William Clarke, a free Black man born in York County, Virginia, enlisted to fight alongside his neighbors for freedom during the Revolutionary War.
Over 240 years later, a small crowd gathered to remember and honor him on Aug. 21 with a memorial marker.
“While William Clarke was one of more than 420 free-born African Americans in Virginia, he took up arms,” said Order of Founders and Patriots Gov. Michael Weyler.
Clarke was born to John Clarke, a free man of both white and Black ancestry, and Judith, a white servant, around 1758. When he was about 17-years-old, he enlisted in the Army with Thomas Wells, a captain in the 15th Virginia Regiment.
Thirty seven years after enlisting, Clarke made an oath in Culpeper County that he had served as a soldier during the entirety of the war — an unusual feat for the time, according to Madden’s reading of his biography.
After the war, Clarke found himself at Culpeper Court House in 1818 and 1820 applying for his pension, which he unfortunately never saw as he died only seven years later. Two decades later, however, his wife, Hannah Peters, received the pension in Culpeper, Madden’s reading continued.
The ceremony, hosted by the Culpeper Minute Men Chapter and The Color Guard of the Virginia Society SAR (VASSAR), featured a presentation of colors by the VASSAR Color Guard and a musket salute.
After Clarke descendant William Madden unveiled the memorial marker, members from such groups as the Virginia Society of Sons of the American Revolution and Order of Founders and Patriots presented wreaths and paid their respects to Clarke by bowing or tipping their hats.