Friday, January 1, 2021

Emancipation Proclamation

One of the crucial documents in American history, certainly worth recalling at the start of a new year. 

By the President of the United States of America:

A Proclamation.

Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:

"That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

"That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be, in good faith, represented in the Congress of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such State shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States."

Now, therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and in accordance with my purpose so to do publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days, from the day first above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States, the following, to wit: 

Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth[)], and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.

And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.

And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.

And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.

And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.


In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-seventh.

By the President: ABRAHAM LINCOLN 

WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Christmas With the Slaves

This is a revised version of a post I made in 2009 but thought was worth sharing again. 

This story appeared in the boom The Civil War in Song and Story 1860-1865 by Frank Moore.


 A letter writer at Port Royal, South Carolina, gives the following account of the way in which the slaves kept the first Christmas after the Proclamation of Emancipation:

Christmas Eve was celebrated by the colored people at General Drayton's plantation. About half past eleven o'clock a bell was rung, and precisely at twelve a pine fire was kindled in front of the cabin where the meeting was to be held. They called the festival a serenade to Jesus. One of the leaders, of which there were three, was dressed in a red coat with brass buttons, wearing white gloves. The females wore turbans made of cotton handkerchiefs., All ages were represented, from the child of one year to the old man of ninety. 

The first exercise consisted in singing hymns and spiriual songs, among which were those beginning, "Salvation! O the joyful sound; ' 'The voice of free grace;' 'Come, humble sinner, in whose breast;' 'O, poor sinner, can't stand de fire, can't stand de fire in dat great day;' and a Christmas song containing a medley of everything the fruitful mind of the leader could suggest, with the refrain, 'We'll wait till Jesus comes.' One of the leaders lined the hymns, and though none of them could read, it was remarkable with what correctness they gave the words. Their Scripture quotations were also correct and appropriate, not only having the exact words, but naming the chapter and verse where they could be found. 

After singing for some time, a prayer-meeting was held. The prayers were fervent and powerful, and when an allusion would be made to the soldiers who had come from  their distant homes, in the North country, to 'help and save de poor slave, and, like Jesus, bring dem good tidings of great joy,' a shout went up that sent its notes on the still night air to the distant pickets in the surrounding pines. When asked, as they could not read, how they could quote the Scriptures, they replied: 'We have ears, massa, and when de preacher give out his texts, den we remembers and says dem over and over till we never forgets dem; dat's de way, massa, we poor people learns de Word of God.'

The next exercise consisted of speaking and signing, at intervals. While one was speaking, another would take a blazing pine torch from the fire, and hold it up, so that all might see the speaker. At two o'clock, a recess was had, and all were invited to partake of coffee, which luxury they can now purchase without any difficulty, as they have plenty of money, obtained of the soldiers for vegetables and poultry. 

After this came what they called the shouting exercise. It was introduced by the beating of time by three or four, with the feet. Soon the whole company formed into a circle, and commenced jumping and singing to the time and tune of

'Say, brothers, will you meet me, 
Say, brothers, will you meet me, 
Say, brothers, will you meet me, 
On Canaan's happy shore?'

This was continued until the most fertile imagination was exhausted, embracing an invitation to sisters, soldiers, preachers, &c., to meet them on Canaan's happy shore. 

Never did these poor slaves celebrate a Christmas Eve under such circumstances before. Whatever may be their future, the are now, 'to all intents, purposes, and constructions whatever' free; that they may 'choose it rather' is beyond question more certain.

Here is a little bit of information about that verse.

What a wonderful Christmas!

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Update on Book Project

 I am still grinding away at my hoped for book, slowly getting more and more done each week, usually every day. Recently, I have been listing story ideas for that section of the book and have even started writing some of them. 

 A few are now in what I consider "close to completion" phase - perhaps I will nitpick at some wording or phrases, but the research and organization are done and most of the writing is complete as well. This is a good start and I think these stories are worth telling and, hopefully in the future, worth reading.

Several others are not quite to that level yet - I have done most or all of the research, taken notes, organized my thoughts, and started writing some of the narratives, but they still need quite a bit more work before even the "almost done" phase.  Others are  not even that far along.

I suppose I should pick a few stories and work on them until complete and then deal with additional ones in a similar fashion, but I'm not that focused or disciplined right now. I find if I write on a story for a bit and then come back to it a few days or even a couple of weeks later the fresh perspective helps me find better ways to tell that story or sometimes raises new questions I need to research. This is a positive to having my own time frame and I think it does improve my writing. Sometimes I return to a soldier's profile and realize my original attempt was just not good. I guess these are called drafts, but tht process is helping me - or so I believe.

I also now question myself about how to organize these stories. I had figured that a simple alphabetical listing (based on soldier names) would be easy, sensible, and logical, but as I work on more stories, I’m finding more similarities that would make for other organizational ideas. For instance, I have found three casualties from the Battle of Perryville. Should I group them together in the same se goon or chapter? Or should I combine them into one story, perhaps minimizing their individual stories, but making for a fairly sensible single narrative? I have also uncovered five or six young men who enlisted while well under the age of eighteen. Should these be kept close together instead of separated just because of their names? Or how about men from the same units or same nation of birth? Should I add a separate index of all these names sorted by unit? For a couple of regiments, I have more than a couple dozen names, close to 60 for one group.  Maybe this all means that I will need to do a detailed index to help readers find these similarities. Decisions, decisions...

Of course, I still have much research to do, with lists of name to confirm as soldiers and other birth, death, and burial information to uncover. (I will add that my virtual cemetery now contains more than 600 burial sites, which amazes me.)  This is a long-term project that will require much more work than I have already done, but I am still making progress and still am enjoying this challenge. It is a fascinating experience and I believe I’m starting to appreciate “real authors,” who have actually published books even more. 

I also must say that this research is making me more aware and appreciative of immigration in the 1800s. I have found a lot of foreign-born soldiers and sailors who lived in this area. 

 Also, this way of studying the war - through the records of individual soldiers of varied backgrounds, in many different units is so much different than what  I have done for most of my life. I have spent  much time reading books and articles and blog posts, watching videos, and attending classes, but this is new to me. It is fun too, at least usually. In traditional books, I may read about soldiers deserting the armies, but now I'm finding individual cases of such desertion or of other misbehavior that led to punishments. I'm uncovering individual men who were killed, captured and/or wounded at famous battles or at smaller, obscure actions, but also some who earned promotions due to their service. These kind of finds do make this enjoyable for me.

I will continue to blog here when I find good ideas and will, as previously mentioned, also post occasional updates on this larger project. Hopefully I will have happy thoughts to share, but maybe I will need to vent  frustrations at times too. This is something new for me and I am looking forward to batlling through the questions and challenges that arise. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Reaction to Lincoln's Proposal of Compensated Emancipation 1862

I'm still working on my book project and will hopefully publish another update on it soon, but had previously found this article and thought it was worth sharing here as well. I'll keep looking for stuff like this occasionally even as I work on my project. 

This editorial came from the Cincinnati Enquirer of March 8, 1862 and is in reference to President Lincoln's March 6, 1862 Message to Congress supporting compensation to states willing to emancipate all slaves inside its borders.

The Message of President Lincoln - Slave Emancipation

It is to be deeply regretted that President Lincoln has so far yielded to the radicals in his party as to send in a message recommending that the United Stated afford pecuniary aid to such States as are willing to abolish slavery. It will have an unfortunate effect in the South, as indicating a meddlesome disposition upon the part of the General Government to interfere with their domestic institutions and to bias their State Legislatures by its influence. It will be time enough for the General Government to talk about affording aid to abolish slavery when the Southern States, or any of them, ask it at its hands. At the present time, when the country is loaded down with debt and taxation in order to carry out the war, it is simply impossible for it to make an investment of some hundreds of millions dollars in negroes. If the scheme was ever, or will be ever practicable, it is not now.

Strange caprice and infatuation, in view of the uniform failure of negro emancipation in the British and French West Indies, to effect any result except ruin to the countries that embark in it, to recommend it in this Union! What reasonable man can desire to enlarge our population of free negroes? The President's own State of Illinois prohibits a free negro from coming into it; and in all the free States, as well as slave, they are regarded as a most undesirable population, yet the President would have the whites of the North exhaust their pecuniary resources and to be beggared by taxes in order to set free millions of African slaves!

The suggestion springs from that uneasy, restless, insane spirit of fanaticism that has already been of such immense mischief to the country, and which every man should frown down. Leave negro slavery alone, where the Constitution leaves it, to work out its own destiny. Leave it to time. We of the North are not called upon to interfere with it in any form or shape, and can not do it except at our great injury and disadvantage. Better by far appropriate, as a measure of humanity, hundreds of millions of dollars to alleviate the distresses of poverty in the North, among the whites, than to invest the sum in creating free negroes. We much mistake the temper of the Northern people if they ever consent to it. We doubt whether a single Congressional district out of New England and the Ohio Western Reserve would vote, if it had the opportunity, in favor of the President's scheme.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

United Daughters of the Confederacy Meeting Minutes Book

 As I continue to plug along on my book project, a new, shorter-term but still intriguing idea has caught my attention.

At my local historical society, I found an old notebook of meeting minutes from the Henrietta Hunt Morgan Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. This chapter was in Newport and Covington, Kentucky, and this book covers late 1936 to the early 1940s. 

I am transcribing these minutes of the meetings which usually occurred  monthly, though some were cancelled. Once done, I may do some research on some of the ladies whose names are in the book, perhaps to figure out which of their ancestors were Confederate soldiers. This research may even turn up new names of local soldiers for my book or posts for this blog.

The minutes are generally unremarkable, filled with details of when and where the meeting was and how the meeting opened and proceeded. Most of this is pretty similar to other meeting minutes even from  today, but I might have a post or two with observations about some of the traditions they followed to open their meetings.

A few of the entries make mention of topics still of note today, such as contributions to fundraising efforts for statues of Jefferson Davis and even one about donating southern literature to a local high school library, perhaps part of the "Creating a Confederate Kentucky" phenomenon that happened in the post-war decades. (Thanks to Anne Marshall's wonderful book for the title that describes this period so well.)  I may go into further details on those topics and perhaps others once I have finished transcribed the entire book. I am about halfway through and am going through about one entry every day or two, so I probably still have a few weeks left before this will be finished. 

 I have also seen a couple of mentions of soldiers' names, one who had passed away in a neighboring county and another who was supposed to go to the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. Those names may deserve more investigation also. 

I am still working on my book, but this is a nice distraction and hopefully I can continue to work on both and make progress. This notebook is something different than anything I have done before and even the minutia of meeting details and the various motions made is intriguing to me. I started this post thinking I would say there was not much worth discussing in those minutes, but as I write this and describe what I’ve seen, the more I write, the more I believe will come from this. It won't be any groundbreaking  news on the Civil War era but may add to the (or at least my) understanding of this region in the post-war years and decades. This is something I will continue to pursue and see where it leads me. 

This book also includes a couple of loose papers and a newspaper clipping. The loose forms include two applications (each marked "duplicate")  to join a different chapter of the U.D.C. and correspondence about opening a new grave in the Confederate section of a local cemetery.

Here are a couple photos of the book.



Thursday, October 8, 2020

Injured at Perryville: Benjamin York,15th Kentucky Infantry

Today, the anniversary of the Battle of Perryville, seems like an appropriate day to share this story, thst of a common private soldier whose life changed on those Kentucky hills.

Another Campbell Countian whose Civil War service came to my attention thanks to the book The Battle Rages Higher is Benjamin F. York. The son of Joshua and Sarah (Moore) York, he was born in Alexandria, Ky., in July of 1844.

Location of Alexandria, Ky, courtesy

By 1860, the family, including Benjamin and his four younger siblings, still resided in Alexandria, but life quickly changed later that year when Republican Abraham Lincoln won the Presidency in the 1860 election. Several Southern states soon announced their secession from the United States and, in April 1861, the Civil War began. Six months later, in October, Benjamin enlisted for a 3-year term in Company H of the 15th Kentucky Infantry regiment, joining at Camp Webster, Kentucky. Paperwork in his file indicates he was 18 years old when he joined, though he may have actually been 17. That was under the minimum age to join the military, but it was not unusual for young men to lie about their age in order to become a soldier or sailor and officials did not always make thorough efforts to verify the ages of potential recruits.

As previous posts have discussed, the 15th Kentucky was a busy regiment and fought in some of the more famous battles and campaigns in the Western Theater of the war, including Perryville, Stone’s River, the Tullahoma Campaign, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, and the Atlanta Campaign. 

Benjamin York was with the 15th for many of these, but he was wounded at Perryville - called “Chaplin Hills” in his file - and was in a hospital in Louisville for several months before returning to his command in April of 1863. He remained with the regiment for several weeks, but by around September or October had taken a role as a company cook, and, on December 10, 1863, was discharged from the army due to disability, as his wound at Perryville had cost him his hearing. 

Unfortunately, the certificate of disability for discharge in his file is difficult to read, but it still does provide some additional details. It confirms his inability to perform his duties was due to “Deafness, caused by gun shot wound received in line (illegible) at the Battle of Chaplin Hills,” and states that the bullet had entered near the “ramus of the inferior maxillary bone,” before causing damage as it exited through his neck. 

It further states that he was “sent to General Hospital, rejoined his command at Murfreesboro on April 6, 1863, at which time he was deaf and has continued to be up to the present time, in consequence of which he is totally unfit for the service. He is also unfit for the Invalid Corps.”

This injury ended his fighting days, but he managed to lead a long, productive post-war life, one of tens of thousands (or more) of American men carrying life-long wounds caused by the war. 

Benjamin married Nancy Cherry on October 6, 1865 in Alexandria and received a Civil War pension starting in February of 1869, according to a family history account. The couple had three children, all daughters - Mary Ann, Emma, and Cora.

Benjamin does not appear to be on the 1870 census, but by 1880 lived in Clermont County, Ohio, with his mother, a sister, and his three daughters. He worked as a flat boatman, likely on the nearby Ohio River. 

Unfortunately, Nancy had died in 1879, but Benjamin married Dulcena Perry in 1881, and they had two daughters, Bessie and Ella.

(Dulcena’s younger brother, Alexander, also served in the war, in Company F of the 192nd Ohio Infantry.) 

By the time of the 1890 Veterans’ schedule, Benjamin had returned to Alexandria. Ten years later, he remained in that same town, where he lived on a farm with his wife and two daughters.

Benjamin York passed away on March 19, 1910 in Covington, Kentucky at sixty-five years of age, and was buried in Linden Grove Cemetery.

Rest in peace, soldier.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Working on my project

Work on my book project has been a bit spotty this week due to various appointments and other tasks, but I’m still making progress confirming Campbell County Civil War soldiers and even some more birth/death dates and burial places. I’ve even found one whose cause of death was ‘suicide by hanging.” It happened in 1888, but I wonder if that soldier suffered from what we today call PTSD. Whether it was or was not, it still is a sad story.

I have also started writing a draft of an introduction for the book, or at least getting some basic comments on it in full sentences and paragraphs instead of just notes. Work on it has just begun, but it is nice to have it started with some organization and development of  how I want that section to read.

Furthermore, I  created a list of soldiers and sailor names whose stories I want to share. For some of these, I have even started dome basic writing and note-taking, based on previous stories I have written or sources I know I want to use. There will be more of these than I had expected, but they will likely be the heart of the book. The list of names will hopefully be useful to researchers and maybe genealogists, but I suspect the individual stories will determine how much interest people might have in this book, so I want these to be interesting, and, of course, well-written. 

Like with the introduction, I’m glad to have this part at least started, giving me a sign of come progress and helping me start to see how much writing lies ahead. Many details await, such as if I want to divide these into chapters based on certain topics like casualties of war or just list them alphabetically.

It is not much, but it is progress, and I am still enjoying it.

I also must say that going through so many individual records is a different way of learning about the war than just reading books about battles or famous personalities. I wish I had started research like this much earlier. It is a fascinating experience, at least so far. 

Monday, September 7, 2020

A New, Big, (Crazy?) Project

Something I have thought about for a while but never could commit to was to write a book - an actual and real non-fiction book, with my name as author. The thought lived in the back of my mind for several years, but I never could figure out the right topic that would catch my interest enough to convince me to do all the work that such a project takes. I never was going to just put some words on paper just to say I had authored a book - I needed a topic that captured my passion and my interest and that would not be a fleeting idea that would bore me after a few weeks or so. If I was going to make such a goal, I was going to go all-in on it. 

I think I have finally found the right topic - Campbell County, Kentucky Civil War Soldiers, Sailors and Their Stories. That is the working title, subject to change, of the project I have started pursuing. It still is in the early stages of research and I realize that it will take possibly 1-2 more years to research and write (perhaps even longer, if my research is successful) but the general idea is to identify as many Civil War Soldiers who had some connection to Campbell County as I can find. By "connection," I currently mean "born in, lived in, died in or are buried in" my home county, but I have found a few names that might lead me to expand that. I have found a few names of men who served in this county - probably at the Newport Barracks - but did not meet the criteria I had established, and even more men whose widows lived here some time after their husbands had passed away. I have seen a couple of names of men who enlisted in this county but had no other ties to it, while some men were Confederate supporters or public sympathizers, but not actual soldiers. Some of these men had interesting stories,  so do I expand my definition of "connection" to this county and include them? Maybe I can create a separate chapter or section for such people. That is a tough decision I will need to make, though probably just one of many.

After identifying as many of these soldiers and sailors (both Yankees and Rebels) as I can, I will then compile some stories about their lives and careers. I already have a couple dozen ideas for possible stories - some I have published here on this blog in the past - and will likely find more. 

The first part of the proposed book would include these stories, combining Civil War history with some local history and maybe a few bits of genealogy sprinkled in along the way. My hope is that these stories, both military and human-interest ones, would interest readers and provide both information and entertainment. I have found stories of soldiers who were wounded, killed and/or captured in battles both famous and obscure, and others who had interesting civilian lives. A few of these tales might be fairly short and others longer, as I try to focus on the more interesting pieces of their lives snd not detailed genealogy or more mundane tidbits. Some of these men had fascinating lives both in and out of the military. 

After a section of these stories, the last part of the book would be a list of all the names I found, with the men's names, unit, company and rank included. Ideally, I would also add as much birth, death and burial information as I can find, but I do not know how much space that will require. My first thought is that these lists would be in a spreadsheet format, but maybe I could write out this information in mini-paragraphs for each soldier, though that would require many more words and, perhaps, pages. That is another decision I will need to finalize in the future as I would like this work to be both an enjoyable read and a benefit to researchers. Can I  make both those ends meet in one book? 

I have created a virtual cemetery on findagrave to keep track of the men whose final resting placesI have found. It currently has just over 500 graves on it, but I have more names for which I am still searching burial places, so hopefully that number increases. 

Of the ones I've already included, there may be a couple that are not 100% proven to be Civil War veterans. If they had the same name as a soldier I have confirmed and are in a logically located cemetery, I may have included them already, especially if the record showed birth and/or death dates that fit the right timeframe but I still have a some of these for which I want to go back and confirm burial places. Hopefully the ones like that included here are few and far between, but if anybody finds any errors, please let me know by email or in the comments section.

Of course, what to do when I have gathered, organized and put this information in a book format is the big question. First are the formatting questions. Do I need to be prepared to do endnotes or footnotes instead of just typing up one big story? Will I need to index it? I know that's a difficult task that even well-known and frequent authors consider to be a challenge. I also have found several photos on findagrave and other websites, but my current preference is for the book to be text only so that I do not have to determine who owns those photos snd then get permission to use them. Perhaps I could use my own photos of headstones or even sites associated with these men. 

Then, will anybody want to publish this? Do I just send letters to publishers to gauge interest?  Will I need to pay to self-publish it?  Will it end up as a digital format, such as a webpage?  I am sure there are more issues I will face at that time (and while I am still researching this) but I am convinced that I am willing to face those when the time comes. I began my research several weeks ago, have found a lot of information so far, and am enjoying it. It remains a labor of love for me and I am more confident that I will see this through to the end. That is why I have not mentioned this previously, but am ready to post this now.  

The research - both in confirming names that meet my (evolving?) criteria and in finding stories that I think are worth sharing - has been enjoyable and I have remained motivated to continue it. I am optimistic that I will maintain those feelings and that attitude.

Of course, as I throw myself into such a long, labor-intensive project, I realize my time for researching and writing this blog may decrease, but maybe I can use this blog to "test-write" some of the information I find. For instance, the recent posts I made about Foster and Israel Sellers are among the ideas I would like to include in the book.

I can also utilize this site to post updates on my progress or maybe express frustration or just to get some thoughts off my chest from time-to-time. I do not know how exactly this project will affect this blog, but I do not intend to close this blog, even if I post less often. Shutting this down is not an option.


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