[In 1778 General Varnum proposed to Washington that a battalion of negro slaves be raised, to be commanded by Colonel Greene, Lieutenant-Colonel Olney, and Major Ward. Washington
approved of the plan, which, however, met with strong opposition from the Rhode Island Assembly. The black regiment Was, however, raised, tried, ' and not found wanting.' As Mr. Moore declares:
"In the battle of Rhode-Island, August 29th, 1778, said by Lafayette to have been ' the best fought action of the whole war,' this newly raised black regiment, under Colonel Greene, distinguished itself by deeds of desperate valor, repelling three times the fierce assaults of an overwhelming force of Hessian troops. And so they continued to discharge their duty with zeal and fidelity — never losing any of their first laurels so gallantly won. It is not improbable that Colonel John Laurens witnessed and drew some of his inspiration from the scene of their first trial in the field."
A company of negroes from Connecticut was also raised and commanded by the late General Humphreys, who was attached to the family of Washington. Of this company cotemporary account says that they ' conducted themselves with fidelity and efficiency throughout the war.' So, little by little, the negro came to be an effective aid, after all thu formal rejections of his service. In 1780, an act was passed in Maryland to procure one thousand men to serve three years. The property in the State was divided into classes of sixteen thousand pounds, each of which was, within twenty days, to furnish one recruit, who might be either a freeman or a slave. In 1781, the Legislature resolved to raise, immediately, seven hundred and fifty negroes, to be incorporated with the other troops.
In Virginia an act had been passed in 1777, declaring that free negroes, and free negroes only, might be enlisted on the footing with white men. Great numbers of Virginians who wished to escape military service, caused their slaves to enlist, having tendered them to the recruiting-officers as substitutes for free persons, whose lot or duty it was' to serve in the army, at the same time representing that these slaves were freemen. ' On the expiration of the term of enlistment, the former owners attempted to force them to return to a state of servitude, with equal disregard of the principles of justice and their own solemn promise.'
The iniquity of such proceedings soon raised a storm of indignation, and the result was the passage of an Act of Emancipation, securing freedom to all slaves who had served their term in the war.]