Monday, May 30, 2016

Dying Far From Home: Jackson Terry, 114th USCI

Although his name is incorrectly inscribed on the headstone, resting in plot #2054 in the City Point National Cemetery are the remains of Jackson Terry, Company H, 114th United States Colored Infantry.

How might I know this? The information that I found at the cemetery identified this plot to a soldier in Company H, 116th USCI, who died on Valentine's Day, 1865. I searched the service records for a soldier in the 116th with the last name of Telly. Not finding it, I went to the closest last name spelling that I could find with the same first name initial. Jackson Terry was the closest fit. I then reviewed his records and found that he died on February 14, 1865. Many of the soldiers that were buried in national cemeteries were moved from their original graves. They often had temporary wooden grave markers that deteriorated making them difficult to read. Or, sometimes, those that placed the wooden grave marker were not the best at spelling. Regardless, I feel confident that this soldier's grave belongs to Jackson Terry.

Interestingly, Jackson Terry's service records show that he was born in Virginia. Unfortunately, it does not give a more specific location. Terry was owned by Harrison County, Kentucky farmer, Thomas Terry. The forty-four year old Thomas Terry, too, was born in Virginia, as was his thirty-four year old wife Susan. However, all of their six children, the oldest being twelve years old, were born in Kentucky. Owner and slave being only about ten years different in age makes one wonder if they did not come west together as younger men.

Thomas Terry owned eight slaves in 1860, who lived in two slave dwellings. Two of those slaves match Jackson Terry's age (forty in 1860). Thomas Terry had real estate wealth worth $8000 and personal property worth $9000.

Jackson Terry was an early enlistee. He signed up on June 4, 1864, at Camp Nelson, Kentucky, without his master's written consent. He was forty-four when he enlisted and was five feet four inches tall. He officially mustered into the Union army on June 16. A note on one of Terry's service record cards claims that "He was a very obedient, willing soldier, always ready, and kept his accouterments in the best of order."

The 114th spent time at Camp Nelson and then were sent to Louisa, Kentucky on the eastern mountain border with West Virginia. It appears that Terry was detailed as cook at this time. The 114th stayed in Louisa until ordered to Petersburg in January 1865. It is unknown, but Jackson Terry may have been sick before reaching the trenches at Petersburg. If so, landing there in the wintertime probably did not help his condition. He is next noted at dying at Point of Rocks general hospital on February 14, 1865, of pneumonia. His records note that he had received clothing from the government at the cost of $59.54, but he was not indebted to any sutlers or laundresses. Terry's last effects were itemized as one pair of trousers, one pair of drawers, two flannel shirts, one rubber blanket, one knapsack, and $33.75 in money.

It is not surprising that government army service records would be so cold. The only hint of Terry's soldering abilities limited to the previously mentioned obedience, willingness, and readiness. One wonders what Jackson Terry thought of his service to the Union army. Was he proud of serving? Was he pragmatic or philosophical about his service? Did he think his life was worth giving to reunite the country and help end slavery? On this Memorial Day, I remember Jackson Terry's service to a country that did not even consider him a citizen.

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).

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.