Lord Dunmore’s Ethiopian Regiment or Ethiopian Regiment was the name given to the Black unit that was part of the British colonial military, organized during the American Revolutionary war. It has nothing to do with the present day country Ethiopia. It was compose of African American slaves who have or wanted to escape from their Patriot Masters.
In 1775, Lord Dunmore, Royal Governor of Virginia, issued a proclamation offering to all slaves of revolutionaries who were willing to join him under arms against the rebels in the American Revolutionary War. Within a week of Dunmore’s proclamation, over 300 escape slaves had flocked to Lord Dunmore troops in Norfolk. Every week hundreds more arrived, desperate for freedom. Dunmore nearly doubled his army in a couple of weeks, with a steady stream of escapees abandoning their Revolutionary masters and joining Dunmore’s ranks.
In November 1775, the Ethiopian Regiment first battle was at Kemp’s Landing, which was a success, where an unprepared Patriots were surprised by Dunmore’s men and fled quickly. Dunmore was convinced of the value and effectiveness of blacks soldiers.
Dunmore hurried to have the blacks trained in the basics of musket shooting and formation marching, and had special uniforms and sashes made for them, their sashes inscribed with the words, “Liberty to Slaves”.
An overconfident Dunmore, due to the easy victory at Kemps Landing, was convinced that the Patriots were basically cowards. Dunmore Decided to order an attack based on the deception of a Patriot double agent who told Dunmore that most of the Patriots had left for other parts of Virginia. With the deceptive information, on the early morning of December 10th, Lord Dunmore ordered the Ethiopian Troops along with other troops to march across the Greats Bridge. The patriots revealed themselves and fired many times on the British troops wounding many. The quick attack of the patriots on the British soldiers turned into a panic, causing the British troops to retreat and scramble to get out of the line of fire.
Within days, Lord Dunmore gave up Norfolk and had his troops loaded onto a British fleet. In hopes to better train his troops to become better marksmen and soldiers. In cramped and damped quarters filled with wounded soldiers, disease soon took hold. Smallpox spread quickly killing of most of the Ethiopian troops. The regiment went from over 800 men to only about 300 alive. Dunmore disband the Ethiopian Regiment in 1776 and organized a new Regiment calling them the Black Pioneer. The Black Pioneers included members of the Ethiopian Regiment including the Regiment two best African American soldiers Thomas Peters and Titus Colonel Tye. The Black Pioneers along with other British Troops Retreated to New York.