Analysis : Unsung Hero : James Armistead

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Simon Gardner 8-4 #6
Social Studies, Gilligan
November 28, 2017

Unsung Hero: James Armistead

James Armistead is an important yet unsung hero of the American Revolution. Not many Americans have even heard his name and they should. Without him the Americans would have lost the battle of Yorktown which was an important victory for the Americans. In the textbook he only has three sentences on the sidebar (American Nation, p. 187). African-Americans are often overlooked in history due to the racism that has continued even today.

James Armistead was a Patriot spy during the American Revolution. He would go on to earn the praise of Marquis de Lafayette. He was born a slave to William Armistead in 1760; not much is known about his
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In the summer of 1781, George Washington instructed Lafayette to gain information of Cornwallis’s troops, equipment, and strategies. Lafayette sent a number of spies to infiltrate Cornwallis’s camp, but the only one to gain valuable information was James Armistead (blackpast.org). This information was vital to the Patriot victory in Yorktown (historyisfun.org). The battle was so important because Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington and it was the last major land battle of the Revolutionary war. (landofthebrave.info). Without Armistead the Patriots might have lost the battle of Yorktown and therefore lost the war.

After the war, Armistead went back to work for William Armistead to continue life as a slave. He was not eligible for freedom because he was a slave-spy, not a slave soldier. Lafayette returned to America in 1784 and was disappointed when he found Armistead as a slave (blackpast.org). Lafayette wrote a testimonial on Armistead’s behalf which set him free two years later, it read:
“This is to certify that the bearer by the name of James has done essential services to me while I had the honour to command in this state. His intelligences from the enemy’s camp were industriously collected and faithfully delivered. He perfectly acquitted himself with some important commissions I gave him and appears to me entitled to every reward his situation can admit of.
Done under my hand, Richmond,
November 21st, 1784.
Lafayette”
(Lafayette, 1784)

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