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 als 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:

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Ripley and Oberlin: Two Homes of Abolition in Ohio

As I have been working on my post on John Rankin, I have found a few neat links. Here is a really nice blog post I really liked and thought I would go ahead and share even before my Rankin post is organized and done.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Perryville Walking Tour Weekend, May 15-16

I'm not sure  I will be able to make it, but this sounds fun. The tour leaders do an excellent job,  and, of course, the battlefield itself is beautiful. It's a great place and even if I cannot make it to this tour I will make a trip to Perryville sometime this year.

May 15th and 16th, 2015

Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site 
1825 Battlefield Road, Perryville, KY 40468

Sponsored by the Friends of Perryville Battlefield and the Cincinnati Civil War Round Table 
Guides – Chuck Lott and Darryl Smith

May 15th – Dry Canteen Trail Walk
This walk replicates the Federal First Corps approach to the battlefield. The Dry Canteen Trail is a scout trail that scouts, without water to simulate what the Union troops were going through on October 7th, could earn a badge and learn about the Battle of Perryville. The trail consists of road walking, so wear comfortable walking shoes, bring water and snacks, and wear bright colors so that passing cars may see us more easily. While the walk is mostly on back roads, there is a busier section at the beginning of the walk that we need to exercise extreme caution and walk single file. 
Meet by the Confederate Cemetery at 10:00 a.m. We will then take as few vehicles as possible and drive to Mackville. Starting at the Mackville Community Center we will walk about ten miles back to the battlefield, arriving by 3:00 p.m. Car drivers will then need to be shuttled back to Mackville to pick up their vehicles. Do not let the distance deter you from joining as we will have an easy pace and smooth surface to enjoy. Post walk event will be at Bluegrass Pizza and Pub, where we can enjoy a great local restaurant and chat about Perryville. 
May 16th – Walking Tour of Perryville Battlefield
Join Chuck Lott and Darryl Smith for an extended walking tour of the Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site. There will be a morning session from 9:00 a.m. until noon, a break for lunch, and then an afternoon session from 1:00-4:00 p.m. (covering a different part of the battle than the morning session). There will be some sort of evening session (hopefully with a renowned Perryville expert), so please plan on joining us after the walking tour for some enjoyable post tour camaraderie. 
Attendees should wear comfortable clothing, sturdy walking shoes, bring water and snacks, and pack a lunch. History buffs and the general public are all welcome! Each session will involve about three miles of walking, with some elevation changes (none greater than 100 feet) along the way. Meet for the morning session at the picnic shelter in the park near the playground. When entering the park, take the first right and look for the shelter. 
Morning Session – 9:00-12:00 – Meet at the Picnic Shelter near the playground.
Lunch - 12:00-1:00 
Be sure to pack a lunch! Note - There is a small Amish place on the Lebanon Pike southwest of Perryville that may be open (about a ten minute drive). They make a delicious deli sandwich! 
Afternoon Session – 1:00-4:00 – Meet at the Confederate Cemetery
Evening Session – Post Tour Gathering – To Be Announced 
Darryl Smith
Ohio at Perryville Blog
Civil War Trust - Regimental Color Bearer
Cincinnati Civil War Round Table - Activities Committee Chair

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Glorious Army by Jeffry D. Wert

I just recently finished reading A Glorious Army: Robert E. Lee's Triumph, 1862-1863  by Jeffry D. Wert, author of several Civil War books, such as A Brotherhood of Valor and The Sword of Lincoln, among others.

I gladly recommend this book for anyone interested in the Civil War, especially those interested in the Confederate army of Northern Virginia and/or Robert E. Lee.

It is a well-written, easy-to-read book, with a very good narrative flow. That definitely helps make s book more enjoyable for me.

Besides that, it does a good job of telling the story of Lee and his army from when he took command through the Battle of Gettysburg. I enjoyed the narrative and the points Wert made. He offered plenty of praise for Lee, his main subordinates and the whole army, of course, but also made criticisms of some of Lee's judgments and how his leadership style affected certain battles in lessositive ways. He made his own points and comments on these issues, but also found and used comments from published works by other historians to help reinforce his points to illuminate some areas where the Confederates and their esteemed general could have done things differently, and perhaps better. I thought this cruticisms gave the book a nice balance so that the story was not merely a repetition of how great a fighting force this was and how remarkable a leader it had.

Overall, I truly enjoyed this book. It was the first I had read for a while and it reminded me why I enjoy reading about the Civil War and how much a good book can make life better and me a bit happier. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Life Happens

As the sesquicentennial winds down,mi have another large time gap between posts, unfortunately. Life has a way of  changing your, or at least my, priorities. Now, though, hopefully I can get back to posting. I do have a couple of drafts that need some finishing and just need to finishing the John Rankin entry I promised do long ago.

I regret not posting during the anniversaries of Lee's surrender and Lincoln's assassination, but it is what it is.

Anyway, I am still around, even if not blogging actively, and I do want to repost this one entry from 5 (really?!) years ago, though a day or two ago would have been better timing