Black Soldiers in the War of 1812

Here is the main article for the War of 1812.

It follows a timeline, including relevant events prior to and after the war.


:: May 8, 1792

Twenty years prior to the War of 1812, the following Act of Congress was passed:

An act more effectually to provide for the national defence, by establishing an uniform militia throughout the United States

Be it enacted ... That each and every free able bodied white male citizen of the respective states, resident therein, who is or shall be of the age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years, (except as is hereinafter excepted,) shall, severally and respectively, be enrolled in the militia by the captain or commanding officer of the company, within whose bounds such citizen shall reside, and that within twelve months after the passing of this act.

So, by law, no blacks for the defense.


:: February 8, 1798

Six years later, the Act to reduce into one, the several Acts respecting Slaves, Free Negroes, Mulattoes and Indians, was approved. Sec. 5 reads as follows:

No negro, mulatto, or Indian, whatsoever, shall keep or carry any gun, powder, shot, club, or other weapon whatsoever, offensive or defensive, but all and every gun, weapon and ammunition found in the possession or . . .  [etc.]

Nevertheless, if we read on, this Act allowed for a "negro, mulatto, and Indian," provided they were "living at any frontier plantation," to "be permitted to keep and use guns... by license from a justice of the peace of the county" etc.

But just when we get excited about a potential lessening of legal racism, section 8 bums us out with a two dollar fine for "master, mistress or overseer of a family, [that] shall knowingly permit or suffer any slave not belonging to him or her to be and remain upon his or her plantation above four hours at one time, without leave of the owner of overseer of such slave . . . "

Does that mean that the War of 1812 was an all-white affair?

Interestingly, not so.


:: March 2, 1807

An act of March 2, 1807, forbade importation of slaves into the U.S.


:: June 18, 1812

The War of 1812 begins.


:: March 3, 1813

On March 3, 1813, the Act for the regulation of seamen on board the public and private vessels of the United States, was passed. It decreed:

... it shall not be lawful to employ on board any of the public or private vessels of the United States any person or persons except citizens of the United States, or persons of colour, natives of the United States.

Clearly, this law was the result of necessity, not an embrace of human rights. Blacks did a job that whites didn't want, it was as simple as that. But regardless, at least in theory, this law forced all citizens to look at "persons of colour, natives" with more appreciation.

Understandably, the white man felt a bit queasy handing a gun to the black man that he had up to that point gravely mistreated. It was a gamble because the possibility of a slave revolt was real.

Additionally, the British exploited the situation by promising black deserters their freedom, an invitation that was accepted by some. But of course it was a lie. After the war, the British re-sold those deserters into slavery.

Nevertheless, the majority did not go awol. As a matter of fact, persons of African descent, fighting with U.S. forces for America, had a significant impact on the War of 1812.

As the law of 1813 provided, most blacks served as sailors. But the most fame earned the Battalion of Free Men of Color under Andrew Jackson in Louisiana.


During the Battle of Lake Erie, arguably the most significant naval battle of the war, one in every 10 to 12 sailors was of African descent.

Oliver H. Perry, commander of the naval forces at Lake Erie, who had initially complained about being sent so many blacks, soon welcomed all able-bodied black sailors. [...]

The most noted units composed of black soldiers to serve during the war were undoubtedly two battalions of free black soldiers from New Orleans.

Lieutenant Colonel Krewasky A. Salter
Combat Multipliers — African-American Soldiers in Four Wars

More under
Battle of New Orleans


Still, it took another 50 years until slavery was abolished in the United States.


:: December 24, 1814

In the peace Treaty of Ghent, concluding the War of 1812, both Britain and the U.S. promised to work toward abolition of slavery.


:: August 28, 1833

The British Parliament passed the Abolition of Slavery Act, which applied from August 1, 1834.


:: December 6, 1865

The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, ending slavery and involuntary servitude in the country.


See more under Slavery and Abolition




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Definition — What is Slavery?

The condition or fact of being entirely subject to, or under the domination of, some power or influence.


Definition — What is an Abolitionists?

An abolitionists is "one who aims at or advocates the abolition of any institution or custom."


Definition —What Is Chattel?

Chattel refers to slaves or bondmen.


Definition —What Is an Indentured Servant?

In the 17th century, an indentured servant, black or a white, served voluntarily in the American colonies in return for their passage. Pretty soon it became clear, however, that a white person could re-enter society after his years of service. A black person, not so much.

Definition —What Is a Manumit?

A manumit is a freed bondman.

Definition —What Is the Middle Passage?

The middle part of a slave's journey, the crossing of the Atlantic Ocean.



Slavery Today

To fight slavery today see also


and La Strada International - European Network against Trafficking in Human Beings




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Maps: Slave Trade in History


Five World Maps: Slave Trade in History 1400-1900
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World Map 1400-1900 Slave Trade: Raiding Zones, Deportees
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1400-1600 World Map Slave Trade
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Slavery and Emancipation in the United States, 1777-1865. Inset: The Region South of the Great Lakes.
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1860 United States Slave Population (Huge Map)
United States 1860 Slave Population (Huge Map)



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Search for African name, ship name, search by time frame, age, height, gender, age, place of origin, embarkation, disembarkation, browse through educational materials, image collection, tables, timelines, maps, and then some.

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