Saturday, September 10, 2011

Advice for Soldiers on How to Deal with Contraband Slaves

Today's entry is from Letters of Lydia Maria Child.  Child was as an abolitionist, women's rights activist, Indian rights activist, writer, and Unitarian.

This is an excerpt from a letter she wrote to John Greenleaf Whittier dated September 10, 1861, and tells of a Union soldier serving on picket duty, and how he dealt with contraband slaves.
. . . .Another [Union soldier] who was ordered on picket-duty, of course at unusual risk of his life, was told that while he was sentinel, if any slave attempted to pass the lines, he must turn him back. He replied, "That is an order I will not obey." Being reminded of his duty to obey orders, he replied," I know the penalty I incur, and am ready to submit to it, but I did not enlist to do such work and I will not do it."  The officers, being aware that his feeling would easily become contagious, modified the order thus : "If anybody tries to pass, ascertain that all's right before you allow them to pass ."
That night the moon shone brightly, and the sentinel on duty saw a moving in the bushes before him. "Who goes there? Answer quickly!"  Up rose a tall ebony man.  "Who are you ?"  "A fugitive." "Are you all right?" "Yes, massa." " Then run quick."
A Ride for Liberty -- The Fugitive Slaves, painting by Eastman Johnson,
from the Brooklyn Museum as found on Wikimedia Commons

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