Jeffery Brace a.k.a. Stiles.
(African-American soldier, 6th Connecticut Regiment)
(Questions or comments? Just click on John's name)
John Rees resides in Solebury, Pennsylvania, with his wife Linda and their two sons. He has been writing since 1986 on various aspects of the common soldiers' experience, focusing primarily on the War for Independence. His current works include monographs on Civil War soldiers' campaign shelters, the military use of wagons and watercraft in the Revolution, and the evolution of American soldiers' rations, 1756 to 1945.
In addition to providing research to Monmouth Battlefield State Park and the Yorktown Victory Center, Mr. Rees's work has appeared in the ALHFAM Bulletin (Association of Living History, Farm, and Agricultural Museums), The Brigade Dispatch (Journal of the Brigade of the American Revolution), The Continental Soldier (Journal of the Continental Line), Military Collector & Historian, Minerva: Quarterly Report on Women and the Military, and Muzzleloader Magazine. He is currently a regular contributor to Food History News writing about soldiers' food from the 18th to the 20th centuries.
For a complete list of J.U. Rees's articles, with selected articles posted, see www.revwar75.com.
Brace's memoirs were published in 1810 as follows:
OR MEMOIRS OF
BOYREREAU BRINCH, NICK-NAMED JEFFREY BRACE.
Containing an account of the kingdom of
Bow-Woo, in the interior of Africa; with the climate and natural
productions, laws, and customs peculiar to that place. With an
of his captivity, sufferings, sales, travels, emancipation, conversion to the christian religion, knowledge of the scriptures, &c. Interspersed with strictures on slavery, speculative observations on the qualities of human nature, with quotation from scripture.
ST. ALBANS, Vt.
PRINTED BY HARRY WHITNEY.
Jeffery Brace's application for a veteran's
pension ran into trouble when his name could not be found on
company muster or pay rolls. Most of the supplementary depositions
serve to confirm his identity and name change, and corroborate
his service. These depositions also introduce some interesting
information, such as the existence of segregated black companies
in predominately white regiments. As for blacks in the Connecticut
regiments, we have brigade returns for August 1778 showing 148
black soldiers in Parson's brigade and 62 in Huntingdon's brigade.
At that time the 6th Connecticut Regiment was serving under Brigadier
General Parson. (John U. Rees, "'The number of rations issued
to the women in camp.': New Material Concerning Female Followers
With Continental Regiments," The Brigade Dispatch,
vol. XXVIII, no. 1 (Spring 1998), p. 9, endnote 9, "Return
of the Negroes in the Army," 24 August 1778. Charles
H. Lesser, ed., The Sinews of Independence: Monthly Strength
Reports of the Continental Army (Chicago, Il., 1976), p.
For anyone wishing to know more of Brace's war service I recommend reading Private Yankee Doodle, the excellent memoir of Joseph Plumb Martin, 8th Connecticut Regiment. Martin's service largely mirrors Brace's as they served in the same brigade from 1777 until 1779 or 1780.
"On this 3 day of March 1821 before me Seth Wehman one of the Executive Council & [illegible word] for the whole State of Vermont, personally appearing Ansel Patterson, late of [Barree?] in this State now residing in Georgea in the County of Franklin & State of Vermont aged fifty six years who being by me first duly sworn do depose & say that he was a Soldier in Col. Butlers regement of Infantry & of the sixth Company in the Connecticut line for three years commencing about the year 1780 and that the deponent has this day seen & conversed with a Colored Man calling his name Jeffery Brace who says he was in Col Meigs Regement afterwards Col. Butlers Regement of Infantry the deponent can not at this lenght of time Identify this person as Capt Barkers Company in said Regement was composed of Colored persons & the deponent had but little intercourse with said Company this deponent does not recollect the name of the Captain who commanded the Colored men the deponent had the impression it was Capt Potter of this the deponent may be mistaken the deponent says that the Company of Negroes was generally paraded on the right of the sixth Company this deponent thinks he has a clear recollection of the name of Jeffery as belonging to the Negro Company this deponent in conversing with Jeffery is well persuaded that he was a Soldier of Col. Butlers Regement & belonged to the Negro Company from his narrating so many transactions which took place in the service which he could not have done had he not been in the service he narrates the transaction of a mutiny in the Regement the place where the Regement lay the ring leader and especially of one Gaylor [or Gayles] being hung as supposed to be one of the leaders the place of his execution he also narrates the [circumstances?] of many tricks performed by a Negro boy necked named the Cat he also states many circumstances of the Negro [boxing?] which the deponent recollects also the diferent movement of the regement that I have no doubt in my mind but what he was a Soldier in said Regement After conversing with him & a [illegible word] impression in my mind as to the name of Stiles I think he may have gone by the name Jeffery Stiles [signed] Ansel Patterson"
In an appended note Patterson "further
states in addition to the above that Jeffery is now blind and
aged which may be the reason of the deponent not being able to
Identify him he also shows me a Wound which he received which
I have a clear recollection of some one Negro having such a Wound
Jeffery Brace's depositions:
"On the fourth day of April 1818 before
me the subscriber one of the Judges of Franklin County Court
personally appears Jeffery Brace aged, about seventy eight-years
resident in Georgia in said County of Franklin who being by me
first duly sworn according to Law doth on his oath make the following
declaration in order to obtain the provisions made by the late
act of Congress entitled 'An Act to provide for certain persons
engaged in the land and naval service of the United States in
the revolutionary War.' That said Jeffery Brace enlisted in Woodbury
in the State of Connecticutt in the fall of the year but
the year does not recollect but thinks it was in the year 1777
in the Company Commanded by Capt Granger in Col. Meigs Regiment
in the Connecticutt line afterwards was transfered to Capt Bakers
Company he enlisted for three years as he thought but was returned
for during the War that he continued in said Corps until the
summer 1783 when he was discharged from said service in West
Point by receiving an honorable discharge with a badge of Merritt
which discharge is lost that he was in the battles of White Plains
at Stamford, West-chester at Mud-Fort [Fort Mifflin] in New Jersey
and received a Wound in his leg at the Capture of Mud-fort and
retreated with the American Army to red Bank he says although
he supposed he enlisted for three years yet as he was returnd
for during the War he cheerfully served five years & nine
months and that he is in reduced circumstances and stands
in need of the assistance of his Country for support "
[signed] Jeffery X Brace
An attached deposition by Frederic Bliss,
assistant judge Franklin County Court, states that Bliss was
"personally acquainted with the said Jeffery Brace that
the said Jeffery Brace['s] reputation for truth & veracity
stands unimpeached & will give Credit where ever he is known
In a 3 July 1821 signed statement Brace notes "I have no property of any kind and have been supported for a number of years by Public & private Charity I have no family I am by occupation a farmer or Labourer but have been totally blind for about Seven years and unable to do any thing for my Support"
A final statement by Jeffery Brace explains his name change.
"On this 9 day of May 1820 before me Seth Wehman Judge for the district of Georgia in the State of Vermont personally appears Jeffery Brace of the town of Georgia in said County aged between seventy & eighty years a man of Color who being by me first duly sworn according to law he was a slave to Benjamin Stiles Esq of South bury in Connecticut that he went by the name of Jeffery Stiles afterwards he altered his name to Jeffery Brace he [formerly] had the impression that he altered his name at the time of his enlistment, but upon more mature reflection he thinks that he must have altered his name at the time of his discharge the reasons for altering his name was that he was imported from Affrica when a lad that his Fathers name was Brace after he considered himself discharged from his master he concluded to take the name of his Father Brace was the reason of his altering his name"
More supporting depositions:
"On this 9 day of May 1820 before me
the subscriber Judge of Probate personally appears Jonathan Brooks
of Swanton in the County of Franklin & State of Vermont aged
seventy four years that previous to the commencement of the American
Revolution he resided in South-bury in Connecticut he knew a
slave by the name of Jeffery his masters name was Benjamin Stiles
Esqr. the slave was called Jeffery Stiles he is now present
& known by the name of Jeffery Brace the deponent saith
that a short period before the commencement of the revolution
he removed from South-bury in the year 1776 he was at South-bury
on a Visit, & then understood from several persons at South
bury that Jeffery was then in the service for his freedom
I have known Jeffery about ten years I this County and
was informed by Jeffery that he had altered his name to Jeffery
Brace, and assigned the reason by stating that after he obtained
his freedom took the name of his father Brace / Jeffery at Connecticut
& in this County sustained the Character of an honest Man
[signed] Jonathan Brooks"
4 April 1818:
"I Samuel C. Booge of [Tairpan?] in the County of Franklin & State of Vermont aged sixty three years being duly sworn depose & say that Jefrey Brace now of Georgea in sd County was in the American Service in the years 1777 & 1778 was known to hire & belong to Cap Bakers Company & Col Meigs Regiment this deponent saith that he [the deponent] was in the American Service in the Capacity of Lt. in Col. Chandlers Col Durgees [Durkee] & Col. Webbs Regiment that this deponent was knowing that the said Jeffery Brace was a faithful Soldier and can say there was no better Soldier in the Army the deponent has resided in the same Town of the said Brace for several years and now resides on an adjoining Town and can say that he is a man of Truth. that he is poor & blind and has depended on the Town of Georgea & his friends for support for about two years last past and without the assistance of the Public & friends he must suffer "
"On the 30 day of Decr 1820 before me
the subscriber Judge of the Court of Probate for the District
of Georgea personally appeared Silas Strong aged sixty seven
years resident in St Armand Province of Lower Canada who deposes
& saith that he in the year 1778 & 1779 resided in Southbury
in the State of Connecticutt was well acquainted with given name
can not recollect Stiles Esq[uire] that he was the owner of a
Negro slave called Jeffery Stiles, was well acquainted with Jeffery
that he then well understood that Jeffery has enlisted
in the army to obtain his freedom but what Regiment Jeffery
belonged to does not now recollect but remembers that he saw
Jeffery a number of times after his enlistment in a soldiers
Uniform with a Leather Cap he further recollects that some time
in the War but the year does not recollect but thinks it must
be in the year 1780 he was in the State of New York near West
Point met a Seargeants Guard all in Uniform among
the Guard was Jeffery & conversed with him I am now
acquainted with a Colored man calling himself Jeffery Brace &
know him to be the same person then known by Jeffery Stiles
Jeffery sometimes was necked named [i.e., nicknamed] Pomp London
It is interesting to note the veracity of many such depositions when they can be checked against known facts. In 1777 the Colonel Return Jonathan Meigs 6th Connecticut Regiment did have leather caps issued to them. The caps were noteworthy, so much so that several times during the war they were mentioned as exemplary examples to be copied.
6th Connecticut Regt. 1777-1781. "In
July 1779 Colonel Walter Stewart of the 2nd Pennsylvania Regiment
sent one of his officers to Middletown, Connecticut, there to
have leather caps made for his regiment. The caps were to have
white leather binding around the edges, and came in different
patterns for light infantry, grenadiers, battalion [troops],
sergeants and musicians, and officers. In his letter of instruction
to his officer, Stewart wrote, the [caps] must be made in
the form of the Battalion [caps] w[hi]ch is the same Pattern
as Colo. Megg's. The only colonel in the Continental Army
at the time with a name anything like Meggs, was the 6th
Connecticut Regiment's Colonel Return Jonathan Meigs." Philip
Katcher, Uniforms of the Continental Army, p. 75.
The commander in chief also mentioned the 6th Connecticut's caps in 1781.
George Washington to the Board of War, 10 January 1781:
"We have so constantly experienced the want of Hats, than which no part of dress is more essential to the appearance of a soldier, that I have been endeavouring to find out a subsitute for them, which could be procured among ourselves. I have seen none so likely to answer the purpose, and which at the same time of so military an air as a leather Cap which was procured in the year 1777 for the 6th. Connecticut Regt." John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, vol. 21, p. 83.
(see chapters eight and nine)