Browsing "Freedmen and Liberty"

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)

Party Above Country

The scramble to organize the Republican party in the conquered States in 1867-68 was critical to maintain party ascendancy – the black man was to be enfranchised and told that voting Democratic would return them to the chains of slavery – their Republican friends would keep them free with Grant elected in 1868. Thus the freedmen were turned against their friends and neighbors by the infamous Union League in return for minor patronage positions for those delivering the black vote to the Republican party. Grant won the presidency against Horatio Seymour of New York by only 300,000 votes – a narrow victory achieved with 500,000 black votes.

Party Above Country

“Immediately after the war there a brief period of uncertainty [in Republican ranks] about the course to follow in reconstruction the Union. However, when several of the lately seceded States refused to accept in complete good faith Andrew Johnson’s plan of restoration, the Republicans were all but unanimous in imposing a much more stringent set of terms designed to remake the entire electoral system of the South. Purely political considerations were undoubtedly a factor.

The three-fifths clause of the Constitution having become a dead letter with the abolition of slavery, the Southern States stood to gain thirteen seats in the House of Representatives and thirteen votes in the Electoral College. Were the “solid South” to join just two Northern States – New York and Indiana – voting Democratic, the party of [Stephen] Douglas, [James] Buchanan and Jefferson Davis would recapture the presidency and resume control of the nation’s destiny.

It was an appalling prospect for any sincere Republican to contemplate; so the party had no choice but to follow the lead of Charles Sumner and Thaddeus Stevens on the questions of Reconstruction.

[Conservatives] within the party, who in no way shared the Radicals concern with equal political rights for Negroes, accepted black suffrage in 1867 and 1869 because the exigencies of the situation seemed to demand it [if Republicans were to maintain political dominance].”

(The Politics of Inertia: The Election of 1876 and the End of Reconstruction, Keith Ian Polakoff, LSU Press, 1973, excerpts pp. 14-15)

A Radical Free Soil Party Formed in 1848

The Liberty party held its convention at Aurora, Illinois in January 1844, with spin-off tours sweeping the State afterward. At a rally in Lake County the following month, free colored man William Jones accompanied the speakers to tell of being robbed and kidnapped in Chicago. “It soon became the custom for the abolition orators to take around with them on their campaigns former slaves, or free Negroes whom slaveholders’ agents had attempted kidnap. The stories of these Negroes never failed to be received with telling effect.”

The antislavery Liberty and Free Soil parties had a brief life during the 1848 election cycle, but became a political cipher until being absorbed into the new Republican party of 1854. They made two more patches of the myriad quilt of that new party, of which the radical abolitionists became the more vocal, and the leaders of the rush to war with Americans in the South. As described below, the Free Soil party platform was at odds with the United States Constitution, which delegated no power whatsoever to the federal agent to control labor relations within an existing State, or to inhibit free access and enjoyment of all territories belonging to all citizens of all States.

Had the Free Soil advocates sought peaceful and practical solutions to the colonial labor system inherited from the British and perpetuated by slave-produced cotton hungry New England mills, peaceful relations with the South might have prevailed.

A Radical Free Soil Party Formed in 1848

“The result of the August convention at Buffalo is well known. It was a complete victory for the Free Soil advocates. Van Buren was nominated for President, and Charles Francis Adams for Vice-President. A new antislavery organization, called the Free Soil party, was organized . . . with the approval of all the delegates – Barn-Burners, Conscience Whigs, and Libertymen alike.

The main points in this platform were: the declaration that the Federal Government must exert itself to abolish slavery everywhere within the constitutional limits of its power; the demand that Congress should prohibit slavery in all territory then free . . . “No more slaves – no more slave territory.” [The] Liberty party placed the names Van Buren and Adams [on their banner] . . . They are for a total divorce of the government from slavery, and [a new] antislavery administration. A new principle had been established – “Union without compromise – Fraternization.”

In the [1848] State elections the Democrats were, as usual, victorious. The Democratic nominee, Governor French, was . . . elected without serious trouble. The period from 1849 to 1851 was a time of disintegration and depression in the Illinois antislavery forces. The Free Soil organizations . . . dissolved as soon as [the 1848 elections were] over.”

(Negro Servitude in Illinois, and of the Slavery Agitation in That State, 1719—1864, N. Dwight Harris, Haskell House Publishers, 1969 (original 1904), excerpts pp. 166-167; 174)

The Meaning of Freedom

The author below writes that in early postwar South Carolina, slave “desertion on . . . plantations became increasingly frequent . . . to enjoy the freedom the Yankey’s have promised the Negroes.” Rather than remain with the people and place they had known most if not all their lives, domestic Patience Johnson told her mistress that “I must go, if I stay here I’ll never know I am free.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The Meaning of Freedom

“Christmas Day, 1865, saw many South Carolina plantations entirely deserted by their Negro populations. After visiting the plantation of a relative on February 9, 1866, the Reverend John Hamilton Cornish reported that, “Not one of their Negroes is with them, all have left.”

Like many domestics, most of those field hands who remained . . . were very old, very young or encumbered. The mistress of the Ball plantation in Laurens District recalled . . . at end of 1865 “many of the Negroes sought employment on other places, but the least desirable stayed with us, for they could not easily find new homes and we could not deny them shelter.”

Large numbers of agricultural laborers left their native plantations during the Christmas season to camp in a neighboring village while they searched for an employer. Employment, however, was not always easily found. David Golightly Harris, visiting Spartanburg on New Year’s Day, 1866, “saw many Negroes enjoying their freedom by walking about the streets & looking much out of sorts . . . Ask who you may “What are you going to do,” & their universal answer is “I don’t know.”

Augustine Smythe found much the same conditions prevailing in . . . the Orangeburg District. “There is considerable trouble & moving among the Negroes,” he reported. “They are just like a swarm of bees all buzzing about & not knowing where to settle.”

Apparently, many freedmen were driven to return to their old places by economic necessity. Isabella A. Soustan, a Negro woman who had somehow found freedom in a place called Liberty, North Carolina, in July 1865, expressed her thoughts on the dilemma that many ex-slaves faced in their first year of emancipation. “I have the honor to appeal to you one more for assistance, Master,” she petitioned her recent owner. “I am cramped [here] near to death and no one [cares] for me [here], and I want you if you [please] Sir, to send for me.”

Some few freedmen were willing to exchange freedmen for security. “I don’t care if I am free,” concluded Isabella, “I had rather live with you, as I was as free while with you as I wanted to be.”

(After Slavery: The Negro in South Carolina During Reconstruction, 1861-1877, Joel Williamson, UNC Press, 1965, excerpts pp. 39-41)

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