Black History Month & ‘Civil War Memory’ – The 32 Part Series

The Union League vs Southern Civilians… and a “Black Confederate”(Part 29) by Bill Vallante

The following story illustrates the helplessness of the South in the face of a conqueror. It does however, have an ending that is both happy and surprising.

The Union League Crimes – Dixie After the War, Myrta Lockett Avary, Pages 265-267

In a South Carolina mansion, Mrs. Vincent and her daughter lived alone except for a few faithful ex-slaves. A cabin on the edge of the plantation was rented to Wash, a negro member of the Loyal League, whose organizer was Captain Johnson, commander of a small garrison in a nearby town. The captain was fond of imposing fines upon whites against whom negroes entered complaint. There seemed nice adjustment between fines and defendants’ available cash.

One day, Wash, pushing past Lucy’s maid into the Vincent parlor, said to Lucy’s mother, “I’se come to cote Miss Lucy” “Leave the house!” “I ain’ gwi leave no suchy a thing! I’se gwi marry Lucy an’ live here wid you.” Lucy appeared. “I’se come to ax you to have me. I’se de ve’y man fuh you to hitch up wid. Dis here place b’long to me. You b’long to me.” She whipped out a pistol and covered him. “Run! Run for your life!” He ran. When he was out of pistol-shot, he turned and yelled: “You damned white she-cat! I’ll make you know!” She caught up a musket and fired. Balls whistled past his head; he renewed his flight.

Next morning, as the ladies, paled and miserable, sat at breakfast, a squad of soldiers filed in, took seats, helped themselves, and ordered the butler around. The ladies rose and were arrested. A wagon was at the door. “Please, marsters”, said black Jerry humbly, “lemme hitch up de kerridge and kyar Misstiss and “Miss Lucy in it. ‘Taint fitten fuh ‘em to ride in a waggin- an wid strange mens.”. His request was refused.

The ladies were arraigned before Captain Johnson on a charge that they had used insulting language to Mr. Washington Singleton Pettigru; and that Lucy, “in defiance of law an morals and actuated by the devil”, had, “without provocation”, fired on him with intent to kill. A fine of $1000 or 6 months in jail was imposed. “I have no such money”, cried Mrs. Vincent. “Jail may change your mind” replied Captain Johnson.

Lawyers flocked to their defense; the captain would hear none. Toward nightfall, the town filled with white men wearing set faces. The captain sent for one of the lawyers. The lawyer said: “Unless you release those ladies from the jail, no one can tell what may happen. But this I believe; you, nor a member of your garrison will be alive tomorrow.”

They were released, fine remitted; the captain left in haste. An officer came from Columbia to investigate “disorder in the district”. He condemned Johnson’s course and tried to reassure the community. It came out that Johnson had received information that Mrs. Vincent held a large, redeemable note; he had incited Wash to “set up” to Miss Lucy, urging that by marrying her he would become the plantation’s owner; “Call in your best duds and ask for her to marry you. If she refuses, we will find a way to punish her.” Wash, it was thought, had fled the country. The negro body servant of Lucy’s dead brother had felt that the duty of avenger devolved upon him and in his own way he had slain Wash and covered up the deed.

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