Lineage Society

Was the Connecticut Continental Line Segregated?

Short answer: no.

The integration of military units during the American Revolution is a question that has largely yet to be touched by scholarship. Many accounts mention only that Washington banned recruitment of African American soldiers in 1775; that British Commander Lord Dunmore offered freedom to those who joined his “Ethiopian” unit in November of that year; and that Washington reversed course and allowed a segregated Rhode Island unit to be established in 1777/8. What does that mean for Connecticut?

Based on Record of Service of Connecticut Men in the War of the Revolution and a review of pension files, African American men definitely served in the Connecticut Continental Line. Most seem to have enlisted for a term of “the War” beginning in 1779. There was a segregated unit – that of Capt. David Humphreys, in the 4th Connecticut – but that unit existed only for 1781 and perhaps all of 1782. (The Compiled Military Service Records for a member show his appointment in January 1781 and have him appearing on the Muster Rolls into October 1782.) As all other units were integrated, the men of Capt. Humphreys company likely saw service in integrated units before and after this period – and any other men of color who served may have served in integrated units for the entire period.

What about the militia?

Connecticut did not have a segregated militia. A 1660 order specified that Indigenous or African American “servants” would not be required to serve in the militia. The order did not require that a person held in slavery serve in the militia, but it also did not prevent it. There was no limitation placed on the actions of a free person of color. At this point, there are no numbers available for those who actually served.

What next?

Discussion on the topic would benefit from significantly more research. Most of the extent studies of Connecticut soldiers refer to men who served on the Continental Line, and even those are few and far between. If your ancestor served either on the Line or with the militia, please share! You would help the entire state gain a better understanding of the period.