Monday, 26 November 2007

Lord Dunmore's Ethiopians

One of the fears of Americans both immediately before and during the AWI was that armed slaves would revolt and roam the countryside causing carnage. The decisions of English courts showed that runaway slaves could expect sympathetic treatment by the British (as opposed to colonial) authorities. The governor of Virginia, John Murray the Earl of Dunmore, was very much alive to the tensions that slave-ownership created and the prospect of enlisting slaves into armed service in the event of hostilities between crown and colomies. When war finally broke out in 1775, Dunmore proclaimed that negroes who joined him in arms would be declared free men. Virginians described Dunmore's initiative as "most diabolical". By the end of the year, some 300 men had flocked to his cause, mainly slaves but also some local loyalist sailors. So was born Lord Dunmore's Ethiopian Regiment. It saw action against American militia, notable at the Battle of Great Bridge on 9 December 1775. Dunmore's force grew to over 800 men by the summer of 1776 but it was then much depleted by fever and the regiment seems to have been disbanded by the end of the year.

I've named these figures after Dunmore's regiment, because ever since I first read about it I have wanted to paint up a few "Ethiopians". But in reality these figures are generic militia types that I hope to use all over the place, as black troops fought on both sides in the war. They can be used as Loyalist toughs in the southern campaigns - I have seen references to a loyalist unit called "Savannah's Armed Negroes", which is the kind of thing I have in mind. I will probably also add a figure or two to American militia skirmisher units; I actually retained a couple of figures to add to my next rebel militia battalion.

So these figures have a fairly wide potential use and they were great fun (and pretty easy) to paint. The figures are all from the Foundry "Cutthroats" range, save for the officer which is a Perry Miniatures British officer. I wavered over whether to give him a red or a green coat. Whilst loyalist troops started off wearing green uniforms, most regiments had switched over to red ones by the late 1770s as if to confirm that loyalists were not second-graders and deserved to dress like British regulars (a notable exception being the Queen's Rangers, whose commander insisted they remain in green). I went for green because it just looked better and because I can employ this officer as a generic loyalist skirmisher. Dunmore's men apparently had the legend "Liberty to Slaves" written on their chests, but that just wouldn't have worked in 25mm (not by me, at any rate). As Dunmore recruited some sailors, I added one white "pirate" to the unit.

12 figures. Painted October/November 2007.


Peter Mark-Smith said...

Awesome as ever Giles, great painting set off with great consistant basing.
Very Inspirational.

Snickering Corpses said...

An interesting unit and one I'd not heard of. Thank you for the lovely painting and the history lesson. :>