Browsing "Emancipation"

Black Soldiers on Both Sides

The first black unit, including black line officers, in the War Between the States was the Louisiana Native Guards of New Orleans, accepted into State service by Governor Thomas D. Moore on May 2, 1861. The Daily Crescent assured its readers that “They will fight the Black Republicans with as much determination and gallantry as any body of white men in the service of the Confederate States.”  The author below illustrates that black men served on both sides.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Black Soldiers on Both Sides

“Chapter XX: In Which is Recalled the Fact Negroes Served on Both Sides In That War and Yankee Recruiters Fished a Long Way From Home and Hardly Got Their Bait Back.

The Civil War wasn’t entirely a white man’s fight. Negroes served in both the Federal and Confederate forces. Soon after Edmund Ruffin pulled the trigger at Charleston, Negroes tried to enlist in both the Northern and Southern armies but their services, as was the case in the Revolution, were at first declined.

This attitude changed rather quickly in the North. The Federal Congress, in July of 1862, passed a law permitting the enlistment of Negro troops. Their pay at first was fixed at $10 a month compared to $16.50 for white troops. Fred Douglas protested to Lincoln and Old Abe told him that if he were a Negro he’d be glad to fight for his freedom free of charge. Douglas and the other Negro leaders continued to protest and the pay differential was wiped out.

Negro troops were used in the main by the North for garrison duty and labor forces and, after Appomattox, for occupation duty in the South; but they saw action in 250 battles and skirmishes, including the Battle of the Crater at Petersburg in which Negro troops were scheduled to have led the charge after that mine was exploded. They missed the assignment due to a foul-up in orders.

Northern governors sent 1,405 agents into captured areas of the South in an attempt to recruit Negro slaves to help fill their State draft quotas but business was mighty poor. They worked for several months but got only 5,052 recruits. When the war ended there were 178,975 Negroes in the Yankee armies, comprising 116 regiments.

In the South, free Negroes came forward at first in large numbers to offer their services to the Confederacy. Richard Kennard of Petersburg gave $100. Jordan Chase, of Vicksburg, gave a horse and authorized the government to draw on him for $500. Down in New Orleans, Thomy Lafon gave $500. An Alabama Negro gave 100 bushels of sweet potatoes. At Charleston a little Negro girl gave twenty-five cents. Confederate war bonds found many Negro subscribers (The Negro in the Civil War, Quarles).

Negroes by the thousands were employed in Southern war factories. Free Negroes were paid the prevailing wage. Slaves impressed into service were given food, shelter and clothing and their owners paid $25 a month. If a slave ran away or died, the owner was paid $354.

Negroes in the South rendered their greatest service to the Confederacy by tilling the farms and taking care of the folks at home while the white men were at the front. The slaves could have ended the War overnight had they chosen to rise in rebellion. Southern armies would have headed back home en masse at even the rumor of such a development.

As the War dragged on, the need for men became finally so desperate the Confederate Congress, acting on the recommendation of General Lee and the governors of North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi, passed a law in March of 1865 authorizing enlistment of Negroes, both slave and free.

They were to be paid the same as white troops; and slaves, if they remained loyal through the War, were to be set free. President Davis signed the law on March 13. It was less than a month before Lee’s surrender.”

(Then My Old Kentucky Home, Good Night!, W.E. Debnam, The Graphic Press, 1955, pp. 49-50)

Martin Van Buren and Racialized New York Politics

Free black persons in the antebellum North lived under what could be termed “Jim Crow” laws, with New York machine politician Martin Van Buren leading the way to disenfranchise free blacks by creating discriminatory property holding requirements for their race. Van Buren was the son of Abraham Van Buren of Kinderhook—tavern keeper, Revolutionary War veteran, and New York slaveholder.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Martin Van Buren and Racialized New York Politics

“But some Southern blacks also realized the limits of freedom and equality in New York City. James P. Thomas, an enslaved black barber in Nashville, was more independent than most . . . [operating] his own business [and] returning a set portion of his earnings to his owner. When a white patron in Tennessee offered a generous payment if Thomas would accompany him and his family on a Northern sojourn in the 1840’s, Thomas agreed, hoping to save sufficient funds to secure freedom for himself and for several other family members.

In his post-Reconstruction autobiography, Thomas conveys a sharp sense of the awkward position in which black Southerners found themselves in free New York. He wrote of New York with a mixture of admiration for the vitality of city life and an unexpected sense of anger over the status and treatment of black Northerners. In particular, Thomas was enraged at being ousted from a theater, remembering, “I felt as though I would like to meet another man who would have the affrontry to advise me to run away to live in New York.”

The State’s 1821 constitutional convention — which enfranchised all New York’s adult white men while simultaneously maintaining the property requirements for African American men — racialized New York politics. The new political landscape, which would soon lead to the ascendancy and then dominance of the Democratic party in New York and nationally, rested upon the bedrock of racial exclusion.

Convention delegates, led by future president of the United States Martin Van Buren, justified the removal of property qualifications for most of New York’s property-less men by enacting a $250 property-holding requirement that applied exclusively to New York’s African American men. Van Buren, in particular, argued that “democracy” only made sense with racial exclusion. Thus the coming of mass democracy in New York . . . coincided with the designation of African Americans as a politically subordinate caste.”

(Slavery In New York, Ira Berlin & Leslie Harris, editors, The New Press, 2005, pp. 274-275)

 

 

New Masters from New England

The Northern abolitionists and the African slave met for the first time at Beaufort, South Carolina, and the former came face to face with what Jefferson Davis earlier pondered regarding what to do with the emancipated slave. The planters warned their hands “that the Yankees would treat them as slaves and sell them to Cuba,” a prediction that nearly became true.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

New Masters from New England

“The revolution began with considerable destruction of property. The Negroes on many plantations . . . broke the cotton gins [and] in other cases they began looting their master’s houses and furniture, and activity which the federal soldiers took up enthusiastically . . .

The [Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase’s] correspondence during the months following the fall of Port Royal showed him that the government would gain the support of an ever-increasing segment of the public through sterner war measures: “Wagons, cattle, Horses, Provisions, Negroes not excepted, in short everything useful to our army ought to be appropriated . . . advised one correspondent, who sharply criticized the government for looking “more to a peace through compromise, than to a . . . . victory of arms.”

Certainly [President Lincoln’s] cautious treatment of the issue in his message to Congress offered little encouragement. He threw the problem of defining the new status of the Negroes at Port Royal and others in their situation into the lap of Congress, and then asked that provisions be made to colonize the liberated Negroes “in a climate congenial to them.” Small wonder it was that Chase turned his first attention to contraband cotton rather than to contraband Negroes.

The rapid change in their status was not working to the advantage of many Sea Island Negroes . . . as the [Northern] army had made free use of plantation food stores, leaving many in the slave communities with little to eat. Commodore DuPont reported than numbers of the nearly ten thousand Negroes on the islands were by late winter “almost starving and some naked or nearly so . . .

Having no place to turn, they flocked to the neighborhood of the army camps [where] they were as often treated badly as offered employment and help. The New York Tribune’s correspondent reported that one enterprising and unscrupulous [Northern] officer was caught in the act of assembling a cargo of Negroes for transportation and sale in Cuba, thus giving one example of to bolster the late slave-masters’ prediction.

Something had to be done. If the land should lie fallow and the Negroes idle for long past the middle of February, there would be no cotton in 1862, and the Negroes would have to be supported by the government or charity, thus giving the opponents of emancipation a very good argument.

[Some saw in the Northern oversight of continued cotton production] arrangements the outlines of a typical graft opportunity, to achieve its classic form in the “company store” of a later day . . . and it was “of the utmost importance” that [the Negroes] should be kept busy “at the work which they have been accustomed to do . . . “

[One Northern agent] reported that the Sea Island Negroes knew all the steps involved in the cotton culture and that the great majority of them were ready to work, “with proper inducements.” They needed the help and protection of white men, however, in [his] opinion, and a good system of management. The Negroes were no longer slaves . . . Although they were “as yet in large numbers unprepared for the full privileges of citizens . . . “

(Rehearsal for Reconstruction, The Port Royal Experiment, Willie Lee Rose, Vintage Books, 1964, excerpts, pp. 16; 18-25; 29)

 

Aristocratic, Undemocratic, Intolerant Rhode Island

The aristocratic landholders who were unwilling to share the vote in Rhode Island were among those who made their fortunes in the slave trade of Providence and Bristol, exchanging New England rum for African slaves on the Ivory Coast. They saw their ill-gotten fortunes and all public monies become the target of the newly-enfranchised democrats, both natives and recent immigrants. Neither wealthy or poor-white Rhode Islanders viewed free black citizens as worthy of voting rights.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Aristocratic, Undemocratic, Intolerant Rhode Island:

“[April 17, 1842]:  I was struck with the lively interest he [William Ellery Channing, Unitarian minister, of Boston] took in the political affairs of Rhode Island, — a neighboring State, containing about 110,00 inhabitants, and now convulsed by a revolutionary movement [the Dorr Rebellion] in favor of an extension of the suffrage. The sympathies of Dr. Channing appeared to lean strongly to the popular party, which, in his opinion, had grievances to complain of, however much, by their violent proceedings they had put themselves in the wrong.

Although the State has been flourishing, it is entirely free from debt, a large majority of the people have, for the last forty years, called loudly on the privileged landholders to give up their exclusive right to voting, and to extend the suffrage to all adult males, in accordance with the system established in all the neighboring States. Their demands did not differ very materially from those which the legislature was willing to concede, except that the democrats claimed the suffrage, not only for every American-born citizen, but also for the new-comers, or the settlers of a few years standing. Both parties agreed to exclude the free blacks.”

(Sir Charles Lyell, Travels in North America in the Years 1841-1842, (New York, 1845), I, pp. 83-84)

 

Antebellum Abolition in North Carolina

The British colonial labor system of African slavery was on the wane after the Revolution, and North Carolinians were active in emancipation and colonization efforts.  The latter operation desired a return of Africans to their homeland, from which they were removed by British and New England slavers.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Antebellum Abolition in North Carolina:

“So far as the records show, it was not until 1715 that the General Assembly acknowledged the existence of slavery in the [British] Province [of North Carolina] and gave it a definite legal status. In 1774 . . . the Assembly passed a law which made the willful and malicious killing of slaves punishable upon conviction in the Superior Court by twelve months imprisonment for the first offence, and death without benefit of clergy for the second.

This law was amended in 1791, so as to render one convicted of the willful and malicious killing of a slave guilty of murder for the first offence and subject to the same penalty as for the murder of a free man . . . in 1817, “the offence of killing a slave” was “denominated and considered homicide” [as in] common law.”

Trial by jury was not extended to slaves until 1793 . . . Crimes trivial in their nature, not deserving punishment greater than a whipping, were entrusted to a single magistrate; crimes partaking of a greater degree of turpitude were committed to the original and exclusive jurisdiction of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions . . . ”

F.L. Olmsted, perhaps the closest observer of the slave regime in the [1850’s], remarked that slavery in North Carolina had more of a patriarchal character than in any other State. The humanization of the slave code as regards his life and members of slaves may be attributed to numerous causes. In the first place, the increasing monetary value of the slave caused him to be an object of greater solicitude to his master.

In the second place . . . The Quakers [in North Carolina] were almost constantly importuning the legislature to provide more liberal emancipation laws. The American Colonization Society, with several branches in North Carolina, not only worked for the uplift of the free Negro, but after 1825 was equally interested in securing the emancipation of slaves for the purpose of colonizing them in Liberia. The work of the American Colonization Society was ably supplemented by the North Carolina Manumission Society until about 1834, when, as a result of abolition activity in the State this society ceased to exist.

From 1783 to 1830, it was not uncommon for distinguished North Carolinians to condemn slavery as a moral and economic blight and to express the desire of seeing it put in the way of ultimate extinction. James Iredell, speaking in behalf of ratifying the Federal Constitution in 1788, went as far as to say that the entire abolition of slavery would be “an event which must be pleasing to every generous mind and every friend of human nature.”

The editor of the Raleigh Register, in answering the query “Ought slavery to exist?” said: “We presume but few would answer in the affirmative, and still fewer would be found to advocate the practice as being right in itself or to justify it except on the broad plea of necessity. That it would conduce equally to the interest and happiness of the slaveholding States to get rid of this part of our population none will deny.”

Humanizing the Slave Code, R.H. Taylor, North Carolina Historical Review, July, 1925, pp. 323-330)

Nov 17, 2014 - Emancipation    No Comments

The First Emancipation Proclamation in America

The first emancipation proclamation in America was issued by Lord Dunmore in 1775 to acquire needed troops and incite race war among the American colonists and African slaves.  The second emancipation proclamation in America was issued by Vice-Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane on 2 April, 1814 for the same purpose. The third came from Abraham Lincoln who was probably aware of the first two.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

The First Emancipation Proclamation in America

“John Murray, Earl of Dunmore, the Royal Governor of Virginia . . . In April, 1775, when a patriot throng was threatening to seize a store of ammunition in Williamsburg . . . suggested that slaves who rose up against their patriot masters and bore arms for the king might gain their freedom. “By the living God, if an insult is offered to me or those who have obeyed my orders,” the governor warned, “I will declare freedom to the slaves and lay the town in ashes.”

A recurring fear among wealthy landowners of the South was that a ferocious slave rebellion would explode across the region. Janet Schaw commented in the summer of 1775 that the Whigs were insisting that the British had promised “every Negro that would murder his Master and family that he should have his Master’s plantation.” In June of that year the Wilmington Committee of Safety sent out “Patroles to search for & take from Negroes all kinds of Arms whatsoever.”

On November 7, 1775, safely aboard ship in Norfolk Harbor, the governor issued a proclamation announcing that all able-bodied, male slaves in Virginia who abandoned their Whig masters and took up arms for the king would be free . . . ”Negroes and others (appertaining to Rebels) free, that are able to bear arms, they joining his Majesty’s Troops as soon as may be, for the more speedily reducing this Colony to a proper sense of duty to His Majesty’s crown and dignity . . . ” “Hell itself could not have vomited anything more black than this design of emancipating our slaves,” wrote a patriot newspaper correspondent.

In May 1775 . . . South Carolina [Whigs] reported that word had arrived from friendly sources in London that the British were concocting a slave uprising and an Indian assault against the colonists. “Words, I am told, cannot express the flame that this occasioned amongst all ranks and degrees; the cruelty and savage barbarity of the scheme was the conversation of all companies,” proclaimed William Bull, Royal governor of South Carolina.

Moderates such as Robert Carter Nicholas in Virginia, who had been most reluctant to sever his ties with Great Britain, became convinced of the need for separation because of Lord Dunmore’s disregard for the right of property . . . Even the yeoman farmers of Virginia, the two Carolinas, and Georgia, most of who had no expectation of owning slaves, were now more likely to accept characterizations of the Virginia governor as a sneering, leering tyrant who epitomized the insolent, uncaring British bureaucrat.”

(Southern Campaigns of the American Revolution, Dan L. Morrill, N&A Publishing, 1993, pp. 31-33)

 

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