Monday, February 28, 2011

A Kentucky Editor on the Emancipation Proclamation

Kentucky, being a slave state that remained in the Union, found itself in a unique position when the Emancipation Proclamation took effect on January 1, 1863. The Bluegrass State, like Maryland and Missouri, felt that its slave interest could best be protected in the Union rather than out, so when the non-border slave states seceded, Kentucky remained. And, although Kentucky was not subject to Lincoln's edict, it realized that it would probably only be a matter of time before emancipation would make its way to the commonwealth.

Recently I found an article in the January 5, 1863 edition of the Frankfort Tri-Weekly Commonwealth that vehemently expressed what was probably the majority of white Kentuckians' feelings about the Emancipation Proclamation.

The editor of the Tri-Weekly Commonwealth explained that, "We have expressed our condemnation of this highhanded assumption of power by President Lincoln, in almost every issue of our paper since the appearance of his Proclamation on the 22d of September last [1862]." The following published article originally ran in the Louisville Democrat on January 3, 1863, but as the Commonwealth's editor explained, the article "so fully expresses our own opinions upon this subject, that we adopt them as our own:"

"The President's proclamation has come to hand at last. We scarcely know how to express our indignation at this flagrant outrage of all Constitutional law, all human justice, all Christian feeling. Our very soul revolts at contemplating an atrocity so heinous, and the feeling is intensified at the indelible disgrace which it fixes upon our country. To think that we, who have been the foremost in the grand march of civilization, should be so disgraced by an imbecile President as to be made to appear before the world as the encourager of insurrection, lust, arson, and murder! The people have condemned this in advance, and the President has raised a storm that will overwhelm him. It is not in the rebellious States he has to fear most, but the true, loyal States will not suffer their fame to be stained by him. It is not enough that Kentucky is exempt from its force; not enough that it is ineffectual even in the States it has reference to. The people cannot, in any State, bear to be so slandered by one who usurps authority."

These sentiments should be no surprise when one realizes that Kentucky was third nationally in 1860 in number of slaveholders; only behind Virginia and Georgia. And, although Kentucky was ninth out of fifteen states in 1860 in number of slaves - which of course meant that the average Bluegrass owner only held a few slaves - the commonwealth did hold more slaves in bondage than all three of the other slaveholding Border States (Maryland, Missouri and Delaware) combined. Kentucky also voted their anti-emancipation sentiments in the 1864 election when they cast 64, 301 (69.8%) votes for McClellan, and only 27,787 (30.2%) for Lincoln.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What a Great Idea...Sharing History!

I received an email from the Virginia Sesquicentennial Commission yesterday advertising their upcoming third signature conference. This year's offering is being held at Virginia Tech on Saturday, May 21, 2011 and is themed "Military Strategy in the American Civil War." The event will be chaired by James "Bud" Robertson. This sounds like a wonderful event and hopefully I can make it "over the mountain" to be there in person. But, interestingly this event isn't really what caught my eye in the announcement.

I was much more intrigued and please to see the following notice:

The Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission and the Library of Virginia are partnering in the Civil War 150 Legacy Project to identify and locate original source materials in Virginia that are related to the Civil War and emancipation. Materials may include letters, memoirs, pension materials, military passes, discharge papers, diaries, hand-drawn maps, and selected memorabilia and other Civil War era manuscripts. Of particular interest to the project are global and pacifist perspectives and the viewpoints of individual African Americans and women. Items must be owned by the individual presenting the materials for digitization.

The Library of Virginia is sending teams of archivists to scan privately-held manuscript material for inclusion on both the Library of Virginia and the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission websites. The teams are coordinating visits with local sesquicentennial committees to ensure coverage of the whole of Virginia.

Locate items within your family collections that document the Civil War and the Civil-War era. Items suitable for the Civil War 150 Legacy Project include:

LettersMilitary passes / discharge papers
Hand-drawn mapsPension materials
Hand-drawn sketchesOther documentary materials not listed
Claims for damages by the Confederate Army or Federal Army

Items must be owned by the individual presenting the materials for digitization. Materials that are photocopied and/or subject to United States copyright law may not be submitted for digitization.

To learn more about this initiative and to how to participate go to:

I sincerely hope this project proves to be a success, but due to past personal experiences, part of me believes that a large portion of the public will be somewhat hesitant to share their family treasures. For some reason there are people out there that want to hoard very significant primary sources that could add to the historical record, especially when they relate to their ancestors. Obviously history is only as good as the sources that the researcher can find, so I wish the Library of Virginia the best with this great idea.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What Alabama Traitors Think of Kentuckians

While looking through some 1861 issues of the Frankfort Tri-Weekly Commonwealth for items for an upcoming teacher workshop on the Civil War, I ran into an interesting article in the March 15 issue that originally ran in the Louisville Journal.

The article was headlined as "What Alabama Traitors think of Kentuckians." This particular letter was written to the "Editors of the Louisville Journal" by L.B. Manning, and was sent from Cahaba, Alabama on February 28, 1861 and reads as follows:

"GENTLEMEN: You may exult as much as you please at what you call the conservative action of Kentucky in the present crisis - out here we are not much disappointed. We expected no better from a State settled by hoosiers from Western Virginia - a very low class altogether. You have behaved like dastards and deserve to be slaves. Lincoln is welcome to you and as many more such as you and Tennessee have shown yourselves to be. That State was settled by a poor class of North Carolinians. I do not believe there is a particle of well-descended chivalrous blood in the whole of either Kentucky or Tennessee. If the old State of Virginia should follow your example she will be beneath contempt. So you may glory in your accursed Union and your miserable rag with your stars and stripes. We will punish you by not allowing you to sell your negroes out here. The most you make is by raising them for sale, and when we stop that, and refuse to buy your corn and pork, we can reduce you to starvation very soon, and you will then wish you had joined our glorious and powerful Southern Confederacy; but it will be too late."

Only a four months before, Alabama had sent a representative, Kentucky native Stephen Hale (see October 28, 2010 post), to the Bluegrass state in effort to encourage the Commonwealth's secession, but it appears that some like Mr. Manning had quickly grown tired of waiting and wanted to attempt to shame Kentucky and Tennessee into the Confederacy. I also found it interesting that he acknowledged that Kentucky was a prime provider of slaves, as well as corn and pork, for the Deep South states. With his rant I was a little surprised that he didn't threaten to boycott Kentucky hemp products too. One wonders if Manning was pleased when Tennessee finally seceded in June. Surely it wasn't soon enough for him.

The short article ended with a retort from the Journal: "He [Manning] may look down the vista of the past for his family tree without finding it, but as to his future destiny, the gallows tree looms up with a bean sinister, a traitor pendant, and the motto form Alabama's name: 'Here we rest.'"

Monday, February 14, 2011

Cities and Towns, a Strong Draw for Runaway Slaves

This past weekend I finished reading Slavery in the Cities: The South 1820-1860, which was written by Dr. Richard Wade in 1964. While I have focused much of my recent reading on the latest studies of slavery, I have been interested for some time in going back to earlier scholarship on the subject. I have started this effort primary because I want to get a firmer grasp on the historiography of slavery and how interpretations have changed over the years. During my reading I have kept hearing from many recent historians that such and such historian said this, and so and so said that, so I wanted to read for myself what the earlier scholars had written and judge their interpretation by my own understanding.

I found Slavery in the Cities well researched a very good, fast read. I certainly understand why Dr. Wade kept his study to several selected Southern cities. And, he certainly chose a good geographical representation in his selection, but I would have preferred him to have used sources outside of his main focus cities of Baltimore, New Orleans, Louisville, Mobile, Charleston, Norfolk, Richmond, St. Louis, Savannah, and Washington D.C., and also to have looked a smaller cities and towns such as Lynchburg, Virginia, Columbia, South Carolina and Knoxville, Tennessee for example. Wade's thesis, that slaves in the cities experienced an existence much different than that of their rural plantation counterparts, was quite simple and well supported by his sources.

One chapter that particularly struck me was chapter eight, "Runaways and Rebels." Here Wade explained that, "Unlike those on plantations, 'where no visions visit him [the slave] to remind him of his servitude,' [in the cities] they saw all around them every day the possibilities of what they considered a better life." This revelation by the historian was not missed by Southern whites of the era under study; one of which Wade quoted as saying, "The cities is no place for niggers! They get strange notions into their heads and grow discontented. They ought, everyone of them, be sent back onto the plantations." Wade also noted that "Towns always attracted more fugitives than they lost. Rural runaways headed for the nearest cities and quickly lost themselves in the congestion, protected as much by the anonymity of urban life as the collusion of other Negroes."

While the cities and towns provided a camouflage for some runaway slaves, others stood out and were caught by the city slave patrol or night watchmen. These slaves were often remanded to the town jail and notices were posted in newspapers for their owners to come get them. The attached column of advertisements bear this fact out. These eight notices shown are part of actually nine that were posted by the Franklin County Jailer H.R. Miller in the Frankfort Tri-Weekly Commonwealth and ran for several weeks on end in the fall of 1862. Along with these are one other by Miller and two additional advertisements not shown; one from the Anderson County jailer (the neighboring county to the south) with three runaways listed, and one from the Owen County (the neighboring county to the north) jailer.

The advertisements are more similar than different. They all identify the runaway by their name, their approximate or actual age, their complexion and a description of their height and weight. They all end with some statement asking for "the owner of said come forward and prove property, and pay charges, or he will be dealt with as the law directs." Usually the law directed that the slave be held for a period of time and if not claimed he or she would be auctioned off, with the proceeds going toward the expenses for keeping the slave and the balance to the city treasury.

It is interesting that all of these slave were males and came from different places, so apparently they did not runaway together, at least not a first. They claimed to come from Louisville, two from Madison County by different owners, Rockcastle County, Springfield in Clarke County, Ohio, Washington County, Fayette County, Harrison County, and Laurel County. The advertisement from the Anderson County jailer claimed have three runaways from as far as Monroe County, Mississippi, George County, Alabama and Franklin County, Tennessee. The runaway listed from the Owen County jailer came from Pike County, Kentucky.

More than one of the supposed runaways claimed to be free. The man from Rockcastle County, Pat Gadliff claimed to be free, but the jailer included in the ad that he "is supposed to be the property of Wm. Brooks." The man from Ohio, John Smith, also claimed to be free and was "dressed in part with soldier clothes." His reason for wearing soldier clothes is supported by his claim that he was a cook for a "Capt. Smith, of the 93rd Ohio Inf. Vol. Reg."

The most unusual name of the runaways listed was Prophet, other unique names included one named Wash and another called simply Brown. The others had common names such as Bob, John, Tom, Pat and Anderson. Almost all were listed as being under 25 years of age, except for the runaways from Mississippi (36) and Tennessee (50). I wonder if the the ones from Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee were runaways from the Confederate army that had been occupied Kentucky that late summer and fall.

These advertisements tell a strong story in a small space. Here in one column of a Kentucky newspaper in 1862, 13 individuals were attempting to be free but were potentially being sent back to a life of slavery. One can't help but wonder, what their fates were. Were they eventually claimed by their owners? Did those that claimed to be free men of color have to spend some time in bondage again? If they survive, maybe the records of the Franklin County jail would answer these questions. Maybe I'll try to find out. After all, did curiosity ever kill the historian? Probably not.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Vandalizing a Slave Dealer's Charleston Office

I recently finished reading Carry Me Back: The Domestic Slave Trade in American Life, by Steven Deyle and found it to be a fascinating book. It is amazing to think how much money was tied up in buying and selling slaves in the early to mid-nineteenth century and how far slavery's reach extended in America. I say America, because the Southern states were certainly not alone in this "infamous business." Northern owned insurance companies and transportation lines such as ships and railroads moved thousands of slaves from place to place, most often taking those from the upper-South states to those of the Deep South as cotton fever raged.

I came across an interesting section in the book that described the fall of Charleston, South Carolina and the adventures of two Northern newspaper correspondents upon entering the city. The following the paragraph is found on pages 204 and 205:

"In February 1865, two war correspondents, Charles Carleton Coffin of the Boston Journal and James Redpath of the New York Tribune, accompanied federal troops as they entered Charleston, South Carolina. Knowing the interests of their readers, the two men quickly headed for Ziba Oakes's large slave mart on Chalmers Street and , after breaking down the door, ransacked the premises. Spying the auction block, Coffin thought 'that perhaps [Massachusetts] Governor Andrew, or Wendell Phillips, or William Lloyd Garrison would like to make a speech from those steps,' and he 'determined to secure them [the steps].' In addition, Coffin climbed a post and wrenched down the gilt star that hung over the front of the mart, and he took the lock from the iron front gate. The two men also carried off a bell and a sign, as well as most of Oakes's business papers, with Redpath noting 'what a tale of wickedness these letter books do tell!' Before departing, the two correspondents scribbled 'TEXTS FOR THE DAY' on the walls, leaving quotes from Garrison, the Bible, and John Brown."

Deyle explained that "Most of the souvenirs were sent to Boston and used to raise money for the freedmen. But some of these items were also given to William Lloyd Garrison in honor of his role in the antislavery movement." Many of the items taken from the Charleston slave mart were displayed to the public in a showing at the Music Hall in Boston on March 9, 1865. Admission was taken to raise funds and Coffin read from Oakes's papers. When Garrison made an appearance the "crowd went wild." Garrison's paper, the Liberator wrote, "The scene was one of unusual interest and excitement, the audience raising thunders of applause and waving hundreds of white handkerchiefs for a considerable interval."

In a little over a month I will be going to Charleston to attend the National Council for History Education's annual conference. Although I have been to Charleston a couple of times in the past, I haven't had the chance to really explore the museums and the old parts of town to the degree I would like. Hopefully I will get to change that with this visit as I plan to stay a few days after the conference to explore and learn. As they might say there "cain't hardly wait."

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

150 Years Ago: Texas Says Why It Is Out of the Union

Although Texas seceded from the Union on February 1, 1860, the following day they released a declaration of what "impelled" them to leave. Some states felt the need to publish such statements while others did not, but those that did emphasized the importance of slavery to their social and economic lives, and the refusal of certain Northern states to uphold the previously agreed upon fugitive slave act.

Not all Texans were for secession. Sitting governor Sam Houston, a leading Texas patriot from the war for Texas independence, was an avowed Unionist who refused to accept secession and was evicted from office. Houston died in 1863 of pneumonia.

When asked to speak to a crowd after his eviction from office Houston stated, "Let me tell you what is coming. After the sacrifice of countless millions of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives, you may win Southern independence if God be not against you, but I doubt it. I tell you that, while I believe with you in the doctrine of states rights, the North is determined to preserve this Union. They are not a fiery, impulsive people as you are, for they live in colder climates. But when they begin to move in a given direction, they move with the steady momentum and perseverance of a mighty avalanche; and what I fear is, they will overwhelm the South."

A Declaration of the Causes which Impel the State of Texas to Secede from the Federal Union.

The government of the United States, by certain joint resolutions, bearing date the 1st day of March, in the year A.D. 1845, proposed to the Republic of Texas, then a free, sovereign and independent nation, the annexation of the latter to the former, as one of the co-equal states thereof,

The people of Texas, by deputies in convention assembled, on the fourth day of July of the same year, assented to and accepted said proposals and formed a constitution for the proposed State, upon which on the 29th day of December in the same year, said State was formally admitted into the Confederated Union.

Texas abandoned her separate national existence and consented to become one of the Confederated Union to promote her welfare, insure domestic tranquility and secure more substantially the blessings of peace and liberty to her people. She was received into the confederacy with her own constitution, under the guarantee of the federal constitution and the compact of annexation, that she should enjoy these blessings. She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery-- the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits-- a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time. Her institutions and geographical position established the strongest ties between her and other slave-holding States of the confederacy. Those ties have been strengthened by association. But what has been the course of the government of the United States, and of the people and authorities of the non-slave-holding States, since our connection with them?

The controlling majority of the Federal Government, under various pretences and disguises, has so administered the same as to exclude the citizens of the Southern States, unless under odious and unconstitutional restrictions, from all the immense territory owned in common by all the States on the Pacific Ocean, for the avowed purpose of acquiring sufficient power in the common government to use it as a means of destroying the institutions of Texas and her sister slaveholding States.

By the disloyalty of the Northern States and their citizens and the imbecility of the Federal Government, infamous combinations of incendiaries and outlaws have been permitted in those States and the common territory of Kansas to trample upon the federal laws, to war upon the lives and property of Southern citizens in that territory, and finally, by violence and mob law, to usurp the possession of the same as exclusively the property of the Northern States.

The Federal Government, while but partially under the control of these our unnatural and sectional enemies, has for years almost entirely failed to protect the lives and property of the people of Texas against the Indian savages on our border, and more recently against the murderous forays of banditti from the neighboring territory of Mexico; and when our State government has expended large amounts for such purpose, the Federal Government has refused reimbursement therefor, thus rendering our condition more insecure and harassing than it was during the existence of the Republic of Texas.

These and other wrongs we have patiently borne in the vain hope that a returning sense of justice and humanity would induce a different course of administration.

When we advert to the course of individual non-slave-holding States, and that a majority of their citizens, our grievances assume far greater magnitude.

The States of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa, by solemn legislative enactments, have deliberately, directly or indirectly violated the 3rd clause of the 2nd section of the 4th article [the fugitive slave clause] of the federal constitution, and laws passed in pursuance thereof; thereby annulling a material provision of the compact, designed by its framers to perpetuate the amity between the members of the confederacy and to secure the rights of the slave-holding States in their domestic institutions-- a provision founded in justice and wisdom, and without the enforcement of which the compact fails to accomplish the object of its creation. Some of those States have imposed high fines and degrading penalties upon any of their citizens or officers who may carry out in good faith that provision of the compact, or the federal laws enacted in accordance therewith.

In all the non-slave-holding States, in violation of that good faith and comity which should exist between entirely distinct nations, the people have formed themselves into a great sectional party, now strong enough in numbers to control the affairs of each of those States, based upon an unnatural feeling of hostility to these Southern States and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color-- a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law. They demand the abolition of negro slavery throughout the confederacy, the recognition of political equality between the white and negro races, and avow their determination to press on their crusade against us, so long as a negro slave remains in these States.

For years past this abolition organization has been actively sowing the seeds of discord through the Union, and has rendered the federal congress the arena for spreading firebrands and hatred between the slave-holding and non-slave-holding States.

By consolidating their strength, they have placed the slave-holding States in a hopeless minority in the federal congress, and rendered representation of no avail in protecting Southern rights against their exactions and encroachments.

They have proclaimed, and at the ballot box sustained, the revolutionary doctrine that there is a 'higher law' than the constitution and laws of our Federal Union, and virtually that they will disregard their oaths and trample upon our rights.

They have for years past encouraged and sustained lawless organizations to steal our slaves and prevent their recapture, and have repeatedly murdered Southern citizens while lawfully seeking their rendition.

They have invaded Southern soil and murdered unoffending citizens, and through the press their leading men and a fanatical pulpit have bestowed praise upon the actors and assassins in these crimes, while the governors of several of their States have refused to deliver parties implicated and indicted for participation in such offenses, upon the legal demands of the States aggrieved.

They have, through the mails and hired emissaries, sent seditious pamphlets and papers among us to stir up servile insurrection and bring blood and carnage to our firesides.

They have sent hired emissaries among us to burn our towns and distribute arms and poison to our slaves for the same purpose.

They have impoverished the slave-holding States by unequal and partial legislation, thereby enriching themselves by draining our substance.

They have refused to vote appropriations for protecting Texas against ruthless savages, for the sole reason that she is a slave-holding State.

And, finally, by the combined sectional vote of the seventeen non-slave-holding States, they have elected as president and vice-president of the whole confederacy two men whose chief claims to such high positions are their approval of these long continued wrongs, and their pledges to continue them to the final consummation of these schemes for the ruin of the slave-holding States.

In view of these and many other facts, it is meet that our own views should be distinctly proclaimed.

We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.

That in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding states.

By the secession of six of the slave-holding States, and the certainty that others will speedily do likewise, Texas has no alternative but to remain in an isolated connection with the North, or unite her destinies with the South.

For these and other reasons, solemnly asserting that the federal constitution has been violated and virtually abrogated by the several States named, seeing that the federal government is now passing under the control of our enemies to be diverted from the exalted objects of its creation to those of oppression and wrong, and realizing that our own State can no longer look for protection, but to God and her own sons-- We the delegates of the people of Texas, in Convention assembled, have passed an ordinance dissolving all political connection with the government of the United States of America and the people thereof and confidently appeal to the intelligence and patriotism of the freemen of Texas to ratify the same at the ballot box, on the 23rd day of the present month.

Adopted in Convention on the 2nd day of Feby, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one and of the independence of Texas the twenty-fifth.