Primary Sources

Resources Regarding

Slave Ads from the Revolutionary War Period

1776 - 1782





Ruins of the Great Retreat

Black and white photos (circa 1900) that depict Revolutionary War era ruins located in Fort Lee, and traces of road at New Bridge, River Edge. (Archival material from the collections of the Bergen County Historical Society)







Washington's Diary

Excerpts from a published edition of George Washington's letters. The correspondence focuses on Washington's retreat through Bergen County, which took place in mid-November, 1776. (excerpts from Fitzpatrick, C. John, The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources 1745-1799, Vol. 6 Sept., 1776 - Jan., 1777. United States Government Printing Office. From the collections of the Bergen County Historical Society).









First Hand Accounts of the Great Retreat

Excerpts from an 1882 history of Bergen County, including first hand accounts of the retreat of 1776 by Thomas Paine, the author of "The Crisis," and of Washington's activities while stationed in Hackensack. (excerpts from Woodford, Clayton W., Nelson, William, History of Bergen and Passaic Counties, New Jersey with Biographical Sketches of many of its Pioneers and Prominent Men, Everts & Peck, Philadelphia 1882, From the collections of the Bergen County Historical Society).


< Image: Hackensack about 1780 (BCHS)









A Military journal

Excerpts from the published edition of a military journal written by James Thacher, MD, a surgeon in the American Revolutionary Army. Journal entries are from Oct 20th to Dec. 20th, 1776. (Thacher M.D., James, F. Wessell's Military Journal of the American Revolution, published by subscription only by Hurlbut, Williams & Company, American Subscription Publishing House, Hartford, Conn., 1862, from the collections of the Bergen County Historical Society).






Contemporary News Accounts

Extracts from American Newspapers relating to , from 1776 to 1777. Including examples of Thomas Paine's reporting skills while he worked as a war correspondent for the Pennsylvania Journal; and the Weekly Advertiser. (William S. Stryker, Documents relating to the Revolutionary History of the State of New Jersey, Vol. 1 Extracts from American Newspapers, 1776-1777, Trenton, N. J.: The John L. Murphy Publishing Co., Printers, 1901.)






A Girl's Diary from the Revolutionary War

Jemima was born on August 24, 1754 and lived in the town of Pleasantdale, a section of West Orange. In 1779, at the age of 25 she married her first cousin Aaron Harrison, who would later become mayor. Both were grandchildren of Samuel Harrison, one of the first settlers in that area.The Jemima Condict Diary contains entries detailing her family life, along with notes pertaining to local townspeople and events. The diary begins in 1772 and contains entries midway through the year 1779. Condict's diary illustrates incidents of the time, methods of household life, enjoyments and fears of the day, and religious piety. Jemima relates local events such as deaths, diseases, and also public and personal opinions about the Revolutionary War. She reflects on her personal experiences and aspirations, which convey the consciousness of a young adult in revolutionary America. This diary also provides an excellent example of the effects of religion on a youth and community during the late 18th century. (Archival material from the collections of the New Jersey Historical Society)

Click on the tombstone to view a published transcription of the diary in its entirety





A Poem for Washington

A poem addressed to General George Washington in 1777 after the battles of Princeton and Trenton in which the author reflects upon the blood shed during the Revolution and thanking Washington for his role during the war. The poem was written by Annis Boudinot Stockton (1736-1801), wife of Richard Stockton, one of New Jersey 's signers of the Declaration of Independence. The handwritten original document is followed by a transcription. (Archival material from the collections of the New Jersey Historical Society)









John Cooper (Early Abolitionist)

A member of the Society of Friends, this Gloucester County native was an early opponent of slavery because he felt that slavery was not only morally wrong but also politically foolish. Believing that the institution of slavery would hamper the cause of independence, Cooper demanded an absolute stop to slavery instead of gradual manumission. This link contains an essay written by Cooper for the Sept. 20, 1780 edition of the New Jersey Gazette. (Excerpt taken from Documents relating to the Revolutionary History of the State of New Jersey, Volume IV, Extracts from American Newspaper relating to New Jersey, Nov. 1 1779 - Sept., 30, 1780, edited by William Nelson, Trenton, N. J. State Gazette Publishing Co., Printers. 1914.)









Slave Ads from the Revolutionary War Period

At the onset of the American Revolution, virtually no black soldiers served in the Continental Army. Many colonists feared that armed blacks would lead to a slave revolt, while other leaders felt slaves would not make good soldiers. However, the British realized that by promising black slaves with emancipation in exchange for their allegiance to the crown, they would be able to swell their ranks. Since many slaves took up the British offer of freedom for service, the Continental Army responded by enlisting free African Americans.

For African Americans, the decision to join either side was a difficult one. If they were already free and fought for the patriot cause, they risked being captured by the British and resold into slavery. If they fought for the British and then were captured by the Patriots, they risked execution by their former masters who sought retribution.

Slave ads from the late 1770s and early 1780s exhibit an aspect of African American life during the American Revolution. Some ads warn of slaves running to "the American camp,"or the "British Fleet," while others caution the enlistment of male slaves (one ad refers to a woman slave who allegedly tried to pass as the wife of a regiment soldier). The first set of slave ads are examples from the New Jersey Gazetteer from 1777 to 1782, the second set are examples from the NJ Archive Series, published roughly from 1881 to 1918.


The New Jersey Gazetteer


1777-1778 -------------- 1779 -------------- 1780 -------------- 1781-1782


Slave Ads from the New Jersey Archive Series


Macaroni Hat

A slave ad from Salem, 1778, that refers to an escaped Negro man named Harry wearing a good cut hat in the "Macaroni" fashion

Shrewsbury Plundered

An account from July 15, 1779 reporting the plundering of nearly 80 head of cattle by a group of "about fifty negroes and refugees."