Black History Month and “Civil War Memory”

by Bill Vallante

Still more Year ob’ Jubilo….


Despite editing out many of the excerpts about “yankee behavior”, it became necessary to divide this account into two parts due to its length. If you need more proof that not all the slaves welcomed the union army or were well-treated by that army, here are some more examples that you won’t find in the modern day history texts.

Josie Martin, Arkansas, (The Slave Narratives)

"I used to run from the Yankees. I’ve seen them go in droves along the road. They found old colored couple, went out, took their hog and made them barbecue it. They drove up a stob, nailed a piece to a tree and stacked their guns. They rested around till everything was ready.

They et at one o’clock at night and after the feast drove on. They wasn’t so good to Negroes. They was good to their own feelings. They et up all that old couple had to eat in their house and the pig they raised. I reckon their owners give them more to eat. They lived off alone and the soldiers stopped there and worked the old man and woman nearly to death.

Alice Baugh, North Carolina, (The Slave Narratives)

"All de slaves hate de Yankees an’ when de southern soldiers comed by late in de night all de niggers got cut of de bed an’ holdin’ torches high dey march behin’ de soldiers, all of dem singin’, We’ll Hang Abe Lincoln on de Sour Annie Tree. Yes mam, dey was sorry dat dey was free, an’ dey ain’t got no reason tu be glad, case dey was happier den dan now.

"I’se hyard mammy tell ’bout how de niggers would sing as dey picked de cotton, but yo’ ain’t hyard none uv dat now. Den dey ain’t had to worry ’bout nothin; now dey has ter study so much dat dey ain’t happy nuff ter sing no mo’"!…..

….."Does yo’ know de cause of de war?" Aunt Alice want to a supboard and returned holding out a book. "Well hyar’s de cause, dis Uncle Tom’s Cabin was de cause of it all; an’ its’ de biggest lie what ever been gived ter de public."

Uncle David Blourt, North Carolina, (The Slave Narratives)

"De massa frees Jim dat night; but he stays on a long time atter de war, an’ tell de day he died he hated de Yankees for killing Nassa Tom. In fact we all hated de Yankees, ‘specally atter we near ’bout starve dat first winte. I tried ter make a libin’ fer me an’ Johnnie but it was bad goin’; den I comes ter Raleigh an’ I gits ‘long better. Atter I gits settled I brings Johnnie, an’ so we done putty good.

Julia Casey, Tennessee, (The Slave Narratives)

Mah Missis was good ter us. I’se bin w’ll tuk keer ob, plenty ter eat en warm clothes ter w’ar. Right now I’se got on long underw’ar en mah chemise…….

…Mah mammy died fust y’ar ob freedum. Dey tuk her ‘way in a two-hoss waggin, ’bout four o’clock one evenin’. Dere was no hurses er caskets den. W’en mah mammy d’ed, I still stayed wid Missis Jennie. She raised me. Dat’s why folks say I’se so peculiar. De Yankee soldiers tuk mah sistah en two br’ers ‘way durin’ de war. I ez de mammy ob seven chilluns. All d’ed now but one….

…..In slavery days you didn’t hab ter worry ’bout yo clothes en rations but dese days you hab ter worry ’bout eve’ything.

Ida Rigley, Arkansas, (The Slave Narratives)

"The Civil War was terrible. One morning before we was all out of bed the Yankees come. It was about daylight. He and the three boys were there. They didn’t burn any houses and they didn’t hesitate but they took everything. They took all Miss Betty’s nice silverware. They took fine quilts and feather beds. That was in the fall of the year. They drove off a line of our slaves (a block long) fer as from me to that railroad. Made them go. They walked fast in front of the cavalrymen. They took mama and my sisters. She got away from them with her girls and found her way back to papa at Lynchburg.

(Mammy Dink), Georgia, (The Slave Narratives)

When the Yankee raiders came through in ’65, Mammy Dink was badly frightened by them. She was also highly infuriated with them for "stealin’ de white folks’ things," burning their gins, cotton, and barns, and conducting themselves generally as bandits and perverts.

Blount Baker, North Carolina, (The Slave Narratives)

Dey talk mean ter us an’ one of dem says dat we niggers am de cause of de war. ‘Sir,’ I sez, ‘folks what am a wantin’ a war can always find a cause’. He kicks me in de seat of de pants fer dat, so I hushes……

Johanna Isom, Mississippi, (The Slave Narratives)

"Yas’m, dem good-fer-nuthin white trash rode up to our house and tuk Miss Sallie’s best home-spun blankets and put dem on dey hosses for saddle blankets; some o’ dem wropped dem round dey laigs and den dey tuk her fine silk dresses and put dem on wid hoops and all, hopped on de hosses and galloped away singing:", ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy, Buttermilk and brandy’

Hammett Dell, Arkansas, (The Slave Narratives)

"Then when they started to leave, one old Yankee set the corner of the house on fire. We all got busy then, white folks and darkies both carryin’ water ter put it out.

Mattie Fritz, Arkansas, (The Slave Narratives)

"Master Jack Tyler hid out. The Yankees come at night and caught him there and shot him. His wife lived about two more years. She grieved about him. They took everything and searched the house. My pa was hid under the house. They rumbled down in the cellar and pretty nigh seen him once.

Lidia Jones, Arkansas, (The Slave Narratives)

"Yankees burned his house and gin house too and set fire to the cotton. Oh Lord, I don’t like to talk about it. Them Yankees was rough…

Frank Larkin, Arkansas, (The Slave Narratives)

"And they’d get up in a tree with a spyglass and find where old boss had his cotton hid, come down and go straight and burn it and the corn crib and take what meat they wanted and then burn the smoke house. Yes’m, I remember all that. I tell you them Yankees was mean. Used to shake old mistress and try to make her tell where the money was hid. If you had a fat cow, just shoot her down and cook what they wanted.

Rosa Lindsey, Arkansas, (The Slave Narratives)

"I think the Yankees took Columbus, Georgia on a Sunday morning. I know they just come through there and tore up things and did as they pleased.

Mrs. Mary Jane (Mattie) Mooreman, Arkansas, (The Slave Narratives)

Once the Yankees come by the place. It was at night. They went out to the quarters and they tried to get ’em to rise up. Told ’em to come on in the big house and take what they wanted. Told ’em to take anything they wanted to take, take Master’s silver spoons and Miss’ silk dress. "If they don’t like it, we’ll shot their brains out," they said. Next morning they told Master. He got scared and moved. At that time we was living at Cloverport.

Wylie Nealy, Arkansas, (The Slave Narratives)

I saw ’em fight all the time. Saw the light and heard the roaring of de guns miles away. It looked like a storm where the army want along. They tramped the wheat and oats and cotton down and turned the horses in on the corn. The slaves show did hate to see the Yankees waste everything.