In 1832 the U.S. Congress enacted the first comprehensive Pension Act, which
granted an annual stipend to any veteran of the Revolutionary War who could
prove his service. Jehu Grant was one of several dozen black veterans, and one
of thousands in total, who applied for the fund. The only proof many of these
veterans had that they had been part of the fight were their own recollections.
To receive the funds, ex-soldiers had to tell their stories to a local court
reporter, who sent the records on to Washington for disposition.
Grant was a slave in Rhode Island. He ran away from his loyalist master in 1777
and served with the Continental Army as a teamster. His master found him 8
months later, and the army let him reclaim Grant.
After the war, he was sold to a new master, who let Grant earn his freedom. At
the time of his pension application, Grant was 80 years old and blind. He made
the appeal with the assistance of a neighbor.
Grant's application was denied, as was a subsequent plea. Because he had
remained, technically, a slave during the time of his service, the U.S.
government in 1832 would not recognize his claim.