Fighting for Freedom

Richard Mansergh St. George’s two servants of African descent wore cast-off military uniforms and carried captured American equipment. According to Martin Hunter’s memoir, St. George’s servants fought alongside him in battle. The man shown here is about to aim a captured Pennsylvania rifle. During the Revolutionary War, tens of thousands of enslaved people sought their freedom with the British. While a few served in combat, most people performed manual labor. Life with the army may have seemed quite similar to the slavery they were fleeing. Some of the men and women from the Philadelphia region who fled slavery survived the war and resettled in Canada with assistance from the British.

St. George’s Wound

Richard Mansergh St. George led his men into battle from the front. He suffered the consequences of that at Germantown when one of the first American musket volleys wounded him in the head. A fellow British officer wrote that the shot gave St. George a “broken skull.” Corporal George Peacock of the 52nd Regiment picked up his wounded officer, carried him away from the fighting, and prevented St. George from being captured or killed. St. George was evacuated by horse-drawn cart to Philadelphia for medical treatment.

Under Attack at Germantown, October 4, 1777

This figure tableau shows Richard Mansergh St. George shouting orders and rallying his light infantrymen during the opening moments of the Battle of Germantown. St. George is accompanied by one of “two runaway negroes” who worked for him as servants during the Philadelphia Campaign. This man of African descent likely escaped from slavery and decided to seek his freedom with the British Army. The stakes were high: if the American Army captured him at Germantown, he faced death or re-enslavement. Soon after the American attack began, St. George collapsed from “a shocking wound in the head.” It is unknown what happened to St. George’s servants after the battle.

Tableau figures made by StudioEIS. Reproduction fence made by Newlin Grist Mill's Millwright Shop, Glen Mills, PA.