During the American Revolutionary war Colonel Tye was the most feared and respected war fighter and commander. Colonel Tye also known as Titus Cornelius was born into slavery in New Jersey. Monmouth County and owned by a Quaker named John Corlies.
Tye was one of the four men owned by Corlies. Quakers was under increasing pressure from their Philadelphia-influenced counterparts to end slavery. Corlies did not follow the local practice of teaching his slaves how to read and write, and free them at the age 21. Corlies kept his slaves past the age 21, and he was in fact the last slaveholder in the region.
Corlies was known around the region to be extra hard on his slaves, severely whipping them for minor causes. Tye, 22 years old at the time fled from his abusive, cruel, quick-tempered master. In November 1775, Lord Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia, issued a proclamation offering freedom to all slaves and indentured servants who would leave rebel masters and join British forces. Tye happened to escape bondage the day after Dunmore’s proclamation, too early to have learned the news. About 2 days later while on the run Tye heard about the proclamation, and quickly made his way to the British and enlisted in the Ethiopian Regiment.
Tye enlisted in the Ethiopian Regiment under the name “Titus”, but changed his name three years later gaining notoriety as Captain Tye, the pride of Dunmore’s Ethiopian Regiment. Tye quickly earned the British respect in his first known military incursion in June 1778 at the Battle of Monmouth. When Tye captured a captain in the Monmouth militia. Tye was promoted to leader and was quickly known for his effective fighting skills.
In July 1779, Tye led his band, launching raids throughout Shrewsbury, New Jersey, seizing food, fuel, clothing, furniture, horses, cattle, taking prisoners, and free slaves. Tye continue to attack and plunder patriots homes, using his knowledge of the Monmouth County’s swamps, rivers, and inlet to strike suddenly and disappear quickly. These raids often aimed at former slave masters.
It was said that Tye and his men was well-paid by the British, sometimes earning five gold guineas. During the harsh winter in 1779, Tye was among an elite group of twenty-four black loyalist, known as the Black Brigade, who joined with the Queen Rangers, a British guerrilla unit, to defend and protect the British occupied New York City and to conduct raids for fuel and food.
By 1780, Colonel Tye became an important military force. Within one week in June, he led three actions in Monmouth County. On June 9, Tye and his men murdered Joseph Murray, hated by the loyalist. On June 12, while the British attacked George Washington’s dwindling troops, Tye and his men launched an attack on the home of Barnes Smock, capturing the militia leader and twelve of his men, destroying their cannon, depriving Washington of needed reinforcements, and striking fear into the hearts of local patriots.
In September 1780, Tye led a surprise attack on the home of Captain Josiah Huddy, whom loyalist tried to captures for years. Amazingly, Huddy had his female servant Lucretia Emmons hold off the attackers for two hours, until Tye and his men flushed Huddy out by setting his house on fire. During the battle, Tye was shot in the wrist, and days later, what was thought to be a minor wound, when lock jaw set in, it turned fatal.
After Tye death, the British continued their attacks. Although never commissioned as an officer by the British Army, which they did not appoint anyone of African descent to such a position, Colonel Tye earned his honorary title as a sign of respect for his tactical and leadership skills.