Colonel Tye was probably the most effective and respected black military leader during the Revolution. Never truly appointed as a Colonel, (the British didn't commission blacks), he carried the title out of universal respect for his deeds. His raids and assassinations were greatly feared by the Patriots and invaluable to the British. His Black Brigade helped supply New York when it was besieged by Patriots and in danger of being starved out.
Tye was born as Titus; a slave in New Jersey. He was owned by a Quaker named John Corlies, who ignored the Quaker prohibitions against owning slaves. In fact, he was of uncommon cruelty, whipping his slaves for the slightest of transgressions.
Soon he escaped, traveling down the coast to Virginia. He moved between odd jobs passing himself off as a freeman. By this time, the Patriots were spreading propaganda and taking control of the Virginia countryside. Dunmore hadn't yet issued his famed proclamation, but he wasn't too picky about what sort of troops enlisted with him. Any able body claiming to be free would do, and Tye became one of his first black soldiers.
Undoubtedly, he fought in the early battles in Virginia like Kemp's Landing and Great Bridge, but no record exists of his accomplishments. He only comes to attention around 1778, as one of the leaders of the Black Brigade, an elite guerilla unit composed of blacks from New Jersey. They were charged with using their intimate knowledge of the area to steal supplies and make sneak attacks on Patriots. Tye led his unit with daring and efficiency.
In one famous attack, Tye led a band of white and black troops in a sneak attack against the Patriot militia leader Joseph Murray, who was hated by the British for having executed Loyalists. Tye and his men successfully assassinated him, and three days later captured another local Patriot leader, his men and their supplies.
In the fall of 1780, Tye led another attack on a hated Patriot leader, Josiah Huddy. This time was less lucky however, as Huddy and a female friend managed to hold off twenty attackers for two hours. Eventually, they smoked him out by lighting his house on fire, but not before Tye had been shot through the wrist. Tetanus soon took in and Tye died, but not before he had earned the respect of Loyalists and Patriots in the area.