Sunday, June 30, 2013

Race, Gender, and the Washing Machine

I have encountered race utilized as a commercial sales tool in a number of the advertisements found in Kentucky's Civil War newspapers, but other than the ubiquitous silhouette of a runaway man or woman in those types of notices, little depiction or other illustration has been located. One exception is pictured to the left.

Numerous advertisements to hire or buy women that would serve the purchaser as "an excellent washer, ironer, and cook" appear throughout Kentucky's newspapers during the Civil War. These unpleasant and strenuous duties were reserved, when possible, for African American women - or Irish servants, as I noticed in some instances. White women who could not afford slaves or servants naturally had to do this work themselves, too.

"The Famous New Metropolitan Washing Machine and Universal Cog-Wheel Clothes-Wringer" was invented to save the day. I am not sure how the contraption actually worked as the particulars are not given, but apparently it seems that the stringed bows on either side of the tub served to spin the agitator that descended into the tub. Regardless of how it actually operated, it probably was, as it claims, an improvement over "the old Back-breaking, Wrist-straining and Clothes-destroying Process of Washing!"  However, it is doubtful that, as it also claims, "The Horrors of Wash-day [could be] Turned into a Day of Pleasant Amusement and Healthful Exercise!" Yeah, right!  

I suppose it is not a surprise that the Metropolitan Washing Machine folks chose to use an African American woman to illustrate their device. She is shown operating the invention and wearing a head wrap and what appears to be a neckerchief. The advertisement states that the machine was safe to use with dedicates such as a "Lace Collar," as well as the most heavy- duty carpet bag. The machine washer supposedly cleaned better, saved soap, did less damage to clothing, and did not need boiling water that traditional washing required. Was this particular statement possibly in reference to slave washer woman agency, much like field slaves that wasted seed, broke tools, and mistreated animals in effort to have some control over their workaday lives? Would using the Metropolitan Washing Machine reduce the likelihood of washer women wasting soap, fuel wood, and damaging their owners clothes?

Naturally, in the mid-19th century women would likely not be listed to provide testimony for the Metropolitan Washing Machine. Here though, Louisville bankers and other male community pillars, such as James Guthrie, are given in order to support the advertisement's claims. However, this does show the change over time advertising has experienced. Today, rarely does one see a male on television commercials providing an endorsement for how well a household product cleans or how much time it saves. Gender constructed roles apparently determine that females provide more credible claims for similar products.

In the 19th century an illustration of an African American washer women apparently could help sell machines, but for claims on its durability and usefulness one strangely had to go to males, who probably rarely saw, much less used the invention for its endorsement.      

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Fishy Advertisement?

Something about the above advertisement, which was printed in the May 10, 1864, issue of the Louisville Weekly Journal, seems a bit fishy to me.

The agent who placed it, James P. Flint, states that the purpose of his position is "to ascertain the number of slaves that are in the military service of the United States, belonging to loyal owners of the State, and to procure proper vouchers for said slaves, so that the owner may be enabled to get compensation therefor."

The date of the placement of the notice coincides with the recent beginnings of African American recruitment in Kentucky. The main reason black recruitment was finally allowed in the Commonwealth was because the state's draft quota was not being filled with white soldiers.

Not to be a conspiracy theorist, but is it possible that Governor Bramlette hired Flint with the authority to appoint others to canvas the owners of the Bluegrass state to find out how many slaves they had lost the U.S. army and thus count them toward them state's quota?

A significant number of Kentucky slaves had fled the state and enlisted in other states such as Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, and even the famous 54th and 55th Massachusetts Infantry regiments. Certainly Bramlette knew this. But was the desire to find out the number of slaves fighting for the Union from Kentucky worth the cost it would take to get this information? Surely Flint and those he was authorized to appoint to take this census were not going to work for free?

Compensation for Border State slaves had been offered and soundly rejected two years earlier. Was the Federal Government seriously going to pay owners now that it was quite clear slavery was on its last legs? I wouldn't think so. I also highly doubt that the state of Kentucky was going to compensate its numerous owners.

Color me curious. I am going to have to dig into this issue a little deeper.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

An Unusual Runaway Advertisement

I found the above runaway advertisement today while doing research, and I must say it is the most unusual one located yet. It is unique for several reasons.

One obvious thing that stands out when reading it is that the runaway's name is not given anywhere in the ad. I have found a number of ads for jailed runaways where the individual's name is not given, but that is probably due to the slave not providing it when captured. Rarely do the runaway ads not include the subject's name.

The second thing that struck me as odd is the length of the advertisement. Now, I do not know if period newspapers charged per word or not, but most of the runaway notices made by owners were rather short and to the point.

Thirdly, and associated to the second, is the word choice that the master incorporated. The way he starts off the ad is unlike any other I have read. It is as if he believed that style of opening would catch more people's attention -  and maybe it did. I am not sure what to make of his comment that the slave probably went "where he can find Northern soldiers with Southern sympathies." His discourse on the slave preferring the military life to that of "farming pursuits" is also interesting. The inclusion that "it is generally considered he possesses no qualifications for the same either as an officer or a private," seems like a strange thing to comment on. Is he being sarcastic? I think he is. The owner's thoughts that the slave was in a Union camp was certainly not uncommon, as many owners suspected their runaways as going off with the various Federal forces crossing Kentucky. But his wording at the end - his statement that the slave's proper "headquarters" was at Cumberland College is definitely not typical matter-of-fact runaway advertisement language. 

Lastly, the owner, and thus the slave, being associated with a college is not something previously found in my research.

I suppose that an advertisement of this type only illustrates the diversity of owners' personalities and occupations, just as the runaway advertisements show the diversity of the enslaved.  

Friday, June 21, 2013

More Runaways from Notable Owners

I shared a notice a couple of weeks ago or so about a runaway named Jerry that had fled from General John S. Williams of Clark County, Kentucky. I must admit that I was a little uncertain with Jerry's ownership. I thought it was possible that he was owned by another John Williams, since it is a common name. But last week I received confirmation from a good friend at the Bluegrass Heritage Museum in Winchester, which has a collection of General Williams' papers, that the general did in fact own an enslaved man named Jerry in 1862.

Last evening I came across a couple more Confederate generals whose runaway slaves were captured in Kentucky. First, in the January 13, 1863, issue of the Louisville Weekly Journal, an advertisement was ran by Isaac Love, the jailer of Hardin County.

In the advertisement two slaves were mentioned, one named Isaac Otis, who apparently belonged to a David Otis of Franklin County, Alabama, and another, named Tom. Tom was described as being copper colored, slender built, and weighed about 150 pounds. He was 5 feel 11 inches tall and claimed to belong to General [Gideon] Pillow of Arkansas.

Pillow (pictured above) was born in Williamson County, Tennessee, in 1806, and had practiced law with future president James K. Polk as a partner. That friendship paid off handsomely for Pillow,who was named a brigadier general of volunteers in the Mexican War. During the Civil War Pillow participated in the Battle of Belmont, Missouri, and was at Fort Donelson, but chose to turn over command to Simon B. Buckner instead of surrendering the fort himself. Pillow held no significant duties after the Fort Donelson debacle. He was a conscription officer in Tennessee for a while and also served as a prisoner of war commissary general. After the war he practiced law in Memphis, became bankrupt, and died in Helena, Arkansas, in 1878.

The other advertisement was also in the Louisville Weekly Journal, but ran in the February 17, 1863 edition. This runaway capture notice was for John Wheeler, who claimed to be owned by Confederate cavalry general Joseph Wheeler. The enslaved Wheeler was captured in Perry County, Indiana, on the Ohio River, and turned over to the Breckinridge County, Kentucky, jailer, just across the river.

Either the jailer or the newspaper typesetter poked a little fun at Gen. Wheeler with the advertisement. The ever present part of these ads that asks owners to come and claim their property requested Wheeler to come alone and get John, "without his cavalry." It also punned that the general could prove his right to said slave "(without force)," and "taken him back to Dixie."

Wheeler (pictured above) was born in Augusta, Georgia, in 1836, and graduated from West Point in 1859. He started off his Confederate service briefly in the artillery and then was appointed colonel of the 19th Alabama Infantry. However, he found a home in the cavalry for the Army of Tennessee. After the war he served as congressman from Alabama and then later was a major general of volunteers in the Spanish American War, fighting for the nation he fought against in the Civil War.

Pillow photograph in the public domain.
Wheeler photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Negroes for sale. These three words were printed often in Kentucky newspapers during the antebellum and Civil War years. But when they appeared - ironically - in the Independence Day, 1862, issue of the Frankfort Tri-Weekly Commonwealth they were for an unusual happenstance.

In that particular issue an advertisement appeared that read:

ON MONDAY, the 21st INSTANT, at 12 o'clock, before the Court House door, (it being County Court,) I will sell for cash inhand to the highest bidder, two LIKELY NEGRO MEN, Jordan and Abner, pardoned by Gov. Magoffin out of the Kentucky prison, and sold into slavery, under provisions of an act approved March 17, 1862.
J. H. GARRARD, Treasurer

Curiosity got the better of me so I looked up the legislative act that pardoned Jordan and Abner. Sure enough, it was in the ACTS OF KENTUCKY, 1862. It read:

AN ACT to amend section 25, chapter 93 of Revised Statutes

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

§1. That it shall be lawful for the Governor of this Commonwealth; in exercising his pardoning power, should he choose to do so, in favor of Jordan, a slave, formerly the property of R. M. Ewing, of Scott County, and Abner, now confined in the State penitentiary, to do so on the condition that such slaves will agree to be again restored to their original condition of servitude, by sale, as herein provided for.
§2. Upon the giving and acceptance of such pardon, the Governor shall inform the Treasurer thereof, whose duty it shall be to sell such slaves at public auction to the highest bidder for cash in hand, having first advertised the time, place, and term of sale for two weeks next previously in a newspaper printed and published in Frankfort.
§3. The costs of sale, including five percent on the amount to the Treasurer, shall be paid of the proceeds, and the remainder paid into the public treasury, and the slaves delivered to their purchasers.
§4. This act to take effect from its passage.
Approved March 17, 1862"

Unfortunately, not much information can be gleaned as to why these two men were pardoned. It appears that there was nothing more to their release than their agreeing to return to slavery on condition of being pardoned. Perhaps it was decided they could be more useful and profitable out of prison as slaves than remaining incarcerated for life.

The bottom part of the document above, found in Gov. Magoffin's official papers and dated July 21, 1862 - the day of their advertised sale - is interesting.  It reads:

"This writing was read to and explained to Abner and Jordan the slaves above named and they consented as above stated and desired that their consent and agreement be signified by the above writing to which their names were placed in their presence by their request[.] July 21st 1862" 

If slaves were not citizens, as per the Supreme Court's Dred Scott Decision in 1857, why would the state legislature need to pass an act for the governor to pardon them in order to sell them out of prison? I'm not sure. 

The backside of the document gives some bits of history of Abner and Jordan. Abner was apparently from Graves County, and as mentioned in the advertisement, Jordan was from Scott County. Both are listed here as convicted of manslaughter and sentenced "for life."

One wonders, who bought them? Did they ever sell? Having been convicted for manslaughter, perhaps their particular circumstances resulted in their victim's accidental deaths. But, would their value be reduced due to their associated crimes? One wonders.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Emancipation Threat and Slave Market Prices in Kentucky

The above short article ran in the February 25, 1864, edition of the Henderson, Kentucky, Weekly Reporter. A couple of things mentioned in it caught my attention.

First, I was intrigued by how the article referred to the slave trader. The post-Civil War Lost Cause myth of the local slave trader as a community pariah does not seem to hold form here. Although not much information or hints are given in this brief mention, it does refer to him in a respectful manner with a prefix "Mr." If the newspaper wanted show disdain for this man it could have simply used his name minus the title or a denigrating adjective.

The second thing that made me take pause was the mentioned implication that President Lincoln would be issuing a sequel to the Emancipation Proclamation; this one apparently applicable to the border states. This measure, of course, was mere rumor, as the bond people of the loyal slave states were freed only by state law (Maryland and Missouri) or by the 13th Amendment (Kentucky and Delaware), both of which came much later than the spring of 1864.

Primary sources prove that commercial and personal slave sales continued to happen in Kentucky well in 1865, albeit at depressed prices. What surprises me somewhat is that people made purchases late into and after the war. To those of us in the present, hindsight helps us see that the peculiar institution's death was assured, but to those at the time it was not so certain. Evidence such as the above, and others like bills of sale, vividly show there were those that were willing to take a chance on getting some cheap labor. And, definitely there were those in Kentucky that believed their late and post war purchases would be in a sense be insured to some degree with governmental compensation, being that the state remained loyal to the Union. That, of course, proved to be a lost gamble.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Fence-Sitting Commonwealth

Over the many years that I have been obsessed with the history of the Civil War, I do not know how many times I have glanced at the above image titled "Scott's Great Snake." It ubiquitously appears in almost every picture history. However, until a few days ago, I had never taken time to look at the individual state depictions closely. Naturally, the depiction of Kentucky particularly caught my attention.

This map, which shows a visual representation of General Winfield Scott's "Anaconda Plan," was produced and printed in 1861 by J. B. Elliott. Scott, still as the U.S. forces overall commander in early 1861, suggested that a blockade of the Southern Gulf and Atlantic coasts, combined with an invasion of the South via the Mississippi River would result in a relatively bloodless and resounding win for the Union and the demise of the Confederacy. 

Many historians have debated the effectiveness of Scott's plan, but most agree that it was carried out, however, in a much altered state than the original design. A blockade was indeed placed on the Confederacy's seaports. The effectiveness of the blockade though, has been the subject of its own series of debates. And, the South was invaded via the river avenues in the Western Theater. But those invasion routes proved to be anything but bloodless. Fights at Forts Henry and Donelson, Shiloh, Corinth, Vicksburg, and Port Hudson were some of the fiercest of the war.

Included on this unique map is the state that I like to refer to as the "Heart of Civil War America;" Kentucky. In 1861, Kentucky was attempting to decide which side to take, and had briefly (May-September) claimed armed neutrality. The artist of the map shows the state as literally sitting on the fence during its pursuit of neutrality and its attempt to serve a a mediator to friends in both the North and South. Apparently though, the artist saw the state's attempt as an American Switzerland as preposterous and a bit crazy, as he included the label "Armed 'Nut'rality" within the state's borders.

Kentucky's armed neutrality continued until the pro-Union legislature determined in September that a Confederate force's presence in the state's western section violated that neutrality and thus declared loyalty to the Union.  

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Governor Robinson's 1862 Invasion Proclamation

To the People of Kentucky

A crisis has arisen in the history of the Commonwealth which demands of every loyal citizen of Kentucky prompt and efficient action.  The State had been invaded by an insolent foe; her honor insulted; her peace disturbed; and her integrity imperiled.  The small but gallant army, raised upon the emergency of the occasion for her defense, under the brave and chivalric [William “Bull”] Nelson, has met with a temporary reverse [Battle of Richmond, KY], and the enemy is advancing to the accomplishment of his purpose – the subjugation of the State.  He must be met and driven from our borders, and it is in your power to do so.

I, therefore, as the Governor of the Commonwealth, deem it my duty to call upon every loyal citizen of Kentucky to rally to the defense of the State.  Not a moment is to be lost.  I appeal to you as KENTUCKIANS, as worthy sons of those who rescued the “dark and bloody ground” from savage barbarity [Native Americans]; by the memories of the past of our history, and by the future of your fame, if you are but true to yourselves – to rise in the majesty of our strength, and drive the insolent invader of your soil from your midst.

Now is the time for Kentuckians to defend themselves.  Each man must constitute himself a soldier – arm himself as best he can, and meet the fore at every step of his advance.  The day and the hour, the safety of your homes and firesides, patriotism and duty alike demand that you rush to the rescue.   I call upon the people then to rise up as one man and strike a blow for the defense of their native land, their property, and their homes.  Rally to the standard wherever it may be nearest, place yourselves under the commanders, obey orders, trust to your own right to bear arms and to the God of battles, and the foe will be driven back, discomfited and annihilated.

TO ARMS! TO ARMS! And never lay them own till the Stars and Stripes float in triumph throughout Kentucky!

I but perform my duty in thus summoning you to the defense of your State; and I am assured that it will be promptly responded to.  I promise that I will share with you the glory of the triumph which surely awaits you.

Done in the city of Frankfort the 31st day of August, 1862.

By the Governor:

D. C. WICKLIFFE, Secretary of State 

Map courtesy of the Civil War Trust

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

To Owners of Impressed Negro Laborers

I can't help but wonder if the records for these particular claimants are on file at the National Archives. It would seemingly make for an interesting comparison to look at those slaves that are listed as working on the fortifications at Camp Nelson and the enlistments in the Union army at the same location. It probably would not be a stretch to speculate that there is some significant overlap. Similarly, it would be intriguing to look at slave owners that had ties to the Union army.

I would also like to know the daily or monthly monetary rate the army paid to owners for their slaves' labor. If anyone has any of this information and would be willing to share, I'd like to know.  

Monday, June 10, 2013

Have Been With the Rebel Army

Corroborating and linking advertisements of captured runaway slaves with the Confederate army has been more difficult that I anticipated.  I think there are several reasons for this.

First, many of the slaves that were captured were asked and gave their owner's name. On the surface that sound like it would be a good thing - and in some cases it is.  In other cases it poses some problems. For one, it appears that many of the owners' names were spelled phonetically by the jailers and printed that way in the newspaper notices. That, of course, makes it difficult to corroborate with other records. Next, it seems that many captured slaves lied and/or gave false owner names. Some probably claimed to be free when they were not. Then, sometimes an owner's location is given and sometimes not. It is naturally difficult to corroborate anything without multiple sources to check against. Additionally, many owners were too old to fight, but allowed their soldier sons and sons in laws to use their slaves for camp servants.

The advertisement above, which ran in late 1862, is the only one I have found so far that comes right out and says the captured slaves served the "rebel army." Frustratingly, it does not give their owners' names, only their former home location.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Two Years Ago, By A Drafted Wide Awake

The song "Two Years Ago, By A Drafted Wide Awake" tells the story of a regretful soldier, who before the war was full of bluster and martial spirit as a strident Republican. But, when drafted into the army two years later, he found the reality of war. When it came time to put up, he learned that the war brought economic hardship, marital separation, death, and destruction.

This tune is full of Copperhead sentiment. Copperheads, of course, were the Northern peace Democrats who opposed the war and sought a prewar Union, slavery and all. An often expressed Copperhead phrase was "Constitution as it is, the Union as it was." One source I found though claimed the song was written by a Pennsylvania soldier. Certainly, some Union soldiers were just as discouraged by their experience in war, just as others were strengthened in their commitment to the perpetuation of the Union.

Wide Awakes were a militant organization that campaigned for the Republican Party in the 1860 election. They were well known for their marches - often in Northern cities - and for wearing black helmets and oil-cloth capes. They carried tall torches to "enlighten" others and were most often young men. The Wide Awakes attended speeches made by Republican candidates to ensure their safety and showed up at the polling places to make sure the elections were conducted fairly.

Understanding the war weariness - especially from setbacks and defeats such as Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville for the Union army in the Eastern theater - two years into the war, one can see how this song could have served as an expression for many soldiers' sentiments.   

Two Years Ago, By a Drafted Wide Awake

I was a glorious Wide-Awake, All marching in a row; 
And wore a shiny oil cloth cape, About two years ago. 
Our torches flared with turpentine, And filled the streets with smoke; 
And we were sure, whate'er might come; Secession was a joke.

Oh, if I then had only dreamed, The things that now I know, 
I ne'er had been a Wide-Awake About two years ago.

I said the South would never dare, to strike a single blow; 
I thought that they were cowards then, about two years ago. 
And so I marched behind a rail, armed with a wedge and maul; 
With honest Abe upon a flag, a boatman gaunt and tall.


My work was good, my wages high, and bread and coal were low; 
The silver jingled in my purse, about two years ago. 
In peace my wife and children dwelt, happy the live-long day; 
And war was but the fearful curse, of countries far away.


My wife sits pale and weeping now, my children crying low; 
I did not think to go to war, about two years ago. 
And no one now will earn their food, no one will be their shield; 
God help them when I lie in death, upon the bloody field!


One brother's bones, half buried lie, near the Antietam's flow; 
He was a merry, happy lad about two years ago. 
And where the Chickahominy moves sluggish towards the sea, 
Was left another's wasted corpse-- I am the last of three.


Just now I saw my torch and cape, Which once made such a show; 
They are not now what once they seemed, About two years ago. 
I thought I carried freedom's light, In that smoky, flaming band; 
I've learned I bore destruction's "torch"-- That wedge has split the land.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

You are Hereby Directed to Report to Me

I have happened upon several surprising advertisements while reviewing newspaper issue after newspaper issue. Knowing how touchy unionist Kentuckians were about the military and government poking their noses in their institution, I was surprised that the army formally demanded owners to register "all the ABLE-BODIED SLAVES, over sixteen and under forty-five years of age. . . for the purpose of using them upon the Government works." 

Even at this point in the war African American were still not yet being recruited into the federal army in Kentucky. That move however was only about four months or so away. Possibly, impressement initiatives such as this were a slow move in that direction. 

Not only was I taken aback by the posting of the advertisement, but the language in the notice, too, is rather strong. The threat of owners having all their slaves impressed if they failed to register, or if they falsified their reported numbers, seems as if it would only inflame already hot proslavery Unionists.

But the most surprising thing about the advertisement to me was the mention that any owners "having in their possession Contraband Slaves from the Southern Army, are required to report such." In an earlier post I discussed the numerous Confederate camp servants that used the opportunity of being in Kentucky, and the war in general, to run away. However, I did not suspect that some of them were being used by individual Kentucky owners. 

Not being considered full citizens, free men of color, too, came under this notice. Those that were not married were required to register for possible work details.  "Free Negroes, married, whose families do not depend upon them for support" (and how many could that have been?), as well as free black men who had slave wives were also required to report.         

Federal government and military interference into their lives - especially those on racial issues such as this - helped move Kentuckians toward a postwar embrace of the Lost Cause despite their refusal to secede during the war.  

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Runaways from Notable Owners

My research on Kentucky slavery ads has led me to discover some notable owners. No, I have not come across a national figure like a John C. Breckinridge, or a John J. Crittenden, but I have found a handful of slave owning men that were important regional figures.

For example, I found a notice for a runaway named Harrison that was owned by Absalom Thompson, of Spring Hill, Tennessee. Thompson held a large number of slaves on his plantation in Maury County, but he is noted in history more as providing his home to Gen. John Bell Hood the night before the Confederate attacks at Franklin, Tennessee. During the night of November 29 the Federal forces of Gen. John Schofield slipped by Hood's Army of Tennessee at Spring Hill, entrenched at Franklin, and the following day shot the attacking Southerners to pieces. Some historians claim that had Hood been more vigilant instead of sleepy-headed at Thompson's home, things may have turned out much different at Franklin.

Another notable I located was Bailey Peyton. His slave Jesse was housed in the Nelson County, Kentucky, jail in December of 1862. Bailey Peyton was a Sumner County, Tennessee, unionist, former U.S. Representative, lawyer, planter, and Mexican War veteran. His son Bailey Peyton, Jr., was killed in the Battle of Mills Springs, Kentucky, on January 19, 1862, fighting for the 20th Tennessee Infantry.

Yet another personality was General John Williams from Clark County, Kentucky. Williams' slave Jerry was housed in the Franklin County jail in the winter of 1863. I have not been able to determine as yet if Jerry ran away from Williams while as his camp servant or from his Clark County farm.

John "Cerro Gordo" Williams (pictured below) was a Mexican War hero who had earned his nickname in that conflict. Williams served in the Kentucky legislature in the 1850s. Initially against secession, Williams changed his mind due to what he saw as the federal government's coercion of the Southern states rights. Williams became the colonel of the 5th Kentucky Infantry (C.S.) and then, in the spring of 1862, was promoted to brigadier general. He served as commander of the Department of East Tennessee in the fall of 1863, but lost the region to Union Gen. Ambrose Burnside. Williams finished the war in southwest Virginia. After the war, he served again the Kentucky legislature and later one term as a U.S. senator.  He died on July 17, 1898, and was buried in Winchester, Kentucky.

Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Apparently no one came and claimed Jerry from the Franklin County jail on behalf of Williams while he off was fighting for the Confederacy. Jerry was put up for sale with two other slaves on county court day, May 18, 1863.

The advertisement that ran in the Tri-Weekly Commonwealth stated that the slaves would be sold "at the Court House door in the city of Frankfort." I have long wondered why the state law was written that particular way, and determined that specific location for the sale. Was the courthouse location chosen to continue the idea that slavery was institutionalized in the political structure of the local community? Was it chosen because that was the place the most number of people congregated on those days and thus potentially offered a bigger bidding pool which could drive the price up?  Or was it some combination of reasons? I cannot believe that the state legislature selected the location of county courthouses for slave sales just by coincidence.

The Franklin County Courthouse is shown above in a late 19th or early 20th century photograph.    

A current photograph shows the Franklin County Courthouse today.  The building and city block is presently undergoing a major renovation project. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Slave Owners Seeking Reparations

The above and below advertisements both ran in the April 7, 1865, issue of the Paris, Kentucky, Western Citizen newspaper. Both notices seek compensation for owners who had slaves enlist in the Union army, and to me, sound surprisingly like the attorney television commercials of today, i.e. "We don't get paid, if you don't get paid."

The top advertisement claims that J. W. Cardwell and company would leave no stone unturned in seeking out the proper documentation to prove the owners' slave(s) were truly enlisted.

President Lincoln had offered compensation to Border State slave owners in 1862, and was soundly rejected, but this appears to be somewhat different.

I am not real familiar with this issue as far as legal particulars, but the below advertisement makes it seem that it is not so much the value of the slave person that owners sought compensation, but rather the slave's army pay and any enlistment bounties and bonuses due. The ad also seems to indicate that a law had been created to make such provisions. I am not aware of such a law, but if anyone does, I would certainly be very interested to learn more. Another confusing statement in the below ad is, "We trust that the commissioner authorized by act of Congress; will soon be appointed . . ."  Was this hopeful wish? Was such a commissioner ever appointed? 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Farm for Sale - with Negro Cabins

In perusing Kentucky's Civil War newspaper advertisements for mentions of slavery, I did not expect to find slave quarters mentioned in real estate sale notices. However, after I thought about it, it only made perfect sense. These structures usually added significant value to the property, especially if well constructed. And, if a slaveholder, informed the potential buyer that they would not need to lay out the expense in time or money to build them.

The ad shown above ran in the August 21, 1863, edition of the Frankfort Tri-Weekly Commonwealth. Curious to find out more information about the seller I went to the 1860 census and located Edward Payne. He is listed as a 71 year old farmer worth $12,000 in real estate and $10,000 in personal property.  Payne was married to Maria, who was 26 years his junior. They had six children: Oliver, a 21 year old farmer; Maria, 18; Virginia, 15; Madison, 13; Theodocia, 11; and William 9, all listed as students.

Of course, Edward Payne was also listed in the 1860 census slave schedules. He was noted as owning 14 slaves; 7 males and 7 females, that ranged from 70 years old to 1 year old. All of the slaves were listed as black, except two who were listed as mulatto. The slave schedule also indicated that these enslaved individuals lived in four "slave houses."

The real estate advertisements that I have come across mentioning slave quarters use various terms to describe them. Some, like above are called "negro cabins," others "servant quarters," "servant rooms," or "negro houses."

Advertisements like this add another dimension to and illustrate just how ingrained slavery was into Kentucky's economy and society. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Dear Governor Bramlette - What the?

I found a letter in the November 27, 1863, edition of the Paris, Kentucky, Western Citizen that I thought I'd share. Unfortunately, it was made anonymous by the editor of the newspaper, so I am not able to verify its author, but it reads like one might expect by a Kentuckian writing to express his grievances. The writer brings up issues that were troubling white Kentuckians at that time.  He makes a solid logical point when you look at it from his perspective - that is, why continue fighting for the Union when that cause is at cross purposes to the slaveholder's interests.

Galt House, Louisville, Nov. 5, 1863
Hon. Thos. E. Bramlette:

Dear Sir; I see your call for volunteers this morning in the city papers.

It looks like patriotism, reads like it, and sounds like it, but are you not acting in concert with a dominant party more destructive to the Government and to the interests of the people of Kentucky than the armed rebels themselves.

I am a citizen of ***** county, Ky., and all I have to show for twenty years of hard labor and close economy is a piece of land and about 25 negroes.

Some days since nine of my men were induced by a Federal officer to leave me and go into ********** county, Tennessee, (the next county adjoining me,) and join one of the Government’s negro regiments. I followed them to this camp, and was quietly told to go home and mind my own business. Many of my neighbors are being daily treated in the same way, and we have no redress, either by our State or general Government.

It certainly must be apparent to you, as to every other man of common intelligence in Kentucky, that the object of the war is not for the purpose of restoring the Union, but for the overthrow of the institution of slavery, and with it the utter bankruptcy of all slaveholders.

Under such circumstances how do you suppose that it is possible for men to fight in a cause, which they know and believe will ruin themselves?

Any man in Kentucky, who will do so, is not actuated by any patriotism or love of country, but does so from love of money, or from ignorance of the true position of things.

I have always been a Union man, and am still, but I cannot and will never endorse the present programme of the war at present-which I think leads to the utter demolishment of the old Union,

Very respectfully,
******  *  ****

When I showed the letter to a colleague at work he provided me with some suggestions for the parts that have been made anonymous - other than the writer's name, of course.  The author says he lives on the Tennessee/Kentucky state line, and it seems the county has five letters since the editor put in a * for each letter.  That county could be Logan, Trigg, Allen or Wayne.  The writer also mentions that his slaves went to enlist in a ten letter Tennessee county on the border.  Using the previous logic, that could only be Montgomery County, Tennessee. Maybe eventually, I can locate the original letter in the governor's official papers and find out who the mystery writer was.

Governor Bramlette portrait courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society.