Friday, June 26, 2015

Book Review: A Crisis in Confederate Command by Joseph S. Prushankin

Copyright 2005 
Louisiana State University Press

After having just read Partners in Command by Joseph Glatthaar, I was surprised to see it mentioned in the very first line of the introduction of this book, but it proved to be a good decision by the author as the subject of this book would have fit nicely as an additional chapter in Glatthaar's work.

This book is the best kind -  readable and informative. Prushankin's narrative flows nicely, making this a pleasant read, and he does an outstanding job of describing the story of the dysfunctional relationship between Edmund Kirby Smith and Richard Taylor as it unfolded in the far-from-Richmond Trans-Mississippi department.

The Trans-Mississippi department does not receive the attention of Civil War theaters such as the east or west, but that does not mean this region did not have its own characters and events, as this work shows.

The major happening west of the Mississippi River was the 1864 Red River Campaign in Louisiana. Often, discussions of this campaign focus solely on Union blunders, especially the ineffective generalship of Nathaniel Banks and his failures. This book shows a different side of this campaign, discussing the controversies, disputes, personality conflicts and insubordination that ran amok within the Confederate leadership in the department. 

Smith and Taylor quickly learned neither to trust nor like each other and this book does an excellent job of showing what a poor working relationship theirs became. That story is the heart of this book - the tale of two generals who could not work well together to maximize the benefits for the Confederacy.

Prushankin examines and explains in great detail the deterioration of the relationship between the two generals. He clearly read through an incredible amount of official correspondence between them, as well as post-war memoirs and writings. The research put into this work was clearly quite thorough and impressive.

Neither of the two generals come out of this book looking good. Smith appears to be indecisive, in over his head and a glory-seeker. Taylor comes across as insubordinate, egotistical and rude. Smith frequently made a decision only to countermand it soon thereafter and Taylor did not always react to these changes in the most professional manner. One passage on page 233 summed this up nicely: "Smith's pride, poor judgment, and lack of military skill prevented Taylor from turning those victories into a campaign that would aid the Confederate effort east of the river. Although Smith's failings do not excuse Taylor's insubordinate behavior, they explain his bitterness."

It seems unbelievable how poorly these men got along, but the author provides plenty of examples showing that it was indeed true. He takes quotes from many documents to explain the problems in their relationship and which decisions, communications and events made it worse. He does a remarkable job of showing, not just telling, what happened between these two by thoroughly analyzing and discussing the evidence, making it clear that both men contributed to the troublesome situation. Perhaps Smith looked slightly worse, as though he had too much responsibility, serving as a departmental commander and Confederate government representative, but one who could not assert his authority over Taylor. Page 204 explains: "Smith sought to direct every aspect of the department but refused to shoulder blame for any failure." To Smith's credit, however, he at least tried to ignore the rudeness in much of Taylor's correspondence and succeeded for a while until his patience eventually wore out with the repeated complaints from Taylor.

Despite Smith's faults, Taylor was no angel either, blaming his own subordinates for failures in his district, disobeying orders, using harsh and rude language in letters and reports to his superior officer and even one time being manipulative enough to delay sending a note to Smith to make sure Smith did not have time to reply. If Smith could not assert his authority, at least part of that was due to Taylor's stubbornness and desire to have autonomy in his district (as he had enjoyed before Smith's arrival.)

Much of the trouble was that while Smith was in charge of the entire department, he focused most of his attention on Arkansas and Missouri (states from which much of his political support emanated) while Taylor obsessed over his home state of Louisiana, especially his assigned district of western Louisiana. Smith generally favored a defensive strategy, concentrating forces and waiting to see where the best opportunity presented itself while Taylor was more aggressive and offensive-minded, actively looking to attack Union troops, especially Banks. Their opinions on the area in which success or failure mattered most to the Confederacy and how to achieve victory differed greatly and neither man could convince the other to change his mind, nor was willing to change his own. There are other examples (such as the usage of John Walker's division) I could add, but this post would become as long as a book.

Despite these troubles, this tandem did manage to win the Red River campaign, repelling Union forces, though not with the always-desired, rarely-achieved decisive triumph that Taylor thought possible. The victory over Banks (and admiral David Dixon Porter's naval forces) was one of the Confederacy's biggest in the final two years of the war, perhaps even one of its most remarkable throughout the conflict, considering the problems between these two men.

The smooth flow of Prushankin's writing makes this book a quick and easy read and his ample research and insightful analysis of the evidence make it a very enlightening work as well. It is a top quality book that presents a remarkable story of a working relationship gone very wrong. I have added this book to my list of favorites (see the blog's home page) and I gladly and highly recommend it to fellow Civil War enthusiasts.

Friday, June 19, 2015

How I came to Like the Civil War and What Influences My Viewpoints

saw this question as linked above on the Emerging Civil War blog a few days ago and left a reply there, but realized I had much more to say about it and I thought it might make a good topic here. I might go beyond the scope of the original query and this could be might quite long. I'm typing as I think and not doing any research or much proofreading or editing afterwards. Go with the flow, baby!

When I was in grade school, I learned that Abraham Lincoln was, like me, a Kentuckian, and that sparked my interest in the war. It was state pride. I was happy to hear of someone famous also from my state and it was not possible to learn about him without learning about the war at the same time, so that was how I first knew of and became interested in the war.

I never thought I got any kind of pro-southern or pro-northern education as a youth though my middle school was called "South Campbell County" and was nicknamed the Confederates. We even had a large Confederate battle flag  (made of some sort of rubber) welcome mat and teachers sold buttons that said "the South will rise again" with a picture of the Confederate battle flag on them. Our yearbooks featured a student's drawing of a Rebel soldier on the cover, at least the one I remember. At the time, it was just a school for me and the name had no special meaning. I was not aware of any possible issues that others might have with it - I was just a normal middle schooler. As I type this, I find it curious that this apparently had no influence on me. Maybe I was too young and would have been more influenced had it been a high school instead of middle school, or maybe it really was just a name and what the teachers taught was more important than a school name. "Confederates" did not become a major cultural part of my youth other than standing for my school.

 A year after I left 8th grade, the school changed its name to John W. Reiley Middle School (it has since become an elementary school - I must be getting old.) The reason given publicly was to honor a long-time county schools superintendent. They also changed the nickname to "RedHawks." I have often wondered if getting away from the Confederate imagery had anything to do with it, but I have never seen anything supporting that thought. The school is in a rural area that does not have much, if any, diversity and certainly didn't 25-30 years ago, so I cannot imagine anybody being offended by it or complaining, but that is just a guess. Its in northern Kentucky, which was divided territory during the war, but with more Union support from what I can tell, so the "Confederate" name does not seem to have been due to any local tradition. It was in the southern part of the county, so "Confederates" may have seemed like a natural name to go with "South." Maybe the county historical society has some records on the name change I can review some day. That might be a research project sometime.

In high school, I wrote a mid-term English research paper on Gettysburg, trying to claim it was not the turning point of the war, and that research added to my interest. In hindsight, I missed a great opportunity when my high school band took a trip to Washington D.C. one spring. I remember seeing the usual tourist sites, but no special Civil War visits. The main thing I recall from that trip was that the van my parents rented to enjoy as they also took the trip was broken into while parked alongside a side street. The TV in it (fancy van for the time) was stolen as was my trombone, some luggage and our bag of dirty laundry (enjoy that, thieves!) I have never been back to Washington since then and I am not totally sure if I want to, though that might not be fair. It was not a good first impression.

I went to college at the University of Kentucky, and during those years my interest in the war increased, as I majored in history. In 1992, I joined a campus group called Society of the Civil War Era and visited Perryville for the first time with the other group members to volunteer at the re-enactment. (It was either the 1992 or 1993 re-enactment, I don't remember for sure, though I think I stil have my Kentucky State Parks volunteer button somewhere.) That was really fun, setting up ropes for attendees to stay behind and riding in a golf cart to take stuff to people around the park while using Walkie-talkies to communicate. We even as slept in the park manager's office overnight instead of traveling back to Lexington. 

Lexington does have a famous statue of Confederate General John Hunt Mirgan, as well as the Hunt Morgan house. The general is buried in Lexington Cemetery. The city also is the location of the Mary Todd Lincoln house. Kentucky, and Lexington specifically, has a southern reputation, but I did not feel any cultural ties to either the Confederacy or Union. Maybe I did not get out enough. Confederate battle flags or other symbols were not common, from what I recall.

One thing I've often wondered about is does the trafitional singing/playing of "My Old Kentucky Home" at UK and other sporting events (we played it in high school, it is played at the Kentucky Derby) have anything to do with leftover states' rights sentiments? I once did ask a retired college professor about that and he said no, but I'm still curious about it and may have to think or even write about it sometime.Maybe the meaning of the song's longing for the so-called "good ole days" is a better approach to take with that song. Do people really want to go back in time or is it "just a song?"

In the summer of 1993, my mother, grandmother and I travelled east and visited Gettysburg and Antietam. I really enjoyed those few days, even the scenery along the roadways between the two parks. I think it was Maryland that had the beautiful hills or mountains but even the Pennsylvania Turnpike was a good experience. The guided tour at Gettysburg was great. I could not believe I was actually seeing the site of Pickett's Charge and all the monuments and souvenir stores. The driving tour, with cassette (modern technology!) playing, at Antietam was fun too. That trip certainly added to my interest and remains the only time I have visited a Civil War battlefield besides Perryville (shame on me.) Perhaps I will look for my pictures from that week and see if any are worth sharing. They are in a shoe box somewhere in my house, with years of other photographs.

I know I purchased 4 minie balls at Gettysburg and still have them on one of my shelves. They were the first Civil War "collectibles" of any type that I ever owned. I also bought a couple of bumper stickers with Confederate battle flags on them for some reason. I think one of them said something like: "Independence - if it works for Lithuania, it works for Dixie." (Remember - this was in the early 1990s, not long after the break-up of the Soviet Union.) I don't know what happened to those stickers over the years and still am not sure why I even bought them. I guess they seemed neat to me at the time for some reason I can't recall.

During school, I read both Uncle Tom's Cabin and The Killer Angels and enjoyed both of those works. I just re-read Stowe's work two years ago last  and maybe reading Shaara's book again might be interesting. I know Stowe's work is not a "Civil War" book, but it certainly discussed issues from the same era. (Interestingly enough, I did not finish Battle Cry of Freedom, even though it was assigned, until well after I was out of school. It is a fine book, but did not really have a great influence on me.)

After college, the first two things that added to my obsession were receiving Shelby Foote's 3 volume Civil War set for Christmas and then reading them. I was surprised to read and finish such long books, but enjoyed them quite a bit. They are still among my favorite books. Also, joining the History Book Club and getting new books for what I thought were good prices certainly increased the size of my book shelf. A Robert E. Lee biography by Emory Thomas and a Shiloh book by Larry Daniel are the first two books I remember buying. I think Bud Robertson's biography on Stonewall Jackson may have come with them, or very soon thereafter. Reading about the war has since been one of my passions. Finding used books for low prices on eBay also added to my library. Drawn With the Sword, a collection of essays edited by James McPherson was one of the first books I won at auction.

Since then, access to the Internet and various Civil War sites, especially blogs, and several trips to Perryville have continued to fuel my passion for the subject. I have also been happy to be a member of the Civil War Trust. Volunteering at the James A. Ramage Civil War Museum, being able to hold or touch actual Civil War artifacts, helping run events and meeting more Civil War enthusiasts through museum activities has been good for me also and starting this blog has given me chances to think about my beliefs and how to express them, as well as led me to find other blogs and sources of war material, sources send viewpoints.

As I look over this entry, it seems like a (long) resume of my Civil War interest and I'm not sure if I answered the original question, but this has been a fun one to write, bringing up good (well, mostly) memories. I hope I didn't forget anything, but, if so, I can always post on this topic again. Maybe I can even focus more on what my points of view are and how they influence what I study, research or believe. I will say that I do still maintain a high interest in Lincoln and his life, so that initial spark of interest in the Civil War still influences me, but I think I need to do more thinking, and perhaps writing, on this question.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Book Review: Partners in Command by Joseph Glatthaar

Partners in Command: The Relationships Between Leaders in the Civil War
copyright 1994.
The Free Press

Partners in Command,  by Joseph Glatthaar, the author of fine works such as Forged in Battle and The March to the Sea and Beyond is the latest book I have read, and it is a good one. 

This book is both enjoyable and informative. Glatthaar has a nice writing style and his analysis throughout the book is impressive. The book details how various personalities and egos worked well or poorly with each other and also demonstrates how the military philosophies of the individuals did or did not mesh. Often these were clashes or accords of both personalities and military styles. Glatthaar's understandable way of telling and analyzing these stories makes this a pleasant book to read.

The relationships he chose to discuss in this book, giving each its own chapter, were those between Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson; Abraham Lincoln and George McClellan; Jefferson Davis and Joseph Johnston; Ulysses S. Grant and Wiliam Sherman; Grant, Sherman and David Dixon Porter; and Lincoln and Grant.

All were fine choices and made for entertaining and insightful reading, but I wish he had found room for even more. To his credit, the author mentioned in the preface that he also wished he had additional
 space and he suggested partnerships between Davis and Lee, Davis and Braxton Bragg and Grant and Henry Halleck among others worth discussing. Each one he mentioned would have been a great addition to this book, though I think analysis involving Bragg would have been especially fascinating.

Of the relationships he examined, I especially enjoyed the chapter on Davis and Johnston. His description of the difference between each one's preferred military strategies (Davis the politician wanted to protect as much territory as possible while Johnston the soldier preferred concentrating forces even if it meant leaving territory undefended) while showing how they shared similar personality flaws, especially their struggles to handle criticism, was excellent. It was not just a "personality clash" between these two. I also thought the chapter concerning Grant, Sherman and Porter stood out, explaining how the army generals cooperated with the admiral and how all three benefitted from and contributed to the effectiveness of their relationships, with Grant and Porter being business-like  professionals while Sherman and Porter had a more personal relationship.

This last point was one of this book's strengths, as the author pointed out that not all of these relationships were the same - some, like the one between Lee and Jackson were pure military partnerships existing only because of and for their military positions while others became more personal friendships, such as the one between Grant and Sherman.

Another part of this book was the appendix discussing McClellan and modern psychology, describing a couple of possible diagnoseses of Liitle Mac to try to explain the general's failure to be a more effective leader.

Overall, even though this book is now more than twenty years old, I enjoyed it and found it to be a good approach to an interesting topic. I would very much enjoy a "part 2" with explorations of even more such partnerships and I do recommend this book to anyone interested in the Civil War.

Monday, June 1, 2015

John Rankin: Abolitionist

In a previous entry, I mentioned Reverend John Rankin, a man who had led a long anti-slavery career and life and I decided to do a post on him and his life's work. It took me quite a while to research, write and organize it, but here it finally is and I hope these few paragraphs do justice to his life-long efforts to end slavery. 

John Rankin courtesy

John Rankin was born in Jefferson County, Tennessee on February 4, 1793, to Richard and Jane Rankin.

In his childhood home, education was a top priority, particularly in regards to reading and religion. Reading the Bible was likely a part of his daily life. According to, (I just found that this link no longer works) John credited his mother for being especially influential in his moral development, as she voiced opposition to vices such as whiskey, tobacco, Free Masonry and dancing while placing a special emphasis on the evils of slavery. The ongoing Second Great Awakening may have influenced his family life and upbringing.

John furthered his studies at nearby Washington College, where he learned under abolitionist Reverend Samuel Doak. He studied subjects like Greek, history and theology, among others and graduated in 1816.

He married Jean Lowry, who was Reverend Doak's granddaughter and an active church member. John and Jean did not wish to remain in the slave state of Tennessee (at least partially because his anti-slavery views were unpopular and led some people to encourage him to leave the state if he planned to continue expressing them) so, taking their first-born child with them, they left the state in 1817. They settled in north-central Kentucky, where John took a preaching  job at Concord Presbyterian Church in Carlisle (Nicholas County.)  Slavery was legal here, but this church strongly opposed the peculiar institution and had joined other churches in an abolition society.  The church and its new preacher were a good fit for each other as he began preaching here and in other nearby towns. He also started a school for slaves. 
John & Jean Rankin, courtesy Ohio History Central

Despite this anti-slavery sentiment John found, pro-slavery opinions were also strong in this area of the border state and, similarly to when he left Tennessee, slavery supporters made his life uncomfortable enough to convince him to leave, after having forced his school to move between buildings several times before it failed. Financial issues, especially trouble in collecting his pay from the church, also contributed to his decision to head north.

In 1822, the Rankins finally moved to a free state when John accepted a preaching job in the Ohio town of Ripley, located along the Ohio River across from Kentucky and about 50 miles southeast of Cincinnati. (Including the new branch of the church he later helped form, he kept this preaching job in Ripley for over 40 years.) After living near the river for a few years, John bought a new house on higher ground with a view overlooking the river and the Kentucky shore. 

John Rankin house, courtesy

View from Rankin house,  courtesy

View of house from Ohio River courtesy Underground

Here he continued his preaching career as the higher location and better view aided his work as part of the Underground Railroad. He signalled runaway slaves when it was safe to cross the river with a light (such as a candle or lantern) in a window or on a flag pole. He hid the fugitives until they could move or be moved further north, especially after the stronger Fugitive Slave Law passed  in 1850.

According to Ohio History Central, he (and his family, which included nine sons and four daughters) aided perhaps 2,000 runaways, with his sons often taking the fugitives from his house to safer places farther north. His work also served as one of the inspirations for Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin

Ohio was a free state, but was close enough to the slave state of Kentucky that he became well-known to slave owners. A bounty was placed on his head, and owners of runaway slaves often came to his house searching for fugitives or information on where they might be.

In 1824, John discovered that his own brother Thomas had become a slaveholder in Virginia. This displeased John, who wrote a series of letters to his brother. These letters were published serially in a local newspaper at first but soon came out in book format, entitled Letters on American Slaverywhich became an influential early anti-slavery work, espousing the need for immediate emancipation. (The letters also helped persuade Thomas to get rid of his slaves. He later moved to Ohio.) This publication helped make Rankin more well-known nationally for his abolitionist views.


John was one of the founders of Ripley College (which I have seen described as a Presbyterian Academy) in 1829; the school admitted its first African-American student just two years later. One of its students possibly was Hiram Ulysses Grant, from nearby Georgetown, who may have attended it for one year before enrolling at West Point and becoming Ulysses S. Grant.

John was a founding member of the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society in early 1835 as well as the Ripley Anti-Slavery Society later that same year. (More information on this society and Ripley is here.) This second group was similar to the statewide version, but did not limit membership by race or gender. He was also involved in the American Anti-Slavery Society, even lecturing on its behalf in the northern part of the country for a year. He also raised funds for the national society and dealt with various threats against him. (This group republished his book Letters on American Society soon after its founding.)

In the late 1840s, while continuing his work with fugitive slaves, he helped form a new branch of the Presbyterian Church, the Free Presbyterian Church of America (or Free Presbyterian Church Synod of the United States. Please forgive me for resorting to a Wikipedia link, but it does list sources. I have seen both names used for the new organization.) This new branch of the church opposed slavery and the admission of slaveowners to the church.

He also joined and led other organizations, such as the American Reform Tract and Book Society, a group dedicated to anti-slavery religious teachings and publications. He served as President of this group, as my previous post showed.

When the Civil War began, the Rankin family remained active in the fight against slavery as six of John's sons and one of his grandsons fought in and survived the conflict.

The Rankin family's work, along with that of another member of the Underground Railroad, John Parker, and other figures in the city (along with the town's location so close to a slave state) helped Ripley become an important point on the Underground Railroad, one through which many escaping slaves found their way to freedom in the North or Canada. According to this site, one of Confederate General John Hunt Morgan's goals in his 1863 raid of Indiana and Ohio was to "attack the hell-hole of Ripley." Morgan and his men neared the town, but did not actually reach it.

Rankin's decades of fighting slavery made him one of the more famous abolitionists in the country and influenced other well-known slavery opponents.

One of these was Henry Ward Beecher. A story I have seen here and at other websites says that after the Civil War, someone asked Beecher who abolished slavery and his response was "The Reverend John Rankin and his sons did it."

Another was Wendell Lloyd Garrison. According to the New World Encyclopedia, "Garrison credited Reverend John Rankin of Ohio as a primary influence on his career, calling him his "anti-slavery father" and saying that Rankin's "book on slavery was the cause of my entering the anti-slavery conflict."

John Rankin died on March 12, 1886 at age 93 and was buried in Maplewood Cemetery in Ripley, alongside his wife Jean who had died in 1878.  His house still stands as a museum and National Historic Landmark in Ripley. See the site's website or  Facebook page for more information on the house and its important inhabitant.

Rankin monument, Maplewood Cemetery, courtesy

Here is a list of sources I used and  consulted in late 2014 and early 2015 (others are linked inside the post). There are many other links if you search John Rankin on your favorite search engine. Many have similar info, some with other details.

Friday, May 15, 2015

John Parker video

I found this video on YouTube and thought it worth sharing. It focuses on Mr. Parker quite a bit, but also discusses John Rankin as well as Ripley itself. I thought it was a nice approach to the subjects.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

American Reform Tract and Book Society

This has been updated.and is now reposted. I originally posted it in November of last year.

Well, going 2 weeks since my last post is not something about which I am happy, but the one I post here tonight will lead me to a couple more entries, though I still need to finish up a bit more research and editing on them. I doubt I finish them during this holiday week, but hopefully it won't be much longer until I finish at least the next one, and then I can work on another.

I have an antique book called Walter Browning, Or,  The Slave's Protector. It does not list an author but states it was "revised by the committee of Publication," presumably referring to the committee of the publishing company. The publisher was the American Reform Tract and Book Society, who published it in Cincinnati in 1856. The title page claims that the book is "founded on fact."

I have not read it yet, though I might. I usually do not read such old books, but this one is in good shape, maybe good enough to be a reading copy, though it appears to be a children's book. Time will tell what I decide to do.

While looking through it, however, two sections caught my eye and I thought they would be worth exploring here. Each of these sections mentions something about the purpose for the book or the reasons for the society's existence, and I thought these ideas deserved attention, especially since this was published in the midst of such a turbulent decade. Anger and violence were becoming almost common responses  to the many controversies that popped up so frequently in this era. In just the year this book was published, Preston Brooks clubbed Charles Sumner over the head in the Senate, leaving Sumner seriously injured, while Kansas was earning the sobriquet "Bleeding Kansas," in part due to events such as the attacks led by John Brown and his family. See one of my early entries on this blog in which I discussed the 1850s a bit.

The 1850s as a Volcano

My eyes opened wider when I noticed that this book listed the society's President as John Rankin, a fascinating man who I believe will make a good subject for a future post or two. His association with this organization should not have surprised me, but I did not expect to see his name listed there.  I'll start writing a post on his life soon, once I do some more research to gather and organize more details on his long anti-slavery career. 

The first section of this book that I will transcribe is the Preface.

The narrative recorded in the following pages is not without foundation. In the main points at issue, it is little else than the autobiography of one whose childhood was spent in those balmy regions, whose paradise of pleasure, bears, stamped in indelible characters, the impress of broken hearts, and the mournful existence of a race doomed to wander, despised and forgotten, through the dark mazes of a life of ignominious slavery.

With the hope, perchance, of arresting the attentions of some youthful readers, and fixing them upon the reality of that which perhaps they little dream exists in our own land, the scenes, herein depicted, drawn from actual life, are presented. They shadow forth the features  of an institution whose monuments are sundered ties, bleeding wounds, blasted hopes, the lash, the shriek, the groan, the grave.

Ye who rest in the easy lap of fortune, with scarce a wish delayed, or hope deferred, cast not aside these pages with the presumption that an idle breath of fancy gave them birth. Should they create within you sighs of pity for the lowly and oppressed, or arouse you to a sense of your own long forgotten duty, the highest wish of the Author will have been gained.

At the end of the book is a section about the publisher, explaining its reason for being and for creating publications like this book. It seems strange to think they expected a "healthful" agitation on slavery at that time, though on the other hand I suppose that financial troubles being part of their issue is not surprising. Even over 150 years ago, money mattered,even for a company in the publishing industry.

Cincinnati, February 1, 1856
The AMERICAN REFORM TRACT AND BOOK SOCIETY, it is believed, is the offspring of necessity, brought into existence to fill a vacuum left unoccupied by most other Publishing Boards and Institutions - its object being to publish such Tracts and Books as are necessary to awaken a decided, though healthful, agitation on the great questions of Freedom and Slavery. This is its primary object, though its constitution covers the broad ground of "promulgating the doctrines of the Reformation, to point out the application of the principles of Christianity to every known sin, and to show the sufficiency snd adaptation of those principles to remove all the evils of the world and bring on a form of society in accordance with the Gospel of Christ." To spread these principles of the Society broadcast over the land, it was at first thought a weekly newspaper was indispensable and the Christian Press was sent abroad, as on the wings of the wind, and we doubt not has done its mission for good. But, as funds were not furnished in sufficient amount to carry on a weekly issue, and add the number of Tracts and Books demanded, a year since, the Press was reduced in size, and issued only monthly. This change in policy has enabled the Society to relieve itself of a debt which, a year since, threatened its existence, and to add to the number of Tracts and Books, and, at the late annual meeting, to show assets in Stereotype Plates, Books, and Tacts, of over $2,500, including $1,184 in cash on hand, and clear of liabilities. This favorable change in the affairs of the Society, it is hoped will restore confidence, and lead the  active friends of Freedom and Reform to come forward in voluntary co-operation with the Directors, and add largely to our number of Tracts and Books, and to commission Colporteurs.

The offer of $100, for the best manuscript for an Anti-Slavery S.S. Book brought to our hands forty-eight competitors, and, although the prize was awarded to but one, there are a number worthy of publication; and thus, many useful books will be added to our list, if the means for publishing are provided. Besides these "competitors," we have other manuscripts for Tracts and Books, which we wish to publish without delay.

It is the aim of the present Directors to use all possible economy, and bring out a larger series of 
Tracts, and especially to increase the number of Sabbath School Books, so that Sabbath Schools may 
be furnished with Christian Anti-Slavery Literature, in connection with other subjects, without unnecessary delay.

At the late annual election, there was some change in the Officers (though not In the Principles) of the Society, it may be satisfactory to give them. They are  as follows:
President: Rev. John Rankin, Ripley, O.
A. A. Guthrie, Esq., Putnam, O.;
Rev. G. G. W. Perkins, Chicago, Ill.;
Rev. E Goodman,        " "          ";
Rev. J. Blanchard, Galesburgh, Ill.;
Rev. J. A. Thome, Cleveland, O.;
Rev. C. B. Boynton, Cincinnati, O.

Corresponding Secretary and Treasurer:
Dr. Geo. L. Weed

Recording Secretary:
A. S. Merrill

Rev. H. M. Stores, Congregational;
Prof. M. Stone, Baptist Theo. Sem'y,
Rev. H. Bushnell, Congregational,
Rev. R. H. Pollock, Associate Prebyt'n,
Rev. J. J. Blaisdell, Presbyterian,
Levi Coffin, Friend
Dr. J. P. Walker,
Wm.  Lee,
A. E. D. Tweed,
A. S. Merrill,
G. S. Stearns,
S. C. Foster.

In this Board of Directors, the active Friends of Freedom and Reform, and all others have a guaranty that the funds contributed will be judiciously expended, and the Society, now in a prosperous condition, will go forward, adding to its Tracts, Books, and Stereotype Plates, and its influence for good spread throughout the land.

This will be accomplished just in accordance with the amount of funds received; and contributors should recollect that the free-will offering, inclosed and sent by mail, will accomplish more than the same sum called for by an Agent.

The "Society Record" will hereafter be published monthly and sent free to all contributors and friends who will send us their address.

Geo. L. Weed,
Corresponding Secretary and Treasurer

Thursday, May 7, 2015

John Parker, from Slave to Abolitionist

I found this video while looking for more information on John Rankin and was going to include it in that post,  but since this video also discussed another member of the Underground Railroad, John Parker, I decided it would be better to start a new post for a discussion of Mr. Parker, who may be even lesser-known than John Rankin.  It starts discussing Parker about halfway through. I had some trouble embedding the video, so if it does not work (I have had trouble with the sound), please use the link below it.

Born in Norfolk, Virginia on February 2, 1827, John Parker was the son of a free white man and a slave woman, not an uncommon occurrence in that era. At the age of 8, he was sold to a slave agent. This agent then sold him to a new master in Mobile, Alabama. According to Ohio History Central John's new owner, a doctor, took the unusual step of teaching his new property to read and write and even permitted John to work as an apprentice in a local foundry. John was later sent to New Orleans, where he worked in another foundry and at the local shipping docks. He saved money and was able to able to purchase his own freedom at the age of eighteen for $1800.

In 1845, the year he purchased his freedom, he moved north to Indiana, where he found work in various foundries close to Cincinnati, then one of the largest cities in the country. In 1848, he opened a general store in Beachwood Factory, Ohio, and in 1850 moved to Ripley, Ohio, located along the Ohio River, about 50 miles southeast from Cincinnati. In the years before arriving in Ripley, he had started his life as an abolitionist and conductor on the Underground Railroad, helping escaped slaves find their way north. Once in Ripley, he was able to make many trips across the river into the slave-holding state of Kentucky to help more runaway slaves cross that river into the free sta te of Ohio, where they hoped to find their freedom or a way further north, farther away from the slave states.  He helped perhaps hundreds of these individuals make their escape, sometimes taking them to homes of other abolitionists in or around Ripley such as the Reverend John Rankin. Interestingly, Parker did not associate himself with religious groups or churches as did Rankin and many other abolitionists.

Location of Ripley, map from

In 1854, he opened his own foundry and earned several U.S. patents for inventions in the next few decades.

Once the Civil War began and the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, Parker served as a recruiter for the 27th regiment of U.S. Colored Troops, which was formed in early 1864. It was Ohio's second regiment  of African American soldiers. See the following links for more information on this unit. and

His foundry also produced items for the army during the war.

After the war and the ratification of the 13th Amendment, which permanently ended slavery, Parker focused on his foundry business. He remained in this industry until he died on January 30, 1900, just
a few days shy of his 73rd birthday.

His house in Ripley still exists as a museum and is a National Historic Landmark. Here is its website:

Sources consulted, April and May 2015, for this post: