Sunday, April 7, 2013

Daniel Gordon and the Stamp Act Crisis in Charleston, SC, 1765-1766

Daniel Gordon's revolution was for the most part, a revolution observed. On October 18, 1765 the Planter's Adventure arrived at Charles Town Harbor and anchored off Fort Johnson on James Island. Rumours spread ashore that the ship carried stamped paper from London without which the Stamp Act could not be implemented on November 1. Protests began immediately; among those involved were members of the Charles Town Fire Company, whom Daniel knew. From the beginning the protests were 'extraordinary and universal commotions' that Charles Town's thousands of slaves could not but heed. Early the next morning a twenty-foot high gallows was put up on the corner of Broad and Church streets, where it could not be missed. Hanging from it were an effigy of a stamp collector, a stuffed devil to its right and to its left a boot with a papier-mache head stuck in it, the latter representing George III's erstwhile supposed eminence-grise, Lord Bute, now resigned. Around the effigy's neck was a sign reading 'Liberty and No Stamp Act!'. Details of The Stamp Act may not have been of relevance to the city's slaves, but the meaning of “Liberty' was absolutely clear, as was the obvious conflict of opinion between their various masters. Before long angry crowds were holding day-long meetings, determined to prevent any landing of the stamps from the Planter's Adventure. Some slaves accompanied their masters, perhaps even helped in the early evening when the effigies were taken from the gallows and laid in a coffin. In a two-thousand strong drunken funeral procession in which some roistering blacks certainly took part, one of them perhaps Daniel, the mob marched to the town green, where they burnt the effigies, then buried their ashes in a coffin in the graveyard of St. Michael's, to the peal of muffled bells. Daniel would not have been privy to the expedition to Fort Johnson two nights later that resulted in whatever stamps had been landed at the fort being transported out of Charles Town's waters in a Royal Navy ship. At news of this feat, '[u]niversal joy now prevailed.' The clamour possibly woke Daniel but he is unlikely to have joined the torch-carrying mob who rushed to the house of the Stamp Collector, George Selby, suspicious he might have secreted stamps away. Selby had fled, but his servants refused to allow his house to be searched.. His windows were broken and threats made to tear the house down. The mob then marched from house to house of government officials, demanding stamps be handed over. At one residence the owner provided them with a huge quantity of free rum punch, and the crowd toasted 'Damnation to the Stamp Act.'1
Lieutenant-governor Bull shut the port on 1 November because of the refusal to comply with the Stamp Act. Fourteen hundred sailors were stranded ashore. For both slave and free alike walking down the street in safety became ever more precarious. 'It was feared there would be trouble with the slaves.' Unsurprisingly, with the white lower orders and many of the middling sort behaving badly, it did not take long for some slaves to band together and march through the city 'crying out Liberty.' A merchant's wife told the lieutenant-governor she had heard two of her slaves discussing a planned massacre of Charles Town's white population on Christmas Eve. Lieutenant-Governor William Bull knew slave holiday celebrations culminated on that night with 'the Firing of Guns by way of rejoicing,' making it impossible for the local militia to distinguish the normal alarm signal signifying a slave uprising. Told about the dangers the Council immediately assented to the calling out of the militia and the conscripting of the footloose ships' crews to maintain order. '[A]ll were Soldiers in arms' 'for 10 or 14 days' 'in the most bitterly cold weather in19 years' 'day and night' under the 'severest orders' to suppress the slightest hint of black rebellion. Daniel Gordon and his friends would have the bleakest Christmas and New Year imaginable. Catawba Indians, who terrified the black man, were on conspicuous stand-by to track any escaped rebels trying to flee white justice. Street gossip spread how one master and his two slaves for twelve days fixed bayonets to six hundred guns and put flints in nearly a thousand muskets. Large numbers of runaways were sheltering in the swamps and riverine forests but they were no threats to whites any where. One slave was punished because he was 'a sad Dog' and to 'save appearances of white watchfulness, but in the end 'there was little or no cause for all [the] bustle.'2
By the end of February even Bull was apprehensive about the 'near 1400 sailors' still in town 'beginning to grow licentious.' That worry and the fact that 'commotions increas[ed] every hour' convinced him to finally re-open the port. He began issuing clearances and certificates to ships' masters stating that no stamps were available. Daniel's colleagues in the Charles Town Fire Company, radicals all, heard of a schooner laden with rice bound for Georgia, the only mainland colony which had introduced the Stamp Act. Its captain tried to sail at night but was stopped by the Fire Company's artisans and forced to unload his cargo or have his vessel burnt at the wharf. The Company's black labourers would not have been allowed to take part in this intimidation, though they may have been present to help put out the expected fire if it got out of control. Certainly by morning Daniel and everybody else in Charles Town would have heard of the rash enterprise.3
Protests heard in London ultimately forced the repeal of the Stamp Act in the British Parliament. News of the repeal arrived in Charles Town on May 6, 1766, 'and the Courts in South Carolina resumed their duties...' The Sons of Liberty met under a huge oak in a pasture on the edge of town, thereafter known as the Liberty Tree, and demanded everyone illuminate their houses in celebration. Bells rang, the town was 'illuminated, guns were fired, and bonfires and other demonstrations of joy shown …' Everyone got drunk on rum. The general goodwill, however, did not extend to blacks, local or otherwise. The Grand Jury, rather, complained that 'slaves were out at all times of the night' 'profanely cursing, swearing and talking obscenely in the most public manner, to the great annoyance of every [white] person, who has a sense of decency and justice.' It took particular umbrage at the blacks partying 'on the Sabbath Day … where it is not in the power of watchmen to suppress them.'4 Clearly, for Daniel Gordon and his friends, life was back to normal in Charles Town.
1Richard Walsh, Charleston's Sons of Liberty. A Study of the Artisans, 1763-1789,Columbia, 1959, pp.37-38, 30; Wood, ' “Liberty is Sweet” … :, p.157; John Drayton, Memoirs of the American Revolution: from its Commencement to the Year 1776, … Vol.I, Charleston, 1821, pp.44-48.
2McDonough, Christopher Gadsden and Henry Laurens, p.73; Godbold and Woody, Christopher Gadsden and the American Revolution, p.65; Harris, The Hanging of Thomas Jeremiah, pp.61-62; Wood, ' “Liberty is Sweet” …', pp.158-159; Gary B. Nash, The Unknown American Revolution. The Unruly Birth of Democracy and the Struggle to Create America, London, 2007, p.61; Sellers, Charleston Business on the Eve of the American Revolution, p.129; Morgan, 'Black Life in Eighteenth Century Charleston', p.220;Hatley, The Dividing Paths,p.74; and f/n 35 p.159; Morgan, Slave Counterpoint, p.389.
3Merrill Jensen, The Founding of a Nation. A History of the American Revolution, 1763-1776, Indianapolis, 2004, p.138; Marc Egnal, A Mighty Empire. The Origins of the American Revolution, Ithaca, 1988, p.230; Arthur Meier Schlesinger, The Colonial Merchants of the American Revolution, 1763-1776, New York, 1957, p.82; Walsh, Charleston's Sons of Liberty, pp.38-39.
4John Drayton, Memoirs of the American Revolution from its Commencement to the Year 1776 …Vol. II, Charleston, 1821, p.59; Harris, The Hanging of Thomas Jeremiah, p.56; Jensen, The Founding of a Nation, p.188; The Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, the African, Written by Himself, (e. Werner Sollers), New York, 2001, p.95; Morgan, 'Black Life in Eighteenth Century Charleston', p.207.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Daniel Gordon and the Cherokee War 1758-1761 - A Slave's View from Charleston, S.C.

Daniel Gordon was leaving aside the things of his childhood. Boys on the Charles Town streets would tie cocks together and throw stones at them. Ordinances were passed against children firing muskets or throwing down squibs on the road because people were getting hurt; and the children were probably black. Filth piled up at 'every bye corner and vacant lot.' Dead dogs bloated in the spring sun 'ready to burst.' A bevy of cleaners was drafted to regularly remove garbage. The streets were now overcrowded. Charles Town's 8,000 residents were flooded out by impoverished Acadians returned from the interior, the French prisoners-of-war, drafts of regular militia and the 1,000 Scots Highlanders who had initially been stationed at the race course out of town, the first fruits in the south of the Seven Years' War. Poor accommodation and bad weather brought on illness, probably yellow fever, among the troops, and death. Blacks out on their usual nocturnal partying, which Daniel now joined, passed military guards mounted every night fearful of the distressed Acadians rising or a sudden attack from Spanish Florida. Barracks were built for the troops because the locals thought them no better than the blacks, and resented quartering them. Ramparts were built between the batteries and bastions along the Ashley River, four feet above the 1754 highwater mark, using an ingenious emplacement of cedar posts in the marshy ground. 
If, by now, Daniel's apprenticeship as a tailor was over, he would have been set to working long hours, probably in a very poor light, to judge from the later condition of his left eye, but the high wages were worth it because he was probably working partly for his master and, in his own time for himself. He would have had enough money of his own to gamble it away on the Colt's Plate and the Sweepstakes begun that year at Newmarket. Charles Town was an uncomfortable place to live for slaves with its 'little narrow, dirty and irregular alleys', in one of which he may have set up an independent workshop. Used to 'the most stinking and nasty streets in the world', it was no wonder he and his fellow blacks often drank heavily. Sometimes occasion demanded it. In October 1758 the whole city drank and feasted the British/New England victory over Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island, adjacent Nova Scotia, to the firing of musket, cannon and drums.2
Daniel cannot have helped but notice the peculiar behaviour of the Reverend Richard Clarke from St. Philip's Church early the following year. Clarke became a well-recognised figure even to those outside the Anglican communion when he 'let his hair' and beard grow, emulating an Old Testament prophet. Running about the streets of Charles Town, he demanded the city 'repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.' The world, he proclaimed, would end in September that year. By March Clarke had resigned and was bundled off back to England. Clarke's prophecy was taken up beyond Charles Town by a free black, Philip Johns, who claimed the whites would be overthrown. His jeremiad coincided with the colony facing the threat of a Cherokee war. Charles Town's blacks soon heard the new preacher had been whipped and branded for his visions, and some, though not Daniel, became believers. Johns did not stop preaching. He was quickly re-arrested, tried and hung, a message to all blacks, slave and free, who might contemplate rebellion.3
Cherokee raids in the Carolina back country and news of preparations for a wider Cherokee/Shawnee uprising were linked to the Johns plot. Recently appointed Governor William Henry Lyttleton determined to nip any such trouble in the bud, but before he had organised his volunteer forces a Cherokee peace delegation from the Lower and Upper Cherokee of fifty-five men and women, including prominent headmen came to Charles Town to apologise for the raid. The sudden arrival of so many Cherokee perhaps caused especial consternation among the black community since, as one white observer put it, 'a natural antipathy subsisted between Indians and Negroes.' Daniel and his fellow-slaves need not have worried. Governor Lyttleton had no time for peace. He took the entire delegation hostage forcing them to accompany him when he finally set out with his expeditionary force in late October. Shortly after his departure Charles Town received the news from New France that 'QUEBEC is in English hands.'4
Lyttleton reached Fort Prince George in December where he quickly secured a treaty with the Cherokee, who had been too weakened by smallpox to fight. On their return in the new year his troops brought the smallpox back to Charles Town Lyttleton was greeted 'with great laurels.' Daniel was probably among the cheering crowd lining Broad street, relieved that the danger from the Cherokee was ostensibly over. Less than a fortnight later the smallpox surfaced in one house, which was immediately quarantined. The press reassured its public that 'every other precaution necessary' was being taken to stop the spread of the disease, but within weeks the smallpox was spreading. With no serious outbreak for over twenty years, and a much expanded population, the community had lost its immunity. There was a panicked demand for inoculation. 'The doctors had no choice but top meet [that] demand. [T]he people would not be said nay.' One doctor thought 3,500 people were inoculated between January and June, when the epidemic ran its course. One of those inoculated was Daniel Gordon; that inoculation saved him from not only the Charles Town epidemic but also a later one in New South Wales in 1789, the dreaded gal-gal-la which wiped out half the Eora around Port Jackson. In Charles Town Daniel would not have felt so protected. Even among the inoculated at least ninety-two people died, perhaps nearly one-and-a-half times that number. He had an uneasy wait ahead of him, uncertain if he would live or die as he lay weakened and alone for a milder version of the disease to pass. In Charles Town itself was 'almost a stop to all business.' Meanwhile despite Lyttleton's treaty, reports continued to come in of Cherokees massacreing settlers in the back country.5
Every Saturday and Wednesday morning Daniel heard the cannon-fire as the Charles Town Artillery Company turned out for training at eight in the morning, impressive in their blue crimson-trimmed coats, crimson jackets, gold-laced hats and white stockings. Four days before Lyttleton departed to take up his new governorship in Jamaica, Colonel Archibald Montgomery arrived with orders to bring the Cherokee to book. Lieutenant-Governor William Bull declared a 'DAY OF FASTING, HUMILIATION AND PRAYER TO ALMIGHTY GOD' for 'averting … a pestilential and contagious distemper … but likewise a war.' Blacks, presumably were dragged off to church by their owners. Montgomery encamped his Highlanders outside the town. Charles Town plunged further into isolation as the wealthy fled to their plantations. Complaints echoed through the city that blacks were being buried in shallow mass graves; 'the very cows by their pawing had laid one coffin bare.' Young inoculated men like Daniel were the grave-diggers.6
There was a shortage of bread and beef. Prior to departure fifty blacks were enlisted to do the hard labour with Montgomery's 1,650 whites despite the perennial fears of a black uprising. Daniel Gordon's wealthier customers ordered 'fine, silken' military fashions. He may have prospered but Charles Town's lower orders, black and white, suffered considerably because of the city was deserted and because prices continued to soar. The economic recovery would not come till the end of the year. Little news came from Montgomery out in the Middle Cherokee towns. In mid-August he returned after being ambushed and defeated in the battle of Eckaw. Charlestonians feared his Highlanders would be ordered to 'suddenly embark for the northward.' Whites wondered if the Cherokee were destroyed, would South Carolina's blacks take refuge in former Cherokee lands of the Blue Ridge in the Appalachians. There, they 'might be more troublesome and more difficult to reduce than the Negroes in the mountains of Jamaica,' that hot-bed of rebellious slaves.7
As feared, Montgomery was recalled north. New regiments of volunteers were formed to fight against the Cherokee. For Charles Town's tailors, including Daniel Gordon, there was much work to be done, measuring and making new 'deep green' uniforms. Even more work came in November when news reached the colony of the death of George II, with a sudden city-wide demand for mourning apparel. In the latter part of 1760, Daniel was probably called out as part of the fire brigade for a fire in King Street, west of Meeting street, this time not so quickly brought under control 'for lack of public wells and pumps in that part of town.' At the new King George III's birthday celebrations in November he might have been called on again, this time to help rescue the injured in the collapse of a wooden balcony opposite Lytlleton's Battery, when the populace gathered to watch the obligatory fireworks.8
Montgomery was succeeded by Lieutenant-Colonel James Grant who arrived in Charles Town with about 1,200 regulars in January 1761. Many of these fell ill almost immediately after taking up their winter quarters because they drank 'brackish water.' Charles Town's white population took the sick into their houses and nursed them until better. For slaves like Daniel Morgan, however, the British soldiers were noticed because they replaced the ineffectual town watch and were more capable of intimidation. To cheering crowds Grant departed for his starting point in the forested Congaree flood plain in March, supported by the Charles Town provincials in their dark green uniforms, but again, other things pre-occupied the black tailor. Early that month he probably witnessed the hanging of a group of back-country Germans who had slaughtered some of their compatriots while in the grip of a religious mania. That message that the white English-speaking majority were prepared to move against any fractious minority would not have passed unnoticed.9
There was little time for Daniel to ponder such truths.About three p.m. on 4 May, as Charlestonians 'sat down to dinner' 'they were alarmed with an uncommon sound, like the continual roaring of distant thunder or the noise made by a stormy sea breaking upon the shore.' Rushing outside they saw in terror to the west of the town 'a large column of smoke' resembling 'clouds rolling over one another in violent tumult … at one time dark, at another a bright flaming colour.' The whirlwind tore down the Ashley river, narrowly missing the town, exposing the shallow river's bottom. The ships in the river 'sat down in the mud and were covered by the waves, the sailors saving themselves by running up into the shrouds. Slave and free alike watched in awe as the whirlwind dropped 'floods of water', within a few minutes reaching Rebellion Road 'about four miles below' the city. Five ships were 'sunk in an instant' with all lost on board. Twelve others including a Royal Navy man-of-war, were dismasted. According to one observer, when the wind ceased before four 'branches and leaves which had been hurried along with it began to fall' darkening the sky 'in their descent, after which the sky turned a brilliant blue.10
Grant's war with the Cherokee, meanwhile, against an enemy weakened by a harsh winter, was swift and deadly. After the burning of fifteen towns and 1,400 acres of corn in the lower and middle settlements, the Cherokee sued for peace. Negotiations took place two miles outside Charles Town because the city had cases of smallpox and was in the grip of a yellow fever epidemic. Fear of infection once more emptied the town. Commissioners were appointed to stop the throwing of excrement and 'filth' into the city's defensive moat. Blacks employed as cleaners were upbraided ass lackadaisical and more closely supervised. The exodus of the rich left tradespeople like Daniel struggling to pay the high price of the wood. Four merchants had combined to create 'an artificial dearth' in its supply. For the poor and the blacks the coming winter promised to be a hard one. News of peace finally arrived at with the Cherokee in December. Later that month the arrival of the new governor, Sir Thomas Boone, was greeted by the whites with hope, a military parade, a fanfare of trumpets and a salute of cannons. For Daniel Gordon his slave's life went on as before.11

1Bridenbaugh, Cities in Revolt, pp.31, 35, 60; Olwell, Masters, Slaves and Subjects,p.19; McCandless, Slavery, Disease, and Suffering in the Southern Lowcountry, pp.56, 73; Rogers, Charleston in the Age of the Pinckneys, pp.58-59.
2Ira Berlin, Many Thousands Gone, p.185; Bridenbaugh, Cities in Revolt, pp.148, 167; Book of Negroes,http://www.blackloyalist/info.sourceimagesdisplaypage/transcript. pp.15; McCandless, Slavery, Disease and Suffering in the Southern Low Country, p.238; Rodgers, Charleston in the Age of the Pinckneys, p.37.
3Peter H. Wood, ' “Liberty is Sweet”: …', p.155; Harris, The Hanging of Thomas Jeremiah, pp.75-76; Michael Mullin, Africa in America. Slave Acculturation and Resistance in the American South and the British Caribbean 1736-1831,Urbana, 1994, p.189.
4Tom Hatley, The Dividing Paths. Cherokees and South Carolinians through the Revolutionary Era, New York, 1995, pp.111, 114-115; E Stanley Godbold Jr. and Robert H. Woody, Christopher Gadsden and the American Revolution, Knoxville, 1982, p.26; Hewatt, Historical Account of The Rise and Progress of The Colonies …, p.298; Rogers, Charleston in the Age of the Pinckneys, p.37.
5Rogers, Charleston in the Age of the Pinckneys, p.36; McCandless, Slavery, Disease and Suffering in the Southern Lowcountry, pp.211-214; Godbold and Woody, Christopher Gadsden and the American Revolution, p.27; McDonough, Christopher Gadsden and Henry Laurens, p.26; Peter Turbet, The First Frontier. The Occupation of the Sydney Region, 1788 to 1816, Dural, 2011, pp.40-42; Elizabeth A. Fenn, Pox Americana. The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-1782, New York, 2001, pp.34-35; Hatley, The Dividing Paths, pp.126-127.
6Godbold and Woody, Christopher Gadsden and the American Revolution, pp.25, 27; Hatley, The Dividing Paths, p.129, 125; McCandless, Slavery, Disease and Suffering in the Southern Lowcountry, pp.192-193, 212-213.
7Hatley, The Dividing Paths,pp.72, 125-126, 130, 132, 134, 136-137.
8Hatley, The Dividing Paths, p.135; Bridenbaugh, Cities in Revolt, pp.106, 78; Jeremy Black, George III, America's Last King, New Haven, 2006, p.43.
9John Shy, Toward Lexington. The Role of the British Army in the Coming of the American Revolution, Princeton, 1965, p.104; Morgan, 'Black Life in Eighteenth Century Charleston', p.218; Hewatt, An Historical Account of the Rise and Progress of the Colonies of South Carolina and Georgia, Vol. 2, pp.244-247; Godbold and Woody, Christopher Gadsden and the American Revolution, pp.28-29; Hatley, The Dividing Paths, p.137.
10Hewatt, An Historical Account of the Rise and Progress of the Colonies of South Carolina and Georgia, Vol. 2, pp.256-257; Ramsay, History of South Carolina from its beginnings … Vol. II,pp.172-173.
11Jerome J. Nadelhaft, The Disorders of War. The Revolution in South Carolina, Orono, 1981, p.14; Godbold and Woody, Christopher Gadsden and the American Revolution, pp.29-31, 35; Rogers, Charleston in the Age of the Pinckneys, pp.36-37; Bridenbaugh, Cities in Revolt, pp.234-235, 240; McCandless, Slavery, Disease and Suffering in the Southern Low Country, pp.74-75.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Great Charleston Hurricane 15 September 1752

  Charles Town, South Carolina, had not only to contend with epidemics of yellow fever which swept the town every year 'with great mortality' striking down whites, visiting Native Americans, and even the native-born blacks supposedly more 'seasoned' to local diseases. In 1752 Charles Town experienced a severe summer heatwave while throughout South Carolina 'a general drought prevailed.' All around  plants shrank and withered. 'The atmosphere appeared to glow.' At night people 'lay abroad on the pavements.' Those dying of heat exhaustion were hastily buried, 'in sheets wrung out of tar and [bound] … up tightly with cords.' When the drought did break in late July, 'every shower was accompanied with the most dreadful lightning and thunder.' The lightning, wrote one South Carolinian, 'in one afternoon fell on sixteen different objects in town, including St. Philip's and a meeting house. Several people were struck dead and vessels dismasted on the river. A much older Daniel Gordon many years later at Sydney Cove might have recalled such a storm. Almost from the day of his convict ship arriving there in late January 1788 'not a day [had] gone [by] but ther [had] been Seveer thunder and Lighting.' On the night he had landed, amid the raucous celebrations at finally touching land after an eight month voyage, the promised storm finally broke 'so violent that the thunder shook the' eleven ships moored in the harbour and lightning set fire to the surrounding trees and killed a pig, six sheep and two lambs belonging to Robert Ross, the veteran of Bunker Hill and the siege of Boston.1
Nature had not done with Charles Town. On the evening of 14 September an increasingly violent north-east wind arose and blew through the night. Day broke to a 'suddenly overcast' sky, drizzle, then rain. By now the wind's 'violence was so great that no person could stand against it without support.' At 9 a.m. surging in from the sea 'like a bore', Charles Town's harbor was flooded in a few moments', driving ships, 'sloops, and schooners' smashing into the houses along Bay street. Cattle and hogs drowned in the streets. A vessel carrying Palatines newly arrived was driven as far as the marshes near James Island, where Daniel's relative, Sylvia, then aged three, would spend most of her youth and early womanhood. '[A] channel a hundred yards long, thirty-five feet wide and six feet deep' had to be dug to drag the ship out. The wooden pest house on Sullivan's Island was 'carried six miles up the Cooper river.' Nine of its fifteen occupants disappeared. In Charles Town Daniel Gordon sought refuge in the upper storey of his master's house. “warehouses, scale-houses and sheds upon the wharves, with all the goods in them were swept away, the wreckage from them caught up in a flood ten feet above the high-water mark pouring into surrounding houses. A 'negro wench' was left in the raging storm surge while her master, carried away with her and his family, all lost in the disintegrating house, was snatched to safety from an upper window on the corner of Broad street. She 'saved herself by clinging to a tree.' The 'four to five foot thick' curtain line on Charles Town's land side was 'badly damaged' and other fortifications 'entirely demolished', the shore line bastions 'all beat in', their gun carriages carried out to sea or shattered against fort walls and corners. One 'great' gate at Craven's Bastion was 'burst open onto the street' and never replaced. When the great flood suddenly receded at 11 a.m., 'five hundred houses' had been washed away. Many were dead. 'Nothing was to be seen but ruins of' buildings, 'canows, wrecks of pettiaugers and boats, staves, shingles, household and other goods driven round about the Town', now debris in a sea of mud. Thirty years later a Hessian captain noted 'the city as well as the country soon recovered.' More telling was his observation that 'hardly anyone ever refers to it.' Even allowing for the passing of a generation, that never-ending silence spoke loudly of the trauma of those who had gone through it.2

1Peter McCandless, Slavery, Disease and Suffering in the Southern Lowcountry, New York, 2011, pp.71-72; David Ramsay, History of South Carolina, Vol. 2, Newbury, 1858, pp.37-38, f/ns, [facs.]; The Journal and Letters of Lt. Ralph Clark, 1787-1792, (eds. Paul G. Fidlon and R. J. Ryan), Sydney, 1981, p.96; The Journal of Arthur Bowes Smyth: Surgeon, Lady Penrhyn, 1787-1789, Sydney, 1979, p.67; for the last word on the legend of European Australia's foundational orgy cf. Grace Karskens, The Colony. A History of Early Sydney, Crow's Nest, 2009, pp.313-317.
2Ramsay, History of South Carolina … Vol. II,pp.177-179 and 179-181, f/n*; Book of Negroes,http://www.blackloyalist/info.sourceimagesdisplaypage/transcript. p. 19; Hewatt, Historical Account of The Rise and Progress of The Colonies ...pp.180-182; cited in Rogers, Charleston in the Age of the Pinckneys, pp.28-29; Bridenbaugh, Cities in Revolt, p.19; 'Diary of Captain Hindricks', p.333.

Friday, January 25, 2013

John Moseley on Gwynn's Island - 24 May 1776 to 10 July 1776

Reports had come in to Lord Dunmore's fleet that Gwynn's Island in Chesapeake Bay , fifty miles to the north of the Piankatank River, had 'an excellent Harbor', 'plenty of fresh water', was easily defensible and in the hands of 'many Friends of Government.' After a two day voyage 'with more trouble and difficulty than ever ' Andrew Snape Hamond RN, Roebuck, 'had before experienced' the fleet arrived at Gwynn Island during the late afternoon and early evening of 24 May, anchoring in '4 fathoms.' In the dawn the next day an unwell John Moseley, Ethiopian Regiment, still suffering the effects of smallpox inoculation, woke to the noise and smell of about 'five hundred hogs, sheep and cattle' wafting across from the island. At daybreak, if he had been on deck, he would have seen 'a safe and commodious Harbour' abutting a small island 'three or four Miles in length and one in breadth', separated from the mainland by '½ a Mile' except for 'one place' only two hundred yards from the mainland across a channel fordable at low tide. His safety, and the safety of his comrades, was dependent upon 'the Guns from the Ships.'1
The 'Shattered remains of the Ethiopian Regiment' were presumably put ashore as quickly as possible. Guards from a detachment of the red-coated Marines kept a watchful eye on them. Most of the blacks suffering from smallpox had progressed beyond the early symptoms to highly infectious scabs and pustules. Those who found it difficult to move, let alone walk, were left on the transports, where, every night three or four dead were thrown overboard each night. The lucky ones, like Moseley, who had been inoculated against the disease were marched, unarmed, with sailors and marines 'quite thro the Island.' None of Dunmore's and Hamond's '200 effective Men', sailors, marines, Loyalists or the Ethiopian Regiment saw a single rebel during the morning's reconnaissance. When they tested the wells 'most of [them] … yielded very very bad water.' Once back at the point closest to the mainland Dunmore set up a fort and camp for the whites, relying on the sailors and marines for labour. A separate camp, as far away as possible from the whites was set up for the blacks, men, women and children, with separate brush huts for the infectious and others for the near-well. Even garrison duty was beyond the smallpox-infected on that first day of occupation. By late afternoon Moseley was able to make out small bands of rebels gathering on the mainland across from Dunmore's entrenchments from where they took pot-shots at those setting up the camp and digging the entrenchments. They failed to do 'the least mischief.' From late afternoon of that first day 'six or eight fresh' runaways came every day. Dunmore enrolled them in the Ethiopian Regiment and quartered them in the blacks' smallpox-ridden camp. In the morning bodies drifted ashore to the island and along the mainland, the previous night's dead from Dunmore's fleet, sometimes as many as a dozen at a time. Dunmore's crews, out in boats in the early morning dragging the seine for fish presumably took care to trawl well away from the ships.2
At nine p.m. on 30 May the Otter brought in the expected brig from Antigua, laden with salt and ordnance, and 'a Spanish snow' bound for Philadelphia with '13 Thousand hard Dollars on board … brought from Havana.' Dunmore announced there would be a market the next day. Pigs, cattle and sheep were butchered, an everyday skill. Over everything hung the stench of blood and guts and the stomach-churning reek of smallpox. Moseley and others waited thirteen days to see if newcomers had been inoculated before the disease incubated into infectious sores, pustules and scabs. The daily dead on land, black and white, were buried in shallow graves.3
The smallpox weakened the remaining soldiers of the 14th Regiment and struck down all the Loyalist troops. Moseley and his inoculated comrades, according to Captain Hamond, 'got thro the disorder with great success.' They were put to work digging latrines and building a fort at each end of the island, and digging the entrenchment even deeper opposite the Narrows, where now two thousand rebels were gathering. In the exchanges of fire between the rebels and the British, the rebels suffered casualties, intent on building a battery with which they could wipe Dunmore off the island. Hamond lamented a lack of small ordnance on the island, having distributed everything brought from Antigua to his tenders so they might cattle-raid and otherwise harry the Americans. The blacks had nowhere to flee but a party of fifty marines, undoubtedly terrified of contracting smallpox, deserted on a mainland wood-gathering expedition. John Sprowle, the owner of the Gosport shipyard buried with more ceremony than blacks, women and children in a grave 'neatly done up with turf.' Within days of disembarking, in early June on the King's Birthday, Hamond and Dunmore strove to keep up appearances. Hamond, as was the custom, ordered a full twenty-one gun salute from the men-of-war, to be matched where possible by their tenders and the armoured vessels in Dunmore's fleet.4
Barely had the surviving members of the Ethiopian Regiment, 300 according to one observer, recovered from the smallpox than they fell prey to a virulent fever, probably typhoid. Dunmore 'Separated the Sick from the well, by the breadth of the Island', and tried to keep them apart. Among those kept apart were '25 Negroes, men and women' on the Dunmore in the broad Millford Haven, and among these were probably Patty Moseley and John Moseley's mother. Moseley himself seems to have evaded the new fever. He was put to work beside his fit compatriots stripping the island of its remaining wood for fuel and building, and on the construction and improvement of the various forts and redoubts Dunmore was throwing up at either end and in the middle of the island in the face of constant ineffective musket fire from the rebels on the shore. Moseley's tedium was relieved only by the deaths and burials of those about him. Near the end of June more troops arrived. The Otter brought a prize full of 'Rum from the Barbados', a suitable topic for hope, gossip and merriment. On the 29th, the blacks were distracted as the William transport ran aground on Windmill Bar at seven in the morning and took the whole day to get off. That they could, from time to time watch its progress instead of working was proof enough they were no longer slaves. About the same time Governor Eden, a refugee from Annapolis in Maryland, arrived in the Fowey with his retinue, along with 'several Small Vessels laden with cattle' and more Loyalist volunteers.5
In early July the rebels on the mainland revealed five empty artillery casements to the British toiling across from them. Moseley perhaps observed a British party rowing to the mainland. The rebels demanded Dunmore vacate Gwynn's Island. His answer was to have large parties of men working day and night for several days, including many from the flotilla off-shore, strengthening the island's fortifications, at the end of which Hamond ordered his marines back aboard the Roebuck. By the eighth the Americans had brought from Williamsburg two 18-pounders, two 12-pounders, five 9-pounders, and three 6-pounders, which they kept hidden from the British. They still did not have enough boats canoes or rafts ready for an amphibious assault. In the midst of all this activity conditions on the island only worsened. Its defenders were now entirely reliant on water casks provided by the Royal Navy since the island wells had run dry. The ill continued to die, and were hastily buried in shallow mass graves, or, as was the case with some of the Ethiopian Regiment, not buried at all. Others lay in their huts too sick to move, prostrate and delirious with fever, or in agony with smallpox. Some crawled or dragged themselves down to the water's edge for cooling relief.6
The Dunmore, Lord Dunmore's flagship, had moved closest to the rebel encampment, taking the Otter's station so the latter could retreat and heal and scrape her bottom. Her aim was to prevent the rebels from landing on the island, despite Dunmore judging his gun crews, mostly black, as 'raw and weak.' On board, as we have previously noted, were probably John Moseley's mother and eleven year old Patty Moseley. At eight in the morning of 9 July the rebels ashore suddenly revealed their hidden artillery battery which they had worked on through the night preparing an attack. At a range of '4 or 500 yards' the Americans opened fire on the Dunmore, holeling her hull and doing 'considerable damage.' The Moseley women and other ex-slaves below deck, except for those manning the guns, were probably aware of little else than the screams of their fellows, the acrid smoke, the deafening roar of cannon and lethal splinters of wood let fly by every hit. The boatswain was cut in two by a cannon-ball. Dunmore himself, evidently below deck supervising his inexperienced gunners, was 'wounded in the legs.' His finest china was 'smashed about his ears.' On the island John Moseley was caught in the crossfire of two rebel cannon with the rest of his comrades and 'set Scampering.' All was 'Amazement and Confusion beyond Description' on both sea and land. The Dunmore and most of the fleet were quickly towed out of the enemy's range, for 'there was not a breath of Air Stirring', though 'what little Tide there was drifted [them] from the Shore'. The pounding of Gwynn's Island appears to have gone on all day. Fearful the Americans might land on the island and well aware they were 'too weak to resist any considerable force,' Hamond and Dunmore ordered an evacuation of their stronghold but because of the strength of the American batteries dared not effect it in daylight without risk of considerable casualties and damage to their fleet.7
In the early hours of the morning while it was still dark the British began their evacuation. Moseley and the rest of the surviving blacks were put to work alongside Royal Navy crews quietly taking down tents, loading guns and stowing baggage in waiting muffle-oared boats. The work was not done before daylight, when the Americans in an armed schooner and an armed sloop drove several naval tenders ashore on the island. Their sailors set the tenders on fire but only one of them was completely destroyed. By now the Americans had enough boats, canoes and rafts to invade the island. The landing of the feared 'Shirt-men' started a panic among the British. In the rush to depart Dunmore's people left behind one six-ponder cannon which they hurriedly spiked and 'a considerable Quantity of Baggage.' Not wanting to leave the rebels much of use they burnt down the brush-huts with the fever-ridden dying blacks still in them, departing the island under a cover of thick, greasy smoke, the stench of roasting flesh and the shrieks of burning men in their ears. Much of the Governor's 'worm-eaten' fleet, some 'without sails & Rigging sufficient to Navigate them' had to be towed by Royal Navy boats out of range of the American cannonballs, and by late afternoon was finally huddled under the protection of the well-peppered Fowey and Roebuck.8

1Journal of HM Sloop Otter, Captain Matthew Squire in Morgan (ed.) NDAR, Vol. 5, p. 259; Narrative of Captain Andrew Snape Hamond in ibid.,p. 321; Journal of HMS Roebuck, Captain Andrew Snape Hamond [Sunday 26th May 1776] in ibid., p. 278; cited in Selby, The Revolution in Virginia, p. 105; Deposition of John Emmes, a Delaware pilot, 21.6.1776, in Morgan (ed.) NDAR, Vol. 5, p.668; Captain Andrew Snape Hamond to Commodore Sir Peter Parker, Roebuck at Gwin's Island in Virginia, the 10th June, 1776 in ibid., p.460; Selby, The Revolution in Virginia, p. 105.
2Elizabeth A. Fenn, Pox Americana. The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-82,New York, pp. 58, 18-20; Bernard Ireland, Naval Warfare in the Age of Sail. War at Sea, 1756-1815, London, 2000, p. 208; Narrative of Captain Andrew Snape Hamond, [27th May, 1776] in Morgan, (ed.) NDAR, Vol. 5, p. 322; Deposition of John Ennes, a Delaware Pilot, 212.6.1776, in ibid., p. 668;Pybus, Epic Journeys of Freedom, p. 18;.Journal of HMS Roebuck,Captain Andrew Snape Hamond in NDAR, Vol. 5, p. 278;Lord Dunmore to Lord George Germaine, Ship Dunmore in Gwin Island Harbour, Virginia, 26th June, 1776 in ibid., pp. 756 ff.
3Appendix B. Diary of Miguel Antonio Eduardo [30.5.1776] in Morgan (ed.) NDAR, Vol. 5, p. 1342; Narrative of Captain Andrew Snape Hamond [31st May, 1776] in ibid., p. 322; Journal of HMS Roebuck, Captain Andrew Snape Hamond [Friday 31st May, 1776] in ibid., p.322; Lord Dunmore to Governor Sir Ralph Payne, On Board the Ship Dunmore in Eliza. River Virginia, 6th April 1776 in Clark (ed.) NDAR, Vol. 4, pp. 731-732; Captain Andrew Snape Hamond to Captain George Montagu, HMS Fowey,in Morgan (ed) NDAR, Vol. 5, pp. 342-343; Captain Andrew Snape Hamond to Captain Henry Bellew RN, Gwins Island Chesaqpeake Bay in Virginia, 30th May 1776, in ibid.,p. 312; Fenn, Pox Americana, p. 18; Pybus, Epic Journeys of Freedom, p. 18; Benjamin Quarles, 'Lord Dunmore as Liberator' in William and Mary Quarterly, [henceforth WMQ] Third Series Vol 15, No 4. (October 1958) p. 504; Benjamin Quarles, The Negro in the American Revolution, Chapel Hill, 1996, f/n. 29, p. 30.
4Narrative of Captain Andrew Snape Hamond in Morgan (ed) NDAR, Vol. 5, p.840; Edward Pendleton to Thomas Jefferson, Wmburg, June 1, 1776 in ibid., p. 342; Captain Andrew Snape Hamond Rn to Governor Patrick Tonyn, [East Florida] in ibid., p. 442; Captain Andrew Snape Hamond to Captain George Montagu HNS Fowey in ibid., pp. 342-343; Extract of a Letter from an Officer in St. Mary's County, Maryland, dated the ninth ult. [June 1776] in ibid.,p. 441; Dixon and Hunter's Virginia Gazette, Saturday, June 8, 1776, in ibid., p. 451; Purdie's Virginia Gazette, Friday, July 17th, 1776 in ibid., pp. 149-150; Captain Andrew Snape Hamond to Captain George Montagu, Fowey, Roebuck off Gwin Island in Virginia 3d June 1776 in ibid., p. 365.
5Diary of Miguel Antonio Eduardo [23.6.1776] in Morgan (ed.) NDAR, Vol. 5, p. 1344; Lord Dunmore to Lord George Germaine, Ship Dunmore in Gwin Island Harbour, Virginia, 26th June, 1776 in ibid., pp. 756 ff; Fenn, Pox Americana, p. 59; Extract from E. Johnson to Lt. Col. Alexander Summerville, Calvert County, [Maryland], June 22d 1776 in Morgan, (ed.) NDAR,Vol. 5, p. 685; Journal of HMS Roebuck, Captain Andrew Snape Hamond, [25.6.1776] in ibid.,pp. 742-3; Ibid., p. 820; Narrative of Captain Andrew Snape Hamond in ibid., pp. 841 and 1080.
6Diary of Miguel Antonio Eduardo [5/7.71776] in Morgan (ed.) NDAR, Vol. 5, pp. 1345-1346;Selby, The Revolution in Virginia, p. 135; Purdie's Virginia Gazette,Friday, July 17th, 1776 in Morgan, (ed.)NDAR, Vol. 5, pp. 149-150; Extract of a letter from Williamsburg, Virginia, July 13, 1776 in ibid., p.1068.
7Narrative of Captain Andrew Snape Hamond, [HMS Roebuck,July 8th to July 14th, 1776] in Morgan, (ed.) NDAR, Vol. 5, pp.1078-1079; Lord Dunmore to Lord George Germaine, Ship Dunmore, in Potomac River, Virginia, 21st July, 1776, in ibid., p. 1312; Brigadier-General Andrew Lewis to Richard Henry Lee, Williamsburg, July 15, 1776 in ibid., pp. 1094-1095; Purdie's Virginia Gazette, Friday, July 17th , 1776 in ibid., pp. 1149-50;
8Narrative of Captain Andrew Snape Hamond, [HMS Roebuck,July 8th to July 14th, 1776] in Morgan, (ed.) NDAR, Vol. 5, pp.1078-1079;Brigadier-General Andrew Lewis to Richard Henry Lee, Williamsburg, July 15, 1776 in ibid., pp. 1094-1095; Selby, The American Revolution in Virginia, p. 135; Diary of Eduardo Miguel Antonio, [10.7.1776], in Morgan, (ed.) NDAR, Vol. 5, p. 1346.

Monday, January 7, 2013

With Lord Dunmore on Tucker's Point - A Runaway Slave's Perspective.

Tucker's Point was a few miles west of Portsmouth. In addition to his five other warships Dunmore now belatedly had the help of HMS Roebuck, 74 guns, captained by Andrew Snape Hamond. Hamond brought with him five hundred seamen and marines, ready to repel a rumoured attack by the nascent American Navy. By the time John Moseley arrived at Tucker's Point in mid-March, two weeks after the brief sojourn of General Henry Clinton's Mercury with two transports, on his way to Cape Fear, the four acre site was protected by an eight foot deep entrenchment which ran the quarter-mile between the coves on each side of the point. Along with its windmills it now had several wells and two bake-ovens. Barracks were under construction. They were intended for the isolation of sailors suffering from an epidemic of ' Ague and fever [i.e. typhus] on board the Otter'. In the cramped, fetid, lice-ridden conditions of Dunmore's little fleet the disease quickly spread to the Ethiopian Regiment. One hundred and fifty blacks were supposedly 'tumbled into the deep to regale the sharks which … swam thereabouts', language designed to terrify prospective runaway slaves out of joining the British. Moseley avoided the typhus, perhaps because he was a new recruit in clean-clothes, and land-based, working as one of 400 laborers at Tucker's Point, protected by the Liverpool and Otter in Hampton Roads. Alongside his comrades under Major Thomas Byrd, he underwent military training at least every evening. News of their presence evoked both ridicule and fear in the rebel press where they were described as 'runaway and stolen Negroes' marching to the martial air of 'Hungry Niger, parch'd Corn!'1
In Williamsburg the Edward Hack Moseleys were finally discharged from their parole but because of their closeness to Lord Dunmore the Committee of Safety insisted they move at least thirty miles inland. Their slaves were to be taken by the militia. Fearful of being sent to the West Indies or to the Fincastle lead-mines the Ralleston Hall blacks bolted. Among them were John Moseley's mother and his eleven-year-old relative, Patty. All of them sought refuge at Tucker's Point, hopeful of shelter in 'pretty good barracks', news of which had spread to the plantations by word-of-mouth. Food supply was now improved, as Hamond's men-of-war in raiding activities around Chesapeake Bay had brought in 'Six small Vessels, laden with Flour, Indian Corn, Tobacco and Groceries.' Young Patty, if she had reached Tucker's Point by 21 March, watched wide-eyed from the shore as one of the naval tenders pursued, fired on and set fire to a rebel sloop near Hampton Harbor.2
One early April afternoon the blacks labouring under cloudy skies at Tucker's Point ran to man the entrenchment against a rebel attack. Marines and seamen stationed on the point looked to 'the great quantity of cannon', but it was a false alarm. John Moseley remained unblooded. The only action was naval action offshore. A French sloop was apprehended, its crew put in irons. In mid April the rebels set part of Portsmouth on fire but were chased away by cannon from the Otter. Not until the end of the month did the rebel general sent south by George Washington, Charles Lee, force the small town's evacuation over five days. Dunmore did nothing, despite apparently having surplus ammunition. Every day six to eight more runaway slaves had come to join him, but most were untrained and a fair proportion were aged, or women and children. One of them had smallpox and the disease began to hit the blacks disproportionately. 3
Racked by fear of infection, with little hope of avoiding or surviving the epidemic, Moseley must have viewed his future with an unrelieved bleakness. Not entirely unexpected events though, would provide unlooked-for hope. Alerted through his spies of a rebel plan to storm the fleet with fireships and 'desperadoes' 'with the greatest Secrecy at the Dead of Night', Dunmore sent a desperate plea for help to Captain Andrew Snape Hamond, off the Virginia Capes, who was preparing to join Henry Clinton's expedition to the Carolinas. Hamond came, and aghast at the spread of smallpox among the black troops, recommended an immediate evacuation of Tucker's Point. A quick count at daybreak before embarkation revealed that Dunmore, out of all his ex-slaves, had only '150 Negro men' left in his Ethiopian Regiment, among them Moseley. Three hundred graves, victims of typhus and smallpox, were testimony to the Governor's continued defiance. His refugee fleet was now ninety strong, but even with help from the Royal Navy ships, lacked hands to sail it. Hamond made an immediate decision to leave behind and burn up to six sloops and schooners to the waterline lest they fall into enemy hands. With un-infected ex-slaves presumably isolated on the one vessel, the naval surgeons began inoculations immediately. Each one inoculated was incapable of hard work for several weeks. Probably about this time Moseley was first inoculated. Certainly he was immune to the disease when he landed in New South Wales in 1788. Passengers relocated on other vessels watched the raging flames and thick smoke do their work. Forty-five thousand bushels of salt, an essential preservative for meat and fish, especially in the Virginian summer, were apparently dumped into the Elizabeth River, lest it should fall into rebel hands. Like many others John Moseley no doubt pondered what such desperate acts might augur for the future.4
1Hast, Loyalism in Revolutionary Virginia, p. 60; Mapp, 'The “Pirate Peer” …' in Eller (ed.) Chesapeake Bay in the American Revolution, p. 90; Selby, Dunmore,p. 51; Journal of HMS Liverpool, Captain Henry Bellew, in Clark (ed.) NDAR,Vol. 3, p. 1293; Extract of a Letter from a Gentleman in Norfolk to his Friend in Glasgow, dated Schooner Bay, Norfolk Harbour, in Wheeler (ed.) Letters on the American Revolution, p. 261; Captain Andrew Snape Hamond to Vice-Admiral Molyneux Shuldham … 5th March, 1776 in Clark (ed.) NDAR, Vol. 4, p. 182; Sidney Kaplan and Emma Nogrady Kaplan, The Black Presence in the Era of the the American Revolution, Amherst, 1989, p. 77; not to be confused with the later far more devastating outbreak of smallpox among the Ethiopian Regiment, (though it frequently is); Syrett, The Royal Navy in American Waters, 1775-1783, p. 17; McDonnell, The Politics of War,p. 177; Captain Andrew Snape Hamond To Captain Henry Bellew RN, Roebuck, off Hampton Road in Virginia. 19Th March, 1776, in Clark, (ed) NDAR, Vol. 4, p.414; Winthrop D. Jordan, White over Black. Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812, Baltimore, 1969,p. 303; Tate, The Negro in Eighteenth Century Williamsburg,pp. 117-118.
2Pybus, Epic Journeys of Freedom, p.13; The Book of Negroes, Book One, Pt. 2 ; Cassandra Pybus, Black Founders. The unknown story of Australia's first black settlers, Sydney, 2006, p. 20; Journal of Captain Andrew Snape Hamond, 20th March [1776], in Clark (ed) NDAR, Vol. 4, p. 427; Journal of HM Schooner Hinchinbrook,Lieut. Alexander Ellis, March 22, 1776 in ibid.,p. 458.
3Journal of HMS Liverpool, Captain Henry Bellew, [5.4.1776] in Clark (ed.) NDAR, Vol. 4, p. 691; Purdie's Virginia Gazette,Friday, April 12, 1776, in ibid.,p. 792;Dixon and Hunter's Virginia Gazette, Saturday, May 4, 1776 in ibid., p. 1410; Journal of H.M. Sloop Otter, Captain Matthew Squire, [19/22. 4. 1776] in ibid.,p. 1200 and 1209; Hast, Loyalism in Revolutionary Virginia, pp. 63-62; Purdie's Virginia Gazette Supplement, Friday, April 26, 1776 in Clark (ed.) NDAR, Vol. 4, p. 1273.
4'Information of another Spy 11th May, 1776 in William James Morgan (ed.) NDAR,Vol 5, Washington, 1970, pp. 57-58; Selby, The Revolution in Virginia, p. 104; Narrative of Captain Andrew Snape Hamond, [16th May, 1776], in Morgan (ed.) NDAR, Vol. 5, pp. 320-321; Kaplan and Kaplan, The Black Experience in the Era of the American Revolution, p. 77; Hast, Loyalism in Revolutionary Virginia, p. 65; Selby, Dunmore, pp. 56-57; Deposition of William Barry, [Newcastle], June 11, 1776 in Morgan, NDAR, Vol. 5, p. 683.Narrative of Captain Andrew Snape Hamond, [16th May, 1776], in Morgan (ed.) NDAR, Vol. 5, pp. 320-321; Alan Frost, 'The Curse of Cain? The 1789 'smallpox' epidemic at Port Jackson' in Alan Frost, Botany Bay Mirages. Illusions of Australia's Convict Beginnings, Melbourne, 1994, pp. 194-197. Richard lee to Landon Carter, Wmsburgh May 24 1776 in ibid., p. 240.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Jack Moseley - Slave Childhood in Revolutionary Virginia

Jack Moseley was born to a slave mother about 1758 on Edward Hack Moseley's 560 acre Rolleston Hall, Princess Anne County, Virginia, close to the port of Portsmouth on Chesapeake Bay. His master, (and probably his father), Edward Hack Moseley, one of the most prominent Virginia planters, a burgess in the Virginia General Assembly, militia colonel, sheriff and vestryman at Lynnhaven Parish Church, bestowed the name, Jack, on the boy. Young Jack bore the surname all his life, though for a brief time in London, either as an assertion of his independence, or as a criminal alias to avoid detection for defrauding the Royal Navy, he was known as John Shore. One of his enduring childhood memories was undoubtedly of Hack Moseley's 'famous wig and shining buckles', though not as enduring as the memory of being a slave with every facet of his life controlled at Moseley's whim or the memory of the hard labour to which he would soon be put.1
Practically from the day of his birth, Jack was carried into the tobacco fields 'tied onto [his mother's] back with a bandage.' There he would be laid down uncovered on the ground, and suckled for a few minutes when hungry. Some masters, and Moseley was probably one, were solicitous of the mothers and newborn, while others were not, ordering their overseers not to allow the new mothers to interrupt the hoeing and planting by stopping to feed their babes, at the risk of a flogging. Once weaned, though, Jack was left behind at the slave quarters to play in the care of the very old or of children barely out of infancy themselves, while his parents went off to work in the tobacco or wheat fields 'sunup to sundown'. Such an idyll would not last long.2
At the age of five Jack would have been put to work in the tobacco fields for the first time, probably in the summer. His job, alongside the other young children new to the fields, was to pick off the tobacco worms and their eggs which grew on the underside of the leaf. The work was only part-time. At nine, or perhaps as early as seven, Jack was expected to be half as productive as the adults. Weeding and transplanting began in April once the frosts were gone. Children did not engage in the frenetic task of making beds for the tobacco, at the rate of 350 a day at less than two minutes per bed, a speed that left workers near collapse with exhaustion by sunset. About 28,000 plants were seeded every day. Transplanting the new shoots of tobacco from these seedbeds after each summer shower had to be done quickly. Every slave on the plantation was put to the task, again at a speed that fatigued. Soon enough, Jack Moseley was old enough to join them, as part of a hard-pressed work-gang. Inexperienced workers like Jack were not allowed to remove the selected plants from their beds. They took on the less skilled tasks of weeding and replanting, which took all summer. Children in the gangs quickly learned from their elders to progress at the pace set by fellow-workers, always one slower that that demanded by the white overseers. In the late summer the vast numbers of tobacco stalks were split and left to wilt. Gathered up, the plants were left to hang and dry in the tobacco houses all through the fall and winter. Early the next year a closely supervised Jack would kept stripping, sorting, bundling and packing the tobacco leaf in hogsheads, this latter job one that required great physical effort and left one with aching muscles, and shoulders bruised by the rod if not done fast enough. Much of that work was done at night by firelight,breaking into the slaves' sparse recreation time.3
Tobacco cultivation was not the only onerous duty demanded of Jack and his fellows. Particularly during Moseley's childhood Virginia was in the grip of a tobacco glut. One observer noted 'the country is so excessively poor that even the industrious frugal men can scarcely live, and the least slip in our economy would be fatal.' Planters diversified into wheat and corn in a desperate attempt to recoup a profit. Slave-owners shortened or got rid of the lunch break in the field. Holidays other than Christmas, Whitsunday and Easter were cut. On some plantations Saturday became a full working day. Wheat was sown in the autumn, and sowing was a task well suited to children Jack Moseley's age. Harvest came in July, after the tobacco had been transplanted, and again, all hands were put into the field to work quickly before the wheat fell to seed. Then came the threshing, sometimes into the night, further encroaching on limited leisure time.4 By the earliest age young Jack Moseley saw before him nothing but a life of endless exploitative toil, bother for himself and any future progeny.
At ten Jack would have left his mother's quarters and gone to live with relatives or in an all-male barracks. Wherever he moved to, it would have been to a log house, the gaps between the logs caked with dried mud, surprisingly cool in summer and warm in winter. Quarters were sparsely furnished, but Jack perhaps acquired an iron pot and ceramic bowls and jars to eat from. Food was coarse, usually a ground corn-meal that could be baked while in the fields into a cake, molasses and possibly some buttermilk. Whisky and rum were kept for Christmas, though Moseley does not seem to have been much of a drinker. His garb, at least as a field hand, was 'an old blue jacket and trowsers', and presumably 'coarse shoes'.
The slaves would gather together every night to play music, especially the fiddle, and dance, however hard the day's work. On Saturday they could tend to their own gardens, if they had a pass from the master visit family or friends on nearby plantations. On Sundays there was gambling, usually on cockfights, sleeping and church. Jack Moseley appears to have been brought up a devout Christian, probably Anglican, because his master was Anglican, though the Baptist fervour of the first Great Awakening would not have passed him by. He worshipped up the back of the Lynnhaven Parish Church, where Edward Hack Moseley was a vestryman. Thus, he again came to his master's notice.5
Jack's piety was impressive enough for Edward Hack Moseley to apprentice him as a waterman. The job was not prestigious; he still came into regular contact still with the field-hands loading and unloading at the plantation wharf but it was not as monotonous or backbreaking as working in the tobacco fields and houses. The work gave him mobility, transporting hogsheads and bags of wheat in scows to nearby Portsmouth and busy Norfolk. Here, too, he probably got to know and fell under the influence of a slightly older slave named Daniel. Apparently he was able to make some money working for himself, which was not unusual for watermen, who could hire themselves out for the rest of the day like any other slave artisan once they had completed their allotted tasks. He grew familiar with Chesapeake Bay and 'most of the Rivers in Virginia and Maryland.' With the fulfilling work came a sense of pride and self-worth. Before long, his master was describing him as 'artful' with 'a surly look' which can probably be read as meaning he was intelligent and developing a sense of independence. Like many watermen he began to dress with a sense of style. By the age of seventeen he had Sunday apparel of 'a new dark Russia drab coat and breeches with white metal buttons'; and owned '2 shirts' and '2 white jackets.'6
Shortly afterJack Moseley's eleventh Christmas brought news on the slave telegraph of a bloody slave revolt upstream in Hanover County Forty or more slaves seized the overseer on their plantation and whipped him 'from neck to waistband' in revenge for their own frequent punishment and fought back, trapped in a barn when local whites tried to bring the rebellion to an end. In a lesson to slaves everywhere, three blacks were killed and five others wounded in retribution. Many of the others were tried and hung. In January 1770, the next year, in Hanover and in the counties of York and James City news of an increasing number of runaways from there spread through the black community. Then, in the spring of 1771 Virginia had the greatest flood in its history, swelling the James and Rappahanock Rivers. It wiped out those same counties already plagued by an increased incidence of runaways. The 'almost general Calamity' took 150 lives, swept away or submerged riverside warehouses, drove larger vessels ashore, capsized many smaller boats, endangered shipping with uprooted floating trees, and washed topsoil and thousands of hogsheads of tobacco away. Neither Portsmouth nor Norfolk are singled out in accounts of the Great Freshet so we can assume Ralleston Hall was affected only by minor flooding, if at all. Nevertheless, unease was heightened by the possibility of Britain going to war with Spain over the Falkland Islands. Troops were recruited in Norfolk. Rumours swept the blacks working on the wharves and ships, Jack among them, that 'in Bermuda Owners of Vessels generally' procured ' passes for their Slaves as Freemen, in case they should be taken by the Enemy.' One Bermuda-born slave, on this basis, laid claim to his freedom. Whipped up by sailors and watermen like Jack, frissons of hope swept the slave households, horror the whites. Gossip about the eagerly awaited new Governor, who people knew had been forced to give up the more lucrative post of New York for Virginia, and deeply resented having to do so, did not impress the white majority.. In a drunken midnight frolic John Murray, Lord Dunmore, 'destroyed the coach and cut the tails from the horses' of New York's Chief Justice. When he was expected to arrive, only his dogs and baggage sailed down from New York. When he finally did turn up, in September 1771, women pronounced him handsome, men, in hindsight, thought 'his chin a little too weak, his mouth petulant.' Apart from his penchant for drunkenness, cruel practical jokes and his beautiful wife, he seemed yet another nondescript, boorish, imperial official who would come and go with little effect on the fortunes of the colony.7

1Ralleston Hall, Virginia, http:www.ralestonhalluk/hall/virginia.htm ; Pybus, Epic Journeys of Freedom, p.8; Ann Waters Yasinke, Virginia Beach. A History of Virginia's Golden Shore, Charleston, 2002, p.66;Gary B. Nash, 'Forging Freedom. The Emancipation Experience in the Northern Seaport Cities', in Ira Berlin and Ronald Hoffman, Slavery and Freedom in the Age of the American Revolution, Charlottesville, 1983, p.23; Old Bailey Proceedings Online. ( version 6.0 17 April 2011) April 1784. John Moseley t17840421-17; Allen Kulikoff, Tobacco and Slaves. The Development of Southern Cultures in the Chesapeake, 1680-1800, Chapel Hill, 1986, pp. 387-388.
2Philip D. Morgan, Slave Counterpoint. Black Culture in the Eighteenth Century Chesapeake & Low-country, Chapel Hill, 1998, p.200; Kulikoff, Tobacco and Slaves, pp. 73, 94, 372-3; Michael Mullin, Africa in America. Slave Acculturation and Resistance in the American South and the British Caribbean, 1736-1831, Urbana, 1994, p. 169; Edmund S. Morgan, Virginians at Home. Family Life in the Eighteenth Century, Williamsburg, 1952, pp. 65-66; Robin Blackburn, The Making of New World Slavery. From the Baroque to the Modern 1492-1800, London, 1988, p. 462.
3Kenneth M. Stamp, The Peculiar Institution. Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South, New York, 1956, p. 49; Morgan, Slave Counterpoint, pp. 19, 167,188,198. It is estimated there were about 80 slaves working on the various home plantations of the 100 leading Virginia planters, among whom Edward Hack Moseley should certainly be included. Cf. Thad. W. Tate, The Negro in Eighteenth Century Williamsburg, Williamsburg, 1965, p. 21; John Richard Alden, The South in the Revolution, 1763-1789, Urbana, 1957, p. 19; Kulikoff, Tobacco and Slaves, p. 373.
4Joseph A Ernst, 'The Political Economy of the Chesapeake Colonies 1760-1775: A study in Comparative History', in Ronald Hoffman, J. McCusker, Russell R. Manard, & Peter J. Abbott, (eds.) The Economy of Early America. The Revolutionary Period, 1763-1790, New York, 1960, p. 183; Marc Egnal, A Mighty Empire. The Origins of the American Revolution, Ithaca, 1988, p. 145; Loren S. Walsh, 'Slave Life, Slave Society and Tobacco Production in the Tidewater Chesapeake, 1620-1820' in Ira Berlin and Philip D. Morgan, (ed.) Cultivation and Culture. Labor and the Shaping of Slave Life in the Americas, Charlottesville, 1993, pp. 179-180; Ira Berlin, Many Thousands Gone. The First Two Centuries of Slavery in America, Cambridge, Mass. 1998, p. 116; Morgan, Slave Counterpoint, pp. 170-172.
5Kulikoff, Tobacco and Slaves, pp. 369, 371; Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, (ed. Frank Shuffelton), New York, 1999, p. 158; Morgan, Slave Counterpoint, pp. 111, 114; Robert McColley, Slavery and Jeffersonian Virginia, 2nd. Edition, Urbana, 1973, pp. 61-63; Virginia Gazette or Norfolk Intelligencer, 26.7.1775 24.4.2012, Virginia Runaways Project; Winthrop D. Jordan, White over Black. American Attitudes Toward the Negro 1550-1812, Baltimore, 1969, p. 131; Stephen A Marini, 'Religion, politics and Ratification' in Ronald Hoffman and Peter J. Albert, (eds.) Religion in a Revolutionary Age, Charlottesville, 1994, p. 197; Holton, Black Americans in the Revolutionary Era,p. 3.
6 Morgan, Slave Counterpoint, pp. 238, 234; Virginia Gazette or Norfolk Intelligencer, 26.7.1775 24.4.2012, Virginia Runaways Project; W. Jeffrey Bolster, Black Jacks. African American Seamen in the Age of Sail, Cambridge, Mass., 1997, p. 25; Gerald W. Mullin, Flight and Rebellion. Slave Resistance in Eighteenth Century Virginia, Oxford, p. 51.
7Gary B. Nash, The Unknown American Revolution. The Unruly Birth of Democracy and the Struggle to Create America, London, 2007, p. 117;Tate, The Negro in Eighteenth Century Williamsburg, p.113; Arthur Pierce Middleton, Tobacco Coast. A Maritime History of the Chesapeake in the Colonial Era, Baltimore, 1984, pp. 58-59; Michael A. McDonnell, The Politics of War. Race, Class and Conflict in Revolutionary Virginia, Williamsburg, 2007, pp. 24-25; John Shy, Toward Lexington. The Role of the British Army in the Coming of the American Revolution, Princeton, 1965, pp. 391-392; Philip D. Morgan, 'British Encounters with Africans and African Americans circa 1600-1780' in Bernard Bailyn and Philip D. Morgan, (eds.) Strangers within the Realm. Cultural Margins of the First British Empire,Chapel Hill, 1991, p. 195; Merrill Jensen, The Founding of a Nation. A History of the American Revolution, 1763-1776, Indianapolis, 2004, pp. 392-393; Alf J. Mapp, '' 'The Pirate Peer”: Lord Dunmore's Operations in Chesapeake Bay' in Ernest O'Neill Eller, Chesapeake Bay in the American Revolution, Centreville, 1981, p. 56