Wednesday, August 22, 2018

"The Sanctuary"

It is an indisputable fact that thousands of enslaved people flocked to Union army lines as they made incursions into the slave states. From the beginning of the conflict, although the abolition of slavery was not yet a stated war aim, African American men, women, and children believed that the dissonance caused by the conflict was their path to freedom.

Artist Edwin Forbes remembered from this wartime experience a family of so-called contrabands coming in to Union lines.

"Meager possessions were packed quickly when news came to a plantation that the Yankees were holding a near-by town, and although the country was picketed with Southern cavalry close up to the Union lines, the slave family stole from the old cabin at nightfall, and avoiding highways to escape capture, tramped through wood and thicket, and came weary and footsore, in sight of the Union lines at daybreak.

I saw one group that I never shall forget, it impressed me so deeply with what the Federal success meant to these dusky millions. The old mother dropped to her knees and with upraised hands cried 'Bress de Lord!'  while the father, too much affected to speak, stood reverently with uncovered head, and the wondering bare-legged boy, with the faithful dog, waited patiently beside them, As the bugle notes of the reveille echoed across the fields, and the star-spangled banner waved out from the flag-staff on the breastworks in the bright morning sun, I murmured, 'A Sanctuary, truly!'"

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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