Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Dying Far From Home: Clark Witt, 116th USCI


If you have read many of my posts about soldiers dying far from home, you have likely realized that Civil War soldiers expired far more often in hospitals from disease than from wounds received on the battlefield.

Yet another of these tragic stories is that of Clark Witt, who is buried at the City Point National Cemetery in plot 2230. Witt was born in Estill County, around 1844. Clark was owned by David Witt. The 1860 census shows David Witt owned eleven slaves, one of which was an eighteen year old "black" male, who was likely Clark Witt.

David Witt was sixty-one years old in 1860. He lived with his wife, Nancy, and their three sons. David owned $6000 in real estate and $7425 in personal property. Among Clark Witt's service records is a claim for compensation by David Witt for Clark's service. In it he provided a hint of Clark's family history. David wrote, "said slave was born as my property I having previously owned his mother having purchased his mother of Mr. Russell of Garrard County, Ky that he remained uninterruptedly in my possession up to the date of his enlistment."

Clark Witt enlisted on June 12, 1864, at Camp Nelson, Kentucky. He formally mustered into service on June 28. He was placed in Company E of the 116th United States Colored Infantry. Clark was noted as being twenty years old and was described as five feet six inches tall and of black complexion.

Clark was present for duty, being charged $1.79 for losing two haversacks and a canteen, in November and December 1864. He was noted as being in a field hospital in November but apparently recovered as he was shown as again being in the hospital around February 3, 1865. Clark Witt died of chronic diarrhea on February 24, 1865, at the general hospital at Point of Rocks, Virginia.

It appears that David Witt found out about Clark's fate when he filed for compensation for Clark's service. One wonders what emotions David had upon finding out that Clark had died as soldier. Did David have kind feelings toward his former slave and express sadness.  Or, since he had not provided consent for Clark's enlistment, was David resentful? From what I have read about the wide variety of relationships between masters and slaves, either response could be possible.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Dying Far From Home: Andrew Leavell, 116th USCI


As we approach Memorial Day, I thought I'd share some more stories of men who died very far from home. You might remember that last May I highlighted a number of Kentucky United States Colored Troops soldiers buried at Poplar Grove Cemetery in Dinwiddie County. Recently, I took a drive over to Hopewell (Prince George County) and took some photographs of Kentucky USCTs buried at the City Point National Cemetery. This cemetery contains the remains of over 1,300 African American soldiers. Many were from the Bluegrass State.

One of the many from Kentucky is Andrew Leavell. Leavell was in Company E of the 116th United States Colored Infantry. The 116th was recruited and trained at Camp Nelson in Jessamine County, Kentucky, before being transferred to the Eastern Theater in the fall of 1864.

Andrew Leavell was born in Garrard County, Kentucky, around 1836, and was owned by John Y. Leavell. John Y. Leavell is shown in the 1860 census as a forty-three year old Garrard County farmer, who lived with his wife Jane and their six children. Leavell was quite well off with worth listed as $21,800 in real estate and $18,550 in personal property. He owned five slaves, who lived in one slave dwelling. One of the slaves who was listed was a 24 year old black male in 1860, which meets Andrew's enlistment age and description.

Andrew Leavell enlisted at Camp Nelson on June 12, 1864, and officially mustered in two weeks later. He was aged twenty-eight years, was five feet seven inches tall, and had a black complexion. Leavell was noted in his service records as being absent, "sick in field hospital," since December 21, 1864. He died eight days later at the United States army hospital located at Point of Rocks (Chesterfield County, Virginia). Records indicate that Leavell's cause of death was typhoid fever. An inventory of his person effects included: one forage cap; one great coat; one blouse; two pair of trousers; two flannel shirts; and one knapsack.

One wonders if the other slaves that John Y. Leavell owned were related to Andrew. Those most close to Andrew's age was a twenty-eight year old woman and an eighteen year old woman. Were these his sisters? If so, did they ever know of Andrew's death and his final resting place . . . so far from home?

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Barber Seeking First Rate Barber


I have located advertisements from free men of color barbers seeking apprentices, but the above ad is the first I have found for a barber searching for another experienced barber. It ran in the March 5, 1850, issue of the Richmond Whig.

Unfortunately, I was unable to find this William Williamson barber in the 1850 or 1860 census. I found an 1856 Richmond city business directory online, but Williamson was not listed. Perhaps he had moved or gone out of business by then. But, upon further review, it appears that no black barbers were listed in this directory; only five white barbers were noted.

However, I did find Pearl Street on a period map. The short thoroughfare was near Shockoe Creek and close to the many flour mills at the James River basin.

If anyone has information on William Williamson, I would be interested in hearing whatever could be shared.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Thirty-nine Lashes

seeing Ruffin take it. The barbershop is on Cary street near Eighth street.
______________________________________________________
The above short article ran in the September 13, 1864, issue of the Richmond Whig. I happened across it while seeking information on black barbers. Many of the antebellum and Civil War Richmond newspapers ran similar brief reports on decisions handed down by the mayor's court.

A couple of things caught my attention in these few short sentences. The first is the reference to Ruffin's physical appearance. Does describing the free barber's head as being "like a gorilla" add anything of substance to the story? Of course not. Does having "a head like a gorilla" predispose one to stealing? Of course not. However, in 1864 it was believed so. This provides a clear example of period racist thinking. Second is the fact that a free man of color was sentenced to thirty-nine lashes. If a white man had committed the same crime I can guarantee that he would have been fined or given jail time. But, by being an African American-even if free- Ruffin was given harsher punishment.

Daniel Ruffin was only about twenty-two at the time the article was printed. He is listed with his family in the 1860 census. Ruffin was eighteen in 1860. His occupation was barber apprentice. His father, forty-five year old Bob Ruffin, was a boatman. His mother, fifty-six year old Martha, was a washer and ironer. Also in the household were Andrew (eleven) and Robert (nine).

Addendum:
Being curious if Ruffin continued his barber career in post-war Richmond, I did a little more searching. I located Ruffin in the 1870 census. Unfortunately, I was unable to answer my question as he was shown as being incarcerated in the Virginia State Penitentiary.

A Daniel Ruffin that fits the former barber's age appeared in the 1880 census as a farmer in nearby Dinwiddie County. He lived with wife Corrina and daughter Mollie. In the neighborhood were other African American Ruffins.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Runaway Barber Apprentice


The above advertisement ran in the March 6, 1855, edition of the Richmond Whig. It was posted by Lomax B. Smith, a Richmond free man of color barber, who sought to retrieve his young apprentice.

Last summer I posted about Smith's offer to the mayor of Richmond to go to cut the ears off of John Brown and his captured raiders in 1859. Smith's offer was declined, but the barber received the mayor's praise for his patriotism.

Interestingly, the apprentice that Lomax B. Smith was looking to locate in 1855, was listed in his household in the 1850 census. Payton Bradley is noted as a fourteen year old mulatto. Smith is listed as a forty year old barber, who owned $2000 in real estate. Also in the home was Smith's wife, Nancy, an eighteen year old named Rachel Burton, Thomas S. Smith (8), and Mary Bradley (12), who was likely Payton's sister.

I was curious to see if Bradley ended up back in Smith's household five years later (1860 census). Smith was listed as still being a barber in Richmond, and he and Nancy reported their ages as forty, as they had a decade earlier. Smith's worth was given as $1500 in real estate and $500 in personal property. Bradley, however, was not included in the Smith household.

With my curiosity still not being satisfied, I searched to see if Bradley was still in Richmond in 1860. He was not. I believe I found him in James City County (Williamsburg) as there was a mulatto man with that name there who matched his Bradley's age. Bradley's 1860 occupation was not listed, but he lived in the Robert Greehow household. Greenhow was a brick maker.

I wonder why Payton Bradley ran away from Smith. Was he treated unfairly? Did he not like barbering? Was there something that drove him to James City County and the Greenhows or was it just chance that he ended up there?

In 1870, Bradley appears in New Kent County as a farmer. He had married a woman named Susan, who was one year his senior and they had a five year old daughter named Elizabeth. I suppose barbering just wasn't Bradley's cup of tea.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Edmund Ruffin's Marlbourne


Today, on my way back from Maryland, and wanting to do just about anything to get away from the steady traffic of I-95, I decided to see if I could find Virginian and pro-slavery arch-secessionist Edmund Ruffin's Marlbourne plantation in Hanover County.

It was much easier to locate than I initially thought. Situated just off of Highway 360 and northeast of Mechanicsville, the agricultural innovator's unpretentious white frame house is barely visible across a newly planted cornfield and through a grove of mature trees. And although I wished to respect the owner's privacy and thus did not drive up the gravel road to the house and Ruffin's grave, I stood at the brick entrance pillars for a few minutes and wondered what Ruffin thought about the last time he passed up the road to his home. I suspect he was sad.


Ruffin, born in Prince George County in 1794, moved to Marlborne in 1843. Under Ruffin's charge, the one-thousand acre plantation along the Pamunkey River underwent a number of changes, which led to a significant improvement in its agricultural output. Ruffin's wife Susan died at Marlbourne in 1846 and he turned to both public and private writing in the 1850s to help him deal with the additional losses of several of his adult children.

Despairing of the loss of more family during the Civil War, the Confederacy's defeat, the destruction of his beloved way of life, as well as Beechwood, his Prince George County plantation, Ruffin committed suicide at Marlbourne in June 1865. Ever the writer, Ruffin left details for his burial. The troubled man's remains were committed to the ground of the land he loved so much.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Cox's Snow


While reading Weevils in the Wheat: Interviews with Virginia Ex-Slaves, I kept running into references to Cox's Snow. Many of the former slave interview subjects used Cox's Snow as time reference point. I finally found a reference to this incident that was printed in Historical and Industrial Guide to Petersburg, Virginia by Edward Pollock, which was published in 1884. Interestingly Pollock, too, noted that African Americans used the blizzard as a chronological marker. Pollock explained the snowstorm:

"On the 18th of January, 1857, the heaviest fall of snow ever witnessed in this latitude blocked all the roads so that travel was almost impossible, and brought the ordinary occupations of out-door life to a stand-still. Fences and hedges disappeared. This condition of affairs, in which an inhabitant of the great Northwest would have felt thoroughly at home, caused much inconvenience and suffering to a community accustomed to mild winters and a light snow-fall. Dr. Joseph E. Cox, of Dinwiddie, while out driving with his friend, Mr. Traylor, was overtaken by the storm and fatally frozen before he could reach shelter. His companion was severely frost-bitten, but survived his injuries, and in time recovered. The doctor was a most estimable citizen and the impression produced by his death was so profound that the storm has ever since been referred to as 'Cox's Snow.' Indeed, among the classes who felt its severity most, it became an epoch from which succeeding time was measured, and it was almost as common, a quarter of a century ago to hear of certain events having occurred 'since Cox's Snow,' as it became in later years to be reminded of that Elysian period which existed, in the language of the colored brethren, 'fo 'de wah.'"

Monday, May 9, 2016

Petersburg Auctioneer William Tench


One does not have to peruse too many issues of antebellum Petersburg newspapers to become acquainted with the name of William Tench. For many years Tench operated an auction house in the Cockade City that redistributed property wealth, often for the estates of the deceased, and often in the form of human chattel property. Tench could be labeled as a slave trader in that that form of property made up a significant amount of his sales. Tench, however, was also a respected and influential businessman in the city and region. 

In the 1840 census, Tench is shown living in Petersburg's East Ward. It identified his household as having eight white people in it and three slaves, who were two females and a male child; all the slaves were likely domestic help. 

Tench is listed as the forty-three year old head of his household in the 1850 census. He owned $1000 in real estate. Living with Tench was his wife, Sarah (42), and three sons and a daughter. Tench owned  two slaves in 1850, a twenty-five year old female and a twelve year old male.

Ten years later, Tench was still in Petersburg, but living in the Center Ward. He is listed as a fifty-three year old "clerk." He owned $4750 in real estate and $2400 in personal property. Also in the Tench household was still wife Sara (50), twenty-three year old "auctioneer" son John, who apparently followed in his father's footsteps. Joseph (21) and Theophilus (18) were both listed as clerks. Also included were teenagers Laura and Charles. In that census Tench is listed as the owner of a fifty year old slave woman, who lived in a single slave dwelling.


This brief notice above mentioning one of Tench's sales ran in the December 15, 1860, edition of the Petersburg Daily Express. I am a little curious as to why the newspaper would have published this specific common occurrence event. The price received for the sale is about in line for a female of child-bearing age values in 1860. Perhaps, Tench had the notice ran as a slightly different form of advertising. Regardless, Tench continued advertising the slaves he was auctioning into 1865. And although the changes wrought by the Civil War ended Tench's sale of people, he continued to serve as an auctioneer as witnessed by the 1870 and 1880 censuses.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Petersburg Black Barber - Edward Lockett


While looking through some editions of the Petersburg Daily Express in effort to find reactions to the Emancipation Proclamation, I happened upon an advertisement placed by free black barber Edward Lockett in the June 11, 1863, issue.

The ad notifies customers of Lockett's move from his "old stand at Jarratt's Hotel to the framed tenement at the corner of Washington and Union" streets. Lockett claims to have been a Petersburg institution, in that his ad mentions his thanks for patrons' business for the last twenty-nine years. Interestingly, when I searched the 1860 census for Lockett, it listed him as thirty-four years old. If the ad and census information are both correct, Lockett would have started barbering at about age eight or nine. I suppose that is possible, but highly doubtful.

The census information also showed Lockett as married to Jane E. (twenty-six), and had two children; Virginia A. (four) and Edward (two). The barber owned $800 in real estate and $100 in personal property. The Lockett family lived in the South Petersburg Ward in a largely black neighborhood. Their listed neighbors were mostly other free people of color families, who held jobs such as carpenter, tobacco stemmer, tobacco twister, laborer, hotel waiter, "waggoner," washer woman, plasterer, and gardener.

Lockett billed himself as a "Professor" in the advertisement. I have found other barbers who used this or similar terms to show themselves as being thoroughly skilled in their occupational "art." Such terms also ensured their customers of the barber's long experience, and thus proven ability.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Edwin Forbes on "Slave Cabins"


Yesterday I posted about Civil War artist Edwin Forbes's impressions of slaves and the different ways they assisted Union soldiers. Later, in that same account, Forbes gave some descriptions of slave cabins that he encountered while following the army. Most of the artist's time was spent covering the Virginia campaigns.

"The cabins were invariably built of logs, general squared and jointed at the corners; the peaked roof was roughly singled, and the chimney was built outside the house, at the end. It was sometimes built of stone, but oftener of sticks, crossed at right angles and heavily plastered with clay. Still another variety was sometimes seen, which was made of but two walls of logs. The inner ends were fastened to the house, and the others met at a point, thus giving a triangular form and affording opportunity for a very wide fire-place.

Sometimes a cabin would be seen with two or three chimneys. This at first mystified me, but on inquiry I found that when one chimney "burned out" another one was built, the first serving no other purpose than to add variety to the cabin. In many instances I noticed a rough ladder which led from the ground to the peak of the roof near the chimney; and occasionally there were two, one on each side. No amount of conjecture satisfied me as to their use, and I one day questioned an old negro about it. 'Laws massa,' he answered, 'dem ladders is to put de chimley out.' 'Out?' I said, 'why is is out - outside.' 'Laws! I mean dey is to put de chimley out when it cotches fire - 'n' dat's berry off'n. Yer see we takes up a pail o' water and po's [pours] it down to stop de blaze. We couldn't git 'long 'out dem ladders, no how.'

Many of the cabins were overgrown with honeysuckle, the beautiful trumpet creeper and other vines indigenous to Southern climates, and often an arbor was built in front of the door, under which the pickaninnies could romp or take shelter on rude benches. Water buckets stood outside the wall, and hanging from a nail over them were gourd dippers with which to drink. A rude square table was usually seen in front, on which 'aunty' ironed and performed other household work. Near the outside corner of the cabin generally stood a wooden vessel, of bowl like structure, though with tapering top, used for making of lye for the manufacture of soap. Old iron pots lay carelessly about, and numberless ducks and chickens gave animation to the picture.

The interior of these cabins, however, seldom ever bore out the promise of the outside view. Many of them were divided into two rooms, while others had but one, which served the purpose of sleeping, cooking and eating. The furniture was rude and scanty, consisting only of one or two benches, an old arm chair and a bed. A spinning-wheel and loom often found places in the corner, and when 'homespun' was being woven, the scene was always an interesting one. The large-fire place was set at the end of the house, furnished with andirons and a crane with chain attachment, on which a cooking-pot usually emitted a thin curl of place blue smoke, which lazily made its way up the ample chimney. The though of ornamenting the walls evidently did not occur to the simple negroes; but, had they desired it, the smoked surface would not have admitted of embellishment. Overhead was an attic, where sweet corn, pumpkins and other supplies were stored for winter use."

Similar to yesterday's quote, this selection from Forbes contain racist elements. It is probably not so surprising due to its 1890s publication. However, Forbes's insights, even remembered thirty years after the fact, give us yet another account of the slaves' daily environment.

Forbes image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Artist Edwin Forbes on Slave Assistance to the Union Army


Artist Edwin Forbes drew just about everything during his time covering the Civil War. Included among his many sketches of the Union army and the Southern countryside were some images of slave quarters. In his book, Thirty Years After: An Artist's Memoir of the Civil War, Forbes wrote about his impressions about slave dwellings and their inhabitants.

He wrote: "Grouped in rear of the mansions of the wealthy, peeping out from the shadows of vines and trees, were the modest cabins of the house-servants and farm-hands. Their shabby exterior was scarcely in keeping with the warm welcome always offered to the 'Lincoln sogers' by their inmates, whose utmost sympathy could always be depended upon; and thousands of soldiers can recall with pleasure kindness received from these dusky people. Delicious pies and cooking made by the old 'aunties' were freely handed out to the hungry groups who stood about the door; the sick and wounded soldiers were never turned away, and escaped prisoners received food and guidance, and were assisted to places of safety by the slaves irrespective of their own danger. It was often a difficult task, but they would take great risks and pass the fugitives from one refuge to another until the Union lines were reached. It was wonderful, in their irrespective positions of simplicity and servitude, that they understood as well as they did the final meaning of the presence of soldiers, and waited with such hopeful, quiet patience the great accomplishment of their emancipation."

While Forbes's recollections are tinged with racist overtones from the late-nineteenth century in that he gives little to no credit to the slaves themselves in securing their emancipation, he does pay a small tribute to the assistance they often provided to the soldiers of the Union army.

Forbres image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Friday, April 29, 2016

A Cog in the Slave Economy Wheel


Just how much was slavery a part of Southern society? Often the extent of its influence depended on geographical location. However, the institution's tentacles reached far and wide in each and every state where slavery was legal--and way beyond those states' borders. Individuals who did not own slaves could rent them. And people who owned and rented them needed to feed them, shelter them, and clothe them. While much of the material resources for enslaved people's food, shelter, and clothing came from their own labor on rural plantations, town workshops, and urban factories, owners had other options as well.

The above advertisements ran in the Petersburg Daily Express on December 15, 1860. It was probably not a coincidence that ads like this ran in anticipation of slave hiring season. Merchants Emanuel and Davis offered apparel items for slaves. They sold blankets, socks, and clothing. From what I was able to find in census records, neither retailer owned slaves. But, not owning slaves did not preclude someone from benefiting from the system. Emanuel and Davis obviously attempted to fill a need in the commercial system and tried to earn revenue from the sale of goods specifically marketed to owners for their slaves.

Did Emanuel and Davis have a stake in the institution of slavery? Would they lose a potentially significant stake in the market economy if slavery ended? I would say yes to both questions, without a doubt.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Thomas C. Chandler's Fairfield Plantation


A couple of weeks ago I stopped in at the Stonewall Jackson Shrine on my way down I-95 back to Petersburg. It was a Monday morning and I was the only one on the grounds of what used to be Thomas Coleman Chandler's large "Fairfield" plantation. A kind National Park Service volunteer greeted me and provided an account of Jackson's wounding, his travel to Guinea Station, stay at the Fairfield plantation office building, and ultimate death. Being already quite familiar with Jackson's history, I was more interested in learning about the Chandler family.

When I asked the volunteer how many slaves the Chandler family owned, he said "dozens." He went on to explain that a couple of Chandler's sons served in the Confederate army and had nearby plantations too. When I got home curiosity got the better of me, so I searched out Thomas C. Chandler in the 1860 census. Remembering that I had crossed into Caroline County to get to the Shrine, I located him on that county's lists.

Chandler is noted as a sixty-two year old farmer worth $14,000 in real estate and $39,500 in personal property. Also in the Chandler household were Mary E., who was Chandler's much younger forty-three year old wife, two twenty-one year old (daughters?) Mary T. and Elizabeth P., twenty-three year old son Henry H., eleven year old son James G., nine year old daughter Lucy T., seven year old daughter Elizabeth C., and five year old daughter Nannie W. In the slave schedule census I counted sixty two slaves in Chandler's possession, who lived in thirteen slave dwellings.

Listed on the same free schedule census was Thomas Coleman Chandler's son, thirty year old farmer Thomas K. Chandler, who owned $12,000 in real estate and $10,000 in personal property. Thomas K. lived with his wife twenty-five year old Ann P. Also listed just a few households away was another Chandler son, thirty-two year old physician Joseph A. Chandler and his wife Emnella. Joseph owned $12,000 in real estate and $18,000 in personal property. Thomas K. Chandler owned fourteen slaves. It appears he hired four others, all lived in two slave houses. His brother, Joseph A. Chandler, owned twenty slaves and had four hires, who lived in six slave dwellings.

It appears that Thomas K. Chandler and a younger brother, who still lived with his father, Henry H. Chandler, served in Company B, Ninth Virginia Cavalry, which was also known as the Caroline Light Dragoons.

Thomas Jonathan Jackson had camped at Fairfield Plantation during the Fredericksburg campaign and seems to have enjoyed the hospitality provided by the Chandler family and their slaves. After Jackson was wounded at Chancellorsville, Gen. Lee suggested a return to Fairfiield at Guinea Station for Jackson's amputation recovery. The hustle and bustle of the Chandler home was deemed too noisy for the wounded general, so Jackson was provided with a room in the quieter nearby plantation office building (shown above). He arrived there on May 4, and stayed until he passed away on May 10. Jackson's wife, Anna, was there at his death and accompanied the general's body to Richmond. Along on the trip and comforting Anna was the Chandlers.

As one might imagine, the war was rough on the Thomas C. Chandler household. He is listed in the 1870 census as a seventy-two year old farmer worth $8000 in real estate ($4000 less than ten years before), and $1000 in personal property ($38,500 less than ten years before). Interestingly there are eight African Americans listed in Chandler's 1870 household. One man is listed a a "farm laborer," and three of the teenage or adult women are listed as "Domestic." It appears that the Chandler household was not able to divorce itself totally from the need for African American labor, even a decade after emancipation.

Monday, April 25, 2016

My Neighborhood History: Edge Hill


When doing battlefield tours at the park I often get asked where Gen. Lee's headquarters was located? Well, I have to explain that the answer to that question depends on what point in the Petersburg Campaign one is inquiring about. 

Lee's first headquarters was located at Violet Bank, on the north side of the Appomattox River and across from Petersburg. Lee kept tabs on the Army of Northern Virginia at Violet Bank from June to early November 1864. Then, for about three weeks, Lee kept post at or around the Beasley House on High Street in Petersburg.

At the end of November 1864, Lee accepted the offer to move his headquarters to the William Turnbull estate, which was known as Edge Hill, just west of Petersburg on Cox Road. Grant's continued threats to Lee's right flank prompted the move that fall. 

William Turnbull is listed in the 1860 census as a thirty-four year old farmer. Bettie J., which I assume was his much younger wife, is listed as nineteen years old. In addition, three Lewises lived in the household: Alpha J., forty-three, Mary P., fifteen, and Frank H., twelve. I suppose these could be Bettie's mother and sister and brother. Turnbull's occupation is listed as "farmer" and he is credited as owning $12,000 in real estate and $15,000 in personal property. He was the owner of five slaves. During the war, Turnbull worked as a Confederate government agent in Petersburg.


When the Union Sixth Corps broke through Lee's lines on the morning of April 2, 1865, the force turned away from Petersburg to clear any possible Confederate attempt at their flank and in the mid-day turned back and moved on Edge Hill. Guarding Lee's command post was artillery under the command of William T. Poague. Five of the Sixth Corps' eight brigades attacked the Turnbull House and were initially turned back by Poague's gunners. A second coordinated Union attack drove off the majority of the cannoneers. Lee and his staff made a quick getaway to the inner Petersburg defenses.

The destruction of the Turnbull House is somewhat of a historical enigma. Some Union and Confederate accounts claim that soon after Lee and his staff evacuated the premises, the house caught fire by some method. Other evidence indicates that Edge Hill survived at least until April 3rd. Regardless, not long after its capture, the Turnbull House was little more than ruins, as Alfred Waud's sketch (above) shows.

Today, little if anything exists of Edge Hill. There is part of a chimney at the location, but I am not sure that it is a nineteenth century relic. I often shop at the Walgreen's drugstore adjacent to the location, and my insurance agent and local bank branch are just a stone's throw away, too. Most people would not even know of the location's historical significance were it not for the highway marker shown at top.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

"The Tired [USCT] Solider"


There was a time I could play basketball all day and then stay up watching television all night. But sadly those days seem gone. Now, on my days off, I often seek opportunities for both mental and physical rest. When I was a teenager I never thought I'd actually enjoy an occasional nap. I suppose this phenomenon has everything to do with the aging process, but in those moments when I need to push through to get something done, I try to think about those in the past whose lives were much more physically taxing than ours of the present.

Whenever I lead tours, I attempt to convey to visitors the sheer amount of physical effort it took to get things done in everyday nineteenth century life; whether that was cooking, laundry, or just getting from one location to another. Preparing a meal took hours, laundry was backbreaking, and even if a person rode a horse to get somewhere, that animal needed cared for, saddled, and harnessed. And when back home it needed additional care and fed. Today, we just park our cars and go inside.

Life as a Civil War soldier while on campaign must have been exhausting. Edwin Forbes's sketch (above) of a Union soldier after the first days of fierce fighting at Petersburg (June 15-18, 1864), illustrates the results of the taxing nature of soldier life.

When I first saw the image I wondered if Forbes just sketched a dead soldier, but the inscription plainly tells that this soldier was attempting to regain some energy by catching a few winks. Forbes wrote about this particular incident in his book Thirty Years After: An Artist's Memoir of the Civil War, and speculated that the fatigued soldier was a member of a United States Colored Troop regiment. He wrote:

"I came upon a most pathetic picture of an exhausted soldier as I was riding along a road to Petersburg during its siege, whose attitude suggested utter abandon, and whose pallid face caused me to think him dead. I dismounted and found him motionless upon his back, with bare feet and legs hanging over a bank. His old grey blanket was around his body, a gun was slung over the left shoulder, and his haversack containing untouched rations rested on his hip. I began to sketch so interesting a subject, and at first supposed him to be a white man; but as I carefully drew his lineaments I noticed the unmistakable fullness of feature and wavy black hair which showed him to be a mulatto, and probably a member of a negro regiment in the Eighteenth Corps.

As I continued my work I was suddenly startled at a trembling of the eyelids and the languid opening of his eyes. He looked at me in a dreamy fashion, the drowsily closed his eyes again as if too exhausted to interest himself in anything, and remained motionless. I finished my sketch and left him in the care of those who would look after him."

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Slave Patrol Regulations


The other day while rummaging around online at the Duke University Digital Collections, I came across a handbill for a set of slave patrol regulations for the town of Tarboro[ugh], North Carolina, which were established in 1837. They are listed as follows:

"Rule 1st. Slaves residing in the country whose owners, masters or mistresses for the time being do not live in town, other than such as have wives in town, shall not come to town on the Sabbath day, unless to attend church, or in the night time without written permission from their owners, masters or mistresses for the time being, such permission stating the place or places such slaves shall visit
-Provided that they may at all times, come to town, or on the business of their owners, masters or mistresses for the time being without written permission
Rule 2nd. No slave after the hour of nine, P.M. (a reasonable time being allowed for him or her to go home or to the place designated in his or her written permission after the ringing of the bell,) shall be on the streets, or absent from the premises of his or her owner, master or mistress for the time being-or the premises of the owner, master or mistress for the time being of his wife-or the premises of the person, where he may be authorized by his written permission to go-unless he or she be on the business of his owner, master or mistress for the time being.
Rule 3rd. If any slave shall violate the foregoing Rules, the Patrol shall have the power and it shall be their duty (any two of their number being present) to whip the said slave, either at the time of the offense being committed or at any time within three months thereafter, the number of stripes not to exceed fifteen, unless the said slave shall be guilty of insolent behavior, or make his escape from the Patrol, in either of which cases the number of stripes not exceed thirty-nine."

Monday, April 18, 2016

More on Slave Hiring


Earlier today I finished reading "Reading Wolves to Our Own Destruction": Slavery in Richmond, Virginia, 1782-1865, by Midori Takagi (University Press of Virginia, 1999). In this well researched book, the author explores the urban landscape of slavery and how it tested the traditional sense of the "peculiar institution." With many owners allowing their slaves to find their own employment in the city's numerous factories, make their own living arrangements, and do overwork for cash payments, the city version of slavery was often markedly different than that of rural plantation slavery.

In some respect though, other qualities of urban slavery mirrored that of the countryside. Slave hiring occurred on both plantations and in cities such as Richmond. As part of her evidence of the large number of slaves rented for city work, Takagi quoted a short notice from the January 3, 1853, Richmond Daily Dispatch (shown above). I located the article via the "Chronicling America" newspaper database from the Library of Congress.

As one can see, slave hiring helped fuel Richmond's antebellum economy. These individuals provided vital labor and as the notice shows, "Thousands of dollars changed hands." Most of that money went to the slaves' owners, and depending on the master, slaves may or may not have had much say in where they went to work or what type of labor they performed.

In this particular issue of the Daily Dispatch, the claims made by this little notice were supported with numerous advertisements posted by individual citizens and hiring agents, both seeking and offering their slaves for hire. The practice of slave hiring goes to show that although slave owners were a minority in the antebellum South, many more people other than just owners had a large stake in the perpetuation of the institution.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A Robert Lumpkin Advertisement


If one reads much about Richmond's role the domestic slave trade, a specific name comes up over and over again, that of Robert Lumpkin.

The fifty-four year old Lumpkin's occupation in 1860 was listed as "Private Goal [jail]." He owned real estate worth $20,000, and personal property worth $6845. Lumpkin owned nine slaves. Lumpkin's real estate value is probably listed so high because he owned a slave complex that was known by some as "the Devil's Half-Acre." The property included Lumpkin's house, a jail in which to hold slaves waiting to be sold, a hotel where out of town slave buyers and dealers could find accommodations, and a kitchen that prepared meals for both slave inmates as well as guests at the hotel.


The property was located in Richmond's Shockoe Bottom, quite the undesirable piece of real estate due to it's placement along Shockoe Creek's steep valley banks.

Lumpkin ran the advertisement above in the Richmond Daily Dispatch on October 31, 1864. It reads: "SERVANTS WANTED - I wish to purchase, for a Southern gentleman, for his own use, one first-rate COOK, WASHER and IRONER, and one Female HOUSE SERVANT, well qualified, for which I will pay the highest market prices. Apply to Robert Lumpkin."

The trader's personal life and professional life seemed to be in conflict, but he apparently made it work. Lumpkin lived with Mary F. Lumpkin, an enslaved woman and the mother of the dealer's at least five children, all of whom were educated in the free states. Lumpkin's 1866 will left his property to Mary.

As the advertisement shows, Lumpkin traded in slaves even as Richmond was under attack by Grant's forces both north and south of the James River. In fact, Lumpkin attempted to flee Richmond as the Union army bore down on the Capital City on April 2-3, 1865. However, as he tried to board his slave coffle on the Richmond-Danville Railroad, he was refused. Apparently, he had little more choice than to let his slaves go free.

After the Civil War Lumpkin's property was transformed from slave complex to an educational facility. In 1867, Mary Lumpkin rented the buildings to a a former abolitionist who used the buildings to educate Richmond's freedmen. Later the facility relocated and changed names several times before attaining it's present designation of Virginia Union University, a historically African American institution of higher learning.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Seeking Isaac on the James River


The above advertisement ran in the July 19, 1839, issue of the Richmond Enquirer. In it slave renter, James A. Thomas, sought the rendition of Isaac, who ran away from him on the first of June. Thomas explained that he hired Isaac from Leonard Daniel, who was the executor of Mary Daniel's estate. Slave sales and rentals were often the result when an owner died.

What I found interesting about this particular advertisement was the fact that Thomas explained that Isaac was born on the James River and as he explained, Isaac was known to most of the boatmen on that thoroughfare. It seems likely then that Isaac must have experienced some freedom of movement in his previous situation. As the ad also mentions, Thomas believed that Isaac was likely working his way along the James River Canal, attempting to pass as a free man or "attempting to make his escape to some free State under cover of free papers, and some other fictitious name." Waterways were common methods of escape for fugitive slaves. Runaways had the opportunity to meet people of diverse origins on rivers, but also potentially encountered slave catchers who know rivers were often traveled by fugitives. 

James A. Thomas is listed in the 1840 census as the head of household of containing ten people. I found it intriguing that the Thomas household included three free people of color in addition to four slaves. 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

An Interview with a USCT: Cornelius Garner


I completed reading Weevils in the Wheat: Interviews with Virginia Ex-Slaves yesterday and found these 1930s recorded conversations fascinating. The Virginia Writers Project employees conducted oral history interviews with about 300 elderly former slaves to get their views on life before emancipation and since. While a number of the original interviews have been lost over time, this published collection has been available since 1976.

Fortunately, a majority of the interviews were made by African Americans, so interviewees seem to have been more candid than some of the WPA Federal Writers Project interviews conducted by white interviewers. That was the case when African Americans Emmy Wilson and Claude W. Anderson spoke with former slave Cornelius Garner in Norfolk in 1937.

Garner explained to his interviewers that he was born in 1846 in St. Mary's County, Maryland. Garner said that he started working at about ten years old helping grow tobacco, wheat, corn, and oats on his owner's plantation. He described his housing as good; that it didn't leak, but had a dirt floor and straw beds. Garner also explained that he received plenty to eat. He said that a ration of meat and corn meal was supplied, and sometimes he received fish, molasses, and bread.

Garner does not go into an explanation of how, but in 1864 he arrived in Norfolk, Virginia. Being curious, I thought I'd see if I could corroborate his statement with any available service records.

Indeed, Garner's records show he enlisted in Company B of the 38th United States Colored Infantry.on February 15, 1864 in Great Mill's, Maryland. It was his army service that brought him to Norfolk, where he was officially mustered in. Garner was described as eighteen years old and five feet, five inches tall, and having a dark complexion. He is identified as being born in St. Mary's County, Maryland, as he explained to his interviewers.

Private Garner was present and accounted for with his unit until September 29, 1864, when he was wounded at New Market Heights fighting with the 38th USCT in Alonzo Draper's brigade. Garner mentioned in his interview fighting at Deep Bottom and Chaffin's Farm (aka New Market Heights) but did not cover the fact that he was wounded. His service records indicate that he spent time at Balfour General Hospital, a Union army hospital in Portsmouth in October and November and returned to duty on December 12.

Garner's records indicate that he was sent back to the hospital on February 2, 1865, for an unexplained illness. His is shown as being in the general hospital at Fort Monroe from March until about September. Then he appears to have been transferred to Fort Wood in New York harbor; most likely for a trip to Texas for border duty, where the 38th was stationed until they were mustered out in 1867. Garner explained in his interview that he returned to Virginia when he left the army that very year.

In Garner's records is an application for compensation by his former owner Ann Milburn. Milburn also supplied an affidavit of her loyalty to seek payment for Garner's service. Garner said in his interview that his master was Lewis Milburn. Looking up Ann Milburn in the 1860 census I found that she was the 50 year old wife of farmer John L. Milburn. John Milburn owned $10,000 in personal property. Their son, seventeen year old Lewis, is shown as a "farm hand." John L. Milburn also appears in the 1860 slave schedules as the owner of sixteen slaves, who lived in two slave dwellings. On that list of a slaves appears a fourteen year old black male, who would fit Garner's age and description exactly.

Being able to corroborate Garner's interview story with official documents, in my opinion lends a extra level of credence to these sometimes disregarded "memory" accounts of lives spent in slavery.