Sunday, February 11, 2018

Alexander T. Augusta: Standing Up to Discrimination

The people that seem to get the most attention during Black History Month are those who took a stand against injustice, prejudice, and discrimination. Whether we look to Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, or John Lewis, they all made a difference and paved a way so others would have a smoother ride.

However, too many African American figures from the past have been forgotten or pushed to the margins of history. One such man is Alexander T. Augusta. Born free in 1825 in Norfolk, Virginia, Augusta learned the barber's trade and practiced in Baltimore. He was denied the opportunity to study medicine at the prestigious University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, but fortunately received some preliminary tutoring from a white doctor, which only increased his desire to learn. His exposure to medicine only made him crave more knowledge, so he moved to Toronto, where he was accepted into Trinity Medical College, earned his master's degree, and graduated in 1856.

Augusta practiced in Canada until the Emancipation Proclamation officially opened the U.S. army to accept black men. Augusta wrote to the War Department in Washington D.C., and offered his services for a regiment of black troops. He passed a thorough examination and was commissioned as a major on April 4, 1863. He worked examining black soldiers in Washington and then was appointed to the 7th USCI. However, he spent most of his service on detached duty working the Washington and Baltimore hospitals and contraband camps.

On one occasion Augusta was violently mobbed in Baltimore for just wearing his officer's uniform. In another incident a white subordinate officer raised a kerfuffle over having to serve under Augusta. But another incident that I came across seemed like something from the mid-twentieth century's Civil Rights Movement.

In a letter written by Augusta on January 20, 1865, to Maj. Gen. Lew Wallace, the doctor protested an incident that he, his wife, and a female friend experienced on train. He penned, "I have the honor to lay before you a disability that the colored people have to labor under in traveling between this City [Baltimore] and Washington, which I am of the opinion if you will be kind enough to call the attention of the President of the Balt[imore] and Ohio [Railroad] to, will be removed."

Augusta explained that although the railroad company charges black people the same fair as whites, blacks are "subject to insults" and are forced into a car where they are unpleasantly exposed to smoking passengers. Augusta protested that "It makes no difference how respectable a colored lady may be; how disagreeable smoking may be to her; or how ill she might be, the employees about the depot will not permit her to enter any other car, and should she by chance get into another and is found there, she is rudely thrust out."

Using a prime example that happened just that very day, Augusta made a strong case. His wife and her friend after buying tickets had entered a car, but were told to move to the front car by an employee of the railroad and where they encountered thick smoke. The ladies attempted to open the window to get some fresh air and for doing so were verbally abuse by "two rough white men." Augusta "appealed to the ticket agent," who claimed to have nothing to do with the passenger cars. Augusta then went up the chain of command and spoke to the superintendent of the cars, who said the smoking car was the only one "colored persons could ride in." Augusta also protested to the conductor, who referred him to complain to the president of the railroad.

Augusta stated that he was petitioning to General Wallace due to the unfair practice that an officer of the United States and his family and friends should not be subjected to. He wrote that he could not carry his business elsewhere, because all of the railroads did the same. He also claimed that black passengers were often not allowed to buy through tickets to New York forcing them to stay over in Philadelphia at extra expense. And, also that policemen threw black people unfamiliar with the travel regulations out of the depot if they showed up at the wrong hours. Augusta was afraid that "a serious difficulty may occur" if these outages continued. He politely closed: "Hoping General, you will use your good offices to remove these unjust rules."

It would be three more years until the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified, and still longer for equal public accommodations to become a reality for African Americans. However, it took individuals such as Alexander T. Augusta to first stand up and draw attention to issues that were seemingly out of sight to those who were not affected. Much respect goes to men and women like Augusta who sought to correcting wrongs by demanding rights.



Friday, February 9, 2018

Black Barbers in 1859 Cumberland, Maryland


Last night, while looking through October 1859 newspapers on the Library of Congress, "Chronicling America" website, I came across the October 20 edition of the Cumberland, Maryland, Civilian and Telegraph. This Opposition (former Whig) paper had a couple of interesting articles pertaining to John Brown's Harpers Ferry raid, which is not surprising due to its proximity to the event both chronologically and geographically.

However, I was struck most by the amazing advertisement shown above. Now, if you've been reading "My Random Thoughts" for a while, you know that black barbers advertising during the antebellum years was not uncommon by the number of ads I've shared on this forum. But, I don't believe that I've ever come across one that included a rhyming poem. Fascinating!

The rhyme covers just about every facet of barbering and clientele pleasing one could imagine. Focusing on the barbers' skills, availability, and affordability, the ad is an original and refreshing take on mid-nineteenth century marketing. 

Wanting to confirm these men were African Americans, as were the vast majority of the barbers at this time in the Upper South, I ran a search on Ancestry.com for the 1860 census. I was disappointed that I did not get any clear hits for either last name. Not to be thwarted, I searched the complete 151 page listing for Cumberland.

The first one I found was actually the last listed in the advertisement. It appears to be Nick, or perhaps, Mich, for Michael, Francis, a thirty-six year old black barber. Also in the Francis household was wife Maranda, 29; sons John and Nicholas, twelve and one respectively; and daughters Mary and Helen, six and four respectively. Mr. Francis is not shown as owning any real estate or personal property of value, and all members were the family were natives of Maryland.


Francis's near neighbor was apparently his barber business partner, William Cornsh, which appears to be misspelled in the census. It looks like the census taker attempted a phonetic spelling and came up with Cornilt, or something close to that. Cornsh was listed as a thirty-two year old black barber, who lived with his wife Catherine, a twenty-six year old black woman. Like Mr. Francis, Mr. Cornsh is not shown with any real estate or personal property wealth.


In my search through Cumberland's manuscript census, I came across several other black barbers. I also found one white native barber, which is quite unusual. If barbers are listed as white they were usually immigrants from Italy, France, or Ireland. Barbering was occupation that was viewed as being beneath most native whites.

I wonder what happened to these men during the Civil War. Did they continue cutting hair and shaving beards or did they feel a need to join up and fights when they got the opportunity? I wish I had the time to find out. I'm sure they both have interesting life stories. 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Recent Acquisitions to My Library


When it comes to books, I'm not usually an impulse buyer. I try to read reviews, see who published the book, learn more about the author if I am unfamiliar with him or her, add it to my wish list and then hope the price drops. 

That was not the case last evening, where Ed Ayers was our February speaker at the Petersburg Civil War Roundtable. I was familiar with Ayers's previous work and had actually met him about nine years ago in Richmond at a history conference. At that time I had him sign a copy of In the Presence of Mine Enemies: War in the Heart of America. I had enjoyed the book, as well as several others on Southern history that he had published and I appreciated the fact that when I met him he was so down-to-earth and humble. So, when I was lining up folks for the 2018 Petersburg Roundtable slate of speakers, I thought I'd ask and he accepted. 

The Thin Light of Freedom: The Civil War and Emancipation in the Heart of America is the follow up book to In the Presence of Mine Enemies and continues the stories of Augusta County, Virginia and Franklin County, Pennsylvania from Gettysburg through Reconstruction. The stories of these two counties come from the documents that make up Ayers's "Valley of the Shadow Project" digital history initiative that he developed when he was at the University of Virginia. I had planned on purchasing the book at some point, but after hearing his talk last evening, I decided to buy one and have him sign it on the spot. I'm really looking forward to diving into this one and reading Ayers's grounds-eye-view approach to the people that lived the war and the reunification of the nation.


I also try not to purchase a book solely on its title. Authors and publishers can sometimes be tricky. The title can sometimes make one think the book will cover certain issues only to find that is not the case. However, Word by Word: Emancipation and the Act of Writing by Christopher Hager, was a title too good to pass on when I came across it. 

Enslaved African Americans were often not allowed to read and write. Although there are a number of exceptions, and a couple of the slave states did not make literacy illegal, most owners wanted to control their human property as much as possible and keeping the illiterate helped toward that end. Writing was an act of freedom and expression that those few enslaved who could do it enjoyed. When emancipation came others who had been deprived sought to learn. However, expressing oneself in writing during Reconstruction could be extremely dangerous. I'm excited to read what voices of the enslaved and freedmen Hager uncovers and how he analyzes this previously overlooked historical subject.


I am currently reading The F Street Mess: How Southern Senators Rewrote the Kansas-Nebraska Act by Alice Elizabeth Malavasic. This intriguing book looks into the relationship of four Southern senators, who were all in some sense the proteges of John C. Calhoun, and who worked to legislate slavery's movement into the western territories before the Civil War. 

Robert M.T. Hunter, James Murray Mason, Andrew Pickens Butler, and David Rice Atchison shared a living space on F Street in Washington D.C. (thus the "mess" in the title) and developed a strong friendship due to their like-mindedness. Hunter and Mason from Virginia, Butler from South Carolina, and Atchison from Missouri, all played the high stakes political games that helped bring about the eventual election of Abraham Lincoln, the secession of eleven slave states, and the outbreak of the war. The Slave Power conspiracy is one that has been kicked about by historians and this book looks to add another piece toward better understanding the contentious mid-1850s.


Few events helped spark the effectiveness of the Civil Rights Movement as did the murder of Emmett Till in 1955 in Mississippi. The injustice of this crime has been the subject of a number of books and documentaries, but few have actually looked into who Emmett Till actually was. The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson is self described as "part detective story and part political history," and apparently uncovers previously unused sources to tell the story of this young man and his impact of human rights. 

I've read and found Tyson's previous books Radio Free Dixie and Blood Done Sign My Name both to be alarmingly eye-opening and informative reads. I'm fairly certain that this one will follow suit.


Don't Hurry Me Down to Hades: The Civil War in the Words of Those Who Lived Through It by Susannah J. Ural promises to be another of the growing grounds-eye-view Civil War books. I truly appreciate the historians who make the war real by showing its effect on people by using their own words. Doing so helps cut out so much "hind-sight history" and nostalgia. Here one gets to read the thoughts of those who lived it. This one looks to be right up my reading interest alley. 

Monday, January 29, 2018

Browsing Random Newspaper Issues from the Past #2

I've been having a grand time browsing Southern antebellum newspapers from the Library of Congress's "Chronicling America" collection. My intent in doing these posts is to show how interwoven slavery was into slave state society, economics, politics, and culture. Also, when I find something that strikes my interest, and perhaps not slavery related, I'll try to share, too. This particular post's edition is the December 8, 1859 issue of the Greenville, South Carolina Southern Enterprise.


The Southern Enterprise was under the editorship of William P. Price. Price is shown as a twenty-five year old lawyer in the 1860 census. He owned $4200 in real estate and $4450 in personal property. I found it interesting that the paper's motto was "Equal Rights to All."


This set of resolutions by the South Carolina House of Representatives were passed in the wake of John Brown's hanging. Their sentiments were quite common across the slave states, especially at this time.


Continuing on John Brown, this short article discusses the Kentucky hemp rope used to hang John Brown. If you are a longtime reader of my "Random Thoughts," I've covered this particular item in a few past posts here, here, and here.


Cotton was indeed King in the South, especially in the Deep South. Cotton market prices were printed in almost each and every paper as ready reference. The production of the fiber funded the region's economy like nothing else, and obviously, its development depended almost entirely upon enslaved labor.


New tax regulations for the town of Greenville, South Carolina, in 1859, stated that those who wished to be excluded from area slave patrol duty must pay $2.50 to the town clerk.


Slavery provided jobs to more than planters and cotton factors. Young men, like that above, trying to get their start in the the world sought work as overseers on plantations.


Militia units, some of which went back years, but others that emerged in the wake of John Brown's raid, often advertised in newspapers for muster day events and when dues were late, as shown here. Militias served as ready military if a slave rebellion broke out. Many militias turned into companies for forming regiments when the Civil War came. 


Who knew macaroni was available in upland South Carolina in 1859? I wonder if they had cheese with it? Yum! 


Sales of slaves were commonly advertised in newspapers. At the time there were few better ways to get the word out about a pending sale. Nine slaves (here called servants) in a family, a man, his wife, and seven children, who were from six to twenty-two years old were offered. They were skilled workers, who kept house, cooked, ironed, sewed, and manufactured clothes.


Slaves needed clothes, and some masters found it more practical to purchase them rather than have his slave produce them. They also needed other basics. Here A. Sommer advertised to sell "a well-assorted Stock of Negro Clothing, Hats, Shoes and Blankets," which he offered "Low for cash." 


Just about every product imaginable was marketed to planters. Here a patent medicine, Jacob's Cordial, is offered and which has saved 10,000 slaves per year. It claimed to be the "positive remedy" for dysentery, diarrhea, and flux (hemorrhoids). It only cost $1 per bottle. That's about $30 today. 


Another research of interest of mine, black barbers, popped up in this edition. Two barbers, Wilson Cook and Burride, offered their hair cutting and shaving services. It appears that these men were enslaved barbers, as neither shows up in the 1860 census. However, there are about three or four free men of color who also worked in Greenville as barbers and who did show up on the 1860 census. It is fascinating to me that enslaved men's notices appear in newspapers. Perhaps their owners posted the advertisements, and also kept a good portion if not all of their earnings.

Monday, January 22, 2018

A Visit to the Seminary Ridge Museum


On a trip to Pennsylvania Saturday, I made a brief side excursion to Gettysburg. Driving up Highway 15 (Emmitsburg Road) is always a thrill, no matter what time of year it is. The goal of this particular visit was to visit the relatively new Seminary Ridge Museum (shown above), which opened in 2013 and is housed in the Lutheran Seminary. 

Entering the building on the ground floor, I was helped by friendly staff, who helped orient me to the best way to experience the museum and provided me with a gallery map. The building has four floors. It was suggested to start on the top floor and work my way down. The second, third, and fourth floors each have six rooms and their doors are numbered to help guests move from room to room to get the most cohesive experience.

The fourth floor, "Gettysburg, July 1, 1863," covers the fighting on the first day of battle from morning to nightfall. On each of the floors an orientation video gives viewers high-quality productions. Excellent maps, a host of artifacts, and personal stories also offer a variety of ways to learn.

"Caring for the Wounded" is the theme of the third floor. The Lutheran Seminary served as a hospital for both Union and Confederate soldiers on July 1-3 and beyond. The rooms on this floor cover all of the following topics: the wounded, the surgeons, the nurses, the survivors and they dying and the dead. The life-like mannequins are well done (not creepy) and provide an added dimension to the learning experience.

The second floor, "Faith and Freedom in America," explores social history aspects of students who learned at the seminary, professors who taught, citizens of Adams County, African Americans, and the issues these people and other Americans faced with the coming of the Civil War.

The first floor, "Voices of History," offers a changing exhibit room, a museum shop, restrooms, and, like the others floor, an orientation video. The temporary exhibit room currently has some amazing local history artifacts including a "Democratic Drum" from the election of 1856. 

In addition to touring at one's own pace, the museum offers the opportunity a couple times per day to tour the cupola of the building to see the surrounding Gettysburg landscape from the same perspective as some Union troops did the morning of July 1, 1863. However, there is an additional charge for the cupola tour.

I was very impressed with the quality of the exhibits, the coverage of historical topics, and the use of intriguing artifacts to tell the story of the first day of Gettysburg and much more. I highly recommend a visit if you get to Gettysburg. Its proximity to other National Park Service July 1, 1863 stops makes it a true must see.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Personality Spotlight : Gen. Samuel Garland, Jr.


I've not written a personality spotlight in a couple of months or so, but while reading Unholy Sabbath: The Battle of South Mountain in History and Memory, September 14, 1862, by Brian Matthew Jordan, I got to thinking about historical contingency.

One of Gen. Samuel Garland's superiors, Gen. D.H. Hill wrote years after the war about Garland that, "Had he lived, his talents, pluck, energy, and purity of character must have put him in the front rank of his profession, whether in civil or military life (p. 138). I guess, I've let the cat our of the bag, if you weren't already aware. Yes, Garland was killed in the fight at South Mountain. What might have been? We won't know. Had he lived, would Garland have become a major general and led a division? How about lieutenant general and commanded a corps? Would he have actively helped heal the wounds of the Civil War and create a New South such as colleagues James Longstreet and William Mahone, or would he have tried to hold onto the Old South like other colleagues such as Jubal Early and John B. Gordon? We won't know.

Samuel Garland, Jr. was born in Lynchburg, Virginia on December 16, 1830. He descended from legendary roots. His great grand uncle was James Madison. Garland was educated at the South's premier military school, Virginia Military Institute. Later he attended the University of Virginia for law school. He was indeed a lawyer when the Civil War erupted and changed his world.

The 1860 census shows Garland as a twenty-nine year old in his chosen occupation. He had $38,000 in real estate and what appears to be $31,220 in personal property, which included a number of slaves. His wife, Eliza, was one year his junior, and their son Samuel III was three. Also in the household, Caroline M. Garland, fifty years old, who was Samuel's mother. 

In 1859, and perhaps in response to John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry, Garland organized a militia company named the Lynchburg Home Guard. He is shown in the photograph above in his militia uniform. However, when the Old Dominion left the Union, he soon became colonel of 11th Virginia Infantry. The 11th was present at First Manassas but was held in reserve. During the Peninsula Campaign, fighting at Williamsburg, Garland was wounded but refused to leave the field until the fight concluded. He soon received promotion to brigadier general in D.H. Hill's division and was eventually leading a brigade of North Carolina regiments.

Garland's men fought in the Seven Days' Battles, but missed Second Manassas while stationed near Richmond's defenses. However, they joined Lee's main force in northern Virginia for the Maryland Campaign. D.H, Hill's Division was tabbed to block two gaps in the South Mountain range just outside of Boonsboro, Maryland. Turner's Gap was the northern most cut, in the middle was Fox's Gap. Further south was Crampton's Gap, defended by a Rebel mixed force.

During the savage fighting at Fox's Gap, Garland was, as usual, in the thick of the fight. After being warned by Col. Thomas Ruffin of the 13th North Carolina to move to a safer location, Garland expressed his lack of fear in being wounded. Almost immediately Ruffin was hit in the hip by a Union bullet. Then, rapidly another bullet hit Garland in the back, going completely through the body of the general. He died on the field shortly thereafter. His body was eventually returned to Lynchburg for burial.

Samuel Garland's short life might have held a bright and useful future had he lived. We won't know. Such is the tragedy of war.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Gen. Palmer's General Orders 32 and Freedom


In reading Herbert Gutman's The Black Family in Slavery Freedom, 1750-1925, I was reminded of the significance of having freedom of movement in order to truly experience liberty. For African Americans in slavery, a restrictions on travel were leveled with the pass system. An owner issued pass was required to go from place to place. The same was sometimes the case during Union military occupation during the Civil War, especially early in the war.

However, Union Gen. John M. Palmer, overseeing the Department of Kentucky, headquartered in Louisville, issued General Orders 32 on May 11, 1865. Louisville at the time was becoming increasingly crowded with "contraband" refugees. Many ended up in the jails as runaways, while others gathered in camps trying to locate work and reunite their families and seeking security and protection. With the stated intent of preventing the spread of potential diseases and allowing those who had not found employment in the river city find it elsewhere, Palmer issued the order to provide freedom of movement.

" . . . .it is ordered that the Provost Marshal of the Post of Louisville, upon the application of any colored person who may report him or herself as unable to find sufficient employment in the City of Louisville, will issue a pass to such colored person and for his or her family, specifying the number of persons to be passed, and their names, and to the point to which they wish to go, to engage in or in search of employment."

While General Orders 32 did put some stipulations on travel as the old slave pass did, there were some obvious distinctions, too. First the order says "any colored person." Slave passes were not just given to any colored person. Second it says "to the point to which they wish to go." Slave passes only gave permission to where the master wished their slaves to go.

So, how were these people supposed to get to their desired locations? The order continued, "Conductors and managers of all railroads, steamboats, ferryboats, or other means of travel out to of the city of Louisville, will, upon the presentation of such pass and the payment of the usual fare, transfer the persons named therein." This was indeed revolutionary!

The order had some enforcement teeth to it, too. Any of the above conveyances who did not honor it "or shall refuse to transport any such person . . . will be arrested, and sent out of the Department or punished as a military court may adjudge."

As one might image this order was not well received by whites who were in shock at the speed at which slavery was ending in this Union loyal state. The order threw another log on the fire of fury that many white Kentuckians felt toward the Federal government, and the Union army that enforced its laws. Many Kentuckian's Unionist loyalty hinged on the state's ability to protect the institution. As slavery started to crumble so did Unionist sentiment. 

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Browsing Random Newspaper Issues from the Past #1

While half-watching the U.S. Army All-American high school football game, waiting to see if my beloved Sooners get a verbal commitment for two, I browsed through the January 1, 1853, issue of the Richmond Daily Dispatch. There was no real intention for choosing that particular issue other than to see what might catch my attention. Here's a few of the things I came across:


For enslaved people the punishment for going about without a pass was usually a whipping. Richard Tyler who was owned by Daniel Weisiger received the punishment in this case. Often these arrests were made by the city police force and judged by the mayor.


Even those slaves with a pass had to have it signed by their owner. If not, they also received ten lashes.


With such punishments being quite common, it is easy to see the concerns of free people of color when they happened to misplace their free papers. In the antebellum slave states an African American was assumed to be enslaved and it was up the  individual to bear the burden of proof. I've seen a number of similar ads to that above in Virginia newspapers in the years before the Civil War.


Sales notices and wanting to rent advertisements were so common in this particular edition that I only included this one as an example. The first of the year was traditionally the beginning of the slave hiring season and the sheer number of advertisements bear that out. However, I found this sales notice intriguing as it specifically mentions the individuals who were to be sold by name. Often these ads just use ambiguous descriptions such as "a group of men, women and children." The Hills were one of the many slave traders who made Richmond their base.



Slave traders needed forms to keep proper records and to provide customers with official documentation such as bills of sale and receipts, so Richmond printers and book stores met their needs. This is just another example of how interwoven slavery was into the economy of the South. Perhaps the owner of this book store did not own slaves, but he still benefited from the institution.



Cooks, laundresses, ironers, and nurses are some of the most common slave hiring roles that whites sought at the first of the year. Here, a man is offered for hire as a cook. We too often assume that cooking was a woman's sphere in the antebellum era, but occasionally males served in this duty as well. It appears that a brokerage firm is making this particular advertisement, likely for a client who hired them to do so. The brokers would gain a commission upon securing the hire.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

New Tax Law Could Have Serious Repercussions on Giving to Historical Organizations

As I do not particular enjoy people pushing their political ideas on me, I try to practice those sentiments by attempting to keep "My Random Thoughts" as apolitical as I possibly can. However, I received the below email message just before the turn of the new year from the Kentucky Historical Society. It clearly outlines some of the threats that the recently passed tax law could have on charitable giving to non-profit historical organizations and museums. 

Many organizations rely heavily on charitable giving to survive in a society that seems more and more interested in spending their disposable income on entertainment and other luxury items rather than education and learning. It is a sad fact. Historical organizations and museums still provide an important function in our lives and need to remain viable sources of information for all segments of the population. Please take the time to learn more about the new tax law and search out the best means for your individual situation to receive your charitable deduction and which also allows you to continue giving to the historical organization or museum of your choice. 

Happy New Year!  

An Important Message from the 


Dear Friend,


As a faithful supporter of the Kentucky Historical Society and an advocate for history’s relevance, we have urgent news. You likely have heard the U.S. Congress passed a new tax law. Among the major changes is that the standard deduction will double starting in 2018. 

Currently, many people who make charitable contributions find it beneficial to itemize on their federal tax returns. Under the new law, the charitable deduction remains. However, the change in the amount of the standard deduction will affect many donors who used to itemize their charitable deductions, as they may find it more beneficial to simply take the standard deduction and not itemize at all -- taking away an incentive for many to give.

This has serious implications for organizations such as ours. The Council on Foundations estimates the tax bill will drain anywhere from $16 billion to $24 billion a year from the nonprofit sector going forward.

Between the new federal tax law, the recent 5.36 percent state budget cut and the promise of even higher reductions in state funding for FY18-19, the Kentucky Historical Society will be affected in a real and visible way.

This is bad news. 

We are not exaggerating.

The good news is that we will persevere. We are committed to our mission to educate and engage the public through Kentucky history in order to confront the challenges of the future. Nonetheless, your support is more important now than ever. How we persevere will undoubtedly look different.

Please consider making a gift prior to the end of 2017 to the Kentucky Historical Society Foundation:
  • If you ordinarily give between January and June, may we suggest shifting your timing to now in order to receive a tax receipt for 2017?
  • If you have already given, would you consider making an additional gift?
  • If you are considering joining us as a new supporter, would you make a gift as a testament to your commitment to our mission?

In order to receive a receipt for your 2017 returns, you may give in any of the following ways: 
  • Online:  history.ky.gov/donate by 11:59 pm on 12/31
  • By texting KY1792 to 243725 by 11:59 on 12/31
  • Via mail: Make your check payable to the Kentucky Historical Society Foundation,
    PO Box 6856, Frankfort, KY 40602, postmarked by 12/31  
You also may contribute via stock transfer or a direct transfer through your IRA if you are 70 ½ or older.  Please consult your financial advisor by 12/29 for this method of giving, then contact kent.whitworth@ky.gov for details.

This is a serious time with serious implications for KHS. Thank you in advance for your support,


Executive Director, Kentucky Historical Society 
Secretary, Kentucky Historical Society Foundation

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year's Eve!


I would like to wish everyone a very Happy New Year. As we finish up the old year and ring in the new one, I want to thank you for your continued readership. It is my greatest hope that something that I wrote this past year resonated with you, created some curiosity to learn something new, or made you think about a historical event, person, or issue in a different way.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress. Auld Lang Syne Cigars advertisement, 1871.


Saturday, December 30, 2017

"The Black Regiment" by George H. Boker

I found this poem on the same Library of Congress document that contained the Andrew Johnson and Emancipation in Maryland stories that I shared at the end of November and early this month. I had not read this one before and thought it might be new to others as well, so here you go.






The poem was composed by George H. Boker, a leading poet and playwright of the day.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Recent Acquisitions to My Library


This Christmas season brought with it a several opportunities to expand my library. Some of my recent acquisitions were books that I received as direct gifts or from gift card purchases, one was for a book review, and one is a selection that that I had on my Amazon.com Wishlist that I bought for myself when I saw the price had dropped.


Released just last October, Ron Chernow's Grant is receiving rave reviews. I've seen the author interviewed on a number of popular talk and morning television shows, so hopefully it sparks an interest with the larger population and creates a buzz much like his earlier book on Alexander Hamilton did. However, I don't know if Grant is the material to make into a hip-hop musical, but hey, who knows? Grant runs almost 1000 pages, so it may be a while before I commit to starting it, although I have heard it is a true page-turner.
 

Anytime something comes out on Nat Turner, I eventually have to read it. That historical event is one of those that particularly fascinates me. I'm excited to read the interpretive approach that David Allmendinger, Jr. puts forth in Nat Turner and the Rising in Southampton County and see what new evidence he finds to make this book different from several others that have been published in the last decade or so.


Another topic that is finally receiving more and more scholarly attention is Civil War guerrilla warfare. One of the emerging historians in this field is Matthew Hulbert. His book The Ghosts of Guerrilla Warfare: How Civil War Bushwhackers became Gunslingers in the American West was published in October 2016 by the University of Georgia Press, and has received excellent reviews in a number of scholarly journals. This book seeks to show how Civil War era guerrillas have been remembered and portrayed since the conflict.


Tera W. Hunter's Bound in Wedlock: Slave and Free Black Marriage in the Nineteenth Century, promises to be a social history triumph. Nineteenth century white Americans, who most often viewed African Americans as non-citizens politically, and inferiors socially, also often viewed black marriage as less recognizable than their own. Enslaved, and even free blacks, who had little to no legal standing sometimes saw themselves separated from their partners on the will or whim of those who held power. I am interested in learning more about how blacks themselves viewed their marriages and I'm also hopeful a number of the historical myths surrounding slave ceremonies will be covered. 


A Union Indivisible: Secession and Politics of Slavery in the Border South by Michael D. Robinson is another work that I had on my Amazon.com Wishlist. However, the literary gods must have smiled on me, because I was soon blessed by receiving it in exchange for writing a book review for it. Border state studies have really ramped up in the last eight years or so. And A Union Indivisible looks to be a fine addition to this particular field along with studies from William C. Harris, Aaron Astor, Christopher Phillips, Anne Marshall, Patrick Lewis, Matthew Stanley, and Brian McKnight, among others. I remember first hearing about this work while dining with William J. Cooper, Jr., who was the keynote speaker at the Kentucky History Education Conference a few years back. He mentioned he had a graduate student named Michael Robinson who was working on a dissertation on the border states. I had been keeping my eyes and ears open for its publication since that time, as Cooper gave his student such high praise for his writing and research. I'm looking forward to reading it and continuing to expand my knowledge of the border states during the Civil War era.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Books I Read in 2017


As the December days disappear, it looks like I will not finish another book this year. Therefore, I will post the list of ones I have completed over the last twelve months. I often share the current book I am reading on my Facebook page, and then when finished, I write a brief summary paragraph of it to hopefully spark some curiosity in friends with similar reading interests. However, I've never listed the books that I read in a given year.

I've been keeping a list of books I read since the beginning of 2006. I don't know what a psychiatrist might think if I told him or her that about me, but it has come in handy at times when I've wanted to confirm that I had already read a particular book. Anyway, here goes. Oh, I've highlighted a few of these that I found especially insightful, helpful, or just plain fascinating.

1. Writing the Civil War: The Quest to Understand. Edited by James M. McPherson and William J. Cooper

2. Liberty, Virtue and Progress: Northerners and their War for the Union by Earl J. Hess

3. Slavery and Forced Migration in the Antebellum South by Damian Alan Pargas

4. The Roots of Southern Distinctiveness: Tobacco and Society in Danville, Virginia, 1785-1865 by Frederick F. Siegel

5. Counterfeit Gentlemen: Manhood and Humor in the Old South by John Mayfield

6. Troubled Refuge: Struggling for Freedom in the Civil War by Chandra Manning

7. Slave Life in Virginia and Kentucky: A Narrative by Frances Frederick, Escaped Slave. Edited by C.L. Innes

8. The Peninsula Campaign and the Necessity of Emancipation: African Americans and the Fight for Freedom by Glenn David Basher

9. Dueling in the Old South: Vignettes of Social History by Jack K. Williams

10. The Making of a Racist: A Southerner Reflects on Family, History, and the Slave Trade by Charles B. Dew

11. Reminiscences of Life in Camp by Susie King Taylor

12. River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom by Walter Johnson

13. Virginia's Private War: Feeding Body and Soul in the Confederacy, 181-1865 by William Blair

14. The Rebel Yell: A Cultural History by Craig A. Warren

15. Landon Carter's Uneasy Kingdom: Revolution and Rebellion on a Virginia Plantation by Rhys Isaac

16. Creek Paths and Federal Roads: Indians, Settlers, and Slaves and the Making of the American South by Angela Hudson

17. The Peace that Almost Was: The 1861 Washington Peace Conference and the Final Attempt to Avert Civil War by Mark Tooley

18. Freedom by the Sword: The U.S. Colored Troops, 1862-1867 by William A. Dobak

19. Fort Harrison and the Battle of Chaffin's Farm: To Surprise and Capture Richmond by Douglas Crenshaw

20. Richmond Must Fall: The Richmond-Petersburg Campaign, October 1864 by Hampton Newsome

21. The Guerrilla Hunters: Irregular Conflicts during the Civil War. Edited by Brian D. McKnight and Barton A. Myers

22. The First Battle for Petersburg: Attack and Defense of the Cockade City, June 9, 1864 by William Glenn Robertson

23. Thunder at the Gates: The Black Civil War Regiments that Redeemed America by Douglas R. Edgerton

24. John Randolph of Roanoke by David Johnson

25. Lincoln and the U.S. Colored Troops by John David Smith

26. The Bloody Crucible of Courage: Fighting Methods and Combat Experience of the Civil War by Brent Nosworthy

27. To Have and to Hold: Slave Work and Family Life in Antebellum South Carolina by Larry E. Hudson, Jr.

28. We Look Like Men of War by William R. Forstchen

29. Gender and the Sectional Conflict by Nina Silber

30. The Yankee Plague: Escaped Union Prisoners and the Collapse of the Confederacy by Lorien Foote

31. The Making of a Confederate: Walter Lenoir's Civil War by William L. Barney

32. A Troublesome Commerce: The Transformation of the Interstate Slave Trade by Robert H. Gudmestad

33. The Army of the Potomac in the Overland and Petersburg Campaigns: Union Soldiers and Trench Warfare, 1864-1865 by Steven Sodergren

34. William Lowndes Yancey and the Coming of the Civil War by Eric H. Walther

35. South Carolina Fire-Eater: Laurence M. Keitt, 1824-1864 by Holt Merchant

36. Ku Klux: The Birth of the Klan during Reconstruction by Elaine Frantz Parsons

37. The Price for Their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved, from Womb to Grave, in the Building of a Nation by Daina Ramey Berry

38. Northerners at War: Reflections on the Civil War Home Front by J. Matthew Gallman

39. The Imperfect Revolution: Anthony Burns an the Landscape of Race in Antebellum America by Gordon S. Barker

40. An Irishman in Dixie: Thomas Conolly's Diary of the Fall of the Confederacy. Edited by Nelson Lankford

41. The Field of Honor: Essays on Southern Character and American Identity. Edited by John Mayfield and Todd Hagstette

42. The Judas Field: A Novel of the Civil War by Howard Bahr

43. The Battle of New Market Heights: Freedom Will be Theirs by the Sword by James S. Price

44. Our Good and Faithful Servant: James Moore Wayne and Georgia Unionism by Joel McMahon

45. Storm Over Texas: The Annexation Controversy and the Road to Civil War by Joel H. Silbey

46. Drift Toward Disunion: The Virginia Slavery Debate of 1831-1832 by Alison Goodyear Freehling

47. Uncommon Valor: A Story of Race, Patriotism, and Glory in the Final Battles of the Civil War by Melvin Claxton and Mark Puls

48. Eagles on Their Buttons: A Black Infantry Regiment in the Civil War by Versalle F. Washington

50. American Scoundrel: The Life of the Notorious Civil War General Dan Sickles by Thomas Keneally

51. The Secret Life of Bacon Tait: A White Slave Trader Married to a Free Woman of Color by Hank Trent

52. War Upon Our Border: Two Ohio Valley Communities Navigate the Civil War by Stephen Rockenbach

53. On to Petersburg: Grant and Lee, June 4-15, 1864 by Gordon Rhea

54. America's Forgotten Caste: Free Blacks in Antebellum Virginia and North Carolina by Rodney Barfield

55. Midnight in America: Darkness, Sleep, and Dreams during the Civil War by Jonathan W. White

56. Freedom's Dawn: The Last Days of John Brown in Virginia by Louis A, DeCaro, Jr.

57. Civil War Citizens: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity in America's Bloodiest Conflict. Edited by Susannah J. Urals

58. Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol by Nell Irvin Painter

59. There is Something About Edgefield: Shining a Light on the Black Community through History, Genealogy, and Genetic DNA by Edna Gail Bush and Natonne Elaine Kemp

60. The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan

61. Something Must Be Done About Price Edward County: A Family, a Virginia Town, a Civil Rights Battle by Kristin Green

So there you go! Sixty-one books in fifty-two weeks. Not too bad. I feel thankful that my life situation allows me such ready access to books, and the time to read them. Like Thomas Jefferson once said, "I cannot live without books!"

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Just Finished Reading - There Is Something About Edgefield


It has been quite a while since I've posted a book review on this forum. I've written a number of reviews for other publications in 2017, so that, perhaps unfairly, has resulted in a diminished number here. However, I recently received an opportunity to review There Is Something About Edgefield: Shining a Light on the Black Community through History, Genealogy, and Genetic Testing by Edna Gail Bush and Natonne Elaine Kemp (Rocky Pond Press, 2017) and jumped at the chance.

Ever since I read All God's Children: The Bosket Family and the American Tradition of Violence by Fox Butterfield, about twenty years ago, I've sought to learn more about Edgefield County when an opportunity presented itself. Located along the Georgia border in west-central South Carolina, the area produced some of the state's most noted politicians and fierce defenders of slavery and post-Civil War white supremacy. Born in Edgefield were governors George McDuffie, Pierce Mason Butler, James Henry "Cotton is King" Hammond, Francis W. Pickens, Benjamin "Pitchfork" Tillman, and Strom Thurmond. Edgefield also produced Preston Brooks (who caned Charles Sumner on the Senate floor in 1856), and Confederate general James Longstreet.

As one might imagine, Edgefield County had a large enslaved population, and the authors' attempts to connect to their Edgefield ancestors is the main focus of the book. In 1860, there were over 24,000 slaves in the county. This is the sixth highest total in the United States that year!

There Is Something About Edgefield begins with thoughtful and informative sections which provide the co-authors' acknowledgements, as well as a preface, forward, and introduction.

Co-author Edna Gail Bush supplies the first two chapters of the book. In the first chapter Bush examines her paternal ancestors and focuses on the family's ability to acquire land in post-Civil War Edgefield, and sadly, how it was eventually taken from them.  Bush also shares the amazing story of her DNA findings. She had her brothers take the Y-DNA tests and found that the results indicated her paternal line as originating solely from European countries. As she states, "The fact is, for many African Americans, a European progenitor serves as the original head of the paternal line." (pg. 55)

In the second chapter, Bush seeks and provides information on her maternal ancestors. Doing genealogical research for African American ancestors is difficult enough, especially when searching before 1870, but finding maternal lines lend extra special challenges. Her search for information found an early date of about 1799 for one ancestor and also put her on the trail of her maternal ancestors' enslavers, the Burton Family. As Bush wisely writes "It is a sad fact that the only way I have been able to trace my enslaved ancestors is by looking through records that pertain to property, which may or may not even give the dignity of a name." (Pg. 80). After emancipation in 1865, things do not always get easier for the genealogist. Although census information is available for African Americans from 1870 on, there are still obstacles such as name changes, gaps here and there due to census taker errors, and often overlooked households or households with incorrect information.

Natonne Elaine Kemp examines the line of her Blair ancestors in chapter three. In doing so Kemp reminds us that networking with other researchers can be of great benefit. Sharing one's findings, discussing them with others, and receiving help with research obstacles is one of the most rewarding aspects of doing historical research. This chapter is infused with contextual history, which I sincerely appreciated. In telling about her ancestor's challenges, especially during the Reconstruction years, Kemp exposes the terroristic state in which Edgefield's black population found itself after the Civil War, when recently defeated whites sought to reclaim political dominance through intimidation, mayhem, and murder.

Kemp continues searching for her Blair connections in chapter four, but puts particular emphasis on an incident where a white Blair killed an African American man in 1872. The examination of this particular incident illustrates the significant knowledge one acquires during the research process. It is one thing to read about Reconstruction violence from a formal history book, it is yet another to get into the nitty-gritty of a specific tragic occasion, which in turn illustrates the larger situation. I also found Kemp's research on Calliham Baptist Church intriguing. The break from the church by its black members after the Civil War and the Calliham congregation's response is particularly fascinating.

The also book contains three short epilogues. The first provides a bullet-point list that enumerates post-1870 potential sources for information on African American genealogy. The second and third reemphasize the help that DNA testing can provide, particularly when searching a specific geographic area. 

I was especially impressed with the book's documentation. Being a historian, it is pleasing to see a work so clearly cited. It adds a level of credibility that can only come through such work. Other pluses to the book were the included family photographs. Seeing the people who where being researched and written about adds a level of connection to their stories that words alone cannot fill. In addition, the defined terms related to DNA testing were helpful to someone who is not all that familiar with this rather new form of research. Lineage charts, maps, graphs, and other primary sources were all selected with care and only enhance the book's many strengths.

One might not think that a book on someone else's genealogy would not be a "can't put down" type of book, but I found that There Is Something About Edgefield is one of those kind of books. It is not only a family tree book. Rather, by describing their exhaustive research resources, both traditional and non traditional, the authors give readers ideas on the plethora of ancestral information sources available to family history researchers. But not only that, this book gives hope. Hope for those searching to know their family's hidden pasts, and hope that through studying the past, we can create better presents and futures for all of us. By this point you can understand why I highly recommend this book. On a one to five scale, I have no reservations giving it an empathetic five! Well done!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Sojourner Truth's Grandson, 54th Massachusetts POW


The 54th Massachusetts Infantry, a black regiment allowed to retain its state regimental designation, was composed of African American men from all across the free states. Some men were former slaves who had made new lives in the North, but many more were free men of color. In the regiment were the sons, grandsons, and relatives of black abolitionists. Famously, Frederick Douglass's two sons, Louis and Charles, served in the famous 54th, as did Martin R. Delaney's son, Touissant L'Overture Delaney. Another descendant of a black abolitionist in the 54th was James Caldwell (shown above), the grandson of Sojourner Truth. The image of Truth below shows Caldwell's photograph on her lap.


Caldwell appears in the 1860 census in Battle Creek, Calhoun County, Michigan as a sixteen year old, who was born in New York state. He is listed as "B" for black and appears in the household of Luther Slater, a fifty-seven year old white man, who was a blacksmith. This fits with his Civil War service records, which lists Caldwell's occupation as blacksmith. The young man was likely apprenticing with Slater before the war. Caldwell is the only non-white in the household.

I've tried to determine which child of Truth's was Caldwell's mother. It appears that it was Elizabeth. James may be one of those individuals who was counted twice in the 1860 census. In Sojourner Truth's household in Calhoun County, Michigan was Elizabeth Banks, who was thirty-three, and a James Colvin, which may have been a census takers mishearing of Caldwell, who is listed as fourteen years old, and born in New York state.

When he found out that the Union army was accepting black men, Caldwell apparently told to his famous relative, "Now is our time Grandmother to prove that we are men." Caldwell enlisted in Company H, 54th Massachusetts Infantry on April 17, 1863, and was mustered in on May 13 at Readville, Massachusetts, where the 54th trained. His records state he was nineteen when he enlisted and was five feet nine inches tall, with a "dark" complexion. 

Caldwell's active service was rather short lived, as he was captured in an engagement on July 16, 1863, at James Island, South Carolina, just two days before the 54th attained their Glory at the Fort Wagner fight on Morris Island. It appears that Caldwell was held in Confederate hands for the almost two next years. His records indicate that he was finally released at Goldsboro, North Carolina, on March 4, 1865. His records also show that he spent at least part of this prisoner of war time at Florence, South Carolina, in the "rebel prison pen" there.

James Caldwell was sent on to Annapolis, Maryland (Camp Parole) for recovery. There he received his discharge on May 12, 1865, and received three months extra pay "due to hardships endured at Rebel prisons" by order of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton.

I was not able to determine what happened to young James Caldwell in the years following the Civil War. If anyone should happen to know or can point me in a direction to where I could find out, I would be grateful.

Image of James Caldwell in the public domain.
Image of Sojourner Truth courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Sojourner Truth, Lyricist


I've been reading Nell Irvin Painter's Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol over the last few days. It is certainly a fascinating biography. I was quite aware that Truth, a former Northern (New York State) slave, became a spokesperson for women's rights and abolition in the years before and during the Civil War. But I did not know that the illiterate activist, who dictated her life's narrative to a white writer, also composed lyrics to a song about African American soldiers that was sung to the tune of "John Brown's Body," or later, the "Battle Hymn of the Republic."

One might be inclined to think that an illiterate woman would not be able to come up with such touching verses, but they are indeed outstanding. The song was written in honor of the First Michigan Colored Infantry Regiment, which eventually was redesignated the 102nd United States Colored Infantry. The stirring words to the song are:

We are the valiant soldiers who've 'listed for the war;
We are fighting for the Union, we are fighting for the law;
We can shoot a rebel farther than a white man ever saw,
As we go marching on.

Chorus.- 
Glory, glory, hallelujah! Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah! as we go marching on.

Look there above the center, where the flag is waving bright;
We are going out of slavery, we are bound for freedom's light;
We mean to show Jeff Davis how the Africans can fight,
As we go marching on. - Chorus.

We are done with hoeing cotton, we are done with hoeing corn;
We are colored Yankee soldiers as sure as you are born.
When massa hears us shouting, he will think 'tis Gabriel's horn,
As we go marching on. - Chorus.

They will have to pay us wages, the wages of their sin;
They will have to bow their foreheads to their colored kith and kin;
They will have to give us house-room, or the roof will tumble in,
As we go marching on. - Chorus.

We hear the proclamation massa, hush it as you will;
The birds will sing it to us, hopping on the cotton hill;
The possum up the gum tree couldn't keep it still,
As he went climbing on. - Chorus.

Father Abraham has spoken, and the message has been sent;
The prison doors have opened, and out the prisoners went
To join the sable army of African descent,
As we go marching on. - Chorus.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.