Henry Williams & Easter Giles

Compared to other Patriots of Color, the lives of Henry Williams and his wife, Easter Giles, demonstrated the lengths to which women could assume certain proactive, important roles in the determination of Patriots’ legacies, as well as their pensions. This is because most of our knowledge of Easter’s husband, Henry, came through her attempt to obtain the stipend owed to her for Henry’s service. Her pension statement revealed many of the details of Henry’s contribution to the Revolutionary War.

Henry was likely born a free Black or “colored” person in Maryland. Available sources indicate that his year of birth was 1750, and that he served in the 5th Maryland Regiment, driving wagons.1 The 5th Maryland Regiment (also called The Dandy Fifth) was assembled on March 27, 1776 and consisted of eight regiments of volunteers from the counties of Kent, Dorchester, Queen Anne’s, and Caroline of the colony of Maryland.2 Following its creation, the regiment was then authorized for service with the Continental Army on September 16, 1776, and would later be assigned to the Southern Department on April 5, 1780 before disbanding on January 1, 1783.3

After the war’s conclusion, Henry married Easter Giles on August 11, 1785.4 Much remains unknown about their lives together after the war. Henry would pass on January 5, 1850 in Baltimore, Maryland, and Easter applied for a widow’s pension on April 28, 1857.5 Her application was successful, and she received an annual pension of $80 for Henry’s service.6

Sources

Jack Darrell Crowder, African Americans and American Indians in the Revolutionary War (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2019), 160.

“Maryland Regiments in the Continental Army,” American Revolutionary War 1775 to 1783, 2017, https://revolutionarywar.us/continental-army/maryland/.

“Maryland Regiments in the Continental Army,” American Revolutionary War 1775 to 1783, 2017, https://revolutionarywar.us/continental-army/maryland/.

Jack Darrell Crowder, African Americans and American Indians in the Revolutionary War, 160.

Jack Darrell Crowder, African Americans and American Indians in the Revolutionary War, 160.

Jack Darrell Crowder, African Americans and American Indians in the Revolutionary War, 160.

The testimony of Easter Giles, despite some possible gaps in knowledge of her husband’s duties and potential inaccuracy in reporting them to the Court, showed how women could be the executors of the due assets of their Patriot husbands.

Her pension statement was completed at the Superior Court of Baltimore City, and transcribed and annotated by C. Leon Harris.7 In her statement, she indicated that she was “the widow of Henry Williams deceased (colored) who . . . drove the waggons [sic] and made himself Generally [sic] useful have often heard him related the horros [sic] of war and how he was waded in Blood [sic] and walked over dead Bodies [sic] after battle in said war to the best of her Knowledge [sic] & Belief [sic] from what she has heard her aforesaid husband speak of his services that he served during said war.”8 She further revealed that Henry “served in all about six years [and] always heard him say that he entered the service at Anne Arundle [sic] . . . County and that her husband the aforesaid Henry Williams was born in Anne Arundle [sic] County . . . she further says that she has had several children by her said husband who are now all dead the last one died in Eighteen hundred and Fifty four her only dependence.”9

The testimony of Easter Giles, despite some possible gaps in knowledge of her husband’s duties and potential inaccuracy in reporting them to the Court, showed how women could be the executors of the due assets of their Patriot husbands. Giles’s successful testimony signified her ability to wield influence in the courts as a widow, and claim an economic entitlement for her own survival. While it is unclear what Easter’s own racial background was, or what kind of family she was born into, her status as the widow of a Patriot of Color provided the lens through which modern day researchers can examine the lived lives of Patriots, in addition to their dependents. Her record is therefore a valuable source not only due to its content, but also because of its legal acceptability to court administrators.

Sources

C. Leon Harris, “Pension Application of Henry Williams W3638,” last modified June 7, 2015, https://www.revwarapps.org/w3638.pdf.

C. Leon Harris, “Pension Application of Henry Williams W3638,” last modified June 7, 2015, https://www.revwarapps.org/w3638.pdf.

C. Leon Harris, “Pension Application of Henry Williams W3638,” last modified June 7, 2015, https://www.revwarapps.org/w3638.pdf.

Sources

Jack Darrell Crowder, African Americans and American Indians in the Revolutionary War (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2019), 160.

“Maryland Regiments in the Continental Army,” American Revolutionary War 1775 to 1783, 2017, https://revolutionarywar.us/continental-army/maryland/.

“Maryland Regiments in the Continental Army,” American Revolutionary War 1775 to 1783, 2017, https://revolutionarywar.us/continental-army/maryland/.

Jack Darrell Crowder, African Americans and American Indians in the Revolutionary War, 160.

Jack Darrell Crowder, African Americans and American Indians in the Revolutionary War, 160.

Jack Darrell Crowder, African Americans and American Indians in the Revolutionary War, 160.

C. Leon Harris, “Pension Application of Henry Williams W3638,” last modified June 7, 2015, https://www.revwarapps.org/w3638.pdf.

C. Leon Harris, “Pension Application of Henry Williams W3638,” last modified June 7, 2015, https://www.revwarapps.org/w3638.pdf.

C. Leon Harris, “Pension Application of Henry Williams W3638,” last modified June 7, 2015, https://www.revwarapps.org/w3638.pdf.

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