Friday, April 18, 2014

Remember Poison Springs

150 years ago today the 1st Kansas Colored which was re-designated as the 79th US Colored Infantry was engaged in battle at Poison Springs, in Ouachita County Arkansas. They are remembered again on this day.

On April 18, 1864 the battle of Poison Springs occurred. This took place in Ouachita and was part of the Camden Expedition.

The actual engagement was short and confederate forces were able to drive Union soldiers away, and chased them in pursuit. But after a pursuit of only about two miles the southern soldiers stopped the pursuit and returned to address the wounded left behind. That was when the second heinous tragedy of April 1864, took place. Many men of the 1st Kansas Colored now were lying wounded on the ground. At this time, fighting had ceased and that was when, as they lay wounded, they were brutally murdered by southern forces.

Tandy Walker who led southern forces at Poison Springs

Three  years ago I also wrote an article about this same battle here on this blog.

These men, were mostly men from Indian Territory who had fled into Kansas in the early part of the war. They were the first men of color to see action in 1862 at Island Mound Missouri. And they were now at the mercy of their captors, But their captors would not take on that role for they saw these now free men, simply as useless commodities to eliminate. Therefore in a matter of days after the same kind of massacre at Ft. Pillow---these courageous men, unable now to defend themselves were shot, bayoneted and tortured, then left on the ground where they died. Only a week before in Tennessee, the enemy had vowed to give men at Ft. Pillow no quarter, and the same occurred in Arkansas on that fatefu day.

Those freedom fighters were given no quarter, and in this case, they also were given no life. This tragic story of the massacre at Poison Springs is another of those stories not simply of war, but of man's inability to see humanity in others who are different. In this case, these soldiers of color were not seen as worthy of humane treatment by their enemies.

This second massacre would not be forgotten. Before the month would end, some of the compatriots of these massacred warriors would make Poison Springs their battle cry, at Jenkins Ferry. In fact many black soldiers from that day forward would remind each other of their mission as they fought for their freedom. Their battle cry would be heard and remembered for generations. "Remember Poison Springs!"

I remember the soldiers killed at Poison Springs on this day the 150th anniversary of that fateful day.

They did not die in vain.

Their sacrifice is not forgotten.

And they are remembered forever.

Remember Poison Springs!

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File:Battle of Fort Pillow.png
Ft. Pillow Massacre

As I recommended in the previous article here are additional readings about the massacres such as Poison Springs, Ft. Pillow and others.

Urwin, Gregory J. W. “‘We Cannot Treat Negroes… as Prisoners of War’”: Racial Atrocities and Reprisals in Civil War Arkansas.” In Civil War Arkansas: Beyond Battles and Leaders, edited by Anne Bailey and Daniel Sutherland. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1999]

Saturday, April 12, 2014

From Ft. Pillow to Poison Springs - They Were Given No Quarter, but They Died As Men

Massacre of Black Soldiers at Ft. Pillow

The enemy vowed to give no Negro any quarter. In the midst of the Civil War that meant that the rules of war were not going to be extended to men of color. The Confederate Army saw no humanity in the black soldiers that engaged in battle. They simply saw "creatures" whom they were taught to hate, whom they were taught were inferior beings, whom they were taught to judge by their color, and whom they believed were less than they.

The Ft. Pillow massacre is well documented. The records indicate that when the garrison was attacked and soldiers surrendered, the cry came forth, "No quarter, no quarter". Records also show that most of those who died, were murdered after surrender.

The world soon learned of the atrocities at Ft. Pillow were told worldwide, and the reaction to the massacre brought about dismay and outrage throughout the nation, and world.
Richard Fuchs, author of the "The Massacre at Ft. Pillow noted that even the press carried the story. He quoted a piece from the NY Times:
The blacks and their officers were shot down, bayoneted and put to the sword in cold blood... . Out of four hundred negro soldiers only about twenty survive! At least three hundred of them were destroyed after the surrender! This is the statement of the rebel General Chalmers himself to our informant.
 Richard Fuchs, An Unerring Fire: The Massacre At Fort Pillow (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2002), 14.
The national outcry would eventually affect the behavior of Confederate soldiers later that year, for
within the span of a few short months, the same army would later be compelled to no longer massacre black soldiers if they surrendered, but to later take them as prisoners. But the horrors of that day are on record as one of the most vicious of Civil War warfare.

A week later in Arkansas, men of the 1st Kansas Colored were part of a team that were encountered by confederate forces. Several were injured and others left with confederates in pursuit. They gave up the pursuit and returned to the injured soldiers. The Encyclopedia of Arkansas describes the events at Poison Springs:  The Southern troops then turned their attention to the wounded and captured soldiers of the First Kansas; both Union and Confederate accounts agree that many of the black troops were killed after the battle was over.

The attack upon the injured soldiers at Poison Springs, in addition to the brutal massacre at Ft. Pillow immediately became a battle cry for many black soldiers that served in Arkansas after April 1864. "Remember Poison Springs" reminded these men that their fate lay in the outcome of their future encounters with the enemy! They had no choice but to fight harder for their freedom. They took this cry with them later that month, to Jenkins Ferry. "Remember Poison Springs!"

These men are to be remembered for the odds were so strongly against them. They could not shudder and theirs was the choice---to live or die. Theirs was the choice for enslavement or freedom. They may have been enlisted as slaves, but they died free as men.

From Ft. Pillow, to Poison Springs and later to Jenkins Ferry---these freedom fighters shall not be forgotten!

Battle Flag of the 1st Kansas Colored. (Later re-designated as the 83rd US Colored Infantry)

Document from Service Record of Soldier Killed at Poison Springs

Compiled military service records of volunteer Union soldiers belonging to the 56th through 138th infantry units, United States Colored Troops (USCT), 1864-1866. Roll: RG94-USCT-079N-Bx58
Military Unit: 79th US Colored Infantry (New)


Friday, April 4, 2014

On the trail of Yarmouth Cartwright

A recent article by Drusilla Pair, reflected the names of several black soldiers who were captured after the battle at Petersburg.  An article in the Richmond Dispatch listed the names of the soldiers simply as "captured Negroes" and although they were soldiers, the men were listed in the Richmond Dispatch only by first name. Since there was an actual reference to the fact that these men were "enlisted troops" the disrespectful posting of only their first names intentionally treated them as still enslaved men.

Like Ms. Pair, the article that she shared on her blog, Let Freedom Ring made me wonder about these men, and about their fate.

How were they treated? The policy of the confederate army was that they would "give no Negro any quarter" meant that they did not see these men of color as human enough to imprison, but simply as property to return or evil beings to kill. So the question rang again in my head, "how were they treated?"

Did any of these men survive being captured? It is widely known how many of the soldiers at Ft. Pillow were viciously killed and given no quarter, only three months earlier. So were the men on this list given food, and shelter?

The only way to find out was to see if any such men could be researched. So I examined the list that she shared.

There were many who had common names, so I knew that Johns, Henry's George's would not be easily traceable. But perhaps a man with a unique name could be found.  I saw a name of a man called Yarmouth, said to have been enslaved by a man called Alexander Kilga of Montgomery County MD.

The name of Yarmouth appears as the slave of Alexander Kilga

Since the name "Yarmouth" is unique, I decided to see if I could find such a soldier among the thousands of US Colored Troops.

I decided to use the Civil War Soldier and Sailors Database hosted by the National Park Service.

National Park Service Database

Two possibilities emerged: Yarmouth Carr of the 107th US Colored Infantry, and Yarmouth Cartwright of the 23rd US Colored Infantry.

I clicked on the first soldier to see if he was in a regiment that served in Virginia, which would be essential, since the men on the list were captured near Petersburg, Virginia. So I had to explore a brief history of both regiments and then to look at each soldier. I learned that the 107th USColored Infantry, was organized in Kentucky and in 1864 was ordered to Baltimore, and was in Petersburg from October 1864 till early December.

So this regiment would not have had soldiers in Petersburg around the time that "Yarmouth slave of Alexander Kilga", because that article was written in August of 1864, several weeks before the 107th was there.

The other regiment with a soldier called Yarmouth was the 23rd US Colored Infantry. This regiment was also in Petersburg and at the time of the big mine explosion.

So it was possible that the Yarmouth in this regiment was the Yarmouth on the list of "captured Negroes" listed in the Richmond Dispatch.

I decided to look at the Military Service records of the US Colored Troops and opened the images on Fold 3.

I had no idea which surname Yarmouth of the 23rd US Colored Infantry may have had, so I then made a very broad search for a soldier with only the name of Yarmouth.

Only one soldier appeared and his name was Yarmouth Cartwright.

So Yarmouth Cartwright served in Company A of the 23rd US Colored Infantry, By clicking on the image to go the service record I saw the following:

From this image I learned that this soldier Yarmouth was taken prisoner in early July of 1864.

From this image I learned that this was the man!! 

Yarmouth Cartwright was taken prisoner after being captured at Petersburg! So the man called Yarmouth, "slave of Alexander Kilga", was most likely Yarmouth Cartwright, a man who was a soldier, fighting for his own freedom!

I then wondered more about this man, did he survive being imprisoned? This was only a few weeks after the terrible massacre at Ft. Pillow, the battle in which Confederate soldiers vowed to give no Negro quarter. So, did this man survive the treatment as a prisoner, which was most likely not to have been kind for his very humanity was not even recognized by the enemy.

The answer was in the service record itself. The image above indicates that the soldier did return to duty! And the following image shows that he followed the regiment when they were sent to Texas and he was mustered out in Brazos Santiago, Texas in November.

After looking at the record on Fold3 and locating the service record of Yarmouth Cartwright, I was pleased to see that he lived through imprisonment and was not killed by those who were holding him prisoner. I had hoped that he would have lived to have enjoyed his hard earned freedom, and would have been able to marry and have a family.

A search on Ancestry provided the information that I sought. In 1870, he went had returned to Montgomery County Maryland, and was found living with a wife Mary, and three young children, Jesse, Joseph, and Samuel. He was free and was with his family.

Source Citation: Year: 1870; Census Place: District 4, Montgomery, Maryland; Roll: M593_591; Page: 475A; Image: 511; Family History Library Film: 552090.

Finding this man living free with wife and family was relieving. He was working as a farm laborer. I looked at others who lived nearby, and the closest neighbor did catch my attention. A woman of means lived close to the Cartwright family. The surname caught my attention. Margaret Kilgour. 

I then remembered that the article in the Richmond Dispatch referred to the soldier as Yarmouth slave of Alexander Kilga. The neighbor in 1870 was Margaret Kilgour. Could "Kilga", have possibly been "Kilgour", and was Margaret most likely the widow of Alexander, the said slave holder?

I wondered what the relationship might have been for this man, now a free man to have remained in the same area living close to the family that had once enslaved him. However, I have seen this occur in other states and in other families that I have researched. Many families returned to the community they knew as home, for they have lived in the area for decades and regardless of who the neighbors were, it was home.

I looked at 1880, and found the family still in Montgomery County, but without Yarmouth. An older Cartwright man was living with Mary and her children, and some additional children were now in the household. And interestingly, they still lived next door to Margaret Kilgour.

In 1890, Mary was found on the 1890 Surviving Widow's Census, in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Source Citation: Year: 1890; Census Place: Potomac, Montgomery, Maryland
Roll: 10; Page: 1; Enumeration District: 139.

My goal was to find the "captured negro" and to find him as a man.

I found Yarmouth the soldier, Yarmouth the man and Yarmouth the free man who survived the war and who lived to taste freedom. His story is a short one with few details, but we was so much more than a slave. He freed himself, enlisted to fight, served honorably and won his freedom. He returned home to live in the small farming community in Montgomery County Maryland. He married, had a family, and the Cartwright family continued to thrive, into the 20th century. I am happy and humbled that I can say his name. Yarmouth Cartwright, survived! May he not be forgotten.