“. . . no regiment is to be seen in which there are not negroes in abundance: and among them are able-bodied, strong, and brave fellows.” —Hessian Officer’s Testimony, October 23, 1777
On January 2, 1778, Washington forwarded a letter from General James Varnum to the governor of Rhode Island advising that his troop quota should be completed with black soldiers. In February of 1778, the Rhode Island legislature approved the request. Enlisted slaves were to receive freedom in return for military service. White Quaker Christopher Greene led Rhode Island’s first black regiment at its first engagement at the battle of Newport, July 29-August 31 1778, where it held off two Hessian regiments. This same regiment also participated at the battle of Yorktown. Slaves who enlisted in the Continental Army rarely received regular pay or bounty land. Their rewards were subsistence, freedom, and a cash payment at war’s end according to “The George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress“.
“During the winter of 1777-78, dozens of black Virginians served in every one of the state regiments, freezing, starving, and dying at Valley Forge. By February 1778, the survivors were marching with white comrades through the snow, practicing Baron von Steuben’s as yet unfamiliar drill. When the Steuben-trained army proved its mettle at Monmouth in June, about 700 blacks fought side-by-side with whites. Eight weeks later, an army report listed 755 blacks in the Continental Army, including 138 Blacks in the Virginia Line.” from (“The Revolution’s Black Soldiers” by Robert Selig)