Oliver Cromwell: An African American Revolutionary War Hero

Oliver Cromwell was no ordinary soldier of the American Revolution. This military hero’s discharge was signed by General George Washington “stating that he was entitled to wear the badges of honor by reason of his honorable services.”

Cromwell’s story first appeared in a newspaper interview conducted when he was 100 years old by a reporter of the Burlington Gazette (Burlington, New Jersey) in 1905, which was reprinted by the Trenton Evening Times. As the newspaper article noted: “though feeble, his lips trembling at every word, when he spoke of [General George] Washington his eyes sparkled with enthusiasm.”

The archive of old newspapers in GenealogyBank is packed with thousands of these firsthand accounts of military service in the Revolutionary War, adding a personal touch to the facts of many of these early American military battles.

In that 1905 interview, Cromwell told of his Revolutionary War service crossing the Delaware “with his beloved commander…on the memorable Christmas night [in] 1776.”

The old newspaper article adds that Cromwell: “took part in the battle of Trenton, and helped to ‘knock the British about lively at Princeton.’ He also fought at the Revolutionary War battles of Short Hills, Brandywine, Monmouth and Springfield, where he was severely wounded, and saw the last man killed at York town.”

interview with African American Revolutionary War veteran Oliver Cromwell, Trenton Evening Times newspaper article 11 April 1905

Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), 11 April 1905, page 5

A few days after Cromwell’s death, the local Burlington Gazette published an editorial calling for the erection of a monument in honor of the Revolutionary War hero.

“And thus, one by one, the men who purchased with their blood the liberty we now enjoy, are going off the stage…We suggest whether it would not be proper to erect some suitable monument over his grave…it will be pleasant to know that the people of Burlington felt sufficient interest in him, to mark the spot where his ashes are buried.”

The reprint in the Trenton Evening Times notes: “Unfortunately no such monument was ever erected and there is nothing to indicate the last resting place of Oliver Cromwell.”

Oliver Cromwell lived in a different time and place, and life was more difficult than it would have been for him now. He was African American, one of the many that served in the American Revolution. Though honored by General Washington, his pension was revoked by a local pension agent. “Tears fell from his eyes when he told of his discharge being taken from him by the pension agent.”

In 1984, this plaque was placed on the property where his home once stood.

plaque indicating spot where African American Revolutionary War veteran Oliver Cromwell's house once stood

Photo from the official Burlington County, New Jersey, website

His grave has been located in the cemetery at Broad Street Methodist Church in Burlington, New Jersey. The local historical society was named in his honor in 1983.

Oliver Cromwell (1752-1853), one of “the men who purchased with their blood the liberty we now enjoy,” was “respected by our citizens” then and remembered to this day.

See what other American Revolutionary War veterans’ stories you can find in GenealogyBank’s online historical newspaper archives. There are many more stories of Revolutionary War heroes like Oliver Cromwell waiting for you to discover.

Handy Quick List: 10 Trenton, New Jersey, Newspapers Now Online

GenealogyBank continues to grow every day—we now have 10 Trenton, New Jersey, newspapers online. That’s a lot of local papers to research your family history from New Jersey’s capital city.

Trenton New Jersey Newspapers Archive

Trenton, N.J., was the site of George Washington’s first victory during the Revolutionary War, the important Battle of Trenton, when Washington led his men over the icy Delaware River the day after Christmas, 1776. The city proudly carries the nickname “Turning Point of the Revolution.”

Interesting bit of U.S. history trivia: Trenton was once the capital of the United States, albeit briefly, in November and December 1784.

Trace your genealogy from this historical New Jersey city. Here is the complete list of Trenton, NJ, newspapers currently available in our online archives, providing coverage from 1792 to today.

Newspaper Coverage Collection
Miscellany 6/10/1805 – 12/2/1805 Newspaper Archives
New Jersey State Gazette 9/19/1792 – 12/31/1799 Newspaper Archives
Sentinel 6/26/1880 – 11/13/1882 Newspaper Archives
Times 3/21/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Trenton Evening Times 1/7/1883 – 3/15/1993 Newspaper Archives
Trenton Federalist 12/2/1800 – 12/27/1824 Newspaper Archives
Trenton State Gazette 1/12/1847 – 12/31/1898 Newspaper Archives
Trenton Sunday Times-Advertiser 11/6/1938 – 8/26/1973 Newspaper Archives
Trentonian 4/12/2000 – Current Recent Obituaries
True American 3/10/1801 – 9/21/1818 Newspaper Archives

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