East Tennessee's Parson Brownlow & Black Confederates

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Dec 31, 2010
Kingsport, Tennessee
Following the unsuccessful Bridge-Burnings in East Tennessee in November 1861, Confederate leaders immediately suspected Parson Brownlow of complicity, but he denied any involvement in the attacks. He was imprisoned with other Unionists in the Knoxville Jail



According to Wikipedia, "Brownlow asked for permission to leave the state, which was granted by Confederate Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin. On December 6, as he was in Knoxville preparing to leave, however, Knox County Commissioner Robert B. Reynolds and Confederate States District Attorney John Crozier Ramsey (a son of Confederate States treasury agent J. G. M. Ramsey, the elder who Brownlow earlier in that year referred to as "the vain old historian of Tennessee") arrested and jailed Brownlow on charges of treason. While jailed, Brownlow witnessed the trials and last moments of many of the condemned bridge-burners, which he recorded in a diary. He sent a letter to Benjamin protesting his incarceration, writing, "which is your highest authority, the Secretary of War, a Major General, or a dirty little drunken attorney such as J.C. Ramsey is!" After Benjamin threatened to pardon Brownlow, he was released in late December 1861.


Brownlow's daughter, Susan, threatening Confederate soldiers who sought to remove the American flag from the Brownlows' home in Knoxville

Brownlow was escorted to Nashville (which the Union Army had captured) and crossed over into Union-controlled territory on March 3, 1862. His struggle against secession had made him a celebrity in northern states, and he embarked upon a speaking tour, starting with speeches in Cincinnati and Dayton in early April. He spoke alongside Indiana governor Oliver P. Morton at Metropolitan Hall in Indianapolis on April 8 and spoke at the Merchants' Exchange in Chicago a few days later. On April 14, he addressed the Ohio state legislature in Columbus. He hosted a banquet at the Monongahela House in Pittsburgh on April 17 and spoke at Independence Hall in Philadelphia two days later".

It was while on the above-mentioned speaking tour, he made his remarks referring to armed Black Men among the Confederates in Tennessee.

"Mr. Brownlow has forever set at rest the question as to the rebels employing Negroes as soldiers. He has seen them with his own eyes and has been guarded by them when in jail in Knoxville. Every day the prisoners were sent with a cask for water to the river. He had gone to the river for water under a guard of Negro soldiers. One big black fellow one day punched him in the side and said, "step along, double-quick, you d----d Lincolnite"!............ The NY Times, page 5, May 18, 1862.

Thanks to @Andersonh1 for the following content:

0326 - Bradford Reporter (Towanda, Pa.), March 26, 1863
PARSON BROWNLOW writes from Nashville that he credits the statement that the rebels have negro soldiers in their army.

0116 - Brownlow's Knoxville Whig, and Rebel Ventilator (Knoxville, Tenn.), January 16, 1864
Arming the Slaves.
There has been a great deal said, pro and con, about the bill before Congress to arm the slaves in this war. Had we been a member of Congress, at the time of the urging of the bill, we should have spoken and voted against it, on the ground that this great nation is able to carry on this war and to succeed in its conduct, without calling upon the slaves of the South, or the free negroes of the North, to fight the battles of the country. At the same time, we should have advocated the using of the slaves of rebels, as teamsters, cooks, servants, and laborers in every department, to aid in putting down the rebellion, as Washington, Jackson, Gaines, Taylor, and others did, in the different wars we have passed through.

On the other hand, we do not agree with some of the ultra peace men of the North, that slaves were never before used in battle. Our reading of history is to the effect that Cataline's famous conspiracy received much existence from those doomed to servitude, his ranks being filled with escaped slaves. And Rome, the "Mistress of the World," nearly fell before their blows. She exerted all her immense resources of wealth and talent, and yet the conflict between the poorly-armed slaves and the best-drilled troops the world ever beheld was quite dubious. At another time the foundations of the "Eternal City" were nearly destroyed by the most gigantic rebellion that Europe ever witnessed up to that period. Spartacus, a slave, was at the head of this revolt. Himself and other slaves brought to a state of desperation by their oppressors struck the first blow. An army sent to suppress the rebellion was defeated; another shared the same fate; while the bones of a third, sent to reinforce them, were left bleaching on the plains. Last, but not least, the rebels of the South have used slaves in this war and armed them in battle, and where they have been brought into action, they have displayed great bravery. They brought on the war because of the negro, and without any provocation. Let them now be fought by the n*****, and made sick of the n*****. Had we the power, we would turn loose all the beasts of the forest, the snakes and lizards of the swamps, and all the devils in hell, but we would put down the rebellion!

0727 - The Camden Confederate July 27, 1864
Brownlow in New York. - Speech of "Old Smut the Parson."
Delivered in New York City, at a meeting for the relief of sick and wounded soldiers:


"Sir, " said I, "a little more than two years ago when I lay through the cold winter in this jail which towers above our heads, denied the blessings of fire, bedclothes or any comforts, frequently marched in and out by blacks in Rebel uniform with muskets taking the place of their young masters who were smoking cigars and drinking liquor at the hotel of Knoxville.

As I marched to prison the guards would say, "step a little quicker you d---d Lincolnite or I will put this bayonet into you." "Sir," said I, "that looked very bad to me: this looks a good deal better."
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