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."
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 main 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.Treatment of Slaves Found these accounts regarding Southern blacks being oppressed by Federal authorites. On many occasions these are described as "worse than slavery".
"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.
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 til 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. .
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."
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"
"Freed people 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.
A 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. ..."Col. Frank S. Nickerson, U.S. Army:
"My cattle at home are better cared for than these unfortunate persons."
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."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 "
"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:
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..."
Phil Towns said:
"After the close of the war the Federal Soldiers were stationed in towns to keep order. Union Flags were placed everywhere, and a Southerner was accused of not respecting the flag if he passed under it without bowing. Penalties for this offense was to be hung by the thumbs, to carry greasy poles for a certain time, and numerous other punishments that caused a great deal of discomfort for the victims".Harriet Tubman:
"..Soon as he [Superintendent] sees we are trying to support our selves without the aid of the government he comes and make a call for the men, that is not working for the government to goe away and if we are not willing to goe he orders the guards to take us by the point of the bayonet, and we have no power to help it we known it is wright and are willing to doe any thing that the President or our head commanders want us to doe but we are not willing to be pull and haul a bout so much by those head men as we have been for the last two years and we may say get nothing for it, last fall a large number of we men was conscript and sent up to the front and all of them has never return. Some got kill some died and when they taken them they treated us mean and our owner ever did they taken us just like we had been dum beast."
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 orphand child. 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 contrabands, 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 regulations 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 Samuel Sawyer Pearl P. Ingall J.G. Forman
"I wish times were like they use to be when we belonged to the white folks; we had better times then."
"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."
"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 Vicksburg 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."
"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."
"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."
"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......"
"I looked at my hands, to see if I was de same person now I was free. Dere was such a glory ober eberything, de sun came like gold trou de trees, and ober de fields, and I felt like I was in heaven."