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" Ol Liz", African American Experience At Gettysburg

Discussion in 'The Ladies Tea' started by JPK Huson 1863, Sep 29, 2014.

  1. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Colonel Forum Host

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    palm margaret.jpg
    Margaret Palm, one of the Gettysburg Citizens whose life would be forever changed the summer of 1863.


    Finally found something I've been looking for, forever and ever, an account of what happened to at least some of the African American citizens swept up in the horrors of the Confederate invasion, July 1863. You read accounts, they're always nameless- how it seems the Confederate army arrived in Pennsylvania, found African American people living as they did like anyone else, free- and considered them fair game. ' Oh look- free stuff! ' So, so many swiped right out of their own shoes, sent into the slavery system in the South. Makes my head hurt just thinking about it.

    No one will ever know what happened to most, some made it back- for a bare few there's a record. This super web site gives a glimpse of the sheer terror those dreadful days. Used to just imagine what it must have been like, do not have to imagine any more.

    The rest of the article is well worth the reading, heavily sourced and chilling.

    "Old Liz” was a washerwoman for the McCreary family. In all probability, the “Old Liz” that young Albertus McCreary remembered and would later describe in his account of the Battle of Gettysburg was Elizabeth Butler, who, in 1863, was in her fifty-third year. Her husband Samuel was a wagonmaker, and together they owned a house worth one hundred dollars and owned another hundred dollars in personal possessions: pots and pans for cooking, clothing, maybe a horse. The Butlers lived comfortably compared to the standard of living in Gettysburg’s African American community in 1863. They were able to send their children to school and had lived long enough to enjoy their four young grandchildren. Although she could not have know it at the time, when Elizabeth Butler walked to the McCreary’s house on the morning of June 15, events were unraveling which would forever change her life. Within three weeks, “Old Liz” would be a captive of the Confederate States Army, and she would be bound and gagged in preparation for being sent south into slavery. She would make a dramatic escape, and would return to her home when the Confederate army retreated the next day. But Elizabeth Butler would never be able to return to the life she had known before the Battle of Gettysburg."

    http://www.gdg.org/gettysburg%20magazine/gburgafrican.html
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 14, 2017

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  3. John Hartwell

    John Hartwell Captain Forum Host

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    Thanks for this. An excellent article, well researched and profusely referenced.
     
  4. ErnieMac

    ErnieMac Captain Forum Host Trivia Game Winner

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    Excellent article. Albertus McCreary's account as published in McClure's Magazine, Volume XXXIII, May to October 1909, page 250:

    "A number of colored people lived in the western part of the town, and on the first day a great many of them were gathered together by the Confederate soldiers and marched out of town. As they passed our house our old washerwoman called out, "Good-by; we are going back to slavery." Most of them were crying and moaning.

    We never expected to see "Old Liz" again, but the day after the battle ended she came walking in, exclaiming, "Thank God, I's alive yet." We all crowded around her, anxious to know how she had got away. I wish I could repeat her story as she told it to us; that is more than I can undertake, but the main fact was this: She was marched down the street with the rest, and there was such a crowd that when they were opposite the Lutheran church, in the confusion she slipped into the church without being seen, and climbed up into the belfry; she stayed there for the two days without anything to eat or drink."
     
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  5. AndyHall

    AndyHall Colonel Forum Host

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  6. Northern Light

    Northern Light Captain

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    Thanks for posting this interesting article. I remember reading somewhere about a group of African American citizens from the Gettysburg areas who banded together to try to block a ford or bridge which the Confederates would use to enter Pennsylvania or Gettysburg, I don't remember where I read this or whether it was fact or fiction. Does anyone else know anything about this story?
     
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  7. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Colonel Forum Host

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    I don't remember seeing it, but if it's true would guess they blocked it and got OUT of there. To have faced the Rebel army as a basically unarmed group would have been silly. There was this weird, weird perspective of ' look at all this candy someone left lying around, whoopee', like our fellow citizens were not people- they were cardboard boxes with signs " Free Stuff". Pretty sure even an armed group of African Americans would not have been unwise enough to face down the Rebels during the invasion.

    ' Free ' people and I'm isolating the word ' free ' in frustration- were literally picked from the streets as ' slaves' ( same - any face which was not white? Poof- instantly a ' slave' ), even though it was known there were numbers of African Americans born NOT into slavery in Pennsylvania. Not every person encountered was an escaped slave, no reason to assume this yet every, single person of that race the Rebel army could find was in danger of being kidnapped. There were exceptions. It seems a few Confederate officers kept their heads, disallowed what was an appallingly inhumane action.

    In " Flames Beyond Gettysburg " Scott Mingus devotes some research to this aspect of the invasion. I'll look through that book again too- am only picking on that one because he tends to be awfully good at finding those isolated incidents no one else bumps into. Great read, if anyone is interested in a wider perspective of the invasion, do no mean to imply it's only about our fellow citizens! :smile:

    I think I'll poke around, see if it's possible to put together the Confederate officers who stood between their own army, their own officers who allowed or even encouraged kidnapping and the African American community in PA. Because of a few, have a feeling it wasn't even worse, interesting thought, right?
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2014
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  8. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Colonel Forum Host

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    Only one left in stock, rats! Must get on it, thanks very much, Andy- shamefully hadn't occurred to me until reading Scott Mingus's book " Flames Beyond Gettysburg " years ago that these kidnappings had happened, isn't that awful?? What's worse is not knowing Ed Bears had a book on African Americans and the subject, gee whiz.
     
  9. donna

    donna Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host

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    Annie another great post.
     
  10. AndyHall

    AndyHall Colonel Forum Host

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  11. donna

    donna Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host

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    I tried to find Margaret Palm on Find A Grave. I think need more information.

    Annie Have you tried?
     
  12. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Colonel Forum Host

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    This is one of the most awful articles I've had to read on the war. And it's an entire war full of awful articles. Thankfully it is heavily sourced or there would be the usual earful " OHHH but how do we know all this REALLY happened? " Thanks very much for the link, really have been looking forever and ever- not sure I'm exactly happy to keep finding more, how does one get happy?

    250 just from Chambersburg, African Americans previously living like anyone else- picked up like dollar bills someone had carelessly left lying on the street, " Oh look, free slaves! ". Entire groups of women and children sans men rounded up like cattle- the men had gone earlier wrongly supposing their families would be left alone. This entire article encompassing so MUCH trgdedy- rank kidnapping and mindless brutality is frequently mentioned as a footnote on the invasion. ( Paraphrasing ) " An unfortunate side note to Lee's invasion would be reports of free blacks living in Pennsylvania, captured by the Rebel Army. " ?? You hear this, some few sentences devoted to this horrific, unspeakable part of the Gettysburg story- irony so strong you would think it would be one of the main features.

    From the link, with apologies to the author;

    gbsk1.JPG


    gbsk2.JPG
     
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  13. donna

    donna Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host

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    Annie It is awful. But thanks for sharing with us.
     
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  14. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Colonel Forum Host

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    I'll try to go look- frequently I'll have more luck finding someone on Find A Grave through the Google search? ' Margaret Palm Find A Grave in the search option instead of in the Find A grace search works better. Wonder why, when it's a massive, massive site. Thanks for trying Donna- and I will, too, it's just that you generally have a much better knack with finding folks than I.
     
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  15. Northern Light

    Northern Light Captain

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    It never fails to amaze me how hideously people can treat other people and animals. The depth of cruelty and inhumanity hurts and scars my soul like a wound would hurt and scar my body.
     
  16. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Colonel Forum Host

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    Yes. And can honestly, truly state it is beyond my comprehension. Just is- in any form. Please know there's no back patting, or gosh, was so enlightened- just cannot stand suffering, never could. Inflicting it in any form I think would be the single thing, if I could raise successful children, I'd be able to point at, hope mine would see is just forbidden as part of being here. For instance, am wildly unconvinced on the argument about ' kids will be kids ' and bullying- swear I was as a 1st grader. It comes from somewhere. This level of inhumanity is just entrenched, convinced bullying- hideously so, run amuck. Well heck, slavery itself to me was bullying on a massive scale.
     
  17. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Colonel Forum Host

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    Thought I'd bump Liz, while looking into Gettysburg citizens again. Bumped into a terrible book, someone leaning towards Crouse and blew a small gasket.

    While surely, some must have behaved poorly- humans being well, human, plain, old evidence gives us ample reason to show who it was who comprehensively came to the aid of shattered men, from two armies- and it really was all of them. Will bump stories as they come up.
     
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  18. W. Richardson

    W. Richardson Captain

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    Where did Peter C. Vermilyea find this part "she would be bound and gagged in preparation for being sent south into slavery." I did not see it in the source provided by Vermilyea in his excellent article? Did he assume she was? or is there another source?

    Perhaps from Elizabeth Butler? Where was Liz's husband, Samuel at this time? Was he taken also? Vermilyea states there are no records that detail the number of Gettysburg residents who were returned to slavery.

    I wonder how many were taken, and how many did escape. I do wish the young McCreary would have "repeated her story as she told it to us"


    Respectfully,
    William
    Civil War Logo.jpg
     
  19. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Colonel Forum Host

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    You know, I have no idea? Since I can't source his source- it's crazy to argue the point, you know? No one knows where anyone was- one black man hid under a pile of hay for 3 days. You didn't write in your journal and each civilian was busy taking care of family, themselves and wounded from both sides. The thing is, the entire week was chaotic, mind numbingly nightmareish and awful. I must say, I have not seen further accounts of bound and gagged captives- but have ( honest ) any number of civilian accounts of black citizens marched off to slavery. I did not gather them specifically, noted these as I came across them, first. Black civilians who did not return could not leave accounts- but hopefully you'll have noted I'm as out of joint over Roswell women who could not make it back- and get witched at here about that on a regular basis - as I am over civilians swiped at Gettysburg.

    It always turns into a brawl, William, is the thing. If it's helpful- any idea how many Confederate officers declined to participate? A number. But- no recorded number. This mania for demanding recorded things- how would it have been possible? Given time, I could dive into the mess called my files and find them, too. For every written account are unwritten events. One Confederate officer called the blacks being rounded up ' poor wretches ', another wrote home of them, stating no, he would not be sending any Northern black people home to serve as slaves, as was offered to him. It was not universal. Another officer had no arguments over Gettysburg housewives insisting their black neighbors were required to nurse wounded. Since the black population swiped from Gettysburg is such a contentious topic, no one sits still to hear that it happened, or who was involved, or that it was not, in fact a universally approved part of the invasion.

    History is History. Who did what to where and why and when doesn't change because History annoys someone. History is frequently annoying. This History? All we need is a few good shovels and some of us geeks willing to sweat a little.
     
  20. Gladys Hodge Sherrer

    Gladys Hodge Sherrer Sergeant

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    What barbarism!! This War brought out the lowest nature of mankind. It hurts my heart to learn of these actions, but we all need a reality check about these matters, about how quickly man descends into darkness when he allows bitterness, pride, self-interests to rule.
     
  21. W. Richardson

    W. Richardson Captain

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    I do totally agree !!!


    Respectfully,
    William
    18.JPG
     
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