Get news about History books, authors, and more. Eviscerates one of our schoolchildren’s most basic assumptions: that slavery in America ended with the Civil War.”. “The genius of Blackmon’s book is that it illuminates both the real human tragedy and the profoundly. Views 4MB Size Report. DOWNLOAD PDF Slavery by Another Name is a passionate, highly impressive and hugely important book." —David J. Garrow. Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II · Read more · Rose By Any Other Name. Read more.
|Language:||English, Spanish, German|
|Genre:||Business & Career|
|Distribution:||Free* [*Registration needed]|
Slavery By Another Name – by Douglas. A Blackmon. The Re-enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II. This Pulitzer Prizewinning. Slavery by Another Name: Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II. “The South deluded itself with the illusion that the Negro was . “Slavery by Another Name”. Thursday, February 11, at pm. Room A. This film, based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Douglas A.
The Confederate government, almost from the moment of its creation, set out to spur additional capacity to make arms, particularly in Alabama, where a nascent iron and coal industry was already emerging and little ghting was likely to occur. During the war, a dozen or more new iron furnaces were put into blast in Alabama;12 by , the state was pumping out four times more iron than any other southern state.
Across Alabama, individual property holders—slaveholders speci cally— were aggressively encouraged to attempt primitive industrial e orts to support the Confederate war e ort. The rebel government o ered generous inducements to entrepreneurs and large slave owners to devote their resources to the South's industrial needs. With much of the major plantation areas of Mississippi under constant federal harassment, thousands of slaves there were without work.
Slave owners willing to transport their black workers to the new mining regions of Alabama and dig coal could avoid conscription into the southern armies. After seeing their homes and stockpiles of cotton burned, W H. They opened the Lower Thompson mine, and later another relative and his slaves arrived to dig another mine. The coal was hauled eleven miles to Ashby and then shipped to Selma. The mining was crude, using picks and hand-pulled carts.
The slaves drained water from the shafts by carrying buckets up to the surface. The Fancher family, on a farm three miles north of the crossroads community called Six Mile, regularly hauled limestone from a quarry on their property to a Bibb County furnace during the war. To produce its weapons and metal plating for use on ironclad ships critical to the Confederacy's limited naval operations, the Selma works relied on enormous amounts of coal and iron ore mined and forged in nearby Shelby and Bibb counties.
Of particular strategic value were ironworks established by local investors in in the village of Brier eld. Nine miles from the Cotting-ham place, the Brier eld Iron Works produced the plates that adorned the Confederate vessel CSS Tennessee, which during the battle of Mobile Bay on August 5, , withstood the barrage of seventeen Union vessels without a single shot penetrating her hull. As the war escalated, maintaining production required an ever increasing number of slaves.
Foundries routinely commissioned labor agents to prowl across the southern states in search of available slaves. The download encompassed "its property of all kinds whatsoever," including thousands of acres of land and a catalogue of dozens of wagons, wheelbarrows, coal sleds, axes, and blacksmith tools.
On the list of livestock were seventy mules, forty-one oxen, and nine black men: "John Anderson, aged about 35, Dennis, about 38, George, about 30, Charles, about 47, Perry, about 40, Curry about 17, Matthew, about 35, Mose, about 18, and Esquire, about 30 years. All of its output went to the Selma Arsenal, fty miles by railroad to the south, where the iron was used for armor and for naval guns, including the state-of-the-art eleven-inch Brooke ri ed cannon, with a capacity of ring a pound shell more than two thousand yards.
The adjacent village held church in a schoolhouse surrounded by the tenements and small housing for three hundred workers.
Two massive brick blast furnaces, each forty feet high, belched a thick brew of smoke and gases at the top and a torrent of lique ed iron at the base. Nearby was a rolling mill where the molten iron was formed into crude one-hundred-pound "pigs" for shipment to Selma, and loaded onto a railroad line extended into the factory yard. One hundred yards away sat a kiln for ring limestone, ten tons of which was fed each day into the furnaces. Beyond the kiln was a quarry for the endless task of repairing the stone furnaces, a sawmill, and then seven thousand acres of forest from which fuel for the constantly burning fires was cut.
Few industrial enterprises wanted to actually download slaves. They were too expensive at acquisition, and too costly and di cult to maintain. Too unpredictable as to when they might become uncooperative, or die. Far preferable to the slave-era industrialist was to lease the slave chattel owned by other men. In , however, few such workers could be found anymore.
Instead, the Confederate o cer commanding the Brier eld iron production operation, Maj. William Richardson Hunt, rented two hundred slaves to perform the grueling tasks necessary to continue equipping the rebel army. A son of Rev. Starr's—a doctor and also a resident of the Cottingham Loop—became the government's agent for seizing slaves. But by war's end, Scipio Cottingham, the sixty-three-year-old slave who had shared the farm longest with master Elisha, had come to identify himself as a foundry man.
Almost certainly, he had been among those rented to the Brier eld furnace and compelled to help arm the troops fighting to preserve his enslavement. As the war years progressed, ever larger numbers of local men from near the Cottingham farm left for battle duty. Two of Elisha's sons fought for the Confederacy. Moses and James, both husbands and fathers, each saw gruesome action, personal injury, and capture by the Union.
Elisha's grandson Oliver, too young to ght with the troops, joined the Home Guard, the ragtag platoons of old men and teenagers whose job was to patrol the roads for deserters, eeing slaves, and Union scouts.
In the beginning, large crowds gathered at the stores in the crossroads settlement of Six Mile to send them o , and groups of women worked together to sew the uniforms they wore. Soldiers on the move through the area were a regular sight, crossing the Cahaba on the ferry near the mouth of Cottingham Creek, and traversing the main road from there toward the rail towns to the east. At one point late in the war, an entire regiment set camp in the field, erecting tents and lighting cooking fires.
The war years were a con icted period of confused roles for slaves. They were the subjects of the Union army's war of liberation, and the victims of the South's economic system. Yet at the same time, slaves were also servants and protectors of their white masters. In the woods near the Cottingham home, slaves guarded the horses and possessions of their white owners, hidden there to avoid raids of northern soldiers.
Some slaves took the opportunity to ee, but most stayed at their posts until true liberation came in the spring of The foundry and arsenal at Selma and the simple mines and furnaces around the Cottingham farm that supplied it with raw materials had taken on outsized importance as the war dragged on. The Alabama manufacturing network became the backbone of the Confederacy's ability to make arms,25 as the Tredegar factories were depleted of raw materials and skilled workers and menaced by the advancing armies of Ulysses S.
Preservation of the Alabama enterprises was a key element of a last-ditch plan by Je erson Davis, the southern president, to retreat with whatever was left of the Confederate military into the Deep South and continue the war. Small groups of horse soldiers made regular probing raids, against minimal southern resistance.
In April of , Alabama's governor wired Confederate Lt. Leonidas Polk, commander of rebel forces in Alabama and Mississippi, imploring him to send additional troops. It is certain that the forces will work way South and destroy the valuable works in Central Alabama….
Can nothing be done? Commanded by Gen. Wilson, the Union army, well drilled and amply armed, split into three huge raiding parties, each assigned to destroy key elements of Alabama's industrial infrastructure. Moving unchallenged for days, the federal troops burned or wrecked iron forges, mills, and massive stockpiles of cotton and coal at Red Mountain, Irondale, and Helena, north of Bibb County.
On the morning of March 30, Union soldiers slogged down the raindrenched roads into Columbiana, destroying the machinery of the Shelby Iron Works, shoving its equipment into local wells and streams, and freeing the slaves critical to its operations.
Against nearly hopeless odds, Nathan Bedford Forrest, a former slave dealer who had become the South's most storied horseman, met the blue advance at a point south of the town of Montevallo.
Skirmishing along Mahan Creek, just miles from the Cottingham farm, Forrest's disorganized command could only harass Wilson's advance. Northern troops took the Brier eld furnace on March 31, and left it a ruin.
Outmanned and outfought, with ooding creeks blocking his maneuvers, Forrest, himself slashed by a saber in savage ghting on April 1, retreated for a nal stand at Selma.
The next day, Wilson's troops charged the fortified industrial complex in Selma, and routed Forrest's remaining four thousand men. The Confederate general slipped away with an escort of one hundred soldiers, massacring as he made his escape most of a contingent of twenty- ve sleeping Union scouts he stumbled upon in a field.
Federal forces captured nearly three thousand of Forrest's men, along with more than sixty pieces of eld cannon, scores of heavy artillery guns, nine factories, ve major iron forges, three foundries, twenty locomotives, immense quantities of military supplies, and 35, bales of cotton. The arsenal, factory shops, and foundries at Selma were systematically destroyed. Perhaps most shocking to local whites, before moving on to attack Georgia, Wilson's o cers quickly raised a one-thousand-man regiment of black troops, placed under the command of the Third Ohio Cavalry28 With the remaining Confederate armies commanded by Gen.
Robert E. Lee and Gen. Joseph E. Johnston unable to unite, Je erson Davis's hope to continue the rebellion as a guerrilla struggle collapsed. Cut o from his remaining troops, his Alabama munitions system destroyed, deprived of the last regions of relative security in the South, he attempted to ee to Texas or Mexico.
Under hot pursuit by detachments of General Wilson's troops, he was captured by Union forces in Georgia weeks later. The war came finally to its end.
All banks in the state had collapsed. Agricultural production levels would not match that of for another forty years. A vicious white insurgency against the Union occupation and the specter of black citizenship began to take shape, presaged by the conduct of Home Guard patrols like the one Oliver Cottingham had joined. The patrols, uncoordinated and increasingly contemptuous of any authority during the war, had come to be known more as bandits and thugs than defenders of the Confederacy.
After four years of conscriptions verging on kidnappings, violence perpetrated against critics of rebellion, and ruthless seizures of supplies and property, the Home Guard was in many places as despised as the Yankee troops. But in the aftermath of a sudden—and in much of the South, unanticipated —surrender, no clear central authority existed in the domestic a airs of places too small or remote to warrant a detachment of northern troops.
In the Deep South, that meant nearly everyplace outside state capitals and economic centers. The result, in the two years preceding Henry and Mary's wedding, was a spreading wave of internecine violence and thievery by returning Confederate soldiers, particularly against those southerners who had doubted the war. Deserters, who had been far more numerous than southern mythology acknowledged, began settling old scores. The increasing lawlessness of the postwar years was, rather than a wave of crime by freed slaves as so often claimed, largely perpetrated against whites by other whites.
The Cottingham farm sat in the middle of this unrest. One gang of deserters in Bibb County, made up of men believed to have abandoned the armies of both the North and the South, called themselves the Uglies, and marauded through the countryside during the war, robbing farms and threatening Confederate supporters.
Another gang inhabited the Yellow Leaf swamp on the border with adjoining Chilton County. A paramilitary band of men near the town of Montevallo, calling itself Blackwell's Cavalrymen, hunted the countryside for Confederate deserters before the southern surrender and continued as an outlaw gang after the war.
The group eventually murdered a total of seventeen local men. White lawlessness was so rampant in Shelby County that less than a year before Henry and Mary's wedding, Union military o cials in the Alabama capital threatened to send troops into the area to restore peace. A local plantation owner, Capt. James Cobb, who had been sent home from duty with the southern army due to poor health, was assigned the task of breaking up the gangs of deserters.
The e ort spawned vendettas that would outlast the war. On June 3, , nearly two months after the surrender, Cobb was seized by a group of thirty whites and hanged from a tree on his property. Afterward, they ransacked his home, killing or stealing his livestock. The former Confederate o cer was accused of having named seven of the mob's members as deserters.
The Blackwell group subsequently captured the seven and summarily executed them. The men, named Beard and Higgen-botham, were promptly whipped by local whites and driven from the county. Not long after, rumor spread that two former slaves named Tom Johnson and Rube Russell had been seen around the county sporting ne clothes paid for by Freedmen's Bureau agents. The emancipated slaves planned to "live like white folks and marry white wives," according to a newspaper account.
Johnson was promptly hanged from a tree on Market Street. A few mornings later, passersby found Russell dangling dead, in a tree not far from the scene of the earlier lynching. The loss of slaves left white farm families such as the Cottinghams, and even more so those on expansive plantations with scores or hundreds of slaves, not just nancially but intellectually bereft. The slaves were the true experts in the tasks of cotton production on most farms; in many cases it was slaves who directed the gangs of other slaves in their daily work.
Slavery had been introduced into the southern colonies in the s with the argument that whites, operating alone, were incapable of largescale cotton production. The concepts of sharecropping and farm tenancy hadn't yet evolved. The notion that their farms could be operated in some manner other than with groups of black laborers compelled by a landowner or his overseer to work as many as twenty hours a day was antithetical to most whites. Moreover, the sudden willingness of millions of black laborers to insolently demand cash wages and other requirements to secure their labor was an almost otherworldly experience for whites such as Elisha Cottingham.
Former slaves were suddenly mobile too, seeking new lodging away from the farms of their slave lives and attempting to put white farmers into competition with one another for their work. In the absence of any means to supply freed slaves with land, the Freed-men's Bureau and northern military commanders stationed in the South encouraged blacks to enter into labor contracts with whites. The results were written agreements between whites and black farmhands lled with provisions aimed at restoring the subjugated state of African Americans.
One agent of the Freedmen's Bureau wrote that whites were unable to fathom that work "could be accomplished without some prodigious binding and obligating of the hireling to the employer.
In one South Carolina case in , when four freedmen refused such agreements, two were killed and a third, a woman, was tortured. They agreed not to leave the landowner's property without a written pass, not to own rearms, to obey all commands of the farmer or his overseer, to speak in a servile manner, and in the event of a violation of the rules to accept whatever punishment the farmer deemed appropriate—often the lash.
But they framed a strategy that southern whites would return to again and again. When Elisha's sons arrived home from the war, they found only the barest gleanings of the earlier time with which to restart their lives. The thriving farmland world of their boyhoods no longer existed. After four years of steadily in ated Confederate scrip, now entirely worthless, the value of a man's land and tools, even of a bale of cotton, was nearly unknowable.
The great bulk of that was invested in his slaves, and now they were his no more. The Cottinghams had not even the cash to download cotton seed and corn, much less the labor of the former slaves they had so recently owned.
For collateral, Moses promised two ve-hundred-pound bales of cotton at the end of the season. The crop that fall wouldn't be enough to pay o the loan, and Moses couldn't clear his debt until Elias Bishop, a prosperous farmer with a spread of several hundred acres under plow in another rich bend of the Cahaba downstream from the Cottinghams, was in similar straits. He never paid it back. Henry, the cotton downloader at Randolph who had become the county's de facto banker and nancier.
She settled the debt after the harvest of , but immediately had to assume another loan. John Wesley Starr, as a circuit-riding clergyman, was a regular feature before both congregations. Elias Bishop had accumulated an even more impressive collection of slaves than Elisha, with ten black men and three black females old enough to work in the elds at the beginning of the war.
A half dozen young children rounded out the slave quarters. On the day of emancipation in , the Bishop slave girl named Mary, who ve years later would become Henry Cottinham's wife, was fourteen. Elisha's son Moses, who had migrated to Bienville Parish, Louisiana, a few years before secession, lost his land and the life of his wife, and had been forced to send his children on a harrowing journey through the battle zones of Mississippi with only a slave and a geriatric preacher to protect them.
The saga resonated through generations of white Cottinghams and blacks descended from their slaves. After Moses enlisted in January , his pregnant wife, Nancy Katherine, grew ill and then died during childbirth. Moses returned home from the front to bury Nancy and make arrangements for their six surviving children.
Elisha Cottingham sent a Baptist minister to Louisiana to bring his grandchildren back to Alabama for the duration of the war.
The preacher and the old African American, a scramble of children foraging for turnips and cornmeal, the oldest daughter, Cirrenia, still a child herself, feeding two-month-old Johnny, the infant whose birth had killed their mother, with a gruel of baked sweet potatoes.
The fate of Moses, still at war, was unknown. Moses started over, resettling on nearby land along Copperas Creek, marrying the daughter of another former slaveholding family and begetting another seven children. The losses su ered by Moses and the slow rescue of his family in the heat of war could have been a parable for how white southerners perceived the destruction of the South they had known. Physical and nancial devastation, death and grief, followed by a transforming struggle to survive and rebuild.
After the war, as the Cottingham slaves brazenly asserted their independence, the journey of Joe and the children across the South came to symbolize a reliance on blacks that southern whites could never again allow. Regardless of their intertwined pasts, the rehabilitation of the South by whites would not just purposefully exclude blacks. As time passed and opportunity permitted, former slaves would be compelled to perform the rebuilding of the South as well— in a system of labor hardly distinguishable in its brutality and coercion from the old slavery that preceded it.
If one looked out from Elisha's porch in December , across the crop rows and down past the creek, the only green in a nearly colorless winter landscape was in the short scru y needles of twisted cedars he had planted long ago, along the wagon drive from the road to the house.
The slave cabins, nearly two dozen of them, were mostly empty now. Even Scipio, the old man slave who had worked Elisha's farm nearly as long as the white master himself, was gone down the road. Already, weather and uselessness were doing the shacks in. Crisp brown leaves heaped at the feet of a line of high pines and bare hickories that framed the boundaries of the main eld between the river and the house. The walls of yellow limestone rising up abruptly from the eastern bank of the Cahaba looked pale and gray.
The big eld, long devoid of its hardwood forest, was striped with lifeless rows of cotton stalks and corn husks standing against the low, sharp-angled rays of winter sun.
In every direction, thousands of bedraggled slips of lint still clung to broken cotton bolls—wisps of that portion of the harvest that time and weather and, in Elisha's mind, the obstinancy of "his Negroes" had conspired to leave behind. All winter long they would hang there, limp and wet, layering the dead elds with a hazy whisper of white and goading Elisha Cottingham in their waste. How di erently lay the land for Henry Cottinham and Mary Bishop. They had been reared on farms within a night's walk of the plain country church where now they would marry, and the hills and elds and forests fanning out from the Cahaba eastward along Six Mile Road had been the width and range of life to these two slaves.
Contrasted against that circumscribed existence, the extraordinary events in the aftermath of emancipation—no matter the deprivation or arduousness—must have been bathed in a glow of wonder and astonishment. It was slaves who had created the Cottingham plantation and It was slaves who had created the Cottingham plantation and civilized the Cahaba valley and all of rugged central Alabama.
Bibb County was a place where there were no at places. A freshly cleared tract of forest ground displayed a roiling surface of earth, a scene more like swells pitching in a rolling sea than elds beckoning the plow. It was the rst generation of slaves, like Scipio, who hacked and burned the woods, sawing down the great virgin forests, digging out and dragging away the stumps and stones left behind, breaking by plow for the rst time the rich, rootinfested soil, smoothing and shaping the land for seed.
For the generations of slaves that followed, it was the traces of a muledrawn plow that de-marked the boundaries of hour upon hour spent restraining the iron blade from plunging down hillsides or struggling to drive it up the impossible inclines that followed. As well as Scipio and the black families that surrounded him had come to know the shape and contours of the Cottingham farm, never, until well into the years of war, had they even imagined the possibility that they could someday own the land, grow their own harvests, perhaps even control the government.
Now, all those things, or some luminous variant of them, seemed not just possible but perhaps inevitable. Whatever bitterness Elisha Cottingham carried on the day of Henry and Mary's wedding must have been more than surpassed by the joy of the plantation's oldest former slave, Scipio, the grandfather of Henry. Almost seventy years old yet as robust as a man a third his age, Scip, as he was called, had witnessed near unearthly transformations of the world as he knew it.
He had been born in Africa, then wrenched as a child into the frontier of an America only faintly removed from its eighteenth-century colonial origins. Through decades spent clearing forest and planting virgin elds, he watched as the unclaimed Indian land on which he found himself evolved into a yet even more foreign place. In the early years of the Cottingham farm, Cherokee and Creek Indians still controlled the western bank of the Cahaba's sister stream, the Coosa River.
Choctaw territory extended to within fty miles of the plantation. Steadily as the years passed, the natives of Alabama receded, and the frontier outposts swelled into settlements and then little, aspiration- lled towns. As the Civil War years approached, the Cottingham plantation fell nally into a steady rhythm of stability and cotton-driven prosperity.
Whether the child who came to be a Cottingham slave called Scipio knew the speci c place of his origins, who his parents were, what African people they were a part of, how they came to be compelled across the Atlantic and into slavery—what his native name had been—all was lost.
The erasure of his history was completed by the moniker placed on him by white captors. Scipio was a classic slave name, one of a catalogue of cynical, almost sneering, designations rooted in the white South's popular fetish for the mythology of the classic cultures. It came from the name of a second-century general who governed Rome as Scipio Africanus. For the Roman Scipio, this was a tribute to his victory over Hannibal in the year , extending Roman control over Carthage and all of northern Africa.
His reign had also seen the brutal suppression of the rst great Roman slave revolt, in which on one occasion more than twenty thousand rebelling slaves were cruci ed. The context of such a name might have been lost on an African slave barred from learning Western history, but to educated whites the mocking irony would have been obvious. Perhaps he came directly to Cottingham from an Atlantic slave ship.
Possibly he was rst enslaved in Virginia or North Carolina, and then resold to the Deep South in the great domestic slave trading boom of the early nineteenth century.
Shipping manifests at the port of New Orleans contain an entry for a teenage slave boy named Scipio arriving from a plantation in Virginia in Whatever his origins, Scip would hold de antly until the end of his life to his identity as an Africaborn black man. The white people who brought him here had downloadd other slaves, particularly in his boyhood, and housed them in the quarter of logand-mud cabins down the hill from Elisha's house.
But since Scip had grown to manhood, it was he who had sired slave after slave. First came George in who would become the father of Henry and Jeff in Then, in , arrived Green, whose likely namesake, born more than fty years later, would be delivered to Slope No. They were all sturdy boys, and as much as any man might expect in a hard life.
But in the nal years before the Civil War, Scip surprised any of the other freed slaves who might have thought old age was setting upon him.
He took up with Charity, a teenage girl almost forty years his junior. Whether the union was coerced or by choice, it was consummated in slavery and continued in a sweet freedom. Charity would stay with Scip until the end of his long life, deep into the years of emancipation, and for nearly twenty years bear to him sons and daughters with the regularity of cotton bolls and swollen spring streams.
Years before emancipation, Scip had seen the rst signs of the epochal transformation about to infuse his world.
Exotic new enterprises began to appear in the former frontier of Bibb County. On creeks surrounding the Cottingham farm, small forges were built in the s, early precursors to the massive steel and iron industry that would come to dominate Alabama by the end of the century. More ominously, Bibb Steam Mill Company also introduced to the county the ruthless form of industrial slavery that would become so important as the Civil War loomed.
The mill acquired twenty-seven male African Americans, nearly all strapping young men, and kept them packed into just six small all strapping young men, and kept them packed into just six small barracks on its property. The Cottingham slave cabins would have seemed luxurious in contrast. Philips, John W.
Lopsky Archibald P. McCurdy and Virgil H. The signi cance of those evolutions wouldn't have been lost on a slave such as Scipio. By the end of the s, a vigorous practice of slave leasing was already a xture of southern life. Farm production was by its nature an ine cient cycle of labor, with intense periods of work in the early spring planting season and then idleness during the months of "laid-by" time in the summer, and then another great burst of harvest activity in the fall and early winter, followed nally by more months of frigid inactivity.
Slave owners were keen to maximize the return on their most valuable assets, and as new opportunities for renting out the labor of their slaves arose, the most clever of slave masters quickly responded.
Given all that had changed in Bibb County in the years leading up to the southern rebellion, it would have been no surprise to the old slave that he found himself during the war in the service of the Confederacy, making iron for cannons and rebel ships in the ironworks at Brierfield.
Perhaps it was a comfort to Scip that joining him at Brier eld was the pastor who had been for so long a part of life at the Cottingham plantation. After thirty years of itinerancy among scattered churches, Rev. Starr was posted in to the Bibb Iron Works, a gesture on the part of the Methodist circuit to allow the old preacher to nish out his days at a congregation close to the home he cherished on Cottingham Loop.
Starr was the archetypal backwoods Methodist. He had completed hardly any formal schooling. Indeed, Starr was so profoundly uneducated that when as a man barely twenty years old he rst began to preach at little churches not far from his south Georgia birthplace, even his friends doubted privately that he could ever carry o a career as a professional minister.
But Methodism was a young and evangelical sect in the s. The rough Alabama countryside, and especially the masses of still heretical slaves who made up much of its population, was a major target for missionary work. The life of a Methodist circuit rider, traveling in a grinding, repetitive loop from one settlement chapel to another, was an entrepreneurial task of establishing churches and converting the unwashed.
A vigorous iconoclast such as Starr could overcome academic ignorance with a fundamentalist fervor for the Bible and a resounding voice from the pulpit. Starr had done that, winning postings at a string of small Methodist congregations across Georgia and then Alabama. Along with each of those churches had come responsibility for still more gatherings of the faithful who worshipped in the homes of scattered landowners or in remote rustic settlement chapels.
That duty had delivered Starr to the home of Elisha Cottingham, and eventually the preacher bought a small piece of Cottingham land to which he hoped someday to retire. The people of Riverbend, free whites and black slaves, had met for services on Elisha's plantation for so long that in minutes of the meetings of the Methodist circuit, the congregation was known simply as "Cottingham's.
Built on immense timber joists, resting on pillars of limestone rock, it would stand against the wind and shifting times for nearly a century and a half. The builders dubbed it Wesley Chapel. One of the preacher's sons, Lucius E. Starr, grown and ready to raise a family of his own, became a physician and made a name for himself in the county seat.
The Cottinghams were good to Rev. Starr and his wife, Hannah, and after a lifetime of near constant motion it must have been a relief to him in to download land right beside the family that had treated them so well. They called the farmhouse the "preacher's sanctum.
His namesake son, also a Methodist minister, died in an epidemic of yellow fever a few years before secession. One of his youngest, Wilbur Fisk, another likely playmate of the slave Henry and Elisha's grandson Oliver, became a sergeant in the Alabama 29th Infantry before seeing his unit decimated in savage ghting across north Georgia. He died soon after during the long defense of Atlanta in As an unschooled man, Starr, in his day, had a particular appeal for the raw country folk that predominated the rutted back roads of the South.
That translated as well into an a nity for slaves. As a young pastor on the circuits of Georgia, Starr was praised for his ministrations to the souls of black folks as he galloped among the plantations and camp meetings of south Alabama.
There, Scip and the preacher Starr toiled at their respective tasks, until General Wilson's army descended. A few months after the surrender of the Confederacy, the U. Gorgas, a Pennsylvania native who married the daughter of a former Alabama governor, had become a committed Confederate, rising to the rank of general by war's end. After the surrender, he worked tirelessly to return the furnaces to full use and profitability. But the ravaged state of Alabama that surrounded him made that plan nearly impossible.
Those black laborers Gorgas could pay and keep on hand were repeatedly harassed by marauding bands of Ku Klux Klan members. Gorgas, like Elisha Cottingham and so many other whites bewildered by both the rami cations of black emancipation and the continuing venality of renegade whites, was disconsolate. The South they rst dreamed of making an independent republic grounded in slavery—and then dreamed of rebuilding as a rival to the North—appeared irretrievably broken.
Neither he nor Henry would likely have known what to say to so strange and moot a white man's question as the one posed by Gorgas to his diary. But they would have had no doubt as to whether Gorgas and the Cottingham brothers, and the hundreds of thousands of other southern men who had taken up arms during the war, had been wrong.
Before Union troops arrived in Bibb County, the night hours had permitted Henry his one limited taste of freedom within the con nes of chattel life. It was after sundown that the slaves of Riverbend and other farms could slip quietly through the forests to see and court one another.
Now freedom had turned darkness into light. Henry young and Now freedom had turned darkness into light. Henry young and strong at the very moment of the rebirth of his people, no longer had to wait for the passage of the sun into the horizon. His feet could carry him ying down the dusty track to the Bishop place, in plain daylight for all to see, past old Elisha's cabins, past the store at Six Mile, past the broken iron furnace at Brierfield, to Mary.
For Henry and Mary, freedom was a tangible thing, and January was a ne time for a wedding. Both raised on the banks of the Cahaba, they were as attuned to the seasonal swells of the river and the deep soil on its edges as the great stretches of spidery white lilies that crowded its shoals each spring and retreated into its depths every winter.
Picking last fall's crop of cotton in the valley had gone on until nearly Christmas. In another two months, it would be time to begin knocking down the brittle cotton stalks left from last year, harnessing the mules and plows, and breaking the crusted soil for a new crop.
Planting season came hard on the heels of that, and before long it would be summer, when mule hooves and plow blades and bare black feet, slavery or no slavery, would march between the furrows, without rest, for nearly every hour of every day. So that January, bitter as was its wind, arrived for them sweet and restful.
Like Henry and Mary all of Alabama, and the South—indeed at one level all of the United States—was setting up housekeeping in the winter of Rede ned by war, grief, deprivation, death, and emancipation, America was faced with the challenge of repairing and reordering a collective household.
Some of the old slaves said they too weren't sure what "freedom" really was.
Henry likely couldn't explain it either, but he had to know. This wedding day was emancipation.
It was the license from the courthouse and big leather-bound book that listed his marriage right beside those of the children of the old master. It was his name on the piece of paper, "Henry Cot-tinham. Starr, down to the Cottingham chapel around the curve, and took their vows as free citizens. Freedom was an open eld, a strong wife, and time to make his mark. Mary's "increase," like the product of all their labor, would be theirs—not Elisha Cottingham's. Henry would plant his seed, in soil he knew and in Mary his wife.
In a few years, they would have a son named Green. Henry would raise up the o spring of the land and of his blood. Surely, that was freedom. What to do with. A cross They could not be driven away. Without former slaves—and their steady expertise and cooperation in the elds—the white South was crippled. But this new manifestation of dark-skinned men expected to choose when, where, and how long they would work. Those who could not nd employ wandered town to town, presumptuously asking for food, favors, and jobs.
To get from place to place, or to reach locations where work had been advertised, they piled onto the empty freight cars of what few trains still ran. The alacrity that infused their achievement was lost. More than a century later, the last Cottingham would be gone. No trace of the big house, the slave cabins, or a waterwheel would survive.
None of the fields hacked from the forest remained at plow. Only the creek and sun-bleached gravestones clustered atop the hill still bore the Cottingham name. Elisha had arrived at the banks of the Cahaba, barely a man himself, in an Alabama territory that was still untamed. It was , and Elisha and his three brothers faced a dense wilderness governed by the uncertainties of Indian territory and the vagaries of an American nation debating the precepts of eminent domain that would ultimately expand its borders from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.
But Elisha and his younger sibling, John, stayed in the wilderness on the Cahaba. In the four decades before the Civil War, they staked out land, brought in wives, cleared the lush woodlands, sired bountiful families, and planted season upon season of cotton. The engines of their enterprises were black slaves. Harnessing their black labor to the rich black land, the Cottingham brothers became prosperous and comfortable. But the Cottinghams, God-fearing people who gathered a congregation of Methodists in the wilderness almost as soon as they had felled the first timber, adopted for their homestead a name marking the work not of man but of the Almighty.
Where the clear cold creek gurgled into the Cahaba, a massive bulge of limestone rose from the water, imposing itself over a wide, sweeping curve in the river. To the Cottinghams, this place was Riverbend. The Cottinghams demanded a harsh life of labor from their bondsmen.
Otherwise, what point was there to the tremendous investment required of owning slaves. Yet, especially in contrast to the industrial slavery that would eventually bud nearby, life on the Cottingham plantation reflected the biblical understanding that cruelty to any creature was a sin—that black slaves, even if not quite men, were at least thinly made in the image of God.
Set among more than twenty barns and other farm buildings, Henry and the rest of the slaves lived in crude but warm cabins built of rough-hewn logs chinked with mud. Heat came from rock fireplaces with chimneys made of sticks and mud. Elisha recorded the ownership of thirteen slaves in , including four men in their twenties and thirties and six other male teenagers.
A single twenty-year-old female lived among the slaves, along with two young boys and a seven-year-old girl. Indeed, Elisha buried his slaves nearer to him by far than he did Rev. Starr, the man who ministered to all of the souls on the Cottingham place.
The Starr family plot, with its evangelical inscriptions and sad roster of infant dead, was set down the hill and toward the road, even more vulnerable to the creeping oblivion of time.
Long generations hence, descendants of slaves from the plantation still recounted a vague legend of the generosity of a Cottingham master— giving permission to marry to a favored mulatto named Green. But even as Elisha had allowed a strain of tenderness to co-reside with the brutally circumscribed lives of his slaves, he never lost sight of their fundamental definition—as cattle. They were creatures bought or bred for the production of wealth.
Even as he deeded to daughter Rebecca the slave Frances, Elisha was careful to enumerate in the document the recognition that he was giving up not just one slave girl, but a whole line of future stock who might have brought him cash or labor. Another slave, Albert, had wed, and left for good in the middle of the first picking time after the destruction of the war—amid the chaos and uncertainty when no one could be sure slavery had truly ended.
Now, two years later, the coming marriage surely warmed Elisha at some level. But as Henry prepared to take a wife and become a man of this peculiar new era, everything the old white man had forged—everything on which that gift to his daughter twenty years before had been predicated—hung in the fragile limbo of a transformed social order. Whatever satisfaction the filial ties gave the white master at the wedding of his former bondsman would have been tempered by the poverty and grief that had overwhelmed him.
Some still worked his property, for wages or a share of the cotton crop. But the end of the war had left the white Cottinghams at a point of near desolation. The hard winter threatened to bring them to their knees. They would bear them a little longer, at least until the instant threats of hunger and military force receded. This vision was a horror almost beyond contemplation.
It poisoned the air for Elisha and other white landowners with prospects for even greater disaster. In the last days of fighting, the U. Afterward, the law said former slaves would be allowed to download the property to hold forever. President Andrew Johnson rescinded the provision a few months later, but emancipated slaves across the South remained convinced that northern soldiers still garrisoned across the region would eventually parcel out to them all or part of the land on which they had long toiled.
The last desperate rallying calls of the Confederacy had been exhortations that a Union victory meant the political and economic subjugation of whites to their black slaves.
William Tecumseh Sherman to , acres of rich plantation land in South Carolina early in The U. Congress debated such a plan openly in , as it drew up the statutes to govern Reconstruction in the southern states.
And again as harvest time ended that year, word whipped through the countryside that blacks would soon have land. At one point the following year, in , during a period of intense speculation among freed slaves that land was soon to be provided to them, many blacks downloadd boundary markers to be prepared for the marking off of their forty-acre tracts. Whites responded by burning down the courthouse, and with it all 1, lawsuits filed by the freedmen.
In the early months of fighting, Alabama industrialists realized that the market for iron sufficient for armaments would become lucrative in the South.