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The Bucks of America: Massachusetts’ First African American Unit 
Historical Spotlight 
Leonid Kondratiuk, Director, Historical Services, Massachusetts National Guard 

- Massachusetts was one of the few colonies that allowed free Blacks to serve in the militia before the Revolution. Pvt. Prince Estabrook was wounded in action during the skirmish between the Lexington Company and the British that took place at 6 a.m. on April 19, 1775. In Boston there was a small population of free African Americans; this was still during the time that slavery was still legal in Massachusetts.  

We know that when Lt. Gen George Washington took command of the Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Rhode Island regiments that were inducted into the Continental Army on June 14, 1775; he was dismayed to see free Blacks serving in the ranks. Despite the prejudice, African Americans served in the militia and Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.

The slave-owning Washington finally admitted that Black Soldiers served well and were needed. Sometime during the war, free Blacks were allowed to organize their own company in Boston designated as the Bucks of America.

There are no written records of its existence other than its organizational color which is in the collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society. The company commander was believed to be Samuel Middleton. The Bucks probably served as an unofficial but sanctioned militia company available for the defense of the city and state.

We know that the company served honorably during the war. The colors were presented by Gov. John Hancock to Cpt. Middleton; one story is that the colors were presented at the unit’s inactivation ceremony, in Gov. Hancock’s words, in “tribute to their courage and devotion in the cause of American liberty.”

To us in the Massachusetts National Guard, it makes more sense that the colors were presented to the company by the state’s Captain General during the war. The silk flag shows a deer rampant on a pine tree. The deer was the Buck’s logo and the pine tree is a symbol of Massachusetts.

While very little is known about the Bucks of America; its commander lived for many years in Boston after the war and was called “Colonel” Middleton in honor of his years and military service. Col. Middleton was a no-nonsense old Soldier.

There is a story that a gang of young white thugs tried to break up an anti-slavery rally annually held by African Americans on Boston Common. The African Americans were not going to put up with this and so they came armed with bats. Col. Middleton came out on the street armed with his musket aimed at the white thugs and, in the loudest voice ever heard in Boston, ordered them to disperse. They did and a serious confrontation between whites and Blacks was averted.