Black Sailors in the United States Navy in the War of 1812
The history of black seamen in American naval service goes back at least to the colonial navies of the French and Indian War period. During the Revolutionary War, the Provincial naval forces “used black sailors quite extensively aboard [their] naval vessels, some of whom were native sons and others acquired from captured British ships.” Despite this tradition of black naval service, in August
1798, Benjamin Stoddert, the secretary of the United States’ new navy, declared that “no Negroes or Mullatoes are to be admitted” into the service. This followed similar regulations promulgated by the Marine Corps and the army in March of that same year. Despite this seemingly official prohibition, it is clear that blacks maintained a consistent presence in the US Navy throughout the Early Republic and especially during the War of 1812.
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