Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year's Eve!


I would like to wish everyone a very Happy New Year. As we finish up the old year and ring in the new one, I want to thank you for your continued readership. It is my greatest hope that something that I wrote this past year resonated with you, created some curiosity to learn something new, or made you think about a historical event, person, or issue in a different way.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress. Auld Lang Syne Cigars advertisement, 1871.


Saturday, December 30, 2017

"The Black Regiment" by George H. Boker

I found this poem on the same Library of Congress document that contained the Andrew Johnson and Emancipation in Maryland stories that I shared at the end of November and early this month. I had not read this one before and thought it might be new to others as well, so here you go.






The poem was composed by George H. Boker, a leading poet and playwright of the day.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Recent Acquisitions to My Library


This Christmas season brought with it a several opportunities to expand my library. Some of my recent acquisitions were books that I received as direct gifts or from gift card purchases, one was for a book review, and one is a selection that that I had on my Amazon.com Wishlist that I bought for myself when I saw the price had dropped.


Released just last October, Ron Chernow's Grant is receiving rave reviews. I've seen the author interviewed on a number of popular talk and morning television shows, so hopefully it sparks an interest with the larger population and creates a buzz much like his earlier book on Alexander Hamilton did. However, I don't know if Grant is the material to make into a hip-hop musical, but hey, who knows? Grant runs almost 1000 pages, so it may be a while before I commit to starting it, although I have heard it is a true page-turner.
 

Anytime something comes out on Nat Turner, I eventually have to read it. That historical event is one of those that particularly fascinates me. I'm excited to read the interpretive approach that David Allmendinger, Jr. puts forth in Nat Turner and the Rising in Southampton County and see what new evidence he finds to make this book different from several others that have been published in the last decade or so.


Another topic that is finally receiving more and more scholarly attention is Civil War guerrilla warfare. One of the emerging historians in this field is Matthew Hulbert. His book The Ghosts of Guerrilla Warfare: How Civil War Bushwhackers became Gunslingers in the American West was published in October 2016 by the University of Georgia Press, and has received excellent reviews in a number of scholarly journals. This book seeks to show how Civil War era guerrillas have been remembered and portrayed since the conflict.


Tera W. Hunter's Bound in Wedlock: Slave and Free Black Marriage in the Nineteenth Century, promises to be a social history triumph. Nineteenth century white Americans, who most often viewed African Americans as non-citizens politically, and inferiors socially, also often viewed black marriage as less recognizable than their own. Enslaved, and even free blacks, who had little to no legal standing sometimes saw themselves separated from their partners on the will or whim of those who held power. I am interested in learning more about how blacks themselves viewed their marriages and I'm also hopeful a number of the historical myths surrounding slave ceremonies will be covered. 


A Union Indivisible: Secession and Politics of Slavery in the Border South by Michael D. Robinson is another work that I had on my Amazon.com Wishlist. However, the literary gods must have smiled on me, because I was soon blessed by receiving it in exchange for writing a book review for it. Border state studies have really ramped up in the last eight years or so. And A Union Indivisible looks to be a fine addition to this particular field along with studies from William C. Harris, Aaron Astor, Christopher Phillips, Anne Marshall, Patrick Lewis, Matthew Stanley, and Brian McKnight, among others. I remember first hearing about this work while dining with William J. Cooper, Jr., who was the keynote speaker at the Kentucky History Education Conference a few years back. He mentioned he had a graduate student named Michael Robinson who was working on a dissertation on the border states. I had been keeping my eyes and ears open for its publication since that time, as Cooper gave his student such high praise for his writing and research. I'm looking forward to reading it and continuing to expand my knowledge of the border states during the Civil War era.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Books I Read in 2017


As the December days disappear, it looks like I will not finish another book this year. Therefore, I will post the list of ones I have completed over the last twelve months. I often share the current book I am reading on my Facebook page, and then when finished, I write a brief summary paragraph of it to hopefully spark some curiosity in friends with similar reading interests. However, I've never listed the books that I read in a given year.

I've been keeping a list of books I read since the beginning of 2006. I don't know what a psychiatrist might think if I told him or her that about me, but it has come in handy at times when I've wanted to confirm that I had already read a particular book. Anyway, here goes. Oh, I've highlighted a few of these that I found especially insightful, helpful, or just plain fascinating.

1. Writing the Civil War: The Quest to Understand. Edited by James M. McPherson and William J. Cooper

2. Liberty, Virtue and Progress: Northerners and their War for the Union by Earl J. Hess

3. Slavery and Forced Migration in the Antebellum South by Damian Alan Pargas

4. The Roots of Southern Distinctiveness: Tobacco and Society in Danville, Virginia, 1785-1865 by Frederick F. Siegel

5. Counterfeit Gentlemen: Manhood and Humor in the Old South by John Mayfield

6. Troubled Refuge: Struggling for Freedom in the Civil War by Chandra Manning

7. Slave Life in Virginia and Kentucky: A Narrative by Frances Frederick, Escaped Slave. Edited by C.L. Innes

8. The Peninsula Campaign and the Necessity of Emancipation: African Americans and the Fight for Freedom by Glenn David Basher

9. Dueling in the Old South: Vignettes of Social History by Jack K. Williams

10. The Making of a Racist: A Southerner Reflects on Family, History, and the Slave Trade by Charles B. Dew

11. Reminiscences of Life in Camp by Susie King Taylor

12. River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom by Walter Johnson

13. Virginia's Private War: Feeding Body and Soul in the Confederacy, 181-1865 by William Blair

14. The Rebel Yell: A Cultural History by Craig A. Warren

15. Landon Carter's Uneasy Kingdom: Revolution and Rebellion on a Virginia Plantation by Rhys Isaac

16. Creek Paths and Federal Roads: Indians, Settlers, and Slaves and the Making of the American South by Angela Hudson

17. The Peace that Almost Was: The 1861 Washington Peace Conference and the Final Attempt to Avert Civil War by Mark Tooley

18. Freedom by the Sword: The U.S. Colored Troops, 1862-1867 by William A. Dobak

19. Fort Harrison and the Battle of Chaffin's Farm: To Surprise and Capture Richmond by Douglas Crenshaw

20. Richmond Must Fall: The Richmond-Petersburg Campaign, October 1864 by Hampton Newsome

21. The Guerrilla Hunters: Irregular Conflicts during the Civil War. Edited by Brian D. McKnight and Barton A. Myers

22. The First Battle for Petersburg: Attack and Defense of the Cockade City, June 9, 1864 by William Glenn Robertson

23. Thunder at the Gates: The Black Civil War Regiments that Redeemed America by Douglas R. Edgerton

24. John Randolph of Roanoke by David Johnson

25. Lincoln and the U.S. Colored Troops by John David Smith

26. The Bloody Crucible of Courage: Fighting Methods and Combat Experience of the Civil War by Brent Nosworthy

27. To Have and to Hold: Slave Work and Family Life in Antebellum South Carolina by Larry E. Hudson, Jr.

28. We Look Like Men of War by William R. Forstchen

29. Gender and the Sectional Conflict by Nina Silber

30. The Yankee Plague: Escaped Union Prisoners and the Collapse of the Confederacy by Lorien Foote

31. The Making of a Confederate: Walter Lenoir's Civil War by William L. Barney

32. A Troublesome Commerce: The Transformation of the Interstate Slave Trade by Robert H. Gudmestad

33. The Army of the Potomac in the Overland and Petersburg Campaigns: Union Soldiers and Trench Warfare, 1864-1865 by Steven Sodergren

34. William Lowndes Yancey and the Coming of the Civil War by Eric H. Walther

35. South Carolina Fire-Eater: Laurence M. Keitt, 1824-1864 by Holt Merchant

36. Ku Klux: The Birth of the Klan during Reconstruction by Elaine Frantz Parsons

37. The Price for Their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved, from Womb to Grave, in the Building of a Nation by Daina Ramey Berry

38. Northerners at War: Reflections on the Civil War Home Front by J. Matthew Gallman

39. The Imperfect Revolution: Anthony Burns an the Landscape of Race in Antebellum America by Gordon S. Barker

40. An Irishman in Dixie: Thomas Conolly's Diary of the Fall of the Confederacy. Edited by Nelson Lankford

41. The Field of Honor: Essays on Southern Character and American Identity. Edited by John Mayfield and Todd Hagstette

42. The Judas Field: A Novel of the Civil War by Howard Bahr

43. The Battle of New Market Heights: Freedom Will be Theirs by the Sword by James S. Price

44. Our Good and Faithful Servant: James Moore Wayne and Georgia Unionism by Joel McMahon

45. Storm Over Texas: The Annexation Controversy and the Road to Civil War by Joel H. Silbey

46. Drift Toward Disunion: The Virginia Slavery Debate of 1831-1832 by Alison Goodyear Freehling

47. Uncommon Valor: A Story of Race, Patriotism, and Glory in the Final Battles of the Civil War by Melvin Claxton and Mark Puls

48. Eagles on Their Buttons: A Black Infantry Regiment in the Civil War by Versalle F. Washington

50. American Scoundrel: The Life of the Notorious Civil War General Dan Sickles by Thomas Keneally

51. The Secret Life of Bacon Tait: A White Slave Trader Married to a Free Woman of Color by Hank Trent

52. War Upon Our Border: Two Ohio Valley Communities Navigate the Civil War by Stephen Rockenbach

53. On to Petersburg: Grant and Lee, June 4-15, 1864 by Gordon Rhea

54. America's Forgotten Caste: Free Blacks in Antebellum Virginia and North Carolina by Rodney Barfield

55. Midnight in America: Darkness, Sleep, and Dreams during the Civil War by Jonathan W. White

56. Freedom's Dawn: The Last Days of John Brown in Virginia by Louis A, DeCaro, Jr.

57. Civil War Citizens: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity in America's Bloodiest Conflict. Edited by Susannah J. Urals

58. Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol by Nell Irvin Painter

59. There is Something About Edgefield: Shining a Light on the Black Community through History, Genealogy, and Genetic DNA by Edna Gail Bush and Natonne Elaine Kemp

60. The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan

61. Something Must Be Done About Price Edward County: A Family, a Virginia Town, a Civil Rights Battle by Kristin Green

So there you go! Sixty-one books in fifty-two weeks. Not too bad. I feel thankful that my life situation allows me such ready access to books, and the time to read them. Like Thomas Jefferson once said, "I cannot live without books!"

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Just Finished Reading - There Is Something About Edgefield


It has been quite a while since I've posted a book review on this forum. I've written a number of reviews for other publications in 2017, so that, perhaps unfairly, has resulted in a diminished number here. However, I recently received an opportunity to review There Is Something About Edgefield: Shining a Light on the Black Community through History, Genealogy, and Genetic Testing by Edna Gail Bush and Natonne Elaine Kemp (Rocky Pond Press, 2017) and jumped at the chance.

Ever since I read All God's Children: The Bosket Family and the American Tradition of Violence by Fox Butterfield, about twenty years ago, I've sought to learn more about Edgefield County when an opportunity presented itself. Located along the Georgia border in west-central South Carolina, the area produced some of the state's most noted politicians and fierce defenders of slavery and post-Civil War white supremacy. Born in Edgefield were governors George McDuffie, Pierce Mason Butler, James Henry "Cotton is King" Hammond, Francis W. Pickens, Benjamin "Pitchfork" Tillman, and Strom Thurmond. Edgefield also produced Preston Brooks (who caned Charles Sumner on the Senate floor in 1856), and Confederate general James Longstreet.

As one might imagine, Edgefield County had a large enslaved population, and the authors' attempts to connect to their Edgefield ancestors is the main focus of the book. In 1860, there were over 24,000 slaves in the county. This is the sixth highest total in the United States that year!

There Is Something About Edgefield begins with thoughtful and informative sections which provide the co-authors' acknowledgements, as well as a preface, forward, and introduction.

Co-author Edna Gail Bush supplies the first two chapters of the book. In the first chapter Bush examines her paternal ancestors and focuses on the family's ability to acquire land in post-Civil War Edgefield, and sadly, how it was eventually taken from them.  Bush also shares the amazing story of her DNA findings. She had her brothers take the Y-DNA tests and found that the results indicated her paternal line as originating solely from European countries. As she states, "The fact is, for many African Americans, a European progenitor serves as the original head of the paternal line." (pg. 55)

In the second chapter, Bush seeks and provides information on her maternal ancestors. Doing genealogical research for African American ancestors is difficult enough, especially when searching before 1870, but finding maternal lines lend extra special challenges. Her search for information found an early date of about 1799 for one ancestor and also put her on the trail of her maternal ancestors' enslavers, the Burton Family. As Bush wisely writes "It is a sad fact that the only way I have been able to trace my enslaved ancestors is by looking through records that pertain to property, which may or may not even give the dignity of a name." (Pg. 80). After emancipation in 1865, things do not always get easier for the genealogist. Although census information is available for African Americans from 1870 on, there are still obstacles such as name changes, gaps here and there due to census taker errors, and often overlooked households or households with incorrect information.

Natonne Elaine Kemp examines the line of her Blair ancestors in chapter three. In doing so Kemp reminds us that networking with other researchers can be of great benefit. Sharing one's findings, discussing them with others, and receiving help with research obstacles is one of the most rewarding aspects of doing historical research. This chapter is infused with contextual history, which I sincerely appreciated. In telling about her ancestor's challenges, especially during the Reconstruction years, Kemp exposes the terroristic state in which Edgefield's black population found itself after the Civil War, when recently defeated whites sought to reclaim political dominance through intimidation, mayhem, and murder.

Kemp continues searching for her Blair connections in chapter four, but puts particular emphasis on an incident where a white Blair killed an African American man in 1872. The examination of this particular incident illustrates the significant knowledge one acquires during the research process. It is one thing to read about Reconstruction violence from a formal history book, it is yet another to get into the nitty-gritty of a specific tragic occasion, which in turn illustrates the larger situation. I also found Kemp's research on Calliham Baptist Church intriguing. The break from the church by its black members after the Civil War and the Calliham congregation's response is particularly fascinating.

The also book contains three short epilogues. The first provides a bullet-point list that enumerates post-1870 potential sources for information on African American genealogy. The second and third reemphasize the help that DNA testing can provide, particularly when searching a specific geographic area. 

I was especially impressed with the book's documentation. Being a historian, it is pleasing to see a work so clearly cited. It adds a level of credibility that can only come through such work. Other pluses to the book were the included family photographs. Seeing the people who where being researched and written about adds a level of connection to their stories that words alone cannot fill. In addition, the defined terms related to DNA testing were helpful to someone who is not all that familiar with this rather new form of research. Lineage charts, maps, graphs, and other primary sources were all selected with care and only enhance the book's many strengths.

One might not think that a book on someone else's genealogy would not be a "can't put down" type of book, but I found that There Is Something About Edgefield is one of those kind of books. It is not only a family tree book. Rather, by describing their exhaustive research resources, both traditional and non traditional, the authors give readers ideas on the plethora of ancestral information sources available to family history researchers. But not only that, this book gives hope. Hope for those searching to know their family's hidden pasts, and hope that through studying the past, we can create better presents and futures for all of us. By this point you can understand why I highly recommend this book. On a one to five scale, I have no reservations giving it an empathetic five! Well done!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Sojourner Truth's Grandson, 54th Massachusetts POW


The 54th Massachusetts Infantry, a black regiment allowed to retain its state regimental designation, was composed of African American men from all across the free states. Some men were former slaves who had made new lives in the North, but many more were free men of color. In the regiment were the sons, grandsons, and relatives of black abolitionists. Famously, Frederick Douglass's two sons, Louis and Charles, served in the famous 54th, as did Martin R. Delaney's son, Touissant L'Overture Delaney. Another descendant of a black abolitionist in the 54th was James Caldwell (shown above), the grandson of Sojourner Truth. The image of Truth below shows Caldwell's photograph on her lap.


Caldwell appears in the 1860 census in Battle Creek, Calhoun County, Michigan as a sixteen year old, who was born in New York state. He is listed as "B" for black and appears in the household of Luther Slater, a fifty-seven year old white man, who was a blacksmith. This fits with his Civil War service records, which lists Caldwell's occupation as blacksmith. The young man was likely apprenticing with Slater before the war. Caldwell is the only non-white in the household.

I've tried to determine which child of Truth's was Caldwell's mother. It appears that it was Elizabeth. James may be one of those individuals who was counted twice in the 1860 census. In Sojourner Truth's household in Calhoun County, Michigan was Elizabeth Banks, who was thirty-three, and a James Colvin, which may have been a census takers mishearing of Caldwell, who is listed as fourteen years old, and born in New York state.

When he found out that the Union army was accepting black men, Caldwell apparently told to his famous relative, "Now is our time Grandmother to prove that we are men." Caldwell enlisted in Company H, 54th Massachusetts Infantry on April 17, 1863, and was mustered in on May 13 at Readville, Massachusetts, where the 54th trained. His records state he was nineteen when he enlisted and was five feet nine inches tall, with a "dark" complexion. 

Caldwell's active service was rather short lived, as he was captured in an engagement on July 16, 1863, at James Island, South Carolina, just two days before the 54th attained their Glory at the Fort Wagner fight on Morris Island. It appears that Caldwell was held in Confederate hands for the almost two next years. His records indicate that he was finally released at Goldsboro, North Carolina, on March 4, 1865. His records also show that he spent at least part of this prisoner of war time at Florence, South Carolina, in the "rebel prison pen" there.

James Caldwell was sent on to Annapolis, Maryland (Camp Parole) for recovery. There he received his discharge on May 12, 1865, and received three months extra pay "due to hardships endured at Rebel prisons" by order of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton.

I was not able to determine what happened to young James Caldwell in the years following the Civil War. If anyone should happen to know or can point me in a direction to where I could find out, I would be grateful.

Image of James Caldwell in the public domain.
Image of Sojourner Truth courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Sojourner Truth, Lyricist


I've been reading Nell Irvin Painter's Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol over the last few days. It is certainly a fascinating biography. I was quite aware that Truth, a former Northern (New York State) slave, became a spokesperson for women's rights and abolition in the years before and during the Civil War. But I did not know that the illiterate activist, who dictated her life's narrative to a white writer, also composed lyrics to a song about African American soldiers that was sung to the tune of "John Brown's Body," or later, the "Battle Hymn of the Republic."

One might be inclined to think that an illiterate woman would not be able to come up with such touching verses, but they are indeed outstanding. The song was written in honor of the First Michigan Colored Infantry Regiment, which eventually was redesignated the 102nd United States Colored Infantry. The stirring words to the song are:

We are the valiant soldiers who've 'listed for the war;
We are fighting for the Union, we are fighting for the law;
We can shoot a rebel farther than a white man ever saw,
As we go marching on.

Chorus.- 
Glory, glory, hallelujah! Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah! as we go marching on.

Look there above the center, where the flag is waving bright;
We are going out of slavery, we are bound for freedom's light;
We mean to show Jeff Davis how the Africans can fight,
As we go marching on. - Chorus.

We are done with hoeing cotton, we are done with hoeing corn;
We are colored Yankee soldiers as sure as you are born.
When massa hears us shouting, he will think 'tis Gabriel's horn,
As we go marching on. - Chorus.

They will have to pay us wages, the wages of their sin;
They will have to bow their foreheads to their colored kith and kin;
They will have to give us house-room, or the roof will tumble in,
As we go marching on. - Chorus.

We hear the proclamation massa, hush it as you will;
The birds will sing it to us, hopping on the cotton hill;
The possum up the gum tree couldn't keep it still,
As he went climbing on. - Chorus.

Father Abraham has spoken, and the message has been sent;
The prison doors have opened, and out the prisoners went
To join the sable army of African descent,
As we go marching on. - Chorus.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.



Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Pocahontas and Petersburg


On Monday I made an early morning trip to get my oil changed and tires rotated. While at the mechanic shop, I passed the time by reading, but fortunately it didn't take near as long as I expected. So on the way home I decided to stop by Pocahontas and see the new historical marker (below) a reader of this blog recently made me aware of. I won't go into a long history of this Appomattox River community, but I will encourage you to dig a little deeper than what is relayed on the above marker.


Pocahontas was the home to what many believe to be one of Virginia's, and the nation's, oldest free black communities. A wave of manumissions in Virginia followed the Revolutionary War and its spirit of liberty. These emancipations added numerous families to those free people of color who had been calling Pocahontas home for generations. Many of these people made their livings on the Appomattox River and by providing valuable services and skilled work to the commercial marketplace in adjacent Petersburg.



One time Pocahontas resident, Charles Stewart, became a noted jockey, riding for his master, William Ransom Johnson, who was one of the best-known turfmen in the Old Dominion. Stewart is shown in the above painting by noted equine artist Edward Troye, holding Johnson's horse, Medley.


The Jarratt House (above), which dates from about 1819 sits on Logan Street, its windows and doors boarded up and the rear wall being held up by a wooden structural support. Hopefully some funds can be located and allocated toward its rehabilitation, as its survival is important to telling the community story.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Recent Acquisitions to My Library


I've been stocking up on some winter reading--as if my "to be read" shelf was not already bulging--but who can resist with such intriguing titles out there.

My interest in hip-hop originated in 1983-84, when it was just finally gaining attention where I lived. I was in 8th grade and became fascinated with break dancing. I watched the movie "Beat Street" over and over on VHS from the local video rental store. Break dancing introduced me to the music that fueled the dancing. It didn't take for me long to get hooked, buying music then like I buy books these days. I've read several so-called histories of hip-hop over the years, but being published by UNC Press adds a even greater sense of credibility to Break Beats in the Bronx: Rediscovering Hip-Hop's Early Years by Joseph C. Ewoodzie, Jr. Here's hoping it give us a whole new way of thinking about hip-hop's early years and its influences.


I've often wondered how difficult it must have been for the enslaved, or even free people of color, to travel in the antebellum United States. Whether free or slave, traveling any distance posed issues that most whites did not have to consider. Well, it looks like I will get my questions answered by reading Colored Travelers: Mobility and the Fight for Citizenship before the Civil War by Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor and published by UNC Press. I'm sure this will be an eye-opening look into a overlooked topic and will certainly be enlightening.
 

Regional studies on slavery are some of my favorite reading. Slavery differed from area to area due to everything from duration of settlement to crops grown to geography. With the transition from tobacco to a more diversified agriculture, slavery in the Chesapeake and eastern North Carolina changed, too. Money over Mastery, Family over Freedom: Slavery in the Antebellum Upper South by Calvin Schermerhorn examines this transition, its effect on slave families, and in turn, their effect on the American marketplace.


My visit to the Sunflower State in 2010 for a conference, and thus my subsequent museum and historic site visits there only served to fuel my then growing interest in learning more about "Bleeding Kansas." Although this subject has not received a tremendous amount of scholarship in the past decade, Stark Mad Abolitionists: Lawrence, Kansas, and the Battle over Slavery in the Civil War Era, by Robert K. Sutton, and published by Skyhorse, may just reignite an new examination of the importance of this particular place and time.


Slavery's spread to the Old Southwest in the first half of the nineteenth century drastically transformed the United States. Migrating planters and their transported human property, along with the rise in the interstate slave trade, changed the politics, economy, and society of areas like Texas as much as they did the physical landscape. Seeds of Empire: Cotton, Slavery, and the Transformation of the Texas Borderlands, 1800-1850, by Andrew J. Torget (UNC Press), promises to provide readers with a better understanding of how slavery's introduction into Mexican territory helped lead to the Texas Revolution, the Mexican War, and the Civil War.

Now the challenge becomes finding the time to read these great titles. What a wonderful problem to have!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Andrew Johnson Speaks to Black Crowd in Nashville



This news snippet of a speech made on October 24, 1864, by Andrew Johnson was found printed on the third page of the document I shared in yesterday's post. I thought I'd share it, too, as it caught me a little by surprise. Knowing Johnson's seeming about-face when he assumed the presidency after Lincoln's assassination makes these comments intriguing.

Johnson, never a friend of the Southern aristocracy, came from humble beginnings. He ran away as a apprentice tailor in North Carolina as a young man and eventually set up his own shop in Greeneville, Tennessee, where he was self educated with the help of his wife. Johnson became involved in politics, serving in the state legislature, then the US House of Representatives, Governor of Tennessee, and the US Senate. He was the only senator from a seceded state who did not resign his seat. Johnson was appointed Military Governor of Tennessee during the Civil War by Lincoln and then became the Old Abe's vice presidential choice after the election of 1864.

As president Johnson still abhorred those former Confederate aristocrats who sought his pardon, but he also saw that their rights were restored as well as their previously confiscated lands. His promises of protection and equal rights for African Americans, as expressed above, was seemingly forgotten in his attempt to reconcile the sectional divisions the war had finally settled with arms.

Johnson image and text image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Emancipation in Maryland



I've said it before and I'll continue to say that I am amazed by the amount of fascinating primary sources on the Library of Congress website. Today, I found this image depicting various scenes from "Emancipation in Maryland." 

Maryland, like the other slaveholding yet loyal border states of Kentucky, Missouri, and Delaware, found itself in a precarious position once the Emancipation Proclamation was proclaimed. Although exempt from the proclamation due to their situation, they apparently saw the end of slavery on the horizon, and passed state legislation abolishing slavery in November 1864. Missouri followed in January 1865. However, Kentucky and Delaware held out until the 13th Amendment was ratified in December 1865 to end human bondage. 


The smaller images that make up the overall pictorial show the supporting relationship of persevering the Union and emancipation. Above, African American troops fight to "Save the Republic" against those who would see it dissolved.


On the bottom left one of the smaller images show the progressive ideal of education for former slaves. In addition, it reinforces the fact that many Maryland black soldiers are "now at the front fighting for the Union."


As an upper-South slave state, Maryland like Virginia and Kentucky, supplied the Deep South cotton states with thousands of enslaved individuals in the decades before the Civil War. Now, with a new legislative enactment, that was over.


The images also include a couple of the heroic scenes of United States Colored Troops fighting in two of their most famous engagements. Above, Fort Wagner is referenced, which actually was fought on July 18, 1863, at Charleston Harbor. The 54th Massachusetts, which included a number of Maryland men, attained their "Glory" in this battle.


Similarly, the fight at New Market Heights on September 29, 1864, included several regiments that pulled men from Maryland, including the famous 4th USCI, who contained three men; Christian Fleetwood, Charles Veal, and Alfred Hilton, who received the Medal of Honor for their courage and heroism.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Slavery in the Neighborhood


Browsing around on the Library of Congress website I located a map of Dinwiddie County, which was published by James D. Scott of Philadelphia in 1854. On it are listed the various towns, villages, roads, railroads, rivers and other geographical features one might expect to find on a historical map. However, it also lists a number of the farms and plantations owned by the citizens of the county.

I took a snippet view of the area where I currently live and then searched the 1850 census to see if I could find how many slaves each of these individuals owned. What I was able to turn up is as follows:

Robert Jones = 25 slaves

Dr. Albert Boisseau = 13 slaves

Joseph G. Boisseau = 8 slaves

John Pegram = 24 slaves

Francis Wells = 5 slaves

John Hawks = 1 slave

James Smith = 6 slaves

Nicholas Clemmens = 4 slaves

I was unable to find enslaved listings for R. Dyson, Mrs. Fitts, Mrs. Alden, and J. Boswell. Perhaps these individuals did not own slaves or maybe they moved the the area after the 1850 census was taken. Regardless, the majority of the citizens in the area did own slaves and this map's hidden information shows just how much the institution was infused into the neighborhood's society and economy.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A Slave Dwelling Sleep-In



As part of work's "Reflect and Respect" African American history event this past weekend, I had the opportunity to stay the night in an original slave dwelling (shown above) on Saturday night. It was an experience I will not soon forget.

I had contacted Joe McGill of the Slave Dwelling Project to see about his interest in doing a sleep over a couple of years ago. However, at that time, budget constraints did not make it possible. When funds did become available for the "Reflect and Respect" event, I contacted Joe again and this time we made it happen. 

Now, I've spent many a reenactment or living history night on the hard ground in all kinds of weather situations, but something about this night was much different. After a nice conversation with Joe, and two of his board members, Prinny and Don, we made our places on the heart of pine floor boards. 

As I lay there in the pitch dark, all kinds of thoughts filled my head. I was exhausted from an early start to the day and from the day's previous events, so I thought about my sore legs, shoulders, and back. Then my train of thought shifted tracks to how the cook who once worked in that very kitchen we were sleeping in must have felt after working what was probably a good fourteen hour day (if not longer), stooping over heavy pots, sweating from a scorching hot fire, and keeping a vigilant eye to avoid catching clothes ablaze.   


My thoughts then turned to the following day's events. I ran over the schedule in my mind and wondered how things would go and if we would have good audience attendance. As those images floated away in a seeming fog, I focused back on our scene and imagined what enslaved individuals must have worried about in terms of their tomorrows. Likely they fretted over whether they would be in their present situation or if something might arise to change it drastically. Would they be sold because their owner was in debt? Would their children be sold? Would this week's rations be plenty or would they be scarce? Would the master be in a good mood tomorrow, or would he be in a furor? My concerns paled in comparison and suddenly a grateful mood washed over me,

Being thankful for my present life situation and employment condition set me to thinking about how only several generations back one's life situation could often be closely defined if one's skin was not white. Solely based on race, one's options were extremely limited or seemingly limitless. People of color were assumed to be enslaved in Virginia in the first half of the 19th century. It was up to that person to show proof of their freedom if they claimed to not be a slave.  Racial prejudice, the lack of opportunity, and the subsequent economic, social, and political limitations, not only in slavery, but through Jim Crow and up to the present has left an indelible mark on our nation. Recognizing this and educating oneself about this history is a good first step in correcting the problems of race in our country. Is it easy to process? No. Can it be emotionally exhausting? Yes. However, recognizing the legacy of slavery on America is vital.

Some people think that if we do not talk about race, racial issues will go away naturally. I am not of that mind. I think we need to seek out opportunities to talk about the past so we can navigate the present, and hopefully offer a more equitable future for the greater good of all. I feel fortunate that I had this opportunity and recommend it for everyone.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Remember Fort Pillow!!!

The phrase has been used across the ages. In the Texas Revolution it was "Remember the Alamo." In the Spanish-American War it was "Remember the Maine." In World War I it was "Remember the Lusitania." In World War II it was "Remember Pearl Harbor." And, in our most recent conflicts, it is "Remember 9/11." These phrases helped both soldiers and civilians to remember notorious acts by enemies and inspired determination and action to avenge such wrongs.

In the Civil War, for the United States Colored Troops, "Remember Fort Pillow" was the battle cry more than once or twice.

Fort Pillow, fought on April 12, 1864, on the Mississippi River in West Tennessee, involved a garrison of white Unionist Tennesseans and black troops, who were requested to surrender to forces under the command of Confederate cavalry general Nathan Bedford Forrest. Not being a patient man, Forrest allegedly used a truce period to move his men closer to the fort. When surrender was refused, Forrest's men stormed the position, overtaking the troops inside. In a congressional investigation held later about the action, it was reported that the Confederates refused to allow a large number of the black troops inside to surrender, maliciously killing the capitulating defenders.

The word spread rapidly about the atrocities at Fort Pillow. At the Battle of Resaca, Georgia, in May 1864, in the terrific fighting that occurred there, white Wisconsin soldiers overran a Confederate artillery position and happened upon a Confederate with "Fort Pillow" tattooed on his arm. Instead of taking him as a prisoner of war, the leaped upon him bayoneting and shooting him.

Fort Pillow's legacy was especially strong among the rapidly expanding USCT regiments in the spring and summer of 1864. Three and a half months after Fort Pillow, at the Battle of the Crater, black troops of the IX Corps yelled "Remember Fort Pillow," and "No quarter to the Rebels," in the fierce maelstrom that raged around them. However, at the Crater, the Confederates gained the upper hand in a fierce counter attack and reversed the cry of "No quarter" to many of the black troops, taking the phrase to heart and carrying out brutal acts against their black opponents.

To help motivate and encourage the African American soldiers of Gen. Charles J. Paine's division before the desperate fight at the Battle of New Market Heights, on September 29, 1864, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Franklin Butler (pictured above) implored the men to "Remember Fort Pillow!" In his memoirs, published in 1892, Butler claimed his words to them were:
"At half past four o'clock I found the colored division, rising three thousand men, occupying a plain which shelved toward the [James] river, so that they were not observed by the enemy . . . . They were formed in close column of division right in front. I rode through the division, addressed a few words of encouragement and confidence to the troops. I told them to go over and take a work which would be before them after they got over the hill, and that they must take it all hazards, and that when they went over the parapet into it their war cry should be 'Remember Fort Pillow!'"

As at the Battle of the Crater, the Confederates had an advantage. They were ensconced behind breastworks. The Southerners, after they shattered the attack by Col. Duncan's Brigade, consisting of the 4th and 5th USCI regiments, and just before the attack of Col. Draper's Brigade, comprised of the 5th, 36th, and 38th USCI regiments, came over the earthworks and dispatched many of the wounded black soldiers. The Rebels also took equipment, uniform parts, and rifles from the dead and wounded, which they used against Draper's attackers.

A combination of a Confederate withdrawal order and a resurgent attack by the Draper's USCT regiments powered the black men over the works pushing out the remaining defenders. As they continued, they did as Butler had earlier requested, they yelled "Remember Fort Pillow!"

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Personality Spotlight: Christian Fleetwood


One of the many heroic soldiers I got to know much better while researching my tour of the New Market Heights battlefield was Sgt. Maj. Christian Fleetwood (shown above standing behind the boy). Born in 1840 to free parents in Baltimore, Maryland, Fleetwood earned both the Medal of Honor and the Butler Medal for his courageous actions at New Market Heights.

Fleetwood appears in the 1860 census as a nineteen year old mulatto. His parents are shown as Charles Fleetwood, a forty-five year old mulatto waiter, and Maria, a forty-four year old mulatto with no occupation listed. Also in the family was Averick, a twenty year old black female, Christian's older sister. Additionally, Maria was noted as being unable to read and write, and Christian is shown as having attended school. Charles is listed as owning $100 in personal property. The family is also shown in the 1850 census, but all are described as mulatto.

Charles and Maria Fleetwood must have appreciated that education could provide better life opportunities for Christian, and Christian must have shown academic potential, because he was afforded a quality education from dedicated teachers and later graduated from Ashmun Institute in Oxford, Pennsylvania, in 1860. Before enlisting, Christian worked for an African American newspaper, the Lyceum Observer, in Baltimore, as well as for the American Colonization Society.

Christian enlisted in Company G, 4th United States Colored Infantry on August 11, 1863. His service records show he was twenty-three years old, five feet four and a half inches, with a "brown" complexion, with the pre-war occupation of clerk. The regiment must have noticed Christian's potential right off as he was made sergeant upon joining and promoted to sergeant-major eight days after enlisting.

Almost 40,000 African American soldiers in the Union army died during their service. The vast majority, like white soldiers, died from disease. Christian seemingly lived a blessed life. His service records show that after the war he was admitted to a hospital Alexandria, Virginia, in October 1865, for an intermittent fever, for which he received quinine. But he apparently he checked himself out without permission and rejoined his regiment. Perhaps Christian felt hospitals were not the most healthy places to heal oneself. 

Christian received good fortune in battle as well. Despite being in the thick of the fight and attacking in an unsupported battle line formation on September 29, 1864, at New Market Heights, the 4th showed its steel will. Attacking the Confederate breastworks after navigating through battlefield obstacles, the 4th suffered over fifty percent casualties. Christian braved the storm of shot and shell. When all of the unit's color bearers went down killed or wounded, he snatched up the U.S. flag and continued forward, rallying and leading his men forward until they were finally, mercifully withdrawn. For his bravery Christian was awarded the Medal of Honor on April 6, 1865. Two of Christian's comrades in the 4th, Alfred Hilton and Charles Veal, also were recognized for conspicuous gallantry with Medals of Honor.

After the war Christian married Sarah, a teacher born in Pennsylvania, and they lived in Washington D.C. Christian held positions both inside and outside of the federal government in the years following the conflict. In 1900, Christian, Sarah and their sixteen year old daughter Edith lived on Spruce Street. Suffering from heart failure, Christian died on September 28, 1914, nearly fifty years to the day he braved the fire at New Market Heights.  

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Recent Acquisitions to My Library


Too long pushed to the margins, and often ignored for their historical contributions, enslaved African American men and women cooks finally get a focused study with Bound to the Fire: How Virginia's Enslaved Cooks Helped Invent American Cuisine, by Kelley Fanto Deetz. 

I heard Deetz speak on this topic last year at a lecture Stratford Hall and was happy to see this book released through the University Press of Kentucky last week. Of course, I snatched up a copy which arrived yesterday.


How better to learn about Civil War soldiers' experiences than to read their own thoughts put to paper. Your Brother in Arms: A Union Soldier's Odyssey, edited by Robert C. Plumb, gives us the diary entries of George P. McClelland of the 155th Pennsylvania Infantry, along with significant editorial interpretation. Part of the V Corps during the Petersburg Campaign, I'm looking forward reading McClelland notes on the fighting and camp life that that corps endured.


The Secret Life of Bacon Tait, a White Slave Trader Married to a Free Woman of Color, by Hank Trent, is probably the best book that I've read this year. This fascinating story of a Lynchburg businessman who ended up becoming one of the most prominent slave traders in antebellum Richmond is a fascinating look into the complex world of the domestic slave trade and the impact it made on the lives of those that participated in it. Bacon Tait's participation in the business apparently limited his marital options to such an extent that he developed a relationship with a free woman of color in Richmond and established a second home in Salem, Massachusetts, with her and their four children, all while retaining the trading business in Richmond. Trent's research is thorough and his writing style is easy to read and thought provoking. I highly recommend this one. 


After finishing the Bacon Tait book, I searched out other works on individual slave traders and came across The American Dreams of John B. Prentis, Slave Trader by Kari J. Winter. Prentis was a few years older than Tait, but apparently followed a similar path to prosperity through exploiting others through the domestic slave trade. I'll be reading critically, searching for similarities and differences to Tait's life story.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Dying Far, Far From Home: Pvt. Robert Jackson, Co. K, 109th USCI


As we approach Veteran's Day, I thought I'd post another story of one of the Kentucky United States Colored Troops soldiers I've found buried at Poplar Grove National Cemetery. This one is Robert Jackson, who served in Company K, of the 109th United States Colored Infantry.

Like so many of Kentucky's black soldiers, Jackson enlisted in the summer of 1864. Jackson signed up in Louisville on June 20. He was born in Shelby County, Kentucky, and was described as having black hair, black eyes, and a black complexion. Jackson stood five feet, ten inches tall and was eighteen years old when he enlisted. He was mustered into U.S. service the same day.

Apparently Jackson was enslaved in Shelby County at the time of his enlistment, as he is credited toward their quota, but his owner is not named in his service records. His occupation was given vaguely as "farmer" on one record, and "farm hand" on another.

Jackson appears "present" for duty until November 16, 1864, when he reported sick to a hospital at Point of Rocks on the Appomattox River in Chesterfield County near Petersburg. It appears that Jackson went back on duty in the Petersburg trenches sometime during the winter, but fell ill again on March 26, 1865.


While the 109th participated in the chase of the Army of Northern Virginia and its eventual surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, Jackson was still sick. At some point he was was moved to Fairgrounds Hospital (shown above) on the west side of Petersburg. Fairgrounds Hospital had been a Confederate treatment facility during the war, but was used by the Union occupation forces after the city fell on April 3, 1865.

It was at Fairgrounds Hospital where Jackson expired, on June 3, 1865, from typhoid fever. Jackson was likely buried on the grounds of the hospital, where many Confederates had also been interred, but he was moved when Poplar Grove National Cemetery was established. The Confederates buried on the grounds of the hospital were moved, too, but to Petersburg's Blandford Cemetery by the city's Ladies Memorial Association after the war.

Fairgrounds Hospital image courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Pvt. Jackson has since received a new upright standing headstone at Poplar Grove when the cemetery recently completed a thorough restoration project.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

A Negro Man Who Gives His Name as Henry


I stumbled across the above advertisement several months ago as I was browsing through issues of the Abingdon Virginian newspaper published during the Civil War. This particular notice appeared in the May 15, 1863, edition.

As happened so often during the war an enslaved individual was captured and held in a jail. And, as was often the case, the jailer was required to post a notification for the owner to come retrieve their property and pay for lodging expenses. The distraction of the war provided unprecedented opportunities for enslaved individuals to stake their claim to freedom, and many took advantage of those opportunities.

William W. Barker, the jailer of Washington County, located in the far southwest corner of the Old Dominion, stated that this particular man had been incarcerated on May 10. The captured man (being the only possible source for information) stated his name was Henry and said "he belongs to Dr. Edward Jones of Tuskeege [sic], Ala[bama]."

A quick search on Ancestry.com of the 1860 and 1850 censuses did not turn up a Dr. Edward Jones in Tuskegee or Macon County, Alabama. Now, that does not mean that such a man did not exist. He could have moved there after the 1860 census was taken or perhaps the census taker missed him. But, it is just as likely that Henry made up an owner's name and provided it to the jailer so that he would not be claimed immediately.  

Another common feature of these advertisements is a provided physical description. Henry was described as "black" and stood five feet five or six inches tall. The jailer believed Henry to be 26 or 27 years old. And although Henry was clearly of manhood years, Barker referred to him as a "boy." Henry's distinguishing marks were a scar on his left eye and "some scars on his back." It doesn't take much inferential work to surmise that Henry was probably whipped at sometime by whoever previously owned him.

Barker ended with the typical language of capture ads for the owner to come claim the slave, prove ownership or "he will be dealt with as the law directs." The laws of the various slave states stipulated a duration to hold these individuals if their owners did not come claim them; then they could be sold. For example, in Kentucky, the original law was to hold the slave six months before they could be offered for sale, however, during the war the jails were so full of runaway slaves that the state legislature shorted the term of incarceration to one month before advertising them for sale.

I do not know what happened to Henry, if that indeed was his name. I am speculating here, but he probably was not claimed and ended up being sold to the highest local bidder. Henry likely worked in some capacity until the end of the Civil War, or perhaps he ran away again and made his way to Union lines. We will likely never know. However, we do know that his individual, who ever he was, decided to make an effort at freedom, something that he certainly knew would be risky, but apparently worth the possible severe repercussions.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Zooming in on USCTs at Fort Harrison


Following fierce combat during Gen. Grant's Fifth Offensive north of the James River, a number of the United States Colored Troops, who had battled at New Market Heights and Fort Gilmer on September 29, 1864, and then held off a determined Confederate counterattack on September 30, settled into garrison duty in captured Fort Harrison. Renamed Fort Burham by its new occupants, the black troops, who became part of the XXV Corps during the winter of 1864-65, held the position until they pushed into Richmond on April 3.

The photographer probably unknowingly captured a number of things happening in this image. This photograph  provides some impressive scenes of men at rest in the fort, while others are on picket duty in rifle pits in the background.


In the left center stand two soldiers. The one at the left rear is standing still and appears to be wearing an oversize fatigue blouse. The one on the right front has his hands in his pockets and moved, which blurred his image. He seems to be wearing a shell jacket, as it only comes to his waist.
 

Behind the main structure are a couple of rows of canvas-topped winter quarters. Standing behind one of the quarters are four men. One without a jacket stands on the stick chimney getting a good view, while two others stand on the ground to left and right sides of the chimney. Another soldier looks toward them.


In the background near the tree line is a line of rifle pits. Several black soldiers man the pits as another stands to the right. 


In the far distance the Confederate obstacles and earthen fortifications can be seen. In addition, a Confederate sentry appears to be standing on the rampart in the center. How many Civil War photographs show belligerents in the same view? Not many that I've seen.


A group of three soldiers stand beside or sit on what appears to be a hitching rail. I would guess that the structure behind the men served as the regimental or brigade officers' headquarters. All seem to be enlisted men, as no NCO insignia are visible and all appear to be aware that their photograph is being taken. 


While one common soldier punishment was to ride a rail for a set period, this man only appears to be using it as a temporary place to rest and chat.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.