Thursday, February 25, 2010

More Interesting Facts Concerning Slavery and the Civil War

According to a book entitled "Black Confederates and Afro-Yankees in Civil War Virginia," a significant portion of freed slaves actually owned slaves themselves. It would stand to reason that these were relatives, but that wasn't always the case. Justus Angel and Mistress L. Horry of South Carolina each owned 84 slaves. In 1830, one-fourth of all freed slaves owned ten or more slaves, and eight of them owned 30 or more. In New Orleans, over 3,000 freed slaves (28%) owned slaves.

In 1860, only a small minority of whites owned slaves, estimated at 1.4% nationwide, or 4.8% in the South. Contrary to popular belief, slaves and their owners worked side by side, regardless of whether they were black or white. The majority of slave owners owned only one to five slaves. Interestingly, William Ellison, a slave at birth, was South Carolina's largest Negro slave owner in 1860. One has to wonder why a former slave would justify becoming a magnate slave master.

In Virginia, some black slave owners did own members of their families, and freed them in their wills contingent upon their deaths. Freed blacks were encouraged to sell themselves into slavery in order to ensure their adequate care, and "had a right to choose their owner through a lengthy court procedure." One particular freed slave, who changed his name to William Ellison, is documented as treating his slaves poorly. Except for a few female slaves that he kept as "breeders," he sold the female slaves, along with many of their male children. He had a reputation of abusing his slaves by not feeding or clothing them properly, and kept them in a small, windowless building where he would chain up the troublemakers.

This account provides true insight into the actual structure of the Old South, which is far different than what we have been led to believe. Because of significant changes that the South was experiencing, slavery itself would have undoubtedly become obsolete in time. The horrendous trauma that the nation suffered, and still suffers, could have been avoided.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Southaven Civil War Show

The annual Civil War show took place here in Southaven over the weekend. The show had a great turnout, and had over 200 vendors, including authors, relics and antique dealers, and artisans. Local support is essential for events such as this, so thanks to everyone who came out and/or participated.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Black History Month

In honor of Black History Month, I thought it appropriate to talk about the part African-Americans played during the Civil War. Everyone knows that President Lincoln signed into law the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. What they likely don't know is that he had no intention to free slaves in northern states, or states that he had jurisdiction in. In fact, in his home state of Illinois, freed slaves were disallowed, and Lincoln did nothing to reverse the fact.

During the War Between the States, the Union army enlisted black soldiers. However, most of those poor guys were forced to hard labor, and didn't engage in battles. By the war's end, African Americans constituted less that one percent of the U.S. population, yet made up 10 percent of the Union army. Altogether, 180,000 black men enlisted, which was more than 85 percent of those eligible.

On the Confederate side, General Patrick Cleburne advocated enlisting slaves to fight for the cause in return for their freedom. But after he was killed in 1864, the idea fizzled until it was again raised in November 1864 by President Jefferson Davis. The Confederate Congress authorized enlisting 300,000 black soldiers in March 1865, but the war ended the following month. Speculation arises that if the war had ended sooner, Lincoln probably would not have signed the Emancipation Proclamation into law. The Confederacy missed the opportunity to tap into their largest source of manpower, and were thus so outnumbered that they were doomed to fail.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Happy President's Day

Today is the day we set aside in honor of two of our most cherished presidents: Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. Washington's birthday falls on February 22, which is next Monday. Lincoln's was last Friday, the 12th.

Almost one year after President Lincoln was assassinated, both houses of Congress gathered to commemorate him with a special memorial address on his birthday. Following this act, Lincoln's birthday became an annual observance in many states both north and south. However, President's Day wasn't set aside as a national holiday until 1968. When the Lincoln Memorial was being constructed in Washington D.C. the sculptor, Daniel Chester French, replicated his own hands, which are grasping onto the arms of the great throne. The monument was dedicated on May 30, 1922, and attended by Lincoln's only surviving son, Robert Todd Lincoln.

Both presidents are held as sacred in the hearts of Americans. Even Disney is getting in on the act. This year, Disneyland is opening an attraction called "Presenting Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln," in the Main Street Opera. This attraction, originally presented in 1965, has been enhanced, according to Disney, "by technological advances, including Audio-Animatronics which have created a startlingly life-like Abraham Lincoln. Following Walt Disney’s wishes, the legendary President’s voice is still the late actor Royal Dano’s." I remember seeing this display when I was a kid, and I have to tell you, it was awe-inspiring. To have Mr. Lincoln rise to his feet and speak to you as though he was really there is something everyone should see!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Home Is Where the Heart Is

Although Valentine's Day has been around for a long time, and has been celebrated in this country for centuries, (That's right, kids. It really wasn't invented by the candy and greeting card companies.) Valentines given to sweethearts as tokens of affection didn't become popular until the advent of the Civil War. In true Victorian style, cards were adorned with satin ribbons, lace, mother-of-pearl ornamentation, and spun glass.

Manufacturers of Valentines came into being during this time. Mass production before the Civil War was virtually unheard of, but because of demand, many products started being produced in mass quantities, including weaponry, clothing (primarily uniforms and shoes for the soldiers), and canned food items. Because mass production happened so rapidly, much of the merchandise was deemed as being "shoddy."

Not so with Valentines, however. These elaborate cards were given hand-painted accents in gold leaf, or had special ornaments glued on. Many Valentines depicted lovers parting (as in the soldier going off to war), or a tent with the flaps opened to reveal the lonely soldier inside. Another novelty included in Civil War Valentines was a place inside where the sender could place a lock of hair.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Saints Win the Super Bowl!

Deviating away from my usual topics, I would like to congratulate the New Orleans Saints on their win at the Super Bowl last Sunday. What a great game! In my opinion, it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving team. I believe it is a Godsend that the Saints won, and it will only bring long-overdue prosperity to the city of New Orleans, which has been struggling since Katrina.

The New Orleans Saints were organized as a professional NFL team on November 1, 1966. (That date is known in the Catholic Church as “All Saints Day,” so hence, the name.) Over the course of forty-some years, the Saints have experienced their share of losing seasons. But this year was different. Although they lost some games this season, they managed to beat the Minnesota Vikings in their final playoff game by a score of 31-28.

The “Who Dat Nation” stormed the country, and although the Saints were considered underdogs, and were only favored to win in a few states (Mississippi being one of them, I’m proud to say), the New Orleans Saints beat the Indianapolis Colts with a final score of 31-17 to become world champions. Congratulations on your win, guys! It is a victory well-deserved!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Southern Hospitality

Who says Southern hospitality doesn't exist? Sergeant Gilbert H. Bates of Wisconsin proved that is does. Four years after the end of the Civil War, he set out to march through the defeated South carrying the Stars and Stripes.

Sergeant Bates, a Union veteran, bet a friend that he could walk from Vicksburg to Washington, and without a cent or a weapon, live on the hospitality of Southerners. His goal was to disprove the common Northern notion that disloyalty to the Union was still predominant below the Mason-Dixon line. He also set out to prove that he could make the march without being murdered!

The march was reported in national headlines. Along the route, Sergeant Bates sold postcards of himself for twenty-five cents, the proceeds of which went to widows and orphans of soldiers, both North and South. After a grand send-out by the mayor of Vicksburg, Bates successfully completed his 1,400 mile march, which took him approximately three months, without one major incident along the way. Ironically, Bates was allowed to raise his flag over numerous official buildings in the South, including the state Capitol in Richmond, but not at the Capitol in Washington! He was, perhaps, the predecessor to the "cause" marches and walks we have today.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Something New All the Time

It's always interesting when a new discovery takes place, especially when it has to do with an event that happened long ago. New discoveries are being made all the time in regard to unknown soldiers whose names have been long forgotten. Old photographs, letters, and documents pertaining to the War Between the States are continually being found. Recently, a photo of President Lincoln at his 2nd inaugural was discovered after it had been filed in the wrong place.

About ten years ago, a local historian/author discovered the identities of several Civil War soldiers who were buried in a mass grave in Warrenton, Virginia. And now a historian in Muscatine, Iowa has discovered the identities of sixty-three soldiers whose names are missing from a monument there.

Not only are the names going to be restored, but the entire monument is as well. The 6'2" white marble statue of the Union soldier atop the monument will be replaced with a granite one, which can tolerate harsh Midwest winters better. The cost for four plaques containing the missing names and the new soldier statue is estimated at around $17,000. The old marble soldier will be displayed at the Muscatine Art Center, and will be included as part of its 2011 Civil War exhibit.