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.


  1. As you can see, I've just discovered your blog and am catching up on several entries. I have a particular fascination with runaway ads and have blogged about them on my genealogy blog (see here It amazes me how much slaveowners knew about their slaves, that is revealed in these ads. My ancestors were from Hardin County, TN.

  2. Runaway slave advertisements have fascinated me for some time now, but I think the captured runaway notices are just as intriguing. I came across one today where you could tell the jailer actually measured and weighted the slave as he put the slave's height at 5 feet 5 3/4 inches and weight as 166 1/2 pounds.