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Escape from Libby Prison: The Largest Successful Prison Break of the Civil War

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On February 9, 1864, more than 100 Union prisoners tunneled their way to freedom in an audacious escape from Libby Prison in the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. More than half of the prisoners made their way to Union lines while others were recaptured and returned to the confines of Libby.

Libby Prison

Libby Prison started as an old food warehouse on Tobacco Row along the James River. Captain Luther Libby, along with his son George W. Libby, leased the three-story brick building where they operated a ship chandlery and grocery business. In 1862, the Confederacy took over the building and turned it into a prison for Union officers. Colonel Thomas E. Rose, a Union officer from the 77th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, was captured during the Battle of Chickamauga and taken to Libby Prison. He found conditions appalling and immediately started plotting his escape. He devised an ambitious plan to dig a tunnel from the cellar of the prison to a tobacco shed that stood just outside the prison walls.

Rose revealed his plan to a few trusted accomplices and planning got underway. Life inside Libby Prison was miserable. Prisoners were held on the second and third floors of the building. Windows were barred but open, leaving inmates freezing in the winter and insufferably hot in summer. Overcrowding created constant stress and resulted in food shortages. The lack of sanitation led to disease and death. One father whose son was held at Libby prison desperately sought to have supplies delivered to the prison. He wrote, “He has been confined during the whole summer without a change of clothing…and is in a very destitute condition.” Desperate for relief, it was not difficult for Rose to find prisoners willing to help with his plot.

Outside of Libby was a canal, and during wet weather, the prison’s cellar flooded bringing hundreds of rats scurrying into the building. The putrid air in the cellar kept everyone away and helped it earn the nickname, Rat’s Hell. The area was largely avoided by Confederate guards and provided Rose and his associates the perfect place to dig undetected.

Rose accessed Rat’s Hell by removing bricks behind an old kitchen stove. He then shimmied down a chimney to the cellar. From there, Rose and his team scraped away at the hard dirt using crude makeshift tools. Much of the digging took place at night in the dark when the exterior was heavily guarded, but conditions inside the prison were somewhat relaxed.

Loads of earth were removed one bucket at a time, by packing an old spittoon with excavated dirt. The vermin-infested cellar, the rats, and the lack of oxygen made the work excruciating. At one point, after digging a tunnel nearly 60 feet long, the prisoners broke through the surface to find they were off by several feet. Hearing the voices of Confederate guards, the prisoners quickly hid the tunnel and readjusted the approach to the shed.

After weeks of digging, the prisoners managed to clear a tunnel that surfaced in the tobacco shed. One prisoner described the escape, “Everyone wanted to be first. In order to get down the chimney as well as long the tunnel, it was necessary to strip naked – wrap the clothes in a bundle, and push this on before them. As soon as it was seen that only a few could possibly get out before daylight, all rushed for the mouth of the tunnel who could – each man being determined to get out first. The room was now crowded to suffocation all struggling to get in the hole. The strongest men forced their way to the front while the weak ones were more roughly brushed aside and jammed up against the walls.”

The next morning at roll call, Confederate guards were shocked to find 109 prisoners missing, their escape route concealed by the remaining inmates. Of those 109 prisoners that escaped, 59 eventually reached Union lines, 48 were recaptured and two drowned in a river crossing.

Did you have an ancestor imprisoned at Libby? To learn more about Libby Prison and see other Civil War records, search Fold3 today!

86 Comments

  1. RE: the soil encountered during the escape. A couple decades ago I was an occasional volunteer in the excavations of the canal boats that were encountered when new construction removed fill covering the former turning basin of the nearby canal. This was some of the most miserably tight and hard to dig clay that I have ever encountered. As a kid I read Verne’s Mysterious Island and I now wonder whether that escape involved Libby Prison or one of the others such as Belle Isle.

    • My second great grandfather, Rufus W. Weeks, died of starvation and typhus in 1864 at Belle Isle prison. He had been taken prisoner in the battle for Fort Wagner near Charleston SC. I am wondering how close Libby Prison was to Belle Isle. It sounds as though they were not far apart. There’s a well documented reference book on the Campaign for Charleston Harbor by Stephen Wise. It’s title is “Gate of Hell”, which pretty well describes the occasion. (Three of Rufus’ sons died in the war as well.)

    • Belle Isle is a mile or two upstream on the James from the Libby site. It’s in the area of the fall line at Richmond and is crossed by the Leigh Bridge. You can now reach it via a walkway. I am not aware of any remaining Civil War structures there (if, indeed, there were any).

    • Excellent and enlightening article. Thank you for posting it.

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  3. With saddnes do I post my comment. Unfortunrtly, the commandant was mky 2nd cousin – 4X removed – David Humprhrey Todd – Capt. CSA – 1832-1871. The half brother to Mary Todd/Lincoln (The President’s wife). My mother was a Todd before her marriage, so this bloodline connection is not cherished, however, War is Hell as has been noted !

    He was brought up on charges for cruelty to the prisoners there and aquitted upon his appeal. Just a little expandision on the subject.

    • Yes, War is Hell and I’m sure we, the CSA, could match prison for prison as far as conditions are concerned . . . such as Elmira and Point Look Out. I do try to extend my historical knowledge to include the good, the bad, and the ugly, but it is difficult for me to feel sympathy for those who did so much to annihilate people who did not agree with their progressive ideals.

    • President Lincoln and I shared a Grandfather, I think he was about my 9th great. I also think it sad that people were put in such a horrible war to free people from slavery. Unfortunately an agreement to not own people (that was such an unspeakable act, to actually own people) could not reached, money and cheap labor were more important.

    • Take a look at Camp Douglas Illinois prison camp. See how many CSA soldiers starved to death.

    • Thanks for adding this interesting info. And don’t sweat your ancestors volunteering for something they believed in. Would that more act on their convictions. Far too many condemn the past with little or no knowledge of the people or incidents they condemn. We stand on the shoulders of giants and think we’re better/smarter because we have cool gadgets. We are savages in many ways our ancestors wouldn’t believe. (-*

    • Before acting on one’s convictions, one has to consider what the results of such action might be. Owning human beings in the name of profitability can never be justified. past, present or future. When I was in high school, we were taught that the Civil War was not about slavery, but “states rights”. The right to do what ? Something that is indefensible ? Workers should be paid a living wage, even today!

    • Regrettably, conditions were no better in Union Prisoner of War camps. Men on both sides suffered great deprivation.

    • Hi Dan Richard Medlock of GA. I’m also descended from the Todds. My paternal 2nd Great-grandfather was Thomas Benjamin Franklin Todd or later Reverend Tom Todd of Cobbs, Legion of the GA Cavalry. But also my 2nd Great-grandfather was also John George Miller of the NY Mounted Rifles later the 2nd Union Cavalry Chief Bugler. On my maternal side my 4th Great-grandmother was Margaret Lee of VA married to Samuel Floyd of VA. that makes Robert E. my 2nd cousin 4X removed according to Ancestry DNA.

  4. What a compelling story! Thank you!

  5. Eliminating slavery was a progressive idea ???

    • It was at that time.

    • I think the comment was that the owning of slaves was progressive

    • Mary is symbolic of the problem even today.

    • I don’t understand your question. You said, “Owning human beings in the name of profitability can never be justified. past, present or future.” Did you change your mind?

      No one should be in anyone’s service unless it’s voluntarily AND one is duly compensated for his or her work.

    • What I meant was that everyone, conservatives, progressives, anyone with a heartbeat should consider ending, or better yet, never having slavery to be a no brainer. However, we all know it is always about the money. I note that many responses still cling to the states rights stand. Again, I say, “ right to do what?”. Putting it in context for recent events, just because one has the right to own a gun under the second amendment. One cannot use that right to go around shooting people. As for the statues, I think the statues should remain in place with both sides of the story stated on plaques so people could make up their own minds as to what was right. Think of the concentration camps that are preserved in Eastern Europe. One must know history in order that it not be repeated.

  6. Conditions of this prison read similar to those conditions at Andersonville, southeast of Columbus, Georgia. A sight worth touring. Many books and a television show (?movie/series) explain the atrocities at these prisons.

    • Richard, I am compiling an ancestry tree for a friend which includes a family of Wilmarth/Wilmot’s. The first to appear in America was Ensign Thomas Wilmarth. B @ 1615 in St. Mary Magdalene, Taunton, England, D May 13, 1694, Rehoboth, Bristol, Mass. He fought in King Phillip’s War.

  7. Eliminating Slavery was a northern abolitionist movement which both Southern and Northern Democrats opposed but gained popularity in the Republican party by the efforts of northern abolitionist newspapers and northern Methodist and Presbyterian churches.

  8. Thanks so much for sharing this piece of such a tragic part of our American History. War always brings pain & heartache. Thank God for the bravery & strength that these & a lot of other soldiers had to bear to help bring our Great Country the freedoms we enjoy today!

    • The Civil War ended in 1865 but we are still fighting cultural wars for freedom in the US in 2019. People of color, women, people with alternative lifestyles – all victims of hatred and discrimination to this day.

  9. My great great grandfather, William Monroe Smith, was captured at the Battle of Fair Oaks and taken to Libby Prison where he later died of starvation, according to a letter written by a fellow soldier from the Pennsylvania 105th. He left a wife and six children. Thank you for telling the story of this dreadful prison and the brave men who were able to escape.

    • My heart goes out to you and your family, Deborah! The ties are strong, even though generations pass. It was a blessing that a fellow soldier was able to provide resolution, however grim.

  10. My great-great grandfather was captured and sent to Libby in the summer of 1863. He was only there a short while before being paroled and exchanged. His name was Corporal Henry Pins.

  11. These stories about living and dying in conditions such as these men did, give such a vivid picture of what our ancestors lived in and lived through. My father was a career Army officer and when he was sent to new duty stations, he was able to find housing and his family was able to follow him and live there.
    That was how my Mother, sister, and brother were able to go to various places that my father was stationed. One of the first duty stations they were at was in Panama, others in the state of Washington and then they got stationed in Hawaii. They loved it until December the 7th when it was attacked by the Japanese planes with their bombs and guns

  12. My great great grandfather, 1st Lt AE Patchin (10th WVI, Army of the Cumberland, USA), was a prisoner there. The Colonel who orchestrated the breakout is likely the Colonel my ancestor met after being wounded and falling out of battle at the Battle of Chickamauga. Lt Patchin refused to join in this breakout considering it a great likelihood that they would either be recaptured and/or killed. Lt Patchin was mustered out in a prisoner exchanged in December 1864.

  13. My great great grandfather Corporal Thomas J King, Co C, 27th Mississippi Infantry was captured at Missionary Ridge on November 25, 1863 and was sent to Rock Island Barracks Illinois until June 18, 1865. Rock Island Barracks was referred to as the Andersonville of the north. The commander of this prison camp would deliberately withhold food from the prisoners for 3 to 4 days at a time just out of hatred. Luckily my grandfather survived. The south could not feed their soldiers let alone their prisoners, but the north on the other hand didn’t feed their prisoners just to be mean.

    • you are so right the yankees many more acts of cruelty that people never hear about. Blame Sorry abe lincoln for the death of many men north and south.

    • James, my ggf, William F. Henderson, 36th Alabama Inf., Greene Co., AL, was captured the same day, same place. He also was sent to Rock Island. He came home after the war an emaciated, sick man who died 10 months later with TB. As to the war, yes, war is hell. My ancestors never owned a slave – none – but they took up arms to defend their country. Years ago I read a blip in a Readers’ Digest that went something like this – A union soldier who had a ragged, hungry Confederate at gun point asked, “Why are you doing this? You must know you can’t win” to which the poor Rebel replied, “because you are here”. Of course slavery was sinful – in any culture, at any time. However, might I point out that many of the ‘slave ships’ were owned and operated by men from the north and the $ was more important to them than the principles of buying and selling another human being.

    • Are you related to Mary McLin,pre-Rev war? He son, Sackfield McLin Bracey is My DAR ancestor. Always searching for more!

    • My great grandfather W. T. Carrico, 4th Ky, Cavalry was captured at Mount Sterling and sent to Rock Island prison in 1864. He describes the wardens coming with food and telling the inmates they could have it if they would sign the Oath of Allegiance.
      He never did. i have also heard stories of guards taking up the floor boards in the barracks in winter so the prisoners couldn’t dig tunnels to escape. He was in a group taken to a prison Virginia in the spring of 1865 for exchange. The War ended before anything was done. He was one of the lucky ones who was near home when he was released. The US took the men by train to the eastern part of Kentucky and let them out in April. so he was in a group that walked home. (about 100 miles) I can’t help but compare that to the Florida boys who were in Virginia and had to walk home through areas where everything was destroyed.

    • There is that same meanness going on today, and it frightens me. The young people who practice it are certain it is right because they are “entitled”, but it is as wrong now as it was then

    • How true

  14. My gggrandfather’s brother Benjamin Gemeny was visiting relatives in Virginia when the war broke out. Neighbors had him arrested as a spy (he was not) and he was imprisoned. He was one of the men who escaped through the tunnel. Unfortunately he was discovered and returned to the prison within a few days. He did live through the ordeal.

  15. Blame Lincoln? As I have read, LIncoln would have preferred that the Southern states give up slavery in time, by choice, rather than with a gun pointed at their heads. But when he was elected, they withdrew from the Union, formed their own government, and attacked a Northern post, putting the north and south into a state of war, with their being only one possible winner. Had tthe south won and remained separate,…fast forward to WWI, a broken US would not have been much of a player, and if WWII happened, a divided we would have not defeated Germany. Sorry Lincoln? Thank LIncoln.

    • Amen. Lincoln preserved the Union.And I think that the monuments dedicated to the Confederate soldiers should remain as historical figures. Destroying them or hiding them does nothing except to hide a humanitarian scar. We need to learn to forgive and strive for American unity. Division only keeps ripping the scars off of old wounds and promoting infections of hatred. May God heal our nation and our hearts.

    • Lincoln did nothing but get elected until the treasonous South Carolina troops attacked the USA

    • Pure conjecture!

    • Well said Anne Wolfe and how correct you are. That’s exactly, the main reason, as to what the war was about, keeping the United States as one country.

    • As I read those statements about slavery. I wonder who built the Roman Empire. I wounder who sold there own kind to merchants for profit. I wonder what country fought a war to free slaves. No country in the world fought to free slaves not one. Brazil had slaves until the 1880’s and it dissolved because of machinery took over what slaves could do. It was cheaper to put gas in a machine than feed and take care a slave. The state that held the most slaves was Pennsylvania. It wasn’t until the Irish and others came to this country in the 1840’s who took the jobs of slaves in the north. Pay someone 10 cents a day to do the work. Feed a slave build a home to take care of them everyday cost money. Only 10% give or take own slaves in the South. The South did not invade the north!! Fort Sumter was an abandon fort. It was the union who put soldiers in the fort to hold it from the South. It was the union who Invaded the South!! All states in the United States have the right to leave the union and the South did. Today if a state wants to leave the union it can. But the union government will not let that state go today because of TAXES and that state fears an invasion from the federal government. I don’t understand why we the United States keep harping over slavery. It’s over get over it. Statues are history it tells the story of both sides. Who wins the war writes it’s history. HISTORY BEGINS WHEN WE ARE BORN> THE PAST WE HAVE TO READ ABOUT Mike Bor. We have to much to worry about today than think of something that happen 155 years ago. There are countries today that hold Women and Children as slaves. FIGHT FOR THEM AS THEY ARE ALIVE NOW!

  16. My wife’s ancestors fought on both sides of the Civil War, but we have very little actual information on how they did. My ancestors emigrated in 1880 & 1890 so none were involved in the Civil War.

    • Duane, if you want to know about your wifes’ ancestors. If you know names and what state they lived in at the outbreak of the war, you can contact THIS ORGANIZATION. IT IS FOLDS 3. They sent me records a while back on my ancestors. also if they were from the south contact SONS OF THE CONFEDERCY. Each will help.

  17. Man’s inhumanity to man is timeless and knows no political boundaries.

    • Amen! Slavery was brought to our country. We didn’t go looking for it and we weren’t the first race or nation to get caught up in it. As has happened throughout the history of the world, selfishness and ignorance has repeatedly caused our early human beings to get caught up in self destruction. We are blessed that, regardless of racial origins, the descendants of our early citizenry were determined people. Whether here by force or choice, regardless of race, the people of America gave their all for freedom.
      I am proud to be a descendant and so thankful to live in this country. It took, and will always take, determination, faith, war, lives, unity, sacrifice and love for this mighty nation, to protect it from those who would destroy it. Ultimately it depends on us, the descendants of those who unfailingly have stepped up to defend it, to protect it from the evils that would destroy it.

  18. PEOPLE MY ANCESTORS BOTH SIDES FOUGHT FOR THE CONDERATE. ON MOMS SIDE A GREATGRANDFATHER AND A GG
    GRANDFATHER, ARKANSAS 35TH INF. DIV. TAKEN PRISONER AT HELENA, AR. BATTLE. 1863. ON DAD’S SIDE BLUEHILLS HOME GUARD , FOR OLDER AROUND CARTERSVILLE, GA. SO I NOW WHAT SHERMAN DID TO TOWNS AND PEOPLE ON HIS TEAR THROUGH THE SOUTH. I KNOW WHAT IT WAS LIKETO BE A PRISONER IN THOSE BARRACKS IN ILL. LUCKILY FOR OUR FAMILIES THEY SURVIVED.
    BUT I HAD THINGS PASSED DOWN TO ME, PLUS I HAD AMERICAN HISTORY IN HIGH SCHOOL AND COLLEGE. I GRAUATED FROM HIGH SCHOOL IN 1965. BACK THEN BEFORE PEOPLE CHANGED OUR HISTORY ABOUT THE WAR. AND YES, THE PERSON ABOVE THAT SAID STATES RIGHTS CAUSED THE WAR WAS WHAT I WAS TAUGHT THEN. IT WAS FOUGHT FROM 1861 TO 1865 AND FREEING SLAVES DID NOT ENTER UNTIL 1863 WHEN THE UNION WITH ALL THE ABILITY TO MANUFATOR GUNS AND SHELLS AND POWDER ,AND WITH TWICE THE MAN POWER WAS LOSING EVERY BATTLE IN THE WAR. THAT IS WHEN THE NORTH CAME UP WITH FREEING THE SLAVES , T H A T T H E Y H A D U P
    N O R T H. AND SO ALL THE ONES THE NORTH FREED JOINED THE UNION ARMY , TO FIGHT THE SOUTH. THEY WERE FOOLED TO BELIEVE IT WAS FOR THEIR FREEDOM. IT WAS TO PUT THEM IN BATTLE UP FRONT TO BE KILLED FIRST. THE NORTH USED THEM JUST TO PUT THEM UP FRONT IN THE REST OF THE BATTLES. OF COURSE THAT DOUBLED THE MAN POWER OF THE NORTH. STUDY YOUR REAL HISTORY, NOT WHAT IS SAID TODAY. SO PEOPLE THAT IS WHEN THE IDEAL OF FREEING SLAVES CAME INTO THE PICTURE AND WHY, AND IT WAS THE NORTHERN PEOPLE FREED THEM SO THEY COULD FIGHT IN THE ARMY AGAINST THE SOUTH. IF YOU PEOPLE RESEARCH IT, THE NORTH HAD TWICE THE SLAVES THE NORTH DID. DOWN SOUTH THEY WERE USED MOSTLY TO FARM.
    NOW THE REASON FOR THE WAR. AS THE PERSON ABOVE PUT IT STATES RIGHTS. THE NORTH AS NOW HAD ALL THE BIG FACTORIES, MEN WITH MONEY, AND BIG POLICTICIANS. WELL THE NORTH WOULD NOT PAY A DECENT PRICE FOR THE CROPS OF THE SOUTH, LIKE COTTON, AND TOBACCO. SO THE SOUTH STARTED SHIPPING THE CROPS OVER SEAS, MAINLY TO THE BRITISH. THEY COULD GET DECENT MONEY FROM THEIR PEOPLE. THE NORTH GOT TO LOSING OUT ON THE CROPS WHICH WAS CAUSING THEM TO LOSE MONEY. SO THEY SAT OUT TO FORCE THE SOUTH TO SELL THE CROPS TO THE NORTH, AND YES BY MILITARY. SO THE SOUTH REBELLED. FOUGHT THE WAR, SURRENDERED. AND THEN AFTER THE WAR THE NORTH TOOK OVER ALL THE FARMS , TO SELL ALL THE CROPS UP NORTH. BOTH SIDES OF MY FAMILY WERE INVOLVED IN BEING BURNED OUT ,MEN AND BOYS ON THE FARMED KILLED, AND THE WOMEN AND GIRLS , WELL YOU KNOW WHAT THE NORTHERN TROOPS DID TO THEM. BOTH FAMILIES LOST ALL AND MOVED TO START OVER FOR THEY WERE BURNED OUT AND RAN OFF, IF THEY WANTED TO LIVE. MY GRAND FATHER ON MY DAD’S SIDE SAW WHAT THE UNION TROOPS DID TO HIS FAMILIES’ HOUSE, FARM,ANIMALS,CROPS AND ETC. AND DO NOT FORGET WHAT THEY DID TO THE YOUNG SISTERS.
    SO PLEAS , IF YOU WANT TO KNOW ANY ABOUT THE WAR AND TIMES THEN, FIND YOU AN OLDER HISTORY BOOK BASED ON FAFTS BEFORE THEY STARTED CHANGING WHAT WAS WRITTEN.

    • What history books should we read to find these facts?

    • EVELYN. First of all HISTORY IS MY THING. I love history, for it is about facts. I have talked hours after hours to my Dad and his brothers. A nephew and I started a long time ago with the information they told me. Some was what their Dad had told them About Sherman and his men going through the south. My grandfather was a teenager when that happened. He was plenty old enough to remember what happened to his family, their house, animals, and crops. Especially watching the action the northern troops took on his female kin. (SISTERS). Lady I know enough about my Dads’ side , I can follow them from Arkansas, Tn., Ga. S. and N. Carolina, Virginia, and Lancaster, England. That is by oral, and written history of the family. it also came from ancestry, national Archives in population, and military. Land grants from the fighting of the British for freedom of the USA. And the Indians wars.
      Lady, my first knowledge came from American history books , while in school. These books were from the high school, given to the schools by the state. check back to 1950s and 1960s , you can find copies. I studied American History in college too. Same thing in the books on college. Now as I said earlier, that was back before changes of books came into effect. If you are interested as other people talk about, you can watch it on history channels on t.v. A lot , at times is shown on different history channels on t.v.
      My G grandfather William M. Henderson, was killed while driving a wagon load of supplies , out of Ar. to Texas. The North had come down the Miss. River and landed at Helena, then started across the state to LR. So the south was on the run. They were driving freight wagons, full of supplies to Texas. They were not fighting, they were on the run, with no military protection. They were ambushed. All was killed except one. Who told the story. In S.W. Ar. in Hempstead county, where this happened is a small cemetery, and he and others were buried. There is also information posted there of the happenings.
      My mother was born and raised in Ar. on ground that had been granted the family from Nathiel Roach being in the army fighting the British. Oh , yel he played drum as the troops marched. It was my moms’ folks taken prisoners ay Helena. I knew her grandfathers name. I contacted Sons of Confederacy. I was sent information on him. His military records while in the Confederate Army.
      So Evelyn, I think I have enough information , that I can make statements about my family. And I appreciate you questions. In my life I have studied HISTORY of Ar., American History in high school, and in college. But with all my personal interest in history, and all my studying of history for years, I think my statements are correct. Besides me there has been plenty on here make the same or similar comments.

    • This is so true. The war wasn’t about slavery. The south was making a killing in the sales of cotton overseas. The north didn’t want to pay the prices.
      It was about money & hatred. Sherman burned everything. I think the South has been behind in standards of education & living standards every since. Very few people in the South had plantations r slaves. Most white people were poor. My father was a Sharecroppers son in Mississippi. He picked as muck cotton as any person of color in the state of Mississippi. (Before WW11) My fathers mother signed for my father to join the Navy when he was 17. It wasn’t just about black people being poor. People would be shocked how the majority of the population in the south had poor white people.
      Stories by generations passed on by ancestors is the best history books. Slavery was wrong & always will be. Northerner made a profit of selling the slaves to the north & the south.

    • Well said. This is the what I was taught too. It makes me sick that people think the war was based on slavery, and they think removing all the statues are going to change the past. Then they believe the rebel flag is a racist flag, I never knew material or stone could be racist. What is this world coming to!!!!

    • It isn’t often I come across anyone who gets the fact that history has been rewritten. And it’s been done so more than once to suit whoever or whatever cause or popular opinion etc.. And to many more modern history books are copies of newspaper articles and bits and pieces of information from the old history books and the full context is not always used. Or it’s taken from inaccurate accounts and books that were based on already rewritten history . Sometimes even the old books are rewritten or edited to tell the story differently and then republished as updated versions etc.. And due to the fact that modern American English language, slang and terminology have vastly changed over the past 200 plus years. Modern history rarely tells the story with any or little accuracy, fact or depicts the true event as it happened. In the early days of America and Canada history there was a mass diversity in languages and dialects spoken. If we were able to step back in time to say to 1860. They wouldn’t understand most of what we were saying or meant by what we said nor would we them. If we could step back further in time we would probably be pursaquited or killed.My father’s family came to Canada in 1653 from France. Before or at the beginning of traditional French developing into the Canadian form of the language. So if I were able to go back to when my 10th great grandfather was alive and attempt to have a conversation with him it would be nearly impossible for us to understand each other. Without a whole lot of hand movement, gestures, pointing and drawing pictures in the dirt. That would be true with just about any language or dialect. So to think modern translation of generation old history can be accurately depicted is a far stretch. Hence the term “lost in translation” that term holds true even in history rewritten even when using the same language it was original written in. Add all that to the fact that newspapers and books have always been written to sell. As you say a lot of history was written wrong in the first place. Writers of newspapers, books and pathalets have been imprisoned or murder threw out history to keep the truth from being told and shining a light on the injustice and wrong doing. There is a lot of good true factual history books, newspapers and whole lot of letters, journals and stories relived by the people who lived it. The trouble is they are pretty much achieved somewhere, out of print or not accessible by the general public. And a lot of documents, letters, journals and stories past on have been destroyed, thrown out or forgotten. So when you are reading modern history book consider the source, consider the number of years that have past then throw it down if it was written less than 50 years from the time it happened. Your local library, historical societies and newspaper archives even state historical records are all great source of old history facts. But remember no story is told exactly the same by everyone and a story is normal never told the same more than twice.

    • Every single statement of secession by the Confederate States clearly state that the continuation of slavery was their reason to secede. I grew up in Richmond and too at points was taught that the cause of the war was state’s rights. It is clearly, in the words of the Southern leaders, about a state’s right to own slaves. We were not taught the truth. Here is an example, the secession document from Mississippi. Here, too, is a link that collects those statements on a single site: https://www.battlefields.org/learn/primary-sources/declaration-causes-seceding-states

      “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin. “

  19. Jimmie w. Carter, Thank you that was the best summary of the truth that I have ever read. I have toured, researched and watch documentaries and you are correct all the Presidents and northern politicians had slaves so the war was not about slavery. My family a deep southern Georgia family, came from the Scotish highlands with kilts on recruited by Orglethorpe in 1740 to fight the Spanish out of Georgia and won land grants . We had plantations but my grandfather’s made their rich wives from up north free their slaves before they would marry them. But they stayed on And hid in our woods with their freed slaves when Sherman came through. After the war we all share cropped in this area And even this week I met grown educated black men that remembered their grandfather share cropping with b my grandfather. Before the war, the blacks attended our church that is still standing today and after the civil war, they wanted their own church so the men in our church built them their own church and taught then how to run a church and it still stands today. And politically they fought against alcohol too. When the civil war was fought the southern parents followed the battles and if their sons died they layed crosses and pictures around them and had funerals and wakes. And the CSR always. Buried their enemies killed. The battles fought up north showed no Yankee parents following their sons and confederate soldiers were usually thrown in a ditch together and sometimes not even buried. Yankees had history of raping our women, using our churches for horse barns ( I can show you proof) and burning our homes and towns. We fought for a way of life that is getting harder again to hold on to. Even today more southern states go Republican that stand for conservative grass roots, against abortion, for gun rights and marriage of one man & one woman. Not much has changed. We still have a clash of life styles and beliefs. We still want state rights and not to have northern politicians telling us how to live. So why do so many northerners still want to come to our beautiful small towns and retire in our friendly safer southern states….because they can’t stand to live in the turmoil they have created up north. Ever wondered why you can’t find very many churches or any sweet tea up north?? But churches are on every corner in the South? Think about it. ….All Southerners have ever wanted is to live in the South around like-minded family and friends. And it’s a lie that we are racist down here. Put a white person and a black person together in the South And they will be sharing family recipes and family trees in less than an hour. But duplicate it up north and you could have a gang in the making or fight in the streets.

    • Very well put

    • It is easier to read when not all caps, please.

      When I look at all caps the words run together, and that happens to a lot of us seniors.

      Thanks!

      Mary Todd’s wedding gift from her family was slaves. Lincoln took them to Washington where they served the family.
      The Emancipation “freed” the slaves in the states “in rebellion”. It did not free those owned by Lincoln.
      Lincoln’s main thing was to
      ‘preserve the Union, at all costs’.
      He wasn’t truly anti-slavery, but it served his purpose. His slaves remained enslaved. Mary Todd required a lot of help as she tried to charm Washington and be the premiere hostess. Guess that’s why she needed over 300 pair of kid gloves, and almost bankrupted poor Abe. He spent a good amount of time returning her purchases. Yes, she had psychological issues, and her son committed her to a psychiatriic facility after Lincoln’s untimely death.

    • Well Put and Very Interesting.

    • this is awesome! Can you share this on face book?
      This was what I learned growing up in the South and then the history books changed.
      I hate the way schools & colleges have distorted the truth.
      Can we copy and put on face book?

  20. Interesting story and comments too. It’s odd, though, that those that say “thank God for Lincoln because he preserved the union,” would never say, if the Brits had won, “thank God for King George, he preserved the Empire!”
    Our nation was founded on voluntary adhesion. There are many quotes of founders who would support secession or a breakage should a federal government flex to much muscle. And the South saw that as a reason to leave. And it wasn’t so much as slavery was the culprit (most of the north had slaves even up to a little more than a decade before the war). But it was taxes and tariffs enacted by a heavy handed Northern controlled Federal government that impacted Southern profits, among other things, that prompted the war.

    • Ahem!

      The North is where most of the slave traders lived and conducted their business from. They bought human beings from English slavers who in turn had bought human beings from tribes in Africa who had captured them as prisoners of tribal wars or just wanted to get rid of people who didn’t fit in or might no longer be the ruling family in that tribe. Most were captives from inter-tribal wars.

      After the English forced its ship captains to quit the slave trade, due to a moral awakening of their monarch, it was taken over by Northern Colonists. The state with the most slave traders was…Massachusetts! These are the same people whose moral conscience got them to the New World in the first place.

      These persons then sold their “increases” and slaves bought illegally after England quit the trade. They took the captured slaves South, and sold them. Not a nice business.

      Most Southern slave owners valued their slaves. At times the price was so high it would be over a million in today’s dollars…and they paid in gold, not paper promissory notes.

      No, slaves weren’t as well kept as family, but they were cared for in about the same way as poor whites lived, which was how most southerners lived at that time. Few were as rich as Midas….same up North. If you were living in 1860 style today, YOU would feel mistreated, even at the top end of the scale.

      Values change with time, progress, technology, medicine, political issues, religious thought and the arts.

      My grandmother gave me raw milk. Many today would be horrified. It wasn’t pasteurized, homogenized, it was fresh from the cow, in a bucket that might have some feces that had been wiped off. (Cows often poop when milked.)

      Didn’t kill me….we (thankfukly) had antibiotics to take care of any infection caused by the raw milk.

      Now, if you like raw milk, that’s fine. It was full of fat. It was poured from the pail in to a glass.
      Grandma’s delicious hot chocolate had a film of fat in the top. We called it the ‘skim’.

      You MUST look at history through the lens of that time, not in what’s acceptable today, or you will not get a true picture.

      There were some bad Southerners, but they were the minority. Most were religious, God-fearing Christians.

      You cannot depend on TV, movies and today’s values when You look at the past anywhere! They had morals, and tried to be good to everyone. That was the majority.

      There were slaves in Jesus’ time, and before. The Torah gives guidelines for owning slaves, and slavery existed before Moses.

      Humans have always used other humans…not nice, but true.

      You can learn a lot from reading! I suggest 1492, 1493 and Shelby Foote’s The Civil War.

      The 5 total volumes will teach you a lot.

      Foote’s books are available in audio, with him reading them. It’s a enlightening experience. He had a beautiful, resonant Southern voice. It’s like sitting on the porch, listening to him tell the story.

      Remember….the victors write the history, not the vanquished.

      Oh, while I’m at it…the Union of 13 colonies into states occurred because no single state could free itself from England. So they became a coalition, and pulled it off. If we were still happy as colonists, it’s my belief we’d be separate countries, instead of states who, through cohesion, became a nation.

      Tired of preaching!

  21. I’m always shocked at people who thought the Civil War was about slavery. It was about money, power, supremacy. It became about slavery as a political move when things were going badly. It pains me since President Lincoln was my family’s attorney before being elected. He did not support slavery but he did nothing about it until it became politically expedient. The website, History (History Channel) does a pretty good job of digging out the truth on many subjects. The person questioning what books to read could start there. Google Slavery in America abolished as a start. Ken Burns does a bang-up job of ferreting out and telling truth in documentaries he does. Reading newspapers of the time would help, but then you’d be the researcher yourself at that point.
    Roger Thornhill (above) said it best. This story is repeated throughout all time.

    • There are a number of ways to read the documented articles of succession of the succeeding states. Here is one source:
      https://www.battlefields.org/learn/primary-sources/declaration-causes-seceding-states#texas_protection.

    • Money and power
      The South was financing the government through tariffs; on cotton shipped out of the South and goods imported. There were many debates in congress about this about years before the War. Of course the North liked the way things were. The government received money from the South when they shipped cotton to the Northern factories and they paid again when they “imported” the finished goods.
      Several of the original states would not ratify the constitution until it clearly stated that they could leave if they so chose. Also Northern states had threatened to leave the Union many years before the War when they did not like what the government was doing.

  22. My gg grandfather was a Confederate Corporal on his horse. He was taken prisoner in Tenn and transferred to Camp Morton in Indianapolis IN. He later died there of pneumonia. The union did not treat the Confederates vsry wellbeither. His death caused acreshuffling of our familt and eventuaalysetting up in Corona Californua.

  23. I read The Bregdan Chronicles series, historical fiction of the Civil War. In one of the books it told about this escape. It’s a great series.

    • Ahhhh. Very important word:

      Fiction

      In other words: not to be taken as the truth, not to be believed, not true, made up, a possible lie, not what really happened, if you believe this I have some swamp land to sell you…..

      Remember the word:

      Fiction

      It’s NOT the truth, especially when you are reading history!

      The Union quit treating her prisoners well because the South had become unable to give adequate care to Union soldiers in
      their prisons. BUT, they weren’t treating their soldiers or citizens any better. They were essentially starved to defeat. They had no extra clothes, no one to plant or harvest crops, the Union had stolen much of their livestock, so no meat, no leather for shoes. It was miserable.

      The Union’s Reconstruction plan was to enfeeble the South so they could never secede again.

      I believe Lincoln would have had mercy. Without Lincoln, the South was beaten and had their entire bodies rubbed in the mud of defeat.

  24. My gggrandfather was captured at Chickamauga (he was with the 10th Wisconsin infantry) and died in Andersonville prison in August of 1864. But my his wife’s application for a Widow’s Pension said he was imprisoned at Libby. He was not an officer-were any enlisteds held at Libby for any length of time?

  25. My 2 great-great uncles, Noah & Jabez Smith from the 1st Ohio Infantry were captured at the Battle of Chickamauga. They first went to Belle Isle, then to Libby for a few months, then to Danville and finally to Andersonville where they both died in July 1864 (one was 20, the other 18). They were both enlisted men, so yes enlisted men were sent there too.

  26. So Pennsylvania had the most slaves in the country until the Irish came over in the 1840s? Makes me question what kind of sources that poster was using. The 1840 census counted 100 slaves in PA. The state was one phasing out slavery, with the last ones freed in 1847. The number of 100 is far from the largest number in he country and it was not even as many as on a single southern plantation. There were about 6,000 slaves in the state in 1780 when the Abolition bill was passed, and when the census started tracking slaves in 1810 the number had declined to the mid hundreds.

  27. IN A UNION PRISON, WHERE MY GREAT, GREAT UNCLE DIED, THE GUARDS THREW RATS DOWN INTO THE PRISON YARD JUST TO SEE THE HUNGRY CONFEDERATE PRISONERS RUN TO CATCH THEM SO THEY WOULD HAVE SOMETHING TO EAT. THERE IS NO DOUBT, WAR IS HELL BUT WAS THIS ONE WORTH IT. AND BY THE WAY, THE CIVIL WAR WAS OVER STATE’S RIGHTS, NOT SLAVERY. SLAVERY WOULD HAVE ENDED IN TIME WITHOUT THE SHEDDING OF SO MUCH BLOOD, BOTH UNION AND CONFEDERATE.

    • Again, the argument has been made that the War of Northern Aggression
      ( isn’t that what the south referred to it as ?), was about states rights, but it begs the question: The right to do what with your states rights ?

  28. Slavery and the right for states to leave were both concerns that George Washington wanted to be address. Sad that we had to kill each other over these facts. Seems like the individual citizen always pays for what the supposed representatives can’t or won’t address. Big government can’t possibly know what individual states need. I feel compassion for both sides. We need to keep communication between each other or I see another civil war in our future. As to slaves…I sure don’t want to be one. Enough blood was given on both sides. Let’s lay it to rest. Be proud of all those who came before us.

    • REBECCA, THANK YOU FOR YOUR STATEMENTS. VERY TRUE AND ALL YOU SAID WAS. YOU ARE SO CORRECT ABOUT BEING A SLAVE. I SURE DO NOT WANT TO BE.OUR FORFATHERS WENT THROUGH A LOT OF HARD TIMES FOR US. I WISH THE STUFF OVER SLAVERY WOULD STOP.ALL WOULD UNIT INTO AS YOU SAY WHAT GEORGE WASHINGTON WANTED. LEAVE THE MONUMENTS ALONE, FOR THERE ARE SOME UP NORTH TOO, AND LET US MOVE FORWARD.

  29. I had family in the North and South. My G-Great Grandfather in Georgia was a prison guard at Andersonville at the age of 15 until the war ended. It was all men on deck in the South. Teenage young men had to step up. Our history good or bad makes this country what it is today. That’s why I hate to see historical statues being torn down. I do not believe in slavery but it was the Europian countries that started slavery and when people moved to the 13 states they brought slavery to America.

    • TOM, I AM 72. I STUDIED AMERICAN HISTORY IN JR. AND SR. HIGH IN SCHOOL. I ALSO STUDIED AMERICAN HISTORY IN COLLEGE. I ALSO STUDIED THROUGH CENTRAL BAPTIST COLLEGE. BUT IF YOU SEE MY AGE YOU MUST KNOW THAT THINGS HAVE CHANGED IN THOSE YEARS. ALL THE HISTORY BOOKS I STUDIED OUT OF WAS WRITTEN AND PUBLISHED UP NORTH. I HAVE LATELY ALSO WATCHED SPECIALS ON THE CIVIL WAR ON THE HISTORY CHANNEL. IN THOSE HISTORY BOOKS AND SPECIAL ON T.V. IT SAYS THE NORTH HAD SLAVES ALSO. THE SLAVE TRADER WERE FROM THE NORTH. ALSO AS TODAY THE MONEY AND POWER WAS UP NORTH. THEY ALSO STATE THE WAR STARTED IN 1861. THE SOUTH WAS WINNING ALMOST ALL BATTLES. LINCOLN HAD CHANGED THE ARMY COMMANDER TIME AFTER TIME. FOR WITHTHE MEN THEY HAD AND TRAINING THEY COULD NOT FIGHT AS SOUTHERN BOYS. THEY HAD TO DO SOMETHING IF THEY WERE TO WIN THE WAR. SO HISTORY FARTHER STATES THAT THEY CAME UP WITH THE IDEAL TOFREE THEIR SLAVES PUT THEM IN THE ARMY. THAT WOULS OUT NUMBER THE SOUTH OVER 2 TO I THEN IN FIGHTING MEN. OH MR. PRESIDENT AT THE TIME HAD SLAVES ALSO.(LOOK IT UP) . SEE TOM IF YOU WANT TO DIG IT UP YOU WILL FIND THAT THERE WERE TWICE THE SLAVES IN THE NORTHERN STATES THAN IN THE SOUTHERN STATES THAT SUCCEDED. LOOK THAT UP TOO. READ ABOUT MR. LINCOLN BRING HIS SLAVES TO WASHINGTON WITH HIM ALSO. YOU WILL FIND OUT FOR YOURSELF THAT THE NORTHERN STATES WERE A LOT MORE THAN THE SOUTHERN STATED THAT SUCCECED. SO TOM WITH THE NORTH HAVING SLAVES LOOK AT COMMON SENSE. THERE WERE MORE SLAVES UP NORTH. I SPENT 42 YEARS IN THE MILITARY ALSO. GUESS WHAT I HAD TO TAKE COURSE ON . GUESS WHAT WE HAD CLASSES ON OVER AND OVER. THE MILITARY TAUGHT FROM RECORDS THEY HAD ON HAND. WRITTEN RECORDS OF MILITARY PEOPLE BACK THEN. SIR THE MILITARY HAS RECORDS OF ONE OF MY ANCESTORS THAT FOUGHT WITH GEORGE WASHINGTON BE TAKEN CAPTIVE AND SPENT 9 MONTHS ON THE BRISTISH PRISON BOAT IN THE HARBOR THERE. (THE BRITISH DID NOT HAVE PRISONS, SO THEY KEPT PRISONERS ON BOATS AND MOST DIED.) THE MILITARY RECORD STATES HE WAS RELEASED AFTER9 MONTHS ON THAT BOAT IN A PRISONER EXCHANGE. THE RECORDS SHOW HE GOT 3 DOLLARS A DAY AND A GROUND GRANT FOR STAYIN IN THE ARMY UNTIL THEY WON OUR FREEDOM FROM THE BRITISH. IT FARTHER STATES HE STAYED WITH A COL. ISSAC AND FOUGHT IN THE 1812 WAR THEN THE INDIANS WAR. GOOD RECORDS OF EACH MAN. GOOD RECORDS ON EVERYTHING THE MILTARY WAS AND IS INVOLVED WITH. THEY ARE IN THE NATIONAL , AND ALSO THE MILTARY ARCIEVES. BUT DO YOU KNOW WHAT THAT WAR WAS FOUGHT OVER. IT WAS POWER AND MONEY AND CONTROL, AS IN ALL WARS. YES SIR EVEN THE CIVIL WAR. THE NORTH HAD SLAVES TOO. IF THE WAR WAS OVER SLAVERY THEN WHY DID THE NORTH HAVE MORE SLAVES THAN THE SOUTH. YOU NEED TO DIG FARTHER AND MORE AND HAVE AN HONEST DESIRE TO FIND THE TRUTH. FOR HISTORY AND MILITARY HISTORY STATES, AS THE MILITARY THEN MOVED THE INDIANS OFF GROUND FROM VIRGINIA, THEN N. AND S. CAROLINA, THEN GA., THEN TN. THEN. AR. THEY HAD GROUND TO GIVE THE MEN THAT FOUGHT THE BRITISH. THESE GUYS STARTED MOVING SOUTH (AS MY ANCESTORS) THEY FOUGHT THEY COULD RAISE COTTON, CORN , AND TOBACCO. BUT THE NORTHERN PEOPLE WOULD NOT PAY A DECENT PRICE FOR THE CROPS. BUT THE FARMERS COULD HIRE BOATS TO MOVE THE CROPS TO GREAT BRITION, AND EUROPE AND STILL MAKE MORE THAN THEY COULD SELLING TO THE NORTH. BUT SIR THE POWERFUL MEN UP NORTH WAS NOT GETTING TO MAKE MONEY OFF THE CROPS THAT WAY. SO THEY FOUND WAYS TO TAX , AND PUT TARIFFS ON THE CROPS BEING SHIPPED OVER SEAS, AND SENT THE ARMY DOWN SOUTH TO ENFORCE THE NEW TAXES AND TARIFFS. THE NOTHERN ARMY TOOK OVER AN OLD ABANDON CONFEDERATE POST CALLED FT. SUMPTER. WHERE THE SOUTH FIRED THE FIRST SHOTS TO RUN THEM BACK UP NORTH SO THEY COULD STILL SHIP OVERSEAS. THAT STARTED THE WAR SIR. THE IDEAL OF SLAVERY ENTERED INTO THE PICTURE IN 1863 . HALF WAY THROUGH THE WAR. LISTEN, THE NORTH THEN FRE3D THEIR SLAVES , WHO THEN WAS PUT IN THE UNION ARMY AND WAS TOLD TO FIGHT FOR FREEDOM OF THE SLAVES. BUT DO YOU KNOW WHAT. THEY PUT THEM UP FRONT ON THE FIGHTING.YES WITH NO TRAINING THEY WERE PUT UP FRONT OF THE FIGHTING. THAT WAS TO RUN THE SOUTH OUT OF LEAD AND POWDER. AND GET KILLED . BUT THEN HERE COULD COME THE NORTHERN TROOPS THEN. TO WHIP THE SOUTHERN TROOPS. THE WELL OVER 200,000 BLACKS THEY GOT TO JOIN UP SAVED THE UNION. NOW I ASK YOU TO CHECK THINGS OUT FOR YOURSELF. DO NOT POST WHAT OTHERS WANT YOU TO THINK. DIG IT UP. I TELL YOU IT IS WRITTEN HISTORY. BUT TO HOLLOW TO FREE THE SLAVES MADE IT SOUND BETTER. MR. LINCOLN KEPT HIS LAVES THOUGH. CHECK THAT OUT TOO.

  30. I am appalled, but not surprised, by the number of people justifying the prison conditions at Libby and slave ownership via “what-aboutism”. Whether the Union had bad prison conditions or not is irrelevant to the facts presented in this article. The Confederates had ungodly conditions at Libby. That is all that needs to be said. The Civil War is over.

  31. I’ve recently done some research re: the experience of soldiers from Hingham, Massachusetts during the Civil War. One young man from Hingham, Henry Foster Hersey, a private in the 39th infantry, taken prisoner at the battle of Weldon Station (Aug 19, 1864) was at Libby Prison for some of his confinement and shared recollections about the conditions there. In the book “Hingham in the Civil War” written for the Town he is quoted saying men were “bucked and gagged” at Libby Prison for the most trifling offenses. He also related terrible conditions at Belle Isle Prison where a fellow soldier from Hingham, Henry C. French, was shot to death when he fell to the ground from weakness after being punished by being bound on a wooden horse with legs and arms fastened. Also at the Stockade Prison he related that men were penned like cattle.

  32. Amy, you indeed used the right word: “appalled”!

    Everyone needs to take a step back and a long hard look at the “Big Picture”. Everyone has posted accurate details and valid points about what they know. Yet, there are other national histories not being considered. As Leslie Mink said, things need to be viewed through the “lens of that time.” World events and issues need to be overlaid on top of the events over which everyone is discussing. I still see a biased slant in these posts that focuses on North vs. the South and black vs. white. My roots are southern and my personal life has been northern. Technically, most of the south, other than some of the original colonial immigrants, was populated by many from New England colonies with northern sentiments too. Their motivation to move south was to escape the confines of religious involvement in their family lives and behaviors. Squire Boone (father of Daniel the pioneer and a resident of PA under William Penn) was chastised for a son & daughter who married non-Quaker spouses. He was also reprimanded and so was his other daughter for having found that she was with child when she married. He was again chastised for his son Isreal marrying a non-Quaker (out of unity) as well as entering a marriage with a “mixt woman”. He was expelled when he argued that he saw nothing wrong with his son’s marriage. The following year, he sold his lands to family members of his in-laws and headed south where he settled in North Carolina. Many northern families did this to escape the puritanical controls of their church societies. I can show you places in the old north where there is a church on every corner just like the south. If you overlay “world history” (as it was in those times) on top of the American history being discussed, there is much more balanced insight. The histories that impacted the citizens during that time included France & England. Westward expansion was begun long before this time when Thomas Jefferson made the famous Louisiana Purchase to expand American borders that were not yet states. These lands were disputed by England and Spain. The territories had debates over applying for statehood as a slave state vs. a free state. Slavery itself had been a contention in writing the Declaration of Independence & the Constitution. States rights were a big issue from the very beginning of this country. The importation of slaves was banned in most colonies in 1730 but found difficult to enforce as a law. It became more of a social enforcement by the puritanical churches of the early colonies in the north. After the formation of the United States Congress implemented & enforced an act prohibiting the importation of slaves in 1808. Illegal importation continued through South America through the territories that were not yet states in the south and along the Mississippi. Slavery was also not a lifelong institution at the start. I know it’s dry reading, but if you can obtain copies of the legislative bills in the colonies, you will see that slaves served their indentured contracts and were treated humanely. The Smithsonian web site has many references about this subject and timelines. As proof, search for the history of Anthony Johnson. He was among the 1st African Americans that arrived in the Virginia colony after he was captured in Africa and was bound for South America. Fortune was with him. If he went to South America he was automatically enslaved. The fact that a British ship captured the ship in which he was held captive and brought him to America ensured he would be an indentured servant and obtain freedom after his services were rendered for about 7-8 years. Upon completion of their indentured time, they were provided land and currency by which they could then pursue American liberties and likewise obtain their own indentured servants. Anthony Johnson sued his servent and won the right to his indenture for life. This and the case of John Punch set the precedent for lifelong slavery. These people went from contracted servants to chattel. What many fail to recognize (as it was not always a part of history lessons) is that there has always been a large population of free people of color. In 1770 Crispus Attucks was a free black man who came to America as an indentured servant. He was also a victim of the Boston Masacre. The population of free people of color prior to the Civil War is being studied by many universities & scholars. Native Americans were also classified in this category. The racial issue was never an issue before it was used as a means to dominate and capitalize on financial gains at the expense of others. While preventing the importation of slaves was a valiant effort to end such business of humans owning humans, it enflamed human greed to extreme means and became the beginning of a movement of domestic slave trading and a lifelong institution along with the business of breeding slaves for financial gain… siring children of slave women against their will for financial gain became a standard. As for the North having more slaves than the south, my research on the subject does not support that statement. What I have researched and learned is that black or free persons of color owned more slaves of their own people than any white constituents. Anthony Johnson is a prime example. Try Google searching the topic using the term “Black Slave Owners”. You will find results that state slave ownership for each white person was lower than the number for each black/person of color. There were also many women slave owners. Google the name of Isabella Fowler from Louisiana. Her father was a white immigrant named Michael Fowler who took as his wife a Mulatto person of color. Their Native American heritage is documented on the Dawes Rolls that registered Native Americans. Other slaves were to address his daughter as Miss Fowler and she enjoyed the privilege of her family’s wealth. If I recall, at the time of the emancipation, she owned more than 40 slaves that were released in Charleston. States rights were an issue for years but according to many articles on History.com, the decision to secede as outlined in the Confederate Constitution was not solely about their state’s rights. Their issues rested mainly on the economic way of life that was attained as a result of slavery. This, slavery was part of the southern social culture which the south desired to protect and ensure was never to be changed. There was a great deal of animosity for the north who exercised their state’s rights to refuse to support slavery as an institution of society and even had abolitionist societies in the north that undermined the southern way of life. One of President Andrew Jackson’s main issues is that South Carolina had been threatening to secede long before the time of the Civil War. Charleston, SC had become one of the wealthiest societies in the south but the majority of wealth was created by free persons of color. Google search Richard E. DeReef and his brother Joseph DeReef. They had a successful lumber business, were responsible for building most of the docks in Charleston Bay, and enjoyed privileges to vote, own land, and enter into legally binding contracts. Charleston was considered one of the wealthiest “Mulatto” communities in the south. I used the term “Mulatto” as intended by the legal definition and not as a derogatory term. Census information began to reveal these very large populations of free people of color and their declared wealth. Legally you were one of 3 things: white, black, or Mulatto. The legal definition of Mulatto was anyone of Native American mix and that included both white and mixed black ancestors, but the combination required there be Native American heritage. Native Indian removal was another focus of the states that spear headed the racial war. Milton E. Campbell wrote a good book, “The State of North Carolina With Native American Ancestry”. If you were of a consensual white & black mixed family, which was more common than people realize, your children were were classified as Black with the “one drop rule”. North Carolina had a similar scenario. In 1835, NC led the way and revoked these American liberties from free people of color and restricted voting rights. Many fled NC and went to SC or north to Canada. Later SC began similar oppression based on race and color. By the mid 1840’s, poor White constituents began complaining to political leaders about the wealth being in the hands of non-whites. To appease the masses & win more votes, SC began similar oppressive legislation. Free people of color were restricted in the number of hours they were permitted to work each day. Later, SC began issuing pins to free people of color, which they had to purchase at outrageous prices. Those who could not afford these pins and could not produce documentation of their “free status” were arrested and sold into slavery and the sales fed the state treasuries. There was also a lot of illegal Native American slaves that were kidnapped and entered into slavery. Both African and Native American cultures were rooted in slavery as a part of their cultural history. According to Native American slave culture, their slaves later became members of their tribes and found freedom. It was temporary enslavement. It was the political unrest in Africa that led the victorious warring tribes of Africa to capitalize on their slave captives by selling them to the Portuguese who began to trade them with South America. Quakers of the Northeast region were advocates for the abolition of slavery for decades. They believed it to be a human rights issue. The south viewed slavery as an economic issue. Most of the Presidents up until the time of Lincoln, including George Washington, were southern statesmen with southern interests. As stated earlier, the Civil War began as soon as Lincoln took the Presidential Oath. It began as a protest to his election. Also noted, is the fact that the emancipation of slaves was not brought into the Civil War as an issue until after the war began, with the Emancipation Proclamation occurring in 1863. While it is true that many freed slaves joined the union ranks, it was NOT the sole reason for the Emancipation Proclamation. In fact, many persons of color Prior to the emancipation, wanted to join the Union army and were denied. The truest reason for the Emancipation Proclamation was to impassion the North on these human rights issues to ensure northern support of the war and to ensure the union of the states. The many losses of the North was undermining northern support for the war. Once emancipation became an element of the war, the north provided more staunch support for the human rights issues. It was purely a political move. In August 1862 Lincoln wrote a letter to the NY Tribune saying, “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that.” Lincoln’s goal was national unity.

    War is an ugly business. Both north & south were responsible for many atrocities of war. Humans fight wars and are motivated by issues. Most of the issues are excuses. Even the racial issues were not in existence through the 1700’s. They became issues as a manipulation to justify inherently wrong human behaviors. No matter what issues are used as a pretense for war, the bottom line motivation is always greed. It all stemmed from the greed of humanity. If we as an American society can agree on this, the rivalry of north vs south and black vs white can be closed as a chapter in history. We need to empower our own kind…the human kind…with the ability to move forward and resume living in color-blind societies as they did in the 1600’s through the mid-1700’s. Don’t we all deserve a better quality of life like this? Anyway, these are just my thoughts on the facts as I have researched them.

  33. I have wished I could say what you just said so eloquently, but knew I could not. Cant think of a point you left out either. Well said! I hope others kept scrolling and read your article also. Yes! We need to get beyond the Civil War and it’s incivilities.ALL OF US! This is a great country. Lets try to keep it together and at peace.

  34. In regards to the claim that the Civil War was exclusively about the authority of the national government vs states- This is simply the political framework that was and is used to discuss most of the contentious issues in our country to this day – abortion, gun ownership, drug legality , etc.However no advocate on any side of these issues sincerely claims the issue of importance is local control. It is that they are a sincere advocate for their root cause. The same is true for the issue of slavery as the root cause of the civil war. While it is absolutely true the political “language” was about states’s rights , it is disingenuous to the point of immortality and lying to say the core issue was not human slavery. The truth matters and should not be hidden from our people or we will never work through this shared evil past. (Of course their we’re participants from both north and south.)

    • my friend. this is the reason there are different makes of cars,trucks,shoes, clothing. People even have different hair styles. we all do however agree that slavery of any type is wrong . But if i may. I am 72. when I was born my dad was 53. when he was born his dad was 40 to 42. This is my grand dad. a teenager during the civil war. According to him some had slaves,some did not. We know some up north had slaves some did not. But even Lincoln had slaves. My grand dad’s family did not have any. But house farm and all was torn away from his dad and mom. The north with all the factories power and money was trying to force the south to sell their crops to them. of course for money. But there was a port I. Virginia where they could ship out to England and Europe pay the shipping and cost and still make more than the north would pay. The north put troops in an abandon fort in S.C. to control the south. my friend if you know anything about history
      if not check this out
      all wars have been caught and are being fought over money power and control. ;The civil war started in 1861. The ideal of against slavery did not enter in until 1863 when the south had been winning over all. The north used this ideal to get blacks in the army for more man power. Guess what they used them out front in battles to run the south out of shot powder and man power. Check your original history. Or get into the military archives. The reason it was not over slavery at the start was too many up north had more slaves than the south. you can research that too. we all agree slavery was wrong. I am glad it was then. I am glad there are none today in USA. However you need to realize PEOPLE change history as they do any ideal and anything. I remember no electricity. I say all people should be taught the truth, as people my age were. Then be thank go God saw fit to change things and give people the smarts to change everything. Look we are in the age of going to different planets. Learn from the past and move forward. Wounds can not heal if there is constant digging into it. I am thankful I I’ve today and in the USA. we have the best nation and military to keep us free today. I thank God. May God bless the USA. Thanks to all that send their ideals.

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