Slave Hiring in the Military During the Civil War

jgoodguy

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#21
Very true !

Just this weekend I was rereading some of the last 'will and testiments' of some of my ancestors.
One passage caught my eye . . . to paraphrase, the document basically said:

To my daughter Molly, I bequeath to her my servant Sam.
It is understood that Sam shall remain to be hired out to those desiring his labor and all profits shall
be placed in an account for Molly's future.


Was this horrible ?

Of course !

But as @Albert Sailhorst said, Forrest was not violating any United States laws before or during "The Rebellion".
Horrible of course in our time and place, but not in that time and place.
 

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diane

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#22
I'm glad to have found the names of some of the men Forrest took with him to war! I suspect these men are found because they were right to hand at the surrender. They also may have come with the plantation Roderick (one being named that) that was purchased by Forrest just prior to the war but still owned by the bank. They would be listed in the inventory. This one was mainly one or two families of slaves, many elderly and women, and he had supplemented the work force with some young men. These men soon had families and little ones. Not likely to run far! Almost all 45 of the men Forrest took with him came back to work for him after the war. (One of these men was Edwards, who had no liking whatsoever for his former master, but who had served well with him during the war - he was supposed to have been briefly one of the escort. He had family to return to, but after freedom his temper and mental health did poorly. I would suppose he had expected something better than the same thing, different day. At any rate, he was the one Forrest killed on the Green Grove plantation in Coahoma county.) Two of the slaves did run off, and three were severely wounded in combat. Forrest saw to it personally that the disabled were given a servant's pension by the state of Mississippi.

As far as Forrest making some money at it, he wasn't alone and it wasn't a side operation of the questionable type. The planters wanted reimbursement for just about everything they handed over to the CSA, but especially slaves. Sherman once said these guys would part with their first born son easily to war, but you couldn't pry a slave from their cold dead fingers! Forrest was a sharp dealer but generally honest, although sometimes it was a little closer to not so much. At one time, before the war, Forrest had rented some of his cells to another slave trader to keep nine slaves overnight. The other dealer went off to finish his business, got into an argument with the buyer and got shot! He staggered back to Forrest's house and died on the living room sofa. So, Forrest obtained his stock as they were in his jail and the buyer was in another jail...but the sheriff decided to do his due diligence. In the course of that, he discovered that six of the newly acquired stock were actually free. That was a little detail Forrest sorta-kinda 'mislaid' as these slaves were prime hands worth at least 1200-1500 apiece.

Other officers and soldiers brought servants with them, and it wasn't all about having somebody to do the laundry and watch the horse. There was some money to be had renting out hands.
 
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#23
In the pre-war South, it was common practice for a slave owner to "lease", as it were, the use of his slaves. This practice, evidently (based on the article presented in the original post), carried over to the Army.
Was Forrest, or any other man engaging in this practice, guilty of anything? No.
Correct, Forrest was not guilty of anything. This article serves to "situate" Forrest and his chattel within the context of Confederate impressment policy. It highlights how extensive and pervasive the use of slave labor became for the Confederate military, and the financial cost of that labor.

It's not clear to me if Forrest was actually reimbursed for his chattel throughout the course of the war. Or if a high ranking officer like Forrest would have gotten reimbursement while a civilian whose slaves were impressed did not get paid. I wonder how that worked out.

- Alan
 

jgoodguy

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#25
Slave narratives indicate that a lot of people in that era found these practices to be horrible. But that was the way it was back then.

- Alan
Very good point. It is an interesting question if non-persons such as slaves are participants in determining social norms. The participants in the Slave Narratives were mostly children in 1865 and told the white interviewers information filtered through the social control of Jim Crow and over 60 years. IMHO they have been filtered into what the interviewee thought the white interviewer wanted to hear and fear of being overheard.
 
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#26
Very good point. It is an interesting question if non-persons such as slaves are participants in determining social norms. The participants in the Slave Narratives were mostly children in 1865 and told the white interviewers information filtered through the social control of Jim Crow and over 60 years. IMHO they have been filtered into what the interviewee thought the white interviewer wanted to hear and fear of being overheard.
OK, let's not get too far off-topic. But...

I made this point in a previous thread, that in societies, some people have more control over institutions and structures than others. A monarch has more power over a society than a peasant. However, a king cannot speak for how a peasant feels.

It was the norm during the antebellum era that many whites said, and probably believed, that slaves were happy and contented. But they were not speaking for slaves, they were speaking instead of slaves, whose ability to practice free speech was, shall we say, quite limited.

I highly recommend Calvin Schemerhorn's book Money over Mastery, Family over Freedom: Slavery in the Antebellum Upper South. The book, which is readable, talks about the life of enslaved people along the Southern MidAtlantic coast, from Delaware to North Carolina. That area was, literally, a breeding ground. Changes in the economy there created a surplus of slaves, who were sold to the slave-needy areas of the cotton and sugar south, or were hired away from home for long periods of time in nearby factories, on railroads, or in mines. This created heart-breaking family separations.

The book recites and explains the lengths to which enslaved people went to keep their families together, and how they often failed at that task. The book really does give you an unfiltered sense of how enslaved people felt about being enslaved. I know you have a million books on your list - don't we all - but I found this book informative and powerful in the unique way it tells the enslaved's side of the story.

- Alan
 
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diane

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#27
Correct, Forrest was not guilty of anything. This article serves to "situate" Forrest and his chattel within the context of Confederate impressment policy. It highlights how extensive and pervasive the use of slave labor became for the Confederate military, and the financial cost of that labor.

It's not clear to me if Forrest was actually reimbursed for his chattel throughout the course of the war. Or if a high ranking officer like Forrest would have gotten reimbursement while a civilian whose slaves were impressed did not get paid. I wonder how that worked out.

- Alan
It wasn't clear to Forrest, either! I expect that was true for everybody from the general down to the private. He carried the money for operations on his person - good luck stealing it! - but whose money it was at any given time was quite a guess. Morgan, Stuart, Early and others had made ransom demands to captured towns so the cash crunch was real, but Forrest didn't do that. He just kept what he got from raids. When it came to making some change, he was often acquisitive - not unusual for poor people who become rich - so the concept of making a profitable raid and not keeping any of it was difficult. When he moved into more independent commands, demands to turn over everything became non-existent, and payment as well. When he defied Hood's order to reduce the mule teams after Nashville, he made it clear he had not put in so much as one requisition for supplies, horses, uniforms - anything...which is why everything he surrendered in Alabama had USA stamped on it. The CSA government basically was Wimpy, Popeye's hamburger pal - I would like a hamburger today for which I will gladly pay you Tuesday. Having a large number of his own slaves to drive teams and so forth was a savings if not an earning. Of course, after the war there was nobody to pay him anyway, and he definitely had to make a career change. His chattel got the dirty end of the stick, as may be imagined. They agreed to fight with him, did what they were told, received worthless manumission papers, and got a job back on the plantation they came from for about what they were paid before.
 

Nathanb1

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#28
Alan,

Interesting article. Do we know what become of Ike, Antony, Henry, Ben, Dan, and Roderick? Was wondering if any were able to escape, or were freed by Union forces, or if any joined the United States Colored Troops? I can only speculate, but I imagine quite a many slave-owners hired out their slaves in this manner. The good thing, Forrest was being paid in Confederate dollars which at wars end was worthless.

Respectfully,

William

One Nation
Two countries
View attachment 296323
If they did escape/make it to Union forces, I suspect they went as far and fast as possible--away from the General's long arm, which would IMO be on the other side of the Ohio--I wouldn't trust that he couldn't reach me any closer than that. On the other hand, it makes sense he would bring people who were 1) fairly well trusted and 2) had family ties back home to keep them tied to where he put them. Interesting one of the guys was named Roderick....hmmmm?
 



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