Archive from December, 2019
Dec 7, 2019 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Making Trouble Generally in the South

Making Trouble Generally in the South

At Fredericksburg in December 1862, Lee’s 70,000 men repulsed the North’s 114,000-man army and inflicted heavy casualties. The latter army looted the town before advancing against Lee, and blue-clad soldiers, many in Gen. Meagher’s brigade of Irishmen, were “found dead . . . with women’s shawls and bonnets on.” Lincoln replaced this discredited commander with yet another general, under orders to defeat Lee and lay waste to Richmond. This was not to be a war to effect reunion, but to conquer and subjugate those States wishing to form a more perfect union.

Making Trouble Generally in the South

“As May, 1863 approached, the prospects of the South looked far more favorable, and the victories of Cold Harbor, Cedar Run, the Second Manassas and Fredericksburg had inspired the troops with enthusiasm. In Virginia, two years of arduous struggle had not enabled the Federal authorities to penetrate beyond the Rappahannock; and on the southern banks of that river . . . the long lines of Confederate pickets warned the enemy that any attempt to cross would be resisted by the army which had repulsed them in December at Fredericksburg.

What had, however, a direct bearing on the Virginia campaign . . . was the evident impression among many of the most prominent politicians at the North, that unless the approaching campaign was successful, the [Northern] government was must make peace upon the basis of separation and Southern independence.

The New York “Tribune” announced the programme of operations which the times demanded, and gave its views as follows:

“Having massed our forces and filled our depots and caissons, charge upon the rebels in every quarter – assailing their ports with iron-clads, their armies with stronger armies, fighting resolutely but warily with intent to capture their strongholds and exhaust their resources – while expeditions of light-armed black Unionists, carrying only arms and ammunition, traverse those portions of Rebeldom most exposed and thickly populated with slaves, carrying liberty to all who wish it, and arms wherewith to defend it; moving rapidly and evading all fortified points and overpowering forces, while breaking up railroads and telegraph lines, and making trouble generally.”

If this “making trouble generally” by black Unionists and others did not attain its object, then the war must be given up by the North.

“If three months more of earnest fighting,” said the “Tribune,” “shall not serve to make a serious impression on the rebels – if the end of that term shall find us no further advanced than at its beginning – if some malignant fate has decreed that the blood and treasure of the nation shall ever be squandered in fruitless efforts – let us bow to our destiny, and make the best attainable peace.”

(Life of Stonewall Jackson: A Military Biography, John Esten Cooke, D. Appleton & Company, 1876, excerpts pp. 395-396)

Dec 2, 2019 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on The Entrepreneurial Spirit

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

Though much of his background is based on oral history and tradition, Thomas Day is believed to have been born near Milton, North Carolina in either Halifax or Pittsylvania County. This son of free black mother Morning S. Day, was born in 1801, and his father is unknown.

On 27 November 1851 Thomas Day wrote his daughter: “I am perfectly satisfied regarding Milton – I came here to stay four years & am here 7 times four [28 years] I love the place no better no worse than [the] first day I came into it.” It can be inferred from this that Day arrived in Milton about 1823, and in 1827 when he was listed in tax records as a property owner.

He appears in a March 1, 1827 advertisement in the Milton Gazette & Roanoke Advertiser as “Thomas Day, Cabinet Maker” thanking his customers for the business received from them as well as hawking “a handsome supply of mahogany, walnut and stained furniture, the most fashionable and common bedsteads, etc.”

Prior to arriving in Milton, Day appears to be a 22-year-old trained and an apprenticed cabinetmaker, and only four years later has accumulated sufficient wealth to purchase property and a Milton business address.

Thomas married free black Aquila Wilson of Virginia in 1830, but could not bring her into North Carolina which in 1827 had forbid the immigration of free blacks into the State. This was the result of inflammatory anti-slavery rhetoric and publications emanating from the North – ironically from those whose neighbors and fathers had engaged in the transatlantic slave trade which no doubt brought Thomas Day’s ancestors in chains from Africa.

Day petitioned the North Carolina General Assembly to allow his wife to join him, and was supported in this by sixty-one white citizens who desired a special act on his behalf, noting him as “a free man of colour, of very fine character – an excellent mechanic, industrious, honest and sober in his habits – in the event of any disturbance amongst the Blacks, I should rely upon him with confidence upon a disclosure from him – as he is the owner of slaves as well as real estate.”

On the eve of war in 1861 Day was a free black who owned three slaves and also trained white apprentices in the art of cabinetmaking. Other free black owners of slaves were Catherine Stanly of nearby Craven County with 7 black slaves, Henry Vaughn of Hertford County with 1 slave, Thomas Jones of Anson County with 5 slaves, E.H. Revel of Cleveland County and Will Evans of Granville County with 2 slaves each – and in Franklin County Thomas Blacknall owned 3 slaves and John Hogwood owned 1 slave. The 1830 census showed many more free black owners of slaves.

Thomas Day was a member of Milton’s predominantly white Presbyterian Church, and sat in a front bench that he had hand-carved. In 1841 he and his wife became full members of this Church.  Day counted among his clients Attorney General Romulus M. Saunders, later United States minister to Spain, and Governor David Settle Reid. His carved furniture for the Governor’s mansion in Raleigh, it is said, was rejected due to its high cost.

Sources: The Free Negro in North Carolina, 1790-1860, John Hope Franklin, UNC Press, 1943. Dictionary of NC History, Vol. 2, William S. Powell, UNC Press, 1986.