Charles Green

Charles Green lived in enslavement in Kentucky before and during the Civil War.  In this excerpt, he describes the fear the enslavers put into the enslaved about the raiding Union (Yankee) soldiers, and how Confederate Soldiers (led by John Morgan) were not to be feared.  However, he also mentions how his half brother and father joined the Union cause.
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Excerpt:

When old John Morgan came through raiding, he took meat and horses from our place, and just left the smokehouse empty.  Father and my half-brother, George Spencer Green, joined up with the 112th Kentucky boys, and was with General Sherman marching to the sea.  Father, he died, but Spence came home after the war and settled in the lower part of Mason County.  

…We thought the Yankee soldiers were coming to carry us off, and they told us to hide if we saw them.  I remember one night; ‘twas mostly dark; I saw some Yankee soldiers, and I was scared to death.  They yelled at me, and I took to my heels;  then they shot in the air and I ran all the faster getting back to the house.  But when Old [Confederate General] John Morgan came along a-raiding and carrying off the meat and good horses, we weren’t afraid.


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Charles Green1859 (78)Not NamedWallingsford
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Clark County, OHOhioMason County, KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Family, Emancipation, Civil War,First Person, Union Troops,

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Thomas McIntire

Thomas McIntire’s father was “taken by slave traders from Africa,” brought to the United States, sold, and enslaved.  Jim Lane enslaved around 550 people, including Thomas McIntire.  In this excerpt, the interviewer recounts in the first person Thomas McIntire’s thoughts on topics connected to freedom.  Thomas McIntire describes how enslaved people sought a better life and discussed freedom in code.  Thomas McIntire also shares memories of learning about the Underground Railroad, the Civil War, emancipation and famous activists.  
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Excerpt:

…The slave quarters were about 300 yards from the big house, and every family had their own cabin and eight acres of land for themselves, and all the vegetables and garden truck they needed.  They [enslaved people on Jim Lane’s plantation] raised their own chickens and turkeys.  But the hogs and cattle were butchered and shared with all the different families, and so was the milk.  But I remember hearing my folks talking and it wasn’t just eats they wanted.  They wanted to be free, and educate their children, like Master Jim’s children, so they could grow up and have something for themselves.  I’d often  hear them saying “Never mind, children, for your auntie is sure coming.”  That was just a blind for saying, “Freedom’s coming”.  We children soon learnt what it meant, but the white folks never did learn. 

… I remember all the slaves that could get out from the quarters coming to meetings in the woods to talk about getting away to freedom or going off to war.  Some from our place did go off.  We all knew the Underground Railroad through the whole country.  Because lots of Quakers had come and bought property on those parts and they were teaching the slaves to not be afraid of their rights. 

…When the war came on, lots of the Lane slaves went in.  My father and brother Wash went, and Wash was in the battle, between [Confederate] General Morgan and [Union] General Burden around Mt. Sterling [in Kentucky].  Lots of women and children went into Camp Nelson and lived at what they called the Woman’s Hall.  The men who cared to go there went to the barracks at Camp Nelson.         

When the war was over Father and Wash both came home.  Jim Lane freed us before the war was over and gave us all a little money or paid some if  they were staying on till the war was over.  Those that stayed after the war he gave ten acres of land and built them a little place to live in…. 

I knew Ben Arnett [a Black minister and civil rights advocate who was elected in 1885 to the Ohio state legislature]  personally and heard him speak lots of times; and too I heard Booker T. Washington, and Douglas, and almost all the big men among [Black people]…  I read a little, and I read lots about most of the ones I ain’t heard. 


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Thomas McIntire1847 (90)UnknownJim Lane
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Clark County, OHOHKY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Emancipation, Education, Literacy, Resistance, Union Troops, Civil WarBath County, First Person, Dialect, Witnessed Extreme Cruelty, Sold, Slave Traders, Notable

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Thomas Lewis

In this interview, the interviewer recounts in the first person Thomas Lewis’s memories of the Civil War and his mother’s interactions with Union soldiers. 
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Excerpt:

…Once when I was a little boy, I was sitting on the fence while my mother plowed to get the field ready to put in wheat. The white man who owned her was plowing too. Some Yankee soldiers on horses came along. One rode up to the fence and when my mother came to the end of the furrow, he said to her, “Lady, could you tell me where Jim Downs’ still house is?” My mother started to answer, but the man who owned her told her to move on. The soldiers told him to keep quiet, or they would make him sorry. After he went away, my mother told the soldiers where the house was. The reason her master did not want her to tell where the house was, was that some of his Rebel friends [people supporting the Confederacy] were hiding there. Spies had reported them to the Yankee [Union] soldiers. They went to the house and captured the Rebels.

Next soldiers came walking. I had no cap. One soldier asked me why I did not wear a cap. I said I had no cap. The soldier said, “You tell your mistress I said to buy you a cap or I’ll come back and kill the whole family.” They bought me a cap, the first one I ever had.

The soldiers passed for three days and a half. They were getting ready for a battle. The battle was close. We could hear the cannon. After it was over, a white man went to the battle field. He said that for a mile and a half one could walk on dead men and dead horses. My mother wanted to go and see it, but they wouldn’t let her, for it was too awful.

…Once they sent my mother there [to the nearest small town]… She saw a flash, and something hit a big barn. The timbers flew every way, and I suppose killed men and horses that were in the barn. There were Rebels hidden in the barn and in the houses, and a Yankee spy had found out where they were. They bombed the barn and surrounded the town. No one was able to leave. The Yankees came and captured the Rebels.

I had a cousin named Jerry. Just a little while before the barn was struck a white man asked Jerry how he would like to be free. Jerry said that he would like it all right. The white men took him into the barn and were going to put him over a barrel and beat him half to death. Just as they were about ready to beat him, the bomb struck the barn and Jerry escaped…


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Thomas Lewis1857 (approx. 80)Estella R. DodsonUnknown
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Bloomington, ININKY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Civil WarSpencer County, First Person, Witnessed Extreme Cruelty, Union Troops, Klan/Mob Violence, Hired Out

Lewis_T_1

Thomas Lewis

In this excerpt, the interviewer recounts in the first person Thomas Lewis’s memory of how White people forced Black people to work for free even after the Civil War and how Thomas Lewis’s mother resisted this practice. 

*Historically-used terms that are offensive, marginalizing and/or disparaging have been removed from the transcripts and replaced with [ ___ ].   See more information.
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Excerpt:

…I was born in Spencer County, Kentucky, in 1857. I was born a slave. There was slavery all around on all the adjoining places. I was seven years old when I was set free. My father was killed in the Northern army. My mother, step-father and my mother’s four living children came to Indiana when I was twelve years old. My grandfather was set free and given a little place of about sixteen acres. 

[After the Civil War was over] A gang of white men went to my grandmother’s place and ordered the [ ___ ] people out to work. The [ ___ ] people had worked before for white men, on shares. When the wheat was all in and the corn laid by, the white farmers would tell the [ ___ ] people to get out, and would give them nothing. The [ ___ ] people did not want to work that way, and refused. This was the cause of the raids by white farmers. My mother recognized one of the men in the gang and reported him to the standing soldiers in Louisville. He was caught and made to tell who the others were until they had 360 men. All were fined and none allowed to leave until all the fines were paid. So the rich ones had to pay for the poor ones. Many of them left because all were made responsible if such an event ever occurred again.

Our family left because we did not want to work that way….


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Thomas Lewis1857 (approx. 80)Estella R. DodsonUnknown
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Bloomington, ININKY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Sharecropping, ViolenceSpencer County, First Person, Witnessed Extreme Cruelty, Union Troops, Klan/Mob Violence, Hired Out

Lewis_T_2

Thomas Lewis

In this interview, the interviewer recounts in the first person formerly enslaved person Thomas Lewis’s explanation of why enslaved people resisted and the consequence of that resistance. 
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Excerpt:

… There was no such thing as being good to slaves. Many people were better than others, but a slave belonged to his master and there was no way to get out of it. A strong man was hard to make work. He would fight so that the white men trying to hold him would be breathless. Then there was nothing to do but kill him. If a slave resisted, and his master killed him, it was the same as self-defense today. If a cruel master whipped a slave to death, it put the fear into the other slaves…


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Thomas Lewis1857 (approx. 80)Estella R. DodsonUnknown
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Bloomignton, ININKY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Resistance, ViolenceSpencer County, First Person, Witnessed Extreme Cruelty, Union Troops, Klan/Mob Violence, Hired Out

Lewis_T_3

Madison Bruin

In this excerpt, the interviewer recounts Madison Bruin’s memories of the Civil War in the first person.  After the Civil War was over, Madison Bruin continued to provide free labor on his enslaver’s plantation although he was technically free.  In 1872, he finally left the plantation, joined the army and served in a cavalry unit used to fight Native Americans.  After his discharge from the army, he worked building a railroad before settling in Texas.  
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Excerpt:

…During the war [Confederate General] John Morgan’s men came and took all the horses. They left two, and Willie [the enslaver’s son] and I took them to hide in the plum thicket, but we just got out the gate when the soldiers came again and they headed us off and took the last two horses.  

My mother wore the Yankee flag under her dress like a petticoat when the confederates came raiding. Other times she wore it on top of the dress. When they heard the confederates coming, the white folks made us bury all the gold and the silver spoons out in the garden. Old master was in the Yankee [Union] army, because they conscripted [drafted] him, but his sons, John and Joe, volunteered…  

During the war we got whipped many times for playing with shells that we found in the woods. We heard the cannons shooting in Lexington [Kentucky], and lots of them shells dropped in the woods.  

What did I think when I saw all those soldiers? I wanted to be one, too. I didn’t care what side, I just wanted a gun and a horse and to be a soldier… When young master joined Woolford’s 11th Kentucky Cavalry, they came to the place and halted before the big house on the turnpike [road]… They were just in regular clothes, but next time they came through they were in blue uniforms. All my white folks came back from the war and didn’t get killed. 

Nobody ever told me I was free. I was happy there and never left them till 1872. All the others went before that, but I got all I wanted and I didn’t need money…


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Madison BruinUnknown (92)UnknownJack and Addie Curtis
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
TXTXFayette County, KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Civil War, Emancipation First Person, Dialect, Whipped, Union Troops, Bound Out After the War, Fayette County

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Mary Wooldridge

Mary Wooldridge was sold multiple times while enslaved, including at around fourteen years old when she was separated from her twin sister. Thomas McElroy enslaved over three hundred people on his two plantations, among them was Mary Wooldridge.  In this excerpt, the interviewer recounts Mary Wooldridge’s thoughts on Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, emancipation and voting.  

The interviewer records this interview in the first person, writing down the words of Mary Wooldridge using heavy dialect.  The reader should note that these are not necessarily the exact words of Mary Wooldridge –  they are the interviewer’s version of Mary Wooldridge’s speech. Teachers might ask students to consider how the interviewer’s choice to present the words in this manner might impact the reader’s opinion about Mary Wooldridge.  Students may also need help understanding why in the 1930s when she was interviewed Mary Wooldridge would say she preferred slavery.  

*Historically-used terms that are offensive, marginalizing and/or disparaging have been removed from the transcripts and replaced with [redacted].   See more information.
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Excerpt:

 …Yah, yah, I sure do remember Abraham Lincoln. my missus and master did not like Mr. Lincoln but, pshaw, all the [redacted] did. I remember him, I saw him once, soon after I was freed.

They were hard times during the [Civil] war, my missus and some of the… [enslaved] gals and the children had to stay in the woods several days to keep way from the soldiers. They ate all the chickens and killed the cows and took the horses and we were sure scared out there with those varmints [soldiers] roving around.

[redacted] ain’t got no business being set free, [redacted] still ought to be slaves. We…did not have to bother about the victuals [food] or anything

When my missis called us…together and told us we were free I was as happy as a skinned frog, but you see I didn’t have any sense… Oh how I miss my missus and master so much. Wish I had them now.

… I’m a Republican – who ever heared of a Democrat [redacted]?  [Redacted] never did own anything so they cant be Democrats, and if they vote a Democrat ticket they are just voting a lie. Because no [redacted] never did own slaves… You just have to have owned slaves to vote a Democrat ticket…


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Mary WooldridgeUnknown (Unknown)UnknownBob Eaglin, Thomas McElroy
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Clarksville Pike, KYKYKY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Voting, Emancipation, Civil WarWashington County, First Person, Dialect, Sold, Slave Traders, Union Troops

Wooldridge_M_1

Mrs. Preston

The interviewer records in this interview in the third person and does not record Mrs. Preston’s first name.  In this excerpt, the interviewer recounts how the KKK drove Mrs. Preston and her family from their home after the Civil War. 
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Excerpt:

…At the close of the war, her [Mrs. Preston’s] father was given a house, land, team and enough to start farming for himself. Several years later the Ku Klux Klan gave them a ten days notice to leave, one of the masked band interceded for them by pointing out that they were quiet and peaceable, and a man with a crop and ten children couldn’t possibly leave on so short a notice so the time was extended another ten days, when they took what the Klan paid them and came north. They remained in the north until they had to buy their groceries “a little piece of this and a little piece of that, like they do now”, when her father returned to Kentucky. Mrs. Preston remained in Indiana. Her father was burned out, the family escaping to the woods in their nightclothes, later befriended by a white neighbor. Now they appealed to their former owner who built them a new house, provided necessities and guards for a few weeks until they were safe from the Ku Klux Klan…


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Mrs. PrestonUnknown (83)G. MonroeBrown
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Jefferson County, ININFrankfort, KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
KKKFranklin County, First Person, Union Troops, Klan/Mob Violence, 

Preston_1

Mrs. Preston

The interviewer records this interview in the third person and does not record Mrs. Preston’s first name.  In this excerpt, the interviewer recounts Mrs. Preston’s memories of the Civil War.  
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Excerpt:

… Her ‘Master Brown’, resided in Frankfort, having taken his best horses and hogs, and leaving his family in the care of an overseer on a farm. He was afraid the Union soldiers would kill him, but thought his wife would be safe. This opinion proved to be true. The overseer called the slaves to work at four o’clock, and they worked until six in the evening… 

She remembered seeing Union and Confederate soldiers shooting across a river near her home. Her uncle fought two years and returned safely at the end of the war. She did not feel that her master and mistress had mistreated their slaves… 


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Mrs. PrestonUnknown (83)G. MonroeBrown
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Jefferson County, ININFrankfort, KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Civil WarFranklin County, First Person, Union Troops, Klan/Mob Violence, 

Preston_2

Peter Bruner

The interviewer recounts her interview with Peter Bruner in the third person.  Enslaver John Bell Bruner was “very cruel” to Peter Bruner.  John Bell Bruner and his wife frequently whipped Peter Bruner and never gave him enough to eat.  In the excerpt below, the interviewer describes Peter Bruner frequent attempts to escape, including his successful escape after which he enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil War. 
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Excerpt:

…Peter endured torture as long as he could and finally decided to escape. He went to Richmond, Kentucky on to Lexington. On his way, he made a contract with a man to drive his horses to Orleans, but was caught while in Lexington. On his way, they caught him and took him to jail and he remained until his master came for him. This did not down him, for just as soon as he could he escaped again, and this time got as far as Xenia, Ohio, but was again caught and brought back. This time he was severely beaten for three hours.

When 17 years old, Peter was hired out to Jimmy Benton, who was more cruel than John Bruner, but was again brought back. It was then that he tried again to escape… This was about the year 1861, when the war had begun. Again he was caught and taken back…. He escaped several times but never could seem to get anywhere. Once when he and another slave, Phil, escaped they were caught and made to walk the entire distance barefoot. After this Peter was chained each night to a chair. One morning while eating his breakfast he heard a knock at the door and on opening it he found a troop of Union Home Guards. Jim Benton and John Bruner were taken to prison…

When John Bruner was taken from [released from] Prison, he was much better to Peter. Soon after John was released from Prison, Peter escaped again. This time he had joined a regiment in the war. He went through hardships, cold, hunger, and illness…


Interviewee 
Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
Peter Bruner1845 (91)Evelyn McLemoreJohn Bell Bruner
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Estill County, KYKYWinchester, KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Escape, Resistance, ViolenceEstill County, Clark County, Third Person, Whipped, Union Troops, Veteran or Widow, Hired Out

Bruner_P_1