Item #8881 A Descriptive List of Capt. James Tisdales Compy 3rd Massachusts…
A Descriptive List of Capt. James Tisdales Compy 3rd Massachusts…
A Descriptive List of Capt. James Tisdales Compy 3rd Massachusts…
A Descriptive List of Capt. James Tisdales Compy 3rd Massachusts…
A Descriptive List of Capt. James Tisdales Compy 3rd Massachusts…

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A Descriptive List of Capt. James Tisdales Compy 3rd Massachusts…

Quarters, New Boston, [New York], 3 February 1782. Manuscript on laid paper, 16.25” x 13.375”. Docketed on verso. CONDITION: Very good.

A rare Revolutionary War descriptive list or “size list” recording the names and associated particulars of the forty-seven members of a company in the 3rd Massachusetts Regiment, including two African American soldiers, compiled while the unit was encamped on the Hudson River north of New York.

Far less common than muster rolls, descriptive lists are also considerably more informative, recording, as here, not only the name of each soldier, but also his age, height, complexion, hair color, eye color, occupation, home town, date of enlistment, period of enlistment, and the name of the person who enlisted him. The list offered here is particularly notable for the inclusion of two men, Thomas Dean and Moses Gardner, whose complexion is described as black. Dean was a twenty year old cordwinder (shoemaker) from Dorchester, five feet, nine inches tall, with black eyes and black hair, who enlisted on May 2nd, 1781 for a period of three years. Gardner was a sixteen year old blacksmith from Dartmouth, five feet, one inch tall, with black eyes and black hair, who enlisted for three years on April 4th, 1781.

Moses Gardner appears on a list of Massachusetts men raised to serve in the Continental Army on December 2nd, 1780. He went to Springfield the following May. Gardner served the majority of his time under Captain Tisdale, and appears on muster rolls in 1781 and 1782 at Camp Phillipsburg, Camp Peekskill, Camp Highlands, and New Boston. A surviving descriptive list dated several months later than the one offered here lists his occupation as simply “yeoman” and “laborer.” He was discharged on December 17th, 1783, shortly after the regiment dissolved.

Thomas Dean was similarly recruited on June 5th, 1780, with an initial term of six months, and arrived in Springfield just a month later. In February, 1781, following his initial service as a Private in Lieut. Col. Whiting’s Company of the 6th Massachusetts Regiment, he re-enlisted for a three year term, receiving a bounty from the town of Dighton and, after a brief stint under Captain Tew in the 2nd Regiment, joined Captain Tisdale in the 3rd Regiment. Like Gardner, Dean appears on records from Camp Peekskill, Camp Phillipsburg, Camp Highlands, and New Boston, in most instances reporting as a brigade wagoner. He was discharged on November 1st, 1783.

James Tisdale was a hatter by trade who, on April 19th, 1775, answered the Lexington Alarm as part of Captain Sabin Mann’s Medfield militia, afterwards enlisting and serving most of the next several years in Col. John Greaton’s (sometimes Groton) 3rd Massachusetts regiment, where he would have seen action at the Battles of Bunker Hill, Trois-Rivières, Valcour Island, and Saratoga. In 1780 he became Captain of the 5th Company of the same regiment, spending much of 1781 and 1782 in the Hudson Valley region—what Washington called the “Key of America”—at West Point, Camp Phillipsburg, Camp Peekskill, Camp Highlands, and New Boston, where he appears on muster rolls for both January and February of 1782, by that time captaining the 3rd Company. The regiment was disbanded on November 3rd, 1783, after which Tisdale bought a farm in Walpole, Massachusetts, married, and had three daughters. 

Notwithstanding several early and ineffectual attempts to prevent Black Americans from serving in the military—including a short-lived order from George Washington himself, issued in November of 1775 stating that “Neither Negroes, Boys unable to bare Arms, nor old men unfit to endure the fatigues of the campaign, are to be inlisted”—the Revolutionary War saw the most highly integrated American military until President Truman signed Executive Order 9981, two years after the close of World War II. Black and Native American soldiers in the Continental Army received the same pay, provisions, and other necessities as their white comrades. Injustices remained, however: not to mention those who were forced by white owners to serve in their steads, African Americans were more often compelled to enlist than whites, and were confined, both on land and at sea, to lower-ranking positions. In the North, many enslaved African Americans were promised freedom following their service, and, as one scholar notes, the “major loyalty” of Black soldiers in the Revolutionary War was neither to a “place nor a people, but to a principle. Insofar as he had freedom of choice, he was likely to join the side that made him the quickest and best offer in terms of those ‘unalienable rights’ of which Mr. Jefferson had spoken” (Kaplan, p. 3). Although accurate numbers are difficult to obtain, it is generally agreed that some 5,000 Black men fought for American independence, participating in every major battle of the war and most, if not all, minor engagements. “It was during the Revolutionary War that black men were introduced into the armed services, and here began their history of achievements and of heroism which has to a great extent been omitted from books of American history” (Greene, p. 3). 

A rare “descriptive list” providing evidence of African American engagement in the War of Independence.

REFERENCES: “10 Facts: Black Patriots in the American Revolution,” American Battlefield Trust online; Greene, Robert Ewell. Black Defenders of America : 1775-1973 (Chicago, 1974); Kaplan, Sidney. The Black Presence in the Era of the American Revolution 1770-1800 (National Portrait Gallery, 1973); Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors in the Revolutionary War, 1775-1801 (Boston, 1896), Vol. 4, pp. 621-622, Vol. 6, p. 274, Vol. 15, pp. 783-784. 

Item #8881

Price: $6,500.00

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