Who was America's first Double Spy?
Updated: Nov 15, 2022
James Armistead was born a slave in Virginia around 1748. With permission, Armistead enlisted in the Revolutionary War under General Lafayette, After the war Armistead took on his last name and became known as James Armistead Lafayette. Working as a spy, Armistead gained the trust of the great English generals, Charles Cornwallis and Benedict Arnold and because of this America won the great Battle Of Yorktown where the British ultimately surrendered.
James was a slave belonging to William Armistead. Some say James requested to go to war under Lafayette, OR that Lafayette saw James' work ethic and character and requested him to serve with him. Slaves would often sign up for war because after serving they could possibly gain freedom.
After some time Lafayette reportedly asked James to join the camp of Benedict Arnold as a slave so that he could get information on the English and give it back to America. After succeeding in joining and gaining the trust of Benedict Arnold, he assumed James would be against America asked if he would be a spy for them. James, who was loyal to America, obliged. This was an extraordinarily dangerous task as James could not carry papers into any side. If he was caught without papers this could mean that he would be captured and ultimately could mean his death.
Using the details of Armistead's reports, Lafayette and General George Washington were able to prevent the British from sending 10,000 reinforcements to Yorktown, Virginia. The American and French blockade surprised British forces and crippled their military. As a result, America gained victory at The Battle Of Yorktown. The British officially surrendered on Oct. 19, 1781. Many slaves believed in what America was fighting for, they believed in freedom for all. Many slaves like Armistead fought for that freedom. James gained his freedom in 1787.