Saturday, December 3, 2011

Putting It Down in Black and White

This entry comes from Vanity Fair, July 18, 1861, and concerns an slave woman disguised as a soldier.

. .. An exchange, published somewhere in the country, fills out a column with this sublime statement::  A slave woman has been discovered in one of the Ohio regiments.  She was discharged.  

That is all.  Clear, Quiet, and simple in language, thrilling in meaning, and totally incomprehensible of understanding, we present it to our readers just as we find it.  Our eyes do not deceive us. 

A black woman has passed herself off for a white soldier.  Shade of Jasper!  What a metamorphosis.  Was she whitewashed?  Did she "paint an inch thick" to come "to that complexion?"  How did she pass the medical examination unsuspected?  What was her object?  Did she wear a beard?  The more questions we ask, the more profound our mystification grows.  Is it an enigma, a conundrum?  What Is It?  We give it up.  But, if this sort of thing is prevalent, what regiment is safe from these female ethiopan Jaspers?   How do we know that our army, which we have loved and esteemed so much, is not largely composed of negro wenches!  Can anybody swear the Brigadier-General Pierce is not a colored maiden in disguise?  If he is, let him also be discharged, and speedily.

Seriously, it doesn't seem likely that this can be a very common case. Jasper's was not and Munchausen's adventures were unique.  Let us hope that the Ohio regiment is the only one in whose ranks a Chloe or a Phyllis has found even a temporary asylum, and let us rejoice that in that case "she was discharged."  It is probably that McAhone's (?) army alone boasts of an organization of "light quadroons;" and that we can put down rebellion better than by Putting it Down in Black and White.

Brigadier-General Byron Root Pierce

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