Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Camp Followers of Lincoln’s Army

Like the British before them in the Revolution and War of 1812, Northern promises of emancipation and freedom were intended to incite race war in the South, deny labor to Southern agriculture which fed its armies in the field, and defeat the struggle for political independence. The freedmen found that their liberators cared little for them, Sherman expressed his disdain for black refugees following his army by burning bridges he had crossed.

Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman
North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission
"The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial"

Camp Followers of Lincoln’s Army

“[Postwar] Letters teemed with experiences like this: “We went to sleep one night with a plantation full of Negroes, and woke to find not one of them on the place – every servant gone to Sherman in Atlanta. Negroes are camped out all around the city. We had thought there was a strong bond of affection on their side as well as ours!

We have ministered to them in sickness, infancy, and age. But poor creatures! They don’t know what freedom is, and they are crazy. They think it an opening of the door of Heaven. Some put me in mind of birds born and raised in a cage and suddenly turned loose and helpless; others, of hawks, minks and weasels, released to do mischief.

We heard that there was much suffering in the [Negro] camps; presently our Negroes were all back, some ill from exposure. Maum Lucindy sent word for us to send for her, she was sick. Without a vehicle or team on the place, it looked like an impossible proposition, but my little boys patched up the relics of an old cart, borrowed the only steer in the neighborhood, and got Maum Lucindy back.

The [returned servant] raiders swept us clean of everything. We are unable to feed ourselves. How we shall feed and clothe the Negroes when we cannot make them work, I do not know.”

My cousin, Mrs. Meredith of Brunswick, Virginia, congratulated herself, when only one of her servants deserted her post to join Sheridan’s trail of camp-followers. A week after Simeon’s departure, she awoke one morning to discover that six women had decamped, one leaving two little children in her cabin from which came pitiful wails of “Mammy!” Mammy!”.

Simeon had come in the night, and related [that at the nearby Northern garrison at Blackstone] coloured women were parading the streets with white soldiers for beaux. My cousin, Mrs. White, said a whole wagon-load of Negro women passed her house going to Blackstone, and that one of them insisted upon presenting her with a four-year-old child, declaring it too much trouble. It was not an unknown thing for Negro mothers to leave their children along the roadsides.”

(Dixie After the War, An Exposition of Social Conditions Existing in the South, During, Myrta Lockette Avary, Doubleday, Page & Company, 1906, pp. 190-191)

Camp Followers of Lincoln’s Army

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