Wednesday, February 7, 2007

James Armistead - Patriot Spy


Wars are rarely fought without the use of spies and the American Revolution was no exception. Arguably, the most important Revolutionary War spy was a slave named James Armistead. Born around 1748 in New Kent, Va., he was given permission by his master to join the revolutionary cause. Although many fought as soldiers, blacks, both free and enslaved were being used by the British and the Americans to gain intelligence against each other. Armistead, however, was used by both sides, making him a double-agent. In 1781, he joined the army and was put in service under the Marquis de Lafayette, who was desperately trying to fight the chaos caused in Virginia by turncoat soldier Benedict Arnold. His forces diminished by British Gen. Charles Cornwallis' troops, Lafayette needed reliable information about enemy movements. He began his work posing as an escaped slave, entering Arnold's camp as an orderly and guide, then sent what he learned back to Lafayette. He later returned north with Arnold and was posted close enough to Cornwallis' camp to learn further details of British operations without being detected. By also being used as a British spy (who fed them inaccurate data), Armistead was able to travel freely between both sides. One day, Armistead discovered that the British naval fleet was moving 10,000 troops to Yorktown, Va., making it a central post for their operation. Using the intricate details Armistead provided, Lafayette and a stunned, but relieved George Washington lay siege to the town. Concentrating both American and French forces, a huge blockade was formed, crippling the British military and resulting in their surrender on Oct. 19, 1781. Rex Ellis, vice president of Colonial Williamsburg's Historic Area, says Armistead's role was critical to the American victory. "If Armistead had not given the information that he gave at the strategic time he did, they would not have had the intelligence to create the blockade that ended the war." Despite his critical actions, he had to petition the Virginia legislature for manumission. Lafayette assisted him by writing a recommendation for his freedom, which was granted in 1787. In gratitude Armistead adopted Lafayette's surname and lived as a farmer in Virginia until his death in 1830. James Armistead is one more interesting personal find for someone who is continuously looking for interesting new inductees into Black History Month, someone like me.

By Madison Gray for Time Magazine: www.time.com/time/2007/blackhistmth

Now, poems that have made history of their own:


A Thing Or Two About “Truth”

Just for the record, most of the so-called “facts” are not true:

-Helium bars only make you “feel” weightless.

-The G-8 Summits never have occurred in the lost world.

-Houdini never rode fourteen bloated horses while hand cuffed.

-That no-trespassing sign only applies to fast-food wrappers.

-Mount Everest has never qualified as more than a chill-factor.

-Jazz is not music to eat rusted bicycle parts by.

-Singles bars do not have trip-lines but do have trapdoors.

-The prey of your dreams is only as good as it can float.


When The Daring Among Us Flirt

…for instance, his switchblade glinting
in brassy urban light or a big X marked in
black lipstick on a public restroom’s mirror
or maybe it could simply mean let him who
never sinned cast the first stone in broad
daylight before a crowd of onlookers who
laugh jeer boo point fingers at an example
of road rage rushing towards her desert
solitude an aging actress is arrested after
slapping a cop’s face in the shadow of
skyscrapers & shattered bread crumbs for
the pigeons or maybe the tabloids could tell
her housekeeper who plays solitaire with one
toe tracing the floral pattern in the carpet.


This poem first appeared online at: http://www.subtletea.com/
Copyright 2007 by Maurice Oliver. All Rights Reserved.
Also visit my e-zine at: http://www.concelebratory.blogspot.com/
And music blog at: http://www.medleyant.blogspot.com/

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