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Chattanooga African American Museum

Chattanooga African American Museum
200 East Martin Luther King Boulevard
423-266-8658

African Americans have done their part in every war that America has participated even though most history books will not present this in a clear fashion.

Just as Crispus Attucks had shed the first blood of the Revolution, Africans in America were involved in the first major incident leading to the War of 1812. On June 22, 1807, the American frigate Chesapeake was stopped by the British ship, HMS Leopard. The British removed parts of the crew and alleged them to be deserters from the British navy. Of the four men removed, three were Africans in America.

The Chesapeake affair greatly angered Americans because they resented Britain’s failure to honor U.S. maritime rights. Also, America had an eye on expanding the USA territories into Florida, the Northwest, and Canada. All of these factors led to America declaring war on June 12, 1812.

Africans in America were excluded in the opening of the War of 1812 because of two Congressional Acts that prohibited Negroes, mulattoes, or Indians from enlisting into the Militia. In 1814, however, whites reversed their attitudes when British forces attacked and burned the Capitol at Washington, D.C. Many white citizens in New York and Pennsylvania, who had formerly opposed Africans in the military, now welcomed them into the ranks to defend their cities against the advancing enemy.

Once again need overcame racism. Cities began passing laws to recruit “colored” soldiers with white officers in command. Freemen could enlist as well as slaves if their owners, who would receive their enlistment bonuses and wages, permitted. The condition of enlistment granted the Africans their freedom after three years of enlistment and promised them $124 in money and 160 acres of land.

General Andrew Jackson, U.S. Army commander, was offered African troops to support his efforts in New Orleans. Whites across the South protested, but Jackson welcomed the additional soldiers and began to recruit even more African soldiers. Jackson’s primary motivation was twofold: He needed to increase his own numbers while denying the enemy potential recruits and also sought to counter British efforts to create unrest among the local African population.


Chattanooga African American Museum is not affiliated with AmericanTowns Media