Windsor Fry  

Published in The African American Dictionary of Biography, 2008 Book F by Joseph W. Becton

Windor Fry Born 1759 - Died February 23, 1823 Windson

A Free African was born in 1759 in East Greenwich of Kent County, Rhode Island. He worked as a Laborer and at sixteen years of age Windsor enlisted. (1) It was in March of 1775. (2) The War had not yet begun. He was probably in the Kentish Guard as a private in Captain Thomas Holden’s Company.

The Rhode Islanders were quick to prepare for war; sending Stephen Hopkins and Samuel Ward to join the Continental Congress in Philadelphia Pennsylvania in 1774. While Militia groups formed in Providence, the Providence Grenadier Company with Captain Johnathan Aronld. In Newport the Newport Light Infantry trained under Captain Charles Spooner. The Kentish Guard of Kent County was with Captain James Varnum, The United Train of Artillery with Captain John Crane aquired their cannon while the British ships Wallace and Rose were away from Fort George at Newport Rhode Island. Rhode Islanders everywhere Pawtuxet Rangers, and The Gloucester Company of Light Infantry prepared for War. On April 3, 1775 a general muster was held fifteen hundred men reported for duty in Kent County and Two Thousand in Providence. (3)

The Kentish Guard was formed in 1774 had members like James Varnum, Christopher Green, Nathaniel Green and Samuel Ward Jr. Windsor would have witnessed Nathaniel’s promotion from Private with the regiment from Rhode Island to General of the Continental Line. (4) On April 3, 1775 when the Rhode Island Militia mustered Fry was there. The first time the regiments left Rhode Island in response to the fighting on April 19, they were recalled by the Governor Joseph Wanton. Who was quickly arrested and replaced by Nicholas Cooke.(5) The Rhode Island General Assembly decided to raise 1500 men; to be “properly armed and disciplined “. This Battalion was labeled the “Army of Observation”. They offered a cash bounty of four dollars for six months service. If you have your own gun, bayonet and other accoutrements the bounty was forty shillings. The monthly salary was one pound and sixteen shillings.(6) The Rhode Islanders sent three regiments Varnum’s, Hitchcock’s, and Church’s all were assigned to General Nathaniel Green’s Brigade. Windsor went to Massachusetts as a soldier in Captain Thomas Holden’s company, of Varnums regiment for the Siege of Boston. (7) By May 20, Brigadier General Nathaniel Green’s Brigade was encamped near Prospect Hill. On June 16 some Rhode Islanders came under fire near Roxbury. They were forming up a few miles away from at the battle but within range of some British artillery on Boston Neck. Captain Holden’s company may have been with them but this group is primarily identified as Hitchcock’s Regiment with the Providence Grenadiers. (8) When the Americans were retreating from Bunker Hill (Breeds Hill) General Putnum established a camp and began constructing a fortification at Prospect Hill this helped to slow the retreat and establish a base for the construction of a line of fortifications. Eventually this would be the strongest place on the American line some called it the “Citadel”. This location provided a good view of the city and harbor. (9) The New General of the Army was arriving but this was not especially good news for the Africans in the American Army. On July 2, 1775 General George Washington from Virginia arrived and took charge of the Army. Washington was not in favor of African soldiers when he arrived at Cambridge . The rules of the Continental Congress and the State of Rhode Island did not allow recruiting or enlisting of Africans, free or slave, even though they fought at Lexington and Concord.(10) Young Fry was not alone in his situation. Famous African men like William Flora of Virginia, Pomp Blackman of Rhode Island and Cuff Whitmore , Prince Easterbrook, Peter Salem, Salem Poor, of Massachusetts fought from the first shots of the war but not welcomed to return. (11) On July 10, 1775 Adjutant General of the American Army Horatio Gate instructed his recruiters not to enlist “ Deserters from the Minstrel army, nor any stroller, negro, or vagabond”. On July 20 troops were form up on Prospect Hill to hear the public reading of the Declaration of the Continental Congress setting forth the reasons for taking up arms. On that same day General Isreal Putnum raised of a new American Flag. Which incorporated parts of the Connecticut and Massachusetts standards (12) In Philadelphia at the Continental Congress and across the colonies things were looking bad for Africans who wanted to serve in The Army, Edward Rutledge of South Carolina resolved that all blacks be discharged from service in the Army. The Continental Congress rejected this proposal on September 26, 1775. General Washington held a meeting of eight Generals at Cambridge to decide on staffing levels and the enlisting of Free or enslaved Africans. The officers voted that both should be excluded. This topic was being discuss everywhere and seemingly everyone, on October 23, Ben Franklin, George Washington, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Lynch Jr. And civilian authorities of Rhode Island and Connecticut decided to reject all Negroes free or Bond. By October 31 headquarters directed to supply clothes to all but the Negroes, and that recruiting officers were forbidden from signing up “Negroes, boys unable to bear arms nor old men unfit to endure the fatigues of Campaign.”(13) George Washington noted in a letter to the President of Congress the colonial forces betrayed weakness in the numbers of “Boys, Deserters, and Negroes”. (14) This kind of thinking would put Windsor out of the Army on two accounts his youth and his color. The men began to re-enlist in November and four other Africans joined the Rhode Island Regiments.: John Brooks, Abramham Cook, Simeon Cook, and Prince Redwood. (15)

The American's attitudes were changed by Lord Dunsmore's proclaimation of November 7, 1775 which encouraged slaves and indentured servants belonging to traders to join the British and be immediately freed. The Colonies slowly changed their own policies in reaction to this British policy. George Washington changed his policy on re-enlisting Africans on December 30 1775. (16)

In January 1776 General George Washington reorganized the Army getting rid of the state and local names and designations for Continental names the First , Second, Third, Continental regiments of Foot. The Rhode Islanders were put in the 9th and 11th Continental regiments. Many of the men went with their Officers Men began to reenlist in December for one year. Fry’s Captain Thomas Holden left the service and he serves in Lieutenant Colonel Archibald Crary’s command of Colonel James Varnum’s 9th Continental regiment of Foot. (17) Daniel Hitchcock commanded the 11th Continental. The 12th Continental regiment was also attached to their brigade originally called Little’s regiment they came from Essex Massachusetts The 25th Continentals Gardner’s or Bond’s regiment were a collection of consolidated companys from the Third Massachusetts and other companys. This did cause some problems when soldiers and Officers from one state or organization ended servicing under Officer from another. In March the cannons captured at Fort Ticonderoga were mounted on Dorchester Heights from there the Americans could dominate the sea approches and the city. On March 17, 1776 The British abandoned the City of Boston and Washington’s forces came in to the city with a joyous tulmultrus welcome. On March 31 General Green’s Brigade was ordered to move south . It took them three days to traverse muddy roads the 50 miles to Providence Rhode Island. Once at home many men were close enough to spend a night or two at home before moving on to New York. They reached New London Connecticut on April 9. On the 15th The 25th Continentals were reassigned to the Canadian Department. The roads were becoming unavigatable . They boarded schooners and sloops and sailed into New York City on April 22.(18) The rest of Green’s Brigade was sent to cross the east river to watch for signs of the British invasion. Pennsylvania’s General Edward Hand’s Pennsylvania Rifle Battlation were assigned to the brigade to help track British foraging partys. This group was later called The 1ST Pennsylvania.(19) On May 4,1776 Rhode Island proclaimed its independence from Great Britain. In the Spring of 1776 General Green was ordered to capture the Mayor of New York City David Matthews, in April he was promoted to Major General. Long Island was peaceful that spring. On June 29 General Hand’s men reported sighting a large group of British ships. In New York city on July 9 the Declaration of Independence was read to the public and a mob attacked the statue of King George the III, near the battery and pulled it to the ground.

Windsor fought in the defense of New York in August. The 9th crossed the Delaware river in December 1776 and participated in the battles of Trenton and Princeton New Jersey in 1777.

After a short stop at Morristown New Jersey, The regiment went home their enlistment’s were over. On March 11,1777 Fry joined Captain John Garzia Company of Artillery in Colonel Robert Elliott’s Militia Regiment. On the 20th day of July 1777 Fry, enlisted as a private soldier to serve during the then existing war in Colonel Christopher Greens regiment and Captain Ebenezer Flagg's company. They were inoculated for small pox at Peekskill New York and took part in local operations with New York regiments while waiting to get sick. He fought at Fort Mercer, The battle of Red bank October 1777, They wintered and retrained at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania December 1777 to June 1778. On June 1st Windsor was detached to Captain Thomas Aronld and fought at the Battle of Monmouth New Jersey June 28, 1778. On July 1, he returned to Captain Johnathan Wallen’s company. The regiment returned to Rhode Island to participate in the Battle of Rhode Island August 29,1778. In November 1778 he was in Captain Thomas Coles Company and continued with them during the Capture of the sloop “George” in September 1779 until he deserted February 5, 1780. He returned September 1, 1780 or from March 11 to November first.

On December 6, 1780 he was issued a new uniform in East Greenwich. Fry was in Stephen Olney’s company at the attack at Points Bridge New York in May 14,1781 and the Siege of Yorktown in October. He marched from New York to Virginia and back. Windsor was 22 years old stood about 5 feet and 101/2 inches tall with black hair and mustee Complexion in 1781. In 1782 he was in Captain Z. Brown’s Company. In February 1783 he was on the march to Oswego New York. On June 15th 1783, discharged On December 31,1789 Fry was granted his land grant of 100 acres. In 1790 he was working as a Laborer and living in North kingstown in a household of seven free Africans. On September 25th 1818 Windsor was living in East Greenwich and was awarded a Pension of $8 Dollars a month and back pay of $88.53. Windsor Fry died February 1,1823.

Footnote

Rhode Island Archives (Folder) Minorities in the Revolution (Section F)

Pension Record Request of Windsor Fry S38709 April 3, 1818 Box M 804 Letter From Thomas Holden April 3, 1818, S38709 April 3, 1818 Box M804,Anthony Walker ”So Few The Brave” 1981 p.6

3. National Society of The Daughters of The American Revolution, Minority Military Service In Rhode Island 1775-1783, 1988 p.ii, Anne S.K. Brown," Rhode Island Uniforms in the Revolution", Military Collector and Historian (Spring 1958):1-3

4. Walker “So Few The Brave” 1981 p.6, Anne S.K. Brown," Rhode Island Uniforms in the Revolution", Military Collector and Historian (Spring 1958):2-4.Varnum their commander became a Brigadier General and Nathaniel Green a Major General in Washington's Army.

5. Anne S.K. Brown," Rhode Island Uniforms in the Revolution", Military Collector and Historian (Spring 1958):3. Robert K. Wright “The Continental Army” Center of Military History, United States Army,( Washington D. C..1989):16

6. Ibid.,p.3,Jeremiah Greenman “Diary of a Common soldier in the American Revolution 1775-1783 p.8, National Society of The Daughters of The American Revolution, Minority Military Service In Rhode Island 1775-1783, 1988 p.iii

Letter From Thomas Holden April 3, 1818, S38709 April 3, 1818 Box M804

8. Walker “So Few The Brave” 1981 p.4, Anne S.K. Brown," Rhode Island Uniforms in the Revolution", Military Collector and Historian (Spring 1958):1

9. Jeremiah Greenman “Diary of a Common soldier in the American Revolution 1775-1783 p.8, The Connecticut Society of the Sons Of The American Revolution Website: http://www.ctssar.org/articles/scarlet_no2.htm. Mulder Media Company Website:http://www.muldermedia.com/prospecthill/history.html

10. Benjamin Quarles, The Negro in the American Revolution, (New York Norton and Company Inc.1961)15-18. W.C. Ford and Gaillard Hunt eds. Journals of the Continental Congress,1774-1789,4 (Washington D.C.1903- 37)60

11. Benjamin Quarles, The Negro in the American Revolution, (New York

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