- Jul 23, 2017
- Southwest Missouri
Be advised - this is very tough to read
So many changes having taken plane, in the city, I one day gratified my curiosity by visiting the old slave-pen, which was formerly located in the vicinity of the ship landing, at a place called "Bull's Head." I found the building now occupied by Capt. Armstrong, as a depot for commissary stores, but had undergone many, alterations -since my preview residence in New Orleans.
Then, it was in its primitive glory, and under full operation—constantly crowded by the unfortunate victims in whose traffic men were engaged just as men are engaged in cattle-yards at the north. Now, where formerly stood the platform on which these human cattle were exposed for sale to the highest bidder, sat Capt. A. and his clerks, making up returns and filling requisitions for rations for the subsistence of men engaged in the holy work of uprooting this worst of all evils, which had so long cursed our land. While here a circumstance recurred to my mind which took place some years before, and first attracted my attention to the evils of slavery.
It was on a Sabbath morning early in the spring of 1842, when in company with the son of a wealthy planter, who had come to the city for the purpose of purchasing a few field hands, I rode out Tohoupitoulas street to this slave-pen. There happened to be but few of the "chattels" up for sale on that day, but in walking about the yard we observed a fine intelligent looking mulatto man and his wife sitting beside one of the stalls in an obscure corner. The man was fastened by a chain attached to a ring in the floor, and seemed much dejected; as we passed by, however, he raised his eyes to us, in which we could read the misery and despair of the mind within. The woman held a very young child in her arms, over which she was bending, with sobs and piteous moans. …
Soon afterwards 10 o'clock struck, and a few purchasers coming in, the sales commenced. The first "chattel" offered was a corpulent old darkey, who had probably underwent the same operation every spring for the past fifty years, and he bustled up on the platform in a peculiarly business-like manner…..
Getting into position, The mulatto and his wife were then put up—the man first—when a spirited bidding at once commenced. The woman, in the meantime, summoning sufficient courage to beseech each bidder in turn to include herself and child in his purchase. But as field-hands were now in chief demand, very little attention was paid to her entreaties, especially as she was encumbered with what they termed a " d—d little brat."
The man was finally disposed of at a very high price, and the woman called to the stand. She was ordered to relinquish the child to one of the attendants of the institution, but instead of obeying clutched it more closely in her arms. The child was then pulled violently from her, and she was forced upon the stand, where she fell fainting on the floor. This proved a happy relief, and saved her the agony of seeing what followed.
The proceedings that the seemed to awaken a spark of compassion in the breast of the man who was offering her for sale, and it found vent in an oath that the "woman and brat should be sold together." They were accordingly bought by the proprietor of a restaurant - a burly Irishman - who, however, on completing his purchase at once offered to sell the "dammed brat" for the sum of five dollars. His offer was responded to by a rough looking customer, who seemed to look upon the affair as a pretty fair joke, and who came forward, amid a general least of merriment, caught the child roughly by one of its legs, and left carrying it as a man usually carries a dressed turkey or chicken.
I hastened away from that "pen" a confirmed abolitionist, and never afterwards ventured to revisit a slave-auction. The feeling of hatred engendered towards the traffic in slaves in my mind, by this scene, was never obliterated, and has often stimulated me while in presence of those battling for the perpetuation of the institution. I derived much pleasure now in knowing that this foul blot upon our national escutcheon had at length been washed away forever, and left the place with feelings of relief.
Recollections of Field Service with the Twentieth Iowa Volunteer Infantry by Captain Chester Barney