Total Pageviews

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Prince Estabrook, Unsung Hero

Prince Estabrook by Stephani

Prince Estabrook is truly an unrecognized hero. Brave and bold, his story deserves to be told.

Prince Estabrook's childhood was different than the majority of enslaved peoples. Estabrook's father was of African descent and was third in line for the throne. It was because of
his fathers background that Estabrook was named Prince. Prince was born in 1740 in Africa and
brought to America at the mere age of fourteen to be sold at a slave auction. He was purchased by Benjamin Estabrook, who gave Prince his last name. Benjamin did not think of Prince as a
slave, he thought of him as an adoptive son. Prince had a secret love of playing cards. Sometimes he would play with Benjamin's son. Prince also always wanted to fight amongst George Washington's Militia.

Estabrook, who I will now refer to as Prince, was the first enslaved person to fight in
the American Revolution in the Battle of Lexington. He was also the first man to be shot in the
official war and suffered a gunshot wound to his left shoulder. One story of Prince in the
revolution is unusual. At five o'clock in the morning, Prince heard the war horns blow. This
meant only one thing, the British were coming! He grabbed his musket and bolted out the door.
He fought side by side with his comrades and they won the skirmish. It was only after the
conflict was over that he realized he was still in his nightcap and pajamas.
Prince enjoyed a kind relationship with Benjamin. Benjamin treated him with dignity
and respect and gave him shelter in a one room log cabin with a fireplace in it next to the main
residence. He also gave Prince a one person bed, a dining table and a food cupboard with
detailed dishes. In addition, Benjamin paid him one pence a week for his labor and never beat
him. This was a significant contrast to the way most slaves were treated at that time. Many of
Prince's friends who were slaves lived in horse stables, were not paid, were not fed well and were

There was only one time when Benjamin was disappointed with Prince. One day,
Prince received permission to go and get food for Benjamin. On his way home he met a woman
on the side of the road. The woman was sick and elderly. She told him that her old master would
whip her and threaten her so she ran away from him. After that, no one wanted her to work for
them. At that moment he realized that the world he was living in was the opposite of how he
lived. He graciously offered the food he purchased with Benjamin's money. She refused at first
but he insisted she take it. She finally accepted his offer and asked him to take one of her
possessions. He initially declined but eventually chose a porcelain decorated egg. When Prince
returned home he explained what happened to Benjamin. Unfortunately, Benjamin did not
believe him and assumed he spent the money on the egg. Infuriated, Benjamin grabbed the egg
and smashed it on the ground. Prince was crushed. Shortly afterwards, Benjamin apologized for
his actions and as a recompense, allowed Prince to go to the village and participate in a card

After Prince's service to the Continental Army, Benjamin granted him his freedom.
Although he was a free man, he chose to remain with the Estabrook family. Two months after
Mrs. Estabrook died, Benjamin went to war and was shot. Prince acted as a nurse, caring for
Benjamin until his last breath. After Benjamin died, Prince still remained with the family and
cared for them. Prince Estabrook never married and died at the age of ninety in 1830. He is
buried in the graveyard behind the First Parish Church Unitarian-Universalist in Ashby,
Massachusetts. In 2008 he was honored by the city of Lexington with a monument erected in
front of Buckman Tavern as being the first African combatant of the American Revolution.
Prince Estabrook was courageous and fought for freedom from British tyranny. He was
also kind, nurturing and cared for those he loved. He was, beyond doubt, one of the unsung
heroes of the American Revolution.

No comments:

Post a Comment