Saturday, May 25, 2013

Corroborating Confederate Camp Servant Runaways in Kentucky

Soon after I began researching slavery advertisements in Kentucky's Civil War newspapers I became curious to see if I could verify a suspicion that I had with many of the runaways caught from seceded states.

I knew it would be difficult for many of the runaways to make it into Kentucky without being caught in the states they came from. Therefore, I assumed that many of the slaves came into Kentucky at various times in 1861 and 1862 with the Confederate army, and once there, took the opportunity to abscond since they were nearer the free states, and thus had a better chance of making good their freedom.

I have slowly been attempting to cross-check a few of those owners mentioned in the advertisements with 1860 census records and Confederate enlistment records. 

Many of the ads are difficult to cross reference as it seems the jailer often spelled the owner's name (and sometimes the place the slave was from) phonetically.  

In the above advertisement I was able to find Jeremiah Cleveland of Bedford County, Tennessee, in the 1860 census.  Jeremiah appeared to be too old to serve in the Confederate army, but he had a son named Thomas that was of military age. 

I checked the service records with a limited membership I got through Fold3 and found Thomas S. Cleveland, who was a lieutenant in Company G of the 17th Tennessee Infantry Regiment. Then corroborating that information with a volume of Tennesseans in the Civil War: Part 1, which lists regimental information on each Volunteer State unit, I found that some of the men of the 17th indeed came from Bedford County.

Tennesseans in the Civil War also provided a rundown of the battles in which the 17th Tennessee participated. They were at Munfordville and Perryville, Kentucky, in the fall of 1862. And, while the ad mentions that Jim was caught on January 14, 1863, it of course, does not tell us how long he had been on the run and hiding out before being arrested.

Included in Thomas Cleveland's service records was "Form No. 3. Officers' Pay Account." On this document it lists pay for the soldier and pay to the soldier's "private servant, not soldier."  At the bottom of the form it says "Description of Servants," and has a place for his name. Unfortunately that part is cut off. 

So, while I cannot totally 100% confirm that Jim ran away from Thomas Cleveland, I now feel confident enough to say that, in my humble opinion, it is very highly likely.

Another advertisement that ran listed a George Turner as being jailed in Hardin County, Kentucky (ironically the county that produced Abraham Lincoln). Turner told county jailer Isaac Love that his owner was Marshall Spencer from the misspelled Issaquenna County, Mississippi. 

I located Marshall Spencer's service records, and indeed he was enlisted as a lieutenant in Graves' Battery, into which the Issaquenna Artillery was incorporated. Unfortunately, there was not as many detailed records included as Thomas Cleveland.  However, the next soldier listed for the battery was Selden Spencer, who was probably the brother or cousin of Marshall. Selden's service records included mention that he was captured in Lexington, Kentucky. Graves' Battery was part of the Confederate Army of Central Kentucky, which tried to maintain a defensive line across southern Kentucky in the fall of 1861. The unit fought at the Battle of Fort Donelson, in February 1862, where many of its members were captured, most of whom were exchanged in the fall of 1862.

Like Thomas Cleveland's runaway Jim from Bedford County, Tennessee, we do not know when George Turner decided to flee from his owner Marshall Spencer. His advertisement only includes his date of incarceration; September 23, 1862. Whenever he made his get away, I feel certain he, too, was a Confederate camp servant in the war.

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