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.  

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