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a book about Harrisburg...

by George F. Nagle

 

Table of Contents

Study Areas:

Slavery

Anti-Slavery

Free Persons of Color

Underground Railroad

The Violent Decade

US Colored Troops

Civil War

 

Chapter Nine
Deluge (concluded)

 

Realities of War

With the establishment of Camp Curtin, the North’s largest camp of rendezvous for soldiers departing for the war, directly to their north, Harrisburg’s citizens saw rapid and dramatic changes in their daily routines. Everything, it seemed, was suddenly different, and one of the most noticeable changes was how busy the city had become. Even before the war, Harrisburg was undergoing a healthy rate of growth, increasing its population from 13,000 in 1860 to about 16,000 by April 1861, the month that war broke out.

In the ten days after the bombardment of Fort Sumter, the population of Harrisburg more than doubled, as volunteers and workers arrived by train, wagon, horse, and by foot. General confusion, even chaos, reigned for quite a while, as the city filled with thousands of people who wanted to participate in the war effort, yet had no idea what war was truly about. As historian William J. Miller described the scene, “Unfortunately few of these young volunteers knew any more about war than did the people of the city. Most were just boys anxious to be off on a grand adventure. They came to the state capital not knowing what to expect, many bringing baggage, pets, friends, wives and weapons.”

Gradually, with the cooperation of city and military authorities, order was imposed and Harrisburg’s citizens soon became used to living in a war town. They witnessed the regular spectacle of large numbers of soldiers coming from and going to the railroad depot at the east end of Market Street. They watched the occasional passage through town of large quantities of military stores, and the daily sight of men in officers’ uniforms strolling along the wooden sidewalks. There were, now and again, unusual and exciting events, such as great patriotic demonstrations, parades, speeches, and urgent appeals for goods, money, and civilian volunteers.

There was also the day after day annoyance of hosting many restless young men far away from their homes. The Daily Telegraph railed against the dangerous nuisance of cavalrymen riding their horses at high speeds through the city, and it lamented the affronts to morality, mostly embodied by drunken soldiers, and the presence of "dens of infamy," unlicensed and unregulated drinking establishments that were regular sources of fights, robberies, and other illegal activities, and of course the houses of prostitution.138 The almost immediate increase in crime was the first and most noticeable effect of hosting a major military camp on the outskirts of town, and by necessity it was addressed first. But beyond that, there were many other major adjustments that would have to be made.

All the new faces and war excitement, good and bad, infused the city with a sort of public giddiness for the first year of the war. Behind this exhilaration, though, lurked a grim apprehension that things could soon turn ugly. Newspaper reports of military disasters and the death of local boys from disease or fighting were not lost on the citizenry, but it was not until June 1862 that the real horrors of war came home, and a decided somberness set in.

 

Harrisburg Becomes a War Hospital

It was in June that trainloads of wounded soldiers began arriving in the city from the overflowing hospitals of Washington and Virginia. While local residents had seen the occasional neighbor return from the fighting, some having lost an arm or a leg to an emergency amputation, the sheer numbers of severely wounded and suffering young men that suddenly appeared at the train station, in need of immediate care, temporarily overwhelmed and distressed them.

At first, the small hospital at Camp Curtin absorbed the sick and wounded, and aside from the shock of seeing dirty, bloody, bandaged youths being transported from the train station, through town to the camp, instead of smartly uniformed, haughty boys marching from the camp, through town to the train station, the presence of large numbers of wounded did not greatly change the day-to-day activities of most citizens.

Impressed by the suffering, they did what they could to help out. They collected supplies and food in response to appeals made by the local agents of the Sanitary Commission. The Daily Telegraph and the Patriot and Union ran regular reports of donations sent to the camp hospital by local people for the wounded soldiers. Items such as jars of peaches, bushels of potatoes, baskets of tomatoes, blankets, shirts and other clothing, books, and cash were all acknowledged.

The women of Harrisburg responded by forming aid societies through their churches, which collected donations and distributed the items to the convalescing soldiers. They sat by sick soldiers’ bedsides, wrote letters home for them, and performed numerous other chores that kept the camp hospital in operation. Their work, though invaluable to the war effort, was not often recognized, and was frequently not coordinated with the needs of the hospital. That would change in the coming months.

September 1862 brought the unprecedented bloodshed of the Antietam campaign and with it another strain on the resources of the military hospitals. Again, Harrisburg, as well as other Northern cities, received large numbers of wounded. This time, however, the camp hospital could not handle all the cases. City officials and the state quartermaster officials scrambled to find suitable hospital space around town.

Harrisburg churches were some of the first to be utilized as makeshift hospitals, as were local halls, school buildings, and many private homes. By the end of the month, more than one thousand wounded and sick soldiers were being cared for in the city’s makeshift hospitals. As soldiers recovered or succumbed to their wounds, the number of patients shrank somewhat, but still remained above five hundred throughout the rest of 1862.

One of the city schools that was used as a hospital to treat soldiers wounded at the battle of Antietam was the “Colored Schoolhouse” which sat on the corner of Raspberry Alley and Cherry Alley. This one-room school, which was located in the Judy’s Town neighborhood, served the African American residents of the city’s South Ward. Schoolteacher John Wolf, like the rest of Harrisburg’s teachers, had to cancel classes for his students during the several months in which the building was filled with victims of the fighting in Maryland and Virginia.139

 

Harrisburg Ladies Union Relief Associaton

It was during the Antietam campaign that the various efforts of Harrisburg’s women were combined to form the Ladies Union Relief Association. Rising to meet the incredible challenge, the association’s members daily traveled the mile distance from town to Camp Curtin, carrying meals for the wounded. When a kitchen was finally installed at the camp hospital, the women of the Association worked there from morning until night until it was closed by a smallpox scare.

They were put in charge of the storerooms of supplies that began pouring into Harrisburg from Pennsylvania residents for their troops. These badly needed supplies were distributed to regional military hospitals around the country and to the Sanitary Commission. To provide more hospital beds for badly wounded soldiers, they supervised the removal of convalescing soldiers from the hospitals to private homes, and in some cases took recovering soldiers into their own homes. They also visited the soldiers in the various city hospitals, providing compassion and human contact.140

Along with the wounded soldiers came other wartime visitors to the city. Countless family members of wounded and missing soldiers arrived to undertake the tiring search through military hospitals for missing sons and husbands. A letter from "A.G.W." under the title "A Visit to Sharpsburgh," appeared in the Christian Recorder newspaper on 25 October 1862, telling of encounters with such searchers:

Stewartsville, Monday, Oct. 13th, 1862.

DEAR BROTHER: - We were not long in the cars until we discovered that many were travelling on a sad mission. Fathers and brothers in search of sons or brothers who were wounded, were sick, or near to death, or had fallen, and whose bodies they wished to recover. As we neared the scene of action, their number increased. In the hotels, the hospitals, the field, everywhere, we met men in search of friends. Sometimes they were successful soon, sometimes they were directed from hospital to hospital, from town to town, for days, sometimes they searched in vain. The person sought for had been removed, or had died, or was buried in an unmarked grave.

The letter writer had been in Harrisburg, and noted, "I visited some of the hospitals in Harrisburg, and was pleased with them in general. The sick affected me much more than the wounded. I will not soon forget how one man asked me, "Do you know anything good for the dysentery?" The wounded were doing well, and received good attention." Here, the writer seemed to be referring to medical attention, but later noted the need for spiritual comfort:

Men suffer and die without a word of comfort, and are buried without ceremony. The latter is not needed; for there are no friends to weep. A visitor cannot do much, unless he remains some time. Sometimes remarks are gratefully received, sometimes evaded. In a hospital in Harrisburg, I asked a young man who is sick, a native of New Hampshire, if he was a member of church. He said not; but his mother is. His eyes filled with tears at once. While I talked, they ran down his cheeks. He had been in the service a year - had not heard a sermon. He belonged to a battery. The man next to him was his neighbor and companion and like him. I talked awhile, and then knelt down in prayer with them. May it be answered and blessed! 141

 

The Soldier's Retreat Opens

With each passing week, more family members and friends of wounded soldiers came to town, swelling the numbers of civilian visitors. The presence of familiar faces did much to comfort those lying in the hospitals, but it created other problems, as hotel space was scarce. That need was addressed that winter with the establishment in December 1862 of the Soldier’s Retreat, a refuge near the train station that welcomed soldiers coming or going from their homes. Proprietors Eby Byers and John B. Simon also fed and sheltered the families of those men who were in town searching or caring for them, providing a needed alternative to the town’s hotels.

Many supplies used by the Soldier’s Retreat came from Harrisburg citizens, who donated food and money to make the shelter as hospitable as it could be under the circumstances. One of the founders of the Retreat, Eby Byers, had a long history of humanitarian work, and was known as a fierce anti-slavery advocate. He was one of the three local businessmen who, ten years earlier, had pooled their money for the redemption of the kidnapped James Phillips. Now, with the outbreak of the war, he was actively supporting the soldiers who were fighting the slave powers in the South.

The Soldier’s Retreat served a much more important function near the end of the year, when the threat of smallpox forced the evacuation of the healthy men at Camp Curtin, while about thirty men with the dreaded and dangerous disease were quarantined in a hospital building there. Fortunately, the camp only had between 50 and 100 men at the time, and the Soldier’s Retreat proved to have ample accommodations for them. Those men, as well as all new recruits entering the city, were vaccinated against the disease, and the threat passed by mid-February 1863.

Camp Curtin was restored to its full role in March 1863, but between late December and March, The Soldier’s Retreat functioned as a temporary camp. Because camp operations were transferred here, the Army took over management of the Retreat, and the name was changed to the Soldier’s Rest. It continued to provide the same services as when Byers and Simon, who returned to management duties in the spring, were managing it.142

The presence of Confederate prisoners of war in Harrisburg caused considerable excitement as the curious thronged to the train station and the camp to gawk at them. The fascination of local townspeople with these men did not seem to die down as the war dragged on. In June 1862, a rail shipment of about 400 Confederate prisoners arrived in Harrisburg, and was met by crowds of curious onlookers who crowded the tracks from Lemoyne (then Bridgeport) to the center of town. The locomotive engineer refused to slow the train as it approached the bridge over the Susquehanna River and instead drove straight through to Camp Curtin with the excited crowd chasing the train all the way to the siding beside the camp.143

After a year of war, the novelty of having “Southern Knights,” as the local Republican newspaper contemptuously named the prisoners, in Harrisburg still excited many local townspeople. On 14 July, the Telegraph reported 1,546 “rebel prisoners, and deserters, have been reported” to the Harrisburg Provost Marshal. Of the local residents who regularly flocked to see the incoming prisoners, some were more than merely curious. The Telegraph complained of seeing “men at the railroad depot rush to greet filthy rebels as they arrived here, prisoners, under the escort of Federal soldiers, just as if such wretches were victors fresh from the battles in favor of the Government.”144

 

Black P.O.W.s at Camp Curtin

There were some Confederate prisoners brought for incarceration in Harrisburg that piqued the interest of local people, and other soldiers, for a different reason. As noted earlier, the campaign leading up to and including the Battle of Antietam yielded many Confederate prisoners from the Army of Northern Virginia, hundreds of whom were brought by train to Harrisburg.

Among these prisoners were about sixty African Americans who had been captured with the Southern troops. All of them were confined in Camp Curtin until long-term imprisonment could be worked out by military authorities in Washington. They were described by a soldier of the Sixteenth Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry, whose camp was next to the prisoner area, in a letter home from Camp Curtin dated 18 September 1862. The Union soldier, Private Wallace Mitchell, wrote, “There are about 200 Rebel prisoners quartered a few rods from my tent. They are the nasties[t] looking set I ever saw. About 1/3 negroes. Many of them dressed in our soldiers clothes.”145

The African American soldiers were wagoners whose wagon train was captured by Union troops near Williamsport, Maryland on the sixteenth. The Telegraph reprinted a news item from a Chambersburg newspaper, which gave details about the Confederate African American prisoners: “Some sixty-five four horse wagons, with numbers of loose horses and mules, were brought to town and driven at once to camp Slifer, where they were handed over to the commandant, and the drivers, mostly negroes, were lodged with the other prisoners in the jail yard. The wagons were mostly loaded with ammunition and had been attached to Jackson’s army.” The paper then reported that all the prisoners “were sent to Harrisburg.”146 The prisoners arrived in Harrisburg the next morning and were gradually, over the course of the next few weeks, sent to the Union’s prisoner of war camp at Fort Delaware.

 

Henry Harris--Harrisburg Buries a Black Confederate

One particular African American prisoner of war generated a considerable amount of sympathy among the city’s residents during this time. Henry Harris was, by his account, a cook with Stonewall Jackson’s troops. He was captured the day after the Battle of Antietam, having been separated from the Confederate army in the confusion following the battle. He surrendered to Union troops after running out of ammunition and food. Harris was first taken to Greencastle, in Franklin County, and then forwarded to Harrisburg by train a week after the battle, along with the Twentieth Pennsylvania Militia regiment.

On the morning of 26 September, about one-half mile before reaching the Cumberland Valley Railroad Bridge over the Susquehanna, the troop train collided on a foggy morning with an engine that was sitting on the tracks waiting for clearance to cross the bridge into Harrisburg. The force of the collision caused the first three wooden troop cars to accordion together, killing eight soldiers and severely injuring more than fifty, including Harris, whose injuries were so extreme that he was not expected to survive.

The injured men were all brought across the bridge and cared for in the warehouse room of the Cotton Mill, on North Street. All during the next day, Harris was tended to by a local clergyman, the Reverend Frank Moore, who provided for his comfort and gave “such Christian counsel as the hour and his condition seemed to demand.” The black Confederate soldier suffered mightily, and died of his injuries on Saturday morning. The newspaper reported, “His remains were properly taken care of and buried.”147

It is almost certain that Henry Harris’ body was turned over to Harrisburg’s African American community for burial. In the most likely scenario, he was given at least a brief service by members of either the Wesley Union or Bethel A.M.E. church, and his remains were then conveyed out of town along Ridge Road to the small African American burial yard just beyond the reservoir. It was probably in this manner that Harrisburg buried its first, and only, African American Confederate soldier.

 

Flourish

It is curious that Harrisburg’s white population would show such compassion and interest in the suffering of a single black enemy soldier from Virginia, while at the same time ignoring the needs and actively frustrating the interest of its own black residents. The overall lot of Harrisburg’s African American community had not significantly improved since the war began, and there are indications that it suffered considerably as a result of the hostilities.

Fugitive slaves continued to arrive in large numbers after the fighting began, and often attempted to blend in with local residents. The new arrivals squeezed into already overcrowded houses and rooms, and swelled the populations in Tanner’s Alley, Judy’s Town, and Verbeketown to unhealthy limits. An article in the Patriot and Union titled “The Poor Negroes,” published more than two years into the war, described these neighborhoods in the most desperate terms. Although that newspaper had a sharp anti-black bias, the article does illustrate the stress that war imposed upon these neighborhoods.

It opined, “We have often thought, while passing through places inhabited by negroes, of the different scenes of life, the misery and depravity. Their homes, which are in many cases not more than sheds, afford them little protection against the cold blasts and heavy snows of winter.” In reference to the rapidly increasing numbers of fugitive slaves who were arriving in the city, the editor wrote, “After he is here what good does it do him? He is looked upon as an intruder by those of his own color. He comes to be hated by those who should be his friends—With winter approaching, what will the thousands of unprovided, helpless runaways do?”148

The observation on poor housing was largely accurate, and the question was a legitimate one, even if the rest of the article took off on a racist rant against African Americans and abolitionists. The presence of the army camp did provide many jobs for city residents, including African Americans. Freight needed to be unloaded, goods needed to be transferred from trains and canal boats to wagons and delivered, and services needed to be provided to the tremendous influx of civilian and military visitors to the city. African Americans filled these regular support jobs in limited numbers, and also took advantage of the multitude of irregular jobs.

As noted, the African American neighborhoods often harbored businesses and services that were highly popular with the troops and with visitors to the city, but which were considered less than legitimate by local authorities. Businesses such as dance halls, gambling dens, brothels, and speakeasies proliferated through almost the entire war, and provided an income for many local African American residents as well as many newly arrived fugitives.

The Mayors’ office would stage regular raids to shut down the most obnoxious establishments, only to see business shift over to a different site a day or two later.149 Such jobs were, therefore, usually irregular, however, and were even dangerous when the customer, generally a young, impatient soldier, felt he had been wronged or robbed.

Adding to the uncertainty and risk was the racist attitude with which most soldiers regarded African Americans, making them more inclined to mete out a form of vigilante justice against a local black person that they perceived as being less than honest. When local tensions rose over the stress of war, that combination could be explosive.

That appears to be what happened in August 1862, on the eve of the Confederate invasion. Large numbers of soldiers were in Camp Curtin, many of them newly enlisted men, and rumors were circulating that secessionist sympathizers were hawking poisoned food at the camp. In fact, on 15 August 1862, a number of soldiers were reported to have been sickened after eating pies brought in for sale by an old white woman, and a rumor circulated through camp that seven of them died.

As the story went, the deaths were traced to the woman's pies and authorities determined that the pies had been laced with strychnine. The story was almost immediately denied by health authorities at the camp, but the reassurances of the camp doctor did not spread through the ranks as quickly as the sensational rumors had, and many men continued to believe that Southern fifth columnists were about.

The next day, an old African American man arrived in camp with food for sale and immediately became the focus of the soldiers’ rage over the supposed poisonings. Private George N. Barnes of the 137th Pennsylvania Infantry regiment documented the incident in a letter home, written that same day: “Secessionists are in the camp peddling poison pies, cakes, bear [beer] etc. Nine men have died since I wrote this. None of them belongs to our company. One old nigger had his nose knocked off and one ear tore off and his old wagon knocked into slivers. All peddlers fared about the same fate and pedlar[s] may expect the same hereafter.”150

The severe treatment given to the unfortunate African American peddler was not inconsistent with the feelings that many local whites had toward local blacks. Although anti-slavery speakers, books, and plays were appearing with increased frequency in Harrisburg, the overriding sentiment behind public support for the war, and among the men fighting the war, was anti-secessionist, not anti-slavery.

In April 1862, longtime anti-slavery speaker Wendell Phillips spoke to a large crowd at Brant's Hall in Harrisburg, in response to Democratic charges that abolitionists and anti-slavery policies were to blame for the bloodshed and destruction of the war. Phillips laid blame for the war on the institution of slavery, noting that its "doom was proclaimed in its own position; and its end, with the fearful enormities of which it had been the author, would go down into darkness and disgrace."

Before his appearance, the audience was warmed up by the nationally known anti-slavery singers The Hutchinson Family, whose repertoire now included many patriotic songs.151 Despite the popularity of the musical Hutchinson Family, and the forcefulness of Phillips’ rhetoric, his argument failed to make many converts among white city residents.

An apparent attempt to link the war to anti-slavery activism and to stir up white phobias about African American militancy occurred during the same month as the beating of the black vendor at Camp Curtin. Sometime in the first week of August, handbills began appearing around town announcing:

Attention, Colored Men!

The great Gen. James Lane has arrived in this city to-day, and will address the colored citizens of Harrisburg in front of the Market-House at four o'clock this (Monday) afternoon. Men and brethren, come along.
The government having granted him permission to raise two Colored Regiments, he will be prepared to swear in all able-bodied colored men who may offer, and he confidently expects to raise one company in this place.
Arms, equipment, uniforms, pay, rations, and bounty the same as received by white soldiers, and no distinction will be made. Come one, come all.
J. H. Tompkins, Recruiting Officer for Lane's Colored Regiments.

The handbills caused considerable agitation and anxiety among white residents, loaded as they were with a number of inflammatory statements. Most alarming, to the peaceable citizens of Harrisburg was the name “James Lane,” which referred to Kansas Senator James Henry Lane, whose nicknames “Bloody Jim,” and “The Grim Chieftain” reveal the reputation that surrounded this iconoclastic Republican figure.

Even more frightening to white Harrisburg residents was the fact that Lane had just begun recruiting for the First Kansas Colored Infantry in his state, in defiance of federal regulations against the recruiting and arming of African Americans for duty as federal soldiers. This handbill suggested that the fiery Jayhawker had intimidated state authorities into allowing him to raise African American regiments in Pennsylvania. Images of the Garnet Guards, parading brazenly up Market Street with shouldered muskets a mere two months before John Brown tried to rally African Americans into a holy anti-slavery army filled their heads, while Henry Highland Garnet’s words burned in their memories: “If you must bleed, let it all come at once.” Worse yet, the handbill promised that all equipment and pay would be on par with white soldiers. White Harrisburg was not ready for this.

George Bergner, however, sensed that all was not right with the posters, and investigated. The editor of the Daily Telegraph soon found that they had been printed on the presses of the rival Patriot and Union newspaper. Believing that they were false, and had been composed solely to stir up sentiment against local anti-slavery advocates, and, by association, against Republican politicians, Bergner shared his suspicions with local Provost Marshal Dodge, and the next day a team of military officers arrived in Harrisburg from Washington, DC and arrested the owners and editors of the Patriot and Union on charges of suspected treason.

The men were all taken to Washington and held for three weeks while military officials decided whether they were guilty of exciting the passions of residents opposed to using African American troops, and of discouraging the enlistment of white soldiers. The editor, Uriah J. Jones, admitted to writing the placards for political purposes but denied any intention of embarrassing local recruiting officers. All were released on 23 August after signing loyalty statements, and returned to Harrisburg with the threat of military confiscation of their printing presses still hanging over their heads. The threatened confiscation did not happen, however, and the Patriot and Union continued to publish editions.152

Despite the arrest scare, the editors and staff of the Patriot and Union did not noticeably decrease their anti-administration rhetoric after that. In fact, perhaps in compensation for the humiliation at the hands of those they perceived to be abolitionists, their anti-African American and anti-abolition slant became more pronounced.

The attitude of Harrisburg whites toward the intentions of their African American neighbors backslid another few degrees in the excitement following this incident. As with the black peddler suspected of selling poisoned food to the troops, and the possibility that local blacks were about to be organized into armed companies by a western abolitionist fanatic, whites seemed ready to believe any rumor or story about the dangers presented by the local black population. Bergner even cautioned his fellow citizens against putting too much stock in “the numerous and silly rumors that are propagated…to the effect that the most serious and terrible outrages are being almost daily perpetrated upon weak and helpless white people by the blacks, who, it is alleged by these reports, are becoming turbulent and defiant.”153

 

Anxious Times

If anything, Harrisburg’s African American community was intentionally keeping a low profile during the current excitement. Instead of celebrating the First of August with marches through the streets, egalitarian banners, and the delivery of fiery anti-slavery speeches—things that had a way of disturbing local whites—the 1862 celebration was toned down to be little more than a picnic, and the location was moved out of sight and view of local whites, to Haehnlen’s Woods, a popular picnic grove on Allison Hill, east of town.154

Few other African American social events were publicized in the local newspapers during this time, with the exception of a public invitation to attend the laying of the cornerstone for the new brick Wesley Union Church in Tanner’s Alley.155 The congregation had finally raised enough money to begin building the badly needed replacement for the old, small brick structure that had been in place since the church relocated there in 1839. While the new church was being constructed, services were moved to the public hall, popularly known as the Colored Masonic Hall, owned by Aaron Bennett in Tanner’s Alley. Significantly, the new church structure would have its main entrance on South Street, instead of on Tanner’s Alley, a move that acknowledged the expansion of the African American community beyond the constricted boundaries of the congested, narrow, muddy alley.

It also signaled the readiness and eagerness of the African American community to become more closely integrated with the white community. The new church would be an attractive structure, as equally suited to the majesty and solemnity of the Lord’s work as the surrounding white churches, and, it was desired, would be accepted as such. The laying of the cornerstone was a ceremony that local African Americans hoped would demonstrate to white Harrisburg that they should be accepted as equals in their spiritual and moral works, even if not in their political and social efforts.

The anxious times, however, worked against even such simple things as mutual respect and acceptance. If local blacks had to coexist only with local whites, their daily lives might have been less consumed with the continuous fight to ensure their safety and preserve their dignity. The average Harrisburg resident wanted only to be let alone to his or her business; the less fuss the better. Blacks and whites living in the shadow of the Capitol had worked in proximity to each other for generations, with only occasional racial friction surfacing, usually in response to incursions by outsiders. As long as everyone kept to their own social and cultural sphere, trouble was contained to the less savory locations, such as speakeasies and dance houses. The seasonal presence of state legislators, lobbyists, and the occasional reporter had not changed that dynamic, and even the violence and unrest associated with the appearance of slave catchers was viewed, for the most part, as participatory. If you wanted to stay out of it, you could stay off the streets.

But life in a war town was much different. The relationship between local whites and local African Americans, even though lacking in social parity, was severely upset by the insertion of soldiers, support workers, visitors, reporters, criminals, and opportunists; and not just a few. Harrisburg was inundated by thousands, and at times tens of thousands, of strangers. Despite the efforts by Mayor Kepner to keep the peace, bands of thrill-seeking soldiers always seemed to be in town, and when few other entertainments existed, they turned their attention to making life difficult for the African American residents they encountered on the sidewalks and in the market sheds.

In August 1862, Joseph Bustill and his family left town for that rather exclusive luxury known to few people of the times: a vacation. While Joseph went to upstate New York, to “take the cure” and see the sights around Saratoga Springs, his wife Sarah and two-year-old son David went to Philadelphia to spend the summer with the Jacob C. White, Jr. family. The Bustills and Whites kept in touch through frequent correspondence, not just with each other, but also with friends and family back in Harrisburg. In a letter from Jacob to Joseph, dated 19 August 1862, Jacob White thanked his cousin for a recent letter and begged him for descriptions of the springs and the famed Union Hall hotel in that town.

After giving a lighthearted account of recent family news, White turned to the more somber political and war news, and then informed Joseph of the unpleasant turn of events in his adopted hometown. Joseph Bustill’s wife Sarah had just received a letter from her sister, Hannah Williams, wife of abolitionist and anti-slavery activist John F. Williams, in Harrisburg. Hannah had very unsettling news of events in her hometown for her vacationing sister. Jacob White relayed the news to Joseph, telling him:

By a letter received by Mrs. Bustill from Mrs. Williams in Harrisburg, we learn that there are very troublous times there. Numbers of soldiers are at large in the city and their prejudice against “the peculiar people” is evidenced by the Kicks and cuffs they administer to our poor sable brethren. It is dangerous for colored people to walk the streets after night. The house of a colored man has been burned to the ground, and a deplorable state of affairs is said to exist.156

The house that burned down was that of Curry Taylor, the longtime resident caterer and baker. Hannah Williams was well acquainted with Taylor, as both were charter members of the new African American Presbyterian Church headed by Charles Gardiner, and she surely felt Taylor’s loss almost as keenly as he did. Much of the distress expressed in the letter to her sister in Philadelphia was probably generated by this spectacular and horrible, although fortunately non-fatal, blaze.

Curry Taylor was one of the town’s most well known African American entrepreneurs, making his reputation in the 1840s by bringing a wide variety of fresh seafood and hard-to-find vegetables to town from the fish and produce markets in Baltimore. In time, he even had a regular stall in the southern market shed on the square. His rich and varied provisions allowed him to become one of the town’s most successful caterers, and his fresh baked bread won an award at the Fifth Annual Pennsylvania State Agricultural Exhibition, held in Harrisburg in September 1855.157

The blaze that destroyed Curry Taylor’s West Avenue home actually started in his bakery, which was situated at the rear of his residence. Sometime about four-thirty in the morning on 14 August, someone noticed flames shooting from the bakery. The cry of “Fire!” quickly awoke the family and neighbors, and in a few minutes, the bells of the closest firehouse alerted the rest of the town to the emergency. Taylor, and probably a few of his neighbors, quickly carried or threw as much furniture out of the burning structure as possible before the smoke and flames drove them permanently out.

Although firefighters arrived quickly, the wooden home and bakery were already fully engulfed in flames, and the firemen concentrated their efforts on saving the house next door. Curry Taylor, his family, and neighbors could do little more than stand helplessly beside their pile of salvaged furniture and watch their home and business come crashing down into a pile of sparks and glowing embers. The newspaper reported that the early morning blaze was “the work of an incendiary.”158

Whether Curry Taylor’s establishment was targeted by an arsonist because of his race or whether he and his family were random victims will never be known. To Harrisburg’s African American community, though, the fire appeared as one more outrage in an increasing wave of violence directed against them. Unfortunately, things were about to get considerably worse.

September 1862 brought more dire news with rumors that Confederate forces were about to invade Pennsylvania. The invasion threat came swiftly in the final weeks of a chaotic and tense summer. On 5 September, elements of the Army of Northern Virginia, commanded by General Robert E. Lee, crossed into Maryland and headed for Frederick. Within days, the level of tension in Harrisburg rose mightily, buoyed by invasion rumors and unsubstantiated news reports of approaching Southern soldiers. Citizens in small towns around Harrisburg held “war meetings” to discuss how best to respond to the crisis.

In Harrisburg, tongues wagged with rumors that military authorities were preparing to build defense works on the hills around the capital city. Stories were related about trainloads of frightened refugees from Chambersburg being delivered at the Market Street station, with the numbers of fugitives increasing with each retelling. Most concerning of all was the breathlessly voiced news about the imminent rebel plan to cross the river and capture Harrisburg. To Harrisburg’s African American community this last item, if true, was the worst of all possible scenarios.

George Bergner sought to quell the fury of stories with a bit of editorializing about the danger posed by rumors, and cautioned his readers to be more critical of the news they were hearing on the street corners. “All the rumors of a march on the capital of the state, are foolish and mischievous,” he wrote. “The rebels have neither attempted, nor do they want to get into Pennsylvania.”159 The Republican editor knew his audience well. Harrisburgers loved to wallow in the frenzy of approaching disaster, as long as it did not interfere with that evening’s peace and quiet. His soothing words were the warm, cozy cabin into which they could retreat after vicariously taunting the circling wolves of possible invasion.

Even as Bergner dismissed invasion talk as nonsense in one column, though, he promoted the danger in the next column over, in copy written for one of his advertisers. An ad for the Urich and Bowman dry goods store near the Harrisburg Bridge began with a bit of doggerel and followed with boasting:

Draw forth your red bandannas,
And have them ready shaken;
For Frederick city, Maryland,
Was by the rebels taken.

While we realize fully the immense destruction that must ensue in the event of the rebels visiting Pennsylvania by the way of Hagerstown, and marching down the Cumberland Valley to our city, it is to our mind such a foolhardy proposition that we cannot entertain it for a moment. Prudence, however, commands us with our best vigilance to be prepared, and the proprietors of the popular dry goods house, corner of Front and Market streets will charge on them as they arrive in the city.160

 

Uncle Toms' Cabin at Sanford's Theater

Days later the Telegraph was still simultaneously pumping up the war frenzy while urging calm. In an ad for a local theater, the paper reminded, “Notwithstanding the excitement about the invasion of our city by the rebels, Sanford is not forgot. The large audiences that assemble there nightly is convincing proof that rational amusement is necessary.”

The “rational amusement,” on this occasion, was quite appropriate to the emergency. Sanford’s Opera House was staging “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” This was not, however, the traveling stage version based strongly on Harriett Beecher Stowe’s best selling novel. Samuel S. Sanford’s adaptation, dubbed “Sanford’s Southern Version,” or “Real Life in Old Kentuck,” purported to tell the authentic story of slave life on the plantations. In popular burlesque style, it lambasted abolitionism and featured the character Aunt Chloe as an unhappy free resident of Cincinnati, singing a song called “I’d radder be on de Old Plantation.” The character Topsy accompanies herself on the banjo and sang “Dere’s No Use Talking When a Nigger Wants to Go.”

In Sanford’s version, Eliza and George Harris stayed on the plantation to “jump de broom” in Uncle Tom’s cabin, to live a satisfyingly bucolic life in Kentucky. The final scene, dubbed “Such a Happy Time,” featured “congo dances, reels, camp meeting chants,” and a ‘corn shucking reel,” with the entire troupe singing

Oh! White folks, we’ll have you to know,
Dis am not de version of Mrs. Stowe;
In her de Darks am all unlucky,
But we am de boys of Ol Kentucky.

Den hand de banjo down to play,
We’ll make it ring both night an day;
And we care not what de white folks say,
Dey can’t get us to run away.
161

Samuel S. Sanford, a veteran minstrel performer since 1840, wrote and first staged this version of Stowe’s serialized story in 1853 in a specially built Philadelphia minstrel hall, called Sanford’s Opera House, first located on the corner of Twelfth and Chestnut streets. Following a disastrous fire, Sanford’s troupe of minstrel performers moved to a new home in 1855, opening in a hall at Eleventh Street with partner Freeman Dixey, where the Sanford Opera Troupe continued to perform until April 1862, when Sam Sanford split with Dixey, moved the troupe to Harrisburg and opened in a hall on the corner of Blackberry Alley and South Third Street.162

Here, Sanford’s troupe offered a varied bill of amusements including burlesque, dancing, comedy, singing, and of course minstrel shows. For the latter, the troupe performed in blackface, with Sam Sanford as the star. In his version of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” which by 1862 had become one of their signature pieces, Sanford played the role of Uncle Tom.

This pro-Southern version played very well in Harrisburg—Bergner wrote that “the entertainments as given by Mr. S. and his heroic men are just what the people like and want”—attracting large audiences through its run. Sanford charged twenty-five cents for general admission, fifty cents for private box seats, and offered gallery seating for just fifteen cents. Traditionally, African American patrons were restricted to the galleries in Harrisburg theaters. Whether any chose to overlook the overtly racist and patronizing bill of fare in order to avail themselves of a little “rational amusement” from Sanford’s “Great Star Troupe of Minstrels” in this time of crisis is not known.163

 

Excitement, Panic, and a "Large Number of Contrabands"

A few days later the reality of the political situation hit home when, at 11:15 on Thursday morning, 11 September, the train from Chambersburg pulled into the Cumberland Valley Railroad depot loaded with frightened civilians from the valley. Local people who spoke to the throng as they descended from the cars onto the platform heard stories of “excitement and panic” in the wake of a Confederate invasion. The soldiers in gray were thought at that time to be on the verge of invading Pennsylvania, if they had not done so already. This alarming news was verified by the other passengers on the morning train: “a large number of contrabands.”164

Although the newspaper identified the African American war refugees as all contrabands—or escaped Southern slaves—the likelihood is that a good number of free African American residents of Chambersburg, Shippensburg, Newville, and Carlisle were also present. Many had roots in the South, or had escaped slavery decades before and had been living in relative peace in the rural districts and small towns of the Cumberland Valley since then. Many of these same persons had for years successfully evaded the small parties of slave catchers who ventured north in the name of the Fugitive Slave Law, only to be suddenly faced with the prospect of thousands of enemy soldiers rampaging through the countryside, scouring each farm and town for supplies, and possibly, for fugitive slaves.

The fear of being captured by Southern soldiers and returned South into slavery was enough to cause many free and nominally free African Americans in Adams, Franklin, and Cumberland Counties to pull up stakes and move east on the first available train. They stayed on until they crossed the railroad bridge into the state capital, at which point they, along with the white farmers and businessmen who had also fled, descended upon Harrisburg’s dusty streets.

That same day, Governor Andrew Gregg Curtin issued an urgent call for fifty-thousand volunteers to repel the invading Confederate forces. City newspapers were agog with alarming headlines: “To Arms! To Arms!” and “Pennsylvania Invaded.” The accompanying article finally admitted the desperate nature of the military situation, stating “There is no use of disguising the fact, the enemy has invaded our State; commenced the destruction of the railroad from Hagerstown to Chambersburg, and we have no doubt, if not checked will soon lay our homes desolate.”

By the next day, those alarming reports of invasion were shown to be false, but the panic continued. Again, the Chambersburg train was loaded with war refugees, and, as reported by the local newspaper “a large proportion of them were colored people, both slave and free, showing no disposition to fall into the hands of the rebels.”165

Harrisburg was now overflowing not only with troops and workers, but also with civilian refugees. At the height of the crisis, it was reported, “The hotels are like bee hives, swarming—private houses are open, their hospitality and accommodations at once cordial and free to all who choose to enter—and thus the State Capital is one vast camp, where the soldier is at liberty to bivouac on the street corner, in our most elegant mansions, the capital grounds or the capitol buildings.”166 Soldiers were also quartered in the new county courthouse at Market and Court Street, in the railroad depots, and in any free space available. Civilians crowded in wherever they could find room.

African American refugees shoved into the already cramped rooming houses and private homes in Judy’s Town and Tanner’s Alley. The local African American churches scrambled to enlist volunteers to help clothe, feed, and find better living arrangements for these persons. It was about this time that the Confederate prisoners began arriving in town as well, and were forwarded to Camp Curtin for confinement. The sixty captured African American Confederate soldiers were included in this lot, and they followed the same road out of town to the prison area as the white prisoners, attracting considerable attention in their own right. Days later they would be marched under guard to waiting railroad cars and sent to military prisons further north, creating a scene that must have caused a considerable number of mixed emotions to local African Americans who watched the procession from the sidewalks and street corners.


A New Hope

On 22 September 1862, the entire nature of the war changed for the nation and for African Americans in particular. By proclamation of the President of the United States, the chief aim of the war would no longer be fought merely to bring those states in rebellion back into the union, but it would heretofore include the emancipation of all slaves in states or areas still in rebellion as of the first day of 1863. Most citizens of Harrisburg did not learn of this major change in policy until Tuesday the twenty-third, when the proclamation was printed in its entirety in the newspapers.

Reaction from the staff of the Democratic Patriot and Union was predictably negative, accusing the president of joining the ranks of the abolitionists. The Republican Telegraph, however, hailed the shift as “nothing more or less than what was demanded by the sternness of the crisis.” But the anti-slavery cause was not a popular one among most of Harrisburg’s white residents, and the proclamation would make few converts in the state capital. Therefore, the Republican paper’s editor sought to mollify his more Afro-phobic readers by asserting that the president’s proclamation, although it was a radical step toward ending slavery “does not seek the equalization of the races. It does not propose to elevate the negro to the eminence of the white man, or degrade the white man to the level of the negro.”167

Fear, however, is difficult to stifle. The issue of impending emancipation again brought rumors to the region around Harrisburg; ugly rumors warning of the “robbing of spring houses, burning of barns, ravishing of women,” circulated in the town and countryside, and the culprits were said to be Southern blacks, newly liberated by the president’s proclamation, who were coming into the area.168

African Americans in Harrisburg and in the suburban districts were again viewed with suspicion and fear, despite the fact that none of the rumored outrages had actually occurred and the proclamation had not yet gone into effect. The columns of the Telegraph again sought to dispel the outlandish stories of an African American crime wave and promptly identified the fears as unjustified, but that response was more in defense of the proclamation rather than a defense of the local African American community.

Even that newspaper, Harrisburg’s blacks knew, was not an all-weather friend to their community. In an October editorial headlined “Their Permanent Home,” editor George Bergner again brought up the perennial idea of African colonization as the only means by which African Americans could ever hope to gain anything close to equality. He argued, “It is conceded that here they cannot attain perfect social equality and the highest happiness, and total independence, culture and position can be achieved only by removal.”169

The feeling of alienation was reinforced a week later when the Pottsville Standard published an angry retort to a rumor that military authorities were planning to use freed contrabands to work the Pennsylvania coalmines. The Standard, a Democratic newspaper, was outraged by what it saw as a scheme to “supplant white labor by the employment of negroes.” Moreover, many of the white coal miners were Democrats, and to them the plan smacked of political engineering to throw loyal Democratic workers out of employment “and compel them to leave the County.” Taking a militant tone, the newspaper warned, “We can tell the President of the United States, and his abolition advisers, that they must keep their negroes out of the Coal Region, unless they desire to inaugurate civil war in the North.”170

Continuously assaulted on all sides, besieged by racist rumors, threatened by neighboring counties, and belittled by newspapermen as well as traveling minstrel shows, Harrisburg’s African American community struggled to find their footing in the dangerous floodwaters of the national conflict. They knew that the events of the past twenty months had irrevocably altered their futures in ways they could not yet fully comprehend, but so far, they could do little more than flounder helplessly in trying to exert some sort of control of their own.

Until September of this year, all their efforts to influence those events had seemed inconsequential, and so they had concentrated merely on staying afloat as they were swept along in the current of war. But when Union soldiers successfully stopped General Robert E. Lee’s invasion of Maryland at Antietam Creek on the 17th of the month, and Abraham Lincoln had used that momentous feat, a day that was the bloodiest in American history, to issue his proclamation of emancipation, the event became for them a lifesaving rock emerging from the floodwaters, and they clung to this rock not just for survival, but for hope.

It was a hope born of their strong faith—a faith strengthened by centuries of slavery, decades of racism, and years of abuse. Through all the trials, disappointments, false starts, and disasters, they had always been able to find solace, advice, brotherhood, and organization in the humble pews of their churches. Now, with the promise of emancipation finally at hand, they finally had hope again, but they knew that they also had to prepare. With a renewed sense of purpose, they turned aside the social insults and political proscription, pulled themselves out of the rushing torrent of history, and stood on that rock of future emancipation to make plans for the new year. They headed for the only place that could provide what they needed in this time of their greatest need; they gathered in Reverend Gibbs’ small Bethel A.M.E church on Short Street to prepare for the Year of Jubilee.

 

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Notes

138. William J. Miller, “Harrisburg’s First Casualty,” Bugle 1, no. 1 (January 1991): 3; Harrisburg Daily Telegraph, 27 July 1863. Under the title “Fast Driving,” the Telegraph reported “Yesterday afternoon, two members of a cavalry company drove through Chesnut (sic) street at a gait which would have done justice to escaped lunatics from an insane asylum.”

139. Miller, Training of an Army, 126-127. The Telegraph places the schoolhouse at the corner of Cherry and Raspberry Alleys. In Gopsill’s Directory of Lancaster, Harrisburg, Lebanon and York 1863-4 (Jersey City, 1863), the “Colored School” is located at Cherry Alley, in the South Ward of Harrisburg. It identifies John Wolf as the teacher. Wolf’s schoolhouse would later do more hospital duty following the Battle of Gettysburg, when city hospitals were once again overwhelmed by the wounded and dying soldiers. In that case, however, the patients would be captured Confederate soldiers. After Gettysburg, many of the incoming Confederate prisoners were also wounded and sick, in need of care at city hospitals. All but the Mulberry Street Hospital took in Confederate wounded, and a few small temporary hospitals were also used. The “Colored School” on Cherry Alley at Raspberry Alley was used to house fifty-eight Confederate wounded who arrived in Harrisburg on 21 July 1863. Initially sent to the German Reformed (Salem) Church on Chestnut Street, the Southerners were moved the next day to the schoolhouse “which building has been set apart for their sole accommodation.” The modern day site of this African American schoolhouse and Confederate hospital is now a parking lot to the south of Salem Church. Daily Telegraph, 22 July 1863.

140. Annette Keener-Farley, “Harrisburg’s Homefront,” Bugle 9, no. 4 (October 1999): 5-6; Daily Telegraph, 17 September 1863.

141. Christian Recorder, 25 October 1862.

142. Miller, Training of an Army, 148-150; Daily Telegraph, 24 August 1863.

143. Miller, Training of an Army, 100.

144. Daily Telegraph, 14 July, 2 September 1863.

145. James S. Miller, “From Erie to Harrisburg in 1862,” Bugle 2, no. 3 (July 1992): 3. The actual location of the Confederate prisoner camp and the Pennsylvania cavalry camp was in Camp Simmons, a smaller adjunct camp located just north and to the west of Camp Curtin. The modern day location would be just northeast of the intersection of North Third Street and Polyclinic Avenue (old Reel’s Lane). Miller, Training of an Army, 7, 107.

146. Pennsylvania Daily Telegraph, 16 September 1862.

147. Ibid., 26, 27, 29 September 1862. This appears to be the only instance of the burial of a Confederate African American soldier in Harrisburg. If he was buried in the African American graveyard on Ridge Road, which was the only active African American cemetery in Harrisburg during the war, then it is probable that his remains were eventually re-interred in Lincoln Cemetery after 1877. It is possible, but less likely, that his remains were interred on the grounds of the county poor house.

148. Patriot and Union, 19 September 1863.

149. The Telegraph reported some typical incidents: “Various complaints having been made at the Mayor’s office of the noisy and boisterous conduct of a party of young men who for some time have been in the habit of congregating at a house of ill-repute in Tanners alley, officer Campbell last evening was dispatched to that quarter to regulate matters…”and in the same edition: “A party of negroes, named Thos. Keane, Geo. Butler, Dick Allen and ‘Ginger,’ were arrested last night by the Mayor’s police, for riotous conduct at a house somewhere in Short street,” Daily Telegraph, 28 January 1862. Fraternization between white citizens and soldiers and African American residents was generally not publicly tolerated, but was acknowledged to occur with regularity in the speakeasies, dancehalls, and the brothels of Tanner’s Alley. See the article “Drunks” in the Telegraph, 2 July 1861.

150. Miller, Training of an Army, 108; G[eorge] N. Barnes, 16 August 1862, to his parents, “Letter Home From Camp,” Camp Curtin Historical Society, http://www.campcurtin.org/campcurtin/barnes/barnes.htm (accessed 28 February 2003). That same day, Post Surgeon J. P. Wilson posted the following notification from the Camp Curtin Hospital Department in response to queries from the local newspapers: “Reports having been circulated to the effect that several men had been poisoned at Camp Curtin by eating pies, containing strychnine, and that they had died from its effects, I deem it only just to state, that there is no foundation in fact or circumstance for this rumor. There has not been a single death in camp, or any sickness but a few mild cases of cholera morbus, caused by eating unripe fruit or vegetables, since the gathering of the recruits now in camp.” Daily Telegraph, 16 August 1862.

151. Liberator, 4 April 1862.

152. Daily Telegraph, 7 August 1862; William Henry Egle, History of the County of Dauphin, 141. As editor of the Republican, pro-administration Daily Telegraph, George Bergner held considerable sway with local authorities. The arrest and detainment of his rivals for three weeks in a Washington military prison on treason charges was a major coup, but it was only part of the personal battle that he waged against them. Barely two weeks before their arrest by the Washington Provost Marshal, Bergner pressed charges of libel against owners Oromel Barrett, Thomas C. MacDowell and editor Uriah J. Jones, resulting in their arrest. They were released on a guarantee of surety from Augustus L. Roumfort. Daily Telegraph, 21 July 1862.

153. Daily Telegraph, 3 September 1862.

154. Ibid., 1 August 1862. The picnic grove was in a portion of what is now Bellevue Park.

155. Ibid., 9 August 1862; Barton and Dorman, Harrisburg’s Old Eighth Ward, 39.

156. “Letters of Negroes, Largely Personal and Private [Part 1],” Journal of Negro History 11, no. 1 (January 1926): 82-83.

157. Third Annual Report of the Transactions of the Pennsylvania State Agricultural Society for the Year 1855, vol. 3 (Harrisburg: A. Boyd Hamilton, State Printer, 1856), 53. Curry Taylor won “second best” in the category of best five loaves of bakers’ bread, in the exhibition that was held in the newly constructed fair grounds north of town. These are the same fair grounds that in 1861 were appropriated by the military for use as the site of Camp Curtin. In the 1855 exhibition, Taylor’s loaves were rated “very superior.” The exhibition was the forerunner of the modern day Pennsylvania State Farm Show.

158. Daily Telegraph, 14 August 1862. In addition to the total destruction of Curry Taylor’s house and bakery, the fire also consumed two small outbuildings and severely damaged the roof, attic, and one side of the neighboring two-story wooden house.

159. Ibid., 8 September 1862.

160. Ibid.

161. Broadside, “Sanford’s Opera House,” 11 October 1853, Clifton Waller Barrett Collection, University of Virginia. Sanford’s troupe was still performing the same version as late as 1861, one year before relocating to Harrisburg. Broadside, “Sanford’s’ Opera House,” 1861, Billy Rose Theatre Collection, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts; Pennsylvania Daily Telegraph, 8 September 1862.

162. Edward Le Roy Rice, Monarchs of Minstrelsy, From “Daddy” Rice to Date (New York: Kenny Publishing, 1911), 34, 86.

163. Pennsylvania Daily Telegraph, 8, 10 September 1862. Whether or not they took in the racist version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” Harrisburg’s African American residents did patronize the minstrel shows, and crowded the gallery at Sanford’s Opera House later that year on the closing night of the season. For the final show of the season, the Telegraph reported in its 8 October 1862 issue, “The gallery was well represented by Africa—and jammed to completion.” The more traditional dramatization of “Uncle Toms’ Cabin” came to Harrisburg in January 1864, playing at Brant’s Hall for about one week. It was performed by a traveling troupe who called themselves the Grand Star Combination Dramatic Company,” which, the newspaper noted, was “composed of twenty-two ladies and gentlemen of acknowledged metropolitan reputation.” Evening Telegraph, 22 January 1864.

164. Pennsylvania Daily Telegraph, 11 September 1862.

165. Ibid., 12, 13 September 1862.

166. Ibid., 16 September 1862.

167. Ibid., 23 September 1862. Patriot and Union, 23 September 1862.

168. Pennsylvania Daily Telegraph, 3 October 1862.

169. Ibid., 25 October 1862.

170. Pottsville Standard, reprinted in the American Volunteer, 6 November 1862. The same argument that fugitive slaves would replace white workers was advanced in March 1862 by the editor of the Easton Argus, in response to an article from the New York Herald’s Philadelphia correspondent, who wrote about the arrival in that city of ninety-seven such persons. The article charged abolitionists with “using every endeavor to secure the employment of blacks in the arsenals and navy yards.” To which statement the Easton Argus newspaper complained, “As these blacks are willing to work cheaper than white men, our white laborers will, as a matter of course, be thrown out of employment, to the extent that these people are introduced into our midst.” Easton Argus, reprinted in the Valley Spirit, 30 April 1862.


 

Caution: Copyrighted material. Published September 2010.

© 2010 George F. Nagle

 

 

This is the first in a series of books from the Afrolumens Project. Drawing on a large number of sources, and making good use of the treasure trove of information on the pages of the Afrolumens Project, this is the first truly comprehensive history of Harrisburg's African American community.

Pick up your copies at the Mid-Town Scholar Bookstore, Civil War and More Books, the National Civil War Museum,
or at the 2010 Harrisburg History Center.

Both volumes also available on Amazon.

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