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Deposition Regarding Runaway Slave in Vermont Militia, April 20, 1782

Deposition from Bildad Benion of Saratoga that he found the slave enlisted in the Vermont militia

Deposition from Bildad Benion of Saratoga that he found the slave enlisted in the Vermont militia

New York State Archives, NYSA_A0142-77_4453_D
Document Description
Papers from Samuel Rowland of Tomahanick to Governor George Clinton, with a letter from Governor Chittenden of Vermont relating to the recovery of a runaway slave belonging to him, April 20, 1782.
The deposition of Bildad Benson of Saratoga District…The deponent says that himself and his brother Jacob Benson…employed by Samuel Rowlad of Scaticoke District…a runaway negro. That heargin said negro was…they proceeded thither 9having with them…advertisement of said negro) that in Arlington…said negro a prisoner, that while the said negro…at Arlington a party of armed men…to the dep[onen]t) came and threat[ened]…deponents and his said brother to dea[th]…immediately discharge said negro) and….from the dep[onen]t his said brother. The…party (a certain James Curry late of Scat[icoke]…dep[onen]t is since informed) with a drawn…twice or three times over the should[er]…way home in Arlington aforesaid they…party of armed men the said negro being one of said party who stopped…demanding the advertisem[ent]…up one of said party…[s]uch abusive lang[uage]…
Bennington April 8
According to my word to you of…servent and found him in A…found he had enlisted into the…Vermont and the peoples th[ere] sade if I should attempt to …should [illegible]…would not let…I think it best…
Five Dollars Reward
Runaway on Saturday night the 30th March…from the subscribed living at Tomhaneck…a molatterservand about twenty years old five feet…inches high had on when he went off a bear skit coat…jacket, sheep skin briches, one striped wool shirt…white linen shirt, two pair of stockings. It is supposed he [is] in Vermont and will endeavor to get to Canada. Whosoever…him so that I can have him again hsall have the above reward and reasonable charges paid.
Samuel Rowland
....Handerson has liberty to …within named servant if to be found within the state and return him to his master. Should he have contracted with any person or persons to go into our service I advise that he be recessed on his paying back any such that he may have received as bounty or wages as it is much safer for us to employ our own people to guard our frontiers than to employ strangers.
Arlington 9th April 1782
Tho[ma]s Chittenden
I remind …and have considered its contents…shall not give any particular orders…to him as I have no evidence of his being y[our] servant. I have given him my advice in the matter since which I am told he has engaged in our service. If he is your property and withholden from you unlawfully our law…open for you to which you can have full access without molestation. The savage treatment the friends to the…meet with from your people does not…any particular [illegible] of this people…in your [illegible].
I am Sir with the greatest [illegible] to the conduct of …the [illegible] in y[our] neighborhood
Your H[umble} Serv[an]t
Tho[ma]s Chittenden
Col. Samuel Rowland

…I mean not by this…[ca]use you of [illegible] us…told your wishes…conduct has been quite the reverse

Historical Context
Most African Americans in the American colonies were enslaved during the time of the Revolution. However, there were pockets of free African Americans living in various cities throughout the colonies. A major strategy of the British was to offer freedom for any African Americans who would fight for the British during the war. On the other hand, the colonists were fighting for the freedom of “all men” according to the Declaration of Independence. African Americans were caught in the middle of a war between two white nations who had at one time or another supported the enslavement of Africans in the American colonies. British soldiers were quick to free the slaves of colonists, but refused to free the slaves of loyalists.  They considered it legal to free the property of the rebels, but could not legally take the property of loyalists. Such a contradiction put many African Americans in a precarious state during the war.           


Essential Question
How did the war affect the lives of African Americans?        
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