tv Escaped Union Prisoners Of War CSPAN August 21, 2017 11:35am-12:28pm EDT
c-span.org. >> you're watching american history tv. 48 hours of programming on american history every weekend on c-span 3. follow us on twitter at c-span history for information on our schedule. and to keep up with the latest history news. next, texas a&m university professor and author lor rheeian foot talks about union soldiers who escaped from confederate prison camps toward the end of the civil warnd thafr experience dollars attempting to make it safely to union lines. this talk was part of the annual civil war institute conference at gettysburg college. all right. good afternoon again. i'm pete carmichael, member of the history department here at gettysburg college, also the director of the civil war institute. our final talk for this evening
or this afternoon is lor rheeian foot, lor rheeian foot say professor of history at texas a&m university. where she teaches courses on civil war history and reconstruction, nine teeth century america, and reform movements. she got her start at the university of kansas where you did your undergrad and went on to get her ph.d at the university of oklahoma. her second book published in 2010, the gentleman and the roughs, manhood, honor, and violence in the union army is one of my favorites on the soldier experience. she did fantastic research. she dug into the national archives and looked at court marshal records which had been really underutilized until she got a hold of them.
again, superb book and david brooks the columnist "the new york times" actually mentioned in fact you got a lot of play from david brooks in his editorial. it is well worth reading, fantastic book. her second book, the yankee plague, escape kuhn onprisoner ant collapse of the confederacy recently published by the university of north carolina press and it, of course, is the subject of her talk this afternoon. please welcome loran foot. [ applause ] >> thank you so much, good afternoon. thank you so much, pete, for inviting me and thank you to the audience. you've had a lopping day, you've listened to a lot of talks, and so i really appreciate that you're -- that you're here to hear this wonderful story. i actually wanted to start out i've had several people at this conference ask me this question individually. so i will just announce it to the entire group. i am not shelby foot's daughter. so we will just get that out of
the way right away. so in the fall of 8 teen 64, the people of the carolinas experienced an event that they described as a plague. one laek local south carolina newspaper put it this way. they seem to be everywhere. they actually cover the land like the local kufts of egypt. this newspaper was referring to thousands of yankees who were sneaking through the south carolina countryside under the cover of darkness. these yankees would dig into farmer's sweet potato fields and steal their sweet foe potatoes. they would nap in people's barns and under the fodder. they would accost unsuspecting white and black southerners. yankees one time snuck into a slave cabin, woke up i slave, demanded a guide. one minister in north carolina
found three yankees napping underneath his fodder and when he found them they woke up and attacked him. and there was a brutal fistfight between e between them. so these thousands of yankees were not soldiers marching with william ta kufrp sa is her m.a.p.'s army, they were escaped prisoners of war, vaf von nus and unarmed moving through the caroline april countryside in shocking numbers between september of 1864 and february of 1865. there were almost 3,000 of them during that are winter. so where did all of these escaped prisoners come from and what can their story tell us about the final days, the final months, i should say, of the confederacy? so first i want to tell you the story of where these 3,000 escaped prisoners come from, and then we're going to talk about what it can tell us about the
collapse of the confederacy. so first let's talk about the escapes. the story begins when desperate confederate officials attempt to remove their prisoner of war population from georgia after sherman captures atlanta on september 2nd, 1864. they don't want sherman to liberate these cap tifds, so they decide to move them out of andersonville where the enlisted of men are kept and macon where the officers are kept. but the problem is, they don't have anywhere else prepared in the region to move thousands of prisoners of war. the other problem is, there is divided kmoond command and control in the confederate prison system. there's no one single person in charge of the confederate prison system at this point in the civil war. instead, there's divided command between two brig ago deer generals, neither of whom is actually entirely sure which are
prisons they're responsible for and what their authority is and the extent of their authority. so there's a lot of confusion in the confederate bureaucracy at this point in the war and it really shows up when they face this crisis moment. so brigadier again e general john winder is in charge of the evacuation and he sends thousands of prisoners from andersonville to savannah without notifying the confederate military commander in savannah that prisoners are coming. he finds out when an aid runs up to him and seds a train just arrived with 6,000 pows. and he sends a tell gram to richmond and he says, you must have a strange conception of the force that i possess in this district. they do notify or winder does notify major general samuel jones who is the commander of the department of south
carolina, georgia r and florida for the confederationsy. jones is in charleston and he does get advance warning that up to 15,000 prisoners are on the way to the city. but nobody had consulted him about whether he had the ability to guard these prisoners while at the same time he's trying to defend charges ston from ongoing and active union military operations. and he protests and he says, i cannot guard these prisoners. and they say, you're going to have to take them, we don't have anywhere else to send them. and he says, look, if i have any trouble with them, i'm just going to march thechl e them out of the city and let them go, which is pretty much as we're going to see what's going to happen. so he gets initially a batch of 6,000 enlichted men show up along with a group of officers. and so what jones does is he continually protests the arrival of these prisoners.
he doesn't have enough men to guard them and right as these prisoners arrive, september 5th and 6th, medical officials in charleston declare a yellow fever epidemic in the city. so what jones does, and i think this also shows in this theater of the war there's a real breakdown? communicati in communication that are occurring in this region. what jones does is he decides to get rid of these prisoners. and he sends 6,000 of the federal prisoners of war, the enlisted men, out of charleston and he does not notify prison officials that he did this. so nobody in richmond knows what he's done, and none of the prison officials in the region realize what's happened until it's over n done. so what jones does, and here's a map of south carolina and you can see the railroad lines.
so he sends a batch of these federal prisoners of war up the railroad to a small community -- the small community ever florence, south carolina. these 6,000 prisoners have a guard of 125 men. and the guards under the command of major f.f. worley, the guards turn these prisoners out into an open field next to the railroad. now these guys are -- they're veterans of a summer in andersonville and they're not that interested in being put into another confederate prison camp. so even though many of them are very, very ill and sick, there's a group that muteny. and the witnesses that i have both the confederate records arnt union records estimate that there's from 400 to 700 men involved in the muteny. in the book i chose the conservative 400 number wrarnted to be most conservative. but it could have been as many
as 700 men. these men immediately muteny. they leave this open field, they attack the guard, they plunder citizens in the vicinity of this open field for clothing and food, and they attack and try to destroy the railroad. so worley tell graphs back to charleston that this situation is happening and jones actually has to deploy a field artillery unit, a calvary unit and an infantry unit ton florence to try to suppress this muteny. but that is actually not enough to get control of the situation. so what they do is they mobilize all of the people in the countryside around florence and they ask everyone who has any kind of arms to just join in the hunt for these escaped pows. and so local citizens joined with these forces to trayce chase and track down these
escaped yankees. in some cases they recapture them after they've crossed the border into north carolina. but after -- after several weeks of this, they actually round every up except 23. 23 of these prisoners permanently escape and i'll get to this in a moment. 21 of them report to union forces in knoxville, tennessee. so they recapture these people, they've got more guards now and they've got artillery pieces to keep them in this open field while slaves from the community who had been conscripted on the spot to build the stock tied put these people in are building the stockade. and very quickly that stockade is ready but once again the confederate government mobilizes local sa civilians on the day that the stockade is finished with their arms and form a massive ring around the stockade with their weapons to be there
to put the yankees inside the stockade at florence. well, that creates a prison for enlisted men, but jones still has the federal -- and that is going to sound really familiar, he decides to send them out of the city once again without notifying confederate prison authorities what he's done. and he does this actually in october. and i can't go into it now, but partly because these officers in the meantime have been caught up in a retaliation situation where these officers are put under confederate fire. i mean under union fire and the union retal eighiates but bring 600 people from the north and puts them under confed rail rate fire. but that's a different story. the officers are going to be in charleston longer than those
enlisted men. and in the beginning of october, jones will send them out of the city with the same disastrous results that happened at flor ren. so i'm going to go back to the map so that you can see the -- i think i've got green here. it's not working. anyway, he's going to send these officers pows from charl son up the railroad line to the capital city of columbia. so what happens is more than 100 of these officers escape as they're being marched from the charleston jail or the hospital where they were being held in charleston. they escape on the streets where thend up hiding among union citizens in florence. some of them are fun feld from house to house. eventually they make their way to where african americans pilot them on boats to union lines on hilton head island. so several them escape in the city and then more escape by jumping off the trains when they stop to take on water at either
kingville or branchville. and then they're going to make their way to colum bee yae. the kankees are marched through the city a day after he had given a speech in columbia exporting caroline ians to give their all. they marched two miles out of city and you know what i'm going to sigh, they're turned out into an open field. so naturally there's go to be a lot of escapes if the p the now there would be more escapes than there were, but the confederates put on a dramatic display to try toe discourage what had happened at florence. one of the officers who jumped of jumps off the train is recaptured by dogs and mangled by dogs. and so confederates will bring that dead officer's body with its clear being mangled by dogs and put it in front of the prisoners so they really are
intimidated by that because it gives them the impression that they're going to be chased and hunted by dogs if they try tose scape. but even with that, hundreds of men escape from this open field in columbia which they nicknamed camp soresorgan. while the confederate bureaucracy goes through this incredible organization. what happened? who has authority over them? and there's four week of bureaucratic wrangling over this. during this time, the yankees get no adequate shelter or food. so in the end more than 373 prisoners escape from camp sorgum. now, more than that, leave the camp at given times. but there's ultimately 373 that kind of permanently escape. so what we're going to see is the prisoners who escape during this october transfer from charleston to columbia, these
escapees are going to join together in parties of between 2 to 6 men and they're going to take one of three escape routes. their goal is to try to get back to union lines. to do that, they choose one of three routes. which i kind of have in a gray color on this map. so some of them choose to try to get back to the union lines of the union forces that are besieging charleston. the headquarters are on hilton head island. and so these escaped prisoners are going to follow the rivers and try to get back to the atlantic coast. that's a shorter route. but there are confederate forces between them and the union armies. the most popular route that escaped officers are going to pick is they're going to travel northwest through the up country part of south carolina. and they're going to try to go to knoxville, tennessee, which is occupied by the union army. so this route is going to take them through western is being is western north carolina, and then east tennessee.
then there's also a group of escaped prisoners that they figure their best plan is to try to find sherman's army. which they know is operating somewhere in georgia and they suspect might be headed for augusta. so these escaped prisoners are going to travel a very short route, trying to get to augusta, georgia, where they hope to find sherman's army somewhere. so i think that the journey of these escaped prisoners gives us incredible insight into the final months of the confederacy. in south carolina, north carolina, and tennessee. because these escaped yankees, unlike soldiers marching with union armies under, you know, under sherman who are triumphant, these guys are confused, lost, and they're dependent on african-americans and sympathetic white southerners for aid. so what they talk about in their
diaries and what they say when they report back to union lines and give reports to the provost marshal about what they experienced. they saw things that other union soldiers didn't notice. they spent a lot of time with people that we don't have other records for. and so i think following the journey of these escaped prisoners is really a story not about just these prisoners but it's a story about the people in this region of the south and what they were experiencing in the final months of the confederacy. i want to talk about three aspects of the collapse of the confederacy that we can examine through the journey of the prisoners. because at this point, the confederacy is collapsing. and the people living inside of the confederacy are experiencing that collapse on multiple levels. here today i want to talk about three aspects.
the collapse of slavery. the collapse of the home front. and the collapse of borders. so those are going to be the three we talk about. first, i want to focus on the collapse of slavery. so slavery collapses in the south in -- at a different pace, in different ways across space and time. it collapses on different -- different time lines and different places. so we see this in the state of south carolina. i'm going to go back to the map quickly. so in the low country part of south carolina, slavery was already destabilized by the time that these escaped yankees are pouring out of these open fields. low country, south carolina. it was close to those union lines on hilton head, it was close to the union gun boats that were patrolling the coast and sometimes coming a little bit up the rivers in south carolina. so you'd have a lot of male slaves who had run away.
you had female slaves who were slowing down work. who were defying their mistresses. you had a lot of theft. a lot of disorganization of slavery in the low country. in the up country, in the hill country of south carolina, slavery was much more stable in the fall of 1864. it wasn't disrupted in the same way it was in the low country. but the mass escape of all these prisoners of war gives slaves an opportunity in both regions to escalate their resistance and these mass escapes helped to escalate the collapse of slavery. because what we see is throughout the civil war, slaves tried to assess the military situation. and they act when they think circumstances are favorable for success. and slaves in south carolina realize that something is going
really wrong for the confederacy or there would not be thousands of yankees crossing through the south carolina countryside. they recognize that something is going down that shows the confederacy is having trouble here. so what we see is that when the first federals escape in september around florence and then october around columbia, individual slaves little provide food, shelter and guidance. but very quickly this aid becomes more organized and it becomes more directly aimed at the confederate state. so, for example, in the low country part of south carolina, as yankees are pouring through some of these counties in the low country, where slavery is already very destabilized, we see slaves forming military companies that begin operating in these counties and also use these military organizations to protect the yankees making their way through these counties.
and, in fact, in the south carolina state archives, in their military records, i found that the governor in december has to send some militia units to counties in this part of south carolina with orders for them to suppress the armed military companies of slaves that are operating in these regions. and he also gives them orders to keep it quiet so that people don't know that things have reached that level of desperation. so along the up country route. let me get to my outline for you here. so that's the low country military companies. but along the up country route, we can follow the transition that slaves make from october through december as the number of escaped prisoners moving across the landscape increases. aid to prisoners becomes very organized. you'd li
utilizing the slave's communication networks between farms and plantations and using the trails and routes that they had already figured out to move around their neighborhoods to avoid the notice of their masters and of the slave patrols. so they already have in place kind of a geography of resistance and they already have in place communication networks. now they're going to use these to facilitate the movement of these escaped prisoners out of their state. so for example, when hannibal johnson of the 3rd maine escaped in late november, slave guides take him from station to station in northwest south carolina. over the course of eight nights in that section of his journey, he was handed off between 13 different guides who took him to prearranged stops and hiding places in woods and slave cabins. and i think it's interesting because one of his guides, when they go to the arranged meeting place and they meet their next guide, he says, okay, so you're my next group of birdies. and i'm not sure why this slave
nicknamed his yankee cargo birdies but that is what he apparently called them. so it's a short step from running this -- you might almost say this kind of reverse underground railroad. to actually creating organizations to protect these escaped prisoners. so one of the most interesting stories that i found is that around jalopa, south carolina, some whites had formed a picket on the road. they knew these yankees were moving at night. and so they formed a picket on the road to try to intercept them. and the prisoners did try to stick to the roads as much as possible because they were terrified of getting lost. so they formed this pick et on the road. and slaves in the area formed a counterpicket on the road below. so that they could intercept the escaped prisoners and guide them around the pickets that their masters had set. so there really gets to be a level of organization.
but we can also see how the presence of all these escaped prisoners begins to destabilize and effect the relationship between masters and slaves on an individual level. so we see this in the case of spartanburg. again, i'll put it on my map so you can kind of picture. and while you gaze at the map and contemplate, i'm going to drink some water, so hold on. so we can see this if we look on a farm in spartanburg, south carolina. it was a farm that was owned by david and elizabeth harris. they had ten slaves on their farm. and this is what i mean about slavery kind of collapsing in different ways. so this is october, november of 1864. slaves on their farm still worked, planted, plowed and obeyed. but the harrises record in their
diary. david keeps the diary. when he has to go on active service in charleston, elizabeth will continue writing it. and they both talk about thievery. thievery really increases in spartanburg. to the extent that both of them say law and order has completely collapsed. we live in a lawless land. and harris even says the thieves are bothering me as much as the war. we cannot keep our farm going with this level of theft. and i saw that recorded by a lot of people in this part of south carolina, this part of the war. so they all know their slaves are doing the stealing. this escalation. they're slaughtering hogs. leaving these hogs in the field. they're stealing produce. they're stealing horses. so it's just this rampant theft. but it really seems to escalate in october and november. and elizabeth at this point is alone and she's writing in her diary. we just can't keep going.
everything is getting stolen. and then she figures out why there's been this escalation of theft. because she discovers that her slaves have been hiding escaped union prisoners in their house. so she alerts her neighbors. they set up patrols and pickets. but the yankees sneak away. and she finds evidence that yankees have been inhabiting her gin house and being helped by her slaves for several weeks. and she wants someone to whip her male slaves for doing this. and she records in her diary she can't find anyone to do that for her. and she writes in her diary, and this is a quote, it seems that everyone is getting afraid of the negros. and so i think when we look at the experience of the harris family. because after she finds this and tries to get people to whip her slaves and no one will, a week later, two of the slaves leave the farm without permission. they take -- start taking longer
breaks than they're allowed. they start coming and going. and from that point on, the harris slaves no longer behave with obedience and they no longer do what they're supposed to do. and when elizabeth harris goes out to that gin house and sees the evidence of yankee inhabitation, she knows her slaves had declared war against her and that it was never going to be the same again and it never was. so i think this journey of escaped prisoners sheds a lot of light on the collapse of slavery going on in south carolina. the other thing that i think that this story tells us is it tells us a lot about the collapse of the home front. now, there's a lot of aspects to the collapse of the home front that i see happening in this region. there's many different facets to that. but i just want to focus on one here. what these -- the journey of these escaped prisoners reveal is that in counties throughout both south carolina and north
carolina, we see entire households that are mobilized to fight within their community. and i'm going to show this. and what i mean by entire households, i mean the children. so these escaped prisoners are moving through counties where people are mobilized to resist the confederacy. either because they're unionists or because they're protecting confederate deserters. deserters from the confederate army. but they've mobilized their entire family to either attack people within their community or to defend themselves from the confederate state. so i think the experience of jay madison drake, who's a lieu t t lieutenant in the 9th new jersey. he's a firefighter. his dream is to be a journalist. and he's a shameless self-promoter. when he dies, his obituary, which is in numerous newspapers
across the united states, they call him a famous civil war veteran. and he was famous because he was such a great self-promoter. but he had jumped off that train between charleston and columbia. he had jumped off the train at kingsville. with several companions. they'd worked their way through south carolina. they enter into north carolina. and they get to caldwell county. so caldwell county's not on this particular map. but if you see wilks county, kind of up towards the top, caldwell county is near there. so they had reached caldwell county. and they're walking through a ravine. and they see a couple of women and a 13-year-old boy cutting sorgum grass. and so they have this story they've decide they're going to tell if they run into white people, where they're going to claim they're deserters from kentucky trying to make their way back. and one of them can fake -- or thinks he can fake a southern accent. so that's why they think they can pull this off. anyway, they go up, they want to
get some food. they go up and say this. the little boy runs off and he comes back with his mother, a woman named mary estes. she's a very large and powerful woman. she comes up and she says, what do you want? they start to try to tell the story about we're in the confederate army, we're dese deserters, we're from kentucky, trying to get home. she cuts them often and saf and don't believe you. i think you're yankees. i hate the confederacy and i am not afraid of you whether you are confederate or whether you're union. because if i raise my hand, there are a dozen true rifles that are trained on you at this moment. and if i give the command by raising my hand, they will open fire. so tell me again, who are you? so drake says, okay, we got to be honest, and he pulls out the diary that he had kept while he was in prison and his commission that he carries with him as an officer in the u.s. army. so when she sees that, he takes a white handkerchief out of her
pocket and she waves it around her head three times. and as soon as she does this, 20 men in confederate uniform come out of the hills and woods around the ravine and come up. so this is her husband, bill estes, and his band of deserters that are engaged in a war with their neighbors and their community and with the north carolina home guard that is determined to capture them. so from this point in their journey, drake and his comb p pannopan companions were hidden, fed and guided to knoxville. some of them engaged in guerrilla warfare. all of them protected with violence the men who were deserters or draft dodgers from the confederate army. these families ultimately used their knowledge and their resources and their violence to protect and aid hundreds of u.s.
soldiers seeking to return to union lines with the express purpose of rejoining their regiment. so state prisoner charles maddox who was from maine. and a very aristocratic snobby officer. i actually really admire him, but he is a snob. he is hidden by the lauftist family in brevard, north carolina. this family and their extended kin networks raided their rebel neighbors for beef. they armed every boy in the family over 12 years old. they posted pickets on the road 24 hours a day. women took the day shift. men took the night shift. when rebel neighbors or state troops would attack their house, they had drilled holes in the walls of their home. they would turn the home into a fortress where women would load the weapons, hand the guns to
the men who would stick them through the holes in the walls and fire. days before maddox and his escaped party arrived in the neighborhood. and what's interesting is women and children play a critical role in this violence. they're the supply line for the guerrillas who are fighting rebels. and they provide food, clothing and they carry messages for deserters about troop movements and raids. and what i found really interesting was that families did not hesitate to employ young children in this warfare and also young children to help these escaped yankee prisoners. so one family in south carolina sent a 9-year-old boy by himself with an escape party of six escaped prisoners and they sent this 9-year-old boy alone to guide these yankees over the mountain to a place where confederate deserter s
rendezvoused. and one of my favorite incidents from all the stories i encountered. in east tennessee, a 16-year-old girl on horseback guided a party of 70 men through her neighborhood. her family sent her by herself. she guided this party of 76 men through a land where there were a lot of confederate guerrillas. so -- and this girl knew what houses contained families that supported confederate guerrillas. she knew where the guerrillas usually posted pickets. so she guided these escaped prisoners, you know, around the houses of confederates. she guided them past the places where there were usually pickets. and then when the party reached a river in east tennessee, she left these men and she rode alone on horseback over a bridge over the river to reconnater and
find out if there were guerrilla pickets on the other side of the river. she comes back, she tells them the coast is clear and she rides home. these yankees did not know her name at the time. many of them. and they nicknamed her the nameless heroine. her name was actually melvina stevens. that's a sketch of her. that's an illustration from a book that was published after the war that gives an illustration of her exploits. now, what i think is interesting also, because you have these entire families mobilized, we're going to see kind of the complete collapse of law and order and security in these counties where there is happening. and what is really interesting to me was that i found when i looked at state government records about this. in december of 1864 the north carolina general assembly is basically going to recognize the battle-like conditions in many places in north carolina.
so they're going to pass a law that basically authorized people to form paramilitary companies. they pass a law that says any time 10 persons or more -- and then here's a quote from the law -- associate themselves as a military company, they can operate on behalf of the state just without pay or equipment. that's a really fascinating law, isn't it? they're basically sanctioning people associating themselves into organizations. only very loosely associated with the state. and they're sanctioned to employ whatever violence they deem necessary to suppress unionists and deserters in their communities. the other thing i think shows the complete collapse of local security is the fact that while all these escaped yankees are moving through south carolina, they're joining forces with confederate deserters. they're joining forces with slaves who are escalating their resistance. the state of south carolina has
to call up its militia to try to join with the confederate forces that are going to try to resist sherman. so in late november, early december, the governor of south carolina calls up the state milit militia. he demands that every man report. they do a huge effort. and this nets 1,300 men. which is 20% of south carolina state militia forces. only 20% of the men responded to the call of their state to come and defend the state from sherman. why did they not respond? well, i think i know why. it's because they're running around their own neighborhoods trying to dcapture escaped yanke prisoners and handle the slaves who are now forming military companies. because at the same time the governor's saying, where are all these men, we need all these men, i'm reading local newspapers that are saying, well, today, the citizens
brought in 100 yankees and put them in the jail. and i'm reading in diaries and reports of escaped prisoners to provost marshals that they say, yeah, we were hiding, you know, in the woods and we started to be chased by citizens or some of the men in their diaries who are recaptured, they report they're hiding in the woods. a couple of people show up and find them. ride off. come back with ten more of their neighbors. and then these 11 people escort these yankees and put them in the local jail. hundreds of citizens are recapturing and arresting these yankees. and from what i can tell in my research, these are all citizens that were supposed to have responded to the militia call. but they've made the assessment that there's a danger on their front door. and that they have to deal with that. first. so finally, the third thing that i want to talk about is that the escaped prisoner problem i think reveals the collapse of borders.
so of course any nation must protect its borders to have security. and the confederacy tried to protect its borders not only with military force from external enemies but the confederacy also wanted to control the movement of internal enemies. so people within the confederacy who were disaffected or who were disloyal to the confederacy, the confederacy wants to control their movement. so there's a passport system that's instituted. if you're going to move outside the confederacy, leave the confederacy, you have to apply and get permission. and the secretary of war says that the goal of this passport system is to preclude -- this is a quote, to preclude the passage of dangerous and disaffected persons. so the permit system is supposed to guard against spies, smugglers, subversives and men who sought to evade conscription. they don't want them leaving the
confederacy. in fall of 1864, in addition to union armies that have already invaded the borders and are moving through the borders, w t what's interesting to me is the borders of confederacy are wide open to thousands of people moving a cross the borders of the confederacy believing the confederacy. men who owed their military service to this government. according to the conscription laws. they're doing so in company with thousands of escaped yankee prisoners. and then these people who are moving out of the confederacy, thousands of them are joining union army units in east tennessee. that are then returning into the carolinas on constant raids that are going on between november of 1864 and then the end of the war in 1865. so what i found is it is very typical that by the time these escaped prisoners get to western north carolina and eastern tennessee, they are generally traveling with anywhere from 70
to 100 confederate deserters who have decided to join them on their journey to knoxville. so we see this in the case of captain isaiah conley who was a pennsylvania captain. and his escape party gets to northwest south carolina. they run into an african-american named henry martin who's actually a free man. and he has contacts with a group of confederate deserters that are hiding out. so he puts conley and his party in contact with these deserters. the deserters agree to guide the yankees to knoxville. and they trav all tel all the w knoxville together. what's interesting is often these deserters turn into recruits for the union army. that happens to drake. the new jersey fireman and self-promoter that met mary es stacy. stress. a after he meets mary, he ends up going to knoxville in company with her husband bill and 14
deserters. and when they get to crab orchard, tennessee, they meet a group of 63, if my math is right here, because they're going to end up being 76 so whatever adds up to 76. they meet a group of 63 people from north carolina and south carolina and north georgia that are all traveling together to knoxville. so they all join together. they're a party now of 76. and they just, by chance, run into a lieutenant, james hartley, from the third north carolina. a union regiment that open rap s operates out of east tennessee. this is very common. i came across this constantly. these parties run into union officers who are moving into north carolina, into south carolina on recruiting expeditions. will you join the union army? and these guys say, yes, we will. so the whole party now travels
to knoxville in company with hartley who now has 63 recruits for the union army. what i found is when i put all this together and i looked at the union army records and the reports of these escaped prisoners, there are literally thousands of people on the move in the appalachians, in the last winter of the war. people that the confederacy wants to keep contained because they are deserters that are moving out of the confederacy, joining the union army that end returning al ining as a raiders. there's many reasons the confederacy cannot contain this movement. one of most important reasons i think is that the confederacy has absolutely confused military jurisdictions in this region of the south. so i am about to put a slide up and say some things very rapidly that are going to lead you to be incredibly confused.
but i think it is important that i do that because by the time i'm done and you are confused, you will be in the same mental state as the confederate secretary of war james a. sedan. which i will prove to you here in a moment, okay. so these yankees and deserters are traveling through the confederate military district of western north carolina. but the question is, who's in charge of that district? who's in charge of it? so for months nobody in the confederate war department had been clear on whether the district of western north carolina was part of the department of north carolina and southern virginia or the department of east tennessee and west virginia. and then the problem was that at this time, beauregard was in charge of the military division of west, which encompassed all of tennessee. except he didn't seem to have authority over the department of east tennessee and west virginia. and then there was also the department of northern virginia because lee is also issuing
orders to sub board nordinates f these departments. and the people in these various military departments, it was very clear to me, i read their correspondence. they don't know who is in charge of them. and there's many time also ths r about a raid and they actually send messages to the commanders of all of these departments. and then when they get responses back, they debate amongst themselves about which order they're supposed to obey. robert e. lee is very unclear about what troopsters are department, what they're doing and then in one of my favorite moments in doing the research for this book, there's a moment of it where there's an exchange in the war department and it is absolutely clear that the confederate secretary of war has no idea who the commander of the district of western north carolina is. because he gives an order, tell this district commander to do this, and then eventually it comes out, he wasn't the commander. so the war department doesn't even know who's in charge. with such confused military
jurisdictions. with things being so chaotic for the confederacy in this region, they're never able to form an effective response to the thousands of people moving across the borders. so as the confederacy collapsed, it's going to unleash one more wave of yankee prisoners which i'm not going to talk about here because you have to have a lot of things to read in the book. but in february 1865, when sherman is now full-scale in his invasion of south carolina, the confederacy's going to try to move those florence and columbia prisoners once again. and when they do, more than 1,700 will escape. and the teaser i will give you is these escapes will actually interfere with sherman's military operations to some extent. so there's this other wave of escape. so i think that the story of the end of the civil war is not just about climactic battles.
it's also about the movement of prisoners of war. and how the confederacy lost control of the yankees that it held captive. i think the end of the war's about the people of the carolinas. and the first months when the yankees came. not the armies but the escaped prisoners. who made backyards and barnyards the sites of war and who heralded the last days of the confederacy. so i am now happy to answer any questions. that you may have. [ applause ] i hear i have time for two questions. >> good, i got here first. these routes that guides were take, the escaped prisoners on, were they using underground railroad routes and, if not, is it because there weren't any in that area. >> right. >> or because it would be too
dangerous to use them because we want the slaves to escape this way as well? >> i don't think they were using antebellum underground railroad routes in south carolina because those actually ran south instead of north. >> okay, thank you. >> you had so many great stories in the book. i'm curious which one is your favorite, either one that made it into the book or one that you had to leave out. >> oh, thank you for that question. so i would say i have something that's one of my favorite moment, even though it's not exactly a story. so one of the things that was really compelling to me is these yankees spend a lot of time inside slave cabins. having long conversations with slaves. and they have a lot of kind of intimate moments where they're talking about things. one of the things that comes out very strongly. slaves will usually have a prayer meeting over these escaped prisoners before they take them on. several of these prisoners record the content of the prayers which is very interesting. but one of the things that comes out very strongly is that these
slaves firmly believe that god is acting in this moment of history. and is bringing about the jubilee. and that they're seeing god moving. and one of the amazing moments that kind of reflects that. there's these two escaped prisoners. and they're sneaking up at night behind these two african-american men who are walking down the road. and they can hear what these guys are saying as they're walking. and one of them says, well, this is it, god is moving. and the other one says, yes, he is, do we need to put blood on our doors? do we need to put bad on olood doors? isn't that incredible? of course we know african-americans are steeped in that sense of, you know, the biblical stories of israel and being rescued out of egypt but that they're taking this so firmly believing that god is moving, that they're seriously asking each other, maybe we need to put blood on our doors. and i just think that's an incredible moment that shows us
what slaves are thinking and feeling as all these epic events are happening at the end of the war. okay. thank you very much. [ applause ] >> we'll have more in just a moment. coming up tonight on american history tv, we'll take a look at the congressional debate over slavery that took place in the 1790s as well as talk about the legacy of former house speaker newt gingrich and his influence on contemporary partisan politics. that will be at 8:00 p.m. eastern this evening. american history tv is in prime time every night this month while congress is away for their summer recess. >> we've been on the road meeting winners of this year's student cam video documentary competition. at royal oak high school in royal oak, michigan, first place
winner jarod clarke won a prize of $3,000 for his documentary on the rising cost of pharmaceutical drugs. and the second place prize of $1,500 went to classmate mary for her documentary on mass incarceration and mandatory minimum sentencing. also, third place winner, rebecca messner won a prize of $750 for her documentary on gender inequality. and grace novak won an honorable mention prize of $250 for her documentary on the relationship between the police and the media. thank you to all the students who participated in our 2017 student cam video documentary competition. to watch any of the video, go to studentcam.org and student coam 2018 starts in september. we're asking students to choose any provision of the u.s. constitution and create a video illustrating why the provision