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In Their Own Words

June 21, 1861

Letter on Runaway Slaves

As white Georgians marched off to war, there was concern what black slaves would do in their masters’ absence. Apparently, many slaves used the opportunity to escape to freedom, as the following letter from William Phillips in Savannah to Georgia governor Joseph E. Brown suggested:

“Our country is infested with runaway Negroes. They are armed. On Tuesday last a camp was discovered in a dense swamp, but the dogs were all killed and the hunters could not venture in as Negroes were all armed. There are three camp[s] within six miles of my plantation. Mr. Hines was shot at by one last week, and Mr. Williams was killed by a runaway. Not a night passes that does not witness robbery from barns, smoke houses &c. The ladies are very much frightened, as runaway Negroes have committed two rapes and two murders in the last week. It is supposed that there cannot be less than forty armed runaways in camp at different places in the county. A general scene of insecurity pervades the county. The ordinary patrol can accomplish very little.”

Source: Mills Lane (ed.) Georgia: History written by Those who lived It (Savannah: Beehive Press, 1995), p. 144.