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.
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
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.]
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
:: June 18, 1812
The War of 1812 begins.
:: March 3,
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
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
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
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.
Battle of Lake Erie, arguably the most
significant naval battle of the war, one in
every 10 to 12 sailors was of African
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
Combat Multipliers — African-American
Soldiers in Four Wars
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
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
ratified, ending slavery and involuntary servitude in
See more under
Slavery and Abolition