Black History Month and “Civil War Memory”
by Bill Vallante
Once again, popular historical wisdom holds that all slaves welcomed the Yankees and that the Yankees, being of course an army of blue-coated warm and fuzzy types, responded with love and affection. Let’s go to the historical videotape and toss a few eggs at contemporary historical “wisdom”.
Amanda Mccray, Florida, (The Slave Narratives)
…. She was a grownup during the Civil War when she was commandered by Union soldiers invading the country and employed as a cook. Her owner, one Redding Pamell, possessed a hundred or more slaves and was, according to her statement very kind to them.
Walter Legget, Texas, (The Slave Narratives)
Well now one thing I remember plain is the trashy, bad actin’ yankees. They come in bunches down by the place and they are the most outlandish, triflin, smart-actin’, slummerin’ folks ever you see. I wouldn’t vise nobody to have truck with ’em.
Rose Thomas, Texas, (The Slave Narratives)
"Our men all went to the war. Marster went and Ben, a fine colored man, went with him. They both came back, but marster was sick and didn’t live very long and Uncle Ben seemed all at once like an old man……
….. "We never heard of no slaves being mistreated. We lived a lot better then than we have since, even if the government does give me a pension."……
…"Yes, the Yankee soldiers came around. At first they were just smart alecks in their fine blue suits with brass buttons, but later they stole things, horses and silver and the like.
William Watkins, Texas, (The Slave Narratives)
"Den de war come and de Yankees come down thick as leaves. Dey burns de big house and de slave houses and ev’ryting. Dey turns us loose. We ain’t got no home nor nuthin’ to eat, ’cause dey tells us we’s free.
Mandy Leslie, Alabama, (The Slave Narratives)
Us live dar ’til I was grown woman, and Mr. Biles sho’ was a good man to live wid and he treat us right every year……
.."Yassum, I ‘members de war, but I don’t lak no wars. Dey give folks trouble and dey’s full of evil doings. When de Yankees come through here, dey took my mammy off in a wagon, and lef’ me right side de road, and when she try to git out de wagon to fetch me, dey hit her on de head and she fell back in de wagon and didn’t holler no more. Dey jes’ drive off up de big road wid Mammy lying down in de wagon – she done been dead, ’cause I ain’t never seed her no mo’.
Hannah Irwin, Alabama, (The Slave Narratives)
"Well, what about the Yankees?" he was asked. "Did you ever see any Yankees; and what did you think of the ones that came through your place? Were you glad that they set you free?"
"I suppose dem Yankees was all right in dere place," she continued, "but dey neber belong in de South. Why, Miss, one of ’em axe me what am dem white flowers in de fiel’? You’d think dat a gentnen wid all dem decorations on hisself woulda knowed a fiel’ of cotton. An’ as for dey a-settin’ me free! Miss, us niggers on de Bennett place was free as soon as we was bawn. I always been free."
Everett Ingram, Alabama, (The Slave Narratives)
"De Yankees comed through de yard in May an’ tol’ us: ‘You’s free.’ De Yankees wasn’t so good. Dey hung my mammy up in de smokehouse by her thumbs; tips of her toes jest touchin’ de floor, ‘ca’se she wouldn’t ‘gree to give up her older chilluns. She never did, neither.
Hattie Clayton, Alabama, (The Slave Narratives)
Yankee raiders whipped a slave to get him to tell where the valuables were
Betty Curlett, Arkansas, (The Slave Narratives)
Grandma Becky said when the Yankees came to Mrs. Moore’s house and to Judge Rieds place they demanded money but they told them they didn’t have none. They stole and wasted all the food clothes; beds. Just tore up what they didn’t carry with then and burned it in a pile. They tock two legs of the chickens and tore them apart and threw them down on the ground, leaving piles of them to waste
Sponcer Eornett, Arkansas, (The Slave Narratives)
Old mistress cried more on one time. The Yankees starved out more black faces than white at their stealing. After that war it was hard for the slaves to have a shelter and enough eatin’ that winter. They died in piles bout after that August I tole you bout. Joe Innes was our overseer when the house burned.
Rachel Fairley, Arkansas, (The Slave Narratives)
"When the Yanks came through, they took everything. Made the niggers all leave. My mother said they just came in droves, riding horses, killing everything, even the babies