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The Devil's Punchbowl?

Discussion in 'Civil War History - General Discussion' started by Andersonh1, Jul 7, 2016.

  1. Andersonh1

    Andersonh1 Captain

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    Hadn't heard this story before. Anyone have any hard facts from a more mainstream historical source?

    https://blackmainstreet.net/never-f...-died-forced-post-slavery-concentration-camp/

    History has always made concentration camps to be synonymous with the atrocities of Nazi Germany. But, America has its own dirty secrets about the use of concentration camps. These camps were located in Natchez, Mississippi and were used to corral freed slaves during and after the American Civil War. As slaves were being emancipated from the plantations, their route to freedom usually took them in the vicinity of the Union army forces. Unhappy with the slaves being freed, the army began recapturing the slaves and forced the men back into hard labor camps. The most notorious of the several concentration camps that were established was located in Natchez, MS.

    As the slaves made their way to freedom, the town of Natchez went from a population of 10,000 to 120,000 people almost overnight. In order to deal with the population influx of recently freed slaves, a concentration camp was established to essentially eradicate the slaves. The men were recaptured by the Union troops and forced back into hard labor. The women and children were locked behind the concrete walls of the camp and left to die from starvation. Many also died from the smallpox disease. In total, over 20,000 freed slaves were killed in one year, inside of this American concentration camp.

    A researcher studying the existence of the concentration camps said, “The union army did not allow them to remove the bodies from the camp. They just gave ’em shovels and said bury ’em where they drop.” The camp was called the Devil’s Punchbowl because of the way the area is shaped. The camp was located at the bottom of a cavernous pit with trees located on the bluffs above.

    Today the bluffs are known for the wild peach grooves but the locals will not eat any of the fruit because some are aware of what has fertilized the trees. One researcher has noted that skeletal remains still wash-up when the area becomes flooded by the Mississippi River. Even when America tries to bury its racist ways, we must force America to acknowledge what has occurred and not shy away from the truth. Let’s never forget all the freed slaves that died in American concentration camps at the Devil’s Punchbowl.
     
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  3. Pat Young

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

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  4. Pat Young

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

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    The historian they interview is Paula Westbrook who works for the Delta Paranormal Project.
     
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  5. Pat Young

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

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  6. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Colonel Forum Host

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    The reporter described the cruelty of the expulsions; “Armed soldiers attack humble huts inhabited by poor negroes…order the inmates on pain of instant death, and complete their valorous achievements by demolishing dwellings. The men who did this were United States soldiers.” The article tallied the toll “To-day these children of misery are exposed to the pitiless storm. Four are already in their graves; one was frozen to death.”11

    From Pat's blog. And thanks very much for a source- this was exactly what I'd been looking for, where it could mean death for a black citizen to enlist. One of History's head scratchers, these military orders- guessing the fellow was assigned somewhere out west post war. Last seen ensuring the next census contained entire nations less of our Native tribes? Wouldn't you love to see an MMPI on this guy? It'd be terrifying!

    I think you can see The Devils Punch Bowl from space.
     
  7. 7th Mississippi Infantry

    7th Mississippi Infantry Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    Thanks for this link.
    Ms. Westbrook seems to be a very interesting person.

    I lived in Natchez for many years. The Devil's Punch Bowl is very much a part of local legend & lore along with actual history dating back to the French Colonial Era.

    Occasionally, this story about the Union Army's treatment of freed slaves would come up in my conversations with long time Natchezians, both Black & White.

    The general consensus among everyone is that something may have happened, but it wasn't at the Devil's Punchbowl. It was actually closer to Natchez Under the Hill. They refer to it as the Thousand Steps incident under the bluffs.

    Did such an incident happen ? I have no idea, but personally I doubt it .

    I'm sure more than a few former slaves may have died, but not ten thousand.
    I've never seen any official documents to back up the local stories.

    However, for what it's worth . . . here's a 2014 article from a local magazine:

    "Just a few miles up river another street, Learned’s Mill Road, runs perpendicular to the horizon down to the area known as the Thousand Steps.

    “We played at the Thousand Steps down Learned’s Hill,” said Anna. “In the summer, at night, the kudzu is covered with lightening bugs; it’s like looking up at two hundred feet of twinkling Christmas lights—kind of takes the scariness out of the place—but not really.”

    According to local historian Don Estes, during the War Between the States, African American Union Troops were segregated and quartered “Under the Hill” near the sawmill. They had to get up the steep bluffs daily to build Fort McPherson and, then, to man it.

    “The steps lasted throughout my mother’s childhood,’ said Patty, “she played there and used to take us and tell us the story.”

    The story is of this now peaceful thicket is one of human horror. Many locals believe that over ten thousand former slaves died under the promised protection of the Union Army. In July of 1863 during the occupation of Natchez, destitute freed slaves turned to the federal troops for aid. Overwhelmed by the huge number of people seeking refuge, the army placed them in a corral so that they could not escape. There, tainted water and poor food caused as many as seventy-five people to die every day. Union forces accepted no responsibility and seized all cemetery records of the time. Bodies are said to have been buried like cordwood.

    If you could climb the thousand steps today you would reach the bluff top near the Natchez City Cemetery, with its quiet green hills, ancient oaks, old roses, oddball characters, river views and great spots to while away one’s misspent youth."

    Read the entire article at:
    http://www.countryroadsmagazine.com/culture/profiles-people-places/haunted-natchez
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2017
  8. civilken

    civilken 1st Lieutenant

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    As much as I would like to I am not put the Mississippi slaves in the same category as German concentration camps and I believe you do a disservice to all of those who were in those camps we are talking about millions. Millions that's all I Well say.
     
  9. 7th Mississippi Infantry

    7th Mississippi Infantry Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    Agreed.

    Consider the original link in the OP.

    As Pat pointed out, the main source operates a Ghost Hunting Academy when she's not busy with her 9 to 5 job as a "floater" at her local Wal Mart.

    A search of this topic will produce similar sites that bring up the same words but with different numbers.
    Today, I found a website that increased the number to twenty thousand.

    Such bizarre claims have no basis in fact.

    IMO, the Union Army did not kill ten to twenty thousand newly freed slaves during their occupation of Natchez, Mississippi.
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2017
  10. Pat Young

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

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    In response to @DRW post elsewhere. The Devil's Punchbowl is a myth dreamed up by a paranormal "researcher."
     
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  11. 7th Mississippi Infantry

    7th Mississippi Infantry Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    Pat, I'm not sure that I understand your post.

    The "Devil's Punchbowl" is very real.

    http://www.msnewsnow.com/story/26177238/walts-look-around-the-devils-punch-bowl

    I think the "story" of ten thousand slaves killed by the Union Army in the punchbowl is a myth.

    My apologies if I misunderstood your post.
     
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  12. Pat Young

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

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    I am referring to the claim that thousands were killed there. Sorry, I should have clarified.
     
  13. 7th Mississippi Infantry

    7th Mississippi Infantry Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    That's what I thought.
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2017
  14. A Google Scholar search of "Devil's Punchbowl" "Civil War" comes up 0 hits relating to the American civil war. The same search with just "Devil's Punchbowl" comes up with 0 hits for any type of slave deaths or Union army activity. Most of the hits are for geological articles or the Devil's Punchbowl in California.
     
  15. zburkett

    zburkett First Sergeant

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    How can anyone believe that the same America that committed the "Trail of tears" could have let a few thousand freed slaves die of neglect in the "Devil's Punch Bowl" or "Under the Hill?"
     
  16. If you think differently, then you are welcome to provide links to some legitimate sources --not websites that mirror the website of a part-time paranormal researcher and WalMart employee.
     
  17. Dedej

    Dedej Retired User

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    Wow. I have heard about this for years. It's such a terrible story. The only thing I was able to find was this clip below. No other sources - well reputable sources can be found.

     
  18. leftyhunter

    leftyhunter Colonel

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    If the Kennedy brothers and Di Lorenzo write a book that says it's true then by golly I will believe it.:lee:
    Leftyhunter
     
  19. Matty

    Matty Cadet

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    An excellent history of this subject was done by Ronald L. F. Davis, Ph. D called "The Black Experience In Nachez" It seems far more factual and less incendiary than that ridiculous Devil's Punchbowl "news" story. The "post war" stuff about the refugee camps is , of course, near the end.

    Here's an excerpt:

    "In some companies the toll was even higher than the average. Company D of the 58th
    Regiment Colored U.S. Infantry recruited sixty blacks in a five-month period from August
    19 to December of 1863. Forty-eight percent of these soldiers were dead within one year —
    one out of two recruits. Thirty percent had perished within three months of their
    enlistment, probably before they had even gone on their first outside maneuvers.

    No wonder that black soldiers deserted at every opportunity. Nearly 13 percent were
    AWOL at some time during the war. Some units had higher desertion rates than others:
    thirty-six percent of the recruits in Company A of the 70th Regiment, U.S. Colored
    Infantry, deserted within six to eight weeks of their enlistment. Where they went or why
    they left is unknown, but it is not difficult to understand that desertion may have seemed
    the only way of saving one's life in view of the death toll at Natchez.

    As difficult as the plight was for black soldiers in Natchez, that of the women and children
    huddled together in the refugee camps Under-the-Hill, across the river in Vidalia, and to
    the north at the town of Washington was probably worse. The town's principal refugee
    camp was located under the bluff just north of Brown's lumber yard, and it contained as
    many as 4000 refugees in the summer of 1863. When James Yeatman surveyed the camp
    in the fall of 1863, 2000 had already perished — as many as seventy-five in a single
    day. Most of the dead were probably children infected with smallpox and measles.
    The Catholic Bishop William Henry Elder told of his first visit to the camp's hospital on
    September 4, 1863:

    For the first time I learned that there was a Hospital belonging to the
    Colored Camp. It was the two story frame house at the gate of the Camp
    near the Furnace & Mill. On the floor behind the door lay the corpse of a
    man with the hands tied. In the middle lay a boy breathing hard —
    apparently dying. He had no covering but a shirt — nothing to lie on but
    some coats & rags under his head & a part of his body. I talked with him.
    He seemed to understand and answer affirmatively. At a risk I baptized him
    & gave him absolution. An old man of 92 years lying on a bundle of rags in
    a corner, called to me to "Come & pray for him." I instructed him briefly -
    & had no hesitation about baptizing him. He accepted explicitly The
    Catholic Church, & promised to follow it if he should recover. The next day I
    gave him Extreme Unction & the Scapular which he received with sensible
    devotion. Baptized three infants, & four adults in danger of death. 311

    Bishop Elder and his associate priests at St. Mary's Cathedral devoted much of their time
    over the next sixteen months to ministering to the refugee population in the camps.
    Making almost daily visits, the Catholic priests baptized hundreds of refugee children and
    adults at nine locations in the town: the camp Under-the-Hill, the Negro Hospital adjacent
    the camp, the city hospital located at the eastern edge of town on the road to the Forks-of-
    the-Road Army barracks, a place referred to in the baptismal records as the "Pest House,"
    the "smallpox hospital" located at the estate of "Mrs. Ogden" outside of town, the "colored"
    barracks at the Forks-of-the-Road, the Jefferson Hotel (which was used as a refugee depot
    for Louisiana refugees both white and black), a facility identified as Buckner's House, and
    across the river at a refugee camp and hospital in Vidalia. Most of the baptisms were
    administered to dying refugees, and the data provides significant insight into the location
    of the camps and the composition of the refugee population in and around Natchez."

    That all seems a lot more likely to be fairly accurate than any of this "Devil's Punchbowl" ghost hunter's nonsense. In fact, here's the only mention made of "Devil's Punchbowl":

    "There were also hundreds of black residents and refugees living as best they could outside
    of the main camp. Bishop Elder confided in his diary that a barn owned by the Church
    near Pine Ridge road "was torn to pieces yesterday by Colored People, to make shanties
    under the hill. . . ." Barns, fences, and almost any scrap of wood in the town became fair
    game as black refugees dragged them away to build make-shift shelters in would-be camps
    at the Devil's Punch Bowl upriver, near the Forks-of-the-Road, and at a camp outside the
    town of Washington near Jefferson College."
     
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  20. atlantis

    atlantis First Sergeant

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    This is what the confederates were fighting to prevent the mistreatment of our people free and slave. With union forces destroying what they couldn't eat, it is a wonder famine didn't take more lives.
     
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  21. Dedej

    Dedej Retired User

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    Seriously? LOL
     

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