Browsing "Freedmen and Liberty"

Robert E. Lee, Emancipator

With the death Mary Custis Lee’s father Washington Custis, the last of George Washington’s family, in October 1857, Robert E. Lee was named executor of his will. It left Lee with the care of three hundred black people to “be fed and clothed and sheltered and kept warm; the sick, aged and infirm looked after.”

In compliance with his father-in-law’s will, Lee freed the 300 black people under his care with manumission papers on December 29, 1862. In stark contrast, it is reported that over time, Harriet Tubman spirited 70 slaves away from their home plantations toward a North hostile toward black people.

Robert E. Lee, Emancipator

“Mr. Custis, my grandfather, had made [my father] executor of his will, wherein it was directed that all the slaves belonging to his estate should be set free after the expiration of so many years. The time had now arrived, and, notwithstanding the exacting duties of his position, the care of his suffering soldiers, and his anxiety about their future, immediate and distant, he proceeded according to the law of the land to carry out the provisions of the will, and had delivered every one of the servants, where it was possible, their manumission papers.

From his letters written at this time I give a few extracts bearing on this subject:

“. . . As regards the liberation of the people, I wish to progress in this as far as I can. Those hired in Richmond can still find employment there if they choose. Those in the country can do the same or remain on the farms. I hope they will all do well and behave themselves. I should like, if I could, attend their wants and see them placed to the best advantage. But that is impossible. All that choose can leave the State before the War closes . . .

“I executed the deed of manumission sent me by Mr. Caskie, and returned to it to him. I perceived that [slaves] John Sawyer and James’s names had been omitted, and inserted them. If all the names of the people at Arlington and on the Pamunkey are not embraced in this deed I have executed, I should like a supplementary deed to be drawn up, containing all those omitted. They are entitled to their freedom and I wish to give it to them.

Those that have been carried away, I hope are free and happy; I cannot get their papers to them, and they do not require them. I will give them if they ever call for them. It will be useless to ask their restitution to manumit them . . .”

(Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee: by His Son Captain Robert E. Lee, Garden City Publishing, 1904, excerpts pp. 89-90)

Undisciplined Troops

The 4th US Colored Infantry was recruited in Baltimore with enrollment agents scouring the city, though “many of the city’s residents . . . reluctant to enlist – perhaps [because] so many had been dragooned into service by [General Robert] Schenck.” The latter impressed local slaves and free blacks into service at will to defend the city from liberation.

Many of the black recruits were forcibly removed from area farms and plantations, and in late July 1863 authority was granted to remove the inmates of a slave prison in the city for use as soldiers.

Any “able-bodied black male of military age owned “by an avowed Confederate or Rebel sympathizer” was subject to impressment. Lincoln’s proconsul in Maryland was “Governor” Augustus W. Bradford, a slave owner and committed Unionist who was allowed to keep his slaves.

These black recruits received no bounty as white troops had, and only white officers were allowed to command black units.  Lincoln added black men to his conscription net, and poor black men could not afford the $300 substitute fee to avoid service.  

Undisciplined Troops

“[General Joseph E.] Johnston’s surrender immediately placed the Union forces in North Carolina on occupation duty. Now that hostilities were officially ended, it was feared the USCT might break free of wartime restraints to trespass, assault and loot. [Colonel Samuel] Duncan was enjoined to place a guard at virtually every house on his route [to Goldsboro . . . [indicating] the low opinion that their own commanders sometimes entertained of the discipline and deportment of the USCT.

By the end of 1865 – five months after the XXIV Corps had officially ceased to exist – only a handful of Caucasian regiments in the Army of the James remained in the field. These units would be mustered out the following January and February. Much of the army’s USCT strength, however, would be kept on active duty for almost another year.

The War Department knew that if it were to keep white volunteers in service well beyond their appointed term of “three years or the duration of the war,” it risked the wrath of voters and their political representatives.

Not surprisingly, the War Office preferred to alienate African American troops, few of whom could vote and even fewer who wielded political power. Moreover, many black soldiers – especially former slaves – had no homes to return to once they left the service. They would be unlikely to object to being kept on the army’s payroll indefinitely. The 4th USCI served out its two final months of garrison duty in relative tranquility [at Washington]. There the formal process of mustering out the regiment took place on the morning of May 4, 1866.”

(A Regiment of Slaves: The 4th United States Colored Infantry, 1863-1866, Edward G. Longacre, Stackpole Books, 2003, excerpts pp. 165; 170-171)

Carnage at New Market Heights

By mid-1862 enlistments had virtually ceased and Northern defeats aroused intense opposition to Lincoln’s war. The latter admitted that “We had about played our last card, and must change our tactics or lose the war.” Reminded of Lord Dunmore’s freeing of slaves in 1775 who would fight against American independence, Lincoln issued his own proclamation in 1863 doing the same to raise troops to fight against American independence.

The Sixth US Colored Infantry was organized in Philadelphia, a city where black people could not ride on most streetcars. Though black recruits were usually denied bounties for enlisting, Pennsylvania was desperate for troops and offered a $10 bounty, and the city an additional $250 per recruit. It should be pointed out that only 43%of the Sixth were actually volunteers, while 31% were conscripted, and over 25% were substitutes for a $300 fee.

Few were residents of Pennsylvania and listed 23 States as their origin. In the forlorn attack described below, Company D of the Sixth lost eighty-seven percent of its men, the heaviest loss of any company in the Northern army.

Carnage at New Market Heights

“On the morning of September 29 [1864], the Sixth finished their march and formed a line of battle. It held the left of the line, the Fourth Regiment forming up just to their right . . . the first signs of sunrise began to appear. The men could make out the enemy picket line falling back toward their entrenchments as they advanced. The field initially stretched downward toward the enemy, but the Confederates were well-positioned in the heights beyond . . . from which riflemen could pour devastating fire on any attack.

[General Benjamin] Butler personally addressed his black troops before the attack. Pointing toward the enemy he exhorted: “Those works must be taken by the weight of your column; not a shot must be fired.” They were not to stop to fire . . . to prevent it from happening they were ordered before the charge to remove the percussion caps from the locks of their rifles.

As they started down the field First Lieutenant John Johnson began excitedly to swing his sword in circles over his head . . . a Rebel bullet tore through the wrist of his sword arm. The rest of the regiment pressed on as the Texas Brigade poured murderous fire on them.

Rebel fire was bringing down many officers. [Colonel Samuel A.] Duncan was wounded four times . . . The smoke had grown so thick that no one could see more than a few feet ahead. [Colonel John] Ames said: “We must have more help, boys, before we [advance]. Fall back.”

So many bullets had ripped through the [regimental] flags that they had both been turned into mere strips of cloth.

The men started back, flags still flying to rally them. Companies C and F lost all their officers by the end of the assault, leaving the black non-commissioned officers or the men themselves to direct their safe return to friendly ground. Some companies began to withdraw in good order, others began rushing back in a complete rout.

General John Gregg’s Texas Brigade counterattacked, swarming out of their rifle pits onto both flanks . . . Many of the black troops were killed, while other threw down their weapons and surrendered. An uncomplimentary Texan described the black troops as being “hurled upon us, driven on by white leaders at the point of the sword.”

He continues to describe the heavy fire into the advancing infantry until, as he says, “They reel and fall by the scores; now they waver and now they run, and they go to the rear as fast as their – legs can carry them & the artillery opened with terrible slaughter.”

A Union officer then shouted the order to charge, but only those Union troops directly in front of the First Texas Regiment obeyed. They rushed the breastworks and in some places crossed them, and plunged into the Texas troops. But after less than three minutes of struggle all these attackers were casualties, half shot or bayoneted, and half taken prisoner.

Sergeants [Alexander] Kelly and [Thomas] Hawkins bore the two flags safely back from the field of battle in spite of wounds. For the heroism that they displayed in this battle, these two . . . would earn the Congressional Medal of Honor.”

(Strike the Blow for Freedom: The 6th United States Colored Infantry in the Civil War, James M. Paradis, White Mane Books, 1998, excerpts pp. 70-72; 74-75)

Resisting Lincoln’s Draft

The New York City draft riot of mid-1863 was the desperate result of dwindling Northern enlistments after a bloody 1862, little Northern military success to show for its invasion of the South, and Lincoln’s conversion of the war to one of emancipation, which few in the North were willing to die for. With Lincoln’s conscription implemented, Northern governors feared losing the next election and began raising monies to fund exemptions for their constituents as well as bounty money to attract the poor, released prisoners and foreigners into the army of emancipation.

Further, Massachusetts Governor John Andrew sent his State agents into the occupied South to acquire black “recruits” who would count against his State’s troop quota established by Lincoln.

In New York’s Oswego County, “the Republican Times advocated the recruitment of Negroes to fill the ranks and delay the draft” (Oswego County’s Response to the Civil War, New York History, Jan. 1961, pg. 79). Oswego County later sent a delegation to occupied Newport News, “for the purpose of procuring substitutes among the freedmen,” and expecting they could be hired cheaply.

Resisting Lincoln’s Draft

“July 21. Tuesday [1863].

The N.Y. Herald of 16th had been received, & its accounts quoted by today’s papers. The riot had continued through third day, (Wednesday, 15th,) without abatement. Several severe conflicts had taken place between the military & “the people” . . . “Negroes greatly persecuted, & 3 hung.” A great flight of Negroes from the city — & also many of the superior inhabitants . . . “The (City) Council has appropriated $2,500,000 for conscripts.”

This last incident is the most important of all. The city government has by this action completely submitted to the mob, & agreed to pay, out of the property of those citizens who possess property, for the exemption from military service of all conscripts of the city who have no property. This is a far more signal victory to the rioters than was the suspension of the draft.

It [the draft] may now be safely resumed & carried out, without annoyance to the conscripts, as the payment for their exemption is fixed in advance & at the expense of other people . . . The procedure is equivalent to offering a reward of $300 (the price for exemption) to every rioter who would have been liable to conscription.

This is enough to induce like riots in every other Yankee town. And before the operation of this additional incentive, like riots, or disturbances, but less violent & destructive than in New York, had broken out in sundry other places – at Brooklyn, Troy, Newark, Yorkville, Harlem, Jamaica, Westchester, & elsewhere.

July 25. Saturday [1863].

The [New York City] draft is not to be renewed for a week . . . waiting until a full force of 35,000 men shall be arrayed in the city to restrain the populace, & enforce the execution of the draft. Then, I think, there will be more serious & bloody work than before . . . the army, with artillery and grape-shot in every street, may restrain important outbreaks in the city . . .

The like policy of buying exemptions of the poor, is under discussion in the public councils of Philadelphia, & $2,000,000 is the appropriation proposed. It will operate like the policy of the sinking western Roman empire in buying the mercy & the retreat of the invading hosts of barbarians, when threatening to enter to sack and burn the city of Rome.

In the meantime, [editor Horace] Greeley, through the [New York] “Tribune,” (the organ of the thorough abolitionists,) is calling upon the federal power to carry out the draft, & to crush all opposition by overwhelming military force.”

(The Diary of Edmund Ruffin, Volume III, A Dream Shattered: June 1863-June 1865, William K. Scarborough, editor, 1989, LSU Press, excerpts pp. 74-75; 83)

“Freed” Slaves for Lincoln’s Army

After Northern troops occupied northeastern North Carolina in mid-summer 1862, is was estimated that over 7500 “contrabands” were within their lines, and this would grow after 1863. According to author William C. Harriss (In the Country of the Enemy, pp. 12-13), “These refugees of slavery provided the troops with inexpensive delicacies, such as cakes and pies, labor, and services. Several hundred blacks were hired, if not conscripted, to build fortifications at New Bern and other coastal points. Though New England soldiers generally approved of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, many held anti-black sentiments. One Maine soldier . . . “could not bear” the sight of blacks. Such men did not hesitate to exploit black refugees, forcing them to work as servants for little compensation.”

“Freed” Slaves for Lincoln’s Army

“In issuing his Emancipation Proclamation as an incitement for race war, Lincoln was continuing his policy of violating both the Constitution and international law. Food and medicine had already been declared contraband. Later, Lincoln issued “Instructions for the Government of the Armies of the United States in the Field,” (General Orders, No. 100, 1863), authorizing starvation and bombardment of Southern women and children.

Since the Emancipation Proclamation was “a practical war measure,” its enforcement was determined by whether it advanced Lincoln’s war effort. As a consequence, when Lincoln’s Army arrived, “freed” Southern slaves often found themselves re-enslaved under the fiction of a one- year work contract. They could suffer a loss of pay or rations for acts of laziness, disobedience or insolence, and had to obtain a pass to leave the plantation.

Provost marshals ensured that they displayed “faithful service, respectful deportment, correct discipline and perfect subordination. Other “freed” slaves found themselves forced to build fortifications for Lincoln’s Army or were violently conscripted.

In a May 1862 report, Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase was advised that: “The Negroes were sad . . . Sometimes whole plantations, learning what was going on, ran off to the woods for refuge . . . This mode of [enlistment by] violent seizure is repugnant.”

As late as February 7, 1865, Lincoln wrote to Lieutenant Colonel Glenn, operating in Kentucky: “Complaint is made to me that you are forcing Negroes into the military service, and even torturing them.”

(Lincoln and the Death of the Old Republic, Joseph E. Fallon, Chronicles, August 2002, excerpts pg. 44 – www.chroniclesmagazine.org)

Lincoln’s Proclamation

Faced with numerous American farmers in the South opposing his will and defeating his armies, a desperate Lincoln merely copied Royal Governor Lord Dunmore’s emancipation proclamation of November 1775. In mid-1862, Lincoln’s war was going as badly as was Dunmore’s, and the solution was to incite a slave insurrection to teach the independence-minded Americans a stern lesson. The British did this once more in 1814, as Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane issue an emancipation edict to incite a race war, for the same reasons.

Lincoln’s Proclamation

“Official history venerates Abraham Lincoln as an apostle of American democracy who waged war on the South to preserve the Union and free the slaves. Official history is a lie.

Lincoln was a dictator who destroyed the Old Republic and replaced the federal principles of 1789 with the ideological foundations of today’s welfare/warfare state. His administration was characterized by paranoia, a lust for power, and rampant corruption. The magnitude of that paranoia was evidenced by Lincoln’s secretary of war, Edwin M. Stanton, who declared that:

“Every department of the Government was paralyzed by treason.” “Traitors” were to be found “in the Senate, in the House of Representatives, in the Cabinet, in the Federal Courts . . . Treason was flagrant in the revenue and in the post-office service, as well as in the Territorial governments and in the judicial reserves.”

In his bid for absolute power, Lincoln used “treason” as a pretext to unleash war and shred to Constitution. Freedom of the press was curtailed. The Chicago Times was one of 300 Northern newspapers suppressed for expressing “incorrect” views. As late as May 18, 1864, Lincoln ordered his military to “arrest and imprison . . . the editors, proprietors and publishers of the New York World and the New York Journal of Commerce.”

Lincoln suspended habeas corpus. He criminalized speech and legalized arbitrary arrests. Twenty thousand prisoners were held incommunicado and denied legal counsel. Maryland’s legislature was overthrown, and New York City was placed under military occupation.

Lincoln’s war against the South was not to preserve the Union from treasonous secessionists. Lincoln himself had championed the right of secession [during the Mexican War] . . . Nor did Lincoln wage war . . . to emancipate black slaves.

In his First Inaugural Address, on March 4, 1861, Lincoln emphatically declared: “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery . . . on September 11, 1861, he countermanded General Fremont’s order freeing the slaves in Missouri. And on May 19, 1862, he countermanded General Hunter’s order emancipating the slaves in Georgia, Florida and South Carolina.

With the demise of the Confederacy nowhere in sight, however, Lincoln changed his position on emancipation. On September 13, 1862, Lincoln explained . . . “I view this matter as a practical war measure, to be decided on according to the advantages or disadvantage it may offer to the suppression of the rebellion.”

The Emancipation Proclamation was an act of military desperation designed to realize two goals . . . to dissuade the British and the French governments from intervening militarily on behalf of the South. Second, Lincoln hoped to incite slaves to murder defenseless white women and children on the farms and in the cities of the Confederacy in the expectation that the Confederate army would disintegrate as soldiers abandoned the field to return home to save the lives of their families.”

(Lincoln and the Death of the Old Republic, Joseph E. Fallon, Chronicles, August 2002, excerpts pp. 43-44 – www.chroniclesmagazine.org) )

Immigration and the Demise of America

The waves of European immigration into the United States, 1830-1860, added a different strain to the original English, Scot and Irish population, especially in the North and emerging West. The South maintained its ethnic heritage from Revolutionary times and its deep understanding of the Founders America. The North quickly became a far different country by 1850, with a new electorate easily misled by Northern demagogues. To attain national power and dominance, the demagogues destroyed the South’s political power in the country through a destructive war, instilled hatred between Southerners and their former laborers, and finally molded the new black electorate into dependable Republicans.

Immigration and the Demise of America

“The founding fathers were rare men and wise, men who had “come to themselves,” men who measured their words. They knew history; they knew law and government; they knew the ancient classics; they knew the ancient failures; they knew the Bible. But theirs was a wisdom which, as always, can be misunderstood by lesser mortals.

It can be misinterpreted; it can be misapplied through ignorance; it can be misused and perverted through ambition, interest, even plain human cussedness. Liberty was never to be license.

But as growth occurred, the influx of millions of immigrants from the Old World, from different backgrounds, settled north and west in established communities and crowded the cities. They knew little of a constitution, and cared less. This was the land of liberty; men were “free and equal”; the majority ruled – the “American” way, their Carl Schurz-like leaders told them while ordering their votes, urging war upon the South, and anathematizing slavery. They knew nothing of the South’s acute problems.

This was the beginning of a false premise, wholly without foundation in the Constitution, of “an aggregate people,” of unrestricted democracy, of the absolute right of a popular majority – even a “simple” majority – whenever it exists and however ascertained, to rule without check or restraint, independent of constitutional limitations or of State interposition.

This absurd proposition that the will of a mere majority for the time being becomes vox Dei was held by numerous leaders of the North and the West, not the least among them Abraham Lincoln. The Southerners opposed, opposed strenuously, and fought it to the end.

[John C.] Calhoun attempted ameliorations by such proposals as vetoes, nullifications, interposition, and “concurrent” majorities, all of which at one time or another were rejected, leaving the South, as he said in 1850, helpless to retain equality in the Union and relegated to a position hardly different from that which the Revolutionary fathers rejected in 1776.

In answer to these efforts to obtain justice, Northern leaders undertook an attack on the domestic institutions of the South. “At first harmless and scattered movements” of small, so-called humanitarian groups in the North were seized upon by those who saw political possibilities in them, and the agitations spread from isolated spots to the halls of Congress.

Abolitionists began to attack the South at every opportunity and demanded an end to the labor arrangements of the region and the emancipation of the African Negro “slaves” who worked mostly upon the great plantations.

Abolitionist fathers and grandfathers had brought those poor black creatures – often savages, sometimes cannibals – from the Guinea coasts of West Africa and had sold them to the planters, much of whose capital was invested in them. We still teach . . . falsehoods to children by slanted history textbooks that parrot the clichés, though it is surely time to make some changes and tell the truth.”

(The Constitutions of Abraham Lincoln & Jefferson Davis: A Historical and Biographical Study in Contrasts, Russell Hoover Quynn, Exposition Press, 1959, excerpts pp. 55-56)

An Army of Plunderers

Lincoln was well-aware of the atrocities committed against Americans in Georgia and South Carolina by his military, and this would neither diminish or end in North Carolina. The war against civilians in no way contributed to “saving the Union” or healing the political divisions of 1861. Americans, North and South, now saw vividly the destructive results of seeking political independence from the new imperial regime in Washington.

An Army of Plunderers

“Foraging was still necessary to sustain the great number of troops until the Federal Army reached Goldsboro. Vandalism, stealing, and burning continued along their path. Neighbors recalled that “Mrs. Mary Corbett of Ivanhoe [Sampson County, NC] had just delivered a baby when the marauders came into her home. In order to make her reveal where the valuables were hidden, they started a fire at her bedroom window. Petrified with terror, Mrs. Corbett gave them up.”

In Johnston County, the bummers were especially harsh. They locked Mrs. Henry Finch in her home and set it afire. She jumped out the window.

Archibald Buchanan, similarly plundered like his neighbors of everything edible, found himself reduced to eating kernels of corn scattered by [enemy] cavalry “feeding their horses, and washing and grinding these handfuls for meal.”

Mrs. Rachel Pearson, of Duplin County, witnessed her aged, very ill aunt tossed from the bed onto the floor by the bummers looking for treasure. The Federals also killed Dr. Hicks by hanging him. Apparently they wanted to know the whereabouts of his hidden valuables, and he died before confessing.

As he resisted the plundering of his plantation east of Fayetteville, John Waddell was shot. [Enemy] Negro soldiers hung an old Negro man three times because he would not reveal where the owner’s valuables lay hidden. Older men and young boys suffered the same fate.

In Wayne County, Mrs. Cobb was in bed very ill when Sherman’s troops came to pillage. They destroyed every useful thing in her house except for articles in the room she lay in.

As the last few months of the war lowered its curtain, the US Army in the East began its march toward Goldsboro . . . The land between New Bern and Kinston was described as a wasteland. Homes had been burned, stock stolen or driven off, and gardens untended.

Sherman was quoted in December, 1864: “We are not fighting armies, but a hostile people.” He further stated: “The simple fact that a man’s home has been visited by an enemy makes a soldier very, very, anxious to get home to look after his family and property.”

This apparently was his reason to permit his soldiers to pillage, burn and terrorize North Carolina’s citizens.”

(Blood and War at My Doorstep, Volume II, Brenda Chambers McKean, Xlibris, 2011, excerpts pp. 1011-1012; 1016; 1019)

An Army of Plunderers “Foraging was still necessary to sustain the great number of troops until the Federal Army reached Goldsboro. Vandalism, stealing, and burning continued along their path. Neighbors recalled that “Mrs. Mary Corbett of Ivanhoe [Sampson County, NC] had just delivered a baby when the marauders came into her home. In order to make her reveal where the valuables were hidden, they started a fire at her bedroom window. Petrified with terror, Mrs. Corbett gave them up.” In Johnston County, the bummers were especially harsh. They locked Mrs. Henry Finch in her home and set it afire. She jumped out the window. Archibald Buchanan, similarly plundered like his neighbors of everything edible, found himself reduced to eating kernels of corn scattered by [enemy] cavalry “feeding their horses, and washing and grinding these handfuls for meal.” Mrs. Rachel Pearson, of Duplin County, witnessed her aged, very ill aunt tossed from the bed onto the floor by the bummers looking for treasure. The Federals also killed Dr. Hicks by hanging him. Apparently they wanted to know the whereabouts of his hidden valuables, and he died before confessing. As he resisted the plundering of his plantation east of Fayetteville, John Waddell was shot. [Enemy] Negro soldiers hung an old Negro man three times because he would not reveal where the owner’s valuables lay hidden. Older men and young boys suffered the same fate. In Wayne County, Mrs. Cobb was in bed very ill when Sherman’s troops came to pillage. They destroyed every useful thing in her house except for articles in the room she lay in. As the last few months of the war lowered its curtain, the US Army in the East began its march toward Goldsboro . . . The land between New Bern and Kinston was described as a wasteland. Homes had been burned, stock stolen or driven off, and gardens untended. Sherman was quoted in December, 1864: “We are not fighting armies, but a hostile people.” He further stated: “The simple fact that a man’s home has been visited by an enemy makes a soldier very, very, anxious to get home to look after his family and property.” This apparently was his reason to permit his soldiers to pillage, burn and terrorize North Carolina’s citizens.” (Blood and War at My Doorstep, Volume II, Brenda Chambers McKean, Xlibris, 2011, excerpts pp. 1011-1012; 1016; 1019)

Lincoln’s Army of Emancipation

Northern Colonel [later brevet Major General] Charles E. Hovey was born in Vermont, graduated from Dartmouth and studied law in Massachusetts. He moved to Illinois where he became superintendent of schools in Peoria, and helped in the organization of Illinois State University where a building is named in his honor. Hovey was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. Hovey’s early exposure to New England abolitionism did not dissuade him from trading the black men within his lines back to their owners for cotton bales for personal profit.

Lincoln’s Army of Emancipation

“For years the Abolitionist politicians have been rocking the cradle of liberty, and singing the lullaby of freedom, and the idea of buying and selling of “human flesh” as “chattels” was most terribly shocking to them. The following, from a publication during the summer of 1863, will speak for itself.

The matter was hushed up because Gen. [Samuel R.] Curtis was a political General, but “when this cruel war is over” many facts blacker than the following will appear in the great record book of recorded facts:

“A commission is now in session at the West with Maj. Gen. [Irvin] McDowell at its head, investigating the conduct of Maj. Gen. Curtis and other Republican officials, in conducting their military operations so as to secure the largest amount of cotton possible for their own private benefit.

One of the richest revelations is in reference to the trading off of Negroes for cotton. The specification alleges that Negro slaves had been taken from the plantations upon the pretense of giving them freedom under the President’s “emancipation edict,” and thus used as a substitute for coin. It has been fully proven before the investigation court.

The officer charged with this lucrative speculation was Col. Hovey of Illinois, formerly the principal of the State Normal School at Bloomington. The following is the testimony upon the subject, “Brice Suffield being called and sworn, testified as follows:

“In due time [was brought] twenty-six bales of cotton [with the plantation overseer, and] After the cotton was delivered, the boatmen, by order of the captain, put on shore fifteen Negroes that had been used as [our] boat hands. After getting them ashore, they tied them after considerable struggling on the part of the Negroes . . . this was about the 24th of September [1863].

Q: After these fifteen Negroes were put ashore, did any other Negroes come back with you as deck hands in the service of the [US] boat?

A: No sir. These Negroes were taken on an expedition to the same place some weeks before from the same place.

Q: Under whose charge was that expedition?

A: Col. Hovey.”

It would crowd the dimensions of our volume to unreasonable proportions to continue this chapter to the full . . .”

(Logic of History: Five Hundred Political Texts, Being Concentrated Extracts of Abolitionism; Also, Results of Slavery Agitation and Emancipation; Together with Sundry Chapters on Despotism, Usurpations and Frauds. Stephen D. Carpenter, S.D. Carpenter, Publisher, 1864, excerpts pg. 263)

Fears of Negro Immigration

The suppressed fear in the North was that blacks would flock to their cities and work for lower wages than white laborers. This would have pleased Northern capital’s understanding of free labor as workers were paid wages, but were responsible for themselves, for food, housing and medical care, when not in the factory. Northern capitalists were assured by abolitionists that the new black farmers would have much disposable income with which to purchase products from Northern manufacturers. It should be kept in mind that after their plantation homes and crops were burned by Northern troops, the black family had no alternative but to follow the invader for scraps of food and menial work. Also, as black men were taken into the US Colored Troops organization, they served under white officers, while Southern units were integrated.

Fears of Negro Immigration

“History will record,” William Bickham wrote from the Peninsula, “the only friends of the Union found by this army in Eastern Virginia [were] Negro slaves.” So eager were the fugitives to do their bit, according to a New York Post correspondent in Louisiana, that when a thousand of them were asked, at one camp, if they would work their old plantations for pay, the show of hands was unanimous.

A good number of conservative orators were frightening laboring audiences [in the North] with the warning that the Negroes were all too willing to work. If set free, the argument ran, they would drift northward and crowd white men out of jobs.

An army correspondent of the Chicago Tribune stepped into the breach with the answer to that . . . [and] assured his readers that the Negroes “did not wish to remove to the cold frigid North. This climate is more genial, and here is their home. Only give them a fair remuneration for their labor, and strike off their shackles, and the good people of Illinois need not trouble themselves at the prospect of Negro immigration.

As a matter of fact, many [Northern] officers and men were genuinely opposed to releasing “contrabands” from camp on practical as well as political or sentimental grounds. Three war correspondents, sweating through the siege of Corinth, Mississippi, in mid-1862, had domestic arrangements typical of many members of the expedition.

They shared the services of Bob and Johnny, two black youths who blacked boots, pressed clothes, cooked, ran errands and more or less gentled their employers’ condition for monthly wages totaling six and twelve dollars.

Charles Coffin and Albert Richardson [of the Boston Journal], at the same locale, made joint use of a tent an “African factotum” who awoke them . . . each morning with a call of “Breakfast ready.” Newspapermen at Ben Butler’s headquarters [were under] the care of a black chef.”

(Reporters for the Union, Bernard Weisberger, Little, Brown and Company, 1953, excerpts pp. 242-244)

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