For any military hero, hardships tend to be par for the course, but it's difficult to believe whether any man has dealt with more than Richard Pierpoint.
Pierpoint would become accustomed to war from an early age by being born in Bondu, Africa. Tribes in this area continually clashed amongst each other while under the constant harassment of slave traders. At the age of sixteen, Pierpoint was captured and sent to the New World as a slave.
How Richard was able to secure his freedom is unconfirmed, but what we do know is that he spent 20 years of his life as a slave. Many historians agree that it is probable that Pierpoint's freedom had been acquired through his involvement in the American War of Independence. Regardless, in 1780 Pierpoint was listed as a soldier of Butler's Rangers and would have spent the war fighting alongside British Loyalists, mostly in New York State.
Following the war, Pierpoint would settle in the Niagara area where he continued to battle for the rights and freedoms of slaves. It wasn't long before Pierpoint would get another opportunity to fight. In 1812, the now 68-year-old Richard Pierpoint would successfully establish the Coloured Corps, a unit made up of free black men. Here he would serve as a Private throughout the war.
After once again bravely serving the empire, the only thing on Pierpoint's mind was to return to his home in Africa. Unfortunately, the British colonialists would refuse his request, making it impossible for him to leave the New World. Instead, Pierpoint was granted 100-acres in the township of Garafraxa, near the current town of Fergus, ON.
Pierpoint would use his remaining years to assist the underground railroad and to help escaped slaves. He passed away in the winter of 1837-38, only after becoming a hero to Black Canadians everywhere.
To learn more, see: The Coloured Corps and the War of 1812 (Canadian Encyclopedia) and Richard Pierpoint: A Vey Canadian Hero (Toronto Star)
Photo: An illustration of Richard Pierpoint and an Ontario Heritage Foundation plaque commemorating his extraordinary life. (Credit: Richard Pierpoint/ An Illustration of Black Loyalist Richard Pierpoint/Artwork by Malcolm Jones, Canadian War Museum)