Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

What They Saw at Fort Pillow

Posted in African Americans, Leadership, Memory by Andy Hall on April 13, 2014

While doing research on something else, I came across a couple of accounts of the aftermath of the Confederate assault on Fort Pillow, written by naval officers of U.S.S Silver Cloud (above), the Union “tinclad” gunboat that was the first on the scene. I don’t recall encountering these descriptions before, and they really do strike a nerve with their raw descriptions of what these men witnessed, at first hand.

These accounts are particularly important because historians are always looking for “proximity” in historical accounts of major events. The description of an event by someone who was physically present is to be more valued than one by someone who simply heard about it from another person. The narrative committed to paper immediately is, generally, more to be valued than one written months or years after the events described, when memories have started to fade or become shaded by others’ differing recollections. Hopefully, too, the historian can find those things in a description of the event by someone who doesn’t have any particular axe to grind, who’s writing for his own purposes without the intention that his account will be widely and publicly known. These are all factors — somewhat subjective, to be sure — that the historian considers when deciding what historical accounts to rely on when trying to reconstruct historical events, and to understand how one or another document fits within the context of all the rest.

Which brings us back to the eyewitness accounts of Acting Master William Ferguson, commanding officer of U.S.S. Silver Cloud, and Acting Master’s Mate Robert S. Critchell of that same vessel.

Ferguson’s report was written April 14, 1864, the day after he was at the site. It was addressed to Major General Stephen A. Hurlbut, commanding officer of the Union’s XVI Corps of the Army of the Tennessee, then headquartered at Memphis. It appears in the Army OR, vol. 57, and the Navy OR, vol. 26.

 
U.S. STEAMER SILVER CLOUD,
Off Memphis, Tenn., April 14, 1864.
 
SIR: In compliance with your request that I would forward to you a written statement of what I witnessed and learned concerning the treatment of our troops by the rebels at the capture of Fort Pillow by their forces under General Forrest, I have the honor to submit the following report:
 
Our garrison at Fort Pillow, consisting of some 350 colored troops and 200 of the Thirteenth Tennessee Cavalry, refusing to surrender, the place was carried by assault about 3 p.m. of 12th instant.
 
I arrived off the fort at 6 a.m. on the morning of the 13th instant. Parties of rebel cavalry were picketing on the hills around the fort, and shelling those away I made a landing and took on-board some 20 of our troops (some of them badly wounded), who had concealed themselves along the bank and came out when they saw my vessel. While doing so I was fired upon by rebel sharpshooters posted on the hills, and 1 wounded man limping down to the vessel was shot.
 
About 8 a.m. the enemy sent in a flag of truce with a proposal from General Forrest that he would put me in possession of the fort and the country around until 5 p.m. for the purpose of burying our dead and removing our wounded, whom he had no means of attending to. I agreed to the terms proposed, and hailing the steamer Platte Valley, which vessel I had convoyed up from Memphis, I brought her alongside and had the wounded brought down from the fort and battle-field and placed on board of her. Details of rebel soldiers assisted us in this duty, and some soldiers and citizens on board the Platte Valley volunteered for the same purpose.
 
We found about 70 wounded men in the fort and around it, and buried, I should think, 150 bodies. All the buildings around the fort and the tents and huts in the fort had been burned by the rebels, and among the embers the charred remains of numbers of our soldiers who had suffered a terrible death in the flames could be seen.
 
All the wounded who had strength enough to speak agreed that after the fort was taken an indiscriminate slaughter of our troops was carried on by the enemy with a furious and vindictive savageness which was never equaled by the most merciless of the Indian tribes. Around on every side horrible testimony to the truth of this statement could be seen. Bodies with gaping wounds, some bayoneted through the eyes, some with skulls beaten through, others with hideous wounds as if their bowels had been ripped open with bowie-knives, plainly told that but little quarter was shown to our troops. Strewn from the fort to the river bank, in the ravines and hollows, behind logs and under the brush where they had crept for protection from the assassins who pursued them, we found bodies bayoneted, beaten, and shot to death, showing how cold-blooded and persistent was the slaughter of our unfortunate troops.
 
Of course, when a work is carried by assault there will always be more or less bloodshed, even when all resistance has ceased; but here there were unmistakable evidences of a massacre carried on long after any resistance could have been offered, with a cold-blooded barbarity and perseverance which nothing can palliate.
 
As near as I can learn, there were about 500 men in the fort when it was stormed. I received about 100 men, including the wounded and those I took on board before the flag of truce was sent in. The rebels, I learned, had few prisoners; so that at least 300 of our troops must have been killed in this affair.
 
I have the honor to forward a list(*) of the wounded officers and men received from the enemy under flag of truce.
 
I am, general, your obedient servant,
 
W. FERGUSON,
Acting Master, U.S. Navy, Comdg. U.S. Steamer Silver Cloud.
 

Ferguson’s report is valuable because it is detailed, proximate in time to the event, and was written specifically for reference within the military chain of command. It seems likely that Ferguson’s description is the first written description of the aftermath of the engagement within the Federal’s command structure. Certainly it was written before news of Fort Pillow became widely known across the country, and the event became a rallying cry for retribution and revenge. Ferguson’s account was, I believe, ultimately included in the evidence published by the subsequent congressional investigation of the incident, but he had no way of anticipating that when he sat down to write out his report just 24 hours after witnessing such horrors.

The second account is that of Acting Master’s Mate Robert S. Critchell (right), a 20-year-old junior officer aboard the gunboat. Critchell’s letter, addressed to U.S. Rep. Henry T. Blow of Missouri, was written a week after Ferguson’s report, after the enormity of events at the fort had begun to take hold. If Ferguson’s report reflected the shock of what he’d seen, Critchell’s gives voice to a growing anger about it.  Critchell’s revulsion comes through in this letter, along with his disdain for the explanations of the brutality offered by the Confederate officers he’d met, that they’d simply lost control of their men, which the Union naval officer calls “a flimsy excuse.” Crittchell admits to being “personally interested in the retaliation which our government may deal out to the rebels,” but also stands by the accuracy of his description, offering to swear out an affidavit attesting to it.

 
UNITED STATES STEAMER “SILVER CLOUD.”
Mississippi River, April 22nd, 1864.
 
SIR :-Since you did me the favor of recommending my appointment last year, I have been on duty aboard this boat. I now write you with reference to the Fort Pillow massacre, because some of our crew are colored and I feel personally interested in the retaliation which our government may deal out to the rebels, when the fact of the merciless butchery is fully established.
 
Our boat arrived at the fort about 7½ A. M. on Wednesday, the 13th, the day after the rebels captured the fort. After shelling them, whenever we could see them, for two hours, a flag of truce from the rebel General Chalmers, was received by us, and Captain Ferguson of this boat, made an arrangement with General Chalmers for the paroling of our wounded and the burial of our dead; the arrangement to last until 5 P. M.
 
We then landed at the fort, and I was sent out with a burial party to bury our dead. I found many of the dead lying close along by the water’s edge, where they had evidently sought safety; they could not offer any resistance from the places where they were, in holes and cavities along the banks; most of them had two wounds. I saw several colored soldiers of the Sixth United States Artillery, with their eyes punched out with bayonets; many of them were shot twice and bayonetted also. All those along the bank of the river were colored. The number of the colored near the river was about seventy. Going up into the fort, I saw there bodies partially consumed by fire. Whether burned before or after death I cannot say, anyway, there were several companies of rebels in the fort while these bodies were burning, and they could have pulled them out of the fire had they chosen to do so. One of the wounded negroes told me that “he hadn’t done a thing,” and when the rebels drove our men out of the fort, they (our men) threw away their guns and cried out that they surrendered, but they kept on shooting them down until they had shot all but a few. This is what they all say.
 
I had some conversation with rebel officers and they claim that our men would not surrender and in some few cases they “could not control their men,” who seemed determined to shoot down every negro soldier, whether he surrendered or not. This is a flimsy excuse, for after our colored troops had been driven from the fort, and they were surrounded by the rebels on all sides, it is apparent that they would do what all say they did,throw down their arms and beg for mercy.
 
I buried very few white men, the whole number buried by my party and the party from the gunboat “New Era” was about one hundred.
 
I can make affidavit to the above if necessary.
 
Hoping that the above may be of some service and that a desire to be of service will be considered sufficient excuse for writing to you, I remain very respectfully your obedient servant,
 
ROBERT S. CRITCHELL,
Acting Master’s Mate, U. S. N.

Critchell’s note about the explanation offered by Confederate officers, who argued that the black soldiers “would not surrender and in some few cases [the Confederate officers] ‘could not control their men,’ who seemed determined to shoot down every negro soldier, whether he surrendered or not,” is worth noting. That was the excuse offered at the time, and it remains so almost 150 years later, for those Fort Pillow apologists who acknowledge that unnecessary bloodshed took place at all. Critchell observed at the time that “this is a flimsy excuse,” and so it remains today.

Critchell’s letter also seems to endorse retaliation-in-kind, “because some of our crew are colored and I feel personally interested in the retaliation which our government may deal out to the rebels, when the fact of the merciless butchery is fully established.” This urge is, unfortunately, entirely understandable, and we’ve seen that within weeks the atrocity at Fort Pillow was being used as a rallying cry to spur Union soldiers on to commit their own acts of wanton violence. Vengrance begets retaliation begets vengeance begets retaliation. It never ends, and it’s always rationalized by pointing to the other side having done it before.

It never ends, but it often does have identifiable beginnings. Bill Ferguson and Bob Critchell saw one of those beginnings first-hand.

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Critchell letter and images from Robert S. Critchell, Recollections of a Fire Insurance Man (Chicago: McClurg & Co., 1909).

Confederate Veterans on Forrest: “Unworthy of a Southern gentleman”

Posted in African Americans, Leadership, Memory by Andy Hall on August 20, 2013

OldForrestI was looking around recently for some background to the famous Pole-Bearers address given by Nathan Bedford Forrest in July 1875 at Memphis. In his speech to the Freedmen’s group, Forrest emphasized the importance of African Americans building their community, participating in elections, and both races moving forward in peace. Just prior to making his remarks, Forrest was presented a bouquet of flowers by an African American girl, and responded by giving the girl a kiss on the cheek. This single event is sometimes cited as proof that the former slave dealer and Klan leader “wasn’t a racist” or some similar nonsense, as if that modern term had much import in mid-19th century America.

I’ll have more to say about the Pole Bearers speech another time, but if you ever wondered how Forrest’s actions that day were perceived by at least some of his former comrades in gray, now we know. They weren’t happy about it, and went to considerable efforts to say so – publicly. From the Augusta, Georgia Chronicle, July 31, 1875, p. 4:

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EX-CONFEDERATES
—–
Meeting of Cavalry Survivor’s Association.
—–
A called meeting of the Cavalry Survivor’s Association was held at the Irish Volunteers’ Hall last evening. The amended constitution as reported by the committee, was unanimously adopted.
 
Captain E. Eve said: “Comrades, we are ordered to meet to revise out constitution and by-laws; it is in the hands of an able committee ably, I trust, they have perfected their labors, but while here assembled there is one incident that has transpired upon which I wish to throw your disapproval and have recorded in our archives, although performed by as gallant a cavalryman as ever used sabre over an enemy’s brain; yet let us prove that the old esprit du corps still lives, and that we endorse no action unworthy of a Southern gentleman. I speak of the address delivered before a black and tan audience by Gen. N. B. Forrest. With what a glow of enthusiasm and thrill of pride have I not perued the campaigns of Gen. Forrest’s cavalry, their heroic deeds, their sufferings and their successes under the leadership of one whom I always considered (in my poor judgment) second only to out immortal Hampton? And now to mar all the lustre attached to his name, his brain is turned by the civilities of a mulatto wench who presented him with a bouquet of roses. We would rather have sent him a car filled with the rarest exotics plucked from the dizziest peaks of the Himalayas or the perilous fastness of the Andes than he should have thus befouled the fair home of one of the Confederacy’s most daring general officers. What can his object be? Ah! General Forrest!
 
[snip]
 
Wherefore be it
Resolved, that we, the Survivor’s Association of the Cavalry of the Confederate States, in meeting assembled at Augusta, Ga., do hereby express our unmitigated disapproval of any such sentiments as those expressed by Gen. N. B. Forrest at a meeting of the Pole Bearers Society of Memphis, Tennessee, and that we allow no man to advocate, or even hint to the world, before any public assemblage, that he dare associate our mother’s, wives’ daughters’ or sisters’ names in the same category that he classes the females of the negro [sic.] race, without, at least, expressing out disapprobation.
 
The resolution was unanimously adopted and ordered spread on the minutes.

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Geez. Sounds like they were mad, huh?

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No, this is Not a Monument to “Black Confederate Regiments”

Posted in African Americans, Memory by Andy Hall on July 29, 2013

MississippiMonument

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Can’t make this up:

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With the push to purge this country of Confederate Memorials, I must wonder if those politically correct thugs would dare tear this monument down? It commemorates the bravery and courage of the Black Confederate Regiments in Mississippi that dared to do their solemn duty to their country and defend Vicksburg from the foreign invaders from the North! My hat’s off to those who fought and gave their lives in defense of our Country!

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This monument stands in Vicksburg National Military Park. It was dedicated in 2004 to two Union regiments, the 1st and 3rd Mississippi Infantry (African Descent), that were later reorganized as the 51st and 53rd U.S. Colored Infantry, respectively.

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The Klansman

Posted in African Americans, Memory by Andy Hall on July 14, 2013

DaffanLawrence Aylett Daffan (right, 1845-1907) is a collateral Confederate ancestor of mine, one of a few who left behind any detailed account of his wartime service. He led a remarkable life. His family moved to Texas from Conecuh County, Alabama in 1849. After his father died in July 1859, fourteen-year-old Lawrence went to work to help support his widowed mother, carrying the mails between Montgomery and Washington Counties, Texas, in 1859. Later, at the time of the 1860 U.S. Census, Lawrence was working as a wagoner. In the spring of 1862, shortly after his 17th birthday, he enlisted at Anderson, Texas in Company G of the Fourth Texas Infantry. He fought in the major engagements of his regiment, part of the famous Texas Brigade, including Second Manassas, Sharpsburg, Gettysburg, and Chickamauga. It was in this last action that he received what he jokingly described as his only wartime injury, a very slight one, when a Minié ball struck his rifle and knocked him down. It was at Chickamauga, too that he witnessed the incident where John Bell Hood was wounded, that Daffan believed to be a case of friendly fire. Private Daffan was captured at Lenore Station in November 1863, during the Chattanooga Campaign, and spent the remainder of the war as a prisoner at Rock Island, Illinois.

Returning to Texas in July 1865, Daffan soon found a job as a brakeman on the Houston & Texas Central Railroad. The postwar decades were boom times for the railroads in Texas, which expanded rapidly. Daffan moved his way up steadily through the company, successively serving as conductor, train master, station agent, and, from 1889, superintendent of the railroad’s Second Division.

In 1872, he married a local girl from Brenham, Mollie Day, and together they had six  children, four sons and two daughters. All of their children survived to adulthood, all of them had good educations, and the eldest, Katie, became a noted author in her own right. Although he had little formal schooling himself, Lawrence Daffan valued education highly, and reportedly was an avid reader, though mostly of conventional tastes — Shakespeare, Milton, Dickens, and, of course, the Bible. He was active in a wide range of fraternal organizations, and especially dedicated to Confederate veterans’ activities, including the Hood’s Texas Brigade Association, an effort which earned him the honorific title of “Colonel,” which he carried proudly until his death.

Lawrence Daffan was seriously injured in a train derailment near Corsicana in September 1898, losing two fingers and being severely banged up. Though he recovered, his health was much more precarious after that. He stepped down as superintendent of the H&TC’s Second Division in 1904, to become General Agent for Transportation for the entire railroad, a position he held until his death. In January 1907, at the age of sixty-one, Daffan was suddenly taken ill at his office in Ennis. Carried to his home a few blocks away, he died there that evening. Obituaries were printed in newspapers across the state, and tributes, floral arrangements and formal resolutions from groups he belonged to were published in the paper. His funeral was one of the biggest events Ennis had seen. The H&TC ran special, free trains from Denison at the northern end of the line, and Houston at the southern, to Ennis to accommodate hundreds of mourners who came to town just to pay their last respects at the funeral.

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LADaffanOfficec1900BW
Lawrence Daffan as Superintendent of the Second division of the Houston & Texas Central Railroad, Ennis, Texas. c. 1900. This photo, and the one at top, are from Katie Daffan’s My Father as I Remember Him.

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Daffan was, by all accounts, a respected and admired member of his community — multiple communities, in fact: civic, professional and veteran. He was a self-made man in the best, 19th-century sense of the term, starting out after the Civil War as a twenty-year-old veteran with little education and few prospects, worked his way up to the top levels of his profession. He provided for his widowed mother, his siblings and his own family, saw to his children’s education, and worked for the growth and betterment of his community. He was, in almost every respect, an exemplar of 19th century success through hard work and dedication to traditional values of home, family and church.

He was also a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

(more…)

The Day Holt Collier Killed Hogzilla

Posted in African Americans, Memory by Andy Hall on July 8, 2013

Collier2Read about it at the Civil War Monitor.

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The White Lies of Paula Deen

Posted in African Americans, Genealogy, Media, Memory by Andy Hall on July 5, 2013

Deen

You’re all familiar with the dust-up over Paula Deen’s comments on race (admitted and alleged), and there’s no point rehashing that mess again here. But I would like to throw a little historical light on something she last year, referring to her g-g-g-grandfather, John A. Batts of Lee County, Georgia:

He had lost his son, he had lost his war, he didn’t know how to deal with life with no one to help operate his plantation. . . . Between the death of his son, and losing all the workers, he went out I’m sure into the barn and he shot himself because he couldn’t deal with those kinds of changes, and they were terrific changes. . . . I feel like the South is almost less prejudiced because black folks played such an integral part in our lives. They were like our family.
 

Note that Deen can’t quite bring herself to use the word “slave” — they’re “workers.”

Now, a lot of white Southerners buy into this line. They insist that their ancestors had nothing to do with slavery, or if they did, their slaves “were like our family” and they were uniformly kind and benevolent masters. It’s a comforting rationalization, usually based on exactly nothing more than several generations’ worth of family lore. But as we saw with the case of Andrew Chandler and Silas Chandler, the beloved stories held dear by the descendants of slaveholders are often very different from those descended from those who were enslaved.

What’s surprising about Deen’s case is that she seems to have made up this tale about her ancestor on her own, and quite recently. Because until a year or so ago, when Georgia College Professor Bob Wilson laid it out for her, Deen had no idea her ancestor had “workers.”

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Wilson: The main source of wealth for Southern planters, when you see a figure like that, is gonna be in people.
 
Deen: [Pause] Oh.
 
Wilson: So let me show you this document here, see what it’s called right up there [at the top].
 
Deen: “Slave inhabitants.” John Batts. [Counting] Thirty-five. That’s a lot. I have said so many times, “well, my family was never involved in slavery, in any way. It’s horrific, and it’s sad.”

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She also said, “If I could go back and talk to [John Batts], I would do everything in my power to convince him not to participate in the heinous act of slavery.”

But that was way back in 2012, and since then she’s convinced herself that Batts’ bondsmen and -women “were like our family.”

Believe me, I understand how disturbing it is to learn from a slave schedule that your g-g-g-grandfather was a slaveholder. But there’s nothing to be done about that. Deal.

There’s a whole lot more to John Batts’ story, though, and it doesn’t mesh very well with her image of a simple farmer, caught up in the turbulent time that ripped apart his “family” and deprived him of his “workers.”

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John A. Batts was born in 1814 in Miller County, Georgia. He and his wife, Mary, relocated to Lee County sometime in the late 1830s, and John began to establish himself as a planter. By the late 1840s, Batts was representing Lee County on a regional committee to develop plans to build a railroad line through that part of the state to the Georgia Central Line at Macon.[1]

Batt’s service on the railroad committee may have been his entre into the political arena. From the mid-1850s, Batts ran for or served in a variety of elected offices. In 1856 he was a Democratic nominee to serve as a justice of the Georgia Inferior Court, which position may be where his title of “Judge Batts” was earned.[2] He served a term in the Georgia House of Representatives beginning in November 1857.[3] In August 1860, Batts was a Democratic delegate from Lee County to the state Democratic convention at Milledgeville, in support of the nomination of John C. Breckinrdige and Joseph Lane in the presidential election that year.[4] In the fall of 1860 Batts was elected to a seat in the State Senate. Batts was a member of the Georgia Senate when that state seceded from the Union, but was not a member of Georgia’s secession convention.[5]

With the coming of the war, John and Mary Batts’ eldest son, William, enlisted as a Private in Co. A of the 12th Georgia Infantry. After William was killed in action at the Battle of Cedar Run on August 9, 1862, Judge Batts was obliged to swear an affidavit that his dead son left no wife or heirs, in order to claim $111.30 in bounty and back pay owed to the soldier.[6]

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WilliamBattsAffidavit
Judge Batts’ affidavit and power-of-attorney, filed to collect monies owed his deceased son, William.

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In August 1865 John Batts applied for a formal pardon from the administration of President Andrew Johnson. Among the seventeen classes of persons ineligible for the general pardon were former Confederate citizens worth $20,000 or more. Batts applied, his application stating that “thus tho [Batts] doubts [that] he is worth twenty thousand dollars, yet he may be worth those sum [sic.] or more.” The affidavit goes on, asserting

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that he admits himself to have voluntarily participated in the late rebellion, having been honestly convinced that he was acting for the best. Thus he now insists to the Government of the United States with equal honesty – thus he has taken the oath hereto attached in good faith, & with the honest intent to keep the same, & hereafter to obey the laws & Support the Government of the United States [.] That soon after the publication of Genl Gilmore’s [sic.] order in reference to the freedom of the slaves he informed his negroes [sic.] thereof and since then he has been employing them at full & proper wages. [7]

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John Batts had no trouble referring to his alleged “family” as his slaves; why does Paula Deen?

John Batts was not ruined financially by the war. Although he undoubtedly went through hard economic times like everyone else in the region, he had gone into the war period as a wealthy man, and remained so afterward. By the time of the U.S. Census of 1870, after a decade of war and Radical Reconstruction, John Batts still was able to list assets amounting to $18,000, $13,000 of that in land. He owned 2,250 acres, making him one of the largest landholders in Lee County. In the 20 years since the 1850 census, his real property holdings had more than doubled (up from 1,000 acres), and the amount of improved land tripled, from 350 acres in 1850 to 1,100 in 1870. In that latter year Batts’ holdings produced 1,500 bushels of corn, 300 bushels of oats, 141 bales of cotton, 300 pounds of wool and 500 bushels of sweet potatoes, with smaller amounts of other products, with an aggregate value of around $16,000.[8]

Beyond the hard numbers collected by the census enumerator, we also have a good narrative description of Batts’ plantation. That same summer, the Weekly Sumter Republican ran a letter describing the place:

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On Monday last I stopped at the plantation of Judge John Batts, where I was cordially received and well taken care of by Mr. Joseph Batts, his son, under whose able management the place is conducted, and where the general thrifty appearance of things reflect credit on his energy and superintendence. In his company I rode over considerable [part] of the plantation, and partook plentifully of the fine watermelons for which his place is noted. Of his cotton crop too much cannot be said in praise, and I venture to say there is not a finer prospect anywhere in Southwest Georgia. I saw plenty waist high, and full squares. He informed me that he expects to make on the greater portion of the place, if not on all of it, a bale to the acre. We also rode over a 60 acre field of corn, some of which I could not reach when standing on a tall horse’s back. Mr. Batts says, unless the season proves unfavorable, he expects a yield of 25 to 30 bushels to the acre. I did not go over the balance of his corn, but he assured me that all on the place was good, and he would, in all probability, make more than he needed for his own use. [9]

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At this point, it seems, many of the day-to-day operations of the farm were being handled by John Batts’ second son, Joseph, then aged about 25. (Joseph would go on to inherit the bulk of his father’s land holdings.) Nonetheless, John Batts appears to have remained active and engaged in his community during his last years, including participation in the Smithville Grange, a sort of farmer’s promotional group. [10]

But then, early one Sunday morning in the spring of 1878, Judge Batts put a pistol to his right temple and pulled the trigger. According to his surviving family members, he’d been suffering from depression “for months past,” and had tried several times to kill himself by ingesting morphine. According to one account, the old judge had “had many family troubles, which had partially dethroned his reason.” He was 63 years old.[11]

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Batts’ death came thirteen years after the end of the war, thirteen years after emancipation, and seven years after the end of Reconstruction. The Redeemers, hard-line white conservative Democrats, again controlled the Georgia State Assembly and had purged its Republican, African American members. Batt’s farm – plantation, as it was still referred to – was bigger than it ever had been, and noted for its success.

Whatever torments haunted Judge Batts’ thoughts when he went out to the barn that morning in May 1878, we cannot know. I don’t know, you don’t know, and Paula Deen doesn’t know, either. It’s a personal tragedy that, at this distance, is probably impenetrable. William’s death at Cedar Run, all those years before, may well have played into John Batts’ deep and ultimately fatal depression. But beyond that, it’s speculation, without any real evidence at all. Paula Deen’s rationalization that Judge Batts’ suicide must have had something to do, fundamentally, with emancipation robbing him of his “family” is a perversion, a twisting of the story to make Batts – and by extension, herself — a victim of the end of slavery in the South. It’s selfish, and it’s shameful.

Even Judge Batts deserves better.


[1] Southern Recorder, May 25, 1847, 3.

[2] Albany, Georgia Patriot, April 3, 1856, 2.

[3] Journal of the House of Representatives of the State of Georgia (Milledgeville: Stare of Georgia, 1861).

[4] Federal Union, August 14, 1860. 3.

[5] Albany, Georgia Patriot, September 22, 1859, 2; Journal of the Senate of the State of Georgia (Milledgeville: Stare of Georgia, 1857), 5.

[6] Batts, William. Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Georgia, 12th Georgia Infantry, 1861-65 (NARA M266), National Archives.

[7] Batts, John. Case Files of Applications from Former Confederates for Presidential Pardons (“Amnesty Papers”), 1865-67 (NARA M1003), National Archives. “Genl Gilmore” is probably a reference to Major General Quincy Adams Gillmore, Commanding Officer of the U.S. Army’s Department of the South (South Carolina, Georgia and Florida) in the first half of 1865.

[8] 1870 U.S. Census for Lee County, Georgia; Schedule 1, Inhabitants, 12; 1870 U.S. Census for Lee County, Georgia; Schedule 3, Productions of Agriculture, 4-5; 1850 U.S. Census for Lee County, Georgia, Schedule 3, Productions of Agriculture, 147-49. At the time of the 1870 census, there were 19 landowners in Lee County, Georgia with farms amounting to 1,000 acres or more; Batts’ was more than twice that size. University of Virginia, Historical Census Browser. Retrieved July 4, 2013, Geospatial and Statistical Data Center: http://mapserver.lib.virginia.edu/collections/stats/histcensus/index.html.

[9] Weekly Sumter Republican, July 15, 1870, 3. The writer’s impression of the overall efficiency of Batt’s farm seems to be correct, as the 1870 census suggests it had above-average production. While Batts’ 1,100 acres of improved cropland made up about 1.34% of Lee County’s total, his $16,000 in product made up about 1.58% of the county’s total agricultural production.

[10] Sun and Columbus Daily Enquirer, August 20, 1874, 3; Macon Telegraph and Messenger, August 18, 1874, 1

[11] August Weekly Sumter Republican, May 24, 1878, 3; Georgia Weekly Telegraph, May 28, 1878, 8; Columbus Daily Enquirer-Sun, May 23, 1878, 3.

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Ted Alexander’s “A Regular Slave Hunt”

Posted in African Americans by Andy Hall on July 2, 2013

BM-Johnson

One of the important secondary works on the abuse and and seizure of African Americans by the Confederate Army during the Gettysburg campaign is Ted Alexander’s 2001 North & South article, “A Regular Slave Hunt: The Army of Northern Virginia and Black Civilians in the Gettysburg Campaign.” It’s a little difficult to find, but if you haven’t read it, you really should.

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GeneralStarsGray

“We have received provocation enough. . . .”

Posted in African Americans, Leadership, Memory by Andy Hall on July 1, 2013

OldPete3On the first day of July 1863, Confederate Lieutenant General James Longstreet (left), writing through his adjutant, ordered General George Pickett to bring up his corps from the rear to reinforce the main body of the Army of Northern Virginia. The lead elements of the armies of Robert E. Lee and George Meade had come together outside a small Pennsylvania market town called Gettysburg. The clash there would become the most famous battle of the American Civil War, and would be popularly regarded as a critical turning point not just of that conflict, but in American history. More about Longstreet’s order shortly.

I was thinking about the central role of the Battle of Gettysburg in our memory of the war when I recently read an essay by David G. Smith, “Race and Retaliation: The Capture of African Americans During the Gettysburg Campaign,” part of Virginia’s Civil War, edited by Peter Wallenstein and Bertram Wyatt-Brown. All but the last page and a few citations is available online through Google Books.

It’s not a pleasant read.

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Research Exercise: “Sam Cullom, Black Confederate”

Posted in African Americans, Memory by Andy Hall on June 27, 2013

CullomThe name Sam Cullom is a new one to me, but it seems he’s been celebrated in and around Livingston, Tennessee as a local Black Confederate for a while. A military-style headstone was placed over his grave about ten years ago (right), with the legend, “Pvt. Sam Cullom.” His story is told a number of places, like this 2008 piece in the Crossville, Tennessee Chronicle:

 
Pvt. Sam Cullom of Overton County (Livingston), a slave of the Cullom family, went to war with his owner’s son, Jim Cullom. They were among the first unit to leave for Confederate duty from Overton County. They fought together in numerous campaigns until Jim Cullom was killed in the battles of the Atlanta campaign. Sam Cullom buried Jim and continued to fight with the unit until the end of the war, when he returned to Overton County. Sam Cullom’s application for a Tennessee Black Confederate pension was approved in three days of its arrival at the Confederate Pension Board in Nashville. Sam is buried in the Bethlehem Methodist Church cemetery just outside Livingston, in an area where Sam and his family were major landowners. Land in the area where the Overton County Fairgrounds sits once belonged to Sam Cullom, Black Confederate.
 

So here’s an assignment for those who may be so inclined. See what you can find in the way of historical documentation that supports or refutes this profile of Cullom. To get you started, here’s his 1921 pension application from the State of Tennessee, and his listing in the decennial U.S. Census for 1880, 1900, 1910 and 1920 (two pages).

Please feel to post links to other, primary sources that are useful in documenting Cullom’s life. Have fun.

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GeneralStarsGray

“They constitute a privileged class in the community”

Posted in African Americans, Memory by Andy Hall on June 26, 2013

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In January 1865 the debate over whether to arm slaves in a last-ditch defense against the Union army was coming to a head in Richmond. The measure would eventually pass a few weeks later, in mid-March. Nonetheless, the Atlanta Southern Confederacy, publishing in Macon, continued to reject the notion that African American should, or even could, be put under arms.

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We perceive the public journals continue to urge the measure of putting negroes [sic.] into the army, and we hear people talking on the street corners in favor of the measure. Put arms in the hands of the slaves, and make them fight for us, they say. We have heretofore expressed our opinion in opposition to this measure, and shall not now repeat what we then said. In continuation of our formerly expressed views, we may add a few additional suggestions now.
 
One speedy practical result of putting negroes in the army would be the peopling of all the swamps of the South with runaway negro deserters. Trained to the use of fire arms, they would depredate everywhere on cattle, hogs, etc., and would soon be forced to resort to robbery and plunder to gain subsistence. Attempts to arrest them would be resisted, and the horrors of a servile war would be realized. Very large numbers would desert and pursue this sort of life. If they did not do this, they would desert to the enemy. With the enemy they know they would get freedom at once. With us, they would get freedom after the war, taking our promises as true. There would exist an immediate certainty of freedom on one side; an uncertainty on the other.  A well disposed, faithful, and intelligent slave in this region was recently asked by his master some questions on this very point. The view I have taken of the subject in the above remarks, are simply the views of the slave referred to, and constitutes the substance of his reply to his master. Put, said the negro, the slave into any other position in the service you choose-let him dig, drive teams, build roads, do any other duty, but do not call on him to fight. . . .
 
The negro is willing to work for us, but not to fight for us. We were passing into the car-shed of this city two days since. Some idle and vicious looking boys were directing some saucy conversation to a negro man of stalwart frame who stood near them. One of the boys said to the negro, “Uncle, why don’t you go and fight?” “What I fight for?’ asked the Ebon. “For your country,” replied the boy. The negro scowled and said instantly, “I have no country to fight for.”
 
Now we think the negro was mistaken. We think his lot an enviable one, and that they constitute a privileged class in the community. As the toil of brain and muscle is daily renewed, amid uncertainties, for the procurement of bread for our wife and little ones, we often feel how happy we should be were we the slave of some good and provident owner. Then simple daily toil would fill the measure of duty, and comfortable food and clothing would be the assured reward. While, therefore, we think the negro was mistaken — that the South is emphatically his country while slavery exists — yet we have no idea he can be convinced of the fact sufficiently to take up arms and fight bravely for our cause as his cause, for our country as his country.
 
But waiving all this, and supposing them to fight, and to so greatly aid us that we win our independence, what then? The fighting negroes are to be freed. What are we to do with them 1 Let them remain among us? If so, those who remain slaves may be so in name, but they will not be so in reality. Shall the free slaves then be sent out of the country1 out of the country whose independence they fought to obtain? Certainly no such reward as perpetual exile would-be either honorable to us, or just to them. Such an act on our part, would be a stigma on the imperishable pages of history, of which all future generations of Southrons would be ashamed. These are some of the additional considerations which have suggested themselves to us. Let us put the negro to work, but not to fight. [1]

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Keep in mind that on the date this was published, January 20, 1865, Uncle Billy’s troops were marching north from Savannah into South Carolina, Fort Fisher had just been captured, closing the last Confederate port on the Atlantic, and U.S. Speaker of the House Schuyler Colfax was lobbying hard for votes to pass the 13th Amendment in Congress. Yet down in Macon, the local editor was devoting column inches to explaining how slaves were a “privileged class,” happy and contented folks, unburdened by anxiety or want: “how happy we should be were we the slave of some good and provident owner.”

You may bang your head on the desk now.

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[1] Atlanta Southern Confederacy, January 20, 1865. Quoted in Robert F. Durden, The Gray and the Black: The Confederate Debate on Emancipation (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 1972), 156-58. Image: “Market Scene in Macon, Georgia,” by A. R. Waud. From here.

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