Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Fogleman, Aaron Spencer

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of History


Enslaved people resisted Atlantic chattel bondage in violent ways since the development of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. They also served as soldiers for White owners in various conflicts that also furthered White interests. Scholars of slavery and resistance in the Atlantic world have long held the belief that enslaved people in early America and the United States did not resist the Atlantic chattel system in the same ways or as frequently as other bond people in the Caribbean or Latin America. Moreover, enslaved soldiers are often portrayed as loyal subjects who fought in war and armed conflict to advance imperial interests including slavery. This dissertation examines how enslaved soldiers interpreted violent upheavals and compares their response to conventional incidents of slave insurrection and marronnage throughout the Atlantic. The comparative analysis offers new insight into how enslaved Black people interpreted several conflicts in early American history, and contributes to recent scholarship that has re-conceptualized our understanding of the nature of slave resistance and connections to warfare.

This project employs five case studies in the British and U.S. regions of the Atlantic world to show how enslaved people and Maroons took up arms and participated as soldiers in conflicts traditionally thought to have been fought over colonial or imperial interests. These conflicts include Nathaniel Bacon’s Rebellion in Virginia in 1676, the Yamasee War in South Carolina in 1715, the “Ethiopian Regiment” in Virginia during the American Revolutionary War, the Eighth West India Regiment mutiny in the British Caribbean colony of Dominica in 1802, and enslaved participation in several connected conflicts in the Gulf Coast borderlands of northern Florida and southern Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi from 1812 to 1823.

These conflicts illuminate in different ways how enslaved soldiers fought for their own interests in the Anglo Atlantic and enable me to assess how armed resistance shaped the lives of Black people of all sorts as they struggled to survive, obtain freedom, or just live during the rise and fall of the Atlantic slave system. I use legal records, contemporary accounts, newspapers, administrative and military correspondence, and personal papers from British, French, and Spanish colonists in North America and the Caribbean from various archives in the United States and abroad. Where Black voices are missing, I use records that describe the actions of enslaved people and Maroons that help me infer Black interests and perspectives. My work shows that opportunities to attack the chattel slavery system were far more frequent in early America than previously thought, and many enslaved people and Maroons did not hesitate to seize upon them. Indeed, slave resistance throughout early American history became increasingly militarized throughout the eighteenth century and well into the Age of Emancipation.


415 pages




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