Black History Month and “Civil War Memory”

by Bill Vallante

Da’ Year ob Jubilo? – err, not exactly!?


Continuing on – here’s a look at the yanks through the eyes of some of the slaves who were civilians and who were “fortunate” enough not to be conscripted into the union army – though some were indeed “carried away”. Makes you wonder how many of those slaves following Sherman’s army were there of their own accord? “The slaves set themselves free”?

Sarah Virgil, Georgia, (The Slave Narratives)

Speaking of the Yankees, who came to Hawkinsville after the close of the war, the old woman "allowed": "I surely did hate them things."

Amanda Styles, Georgia, (The Slave Narratives)

The only event during slavery that impresssd itself on Mrs. Styles was the fact that when the Yanks came to their farm they carried off her mother and she was never heard of again.

Charlie Tye Smith, Georgia, (The Slave Narratives)

Charlie Tye recalls vividly when the Yankees passed through and graphically related the following incident. "The Yankees passed through and caught "ole Marse" Jim and made him pull off his boots and run bare-footed through a cane brake with half a bushel of potatoes tied around his neck; then they made him put his boots back on and carried him down to the mill and tied him to the water post. They were getting ready to break his neck when one of Master’s slaves, "ole Peter Smith", asked them if they intended to kill Marse Jim, and when they said "Yes", Peter choked up and said, "Well, please, suh, let me die wid ole Marse!" Well, dem Yankees let ole Marse loose and left! Yes, Missy, dat’s de truf ‘case I’ve heered my daddy tell it many’s the time!"

Lucindy Allison, Arkansas, (The Slave Narratives)

"When the ‘Old War’ come on and the Yankees come they took everything and the black men folks too. They come by right often. They would drive up at mealtime and come in and rake up every blessed thing was cooked. Have to go work scrape about and find something else to eat. What they keer ’bout you being white or black? Thing they was after was filling theirselves up. They done white folks worse than that. They burned their cribs and fences up and their houses too about if they got mad. Things didn’t suit then. If they wanted a colored man to go in camp with them and he didn’t go, they would shoot you down like a dog. Ma told about some folks she knowd got shot in the yard of his own quarters.

Josephine Ann Barnett, Arkansas, (The Slave Narratives)

"The slaves hated the Yanksee. They treated them mean. They was having a big time. They didn’t like the slaves. They steal from the slaves too. Some poor folks didn’t have slaves.

Belle Buntin, Arkansas, (The Slave Narratives)

……"Master Alex was a legislator. He had to leave when the Yankees come through. They killed all the legislators. I loved him. He run a store and we three children went to the store to see him nearly every day. He took us all three on his knees at the same time. I loved him.

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.

Robert Farmer, Arkansas, (The Slave Narratives)

The Yankees used to come in blue uniforms and come right on in without asking anything. They would take your horse and ask nothing. They would go into the smokehouse and take out shoulders, home, and side meat, and they would take all the wine and brandy that was there.

Neely Gray, Arkansas, (The Slave Narratives)

"I was scared of the Yankees ’cause they always p’inted a gun at me to see me run. They’d come in the yard and take anything they wanted, too.

Elmira Hill, Arkansas, (The Slave Narratives)

"When we heard the Yankees was comin’ we went out at night and hid the silver spoons and silver in the toilet and buried the meat. After the war was over and the Yankees had gone home and the jayhawkers had went in – then we got the silver and the meat. Yes, honey, we seed a time – we seed a time. I ain’t grumblin’ – I tell em I’m havin’ a wusser time now than I ever had.

"Yankees used to call me a ‘know nothin’ cause I wouldn’t tell where things was hid.

Molly Horn, Arkansas, (The Slave Narratives)

"I could walk when I first seed the Yankees. I run out to see em good. Then I run back and told Miss Becky. I said, ‘What is they?’ She told ma to put all us under the bed to hide us from the soldiers. One big Yankee stepped inside and says to Miss Becky, ‘You own any niggers?’ She say, ‘No.’ Here I come outen under the bed and ask her fer bread. Then the Yankee lieutenant cursed her. He made the other four come outen under the bed. They all commenced to cryin’ and I commenced to cry. We never seed nobody lack him fore. We was scared to deaf of him. He talked so loud and bad. He loaded us in a wagon. Mama too went wid him straight to Helena. He put us in a camp and kept us. Mama cooked fer the Yankees six or seven months. She heard em — the white soldiers — whisperin’ round bout freedom. She told em, ‘You ain’t goiner keep me here no longer.’ She took us walkin’ back to her old master and ax him for us a home.

George Key, Arkansas, (The Slave Narratives)

"One thing I can tell you she told me so often. The Yankees come by and called her out of the cabin at the quarters. She was a brown girl. They was going out on a scout trip—to hunt and ravage over the country. They told her to get up her clothes, they would be by for her. She was grandma’s and grandpa’s owners’ nurse girl. She told them and they sent her on to tell the white folks. They sent her clear off. She didn’t want to leave. She said her master was plumb good to her and them all. They kept her hid out. The Yankees come slipping back to tole her off. They couldn’t find her nowhere. They didn’t ax about her. They was stealing her for a cook she thought. She couldn’t cook to do no good she said. She wasn’t married for a long time after then. She said she was scared nearly to death till they took her off and hid her.