Soldiers in Uniform


This watercolor from the American War of Independence is by Jean Baptiste Antoine de Verger (1762-1851), a French artist who himself fought in the war as a sub-lieutenant in a French regiment and who kept an illustrated journal of his experiences in the war. The watercolor, which appears in the journal, shows the variety of soldiers fighting for American independence, depicting, from left to right, a black soldier of the First Rhode Island Regiment, a New England militiaman, a frontier rifleman, and a French officer. An estimated 5,000 African-American soldiers fought in the Revolutionary War. Although most black soldiers from New England fought in integrated regiments, the First Rhode Island was an exception--it was made up of 197 black men commanded by white officers. Nevertheless, it was considered an elite unit, and saw action at the Battle of Rhode Island and the Siege of Yorktown. The watercolor is part of the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection at the Brown University Library, the foremost American collection devoted to the history and iconography of soldiers and soldiering, and one of the world’s largest collections devoted to the study of military and naval uniforms.

Last updated: September 18, 2015