George Dorsey

George Dorsey was an enslaved child during the Civil War.  In this excerpt, he describes the fear he always had when he saw soldiers approaching the plantation where he was enslaved.  He tells of hiding from them, and also of witnessing them stealing food and supplies from the plantation.  He ends by describing a tale of a horse that belonged to the enslaver’s son being stolen by soldiers, but returned by the soldiers when the son confronted them about it.
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About the time the war was over I saw my first soldier. The road that passed along in front of our house was a dirt road. I’d gone with Mother to watch her milk a young cow late one night, about dark I guess, when I heard somebody hollering and yelling and I looked down the road and saw them coming. I was about five years old then and it looked to me like all the army was coming up the road. The captain was on a horse and the men afoot and the dust from the dirt road flying. There was a moon shining and you could see the muskets shining in the moonlight. I was sitting on a fence and when I saw them it scared me so I started to run. When I jumped off I fell and cut a hole in my forehead right over this left eye. The scar’s there yet. I ran in the house and hid. Mr. Sammy Duvall had to get on a horse and go to New Liberty and fetch a doctor to plug up the hole in my head. I saw lots of soldiers after that and I always ran under the bed or hid in a closet or somewhere. They stayed around here for a long time. Finally provender got low and the soldiers took to stealing. We called it stealing, but I reckon it wasn’t for they came and got the stuff like meat out of the smoke house in broad open daylight. Mr. Duvall had a chestnut earl stallion he called Drennon and they came, or somebody did, and got him one night. One day, about two or three weeks later, Will Duvall, a son of Mr. Sammy Duvall, heard that the horse was over in Henry County where the soldiers had a camp. So he went over there and found the Captain and told him he’d come after old Drennon. The Captain said to describe him and Will said, Captain, he’s a chestnut earl named Drennon. If I whistle a certain way he’d nicker and answer me. Well, they went down to the stable where they had a lot of stalls like, under tents. and when they got there, Will, he whistled, and sure enough, old Drennon nickered. So the Captain, he said, That’s your horse all right. Go in and get him and take him on home.

Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
George Dorsey1860 (76)John ForseeSammy Duvall
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Owens County, KYKentuckyOwenton, KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Civil WarFirst person, Union troops