Apr 5, 2020 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Underground Railroad to the South

Underground Railroad to the South

The following escapees from the North’s Fort Delaware, one of them being a Philadelphian who returned to that city, found willing “conductors” to aid their break for freedom and make good a return to their lines.

Underground Railroad to the South

“The Richmond Dispatch, August 28, 1863:

Yesterday afternoon five Confederate prisoners . . . arrived here from Fort Delaware, having escaped therefrom on the night of the 12th inst.  The narrative of their escape is interesting.

Having formed the plan of escape, they improvised life preservers by tying four canteens, well corked, around the body of each man, and on the night of the 12th inst., preceded to leave the island. Three of them swam four miles and landed about two miles below Delaware City; the other two being swept down the river, floated down sixteen miles and landed on Christine Creek.

The three who landed at Delaware City laid in a cornfield all night, and next evening about dark made their way south, after first having made their condition known to a farmer, who gave them a good supper. They traveled at night twelve miles through Kent County, Maryland, where the citizens gave them new clothes and money. After this their detection was less probable, as they had been wearing their uniforms the two days previous. They took the cars on the Philadelphia and Baltimore railroad at Townsend, and rode to Dover, the capital of Delaware.

Sitting near them were a Yankee colonel and captain, and the provost guard passed them frequently. They were not discovered, though to escape detection seemed impossible.  In [a] canoe they went [with five others who had escaped from Fort Delaware] to Tangier, Chesapeake, landed in Northumberland County below Point Lookout, a point at which the Yankees were building a fort for the confinement of prisoners.

They met with great kindness from the citizens of Heathville, who contributed a hundred and twenty dollars to aid them on their route. They soon met with our pickets, and came to this city on the York River Railroad.  These escaped prisoners expressed in the liveliest terms their gratitude to the people of Maryland and Delaware who did everything they could to aid them.

There was no difficulty experienced in either State in finding generous people of Southern sympathies, who put themselves to trouble to help them on their journey.”

(Georgia Remembers Gettysburg: A Collection of First-Hand Accounts Written by Georgia Soldiers, J. Keith Jones, Ten Roads Publishing, 2013, excerpt, pp. 19-20)

Apr 4, 2020 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on North Carolina’s First Legendary Klan

North Carolina’s First Legendary Klan

William Woods Holden might be said to have been the governor of postwar “Vichy” North Carolina, installed by President Andrew Johnson in 1865. Most contemporaries of Holden characterized him as “a bitter, unscrupulous and arrogant demagogue who frequently changed his political stripes to advance his own ambition.”

Holden also became head of the infamous Union League in North Carolina, allying himself with notorious carpetbagger Milton Littlefield, a former Union general, and scalawag George Swepson. Their railroad bond frauds which impoverished an already bankrupt State are breathtaking. Holden regularly pardoned criminal members of the League and warned opponents of his personal army of eighty thousand men to enforce his dictates.  Author J. DeR. Hamilton wrote that “It became increasingly difficult and dangerous to arrest a member of the League, and once arrested, to hold him.”

Holden’s election as governor in 1868 was achieved by a solid bloc of freedmen, carpetbag and scalawag votes; many white voters had been disenfranchised or roughly intimidated to discourage voting.  Some eight years ago, the North Carolina Democratic party tried unsuccessfully to pardon Holden for crimes against his native State.

North Carolina’s First Legendary Klan

 “Immediately after the March convention Holden and his allies went to work to organize the Republican party on the local level. Holden himself spoke at Republican organizational meetings in Wake County [Raleigh], and he was joined by representatives of all three elements in the new party – carpetbaggers, blacks and scalawags.

The local Republican rallies were frequently large, especially in predominantly black counties in the East. In the overwhelmingly white western counties the meetings were fairly small and attended mainly by whites.

Simultaneously with the regular organization of the party, secretive, oath-bound Union Leagues sprang up like mushrooms where the black population was relatively large. The main purpose of these legendary Republican auxiliaries was the formation of the blacks into an unintimidated phalanx of voters that would support the Republican party during Reconstruction.

The Union League, or Loyal League of America, appeared in the State in 1866, but it had made little progress until after the passage of the reconstruction acts in March, 1867.  Holden himself had served as president of the League’s Grand Council for North Carolina and, with his customary energy and forcefulness, provided the leadership for the thorough organization of the League in the State.  [He] demanded that the officers submit reports on membership to him, insist on voter registration of all their members, and “guard well the passwords and signs of the order.” Probably in no other State were the Republicans as successful in providing central direction for the Union Leagues as in North Carolina.”

(William Woods Holden: Firebrand of North Carolina Politics, William C. Harris, LSU Press, 1987, excerpts pg. 223)

Apr 3, 2020 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on The Struggle for Domination

The Struggle for Domination

The victorious Republicans quickly realized in that their wartime political hegemony would disappear with Southern States again being equal partners in the Union. Hence, their disenfranchising of white voters and the enfranchisement of black freedmen – which ensured Grant’s election in 1868 with barely a 300,000 vote margin over Democrat Horatio Seymour. Carl Schurz (below) was a German revolutionary who found like minds in the North’s Republican party, helped swing German voters to Lincoln in 1860 and was rewarded with a generalship of German troops.

The Struggle for Domination

“The war was hardly over before the victors found out that it was easy to sit in Washington and proclaim peace by presidential decree or legislative enactment, but very difficult to establish peace in a country so recently torn apart by civil conflict. Despite the fact that General Grant thought that the South would accept the verdict of the battlefield, there were others who believed that the South was irreconcilable.

Carl Schurz returned from a tour of the region with the verdict that the South had submitted only because it saw no alternative.  He was alarmed at having found “no expression of hearty attachment to the great republic.” To his horror, treason was not odious in the South. Each section was thoroughly convinced that the other was wicked and, under the circumstances, not to be trusted to do the right thing.  

The Republicans, having the upper hand even in the early years of Reconstruction, were determined to strengthen their position and perpetuate their power. They had an effective propaganda for their purposes. They could remind the country that it was the South which had fought treasonably to destroy the Union; and that the Republican party had saved the nation from complete ruin at the hands of the Democrats, North and South.

The vulnerable position of the Democrats was summed up by Schurz: “There is no heavier burden for a political party to bear, than to have appeared unpatriotic in war.”

Many Republicans, whatever their altruistic motives, were moved to adopt the cause of the Negro almost solely by considerations of political expediency and strategy. It would have been unnatural for them not to have strengthened their party by enfranchising the Negroes and enlisting them as loyal voters.  It would have been equally unnatural for the Democrats, especially the Southern wing, to have abided this clever political maneuver.”  

(From Slavery to Freedom: A History of Negro Americans, Franklin/Moss, Alfred A. Knopf, 1988, excerpts pp. 224-225)

Apr 1, 2020 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Aiding Virginia’s Cause

Aiding Virginia’s Cause

Author Benjamin Quarles writes of free black Joseph T. Wilson who enlisted in a New York regiment early in the war with two Spaniards. After being sworn in and sent to a nearby island for service, a Negro cook recognized Wilson “and greeted him effusively. Before the recruit could “give the cook a hint,” a summons came. The officer of the day, to whom the incident was reported, sent for the cook. Within a few hours [Wilson] was escorted to the launch by a guard of honor, landed in New York, and honorably discharged.”

Aiding Virginia’s Cause

“The North was yet a long way from inscribing upon its banners, “Freedom for the Slave,” and it did not propose to be stampeded in that direction by the abolitionists. Rights for Negroes must still be measured out in homeopathic doses and administered with a long spoon.  Border and Midwest States were ready to pounce on the government for anything that could be construed as pro-Negro.  “At Washington I found that the mere mention of a Negro made the President nervous, and frightened some others in his cabinet much more,” wrote a staunch friend of the Negro, the Unitarian clergyman, Moncure D. Conway of Cincinnati . . .

[Northern] State governors, their ears to the ground, did not dare act contrary to the assertions that this was a white man’s war, and that white volunteers would not shoulder arms with the Negro. “We don’t want to fight side by side with the n*****,” wrote nineteen-year-old Corporal Felix Brannigan of the Seventy-fourth New York Volunteers to his sister.

Not dissimilar from the patriotic response of the Northern Negro was that of the 182,000 free Negroes in the eleven States flying the Stars and Bars. Southern Negroes too came forward in a general eagerness to be of service. Many of the offers were without strings – their masters indicated a willingness to assist in whatever capacity assigned.

Many such responses came from Virginia’s nearly 6,000 free Negroes, The Old Dominion had scarcely voted to secede when seventy Lynchburg Negroes tendered their services. A week later a group from Richmond, having volunteered for “the work of defense, or any other capacity required,” were directed to report “to the Captain of the Woodis Riflemen.” In Amelia County, Chesterfield and Petersburg, free Negroes volunteered to do any work assigned to them.

One morning in April 1861 [Petersburg Negroes] gathered in the courthouse square, preparatory to leaving for Norfolk to work on the fortifications. They listened to white speakers including former mayor John Dodson who presented them with a Confederate flag, assuring them that when they returned they would “reap a rich reward of praise, and merit, from a thankful people.”

Charles Tinsley, a bricklayer and a “corner workman,” acted a spokesman for the Negroes. His remarks in acceptance of the flag were brief: “We are willing to aid Virginia’s cause to the utmost of our ability . . . There is not an unwilling heart among us, not a hand but will tell in the work before us; and we promise unhesitating obedience to all orders that may be given us.”

(The Negro in the Civil War, Benjamin Quarles, Little, Brown and Company, 1953, excerpts pp. 30; 35-36)

Mar 29, 2020 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Igniting John Brown and Fred Douglass

Igniting John Brown and Fred Douglass

Wealthy Northern agitator Gerritt Smith collaborated with John Brown as did Frederick Douglass, who last met with Brown at Christmas, 1856 in Rochester, New York. As soon as news of Brown’s failed 1859 Harper’s Ferry uprising reached Douglass, he fled to Canada and was hidden by black families. Fearing extradition for treason and certain to be hung, he sailed for England to be welcomed by British abolitionists.   

Igniting John Brown and Fred Douglass

“With several other young Whigs, [Charles] Sumner bought a Boston newspaper to agitate against the [Mexican] war, charging that its promoters were slaveholders linked to the New England mill owners.

A wave of propaganda, in which attacks on the war were intermingled with attacks on the large mill owners of New England, washed across New England and the North. John Brown, for the first time, was situated in an urban setting where meetings, speeches, and agitators were present. For the first time Brown also began to meet free blacks — including two militants: Reverend J.W. Loguen of Syracuse and Reverend Highland Garnet of Troy. Brown probably listened to them preach violent rebellion.

With its propensity for creating paper heroes – men of words and writing and instant celebrities – propaganda was irresistible to Brown. Not a man to admire anyone’s success without trying to emulate that person, Brown sat down and wrote a crude, semiliterate satire called “Sambo’s Mistakes,” and sent it to the Ram’s Horn, a newspaper published by blacks in New York City.  Whether the editors ever knew it was contributed by a white man seems dubious. But it appeared in the Ram’s Horn, and there is something about it that still disturbs. The hatred it exuded – natural enough, under the circumstances of the day, in a black – was twisted in a white man.

Brown also began to talk about a “plan” for freeing the slaves. Word trickled through to the black community, through letters and conversations. In due course these interesting rumors reached Frederick Douglass.   

[Meeting with Brown and spending the night at his home, Douglass] was deeply shaken. He had been spouting the Garrison line of peaceful resistance: that was one of the reasons he was welcome on so many different platforms. Garrison, Wendell Phillips, and many ministers managed to make that line sound plausible, reasonable, and even hopeful.

In Salem, Ohio, he said openly, for the first time, that slavery “could only be destroyed by bloodshed.” Sojourner Truth interrupted him, and asked, “Frederick, is God dead?” “No,” he answered, “and because God is not dead slavery can only end in blood.

John Brown, a white man, had introduced a new note that encouraged violence by blacks against whites.”

(The Secret Six: John Brown and the Abolitionist Movement, Otto Scott, Uncommon Books, 1979, excerpts pp. 161—164)

Mar 24, 2020 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on The South’s Weakness

The South’s Weakness

The following reveals the Northern perception of the American South’s weakness in time of war, and this certainly was well understood by Lincoln and his advisors.  

Faced with dwindling enlistments after mid-1862, Lincoln was forced to play a last card and follow the British emancipation proclamations of 1775 (Lord Dunmore of Virginia) and 1814 (Vice-Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane) with his own. The primary intent was to incite a brutal race war, while invading Northern soldiers carried off black agricultural workers to starve the Southern armies.  Those workers would also be enlisted for labor on fortifications and supply depots, and sadly employed as expendable assault troops to save white soldiers lives.   

Author (below) Richard Hildreth (1807-1865) was born in Massachusetts, a Harvard graduate, and studied law at Newburyport – once an important port for ships engaged in the transatlantic slave trade. He published the following in 1854.

The South’s Weakness

“The military strength of states has ever been esteemed of the highest importance in a political point of view; since it is upon their military strength that states are often obliged to depend for their defence against internal, as well as external foes. In this particular the slave-holding States of the South present an aspect of extreme weakness.

The hardy cultivators of the soil, when driven to the dire necessity of beating their plough shares into swords, have ever furnished the best and most patriotic soldiers . . . men of this class composed those armies of the revolution to whose courage, fortitude and patient spirit of endurance, we are indebted for our national independence.

But in the slave States, these cultivators of the earth . . . would in that hour be regarded with more dread and terror even than the invaders themselves. In case of a threatened invasion, so far from aiding in the defence of the country, they would create a powerful diversion in favor of the enemy.

[It] is not likely, in case the United States became involved in war with any people of Europe, that any repugnance would be felt on the part of a hostile state, in seeking aid at the hands of the slaves.  A lodgment being effected upon some part of the Southern coast, by an army of respectable strength, and emancipation being promised to all such slaves as would join the invaders, a force would soon be accumulated which the unassisted efforts of the slave-holding States would find it impossible to resist.

If the invaders were expelled it would only be by troops marched from the North. In such a crisis the fear of outbreaks on their own plantations would keep the planters at home; or if they assembled in force to resist the invaders, their absence would be likely to produce such outbreaks. When a servile was added to a foreign war, between the rage of the masters and the hatred of the slaves, it would assume a most savage aspect.

Should the slave-holding States become involved in a war, which it would be necessary for them to prosecute from their own resources, they would be obliged to depend upon a standing army levied from among the dregs of the population. Such an army would be likely to become quite as much an object of terror to those for whose defence it would be levied, as to those against whom it would be raised.”

(Despotism in America: An Inquiry into the Nature, Results and Legal of the Slave-Holding System in the United States, Richard Hildreth, John P. Jewett & Co., 1854, excerpts pp. 107-110)

Mar 22, 2020 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Webster, Abolitionists and Free Soilers

Webster, Abolitionists and Free Soilers

Daniel Webster of Massachusetts reminded his senatorial listeners to bear in mind that when the Constitution was adopted, “the South was more outspoken than the North in denunciation of slavery.” Southerners had taken the lead in bringing on the Constitutional Convention and in the discussion on prohibiting the slave trade, in which New England was dominant, and it was James Madison of Virginia who thought twenty years was too long to permit the nefarious traffic to continue.  Webster also noted that on the question of prohibiting slavery in the Northwest Territory, the only vote cast against it was from a northern man. He very kindly gave abolitionists credit for good intentions, but not for good sense.

Webster, Abolitionists and Free-Soilers

“The story of Daniel Webster and his great speech in 1850 has been told at some length because it is instructive. The historians who had set themselves to the task of upholding the idea that it was the aggressiveness of the South, during the controversy over slavery, and not that of the North, that brought on secession and war, could not make good their contention while Daniel Webster and his speech for “the Constitution and the Union” stood in their way. They, therefore, wrote the great statesman “down and out,” as they conceived. But Webster and that speech still stand as beacon lights in the history of that crusade.

The attack came from the North. The South, standing for its constitutional rights in the Union, was the conservative party. Southern leaders, it is true, were, during the controversy over slavery, often aggressive, but they were on the defensive – aggressive, just as Lee was when he made his campaign into Pennsylvania for the purpose of stopping the invasion of his own land; and the South lost in her political campaign just for the same reason that Lee lost in his Gettysburg campaign: numbers and resources were against her. “The stars in their courses fought against Sisera.”

Mr. Webster in his great speech for “the Constitution and the Union,” as it became a great statesman pleading for conciliation, measured the terms in which he condemned “personal liberty” laws and Abolitionism. But afterward, irritated by the attacks made upon him, he naturally spoke out more emphatically.

McMaster [“Webster,” p. 340] quotes several expressions from his speeches and letters replying to these assaults, and says: “His hatred of Abolitionists and Free-Soilers grew stronger and stronger. To him these men were a “band of sectionalists, narrow of mind, wanting in patriotism, without a spark of national feeling, and quite ready to see the Union go to pieces if their own selfish ends were gained.” Such, if this is a fair summing up of his views, was Webster’s final opinion of those who were carrying on the great anti-slavery crusade.”

(The Abolitionist Crusade and Its Consequences, Hilary A. Herbert, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1912, excerpts pp. 125-127)

Mar 22, 2020 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Monopolizing Slave Trade Profits

Monopolizing Slave Trade Profits

Lincoln, in his 1858 Peoria debate with Stephen A. Douglas stated “When Southern people tell us they are no more responsible for slavery than we [the North] are, I acknowledge the fact. When it is said that . . . it is very difficult to get rid of it, in any satisfactory way, I can understand and appreciate the saying. I surely do not blame them for not doing what I would not know how to do myself.”

In truth, New England and New York had far more to do with importing enslaved Africans and perpetuating their slavery, as they financed, shipped and profited immensely from the nefarious trade, as did England.  No British and New England slave importations, no slaves in the South.

Monopolizing Slave Trade Profits

“In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Dutch, French, Portuguese, Spanish, English and [New England] vessels brought many thousands of Negroes from Africa, and sold them as slaves in the British West Indies and in the British American colonies.

William Goodell, a distinguished Abolitionist writer, tells us that “In the importation of slaves for the Southern colonies the merchants of New England competed with those of New York and the South (which never had much shipping). They appear indeed to have outstripped them, and to have almost monopolized at one time the profits of this detestable trade. Boston, Salem and Newburyport in Massachusetts, and Newport and Bristol in Rhode Island, amassed, in the persons of a few of their citizens, vast sums of this rapidly acquired and ill-gotten wealth.”

The slaves coming to America went chiefly to the Southern colonies, because there only was slave labor profitable. The laws and conditions under which these Negroes were sold in the American colonies were precisely the same as in the West Indies, except that the whites in the islands, so far is known, never objected, whereas the records show that earnest protests came from Virginia and also from Georgia and North Carolina.

The King of England was interested in the profits of the iniquitous trade and all protests were in vain.”

(The Abolitionist Crusade and Its Consequences, Hilary A. Herbert, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1912, excerpts pp. 37-38)

Mar 17, 2020 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Black Codes in Illinois

Black Codes in Illinois

As a result of extreme racial prejudice toward blacks, the 109th Illinois Regiment, formed in September 1862, was disarmed and imprisoned during the war due to opposition in the ranks to Lincoln’s proclamation emancipating slaves and arming them.  Another regiment, the 128th Illinois formed in November 1862, “was disbanded because of a high desertion rate, possibly caused by the prospect of white soldiers serving in the army with black troops.”  

But as other Northern governors discovered with Lincoln shrewdly allowing States to count black men, no matter their place of origin or how obtained, against their State troop quotas, white military age men could remain home. And if the latter were caught in the draft, brokers found black men to be paid substitutes.

Black Codes in Illinois

“State authority over one aspect of the US Colored Troops was retained; States were authorized to recruit black soldiers and to provide camps of assembly for their organizations into regiments and batteries. The State’s incentive was that a black soldier counted the same as a white recruit in meeting the State’s Washington-imposed volunteer quota. On the day of mustering in . . . black units became a federal responsibility.

When conscription began in mid-1863, meeting volunteer quotas became more important . . . Exemptions could be purchased, however, and paid substitutes were accepted, thus benefiting the more affluent members of society.  The draft itself caused riots among the working class in New York, and numerous assaults on black troops were reported.

Illinois governor Richard Yates [believed] that the rebellion had to be destroyed and that Illinois was ready for the call to total war.  Black interest in military service was not high, but it was encouraged by black leader Frederick Douglass’ March 1863 call, “Men of Color to Arms” . . . His emphasis on the killing of slaveholders did not do much to stir blacks in the North, and the fact that blacks were paid less than their white comrades and were refused [officer] commissions made the recruiting job difficult.

The background of race relations in Illinois was not one of tolerance . . . Only a year after the State joined the Union, 1818, it passed the first of a series of “black codes” that continued in effect in various forms until 1865. These laws required blacks to record at the county seat a “certificate of freedom” and a description of family members, information allowing overseers of the poor to expel them from the State when it was thought necessary. Other provisions withheld court standing and the vote from blacks, allowed flogging of “lazy” or disobedient blacks, and made the harboring of a black by another black a felony calling for a fine and a thirty-five stripe whipping.

Free blacks entering the State had to post a one-thousand dollar bond as a guarantee against becoming a public charge, and blacks who could not pay fines could be sold to indentured service. Furthermore, blacks could not serve in the militia and were not provided education by law.  Asked in 1862 if the State should modify a law making it “a crime for a Negro to set foot in Illinois,” 150,000 out of 260,000 voters in a constitutional referendum opposed repeal.”

(The Black Civil War Soldiers of Illinois: The Story of the Twenty-Ninth US Colored Infantry, Edward A. Miller, Jr., University of South Carolina Press, 1998, excerpts pp. 4-7,

Mar 15, 2020 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Cheers of Defiance at Olustee

Cheers of Defiance at Olustee

“Headquarters, District of Florida, Department of the South,

Jacksonville, FLA., March 10, 1864.

General Orders No. 13.

The brigadier-general commanding recurs with great satisfaction to the conduct of his troops in their late battle, and desires to convey to them in the most public manner his full appreciation of their courage on that well-contested field.  Against superior numbers holding a position by themselves, you were all but successful. For four hours you stood face to face with the enemy; and when the battle ended, and it ceased only with night, you sent him cheers of defiance. In your repulse there was perhaps misfortune, but neither disaster nor disgrace; and every officer and soldier may remember with just pride that he fought at Olustee.” By order of, Brigadier-General [Truman] Seymour”

As described above by Brigadier-General Truman Seymour, commanding the Northern forces at Olustee, also known as the battle at Ocean Pond at the South, his troops fought admirably though overpowered by more numerous Southern forces. Olustee is about 40 miles west of Jacksonville, Florida.

From occupied Jacksonville, Gen. Seymour was leading a well-equipped force of 5500 men, which included New York, New Hampshire and Connecticut regiments, plus the Eighth US Colored Infantry, Fifty-fourth Massachusetts colored regiment, and nearly three batteries of artillery.

It is noteworthy that the force included the Second South Carolina of infamous Kansas Jayhawker Col. James Montgomery, who just returned from occupied Key West after conscripting 120 black men into his regiment.

The black regiments were sent by Gen. David Hunter at occupied Hilton Head, who ordered the commanders “to carry the Proclamation of Freedom to the enslaved; to call all loyal men into the service of the United States; to occupy as much of Florida as possible; and to neglect no means consistent with the usages of civilized warfare to weaken, harass, and annoy those who are in rebellion against the United States.”  

The Northern forces outnumbered the opposing 5000 Southern troops of Florida and Georgia – including four guns of Savannah’s Chatham Artillery. The Florida troops were commanded by Brigadier-General Joseph Finegan; the Georgia troops by Brigadier-General Alfred Colquitt.

By 1:30PM Seymour’s force was advancing in three columns against the entrenched Confederates, and soon a tremendous fire was being poured into the front rank of the Seventh Connecticut Regiment on the right, which broke and ran to the rear. On the left, the same fire was directed at the Eighth US Colored Infantry which also broke and swept rearward – “the head of the Northern army had been simply battered in.”

A brigade of New York troops then moved forward through those running to the rear, only to be engulfed in the sustained and well-directed fire of the Georgians and Floridians.  After the Northern field artillery had opened its initial barrage, it became ineffective as gunners were picked off and many horses were shot.

On the Southern side, the Sixth and Thirty-second Georgia regiments stood firm under fire for nearly twenty minutes awaiting more ammunition, then joined the steady advance of the Confederate line pushing the Northerners into retreat. By 5PM and daylight waning in the pine woods, the bluecoats were in full retreat toward Jacksonville after losing 1,861 killed, wounded and missing in the battle; the Confederates loss was 946 total.  

Col. J.R. Hawley of the Seventh Connecticut reported “the black men stood to be killed or wounded – losing more than 300 out of 500.” It is unlikely that any cheers of defiance were heard from those hurriedly retreating.

Regarding the latter, the history of black troops fighting the North’s war effort is most perplexing. 

Noted abolitionist Colonel Thomas Wentworth Higginson, commanding the First South Carolina Regiment of black troops at Olustee, earlier wrote:

“[Northern] white officers and soldiers were generally opposed to the experiment, and filled the ears of the Negroes with the same tales which had been told by their masters – that the Yankees really meant to sell them to Cuba, and the like. The mildest threats were that they would be made to work without pay (which turned out to be the case), and that they would be put in the front rank in every battle. Nobody could assume them that they and their families would be freed by the Government, if they fought for it, since no such policy had been adopted.”

But it is clear that the primary purpose of the Florida expedition was to destroy both the agricultural and livestock production of that State and thus deprive Southern armies of needed food. This was in part accomplished by capturing the Africans working interior plantations, with an additional benefit of enlisting, or if that failed, conscripting those workers into colored regiments as laborers or workers. Observing black troops in blue was thought to encourage black workers to more readily abandon their crops and white families they grew up with.     

This strategy was not new as Virginia’s Royal Governor, Lord Dunmore, issued his emancipation proclamation in November 1775 to Africans who would repair to His Majesty’s banners.

Lincoln’s War Department issued instructions to Gen. Rufus Saxton on August 25, 1862 for the same purpose as Dunmore in 1775 – to deprive his enemy of agricultural workers, obtain laborers and possibly soldiers.  The 1862 message included “The population of African descent that cultivate the lands and perform the labor of the rebels constitute a large share of their military strength, and enable the white masters to fill the rebel armies, and wage a cruel and murderous war against the Northern States.” This was a military decision, not a moral one.

The ultimate irony is that African slaves certainly knew who forced their ancestors to endure the infamous Middle Passage to America. It was England, and later New England — the transatlantic slave trade operated by the fathers and grandfathers of their new abolitionist friends. How could the African now trust the descendants of those who carried them in chains from slavery in Africa to slavery in America?

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