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In Their Own Words

April 29, 1861

Slave Response to Civil War in Letter

From Calhoun County, William P. Harrison wrote Georgia governor Joseph E. Brown of concerns that some local slaves were not working because of the widespread rumor that the Union Army would soon arrive to set them free:

“In view of the late exciting news from the city of Washington and elsewhere, a strong feeling of enthusiasm has spread over this county in relation to getting a volunteer company ready to tender their service to you and to be ready to march at a moment’s warning.

“Within the last week, some very unexpected and extraordinary developments have come to light among the slave population, which is quite numerous in this vicinity. The idea seems to have gotten out extensively among them that they are soon all to be free, that Mr. Lincoln and his army are coming to set them free, to kill all the white people and set them free, that they are to assist Lincoln in killing all the white men and boys, that Lincoln and the British are to set them free and support them twelve months, that there is no use in planting their rice patches, supposed they would have been free on the 14th of March, &c., &c. There is some reason to suspect that there are low white men in the country who have communicated with the Negroes.”

Mills Lane (ed.), Georgia: History written by Those who lived It (Savannah: Beehive Press, 1995), pp. 141-142.