Biography of James Armistead Lafayette

Biography of James Armistead Lafayette


Born: December 10, 1760 in Virginia

Died: August 9, 1830 in Virginia

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James Armistead in his



        James Armistead’s parents are unknown although he was born into slavery meaning both his parents were probably slaves. James Armistead lived in Virginia, this might have made him want to join the war because everyone in Virginia was joining the war and he might have pressured to do join also. He was a slave for William Armistead and has no prior education. As a slave James Armistead took care of William Armistead’s plantation in New Kent Virginia.

        With permission from William Armistead, James Armistead joined the Continental Army. He served in Virginia for Lafayette as a spy. He infiltrated Cornwallis’ headquarters acting like an escaped slave. He then became a servant for the general and was able to overhear conversations about British plans and read documents. After he gained the trust of the British he was able to become a spy for the British. This let him feed the British fake information about the Continental Army. He also spied on a traitor from the Americans and gained his trust. He was able to gain enough trust to be invited to the meetings of the British. He was able to leave easily making it easy for him to relay messages to Lafayette. James Armistead did not take part in any wars directly but by relaying Cornwallis’ strategy he had a big part in the war of Yorktown. He joined the war in 1781 and was part of it until the end in 1783.

        After the war James Armistead went back to serving William Armistead. He did not count as a black soldier because he was considered a black spy. Until in 1787 Lafayette assisted him in gaining his freedom. Because of this James Armistead changed his name to James Lafayette. After gaining his freedom James Lafayette moved 9 miles south to New Kent and created a farm on 40 acres of land. James Lafayette married and raised a large family. James Lafayette continued farming until he died at the age of 69.


Extended Resources:



Rockwell, Anne. A Spy Called James. Minneapolis MN: Carolrhoda Books, 2016


Davis, Burke. Black Heroes of the American Revolution. South Hadley MA: The                                                    Odyssey Bookshop, 1976




Slave and Revolutionary War Spy James Lafayette. C-Span. Vince Houghton, Katherine Egner Gruber. C-Span,          28, 2016.




“James Armistead Lafayette Facts.” JAMES ARMISTEAD LAFAYETTE FACTS, American Revolutionary War Facts,


“James Armistead Lafayette (1748-1830).” The American Revolution, The American Revolution, 2016,


Daigler, Ken. “James Lafayette (James Armistead), American Spy.” Journal of the American Revolution, Journal of the American Revolution, 3 Sept. 2017, Editors, Editors. “James Armistead.”, A&E Networks Television, 12 Sept. 2016,


Jessica, Salo. “Blackpast.” Lafayette, James Armistead (1760-1832) | The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed,, 2015,

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