While the Patriots were ultimately victorious in the American Revolution, choosing sides and deciding whether to fight in the war was far from an easy choice for American colonists. The great majority were neutral or Loyalist. For the African Americans, what mattered most was freedom. As the Revolutionary War spread through every region, those in slavery sided with whichever army promised them freedom. The British actively recruited slaves belonging to Patriot masters and, consequently, more African Americans fought for the British. An estimated 20,000 African Americans offered their services to the British. They had many roles, such as laborers, orderlies, scouts, and spies. Since they had lived in the areas of the battles, they knew the local roads and rivers, which made them excellent scouts and spies. On the American side, slaves were not given guns at first, because they were feared to revolt. Soon, they were needed, and Rhode Island offered to set any slave free who volunteered for the regiment.
At the end of the war, 100,000 slaves were either freed or had escaped.