When the American Revolutionary War began in 1775, black soldiers—both slaves and freemen—served with white soldiers in integrated militia units in the New England colonies. Later that year, these New England militia units became the nucleus of the newly created Continental Army, the national army of the colonies. The inclusion of black soldiers in the army was controversial.
By the end of 1775, the Continental Congress and the army's Commander-in-Chief, George Washington, decided to stop enlisting black soldiers. Washington soon reversed this decision, however, both because of manpower shortages and because the British had offered freedom to slaves who would escape from Patriot masters to join the British. Washington permitted free blacks to enlist in the Continental Army. White owners could enroll their slaves as substitute forces for their own service. On the local level, states made independent decisions about the enlistment of African Americans. Massachusetts continued to accept black soldiers in its integrated militia units. It was also one of several northern states to create a segregated unit of black soldiers. Blacks and abolitionists generally disapproved of the creation of segregated units, preferring integrated units. The Bucks of America, organized in Boston, was the name given to the all-black Massachusetts company. Little is known of the campaign history of the company, but it seems to have operated in the Boston area. It may have acted primarily as an auxiliary police or security service in the city during the war, and is not believed to have seen action against British soldiers.
George Middleton was one member of the Bucks of America. William Cooper Nell claimed he attained the rank of colonel. Middleton is the only member of the "Bucks of America" to be known by name. Other members of his unit may also have been members of the Prince Hall Freemasonry Lodge, but proof is lacking.
The dates when the Bucks were formed and disbanded are unknown.
Bucks of America flag and medallion
The company was celebrated in Boston after the American Revolution ended. Governor John Hancock and his son, John George Washington Hancock, presented the company with a white silk flag, featuring a leaping buck and a pine tree, the symbol of New England. The original flag is held by the Massachusetts Historical Society. It is believed to have been made in Boston and presented about 1789 to the military company.
A medallion was also made for the military group to commemorate their service. It is a silver planchet (55 mm x 48 mm) of thirteen stars above a buck.
- Revolutionary War casualty
- Massachusetts African American soldiers in the Revolutionary War
- Prince Hall - enlisted, free man
- Primus Hall - enlisted, free man
- Barzillai Lew - enlisted, free man
- Kearse, Gregory S. “The Bucks of America & Prince Hall Freemasonry.” Prince Hall Masonic Digest Newspaper, Washington, D.C. (2012): 8.
- Lanning, Michael Lee. African Americans in the Revolutionary War. Citadel Publishers, 2005. ISBN 0-8065-2716-1
- African Americans and the End of Slavery in Massachusetts. Massachusetts Historical Society.
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