Slave quotes from the Slave Narratives
THURSDAY, MAY 12, 2016
Posted by James King SCV Camp 141 Commander Albany
In 1934-36 as part of the WPA program in the FDR administration about 2200 old former slaves were interviewed and their stories printed in books called The slave Narratives—one for each state.
Almost all spoke with love and affection for their former masters and spoke about how good slavery times was.
If one reads the Slave Narratives (available from Amazon book company) virtually all the 2000+ old former slaves interviewed as part of the WPA program in 1934-37 said —good food—a place to live–clothes to wear–kind treatment–good times etc. and spoke with affection for their former masters.
In order to justify their atrocities during the war–murder, arson, plunder, rape, theft etc. the Yankees have painted an image of the
South/Confederacy as an evil empire that terribly and constantly abused slaves and “we got what we deserved”. They have repeated these lies so much over the past 185 years since about 1830 that many of these modern day liberals really and sincerely believe it.
The faithful slaves took care of the white women and children while the Southern men were away in the Confederate army. A monument at Arlington cemetery even depicts a white Confederate soldier handing his baby to a black slave lady to take care of while he is away. There were no riots in the South while the white men were away. Lincoln and the Yankee radicals tried to create riots but it did not happen. That was why he wrote the Emancipation Proclamation which freed no one. After the war many slaves stayed on with their “white family” on the plantation or farm where they had been raised and cared for. Some that did leave were later quoted as saying they regretted leaving.
I remember hearing of a 30s recording of an ex slave saying ” Slavery days shore wuz good days, we had a place to stay, food to eat and clothes to wear, now we ain’t got nuthin”
The Story of Collier Holt of Mississippi –
He was a soldier, and completely mustered in!! At the tender age of 14 he ran away to join his Master and his Master’s son, both of whom had gone off to war and who had told him that he was too young to go. Holt’s experience was unusual in that he was actually enrolled as a soldier in the 9th Texas Cavalry. No less of a personage than Nathan Bedford Forrest advocated for his enrollment! Like the character of Holt, in Ride With the Devil, Collier Holt hit whatever he aimed at. His post war experiences included political participation on the Democratic side of things during Reconstruction, and going on to fame as a prolific hunter and hunting guide. Among his customers was Teddy Roosevelt. He’s quite famous and you can probably find him by doing an internet search.
Aarons, Charlie , Alabama –
When the Master’s son John Harris went to war, Charlie went with him as his bodyguard, and when asked what his duties were, he replied: “I looked after Marster John, tended the horses and the tents. I recalls well, Madam the siege of Vicksburg .”The writer then asked him if he wasn’t afraid of the shot and shell all around him.”No, Madam,” he replied, “I kept way in the back where the camp was, for I didn’t like to feel the earth trembling ‘neath my feet, but you see, Madam, I loved young Marster John, and he loved me, and I just had to watch over that boy, and he came through all right.
Brown, Gus –
“They is all gone, scattered, and old massa and missus have died.” That was the sequence of the tragic tale of “Uncle” Gus Brown, the body servant of William Brown, who fought beside him in the War between the States and who knew Stonewall Jackson. “Then de war came and we all went to fight the Yankees. I was a body servant to the master, and once a bullet took off his hat. We all thought he was shot but he wasn’t, and I was standin’ by his side all the time.
“I remember Stonewall Jackson. He was a big man with long whiskers, and very brave. We all fought wid him until his death. We wa’n’t beaten, we was starved out! Sometimes we had perched corn to eat and sometimes we didn’t have a bite o’ nothin’, because the Union mens come and tuk all de food for theirselves.
Casey, Esther King , Alabama –
“Then Captain King left with the other soldiers. Papa stayed and took care of the ‘white lady’ and the house. After awhile my brother ran away and joined the troops to fight for Captain King. He came home after the war, but Captain King did not.
McAlpin, Thomas , Alabama-
“But Boss, dere ain’t never been nobody afightin’ lak our ‘Federates done, but dey ain’t never had a chance. Dere was jes’ too many of dem blue coats for us to lick. I seen our ‘Federates go off laughin’ an’ gay; full of life an’ health. Dey was big an’ strong, asingin’ Dixie an’ dey jus knowed dey was agoin” to win. An’ boss, I seen ’em come back skin an’ bone, dere eyes all sad an’ hollow, an’ dere clothes all ragged, Boss, dey was all lookin’ sick. De sperrit dey lef’ wid jus’ been done whupped outten dem, but it tuk dem Yankees a long time to do it. Our ‘Federates was de bes’ fightin’ men dat over were. Dere warn’t nobody lak our ‘Federates.
Hopkins, Elijah Henry, Arkansas –
“In slavery times, a poor white man was worse off than a nigger. General Lee said that he was fighting for the benefit of the South but not for slavery. He didn’t believe in slavery.
Quinn, Doc, AGE 93 –
“I was born March 15, 1843, in Monroe County , Mississippi , near Aberdeen , Mah Mahster was Colonel Ogburn, one ob de bigges’ planters in de state of Mississippi . Manys de time he raised so much cotton dat dem big steamers just couldnt carry it all down to N’Awlins in one year. But den along came de Civil War an’ we didn’t raise nothin’ fo’ several years. Why? Becase most uf us jined the Confederate Army in Colonel Ogburn’s regiment as servants and bodyguards. An’ let me tell yo’ somethin’, whitefolks. Dere never was a war like dis war. Why I ‘member dat after de battle of Corinth, Miss., a five acre field was so thickly covered wid de dead and wounded dat yo’ couldn’t touch de ground in walkin’ across it. And de onliest way to bury dem was to cut a deep furrow wid a plow, lay de soldiers head to head, an’ plow de dirt back on dem.” “About a year after de war started de Mahster got one ob dese A.W.O.L.’s frum de Army so we could come to Miller County, where he bought de place on Red River now known as de Adams Farm……… We fought in Mississippi Alabama , ama, Georgia , and South Carolina ………………..Mah young mMah young marster was Joe Ogburn. Me and him growed up togedder an’ I was his boddy guard durin’ de wahr. Many’s de day I’ze watched de smoke ob battle clear away an’ wait fo’ de return ob mah marster. All de time I felt we was born to win dat wahr, out God knowed bes’ an’ you know de result.
Harvey, Charlie Jeff, 1852, South Carolina –
“When I was twelve, my father went to the Confederate War. He joined the Holcombe Legion of Union County and they went immediately to Charleston. They drilled near the village of Santuc in what was then called Mulligan’s Old Field, now owned by Rion Jeter. This was the only mustering ground in our part of the county. The soldiers drilled once a week, and for the ‘general muster, all of the companies from Sedalia and Cross Keys come there once a month. During the summer time they had what they called general drill for a week or ten days. Of course on this occasion the soldiers camped over the field in covered wagons. Some came in buggies. Slaves, called ‘wait-men’ cared for the stock and did the cooking and other menial duties for their masters……”My own wn father was shot down for the first time at the Second Battle of Manassas. Here he got a lick over his left eye that was about the size of a bullet; but he said that he thought the lick came from a bit of shell. They carried him to a temporary make-shift hospital that had been improvised behind the breastworks. A soldier who was recovering from a wound nursed him as best he could.
“The second time my father was wounded was in Kingston, N.C. He shot a Yankee from behind a tree and he saw the blood spurt from him as he fell. Just about that time he saw another Yankee behind a tree leveling a gun at him. Father threw up his gun but too late, the Yankee shot and tore his arm all to pieces. The bullet went through his arm and struck the corner of his mouth knocking out part of his jaw bone. Then it went under the neck vein and finally it came out on his back knocking a hole in one of his shoulder blades large enough to lay your two thumbs in. His gun stock was also cut into. He lay on the battlefield for a whole day and night; then he was carried to a house where some kind ladies acting as nurses cared for him for over four months. He was sent home and dismissed from the army just a mile below Maybinton, S.C. in dewberry County. Father was unable to do any kind of work for over two years. The war closed a year after he got home. From that time on I cared for my mother and father…..”I think Abe Lincoln would have done the South some good iif they had let him live. He had a kind heart and knew what suffering was. Lee would have won the war if the mighty Stonewall Jackson had lived. Stonewall was ahead of them all. I had two uncles. Jipp and Charlie Clark in Stonewall’s company. They would never talk much about him after his death. It hurts them too much, for Stonewall’s men loved him so much. Jeff Davis was a great man, too.”
Uncle Army Jack, Mississippi
Old “Uncle Army Jack”, so termed because he was a bodyguard for Capt. W. B. Harris in the Confederate Army, was a quaint figure in Columbus for many years. He loved to recount his war experiences and loved to dwell on the period he served his master in the War between the States, and seemed to feel that war service gave him special prestige, as most negroes at that time felt. They took pride in the fact that they were loyal to the South, and justly so.
The Harris family always called him “Uncle Army Jack” and looked after him well in his old age. He died many years ago in Lowndes County, where he lived to a ripe old age. Upon one occasion he met a son of an ex-Confederate Veteran up town, a son who had just returned to Columbus, and one who was representative of a prominent family. Uncle Army Jack was engaged in conversation with this gentleman one day, and returned to the Harris’ family with this comment upon their friend: “Well, I met Mr. ______ this morning; I think he is a man of ‘Good Elevation; he is swift of tongue; he makes a good point, but I think he was somewhat in intoxication!” That amused his white people very much, but they considered it a fair summing up of the young (man) who had so impressed Uncle Army Jack.
Adams, Lewis 106, Mississippi,
The War between the States, according to Uncle Lewis, was as follows:
“I was wid de South, I loved her ways. My best friends was Southern boys. But de hardships and de trubbles, hongry, an’ sich, an’so’n – little bit er grub an’ fightin’ guns – I says it can’t last long. I sits down an’ thinks very sad like, ass my friens’ dead er dyin’, and I study; Captain Seibe frum ma home town an’ his boy, Jake Seibe, shot thu’ de haid; Lieutenant Carl Lindsay killed in battle; an’ I says whut de use er fighting; den months er hell an’ dat fine old man, General Robert E. Lee, say ‘Let’s quit.’
Divinity, Howard, Mississippi,
Copiah’s best known ex-slave was Howard Divinity, or “Uncle Divinity,” who, since the close of the war until a few years before his death in 1930, attended practically all of the National Reunions of Confederate veterans and of World War veterans. Richmond, New York, Washington, and many other cities of the nation knew him as a familiar figure when the veterans gathered there. He always wore the gray uniform of the Confederacy, the coat being literally covered with reunion medals. Uncle Divinity was born early in the 1820’s and served from 1861 until the close of the war as body slave and cook with Bob Scott, of Copiah County, in Company D, of the Twelfth Mississippi Regiment. While in the Confederate army, Divinity acquired the reputation of being the champion forager in the whole Confederate army and was called the chicken provider of the Confederacy. In 1926 Uncle Divinity made a speech before the Mississippi Legislature in behalf of the Confederate soldiers, their widows, and servants
Durr, Simon 1847, Mississippi,
When de war finally broke loose an’ kept a gwine on an’ on, Marse den he had to go. Dat was sad news fer all ob us. Things was a lookin’ bad ‘nuf’ wid out dat. De day come when he had to go, an’ he say to me, “Simon I’se a gwine to take yo’ wid me.” I was glad an’ scart too, but I went wid him as a servant an’ stayed wid him ’till de war ended. I had a heap o ‘sperences durin’ dat time. I seed de men a marchin’ an’ drillin’. I seed ’em come foot sore an’ mos’ dead after de battle. I’se seed ’em go hungrey. I’se seed ’em kilt, an’ die from sickness an exposure. Dey was finally jes’ starved out. Dats’ what won de war. Sometimes dey would camp close to de union Army, one on one side ob a river an’ one on de uder side. At night dey would swim across an’ set wid each other ’round de camp fire, dey would tell jokes, wrestle an’ swap tobacco an’ food stuf. Dey would have fun an’ joke lak nothin’ was wrong, den dey would swim back across de river knowin’ dey would be a killin’ each other de nex day.
Stier, Isaac, Mississippi,
When de big war broke out I sho’ stuck by my marster. I*fit de Yankees same as he did. I went in de battles ‘long side o’ him an’ both fit under Marse Robert E. Lee. I reckon ever’body has heard ’bout him. I seen more folks dan anybody could count. Heaps of ’em was all tore to pieces an’ cryin’ to Cod to let ’em die. I toted water to dem in blue de same as dem in gray. Folks wouldn’ b’lieve de truf if I was to tell all I knows ’bout dem ongodly times. “Fore de war I never knowed what it was to go empty. My marster sho’ set a fine table an’ fed his people de highes’. De hungriest I ever been was at de Siege o’ Vicksburg. Dat was a time I’d lak to forgit. De folks et up all de cats an’ dogs an’ den went to devourin’ de mules an’ hosses. Even de wimmin an’ little chillun was a-starvin’. Dey stummicks was stickin’ to dey backbones. Us Niggers was sufferin’ so us took de sweaty hoss blankets an’ soaked ’em in mudholes where de hosses tromped. Den us wrung ’em out in buckets an’ drunk dat dirty water for pot-likker. It tasted kinda salty an’ was strength’nin’, lak weak soup. “I tell you, dem Yankees took us by starvation. Twant a fair fight. Dey called it a vict’ry an’ bragged ‘ bout Vicksburg a-fallin’, but hongry folks aint got no fight lef’ in ’em. Us folks was starved into surrenderin’.
Bogan, Herndon 76, North Carolina,
“My daddy wus gived ter de doctor when de doctor wus married an’ dey shore loved each other. One day marster, he comes in an’ he sez dat de Yankees am aimin’ ter try ter take his niggers way from him, but dat dey am gwine ter ketch hell while dey does hit. When he sez dat he starts ter walkin’ de flo’. ‘I’se gwine ter leave yore missus in yore keer, Edwin,’ he sez.
“But pa ‘lows, ‘Wid all respec’ fer yore wife sar, she am a Yankee too, an’ I’d ruther go wid you ter de war. Please sar, massa, let me go wid you ter fight dem Yanks.’ “At fust massa ‘fuses, den he sez, ‘All right,’ So off dey goes ter de war, massa on a big hoss, an’ my pap on a strong mule ‘long wid de blankets an’ things. “Dey tells me dat ole massa got shot one night, an’ dat pap grabs de gun ‘fore hit hits de earth an’ lets de Yanks have hit. “I ‘members dat dem wus bad days fer South Carolina, we gived all o’ de food ter de soldiers, an’ missus, eben do’ she has got some Yankee folks in de war, I’arns ter eat cabbages an’ kush an’ berries.
Andrews, Frances 1854, South Carolina,
I married Allen Andrews after the war. He went to the war with his master. He was at Columbia with the Confederate troops when Sherman burnt the place. Some of them, my husband included, was captured and taken to Richmond Va. They escaped and walked back home, but all but five or six fell out or died.
Sara Colquit of the Sam Raney Plantation at Camp Hill, Alabama:
“We usta have some good times. We could have all the fun we wanted on Sa’dday nights, and we sho had it, cuttin monkey shines, and dancing all night long. Sometimes our mistis would come down early to watch us.”
Sidney Bonner of the John Bonner Plantation at Pickensville, Alabama:
“Lawsey man, dem were de days!”
Lightin’ Mathews of the Joel Mathews Plantation at Cahaba, Alabama:
“Master Joel musta been bawn on a sun shinny day ’cause he sho was bright an’ good natured. Ever nigger on the plantation loved him lak he was sent from heaven.”
Emma Jones of the Wiley Jones Plantation at Columbus Georgia:
“Our food them was a-way better that the stuff we gets today.”
Jane from Gerogiana Alabama:
“Ole master an mistis dead an gone but I remembers them jes lak they was, when they looked after us…weather we belong to them or they belonged to us. I don’t know which it was.”
John Smith slave of Saddler Smith in Selma, Alabama:
“My master was the best in the country.”
Ellen King of the Harvey Plantation at Enterprise, Mississippi:
“Wen I sit and think of all the good things we had to eat an all the fun we had, ‘course we had to work, but you knows, when a crowd all works togather and sings and laughs, first thing you know–the works all done.”
Smith Simmons of Coahoma Co. Miss.
“Master called all the slaves up and said ‘you is just as free as I am. You can stay or go as you please’. We all stayed.”
“In slavery times the old folks was cared for and now there ain’t no one to see to them.”
Adam Singleton of Pike Co. Miss.
When Marse George Simmons went to de big war, he called all his darkies up to de big house an’ tole dem whar he wus gwine. an’ tole dem to take good keer of de Missus, an’ he left……”
Adam Smith of Tate Co. Miss.
“I liked being a slave, our white folks and ole friends are dead but we had plenty and dey were good to us.”
“De klu Klux Klan was organized for de Carpet Baggers and mean niggers but I didn’t have any direct communication with dem. We didn’t get no more out of freedon den we had, not as much…”
“De young folks don’t know nothing about good times and good living, dey don’t understand how come I wish I wuz still in slavery.”
Susan Snow of Lauderdale County Miss.
“My young marster used to work in de field wid us, til he went to de war, an’ he’d boss de niggers. dey called him bud, but we all called him Babe. I sho did love dat boy. I loved him.”
Tuck Spight of Tippah Co. Miss.
Tuck was a member of the Confederate Veterans camp till his death which occured a few years after his masters. He made a very touching talk at his masters funeral, he attended most all the Confederate reunions. He always returned home with more money than he had when he left…he made a talk for the people and they gave him money. He could make very sensible talks in public…especially about the Civil War. Tuck is burried at Ripley cemetery. He has a marker on his grave by the government as a Confederate servant.
Issac Stier of Adams Co. Miss.
“When de big war broke out I sho’ stuck to my Marster an’ I fit de Yankees same as he did. I went in de battles ‘long side of him an’ us both fit under Marse Robert E. Lee. De war was over in May, 1865 but I was captured at Vicksbury an’ hel’ in jail ’till I ‘greed to take up arms widd de nawth. I figured it was ’bout all I could do ’cause dey warn’t but one Vicksburg an’ dat was over. I was all de time hopin’ I could slip off an’ work my way back home but de Yankees didn’ turn me loose till 1866.”
Dave Walker of Simpson Co. Miss.
“De war broke out an’ up-sot everything. I never can fer-get the de day dat Mars had to go. When he tole us good by every slave on the place collected ’round him an’ cried, afraid he would never git back. We loved him an’ de slaves stuck by him while he wuz away, de bes’ hit could be wid de cavalrymen a taking an’ a destroyin’. When de war ended ole Mars …. came home an’ hit wuz a big day of rejoicin. We wuz so glad he come back safe to us.”
Ben Wall of Benton Co. Miss.
“I wish times were like they use to be when we belonged to the white folks; we had better times then.”
Henry Warfield of Warren Co. Miss.
“Negroes were used by the Confederates long before they were used by the Union forces. ….and a large number of these fought by the side of their masters or made it possible for the master to fight.”
Eugenia Weatherall of Monroe Co. Miss.
“Sure I members bout the Ku Kluxers but we never had no trouble with them. Why one of my cousins used to make de robes and masks they wore and I have watched them dress up in them many a time.”
Jane Wilburn of Lafayette Co. Miss.
“The Yankees took everything the cullud folks had same as they did the white folks, ’cause they wouldn’t believe the cullud folks had anything uv their own; they jus’ thought they wuz keeping them for their masters and Mistresses. I had just’ had holes made in my ears with a crab-apple thorne so I could wear some gold ear-rings my master had given me. I ‘members de first time de Yankees come. Dey come gallupin’ down de road, jumpin’ over de palm’s, tromplin’ down de rose bushes an’ messin’ up de flower beds. Dey stomped all over de house, in de kitchen, pantries, smokehouse, an’ evenjwhare, but dey didn’ find much, kaze near ’bout everything done been hid. I was settin’ on de steps when a big Yankee come up. He had on a cap an’ his eyes was mean. Whare did dey hide duh gold an’ silver, nigger?” he yelled at me. I was so skeered my hands was ashy, but I tole him I didn’ know nothin’ ’bout nothmn’; dat if anybody done hid things dey hid it while I was asleep. Go ax dat ole white-headed devil,” he said to me. I got mad den kaze he was tawkin’ ’bout Mis’ Polly, so I didn’ say nothin’. I jus’ set. Den he pushed me off de step an’ say if I didn’ dance he gwine shoot my toes off. Skeered as I was, I sho dons some shufflin’. Den he give me five dollars an’ told me to go buy jim cracks, but dat piece of paper won’t no good. ‘Twuzn nothin’ but a shin plaster like all dat war money, you couldn’ spend it. Dat Yankee kept callin’ Mis’ Polly a white-headed devil an’ said she done ram-shacked ’til dey wuzn’ nothin’ left, but he made his mens tote off meat, flour, pigs, an’ chickens. After dat Mis’ Polly got mighty stingy wid de vittles an’ we didn’ have no more ham. When de war was over de Yankees was all ‘roun’ de place tellin’ de niggers what to do. Dey tole dem dey was free, dat dey didn’ have to slave for de white folks no more. My folks all left Marse Cain an’ went to live in houses dat de Yankees built. Dey wuz like poor white folks houses, little shacks made out of sticks an’ mud wid stick an’ mud chimneys. Dey wuzn’ like Marse Cain’s cabins, planked up and warm, dey was full of cracks, an’ dey wuzn’ no lamps an’ oil. All de light come from de lightwood knots burnin’ in de fireplace. One day my mammy come to de big house after me. I didn’ want to go, I wanted to stay wid Mis’ Polly. I ‘gun to cry
an’ Mammy caught hold of me. I grabbed Mis’ Polly an’ held so tight dat I tore her skirt bindin’ loose an’ her skirt fell down ’bout her feets. “Let her stay wid me,” Mis’ Polly said to Mammy. But Mammy shook her head. “You took her away from me an’ didn’ pay no mind to my cryin’, so now I’se takin’ her back home. We’s free now, Mis’ Polly, we ain’t gwine be slaves no more to nobody.” She dragged me away. I can see how Mis’ Polly looked now. She didn’ say nothin’ but she looked hard at Mammy an’ her face was white. Mammy took me to de stick an’ mud house de Yankees done give her. It was smoky an’ dark kaze dey wuzn’ no windows. We didn’t have no sheets an’ no towels, so when I cried an’ said I didn’ want to live in no Yankee house, Mammy beat me an’ made me go to bed. I laid on de straw tick lookin’ up through de cracks in de roof. I could see de stars, an’ de sky shinin’ through de cracks and it looked like long blue splinters stretched ‘cross de rafters. I lay dare an’ cried kaze I wanted to go back to Mis’ Polly. I wuz never hungry fil we win free an’ de Yankees fed us. We didn’ have nothmn’ to eat ‘cept hardtack an’ middlmn’ meat. I never saw such meat. It was thin an’ tough wid a thick skin. You could boil it all day an’ all night an’ it wouldn’t cook done. I wouldn’t eat it I thought ‘twuz mule meat; mules dat done been shot on da battlefield den dried. I still believe ‘twin mule meat. .Dem was bad days. I’d rather have been a slave den to been hired out like I win, kaze I wuzn’ no fiel’ hand, I was a hand maid, trained to wait on de ladies. Den too, I win hungry most of de time an’ had to keep fightin’ off dem Yankee mens. Dem Yankees was mean folks. I looks back now an’ thinks. I ain’t never forgot dem slavery days, an’ I ain’t never forgot Mis’ Polly
Union Treatment of Slaves
Found these accounts regarding Southern blacks being oppressed by Federal authorites. On many occasions these are described as “worse than
“Freedpeople throughout the Union-occupied South often toiled harder and longer under Federal officers and soldiers than they had under slave owners and overseers–and received inferior food, clothing, and shelter to boot.”–“Free At Last: A Documentary History of Slavery, Freedom, and the Civil War”, 1992 edited by Ira Berlin, & others.
This is a letter written by Federal Chaplain and Surgeons, dated Dec 29th 1862, Helena, Arkansas:
The undersigned Chaplains and Surgeons of the army of the Eastern District of Arkansas would respectfully call your attention to the Statements and Suggestions following.
The Contrabands within our lines are experiencing hardships oppression & neglect the removal of which calls loudly for the intervention of authority. We daily see & deplore the evil and leave it to your wisdom to devise a remedy. In a great degree the contrabands are left entirely to the mercy and rapacity of the unprincipled part of our army (excepting only the limited jurisdiction of Capt. Richmond) with no person clothed with specific authority to look after & protect them. Among the list of grievances we mention these:
Some who have been paid by individuals for cotton or for labor have been waylaid by soldiers, robbed, and in several instances fired upon, as well as robbed, and in no case that we can now recall have the plunderers been brought to justice–
The wives of some have been molested by soldiers to gratify their licentious lust, and their husbands murdered in endeavering to defend them, and yet the guilty parties, though known, were not arrested. Some who have wives and families are required to work on the Fortifications, or to unload Government Stores, and receive only their meals at the Public table, while their families, whatever provision is intended for them, are, as a matter of fact, left in a helpless & starving condition.
Many of the contrabands have been employed, & received in numerous instances, from officers & privates, only counterfeit money or nothing at all for their services. One man was employed as a teamster by the Government & he died in the service (the government indebted to him nearly fifty dollars) leaving an orphan child eight years old, & there is no apparent provision made to draw the money, or to care for the orphan dchild. The negro hospital here has become notorious for filth, neglect, mortality & brutal whipping, so that the contrabands have lost all hope of kind treatment there, & would almost as soon go to their graves as to their hospital. These grievances reported to us by persons in whom we have confidence, & some of which we known to be true, are but a few of the many wrongs of which they complain—For the sake of humanity, for the sake of Christianity, for the good name of our army, for the honor of our country, cannot something be done to prevent this oppression & stop its demoralizing influences upon the Soldiers themselves ? Some have suggested that the matter be laid before the Department at Washington, in the hope that they will clothe an agent with authority to register all the names of the contravands, who will have a benevolent regard for their welfare, though whom all details of fatigue & working parties shall be made though whom rations may be drawn & money paid, & who shall be empowered to organize schools, & to make all needfull regulatiojns for the comfort & improvement of the condition of the contrabands; whose accounts shall be open at all times for inspection, and who shall make stated reports to the Department–All which is respectfully submitted
Pearl P. Ingall
Another letter by Charles Stevenas to Lt. J. H. Metcalf (Acting Assistant Adjutant General) on Jan. 27, 1863 describes working conditions of contrabands at Kenner, La.:
“The reason the negros gave for their filthy conditions was that they had no time to clean up in. On inquiry I found they have worked from sunrise till dark, Sundays included, since last Sept. …”
“My cattle at home are better cared for than these unfortunate persons.” –Col. Frank S. Nickerson, U.S. Army
Elsewhere at Fortress Monroe in the Virginia theatre, Lewis C. Lockwood, a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts testifies that this kind of abuse was committed on a widespread extent. In a letter dated Jan 29, 1862 he writes:
“Contrabandism at Fortress Monroe is but another name for one of the worst forms of practical oppression–government slavery. Old Pharaoh slavery was government slavery and Uncle Sam’s slavery is a counterpart…”
“But most of the slaves are compelled to work for government for a miserable pittance. Up to town months ago they had worked for nothing but quarters and rations. Since that time they have been partially supplied with clothing–costing on an average $4 per man. And in many instances they have received one or two dollars a month cash for the past town months…” “Yet, under the direction of Quarter Master Tallmadge, Sergeant Smith has lately reduced the rations, given out, in Camp Hamilton, to the families of these laborers and to the disabled, from 500 to 60. And some of the men, not willing to see if their families suffer, have withdrawn from government service. And the Sergeant has been putting them in the Guard-house, whipping and forcing them back into the government gang. In some instances these slaves have been knocked down senseless with shovels and clubs.”
“But I have just begun to trace the long catalogue of enormities, committed in the name of the Union, freedom and justice under the Stars and Stripes.
Yours with great respect, Lewis C. Lockwood”
Mrs. Louisa Jane Barker, the wife of the Chaplain of the 1st Mass. Heavy Artillery writes in 1864 regarding a contraband camp near Ft. Albany, in northern Virginia:
The camp, referred to as a “village” by Mrs. Barker was ordered to be cleared out by order of Gen. Augur. “This order was executed so literally that even a dying child was ordered out of his house—The grandmother who had taken care of it since its mothers death begged leave to stay until the child died, but she was refused.”
“The men who were absent at work,came home at night to find empty houses, and their families gone, they knew not whither!–Some of them came to Lieut. Shepard to enquire for their lost wives and children—In tears and indignation they protested against a tyranny worse than their past experiences of slavery—One man said, ‘I am going back to my old master—I never saw hard time till since I called myself a freeman.’ “
The following is a letter written by the colored men of Roanoke Island, N.C. on Mar 9th 1865 regarding the mistreatment they have received by the Federal Army. The letter was probably drafted by a black school teacher among them named Richard Boyle.
Writing President Lincoln regarding the actions of Superintendent, Capt. Horace James:
“..Soon as he
In another letter of the same date:
“We want to know from the Secretary of War has the Rev Chaplain James [Capt. James] which is our Superintendent of negros affairs has any wright to take our boy children from us and from the school and send them to Newbern to work to pay for they ration without they parent consint if he has we thinks it very hard indeed… ”
“…the next is concerning of our White soldiers they come to our Church and we treat them with all the politeness that we can and some of them treats us as though we were beast and we cant help our selves Some of them brings Pop Crackers and Christmas devils and throws a mong the woman and if we say any thing to them they will talk about mobin us. we report them to the Capt he will say you must find out which ones it was and that we cant do but we think very hard it they put the pistols to our ministers breast because he spoke to them about they behavour in the Church…”
From the Massachusetts Repubican delegates in their letter to Lincoln:
“congratulate you upon your having begun the greatest act in American history, the emancipation….and to let the blacks fight for us.’ p 19
He (Governor John Andrews, one of the John Brown ‘secret six’ ) thought that black enlistment would take the pressure off his state to fill his enlistment quotas. If Lincoln failed to let the blacks fight, Andrew would have to fill quotas with factory workers, a thought loathed by business interests in this most industrialized state. …p 20 (Ahhh….ya got to love those Yankee businessmen)
What did the Boston Irish think about it?
Many of Boston’s Irish felt that emancipation and the raising of black regiments threatened their tenous position by enabling blacks to compete for their low paying jobs they occupied….p 20
The ‘Boston Pilot’, an Irish newpaper wrote:
‘Twenty thousand negros on the march would be smelled ten miles distant. No scouts would need to be sent out to discover such warriors.’…p 20
And how did the Yankee General feel about them??
‘Well I guess we will let Strong put those damned negroes from Massachusetts in the advance, we might as well get rid of them, one time as
…Fed. Gen Truman Seymour.