Often mislabeling homeless black refugees in the South as “loyal,” Northerners saw them as easily-acquired and underpaid mercenaries who would help them subjugate the American South. Most of them were not so easily mislead, knew what their new friends had in mind, and simply wanted to go home to be left alone.
Bernhard Thuersam, Circa 1865
Slaves Freeing Themselves from Freedom
“At Hilton Head, in March 1862, it was proposed to organize out of certain loyal blacks, within easy reach, a patriotic Negro brigade. But this reinforcement so little appreciated the intended honor that the vigilance of a strong picket of white soldiers was necessary to prevent the escape of the slave to his master.
With their Enfield rifles and other military equipments, one-third of the nucleus did, in fact, decamp. [Northern] General [David] Hunter’s force succeeded in recovering at least five of these refugees from freedom. “Taken when fleeing toward the mainland, occupied by rebels, they were placed in irons and confined at the Rip Raps [along the shore]”
Fugitives from freedom, encountering every peril to escape therefrom, by some fugitive freedom laws are pursued, overtaken, loaded with irons and threatened with worse if they make further efforts to free themselves from freedom. It may be, in cold iron outline, is imaged something of deeper import – “the name of freedom graven on a heavier chain.”
(Leigh Robinson’s Address, 18 December, 1909, Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume 36, 1908, pg. 320)