1. Welcome to the CivilWarTalk, a forum for questions and discussions about the American Civil War! Become a member today for full access to all of our resources, it's fast, simple, and absolutely free!
Dismiss Notice
Join and Become a Patron at CivilWarTalk!
Support this site with a monthly or yearly subscription! Active Patrons get to browse the site Ad free!
START BY JOINING NOW!

Amy Spain, Martyr to Hope

Discussion in 'The Ladies Tea' started by John Hartwell, Feb 18, 2017.

  1. John Hartwell

    John Hartwell Captain Forum Host

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2011
    Messages:
    6,143
    Location:
    Central Massachusetts
    0613w500.jpg
    As a belated tribute to Black History Month, I offer the tragic story of Amy Spain of Darlington, S.C., as told in Harper's Weekly, September 30, 1865:


    One of the martyrs of the cause which gave freedom to her race was that of a colored woman named Amy Spain, who was a resident of the town of Darlington, situated in a rich cotton-growing district of South Carolina. At the time a portion of the Union army occupied the town of Darlington she expressed her satisfaction by clasping her hands and exclaiming, "Bless the Lord the Yankees have come!" She could not restrain her emotions. The long night of darkness which had bound her in slavery was about to break away. It was impossible to repress the exuberance of her feelings; and although powerless to aid the advancing deliverers of her caste, or to injure her oppressors, the simple expression of satisfaction at the event sealed her doom. Amy Spain died in the cause of freedom. A section of Sherman's cavalry occupied the town, and without doing any damage passed through. Not an insult nor an unkind word was said to any of the women of that town. The men had, with guilty consciences, fled; but on their return, with their traditional chivalry, they seized upon poor Army, and ignominiously hung her to a sycamore-tree standing in front of the court-house, underneath which stood the block from which was monthly exhibited the slave chattels that were struck down by the auctioneer's hammer to the highest bidder.

    Amy Spain heroically heard her sentence, and from her prison bars declared she was prepared to die. She defied her persecutors; and as she ascended the scaffold declared she was going to a place where she would receive a crown of glory. She was rudely interrupted by an oath from one of her executioners. To the eternal disgrace of Darlington her execution was acquiesced in and witnessed by most of the citizens of the town. Amy was launched into eternity, and the "chivalric Southern gentlemen" of Darlington had fully established their bravery by making war upon a defenseless African woman. She sleeps quietly, with others of her race, near the beautiful village. No memorial marks her grave, but after-ages will remember this martyr of liberty. Her persecutors will pass away and be forgotten, but Amy Spain's name is now hallowed among the Africans, who, emancipated and free, dare, with the starry folds of the flag of the free floating over them, speak her name with holy reverence.
     

  2. (Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)
  3. Pat Young

    Pat Young Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host Featured Book Reviewer

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2013
    Messages:
    19,241
    Location:
    Long Island, NY
    What was the rationale for the execution?
     
  4. John Hartwell

    John Hartwell Captain Forum Host

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2011
    Messages:
    6,143
    Location:
    Central Massachusetts
    I don't know. It's only speculation, but I suppose it was that she was a slave who had stolen from her master. Also, she was an outspoken advocate of servile resistance, and partisan of the enemy. Her execution is tragic, but really not surprising -- that she should be punished is in line with the norms and practices of southern society. Antebellum, she would probably have been whipped and sold away; but with the war so close, they probably felt a need to make an example of her. It was de rigueur of a corrupt and brutal system.

    The real tragedy is that because of difficulty in crossing the river, the main body of Sherman's army by-passed Darlington, and only a small cavalry detachment passed through the city, but did not occupy it. The poor lady must have been anticipating freedom for a long time, and celebrated too soon. A victim of her own hopes.
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2017
  5. TerryB

    TerryB Major

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2008
    Messages:
    8,923
    Location:
    Nashville TN
  6. Pat Young

    Pat Young Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host Featured Book Reviewer

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2013
    Messages:
    19,241
    Location:
    Long Island, NY
    TerryB likes this.
  7. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Colonel Forum Host

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2012
    Messages:
    13,450
    Location:
    Central Pennsylvania
    Missed this, somehow, months ago. Deserves a bump, in case anyone else missed her story, too.
     
  8. John Hartwell

    John Hartwell Captain Forum Host

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2011
    Messages:
    6,143
    Location:
    Central Massachusetts
    I find that Eugene Fallon, in the Augusta Chronicle of May 10, 1959, gave a more detailed account of Amy's story based, apparently, on some local tradition. Attached is a pdf of that article which, unfortunately, becomes nearly illegible towards he end.

    After speaking of 19 year old mulatto Amy and her brother Willie, 22, "who, up until Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation [!] had belonged to Major A. C. Spain of Darlington," Fallon goes on to describe the arrival of the Yankees, their behavior in Darlington, and final withdrawal. He also talks of some of the 'plundering' carried out by Amy and Willie -- most of which is reasonably legible in the pdf. The next few paragraphs I transcribe as best I can read them:

    “According to Mamie Spain Hayden’s account, it was not a 'Mob of Darlington citizens who hanged Amy,' but the hard-driving cavalry of Wheeler. Wheeler, driving into Darlington, contacted the Maine Second Regiment two miles west of Florence, and soundly defeated them in battle. Arriving back in Darlington, the Confederates were appalled to find the conditions what they were.

    “Robbery and violence came hard on the heels of the Yankee troops. Negroes were pillaging homes of their former masters right and left. Gaping warehouses were everywhere in evidence. Barefooted former slaves walked boldly down the streets with stolen ‘stovepipe’ hats atop their heads, flourishing gold-topped walking sticks which had not been purchased.

    “But now the shoe was on the other foot. Soon to Wheeler came a delegation of citizens with pertinent information. Amy Spain, they said, was a ringleader. It was she who had pointed out to the Yankees the burial-places of much of the town’s silver plate and other treasures.

    “Wheeler thought it over. War is a stern taskmaster. Something would have to be done. His cavalry could not remain at Darlington very long: there were battles to be fought and precious little troops with which to fight them. An example must be made. Amy must swing.

    “The order went out . Amy was not captured immediately. It was not until the next morning. [2 illegible lines]

    “She was placed in a wagon. A rope was thrown over her head. She was asked the whereabouts of her brother Willie. She refused to give the information. It may well be that had Amy turned in her brother, he would have replaced her on the gallows."


    I can make little or nothing of the last couple of paragraphs of the pdf. Nor can I find anything online about "Mamie Spain Hayden’s account" of the story, which I assume to be local lore.
     

    Attached Files:

  9. JOHN42768

    JOHN42768 2nd Lieutenant Trivia Game Winner

    Joined:
    May 1, 2015
    Messages:
    2,787
    Location:
    Upstate N.Y.
  10. Dave Wilma

    Dave Wilma 2nd Lieutenant

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2011
    Messages:
    3,171
    Location:
    Elliott Bay
    I did a search in the the LoC Chronicling America and could not come up with any stories mentioning Amy Spain and Darlington. Given the level of journalistic practice of the era I want to know where Harper's got the story.
     
    James N. likes this.
  11. John Hartwell

    John Hartwell Captain Forum Host

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2011
    Messages:
    6,143
    Location:
    Central Massachusetts
    In June 1866, The Vermont Christian Messenger, retells the story at still greater length (see attachment, first two columns). It includes the passage:
    amys.png
    I have not yet found any Darlington newspapers of the period online to check the story.

    For those with a Newspapers.com subscription (I don't) there is a 1959, Florence, SC article about Amy Spain:"Darlington's last hanging" online at https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/66791730/
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Oct 12, 2017 at 2:31 PM
    mofederal and NH Civil War Gal like this.
  12. John Hartwell

    John Hartwell Captain Forum Host

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2011
    Messages:
    6,143
    Location:
    Central Massachusetts
    Persistence pays off!
    The Charleston Courier of 7 October 1865, quotes Major Spain's remarks in the Darlington New Era:
    amyspain4.png
    So clearly, the Harper's article was based in fact, however those facts are to be interpreted. The paper's protestations of sympathy with the young woman's joy at liberation, yet avowal of the justice of her execution, and inocense of the good people of Darlington makes for strange, and not very persuasive reading.
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2017 at 2:55 PM
  13. Pat Young

    Pat Young Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host Featured Book Reviewer

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2013
    Messages:
    19,241
    Location:
    Long Island, NY
    Thanks.
     
  14. Dave Wilma

    Dave Wilma 2nd Lieutenant

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2011
    Messages:
    3,171
    Location:
    Elliott Bay
    A Confederate court martial.
     
    NH Civil War Gal and Pat Young like this.
  15. matthew mckeon

    matthew mckeon Brigadier General Moderator

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2005
    Messages:
    10,740
    Seventeen years old.
     
    JPK Huson 1863 and John Hartwell like this.
  16. roberts

    roberts Sergeant Trivia Game Winner

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2014
    Messages:
    622
    The article states its source was Catsiy Spain Wood who got the account from her older sister Mamie (Mary) Spain Hayden who died in 1937. They were daughters of Major Albertus Spain who had formerly been Amy and Willie's master. He unsuccessfully pled for her life at the court martial. Amy was buried in the best dress belonging to Barbara Spain, the oldest sister.
     
  17. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Colonel Forum Host

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2012
    Messages:
    13,450
    Location:
    Central Pennsylvania
    Found another account ( rats, on the other computer ), in the middle of an article on Darlington. Major Spain is indeed spoken of very well and Darlington horrified at what occurred. The tree where she died was already a dreadful landmark and unlike some places where you see tragic events, there's no ugly second story within Darlington.
     
    roberts likes this.

(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)

Share This Page


(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)