The Door to Freedom – Black Soldiers in the Revolutionary War

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Ever wanted to be a member of the Daughters or the Sons of the American Revolution (DAR and SAR) but felt that descendants of Africans did not serve in the War, and therefore you could not qualify? Well, hold on! The family was right in the middle of the Revolutionary War, fighting for the freedom of this country, as well as for themselves and their families.

As we finish this branch of the family tree, we are traveling to Colchester, Connecticut. Colchester is East of Vernon, where we left Edward and MaryanneFreeman in the last post, and is located in New London County in southeastern Connecticut. This section of Connecticut was the largest slave holding region in New England.

Colchester is known for starting the Colchester School for Colored Children, founded in 1803 and located behind the Colchester Congregational Church near the town green. This was the first Connecticut school formed to provide education for black children. Black teachers were hired at town expense, and parents were expected to help pay the cost of their children’s education. The school was closed in 1848 as students were accepted into the Bacon Academy and local schools.

Colchester is a site on the Connecticut Freedom Trail. More information about the Freedom Trail can be found at  If you live in New England, this can be a good family day trip as the weather warms up.

Today we are visiting the Eli Freeman and Edward (Ned) Carter families, both of Colchester, the last twigs we have found on this branch. There is limited information available on these families, but enough, particularly on the Carter family, to give us a sense of their lives, as well as their service to their country. Two resources provided a great deal of the information and stories I have been able to find on these families:

James M. Rose, Barbara W. Brown. (1979) Tapestry: A Living History of the Black Family in Southeastern Connecticut. New London: New London County Historical Society.
Barbara W. Brown, James M. Rose, Ph.D. (2001) Black Roots in Southeastern Connecticut 1650-1900. New London: New London County Historical Society.

You can find these resources through your library, interlibrary loan, or copies for sale at various sites on the Internet. You will find more detailed stories, particularly on Ned Carter, his sons, and their Revolutionary War service, in these resources. I really recommend that descendants try to purchase a copy of Tapestry. The story of the Revolutionary War experience of the Carters is something that you will want to pass on to your children and grandchildren.

The parents of Edward Carter Freeman, who we discussed in the last post, are EliFreeman and Sarah Carter, both of Colchester. Eli was born around 1765, probably in Colchester. In 1800 he was listed in the Colchester Federal Census as head of a family of six and as a free man of color. He was not listed as an independent household in the 1810 census. All free people of color in Colchester were listed as part of a white person’s household, so they are unable to be identified separately. In the 1820 census, there were five in the family: one male under 14 years old, one male 14 to 25 years old and one male over 45 years. There was one female under 14 years old, and one over 45 years. One person was employed in agriculture, probably as a farm hand.

The identity of Eli’s wife and the birth dates of his children are taken from the ledger of Dr. John R. Watrous of Colchester, who delivered the babies. Eli married Sarah Carter about 1790.

Eli and Sarah had at least seven children. Very little is known about the children. All were born in Colchester.

  1. Child was born October 1791 and died February 17, 1795 in Colchester.
  2. Child was born in May 1793 and died December 1, 1795 in Colchester.
  3.  Child was born in December 1794 and died December 1, 1795 in Colchester.
  4.  Child was born in October 1796.
  5.  Child was born in September 1798.
  6.  Statira was born between 1800 and 1804. In 1870 she was living in Hartford and working as a housekeeper.
  7.  Edward Carter Freeman was born January 18, 1815, and died April 20, 1890 in   Vernon.

Eli probably died between 1820 and 1830. He was not found in the 1830 census.
Sarah (Sally) Carter was the daughter of Edward (Ned) and Jenny Carter. The dates of Sarah’s birth and death are unknown, but if she is the daughter of Jenny she would have been born before her mother’s death in July 1766. If she was born in 1765, she would have been 31 at the birth of her first child, and fifty at the birth of her last child. There was a large gap in ages between child six and seven; however, it is possible for a fifty year old woman to have a child. It is also possible that Sarah’s mother was Sybil, her father’s second wife and Sarah was born after 1765. There is no documentation to support which woman was Sarah’s mother. Sarah’s death is unknown.

Ned Carter, Sarah’s father, was probably born around 1720. He was originally the slave of Jonathan Kellogg of Colchester. [1] Ned Carter served at Crown Point (Fort on Lake Champlain on what is now the border between New York and Vermont) during the French and Indian War in 1755, and was emancipated because of his service in the war. However, his family was still enslaved. His wife, Jenny, was also a slave of Jonathan Kellogg. Several of Ned and Jenny’s children were given as property to Jonathan’s sons.

In January 1776, the Continental Congress approved a plan allowing free Negroes to serve in the Continental Army. In May 1777 Ned and his son Esau enlisted. Esau was emancipated in May 1777 by Israel Kellogg, his owner and son of Jonathan Kellogg, so that Esau could join the Army. Asher, another of Ned’s sons, enlisted May 1, 1777, which meant he had to be emancipated before this date. Ned’s son, Aaron, was emancipated by Christopher Comstock of Chatham. Aaron paid 40 pounds for his freedom, which was probably what he received for entering the service as a substitute for Salmon Root of Chatham. A fourth son, Edward Junior, also enlisted in the Spring of 1777. He had already served nine months before he reenlisted. He and his family were emancipated as a result of his service. The Carters were in many of the important battles of the Revolutionary War, and suffered through the difficult winter at Valley Forge. Tapestry gives an amazing summary of the various campaigns the Carter family fought in, and their contribution to achieving independence from Britain.

Jenny, Ned’s first wife, was a slave of Jonathan Kellogg. She was baptized in the First Church of Colchester on April 11, 1742. In 1750 three children, listed as servants of Jonathan Kellogg, were baptized. These children were probably hers. Jenny and Ned had at least seven children:

  1. Edward (Ned) Carter Jr was born about 1750. Edward married Eunice Williams around 1773 in Chatham. By 1805 he and his family had moved to and purchased property in Ellington. He also changed his last name to Chappell. His grandson, who identified as Indian, would marry into the Andrews family. Edward and Eunice had at least 11 children. He collected a pension from his Revolutionary War service, as did his widow after his death. He died February 26, 1826.
  2. Esau was born about 1755. Jonathan Kellogg willed 10 year old Esau to his son Israel in 1765. [2] In February 1770 Esau was arrested for breaking the Sabbath. Israel paid the fine. Israel emancipated him in 1777 so that he could join the Continental Army. After he returned from military service, he married Anna. By 1800, he had moved to Tolland, Connecticut and was living beside his older brother Ned. There were six in the family. In 1810 he was living in Willington with 9 in the household. He died between 1810 and 1820. His wife is listed as head of the household in the 1820 federal census.
  3. Sarah was discussed previously, and might not be the daughter of Jenny.
  4. Aaron was born about 1745, and married Rachel Bolles in 1765. He purchased his freedom from Christopher Comstock in 1777 and entered the Continental Army. In 1790, he was living beside his brother Jacob, and had ten in his household. In 1793 the town of Colchester gave him supplies to move, and he moved to Windsor, Connecticut where he died in 1797. Rachel moved to Middletown and collected a pension based on her husband’s service.
  5. Jacob was given as a child to Joseph Kellogg, Jonathan’s oldest son. When Joseph died in 1762, Jacob was given to his oldest son Silas. In 1783, he was a free person and was warned by the town of Colchester to leave, along with his wife Mercy. That warning was later rescinded and Jacob stayed in town. He was in the 1790 Federal Census with four in the household. In 1794 his father, Ned, was living with him and the town paid for his board. Jacob died October 30, 1794. His wife continued to care for Ned after Jacob’s death. Jacob and Mercy had at least two children.
  6. Asher was emancipated by 1777 when he enlisted in the Continental Army. He did not receive family supplies so he would have been single. Following the War he married Rachel (last name not known), and was living in Middletown by 1812. Rachel and Asher had at least two children. He was listed in the 1820 Federal Census for Middletown with six in the family. Asher died before 1830. His widow was listed in the 1830 Federal Census with four in the family.
  7. Child died April 12, 1763.

Jenny Carter died July 25, 1766. We know that not all of her children were free when she died. We do not know if she had been given her freedom before her death.
Ned Carter married (2) a woman named Sybil following Jenny’s death. They had at least two children.

  1.  Amos was probably born between 1766 and 1770. He was billed by Dr. John Watrous of Colchester for medical treatment of his mother in 1790. He was referred to as both Amos Carter and Amos Ned. No record has been found for him after 1794.
  2. Infant child baptized in sickness October 22, 1774. Nothing else is known about this child.

Sybil died around 1794. Her husband, Ned Carter, then lived with his son Jacob, and his wife Mercy. Since the town of Colchester paid for his expenses and board following his wife’s death, Colchester threatened to sue the heirs of Jonathan Kellogg for his support. The suit was dropped upon his death on January 10, 1797.
[1] Timothy Hopkins. (1903). The Kelloggs in The Old World And The New. California: San Francisco.
[2] Ibid., Volume 1, p. 46.

You can get a free e-copy of the Kelloggs book on Google books. You can also purchase copies through The book has information on the family who were the slaveholders of the Carter family, which includes some information on their slaves.

This concludes the stories on this branch of the tree.

The next post will bring us back to Monson and Palmer, Massachusetts and the Wallace family. The Wallace family is one of the earliest black families to settle in these towns.

Until next time….

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