Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Cool Civil War Photograph

"Washerwoman for the Union army in Richmond, Virginia"
Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Slave Dwellings Described in "Slavery As It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses"

In 1839, a book was published by the American Anti-Slavery Society called Slavery As It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses. The book contained a myriad of examples that were mainly taken from newspapers, but also from correspondence, books, and other publications from the slaveholding states and compiled by abolitionist Theodore Dwight Weld.

Sections of the book discuss various aspects of slave life including: food, labor required, and clothing. A section that caught my eye and that deals with a current interest of mine was that of slave dwellings. 

It should be noted that a general evolution of sorts did occur during the later years of the antebellum period where owners often started to provide better living quarters for their enslaved populations, due largely from criticism such as the following given testimonies in Slavery As It Is:

Mr. Stephen E. Maltby, Inspector of provisions, Skaneateles, N. Y. who has lived in Alabama. 
"The huts where the slaves slept, generally contained but one apartment, and that without floor."

Mr. George A. Avery, elder of the 4th Presbyterian Church, Rochester, N. Y. who lived four years in Virginia. 
"Amongst all the negro cabins which I saw in Va., I cannot call to mind one in which there was any other floor than the earth; any thing that a northern laborer, or mechanic, white or colored, would call a bed, nor a solitary partition, to separate the sexes."

William Ladd, Esq., Minot, Maine. President of the American Peace Society, formerly a slaveholder in Florida. 
"The dwellings of the slaves were palmetto huts, built by themselves of stakes and poles, thatched with the palmetto leaf. The door, when they had any, was generally of the same materials, sometimes boards found on the beach. They had no floors, no separate apartments, except the guinea negroes had sometimes a small inclosure for their 'god house.' These huts the slaves built themselves after task and on Sundays."

Rev. Joseph M. Sadd, Pastor Pres. Church, Castile, Greene Co., N. Y., who lived in Missouri five years previous to 1837. 
"The slaves live generally in miserable huts, which are without floors, and have a single apartment only, where both sexes are herded promiscuously together."

Mr. George W. Westgate, member of the Congregational Church in Quincy, Illinois, who has spent a number of years in slave states. 
"On old plantations, the negro quarters are of frame and clapboards, seldom affording a comfortable shelter from wind or rain; their size varies from 8 by 10, to 10 by 12, feet, and six or eight feet high; sometimes there is a hole cut for a window, but I never saw a sash, or glass in any. In the new country, and in the woods, the quarters are generally built of logs, of similar dimensions."

Mr. Cornelius Johnson, a member of a Christian Church in Farmington, Ohio. Mr. J. lived in Mississippi in 1837-8. 
"Their houses were commonly built of logs, sometimes they were framed, often they had no floor, some of them have two apartments, commonly but one; each of those apartments contained a family. Sometimes these families consisted of a man and his wife and children, while in other instances persons of both sexes, were thrown together without any regard to family relationship."

The Western Medical Reformer, in an article on the Cachexia Africana by a Kentucky physician, thus speaks of the huts of the slaves. 
"They are crowded together in a small hut, and sometimes having an imperfect, and sometimes no floor, and seldom raised from the ground, ill ventilated, and surrounded with filth."

Mr. William Leftwich, a native of Virginia, but has resided most of his life in Madison, Co. Alabama. "The dwellings of the slaves are log huts, from 10 to 12 feet square, often without windows, doors, or floors, they have neither chairs, table, or bedstead."

Reuben L. Macy of Hudson, N. Y. a member of the Religious Society of Friends. He lived in South Carolina in 1818-19. 
"The houses for the field slaves were about 14 feet square, built in the coarsest manner, with one room, without any chimney or flooring, with a hole in the roof to let the smoke out."

Mr. Lemuel Sapington of Lancaster, Pa. a native of Maryland, formerly a slaveholder. 
"The descriptions generally given of negro quarters, are correct; the quarters are without floors, and not sufficient to keep off the inclemency of the weather; they are uncomfortable both in summer and winter."

Rev. John Rankin, a native of Tennessee. 
"When they return to their miserable huts at night, they find not there the means of comfortable rest; but on the cold ground they must lie without covering, and shiver while they slumber."

Philemon Bliss, Esq. Elyria, Ohio., who lived in Florida, in 1835. 
"The dwellings of the slaves are usually small open log huts, with but one apartment, and very generally without floors."

Mr. W. C. Gildersleeve, Wilkesbarre, Pa., a native of Georgia. 
"Their huts were generally put up without a nail, frequently without floors, and with a single apartment." 

Hon. R. J. Turnbull, of South Carolina, a slaveholder. 
"The slaves live in clay cabins."

Many of the surviving slave quarters that have managed to exist are those that were occupied by enslaved individuals that provided "house labor." These quarters were generally of better construction materials (brick, stone, frame with clapboards) than those that were built by and for the field slaves (logs and other temporary materials) and which were largely described in the above accounts. 

When discussing slave quarters with others, I too often hear that their living quarters were not worse than what poor landless whites experienced. While that is largely true, I try to counter by reminding those that make such an argument that while poor whites had the ability to move physically and or socioeconomically, slaves did not. Regardless of the living conditions that slaves endured it must be remembered that they were most often in these living conditions against their will and without the ability to change their situation, short of running away, which, of course, had dire repercussions if captured.   

Friday, December 27, 2013

Sites, Slaves, and Soldiers: Locust Hill (Scotland)

I made my first of numerous trips from Madison, Indiana, to Milligan College in East Tennessee many many years ago. Part of that trip included a stretch of I-64 from Shelbyville, Kentucky, to Lexington, Kentucky, before taking I-75 south. I do not remember exactly when I first noticed the big manor just past exit 58 at Frankfort, but it was early on. In the spring and summer the house was barely visible through the trees, but in the fall and winter its grandeur was easily observable.  

When I moved to Frankfort about five years ago the house continued to intrigue me, but I suppose I was not interested enough at that time to dig around and find out more about it. Around that same time I bought a book called Footloose in Jacksonian America: Robert W. Scott and his Agrarian World by noted Kentucky historian Thomas D. Clark. Well, that book stayed shelved until about a month ago when I took the opportunity to read it. It explained just about everything I wanted to know about the house and farm.

The book was largely an edited version of a travel account that Scott made about an 1829 trip from Kentucky across the mountains to Virginia, and then to New England and back by way of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and the Ohio River. However, a good part of the book, too, was fine biography of Robert W. Scott.

Robert Wilmont Scott was born in Bourbon County, Kentucky, in 1808. He was educated at Transylvania University. His father was Joel Scott, who was warden of the Kentucky State Penitentiary in the 1820s and 1830s. Robert Scott studied law in the 1830s in Frankfort, but resigned due to ill health. In 1834, he purchased a number of acres he named Locust Hill (also later known as Scotland) at the border of Franklin and Woodford counties. 

Scott proved to be a natural at farming. He was an innovative agriculturist who was a leading breeder of cattle, sheep, and hogs. He grew corn, wheat, and other grains, along with cash crops like hemp. 

In 1845 he started construction of the grand manor, which was finished two years later. The impressive house (shown above from a handbill offering the farm for sale in 1871) featured four columns across the front elevation and a fish pond in front. Scott never sold Locust Hill. He died still owning the home in 1884. 

In 1860, Scott was listed as a 54 year old farmer with real estate worth $80,000 and personal property worth $38,420. The Scott household apparently held a large family and several boarders. Wife, Elizabeth was 49. Children included: John 22, Mary 20, Ella 18, Elizabeth 17, Louisa 15 and Henrietta 10. Also, listed were: Mary Adkins 23, a seamstress; William Cackley 17, a farm laborer; Theodore Polk 15, Elias Cackley 21, farm laborer; Helen Dalton 19, a teacher; and Simon Kane 65.  

Scott's son John served as a doctor in the Confederate Army of Tennessee during the Civil War. Another grown son, who had moved to Mississippi, Preston Brown Scott, too, served as a Confederate physician. 

Like other prosperous Bluegrass farmers Scott made his wealth off the labor of enslaved individuals. In 1850 Scott owned 26 slaves, 14 women and and 12 men. Ten years later he had increased his slave population to 33, 14 of which were males between the ages of three and 60, and 19 females, between two and 52 years old. He was assessed as owning five slave dwellings.

At least four of Scott's slaves joined the Union army in 1864 and 1865.

The first enslaved man to make his way to freedom was William Green, an 18 year old, 5' 4" native of Franklin County, who enlisted on June 29, 1864, at Camp Nelson in Jessamine County. Green was placed in Company G, 116th United States Colored Infantry. 

About a week later James or "Jim" Burts enlisted at Camp Nelson. Burts, like Green, was only 18 years old at the time he joined the Union army. He was 5' 6" and ended up in the 12th United States Colored Heavy Artillery.

Hanfried Taylor was 43 years old when he enlisted at Frankfort on May 28, 1865. As the end of the war did not end slavery in Kentucky, Taylor likely enlisted at this late date to get his freedom. Taylor was listed at 5' 8" tall and was put into Company F of the 119th United States Colored Infantry.

Enlisting the same day as Taylor was another Scott slave, Lewis Lyons. Lyons was 24 years old when he enlisted and was placed in the same regiment as Taylor, but in a different company, Company I. He apparently spent at least some of his service as a carpenter for his unit. Lyons was also located in the 1870, 1880, and 1900 censuses. In 1870 and 1880 Lyons was listed as farm laborer, and in 1900, he held the position of "porter at the state house."

Learning more about Locust Hill, Robert W. Scott, and his enslaved individuals has helped satisfy my curiosity about the big house I often passed. If you, too, would like to learn even more than what I have described here, please do check out Footloose in Jacksonian America, it's a great read.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Cool Civil War Photograph

Unidentified Confederate Soldier
Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Week

Looking for an image to share for Christmas Eve I came across the bottom image from the Library of Congress, titled "Christmas Week." It was one of 12 lithographic image cards contained in a series with the cover to the left. These appear to be something similar to modern baseball "trading cards" and were called Stephens' Album Varieties: The Slave in 1863. The 12 cards depicted nine images of enslaved life, as well as three of black soldier life.

Christmas was often a time of celebration for the enslaved as well as for the master class. For the slaves it was usually a chance to temporarily have off from strenuous work details. When slave families were located on different farms or plantations it also was often a time of relaxed security with passes freely given to visit estranged friends and family nearby.

Despite the air of festivity, for some slaves it must have also been a time of worry, as the normal season for renting out surplus laborers soon came with the new year. With hiring out time also came the potential of being separated from husbands, wives, sons, and daughters for possibly greater distances and for longer durations.

To share the Christmas season as experienced by enslaved people I found a selection in Slave Religion: The "Invisible" Institution in the Antebellum South by Albert J. Raboteau, and which was printed in 1978. From page 224:

"Christmas was the most festive holiday of all. Generally, the slaves received three to six days off to celebrate the Christmas season and were permitted to visit family and friends on neighboring plantations. On Christmas day it was customary for slaves to greet the master's family with cries of 'Christmas gift, Christmas gift,' to which the whites were obliged to respond with a small gift, perhaps tobacco for the men, ribbons for the women, ginger cakes for the children, and some small tokens for favorite slaves. Drams of whiskey, bowls of eggnog and other spirits were freely distributed, and a special Christmas supper was prepared for the quarters as well as for the big house. The slaves dressed in the best clothes they could gather in anticipation of the supper and the visiting and merrymaking which followed. Then, as now, Christmas was more a holiday than a holy day. Feasting, drinking, and dancing were the order of the day and must have sorely tempted the more religious slaves. As Adeline Jackson recalled, 'Everything lively at Christmas time, dances wid fiddlers, pattin' and stick rattlin', but when I jined de church, I quit dancin',' She allowed that fiddlers, dancers and patters were 'all nothin' but sinners, I wuz too, but we sho' had a good time.' Christmas season did give the religious slave time to hold prayer meetings, to preach and to pray. Yet, 'many of the strict members of the church who did not dance,' Jacob Stroyer asserted, 'would be forced to do it to please their masters.' At any rate, slaves whether religious or not looked forward to Christmas as an all-too-short break from plantation routine. With the arrival of New Year's the celebration ended, and another year of work faced the slaves."

Monday, December 23, 2013

George W. Johnson's Slave Quarters

Today, being on vacation and thus feeling a little cabin feverish, I decided to try to locate the slave quarters owned by Kentucky's first Confederate governor, George Washington Johnson (pictured above). I had found the dwelling mentioned and pictured on the online database for the National Register of Historic Places, which is maintained by the National Park Service.

After searching several miles of road, I finally found the location and pulled up to the modern bungalow-style house which has since replaced the Johnson home. I went up to the door and knocked but did not receive an answer. Although it probably would have been harmless, I did not think it was right to take pictures of the slave dwelling without the owner's permission, so I got back in the car and left. I was particularly wanting to see the interior of the structure; but perhaps another time.

The images shown here are from the National Register nomination form and were taken in 1974. The above image shows the front of the slave quarters. The front porch addition shown here has since been removed.
The structure is a brick duplex with a limestone foundation and seems to be extremely well built, bordering luxurious for a slave quarters. The building has two front doors - one entrance for each apartment - and one rear window for each side as well. Without seeing inside I have to guess, but it appears that the central chimney was shared by each room - not uncommon for duplex slave quarters.

In the above photograph to the left is the original Johnson smokehouse structure. 

Another rear view of the dwelling is shown above. The six elaborate brick pilasters, resembling Greek Revival columns are clearly visible across the backside. The hipped roof and glass windows also show the detail that went into the construction of the building. While merely speculation on my part, I would think that this building was for the enslaved people that worked in the Johnson household. One source I also found claimed these quarters doubled as the plantation kitchen.

Johnson was likely able to provide his house slaves such nice accommodations due to his wealth. He not only owned the Scott County farm, but also a large cotton plantation in Arkansas as well. Johnson's education included three degrees from Transylvania University in Lexington. He practiced law in Georgetown, Kentucky and married into a well to do and recognized family. Johnson served in the Kentucky House of Representatives in the late 1830s, but spurned politics for an agricultural life.

The 1860 census lists Johnson as 49 years old and living in a full house that included his wife, Ann, who was 44, and children: Madison 18, Martha 14, Jannis 12, Henry 7, and Euclid 4. All of the children except Euclid were listed as attending school.

Johnson was noted on the census as owning real estate worth $172,000 and personal property worth $76,000. His slave population included 16 men, between the ages of 53 and one year old, and 10 women, between 54 and one year old. The number of slave houses usually enumerated in the 1860 census was not noted for Johnson for some reason.

Interestingly, listed as living next to the Johnson family was a free 65 year old black man named Zack Rose and his wife, 53 year old Fanny.

 Johnson was selected as Kentucky's Confederate governor by a rump convention in November 1861. When Union forces captured much of the state in the spring of 1862, Johnson and the Confederate state government was forced to withdraw with the Southern army. During the fighting at Shiloh, in Tennessee, Johnson entered the battle with the 4th Kentucky Infantry and was mortally wounded in the leg and stomach. He died on a Union army hospital boat on April 8, 1862, and his body was shipped home to Georgetown and laid to rest in the town cemetery.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Cool Civil War Photograph

Unidentified Confederate soldier
Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Which Side are You On?

An eastern Kentucky coal camp song asked miners to consider which side they would take when push came to shove. Similarly, when the American Civil War erupted in the spring of 1861, citizens had to decide whether to support the Union, the Confederacy - or like some Kentuckians - try to serve as mediator and hope for an amiable settlement.

Some though, apparently, sought economic opportunity with the coming fury. In the June 18, 1861, edition of the Louisville Daily Journal, on page three, the above advertisement was run by Madden's Bookstore offering Southern themed stationary at their store on Third Street. 

If the reader did not continue on to page four, they might think that Madden's Bookstore was a hotbed of Confederate sympathy. But, no, there in the middle of the page was a brief notice that Madden's served those Union-loving citizens as well. Other editions of the newspaper only separated the opposing advertisements by mere columns, not pages. And, as is easily seen, there was not even an attempt to change the font on the notices.

My questions is, how did the people reading the newspaper receive these adds run by the same company appealing to belligerent parties? Did they care? Or, did they just see it as a shewed business move capitalizing on the conflict.

Regardless of what the people thought, Madden's Bookstore has to be given some credit for realizing that they were operating in a border state where sentiment was divided and the chances to cash in on war offered opportunities not available in say, Mobile, Alabama or Troy, New York.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Sites, Slaves, and Soldiers: The Vest-Lindsey House

Here in Frankfort, on the corner of Wapping Street and Washington Street, adjacent from where Philip Swigert's "The Terraces" once stood is the Vest-Lindsey House. This beautiful federal-style home was built in the last years of the 18th century or early years of the 19th century. It was the boyhood home of George Graham Vest, who moved to Missouri in the 1850s, and during the Civil War served the "Show Me State" as a Confederate senator, and then a U.S. senator from 1879-1903.

In 1846, Thomas Noble Lindsey bought the house and lived in it with his family at the time of the Civil War. Lindsey was a noted lawyer, state legislator, and general mover and shaker in Frankfort. Lindsey's son Daniel served in the Union army during the war with the 22nd Kentucky Infantry and later was the adjutant-general of Kentucky. 

I was unable to find Thomas Lindsey in the 1860 census slave schedules. It is possible that he bought a slave or slaves after the census was taken, but it appears that he owned at least one man, as that man enlisted in the Union army and provided the authorities with Lindsey's name as his owner.

Theophilus Patterson enlisted in Lexington on June 30, 1864. Patterson was noted as being 29 years old and was described as copper complexioned. He was 5' 10" tall and was born in Franklin County. Patterson was assigned to Company I, 114th United States Colored Infantry and trained at Camp Nelson.  

Patterson appeared to spend much of his service ill. After the 114th was transferred to Virginia for the Petersburg Campaign, Patterson was noted as being in hospitals at Chapin's Farm, Point of Rocks, and Fort Monroe. 

Patterson's illnesses must have continued as he was finally discharged due to his disability on January 13, 1866, while at Hicks General Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. The explained cause of discharge from service was noted as condition, that was "developed after typhoid fever contracted at Fort Monroe while on duty as Hospital guard Sept. 1865." On the bottom of Patterson's disability discharge it noted that he wished to be addressed at the town of Franklin [most likely meant Frankfort] in Franklin County, Kentucky.

It is unknown whether Patterson continued to suffer from his sickness once home or if he made a full recovery. Many soldiers, both North and South, struggled with various illnesses and diseases contracted while serving their respective causes, so it is likely that Patterson did as well.

Although a native of Franklin County, Patterson's name is not listed among those on the Colored Soldiers Monument at Greenhill Cemetery. He may have been long forgotten since he did not serve out his enlistment with his regiment, or perhaps he moved away to a distant locale after the war. Therefore, it is fitting then that at least some recognition is given here for his service to his country.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Cool Civil War Era Photograph

Unidentified African American Woman
Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Sites, Slaves, and Soldiers: The Terraces

Frankfort, like other old towns, unfortunately has lost some of its most beautiful historic buildings over the years. One antebellum home that only remains in photographs and memories is "The Terraces." This gem, built on the banks of the Kentucky River along Wapping Street, was the home of Philip Swigert.  

Swigert was the first mayor of Frankfort when it earned city status in 1848. He served in this executive position for several terms. On the 1860 census he was listed as having the occupation of clerk; probably the Franklin County Clerk. Swigert was 61 years old at that time and lived with his wife Jane, who was 50. Also in the household was Otho Swigert, who was 50 and was noted as being a farmer with $3,000 in personal property. 

The Terraces eventually ended up in the Hendricks family. When John Buford Hendricks died in the 1950s, the home was purchased by the city of Frankfort, who proceeded to razed it. Today, the rather recently constructed Paul Sawyier Library stands where "The Terraces" once entertained the town's elite. 

Philip Swigert was quite well off. In 1860, he owned $65,000 in real estate and $71,800 in personal property. He owned 22 slaves, evenly divided between men and women. The 11 males ranged in age from 10 to 16, while the females had an even greater margin in years, 1 to 65.

At least three of Swigert's enslaved men made their way to Lexington to enlist in the Union army.    

The 5' 5" Joe Washington enlisted on June 29, 1864. Washington was advanced in age compared to most soldiers. He was 50. Washington was placed in Company I, 114th United States Colored Infantry and trained at Camp Nelson.

Doc, or Doctor Hall, too, was placed in the 114th USCI, but ended up in Company H. Doc enlisted the same day as fellow Swigert slave Joe Washington; June 29, 1864. Hall, however, was listed as almost half a foot taller than Washington.

Harrison Caldwell enlisted the earliest of the Swigert slaves. The 31 year old Caldwell joined up nine days before Washington and Hall. He was put into the Company A, 116th USCI. While Joe Washington and Doc Hall's complexions were listed as black, Caldwell was described as "copper." All three men were marked as being born in Franklin County.  

Fortunately, as shown above, photographs of the Terraces remain in the Kentucky Historical Society to remind us of what this bygone-home looked like. Combining these images with other historical documents it is possible to piece together some of the history of the individuals and places of the past.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Edward Stone's Demise

On Sunday I posted about an 1824 eyewitness account that viewed one Edward Stone's slave coffles as it made its way from Bourbon County to the Ohio River. Presumably that coffle was loaded on a steamboat or flatboat and sent to one of the many slave markets in the the Deep South along the Mississippi River. 

Stone, whose Bourbon County home (pictured above) still survives, personified the old saying, "live by the sword, die by the sword." He made his living through the institution of slavery, and died at his slaves' hands. 

In September 1826, just four years after the eyewitness account previously described, Stone, along with this brother and few other white partners drove a coffle to Maysville and loaded over 70 enslaved passengers onto a flatboat for the trip down the Ohio River. The craft was then intended to make its way down the Mississippi to the notorious Forks of the Road slave market near Natchez, Mississippi. 

However, just a few days into the water-bound trip - near the Breckinridge County town of Stephensport - the slaves on the boat mutinied, killed all of the whites, including Stone, and threw them into the Ohio River. Apparently Stone's personal body servant attempted to save his master but failed. 

The slaves landed the boat on the Indiana shore and fled. Most, however, were quickly captured and turned over the jailer of Breckinridge County. There they received a trial. One account said that five of the mutineers were hanged, 47 others were sold, and the rest brought back to Bourbon County. Stone's body servant, who tried to save his master's life, was manumitted by Stone's widow in January 1827.

The bodies of Stone and his associates were located in the river and were interred in the Stephensport Baptist Church Cemetery.  

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Witness to a Kentucky Slave Coffle

In the Rev. John Rankin's Letters on American Slavery, published in 1836, he included in his footnotes a letter, written in 1824, from a fellow minister, James H. Dickey, that described the latter's eyewitness of slave coffle led by Bourbon County slave trader Edward Stone. It is as follows:

"In the summer of 1822, as I returned with my family from a visit to the Barrens of Kentucky, I witnessed a scene such as I never witnessed before, as such I hope never to witness again. Having passed through Paris, in Bourbon County, Kentucky, the sound of music, (beyond a little rising of ground) attracted my attention; I looked forward and saw the flag of my country waving. Supposing I was about to meet a military parade, I drove hastily to the side of the road; and having gained the top of the ascent, I discovered, I suppose, about forty black men, all chained together after the following manner: Each of them was handcuffed, and they were arranged in rank and file. A chain perhaps forty feet long, the size of a fifth-horse chain, was stretched between the two ranks, to which short chains were joined which connected with the handcuffs. Behind them were about thirty women, in double rank, the couples tied hand to hand. A solemn sadness sat on every countenance, and the dismal silence of the march of despair was interrupted only by the sound of two violins; yes, as if to add insult to injury, the foremost couple were furnished with a violin apiece, the second couple were ornamented with cockades, while near the center waved the Republican [United States] flag, carried by a hand, literally in chains."

In the letter Dickey expressed his indignation with the scene as disrespectful toward fellow men, an insult to Christianity, and an ironic use of the American flag. Dickey continued on his journey and then found a house for rest for the night. When he described the scene to the homeowner, she exclaimed: "'Ah, that is my brother.'" From this woman Dickey learned that the coffle was owned by Bourbon County slave trader Edward Stone and a man named Kinningham from Paris, Kentucky (also in Bourbon County). Stone's sister continued to tell Dickey a grisly detail that he related in the letter:

"a few days before he [Stone] had purchased a negro woman from Nicholas County; she refused to go with him; he attempted to compel her, but she defended herself. Without further ceremony, he stepped back, and by a blow on the side of her head with the butt of his whip brought her to the ground; he tied her and drove her off. I learned farther, that besides the drove I had seen, there were about thirty shut up in the Paris prison for safe keeping, to be added to the company, and that they were designed for the [New] Orleans market. And for this they are doomed for no other crime than that of a black skin and curled locks."

Friday, December 6, 2013

Darling Nelly Gray

Way back in 2010, I shared the tale of the interstate slave trade as subtly expressed in Stephen Foster's "My Old Kentucky Home." Foster changed the title of his song by taking out the blatant connection to Harriet Beecher Stowe's  Uncle Tom's Cabin so as not to offend his slave state customers, but the noted songster still left in lyrics that, if listened to closely, made it hard to miss the sentiment. Foster may also have hinted at the interstate slave trade in the much more lively "Angelina Baker," which tells of love lost by sale.

Benjamin. R. Hanby's "Darling Nelly Gray," written in 1856, was not as subtle as Foster in his lyrical story of a woman sold away from her cottage "on the old Kentucky shore" to a Georgia plantation where "she toils in the cotton and the cane."

Hanby was born in 1833 in Rushville, Ohio, into an antislavery family that had ties to the Underground Railroad. Hanby wrote "Darling Nelly Gray" as a sophomore in college. The song was based on an incident when he was a child. When Hanby was nine years old a runaway Kentucky slave named Joseph Selby stopped at the Hanby home for assistance. Selby arrived ill with pneumonia and died while attempting to recover there. Before passing away Selby told the story of his "Darling Nelly Gray" who had been sold to Georgia and left him brokenhearted. Being distraught Selby attempted to make his way to Canada and freedom.

The song's sad lyrics are as follows:

There's a low green valley
On the old Kentucky shore,
There I've whiled many happy hours away,
A-sitting and a-singing
By the little cottage door,
Where lived my Darling Nelly Gray.

Oh! my poor Nelly Gray,
They have taken you away,
And I'll never see my darling anymore,
I'm sitting by the river
And I'm weeping all the day,
For you've gone from the old Kentucky shore.

One night I went to see her,
But she's gone the neighbors say,
The white man bound her with his chain,
They have taken her to Georgia
For to wear her life away,
As she toils in the cotton and the cane.

My canoe is under water
And my banjo is unstrung
I'm tired of living anymore;
My eyes shall look downward
And my songs shall be unsung
While I stay on the old Kentucky shore.

My eyes are getting blinded
And I cannot see the way,
Hark! there's somebody knocking at the door,
Oh! I hear the angels calling
And I see my Nelly Gray,
Farewell to the old Kentucky shore.

Oh! may Darling Nelly Gray,
Up in heaven there they say,
That they'll never take from me anymore,
I'm a coming, coming, coming,
As the Angels clear the way,
Farewell to the old Kentucky shore.

Here is a banjo and fiddle version via YouTube.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Zip Coon

Thomas Birch
New York: Atwill's Music Saloon, 1834

O ole Zip Coon he is a larned skoler,
O ole Zip Coon he is a larned skoler,
O ole Zip Coon he is a larned skoler,
Sings posum up a gum tree an coony in a holler,
possum up a gum tree, coony on a stump,
possum up a gum tree, coony on a stump,
possum up a gum tree, coony on a stump,
Den over dubble trubble, Zip Coon will jump.

    [Finish to each verse.]
O zip a duden duden duden zip a duden day.
O Zip a duden duden duden zip a duden day.
O Zip a duden duden duden zip a duden day.
Zip a duden duden duden zip a duden day.

O it's old Suky blue skin, she is in lub wid me,
I went the udder arter noon to take a dish ob tea;
What do you tink now, Suky hab for supper,
Why chicken foot an possum heel, widout any butter.

O zip a duden duden duden zip a duden day.
O Zip a duden duden duden zip a duden day.
O Zip a duden duden duden zip a duden day.
Zip a duden duden duden zip a duden day.

Did you eber see the wild goose, sailing on de ocean,
O de wild goose motion is a bery pretty notion;
Ebry time de wild goose, beckons to de swaller,
You hear him google google google google goller.

O zip a duden duden duden zip a duden day.
O Zip a duden duden duden zip a duden day.
O Zip a duden duden duden zip a duden day.
Zip a duden duden duden zip a duden day.

I tell you what will happin den, now bery soon,
De Nited States Bank will be blone to de moon;
Dare General Jackson, will him lampoon,
An de bery nex President, will be Zip Coon.

O zip a duden duden duden zip a duden day.
O Zip a duden duden duden zip a duden day.
O Zip a duden duden duden zip a duden day.
Zip a duden duden duden zip a duden day.

And wen Zip Coon our President shall be,
He make all de little Coons sing possum up a tree;
O how de little Coons, will dance an sing,
Wen he tie dare tails togedder, cross de lim dey swing.

O zip a duden duden duden zip a duden day.
O Zip a duden duden duden zip a duden day.
O Zip a duden duden duden zip a duden day.
Zip a duden duden duden zip a duden day.

Now mind wat you arter, you tarnel kritter Crocket,
You shant go head widout ole Zip, he is de boy to block it;
Zip shall be President, Crocket shall be vice,
An den dey two togedder, will hab de tings nice.

O zip a duden duden duden zip a duden day.
O Zip a duden duden duden zip a duden day.
O Zip a duden duden duden zip a duden day.
Zip a duden duden duden zip a duden day.

I hab many tings to tork about, but don't know which come first,
So here de toast to old Zip Coon, before he gin to rust;
May he hab de pretty girls, like de King ob ole,
To sing dis song so many times, 'fore he turn to mole.

O zip a duden duden duden zip a duden day.
O Zip a duden duden duden zip a duden day.
O Zip a duden duden duden zip a duden day.
Zip a duden duden duden zip a duden day.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Sites, Slaves, and Soldiers: The Beeches

One of the many beautiful historic homes in the Frankfort area is known as "The Beeches." Located just across Wilkinson Boulevard from what is now Buffalo Trace distillery - and in what used to be called Leestown - this lovely home, which was built in 1818, seems as if it out in the countryside. 

The Beeches was built and owned by Harrison Blanton. Blanton was born in Virginia in 1791, but migrated with his family to Kentucky as a boy in 1799. He became a noted Franklin County farmer and building contractor. In Frankfort he built the Orlando Brown house (1835), the Charles S. Morehead house (1833), and supplied limestone for the construction of the Old State Capitol, which was constructed from 1827 to 1830. 

Blanton lived a long life. He died in 1897 and was buried in the Frankfort Cemetery with numerous other town notables.

Being a wealthy and prominent man Blanton, too, was a slaveholder. In the 1860 census he is listed as a 68 year old farmer with $12,500 in real estate and $6,000 in personal property. He lived with his wife Martha, who was 58, and a laborer named John B. Hughes, who was 40.

Blanton owned 13 slaves,who included the following:
a 65 year old black man,
a 58 year old black man,
a 38 year old black man,
a 40 year old black man,
a 23 year old black man,
a 15 year old black man,
a 78 year old mulatto woman,
a 45 year old mulatto woman,
a 23 year old black woman,
a 6 year old black boy,
a 4 year old black boy,
a 2 year old black boy, and
a 2 year old black girl.

The 40 year old black man that was listed was probably Winston Hawkins. Hawkins enlisted at Lexington in Company I, 114th United States Colored Infantry on June 28, 1864. He was noted as being 44 years old, 5' 4" tall, and had been born in Franklin County, in about 1819 or 1820.

Two days after Winston Hawkins enlisted, another Blanton enslaved man, Tom Hensley, also signed up in Lexington and was placed in the same company and regiment as Hawkins. Hensley may have been the either the 15 or 23 year old man listed on the 1860 census for Blanton, or he may have been purchased after 1860, as he his noted as 22 years old on his enlistment papers. Hensley was 5' 8" tall, and like Hawkins, had been born in Franklin County. Both Hawkins and Hensley mustered out in 1867.

For some unknown reason another Blanton slave man, John Small, waited until May 1865 to enlist in Company F of the 119th USCI. Possibly, since the end of the Civil War did not free Kentucky's slaves, Small believed his best chance at emancipation was to join the army, and what better time since the fighting was dying down or was over in most places. Small had been born in neighboring Fayette County and was listed as 40 years old. Was he the 38 year old slave man listed as Blanton's in the 1860 census? Although the 5' 5" tall Small enlisted late, he actually mustered out before his fellow former Blanton slaves in April 1866, not serving a full year.    

Monday, December 2, 2013

David Rice Atchison: The Chief Border Ruffian

Image from the Library of Congress, informational text and primary source speech text from the Kansas Historical Society.

In honor of the anniversary of John Brown's death I thought I'd take the opportunity to share a little biography on one of Brown's Kansas enemies: David Rice Atchison.

David Rice Atchison was a proslavery leader from Missouri. He represented that state in the U.S. Senate from 1843 to 1855. He was involved in various aspects of the territorial conflict.  He commanded several different proslavery troops and was believed to participate in the sack of Lawrence.  He was a founder of the Law and Order Party that encouraged southerners to settle in Kansas Territory.

The U.S. senator from Missouri lived very close to the Kansas border. He said, "The prosperity or the ruin of the whole South depends on the Kansas struggle." Atchison argued that Missourians had a special stake in the outcome of Kansas Territory. His belief was so strong that he encouraged Missourians to cross the border and illegally vote in Kansas elections to help sway the outcomes. He and other proslavery supporters appealed to people in the South. They asked for money, moral support, and proslavery settlers to come to Kansas Territory.

As president protempore of the senate on Sunday March 4, 1849, when President James Polk's term ended, some say Atchison was president for a day. Zachary Taylor chose to wait until Monday to be inaugurated along with his vice president Millard Fillmore. Atchison was next in line as acting vice president.

The city of Atchison, founded in 1854, along the Missouri River, was named for the senator as was Atchison County.

Here is the text from Atchison's pep speech before the sack of Lawrence, Kansas, May 21, 1856:

Gentlemen, Officers & Soldiers! - (Yells) This is the most glorious day of my life! This is the day I am a border ruffian! (Yells.) The U.S. Marshall has just given you his orders and has kindly invited me to address you. For this invitation, coming from no less than U.S. authority, I thank him most sincerely, and now allow me, in true border-ruffian style, to extend to you the right hand of fellowship. (Cheers.) Men of the South, I greet you as border-ruffian brothers. (Repeated yells & waving of hats.) Though I have seen more years than most of you, I am yet young in the same glorious cause that has made you leave your homes in the South. Boys I am one of your number today (Yells.) and today you have a glorious duty to perform, today you will earn laurels that will ever show you to have been true sons of the noble South! (Cheers.) You have endured many hardships, have suffered many privations on your trips, but for this you will be more than compensated by the work laid out by the Marshal, - and what you know is to be done as the programme of the day. Now Boys, let your work be well done! (Cheers.) Faint not as you approach the city of Lawrence, but remembering your mission act with true Southern heroism, & at the word, Spring like your bloodhounds at home upon that d--d accursed abolition hole; break through every thing that may oppose your never flinching courage! - (Yells.) Yess, ruffians, draw your revolvers & bowie knives, & cool them in the heart's blood of all those d--d dogs, that dare defend that d--d breathing hole of hell. (Yells.) Tear down their boasted Free State Hotel, and if those Hellish lying free-soilers have left no port holes in it, with your unerring cannon make some, Yes, riddle it till it shall fall to the ground. Throw into
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the Kanzas their printing presses, & let's see if any more free speeches will be issued from them! Boys, do the Marshall's full bidding! - Do the sheriff's entire command! - (Yells.) for today Mr. Jones is not only Sheriff, but deputy Marshall, so that whatever he commands will be right, and under the authority of the administration of the U.S.! - and for it you will be amply paid as U.S. troops, besides having an opportunity of benefitting your wardrobes from the private dwellings of those infernal nigger-stealers. (Cheers.) Courage for a few hours & the victory is ours, falter & all is lost! - Are you determined? Will every one of you swear to bathe your steel in the black blood of some of those black sons of ---- (cries & yells of yes, yes.) Yes, I know you will, the South has always proved itself ready for honorable fight, & you, who are noble sons of noble sires, I know you will never fail, but will burn, sack & destroy, until every vistage of these Norther Abolishionists is wiped out. Men of the South & Missouri, I am Proud of this day! I have received office and honor before; - I have occupied the vice-presidents place in the greatest republic the light of God's sun ever shone upon; - but, ruffian brothers, (yells.) that glory, that honor was nothing, it was an Empty buable, compared with the solid grandeur & magnificent glory of this momentous occasion! Here, on this beautiful prairie-bluff, with naught but the canopy of heaven for my covering, with my splendid Arabian charger for my seat, to whose well tried fleetness I may yet have to depend for my life, unless this days work shall annihilate from our western world these hellish Emigrant Aid paupers, whose bellies are filled with beggars food, & whose houses are stored with "Beecher's Rifles (Bibbs!) (Yells prolonged.) I say, here, with the cool breeze of the morning blowing fresh around my head, with the U.S. Marshall at my left, - completely surrounded by my younger brothers, (terrible enthusiasm.) each supporting a U.S. rifle, and on the manly countenance of each, plainly seen, his high & fixed determination to carry our to the letter the lofty & glorious resolves that have brought him here
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- the resolves of the entire South, and of the present Administration, that is, to carry the war into the heart of the country, (cheers.) never to slacken or stop until every spark of free-state, free-speech, free-niggers, or free in any shape is quenched out of Kansaz! (Long shouting & cheering.) And what is also pleasing beyond my powers of description, is the fact that, having above me, - as I speak the honest sentiments of my heart and the sentiments of the administration & the blessed pro-slavery party throughout this great nation, - is the only flag we recognize, and the only one under whose folds we will march into Lawrence, the only one under which these d--d Abolishionist prisoners were arrested - who are now outside yonder tent endeavoring to hear me, which I care not a d--n if they do! (Cheers.) Yes, these G--d d--d sons of d--d puritan stock will learn their fate, and they may go home and tell their cowardly friends what I say! - I care not for them! - I defy & d--n them all to H--l. (roars & yells.) Yes, that large red flag denotes our purpose to press the matter even to blood, - the large lone white star in the centre denotes the purity of our purpose, & the words "Southern Rights" above it clearly indicate the rightiousness of our principles.
I say under all these circumstances I am now enjoying the proudest moments of my life, - but I will detain you no longer. (Cries of go on, go on.) No boys! - I connot stay your spirit of patriotism, I cannot even stay my own; - our precious time is wasting. - No hasten to work, - follow your worthy and immediate leader, Col. Stringfellow! (Yells.) he will lead you on to a glorious victory, & I will be threre to support all your acts & assist as best I may in all your acts, & assist completing the overthrow of that hellish party, & in crushing out the last sign of d--d abolishionism in the territory of Kanzas. - (Three times Yells for Atchison.)