Dickinson College / Gilder Lehrman Institute

Author: janeapplebee

Abraham Galloway; Slave, Bricklayer, Fugitive, Abolitionist, Spy,…

…(aka BMI-ster), Guide, Recruiter, Organizer, Political Activist, Firebrand, Military Leader, Crusader for Women’s Rights, Senator… and dead before the age of 34.

Now that is a life!

Abraham Galloway

Abraham Galloway

Abraham Galloway, born enslaved, freed himself and was an important figure in the Union Army during the Civil War. He was an important figure in freed and enslaved African American communities throughout his adult life. And rather than saying he worked for the Union army, it might be more accurate to say he worked with the Union army when and if it suited his needs as a leader of the African American community. (When the community was aggrieved by the actions and behaviors of the Union troops, for example, Galloway took names and kicked… but I digress.)

Illiterate, his story and his voice are hard to trace, but historian David Cecelski of North Carolina got lucky and found a trove of letters written by Mary Ann Starkey of New Bern, NC. Starkey was a close confident and fellow activist who worked with Galloway during the Civil War years.Together with his other sources, Starkey’s letters made possible Cecelski’s forthcoming book on Galloway.

I have used the information from Cecelski’s essay on Galloway in The Waterman’s Song,  to make a google map of Galloway’s life. He lived large. Zoom way out right away, so that you can see the whole enchilada – North Carolina to Ontario, Ohio to Massachusetts.

I am only up to the year 1863 tonight. More tomorrow. Meanwhile, here is a preview:

In the next few years after 1963, he:

  • Met with Abraham Lincoln as part of a five man delegation agitating for suffrage immediately, if not sooner
  • Was elected to the North Carolina legislature as a Senator in 1868
  • Worked always for the advancement of freedmen and freedwomen
  •  Died unexpectedly in 1870; it was estimated that 6,000 to 8,000 people attended his funeral in New Bern.*

*The population of the New Bern NC at that time was 5,000.

Galloway was the man. And then he faded from view.

Cecelski’s book on the life of Abraham Galloway, The Fire of Freedom: Abraham Galloway and the Slaves’ Civil War will be released on September 29th, 2012. ( Or you can pre-order it from Amazon, like I did, and save a few bucks.) I strongly recommend you do, too, because Galloway is a guy we are enriched by meeting.

AbrahamGallowayJaneThis is the drawing of Abraham Galloway as I imagined him while I listened to David Cecelski introduce him to me, my NEH buddy Kelly Price-Steffen, (Shout out to ya, Kelly!) and the New Bedford Historical Society last summer.

Now I know it is not a good drawing; he defies gravity and looks like he is related to Burt Reynolds, and yet I feel it conveys the swashbuckling element I intended.

Another Father and Son, July 6th, 1863 or; 19 year-old sons

Charles Douglass 1864, Massachusetts 54th F Company

Charles Douglass 1864 – F Company, 54th Massachusetts – recruited by his father

So sad listening again to the Gettysburg story of Sam Wilkeson writing beside the body of his 19 year-old son. Another 19 year-old son wrote to his father that day. Charles Douglass’s letter to his father, Frederick Douglass, reports his encounter with some Irish fellows and their differences of opinion about Meade and McClelland. (I especially like this letter because I can actually read it, unlike many letters where I have to retreat to the transcription almost at once.) Despite the racism reported and his angry, blustering reaction, I smiled reading it. He is so young… and so alive.

(His health, it turns out however, prevents him from ever serving in battle.)

Both images link to the loc page where you can view the entire letter – it is 3 pages long – or read the transcription here. (N.b. in the transcript they make  mistakes, for example he is talking about Gettysburg with soldiers from Newbern  N.C.  – not N.Y. Why can’t I find a sound transcript? Annoying!)

Charles Douglass to Frederick Douglass

Charles Douglass to Frederick Douglass

My 19 year-old son is out skateboarding right now. He is not worrying about his future, or anything else.  I don’t 100% appreciate his lifestyle normally – I think he should be worrying… at least a little –  but today I will just go with it.

Gnardog aka my boy Pete

Gnardog aka my boy Pete

Linking to Humiston

I will never look at this photo of myself and my little brother and sister that same way again.

I will never look at this photo of myself and my little brother and sister that same way again.

Humiston Children

Humiston Children

I am seeing a photo analysis as part of a lesson plan here and asking my students to bring in their photos to compare with this one.

Mid-19 Century United States in Global Perspective?

  • The bidirectional nature of the UGRR
  • The Northern states rights battles and nullification attempt
  • Harriet Scott as the primary force driving the Dred Scott Case onward
  • Publicizing the UGRR for fundraising purposes

Are all ideas that are running around inside my head since Matt’s lecture yesterday – thanks for the enticing glimpse into your work and the current research in the field today.

After reading Loilaing’s post commenting on connections in the West Indies, I am interested to learn more about the impact of the abolition of slavery  -and serfdom – across Western and Eastern Europe, and South and Central America on mid 19thC North America? I reckon it emboldened and encouraged abolitionists in reverse proportion to the terror it struck in the hearts of those interested in maintaining their ‘peculiar institution’ – but perhaps I am missing nuances and/or other effects?

And beyond slavery, how heavily did global events affect the union preservationists’ thinking? For instance, in McPherson’s For Cause and Country the northern immigrant soldier writes his father in England that preserving the union is important because otherwise the West might decide to break off next and “this country would be as bad as the German states”. What other global events were impacting North America toward war?

I found a great online discussion published in last September’s Journal of American History that treats the last of these questions; looking at nation building and nationalism globally at the time of the Civil War. I recommend a glance if you are remotely interested. Interchange: Nationalism and Internationalism in the Era of the Civil War
Thinking about the UGRR as a resistance movement is very helpful to my own understanding – I found myself thinking of similarities to the resistance movements across Occupied Europe during WWII. The insight from The Old Carlisle Courthouse clip that this was a resistance being fought in courtrooms can pull my students up out of the underground and into a more accurate understanding of what was happening at that time.

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