Meet Slave, American Hero, and Patriot Spy James Armistead Lafayette

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, which leftists now love to exploit to push critical race theory and pretend they honor the black heroes of American history. But in my research of recent years, I discovered dozens of black American heroes whose courage and sacrifice shaped this country and who are barely known at all. James Armistead Lafayette went from being a slave to being one of the best spies working for the Americans during the American Revolution.

According to America Battlefield Trust, James Armistead was born into slavery circa 1760, and lived much of his life on a New Kent, Virginia, plantation. Armistead, as was common at the time, took his last name from his master, William Armistead. James was working as a clerk for William Armistead, ATI relates, as William managed Virginia’s military supplies during the Revolution. William, upon request, gave James permission in 1781 to enlist in the French Allied units under the command of the famed Marquis de Lafayette. While serving in the French Allied units, James Armistead was sent by Lafayette to British Gen. Lord Cornwallis’s headquarters as a spy.

“After successfully infiltrating British intelligence, Armistead floated freely between the British and American camps,” American Battlefield Trust writes. “As a double agent, he relayed critical information to Lafayette and misleading intel to the enemy.” Armistead was so convincing that the “oblivious” British assigned Armistead to help American traitor Benedict Arnold. Fortunately, Arnold didn’t realize that Armistead was helping the Patriots, and in “helping Arnold maneuver his troops through Virginia, Armistead gained significant insight into the Redcoats’ movements.”

Genevieve Carlton explained for ATI how the very racism and elitism of the British worked in Armistead’s favor. James was not only clever but educated—he could read and write. That was not something the British knew or cared to find out, and, to their own detriment, they assumed Armistead was illiterate. They also didn’t mind what they said around Armistead, who was quick to catch any bit of valuable intelligence.

Cornwallis was so convinced of the double agent’s loyalty to the British that he asked Armistead to spy on his secret boss, Lafayette! But, Carlton writes, nothing (and the British were offering freedom to slaves who defected to their ranks) shook Armistead’s dedication to the Patriot cause. In fact, Armistead fed the British general false intelligence. For instance, he once gave Cornwallis a letter that tricked him into not attacking Lafayette’s troops.

American Battlefield Trust says that several of James Armistead’s “finest acts” happened around the 1781 Battle of Yorktown, which was the crucial climax of the American Revolution. Carlton explains that George Washington’s plan to blockade the British at Yorktown and force a surrender could have gone seriously wrong without reliable intel on British movements. Knowing that, Washington applied to Lafayette—who had the perfect source of information: James Armistead.

James Armistead had one more surprise in store for Gen. Cornwallis after the surrender at Yorktown, Carlton notes. After indicating his surrender, the defeated British commander entered Lafayette’s tent headquarters—and came face-to-face with James Armistead. I don’t know exactly what Cornwallis’s reaction was, but it was only at that moment he realized this trusted spy was actually a Patriot double agent. The arrogant, titled British lord and general had been thoroughly outwitted by an American slave.

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Posted by CatSalgado32

Catherine Salgado is a columnist for The Rogue Review, a Writer for MRC Free Speech America, and writes her own Substack, Pro Deo et Libertate. She received the Andrew Breitbart MVP award for August 2021 from The Rogue Review for her journalism.

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