When war came, many of the colonies, particularly in the North, allowed blacks to take up arms.
Early black fighting men were not drafted or obligated by law to serve the country; they volunteered. Many blacks volunteered to join the Continental army (the colonists’ army) because they believed that a free United States would also give them freedom.
Other blacks joined the British, who offered freedom to all slaves who joined their armies. By the end of the war, nearly 5,000 free blacks had fought with the American army and roughly one thousand slaves had gained their freedom through the British. Blacks served as spies, infantrymen, laborers, cooks, and drivers.
In 1792, Congress passed a law allowing only free white men to serve in the American military.