22 February 2014

Black History Month 2014 - Post #3


"Capt. Ed. Armstrong (Col'd) & crew of batteau Tam O'Shanter on beach of New River, West Virginia." 1872 (Library of Congress)

According to Wikipedia:
Tam o' Shanter (often abbreviated TOS or Tam) is a 19th-century nickname for the traditional Scottish bonnet worn by men. It is named after "Tam o' Shanter", the eponymous hero of the poem by Robert Burns. . . . A khaki Balmoral bonnet was introduced in 1915 for wear in the trenches by Scottish infantry serving on the Western Front. This came to be known as the bonnet, Tam o' Shanter later abbreviated to ToS. Today, the Royal Regiment of Scotland and some regiments of the Canadian Forces continue to wear the ToS as undress and working headgear.

9 comments:

ropelight said...

We're looking at end of an era. The C&O completed its branch line along the lower New River in 1872 opening up the area to coal mining and company towns. It's possible Cap'n Ed and crew were transporting men and materials for the very RR construction which would force them off the main line and onto the tributaries.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Thanks Rope.

ropelight said...

RGW, are you familiar with the famous Appomattox River batteau-man of Israel Hill? W&M professor Melvin Eli won a Bancroft Prize for his 2004 book on this free black community near Farmville, established in 1811.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

No, I am not, but it sounds VERY interesting. I've always been interested in the use of Amercian rivers (especially here in VA) for commerce and travel. I just find it fascinating. The free black aspect adds another intriguing dimension. I'll check it out. Thanks for the tip!

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Rope - after seeing the book cover, I do recall reading some reviews about it, but I don't have it, nor have I read it. I just added it to my Amazon wish list. It does look quite interesting.

ropelight said...

RGW, in honor of Black History Month, here's a few tidbits to whet your appetite:

Thomas Jefferson's nephew, Richard Randolph, was strongly opposed to slavery but inherited his father's James River plantations including about 100 slaves and a crushing debt burden. He wanted to free his slaves, but they'd been pledged as collateral and could not be freed until the debts were paid.

Unfortunately, Randolph died young, age 26, but vowed to free his slaves and left instructions in his will to emancipate them along with a grant of 400 acres of good land to help them get started. It took his wife Judith 14 years to pay the debts and free the slaves in 1810-11, less than 30 years from the end of the American Revolution, and 20 years before Nat Turner's bloody revolt.

Randolph's former slaves called their new home Israel Hill: they had come out of bondage and reached the Promised Land. The community prospered well into the 20th century producing goods, offering skilled services, and running commercial batteau on the Appomattox.

One resident, Hercules White, bought and sold real estate in Farmville and also joined with white citizens to found the town's first Baptist Church in 1836.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Fascinating stuff Rope. Another one of Jefferson's younger relatives also gives us an example of how some Southerners struggled with the obvious evil but politically sensitive issue of slavery. I wrote the following in my book about Jackson's black Sunday school class:

"Virginians grappled with the obvious contradictions contained in
America’s founding documents. In 1778, Virginia became the first state to outlaw the slave trade, making it the first16 government in the modern world to criminalize slave traders. Virginia further showed its progressive inclinations regarding slavery by passing legislation in 1782 that encouraged emancipation. That legislation went so far as to require slave owners to support their emancipated slaves who might not be able to sustain themselves in a gainful occupation. The slavery question continued to come up for debate and public discourse until Thomas Jefferson’s grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, introduced legislation in the House of Delegates in 1832 that would have ended slavery in Virginia.

He proposed an idea that had originated with his grandfather, a proposal that had been defeated by the General Assembly in 1779. Randolph suggested that every male slave born after July 4, 1840, be granted his freedom upon his twenty-first birthday. The legislation would grant the same freedom to female slaves upon their eighteenth birthday. Randolph’s bill was defeated by only a “small majority.” In fact, the Reverend Randolph McKim (1842–1920), a Confederate chaplain and one-time rector of Christ Church in Alexandria, wrote in A Soldier’s Recollections that Randolph assured him in 1860 “that emancipation would certainly have been carried the ensuing year, but for the revulsion of feeling which followed the fanatical agitation of the subject by the Abolitionists of the period.” And although the bill was defeated, the Virginia legislature “passed a resolution postponing the consideration of the subject till public opinion had further developed.” An editorial in the March 6, 1832,
Richmond Whig praised the legislature’s efforts and further noted: “The great mass of Virginia herself triumphs that the slavery question has been taken up by the legislature, that her legislators are grappling with the monster, and they contemplate the distant but ardently desired result [emancipation] as the supreme good which a benevolent Providence could vouchsafe.”

Randolph’s legislation, had it been enacted, would have eliminated slavery in the Old Dominion within one hundred years. It is quite certain that, as the nation became more progressive with the passing of time and the industrial age revolutionized agrarian economies, the timetable would have been condensed considerably. It is highly improbable that slavery would not have survived the nineteenth century, even without the War Between the States. Thus many Southerners, with Thomas Jackson’s Virginia leading the way, knew that slavery’s days were numbered and sought to address the issue in ways that were politically feasible, given the economic realities of the times."

ropelight said...

RGW, the advantages of time and the results of subsequent events tends to color Randolph's indictment of the Abolitionists' fanatical agitation with the stain of a self-serving excuse. However, the truth is the Abolitionists' hysterical excesses did tend to polarize debate, and did tend to harden the resolve of opposing forces. Their support for violent slave insurrections did lead directly to the wholesale murder of entire families, put to the sword, black and white.

Their modern day counterparts are still trying to make heroes out of bloodthirsty savages like Nat Turner and John Brown.