Browsing "Freedmen and Liberty"

An Aristocracy of Color

Antebellum North Carolina was home to an aristocracy of industrious free-black merchants, craftsmen and farmers, such as barber John Caruthers, “Barber Jack” Stanly of New Bern.  Stanly invested his profits into plantations and town property, making him one of Craven County’s most prosperous citizens with over $40,000 in personal wealth. Free-black brick mason Donom Mumford of the same community owned ten slaves.  Also, Virginia-born, free-black Thomas Day of Milton, North Carolina, owned fourteen slaves and was an acclaimed master cabinetmaker in the 1850’s with an extensive clientele.  See: The Free Negro in North Carolina, John Hope Franklin, UNC Press, 1943.

An Aristocracy of Color

“The diary which William Tiler Johnson kept from 1835 to his death in 1851 reveals the remarkable life of this exceptional free Negro in a Southern community.

In the 1830s William made profits of $15 to $20 a day from his barber shop and eventually accumulated an estate worth $25,000. He invested capital in two stores which he rented out, made loans to white residents and owned a farm, which he named “Hardscrabble.”

To work his farm William owned fifteen slaves and employed a white overseer to direct their daily work. A gun owner, he hunted regularly, enjoyed the theater where he sat in the colored gallery among friends, attended horse races, and subscribed to five or six newspapers. He took a keen interest in city affairs, politics, criminal court, militia musters as well as fireman’s parades.

Maintaining terms of friendship with several of his barber patrons, William respected the community standards of the day against dining or drinking with white people. He belonged to the aristocracy of the free people of color, avoiding “darky dances and parties.”

(The Growth of Southern Civilization: 1790-1860, Clement Eaton, Harper & Row, 1961, pg. 92-93)

Americans Unable to Control Their Future

Author Howard Ray White writes in his new “Rebirthing Lincoln” that Northern forces concentrating black refugees together in “contraband camps” promoted sickness and disease. He notes as well a smallpox epidemic “was first noted in 1862 among black congregations in Washington, DC . . . It subsequently spread south reaching epidemic levels among blacks and arriving in Texas in 1868.” This excellent and timely book is available in print or audiobook formats at www.Amazon.com.

The book helps make it clear that had the war been avoided through patience, diplomacy and a constitutional convention of States to solve their differences peacefully, the lives noted below would have been saved and the Founders’ republic perpetuated. Or perhaps two or more American republics, as Jefferson anticipated.

Americans Unable to Control Their Future

“The December 2011 issue of Civil War History, a scholarly journal published quarterly be The Kent State University Press, presented a highly-praised, 41-page census quantitative study by J. David Hacker, titled “A Census-Based Count of the Civil War Dead.” Hacker, presently at the University of Minnesota, reports that his study indicates that our ancestors suffered 750,000 soldier deaths instead of the 620,000 traditional number, an increase of 130,000.  He believes the Confederate deaths from disease and accidents have been seriously undercounted.

Due to the North’s scorched-earth policy, food, clothing and shoes were often scarce, increasing the death rate from exposure and disease, so we assign 70% of those 130,000 deaths to Confederates, elevating their death total from 260,000 to 350,000. The death toll for Lincoln’s invaders rises to 400,000. Hacker’s figures include war injuries that resulted in death up to 4 years after surrender.

A death toll of 350,000 Southern men represents 30 percent of the white male population, aged 18 to 48, that were living in the seceded States when Lincoln launched his invasion. And a death toll of 400,000 Northern men, many, many just-arriving immigrants, represents 9 percent of that population, aged 18 to 48.

Applying 30 percent to today’s American population (2010 census), calculates to 21 million deaths – a war death toll that today’s Americans cannot comprehend. Only the region between the Rhine and Volga in World War II suffered greater mortality.

White civilian deaths during Lincoln’s invasion and the first four years of the political Reconstruction that followed are a very sad historical story. William Cawthon estimated that 35,000 white civilians died. Historian James McPherson calculates that the North’s war against civilians destroyed two-thirds of the assessed value of wealth in the Confederate States, two-fifths of their livestock and over half of their farm machinery, resulting in a destitute people, struggling to find enough to eat, unable to control their future.”

(Rebirthing Lincoln: A Biography, Howard Ray White, Southern Books, 2021, excerpt pg. 258)

Seward on God’s Poor

It is erroneous that the Republican party of Lincoln was an “anti-slavery” party and hostile to slavery. The party depended greatly upon new and recent immigrant votes, those who wanted cheap or free land and no labor competition from black people. The western territories were to be reserved for immigrant whites, the South was not to be allowed to bring their workers to the west.  The war of course destroyed the South’s economy and political strength, forced Southerners to accept Northern decrees, and to keep its black people in the South where they could not take jobs from white Northerners.

Lincoln’s Secretary of State, William Seward, viewed black people as did Lincoln, who, when asked of their postwar future stated that they must “root-hog or die.” And he meant that they had to do this in the South and nowhere else in the country. This would quickly change with Radical Republican control of the party and the imperative that Grant be elected president in 1868. To effect this they enfranchised 500,000 illiterate men to vote against New York’s Horatio Seymour, who lost that election by some 300,000 votes.

Seward on God’s Poor

“But Seward viewed the Black Codes as an issue of secondary importance. He was now concerned more with reconciliation between the white majorities, North and South, than he was with the fate of the blacks, for whom the war had already brought freedom. In April, 1866 he gave an interview to Charles Eliot Norton and Edwin Godkin, publishers of the influential magazine Nation.

According to Seward there should be no question about re-admitting the South to full representation in Congress; it had as much right to representation as did the North. He then responded to a question about the blacks:

“The North has nothing to do with the Negroes. I have no more concern for them than I have for the Hottentots. They are God’s poor; they always have been and always will be so everywhere . . . the laws of political economy will determine their position and the relations of the two races.”

(William Henry Seward: Lincoln’s Right Hand, John M. Taylor, Harper Collins, 1991, excerpt pg. 260)

Un-Christian Hell-Hounds in Georgia

The path of Sherman’s army across Georgia was strewn with “outrages and barbarities of the most repulsive nature” wrote Southern newspapers, with the Macon Telegraph claiming that “Southern women had been overpowered by the “lustful appetites of the hell-hounds.” The “cesspools of Northern infamy and corruption” had been dredged, it said, “in order to collect the infamous spawn of perdition sent out to despoil our country.” Sherman, by the acts of hiss men, had earned “the fame of the ravisher, the incendiary and the thief.” His men did not draw a color line as black “comfort women” followed his army.

Un-Christian Hell-Hounds in Georgia

“[Sherman’s] army continued to support its burden of Negro followers . . . despite Sherman’s admonitions. Altogether, about twenty-five thousand – four Negroes for every ten soldiers – tagged along, but about three fourths of them became disillusioned by their new “freedom” and, after a few days of starting out, began the weary trek back to their home places. When Sherman and his men came within sight of the coast, the horde had dwindled to sixty-eight hundred.

[They] were fascinated by the guns and volunteered to “tote” them for the men. In camp they looked after the pots and pans and helped out with the cooking. At night they entertained their “liberators” with their plaintive plantation melodies. And the good-looking women peddled sex.

Sherman naturally was reluctant to take on these added appetites to be satisfied. And he had a strong personal dislike for colored people. (Damn the n****r! he once exploded.)

A large number of Negroes lost their lives in a few minutes of horror and hysteria at Ebeneezer Creek. Upon approaching the creek, General Jeff Davis of the XIV Corps . . . ordered the [bridge] pontoons taken up, leaving the Negroes on the west bank. In desperation, the Negroes attempted a mass crossing. Even the few who could swim had great trouble making it . . . many were drowned.

[When] the Christian Commission asked Sherman to allow its agents – distributing literature and conducting religious services – to carry on their work among the troops, he shot back, “Certainly not . . . Crackers and oats are more necessary for the army than any moral and religious agency, and every regiment has its chaplain.”

(Those 163 Days: A Southern Account of Sherman’s March from Atlanta to Raleigh, John M. Gibson, Bramhall House, 1961, excerpts pp. 73-75)

 

Letter from Gardner’s Corner, South Carolina

Col. Joseph Newton Brown led the Fourteenth South Carolina Volunteers in the Gregg-McGowan Brigade at Gettysburg, and later at Spotsylvania. At Gettysburg’s Seminary battle his regiment lost heavily from enemy artillery, losing over 200 in killed and wounded out of 475 carried into action.  After the war Col. Brown became Anderson, South Carolina’s first millionaire, who built an imposing home on three acres of land on North Main Street in 1890. It was demolished in August, 1953.

Letter from Gardner’s Corner, South Carolina, Nov. 11, 1861

“Dear Mother, We marched from Pocotaligo yesterday and arrived at dark. This place is a junction of two roads which the enemy must pass in going to Charleston if they land anywhere east of the Salt River Ferry. We are ordered to retreat from this point in case of an attack by an overwhelming force. We passed [some] poor fellows yesterday evening . . . [who] barely escaped from being taken prisoners and had to leave all their baggage, tents and provisions and in fact brought nothing but their muskets with them.

But the worst remains to be told. The terror stricken inhabitants have left their homes and property in the possession of the enemy. We met them all the way and with tears in their eyes they encouraged us to strike for their homes and fireside. The ladies would talk to the meanest looking private and tell him the enemy was in his front and to meet them as became Carolinians.  The richest and finest dressed lady would ask the soldier if he was willing to fight for her.

You cannot imagine the dreadful state of things existing here. Plantations are deserted and Negroes by hundreds wandering through the country without a master or anyone to tell them what to do or where to go. The railroad trains are all crowded with women and children and the men have shouldered their guns, leaving all things else to take care of themselves.

Beaufort is deserted by the inhabitants and the enemy occupies it at his pleasure. The Negroes were left in the town and as soon as the whites had departed they broke open the stores and groceries and are now reveling in drunkenness and disorder. One man left his little children and went to hunt a place for their safety and on his return found a drunken Negro beating one of them nearly to death. The promise of freedom will ruin many a one which the master has depended on as faithful.

Direct [your letters] to Pocotaligo, Beaufort District, S.C. My love to all. Trusting that the God of Sumter and Manassas will be with South Carolina’s sons in the conflict before us, we will put our reliance in Him. I will write as often as circumstances will permit.

Your affectionate son, Joseph N. Brown

(A Colonel at Gettysburg and Spotsylvania, Varina D. Brown, The State Company, 1931, pp. 39-40)

Military Government Perfected

“Lee, indeed, saw an analogy between the Revolution of 1776 and the Revolution of 1861. In ’76 the Colonists threw off the yoke of Great Britain, in ’61 eleven Southern States threw off the yoke of the North. In each instance the act was one on revolution. Lee maintained that a government held together by coercion – such as Lincoln’s call for troops would create – was but a semblance of a government. He remembered that Washington himself had declared, “There is nothing which binds one country or one state to another but interest.”

Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation made an impression upon Robert E. Lee. He understood the significance. Lincoln intended to win the war and to preserve the Union regardless of consequences.  When he was inaugurated he had affirmed that he had neither the power nor the disposition to interfere with slavery. He had now reversed himself. But thereby his military government was made perfect.

This view Lee expressed to [President Jefferson] Davis. “The military government of the United States has been so perfected by the recent proclamation of President Lincoln, which you have no doubt seen, and civil liberty so completely trodden under foot, that I have strong hopes that the conservative portion of [the Northern] people, unless dead to the feelings of liberty, will rise and depose the party now in power.”

Yet while Lee was penning this letter to Davis he was signing and delivering a deed of manumission to the three hundred Custis slaves [he had inherited through marriage]. This act antedated Lincoln’s proclamation by three days; Lincoln’s proclamation became operative January 1, 1863, Lee’s manumission papers had been in effect since December 29 previous.”

(Robert E. Lee: A Biography, Robert W. Winston, William Morrow & Company, 1934, excerpts pp. 96; 208-209)

Fraud was National

The contested result of the 1876 election was settled in a back room, with Democrats acquiescing to “His Fraudulency” Rutherford B. Hayes ascent to the presidency in exchange for the removal of Northern occupation troops from the South and the assurance of federal railroad aid.

Fraud was National

“Early in the morning after the election, [the New York Times], after accounting politically for every State in the Union but Florida, announced: ‘This leaves Florida alone still in doubt. If the Republicans have carried that State, as they claim, they will have 185 votes, a majority of one.’ The situation was not quite that simple, but Florida’s vote was that important. “Visiting statesmen” from both parties hastened to Tallahassee. Local partisans were active too.

[Politician and former Northern general] Lew Wallace described the Florida situation in a letter to his wife: “It is terrible to see the extent to which all classes go in their determination to win. Conscience offers no restraint. Nothing is so common as the resort to perjury . . . Money and intimidation can obtain the oath of white men as well as black to any required statement . . . If we [Republicans] win, our methods are subject to impeachment for possible fraud. If the enemy [Democrats] win, it is the same thing . . .”

Fraud was national. It applied to the Presidency as well as railroad bonds. “Visiting statesmen” who came late showed no more scruples than carpetbaggers who came early or the scalawags whom they found. The Republicans secured the vote of Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina.

But the Florida vote remains more significant in view of Dr. Vann Woodward’s statement that the consensus of modern scholarship is “that Hayes was probably entitled to the electoral votes of South Carolina and Louisiana, and that [Samuel] Tilden was entitled to the four votes of Florida, and that Tilden was therefore elected by a vote of 188 to 181.”

(Prince of Carpetbaggers, Jonathan Daniels, J.B. Lippincott, 1958, excerpts pp. 282-283)

“Little Jokers” of 1876

During the election of 1876, Florida’s carpetbag Republican platform declared the party “to be in accord with the just and enlightened sentiment of mankind and largely answerable for material, intellectual and moral progress throughout the world” – while endorsing its past governance of the State as being “wise, just, economical and progressive.”

Little Jokers” of 1876

“The Republican managers were directing the Radical campaign with large activity and small scruple. They were preparing shrewdly to overcome by fraud what Democrats might gain by force. Rumors were abroad of ugly plans entered into by Republican bosses to unfairly influence the elections.

The election machinery was in Republican hands, because most of the men who had anything to do with directing the election and counting the votes were the appointees of the Republican governor or boards of county commissioners of like politics. A visitor from the North did not exaggerate much when he described the situation thus:

“From the precinct ballot-boxes to the Tallahassee State-house, the place for voting, the precinct officers who receive the vote, the officer who records the vote, the county officers whose judgment affects the certificate of the vote, the State officers who by law canvass the county returns of the vote, all are Republicans or under Republican control. Such is the law, such is the fact. The Florida Democratic Committee are unaware that county returns have been stolen in the mails, which are under Republican control.”

The public school teachers, the majority of local officials, and the Federal office-holders were more or less active in organizing the Radical [Republican] vote. “The whole public school system”, says [Republican John] Wallace, “was made a powerful auxiliary to the campaign fund of [Gov. M.L.] Stearns. The State Superintendent . . . devoted his whole energy and time to the nefarious canvass for the nomination of Stearns, to the utter neglect of the education of the masses.

The local Negro leaders strove to keep their grip upon the individual colored voter for the November test. “Two weeks before election time the colored brothers in every precinct were notified . . . that unless they voted as many times as they could on the day of election they would be put back into slavery [by Democrats].”

J. Bowes, the superintendent of schools for Leon County, ordered printed a quantity of small thin Republican ballots called “little jokers”, with which to stuff the ballot boxes on election day. He jocularly told his friends of the project and later used the ballots to good effect.”

(The Civil War and Reconstruction in Florida, William W. Davis, Columbia University, 1913, excerpts pp. 698-700)  

Satisfying the Philanthropists

Augustus Charles Hobart-Hampden was a British naval officer who served in the suppression of the slave trade prior to the American Civil War, and then became a blockade runner under the pseudonym “Captain Roberts,” running the blockade successfully twenty-seven times. He authored the postwar book, “Never Caught.”

Hobart-Hampden wrote of delivering the human cargo of a captured slaver to British authorities, who would feed and clothe the Africans, and then serve seven years as apprentices – which he compared to a form of slavery itself – and after which they were free. He added: “I fear they generally used their freedom in a way that made them a public nuisance wherever they were. However, they were free, and that satisfied the philanthropists.”

Satisfying the Philanthropists

It was at the time when philanthropists of Europe were crying aloud for the abolition of the African slave trade, never taking for a moment into consideration the fact that the state of the savage African black population was infinitely bettered by their being conveyed out of the misery and barbarism of their own country, introduced to civilization, given opportunities of embracing religion, and taught that to kill and eat each other was not to be considered as the principal pastime among human beings.

At the period I allude to (from 1841 to 1845) the slave trade was carried out on a large scale between the coast of Africa and South America; and a most lucrative trade it was, if the poor devils of Negroes could be safely conveyed alive from one coast to another.

I say if, because the risk of capture was so great that the poor wretches, men, women and children, were packed like herrings in the holds of the fast little sailing vessels employed, and to such a fearful extent was this packing carried on that, even if the vessels were not captured, more than half the number of blacks embarked died from suffocation or disease before arriving at their destination, yet that half was sufficient to pay handsomely those engaged in the trade.

On this point I propose giving examples and proofs hereafter, merely remarking, en passant, that had the Negroes been brought over in vessels that were not liable to be chased and captured, the owners of such vessels would naturally, considering the great value of their cargo, have taken precautions against overcrowding and disease.

Now, let us inquire as to the origin of these poor wretched Africans becoming slaves, and of their being sold to the white man. It was, briefly speaking, in this wise.

On a war taking place between two tribes in Africa, a thing of daily occurrence, naturally many prisoners were made on both sides. Of these prisoners those who were not tender enough to be made into ragout were taken down to the sea coast and sold to the slave dealers, who had wooden barracks established ready for their reception.

Into these barracks, men, women and children, most of whom were kept in irons to prevent escape, were bundled like cattle, there to await embarkation on board the vessels that would convey them across the sea.

Perhaps while on their way [to Brazil the loaded slaver] was chased by an English cruiser, in which case, so it has often been known to happen, a part of the living cargo would be thrown overboard, trusting that the horror of leaving human beings to be drowned would compel the officers of the English cruiser to slacken their speed while picking the poor wretches up, and thus giving the slaver a better chance of escape.”  

(Hobart Pasha; Blockade-Running, Slaver-Hunting, and War and Sport in Turkey, Augustus Charles Hobart-Hampden, Horace Kephart, editor, Outing Publishing, 1915, excerpts pp. 60-68)

Perpetuating Sectionalism

Louisiana’s tragic experience in defeat and Reconstruction produced a remarkable carpetbag governor, Henry Clay Warmoth of Illinois. One of his most notable utterances was “I don’t pretend to be honest . . . I only pretend [to be as] honest as anybody in politics . . . why, damn it, everybody is demoralized down here. Corruption is the fashion.” It has been noted that Warmoth amassed a million dollar fortune while governor with a salary of $8,000 per year.

Perpetuating Sectionalism

“From the time that Benjamin F. Butler’s troops marched into New Orleans on May 1, 1862, until the inauguration of Francis T. Nichols in 1877, Louisiana was under the heel of an oppressive radical regime.  Self-government ceased; only the Negroes, white scalawags, and carpetbaggers had voting rights. Military rule was, in effect, martial law, and whatever could not be gained politically was accomplished with the bayonet. Black votes were manipulated, and the State legislature soon comprised a great number of illiterate Negroes who did the bidding of their new masters.

US Grant . . . was a weak president, and willingly or not, he became the tool of the radical Congress. He associated himself with a group of disreputable financiers and politicians. His administration brought ruin and anarchy by overturning a society and offering no substitute for social groundwork.

The Reconstruction policy of the Radical Republicans, to which Grant gave his full support, assured the supremacy of the Northern mercantile and industrial classes in the councils of the nation. But it also created a defensive unity among the people of the South, and it kept alive the hatred between the two sections of the country.

A climate of hate, political vindictiveness, and class distinction raged, with Negroes as the political pawns. The Republican-dominated legislature passed an act making service in the “Louisiana Native Guard” compulsory for all able-bodied citizens between eighteen and forty-five. Since the organization excluded disenfranchised whites, it was a black militia. In some instances these troops were used to terrorize white communities.

Meanwhile, the average black farmer, who had been promised forty acres and a mule, received nothing. Most relied upon their former masters for succor or advice, and often freed slaves and their former masters weathered this troubled era together.”

(Louisiana Legacy: A History of the State National Guard, Evans J. Casso, Pelican Publishing, 1976, excerpt pp. 90-91)

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