for him until he received Armistead's reports dated July 31, 1781. The information in these reports helped Lafayette trap the British at Hampton. Later that summer Armistead's reports helped the Americans win the battle at Yorktown, prompting the British to surrender.

After the Revolution, Lafayette praised Armistead for his dedication and instrumental role in the surrender at Yorktown. Armistead returned to William Armistead after the war to continue his life as a slave, as he was not eligible for emancipation under the Act of 1783 for slave-soldiers (he was considered a slave-spy).

In 1784, Lafayette found Armistead in Virginia and was disappointed to find he was still a slave.  Lafayette wrote a testimonial on Armistead's behalf and two years later the Virginia General Assembly emancipated him. It was at this time that Armistead made "Lafayette" his last name, in honor of the General.

After receiving his freedom, he moved nine miles south of New Kent County in Virginia, bought forty acres of land and began farming. Armistead married, raised a large family and was granted $40 a year by the Virginia legislature as pension for his services during the American Revolution.

James Armistead Lafayette died in 1807ma at the age of 72 in Virginia.

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James Armistead ( 1735 - 1807 ).

COLORED TROOPS in the CIVIL WAR

Approximately 180,000 African-Americans comprising 163 units served in the Union Army during the Civil War, and many more African-Americans served in the Union Navy. Both free Africans-Americans and runaway slaves joined the fight.

On July 17, 1862, Congress passed two acts allowing the enlistment of African-Americans, but official enrollment occurred only after the September, 1862 issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation. In general, white soldiers and officers believed that black men lacked the courage to fight and fight well.

In October 1862, African-American soldiers of the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteers silenced their critics by repulsing attacking Confederates at the Battle of Island Mound, Missouri. By August 1863, 14 Negro Regiments were in the field and ready for service.

At the battle of Port Hudson, Louisiana, May 27, 1863, the African-American soldiers bravely advanced over open ground in the face of deadly artillery fire. Although the attack failed, the black solders proved their capability to withstand the heat of battle.

Below is an excerpt from February 1, 1863 report by Colonel T. W. Higginson, commander of the First Regiment South Carolina Volunteers (Union) after the January 23 - February 1, 1863 Expedition from Beaufort South Carolina, up the Saint Mary's River in Georgia and Florida:

No officer in this regiment now doubts that the key to the successful prosecution of this war lies in the unlimited employment of black troops. Their superiority lies simply in the fact that they know the country, while white troops do not, and, moreover, that they have peculiarities of temperament, position, and motive which belong to them alone.

Instead of leaving their homes and families to fight, they are fighting for their homes and families, and they show the resolution and sagacity that a personal purpose gives. It would have been madness to attempt, with the bravest white troops what I have successfully accomplished with the black ones.

Everything, even to the piloting of the vessels and the selection of the proper points for cannonading, was done by my own soldiers.

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