Saturday, January 30, 2016

Escaping from the Domestic Slave Trade

I have viewed my fair share of runaway slave advertisements, but this one is unique in my experience. Contained in it are several clues that these three men made their getaway from a dealer intending to send them to the Deep South.  But, before we get into that, I happened upon the ad while browsing through the November 28, 1845 issue of the Richmond Enquirer

The first hint that these three men were part of the interstate slave trade is in the ad's opening line. "Ran away from the subscriber in Buckingham county, Virginia, on his was South . . ." "On his way South" is a key indicator that Richard, Tom, and Albert were destined for the fields of the flourishing growth of plantations in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, or Arkansas.

Each man's description provides clues as their role in the domestic slave trade, too. Richard, for example, was "sold in Richmond, by Mrs. Organ of Surry county;" Tom was "sold in Richmond by Isham Lowry, and formerly belonged to the estate of Mrs. Tevillian, of Hanover county;" and Albert was "sold in Richmond, by Charles D. Pettus of Halifax county."  All of the men came from different directions around Richmond, a center of the Virginia domestic slave trade, and all had different previous owners, but all were purchased in Virginia's capital city.

Lastly, the subscriber, a F.C. Brady, states that the posted reward can be claimed after the fugitives are secured "to Betts and Edmondson in Richmond."  Betts and Edmondson was a prominent slave trade partnership, who operated a slave jail in Richmond. 

All the clues in the ad provide enough evidence for me to feel sure about my contention. One wonders, then, if the men were eventually captured and ultimately made their way to the Deep South or if they somehow made good on their escape and found freedom.   

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Case of Voluntary Enslavement

While searching through issues of the Staunton Spectator for black barber Robert Campbell's obituary, I happened upon the above short notice reran from the Lexington Gazette.  I found it intriguing and wanted to share it on this forum to see if anyone wanted to share their thoughts about it. I'll share some of my thoughts, too.

Reading it made a couple things come to mind for me. First, the Henry Louis Gates, Jr. television show "Finding Your Roots" aired an episode a couple of weeks ago that featured comedic actor Keenan Ivory Wayans. Gates's research found that one of Wayans's ancestors had the opportunity to escape when his South Carolina master took him to Canada, but the slave made his way back to South Carolina and slavery. Both Wayans and Gates thought it was unusual, but such instances did happen. And the Southern press often made the most of these stories, publishing them over and over in attempt to show the fidelity of slaves to their masters and prove abolitionist attacks against the institution incorrect. However, what did not get as much attention from these period news notices, or from Gates and Wayans in their discussion was the other potential motivations for, what to us in the twenty first-century, seems like a foolhardy move.

Second, reading the notice caused me to remember reading in the book, Family or Freedom: People of Color in the Antebellum South, by Emily West, that many slave states had laws on their books that required emancipated slaves to leave the state within a certain amount of time after gaining their freedom. Often that meant choosing freedom and then having to leave loved ones behind in slavery. For example, in 1848, Virginia passed a law that made it legal to re-enslave a free person of color if he or she remained in the state for more than a year after gaining their freedom after the age of twenty-one. Therefore, if an enslaved person was freed by the will of their deceased owner, or if they happened to purchase their own freedom, they had to move out of state and leave their family behind.

As this notice mentioned, Virginia passed a law in 1856 that allowed free people of color to go back into slavery voluntarily. Women at the age of eighteen and men at the age of twenty-one could choose a master by petitioning the local court officials. The law also stipulated that: "The value of the Negro shall be ascertained and the individual chosen as master shall pay into court on half such valuation, and enter into bond, in such penalties the court may prescribe, with condition that the said Negro shall not become chargeable to any county or city. . . .[T]he condition of the petitioner shall in all respects be the same as though the Negro has been born a slave . . . the children of any such female free person of color previously born shall not be reduced to slavery."

This short story claims that this was a move by "A Sensible Negro," so, what say you?  

Monday, January 25, 2016

Robert Campbell, Staunton Barber

Doing some digging led me to a bit more information on Staunton, Virginia, barber Robert Campbell, who I mentioned in yesterday's post. Campbell, as previously noted, acquired a significant amount of real estate and personal property wealth.

A Google search led me to a reference about Campbell in Edward Ayers's book, In the Presence of Mine Enemies: War in the Heart of America, 1859-1863. This work looks comparatively at two counties, Augusta County, Virginia (Staunton), and Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Ayers noted that an obituary appeared in the Staunton Vindicator newspaper when Campbell passed away in late September 1860. Not having access to editions of the Vindicator, but having access to the Staunton Spectator via the Library of Congress's Chronicling America online platform, I located Campbell's brief obituary from that sheet's October 2, 1860 edition (pictured above). The Vindicator obituary apparently included the appellation of "Uncle Bob" for Campbell, but it also added that he was "much respected and beliked by all of our citizens." Ayers also points out that Campbell owned five buildings in Staunton, one of which was his barbershop near the corner of Beverly and New Streets.

A little more searching found additional information. Printed in a 1908 book from the Virginia State Library, which showed petitions from Augusta County, an entry was made from 1847 for James Campbell, who was one of Robert's sons. James petitioned the Virginia legislature to remain in Staunton to care for his aging parents, as he had previously moved to Philadelphia to gain "a common English education." The petition note continued that James schooled for two years and then went into the barber trade but was requested by his father to come back to Staunton to help him at his shop.

This source also gave some background information on Robert. It stated that Robert was a native of Falmouth, Virginia (just across the Rappahannock River from Fredericksburg in Stafford County). It also said Robert served as a body servant in the War of 1812 to British officer John Stannard, but was discharged in 1814, and then moved to Staunton. It closed that the "Certificate of citizens of Staunton that Robert and James Campbell are respectable parties and requesting the grant of their petition."

Interestingly, I could not find James in the 1850 census. However, another son, William, who was 16 and a barber, is shown in Robert's household.  Another son, Lewis, who was 12, and later appeared on the 1860 census as a barber, is also listed. Thomas Campbell, a black barber who is listed in a separate household from Robert in 1860, is also missing from the 1850 census. Thomas was 32 years old in 1860, so perhaps he was somewhere in the North getting an education in 1850 like his brother James had before. But, I'm curious to find out what happened to James. Did he go back to Philadelphia? Did he become a barber in a different Virginia community?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Some More Virginia Antebellum Black Barbers

Having some time due to being homebound from the effects of our most recent snowstorm, I spent some time searching through the 1860 census for black barbers in a few Virginia cities and towns. I see several similarities between what I found in Kentucky and what I am finding in Virginia. I suppose with both states being upper-South localities, and with Kentucky's direct relationship with it's mother state, that should not be surprising.

The trend that many black barbers accumulated some wealth from their work continued to be true, especially those that were older and thus able to gather wealth and make investments over their years. The practice of some of the more experienced barbers having younger barbers in their households, likely as apprentices, continued as well.

Here is a list of what I found from four Virginia locations:

Lynchburg, VA
Christopher Smith, 52 years old, mulatto, $400 in real estate

Daniel Williams, 60 years old, black, no wealth noted

Leander Hansen, 33 years old, mulatto, $125 in personal property
John H. Jackson, 13 years old, black, no wealth noted (listed in household with Hansen's family)

William R. Pride, 39 years old, mulatto, $125 in personal property

Thomas Gladman, 38 years old, black, $100 in personal property

Henry Sydnor, 61 years old, mulatto, $800 in real estate, $710 in personal property
Nathan Vasser, 12 years old, mulatto, no wealth noted (listed as apprentice and in Sydnor's household)

Albert Alexander, 24 years old, mulatto, no wealth noted

Royall Morgan, 30 years old, mulatto, no wealth noted

Samuel W. Goff, 14 years old, mulatto, no wealth noted

Staunton, VA
Robert Campbell, 67 years old, black, $10,000 in real estate, $9000 in personal property
Lewis Campbell, 23 years old, black, no wealth noted

Thomas Campbell, 32 years old, black, $1500 in real estate, $400 in personal property (not listed in household as Campbell's above, but likely related)

Lewisburg, VA (now West Virginia)
Jabez Holmes, 40 years old, mulatto, $250 real estate, $300 personal property

Fredericksburg, VA
Aaron Rives, 23 years old, black, no wealth noted

Charles Alexander, 22 years old, mulatto, no wealth noted

John J. Taylor, 33 years old, mulatto, $500 in real estate, $200 in personal property

Henry Taliaferro, 30 years old, mulatto, not wealth noted

I am interested in seeing if I can find out more about Lynchburg's Henry Sydnor and Staunton's Robert Campbell and Thomas Campbell. These three men's outstanding wealth in comparison to their peers is intriguing.

Another thing that interests me, but seems it would be difficult to fully determine, is the level of competition these men had among each other. For example, in a city such as Fredericksburg, how much did Rives, Alexander, Taylor, and Taliaferro try to out-position each other for their patrons' business. Was there a price war for their haircutting and shaving services, or did they try to offer more amenities such as free cigars or coffee than their business rivals to gain or steal customers. I have not had the opportunity to search period newspapers for barber advertisements as much as I did in Kentucky. But, hopefully, I can find some in the near future that will shed a little light on how these men attempted to appeal to customers and market their services.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

"No Pass" = "Well Flogged"

Here in the twenty-first century we often take for granted the rights and liberties we are afforded as citizens. We can go pretty much any place we please at any time we want. That was obviously not the case for enslaved people in the mid-nineteenth century. I found some evidence of the repercussions for being off of a slaveowner's property without proper documentation in the September 26, 1854, issue of the Richmond Daily Dispatch

In one of the many short notices which were common to newspapers at this time, it was reported that two enslaved men, Horace and Dick, who belonged to James Thomas, Jr. were caught in Richmond's city streets without passes. For their indiscretion both men were sentenced by the city's mayor to be "well flogged."

Along with slave patrols, travel passes were another means for attempting to control the enslaved population. At this time African Americans were assumed to be enslaved. If free, it was a requirement to keep one's free papers on their person. If a slave, a travel pass, such as the example above from 1843, was required. Without these forms of documentary proof, harsh treatment, as that received by Horace and Dick, could be expected.

This system of control makes it easier to comprehend why most slave states had laws against teaching bondsmen and bondswomen to read and write. If able to write, with a little practice, a travel pass could easily be forged that could potentially allow movement toward freedom. Owners understood that this loss of control could lead to chaos and their cherished system of racial order and therefore could not be tolerated. Examples were made of those, like Horace and Dick, to ensure compliance.

Pass image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

I Will Sell or Trade . . . for Negroes

Not much catches me off guard while browsing through nineteenth century newspapers, but recently I found the above advertisement in the September 25, 1840, issue of the the Richmond Enquirer. In it, farmer Spencer Coleman offered to sell a number of male and female donkeys. In antebellum America, horses were mated with donkeys to produce mules. Mules were especially prized on Southern plantations due to the fact that they often worked harder, ate less, lived longer work lives, and did not require the high level of care that horses did. What I finally realized though is that here was a man trading livestock for what he saw as other chattel property. He offered to "sell or trade" his stock "on accommodating terms for Negroes (meaning enslaved individuals).

In this notice Coleman enhances the value of these four-legged beasts of burden by including some information on their bloodlines. For example: "Two of them will be four years old next Spring, likely, above the common size, from Jenneys which were by Vulcan." Likewise, Coleman mentions, "They are Colts of my Jack Ferdinand, probably the largest and best Jack in the State." By emphasizing these animals' bloodlines, and by this association their potential size and ability, Coleman could expect a better payday from a buyer.

As usually happens, curiosity made me want to find out more about Spencer Coleman.  I found him in the 1840 census. His household included 8 other family members. Coleman owned 23 slaves. The more informative 1850 census showed Coleman as 52 years old, meaning he was born at the very end of the eighteenth century. He still had a large family in his household, and he owned $12,000 in real estate. In 1850, Coleman owned 29 slaves. The even more informative 1860 census lists Coleman as 63 years old, still having a big family, and still had real estate worth $12,000. His personal property was worth $15,400, which included 16 slaves. Coleman was a wealthy farmer on an apparently prosperous farm.

While it appears that Coleman took great care to note the ancestry of his donkeys, one wonders if he took similar care in noting the family trees of his enslaved property as his workforce expanded and contracted over the decades of his adult life.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Petersburg Citizens' Furor

Threats to the perceived order that slavery provided to citizens of the slaveholding states were often met with a furious response. Southerners banished suspected abolitionists and jailed others for "stealing" their human property. In like cases, it was not uncommon for vigilante justice to overrule law and order. Even when authorities maintained control an undercurrent of fury often surfaced.

An excellent case in point was that of William Baylis, who captained the Keziah.  Baylis aided five Petersburg slaves in making their escape via his small ship at that city's wharf along the Appomattox River. When the slaves' were noticed as missing, the Keziah was suspected as the culprit. Word spread fast and the Keziah was apprehended not too far from City Point, at the confluence of the Appomattox and James Rivers. The schooner was boarded and the five slaves (four men and one woman) were found. The Keziah was towed back to Petersburg by a steamer named the Townes.

There, the June 4, 1858 issue of the Richmond Enquirer copied the Petersburg Express in describing the slave-stealing ship's reception:  
"As soon as this became known, which was not until five in the afternoon, crowds began to flock upon the wharves, and by six, the entire locality was dense with an indignant and excited people. The Mayor, the Sheriff, and several police officers appeared on the ground to prevent any act of violence that might be attempted, notwithstanding which, suggestions of tar and feathers, hanging, ducking, lashing, burning, and every conceivable method of retributive justice recognized in the code of the celebrated Judge Lynch, were rife amidst the crowd. Law abiding citizens expostulated, police officers frown downed all such hints, and other looked upon them as highly unworthy of men of sense and reason. In this manner the ferocity of the crowd was somewhat cooled down for the time.

At seven o'clock the Townes, with the schooner in her wake, appeared coming around the bend at Bates' Spring. The crowd was now greatly increased and the excitement more heated than ever. As they approached the wharf, the people crowded forward to the utmost extremity, many boldly daring the danger of tumbling into the river, to get a view of the crestfallen kidnappers."

The boats were secured to the shore and police were stationed to protect the prisoners. But when Baylis and his partner got off the boat at Petersburg, the crowd buzzed with hatred for the slave stealers.

"But no sooner had their feet touched the earth, than the excitement attained its highest pitch; shouts of 'hang him,' 'kill him,' were commenced; the throng pressed in from all sides; an attempt was made to seize the prisoners, and at one time the mob had attained such an ascendancy that the seizure of the mate from the hands of officer Butts, seemed unavoidable. Blows were struck at him, lunges made for his throat, and all sorts of attempts to drag him into the mob, followed without cessation."

However, other citizens helped the police protect the prisoners until they could be placed in the jail. The recovered slaves were transported on an omnibus that belonged to Powell's Hotel and presumably moved to a holding cell as well.

The Keziah was confiscated. State law dictated that Baylis could  receive a fine of $500 and time in the state penitentiary of three to ten years for each indictment. One source that I found indicated that Baylis received a forty year conviction, but was eventually released in March 1865.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Recent Acquisitions to My Library

Since devouring Stephen Oates's Fires of Jubilee: Nat Turner's Fierce Rebellion in one sitting almost twenty years ago, I have been fascinated with reading different interpretations about this important event in American history. I'm looking forward to digesting this "new history" of Nat Turner's rebellion.

I've been reading some very promising reviews of this recently published book on Civil War Medicine. There are many myths and misconceptions about how the medical service operated during the Civil War, so this will hopefully be an enlightening read. A big thanks to my Sweetheart for giving me this and the next book as Christmas presents.

I enjoyed sitting in on a session at a conference when I lived in Kentucky that was led by James DeWolf Perry that discussed the topic of this book. I am pretty sure there will be some good ideas and thought provoking essays to consider in this volume that will help me in my current job.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Beef, it's what's for Dinner. Courtesy of Gen. Hampton.

As I make by regular every other week trip down Highway 1 (Boydton Plank Road) to shop for groceries at the Food Lion in Dinwiddie, Virginia, I pass a highway historical marker noting the not-so-well-known Beefsteak Raid.

This often overlooked event during the Union and Confederate actions around Petersburg brought some fresh dietary relief to the earthwork-bound Southerners and a measure of disgrace to the Union commissary near their supply base at City Point on the James River.

When Army of Northern Virginia cavalry commander Wade Hampton received intelligence from a reliable scout that an enormous herd of cattle was being grazed largely unguarded in Union lines, he determined to boldly bring the beeves to his hungry Confederates comrades.

After Hampton passed the information along to Gen. Robert E. Lee, and then received permission to make an attempt at the rustling mission, the South Carolinian and his men started out on September 14, 1864, from their location along the Boydton Plank Road on the Confederate right flank.

Hampton's force consisted of some the army's best horsemen. Along for the ride were Lee's son's (Rooney Lee) division, and Henry Dearing's and Thomas Rosser's brigades. First heading southeast around the Union lines, then northeast toward their target, the Southern horsemen rode as quietly as possible to lessen notice. Hampton's men crossed the Blackwater River at Cook's Bridge,which had been burned and required repairs, and was surprisingly undefended.

At about five in the morning on day two of their mission the cavalrymen made a mad dash for the herd that contained almost 3000 head of cattle. Hampton cogently made sure the roads on either side of the camp were sealed off and sent a force to scatter the First Washington D.C. Cavalry who were charged with guarding the thousands of meals-on-hoof. The surprised defenders fled after a short stand and the Confederates made off with the cattle, backtracking the route they had arrived by. Hampton shrewdly sent Rosser's force ahead to clear any opposition on the way back to Confederate lines

Rooney Lee's men served as rearguard as the necessarily slow moving rustlers received attention from some of Union cavalry under Gen. Henry Kautz, but the Yankees did not reclaim any of the cattle. The hugely successful mission cost the Southerners less than a dozen killed and gained them almost 2,500 beeves that fed the men for weeks. In addition, over 300 prisoners, and more than ten wagons with supplies were nabbed.  Hampton's men returned back in Confederate lines on September 19, to raves of mooing men who were eternally grateful for the fresh food.

Alfred Waud sketch courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Fighting "General Green"

During the summertime, when I was a boy in Tennessee, I got in some work weeding out our family garden plot. Those type of chores became more frequent on extended visits to my grandparents' farm in Kentucky. And, this past summer, after many years of farming/gardening retirement, I tried my hand at keeping weeds at bay in our fields and gardens at work. It was some of the most difficult physical labor I have ever performed. Callouses were many, sweat was abundant, and soreness universal.

Recently, while reading Advice Among Masters: The Ideal in Slave Management in the Old South, which is composed of masters' and overseers' guidelines taken from period agricultural journals, I came across several references to a term slaves used for the act of cultivating that I had never heard before. 

The first came from the December 1857 issue of the American Cotton Planter and Soil of the South in an article titled "Plantation Management in Practice," and submitted anonymously under the pseudonym of Rusticus, a man from Alabama. In describing rewards for slaves, Rusticus wrote "One of the principal of those, and that in which they take the liveliest interest, is that which celebrates the laying of the crop and their [slaves'] triumph in the long and hard struggle with 'General Green,' through which they have just passed."

The next was from the September 1860 DeBow's Review article "Plantation Life-Duties and Responsibilities" that I have quoted at length in the immediate previous posts to this one, and written by a minister/editor from Tennessee. "Fresh and abundant home-grown vegetables and fruits complete the feast. Cool water supplies the place of stronger drink. Rough and capital jokes are cracked on the fight and victory over General Green (the grass); master's health and the country's good are toasted, and the joyous laugh goes round." 

The last reference was taken from "The Peculiarities and Disease of Negroes," which was published in 1860 in the American Cotton Planter and Soil of the South by a Georgia doctor. "The Fourth of July dinner for negroes, then, should be strictly a negro and family affair, and the negroes themselves should be their own orators, actions, and musicians. Instead of singing 'Hail Columbia,' let them sing 'Walk-jaw-bone'; instead of marching to the strains of martial music, let them engage in the more congenial employment of patting 'Juber'; and instead of listening to the rehearsal of the victories over the British, let them rejoice in their well-earned triumph in their long, hard contest with 'General Green'-that is with the crabgrass."

Now, I have never been in a true combat situation, but from my personal experience in weeding, and from what I have read from soldiers' physical exertions in military campaigns, I think a comparison of the two are not so far off. And, just when you think you have got the best of "General Green" and have him in retreat, he makes a sudden come back, attacking both of your flanks, your front, and your rear all at the same time.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.