IntroductionJames Armistead Lafayette was an African American slave who was an important American Revolutionary spy. He risked his life to help America win its independence from Great Britain. Acting as a double-agent he gained the trust of both British Generals Cornwallis and the American traitor Benedict Arnold; supplying American General George Washington and Marquis de Lafayette with important military information. In the list of interesting facts below you will find out more about who James Armistead was and how he helped America win its independence. This information is written for both kids and adults.
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James Armistead Lafayette Early Life and Revolution Facts
- James Armistead Lafayette was born in Virginia. When he was born is in question; some sources place his birth in 1748 where as other sources have it as 1760.
- He was a slave to William Armistead. As a slave he was not free to join the Continental Army; however with his masters consent Armistead was able to enlist in the army.
- He served as a spy under the famous French General the Marquis de Lafayette who fought for the Americans.
- He posed as a runaway slave and obtained work for the British gathering supplies. He eventually gained the trust of the British and was able to get recruited as a spy which enabled him to act as a double-agent.
- Armistead successfully gained access to the headquarters of British General Charles Cornwallis where he was able to obtain important information about British plans which he was able to pass along to General Lafayette.
- He spied on General Benedict Arnold after Arnold became a traitor and joined the British Army. He gained the traitors trust to the extent that he was present when crucial military information was being discussed.
- James Armistead Lafayette supplied crucial information to Generals Lafayette and George Washington that helped the Continental win the Battle of Yorktown; the battle that insured America's victory in the Revolutionary War.
James Armistead after the American Revolution
- Despite his service to his country he was returned to slavery at the end of the American Revolutionary War. Although many slaves who served as soldiers were given their freedom after the war he was not.
- In 1784 French General the Marquis de Lafayette wrote a certificate of commendation of James Armistead.
- James Armistead finally won his freedom in 1787 largely due to a letter from the Marquis de Lafayette who requested his freedom. To show his appreciation James Armistead adopted the surname Lafayette to make his full name James Armistead Lafayette.
- After obtaining his freedom he purchased a large farm in Virginia got married and started a family.
- The Virginia legislature eventually granted James Armistead Lafayette a forty dollar annual pension for his service to his country.
- The famous French General the Marquis de Lafayette, who helped America win its independence, returned to the United States in 1824 and was greeted by thousands of cheering people as he toured the states. In Virginia he spotted James Armistead Lafayette in the crowd and jumped from his carriage to embrace him.
- James Armistead Lafayette died on August 9th of 1830.