Free Black Soldier, Surinam, 1770s


John Gabriel Stedman, Narrative, of a Five Years' Expedition, against the revolted Negroes of Surinam . . . from the year 1772, to 1777 (London, 1796), vol. 1, facing p. 80. (Copy in Special Collections Department, University of Virginia Library)


Caption, A Coromantyn Free Negro, or Ranger, Armed. This and other engravings are found in the autobiographical narrative of Stedman, a young Dutchman who joined a military force against rebellions of the enslaved in the Dutch colony. The engravings are based on Stedman's own drawings and were done by professional engravers. For the definitive modern edition of the original 1790 Stedman manuscript, which includes this and other illustrations, see Richard and Sally Price, eds., Narrative of a five years expedition against the revolted Negroes of Surinam (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988). In his Narrative entry for Feb. 28, 1773, Stedman writes: The new raised corps of manumitted slaves, who . . . have proved to be of as much service to the colony, as all the others put together greatly owing to the strength of theyr constitutions, theyr wonderful activity, perseverance, etc.--these men were all volunteers, mostly stout, strapping able young fellows, picked from the different plantations--who received for them theyr full value in money . . . . they have . . . given astonishing proof of theyr fidelity to the Europeans and theyr valour against the revolters . . . . they are arm'd only with a firelock and sabre . . . they generally go naked by preference in the woods except trowsers and a scarlet cap on which is theyr number, and which . . . distinguishes them from the rebels in any action (quoted in Price and Price, p. 82).


Stedman, John Gabriel

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