Tag Archives: civilwar

What Happened to Fanny?

I wanted to share one of the most powerful letters I’ve seen while working here at the Rubenstein Library: a letter from Fanny, a former slave, writing from Texas in 1867 (149 years ago today!). Here’s the letter. (Click to enlarge; transcript below.)

fanny1 fanny2

Texana, Jackson Co., Texas, August 5th, 1867

Dear Sister,

Your kind favor of a July 3rd to hand a few days ago, it affords me such pleasure to be in a position where I can converse, if not in person through this medium. it found us all in tolerable good health and delighted to hear of [your?] being well.

I am yet so very anxious about my children that I want you to take this letter and show it to Mr Slade urgently requesting him to write to Mr J. Paul Jones (to above address.) stating all he knows in connection with the sale of my children and Mr Jones has kindly consented to write for me. He could not afford me a greater pleasure or favor and in return beg to assure him of the fervent and constant prayer of one who though humble hopes that her prayers are heard.

I hope to have a longer letter the next time for paper must be scarce in your section.

Say to Brother Slade that he is in position to require all his prayers, for he was the cause of my children being sent away, or rather my being separated, for if God can forgive him for this sin he will forgive the balance —

You forget to state anything about John Wilkins, who was your first husband. how came you to be separated or is he dead. are you a member of any church you seem so silent on that subject.

George says to send his son out here and he will go home with him next spring.

When you write to sister Lotty write the general substance of what I have written to her. I am ashamed to hear you [?] of old age. I never feel old unless after a hard day’s work. I am more like a girl of sixteen than an old woman. Receive the love of one who may never see you, but constantly has you in mind. Love from all to your family.

Your sister,

Fanny

Unfortunately we don’t have the letter’s envelope, so I don’t know who Fanny’s writing to. Although she addresses her sister, I can’t be sure they’re actual relatives. I don’t know Fanny’s last name. I don’t know her sister’s name, or where her sister lives. I’m not sure which Mr. Slade she’s referring to, or where he lived (it could be North Carolina, Georgia, or somewhere else). There’s a lot I don’t know about the people in this letter. But, one thing is very clear: Fanny’s looking for her children. The Slades sold them away, or sold her away, at some point before 1865. This letter is concrete, powerful evidence of the devastating impact slavery had on African American families, with ramifications lasting long after the the end of the Civil War.

I found this letter breathtakingly sad. I couldn’t stop thinking about Fanny. Did she ever find her children? All I could know for sure was that her sister did show the letter to Mr. Slade — because now it is held in the Slade Family Papers. But, unfortunately, I found no further correspondence with Fanny or J. Paul Jones in the collection.

I decided to look for circumstantial evidence instead. I returned to the pre-war years of the Slade Family Papers to look for evidence of her existence in the plantation records. Despite being able to trace many of the slaves owned by the Slades from the 1830s through the 1860s, Fanny was a mystery. The only hint of a slave named Fanny lies in this estate inventory for Henry Slade, who died in 1838.

1838 slave list
1838: Liley (34, dropsical, 100) Fanny (15, 500) Stephen (12, 500) Atwood (10, 450) Maranda (7, 350) Clay (5, 300) Reuben (3, 200)

The majority of the papers in the collection stem from Thomas B. Slade and William Slade, two brothers who appear to have inherited the majority of Henry Slade’s estate. In 1838, Fanny was 15, and the estate inventory suggests she was unmarried and had no children. She is listed in what appears to be a family group with Liley (presumably her mother), Stephen, Atwood, Maranda, Clay, and Reuben. Fanny does not appear on William B. Slade’s slave census for 1850, and is not listed on his slave inventories for 1861 or 1864. My guess is that Henry Slade’s Fanny was separated from her mother and siblings shortly after 1838. I base this theory on an undated slave valuation scrap that I found tucked into William Slade’s account book.

Undated scrap from William Slade's account book. It lists Liley, Reuben, and Clay -- but no Fanny.
Undated scrap from William Slade’s account book. It lists Liley, Reuben, and Clay — but no Fanny.

It has the same names and similar ages as the Henry Slade estate inventory, except several slaves, including Fanny, are missing. I’m guessing this scrap represents the slaves that William Slade acquired as part of the settling of Henry’s estate around 1838. It’s possible that Fanny, Stephen, Atwood, and Maranda moved with Thomas B. Slade down to Georgia, where he ran the Clinton Female Seminary. It appears that Liley, Clay, and Reuben were transferred to William Slade and stayed in Martin County, North Carolina. Clay and Reuben continue to show up on William Slade’s accounts in the 1850s.

Since that 1838 Estate List is the only evidence of any Fanny I could find in the papers, I turned back to her 1867 letter. She lived in Texana, in Jackson County, Texas, and referenced J. Paul Jones, a literate man who was writing for her. I decided to look for a Fanny from Texana in the 1870 U.S. Census, using the library’s subscription to Ancestry.com. One problem I faced was the location, Texana, which is not referenced in the 1870 Census (too small, I suppose) and is now a ghost town under the Lake Texana Reservoir. I ended up using J. Paul Jones as a reference point. By 1870, he was living in Victoria, Texas, near enough to Jackson County for me to feel confident that it was him.

Screenshot 2016-08-03 at 9.40.53 PMHe was a relatively successful landowner originally from Maryland. I then narrowed the search with a birthplace of North Carolina and a race of Black or Mulatto. And I eliminated the Fannys who were too young in 1870 to have had children before 1865.

I ended up with two possible Fannys in Texas; but, neither matched the age of the Fanny on the Henry Slade estate inventory. The first, Fanny Ward, was 26 in 1870; her estimated birth year was 1844. At the time of the census she lived with Lucas Ward (30) and George Nicholson (62) in Matagorda County, Texas, near Jackson County. The letter mentions a George, which is why this Fanny seemed like a possibility. But I’m also thinking that Fanny Ward seemed too young to be referring to herself as an old woman in her letter to her sister. The other option in Texas was Fanny Oliver, from Victoria County, Texas, also near Jackson County. In 1870, Fanny Oliver was about 58 years old, and was married to John Oliver (62). The tone of the letter reads to me like an older adult woman; between these two Fannys, I was leaning toward Fanny Oliver.

That of course presumed that Fanny still lived in Texas three years after she wrote her letter to Mr. Slade. I began to wonder if I had it wrong. Maybe by 1870, she had reconnected with her children and had returned to the East Coast. In looking around the 1870 census, I found several former Slade slaves who had taken the Slade name; I decided to see if there was a Fanny Slade living somewhere outside of Texas. It turns out yes, there were several Fanny Slades in 1870. I narrowed my census search to slaves born in North Carolina in or around 1820, and found the following:

Screenshot 2016-08-03 at 9.32.56 PMSlade, Fanny. 45. F. Black. Works on Farm. Birthplace: NC. Cannot Read. Cannot Write.

And with her: Slade, Rose. 15. F. Black. Works on Farm. Birthplace: GA. Cannot Read. Cannot Write.

Circumstantial evidence suggests this is the right Fanny. She adopted the Slade last name. In 1870 she was 45, meaning that in 1867 she was 42 — she was old enough to have children pre-war. She would have been born around 1825, only 2 years off from the 1838 estate valuation from the Slade Family Papers, which put Fanny’s birth year as 1823. In 1870, Fanny Slade was living in Dooly County, Georgia, which was home to numerous other Slades, both black and white, in the 1870 Census. And most gratifying, in my mind, was to see that in 1870 she was living with Rose, a daughter, which suggests that her quest to be reunited with her children was partially successful.

It could be that I’m totally wrong; the Slade Family Papers are frustratingly silent and I’m out of ideas as to how to cross-reference this hypothesis. Too many blanks in the evidence means I have too many unanswered questions, the first being, What Happened to Fanny’s Other Children? I doubt we’ll ever know.

Letters from former slaves to their masters, like Fanny’s, are extraordinary documentary evidence of freedmen and women claiming their freedom and their rights. What’s amazing to me is that this letter was not only written, but has survived. So many former slaves did not have Fanny’s resources, especially friends like J. Paul Jones, to help her find her children. I hope that she at least found some answers, even if I never do.

An African American Surgeon in the U.S. Civil War: Talk by Dr. Margaret Humphreys

Date: Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Time: 12:00 PM
Location: Room 102, Duke Medical Center Library
Contact: Beverly Murphy, beverly.murphy@duke.edu

Dr. Margaret HumphreysPlease join us on Wednesday, June 18 at noon for a lecture by Dr. Margaret Humphreys titled “Finding Dr. Harris: an African American Surgeon in the U.S. Civil War.” The event will be held in Room 102 of the Duke University Medical Center Library. Lunch will be provided.

Dr. Humphreys is the Josiah Charles Trent Professor of the History of Medicine and Professor of Medicine at Duke University and current President of the American Association for the History of Medicine. She is the author most recently of Marrow of Tragedy: The Health Crisis of the American Civil War (Johns Hopkins University Press); a book for which she was a finalist for the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize—awarded annually for the finest scholarly work in English on Abraham Lincoln or the American Civil War era.

Dr. Humphreys’ talk coincides with several exhibits at the Duke Medical Library. From June 9 through July 19, 2014, the Medical Library & Archives will host the National Library of Medicine’s travelling exhibit Binding Wounds, Pushing Boundaries: African Americans in Civil War Medicine. The lower level of the Medical Library includes an exhibition on Civil War medicine, highlighting many materials from the History of Medicine Collections and Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library on display through September of 2014.

Dr. Humphreys talk is co-sponsored by the Duke University Medical Center Library & Archives and the History of Medicine Collections in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. For questions about the event, please contact Beverly Murphy at beverly.murphy@duke.edu or (919) 660-1127.

 

Jefferson Davis’s Hair Revisited

One of my favorite Rubenstein collections is the C.C. Clay Papers, which document the life and times of Clement Claiborne Clay and his family. The Clays lived in Alabama in the nineteenth century, and sided with the Confederacy during the Civil War. In the war’s early years, C.C. Clay served as a Confederate States senator. His opposition to raising soldiers’ pay (it would have been too expensive!) led to his being voted out of office in 1863. Clay and Confederate States President Jefferson Davis were good friends, however — Clay was godfather to Davis’s son Joseph — and rather than send Clay back to his plantation, Davis sent him on a secret mission to Canada to spy, bribe, and generally foment rebellion. (Clay’s mission did not end up helping the C.S.A.)

Clay was in Canada from mid-1864 through early 1865. He returned to the South just in time for the Confederacy to surrender. President Lincoln was assassinated shortly after his return, and both Davis and Clay were arrested by the Federal government on suspicions of treason relating to Lincoln’s assassination. (Clay’s time in Canada looked extremely suspicious.) The men were imprisoned in Fortress Monroe, Virginia. Clay was held for about a year without being charged until finally his wife, Virginia Clay, convinced President Andrew Johnson to pardon him. (She was a cool lady. You can read her 1905 memoir here.) Davis was imprisoned until 1867 before finally being released on bail.

jefferson_davis_hair-blog
This is only a selected portion of the Davis hairball held in the Clay Papers.

What does all this backstory have to do with Jefferson Davis’s hair? Well, there are giant clumps of it in the Clay Papers, and for years we did not know why. The mystery behind the hair did not stop us from displaying it in a Perkins Library exhibit three years ago. The only clue was from an envelope, where Virginia Clay had written, “Hair of Jefferson Davis cut off in Fortress Monroe, given me by Mrs. Dr. Elva Cooper.”

Recently, in reading through the Clay Papers correspondence, I came across the letter that explains it all. Virginia Clay wrote to Elva Cooper in April 1866, days before receiving Johnson’s pardon for C.C. Clay, asking her to “do send the hair if possible as directed.” Later on in the letter, Virginia recounted the number of donations received toward Jefferson Davis’s bail, adding that “the hair will sell like wildfire + will be my contribution.”

davisCollageIt appears that the plan was for the clumps of hair to be sold to Davis supporters as souvenirs, raising money for his aid. This explanation makes a lot more sense than the various reasons we had thought up over the years. Hair tokens are not rare in manuscript collections, but the fact that the Clays had so much of it struck us as a little odd. Fortunately, the story doesn’t end there. An annotation from Ada Sterling, the editor for Virginia’s memoir, offers this extra gem:

davis3Even Davis’s contemporaries were not interested in purchasing locks of his hair! Sterling explained that as she helped write the memoir in the early 1900s, the hair was still lying in “‘mussy’ bundles, among Mrs. C’s things.”And so it now remains forever in the Rubenstein. Mystery solved!

Post contributed by Meghan Lyon, Technical Services Archivist.

New Acquisitions: Icons of Civil War Photography

In June and July we’ll celebrate the beginning of a new fiscal year by highlighting new acquisitions from the past year.  All of these amazing resources will be available for today’s scholars, and for future generations of researchers in the Rubenstein Library! Check out additional posts in the series here.

Some of the most celebrated, recognizable, and graphic images of the American Civil War come from Alexander Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the Civil War and George N. Barnard’s Photographic Views of Sherman’s Campaign, both published in 1866. Among the most important pictorial records of the conflict, together they shed a stark light on the destruction witnessed during the war and its aftermath. As legendary examples of early American photography these albums also help us to understand the history of documentary photography and the emergence of the widespread documentation of war.  Look for a feature on these important new additions to the Library’s Archive of Documentary Arts in the next issue of RL Magazine!

Alexander Gardner, "President Lincoln on Battle-Field of Antietam," 1862.
Alexander Gardner, “President Lincoln on Battle-Field of Antietam,” 1862, from Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the Civil War.
George Barnard, "City of Atlanta no. 2," from
George Barnard, “City of Atlanta no. 2,” from Barnard’s Photographic Views of Sherman’s Campaign.

The Rubenstein Library is grateful to the B. H. Breslauer Foundation for their generous support of the acquisition of Gardner’s Sketch Book.

Post contributed by Kirston Johnson, Curator of the Archive of Documentary Arts.

Crazy Assassin or Crazy Housepainter?

On this day in 1865 the infamous John Wilkes Booth, assassin of President Abraham Lincoln, died of a gunshot wound on the porch of the Garrett home in Virginia after twelve days on the lam.  Or did he?

What if I told you that Booth was actually a tobacco merchant in east Texas in 1873?  Or that he was a Shakespeare-quoting house painter in Enid, Oklahoma in the early 20th century?  And that one could view his mummified remains at various circuses after the First World War?  Crazy, right?

Not according to Finis L. Bates, a lawyer from Memphis, TN, in his 1907 confessional, The Escape and Suicide of John Wilkes Booth.

According to Bates, John St. Helen, a merchant in Granbury, TX, confessed his true identity while suffering from an illness to which he supposed he would eventually succumb. After his unexpected recovery, St. Helen elaborated on his confession to Bates and offered additional details of the conspiracy to assassinate Lincoln. The most explosive of these was the originator of the assassination plot, Vice-President Andrew Johnson. He also offered the true identity of the man mortally wounded by a Federal soldier at the Garrett farm. Bates immediately notified the State Department and Department of Defense but his pleas fell on deaf ears (conspiracy, anyone?).

In 1903, a house painter from Oklahoma named David E. George, committed suicide with a fatal dose of arsenic. Among some papers found on George was a note requesting that Bates be summoned. Upon his arrival several days later, Bates was able to identify the deceased George as his friend from Texas, John St. Helen, nee John Wilkes Booth. After claiming possession of the body, Bates then toured mummified remains around the United States, and, eventually, even offering for purchase to Henry Ford.

Come to the Rubenstein Library and read this true account of the life and death of John Wilkes Booth. Conspiracy theorists welcome!

Engraving of John Wilkes Booth's Mummified Hand
Engraving from The Escape and Suicide of John Wilkes Booth.

Post contributed by Joshua Larkin Rowley, Research Services Coordinator.

A Humble Petition from 1864

Greeting from 1864 Petition to Jefferson Davis from the Citizens of Cripple Creek, VA

Working on the History of Medicine (HOM) Trent Manuscripts Grant Project has revealed quite a few items of interest—but most recently, I discovered something that fits rather well into the Memories of the Civil War exhibit currently on display in the Perkins Exhibit Gallery.

Signatures to the 1864 Petition from the Citizens of Cripple Creek.
Signatures to the 1864 Petition from the Citizens of Cripple Creek. From the Trent Manuscripts Collection.

You may have seen the grisly amputation kit from the HOM collection, which might be the kind of war-related artifact that you would expect out of a collection on the history of medicine.  But here, instead, is not an example of progressive advances in medicine, nor a relic of past practice: instead, a simple plea for a family doctor to remain in service to his community by being excused for service in the Confederate Army:

“We the undersigned Citizens of Cripple Creek, Wythe County, VA earnestly petition that our family physician, Dr. C. C. Campbell, who is a conscript under the late act of Congress and whose services are indispensable to this portion of the county, be exempt, or detailed, and left with us.”

This singular petition to the President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, dated February 15, 1864, was accompanied by two pages of signatures by the residents of Cripple Creek.  Did it ever reach its destination?  Do any historians or local residents know the fate of Dr. C. C. Campbell and his patients in Cripple Creek, Virginia?  If so, we’d love to hear from you!

Jacqueline Chapman, a graduate student at UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Information and Library Science, was History of Medicine Intern at the Rubenstein Library from September 2011 to January 2012.

Another March Madness: The American Civil War at 150

Date: Friday, March 16, 2012
Time: 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM
Location: Gothic Reading Room
Contact information: Dr. Shauna Devine, shauna.devine[at]duke.edu

Prominent historians from Duke University, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, and Ohio State University will gather at Duke for a one-day symposium marking the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. It will feature talks and presentations on a wide range of topics related to the war and its ongoing impact a century and a half later.  This event is free and open to the public.  See the symposium’s website for additional information.

The symposium coincides with the Rubenstein Library’s acclaimed exhibit, “I Recall the Experience Sweet and Sad: Memories of the Civil War,” on display through March 30.  Additional materials focused on Civil War medicine from the Rubenstein Library’s History of Medicine Collections will also be displayed in the Gothic Reading Room on the day of the exhibit.

“I Recall the Experience Sweet and Sad: Memories of the Civil War”

Civil War Exhibit banner

Date: 6 January-31 March 2012
Location and Time: Perkins Library Gallery during library hours
Contact Information: Meg Brown, 919-681-2071 or meg.brown(at)duke.edu

“Memories of the Civil War” shares personal reflections and memoirs of Civil War participants from a variety of backgrounds: an escaped slave, a Union volunteer, a Southern woman, and an army field nurse. Also featured is the memoir of poet Walt Whitman, whose poem, “The Wound Dresser,” is quoted in the exhibit’s title. Despite the different backgrounds of their authors, the memoirs have remarkably common themes of triumph, tragedy, hope, and pain. Though the Civil War lives on in American memory and legend, this exhibit seeks to ground that legend in the experiences of those who lived it.

Accompanying the memoirs are supplementary manuscripts, photographs, and memorabilia from the Civil War itself, including maps, scrapbooks, and artifacts such as this amputation kit from the Rubenstein’s History of Medicine Collection. Original Whitman letters, flag remnants from the Battle of Fort Sumter, and handmade playing cards are other exhibit highlights.

amputation kit
Amputation kit used during the Civil War, now on display in the Perkins Gallery.

During your next visit to Perkins-Bostock Library, please swing by the library gallery to see the new exhibit on display now! If you can’t visit in person, be sure to check out the online exhibit, which includes additional letters and photographs that didn’t quite fit in the Perkins cases.

Also, please plan to join curators Jessica Janecki, Meghan Lyon, and Kim Sims for a gallery talk on Monday, January 23, from 3-4 p.m. The Devil’s Tale will have more information about this event posted soon!

Researching the Civil War?

This has been the most terrific days battle since commincement. The enemy made a terrible charge over our Breastworks with re-inforcementz & succeeded in charging some of our men out of them, capturing many of our Division. All our Regiment that were left from the first days fight were captured.
—from the Henry Beverige Diary, Thursday, May 12, 1864.

Beverige, a soldier and hospital steward with the 25th Virginia Regiment of the Confederate States of America, describes one of the many terrifying, bloody days of the American Civil War. His diary is one of the numerous first person accounts available in the Rubenstein Library. Other perspectives on life during the conflict are offered by fiery teenager Alice Williamson;  Confederate spy Rose O’Neal Greenhow, African Americans such as Edgar Dinsmore, and the many others who experienced the loneliness, losses, and deprivations—and occasional triumphs—of the conflict.

"Come and Join Us Brothers," 1863

To commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, Rubenstein Library staff have collaborated on a guide to Civil War resources that provides highlights of our rich collections. Special sections describe manuscript and print material related to military history, medicine, women, African Americans, literature, and music in the Rubenstein Library, as well as other library guides and relevant databases and websites.

We anticipate that this guide will be helpful for scholars, genealogists, and anyone with a personal interest in Civil War history. Please contact us if you have questions or comments about our collections.

Post contributed by Elizabeth Dunn, Research Services Librarian.