(c. 1748–1830) patriot spy also known as James Armistead, a slave who volunteered, with his owner's permission, to spy for the Marquis de Lafayette in the hope that it would win him his freedom. He soon earned the trust of the British and served as a double agent, feeding Gen. Charles Cornwallis insignificant or misleading information from Lafayette and keeping Lafayette informed of Cornwallis' movements along the Virginia coast. It was James who informed Lafayette that Cornwallis was fortifying a position at Yorktown (1781). After the war, James returned to the household of his owner, William Armistead, who in 1786 arranged for his manumission through the Virginia legislature, for which he was compensated well above the norm. When James was freed in 1787, he took Lafayette's surname.
From The Oxford Essential Dictionary of the U.S. Military in Oxford Reference.
Subjects: Warfare and Defence.