It’s Hump Day! We are halfway through the week. This week’s open thread theme has been focusing on African-Americans and the Revolutionary War.
William “Billy” Flora (fl. 1775–1818) was a free-born African American from Virginia who served as a soldier on the Patriot side in the American Revolutionary War. He fought under Colonel William Woodford in the Battle of Great Bridge in December 1775, where he is widely acknowledged as the hero of the battle. A sentry at the bridge reported he was the last to cross as the British advanced. As he retreated from his post, under heavy fire from the British line, he ripped up a plank from the bridge. This made the British crossing, under fire from the colonials, impossible. As a result, the British were forced to withdraw to their ships. The only casualty on the American side survived to speak very highly of Flora and his courage.
Before the war Flora owned a prosperous livery stable. After the war, with the purchase and sale of property, he grew his business into a tidy fortune.
Jack Sisson was an African-American who served in the First Rhode Island Regiment during the American Revolutionary War. Sisson was one of the key figures in the July 1777 capture of British General Richard Prescott. Sisson was among about forty troops under the command of Colonel William Barton who traversed British controlled waters to sneak up and capture Prescott. Sisson served both as the pilot for one of the boats and also used his head to break down Prescott’s door. The mission was accomplished without losses.
Oliver Cromwell (May 24, 1752 – January 1853) was an African-American soldier, who served in the American Revolutionary War. He was born a free black in Black Horse (now Columbus, New Jersey), and was raised as a farmer.
Private Cromwell served in several companies of the 2nd New Jersey Regiment between 1777 and 1783, seeing action at the battles of Trenton (1776), Princeton (1777), Brandywine (1777), Monmouth (1778), and at the final siege of Yorktown (1781).
After Yorktown, Cromwell left the army. Commander-in-Chief George Washington personally signed Cromwell’s discharge papers and also designed the Badge of Military Merit, which he awarded to Cromwell.
Some years after retirement, Cromwell applied for a veteran’s pension. Although he was unable to read or write, local lawyers, judges and politicians came to his aid, and he was granted a pension of $96 a year. He purchased a 100-acre farm outside Burlington, fathered 14 children, then spent his later years at his home at 114 East Union Street in Burlington.
Cromwell died in January 1853. He left behind several children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, but there was no one to raise a marker over the grave of the private. He lived to be 100 years old, outliving 8 of his children, and is buried in the cemetery of the Broad Street Methodist Church. His descendants live in the city to this day.