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Work on Royal Navy galleys in North America during the American Revolution was physically demanding, lacked in sufficient shelter for their crews and rarely resulted in sailors obtaining prize monies. These conditions resulted in desertion rates five times greater than on other Royal Navy vessels and the frequent employment of older men. At the same time, Blacks served British galleys at twice the rate as on other Royal Navy vessels. This was due to the hiring out of slaves onto galleys by Loyalists, the impressment of free black seamen by galley commanders and fugitive slaves seeking freedom through service on naval galleys. Thus, while whites did all they could to avoid service on naval galleys Blacks found themselves doing this unappealing work. In this, as with promotion, pay and pensions, Blacks in the Royal Navy often found themselves disadvantaged due to their race.
Charles R. Foy, “Compelled to Row: Blacks on Royal Navy Galleys During the American Revolution,” Journal of the American Revolution, Nov. 14, 2017, https://allthingsliberty.com/2017/11/compelled-row-blacks-royal-navy-galleys-american-revolution/#_ednref17
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