5. On your human trafficking page you say, “People of all races & faiths worked together to get enslaved people to freedom. Pass legislation and provide safe havens and help them to rebuild their lives. It is sad to think Slavery still exist and in my hometown of Atlanta, GA!” Modern slavery is something that I don’t think most people are very aware of (I definitely know very little about it). What is the extent of modern slavery and what resources would you recommend for my readers and I to learn more?
Being informed is important. Take this quick survey to see how many product and services you use that supply slave labor.
In doing research for the television program Atlanta Live that I was going to be on in coming days and I found and took the survey at Slavery footprint. I had bought nail polish and make up that had mica I was enlightened to find out I had 64 items that day with products made or processed by forced labor!
I was impressed on a recent visit to the Levi & Catherine Coffin Home in Fountain City, IN that he operated a Free Labor Store. He would not purchase or sale any products that were made by the hands of forced unpaid labor (“slaves”). He had to make the decision to purchase higher priced good or inferior quality products. The Quaker community worked together to support the Coffin’s efforts but disagreed with him breaking the law by taking in fugitives in their home or providing aid based on his belief that God’s law was higher than man’s laws ( like the 1793 that allowed slavery.
Look for coffee and clothing marked “Fair Trade Products” which are our modern Free Labor Products.
Here are a couple links Teresa provided to learn more about modern slavery and what is being done to combat it.
Polaris Project representatives attended the Human Trafficking training I took from the GA Department of Education. The Polaris Project’s attorneys were conference trainers, along with Scotland Yard. To find organizations in your area that are involved in fighting human trafficking go here.
The Polaris Project also has a human trafficking hotline for folks to report any info they might have: "The easiest and fastest way to reach us is to call our hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text BeFree (233733). Hotline Call Specialists are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to take reports from anywhere in the country related to potential trafficking victims, suspicious behaviors, and/or locations where trafficking is suspected to occur. All reports are confidential. Interpreters are available."
My other favorite website is the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
They have reporting info, how to get involved, what slavery looks like in 2014 and much more.
6. You have not confined your research to the Underground Railroad. On your military history page, you detail your family’s military service throughout U.S. history, and you point out that over 200 of your family members served in the Civil War. Could you give us a brief account of your family’s service during the war?
One of the Methods of Escape we cover in the UGRR Method of Escape Exhibit includes that freed people ran to the Union lines and became “Contraband”.
I found newspaper articles that David Richardson Strother was wounded in the Civil War and documents about his service to the Confederate States of America.
I was doing a program at the Atlanta-Fulton County library on “How to find Your Civil War Ancestors. Since I look African-American, the librarian assumed I had only African American ancestors. When I received the flyer marketing the program, she had changed the title to “How to Find Your African-American Civil War Ancestors”! Seeing the new title, I did research on how to look up African American Civil War Ancestors also. Half way through my Power Point presentation notes,” my next page stated, “Your Civil War ancestors may not be Men nor African American like some of mine!” I showed the following two photos of my ancestors and everyone laughed with me.
You can read the Jstore document about his life (David Hunter Strother, left) on-line for free: "Porte Crayon": The Life of David Hunter Strother by Cecil D. Eby, H. F. R., Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society.
David Richardson Strother (My great grandfather, right) Company K, 2nd Regiment Artillery, Edgefield, South Carolina.
This South Carolina Company was enlisted in August, 1861, and went into service at Camp Butler, near Aiken. After the organization the command was transferred to Fort Jackson on James Island and served in the defense of Charleston until the evacuation of that city in February, 1865. The company was the nucleus of Colonel T. G Lamar’s Battalion and subsequent regiment, the Second of Artillery. In the battle of Secessionville—the capture of the Isaac P. smith, a federal gunboat and in other engagements and skirmishes on James Island—this command was an active participant.
After the evacuation of Charleston, which the city this command had held safe form the enemy for four long years by arduous labor on her defenses and exhausting exposure, night after night, under an almost continual fire of the enemies guns, the command was attached to the army of General Johnston and served as infantry until the surrender. There was no finer body, nor better drilled company in the Army of the South. The company suffered heavy loss in the battles of Averysboro and Bentonville in North Carolina, This Veteran command surrendered with General Joe Johnson at Greensboro, NC, in 1865.
7. Many Civil War buffs (at least me) identify strongly with an individual character from the war. Do you have a favorite Civil War hero? If so, who is it and why?
There are so many efforts that go unnoticed by brave citizens of all nationalities in America. Many people think I should only collect or save African American stories but I am multi-racial and it is important to present my heritage. That does not mean that I am proud of every decision they made. It does mean we can look back and use their decisions as a teachable moment. I continue to research and was invited to the Levi Coffin House by his descendant Laurie Seron. She flew into Columbus OH where we met and together we drove Fountain City, IN. I toured their home and now will share why I am still amazed at what they did. Of the struggles for religious freedom and how we are in the mist of border controversy that makes the position of Levi Coffin his family and community stand out all the more. His family are my latest favorite. I am so impressed with his wife Catherine, his children and Levi.
What I had never considered until putting together the exhibit to travel was Abolitionist efforts like Fredrick Douglass, Sojourner Truth was a nurse, Harriet Tubman and Levi Coffin. Both visited contraband camps. Frederick Douglas’s wrote articles, raised monies, his sons fought and he recruited for the war efforts.
In 1864, sixty-five year old Levi Coffin now living in Cincinnati, OH where he opened a warehouse for the distribution of “Free Labor” products. He harbored hundreds of people that were labeled “Contraband”. All Union soldiers did not feel the same about slavery, Africans who were enslave or African Americans. Some of the Union forces used the newly freed men and women again as slave labor!
He applied for a passport and once granted left New York and went to England where he appealed to the Quaker communities in England and raised $100,000.00 in one year. He returned and gave the monies to the Freedman’s Associations for the housing, food, clothing and education of the newly freed “contraband." The numbers were so great they were draining the resources of the Union armies.
It is one thing to “Believe Slavery is Wrong” it is totally different to take day to day action.
They had an outhouse with 3 seats about 100 feet behind their small home. They had an indoor secret well. With meager resources the women made clothes, fed, bathed and took out the “chamber pots for their 100 fugitive guest per year for 30 years!
They had to make the soap for their family and guest. They had to harvest the cotton, comb it, spin, and weave and make towels they used. They grew or caught the food they shared and served. The men had to cut blocks of ice out of the creeks or river to keep food stuff cold. They had to chop firewood for their fireplaces in their homes. I have been at my parent’s home in Ohio when the power went out for a week or two and they had wood burning stoves and modern conveniences of electric generators that would run everything.
Levi Coffin went into the contraband camps and brought whatever relief he could. I am going to step up and assist in raising money to keep this legacy going and other distressed historic properties in repair, preserve artifacts and open to tell these stories.
I am going to help build the Levi Coffin Visitor Center in Fountain City, IN. His descendent Laurie Seron and our family have partnered for other humanitarian efforts in the past.
My mother and I at the Kelton House in Columbus Ohio with the CBS film Crew here is a link to the video they shot about my family working on the Underground Railroad.
My mother's videotaped interviews as an Art History Maker it is on the topics of her family how she grew up in SC, WV and PA, our family working on the UGRR and more. We are proud to say the collection of interviews is part of the History Makers out of Chicago and are now going to be housed in the Library of Congress.
8. Finally, the focus of this site is stories. So, I can't end the interview without asking, what is your favorite interesting or entertaining incident or story from the Civil War (I’m sure your research has turned up some fascinating stories)?
(Editors note: Teresa submitted two stories, the first is a lengthy account by Levi Coffin concerning his trip to Europe to raise money for the Freedman's Aid Society.)
IN March, 1864, I made another visit to our field of labor in the South, to see that a judicious distribution of alms was made to the sufferers, and to look after the welfare of our numerous teachers, who, at the cost of much privation and self-sacrifice, were doing a noble work among the freedmen.
On my return home my mind was impressed with the thought that if our friends in England could understand the conditions and wants of these suffering thousands of lately emancipated slaves, many of them would willingly help us in this great work. I was personally acquainted with several prominent ministers of our society, and others who had visited this country, and knew something of the sympathy and state of feeling that existed there in regard to the freedmen. I thought that it might be right for me to lay the subject before the philanthropists of England, but in meditating on the matter I felt many misgivings. I was inclined to plead excuses, to say, as Moses did, that I was not eloquent, but slow of speech and of a slow tongue, but I remembered that the Lord said to Moses: "Go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what to say," and told him that Aaron should meet him and go with him, and the thought occurred that I might meet an Aaron on the other side of the water, who would assist me. After much thought and earnest prayer, the path in that direction seemed clear. I brought the subject before my dear wife and she encouraged me to go. My health seemed to be failing under the pressure of my labors here, and she thought that rest and a change of work would be of great benefit to me. I then presented the matter to the board of directors of the Freedmen's Aid Commission, under whose auspices I proposed to go. They appeared to be much pleased with my prospective mission, and gave me their united sanction and encouragement. They asked me what salary I would require, or what per cent. of my collections I would be satisfied with; to which I replied that I had never collected money for benevolent purposes in that way, that my mission might not be a successful one--I might not collect enough to pay expenses--but if they were willing to bear my expenses I would engage in the mission and do the best I could. I wished to go entirely untrammeled by any pecuniary considerations, or any limitations of time. They at once agreed to furnish means for my expenses, leaving the other matters to my choice. Preparations were then made for the journey, and I was furnished with numerous credentials.
In addition to the commission as general agent of the Western Freedmen's Aid Commission, given me by the board of directors, a number of official documents were voluntarily offered; one from the board of directors of the Western Tract and Book Society--of which I had been a member for many years--and one signed by the mayor of the city and some prominent judges and lawyers of the courts of Cincinnati. I was also presented with a recommendation signed by the faculty of Lane Seminary--a theological school on Walnut Hills--and another signed by the ministers of the different religious denominations in the city. Most of these documents were prepared without my knoweledge, and though they expressed more than I felt I merited, I received them, with gratitude for my friends' kindness, knowing that they would be of much service to me in my mission. I obtained also from the Monthly Meeting, of which I was a member, a certificate of membership in the Society of Friends, indorsed by the correspondents of the Yearly Meeting. Thus equipped with all necessary documents I took leave of my family and friends at Cincinnati, the first of 5th month, May, and started on my mission. I remained a day or two at New York, where I received from Secretary Chase, at Washington, the passport to Europe which was then required, and for which I had previously applied. I received, besides, a general letter of recommendation from the secretary; also one of similar character from Henry Ward Beecher.
I then took passage on the steamship City of Edinburgh, for Liverpool, arriving at that port in safety after a voyage of thirteen days, during which time we encountered strong head winds and some very rough weather. From Liverpool I went to London, and stopped at a hotel. Here I met William Blaine, of Liverpool, a Friend whom I had once met in America. It was pleasant to recognize a familiar face among so many strangers, and we greeted each other as old friends. London Yearly Meeting of Friends was then in session. The next day, first day (Sabbath), I rode out to Tottenham and attended the morning meeting. Here I met with Josiah Forster who had been at my house in America--this place was the home of the noted Forster family. I dined with this dear old friend, and then returned to my quarters in London. The next morning I went, accompanied by William Blaine, of Liverpool, to the Devonshire House, that old and spacious edifice where London Yearly Meeting is held, where it was established, two centuries ago, in the days of George Fox and William Penn.
From all parts of the kingdom, Friends were gathered here to attend the great annual assembly of this once despised and persecuted people, now a wealthy and influential body of Christians. Many of them held high positions in the Government; John Bright, Samuel Gurney, William Edward Forster, Henry Pease and others being members of Parliament. The apartments of both men and women in this large building were well filled. It is a plain structure, comfortably and conveniently arranged, and will accommodate a large assembly of people. Two sessions of the Yearly Meeting were held in a day, one in the forenoon and one in the afternoon. I took my seat with William Blaine near the center of the building, having not yet made myself and my mission known to the prominent members of the meeting, or to those ministers whom I recognized--John Pease, Benjamin Seebohm and John Hodgkin. These eminent Friends had visited America several years before on a mission of gospel love, and I had some acquaintance with them.
After the adjournment I made myself known to these persons; they gave me a hearty greeting and introduced me to other prominent Friends. I was invited to dine with John Pease and others at their boarding-place; here I had an opportunity of showing them my credentials and informing them of my mission. They appeared to be much interested, and John Pease proposed to introduce the subject before the meeting the next day. After the devotional services closed, the next morning, and the clerk opened the business meeting, John Pease rose and informed the meeting of my presence, and my mission to that country. He then requested me to come forward and occupy a more prominent place; I was sitting where I had sat the day before. In this he was joined by other Friends, and the clerk invited me forward and I was placed by the side of John Pease, Benjamin Seebohm and others, on the upper seat. Such a prominent position, before such a large body of people, was embarrassing to me; I felt my inability to do justice to the cause that I had come to advocate. The clerk read my certificate of membership and standing in the Society of Friends and my commission from the Western Freedmen's Aid Commission of Cincinnati, and alluded to the documents of recommendation given me by Secretary Chase and others. I was then requested to give an account of the condition and wants of the Freedmen in America. I rose and said that I felt diffident about occupying much of the time; knowing that much business would come before the Yearly Meeting, I would endeavor to confine my remarks to the outlines, and not enter into the details of the subject--an evening meeting, called for that purpose, would perhaps be more appropriate for an extended statement. John Pease spoke up and said: "Don't be afraid of occupying too much time." All diffidence seemed to vanish, and I was favored to give a comprehensive account of the condition and wants of the lately emancipated slaves in America and of our labors among them. I stated that my mission to England was not intended to be confined to the Society of Friends, but was to philanthropists in general; our association was anti-sectarian, but evangelical, and all denominations of Christians could labor together harmoniously in this great work of benevolence. The meeting seemed to be deeply interested in the matter, and gave me much encouragement. Next day a note was sent in from the women's meeting, requesting me to come in their apartment and give them an account of the freed slaves in America, similar to that which I had given the men's meeting. The clerk informed me of this request, and asked me if I was willing to comply with it. I said that I would give the women Friends the desired information at any time that was suitable to them. The clerk sent in a note to that effect, and a message soon came back that they were ready to receive the visit. The meeting then, as is the custom in such cases, nominated two Friends to accompany me, and Robert Alsop and William Satterthwaite--both ministers--went with me into the women's apartment. Here we occupied the upper seat, and faced a large and intelligent audience of English women. I felt that this was a fit place to present an account of the extreme destitution and suffering which I had so lately witnessed among the thousands of women and children whose chains had so recently been stricken off. I felt that the cause I had come to plead would find quick sympathy in the benevolent hearts of the mothers and wives and sisters before me. I gave them a brief account of my visits among the freedmen, and spoke of their wants and sufferings. After a few appropriate remarks from some of the women we returned to the men's apartment.
The object of my mission was now well understood by both men and women Friends of London Yearly Meeting, and as representatives were there from all parts of the kingdom, I felt that the way was prepared for me inside the limits of our religious society. But as I have said before, my mission was not to be confined to the Society of Friends. It was anti-sectarian, and my appeal in behalf of the freedmen was intended for the British public. I had letters of introduction to prominent men of other denominations, and to John Bright, Richard Cobden and other members of Parliament.
During the session of the Yearly Meeting I became acquainted with many influential Friends from various parts of the kingdom, who invited me to visit their neighborhoods, kindly offering their assistance in my work in those localities, and cordially inviting me to their homes. They suggested that public meetings should be called and the subject in that way be introduced to the notice of the people. I thanked them for their kindly manifested interest, and said I had not yet decided what course to pursue in bringing the matter before the public. I had by this time moved my quarters to Friends' Institute, near the meeting-house, where an excellent boarding-house was kept for the accommodation of traveling Friends, and where a large number of Friends congregated to take dinner. This gave me the opportunity of extending my acquaintance among them.
Great harmony and brotherly love prevailed during the transaction of business in the meeting; the great Head of the Church appeared to rule and reign, and the wing of divine goodness seemed to overshadow the assembly.
When the meeting was over, and Friends had gone to their homes, I felt lonely and depressed in spirit. I reflected that I was a stranger in the great city of London, and knew not what course to pursue in order to effect the object of my mission. I had been a worker and not a speaker in the anti-slavery cause; I had always avoided public speaking or prominence of any kind, yet the work before me seemed to demand the very qualifiacations which I felt I lacked.
A sense of the great responsibility resting upon me weighed me down. I felt that I was unequal to the task, and feared that I had mistaken my call to the work; I might make a failure in my attempt, and injure the cause I had come to promote. These serious discouragements engrossed my thoughts the most of the night, so that I slept little. I prayed earnestly for divine guidance and direction in all my movements, and toward morning the cloud seemed to pass from my mind; I became quiet and peaceful, believing that some way would open for me to plead the cause of the suffering freedmen.
The invited meeting at Dr. Hodgkin's was largely attended, about seventy-five people being present. Among them were prominent ministers of various religious denominations, members of Parliament, such as John Bright, Richard Cobden, William Edward Forster and Samuel Gurney, and several noted speakers; Newman, Hall, Dr. Massie, Dr. Tomkins and others. Representatives of the principal London papers were also present. The meeting was opened with prayer. The chairman then made a pretty long introductory speech, giving some account of my life and labors in the anti-slavery cause, then introduced me to the audience with eulogies which I felt I did not merit.
When I rose to speak I said that I had not come to England to speak of what I had done, but of what I hoped to do. I had come to tell them a plain, simple story of facts in regard to the freedmen whom I had recently visited, and to endeavor to arouse their sympathy. I said: "You were lately engaged in a noble work of philanthropy--during the time of the Irish famine and Lancaster distress--and we had the privilege of aiding you in it. We are now engaged in a work that has no parallel in history; there has been nothing like it since the children of Israel were led out of the land of bondage." I then explained the condition and wants of these people; the extent of our field of labor and the daily increase of the number of sufferers. I said that the work for the freedmen commenced east of the mountains--in Maryland, Virginia, and the Carolinas--that associations were organized in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, composed of excellent men who had done a noble work, and we had aided them before the work opened in the West, and that I knew they had received some aid from this country, and that these noble philanthropists were still doing a good work among the freedmen, and worthy of their patronage and aid. But that these camps and colonies in the East were now nearer self-supporting than they were in this great new field now opened west of the mountains which I represented. I stated that nearly three-fifths of all the slaves in the United States were located west of the range of Allegheny Mountains, and that the Eastern cities were the money centers of our country; the people there were more wealthy than those of the West; that I would ask that a part of their contributions should go to this great new field.
However, I did not plead for these alone. Although I was an agent of the Western Freedmen's Aid Commission, the first organization established west of the mountains, I had no personal or local interests to promote. I plead for the thousands of suffering freedmen in the United States, and when the most needy cases were met through the most economical channel, my mission would be completed. I told them that I had not come to England to beg, but to lay the matter fairly before them; it was not simply an American question, but one of Christian philanthropy the world over. I did not wish to dictate to them what course they should pursue in regard to collecting and forwarding funds, but I would suggest that they organize a freedmen's association, appoint their own treasurer and banker, and transact their business through a bank. I did not wish to take the responsibility of receiving and forwarding money.
John Bright followed me in a short speech commending my suggestion, then William Edward Forster, Newman Hall, Dr. Massey and others spoke. A resolution to organize a London Freedmen's Aid Society was then adopted, and the work was fairly begun. Samuel Gurney, M.P., suggested that they should not complete their organization then; there were a number of prominent men not present whom he wished to interest in the subject, and he proposed to invite a similar meeting at his house. This was agreed to, and the company separated.
The London papers of the next morning contained accounts of our meeting, giving the names of those who were present, and a synopsis of the speeches, so that my mission to England was soon known all over the kingdom. The meeting at Samuel Gurney's was quite aristocratic in character, being largely composed of lords, dukes, bishops, and members of Parliament. Several prominent ladies were also present. J. B. Braithwaite accompanied me to this meeting. A servant dressed in livery met us at the carriage and conducted us into the hall--where we registered our names--then into an adjoining room, where a table was spread with fruits, pastry and other dainties, and supplied with coffee, tea and wine. After partaking of some refreshments, the guests were conducted to the large elegant parlor on the floor above, where the meeting was to be held, by a servant of higher grade, who announced our names as we entered the door. Here we were met by Samuel Gurney and wife, who introduced us to the ladies and gentlemen present. When this was over, and I was seated near the lord who was to preside over the meeting, I thought "This is quite a contrast to the scenes I so recently witnessed among the refugee slaves of the South, whose cause I have come to plead," and a secret prayer arose in my heart that I might be able to do justice to their cause.
The meeting was opened by prayer, from one of the bishops, after which the secretary read several letters from those who had been invited, expressing regret that they could not come, and sympathy with the object of the meeting. My credentials were then read, and Secretary Chase's letter of recommendation, which was short and to the point. The chairman mentioned that I had other letters from various sources, but said that he was sure what had been read would be sufficient--that I was known to many present by reputation, and to some personally. He then went on to give, in an introductory speech, a brief sketch of my life and labors, concerning which some one had informed him. When I rose to speak, I disclaimed any merit for what I had done, and proceeded to give an account of my late experiences among the freedmen, and to speak of their needs and sufferings. My remarks were the same, in substance, that I had made at the previous meeting. In referring to the war, I said: "I had no sympathy with war under any circumstances. I believe that the terrible conflict now raging in our country was permitted by the Almighty to come upon us as a judgment for the great sin of slavery, and that the North is guilty as well as the South, and must also suffer. The people of the North have connived at and sustained the system of bondage--neither is England innocent in this matter. She was guilty of introducing slavery into America, and has done much to sustain it by purchasing the products of slave-labor. She, too, has suffered, in a degree, in consequence of this war." I alluded to the Lancaster distress, occasioned by the lack of cotton. After speaking of the work as being one of Christian benevolence the world over, and explaining the extent of the field of labor that in the providence of God had been opened before us, I took my seat.
Charles Buxton, M. P., followed me in an able speech; after which several other gentlemen spoke. I was asked a number of questions concerning the freedmen, among the rest was the inquiry, "Do they manifest a disposition to help themselves?" I replied that we had been agreeably surprised in that particular; in general they were inclined to support themselves when they had an opportunity. They did not wish to become paupers. "However," I said, "there is quite a difference among them; some are nearly as trifling and worthless as white people." This remark caused laughter all over the room.
A prominent bishop of London inquired about prejudice against color in America, saying that he understood colored people were not permitted to sit at the table with white folks, or ride with them in public conveyances, and were often refused admittance at hotels.
I replied that a great deal of that kind of prejudice still existed in our country, but that it had lessened since the war commenced.
The bishop said: "In this country we respect people according to their merits. I had the honor of dining with this brother to-day," placing his hand on the woolly head of a very black man who sat near him--a bishop from Sierra Leone, Africa.
The subject of organizing a London Freedmen's Aid Society was next introduced; an account of the proceedings of the meeting at Dr. Hodgkin's was read and united with, and the organization completed.
The association held its first meeting a short time after in the Devonshire House--where the Yearly. Meeting of Friends is held--to make arrangements for forwarding the cause to which I was devoted. The London papers had published the proceedings of the meeting at Samuel Gurney's, thus again giving prominence to my mission. I frequently received letters inviting me to attend meetings at various places. I proposed to labor under the auspices of the London Association, making reports to them of all collections, and paying into the hands of their treasurer all the money I received--leaving them to dispose of it as they thought proper--thus relieving me of the responsibility of forwarding it. I informed them that our treasurer, J. F. Larkin, was a banker, and I suggested that all funds awarded to the Western Freedmen's Aid Commission by the London Association should be forwarded to our treasurer through bank. This suggestion was approved of, and we were informed that the banking-house of Barclay, Bevan, Tritton and Company would receive and forward all contributions for the freedmen without charge. It was proposed to publish a special appeal to the people, and hold meetings in the various towns and cities.
This arrangement would lead me at once into public speaking, to which I was not accustomed; I felt that I was not fitted for it; my voice was weak and my health feeble. I had been a successful collector for the freedmen in my own country, and this had generally been accomplished by holding meetings of a mere private character, calling ministers and prominent men together in the various towns and cities, and arousing their interest, and having some prominent citizen selected to accompany me in making individual calls. In this way I had been successful in accomplishing much for the freedmen; feelings of discouragement and misgivings perplexed me for a time. I feared that I could not succeed so well in addressing large assemblies; that I could not extend my voice over an audience in a large church or public building. That was my only fear. I felt no diffidence or embarrassment; I was fresh from the field of suffering, and could talk about it any length of time, giving a plain statement of facts.
When I made these statements to the committee, several responded that is all we want, and you can be heard to satisfaction. I told them that when the thought of going to England to plead the cause of the slave was first presented to my mind, I felt disposed to plead excuses, as Moses did, but I remembered that he was told that Aaron would meet him and go with him, and I thought, perhaps, I would meet Aarons on this side of the water who would speak for me. Dr. Massie volunteered to be my Aaron and go with me; Dr. Tomkins also volunteered to aid me in the work, and to attend as many of the meetings as his other engagements would permit. They were both clergymen and prominent speakers. Dr. Tomkins and Dr. Massie had both taken a deep interest in promoting the object of my mission. The way now seemed to open pleasantly before me. I frequently received invitations to breakfasts and dinners and teas, to meet other guests. J. B. Braithwaite often accompanied me to these gatherings, where I was introduced to members of the higher classes of society, and after the repast must necessarily make a speech on the subject of my mission, and answer many questions in regard to American affairs.
I found a great deal of misconception and prejudice to combat among some of those occupying high positions. I endeavored to correct the false impressions made by Southern agents and copper-head papers as to the real cause of the war, and in answering questions I had to talk a great deal on the various subjects connected with our struggle in America. I felt deeply sensible of the necessity of great care and watchfulness in all that I said, and earnestly craved to be guided by best wisdom in all my movements. Duties began to crowd upon me.
After my return to London, I was engaged in attending parlor meetings by invitation, and public breakfasts, dinners and tea parties among the higher classes of society, where the subject of my mission and American affairs in general were freely discussed. These were pleasant occasions, and productive of good results. The ladies were organizing sewing societies and making up new clothing for the freedmen, also collecting second-hand clothing. The firm of Johnson, Johnson and Company had kindly offered to receive and forward to Liverpool, without charge, all packages of clothing and other articles for the freedmen.
Goods for shipment were now rapidly accumulating, and knowing that duties were very high at that time, I called on our Minister, Charles F. Adams, to consult with him in regard to getting the duties remitted on all goods shipped for the benefit of the freedmen. He manifested a deep interest in the subject, and agreed to write to Washington at once, requesting me also to write. I accordingly wrote to Secretary Chase, requesting immediate action on the part of our Government in the matter, and informing him that I would probably ship a large amount of clothing and other goods for the relief of the freed slaves. It was but a short time until Minister Adams was informed that the duties would be remitted on all goods shipped for the benefit of the freedmen, and bearing certain designated marks. The way was now clear to ship the goods free of expense. The railroads charged no freight to Liverpool, a commission house there received and forwarded all packages for the freedmen without charge, and the regular lines of steam-ships from Liverpool to New York agreed to give them free transportation to that city. I had the goods consigned to C. C. Lee, Secretary of the National Freedmen's Aid Society of New York, to be forwarded to our association at Cincinnati. When all these arrangements were completed I felt great relief and encouragement. I had found many warm friends, and received efficient aid, and valuable contributions of money and clothing were now being forwarded for the relief of those whose cause I had come to plead. All this was a source of great satisfaction to me; I felt that my efforts were being blessed.
The London and Birmingham societies were now actively at work. The London committee had arranged for public meetings at various towns and cities round about, and issued handbills and other advertisements announcing my name at the head of the list of speakers. I felt my inability to meet the expectation of the people as a public speaker, but I looked to a higher power for guidance, and the fear of man was taken away. I was enabled to tell a plain story of facts to large audiences, apparently to their satisfaction, and was often embarrassed by applause. Dr. Massie traveled with me to these appointments at Manchester, Bradford, Leicester, Sheffield, Rochester, Newcastle-on-Tyne, Kendal, and numerous other places. Dr. Tomkins also attended a number of these meetings, and gave us efficient aid. Both these gentlemen were able speakers, and in full sympathy with the North; they had traveled in America, and were strong advocates of the Federal cause. Our meetings were largely attended; much interest was manifested, and committees were organized to carry on the work.
The London Freedmen's Aid Society issued the following circular in letter-form, which was largely circulated:
"FREEDMEN'S AID SOCIETY.
"Levi Coffin, from America, well known on the other side of the Atlantic for the part which he has taken in aiding the fugitive slaves (several thousands of whom he has personally assisted in their escape to Canada), is now in this country for the purpose of enlisting the sympathies of philanthropists on behalf of the refugee negroes, who, as is well known, have fled in great multitudes from bondage, in consequence of the war, many of them in a state of deplorable destitution and ignorance.
"As the accredited agent of the Western Feedmen's Aid Commission his labors in this cause are altogether disinterested. And having kindly arranged to act in concert with the Freedmen's Aid Society in this country, the committee are glad to avail themselves of his advocacy, and cordially commend him to the confidence and sympathy of the friends of the negro in this important crisis of the history of the colored race.
"As a member of the Society of Friends, he can as little sympathize with war as with slavery, and, in urging the claims of these poor fugitives, he desires that his advocacy may be maintained upon simple Christian grounds, apart from all political considerations."
In September I visited Dublin, Ireland, accompanied by Dr. Massie and wife, who had friends and relatives there. Samuel Bewley had been notified of my expected visit, and met me at the quay, and conducted me to his house, where I had a pleasant home during my stay in that part of the country. An invited meeting, or rather a public breakfast, was gotten up by Samuel Bewley and Jonathan Pim, at Friends' Institute, where a number of the most prominent men in Dublin were invited to meet me and confer on the subject of my mission. This conference resulted in holding a public meeting, at which the Lord Mayor presided. After the reading of my credentials and a short introductory speech by the chairman, I addressed the assembly at some length on the subject of my mission. Several short speeches followed, and much encouragement was given.
I attended the Quarterly Meeting of Friends at Belfast, where I had the opportunity of presenting the subject of my mission, and explaining the extent of the work in America. I visited Lisburn and other neighborhoods in the north of Ireland, receiving encouragement and liberal contributions. Wherever I went, I met with many kind friends.
From Belfast I went to Moyallen, county Down, where I was kindly received by John G. Richardson and wife, and entertained for several days, during which time I was visiting and attending meetings in that neighborhood. I met with good success in collections. I then returned to Dublin, where I again had a pleasant home with my kind friends, Samuel Bewley and his interesting family, while I remained in Dublin, where I had formed many pleasant acquaintances during my former visit, and whom I shall ever remember with kind regard. I found the committee had been actively engaged, and a considerable amount of money and clothing had been collected and forwarded. The work was still in progress, and the ladies' sewing societies were rendering efficient aid. I attended several meetings in Dublin, and other neighborhoods of Friends, and finding a general interest manifested in the work for the freedmen, I felt much encouraged.
It was now the first of the year 1865. I thought that the labors of my mission were nearly at an end, and that I might look forward to returning home in the second month (February). I felt that my labors had been much blessed; I had succeeded beyond my most sanguine expectations. Freedmen's associations had been organized in nearly all the principal towns in England, Ireland and Scotland. A noble response had been made to my appeal in behalf of the suffering refuge slaves. A large amount of money, clothing, hardware, cutlery, shoes, blankets, etc., had been forwarded to our association in Cincinnati. After spending a week or two very pleasantly in that part of Ireland, attending several meetings in Dublin and visiting other neighborhoods of Friends, and receiving liberal contributions, I took leave of my kind friends at Dublin, and crossed over the Irish Channel to Holyhead, and took the train to Birmingham, where I had been requested to meet Dr. Haynes, who had just arrived in England, being sent as an Agent of the National Freedmen's Aid Society of New York. They were encouraged, no doubt, by hearing of my great success in Europe.
After attending some meetings in Birmingham and vicinity, I returned to London, where I met with a cordial welcome at my pleasant home at Stafford Allen's. My headquarters, however, were at Friends' Institute, of which I have spoken before. I found little time for rest. The work of my mission seemed to be increasing upon me every day. My correspondence was large; I was frequently receiving remittances and letters of invitation to attend meetings and to visit various places. The demands upon me were so numerous that I could not comply with them all. The way did not seem clear for me to quit the work and go home, as I had intended. Letters from home encouraged me to continue longer in the work if my health permitted, as the result of my labors was quite beneficial to the cause I represented. My friends in England also encouraged me to remain, and I decided to stay until some time in the spring. During the winter I attended a number of Quarterly Meetings of Friends in different parts of the kingdom, where I had the opportunity of pleading the cause of the freedmen.
John Hodgkin had written an admirable address to the Society of Friends, and others, on the subject of the freedmen. It was printed in pamphlet form and read in all the Quarterly Meetings, and widely circulated. Friends everywhere were fully informed on the subject, and earnestly engaged in the work. At a public meeting held in Friends' Meeting-House at Leeds, after the business session of the York Quarterly Meeting was over, about a thousand pounds were subscribed.
The committee of the London Freedmen's Aid Society had arranged for a general meeting to be held in Exeter Hall on the evening of February 15th, on the subject of the conditions and wants of the freedmen in America. It was advertised in the principal London papers, and large bills were posted in all the most public places giving the names of those who would address the meeting. I was surprised to find my name placed at the head of the list, and would have objected had it not been too late. I had taken a deep cold and was suffering with sore throat and hoarseness, so that it appeared impossible for me to speak as advertised, but my friends were anxious for me to be present, and though I had been confined to my bed for several days previous, I managed to attend the meeting. My hoarseness had measurably left me, but I still felt feeble and unable to address an audience. I was seated on the platform near the chairman and surrounded by many of the prominent men of London. All the space in the large hall appeared to be occupied, the ladies' apartment and all the galleries being filled. The number of people present was estimated at five thousand. I thought that I should not attempt to speak, but after the chairman had spoken and the meeting was fairly opened, my feelings became warmed up, and I now felt more like speaking. When I was introduced to the meeting and began to speak, my voice, to my astonishment and that of my friends, seemed to grow stronger and clearer, so that it could be heard all over the hall. J. B. Braithwaite came to me when the meeting was over and said that he had never heard me speak so well--that I had been distinctly heard all over that large assembly.
About the middle of April I visited Paris and other cities in France, accompanied by Dr. Massie, who had acquaintances in Paris and understood the French language sufficiently to be of service in holding intercourse with the people. We arrived in Paris on Sabbath morning, and took quarters at the Hotel de Ville de Albion, where we met R. A. Chamerovzow, secretary of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society; his home was in London, but he was spending some weeks in the French capital. His mother being a French woman and his father a Russian, he spoke several languages fluently. Being well acquainted in Paris and much interested in my mission he was very useful to us. We attended the American Church, of which Dr. Sunderland, of Washington, was pastor, and received a hearty greeting. Dr. Sunderland knew Dr. Massie personally and me by reputation, and gave us all the aid in our work that lay in his power. The next day we spent in making calls and being introduced to Protestant ministers and others, which resulted in the appointment of a meeting at the house of M. Laboulaye. This was attended by thirty-three of the most prominent Protestants in Paris, and by a few Catholics. I was introduced by the chairman, in French, and addressed the meeting through an interpreter, which was not so difficult as I had anticipated. Several short speeches were made, in French, and much interest was manifested. This resulted in the appointment of a committee to address the French people through the press, and to carry on the work for the freedmen in connection with the London society. We held several other meetings in Paris, where I addressed the people and received liberal contributions.
In company with R. A. Chamerovzow I visited Versailles, having letters of introduction to several noble French philanthropists of that place. One of these letters was written by Christine Alsop, of London; she was a French woman, and a minister of the Society of Friends, well known in France. I had a hearty reception at Versailles, and received several contributions. My intercourse with these acquaintances was none the less cordial because we did not understand each other's language, but had to speak through an interpreter.
We found some earnest working Christians in Paris, and received several invitations to parlor meetings where their friends had been invited.
After remaining a week in the French capital we returned to London, feeling that our time had been well spent. I was then looking forward earnestly toward the time when I could be released from this arduous work and return to my family and friends in my native land.
I had written to our board of directors at Cincinnati, some weeks before, requesting them to send Dr. Storrs, or some other suitable person, to take my place and continue the work through the summer, leaving me at liberty to return home. The London committee advised me to remain or to have some suitable agent to represent our association in my stead.
On my return from Paris, I received a letter informing me that Dr. Storrs expected to arrive in the early part of May, and wished me to remain until I introduced him to the work. The time of holding London Yearly Meeting of Friends was now drawing near, and I concluded to stay in England until it was over.
Dr. Storrs arrived a few days before the opening of that great annual assembly of Friends. A meeting of the London Freedmen's Aid Society was called to welcome him as agent in my stead. He informed the society that he wished to labor as I had done--under their auspices--and report to them. At Yearly Meeting I had the opportunity of introducing him to Friends from various parts of the country where I had labored.
I now felt that I was prepared to leave England, and secured passage on the steamship Scotia, to sail from Liverpool on the 3d of June. The Yearly Meeting closed on the 2d, about noon. Notice had previously been given, that a meeting on the subject of the freedmen in America would be held at four o'clock in the Yearly Meeting-House; all were requested to attend. It was stated that I would be present, and that I would sail the next day for America, having completed my mission. When the appointed hour came that large house was crowded. The occasion was to me a solemn but a happy one. My heart was filled with thankfulness to my Heavenly Father for his great mercy in preserving my life through danger and exposure on land and sea, and endowing me with ability and strength to plead the cause of the suffering, and, finally, for crowning my labors with great success. I expressed my heartfelt thanks to the people for their kindness and hospitality, and for their liberal contributions, and then bade them an affectionate farewell. John Pease, Benjamin Seebohm, and others, responded on behalf of the meeting. After shaking hands with those near me, I endeavored to pass out, but many rose on each side of the aisle to bid me good-by, and my progress was slow. A friend was waiting to accompany me to Liverpool, and see me started on my homeward voyage.
I sailed the next day for America, having been absent more than twelve months. I left England with a thankful and cheerful heart; it had been one of the happiest years of my life. I could reflect upon my labors with satisfaction; they had been blessed beyond my expectation. Over a hundred thousand dollars in money, clothing, and other articles for the freedmen had been forwarded to our association in Cincinnati during the year, and there was a prospect that other fruits of my labor would follow.
I had a pleasant voyage across the Atlantic, and arrived at home in good health, receiving warm welcome and greetings from my family and friends.
Our board was much pleased with my work and encouraged by its results. They voted me a satisfactory compensation for my labor, though I made no charge.
Our educational work among the freedmen had increased every year, and large supplies of clothing and books were still needed. My time was devoted to this cause; there was no longer need for the Underground Railroad work in which I had so long been actively engaged. When the colored people of Cincinnati and vicinity celebrated the adoption of the Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitution, I thought that it was a fitting time to resign my office as President of the Underground Railroad. Many of our prominent citizens took part in the celebration, and able speeches were made both by white and colored speakers. Judge Storer, Judge Hagans, Judge Taft, and other public men, were on the platform, and made able speeches. Near the close of that great meeting I was introduced by the chairman. I said that I had held the position of President of the Underground Railroad for more than thirty years. The title was given to me by slave-hunters who could not find their fugitive slaves after they got into my hands. I accepted the office thus conferred upon me, and had endeavored to perform my duty faithfully. Government had now taken the work of providing for the slaves out of our hands. The stock of the Underground Railroad had gone down in the market, the business was spoiled, the road was of no further use.
Amid much applause, I resigned my office and declared the operations of the Underground Railroad at an end.
It is not a funny story but it is very sobering. Many think that all liberating Union forces were opposed to slavery and every freed enslaved person chose freedom. It is enlightening.
THE DAILY CHRONICLE & SENTINEL (AUGUSTA, GA); Monday 7 July 1862 Pg. 1 cols. 1 & 2
From the Savannah News, 5th. A CONTRABAND RETURNED FROM THE YANKEES
We saw yesterday, at the office of Messrs. Blount & Dawson a negro man named Robert belonging to Mr. Francis M. Scarlett, of Glynn county, who has just returned from a visit to his friends at Hilton Head, James Island and other Yankee localities. He ran away from his master’s place, near Waynesville, in March last, took a boat and went to St. Simon’s Island. He discovered three gunboats off St. Simon’s, one of which hailed him. He approached the steamer, and received from them a countersign. He was then told to go to another one of the gunboats, and when hailed, to give the word “Contraband.” He then approached the steamer indicated—the Pocahontas—gave the countersign, and was taken on board.
He remained on board the Pocahontas eight days, during which time he was kept steadily at work, scouring decks, &c. While on board the gunboat, she attempted to go up the Altamaha river, but was prevented from going as far as Darien in consequence of pilings, which they were unable to remove. While on this trip she sent a boat with eight or nine men ashore to procure fresh meat and other pickings. The boat was fired into by Confederate pickets, killing three and wounding two others. The survivors immediately returned to the Pocahontas, and the dead were subsequently buried on St. Simon’s Island.
From the Pocahontas he was transferred to a steamer, the name of which he does not remember, and taken down on the Florida coast. Here he was placed on board the Wabash, and shortly afterwards taken to Port Royal. While at the last named place, he worked on the wharf in loading and unloading Yankee steamers, for which he was promised $8 per month. He worked two months but received pay for only one. He afterwards worked a short time in a saw-mill and received no pay. He was then employed by Major White of Massachusetts, as a body servant. The Major promised to pay $10 a month, but after repeated application for pay, stated that he had no money. He asked Robert how he would like to go to Massachusetts, who replied “very well,” but says he had then determined to come back home as soon as an opportunity offered.
From Hilton Head Robert followed the Yankee troops to North Edisto, and finally to James Island. He remained on the last named Island three weeks, during which time the battle of Secessionville [sic] was fought. A few days after the battle he succeeded in eluding the Federal pickets, and passed into our lines. He was subsequently sent to Charleston and afterwards turned over to his master.
Robert states that the Yankees are organizing companies of contrabands, at a place called “Fish Hall,” or Hilton Head, and that it is their intention to form them into a regiment. He explains the modus operandi by which the negroes are induced to enter the service. Religious meetings are held, at stated periods, at which a Rev. Mr. Wilson officiates. At these meetings an “enrolling officer” was always present, who proceeded to take the names of the able-bodied men present. These were asked to volunteer, and those who refused—by far the greater number—were forcibly sent to Fish Hall and mustered into service. He attended one meeting, which was addressed by a colored brother from the North. A sentinel stood at the door, (as was the invariable custom) while the colored brother harangued his audience in behalf of a church in Canada, and a forced contribution was taken up at the expense of the imprisoned contrabands. This was the last meeting Robert attended, and he reports that the audience were at last accounts growing distressingly thin, the general impression being that their colored orator pocketed the money, and allowed the church in Canada to look after itself.
Robert reports the negroes on Hilton Head dissatisfied, and many of them anxious to escape. The island is closely guarded, and escape is next to impossible. A negro attempted to get away, while he was on the island, and was shot. The negroes are worked from daylight until eight and nine o’clock at night. They are allowed no privileges, and are very cruelly treated, and on very slight offences, they are closely confined and put on bread and water.
Robert’s experience has given him a very unfavorable impression of the Yankeedoodles generally, and of their military colony on Hilton Head particularly. From his own report he has good reasons for preferring to live in Dixie.
Thank you for having me. I learned a lot in preparing to bring you the highlights of my family’s legacy!
Teresa R. Kemp
The pleasure was all mine Teresa! Thanks for taking the time to provide such great information for the readers.