Revolutionary War: Boyrereau Brinch Fights for his Freedom
… We heard that the enemy were making their way to [Stamford, Connecticut]. We marched there immediately and arrived before them. A party marched down into some meadows to watch their motion; on discovering their superior force, we fired upon them and ran off fully believing, “That he who fights and runs away, May live to fight another day."
We concealed ourselves behind a stone wall for some minutes. They lost sight of us but continued firing for some time….
As we were passing over a small rise of ground, several balls whistled by us, and … one Calob Nicholas dodged a bullet.... We ran to the fort at Stanford but the enemy had gotten possession; we then took again to our heels. We then retreated …. Finally, I was in the battles at Cambridge, White Plains, Monmouth, Princeton, Newark, Frog’s Point, Horseneck where I had a ball pass through my knapsack. At last we returned to West Point [New York] and were discharged, as the war was over. Thus was I, a slave for five years fighting for liberty.
After we were disbanded, I returned to my old master at Woodbury, with whom I lived one year, my services in the American war having emancipated me from further slavery and from being bartered or sold.
My master consented that I might go where I pleased and seek my fortune. Hearing flattering accounts of the new state of Vermont, I left Woodbury and travelled as far as the town of Lenox in Massachusetts, where for the first time I made a bargain as a freeman for labor.
I let [hired] myself to a Mr. Elisha Orsborn for one month at the price of five dollars. When I had fulfilled this contract, I travelled to the town of Poltney in Vermont. There again I let myself to a Mr. Abiel Parker for the sum of thirteen pounds ten shillings, for six months.
Here I enjoyed the pleasures of a freeman; my food was sweet, my labor pleasure: and one bright gleam of life seemed to shine upon me."
Source: The Blind African Slave, Or Memoirs of Boyrereau Brinch, Nicknamed Jeffrey Brace, published in Vermont in 1810. https://americainclass.org/sources/makingrevolution/war/
Sometime in the 1750s, Boyrereau Brinch was captured in his homeland in West Africa. He was about 16 years old. He was taken by British slavers. His narrative, published in Vermont in 1810, details the harsh and cruel conditions of his capture and the middle passage. As an enslaved man, he was forced to work as a sailor on a war ship in the French and Indian War. After the war he was taken by his owner, Captain Isaac Mills, to New Haven, Connecticut and sold to John Burwell of Milford. He had a number of cruel owners in Connecticut before being owned by Mary Stiles of Woodbury. Read about his experience enslaved in Connecticut HERE.
In 1777 Brinch, then known as Jeffrey Stiles, enlisted in the Connecticut militia in order to gain his freedom in exchange for his service. He was wounded in battle. He was honorably discharged from the militia in 1783 at the end of the Revolutionary War. Mary Stiles's son Benjamin Stiles granted his freedom.
Brinch moved to Vermont where slavery had been abolished in 1777. There, he married, bought a farm, and raised a family. After experiencing racism and harassment in the southwestern Vermont town of Poultney, he and his family moved to northern Vermont. He died in 1827, about 85 years old. He told his story to a white abolitionist lawyer who published it in 1810.
Brinch went by several different names during his life, including Jeffrey Stiles and Jeffrey Brace.