Drury Walden

Perhaps surprisingly, there were Patriots of Color who enlisted in the American Revolutionary War as free men—even in southern colonies/states like North Carolina. One such Patriot of Color was Drury Walden, who represents an interesting addition to our knowledge of free Blacks who joined the American struggle. He was born in 1762 in Virginia but served in the Continental Army in North Carolina in 1779 at the age of 17. Significantly, Walden received a yearly pension in the amount of $38.33 as compensation for his 11 months of duty during the war.1

In the case of Walden, his pension application revealed the details of his service. This application is an especially remarkable artifact and therefore makes Walden fairly unique, as such sources are not always available to researchers investigating persons of color in early America. His application of September 4, 1832 indicated “that in the spring of the year of 1779 he was drafted for 5 months in Bute County North Carolina (since divided into Franklin & Warren) [as a] musician in Capt Charles Allen’s Company Lt. Wm Allen 4th Reg North Carolina Militia.”2 That militia was “commanded by Col Thomas Pugh[, and] with his company he marched to Georgia[,] crossed the Savannah River at Augusta, [and] went down the River to Brier Creek where [he and his regiment] had an engagement.”3 Walden’s cohort of troops was “commanded by General Ashe, of the Militia, [and] Gen’l Elbert of the Regulars.”4

Sources

Jack Darrell Crowder, African Americans and American Indians in the Revolutionary War (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2019), 154.

Jack Darrell Crowder, African Americans and American Indians in the Revolutionary War (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2019), 154.

Jack Darrell Crowder, African Americans and American Indians in the Revolutionary War (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2019), 154.

Jack Darrell Crowder, African Americans and American Indians in the Revolutionary War (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2019), 154.

Jack Darrell Crowder, African Americans and American Indians in the Revolutionary War (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2019), 154.

The life and service of Drury Walden reminds us that, although Blacks faced many obstacles to independence and citizenship in colonial America, Revolutionary War service, even in a southern colony/state like North Carolina, could open up a world of opportunity and something approaching, if not total liberty, then at least some economic freedom.

Although this March 3, 1779 skirmish that Walden described, the Battle of Brier Creek, ended in a British victory with the “Americans [retreating, and] 12 officers [being] taken [prisoner],”5 he was among those that escaped British capture. His squadron ultimately “rendevoused [sic] at Pughsbury So. Ca. where he staid [sic] until his term expired. He was discharged & his discharge signed by . . . Col. Eaton.”6 Following his service with that regiment, Walden then “enlisted for a tour of three months under Col [sic] Long who was Commissary General of North Carolina Militia stationed at Halifax; here he served at his occupation [likely as a carpenter] making gun carriages for the cannon, canteens for the soldiers, building barracks &c. &c. After this term of service he was discharged by Col. Long”7 and thereafter spent “3 months in the Commissary General’s Department and then as a private in Captain Kidd’s North Carolina Militia in Halifax County as a substitute for Edward Jackson.”8 He was later employed as a guard for a jail in Halifax, which was full of Tories.9

Walden married Elizabeth Harris in 1780 in Northampton County, near Bute County, and later purchased “173 acres in Northampton County on the south side of Occoneechee Swamp.”10 His October 9, 1834 Northampton County will designated “his wife Elizabeth and his children”11 the recipients of his assets. Walden passed away on December 22, 1834.

The life and service of Drury Walden reminds us that, although Blacks faced many obstacles to independence and citizenship in colonial America, Revolutionary War service, even in a southern colony/state like North Carolina, could open up a world of opportunity and something approaching, if not total liberty, then at least some economic freedom. Undeniably, such opportunity may have been limited to free Blacks living in certain parts of the American colonies/states. It has been claimed, for example, that places like North Carolina were more open to free Blacks in the 1700s than neighboring Virginia or South Carolina.12 Furthermore, obtaining pensions was not always an easy process for Black descendants of patriots. On September 2, 1844, for instance, Walden’s son, Armstead, applied for the pension of his mother, Elizabeth, who had died in the fall of 1840.13 Unfortunately, Armstead was not given his mother’s widow’s pension because she “was not a widow as required by law” in 1838.14 Nevertheless, Drury Walden demonstrated the considerable extent to which free, Black, southern patriots could cement their names and legacies as American patriots of the Revolutionary War—and as Americans.

Sources

Jack Darrell Crowder, African Americans and American Indians in the Revolutionary War (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2019), 154.

Jack Darrell Crowder, African Americans and American Indians in the Revolutionary War (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2019), 155.

Paul Heinegg, “Walden Family,” last modified January 1, 2021, http://www.freeafricanamericans.com/WaldenWebster.htm.

Jack Darrell Crowder, African Americans and American Indians in the Revolutionary War, 155.

Paul Heinegg, “Walden Family,” http://www.freeafricanamericans.com/WaldenWebster.htm.

Paul Heinegg, “Walden Family,” http://www.freeafricanamericans.com/WaldenWebster.htm.

“Family Traced Back to Free Blacks Who Fought in Revolution,” Times-News, July 5, 2016, https://www.blueridgenow.com/story/news/2016/07/05/family-traced-back-to-free-blacks-who-fought-in-revolution/27539858007/ (accessed February 28, 2022).

C. Leon Harris, “Pension Application of Drury Walden R11014,” last modified December 14, 2014, https://revwarapps.org/r11014.pdf.

C. Leon Harris, “Pension Application of Drury Walden R11014,” last modified December 14, 2014, https://revwarapps.org/r11014.pdf.

Sources

Jack Darrell Crowder, African Americans and American Indians in the Revolutionary War (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2019), 154.

Jack Darrell Crowder, African Americans and American Indians in the Revolutionary War (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2019), 154.

Jack Darrell Crowder, African Americans and American Indians in the Revolutionary War (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2019), 154.

Jack Darrell Crowder, African Americans and American Indians in the Revolutionary War (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2019), 154.

Jack Darrell Crowder, African Americans and American Indians in the Revolutionary War (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2019), 154.

Jack Darrell Crowder, African Americans and American Indians in the Revolutionary War (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2019), 154.

Jack Darrell Crowder, African Americans and American Indians in the Revolutionary War (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2019), 155.

Paul Heinegg, “Walden Family,” last modified January 1, 2021, http://www.freeafricanamericans.com/WaldenWebster.htm.

Jack Darrell Crowder, African Americans and American Indians in the Revolutionary War, 155.

Paul Heinegg, “Walden Family,” http://www.freeafricanamericans.com/WaldenWebster.htm.

Paul Heinegg, “Walden Family,” http://www.freeafricanamericans.com/WaldenWebster.htm.

“Family Traced Back to Free Blacks Who Fought in Revolution,” Times-News, July 5, 2016, https://www.blueridgenow.com/story/news/2016/07/05/family-traced-back-to-free-blacks-who-fought-in-revolution/27539858007/ (accessed February 28, 2022).

C. Leon Harris, “Pension Application of Drury Walden R11014,” last modified December 14, 2014, https://revwarapps.org/r11014.pdf.

C. Leon Harris, “Pension Application of Drury Walden R11014,” last modified December 14, 2014, https://revwarapps.org/r11014.pdf.

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