Tuesday, February 23, 2016

On The Offensive Suggestion By Willis Hart That Free Blacks In 1861 Winchester VA Would Have Voted For Secession (& Therefore A Continuation Of Slavery)

Another offensive commentary from the Libertarian blogger Willis Hart in which he argues that the Civil War shouldn't have been fought and slavery should have been allowed to continue (note: some argue that if the Civil War had not been fought slavery would have eventually been phased out/ended, an assertion that I'm not at all sure is accurate, but this isn't a question I'm addressing with this post, only the claim by WTNPH that free Blacks would vote for seccession).

Willis Hart: On the Fact that in 1861 (According to Historian, Jonathan Noyalas, and the Official Virginia County Vote) Winchester Virginia Voted 81% in Favor of Seceding from the Union... The most telling statistic of all is that nearly half of the black population there was free... I wonder how those folks voted.

P.S. And, yes, I do have an anecdote here. According to Roger Delauter's book, "Winchester in the Civil War", an African-American women wearing a black crepe rosette badge in honor of Stonewall Jackson (who had recently died) was ordered by Union Forces to remove the badge and when she refused was banished from the town. People (whether they be Iraqis, Filipinos, or folks from the South) don't like being occupied apparently. (2/20/2016 AT 2:47pm).

Willis wonders how the free Blacks of Winchester VA voted, but with this "wondering" he ASSUMES that they did indeed vote. The information I was able to locate, however, says they most likely were not allowed to vote.

Encyclopedia Virginia: Once free, Africans and African Americans (blacks imported to Virginia from the West Indies or 2nd or 3rd generation Africans born in Virginia) were expected to live as members of the community, to become in some respects "black Englishmen". This meant owning land, voting, and paying taxes; it also meant keeping their lives separate from enslaved blacks. By the beginning of the 18th century, however, slavery had become more ensconced in VA and was defined almost entirely in racial terms. New laws restricted slaves' access to freedom and free blacks' ability to vote or hold positions of power. Many free blacks left or were ordered out of the colony, and those who remained tended to be poorer and identify more with enslaved blacks than with whites.. (Free Blacks in Colonial Virginia by Brendan Wolfe).

A "telling statistic"? What a dope. These free blacks (and yes, I checked that WTNPH fact as well, and it appears to be true [1]) most likely could not vote. But if any could, would they have voted to secede (and therefore continue slavery)? Frankly I find it offensive to suggest that they would (which WTNPH does, providing an anecdote to "prove" that).

BTW, according to Shenandoah At War (Shenandoah being a VA country located 68 miles south-west of Winchester) "slaves realized that any freedom Union soldiers could offer them was protected only so long as Union forces occupied the region"... which suggests that occupation might be viewed positively by African-American slaves.

Things improved for [Shenandoah] Valley slaves when Union Gen. Robert H. Milroy's division occupied the lower Valley on 1/1/1863 - the date President Abraham Lincoln's Proclamation took effect. An IN native and devout Presbyterian Milroy believed that until slaves were emancipated the Union war effort in VA would continue to stall. Milroy took the unseasonably warm weather on New Year's Day in the Valley as a sign from God that He had sent Milroy to the Shenandoah to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. "This day President Lincoln will proclaim the freedom of four millions of human slaves, the most important event in the history of the world since Christ was born", Milroy exclaimed.

Additionally Milroy's confidence in his mission of emancipation was further buoyed by two important historical connections that Winchester — the location of his headquarters - had with slavery's perpetuation. First, Winchester served as the home of Judge Richard Parker who presided over John Brown's trial in 1859. Winchester also served as the home of Senator James Mason who authored the controversial Fugitive Slave Law as part of the Compromise of 1850.

Valley slaves and civilians eagerly waited to see how aggressive Milroy would be in enforcing emancipation. On 1/5/1863 Milroy issued his own proclamation, "Freedom to Slaves" that stated he would do everything in his power to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. (African Americans' Civil War in the Shenandoah, Shenandoah At War.

So, according to this source, Winchester was the HQ of a Union General who sought to enforce Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, yet Willis says (in his post) that the people of Winchester didn't like being occupied... implying, of course, that the African American inhabitants of Winchester (free and slave) wanted VA to remain a slave state. And that they wanted the North to f*ck off. Basically, they were throwing their lot in with the Confederacy.

But, if that was the case, what explains the following...

The speculation of slaves and free blacks in Charles Town [WV, aprox 20 miles north-east of Winchester] at the war's outset typified the undercurrent of glimmering hope that permeated the Valley's slave population in the spring of 1861.


Once more former slaves and free blacks (who had been free prior to the war's outbreak) attempted to flee with the retreating Union army for fear of both brutal treatment by Confederate soldiers and being impressed into the Confederacy's service.

So, contrary to the picture Willis is attempting to paint (that free Blacks were with the Confederacy and actually voted to exit the Union), the FACT is that the African American population of Winchester (and surrounding towns), instead of being with the Whites and the Confederacy, had hope that the war would result in freedom for all Blacks (free and slave). And they got the hell out of there when the Union was forced to retreat. Instead of being eager to fight "the occupiers", as one might think they'd be willing to do... if Willis' picture-painting were to be believed.

No, the fact is that pre and post secession both free and enslaved African Americans knew (or were hopeful that) a war would bring freedom. So, perhaps with that in mind, free Blacks would have voted for to leave the Union in order to force a war that would bring freedom? (even though the evidence shows they could not vote). But I surely don't buy that the Winchester free Blacks would cast pro-Confederacy votes because they actually wanted the South to break off from the North... so that slavery could continue (and YES, the Civil War absolutely was fought over slavery; another fact the history-rewriting Harster continually denies, claiming instead that it was fought over states rights and tariffs).

This post by the Hartster in which he speaks of "the most telling statistic of all", is, IMO, further evidence of his racist mindset. What he's saying is that the South just wanted to be free. In fact, this is what EVERYONE (of all races) in the South wanted. As opposed to racist Whites wanting slavery to continue (and them secceeding because they worried that Abe Lincoln would end it). And, to me, saying that the Civil War wasn't fought over slavery but instead it was fought over freedom (for whites and BLACKS)? That's a perversion of history I find QUITE racist. Sorry, but yes.

[1] "In 1860 Winchester, a town of 3000 white inhabitants, had 675 free negroes, only nineteen less than half of the blacks of the town". (The free Negro in Virginia, 1619-1865 by John Henderson Russell).*

OST #112

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