Virginia Memory, Library of Virginia
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Fighting the Revolution—Virginians in the Battle

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  • Legislative Petitions, Prince William Co., n.d. [Received  June 7, 1781], Record Group 78, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia., LVA
    Billy Petition
  • Richard Clough Anderson–Allen Latham Collection, 1771–1887, Box 11, Folder 1, Accession 23634d. Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia., LVA
    Land Office Warrant
  • Legislative Petition for James, Slave Belonging to William Armistead, November 30, 1786, Box 179, Folder 10, Library of Virginia, Richmond,Virginia., LVA
    James Lafayette Petition
  • Letter, William H. Cabell to Speaker of the House of Delegates. January 28, 1808. Manuscript. RG 3, Governor's Office, Executive Letter Books, William H. Cabell, July 8, 1807–March 9, 1808. Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia., LVA
    Anna Maria Lane Pension
  • Pratt, Matthew, Mary Willing Byrd (Mrs. William Byrd III) Oil painting on canvas, Original. Virginia State Artwork Collection: acquired 1920, Library of Virginia., LVA
    Mary Willing Byrd Portrait
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Fighting the Revolution—
Virginians in the Battle

Whether they picked up a weapon or watched from the sidelines, every person in the Commonwealth was affected by the fighting of the Revolutionary War. One segment of the population, the free and enslaved African Americans, had a particularly hard choice. By the end of the war, both the Americans and the British were offering freedom to slaves who would join the fight on their respective sides. The rhetoric and ideals of the American Revolution were definitely known to enslaved people as were the promises made by both the Americans and the British. Essentially individuals like James and Billy, two enslaved men who ended up on opposite sides of the war, had to decide which side constituted the safest choice for their own security and ultimate freedom.

People Featured in This Unit:

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  • Billy (fl. 1770s–1780s)
  • Mary Willing Byrd (1740–1814)
  • Charles Cornwallis, second earl Cornwallis (1738–1805)
  • George III (1738–1820)
  • Patrick Henry (1736–1799)
  • Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826)
  • James Lafayette (ca. 1760–1830)
  • Marquis de Lafayette (1757–1834)
  • Anna Maria Lane (fl. 1776–1807)
  • Richard Henry Lee (1733–1794)
  • John Murray, fourth earl of Dunmore (ca. 1730–1809)
  • Peyton Randolph (ca. 1722–1775)
  • George Washington (1732–1799)
  • William Woodford (1734–1780)
  • Edmund Pendleton (1721–1803)
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