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The Three Walls Of The Romanists best essay helpThe Three Walls Of The Romanists The Romanists have, with great adroitness, drawn three walls round themselves, with which they have hitherto protected themselves, so that no one could reform them, whereby all Christendom has fallen terribly. Firstly, if pressed by the temporal power, they have affirmed and maintained that the temporal power has no jurisdiction over them, but, on the contrary, that the spiritual power is above the temporal. Secondly, if it were proposed to admonish them with the Scriptures, they objected that no one may interpret the Scriptures but the Pope. Thirdly, if they are threatened with a council, they pretend that no one may call a council but the Pope. Thus they have secretly stolen our three rods, so that they may be unpunished, and entrenched themselves behind these three walls, to act with all the wickedness and malice, which we now witness. And whenever they have been compelled to call a council, they have made it of no avail by binding the princes beforehand with an oath to leave them as they were, and to give moreover to the Pope full power over the procedure of the council, so that it is all one whether we have many councils or no councils, in addition to which they deceive us with false pretenses and tricks. So grievously do they tremble for their skin before a true, free council; and thus they have overawed kings and princes, that these believe they would be offending God, if they were not to obey them in all such knavish, deceitful artifices. Now may God help us, and give us one of those trumpets that overthrew the walls of Jericho, so that we may blow down these walls of straw and paper, and that we may set free our Christian rods for the chastisement of sin, and expose the craft and deceit of the devil, so that we may amend ourselves by punishment and again obtain God’s favor.
(a) The First Wall That the Temporal Power has no Jurisdiction over the Spirituality Let us, in the first place, attack the first wall.
It has been devised that the Pope, bishops, priests, and monks are called the spiritual estate, princes, lords, artificers, and peasants are the temporal estate. This is an artful lie and hypocritical device, but let no one be made afraid by it, and that for this reason: that all Christians are truly of the spiritual estate, and there is no difference among them, save of office alone. As St. Paul says (1 Cor. xii.), we are all one body, though each member does its own work, to serve the others. This is because we have one baptism, one Gospel, one faith, and are all Christians alike; for baptism, Gospel, and faith, these alone make spiritual and Christian people.
************** And to put the matter even more plainly, if a little company of pious Christian laymen were taken prisoners and carried away to a desert, and had not among them a priest consecrated by a bishop, and were there to agree to elect one of them, born in wedlock or not, and were to order him to baptize, to celebrate the mass, to absolve, and to preach, this man would as truly be a priest, as if all the bishops and all the Popes had consecrated him. That is why in cases of necessity every man can baptize and absolve, which would not be possible if we were not all priests. This great grace and virtue of baptism and of the Christian estate they have quite destroyed and made us forget by their ecclesiastical law. In this way the Christians used to choose their bishops and priests out of the community; these being afterwards confirmed by other bishops, without the pomp that now prevails. So was it that St. Augustine, Ambrose, Cyprian, were bishops.
************** We see, then, that just as those that we call spiritual, or priests, bishops, or popes, do not differ from other Christians in any other or higher degree but in that they are to be concerned with the word of God and the sacraments-that being their work and office-in the same way the temporal authorities hold the sword and the rod in their hands to punish the wicked and to protect the good. A cobbler, a smith, a peasant, every man, has the office and function of his calling, and yet all alike are consecrated priests and bishops, and every man should by his office or function be useful and beneficial to the rest, so that various kinds of work may all be united for the furtherance of body and soul, just as the members of the body all serve one another.
Now see what a Christian doctrine is this: that the temporal authority is not above the clergy, and may not punish it. This is as if one were to say the hand may not help, though the eye is in grievous suffering. Is it not unnatural, not to say unchristian, that one member may not help another, or guard it against harm? Nay, the nobler the member, the more the rest are bound to help it. Therefore I say, Forasmuch as the temporal power has been ordained by God for the punishment of the bad and the protection of the good, therefore we must let it do its duty throughout the whole Christian body, without respect of persons, whether it strikes popes, bishops, priests, monks, nuns, or whoever it may be. If it were sufficient reason for fettering the temporal power that it is inferior among the offices of Christianity to the offices of priest or confessor, or to the spiritual estate-if this were so, then we ought to restrain tailors, cobblers, masons, carpenters, cooks, cellarmen, peasants, and all secular workmen, from providing the Pope or bishops, priests and monks, with shoes, clothes, houses or victuals, or from paying them tithes. But if these laymen are allowed to do their work without restraint, what do the Romanist scribes mean by their laws? They mean that they withdraw themselves from the operation of temporal Christian power, simply in order that they may be free to do evil, and thus fulfil what St. Peter said: There shall be false teachers among you, . . . and in covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you (2 Peter ii. 1, etc.).
(b) The Second Wall That no one may interpret the Scriptures but the Pope The second wall is even more tottering and weak: that they alone pretend to be considered masters of the Scriptures; although they learn nothing of them all their life. They assume authority, and juggle before us with impudent words, saying that the Pope cannot err in matters of faith, whether he is evil or good, albeit they cannot prove it by a single letter. That is why the canon law contains so many heretical and unchristian, nay unnatural, laws; but of these we need not speak now. For whereas they imagine the Holy Ghost never leaves them, however unlearned and wicked they may be, they grow bold enough to decree whatever they like. But were this true, where were the need and use of the Holy Scriptures? Let us burn them, and content ourselves with the
unlearned gentlemen at Rome, in whom the Holy Ghost dwells, who, however, can dwell in pious souls only. If I had not read it, I could never have believed that the devil should have put forth such follies at Rome and find a following.
************* Only consider the matter. They must acknowledge that there are pious Christians among us that have the true faith, spirit, understanding, word, and mind of Christ: why then should we reject their word and understanding, and follow a pope who has neither understanding nor spirit? Surely this were to deny our whole faith and the Christian Church. Moreover, if the article of our faith is right, I believe in the holy Christian Church, the Pope cannot alone be right; else we must say, I believe in the Pope of Rome, and reduce the Christian Church to one man, which is a devilish and damnable heresy. Besides that, we are all priests, as I have said, and have all one faith, one Gospel, one Sacrament; how then should we not have the power of discerning and judging what is right or wrong in matters of faith? What becomes of St. Paul’s words, But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man (1 Cor. ii. 15), and also, we having the same spirit of faith? (2 Cor. iv. 13). Why then should we not perceive as well as an unbelieving pope what agrees or disagrees with our faith? By these and many other texts we should gain courage and freedom, and should not let the spirit of liberty (as St. Paul has it) be frightened away by the inventions of the popes; we should boldly judge what they do and what they leave undone by our own believing understanding of the Scriptures, and force them to follow the better understanding, and not their own. Did not Abraham in old days have to obey his Sarah, who was in stricter bondage to him than we are to any one on earth? Thus, too, Balaam’s ass was wiser than the prophet. If God spoke by an ass against a prophet, why should He not speak by a pious man against the Pope? Besides, St. Paul withstood St. Peter as being in error (Gal. ii.). Therefore it behooves every Christian to aid the faith by understanding and defending it and by condemning all errors.
(c) The Third Wall That no one may call a council but the Pope
The third wall falls of itself, as soon as the first two have fallen; for if the Pope acts contrary to the Scriptures, we are bound to stand by the Scriptures, to punish and to constrain him, according to Christ’s commandment, Moreover, if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone; if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the Church; but if he neglect to hear the Church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican (St. Matt. xviii. 15-17). Here each member is commanded to take care for the other; much more then should we do this, if it is a ruling member of the community that does evil, which by its evil-doing causes great harm and offence to the others. If then I am to accuse him before the Church, I must collect the Church together. Moreover, they can show nothing in the Scriptures giving the Pope sole power to call and confirm councils; they have nothing but their own laws; but these hold good only so long as they are not injurious to Christianity and the laws of God. Therefore, if the Pope deserves punishment, these laws cease to bind us, since Christendom would suffer, if he were not punished by a council. Thus we read (Acts xv.) that the council of the Apostles was not called by St. Peter, but by all the Apostles and the elders. But if the right to call it had lain with St. Peter alone, it would not have been a Christian council, but a heretical conciliabulum [i.e., a false council]. Moreover, the most celebrated council of all-that of Nicaea-was neither called nor confirmed by the Bishop of Rome, but by the Emperor Constantine; and after him many other emperors have done the same, and yet the councils called by them were accounted most Christian. But if the Pope alone had the power, they must all have been heretical. Moreover, if I consider the councils that the Pope has called, I do not find that they produced any notable results. Therefore when need requires, and the Pope is a cause of offence to Christendom, in these cases whoever can best do so, as a faithful member of the whole body, must do what he can to procure a true free council. This no one can do so well as the temporal authorities, especially since they are fellow-Christians, fellow-priests, sharing one spirit and one power in all things, and since they should exercise the office that they have received from God without hindrance, whenever it is necessary and useful that it should be exercised. Would it not be most unnatural, if a fire were to break out in a city, and every one were
to keep still and let it burn on and on, whatever might be burnt, simply because they had not the mayor’s authority, or because the fire perchance broke out at the mayor’s house? Is not every citizen bound in this case to rouse and call in the rest? How much more should this be done in the spiritual city of Christ, if a fire of offence breaks out, either at the Pope’s government or wherever it may! The like happens if an enemy attacks a town. The first to rouse up the rest earns glory and thanks. Why then should not he earn glory that catches sight of the coming of our enemies from hell and rouses and summons all Christians?
************** And now I hope the false, lying specter will be laid with which the Romanists have long terrified and stupefied our consciences. And it will be seen that, like all the rest of us, they are subject to the temporal sword; that they have no authority to interpret the Scriptures by force without skill; and that they have no power to prevent a council, or to pledge it in accordance with their pleasure, or to bind it beforehand, and deprive it of its freedom; and that if they do this, they are verily of the fellowship of antichrist and the devil, and having nothing of Christ but the name.
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Sweet taste of Liberty english essay help online: english essay help onlineS W E E T T A S T E O F L I B E R T Y
S W E E T T A S T E O F L I B E R T Y
A T R U E S T O R Y O F S L AV E R Y A N D R E S T I T U T I O N I N A M E R I C A
W . C A L E B M C D A N I E L
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: McDaniel, W. Caleb (William Caleb), 1979 author. Title: Sweet taste of liberty : a true story of slavery and restitution in America / W. Caleb McDaniel.
Description: New York, NY : Oxford University Press,  | Includes biblioographical references and index.
Identifiers: LCCN 2018047090 | ISBN 9780190846992 | ebook ISBN 9780190847012 hardcover : alk. paper) Subjects: LCSH: Wood, Henrietta, approximately 1818/201912. | SlavesKentucky Biography. | Women slavesKentuckyBiography. | FreedmenOhioCincinnati–Biography. | Wood, Henrietta, approximately 1818/201912Trials, litigation, etc. | Trials (Kidnapping)Ohio
Cincinnati. | African AmericansReparationsHistory19th century. Classification: LCC E444.W815 M35 2019 | DDC 306.3/62092 [B]dc23 LC record available at
1 3 5 7 9 8 6 4 2
Printed by Sheridan Books, Inc. United States of America
https://lccn.loc.gov/2018047090In Memory of Winona Adkins (19442018) Great-great-granddaughter of Henrietta Wood
[She] saw her life like a great tree in leaf with the things suffered, things enjoyed, things done and undone. Dawn and doom was in the branches.
Zora Neale Hurston Their Eyes Were Watching God
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C O N T E N T S
T H E W O R S T S L AV E O F T H E M A L L
The Crossing Touseytown Downriver Wards Return Cincinnati The Plan The Flight
F O R K S O F T H E R O A D
Raising a Muss Wood v. Ward The Keeper Natchez Brandon Hall Versailles Revolution The March
T H E R E T U R N O F H E N R I E T TA W O O D
Arthur Robertson County Dawn and Doom
19. 20. 21. 22.
Nashville A Rather Interesting Case Story of a Slave The Verdict Epilogue
Acknowledgments Appendix: An Essay on Sources Notes Index
S W E E T T A S T E O F L I B E R T Y
P R O L O G U E
Zebulon Ward of Arkansas liked to say that he was the last American ever to pay for a slave.
It would have been a doubtful honor even if it were true, as one newspaper said about Ward in 1887. Wards story, however, was dubious itself, and the true story brought him no honor at all. Eight years before the Civil War began, he had kidnapped a free woman and sold her as a slave. After the war, she had sued him for an enormous amount of money, arguing that she deserved reparations for her enslavement. But Ward preferred to tell his own version of the facts, making himself out to be The Last Slave Buyer. Many who heard his story would never learn the truth.1
Tall and broad-shouldered, with a cropped, gray beard, Ward was well known by the 1880s as a man with a knack for spinning yarns, perhaps the most unique raconteur south of the Mason and Dixon. Some said he looked like Ulysses S. Grant and had even impersonated the ex-president at a party both men attended. True or not, that was the kind of story he loved to tell, and Wards stories often made their way into the press. Portions of his history are like a romance, wrote one reporter in 1888.2
By then Ward was one of the richest men in the South, having made his fortune leasing state prisons in the region. He claimed to have served in two wars, and some called him Colonel. He may have been most famous, though, as a horseracing enthusiast, a man of the turf. Before settling in Arkansas, Zeb Ward had raised Thoroughbreds in his native state, Kentucky, and at one race held in 1863, his horse had been the only one to hear the starters signal: the filly won while the other horses stayed at the starting line. Delighted by his luck, Zeb had pocketed the stakesalong with another anecdote for his repertoire.3
He found a perfect stage for his stories in 1887, during a long stay at New Yorks St. James Hotel. Located on Broadway and Twenty-sixth Street, the hotel had a popular bar for actors, socialites, and turfmen such as E. Berry Wall, the dandyish King of the Dudes who claimed to have introduced the cocktail and the tuxedo to Americans. As a raconteur himself, Ward felt right at home, and reporters found him at the hotel in a reminiscent mood. Most evenings, admirers crowded around to hear his stories, told with an old-school eloquence that drew listeners in. And no story impressed them more than the one about how he allegedly became the last man in this country to pay for a negro slave.4
The story was brief, according to Ward, and it had the feel of an anecdote he must have told before. This time, though, a reporter in the audience wrote it down.
Colonel Zeb Ward, of Little Rock, Ark., who has been warden of three state penitentiaries, declares that he was the last man to pay for a negro slave in this country, and that was the result of a suit brought against him a few years ago by a woman slave whom he wished to set free, but who remained with him during a long dispute in the courts regarding her ownership. She sued for remuneration for six years service after the emancipation act, and gained a verdict. Colonel Ward says that in making out the draft for the amount found he worded it: To pay for the last negro that will ever be paid for in this country.5
That account soon traveled far beyond New York. Within days, it had been reprinted in cities across the country: Cleveland, Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco. Then the story kept spreading, even though it was mostly false.6
At least one person could have corrected the record, however: the woman who remained nameless in Wards popular account. Unbeknownst to him, she was living in Chicago in 1887, along with a son who had just begun attending law school there. And had anyone told her what Ward said in New York, she would have told them a very different story.
Her name was Henrietta Wood. Her story began in Kentucky. She was born there, enslaved by a man named Tousey, and then sold twice in her youth before being taken to New Orleans. Eventually, she was brought north to Cincinnati, Ohio, where Woods mistress at the time declared that she was free. That happened in April of 1848. But in 1853, as she was settling into freedom, Wood was kidnapped in a carriage, taken back to Kentucky, and reenslaved by a strangerZebulon Ward.
Ward sold Wood to a slave trader who took her to Mississippi, and a cotton planter who bought her there later moved her to Texasfacts that Ward did not mention in his story at the St. James. Far from wishing to free her, he had captured and sold a woman who was already free. He thereby doomed her not to six years service, as his version had it, but to more than a decade of reenslavement in the Deep South. As a result, Woods son would be born into slavery, too, in 1856. Neither of them would be freed until after the Civil War.
Even then, freedom proved to be a fragile thing. Twice enslaved and twice freed, Wood knew how easily a doom could follow dawn. Later, as she was looking back upon her eventful life, she would even describe her few years in antebellum Ohio as a sweet taste of liberty, as if freedom could only be sampled in sips. By 1869, a few years after she had tasted liberty again, Wood only had about $25 to her name. But she used that money to return from the South to Cincinnati, the city she had called home sixteen years before, and the next year, she filed a lawsuit against Ward for what he had done. Her suit demanded $20,000 in damages and lost wages.7
The case was ultimately heard by a federal court in Ohio, showing just how much had changed because of the Civil War. Before the war, a Supreme Court chief justice had famously declared that people of African descent could not be citizens or file suit in a federal court. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, adopted in 1868, rejected that view and extended national citizenship to former slaves such as Wood. Then, in 1878, after almost a decade of litigation in the twilight of Reconstruction, Henrietta Wood won her case against Zebulon Wardto his great embarrassment and the amazement of all. The amount she won was $2,500far below what her lawsuit had asked, and even lower than what a man like Ward could have paid, but still much more than other former slaves had received.8
It remains the largest known sum ever awarded by a US court in restitution for slavery.
Woods suit never would have happened, much less ended the way that it did, without her determination to tell her own story. She started telling it in the earliest hours after her abduction. She told it to the lawyers who filed her postwar suit. And she also gave long interviews to two Ohio reporters,
which make it possible even now to piece together her story. One was published in 1879 in the Ripley Bee, a small paper in a town with a long Underground Railroad history. The other appeared three years earlier in the Cincinnati Commercial, thanks to a staff reporter named Lafcadio Hearn.9
The encounter with Hearn was especially fortunate and fateful. An immigrant born to a Greek mother and a British father, Hearn left Ohio not long after his interview with Wood, eventually moving to Japan and becoming a celebrated writer there under the name Koizumi Yakumo. He got his start as a bohemian and a journalist in Cincinnati, where he earned a reputation, as Hearn himself put it, for writing about the Odd, the Queer, the Strange, the Exotic. Hearns taste for strange tales led him to slaughterhouses and sances, as well as to dingy tanyards and waterfront bars. He was also noted, however, for collecting tales from African Americans living along the river, most of them in a poor neighborhood where few reporters went. That was how he met Wood in 1876.10
Hearn described Wood to his readers as a powerful woman, probably at least six feet in height, tall enough to look Zeb Ward in the eye. One of the stories she related told of the time when Wards wife tried to whip her. Guess not, Wood replied, it takes men to whip me. The power of her memory was what most amazed Hearn, a man with indistinct memories of his own troubled childhood and a distinct interest in stories about American slavery. Before joining the Commercial, Hearn had scandalized his white friends by marrying a woman of color, another former slave. Her name was Alethea Foley, also known as Mattie, and although she and Hearn soon split up, she later told another reporter how they met. Foley was working as a cook in the boardinghouse where Hearn stayed, and he often found his way to the kitchen and spent hours talking to Alethea of the misery of her youth in slavery.11
Wood also decided to entrust her story to Hearn, a story that made claims about what she was due. Doubtless there are many ex-slaves in this and other cities whose experiences have been not less bitter or less eventful, Hearn said, introducing Story of a Slave in the Commercial, but these seldom care to speak of their life before freedom, or can remember the incidents of such a life so fully. Hearn concluded with a brief summary of her suit against Ward, noting that she did not forget who had wronged her.12
Hearn was right: Henrietta Wood did not forget. But her interviews do not contain everything that she remembered. Unlike Ward or Hearn, she could not read or write, and she did not have the kinds of public platforms they enjoyed. She relied on a few white men to put her story to paper, and much was undoubtedly lost in that translation. Although Hearn assured his readers that he presented Woods story just as it was told, he also admitted to leaving out some parts that he deemed too horrible for publication. He removed some vernacular peculiarities as well. And there were other facts of her lifesuch as the origins of her surnamethat she never shared or he did not record. Minor errors marred the interviews, too. Hearn heard the name of Woods first owner as Moses Tauser. Three years later, the Bee reporter heard the last name as Touci. Moses Tousey was the mans actual name.13
There were also things that Wood herself did not know for certain. I cant quite tell my age, she told Hearn in 1876, but she guessed that she was about fifty eight or fifty nine years old, meaning she was born around 1818. Another record from late in her life put her birth in 1820. She told Hearn she was about fourteen the first time she was sold, and that was in 1834, the year Tousey died.14
Both interviews nevertheless contain a wealth of details about Woods life, many of which can be filled out with other sources, too. And although the restitution that she eventually won was rare, her experiences in slavery were far more representative. If the stories of enslaved women were less well known in the nineteenth century than stories such as Wards, the reason had little to do with what women were able or willing to recall. It had more to do with what others at the time were willing to hear.15
Unlike the story that Ward told at the St. James, neither of Woods interviews was ever widely reprinted. For decades they were forgotten, except among collectors of the writings of Lafcadio Hearn, all of whom were more interested in him than in her. Although her legal victory was widely reported in 1878 and 1879, the general public had already forgotten Wood a few years later, when Ward trotted his version out for barflies on Broadway. No one knew her on the street; no image of her exists. Wards story did not even give Woods name, and no one who published his version supplied it.16
It is no surprise, then, that she quickly fell into obscurity. Only two decades after slavery had ended, most Americans preferred to hear last slave stories such as Wards, stories that emphasized progress and expiated guilt by relegating slavery to the nations fading past. Woods pursuit of damages argued for a less popular view: that the past might make continuing claims on the present. As the New York Times noted in 1878 when it reported the decision, her victory raised larger questions about slaverys aftermath: Who will recompense the millions of men and women for the years of liberty of which they have been defrauded? Who will make good to the thousands of kidnapped freemen the agony, distress, and bondage of a lifetime? The suit was about more than Henrietta Wood alone. It was about what former slaves were owed for their enslavement, as well as about the real differences that restitution could make. Where had men such as Ward gotten all their wealth? Where, for that matter, had the country gotten its riches? And what could the amount that Wood won do for families like hers? What did freedom mean without restitution for slavery? 17
By 1887, however, such questions did not interest very many white Americans. Most, even in the North, believed that ex-slaves were owed nothing more than emancipation. It had taken a costly civil war to abolish slavery, and even some Americans who supported abolition believed that those who had been freed owed the nation in return. The idea of reparations had few friendsand powerful enemies. When a national organization of former slaves arose in the 1890s to advocate reparations, led by a woman named Callie House, it withered under a combination of public indifference and aggressive harassment by federal officials. Meanwhile, white southerners devised new ways to exploit freed people, such as the convict leasing regimes that Zebulon Ward helped pioneer.18
When Woods life ended in 1912, the dream of reparations for slavery therefore seemed as unlikely as ever. It seemed no more likely in 1951, when Arthur H. Simms, the son she bore in Mississippi, died at the age of ninety-five, having practiced law in Chicago for more than fifty years. But Simmss life as a lawyer was made possible in part by the money that his mother had managed to win, an amount worth more than $60,000 today. As a woman who had been enslaved only a few years before her suit, she confronted odds that were longer by far than any that Ward ever faced, and her victory was not even assured by the time she was interviewed. Her
conversation with Hearn took place before the case concluded. And in her last recorded words to the Ripley Bee, Wood said she was still waiting for Ward to pass over them checks.19
Nonetheless, a check did eventually come, establishing for both Wood and Ward unique places in history. Contrary to what Ward later would claim at the St. James Hotel, he was not the last American to pay for a slave. He was among the very few, and perhaps the very last, to pay a former slave for having enslaved her. The true story, the one that Ward did not want to tell, was that of a black woman who survived enslavement twiceand then made a powerful white man pay.
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The blinds had been drawn and buttoned over all of the carriage windows. In hindsight, that should have been the very first sign of trouble. Still, I never suspected, Henrietta Wood told Lafcadio Hearn more than two decades later, after she had finally returned to Cincinnati. Otherwise, she might not have left behind in her room the papers that proved she was free. 1
Rebecca Boyd, her employer at the time, was the one who suggested the carriage ride to Covington, Kentucky, on the southern side of the Ohio River. Henrietta, Wood recalled her saying, the memory of that day still vivid in her mind, I want you to come over the river with me; I have some friends to see, and we can get back in time for supper. 2
Before that Sunday in April 1853, Wood had been working for Boyd for only about three months. She cleaned the rooms in the boardinghouse that Boyd ran on Fourth Street in Cincinnati. And every day she wondered whether she would be paid for her work. Boyds husband, a dentist, had an easier time yanking teeth from patients than Wood had pulling a wage from his wifethe worst employer Henrietta had known in the five years since she was freed. Boyd kept saying that she would pay, but Wood had not seen a cent. 3
Wood might have believed that Sunday would be different. Another employee later recalled hearing Boyd say she was crossing the river to see about some money she was owed. Maybe she finally intended to settle her accounts. Or maybe Rebecca Boyd made the trip seem like an olive branch. She knew that Wood was a woman used to being on her feet all day. Surely, then, she might enjoy a leisurely carriage ride? A respite from the
woodstoves and buckets, the chamber pots and slop jars, that had occupied most of her waking hours for the past twenty years? 4
Boyd sent for the hack. Wood got in. The driver steered them west on Fourth before turning left and heading south in the slanting afternoon light. Dust swirled in the carriages wake as it clattered along the cobblestones to the bases of Walnut and Vine, where a swath of unpaved ground sloped down toward the river. There, a steam-powered ferry was waiting to carry them and other passengers across a quarter mile of water, and the driver directed the curtained carriage right onto its deck. The ferry took only a few minutes to cross the Ohio River. 5
Even then, Wood did not suspect the extent of the danger ahead. In those days people moved regularly between Cincinnati and Covington, twin cities whose daily commerce required crossing the river. John Gilbert, the black man driving the carriage, returned to Cincinnati later that night, and Wood must have assumed that she would, too. But when the carriage drove straight through town and out into the gloaming, she may have begun to fear the truth: she would not be back for supper. 6
The carriage had moved well into the country when the driver finally pulled on his reins. Boyd opened the door and got out to speak with three men on the road. Wood told Hearn that she recognized one of them as a man named Frank Rust, whom she had seen at the boardinghouse; the bumps on his face gave him away. Another she later identified as Willoughby Scott. Wood remembered watching from her seat as one of those menor perhaps Zebulon Ward, the third man therewalked up to Boyd and shouted in mock anger. 7
What are you doing with my nigger? Boyd laughed and joked back with a sarcastic reply. Oh, shes free. More laughter pealed as Wood saw a roll of cash changing hands in the
shadows. Then she heard an order to get out of the hack. The conversation that evening would haunt her for years, enabling her to recount it for Hearn.
Now, dont run, or Ill shoot you, one of the men said. Ive got nothing to run for, Wood replied. She talks mighty big, dont she, sneered one of the men. Another
walked up and fixed her with a stare. Dont you know me? he asked.
The others laughed again. Boyd returned to her seat alone. Then the driver turned the carriage back toward the river. 8
That night, after the men had forced her to walk into Covington, Wood found herself trapped in a fourth-story room. In her interview with the Ripley Bee in 1879, she remembered that a white man stood guard at her door. Downstairs, she had seen men tying up their horses and drinking at a bar. Upstairs, the kidnappers frisked her and rifled through her pockets, failing to find what they wanted. 9
Wheres your papers? they demanded. She told them. They left. Later, though, one returned to taunt her with more questions. 10
Dont you want to see Josephine White? 11 Wood said no, but the name must have struck her like a slap in the face:
the sudden, stinging realization that Josephine was behind this. Whites mother, Jane Cirode, had helped Wood to secure the freedom papers that the men wished to find; Josephine and her husband, Robert, had always wanted Jane to sell Henrietta instead. A theory began to form in her mind as the daylight ebbed from her room. A landlady also came to her door with a meal of crackers and tea. But Wood did not feel like eating, so the woman retreated downstairs, muttering under her breath that the whole thing was a shame. 12
I lay awake all night, Wood later recalled, and I prayed that the good Lord would stand by me and deliver me out of my trouble. 13
At sunrise, Wood rose and went to the window for one last look at old Cincinnati, where I had had a sweet taste of liberty. She could see the Ohio River below, the water running high. It would be a busy day on the landing. Steamboats were preparing to leave for Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Louisville, a city she knew well from her days before freedom. A boatload of cotton was arriving from New Orleans, another place she had lived during her first enslavement. Carriages swarmed around the ferry dock, ready to take boarders to houses like those where she had worked for years most recently Mrs. Boyds, but also the one on Broadway and Fifth, run by a Mrs. Wilcox, and of course Mrs. Cirodes. Wood recalled spying a fiddler on board a passing lumber raft. Another figure danced. Then a sharp knock on the door brought her back into the room. 14
God damn you, shouted the knocker. Are you never going to get up? 15
Wood left the room and followed the man down the stairs. There were now only two men from the night before: Rust and Scott. They put her into a buggy again, steering it onto the turnpike running south toward Lexington. Soon they arrived in Florence, a tiny crossroads town where travelers often rested after the steep climb from the river. The group checked in for the night at one of the villages roadside inns, and Wood was forced to the floor in the same room as her captors. 16
Wood managed some sleep, but only a little, as she recalled. When dawn came the men roused her while preparing to leave for a short trip to nearby Burlington, where they planned to collect some slaves they had bought before going on to Lexington. She was to remain locked in their room until they returned. The kidnappers repeated a warning not to talk as they left: Youd better know nothing about Cincinnati, which meant, as she later put it, Nigger, Ill whip you if you do. In so many ways, she found herself back where she began. 17
When her captors had gone, Henrietta was left to ponder their next moves and hers. She had passed her childhood right there in Boone County, Kentucky, not far from Florence and Burlington, though the Covington turnpike had not been built when she last lived nearby. She had spent no time in Florence, and now she was headed to Lexington, another unfamiliar town. More familiar, though, was what the men likely planned to do. She figured that they would put her with some slaves they were collecting for the Southern market, forcing them all onto a steamboat bound for New Orleans, or marching them overland in a long line, each person shackled to another. She knew from having been there what awaited in New Orleans: a levee full of markets where human beings were sold. In the end, she would probably be taken to the cotton fields. 18
At that point in her life, Wood had not yet been on the front lines of the cotton states, which by then produced two thirds of the worlds supply of the crop. But she had lived in Louisiana, and she knew that the shores of the Mississippi River were lined with booming plantations. She had seen the cotton bales that were carried on steamboats down the Mississippi and shipped to foreign ports such as Liverpool and Le Havre. Cotton had
reorganized the rhythms of national and global markets that stretched far beyond her lines of sight. 19
Long before she ever saw a cotton plant, Wood also knew about the crops human toll. Most enslaved people who had lived in Kentucky or Virginia did. Nearly one million slaves had already been moved against their will from states in the Upper South to the cotton fields of what was then the nations southwestern frontier. The massive forced migration resembled a second Middle Passage, ripping apart and scattering countless black families. Hundreds of miles away from the places they were born, slaves who arrived in the Southwest were forced to stoop over plants they had never grown before, pushed to plant and weed and pick from every sunrise to every sunset. 20
Those who were sent built new communities, formed new family ties. They tried to wring what concessions they could from those who wielded the whips and hoarded the regions guns. Some fought back or ran away when they learned they were being sold down the river. Others kept on fighting when they arrived. And still others destroyed themselves in final acts of defiance or grief. At various points on the bottom of the Mississippi were the bodies of those who had jumped overboard and drowned themselves on the way to the cotton states. They picked a death of their choosing instead of what awaited them there. 21
Henrietta Wood now confronted a similar mix of options, though her power to choose among them was terribly constrained. One option was to try to regain her freedom, to fight her abduction even to the death. A different kind of struggle was already familiar: the daily fight to live as freely as she could within slavery. The taste of liberty lingered; Cincinnati was nearby. But if she had any hopes of returning across the river, she knew that she would have to defy her captors threats. She would have to tell her story.
The first chance arrived when a young white man entered her room in Florence, interrupting her racing thoughts. The man (Wood recalled guessing that he was the innkeepers son) informed her about the captors orders not to let her out, not even for meals downstairs. Although he was accustomed to boarding slave traders and their captives, these instructions had raised his suspicions.
Now, I want you to tell me the truth, the man said. Where did they get you? 22
Years later, Wood gave the mans name as Williams, probably the Jonathan Williams listed in records from about that time as a Pennsylvania- born innkeeper, the owner of one slave. Whoever he was, Williams urged her to confide in him. 23
She hesitated, even though the man seemed sincere. I didnt want to tell him, Wood later confessed, because I was afraid. 24
His questionWhere did they get you?also had so many answers. Which where, after all? Which they? She could say that the men had gotten her in Covington from Boyd. Before that, Jane Cirode had gotten her from Cirodes husband when he left New Orleans. He had gotten her from a man named Henry Forsyth in Louisville, Kentucky, who had gotten her from a man named Omer Tousey of Indiana. And he got her by inheritance from the estate of his father, Moses, who owned Woods mother, a woman named Daphne. She had been stolen at birth, in a sense, not in a curtained carriage or by a special ruse, but by laws that systematically robbed black womens wombs. Where did they get her? She could say it was from Daphne or from Daphnes mother, or from her mother, or hers. From a long train of usurpations that had crossed the Atlantic Ocean long before she crossed the Ohio. The getting of her had begun far away and long ago, before she was even born. 25
You need not fear, Wood remembered Williams saying. Theyll not be back before eleven oclock, and Ill not betray you. 26
Wood remained unsure, she recalled. But at last, she took courage, perhaps a deep breath. Then she told him all. 27
C H A P T E R T W O
T O U S E Y T O W N
The first place Henrietta Wood could remember was Moses Touseys northern Kentucky farm, which lay on the southern banks of the Ohio River. Tousey was one of the earliest white settlers of Boone County, having arrived there from western New York in about 1804 with his brothers, Thomas and Zerah. The trio of Yankees built adjoining farms by the mouth of Second Creekright opposite Lawrenceburg, Indiana, as Wood later recalled. This was the place she said she was born, either in 1818 or in 1820.1
Locals knew the tiny hamlet along the river as Touseytown. It boasted a distillery, a mill, and a warehouse where tobacco could be inspected, as well as a flatboat that could ferry goods and people to Indiana. Even then, the hamlet was not much compared with nearby settlements such as Louisville, Cincinnati, or even Lawrenceburg. But Touseytown wore the trappings of wealth at a time when northern Kentucky remained a rural frontier, part of the Far West of the young United States. The Touseys belonged to a wave of white migrants who had rushed into Kentucky after 1790, tripling the states population by 1800 and doubling it again by 1820. Most had come with pioneer dreams of wresting farms from wilderness, then passing them on to their children, and the Tousey brothers had done better than most.2
Land ownership in Kentucky was concentrated in the hands of an elite, forcing many settlers to rent, but the Tousey brothers had acquired land of their own. Most white families in the area farmed corn, some tobacco, often relying on wealthier neighbors for the infrastructure that helped bring crops to marketferries, distilleries, mills. The Touseys were part of that wealthier class. In 1825, when a tremendous fire in Touseytown, visible
from Indiana, destroyed the distillery and Horse Mill on Zerah Touseys farm, a Lawrenceburg newspaper expressed concern. The loss of the mill will be severely felt, it reported, because the whole neighborhood relied on it for grinding.3
In truth, the neighbors may have felt the loss more than the Touseys, who had another form of property that set them apart from many: all three of the brothers owned slaves, and slaves gave white families the power to rebound from disasters. The forced labor of enslaved people could help to build or rebuild a farm. It could be rented out to poorer farmers, too, earning income for a slaveholder while broadening support for human bondage among those who could not afford slaves of their own. In short, owning slaves gave a white family a means of securing and growing its wealth. A slave could be used as collateral for a loan. A slave, like real estate, could be bequeathed to heirs. A slave could always be sold for cash, in good times or in bad.4
Tousey possessed only a few blacks, Wood later told Hearn. According to census records, the three he enslaved in 1820 had increased to eleven a decade later. By the time Wood reached adolescence, at least two dozen enslaved people, owned by various Touseys, lived and worked in Touseytown, and the rise in their numbers reflected a more general trend. Kentuckys black population grew at an even faster rate than its white population between 1790 and 1820. By 1830, nearly a quarter of the people living in the state were enslaved. Compared with the more populated areas of central Kentucky, relatively few slaves lived along the northern borders of Boone County. But among the few blacks in Touseytown were people who were very important to Henrietta: the people she first loved and was loved by in return.5
She remembered her father, for instance, as a man called William or Bill. She remembered and preserved the name of her mother: Daphne. Henrietta had siblings, too, and many decades later, she could still tell stories about her Touseytown relations, like the time when a brother named Joshua fell and hit his chin on a coffee pot. The pot left a scar on Joshuas face, and as Wood recalled, she would often feel sorry for the gash that disfigured him when a baby.6
As for Henrietta, she may have been not much older than a baby herself when Joshua fell, perhaps too young to fully understand what it meant to be
enslaved. She was no more than seven years old when fire destroyed the mill. Other formerly enslaved people often recalled not knowing yet, at that early age, that they could be bought and sold. Only slowly did they realize why their parents could not ensure a future together as a family, much less an inheritance like the ones that white settlers hoped to bequeath to their sons. By law, Henrietta, Joshua, Bill, and Daphne belonged to a Tousey, just like the horse that walked around the mill, grinding the neighborhoods corn into meal.7
The enslaved people of Touseytown also felt a sense of belonging to each other, no doubt: they cherished the ties that bind parents to child, brother to sister, friends to friends. But Wood was born with a price on her head that she could not yet see. And by the time she reached twenty years of age, two different white men would fix that price and pay to make her theirs.8
Before 1830, enslaved people came to Kentucky in one of three ways. Some were forced to move by white settlers from states such as Virginia, where nearly three hundred thousand slaves lived in 1790. Woods parents were probably among those brought by migrants who moved west after the American Revolution. Other people became slaves in Kentucky simply by being born. Since the seventeenth century, American slaveholders had adopted the rule that any children born to an enslaved woman belonged to their mothers owner. Kentucky made the rule state law in 1798, continuing a Virginia code: the descendants of the females of slaves were unfree. Because Daphne was enslaved, Henrietta was born into bondage, too.9
White Kentuckians chose to perpetuate slavery in their state even at a moment when slavery was beginning to end in some parts of the country. Only a few years before the Touseys left New York, the legislature there passed an act of gradual emancipation, freeing slaves born after July 4, 1799, once they reached a certain age. As they traveled to Kentucky, the Touseys probably also passed through Pennsylvania, where legislators had enacted a similar law in 1780, citing the contradictions between slavery and the ideals of the American Revolution. By following the Ohio River, the Touseys eventually entered the Northwest Territory, which included what became the states of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. In 1787, Congress had
banned slavery entirely from this territory, and the ban was ratified by the state constitutions of Ohio in 1802 and Indiana in 1816.10
In each of these states, those who favored emancipation succeeded only through struggle against powerful opposition. In none of these states were free black persons legally regarded as first-class citizens, the equals of their white neighbors. Instead, they were treated as a despised community and held down by discriminatory laws. In Ohio, for example, white conservatives feared that the abolition of slavery in their state would attract unwanted runaway slaves and free black immigrants to the state. So in 1804, the legislature passed a series of Black Laws that prohibited African Americans from attending public schools, voting, serving on juries, or testifying against whites. Similar laws were soon adopted by legislatures in other northern states, especially as free black communities grew. In every state where slavery had begun to die, white supremacy lived on.11
Still, in many states there was a clear if halting movement in the direction of emancipation. Kentuckyand the Touseyswent in the opposite direction. Some of the early migrants to the Bluegrass State did resist attempts to make Kentucky a slave state at its founding. They left behind pockets of moderate antislavery views that could explain later why Williamss family in Florence, or that innkeeper in Covington, believed that Woods abduction in 1853 was wrong. But early emancipationists were ultimately outvoted. Kentuckys first state constitutional convention, in 1792, decided to legalize slavery. Seven years later, a second state constitution reaffirmed the decision.12
As a child, therefore, Henrietta could stand enslaved on the banks of the Ohio and look across the river at a state where slavery was illegal. It was a distance crossed regularly by the Touseytown ferry. But in practice, the border between slavery and freedom was still as fluid as the river itself. Many white settlers in Indiana were related to slaveholders in Kentucky. Not all agreed with the ban on slavery in the Northwest; some had lobbied for its repeal. Others held black indentured servants in years-long contracts approximating slavery, and many more depended on trade with white Kentuckians, shared their racial prejudices, and assisted in capturing runaway slaves. (In 1826, when an enslaved couple ran away from Boone County to Indiana, hoping to be married in freedom, a Lawrenceburg paper printed a mocking article about their capture and the sound drubbing they got when returned to Kentucky.) Although the proximity of Kentucky
slaves to a zone of legal freedom encouraged some to escape, the same proximity endangered the freedom of black people in Indiana, who were constantly at risk of being enslaved. One white Indianan reported in 1821 that we hear many sad stories of kidnapping.13
Kidnapping was the third way that enslaved people arrived in the Bluegrass State, and Wood may have known some victims of these abductions as a child, decades before she became one herself. In 1812, for example, a man called Sampson was kidnapped in Lawrenceburg, taken across the river, and purchased by Zerah Tousey. Sampson toiled for Zerah for the next seventeen years, and given Touseytowns small size, Henrietta and her family most likely knew him.14
Perhaps they also knew that in 1829, Sampson somehow returned to Lawrenceburg, where he soon appeared in public records as a free man of colour. That same year, Sampson filed lawsuits in the Dearborn County Circuit Court against Tousey and an Indianan named William Record. Sampson told the court that Tousey and Record had conspired to kidnap and imprison him in Indiana in 1812. They then carried him into the state of Kentucky, where Record fraudulently sold and conveyed him to Tousey as a slave or servant. Sampson sued the men for $1,500, and in April 1830, an Indiana jury ruled in his favor, though it ordered only Record to pay Sampson $83a tiny fraction of what the lawsuit asked.15
By then, Sampson had launched a separate lawsuit against Zerah Tousey for $1,000. It eventually reached the Indiana Supreme Court. At the time, some Indiana jurists were increasingly sympathetic to the plight of men and women who were illegally enslaved. In 1820, a ruling by the state Supreme Court had upheld Indianas 1816 ban on slavery and affirmed that any people still enslaved in the state must be freed. But in 1831, the year Zerah Tousey died, Sampsons case was suddenly dropped from the high courts docket, before any arguments were heard.16
News of Sampsons case may well have traveled across the river to Touseytown. Though Wood never said so, it is conceivable that she or her relatives heard something about his ordeal. Either way, Sampsons story underscored the dangers that free people of color faced if they lived along the borders of slave states. His partial success in court did suggest, even then, the possibility of holding a former enslaver to account. But it also provided a precedent that few others could followcertainly not an
enslaved person legally brought to Kentucky, or born within its borders. And in the end, after almost two years of litigation, even Sampson was probably left with no more than $83 to show for seventeen years as a slave.17
When Sampson left Touseytown, Henrietta was only nine or maybe eleven years oldabout the age when many enslaved children first became conscious of their legal status as property. Some, remembering their childhoods as adults, spoke of a slowly dawning realization about the way the white world saw them, a terrible knowledge that might be learned from various rites of passage: the first time they were made to join in the labor of enslaved adults; the first time that someone they knew ran away; the first time they witnessed a whipping; or the first time they heard an owner threaten them or a loved one with sale. For Henrietta Wood, one such time may have been in 1831, when Moses Tousey published a notice in a Lawrenceburg newspaper. The ad announced that he planned to expose at public sale all his furniture, livestock, and moveable property, including all his Negroes.18
No record shows whether Tousey found any buyers, or if the people he hoped to sell ever learned of his plans. At least for the moment, Henrietta remained in Touseytownlong enough, perhaps, for her mother, Daphne, to teach important lessons about her daughters true value, and about the world in which she would soon have to survive alone. Like other parents of enslaved children, she would have taught Wood that she should never see herself as a thing. Nonetheless, Daphne also had to warn her daughter that a master would see her as a chattel, one whose body could bear even more property for him. Perhaps it was in Touseytown, too, that Wood first heard of slave traders who tempted masters with cash for negroes, and then carried souls off, God knew where, never to be seen again.19
Whatever the case, Daphne did not have much time left to tell her daughter all the things she wanted to say. Touseytown started a slow decline after Wood was born. Most of the Tousey brothers children drifted to Indiana, or larger towns in Kentucky, and each departure made it more likely that their fathers property would also one day be dispersed. Meanwhile, new settlers in the area gravitated to the Lawrenceburg side of the river. The rise of steamboats after 1819 began to make ferries such as
Touseytowns obsolete. The fire that destroyed the hamlets distillery and mill occurred in 1825, followed not long after by other disasters for Moses. In 1831, his wife, Ann, left him. In 1833, his house caught fire. In 1834, he died.20
In her interview with Lafcadio Hearn, Wood later recalled that Moses Touseys children returned to the farm after his death to see after things, a return that proved disastrous to her own family. Touseys son Omer (whose name Wood remembered, or Hearn mistook, as Homer) was a rising politician across the river. Mosess daughter had also settled in Indiana, where her son would grow up to become governor of the state. Neither one wished to put down roots again in Boone County; neither was compelled by law to free their fathers slaves. Instead, Wood recalled, they made a division of the property, including the people whom Tousey had enslaved. Then, as she told Hearn, we were all sold.21
At about that same time, as required by law, Touseys executors also made an inventory of all his worldly goods. The list, completed in October 1834, began with nine enslaved people. At the top were the two names that Wood later gave as those of her parents: 1 Negro Man Bill, valued at $150, and 1 Negro Woman Daphney, valued at $50 less. Seven other people, including a Negro Boy Joshua, were immediately followed by fifty head of hogs and pigs. Together, the total value of the slaves Tousey owned was appraised at $2,000, more than all the rest of his movable property combined.22
No Henrietta appeared, however, on the inventory of Touseys estate. As a teenager, she was more marketable than her older parents or the younger people on the list. So by the time Moses Touseys list of property was made, his heirs must already have determined her fate.
I was taken together with brothers and one sister, to Louisville, she recalled, and sold there to a Mr. Henry Forsyth, for $700. She would remain in the memory of those left behind as daughter to Daphne, sister to Joshua, the sibling whose scar she had pitied as a child. But as far as she knew in 1834, Henrietta would never see any of them again. And as for the siblings brought with her from Touseytown to Louisville, none were purchased by Forsyth. Four decades later she could still report to Hearn that I never saw them since.23
C H A P T E R T H R E E
D O W N R I V E R
After she was sold to Henry Forsyth, Henrietta Wood spent more than two years working at his home in Louisville. Much later, when she was interviewed by Lafcadio Hearn, she lingered on those years for only thirty- four words. Perhaps Wood said more than Hearn decided to report. Or perhaps the brevity suggested how painful those days had been. At no more than sixteen years of age, Henrietta was cut off from family and sold to a pretty mean man, who forced her to do cooking, washing, scrubbing. Henry Forsyth treated me roughly, Wood tersely recalled. He often flogged me, she said.1
She did not say, or Hearn did not record, all the things that rough treatment entailed. Another formerly enslaved woman recalled the fifteenth year of age as a sad epoch in the life of a slave girl. It was a time when many leering white men began to whisper foul words to the young black girls whose bodies they owned and could violate without fear of legal prosecution. Being treated roughly could have signified many kinds of physical, verbal, or sexual assault, in addition to the whippings that she did name, and whatever Forsyth did, Henrietta suffered it all without her familys support.2
She also had to adjust to surroundings that were starkly different from what she knew before. By 1830, Louisville was Kentuckys largest city. Its population exceeded that of Boone County as a whole. More than a hundred steamboats stopped regularly at its landing, and their passengers could stay at well-appointed hotels. Compared with Moses Touseys farm, the city must have seemed a bewildering new world, a whirl of activity and motion, as one visitor described it. Though it stood by the same river that
ran beside Touseytown, Louisville more closely resembled a seaport, with stores filled with the commodities and manufactures of every clime.3
Henry Forsyth kept one of those stores near the river at the corner of Third Street and Water, only a few blocks away from his home. In her brief recollections to Hearn about that time, Wood called it a naval supply store, perhaps because Forsyth sold bookings on steamboats such as the Industry and the Orleans. Sometimes Forsyth also sold shares in new steamboats constructed at boatyards nearby. His main business, however, was as a wholesale and commission merchant, one of dozens in the city. He made his profits by trading in the vast array of goods that arrived by steamboat from up and down the river. Customers at his waterfront store could buy Brazilian coffee and Monongahela whiskey, Turks Island salt or Alabama cotton, and by 1833, Forsyth was a man on the makethe owner of two slaves and a total estate worth at least $20,000.4
Only a few years later, Forsyth would be worth more than five times that amount. By 1837, he had owned as many as nine slaves and held important civic positions as a stock commissioner and a director of the Bank of Kentucky. He rubbed shoulders with men such as George Keats, brother of the English poet and owner of a fancy house near Forsyths. Not long after buying Wood, Forsyth also helped found the company that was chartered to build the original Galt House hotel.5
It was a dramatic rise to prominence by a man who was born in Ireland at about the time the Touseys left New York, and it paralleled the rise of Louisville itself. By 1835, the once small village on the nations western frontier boasted a wholesale business of $29 million a year. A city booster confidently declared that Louisville is as clearly marked out by nature, as the great heart of western commerce, as New Orleans is, as the great mart of the South. In Louisville, members of wealthy white families could take piano lessons or bet on Thoroughbred horses at the citys Oakland Race Course, a forerunner of Churchill Downs. Those wealthy enough to do so also assigned domestic work to hired servants or slaves, making the freedom not to launder or prepare meals a marker of race and class. Awash in new wealth, white Kentuckians consigned young women like Henrietta Wood to the hot and tedious work of chambermaids and cooks.6
But then came a sudden crash, for Forsyth and for Louisville. It started with the Panic of 1837, a national financial crisis. As lenders rushed to call
in debts during the panic, many merchants lost their wealth. Forsyth was among the businessmen who suffered, especially as a director of the Bank of Kentucky. For two years, Forsyth and the bank battled creditors and debtors alike in a cascade of complicated suits. Forsyth was reduced to a clerk by the time it had subsided; maybe a renter, too. He would later bounce back to solvency, but the Irishman disappeared from the countys property rolls for a time, along with all the people whom he once enslaved.7
Most likely all of those peopleeight in all on the eve of the panic had been sold away or seized from Forsyth as he struggled to stay afloat. In her later interview with Hearn, Wood reported only what Forsyth had done to her. He sold me to a Frenchman named William Cirode, she said, a fellow merchant who paid either $700 or $800. The exact price the Frenchman paid may have been lost to memory, but Wood did not forget her new owners name, for Cirodes story would be entangled with hers for many years to come. It was Williams wife, Jane, who would later help Wood gain her first taste of freedom. And it was their daughter, Josephine, whose desire to see Henrietta sold would later set in motion the crime that took that freedom away.8
Like Forsyth, William Cirode was an immigrant to the United States. Born Louis-Guillaume-Marie Cirode in France, he arrived in Lexington, Kentucky, from Nantes in 1816, at age twenty-four, adopting an anglicized version of his name. The unusual surname was still often mangled by Americans as Cerrode or even Corode, but Cirodes new home did retain some reminders of France. A French jeweler, Antoine Dumesnil, also settled in Lexington at about that time, and both men belonged to a growing diaspora of migrs from Napoleonic France and Saint-Domingue, the French sugar colony where enslaved revolutionaries had overthrown the white planter class and established the new Republic of Haiti in 1804. Although most French refugees settled in large port cities, a significant number made their way to the western backcountry.9
Meanwhile, in the East, French immigrants forged alliances with friends in high places. One society of migrs lobbied the federal government to give its stockholders public land in the South where they could settle, and in 1818, they succeeded. Congress granted the group four townships on lands recently seized from the Creek and Chickasaw nations by the United States.
Cirode and Dumesnil were shareholders in the society and were granted 120-acre and 240-acre plots, respectively, near Mobile, Alabama.10
Both men may have considered a move to the Deep South. Butlike most of the granteesCirode never claimed his land. By 1818, he had good reasons to remain in Kentucky. In August, he married Jane White, an English-born woman ten years his junior, and his brother Yves had followed him to Kentucky. William had also begun to prosper as a skin dresser, opening a tanyard in Lexington near the Catholic burying ground. The business did well, perhaps by using French innovations in tanning, and by 1823, the operation had expanded to include a tanyard in Frankfort. Cirode sold leather, shoes, boots, as one advertisement he placed in a newspaper put it. Another promised local farmers that he could make coarse Shoes for their negroes, fitted to the specified length of their feet.11
By his own account, Cirodes industrious habits had paid off: I have the satisfaction to know that my exertions have been rewarded by an increase of property, he wrote to a local newspaper in 1824. But Lexington remained a rough-and-tumble town in those years, and the Frenchman made enemies, too. In the same letter to the Kentucky Gazette, Cirode revealed that one Thursday night in August 1824, a group of ruffians had burst into the terrified tanners home, dragged him into the street, and given him a vicious and humiliating beating.12
Cirode could not see his assailants, who had not been brave enough, he later said, to attack him in day light. He called them irresponsible bravos, fellows without character or property, who had probably been hired by his enemies. Since the start of a nationwide recession that began in 1819, there had been periodic violence between Lexingtons workingmen and property holders; perhaps those conflicts were to blame. Or perhaps Cirodes profession had rankled some of his neighbors. Townsfolk in the West often complained of the noxious chemicals that ran off from tanyards into local streams, not to mention the stench from rotting flesh that had been scraped from raw skins. Then again, the Frenchman may have been a victim of xenophobia, or even of random crime.13
Cirode, at least, saw nothing random about the attack. In his letter to the Gazette, he offered a $50 reward for anyone with information about his attackers, describing himself as a friendless foreigner who spoke the language of this country badly and kept mostly to his tan yard and
family. Expecting little help from the authorities, Cirode felt surrounded by enemies, and soon he was looking to leave. By 1828, the Frenchman had sold both of his tanyards and moved his family, now with four children, west, to a booming Louisville.14
The river city proved to be a more welcoming place. Cirode set himself up as a merchant on Fifth Street near the Ohio River, trading in finished hides and other goods. He joined the Mechanics Saving Institution of Louisville, an organization to which Forsyth also belonged. By 1830, Cirode had purchased valuable real estate in Louisville, and he also owned seven slaves. In late 1837 or early 1838, he would add to their number by purchasing Henrietta Wood.15
By then, two decades after arriving from France, Cirode had lived, like Forsyth, a version of the American dream. He had gone from doing dirty manual work to respectability as a merchant. Yet Cirode remained restless, and by the time he purchased Wood he was already making plans to move again, this time even farther away, to the city of New Orleans. Maybe there, in that cosmopolitan city, with its large Francophone community, his nationality and native tongue would finally be assets instead of liabilities.
For Wood, the idea of going to New Orleans could only have prompted the opposite feelings: sadness, panic, dread. She was approaching her twentieth year when Forsyth sold her to Cirode, and over the course of her life, New Orleans had grown to become the third-largest city in the United States. It was also home to one of the largest slave markets in the world. Since 1815, a stampede of white American settlers had rushed into the nations Southwest, occupying land in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Their numbers had far outpaced the wave of migration that had brought the Touseys, Forsyth, and Cirode to Kentucky. The result was an unprecedented demand for slaves by cotton and sugar planters in the Lower South, and professional slave traders in the Upper South moved quickly to meet that demand. In the meantime, stories about what happened to slaves after they were taken to New Orleans made their way back on river steamboats to the Upper South. Many slaves remembered masters who threatened them with sale down the river. As one formerly enslaved Kentuckian would recall, a trip to New Orleans was regarded like a trip to Hell, few ever returning who went there.16
A descent to New Orleans must have seemed a hellish prospect to Wood, too, not least because it would lower her odds of ever seeing her family again. As long as she still lived along the Ohio River in Louisville, Henrietta may have had reasonable hopes of reuniting with Daphne, Joshua, or Bill. Some of her siblings, she knew, had also been sold in the city, and whatever remained of Touseytown was only a short distance away. She might even have contemplated how she could return. In 1836, an eighteen- year-old enslaved woman named Easter did escape from Forsyth, who advertised a reward for her capture in the local press. Henrietta may well have known Easter before then, and if so, the flight may have led her to ponder the risks and potential rewards of making a run of her own.17
But then Cirode purchased Wood and forced her to move with him downriver, hundreds of miles away from every place and person she knew. He took me at once on the steamboat William French to New Orleans, Wood later recalled, referring to a 265-ton boat that made its first trip down the Mississippi in the spring of 1838. He opened a store in New Orleans, Wood explained to Hearn, and for the next six or seven years, she would work as a cook and housekeeper for the Cirodes there.18
Henrietta Wood stepped off the William French at a time when the slave population of New Orleans itself was in decline. Most slaves who arrived in the city were soon resold to the owners of surrounding plantations. In fact, many never made it past the first few blocks by the river, where numerous slave traders operated slave pens and showrooms.19
Enslaved women who did housework in the city proved the one exception to the steady drain of urban slaves to the countryside, but black domestic servants were not immune to sale. New Orleans had a thriving market for domestic help sought by wealthy families, and more black women were arriving all the time. As the labor needs or financial means of white households changed, the slaves who worked as cooks, cleaners, or nurses were frequently sold from one owner to another, usually for about the price that Wood remembered Cirode paying for her. By 1850, one in five of the slaves living in the city was sold every year. The chance that urban laborers might be sold several times during their lives was high.20
Woods six- or seven-year tenure in the Cirodes house was therefore relatively long and not at all inevitable. The Frenchman had no qualms
about selling a human being. In 1828, while still in Lexington, he had advertised for sale a likely Negro woman with two fine Children and another expected in the Christmas holydays. He touted her as an excellent cook, washer and ironer who could also work in the fields. A decade later, at about the time he bought Wood, Cirode also purchased another woman, named Caroline, from a Louisville merchant. After two years, Cirode resold Caroline to a buyer in New Orleans, pocketing $100 in profit from the sale.21
The Cirodes decision to keep Wood may indicate her special skill at the labor she performed. Housework in those days was a demanding job with few devices to help. Every day, enslaved women hauled water, tended fires, lifted and leaned on heavy irons. Their presence in the intimate spaces of a white familys home only increased the pressure to satisfy an exacting master and mistressto prepare a meal to their specifications, or brush a carpet to their liking, but without crossing any social lines that separated master and slave. That made the work mentally exhausting as well. Woods experience as a cook and cleaner may have helped her through many years in the service of the Cirodes, though she shared very little in her interviews about her years in New Orleans. She later told Hearn that the Frenchman and his wife were fair kind of folks, and she remembered being pretty well treated by them.22
As with Tousey and Forsyth, however, a sudden change in Cirodes fortunes or ambitions would have convinced him to sell Wood. Success in New Orleans was never guaranteed. On the contrary, Cirode had chosen to make his move at a perilous moment in the citys economic history. In the 1830s, the regional cotton boom had led to a commercial boom in the city, as merchants flocked to New Orleans to supply surrounding planters. But the Panic of 1837 that overturned Forsyths fortunes struck New Orleans even harder. Hundreds of firms closed in the very years when Cirode was trying to establish his new store, which traded in Wholesale and retail Western produce. At any moment, Cirodes fortunes could have taken a dive.23
At first, he prospered instead. Cirode started his career downriver with no less than $10,000 in capital to invest in his store on Poydras Street. The store specialized in pork, hides, tanners oil, and whiskey from up the river, and according to later court records, Cirode quickly earned a reputation as a prudent and safe man in business who paid his bills in cash. By 1843,
William and Jane were doing well enough to move into a two-story brick house on Dauphin, near DuMaine. Henrietta may have lived in a room of her own upstairs, or in a building behind the house.24
Cirodes success in the city must have vindicated his hope that here, at last, he would be a friendless foreigner no more. By 1840 he had transferred the management of any remaining Louisville business to former associates there. His adult children moved down the river, too. Cirodes daughter Josephine married Robert White, a Kentuckian, in September 1840, and the newlyweds moved to Mobile, Alabama, where Daniel Cirode, her brother, already lived. Daniel and his new brother-in-law established their own mercantile firm in Mobile, supported by gifts from William Cirode of at least $6,000. Meanwhile, the elder Cirode began to believe he could settle down for good. On September 17, 1840, he appeared before a court in Louisville (perhaps while in Kentucky for Josephines marriage) and successfully applied to become a citizen of the United States.25
But trouble found Cirode again in the spring of 1842, when the Mobile firm of Daniel Cirode and Robert White suddenly verged on collapse. William rushed to Alabama as soon as he heard the news. For months, he had been advancing goods, money, and slaves to his son and son-in-law, along with generous helpings of advice. He urged them to buy and sell in cash. Whenever the older man was away, Daniel and Robert had apparently discounted his advice, running up dangerous lines of credit. Now, unable to pay their debts, they risked losing allincluding the capital that he had invested in their store.26
Moving quickly, Cirode filed a lawsuit in a Mobile court to seize the remaining stock of the firm. The trouble worsened when several New Orleans merchants who had accounts with the Mobile firm accused him of being a silent partner and therefore complicit in the collapse. Some said the elder Cirode had misled them about how well he knew his sons insolvency, and then fraudulently seized their stock as if he were just any investor instead of a heavily interested member of the family. Some believed that he should pay their remaining debts. On January 14, 1843, Jane Cirode opened the door of her home on Dauphin and found a sheriff there. He held in his hands a summons to the Orleans Parish Commercial Court, and it said her husband had been sued for nearly $1,800the first of several lawsuits to come.27
Right or wrong, or some of both, the mounting accusations destroyed the Frenchmans reputation for prudence. Before long the old sense of embattlement that Cirode had felt in Lexington began to rear its head: the fear that in America he would always be surrounded by shadowy enemies who were eager to see him fail. Cirode fought plaintiffs in court for the rest of that year and part of the next. His lawyers tried to depict him as a long- suffering father whose trust had been abused by ungrateful sons. But too many former associates who had known him on Poydras Street could testify that he had vouched for the Mobile firm, even after he must have known that it was failing.
As verdicts against him accumulated, so did judgments adding up to thousands of dollars. In one suit, Cirode appealed his case all the way to the Supreme Court of Louisiana, where he lost again. The Frenchman could see no recourse but to run, and Cirodes name began to appear on the lists of passengers for ships running between Cuba and the northern United States. In March 1844, he applied for a passport in Philadelphia, and shortly thereafter, he abandoned his family and returned in disgrace to France, apparently never to return.28
Wood did not know all the details about Cirodes troubles, but she did know the impact that they had on his familyand on her: somehow or other they quarreled at last, she later explained to Hearn, and the old man sold the store, left his wife and went back to France. Yet before he left, Wood recalled, he gave his wife some blacks. Jane decided to move up the river again to Louisville, most likely in 1844, and she took several of her husbands slaves with her, Henrietta among them. It was a move that would soon result in unexpected joy for Wood.29
Not that her joy was Jane Cirodes concern. Abandoned by her husband, Jane Cirode needed to find some way to make money for herself and the two younger children still in her care. Wood later recalled that soon after arriving in Louisville, Jane Cirode moved to Cincinnati, but before going, she decided to hire out the enslaved people she had brought with her from Louisiana. Wood was one of the slaves she decided to leave behind in Kentucky.30
At the time, Louisville had a thriving market for the labor of hired-out slavespeople who worked in exchange for a fee paid to their owner. The
city had continued to grow in Woods absence, and slaves could now be found in a variety of jobs: as stevedores and draymen along the docks, as waitresses and waiters in restaurants, as laborers in factories as well as homes. By 1844, Jane Cirode could select from several agents in the city who offered to help slaveholders locate hirers, handle all terms, and forward the wages they earned. One advertisement from June 1844, at about the time Wood returned, mentioned a likely negro woman available for rent for the balance of the year. Another from 1845 advertised for hire, a negro woman, who is an excellent servant and a good cook and washer. Even after accounting for fees to hiring agents, the typical rates promised Cirode a reliable revenue stream of about $100 a year per hired slave.31
The arrangement made Louisville the first place Henrietta had ever lived where her owner was not living, too, and her initial experiences of being hired outfirst to a man named Lyons, then in the home of Charles Mynn Thruston, a lawyermay have offered other advantages. Enslaved people who were rented out often had more freedom than other slaves to move about the city. (One newspaper at the time complained of the corrupting tendency of slave hirelings who believed they could act without restraint.) Wood may even have had some freedom to negotiate her hiring. Although slaves were sometimes hired out directly by owners or their agents, Louisville also had a traditional hiring day. Every January 2, thousands of servants, free and enslaved, gathered at the corner of Fourth and Market to be questioned and selected by employers for the coming year. Cirode may well have elected to allow Wood to arrange her own hire there.32
If so, she could have spoken persuasively about her skills and experience, having already spent a decade doing domestic work. Perhaps she could even influence whether her hirer changed at the end of a year. Even in the best of circumstances, of course, she remained legally enslaved. She did not earn even the paltry wages paid to immigrant or poor white women for domestic work. By law, she remained an asset belonging to someone else. Still, Wood later told Hearn that she had been pretty well treated in Louisville, referring to this second period in the city, and being hired out likely had much to do with that retrospective view. But so did another memory from those Louisville yearsone even more pleasing, and even more remarkable, than her unexpected return.33
It happened toward the beginning, while Henrietta Wood was hired out to lawyer Thurston, the Ripley Bees misspelling of Charles Thrustons name. Speaking many years later to the reporter, Wood recounted her memory of a tall, brown-complexioned man, a neighbor who used to come to our house to see a house maid who lived where I did. One night, the two women sat by the fire after work, talking about their pasts and also about the man, when the maid turned to Wood with a question later recounted in the Bee.34
Henrietta, she said, did you have a brother, Joshua? Wood remembered being flabbergasted by the question, and even more
astounded at what came next. I believe, the maid continued, this Josh who comes to see me is your
brother. The next day, the tall man came to call again, and the maid questioned
him further about her suspicion, asking whether he had a sister named Henrietta.
Once, yes, he did. Now, he guessed she was dead. Asked about his parents names, he replied, according to Wood, that his
father was always called Bill Touci and his mothers name was Daphne Touci. The reporter from the Bee recorded Tousey as Touci, but those were the names of Woods parents, too. Like many enslaved people, they had apparently become known by the surname of a family who had owned them.
At first, the coincidence must have seemed too good to be true. Henrietta had her memories of a brother named Josh, the one she had left behind a decade before in Touseytown. But it was still hard to believe that this tall man could possibly be the Negro Boy Joshua who had once appeared on the inventory of Touseys estate.
I was so glad at the thought, Wood told the Bee in 1879, that I didnt know what to do.
At last, she resolved to question the man for herself, pretending at first like we was no akin and trying to find out as much as she could about his past before revealing hers. She would hold in reserve the clue that would be proof positive that he was my brotherthe scar that she had pitied on Joshs face as a child.
The meeting quickly confirmed Henriettas dearest hopes. Joshua seemed to know so much about their people, though he did not recognize the sister who had been away for a decade or more, maturing from a girl into a grown woman. She stuck to her plans at first by pretending not to know him. Gradually, though, Wood grew so happy, as she recalled, that she could not contain herselfor conceal who she was any longer. Finally, she asked Joshua to show his chin.
He did, and there it was: the scar that the coffee pot had made years before. Though covered with whiskers now, the disfigurement seemed to her the prettiest spot on his face, leaving her unable to speak at first. I threw my arms around his neck, which liked to scared him to death, she said. But when I told him he was my brother, he gave me hug for hug. They shared in a joy that most people who were separated by sale longed for intensely, but seldom received.
Immediately the siblings began to tell all that they knew about their relations, though the reminiscence would prove more somber than the reunion. After Moses Tousey died, Joshua had apparently also been taken away and sold by young master Touci, presumably Omer Tousey. Now, Wood remembered, neither of them could say where either father or mother, sister or brother were. Some of their kin they could fondly discuss for we knew they were in their graves. Others, they feared, had disappeared into the cotton fields of Mississippi; others again among the cane in Louisiana, and thinking of them brought the stabbing pain of never knowing where a missing loved one was. Sister and brother both bore scars that were not easily seen.35
I tell you, she later told the reporter from the Bee, when we get to heaven, wont we have a talk?36
For the moment, however, Henrietta was full of awe and emotion. She had gone to the city known to slaves as a kind of Hell, a place of no return. Then she had returned to discover a foretaste of heaven on earth. Who knew what else the future might hold?
C H A P T E R F O U R
W A R D S R E T U R N
A story was later told about Zebulon Ward, probably told first by Zebulon himself. One day, it was said, he was on the road to a town in central Kentucky and came across a stranger with a wagon full of barrel staves. Knowing little about the product or its price, Ward bought the whole load right on the spot. Then, spurring his horse, he raced into town and sold the hoop-poles for a profit, before the original owner and his wagon could arrive. A Louisville paper recounted the tale after Ward had died, calling it the perfect illustration of his bold speculative nature and the reason why he had made and lost half a dozen fortunes by age forty-five. And although the paper did not mention it, the same speculative nature also helps to explain how and why his life came to intrude on Woods.1
Wards life had started in Harrison County, not more than four years after Wood was born and only a few counties away. His grandfather Zebulon Headington had come to Kentucky from Maryland in about 1795, part of the same wave of migrants that soon brought the Touseys from New York to Boone County. Like them, Headington came west hoping to plant a farm and build an estate he could leave behind to descendants like his grandson and namesake.
The older Zeb succeeded in the first of those goals, acquiring several slaves and ninety acres on the banks of Indian Creek. In the end, however, the younger Zeb would not be born to wealth. Wards father, Andrew, was a poor man who married Headingtons daughter Elizabeth in 1803. Nine years later, having failed to acquire a farm of his own, he left to fight in the War of 1812. His wife and six children stayed in Headingtons house. When Andrew returned from the war, a gunshot wound had cost him the full use of his left arm, but he reenlisted anyway in 1814, perhaps to escape growing
tensions at home. By the time he returned for good in 1819, Elizabeth had begun to speak of divorce. In 1822, when she bore Zebulon Ward, the couples ninth child and youngest of four sons, he entered a family already in danger of breaking up.2
The Wards tried to reconcile at first, circling each other in a small cabin on Headingtons land. Andrew apparently began to drink, perhaps to dull the pain from his wartime woundsor the shame from his dependence on his father-in-law. In 1830, he did secure a meager veterans pension. But in 1834, while on a trip to Lexington to collect his annual payment, he passed out drunk in a grocery store. When he awoke his pension certificate and a wallet full of cash were gone. Andrew petitioned the War Department for a replacement, alleging that his certificate had been stolen by a negro. Another affidavit in the case made clear that Wards drinking was to blame.3
Meanwhile, the Wards marriage buckled under its strains. In 1835, when Zebulon was thirteen years old, his father filed for divorce. Andrew alleged that his wife had left him repeatedly between 1821 and 1828, sometimes for weeks or months at a time. Now she had finally abandoned him for good. He blamed the separation on Elizabeths peevishness and irritability. Wards own petition hinted at other causes, however, including his failure to provide. Andrew had no land or slaves; he had been unable to keep his only horse. All he owned, by his own account, were Such articles as the urgency of the moment or necessity of the day Called for, and in 1837 he lost his pension certificate for the second time. Several years later, he died, leaving no inheritance worthy of the name.4
Zeb Wards grandfather died in 1841, and although the older man did leave a small estate that his grandchildren later divided, Andrew Wards sons were mostly left to fend for themselves. His firstborn, James, headed south. Andrew Harrison Ward (also known as Harry) decided to study law, starting his education at Transylvania University in Lexington. When lack of funds forced Harry to pause his studies in 1837, just as the panic struck, he left law school to work as a purser on steamboats, first on the Tombigbee River and then on the Mississippi. At about the same time, he was joined on The River by his younger brother, Zebulon, then a boy of about fifteen years of age.5
Wards life and Woods had not intersected by then, unless somehow by chance. But on the same day when William Cirode took Henrietta aboard the William French in Louisville and steamed toward New Orleans, a teenaged Zeb may well have been on the Mississippi, too. He was just beginning to chase his own dreams of striking it rich.
Steamboats first appeared on American rivers not long before Wards father went off to war: the boats and their powerful engines were barely older than Zebulon himself. By the time he joined his older brother Harry in the late 1830s, there were hundreds of steamboats on the nations western waterways, with many ways for young white men to get on board. Cabin boys might be as young as nine or ten. Most boys, though, aspired to find a position on a steamboats uppermost deck. Up there, where the captain gave orders and the pilot steered, a lucky boy might become an apprentice to the clerk, the vessels third officer and the man chiefly responsible for the business side of a boats operations. From him, a boy could gain a hands-on education: how to figure, how to measure, how to keep accounts. Then, if he played his cards right, an apprentice clerk might graduate to a full clerkship, with a salary as high as $900 a year.6
In the meantime, the riverboats held out other attractions to an adolescent boy. The men who made up steamboat crews were known to enjoy strong drink. Alcohol fueled a rowdy culture of coarse talk, gambling, fisticuffs, and cards. Often the rough fun spilled onto shore at river towns such as Natchez, Mississippi, where dockside taverns and brothels in the infamous Under-the-Hill district catered to gamblers and boatmen. Harry Ward later recalled the steamboats being filled with mountebanks, phrenologists, and card sharksthe sort of men who passed their hours by betting whose shot could hit a target on the banks and might just as easily turn their guns on each other. River work, in the words of another observer, was a young mans job, full of violence and change.7
That was the world in which Zeb Ward formed some of his first ideas about what it meant to be a man, imbibing a masculinity that was equal parts malevolence and mirth. It was not an egalitarian world by any means. A steep hierarchy divided white officers from white crew members, all of whom possessed more power and prospects than the slaves and free black men who also worked on steamboats as firemen, barbers, draymen, and
stevedores. But the steamboats were democratic enough to give Zebulon an escape from a past that might have been confining had he stayed at home. On the river his fathers troubles made little difference, and a man could make his own myths and money grabs, away from many of the social rules that governed life onshore. Years later, after Ward had returned to Kentucky and run its state penitentiary for a time, a prisoner would recall him as one of the strangest men I ever knew, physically handsome, socially magnetic, but utterly devoid of heartand always ready to gamble. On Sundays, he said, Ward often declared that any man could worship according to the dictates of his conscience;sing, pray, preach, play marbles, euchre, or quoits. It was the worldview of a steamboat man.8
The steamboats had also taught Ward more than cards and marbles. On the river he learned the risks and rewards of financial speculation. A steamboat was easy enough to launch, but to turn a profit it had to distinguish itself in a crowded field. Captains competed to show that their vessels could chug from New Orleans to points up the river faster than anyone elses, even when loaded with passengers and cargo. When determining prices for freight and passage, clerks sometimes had to gamble as much as the sharpsters in the staterooms. Offering a discount to customers on one part of the river might enable a steamboat to fill up fast and beat its competitors to a destination where higher rates could be charged. A skillful captain and crew could reap a windfall from such schemes. But if a steamboat reached a levee after valuable cargo had already left, or just as the going rates fell, a trip could just as quickly fail.9
Other dangers also loomed along the river. Low-draft steamboats could easily hit an underwater tree, or snag, and sink, and their engines were prone to explosions that sent cargo and passengers flying, especially since captains were under pressure to keep their steamers at a high boil. One English traveler who took a trip from Louisville to New Orleans on the William French, not long after Woods journey with Cirode on the same boat, noticed with horror that the captain had taken on a load of gunpowder bound for Memphis and stored it near the engines. The carelessness respecting human life in this country is surprising, he said in a private letter, before giving his final impression of those he met on board: the making of money appears to be their chief pursuit.10
That pursuit appealed to Zebulon Ward. His brother Harry left the river to finish his legal education in Lexington, where he was admitted to the bar
in 1844, but Zeb remained on steamboats for several more years. In 1874, he was still remembered by a leading newspaper in Louisiana as a former freight clerk on our Cincinnati and New Orleans steamers. Later family stories, probably drawing on Wards own recollections, said that in about his twenty-first year he moved to Nashville, where he next found work on the steamboats of the Cumberland River.11
Eventually, though, Zebulon left the steamboats behindif not the thrills for which they were so notorious. One family story claimed that ill health caused him to move from Nashville to Cuba for convalescence; another claimed that he went to the island to chase a new business venture. Still another story, unconfirmed by any official records, had Ward returning from Cuba to enlist in the US Army in 1846 and fight in the war against Mexico that began that year, serving in the field with distinguished credit to himself. That may have been why, in later life, he styled himself as a colonel.12
Any one of those tales remained difficult for later tellers to prove, but together they portrayed a restless man, a striver. A final story only confirmed the portrait. Not long after the USMexican War ended, Ward evidently caught the California gold fever and joined the rush of young Forty-Niners to the mining camps of the Golden State. On May 11, 1850, he boarded the steamship Alabama in New Orleans for a journey that took him to Chagres, Panama. There he embarked with other rushers on an overland trek to the western side of the isthmus. Then he traveled by boat to San Francisco and spent a brief time panning for gold around Sacramento.13
By the end of the year, however, Ward was either running out of luck or running out of patience with the nomadic life. In October he boarded a boat headed back to Panama. Ward then returned to Kentucky and obtained a marriage certificate to wed Mary E. Worthen of Harrison County in Cynthiana, near his childhood home, on January 9, 1851. Zebulon and Mary settled in Covington, Kentucky, opposite Cincinnati, and their first child, a son, was born the following February. As 1853 began, the familys taxable property had already grown to include a horse, a slave, and $75 worth of gold and other valuablesall that remained, perhaps, from Wards California dreams, but still more than his father had achieved.14
It finally appeared as if Ward was ready to settle down and take up the responsibilities of a husband, a father, and a citizen. In January 1853, he
was even appointed by the Kenton County sheriff as his deputy in Covington. And it was also in Covington, not long after taking his new job as a deputy sheriff, that Ward would first hear about Henrietta Wood along with a gamble that sparkled like a new flash in his pan.15
C H A P T E R F I V E
C I N C I N N A T I
Louisville was not the same city for Wood once she learned that her brother was in it. Though it would always be the place where she had been flogged by Henry Forsyth and sold to William Cirode, now it would also be where the reunion with Joshua had occurred. Her interviews would not contain any more information about him. Nonetheless, her work in Louisville may have allowed her to keep in touch with Josh, as well as with the maid who had helped to reintroduce them while Wood was working for Thruston.
Wood did not remain long in Thrustons home. Her next job was cooking and cleaning rooms at the Louisville Hotel, described in advertisements at the time as a handsome structure on Main. William Bishop, the manager of the hotel, sent Jane Cirode $75 a year for her work, Wood recalled, and she stayed there for a few years. But then came another moveand another surprise.1
My mistress came down to Louisville, she later told Lafcadio Hearn, and took me back with her to Cincinnati.2
That turn in the story may have surprised Hearn, too. By 1876, many people in the United States envisioned the Ohio River before the Civil War as a yawning chasm between slavery and freedom, one that slaves had only ever crossed at great personal risk and with help from station-masters on the fabled Underground Railroad. Harriet Beecher Stowes Uncle Toms Cabin, the nineteenth centurys best-selling novel, depicted the Ohio as a latter-day Jordan River, a border to a Promised Land that slaves could only pass over in dramatic fashionin skiffs under cover of night, for example, or by fleeing across floes of ice, bloodhounds at their heels. Wood recalled a far less eventful passage to the North. Sometime before 1848, Jane Cirode simply took her from Kentucky to Ohio, where she would live for the first
time in a free state and eventually get her first taste of what it was like to be legally free.3
She arrived in Cincinnati at a time of explosive growth for the city. The population had more than doubled since 1840 and would reach 115,000 residents by decades end. Nearly half were immigrants from Ireland and Germany, and Cincinnatis boom reflected its growing reputation as a place with plentiful jobs and commercial opportunities. Dubbed by some the Queen City of the West for its size and busy landing, it was known to others by the nickname of Porkopolis. Every year, hundreds of thousands of pigs were unloaded from steamboats and herded up Main Street to be slaughtered and processed into meat at one of the citys numerous packing plants, leaving the streets and canals littered with gristle, offal, dung, and blood. The filthy conditions bred disease, as in the cholera outbreak of 1849, and the situation was not helped by the loose pigs that roamed the streets, feasting on brackish water and trash. One visitor noted that all Cincinnati is redolent of swine.4
Yet Cincinnati also had the tang of liberty in the air. The Queen City was the first place where Wood could be sure she would never see people being sold, though that did not mean she never saw reminders or residues of slavery. Ohio had made slavery illegal in its constitution of 1802, but its proximity and economic ties to Kentucky had encouraged its citizens to compromise with the slaveholders on their border. The majority of Ohioans believed that when enslaved people ran away to Ohio, their owners had the right to track them down.5
Most white Ohioans also believed that people of African descent did not deserve the same respect or rights as Americans who were marked by law and custom as white. In August 1829, a white mob had rampaged through a black neighborhood in the Fourth Ward, destroying houses and causing more than half of the citys black population at the time to flee north to Canada or to other states. And for decades, Ohio politicians had reassured their southern neighbors that Ohios own laws did not threaten the ability of slaveholders to bring enslaved people with them when traveling across the river for short periods. Before 1840, it was not unheard of for enslaved people to be hired out in Cincinnati by owners in Kentucky.6
Arrangements like that had diminished by the time Wood arrived, though their fate remained uncertain. In 1841, Justice Ebenezer Lane of the
Ohio Supreme Court suggested in one of his rulings that even a slave brought temporarily into the state by an owner was automatically free, but later that year, another white mob tore through a black neighborhood in Cincinnati, fueled by city newspapers that routinely depicted negroes as a nuisance population. In the years immediately following the 1841 riot, some in the Queen City still considered Lanes ruling a nonbinding opinion.7
Cincinnati was thus far from a paradise for a free black woman; it was a city riven with conflict over slavery. In fact, it may have been unclear to Wood whether she was free at all. Jane Cirodes views on the matter remained, at first, unclear. One thing, though, quickly became apparent: Cirode had brought Wood to Cincinnati expecting that the woman she had long enslaved would still be working for her.
Since arriving in Ohio a few years earlier, Jane Cirode had opened a boardinghouse on the north side of Sixth Street, midway between Sycamore and Main. Cirode needed to pay her bills, and taking in boarders was one of the few respectable urban enterprises that a woman of her age and marital status could initiate on her own. Wood recalled that when she arrived in Cincinnati, she went to work in the boardinghouse, cooking and washing as she had done in the Louisville Hotel.8
There was no evidence that Cirode intended to free her right away. In fact, Cirodes decision to bring Wood to Cincinnati may have been prompted by an inability to keep hiring her out in Kentucky. In 1876, Wood recalled that she was very ill at the time of her move: my mistress had to pay out a deal of money to a doctor in the city for attending me. The unnamed illness may have kept Wood from continuing to work for Bishop.9
On the other hand, Cirodes decision to bring Wood to Ohio may have had more to do with the aftermath of her husbands flight to France. William Cirodes adversaries had not given up on recovering the money from their lawsuits against him, which made the Frenchman responsible for paying thousands of dollars to various plaintiffs. As soon as those plaintiffs realized that William had absconded, they and their agents had started looking for any property he still owned that could be seized by courts and sold.
That search began in the summer of 1844, when the sheriff of Orleans Parish attempted to find Cirode and force him to satisfy one of the first verdicts against him. He discovered that the Frenchman had fled New Orleans and that none of his property was anywhere to be foundwith one exception. In 1843, Cirode had purchased an enslaved woman named Margaret, along with her nine-year-old daughter. Cirode and his wife had apparently left her behind, perhaps hired out to someone in the city. Finding no other assets of Cirodes to collect, the sheriff, according to court records, seized and took in my possession the slave Margaret, making no note of what happened to her child. That August, Margaret was sold at public auction in New Orleans.10
Margarets sale satisfied only a tiny part of what Cirode owed to only one of the men who sued him: Samuel Bell. Other plaintiffs were looking for the Frenchmans property, too. Williams return to France and Janes return to Kentucky had temporarily stymied his pursuers, but before long, the creditors tracked the family back to Louisville. There, they found that the Frenchman still owned landand some slaves.
Cirode had sensed that this would happen even before he left. He knew that collectors would come, and he had tried to take steps to protect at least some of his wealth, even if that meant playing fast and loose with the law. On January 25, 1844, only three days after losing an appeal at the Supreme Court of Louisiana, Cirode approached William Weathered, a friend in New Orleans, and told him he wished to set aside some of his real estate in Louisville as an inheritance for his daughter, Josephine White. He asked Weathered to hold some land in trust for her.
Weathered agreed to sign some papers, drawn up by Cirode, which stated that Cirode had mortgaged his land to Weathered to repay a $5,000 debt he had supposedly incurred before his Mobile troubles began. That would have allowed Weathered to claim that he had a clearer right to Cirodes property than any New Orleans collectors. In reality, though, Cirode had never been indebted to Weathered. The mortgage was a ruse designed to keep his actual creditors at bay.11
Eventually the fraud was discovered by another plaintiff, James Johnston. In 1845, Johnston filed a suit against Cirodes former associates in Louisville, and he argued that the mortgage to Weathered was void. He
won the case in January 1846, and most of the Frenchmans remaining real estate in Louisville was seized and sold by court decree.12
In the course of his suit, however, Johnston raised another question: where were William Cirodes slaves? Johnstons petition to the Chancery Court in Louisville alleged that before leaving New Orleans, Cirode ran off all of his negroes from the city. Johnston now demanded that the Frenchman or his agents appear before the court to tell what became of them.13
Another plaintiff, Pierre Roy, repeated the question in a lawsuit in Louisville only a few years later. By then, Roy, a former associate of Cirodes, had been forced to pay off some of the Frenchmans many debts, and he wanted to be reimbursed from whatever remained of Cirodes estate. Toward the end of 1849, Roy succeeded in locating one more lot of land in Kentucky that Cirode still owned, and he also learned that a negro man William had been hired out for $100 a year by an agent of Jane Cirode. When Roy won his suit, in 1850, both the enslaved man named William and the town lot belonging to Cirode were sold at public auction outside a courthouse in Louisville.14
By then, Jane Cirode had likely already learned that her husbands creditors were closing in. And if an agent or a friend in Louisville did tip her off, then Cirode would have had a mixture of motives for her sudden decision to bring Wood with her to Cincinnati. She may have preferred, all things considered, to continue hiring Wood out in Kentucky, collecting a steady annual check. But that would leave Wood vulnerable to seizure by a court, and such a loss would deprive Cirode of profits from her labor. Like many slaveholders who lived near the borders of other states, however, Cirode had a third option: she could remove Wood into a new jurisdiction, one that Kentucky courts could not easily reach.15
Putting Wood to work in the boardinghouse also saved Cirode the costs of hiring someone else to clean rooms and cook for her businessa low- profit venture even in the best of cases. The boardinghouse was one of nearly two hundred in the city, many operated by women and most offering rooms and meals for several dollars per week, with laundering available for an added fee. Landladies competed to show that their houses were better kept than the others, taking in hired help when they could, and in Cirodes
house, Wood did the sort of work that could attract and keep customers without being paid herself.16
Wood later recalled to Hearn that she worked at the boardinghouse for months before Cirode said anything about her freedom. Although one of Ohios so-called Black Laws required that any black newcomer to the state be registered with a court as free before they could be employed, the law was unevenly enforced, and Cirode probably remained among those inclined to ignore Lanes 1841 ruling on automatic emancipation. Perhaps she even held the promise of an eventual manumission over Woods head to secure her help.17
Cirode was running a risk, though, by bringing Wood to the city. Henriettas duties required her to go into the streets, at the very least to draw water or to empty chamber pots. Eventually she might learn from someone there, or perhaps from a meddling guest, that there were legal grounds for her to claim her freedomif she had not already divined that fact. Those concerns, more than any other, likely moved Jane Cirode to act in the end. Even so, she waited until the spring of 1848, after Wood had been in the city for about a year, before she finally visited the Hamilton County Courthouse and registered Woods presence in Cincinnatian act that also made Henrietta verifiably free.
The courthouse stood at the corner of Main Street and Court, only a few blocks north of Cirodes boardinghouse. When completed in 1819, the building had still been on the outskirts of town, but the citys sprawl had long since surrounded the courthouse with slaughterhouses and factories. Now it was considered by many to be an aging eyesore, a boxy, boring structure with a wooden spire and a cupola colonized by pigeons. Wood remembered it as the scene of a turning point in her life: the definitive moment when she ceased to be, legally speaking, Jane Cirodes slave. My mistress gave me my freedom, she later recalled, and my papers were recorded.18
On paper, Henrietta Wood was now one of Cincinnatis more than three thousand free people of color, one of the largest such communities in the nation. After the mob attacks of 1841, the communitys leaders had worked hard to build institutions for self-defense and mutual aid in the city: churches, charities, and even some networks with white sympathizers. Even
before the mob attacks, a small number of white antislavery activists in the city had also begun working together with black men and women: denouncing slavery, assisting runaway slaves from across the river, and protesting the states Black Laws until their partial repeal in 1849. Wood may well have come into contact with some of those organizations or activists, and with other free black women and men.19
Yet her daily life also went on, at first, as it had before. She would quickly learn that free black women had few choices for jobs in Porkopolis. Almost every black woman in the cityprobably nine out of tenlabored at the same work that she had done for years: washing, ironing, and cleaning.20
Wood, too, continued to do the same job for Cirode. And even though she was free, she did not get good wages. As she later told Hearn, her former mistress only gave me a little money from time to timenothing she could depend on to build a livelihood of her own, or to move very far away.21
That lack of mobility may have been precisely what Cirode intended. Her own feelings about Woods legal freedom never would be clear. She may have acknowledged her freedom grudgingly, and only on the condition that Wood remain in her employ. Perhaps she even intended to send Wood back to Kentucky once her husbands creditors had given up their search for his slaves. In any case, the white woman seemed reluctant to give up her habit of command. Jane was accustomed to telling Henrietta where she would go and what she would do, and she had given her some cash from time to time. Even after all of Woods unpaid toil, Cirode could still believe that it was Wood who owed something to her. Such may have been the depth of her assumptions about the right to rule.
Whatever Cirodes reasoning, it frustrated Wood. She understood her freedom to include, at a minimum, that she be paid for her work. The conflicts between the two women must have ranged across other terrain as well, conflicts repeated in many households where work once done by enslaved black women was suddenly performed by women who had been freed. Both before and after slavery, black women and white women frequently disagreed over tasks and expectations. But as soon as the work of a chambermaid or cook was paid instead of compelled, black women had more bargaining power than before. A laundress who knew she would be
paid by the piece or the pound might complete her work more quickly than she had done while enslaved, expecting that her employer would provide more tasks to fill her timeand her pockets. At the same time, freed women still often expected to receive customary privileges that were sometimes granted even to the enslaved, such as a room of their own, or time off on Sundays, or the supplies to do the workall of which their employers might refuse or count as wages. Wood worked for at least two more years without ever receiving what she believed to be fair pay, until she decided to gauge the measure of her freedom from Cirode. As Wood later put it, I left her at last.22
The leaving must have been a thrilling step for Wood, however limited her options for better employment. She began by looking for work within the same neighborhood, and she was hired for several domestic positions in succession, mainly at boardinghouses and family homes that fell between Sixth Street on the north, Fifth Street on the south, and Sycamore and Broadway to the west and east. She also began to collect, for the first time in her life, some little things that she could truly say were hers.23
At some point, she even acquired a small trunk in which to keep the few possessions that she could afford. Her most precious possession, though, was a copy of her freedom papers that she had received when they were recorded. Though long in coming, those papers, which she also stored in her trunk, afforded her an autonomy she had never had before. And they only became more precious after she struck out on her own, because one day, while Wood was working around, she witnessed the Hamilton County Courthouse going up in flames.24
The fire broke out on a Monday in July 1849. It began, according to later reports, when sparks from a nearby slaughterhouse ignited the buildings cupola in the heat of the afternoon. Before long, another witness recalled, the wooden roof was engulfed by wrapping, warping, writhing, enclosing flames. The fire sent billows of smoke and ash into the summer sky. Scores of birds fled their nests in the crumbling rafters. The dome, spire and steeple and roof soon fell with a tremendous crash into the heart of the structure. Then the blaze burned on, blackening all the walls.25
Few white residents of the city were sorry to see the building go. (One prominent antislavery lawyer noted in his diary that afternoon that he never saw the firemen so slow in getting out their EnginesEvery body
glad that the old Nuisance abated.) A new, more modern building later arose in its place. For Wood, however, the burning of the courthouse must have been a chilling sight. Inside that smoldering wreck was the proof that she was free.26
Wood later recalled hearing that the big book in which free papers like hers were recorded had been saved from the fire and moved to Columbus a consoling rumor, though probably untrue. Returning home that night after witnessing the blaze, she may have sought a little reassurance in the copy of her papers that she still possessed, maybe buried them just a bit deeper in her trunk.
One year then passed, then another, and another. Henrietta drifted farther south of Cirodes place, looking for work. At last she took a job in a boardinghouse run by Rebecca Boyd, a dentists wife whose place she found on Fourth Street, nearer the river. Boyd had a much rougher and more transient clientele: steamboatmen, Wood recalled. In other ways, though, her new boss proved to be much like Cirode. She never paid me a cent, Wood later told Hearn, although she promised to do so all the time.27
Still, Wood had those papers. She had the power to leave. And so she did not suspect the worst when Boyd came to her in April 1853, four years after the courthouse had burned, and suggested they take a nice Sunday ride in a carriage before supperacross the Ohio River, with all the curtains drawn.
C H A P T E R S I X
T H E P L A N
As night fell, three men met the carriage on a road outside Covington. That brought the number involved in Woods abduction to five: Rebecca Boyd, John Gilbert, Franklin Rust, Willoughby Scott, and Zebulon Ward. But two other people had helped set the events of that night in motion: William Cirodes daughter, Josephine, and her husband, Robert White.
After the troubles in Mobile that chased Cirode to France, the Whites had followed Josephines mother, Jane, back to Kentucky. By 1849, they had settled in Covington, where Robert opened another store selling Family Groceries, Pure Old Wines, and Liquors. For several years he paid for an advertisement on the front page of the Covington Journal, suggesting some degree of success.1
As 1853 began, however, White was facing disaster again. He had lasted longer in Kentucky than he did in Alabama, perhaps by being more careful this time with credit, as his father-in-law had once urged; Whites ad promised that he would sell only for cash. Nevertheless, in April 1853, the same month Wood was kidnapped, White sold his entire stock at auction. By July, he was out of business and rumored to have assigned and stored his remaining property awaya means of avoiding creditors. This time, though, his father-in-law could not bail him out.2
Or could he? At some point that spring, the Whites remembered one of the slave women Jane Cirode had brought back to Kentucky almost ten years earlier. Robert and Josephine both knew that William Cirode had left Henrietta with his wife, and Josephine had always wanted her mother to sell me, as Wood later recalled.3
By 1853, selling a woman like Wood could bring a significant sum. In the few years prior there had been a boom in the growth of professional
slave-trading firms in Kentucky. Franklin Rustthe man with the bumpy face whom she identified as one of her captorswas well known as a negro trader. He lived outside of Covington. And Washington Wash Bolton was the Kentucky agent for one of the largest slave-trading businesses in the nation. Founded in Memphis in 1847, within ten years Bolton, Dickens, and Company would run through transactions amounting in the aggregate to several millions of dollars, according to a later lawsuit involving the firms dissolution. Wash Bolton had been with the company since 1850, and he often paid agents to travel through Kentucky, buying up slaves for sale down the river. A person sold for $400 in 1830 might be worth four times as much in 1853.4
The Whites would have known, of course, that Cirode had taken Wood to Ohio, and indeed may even have seen her there on visits across the river. They may have believed that they were still entitled to the capital that Wood once represented. William Cirode had clearly meant to leave some of his property behind for his daughter, and after the Frenchmans fraudulent mortgage with Weathered was exposed, Josephine may have coveted his slaves all the more. They were the only form of inheritance that she had left.
Once Wood was living as a free woman in Cincinnati, however, selling her was not a simple proposition. Before she could be sold, she would have to be abducted. Before she could be abducted, she would have to be found. The Whites wanted the money from a sale, but they did not want the dirty work that would have to be done. So sometime in the spring of 1853, they evidently decided to bring someone else into their confidence: the deputy sheriff of Kenton County, Zebulon Ward.
Robert was the one who apparently spoke to Zeb about the subject, perhaps while the officer stopped in for a dram or a chat at his store. He evidently made the deputy sheriff a proposal. If given $300 for Wood up front, an amount far below the price she would fetch once captured, White would sell his supposed rights to the woman to Ward.5
What White suggested was risky, no doubt. After all, Wood might not be easily found. Or she might be taken, but die or escape before she could be sold. If Ward agreed to the deal, he would have to account for possible resistance to her capture. And if he did pay $300 up front, his bet would be in the pot from the start.
Yet Ward never was afraid to roll the dice. Whether the job could be done was a fair question. Gold in the hills and gold in his pocket were two different things, Ward knew. But if the thing could be done, it would have appealed enormously, for it became more like the questions Ward knew best. Could he buy the hoop poles cheap and then sell them dear? Could his steamboat give a low rate and then speed up the river, where even higher rates might be found? Could he arrange the capture of Wood and sell her for a profit? In the end, Ward decided that he could. He told White they had a deal.
According to later testimony by Ward himself, the deal was struck in March 1853, when he paid Robert White $300. Exactly what White had told him is difficult to know. Ward claimed to have believed that Wood had belonged to White for many years and had gone without his consent to Ohio. It would not have been unusual for a deputy sheriff along the border to help in the recovery of a runaway slave.6
It would have been unusual, though, for the sheriff first to pay the owner, and the amount that Ward remembered paying further undercut his later claim that he was just enforcing the law. Slaveholders who wished to recover runaway slaves often paid a bounty to have them tracked down. So if Wood was a runaway, it would have made more sense for White to pay the deputy than the other way around. Then the Whites could profit by selling her themselves, for a much higher price than the one Ward paid.7
Three hundred dollars made more sense if White owed a debt to Zebulon Ward, or the other way around. Then the amount Ward paid could have been a way of settling accounts, with the value of the slave taking care of the balance. But even such a scenario strains the imagination. Wood was not an asset ready to hand. She had no value for either man unless she could be captured.
Ward and White were doubtless aware that capturing and selling Wood were acts of questionable legality at best, even in Kentucky, but the Whites may have believed they could make a case in court that she should never have been freed by Jane Cirode. (In fact, that claim would later be advanced by Ward, revealing that he probably knew more about the familys history than he sometimes let on.) Or, if he knew that his title to Wood was not clear, White might have been trying to cut his losses by shifting risks onto
the buyerWard. Perhaps Ward even paid the $300 for nothing more than tips about her whereabouts, along with a plausible story for buyers down the line. Finally, simply to consider all the possibilities, perhaps Ward did not pay Robert White at all. The only evidence that he did remains his own word. The deputy sheriff might only have heard White telling stories about a woman freed by his mother-in-lawand then decided to act on his own.
Whatever occurred, Ward next had to formulate a plan to capture the woman he probably paid fora plan that revolved around two practical questions. First, who could help him find and abduct Wood from Ohio? Then, once she was safely across the river and in his grasp, who would be willing to buy herhopefully for a price above the one that Ward had paid?
The buyer was the lesser of Wards concerns. Slave traders advertised widely in the papers. Many would buy with few questions asked, and all of them knew how to make a slave disappear to a distant state. By 1853, a black woman sold in Covington or Lexington could be loaded on a ferry or a train to Louisville and placed that same day on a steamboat bound for Natchez or St. Louis or New Orleans.8
Ward knew from his own years on the river what would happen then. Most captains or clerks would view an enslaved passenger as familiar cargo. A bystander would scarcely raise an eyebrow at any particular woman, not when thousands were shackled to decks every year. As one steamboat captain at the time said, the transportation of slaves was part of the regular business of steamboats on the Ohio River. One formerly enslaved man later recalled that the appearance of a drove of southern slaves on a southern steamboat was an occurrence so common, that no one, not even the passengers, appear to notice it, though they clank their chains at every step. If Ward could sell the woman from Cincinnati down the river, then the chances were good he would never hear of her again.9
That plan presumed that Ward could capture her first, but slave traders in Kentucky knew how to do that, too. One of the most notorious was a man named Lewis Robards. His slave pen in Lexington doubled as a well-known rendezvous for a gang of kidnappers and nigger thieves, according to testimony in a lawsuit involving him, and the gang often crossed the river to do its work. Once, for example, the gang used an ax to break open the door of a free black familys cabin in Portsmouth, Ohio. The brigands assaulted a
man in the house and then seized a five-year-old girl named Martha. She and six of her siblings were taken away to be sold.10
In another 1850 incident, which ended up in court, Robards was found to have paid a man $600 to kidnap Arian Belle, a free black woman in Mason County, and her four-year-old child under cover of night. Robards succeeded in selling the woman for $850 to a Louisiana planter and even had her boarded on a steamboat bound for the Mississippi River, before some white neighbors of Belles intervened and stopped the sale.11
No one could say for sure how many kidnappings had occurred at the hands of Robardss gang. Men such as these had good reason to keep their movements cloaked. Occasionally, though, the mask fell off, disclosing a shadowy underworld. The man Robards paid to kidnap Belle, for example, was James Macmillan, an agent who usually worked for Robards buying slaves and sometimes worked for Wash Bolton, too. Receipts in Robardss account books confirm at least one transaction between the trader and Willoughby Scott, one of the men Wood identified as a kidnapper; on March 25, 1853, Scott sold Robards a fourteen-year-old boy named Armstead, a thirteen-year-old girl named Roxanna, and an eleven-year-old named Sarah Ann. Franklin Rust was also a usual suspect in such affairs. A few slave-catching networks in the border states even included free black men who aided kidnappers for pay and some security for themselves; John Gilbert, the black driver of the carriage that brought Wood across the river, may have been one of them.12
Technically, predators such as these and officers such as Ward were on opposite sides of the law, but kidnapping gangs often worked with sheriffs, too. Lawmen could help by giving the gangs legal cover, spinning stories about how the people they were capturing were fugitive slaves. Sheriffs in slave states also had every incentive to tolerate kidnappers instead of working against them.13
Ward thus had many reasons to anticipate success. There were men who would buyand gangs who would catchHenrietta Wood. But there were also some potential snags he would have to steer around. And first among those obstacles was a movement of radical abolitionists on the other side of the river, who by 1853 had a reputation for thwarting plans like his.
Organized opposition to slavery had existed among some white reformers in the United States since the eighteenth century. The Pennsylvania Abolition Society, founded in 1775 and rooted in an older tradition of Quaker opposition to slavery, had pursued a careful strategy of lobbying for gradual emancipation, as had postrevolutionary manumission societies in other states. Though these groups often relied on the actions of free and enslaved African Americans to initiate litigation attacking slavery, most elite white philanthropists stopped short of including black abolitionists as equal partners in the struggle.14
The early 1830s marked a watershed in the history of American abolitionism. In 1832 in Boston, a group of abolitionists, white and black, joined together in a society calling for immediate emancipation of all slaves, using grassroots tactics that were far more radical than those used by earlier antislavery groups. The formation of the Boston group was followed in 1833 by a national organization, the American Anti-Slavery Society, which would eventually comprise about three hundred thousand members across the free states, including formerly enslaved activists such as Frederick Douglass. The new society made some of its most significant converts in the northeastern region of Ohio known as the Western Reserve, and in 1835, abolitionists there had formed the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society.15
Abolitionists met with more resistance along the Ohio River. Cincinnati in particular had a reputation as the most culturally southern city in the northern United States, and abolitionists were far less welcome there than in the Western Reserve. In August 1837, Cincinnati constables even assisted some Kentucky desperadoes in entering the home of a black man to capture a woman inside. That same year, another band of white men seized Eliza Jane Johnson, a black woman living in nearby Ripley, Ohio, who was alleged to have run away. The men flogged Johnson and took her without warrant to Kentucky, where a county judge ruled that she was not the runaway that the men had intended to capture. He kept her jailed anyway and said that she could be sold in two months.16
Though abolitionists publicized such outrages, many locals reacted only with shrugs. By custom, the white citizens of Ohio had usually made clear that they would not disturb the rights of enslavers to their south. Ohio politicians often lauded the absence of slavery in their own state, yet most were willing to look the other way when Kentuckians entered Ohio to capture black men and women. The constant potential for serious conflict
over runaway slaves in the region made accommodation seem necessary, and many feared that more liberal antislavery laws would attract an unwanted wave of black people into Ohio. In 1839, the Ohio state legislature even passed a law that penalized helping escaped slaves.17
These developments left free black men and women themselves to form the front lines of resistance to slavery in southern Ohio. In addition to attending state and national conventions of free black activists, including one held in Cincinnati in 1852, African Americans led the way in organizing the networks that became known as the Underground Railroad. Many put their own lives on the line to assist runaway slaves in Cincinnati and to fight slave catchers. John Hatfield, for example, spent the 1840s running a barbershop and bathhouse only a few blocks away from the neighborhood where Wood found work after obtaining her freedom. He described himself as a mulatto born in Pennsylvania and often harbored runaway slaves in his home. Black settlements in the citys hinterlands performed the same work of taking in black people who made it across the river and helping them get to relative safety farther north.18
Slowly, free black activists also started to win some sympathy from white allies and abolitionists in the Old Northwest. Some Ohio state leaders even began to adopt their rhetoric. In 1842, one former senator in Ohio warned that kidnappings of black Northerners were a potential cause of war. Then, a few years later, an Ohio attorney bemoaned the existence of a horde of pirates on both sides of the Ohio River who make man- catching a trade, denouncing them as enemies of the human race.19
Sympathetic white lawyers were especially important to the free black community in southern Ohio, and among the most sympathetic was Salmon P. Chase. In 1837, Chase was one of the first to argue in court that any enslaved person who set foot on Ohio soil with the consent of an owner was automatically freedthe position that Judge Ebenezer Lane eventually affirmed in 1841. Using such arguments, white lawyers could sometimes secure writs of habeas corpus to try to stop would-be enslavers before they returned to Kentucky with their captives. Chases views were far from universally shared, but antislavery lawyers knew which judges were the most likely to be persuaded, and activists such as Hatfield knew which lawyers were most like Chase.20
All of this was enough to cause deep concern among slaveholders who lived just across the river. They worried that the organized work of abolitionists to change Ohio laws and protect fugitives would lead to the slow but steady disappearance of slaves who lived close to free state borders. Some Kentuckians even channeled their ire over abolitionist meddling into armed vigilante groups whose members swore to defend slavery in the state.21
One such group, the Kenton County Association, formed in Covington in November 1841, stating that its object shall be the security of our Servants, and the recovery of such as may abscond from their masters or owners. Members of the association agreed to patrol the county to keep an eye out for suspicious persons and to ensure that all laws respecting slaves and free black people were being followed. In 1847, association members even traveled to Cass County, Michigan, hoping to capture and bring back a number of free black families whom they claimed were runaway slaves. The expedition included Frank Rust as a hired gun.22
The raiders returned home to Kenton County empty-handed after local antislavery Quakers managed to block the slave-catchers in court, but the episode hardly quelled white Kentuckians concerns. And it did not prevent further conflicts along the Ohio between river pirates and their opponents. Although black families in Cass County may have breathed a temporary sigh of relief, others were not so fortunate, including a man named George Jackson, whose sad story was related in the Cincinnati Gazette on May 11, 1850.
Jackson had lived in Cincinnati for several years. He kept a bar in the National Theater. But a white man who lived in Tennessee claimed that Jackson was his slave. At about half past one on May 10, a Friday afternoon, Jackson was walking near the corner of Walnut and Fifth Streets, not far from Jane Cirodes boardinghouse on Sixth, when several men accosted him. Jackson was dragged down Walnut street to the river, reported the Gazette the next day, while a concerned crowd followed the men. The crowd had barely advanced a block when one of the men holding Jackson brandished a bowie knife, and the other drew a pistol.23
Hes my nigger and Ill have him, barked a third man to the crowd. Unbowed, the crowd continued to follow the men to Columbia Street.
According to the Gazette, members of the mob even threw stones and
brickbats at the kidnappers, wounding one. Jackson, meanwhile, continued to scream for help. The scuffle so delayed his captors that when they arrived at the waters edge, the steam ferry to Covington was already pulling away.
Hold up! shouted one of the abductors to the ferry captain, yelling that if he did not, he was no Kentuckian. They reached the wharf with Jackson still in tow, just as the ferrys bow had been pushed off. But then, said the Gazette, the men were able to force the negro on the stern. A few more stones from the crowd fell harmlessly into the water, and the ferry steamed silently across the Ohio.24
The Quakers in Michigan and the crowd that tried to help Jackson showed the progress that abolitionists had made over the previous decade. They had aroused significant concern over the operations of river pirates in the region. Both episodes also showed what Ward might contend with while trying to capture Wood. That April, a little more than a week after Wood was abducted, the Covington Journal would claim that within a month past, perhaps not less than forty slaves have run away from the northern border of Kentucky to Cincinnati, where every obstacle is thrown in the way of a re-capture of fugitives.25
In truth, though, by 1853 the dangers facing runaway slaves and free black residents in Cincinnati were greater than the obstacles that confronted their enemies. In September 1850, Congress had approved a new federal Fugitive Slave Law that had passed with the strong support of border-state politicians. The new law stipulated that when an alleged fugitive was captured in a free state, a special federal commissionernot a local or state judgewould decide whether the person in question was a slave. And the thinnest evidence would now suffice to prove ownership of a person. A simple affidavit by the purported owner, or a runaway advertisement that matched the physical description of the person captured, could be enough to satisfy a commissioner that a black man or black woman was a slave.26
The law did not stop runaway slaves from escaping into the North. By some estimates, such escapes from Kentucky even grew in the decade after the law was passed. Still, free black Americans across the North immediately grasped the danger in these draconian new rules. The 1850 federal law denied any due process rights to people accused of being slaves and allowed federal marshals to deputize any white citizen to assist in
making arrests. A black woman captured and brought before a commissioner could not produce freedom papers in her defense, testify on her own behalf, or argue that her captor had mistaken her for someone else. The federal commissioners in a case were even paid more money$10 instead of $5if they decided in favor of the captor than if they released the alleged fugitive.27
Some free black Northerners resolved to resist the laws enforcement; others decided to leave the country rather than risk enslavement. One resident of Salem, Ohio, in the northeastern part of the state, reported in the fall of 1850 that many fugitives living there had already fled to Canada, in consequence of the infamous slave bill. John Hatfield wrote that the oppressive laws eventually convinced him to leave Cincinnati for Canada, too.28
For Ward, meanwhile, the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 offered a useful backup plan if anything went awry while kidnapping Wood. If abolitionists in Ohio tried to interfere, or a lawyer such as Salmon Chase caught wind of what was happening, Ward could claim that she was in fact a runaway slave. With a quick appearance before a federal commissioner and some prima facie evidence of his rights to Wood, Ward could be on his way.29
On the other hand, Ward knew that the Fugitive Slave Law had also sparked defiance among abolitionists. Stowes serialized novel Uncle Toms Cabin was inspired by opposition to the law and her own observations of life in Cincinnati. The completed novel appeared, to wide acclaim, in 1852 a year before Zeb struck his deal with Robert White. By then, several high-profile incidents in other states had also indicated what concerted resistance to the Fugitive Slave Law could do. In February 1851, an interracial group of abolitionists in Boston succeeded in disrupting a hearing involving a runaway slave named Shadrach Minkins. He escaped to Canada. Later that same year, abolitionists in New York muscled their way into a city jail and freed a runaway, only a few weeks after a gun battle in Christiana, Pennsylvania, between local abolitionists and a posse of slave catchers.30
In this climate of heightened conflict, it would hardly have been wise for Ward to storm into Cincinnati. Better to move more discreetly. Send Frank Rust into the city to scout out Woods location. Make a side deal with someone she knew, perhaps an employer who could bring Wood into her
confidence. Put her in a carriage with the windows blacked out, so that no pious meddler could see she was inside. Then lure her across the river before a hue and cry could be raised.
So, at least, Ward may have thought, but there was always one contingency he could not control. He could not predict in advance how Wood might react. Only a few years before, in May 1848, Rust had purchased a family of enslaved peoplea man, wife, and childfrom a farmer in Kentucky. Rust brought all three to a pen in Covington, intending to start with them the next day down the river, as an article in the Cincinnati Enquirer noted. But in the morning, the jailer entered their cell to find a horrifying scene: the bodies of all three people weltering in their bloodtheir throats having been cut!31
A story to explain the bloodshed quickly emerged in the press. It was said that the distraught father, fearing he would be separated from his family, had murdered his wife and child with a common penknife and then tried to cut his own throat, leaving him barely alive and unable to speak. Whatever actually happened, the slaughter left abolitionists and their enemies to do the talking about the case. Antislavery newspapers north of the river claimed that the man and his wife evidently considered the slavery for which they were bound a hell, to be gladly escaped from by death.32
Antiabolitionists, on the other hand, made the counterclaim that the enslaved man Rust had purchased in 1848 requested his own sale but then came to regret his own choice. All that mattered to Rust, in the end, was that the human beings he had purchased were worth much less to him dead than alive. In 1853, Ward would have wanted to avoid a similar loss.33
That was why, on that Sunday in April of 1853, after Wood stepped out of Rebecca Boyds hack and into the custody of Rust, Ward, and Scott, the abductors would watch her carefully throughout the coming night. A guard would be placed at the doorone of the poor white trash, Wood later recalled, you could find every place in the South them days, who were ready to hunt a runaway nigger or do any other dirty work the slave owners might bid them.34
Her skirt pockets were carefully searchednot just for freedom papers, but also for any instruments that she might turn into weapons. The men did everything they could to prevent her death or escape. Still, there was more than one way for Wood to ruin Wards plans. His gang was well prepared if
she tried to run or to cut her throat. They were less prepared for what would happen when she decided to speak.
C H A P T E R S E V E N
T H E F L I G H T
As Henrietta Wood finished telling her story, the innkeeper who had appeared at her door in Florence wanted to know more.
Who do you know in Cincinnati? Williams asked.1 It was the second morning of her captivity, and the men who had warned
her not to talk still had not returned from their side trip to Burlington. From outside her second-story room came the sounds of traffic on the turnpike below. Besides Williams, a group of womenmaybe his mother and sisters, she thoughthad gathered to listen to Woods sad tale. They were all standing round talking and feeling sorry for me, she later recalled. The family all said they knew Id been stole. Now they wanted to know whom she had met during her years of freedom.2
Twenty-three years later, Lafcadio Hearn apparently asked the same question in his interview with Wood. She replied then with a partial list of the people she had worked for after leaving Jane Cirode. One was Mrs. Tuttle, probably the French-born Sarah A. Tuttle, who kept a boardinghouse on the corner of Sycamore and Fifth. Another employer she remembered as Preacher Swampson, though Hearn may simply have misspelled the name of the Reverend Leroy Swormstedt, a Methodist minister who lived on Broadway between Fifth and Sixth. Finally, Wood had also worked for a Mrs. Wilcox, likely a free black woman who maintained a boardinghouse.3
Looking back, that work may have been especially meaningful, because the Wilcox family held an elite position within the citys free black community. Samuel T. Wilcox was a former steamboat steward who by 1850 had used real estate investments to accumulate $25,000 in capital. That year, he opened a grocery store on the corner of Broadway and Fifth,
where his shelves boasted a cornucopia of fruits, vegetables, cigars, fine wines, and other high-end goods. In one year alone, Wilcox recorded $140,000 in sales, making him one of the nations most successful black entrepreneurs, even as he carefully concealed his race from suppliers up the river.4
Wilcoxs store sat on the northern edge of a First Ward neighborhood where many of Cincinnatis African Americans then lived, and Wood placed the boardinghouse where she worked for a Mrs. Wilcox on the same corner. Probably Mrs. Wilcox was Samuel Wilcoxs wife, or at least a close relation, and in her example Wood may have seen what freedom might ultimately make possible for her. In addition, by working for a prominent free black family, she would have learned more about her own legal rights, as well as strategies used by other free black persons to defend their community against frequent attacks.5
In Florence, however, time was of the essence, and the question from Williamswho do you know?was still in the air. Wood likely knew that Wilcox was not the best contact to mention to a white stranger in Kentucky, even one who seemed surprisingly willing to help. Instead, she mentioned her former owner, Cirode, who could at least verify that Wood had been freed. She also mentioned the Tuttles. Then she threw out a name that Williams seemed to know: Leonard Armstrong.
Do you know Leonard Armstrong, really? Wood remembered Williams asking. Well I know Leonard, too.6
The name hung suspended between them, like a rope bridge swinging above a windy gorge. Finally, Wood recalled, the innkeeper risked a step in her direction.
Ill go over to Cincinnati, Williams said, and if you are free they shall not take you any farther than Lexington.7
Just then, the sound of a buggy on the road interrupted their talk. The captors had suddenly returned, earlier than expected, and Williams shut the door behind him as he left. Immediately after, Wood explained to Hearn, she heard the horn announcing that the stagecoach to Lexington would be leaving soon, and a shout came up the stairs for me to come down. Williams appeared at her bedroom again to repeat his promise. Ill see you in Lexington, he said, and if I cant do you any good, have no fears. Ill do you no harm.8
Outside Wood saw Scott again, but Rust had not returned. A new trader, Washington Bolton, had replaced him. The sun was high when they opened the door of the already crowded coach. Wood recalled being squeezed into the compartment. Then the driver, seated on top, turned toward Lexington, deep in the heart of Kentucky. The stage made its way across miles of macadamized road, bouncing through ruts and potholes and stopping once so the horses could rest. Henrietta remained silent throughout the entire trip.9
It was already dark by the time the coach arrived in Lexington. Wood remembered it pulling up beside a large building, having a yard around it, with a high fence. She and the other passengers were guided inside, and she saw a crowd of colored persons standing around in the dimness. She heard an iron gate clanging shut behind her. Then, as she later put it, my heart sank within me as she realized where she was. She had arrived in the slave pen of the trader Lewis Robards.10
Of all the Kentucky slave traders whose business was booming in the early 1850s, Robards was the most established. An active buyer since 1848, he had first set up shop at the Phoenix Hotel in Lexington, where he announced that he would purchase any merchantable negroes at the HIGHEST CASH PRICE. Then Robards expanded. He leased a building on Broadway that was previously used by William Pullum, another Lexington trader, and he also acquired a second buildingan old theater on Short Street. He then rebuilt the theater into what he called the largest and best constructed jail in the West.11
By 1853, that jail was widely known as a place where Kentuckians could buy slaves or pay to have them temporarily confined. Robards sold to local buyers and to interstate traders who collected large groups of people and took them to markets farther south, and he employed agents who traveled through the countryside purchasing slaves for him. One such agent, Rodes Woods, described the bosss typical orders in a deposition for a trial. He was supposed to buy any negroes I could so they could be sold as quickly as possible for cash.12
In the morning light, Henrietta could see more of the complex where such sales took place. During the night, she had been confined in the common pen where Robards kept most of the slaves he would sell. Now
she saw that adjoining the pen was a two-story brick house where Robards himself lived, along with a woman of color who was known locally as his wife but was probably his slave. Her name, Beck Robards, would stick with Wood throughout the decades to come.13
That first day in Lexington, Wood was moved quickly into Robardss house. The reason, she guessed, was that buyers were permitted to go in and out of the slave pen, and there was a danger that someone aware of her abduction might spot her outside. But Robards might also have had other plans for Wood. It was well known that the house was where he imprisoned his choice stock of women, as some called themfancy girls who were groomed by Beck and then marketed to male customers. One visitor who saw the inside of the house in 1854, only one year after Wood arrived, described its finely appointed rooms where handsome, light-skinned women sat at their needle work awaiting a purchaser. It was said that when potential buyers arrived, Robards or Beck made the women stand, turn around, and expose themselves to their clients gapes and gropes.14
Whether Wood was subjected to such sexual abuse, she either did not say or Hearn did not record. Over the following days, however, she took in her surroundings, including a sixty-foot-long saleroom known as the show. The word evoked the prisons earlier life as a working theater, and Wood first glimpsed the inside by peering through a small hole in a wall. Later, in the Ripley Bee, she would describe the scene. Within were 50 or 60 inmates of all ages and colors of both sexes. Enslaved women and girls were clad in calico dresses of blue or red with white spots. Enslaved men had dark blue pants, blue blouse coats and broad lay-down collars. She saw shoppers making these people dance, feeling their limbs and shoving their fingers into their mouths, looking at their teeth just as you would a horses. Some of the inmates she observed were busily walking around, anxiously checking their appearance. A spot of dirt or uncombed hair might well bring a whipping.15
Henrietta eventually withdrew her eye from the wall, fearing that she too would soon be in the show. All her hopes now were pinned on the promise that Williams had made.
For two weeks at least, no news came. Wood spent most days inside, where she was forced to assist in the marketing of human beings for sale, sewing
shirts worn by the men in the show. She ate her meals in the kitchen, always under the eye of Beck. Then one morning, as she was taking her breakfast, Wood looked up and saw Williams in the yard, furtively scanning faces. She recalled that he turned, looked through a window, and saw her sitting there.16
Williams quickly looked away and hurried out of the yard, but Wood could not suppress a small, reflexive grin. Surely the innkeeper had come because he knew she had told him the truth. Maybe he even had some proof to show that she was free. Beck, however, noticed the flash of recognition. She immediately ran to find Robards, and Wood remembered hearing her tell him what had happened: Henrietta smiled at a stranger.17
Minutes later, Robards had forced her into another buggy, a bonnet wrapped around her face. She was taken to the house of a woman named Fogle. She wants you to do some sewing, Wood remembered Robards claiming, as though he could hide the real reason for the flight. The trader had already guessed that the stranger would be back. Inside Fogles house, Wood sat down to receive her instructions, but the women had not even picked up their needles before the buggy reappeared. An overseer named Woods now drove the hack, she recalledperhaps the man, Rodes Woods, whom Robards employed both as a doctor and purchasing agent. He ordered her to get her things and jump in. Wood had no things to get except for the bonnet on her head, and nothing to do but obey. So I got in, she told the Bee in 1879, and he drove me to a place thirty miles from there that day.18
The buggy headed southwest onto another pike, carrying her deeper into the countryside, farther away from freedom. Outside, the spring pastures were riotous with life: May flowers; timothy grass; tall, muscular Thoroughbreds. Wood remembered a rural world she had not seen since childhood passing by as she rode: the birds chattering among the trees, the crow was cawing, the squirrel was running through the woods. Horses let out to graze came galloping up to the fence to take a look at me, she recalled, then with head and tail up, trotted nimbly by our side till a partition fence in the meadow brought them to a stand still. To Wood, they appeared to be mocking her enslavement and reveling in their freedom.19
I seemed to be, she remembered feeling, the worst slave of them all.20
P A R T I I
F O R K S O F T H E R O A D
C H A P T E R E I G H T
R A I S I N G A M U S S
The farther south the carriage went, the more discouraged she became. Soon they crossed the Kentucky River and continued to Harrodsburg, where Wood was left for the night. The next day, as night fell again, Robards himself came to get her. The trader was mad, and told me roughly to get into the buggy, she recalled, and she was afraid that when he got me out in the woods, he would kill me.1
What Robards said in the buggy did not calm her fears, as she told Lafcadio Hearn. On the way back, Wood remembered, he asked me if I knew the young man that I had smiled at in the show. She replied that she had seen him in Florence but claimed not to know his name.
Well, Robards spat, that mans raising a muss about you. But he aint raising a muss to get you free. Hes just raising a muss to hurt Frank Rust.
Wood recalled the trader cursing as he continued. God damn you, he said, he wouldnt care if you never got your
freedom.2 She had plenty of time to worry about that as the buggy bounced back to
Lexington. The carriage arrived in the middle of the night, and Robards put her back inside his jail. Then, in the morning, he told her that she had to go to the courthouse, warning her to keep your mouth shut, except just to answer what questions you are asked.3
Wood remembered deciding to do as Robards demanded. In Florence, she had defied an order to keep quiet, but in the traders jail they thought nothing of hauling black men and women away and flogging them to death. As before, however, the fear of what would happen if she told her story wrestled with the hope that Williams could help. She was going, after all, to court.4
People on both sides of the Ohio had been raising a muss about Wood ever since her abduction, more than she could have known at the time. On June 3, 1853, the Cincinnati Gazette reported that the case had created much excitement among the colored population of our city. Women and men in Cincinnatis free black communitypeople she had worked with and lived alongsidewere probably the first to notice Henriettas disappearance, and at some point, the authorities were alerted. Rebecca Boyd and John Gilbertthe colored man who had driven her across the riverwere brought before a magistrate and charged with kidnapping a colored woman, and the news spread quickly across abolitionist networks. On June 24, Frederick Douglass himself noticed the arrest of Boyd and Gilbert in his Rochester, New York, newspaper, reporting that the case excites a good deal of interest.5
John Jolliffe, an abolitionist lawyer, had also quickly been engaged to prosecute the accused. The son of Virginia Quakers, Jolliffe was a short, earnest man who had practiced law in Cincinnati since 1841, and by 1853 he was one of a few local lawyers well known as an ally to people of color. He often worked pro bono to defend runaway slaves or help with manumissions and even wrote two abolitionist novels based on his legal work. The first, published in 1856, features a character named Aaron, who is born free in Ohio but kidnapped and enslaved as a child. Aaron escapes to Ohio as an adult, but then, like Wood, is abducted again and taken by ferry across the Ohio River, while citizens of the free state look on, indifferent. In real life, Jolliffe was determined not to be one of the bystanders depicted in his fiction.6
Gilbert and Boyd were brought before a magistrate again on June 6, 1853, and by then Jolliffe and two other lawyers had collected evidence of a crime. At the June 6 hearing, for instance, Jolliffe presented testimony from Ellen Hamilton, who worked for Boyd as a cook. Though described by a journalist as a white girl, she may have been the Ellen Hamilton listed in the 1850 Census as a black woman in Ward 9, the wife of a cook. Either way, Hamilton had seen Boyd with Wood in a carriage driven by Gilbert. She testified that the curtains of the carriage were ordered to be buttoned down all around. When Boyd and Gilbert returned several hours later, they did not bring Henrietta, and Boyd told the cook that some men took her away from us in Kentucky, claiming that Wood had gone with the men of her own accord. Hamilton had since heard that Henrietta sent word of
where she was, perhaps a sign that Williams had already been in the city, asking about Wood and sharing what he knew.7
Hamiltons testimony was damning enough, but Jolliffes team had another witness, a woman named Sarah Spears, possibly a Virginia-born mulatto woman who appeared in the 1850 Census. Spears probably worked for Boyd as well, and she said that Mrs. B told her all about going to Kentucky and losing Henrietta. She identified Russ as one of the men who came up to the carriage. She also said that later, a man named Scott had forced his way into the room occupied by Henrietta for the purpose of finding the free papers. He enlisted the others at the boardinghouse to search for Woods documents. Eventually they were found in her trunk, and Spears handed them over to Scott outside. Those papers had clearly shown that Wood had been manumitted by Jane M. Cirode of Ky. on the 15th of April, 1848.8
With the evidence of Spears and Hamilton, Jolliffe had enough for an indictment, and the magistrate ruled that both defendants should be held on bail. As the Cincinnati Gazette reported, the facts at least proved Wood had been taken by the defendants in a carriage. Even the Enquirer, an antiabolitionist newspaper, found that conclusion to be strongly corroborated by other witnesses. Both papers agreed that Woods disappearance was of so suspicious a nature as to make it almost certain that she was taken illegally and expressed surprise that the defense had not brought more testimony to the contrary.9
Meanwhile, on the other side of the river, Williams had also been busy. Wood later learned that after she was rushed away to Harrodsburg, he had returned to the traders pen. This time he brought the sheriff, Waller Rodes, with him. Williams and Rodes searched the jail without finding Wood. Undaunted, the innkeeper found the driver who had taken her there from Florence. Sheriff Rodes then ordered Robards to bring her back from Harrodsburg. And at about that same time, possibly only a few days after Jolliffe won an indictment in Ohio, a lawsuit was filed in Kentucky in the Fayette County Circuit Court. Lewis Robards was entered as the lone defendant; the plaintiff was Henrietta Wood.10
In 1879, Wood summarized that litigation for the Ripley Bee. Some kind of suit was started in her name in Lexington, she said. Unfortunately, a courthouse fire in 1864 would destroy all of the papers created during the
case, a loss that would prove significant later. A court order book from 1853 did survive, however, and it shows that an equity suit had been filed in Fayette County on Woods behalfa lawsuit asserting that she should be freed.11
The courts of antebellum Kentucky, like those in other southern states, did recognize that a free person might be illegally held as a slave, and people of color sometimes did manage to win freedom suits. Most belonged to one of two types. The first were cases in which plaintiffs alleged that they had been legally freed in Kentucky by an owner in a will or by some other act of manumission, only to be held in slavery by another party. The second were cases in which plaintiffs claimed to have been freed outside of Kentucky, only to be brought to the state and re-enslaved.12
One example of the first, heard by the Kentucky Court of Appeals in 1836, even resembled Woods story. Like hers, it involved a white woman who had freed a slave after separating from her husband. Cloe Pen had come to Kentucky in 1806, bringing an enslaved woman with her. That woman had given birth to Aleck, whom Pen freed in her will in 1813. Aleck lived as a free man in Kentucky for five years until a white man, Samuel Tevis, enslaved him. Tevis contended that Aleck had belonged to Pens now-deceased husband and not to Pen, who therefore had no legal right to free him. Tevis also said that he had paid money to the representatives of the husbands estate to buy Aleck, ostensibly with plans to free him someday. But Tevis never had liberated Aleck. So in 1832, the enslaved man sued for his freedom in a Shelby County court. The court initially dismissed Alecks case, claiming it had no jurisdiction to set him free. The Court of Appeals then reversed that decision, noting that the extraordinary crime of depriving a free man of freedom made a victim like Aleck eminently entitled to the extraordinary assistance of a Court of Equity. Actual slavery is altogether unlike any trespass on a freeman, as a freeman, said the court, which ultimately declared Aleck free.13
In 1840, the state Court of Appeals heard a similar suit. A man in Louisville, William White, had freed several slaves upon his death. Whites heirs had ignored his wishes, claiming that he had not been of sound mind, and one heir had destroyed the only copy of his will. The people White had freed filed a suit against the heirs, who were trying to keep them enslaved.
The plaintiffs not only won the case, but because the defendants had held the slaves for their own unjust profit, a judge also ruled that the former slaves were entitled to $500 each in restitution. In another, much earlier freedom suit, Thompson v. Wilmot, a kidnapped free person of color in Kentucky was awarded $691.25.14
By the time of Woods abduction, some plaintiffs had also been successful in the second type of freedom suit, involving enslaved people who claimed to have been freed outside of the state. Kentucky courts had often ruled that people who were formally freed by an owner somewhere else remained free in Kentucky. The trickier cases, from the perspective of Kentucky judges, were those where an enslaved person had passed into a state where slavery was illegal, had then returned to Kentucky, and then made a claim to freedom solely on the grounds of having been in a free state. Even in those freedom suits, though, some plaintiffs had won, provided that they had lived in the free state for an extended period of time and established domicile there.15
Those precedents meant that Wood had at least some hope for success in 1853. After all, the testimony collected by Jolliffe in Cincinnati showed that Wood had been living there as a free woman since at least April 15, 1848. But the discovery of evidence in Cincinnati did not mean that it would reach a court in Lexington, where Jolliffe had no influence at all. In addition, even successful freedom suits in Kentucky had to overcome significant obstacles. The tolerance of such suits by Kentucky courts had never arisen from any deep-seated hostility toward slavery as a whole; on the contrary, the idea of wrongful enslavement reinforced the idea that most cases of slavery were right. That was why state laws placed heavy burdens of proof on slaves who claimed to be free. In Kentucky, a person of color was presumed a slave until proven otherwise.16
Winning restitution in successful freedom suits had also become more difficult by 1853. Although Aleck had received some financial damages after winning his 1836 suit against Tevis, the Kentucky Court of Appeals had made clear that Tevis would not have been liable had he shown he was ignorant of Alecks free status. The Kentucky General Assembly passed a law in 1840 codifying that principle: white defendants in freedom suits would be exempted from paying damages if they had bought or enslaved a
person in good faith. Not surprisingly, most later white defendants claimed the exemption. Restitution was seldom paid.17
Kentucky plaintiffs who claimed they had once lived in a free state also faced challenges unique to such suits. No state law required Kentucky courts to decide such cases in favor of the plaintiffs, or even to abide by the once freed, always free rule. Most judges believed that local courts had the authority to decide a persons status on the basis of its own states laws. The US Supreme Court affirmed that principle in Strader v. Graham (1851), a case that originated in Kentucky. In essence, that ruling confirmed that when Kentucky courts did grant freedom to plaintiffs who had lived in a free state, no controlling federal law or procedure forced them to do so.18
Kentucky courts did still have some interest in getting along with northern neighbors by honoring manumissions in Ohio and other bordering states. They hoped that northern courts would reciprocate by honoring the laws that permitted slavery to their south. But the rights of slaveholders also weighed heavily in the rulings of Kentucky judges, who could easily find reasons to tilt the scales in favor of slavery.19
Woods chances of winning a freedom suit were therefore far from assured. Nonetheless, state law did make it a crime to remove, or attempt to remove, from this Commonwealth, any person of color having a suit pending for freedom. For the time being, that law theoretically protected her from being sold away until her case closed. The freedom suit that someone had filed in her name thus had an immediate effect: it forced Robards to go to Harrodsburg and bring her back to Lexington, where, the morning after they had returned, the trader came and told her she would have to appear in court.20
Lexingtons courthouse, a red-brick building with a large clock tower on top, stood near the center of town in a square that was bordered on the south by Main, on the north by Short Street, and on the west by Cheapside, a block where townsfolk and farmers often came to shop for goodsand slaves. Robardss jail on Short Street was only a few blocks away, and on court days Cheapside often echoed with the sounds of slaves being hawked to the highest bidder. Though the courthouse looked much like the one in Ohio that Wood had once watched burn, this one had a slave market in its shadow.21
That morning, Wood was taken through Cheapside to the courthouse, where Lewis Robards had often appeared as a defendant before. The trader was frequently sued for unscrupulous practices or debts, and he was used to making excuses in his defense. Henrietta, on the other hand, stood for the first time inside the courthouse walls, trying to answer only the questions she was askedher name, where she worked, and how long she had been with Mrs. Boyd.22
I dont remember exactly what they said, she later confessed to Hearn, and any record of the hearing would be destroyed forever in 1864, when the case file for Woods freedom suit was incinerated inside another courthouse building. She did recall that a lawyer challenged one answer she gave, but that she was afraid to say anything back. Then, after the hearing ended, she was taken back into the square, back through Cheapside, back down Short Street, and back to Robardss jail.23
Before long, she recalled hearing the voice of a lawyer inside the pen, saying they could not hold her. Then she heard the voice of Washington Bolton, the trader whom she remembered first appearing in Florence. I bought that woman and gave $700 for her, Bolton fired back at the lawyer, and I didnt ask nobody to sell me a free nigger. He swore he would return to Covington and get his money back.24
Wood recalled Bolton as a regular blood thirsty butcher of a man. She was sure that he would get the refund he desired. From whom was less clear. Wood thought she heard the trader say he would recover the money from White, which she took as another sign of Josephine Whites complicity. Bolton may have referred, though, to a sometime partner in trade named White, or a merchant in Covington also called White, or a stage driver from Covington by the same name.25
Or perhaps Hearn or Wood heard the name wrong, and Bolton never mentioned getting his money from a White at all. In fact, it is far more likely that he wanted to see Ward.
C H A P T E R N I N E
W O O D V. W A R D
On June 20, 1853, no more than two weeks after the case of Wood v. Robards began, Zebulon Ward or his lawyer walked into the same courthouse where Wood had recently stood and declared that he would be the new defendant in the suit. By consent of both parties, the case against Robards was dropped, and the freedom suit became Wood v. Ward.1
Ward did not admit to wrong by taking Robardss place. His appearance as defendant nonetheless proved that he must have paid something to someone for the rights to sell Wood. Why else enter the case? Most likely Zeb had paid Robert White $300, as he always claimed, then tried to recoup his money quickly by selling Wood to Washington Bolton in Covington. That would explain why she remembered Bolton appearing in Florence to take her to Lexington. Then the suit began and Bolton came to get his money back, leaving Ward at least $300 in the hole. Now, if Wood lost her freedom suit in Fayette County, he could potentially sell her again. But if she won, it would mean hundreds of dollars gone to waste for Ward, not to mention exposure in some shady business.
In short, Ward knew that he had a stake in the outcome of the case. He would also have to walk a fine line to win. The deputy sheriff needed to admit that he had paid $300 for Wooda curious amount that was far below the usual asking price for a woman her agebut also that he had done nothing illegal. His line of defense in the case would ultimately attempt both things, and he summarized it in a subsequent suit where the events surrounding Woods capture were at issue again. First, he said he had known nothing of her emancipation when he paid Robert White. Second, even if Jane Cirode had emancipated her, Ward claimed she had done so illegally. In his telling of the story, he had bought a runaway slave.2
It was a story crafted to make Ward appear the victim in the case. And it would also be a difficult story for Wood to disproveespecially without the copy of the freedom papers that her captors had confiscated. Ward may well have expected a quick and easy win.
Quick, however, the suit was not. It took a long time, as Wood later recalled, and that was partly because Wards story would be challenged in court. The lawyer who had come to confront Bolton at Robardss jaila man she referred to in 1879 as Mr. Kinkeadwas going to try to prove that she should be freed.3
Lawyer Kinkead, as Wood called him in her interview with Hearn, was George B. Kinkead, one of the most respected attorneys in Kentucky. In 1830, he had graduated second in his class at Lexingtons Transylvania University, home of one of the most distinguished law schools in the South. He had since served as an attorney for the commonwealth and as Kentuckys secretary of state, and soon he would accept a professorship at the newly reorganized law school of his alma mater. In 1853, Kinkead ran a thriving private practice in Lexington, where he counted among his clients a fellow lawyer and former Illinois congressman named Abraham Lincoln.4
How Kinkead learned about Woods case never became clear. Williams may have sought out the lawyers help after following Wood to Lexington. Or Kinkead could have learned of the suit in the normal course of his business. In fact, when the June term began, one of Kinkeads brothers-in- law, Henry C. Pindell, was serving temporarily as judge of the Fayette County Circuit Court. Kinkead and Pindell, both lawyers, had married two sisters, and their wives third sister had married William S. Bodley, a lawyer and former judge who lived in Louisville. In this extended legal family, very little that occurred at the courthouse remained a secret for long.5
The case also may have been one of unusual interest to Kinkead, who was known as a vocal critic of slaveryalbeit a conservative one. A devout Presbyterian, he had once said in public that the bond and the free shared a common Father. He was on record arguing that slavery was an unfortunate evil, foisted on his generation by the crimes of earlier Americans. In 1850, Kinkead had even shared those views in a controversial speech delivered in Frankfort, the capital. In that speech, after noting that slavery had retreated from the North toward the South,
Kinkead predicted that even in Kentucky, at no distant day, the relation of master and slave shall cease. In the meantime, slaves and former slaves deserved the deepest commiseration and pity.6
That pity went only so far: Kinkead was no John Jolliffe. First, despite his belief that slavery would eventually disappear, Kinkead owned seven slaves in 1850. Second, he was as critical of abolitionists such as the ones in the American Anti-Slavery Society as he was of slavery itself; he described them as fanatics and enemies of the Union. And third, Kinkead was a colonizationist. He hoped that individual owners, one at a time, would voluntarily manumit their slaves, and that former owners or the federal government would then sponsor the transportation of free black persons to colonies in Africa or elsewhere.7
This was not an original idea. The American Colonization Society, which was founded in 1816, had established a colony for freed Americans in Liberia. It had enjoyed the support of prominent Americans for decades, though free black northerners had resisted the society from the start. Its plan for the gradual emancipation and expatriation of slaves was so respectful of slaveholders rights and so consistent with white supremacy that leading supporters included slaveholders such as Kentucky politician Henry Clay. The plan had numerous supporters in the free states, too, including Kinkeads client and Clays admirer, Lincoln.8
Colonizationism was also enjoying a resurgence in the early 1850s, partly in response to the rising sectional tensions caused by the Fugitive Slave Law. Many conservative border state residents on both sides of the river saw the law as only a partial solution to the flight of runaway slaves and the political instability they caused. The more lasting solution, colonizationists believed, was to engineer a whiter population. The surge of support for colonization after 1850 reflected an abiding belief among most white Americans that people of African descent simply were not fit for freedom in the United States.9
Certainly that was Kinkeads view. Like other colonizationists, he combined his reservations about slavery with even greater anxieties about whether free black people could ever become citizens. In his 1850 Frankfort speech, which was given to raise funds for the Kentucky Colonization Society, Kinkead argued that a free black person was a cancer on our social, and an anomaly in our political lifea curse to himself and the
white man. Once emancipated, a former slaves only hope, according to Kinkead, was to leave the country, because even when clothed with liberty, he is among us but not of us, his condition the strongest term of reproach.10
Such were the ideas of the man who would serve as Henrietta Woods attorneya man whose vision of the nations future had no room for her. Still, it is doubtful that she could have found more sympathetic counsel in Lexington. And Kinkeads beliefs did align with her interests in one important way: colonizationists insisted on the absolute right of slaveholders to free their slaves. The individual power of manumission was crucial to their plans. Kinkead had argued in 1850, for example, that he wished to leave with the master, the sole determination of his duty in the station he may be placed, without any force save the sweet force of religion and of reason. Sometimes, that position could lead a lawyer with colonizationist views to defend slave owners. In 1847, for example, Lincoln had defended a Kentuckian seeking to recover slaves in Illinois on the grounds that his client had only brought the slaves to that free state temporarily and did not intend to free them. In Woods case, however, if it could be shown that some previous owner had intended to free her, Kinkead may have felt compelled to argue for her liberty.11
In fact, by the end of the summer of 1853, Kinkead was convinced that she did have a case. At some point, probably from an interview with her, he learned that she had once been hired out in Louisville to Charles Mynn Thruston, a fellow colonizationist attorney. Kinkead either knew Thruston or knew someone who did. So he reached out to Bodley, his brother-in-law in Louisville, and asked him to approach the now elderly man. Then, on September 14, 1853, Kinkead wrote to thank Bodley for his efforts.12
My Dear Judge, he began, I received your letter this morning. I think from the testimony of Thruston I will be able to get proof to sustain Henriettas claim to freedom.13
After Zebulon Ward became the defendant in Wood v. Ward, the suit had lain dormant for two months as the parties prepared their cases. The start of the September term for the Fayette County Circuit Court brought a sudden flurry of action. On September 15, 1853, the day after Kinkead wrote his hopeful letter to Bodley, Ward filed some sealed depositions with the court
clerk. And on the same day, Kinkead made a motion demanding that his client be removed from Robardss jail, where she had been confined all summer long.
Kinkead had been concerned about Robardss custody of Wood from the beginning. The trader was already infamous in town for selling people south under suspicious circumstances. An experienced lawyer would have known that his clients safety was at risk as long as she remained in his hands. That was why Kinkead had appeared at Robardss jail shortly after her first trip to the courthouse. I heard lawyer Kinkead come in, she recalled, and he said they could not hold me. Nonetheless they kept her where she was.14
That finally changed in September. Wood recalled the court ordering Robards to turn me over, and the courts order book corroborates her account. She did not move far. Ward had her locked up in another slave pen, this one owned by the trader William Pullum. It stood nearby on Broadway and had once been leased by Robards, too.15
The new prison was, unsurprisingly, not an improvement. The cells measured seven feet tall and eight feet square, barely enough space for Henrietta to stretch her body out or lay herself down. Rats often scurried across the wet stone floors. Shards of light entered only from small, grated windows near the ceiling of her cell, which was guarded by a ponderous door with iron bars. Over the coming months, as Kinkead argued her case in court, she would remain inside this prison, recalling later that the sun never shined on me all that timenever once.16
Meanwhile, Wood remembered, she had to wash and iron, and cook in the jail. Court records suggest that Ward may even have collected rent from her work. In June 1853, when the Fayette County Circuit Court agreed to substitute Ward as the defendant in her suit, it also ordered that the same preference is given said Ward in hiring the Plaintiff, as by order of the County Judge was given to Boulton, Dickinson & Co. The clerk misspelled the name of Wash Boltons firm, but the meaning of the order was clear: Woods ownersfirst Bolton, then Wardwere given the legal power to make her work for their profit until her case was decided. In the eyes of Fayette County, she remained a slave until and unless she could prove otherwise.17
Thus she worked and waited. The days and weeks blurred together in the jails dimness. But one day, she later told Hearn, Ward himself came to see her. It may have been the first time she had set eyes on him since the night of the carriage rideas well as the first time she heard what he planned to argue in court. He asked if she thought that Jane Cirode had a legal right to free her.18
I knew nothing about mistresss rights, Wood replied. Well, Wood remembered Ward saying in response, she hadnt, and I
bought you from your mistress children. Before he left, Ward demanded to see her hand, and she held it out for
inspection, grasping right away what he wanted to know. I knew the rascal must have seen my papers in Mrs. Boyds house, Wood explained to Hearn, because in my papers was written some scars on my right hand by which I might be known, as well as a birth mark. Later, according to Wood, he pretended in the Courthouse that I was a runaway slave from Louisville, and that he remembered I had belonged to him by seeing the scars on my hand.19
Whether or not Ward did try that approach in court, the memory was significant for Wood mostly because of what it said about him. Ward was a man who would bend the facts to suit the case if he had to. And now she was sure he knew, despite what he sometimes claimed, that her freedom papers had been stolen away.
Wood remained confined in one of Pullums cells throughout the fall of 1853, as her case was continued to another term. She stayed there through the winter, too, trying to fan a flickering hope that Kinkead would win her case. But at some point during that time, another visitor came to see Wood, breaking the tedium of her days.
While I was there, she told the Bee, my mother came to see me.20 The plot twist would have been implausible in one of John Jolliffes
novels, much less in real lifeespecially since Henrietta had already been able to reunite with Joshua, her brother. But in 1850, the federal census for Kentucky did list a black woman, living just across the Fayette County line, who was born in Virginia in 1780, a date that made her old enough to be Woods mother. The census taker also wrote down the womans name. Daphne Tousey, age 70, sex F, color B.21
The first nameDaphnematched the one that Henrietta always gave as her mothers. The last name fit with what her brother had said in Louisville. Now, the elderly woman appeared in the census as free, living just north of Lexington, with a white woman for whom she probably worked.22
No record reveals how Daphne had become free, or how she might have learned that her long-lost daughter was in the jail. Woods interviews did not shed light on either question. Neither Henrietta nor Joshua had known where their parents were at their reunion ten years earlier, though it is possible that one or both of them knew by 1853. If Joshua still lived and worked near Charles Thrustons house, perhaps Kinkeads efforts to contact the lawyer had somehow alerted Woods brother to her imprisonment, enabling him to then inform their motherif in fact they had previously reunited, too.
On the other hand, Woods case may have attracted the notice of the local black community, Daphne included, just as it had caused excitement in Cincinnati. Wood later told the Ripley Bee that when her mother came to visit, she said she always supposed I had fallen into the traders hands. Perhaps she still made a habit, even in old age, of passing by the slave jails to look for the child who had been sold away long before.23
In any case, in her interview with the Ripley Bee, Wood depicted this meeting as more melancholy than the one with her brother. She recalled that her mother told me that my father was dead , a phrase that trails off in the paper, as if Wood said more than the reporter chose to record. Doubtless, Daphne and Henrietta shared other news about their loved ones and their memories of Touseytown, and each recollection helped to cement the stories that Wood later shared.24
Henrietta did not tell her mother about Cincinnati, however. She had her reasons, maybe concerned that speaking of those years would make her current plight even harder for Daphne to bear. Possibly she herself had begun to lose hope of regaining her freedom. Either way, I never told her how I came there, Wood recalled of the conversation with her mother in the jail, and she didnt know I had ever been free. There is no record of their meeting ever again.25
C H A P T E R T E N
T H E K E E P E R
By the end of 1853, Henrietta Wood had been imprisoned for most of the year, and her legal prospects were worsening on both sides of the river. In Cincinnati, the criminal case against Rebecca Boyd and John Gilbert was postponed to November because some witnesses could not be found. Not until December was the case actually tried in the citys criminal court Judge Jacob Flinn presiding.1
The defendants could hardly have hoped for a more favorable judge. Flinn was a proslavery Democrat, and in August, he had ruled against John Jolliffe himself in a case involving three people suing for their freedom. Flinns ruling in that case had outraged abolitionists, who claimed that the judge had been drunk on the bench; on September 1, a public meeting that Jolliffe attended called for Judge Flinn to be impeached. The next day, while Jolliffe was out shopping with his family, Flinn approached the Quaker lawyer from behind and struck him with a blow that knocked him out. When Jolliffe regained consciousness, the judge was kicking and cursing him as a damned abolitionist.2
By the time Woods kidnappers came before Flinns court three months later, the judge had been fined for the assault and Jolliffe had recovered. Still, recent events did not bode well for the prosecution team, which, for obvious reasons, no longer included Jolliffe. The indictment against Boyd, Gilbert, and Frank Rust (who at some point had been charged, too) alleged that they had by fraud and violence, seized upon Henrietta Wood and taken her out of Ohio, under the pretence that she was a slave. Those actions, prosecutors argued, violated an 1831 state law that penalized the kidnapping of free people of color. But Flinn ruled that the antikidnapping statute had been rendered inoperative and void by a decision of the US
Supreme Court in 1842. After Flinns ruling, the defendants were acquitted by a jury. Eight months after Woods abduction, three of her captors were cleared in a trial that lasted less than a day.3
Kinkead was not faring much better in Kentucky. In September, Woods lawyer had been optimistic that Charles Mynn Thruston would help him prove that she was free. But Thruston died on January 7, 1854, and the deposition he left behind disappointed Kinkead. The Louisville lawyer seemed to recall a deed of trust made out by William Cirode allowing his wife to use his slaves but making clear that they belonged to her son and would return to her children after her death. Whether such a deed would have given the Cirode children some legal grounds for contesting Woods manumission was unclear. Nonetheless, the deed, as described, certainly played into Wards narrative about the case. Kinkead complained in a February letter about Thrustons deposition that it didnt suit him: I want to show that the wife had the power to emancipate.4
Kinkead appealed to his brother-in-law in Louisville to look for the rumored deed in the county court there, hoping that it would prove things were not as Thruston remembered. No document ever turned up to challenge Thrustons testimony. Then, two days after Kinkead wrote his letter, Ward won a motion before the Fayette County Circuit Court to take new depositions and to recross interrogate Mrs. Cirode, who still lived in Ohio.5
Everything seemed to be going Zebulons way, and not just in court, for while Wood remained in Pullums jail, Ward had also begun to nurse a new ambition that promised to make him rich, and in the new year he intended to get what he wanted. He wanted to be the next keeper of Kentuckys state prison.
Founded in 1798 and surrounded by an imposing stone wall, the state penitentiary of Kentucky stood across the street from the governors mansion in Frankfort. Two crenellated towers on either side of the gate loomed over the town like a medieval castle. Inside, though, the prison looked more like a factory. Since 1825, it had been run on the Auburn Plan, so named because it originated at a prison in Auburn, New York. Under this plan, prisoners were kept in isolation at night but put to hard labor together during the day. In Kentucky, they manufactured goods for sale outside the
walls, and the keeper of the prison, instead of receiving a salary, was allowed to control the convicts work and then keep as much as half of the profits from whatever they made. That was why the position of keeper was known, in the words of one newspaper, as the most lucrative one in the State of Kentucky. Joel Scott, the first keeper under the 1825 plan, cleared profits of more than $80,000 during his term. His successor earned $200,000 in just ten years.6
Those were sums that a former steamboat clerk could appreciate, but the job was not easy to get. The position was filled by a vote in the General Assembly, and Ward had only been back in Kentucky for a few years. Though his job as a deputy sheriff did require him to transport convicts from Covington down to Frankfort, he had no prior experience as a prison manager, unlike the current keeper, Newton Craig. Craig had held the post since 1844 and had also won praise for his efforts to balance the work of convicts with moral improvement. Every Sunday morning, Craig assembled the prisoners and forced them to hear a sermon, sometimes delivered by Craig himself.7
Yet Craigs belief in his reformatory abilities also contained the seeds of his eventual fall from graceand of Wards sudden rise. Craigs troubles began near the beginning of his term, when a pair of abolitionists were sentenced to the penitentiary for helping an enslaved Kentuckian named Lewis Hayden and his family escape to the North. Calvin Fairbank was a radical antislavery minister from Ohio with ties to Oberlin College. Delia Webster, his accomplice, was a schoolteacher, born in Vermont, who had moved to Lexington in 1843. Neither showed any remorse at trial. Craig, a proslavery Christian, nevertheless dedicated himself to their reform. In his memoirs, Fairbank recalled that Craig spent many a sermon railing against abolitionists or defending slavery as divinely ordained, and soon the keeper began to see what he thought were fruits of repentance.8
Delia Webster struck up a friendship with the keeper, and Craig helped to arrange for her pardon after only two months. Following her release, Craig also employed Webster as a governess for his children and loaned her money to buy a farm in Kentucky. Then, at the beginning of 1854, just as state legislators were preparing to vote on his reappointment as keeper, a set of amorous letters from Craig to Webster began to circulate around
Frankfort. They seemed to show that the keeper had engaged in an extramarital affair with the abolitionist.9
Craig and his friends quickly began a campaign to defend his honor. They argued that the letters had been misconstrued, or that they had been leaked by a rival for Craigs positionperhaps even a dark horse candidate named Zebulon Ward. Craigs problems were compounded, however, by evidence that Webster had resumed her abolitionist activities on the farm he helped her buy. Even to white Kentuckians who could look past adultery, letting an abolitionist loose in the state was an unforgivable sinespecially given the gathering signs that Webster and Fairbank were not acting alone.10
In 1845, for example, a Yale-educated Kentuckian named Cassius Clay had begun publishing an antislavery newspaper in Lexington. Only a few years later, a young man studying at Centre College in Danville told a group of seventy slaves that he could help them get across the river. Not long after that, Fairbank had also managed to secure his early release from jail. Two years later, the abolitionist minister was caught trying to help slaves escape again and was sentenced to fifteen more years in Frankfort; by December 1853, he was one of eleven inmates who had been convicted of assisting runaway slaves. And that same year, abolitionist John Fee established a free labor colony in Berea, Madison County, with the support of missionary groups in the North.11
These and other events had convinced many white Kentuckians that abolitionist conspirators were multiplying on both sides of the river. The present crisis needed a keeper who would punish agitators, not cozy up to them. On February 20, 1854, when legislators convened to consider Craigs reappointment, a first round of balloting showed that he lacked a clear majority. Zebulon Wards name was put forward by a senator, and at last it rose above the fray. After eight rounds of voting, he emerged triumphant as the new penitentiary keeper.12
Ward would not assume his new duties until March 1, 1855. In the meantime, he remained at work as a deputy sheriff in Kenton County, where his activities could only have reassured white Kentuckians who wanted a tougher policy against the likes of Fairbank. One night in June 1854, Ward learned that nine enslaved people had escaped from Boone County to Ohio, first by crossing the river to Indiana in a skiff and then by walking to within
five miles of Cincinnati. Wearied from carrying their bundles and at least three children, none older than seven, the leaders of the group stopped for rest in the stable of a farmer who promised them safety. The farmer betrayed them by crossing to Kentucky and informing locals there about the escape. By Wednesday, June 14, the group of slaves had been surrounded by a posse of white men that included Zeb Ward.13
Later that week, in Cincinnati, perfunctory hearings were held in which the runaways were never permitted to testify. Although their case was taken up by the ubiquitous Jolliffe, who argued that the slaves had become free the minute they touched free soil, the runaways case proved hopeless under the Fugitive Slave Law. On Saturday, a federal commissioner announced his decision in the same courtroom where Boyd had been tried before Judge Flinn a few months before, and the commissioner remanded all nine people to Kentucky. They were driven across the river to the Covington jail. And exactly one week after that, by coincidence, the Fayette County Circuit Court finally ruled on the case of Wood v. Ward. The result was more good news for Kentuckys new keeper.14
Woods day in court had been delayed for more than a year, but in the summer of 1854, she later told the Ripley Bee, they had some kind of a trial. She was once again taken to the Court house and ordered not to speak. I just sat there like a stick, she recalled, and couldnt say nothing.15
What she could do was listen. I tell you I recollect all that was said, Wood told the Ripley Bee, every word that I could understand. She did not remember all them law words, though she caught the gist of the arguments: Old Zeb Ward, he claimed my mistress did not own me and had no right to emancipate me; but that I belonged to young master and mistress, that is, the Whites. Ward said he had bought me in March 1853. He knew I was in Cincinnati, and he paid them $300 or was to, when he got me in Kentucky. Wood recalled that Mr. Kinkead, he said a piece, then Wards lawyer talked, and then Judge said I didnt make my case. I saw old Ward grin, and they took me back to jail. A clerk for the court recorded the suit as dismissed.16
Kinkead objected to the ruling at once, successfully forcing the case to be sent to the states Court of Appeals. The records of that court were the
ones later lost in a fire leaving behind no clues about the arguments he made. Wood recalled that her freedom papers were never brought up in court. And the lower court had apparently accepted Wards argument that Cirode had not been entitled to manumit her. Kinkead could have argued that Woods extended residence in Cincinnati was enough to establish her freedom. After all, unlike the slaves who had just escaped from Boone County, Wood had clearly established domicile north of the river. Jane Cirode could have confirmed that when called to testify. But Cirodes testimony in the case was not preserved either, and her own feelings about the case are not known.17
Cirodes evidence might not have mattered anyway in the end. Even had Kinkead been able to prove that Wood had lived for a number of years on free soil, that fact might well have failed to win her sympathy. Nothing required a Kentucky court to honor Ohios statutes concerning freedom, and Kentucky courts may have been less inclined to do so in 1854 than ever before. Woods trial came, after all, at the end of a decade when the actions of abolitionists such as Fairbank, Webster, and Jolliffe had eroded interstate comity along the border.18
National politics deepened local distrust. The Fugitive Slave Law had only increased tension over slavery along the Ohio, and congressional conflicts over the westward expansion of slavery had also been rising since the Mexican War. Polarization in Washington reached a new peak with the 1854 passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which would allow settlers in those territories to decide whether to allow slavery. The act became law just one month before Wood v. Ward was dismissed.19
After that dismissal, Wood remained imprisoned for another six months in Lexington, waiting for the Court of Appeals to hear her case. When it did, on January 20, 1855, it quickly upheld the decision. The higher court said I was not free, she recalled.20
Thus, more than a year and a half after Ward paid $300 and set in motion the events that led to Woods reenslavement, Kentuckys highest court decisively ruled that she belonged to him. He now possessed the power to sell her at once. Perhaps to her surprise, however, Ward decided not to take her to a trader. Instead, he came and took me away to Frankfort, Kentucky, where, she told Hearn, he now had charge of the Penitentiary. For the time being, she would be forced to labor for his family there.21
Wards first day as keeperMarch 1, 1855was one his prisoners would not soon forget. The inmates, roughly numbering around two hundred, were all forced to gather inside the penitentiary chapel, where they saw that the governor of Kentucky had come to witness the proceedings. A hush fell over the room as Zeb Ward took the keys to the prison and turned to address the crowd.
Men, Im a man of few words, and prompt action, he bellowed. Do your duties, or Ill make ye! Go to your work.22
Later, Calvin Fairbank, one year into his second stint in the penitentiary, remembered in his memoir that the speech passed over the captive audience like hot shot. The direct hit came the next week, after the governor was gone. The convicts shuffled into the chapel again, a mass of striped uniforms and dark wool caps. As the men finally quieted and stilled, the keeper came to the front and removed the coat from his tall frame. I came here to make money, Ward told them, and Im going to do it if I kill you all.23
The prisoners, Fairbank recalled, all sat still and smiled, perhaps unsure if the new keepers threat was serious. Soon enough they would learn he meant what he said.24
Outside the walls, Wards term was being closely watched from the start, especially by former members of Newton Craigs staff who felt that the previous keeper had been unfairly deposed. Among them was a physician, W. C. Sneed, who later published a history of Kentuckys state prison from its founding up to the first year under Wards successor. In that book, Sneed allowed that Ward had brought great energy to the post. He also observed that Mr. Ward, though a thorough business man, had no previous experience in the management of such an institution and wholly lacked Craigs concern for religious instruction. In a retrospective summary of Wards treatment of convicts, Sneed concluded that all the laws in relation to their moral condition were neglected, and only one great idea made prominent, and that waswork.25
Sneed was an apologist for Craig, of course; in Sneeds view, politicking had infected the appointment process, turning the prison from a place for the reformation and restraint of criminals into a sink of corruption. A more careful critic could have seen that the convict lease arrangement was itself largely to blame. Kentuckys penitential system, which foretold the
future of southern prisons during the late nineteenth century and well into the twentieth, was one that any business man could easily exploit. The keeper had too much unchecked powerand too many incentives to push his inmates hard.26
Rumors that Ward was abusing the prisoners began almost right away. In May 1855, a grand jury investigated the charges, having been impaneled by the same circuit judge who had dismissed the case of Wood v. Ward the year before. The grand jury reported that the cells in the prison were miserably ventilated and that many convicts had to sleep on a cold, damp floor, though the jurors did not much blame Ward for conditions he had inherited. But the panel did express disapprobation of the severity of punishment inflicted on the convicts, in more instances than one, amounting, if not to a violation of law, then at least violating to the feelings of humanity.27
Fairbank, writing later, was much less restrained. He recounted a pattern of routine barbarity under Ward, particularly in the workshops where the prisons main product, hemp bagging, was made. Craig had required prisoners to weave 125 to 150 yards of hemp every day, Fairbank explained, with two to two and a half threads or shots to the inch. Convicts had even earned twenty-five cents for every additional fifty yards that they weaveda small gesture reflecting Craigs reformatory concerns. By contrast, Ward required the men in the hemp room to keep an impossible pacetwo hundred and eight yards a day, with five shots to the inch. Those who fell behind were mercilessly beaten.28
The result was what Fairbank described as a rigorous, murderous rule. Though he had his problems with Craig as a keeper, too, Fairbank concluded that Ward cared nothing for human life. Money was his religion. The abolitionist remembered being flogged never less than twice a day, usually with the kind of strap commonly used by overseers of slaves. To avoid the punishing pace of work, more than one prisoner cut off his own hand, preferring to be sent to the infirmary as a partial amputee. Before Ward had even completed a year in the new post, thirteen convicts had died by the keepers own reporta startling and unprecedented increase. In sum, Fairbank wrote, the lease by which Ward obtained control of the inmates was virtually a sale, with very little difference between the condition of the prisoner and that of an actual slave.29
An actual slave might have questioned the comparison, but Ward might not have refused it. By July 1856, he was the owner of four slaves, seven by the following yeara rising number that signaled his increasing wealth. Zeb was growing accustomed to earning his bread from other mens sweat. The keeper and his employees also seemed to specially delight in persecuting antislavery convicts such as Fairbank or James Blackburn, a married mulatto man who had been convicted of assisting slaves to run away and who was identified in the register of inmates by the lash marks on his back. Thomas Brown, an alleged abolitionist who had moved from Cincinnati to Kentucky in 1850 and was sent to prison on May 8, 1855, later recalled being stripped, and flogged with a cat-o-nine-tails, all while the guards joked that Old Brown had worn himself out stealing negroes, and would not work. Brown also recalled something Ward himself had said upon his arrival at the jail. The head keeper was extremely glad to get another Abolitionist, as he called him, in his power, expressing with an oath, a wish to be permitted to hang all such.30
Though Wards treatment of his abolitionist inmates was not always as ferocious as that, his capriciousness was what kept them afraid. Fairbank recalled the keeper pledging to allow the minister to correspond with his wife, only to withdraw the promise later. Ward was unpredictable in other ways, too. On Sundays, for example, he sometimes formed the inmates into lines and watched in amusement as they ran foot races in the yard. At other times the keeper himself played marbles with the men, using a plug of tobacco as the stakes. As a skilled gambler, Zebulon usually won the games, gave the tobacco back, and then won it all back again before lining the prisoners up and distributing it to men whom he knew used the weed. At the same time, though, he might threaten them all with discipline for some minor infraction. The keeper could swerve, without warning, from mirthfulness to force, and to Fairbank, such vacillations only proved he was a tyrant. Ward played with his men as with his dogs, the minister concluded, whipped them as a boy his top to make it spin. The keepers main goals were money, mixed with a little fun, provided it did not cost him too much.31
As for Thomas Brown, Ward did not hang him, whatever he may have said upon the inmates arrival. In fact, Brown became a trusted prisoner who was one day sent on an errand to Wards own house, wearing his prison garb all the way through town. There he spoke with the keepers
wife, Mary Worthen Ward, who said she was sorry to see a man of his age in jail, and Brown later recalled that the keepers wife impressed him with her womanly humanity and concern. But hers was also the same house to which Henrietta Wood had been brought after losing her freedom suit. And her own recollections would paint a very different picture of Mrs. Ward.32
Wood was brought to Wards house in Frankfort after his term as keeper began. She later told the Ripley Bee only that she worked for his family for seven months, but she gave Lafcadio Hearn a more extended account. Zebulon and Mary had two children at the timean infant daughter and a toddling boyand Wood said she was ordered to work as their nurse. In both interviews, Wood also recalled that she and the childrens mother didnt get along.33
The conflict was hardly a surprise. Even under normal circumstances, caring for the children of another woman would have been challenging work, physically and emotionally. In Woods case, the forced labor also came with the galling reminder that these were the children of a man who had stolen her liberty away.
Needless to say, she did not take cheerfully to the work. She remembered that Mrs. Ward quarreled with her because I could not keep her little boy from crying, even though she couldnt keep him quiet herself. Later, after the Civil War, the experiences of black women in positions like Woods would be twisted beyond recognition by the myth of loyal black mammies whose diligent care for white children endeared them to their owners. In reality, many white slaveholding mothers felt simultaneously dependent on black women for child care and guilty about delegating their maternal duties; they often lashed out with violence and verbal assaults.34
One day, for example, Wood recalled that Mary Ward threatened to whip her for failing to keep the Wards son happy. It may not have been the first such threat that Wood had received, yet something about that threat, on that particular day, brought Henrietta to what seemed, looking back, like a fork in the road.35
By then she could not see a clear way back to Cincinnati. In one direction now lay the path of least resistance, stretching into the distance
with no end in sight. In the other direction was a road of refusal, resistance, retort.
Guess not, Wood remembered finally replying to Mary Wards threat. It takes men to whip me.
Recalling that moment later in her interview with Hearn, Wood explained that she weighed two hundred pounds at the time and was strong as most men. The idea that Ward, a woman four years younger, could overpower Wood struck her as ridiculous, both then and many years after the fact. Yet she also knew that her defiance had crossed a line. Mary told her husband what had happened, Wood recalled, and soon enough, the keeper came and took her out in the Penitentiary yard.
Ill have to learn you not to talk to Mrs. Ward that way, Zebulon said, while preparing to whip her. But then Henrietta stepped farther down the fight-back road.
Why, you know she cant keep the child from crying, she retorted. And how can I do it?
Ward seemed to pause at thiskind of thought over the matter, she saidalmost as if he, too, were at a fork in the road. Perhaps he was toying with the idea of letting her impudence go. Perhaps he was weighing the potential costs and benefits of a beating. Perhaps he simply enjoyed watching the woman who sued him squirm. In any case, Henrietta was most likely surprised when the keeper lowered his lash. He let me off, she recalled.36
Two weeks after the standoff in the prison yard, however, Ward struck Wood with a different kind of blow. He took her back to Lexington and left her in the trading yard run by William Pullumthe one in which she had been imprisoned before the trial for her freedom. Together with his partner, a trader named Pierce Griffin, Pullum did a booming business buying slaves in Kentucky and selling them in the Deep South river town of Natchez, Mississippi. And before long, Griffin and Pullum took Wood there, too. It was the second time in her life that a sale sent her down the river, and this time she would not avoid the hell of the cotton fields.37
C H A P T E R E L E V E N
N A T C H E Z
More than seven hundred miles southwest of Lexington, the town of Natchez stood on a bluff high above the Mississippi River. It was the site of more than a thousand years of settlement, conflict, and trade. Native peoples had lived in the region since the seventh century at least, growing corn and other crops in the alluvial soil. Europeans arrived by 1700, beginning a hundred years of struggle over the hinterlands. Until the American War of Independence, the French and British Empires had each relied on native allies to wage war with the otherand to keep faraway colonists in line. Then Natchez was claimed by the Spanish crown, which offered land to eager American settlers from the East. A new generation of white migrants streamed into the area, dreaming of riches from cotton and heedless of native sovereignty. By 1798, when Natchez was ceded to the United States, the town was well on its way to being the city on a hill for an empire of cotton.1
American cotton growers produced about one million pounds of cotton in 1800; in 1860, the total would exceed one billion. By 1820, the crop already represented a majority of all American exports. Cotton was becoming king in the American South, and especially in the Natchez Districtan area that encompassed the Mississippi counties of Adams, Jefferson, and Claiborne, as well as Louisiana parishes just across the river such as Concordia and Tensas. In 1840, the state of Mississippi accounted for almost a quarter of all American cotton grown. Three of the states most productive counties lay around Natchez.2
That boom owed much to the political rise of Andrew Jackson in the 1830s and the Jacksonians who supported his signature policies: dispossession of native peoples and democracy for white men. In 1830,
during Jacksons first term as president, white Americans used the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek to seize eleven million acres from Choctaws in Mississippi, opening the state to cheap public land sales and feverish settlement by cotton planters. Migrants from the East poured into the state, including one North Carolina man who wrote home to say that he had found the best place he had yet seen for making money. In 1834, a visitor to Mississippi predicted that the whole state would soon be one vast cotton field.3
Many small planters quickly went bust after the Panic of 1837. The wealthiest Mississippiansespecially those whose families were already well established in the regionwere left to reap most of the profits from the cotton boom. In the Natchez District, an aristocratic planter elite invested its wealth in highly capitalized, sprawling plantations that were worked by hundreds of slaves. The richest was Stephen Duncan, who enslaved more than a thousand people and boasted an estate worth $1.3 million by the eve of the Civil War.4
Slaveholdings that large were highly unusual in the antebellum South. Even in Mississippi, fewer than nine hundred people in 1860 owned seventy slaves or more. Large slaveholdings were more common near Natchez than almost anywhere else; more millionaires lived there, it was said, than in any other place of comparable size. And between 1840 and 1860, those millionaires grew increasingly single-minded in their pursuit of wealth: their only goal, as one Louisianan put it in 1854, was to buy Negroes to plant cotton & raise cotton to buy Negroes.5
By the time Henrietta Wood arrived, Natchez had therefore also become one of the largest slave markets in the nation, second only to New Orleans. Professional Negro traders had established a permanent market at the town limits, one mile east of the river. As early as 1834, one visitor observed slaves being sold there in a cluster of rough wooden buildings, in the angle of two roads, one heading north to Washington, a former territorial capital, and the other heading east, toward a town called Liberty. Some local traders called the emporium Niggerville. But the market was also known, in Natchez and beyond, by a more common nameForks of the Road.6
Thousands of slaves from the Upper South ultimately came through the Forks of the Road slave market. Many were chained into coffles and
forcibly marched over land from Maryland or Virginia, arriving ragged & dirty, as one trader described them, and sometimes clinging to life. Others arrived by steamboat at the Natchez docks, climbing the bluff and walking the mile to the slave pens outside town. There, the traders stripped them down and replaced their clothes, sometimes blackening their hair with dye. Medicine was applied, skin was greased, bodies were readied for display and inspection by the buyers. And among the regular customers there, by 1855, was one of the wealthiest men in Mississippi, the scion of a former governor of the state, and the next man who would own Henrietta Wood: the planter Gerard Brandon of Brandon Hall.7 Wood came to Natchez by steamboat, but her journey began by train. Zebulon Ward took her back to Pullums jail sometime in the fall of 1855, and she later recalled that Pullum and Griffin were making up a gang of slaves to take to Mississippi, where they operated a regular stand. One drove of slaves was sent down by land shortly after her arrival back in Lexington. Wood was taken by rail to Louisville and then to Natchez on a boat. She believed, in retrospect, that she had been separated from the others so that she could have no chance to talk to anyone.8
Pullums firm had been sending slaves south by steamboat for many years. In 1853, when Pullum was called to testify in a Kentucky lawsuit involving another slave trader, he explained that even after paying for passage down the river, traders in the 1840s could expect average profits of $100 to $150 each on slaves carried to Natchez. In another suit, an agent of Griffin and Pullum also detailed a typical journey: On our trip South the negroes were put on [the] deck of [a] steamboat sleeping in bunks. They were chained together two by two till we got to the mouth of Ohio river, when they were unchained.9
The chains returned as soon as the boat reached Natchez. In Mississippi, Wood recalled, she was taken off the boat and brought to the great trading yards at Fork roads. The slave market had not changed much since the early 1830s, except for a marked increase both in the number of slaves annually sold and in the prices they fetched. It was the start of the busy season for traders, and hundreds of enslaved people may have been there when Wood arrived, crowded into low-slung buildings marked on a map from 1853 as Negro marts. Tied up outside the buildings would have been the horses of customers who were inside shopping for human beings.10
The buyers were usually greeted at the door by solicitous Negro traders such as Pullum, Griffin, or their local broker, Robert H. Elam. Such traders were expert salesmen who understood they were selling more than laborers or investments: they were selling, too, the fulfillment of wishes, the satisfaction of fantasies. In slave markets, white men and women could buy a pleasing image of themselves as discerning masters and mistresses who knew how to sniff out a deal, and traders knew just how to play upon their clients vanities.11
Griffin and Pullum, for example, had published ads in Natchez papers as early as 1852, touting their large and well-selected stock of Negroes and promising to sell as low or lower than any other house here or in New Orleans. Our terms are liberal. Give us a call. In 1858, the firm would still be advertising its choice selection and reasonable rates for SLAVES! SLAVES!! SLAVES!!! at Forks of the Roadalong with their promise of a warranty to any buyer who wanted one.12
The marketing only intensified once buyers arrived at their stand. Inside, people for sale were pressed into a line to await the buyers queries and inspection. Were they good with children? With mules? Some were asked to bare their teeth or take off their clothes. Wood was likely forced into such a line, too, forced to answer questions about her past. In both of her interviews, she later recalled that a man named Wilson was the first to show an interest in buying her, and, all things considered, she may have preferred him over the others who entered. Wilson lived in town and wanted Wood to wash and iron, jobs she already knew. Yet she also remembered that her captors refused to sell her to Wilson. After he left, the traders revealed that Ward had told them to get me out on a plantation, and not to sell me to any one in town, because Id raise another suit in the Courts.13
Their fear was not unfounded. Griffin and Pullum had been taken to court in Natchez before, usually by white plaintiffs who claimed to have been sold an unsound slave. Traders who were found to be knowingly selling free people of color could run into trouble, either with the law or with their clients. People of color sometimes appeared in court as plaintiffs, as well, and a few successfully proved that they had been wrongly enslaved. Better, Griffin and Pullum thought, to heed Wards instructions. If they sold Wood into the country, she would be much less likely to gain a lawyers ear.
And soon enough, after Wilson left, they had found their mark: they sold me, Wood recalled, to an old cotton planter named Gerard Brandon.14
The man who bought Wood was not the first Gerard Brandon, nor the last. Brandons Irish-born grandfather, also named Gerard, had fought in the Revolutionary War in South Carolina before migrating to Natchez when it was still controlled by Spain. In 1788, that Gerard Brandon had a son, Gerard Chittocque Brandon, who was educated at Princeton University and William and Mary College. When the Mississippi Territory became a US state in 1817, Gerard C. Brandon helped to form its new constitution, and the next year, he had a son whom he, too, named Gerard. That Gerard was the one who grew up to purchase Henrietta.15
Though Wood remembered him later as an old cotton planter, she and her new owner had in fact been born at about the same time, though worlds apart. By the time he reached young adulthood, Brandons father had served nearly six years as the first governor of Mississippi to be born there. A proponent of Jacksons Indian removal policies, the elder Brandon was governor in 1830 when the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was signed. After retiring from public service in 1832, he became a cotton planter in Adams County until his death in 1850, and by that time his son had also begun to build a fortune on cotton and slaves.16
Despite Governor Brandons role in encouraging the growth of cotton in Mississippi, the older man had left office concerned about the large numbers of slaves entering the state, brought there by speculators and migrating planters. Black men and women made up almost half the total population of the state by the time the governor retired, and more than half when he died. He had confessed uneasiness about the prevailing trends. Mississippi was becoming the only receptacle for the surplus black population of the Middle States, he warned the legislature back in 1828. He added that slavery is an evil at best, mainly because in his view it widened a dangerous gap in wealth between nonslaveholders and the planter elite. After an 1830 slave revolt lead by a preacher named Nat Turner in Virginia, panic over the importation of possible rebels also worried many Deep South critics of the interstate trade. Governor Brandon stopped short of suggesting that slaveholders such as himself should divest, but he urged the passage of laws to restrict further imports.17
The elder Brandons efforts at restriction ultimately failed. The Forks of the Road only grew. And his son Gerard did not share his fathers reservations about the interstate slave trade. By 1860, Gerard Brandon was almost a millionaire on the basis of his human property alone: he owned more than seven hundred enslaved people spread out over several plantations on both sides of the river. It was a staggering number that placed him among the ten largest slaveholders in the entire nation on the eve of the Civil War. He had acquired some two hundred of those slaves after 1850, either by purchase, inheritance, or by births to the women he already owned.18
As Griffin and Pullum must have realized, Brandon was a man whose vast numbers of slaves could easily swallow up a woman such as Wood and make her anonymous. By 1855, he was also a man accustomed to shopping for human beings. On the day he purchased Wood, Brandon probably came to the Forks with a wish list already in mind, one shaped not only by the perceived needs of his many farms, but also by his ideas about what made for soundness in a negro woman.
He would have gleaned those assumptions both from many prior selections and from the advice of other planters like himself. A light- skinned woman, for example, was usually thought appropriate for service in a house. Dark skin was viewed as a sign of fitness for work in the field the blacker the better, according to a journal widely read by cotton planters. The size of a persons hands also had a bearing on their valuation and price: manual dexterity was a must for slaves who were tasked with picking cotton. Brandons eyesand likely his handswould have roved over her body, judging her heft, the fullness of her breasts, even, perhaps, the scars on her hand that Zebulon Ward had found. He reduced Wood to her body parts, appraising each one. And in the end, Brandon saw whatever he wanted to see.19
He bought me at sight, she told Hearn in 1876. Then he took her out by wagon to the house where he lived, about eleven miles along one of the two roads that joined at the Forks.20
The wagon could not have gone far into the country before Henrietta began to notice the scenery starting to change. The path was lined with tall oaks, as well as towering hedges of Cherokee rose, some of them standing nearly
as tall as Frankforts prison walls. Travelers compared the roads around Natchez to wooded tunnels or darkened lanes; the routes were secluded and enclosed by design so they could be patrolled. No residence is visible from the road, one visitor said, and no road was visible from within. It was as if the blinds had been buttoned down on the world at large.21
When Brandon and Wood finally arrived at their destination, probably passing through a gap within one of the fence-like hedges, she could see cleared fields, clusters of small cabins, outbuildings of various kindsand enslaved people laboring everywhere she looked. Brandon was a very rich man, as Wood told Hearn. He had eight hundred working blacks, and more slave children than I could count.22
In time, she learned that he also owned more than one plantationfour on the Louisiana side of the river, and three on the other sideeach one staffed by paid overseers who managed his crops and slaves. Brandon was among the wealthy planters who extended their operations across the Mississippi to the Louisiana parishes of Tensas and Concordia, places where slaves outnumbered white residents by eight or nine to one. Wood, however, was brought to the plantation in Adams County where he actually lived, a place known as Brandon Hall.23
Gerard and his wife, Charlotte, had received the land from her father, and in 1853, they had begun to have a large mansion built. Designed in the Greek Revival style, with a grand entrance hall and portico in the front, the two-story house was completed in 1856, about the time when Henrietta arrived. Brandon Hall was meant to display to all that the former governors son was his own man, too. With a house like that, he was fully the peer of the other country nabobsmen who lived, in the later words of his nephew, as veritable lords of the manor, surrounded by all the luxury and refinement which wealth and slavery could produce.24
For one lavish party held at Brandon Hall in the spring of 1858, for example, Brandon spared no expense. According to a guest named Benjamin L. C. Wailes, the entertainment was elegant & sumptious. The tables were laden with every delicacy brought from New Orleans. The food was served by waiters hired from the Princess, a palatial Mississippi steamboat that often carried the regions elite back and forth from the city. Musicians, including a harpist, performed. The event began at nine in the evening and lasted through the night.25
Eventually, though, the party guests left to return to their homes. Those who had come on horses guided them back through the hedges. Those who had come in carriages were driven away by liveried slaves. Wailes arrived at his own house as dawn began to break. But at Brandon Hall, the working day had just begun for Wood. And her work there would continue until the sun went down again.
C H A P T E R T W E L V E
B R A N D O N H A L L
In retrospect, the voyage that took Henrietta Wood to Natchez was like the last leg of a journey back in time, to the mainspring of so much that had already happened in her life. In the beginning, settlers from the United States had poured into the Mississippi River valley, chasing cotton dreams. The southwestern population boom had helped to make Louisville an important river port, fueling Forsyths wealth and eclipsing Touseytown. Global demand for cotton made New Orleans what it was, enticing William Cirode and his family down the river. Prices for cotton also buoyed the prices of slaves everywhere, tempting kidnappers across the Upper South and keeping Kentucky slavers such as Robards in business. By 1860, the nearly four million people enslaved in the United States would be worth an estimated $3 billion to their owners, more than all the factories, railroads, and banking capital in the country combined. White fears over the threats to all that wealth would soon spark a civil war.1
Now, by coming to Natchez, Wood had arrived close to the center of it all. They put me to work at once in the cotton field, she told Lafcadio Hearn. I sowed the cotton, hoed the cotton, and picked the cotton, she remembered. I worked under the meanest overseers, and got flogged and flogged, until I thought I should die.2
Those memories echoed stories told by many people who were sold to the Deep South. In Adams County alone, more than fourteen thousand enslaved people lived in thrall to a white minority, and most had either begun their life in the Upper South or had parents and grandparents who did. Each of them had been forced to adjust to the unfamiliar routines and work of the cotton fields, just as Wood was now having to do. After leaving Touseytown as a girl, she had always lived in cities, working mostly in
houses, and her labor had been structured by day-to-day rhythms. The rhythms were more seasonal in the cotton fields, beginning in February and March, when slaves were tasked with plowing carefully spaced rows and planting cotton seed. The next seasons work, known as hoeing or scraping, was often the most grueling. Slaves spent April through June walking through the rows to cut back weeds, sometimes digging ditches to help in draining the rows.3
Finally, in the searing heat of the summer, the bolls opened and picking began, continuing into the fall. Slaves ginned the cottona mechanical process that removed seeds and plant debris, or trash, from the fibers. Then slaves packed the cotton into bales with bagging and rope, much of it made from Kentucky hemp in places like Wards penitentiary shops, and hauled the bales by wagon to the docks under Natchez. There, the bales, each one weighing four hundred to five hundred pounds, were loaded on steamboats and taken down the river to New Orleans. Meanwhile, back at Brandon Hall, enslaved people began a new round of chores. They grew corn and peas that supplied the plantation with food. They foddered and tended to animals who aided the plantations work. In the winter, they cleared land and prepared to plant cotton all over again.4
Wood confronted these new routines while also being forced to adjust to a whole new community, one that was unlike those she knew before. Slaves outnumbered whites by a factor of three to one in the rural districts surrounding the town of Natchez. By contrast, in Cincinnati, the free black community comprised about 3 percent of the citys population. Adams County was the first place she had ever lived where an overwhelming majority of the people around her were of African descent.5
Theirs was a complex communal world in which new bonds were often forged by telling the stories of the past. Many had experienced traumatic separations from kin and journeys much like hers. She also would have found people engaged in a range of romantic relationships, from temporary unions known as sweethearting or taking up, to monogamous, extralegal marriages that sometimes crossed plantation bordersand remained resilient even in the face of frequent separations by sale. Enslaved people in Adams County carried mental maps in their heads of the neighborhoods to which they belonged, directories of who was who, who had been where, and who was newly arrived.6
New connections with neighbors may have helped somewhat to soften the worst shocks of Woods arrival. In the fields people often helped each other to meet or resist the exacting demands of their overseers. But as in any community, the people Brandon enslaved were not immune to conflict. The sharing of stories sometimes turned to gossip with a sharper edge, or even violent quarrels. In December 1854, one of the men whom Brandon enslaved was indicted by the State of Mississippi for murdering another slave. Several other slaves belonging to Brandonknown only as Frances, Jamie, and Marywere required to testify about the case in May 1855, not long before Henrietta came.7
In short, Wood had entered a social world that was largely unknown to her, all while being forced to learn new work routines, and fast. I had to hoe, burn brush, and clear ground, she remembered, even though the latter jobs were typically assigned to men. The division of slave labor on a cotton plantation was another new rhythm. Men were responsible for ginning, and they also worked as teamsters, blacksmiths, and choppers; some men were assigned to be drivers, tasked with keeping the pace of work in the fields. In the cotton fields, however, the women frequently outnumbered the men. Planters often preferred that women hoe and pick, and Brandon was evidently no exception to the rule.8
The reasons women were often preferred as pickers may not have been apparent to Henrietta at first, but making money from cotton was a risk- filled operation even for a man as rich as Gerard. It involved multiple layers of management and labor. Small changes in the fields could mean the difference between boom or bust for a planter. Raising cotton had only become more capital-intensive over the course of Brandons life, and by the 1850s even the most well-endowed Mississippi planters usually worked closely with a factor or commission merchant firm that extended plantation supplies on credit to their clients. Over time, the firms became the closest thing that most planters had to banks.9
To settle accounts, planters depended on the quality of their crops. During and after picking seasons, Brandon sent bales of cotton down to New Orleans, where they were graded according to standards. The best cotton had been picked as soon as possible after blooming, before wind and rain could damage the fibers, and it was packaged with a minimum of dirt or debris from the stalks. Other bales might be judged only middling or
ordinary. Agents monitored the market for each grade of cotton and made the final decisions about when to sell a bale.10
In February 1854, for example, Brandon received notice from his factors in New Orleans, the firm of Buckner, Manning, and Newman, that they had sold 118 bales of his cotton for $5,208.70. The firm credited the money to Brandons account. Then they wrote to reassure him that the sale was made at the prices current prior to the decline of last week and we hope will give you satisfaction. When the prices current for cotton were high, planters were in the money. A factor might either forward the profit or credit it to his clients standing account. Brandon could order more supplies or make a draft on the factor for cash.11
On the other hand, there was always the danger of a price drop or a bad yield. If too many batches of cotton sold low or did not arrive in sufficient quantities, Brandon might find himself in the red with his suppliers putting him at risk for a vicious cycle. He would need to grow more cotton to cover his expenses, and to grow more cotton, he needed the credit that factors could extend. For the wealthiest planters, however, disaster seldom came. In years with bumper crops, large slaveholders could mobilize more labor to take full advantage of the surplus. And in tough times, Brandon owned valuable land on both sides of the river that provided financial security. The hundreds of people he enslaved also served as insurance assets he could sell or even mortgage to secure more credit. Those were among the reasons why he kept on buying more.12
In 1858, for example, Brandon returned to the stand where he had purchased Wood and bought eight slaves valued at $10,060 from Griffin and Pullum. According to a receipt Brandon kept, he sold them girl Marthy in exchange, reducing his tab for the transaction to $9,210. Another receipt shows that the next year he paid the firm $6,700 for five negroes to wit John at fourteen hundred & fifty dollars And Milly & child at fifteen hundred and fifty dollars And Thomas at thirteen hundred dollars, and John at twelve hundred dollars, and Matt at twelve hundred dollars. Prices like those encouraged Gerard to see the hundreds of people he owned as a bulwark against hard times. Like many planters, he kept two-columned lists of enslaved peoples nameswith their prices.13
Nonetheless, even with the multiple ways that Brandon could hedge risk, the cotton he raised still mattered to his bottom line. A bad crop or a dip in
the market could always prompt an unhappy correspondence between Brandon and one of his merchant partners. During one stormy picking season in 1854, Brandons commission firm blamed some lackluster proceeds from the sale of his cotton on the poor quality of the last shipments, which indicated very apparently the damages sustained from recent bad weather.14
Six years later, Brandon wrote another commission firm to demand explanation for a recent disappointing sale they had made. He inquired whether the cotton was defective in some way and was told it was not. During the week preceding the sale, Brandons firm had noticed a downward trend in the New Orleans cotton market, which was just then in an unsettled condition. Graders had also been unusually exacting, so that what is usually called Good Middling would class scarcely as Strict Middling, as the firm explained. Rather than risk a poorer rating or a further drop in prices, the firm had decided to sell quickly and get the best deal they could: We regret that the price obtained compares unfavorably with sales made since.15
Such letters showed how much remained outside of a Natchez planters controlthe weather, the ratings, the prices current for cotton. In the face of so much uncertainty, even well-off planters such as Brandon obsessed over the parts of the cycle that they could control. Which variety of cotton was easiest to pick, without mixing trash into the fibers? (Petit Gulf was the answer most planters gave.) Which enslaved people had the smallest hands, making it comparatively easier for them to yank the blossoms cleanly from the bolls? (It was usually the women, more than the men.) Most of all, what was the optimal number of bales a planter should produce in a season? Could the people he enslaved be forced to set a quick pace while keeping quality high?16
These were the kinds of questions that consumed planters, and violence was a common answer. To manage the day-to-day operations on his numerous farms, Brandon relied on overseersmen such as a Kentuckian named John Lyle, who appeared with Gerards household in the 1860 Census. (Henrietta Wood recalled his name, or Hearn recorded it, as Tom Lyles.) The overseers were also bent on productivity, and Brandon gave them authority to wield violence freely, punishing any slaves who were not keeping pace.17
Wood was not at Brandon Hall for long before she learned that almost any perceived infractionor even nothing at allmight bring on a brutal outburst from an overseer such as Lyle, or Bill Gates, or Moore, men who (she later said) were all nearly as bad. If you did not walk fast enough to please the overseer, or pick quite enough cotton, or even looked away from your work, you got whipped, she told Hearn.18
The whippings were also inflicted in humiliating ways. They used to throw the women down, she said, pull their clothes over their heads, and tie their legs and arms to four stakes, stuck in the ground. She knew women who had received hundreds of blows from a long, heavy strap, made of harness leather and stuck full of tacks. The straps, she remembered, were usually less lethal than bull whips, but they were no less painful, as she knew firsthand: Every stroke would leave a gash just like you had drawn a knife across my back, and sometimes when they thought it didnt hurt me enough, they would sprinkle salt on the raw flesh as mind and body reeled.19
One got whipped for nothing, Wood recalled of her life outside Natchez when she spoke to the Ripley Bee. And she also recalled having to train her body to do new things, such as properly hoeing a row of plants. After the cotton had come up about six inches above ground they would shear it off, she explained, and then we would have to hoe it out, going backwards all day long. That way they could make sure the edge of the tool struck the ground at the proper angle.20
The work rewired her body and mind to perform unfamiliar motions: I got so used to going backwards I pretty near forgot how to go forwards, she said. Swinging a hoe with enough precision to kill a weed, while not inflicting any harm on the cotton plant itself, was painstaking. The stands are about two feet apart, Wood remembered, and if you happen to cut one of them up they would take you back to it and whip you, sure. Many, many times have I been whipped for it.21
The memory showed how Brandons men used terror and torture to exploit field workers, during the scraping season as well as during the harvest. The same patterns were repeated on many cotton plantations, and planters valued overseers who could push hands to the farthest extent without fatally hurting their investments. Wood remembered one, Bill Sandford, who flogged so many to death that the boss had at last to get rid
of him, though he may simply have been moved to another of Brandons farms. A Sandford remained in his employ as late as 1863.22
Either way, the kinds of overseers preferred by the people in the fields usually could not keep their jobs at Brandon Hall. Wood recalled one overseer as rather kind because he rarely whipped women and never very hard. One day, though, Brandons wife sent a girl to him to be whipped, accompanied by another woman to see that it was done. The messenger reported back that the new overseer wouldnt strip the girl below the waist. Wood remembered that the mistress sent for him and demanded an explanation, saying, When I send a nigger to you to get whipped, I want it done right.23
My mother wasnt a damned dog, the hired man retorted, and I dont propose to treat any woman like a dog.
According to Wood, he was at once paid off and sent away.24
Wood did not say whether she had witnessed the overseers dismissal by Brandons wife, or only heard about the story secondhand. At some point after her arrival in the cotton field, however, Brandon or his overseers determined that no amount of whipping would turn the newcomer from Kentucky into an effective hand. I could not pick cotton to suit, Wood later explained to Hearn, because my fingers were too big. After being whipped almost to death, she was taken out of the fields and sent to work in the big house. There, in the kitchen and the laundry, she worked under the closer surveillance of Brandon and his wife and returned to tasks more like the ones she already knew how to do from years of experience: hauling water, tending fires, scrubbing clothes, preparing food. I got along a little better, she recalled.25
The removal from the fields was not a reprieve from violence, however. As Charlotte Brandons confrontation with the rather kind overseer showed, white women were as willing as men to deploy violence against black women. In the house, Wood also may have experienced new conflicts with the enslaved people with whom she worked. On a large plantation like Brandons, slaves who worked in the house often came from families who had belonged to the masters family across generations, and who therefore identified themselves as different from common field hands. The arrival
of a virtual stranger could have upset norms within the enslaved community of which Henrietta was still only partially aware.26
She nonetheless preferred the work in the house, where her skills may have been recognized and more highly valued. For better and for worse, she also now had limited access to direct conversations with the boss, something that the vast majority of the people he enslaved never had. In fact, Wood later said in her interview with the Ripley Bee that Charlotte, Brandons wife, was the one who told her that Gerard had paid $1,050 for her purchase. Rather than conveying intimacy and trust, the revelation was more likely intended as a threata reminder that she was property and could easily end up back at the Forks of the Road, or under the lash.27
One day after Henrietta had been moved from the field to the house, she saw the overseer Bill Sandford come and grab an enslaved woman who had been accused of stealing a yard or so of fabric. The woman had wanted, Wood thought, to make a dress or something for herself. Sandford knew well what his employers expected in such a case, and the overseer had her taken out to the yard, stripped to her skin, and tied to the ground face down. Sandford whipped her with the strap till he got tired, Wood recalled. Then he forced two black men to continue the beating, turn by turn, until he was ready to retake the whip.28
The beating began at two oclock in the afternoon, and Wood remembered the sound of the womans yells from the yard. Two hours into the whipping, she could not even scream, and would only shake and tremble when they struck her. At last one of the black men protested to Sandford that the woman appeared to be nearing death. Sandford said, Go on, give her a little more. Ill tell you when to stop.
At that, the colored fellow threw down the strap, Wood recalled, and said hed die rather than hit her again.
The woman was finally untied at about five oclock. She was physically unable to stand, so a man from the field came to carry her back to the quarters.
She died in a few minutes after, Wood said. It may not have been the first death she saw in those days, and certainly
it would not be the last. Apparently Wood even told Hearn much more about what she witnessed at the farm outside of Natchez, though he deemed the rest of her pictures of the plantation life to be too horrible for
publication. Wood, however, remembered those pictures all too well. And she never forgot whose fault it was that she came to Brandon Hall.29
C H A P T E R T H I R T E E N
V E R S A I L L E S
Back in Frankfort, Kentucky, Zebulon Wards term as keeper ended in the spring of 1859 after making him a newly wealthy and well-connected man. In 1856, one year into his term, Wards contract had even been revised in his favor. Instead of splitting profits from the convicts labor with the state, he began paying an annual rent of $6,000 to take total control of the prison and its proceeds. No monarch ever had more unlimited control of his subjects than Ward had over his convicts, observed William Sneed in 1860, and no one ever exercised his own will more completely.1
The result had been more misery for the penitentiarys inmates. Convicts complained of lungs choked with hemp dust from the shops. Fairbank called 1856 the most terrible of my whole life. Annual deaths at the prison grew, peaking at twenty-three in 1858, almost a tenth of the whole population. And at least some of the nineteen deaths in 1859, including the suspected suicide of a free woman of color who worked inside the walls as a cook, might also be traced to conditions left by Ward as outgoing keeper.2
Critics of Wards regime concluded that he was a murderous tyrant. The keeper denied the charge. Prison doctors paid by him praised his generous humanity in their annual reports to the state, and Wards own reports usually focused on improvements he had made. Still, it was clear to almost anyone else that his primary wish was to make the penitentiary pay. He often complained that the prison did not contain enough machinery or space to furnish profitable employment to the number of inmates, as one of his reports put it, forcing him to concentrate more than he liked on making hemp products.3
Under the revised terms of Wards lease, however, it was difficult for outsiders to know how much he was really raking in, and there was at least
one sign that Zeb was making more than he let on. In February 1858, when the General Assembly had to vote on whether to renew his contract as keeper, Ward made clear that he wanted to stay. He even offered to pay the state twice as much in rent.4
That offer revealed just how highly Ward valued his profits. In fact, with his bid to pay the state $12,000 per year, he may have made the mistake of showing his hand. One Louisville newspaper sarcastically endorsed Ward with a modest proposal of its own: give Ward a rent of $8,000 per year, and then charge him $1,000 for every prisoner who dies during his lease. Perhaps the deal would force the keeper to take good care of his prisoners, who, being civilly dead, have no right to object to this arrangement. But more likely, predicted the editor slyly, Ward would think it more profitable to keep working his prisoners until they were actually dead, netting the state another $25,000.5
In the end, state legislators decided in 1858 that the state should raise the rent to $12,000while also replacing Ward. And when his successor took over as keeper in 1859, a new corps of physicians uncovered deplorable conditions. Reviewing the records they found at the prisons crowded infirmary, they noted the fearful mortality under Wards tenure, a rate they called unprecedented in the annals of prison discipline in the United States.6
No matter to Ward. He had already gotten the riches he wanted. According to Sneed, he had made a fortune variously estimated from fifty to seventy-five thousand dollars, practically spinning gold from straw. And after he was dismissed from his monarch-like post in Frankfort, Ward took the profits he had made at the penitentiary and retired to a sprawling estate in nearby Woodford County, just outside the tiny village of Versailles.7
Versailles sat on the western edge of the Bluegrass region of central Kentucky, an area known as the best in the country for breeding Thoroughbred horses. George Wilkes (the New York editor of Wilkes Spirit of the Times, the most widely read sporting paper in the nation) referred to Woodford and the adjoining areas as ideal race-horse counties, and in the spring of 1862, Wilkes himself would pay a visit to Zeb Wards farm, describing to his readers what he saw on the turnpike from Frankfort: On all sides, I beheld a beautiful rolling country, dotted with browsing stock,
and already covered with a verdure not due to our more northern pastures for a month to come. This was the blue grass.8
The Bluegrass was also the region with the largest concentration of slaves in the state: in 1860, Woodford was the only Kentucky county in which they outnumbered free people. Compared to neighbors, a higher percentage of Woodford Countys free residents lived in slaveholding households, too, on farms such as Airy Mount, Spring Hill, and Edgewood. Zebulons estate, near the meeting of the Big Sink Road and the Frankfort pike, was known as Ward Villa.9
Like Brandon Hall, Ward Villa embodied its owners ambitions: to become a country squire with a force of valuable slaves. Ward also hoped to acquire a large stable of stallions, fillies, and maresblooded stock that would make him the envy of other men. The horses would do much more for Ward than indulge his penchant for gambling. They would prove that he was now a member of the Souths eliteno longer just a steamboat clerk who had to buy slaves at a discount, or a man who wielded his power only over the criminal set, but a master who controlled substantial wealth and commanded respect from his peers, including on the track as a man of the turf.
Wealthy white southerners had raced horses for sport since colonial times, using the track to display the power of the planter class. By the time Ward moved to Woodford County, slaveholders remained, by and large, the only southerners with the means to invest in Thoroughbreds. In the first half of the nineteenth century, however, the center of gravity in American racing had moved west from the Atlantic seaboard to Kentucky and the Mississippi River. Sugar and cotton planters in the Deep South flaunted their wealth at elaborate racetracks such as the Metairie Course in Louisiana, and Bluegrass farmers paid to have their horses shipped by steamboat down the river to try their luck. In the spring of 1854, for example, while Wood was awaiting the outcome of Wood v. Ward, a group of proud Kentucky turfmen had sent a horse called Lexington to race against two southern steeds, Arrow and Lecomte.10
Lexington bested his challengers, breaking world records for speed and appearing to vindicate the superiority of Bluegrass stables. Meanwhile, racing rivalries deepened the cultural ties between slaveholders in the Upper and Lower South, despite their regional differences. The planters
who cheered Arrow and Lecomte came from states where slavery fueled monoculture on a massive scale. For the Upper South slaveholders who cheered Lexington, slave labor was part of a more diversified economy. Their slaves might work in a field, but they also might be hired out to work in a Lexington factory, in a house in Frankfort, or on a steamboat in Louisville, and some slaveholders even used enslaved men as jockeys at the track. But whether they hailed from Kentucky or Mississippi, when wealthy white slaveholders came to the races, they signaled their mutual membership in a master class.11
Zeb Ward now belonged to that class, too. He had acquired fifteen slaves by May 1859nearly four times more than he had owned in 1856. He had also purchased nearly 450 acres of land, and both numbers grew by the 1860 Census, which valued his real estate at $60,000 and his personal estate at $30,000, including twenty-seven slaves. They worked on Wards farm producing hemp and other crops, which he usually sold from a profitable store he ran in town, and by February 1862, his holdings included 581 acres.12
Ward had also thrown himself headlong into raising horses, though he remained several lengths behind the better-known turfmen around him. R. A. Alexander of Woodburn, an estate just up the road from Ward Villa, was heir to a British industrialists fortune and had once paid the staggering sum of $15,000 to buy the champion Lexington, whose career was ended prematurely by blindness. Alexander had put the horse out to stud at Woodburn and soon became the most respected breeder in the state. Though Lexington died in 1875, the inaugural year of the Kentucky Derby, all but nine of the derbys first sixty-one winners would be directly descended from the blind hero of Woodburn.13
Though Zebulon never owned a horse comparable to Lexington, he proved a quick study in the Thoroughbred business. He frequented Alexanders farm with his neighbor Willis F. Jones, and by the spring of 1859 he owned at least thirty-one horses. On October 6, 1859, Ward even exhibited some harness horses and two Thoroughbred mares at an agricultural fair in Mercer County, winning a prize. At the state fair that same year, he bought a prize-winning horse for $700, reselling it not long after for $1,000 to a gentleman in the South, according to a newspaper report.14
The master of Ward Villa clearly remained a gambler at heart, but he hoped to prove that he was now a gentleman, too. All signs seemed to suggest that he would succeed. Zebs future likely unfurled before him in a series of pleasing scenes: a generous pour of whiskey on the porch as twilight fell, the nickering of his pedigreed horses from the barn, the sound of his slaves breaking hemp and working in the kitchen. But the idyll, for Ward, would be disturbed almost as soon as it beganfirst by rumors of rebellion and war, and then by the realities.15
The rumors arrived in Woodford County in the fall of 1859. On October 16, in Harpers Ferry, Virginia, the abolitionist John Brown led an armed band of nineteen men, including five who were black, in a midnight raid on a federal armory, apparently intending to arm slaves for an insurrection. In the next few days, Kentuckians read reports of how Brown was surrounded and captured; how evidence of his plans was found among his possessions; how he appeared to have allies in numerous other states. On November 19, news arrived in Kentucky of a letter sent to Brown by a man named Day, which seemed to contain plans for another operation. The negroes, at the instigation of some white scoundrels, designed an attack on the towns of Frankfort and Versaillesor so the Louisville Daily Courier reported. Then the rebels would proceed to devastate the country.16
The idea did not seem far-fetched in those early days after the Harpers Ferry raid, which sparked hysteria across the South. The threat on Versailles appeared more credible than most; Virginia officials had intercepted the letter to Brown from Day and then sent it directly to their counterparts in Kentucky. Some concluded that the author must have been Norris Day, a friend of the notorious Delia Webster, whose alleged affair with Newton Craig had scandalized the capital, and many were prepared to suspect the worst about abolitionist infiltration in the state. John Fee, a Kentucky native, still ran a free labor colony in the Bluegrass. The black abolitionist John Parker of Ripley, Ohio, had crossed the river multiple times to assist fugitive slaves. And William Bailey, an editor in Newport, printed a radical paper that he called the Free South. At almost the same time as Browns raid, he had even published an item urging the champions of freedom to make war on slavery where it exists.17
Far more circumstantial evidence had led to panic in the Bluegrass before. In 1856, while Ward was still keeper, a fire broke out in Frankfort and a newspaper reported that a negro was discovered, under suspicious circumstances, raising fears of a larger plan by black incendiaries. Later that year, as Christmas approached, several counties along the Tennessee border were seized by reports that a group of slaves was planning to make for the North, slaughtering all the whites in their way. No armed rebellion had occurred, but many white Kentuckians thought they knew the cause of such alarms: as one paper remarked, there were too many people with abolition proclivities in the state, and they needed to be stopped.18
In 1859, therefore, vigilantes acted quickly to meet the threat, egged on by Kentucky governor Beriah Magoffins warning that our lives, and the lives of our wives and children, are threatened. Within two weeks of Browns arrest, a mob led by two officers of the law attacked Baileys press. Then, after reports that Fee had told an audience in New York that we need more John Browns, sixty men on horses ran most of Bereas free labor colonists out of the state. Meanwhile, in Franklin and Woodford Counties, local authorities appointed a special police force and called up a militia in Versailles. Both stood ready to fight at the first sound of the tocsin of war.19
Ward barely had time to celebrate his prizes from the Mercer County Fair before he was also swept up in the rush of events. Having wrangled with abolitionists before as a deputy sheriff along the Ohio River, and then as a jailor for negro stealers in Frankfort, Ward may well have taken part in the defensive preparations around Versailles. After all, he was now the owner of many valuable slaves himself, and he also knew that beneath the seemingly placid surface of the race-horse counties, an undertow of resistance always lurked. One of his own enslaved men had escaped from Ward Villa earlier that fall, making it to neighboring Anderson County.20
White Kentuckians tried hard to keep their fears in check. One local newspaper editor in Frankfort warned other editors not to engage in loose talk about the recent reports, lest white Kentuckians begin to seem unsteadied. Any Harpers Ferry scoundrel that turns up here, promised the Yeoman, will be hung in front of the arsenal, over the banks of the Kentucky river.21
Zeb Ward, too, put on a brave face in the wake of John Browns raid, but if a battle did occur with abolitionists in the South, the master of Ward Villa knew which side he would choose. In fact, a week after the warnings of insurrection in Versailles, Zebulon calmly sat down and addressed a letter, to be sent by express mail to His Excellency Governor Henry Wise of Virginia, where John Brown and other raiders had, by then, been sentenced to hang.
Dear Sir, he began,
I send you by Adams Express this morning a rope made expressly for the use of John Brown & Co. Kentucky will stand pledged for its being an honest rope. I had it made in her behalf & send it to show that we are willing & ready to aid our mother State in disposing of those who may attempt to destroy & overthrow her government. I hope you will use it.
The hemp rope, Ward explained, had been made at Frankfort for the express purpose of hanging the Harpers Ferry raiders. He hoped Wise would pass it over to the proper authorities to be used, signing the letter, Yours With Respect, Zeb Ward, Late Keeper, Kentucky Penitentiary, Versailles, Ky. It was dated November 23, 1859.22
Wise received the letter and the length of rope four days later, on a Sunday. On Wednesday, he entrusted the rope to a military officer headed to Charlestown, Virginia, where Brown was to be hanged on Friday, December 2. One reporter present said that several other ropes, including one made of South Carolina cotton, had been on display that week as Browns date with the gallows approached. Each of the samples was tested in advance to check its strength. But only one proved to be strong enough for a hanging noose. In the end, the hangman chose the rope sent from Kentucky.23
The new year began with John Browns body moldering in its grave, and Ward trying to revive his horse racing dreams. In February 1860, he spent time at Woodburn. In May, he purchased another 144 acres and entered a filly in a sweepstake race in Louisville. And in June, he raced his horses against Alexanders in a series of mile and two-mile heats. An announcement before the event promised great sport ahead.24
On the political horizon, though, there were signs of trouble. Browns execution had made him a martyr to many in the North. In the South, a vocal political movement, led by men called fire-eaters, had seized on the
Harpers Ferry raid to call for their states to secede. According to Virginian John Tyler Jr., the son of a former president, Brown had invited the slaves throughout the South to rebellion and a feast of blood and rapine. When, Tyler wondered in April 1860, would the People of the South decide that they were justified in the establishment of a new and independent confederation?25
The answer was not yet, but some southern leaders had been pondering secession for years, tallying up what they perceived as the Norths many sins: resistance to the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law; violence against proslavery settlers in the West; and most of all, the rise of the Republican Party. Founded in 1854, the Republicans drew together a wide range of exclusively northern supporters, from radical abolitionists to moderates who opposed the expansion of slavery, and the partys ranks had swelled after 1857 and the Supreme Courts decision in Dred Scott v. Sanford. That ruling said people of African descent had no rights that white Americans had to respectand seemed to say that slaveholders had a right to take their slaves anywhere in the nation. Party leaders declared that an irrepressible conflict was coming with the slave states, and by 1858, Republicans had taken control of the House of Representatives. Fire- eaters denounced them as Black Republicans who preached racial equality and bore the blame for men such as Brown.
Many leading Republicans denied both of those charges, especially as the presidential campaign of 1860 began. The Republican candidate, Abraham Lincoln of Illinois, was on record distancing the party from Harpers Ferry and declaring that he did not support full racial equality. Secessionists in the South were not reassured. Republicans, including Lincoln, said that slavery was morally wrong, that there was no nationally protected right to property in slaves, and that slavery existed only as a creature of state law. The party wanted the federal government to withdraw support from slavery in every place that it legally could. And although Republicans said that Congress could not unilaterally abolish slavery in a state that wanted to keep it, their long-range strategy was clear to fire- eaters: the slave states would be surrounded and left to their own defenses, while Republican rhetoric incited a thousand more John Browns.26
The mere chance of such a result led secessionists to disband the Democratic Partys convention in Charleston that April, exploding a national party that still controlled the White House and the Senate. Three
different presidential candidates would vie for Democrats votes in the polls that November. In the end, Lincoln won the election, but without a single electoral vote from any slave state. Before he could even be inaugurated, seven southern states had seceded and declared themselves the Confederate States of America. A full-fledged rebellion in defense of slavery had begun.
The first rebels hoped that they could quickly persuade the other slave states to join them. Two days after Christmas in 1860, a commissioner sent to Frankfort by the governor of Alabama presented a long letter to Governor Magoffin, urging Kentuckys citizens to secede. If the policy of the Republicans is carried out according to the programme indicated by the leaders of the party, warned the rebel commissioner, who was himself born in Kentucky, the result would be slaverys ruin and an eternal war of races. Republicans would inevitably destroy the most valuable property of the South, while consigning her citizens to assassinations and her wives and daughters to pollution and violation to gratify the lust of half-civilized Africans. Two weeks later, similar arguments persuaded Alabama to secede.27
Governor Magoffin leaned toward secession, too, though most white Kentuckians remained unconvinced. They shared Magoffins fears about the Republicans, but not his faith in secession as the answer. For one thing, Kentucky was closer to the free states, more vulnerable to attack and to abolitionists than Alabama. To throw off the protection of the Union, as one Kentuckian put it, would be like bringing the Canada line to the Ohio River, giving enslavers no hope of recovering runaway slaves from the North. In February, another Unionist, in Lexington, made the prescient point that slavery could not long exist in a State bordering upon a hostile nation at war with her about the subject of slavery.28
Kentucky conservatives like these were proslavery and pro-Union. Believing that the Confederacy would fail, they hoped the country would soon return to the long tradition of compromise that had typified relations between Kentuckians and their neighbors to the north, people with whom they shared many ties of kinship. Lincoln himself, a man who had married into a Bluegrass family, leaned heavily on those connections as he made his way from Illinois to Washington after his election. Stopping on his birthday at Lawrenceburg, Indiana, just across the river from where Touseytown had once been, Lincoln told his listeners that he was sure you are all Union men here. Then, gesturing to the Kentucky side of the Ohio, the president-
elect said he was equally sure that you are in favor of doing full justice to all on that side of the river. Later that day, in Cincinnati, the president- elect assured Kentuckians that Republicans would abide by all and every compromise of the constitution.29
Those pledges worked, for the moment. Even after Confederates fired upon Fort Sumter in April and Lincoln issued a call for seventy-five thousand volunteers, Unionists continued to predominate in Kentucky. By the middle of May, Arkansas and Virginia had joined the Confederacy, which had already mobilized sixty thousand soldiers for civil war. Kentuckys legislature instead endorsed a policy of neutrality, warning that soldiers, whether from the North or the South, would not be allowed in the state.30
Neutrality struck many Republicans as tantamount to treason, but the policy temporarily enabled the illusion that normal life could go on. In fact, on May 18, while politicians in Frankfort debated the states next steps, Zebulon Ward was celebrating at the Woodlawn Race Course in Louisville. In a race for the Challenge Vase, a $1,000 trophy commissioned by R. A. Alexander and designed by Tiffany and Company in New York, Ward won his first big success on the turf. His horse Sailor, by Yorkshire, finished in third place, beating an offspring of Lexington in the fastest four-mile heat that had ever been run in Kentucky.31
Three days later, North Carolina seceded, bringing the number of Confederate states to ten. Tennessee soon became the last to leave the Union. Then, in late July, near a Virginia railroad junction called Manassas, US soldiers fought with Confederate troops around a stream named Bull Run. Spectators had come from Washington to watch, as though heading out to a day at the track. Some believed the rebellion would be crushed then and there. By the end of the battle, however, federal troops were falling back in disarray. The Union had suffered a shocking defeat.32
In the late summer of 1861, the embarrassment of US forces at Bull Run fueled a burst of outraged patriotism across the loyal states. Lincoln issued calls for a million recruits to enlist. In Kentucky, meanwhile, Bull Run served as a backdrop to state elections that were slated to be held on August 5. Even before the battle, Ward had decided to take a step that revealed his
own political views: he ran for election as a state representative for Woodford County, running as a proslavery supporter of the Union.33
Ward opposed secession, though it must have been a difficult decision to make. Some of his neighbors, including fellow turfman Willis Jones, still hoped that Kentucky would secede. Zebs many years on the Mississippi River as a younger man also gave him reasons to sympathize with rebels in the states where he had often done business. Certainly, his 1859 pledge to help Virginia in disposing of those who may attempt to destroy & overthrow her government was one of many signs that he hated abolitionists. Now, however, it was the Confederates, not the abolitionists, who were trying to destroy & overthrow the government, and Lincoln continued to pledge that slavery in the loyal states would not be disturbed. With four slave states still in the Union, to be a Unionist did not require Ward to be antislavery.34
Kentucky voters also decisively rejected secession at the polls on August 5. Conservative Unionists swept into office, and Ward was among the winners. As he prepared to go to Frankfort for the start of the legislative session a month later, Ward nevertheless confronted new signs that proslavery Unionism would not be an easy position to maintain. The day after his election, Congress (now controlled in both houses by the Republican Party) passed the First Confiscation Act, providing that slaves used to support the rebellion would be subject to forfeiture. Instructions issued by the War Department two days later interpreted the law to mean that any enslaved people who came into federal lines should be sheltered there.35
Those steps outraged border Unionists who wanted the government to avoid disturbing slavery at all costs. Many were particularly worried about the effect of such steps on the people they enslaved. As one slaveholder in Bowling Green told a northern visitor that summer, There has been so much talk about the matter all through the State that the niggers know as much about it as we do and too much for our safety and peace of mind. In Woodford County, on August 17, a large antiwar barbecue was held in a pasture owned by Wards neighbor Jones. Ward was probably there to witness the fear and anger in his new constituents eyes.36
Two weeks later, as he arrived in Frankfort to sit in the General Assembly, talk of new crises swirled in the streets of the state capital. On
August 30, the Republican general John C. Frmont issued a proclamation emancipating all the slaves of disloyal owners in neighboring Missouri. And white Kentuckians barely had time to register that development before more troubling news arrived. On September 3, Confederate troops entered the state from the South. Three days later, federal soldiers also crossed into the state, under the command of a then little-known officer named Ulysses S. Grant.37
Those movements brought Kentuckys brief flirtation with neutrality to an end. On September 17, the General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to side with the Union, and Ward stood with the majority. For a few weeks at the beginning of September, however, anxious officials in Washington had waited in suspense to see how Kentuckians would react to a Confederate invasion. Having been warned by friends in Kentucky about the outrage there over Frmonts emancipation edict, Lincoln acted swiftly to overrule his general. When he explained his decision later to a friend who supported Frmont, Lincoln pointed to the precarious situation in the Bluegrass: I think to lose Kentucky is nearly the same as to lose the whole game.38
Events that fall showed that Lincoln had less cause for worry about Kentucky than he initially feared. The General Assembly spent the remainder of its session supporting federal military activities in the state. Simultaneously, though, loyal Kentuckians resisted the steady creep of policies aimed at dissolving slavery. One state resolution, passed in December, opposed any emancipation of slaves in Kentucky; another praised Lincoln for his rebuff of Frmonts order. Zebulon Ward cast his vote in favor of both.39
Wards proslavery Unionism would be further tested as the war effort hardened over the next winter. In March 1862, only a few days before the end of the General Assemblys session, Lincoln signed a law forbidding members of the military from enforcing the Fugitive Slave Law. At about the same time, the president gathered congressmen from the border slave states and encouraged them to consider a gradual emancipation plan in which slaveholders would be compensated.40
That plan got nowhere, but northern Republicans increasingly believed that the abolition of slavery was the only way to be sure that a loyal border state would remain that way. Still, for the time being, slaveholding Unionists in Kentucky had good reason to stand firm. Confederate troops
were driven out of Kentucky early in 1862, and during the campaign, many Union commanders in the state had actively returned runaway slaves to their owners or simply avoided the issue by refusing to allow escaping slaves into their camps. As the first year of the Civil War came to a close, slavery remained functional in Kentucky. That January, Ward even hired out four of his slaves to his rebel-sympathizing neighbor to help break hemp.41
The next month, a series of encouraging federal victories in the West also raised hopes that the war would be over soon. The Union might then be restored as it was, with the property rights of loyal slaveholders undisturbed. As his first session as a state legislator concluded, Ward looked forward to returning home to his stables. And he even had time, on March 17, to welcome the editor George Wilkes of New York to his house outside of Versailles.42
Wilkes had come to Kentucky on his way to Tennessee, hoping to cover news of the war for Spirit of the Times. Though antislavery in his politics, Wilkes remained a turfman first, and while in the South he hoped to persuade his fellow sportsmen there to attend upcoming meets in Boston, Philadelphia, and New York. His columns since 1859 had already alienated many of his southern subscribers, and the collapse of the Union had further roiled the racing community, so Wilkes hoped to shore up friendships in the Bluegrass state.43
The editor began his Kentucky tour in Frankfort, where he observed the final days of the General Assemblys session. He then rented a buggy and drove it to Ward Villa, relishing his first views of the blue grass region despite a driving wind and rain. When he arrived, Ward refused to let the journalist lodge at an inn. Instead, Zebulon put him up as a guest in his fine mansion, sending him off to bed after an abundant supper and a few glasses of genial old Bourbon.44
Wilkes marveled at Wards hospitality to his Yankee readers back home; as an aspiring horseman, Ward was probably grateful for the publicity. The next morning, Zeb took George on a tour of his racing farm. He ordered his best buggy to protect the men from the rain, placing a little nigger boy behind in order that he might open gates, according to Wilkes, and as they rode, Ward whistled at horses to call them in from their pastures. The editor and politician chatted easily about the palmy days of racing before the war
began, and they visited several area stables, including Alexanders Woodburn, where they laid eyes on the old hero LEXINGTON, the true American King of the Wind. Wilkes then parted ways with his host, though not before securing a list of the fine lot of horses that Ward promised to bring to races in the North.45
Those promises suggest Wards hope that the war and its threats to slavery would soon end. But three weeks after he hosted George Wilkes at Ward Villa, a gruesome battle near a small church in southwestern Tennessee would leave twenty thousand men wounded or deadthe bloodiest day of fighting, to that point, in all of American history. After the Battle of Shiloh, as it soon became known, the war would continue for three more years. And it would not end before it had brought revolution to the gates of Versailles and beyond.46
C H A P T E R F O U R T E E N
R E V O L U T I O N
News of a civil war reached Henrietta Wood more slowly than it had Zebulon Ward, and neither of her interviews said exactly when or how she first learned of the fighting. Newspapers in Natchez covered the march to secession, but the laws of Mississippi made it a crime to teach enslaved people to read. In addition, most of the people with whom Wood lived and worked remained relatively isolated in a rural world. Though Natchez was fewer than a dozen miles away from Brandon Hall, she remembered that slaves in the country never got to town more than once a year.1
That did not mean they were unaware of political events. Some enslaved people learned how to read in spite of the ban, and some also did jobs that required moving about. Carriage drivers, wagoners, and messengers all went frequently to town or to other farms, circulating news, and by 1860, informal lines of communication crackled with rumors of distant events. One day, a black woman named Dora Franks, who lived even deeper in the countryside than Wood, heard her owner tell his wife that a bloody war was coming. Franks and the other enslaved women on the place started praying for freedom right away, as she later recalled.2
Wood may have learned of the war in a similar way, eavesdropping while at work in the laundry or the kitchen. In January 1861, delegates to a secession convention in Mississippi voted to become the second state to withdraw from the Union, declaring that our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery. Many large planters in the Natchez District were initially opposed to the war, fearing that it would jeopardize their wealth. Not the Brandons, though. Gerard Brandons uncle became a Confederate officer; two of his brothers enlisted. So the white folk at Brandon Hall had much to discuss in the wars first year
discussions that people who worked in the house were well positioned to hear.3
Enslaved people had to handle whatever they knew with care. Many planters around Natchez already feared that the black majorities in their counties knew too much. Only a few weeks after Fort Sumter fell, a group of enslaved men in Jefferson County were accused of forming a conspiracy to march up the river to meet Mr. Linkin bearing off as booty such things as they could carry, as one accuser put it. Several suspects were put to death. At about the same time, across the river, a planter in Tensas Parish overheard a conversation among his slaves that revealed, according to him, that the negros all knew of the war and what it was for. In nearby Claiborne County, an enslaved preacher named Anthony Lewis was taken into the woods and threatened because he had publicly expressed support for the Union to other slaves. Lewis recanted to save his life, but a fellow slave remembered the gist of what he had said: if the Yankees whipped the Confederates we all would be free. An enslaved man in Adams County, under questioning in 1861, put more bluntly what he had heard from friends: the Northerners make the South shit behind their asses.4
The white residents of the Natchez District reacted to such talk with heightened vigilance during the wars first year. In the village of Washington, for example, not far from Brandon Hall, a troop was created to defend against such persons white or black as may be detected in causing or engaged in insurrection, and their menacing activities could not have escaped the notice of enslaved people. Benjamin Wailes even worried that excitable boys, witnessing the formation of the Washington Troop, would talk about it indiscreetly with our servants.5
In 1861, however, enslaved people still had more to fear from panicked white residents than the other way around. After the war, many of the black men and women who lived through those harrowing days did recall talking about what would happen if faraway troops came. Most stopped short of acting before any arrived. Spooked planters saw little difference, though, between planning an insurrection and talking about politics. Five months after the war began, a group of planters near Second Creek in southern Adams County uncovered evidence that a network of enslaved drivers, including a teamster owned by Brandon, knew a great deal about the war and had been discussing what to do now that freedom was at our door. A group of inquisitorial planters concluded that a massive plot was in the
works. Over the next few months, dozens of enslaved menby some accounts, hundredswere executed, many of them strung up at a racetrack near Natchez.6
Littleton Barber, an enslaved man living in Adams County at the time, later testified that he took good care that no white persons heard me say anything about his Union sentiments, especially after witnessing the rate of executions. Barber continued to talk to a few of my own color about our chances for freedom. But his main advice, he remembered, was to watch & pray for when the Union troops Came.7
Henrietta probably did the same: watched, listened, and prayed. She knew from her life in Ohio, and even her suit in Kentucky, that rumors of allies farther north had a degree of truthbut also that antislavery allies were not all-powerful. More than likely she kindled Union sentiments herself, sharing with others everything she already knew about liberty both its flavor and its fragility. Perhaps she even dared to hope that she would taste it again, if the Union troops did come.
In any case, black Southerners saw from the start how the fighting might benefit them, and the hushed conversations among slaves in the Natchez District were echoed in most slave states during the Civil War. In September 1861, for example, as vigilantes hanged dozensor hundreds at the Natchez racetrack, enslaved people near Frankfort, Kentucky, gathered to greet the arrival of an Ohio infantry regiment. It was a pattern that would be repeated throughout the war: wherever federal armies went, they attracted freedom-seekers. By the middle of 1862, as one chaplain in the Army of the Tennessee reported, enslaved people were flocking to US military camps in such numbers that it was like the oncoming of cities.8
That fact terrified large planters like Brandon in Mississippi, where the mass flight of slaves would mean the loss of millions of dollars not to mention the loss of the labor needed to bring in their cotton. For the first year of the war, Brandon and his overseers tried to continue business as usual, putting in crops on his various plantations. But a dry summer stunted the yields across the region, depressing an already sluggish market. We are sorry to hear last accounts of your crop, a New Orleans cotton dealer wrote to Brandon in October 1861, but it is the same everywhere. The dealer could only hope the Almighty will overrule everything for good.9
The New Year brought Gerard few signs of the Almightys favor. One of his ten-year-old daughters, a twin, died on January 19, 1862, plunging his household into grief. Then bad news began to arrive about the war. In February, Union forces captured Nashville, Tennessee, and Columbus, Kentucky. The Battle of Shiloh in April brought a huge army to within striking distance of Mississippi. Even worse for planters on the Mississippi River, federals took New Orleans on April 25. Within a month, their boats began to pass below Natchez.10
The recapture of New Orleans brought about the rapid dissolution of the plantation order in southern Louisiana, forcing many planters to flee up the river. Brandon must have watched with equal alarm as the federals inched down the river from above. Confederate forces abandoned Memphis and Fort Pillow that June, leaving the federal government in control of all but about two hundred miles of the Mississippi. Natchez, for the moment, remained in the segment of Confederate control that ran from Port Hudson to Vicksburg, but it was unclear how long that would last. That September, a gunboat fired on the town for several hours, starting a few fires.11
Still, Brandon had at least two reasons for hope in those (to him) dark days. Instead of mounting an assault on Vicksburg that summer, which would have meant the certain occupation of Natchez, the western armies of the United States moved toward middle Tennessee. Moreover, Confederate defeat seemed imminent to many at the time. It may have consoled Brandon to think that defeat would at least come while his closest relatives in uniform survivedand before a general emancipation could totally destroy his wealth.
* * *
Back in Kentucky, Zebulon Ward had the same hopes in 1862: quick end to the war, slavery still intact. Over the previous winter, his wife, Mary, had been pregnant with twins who died that spring in childbirth, bringing tragedy to Ward Villa not long after death also struck Brandon Hall. But in the case of Ward, a Union man, the personal loss was followed by cheering news from the front. By the end of June, after months of delay, US forces had advanced to within six miles of Richmond, the Confederate capital. We shall be disappointed, said the New York Tribune on June 5, if the
National flag is not flying over every considerable city of the South by the 4th of July.12
Buoyed by the national mood, Zebulon decided in June to leave his convalescent wife at home and take some horses to a series of races in the North. A group of Northern turfmen had organized the races in the hopes of building new ties between Kentucky horse farms and sportsmen in the Northeast. The first was held in Philadelphia, where newspaper reports said that Wards fine horses performed wellwinning one highly exciting heat. He continued on from there to New York, where twenty-five hundred people turned out for the Fourth of July holiday to watch some of his horses race at the Union Course on Long Island.13
The success must have gratified Ward, who was introduced to readers by a New York Times journalist as well-known in Kentucky and the adjacent country. The trip only boosted his reputation as a man of the turf, and even more gratifying may have been the signs that many white Northerners still welcomed loyal border-state slaveholders such as he.14
But the races in New York ended with news of shocking setbacks in the war. That week had begun with predictions that national troops would occupy Richmond within days. Instead, by July 6, the New York Times looked back on the previous seven days as the heaviest week we have had since the war began. After a series of bloody battles, federal armies had been turned back from the Confederate capital, and as the races at the Union track came to a close, a feeling of despondency descended over New York.15
Wards mood must have darkened, too, though he traveled on to Boston for another round of races. There he also received distressing news from home. Throughout the summer of 1862, as Union armies slowly made their way across Tennessee, roving Confederate cavalry regiments had been wreaking havoc on their supply linesburning railroads, damaging bridges, picking off men and stock in guerrilla-style raids. One of the most infamous raiders was the Kentuckian John Hunt Morgan, and in mid-July, Morgans men made it all the way to Lexington and Versailles, where he hoped to recruit more soldiers.16
While Morgan was welcomed by local secessionists, including Wards neighbor Jones, he targeted Unionists in the area for punishment. Morgan set up his headquarters in the pastures at Ward Villaarresting the stable
manager, emptying the smokehouse, and mutilating the gardens. As a final insult, when leaving town, Morgans cavalry stole six of Zeb Wards horses.17
By the time Ward returned to Kentucky for a called session of the state legislature, which began August 14, it was clear that the war would not be over soon after all. Moreover, setbacks on the battlefield had only hardened the resolve of Republicans in Washington to attack slavery more directly. On July 17, Congress passed the Second Confiscation Act, declaring all persons held as slaves by traitors to the Union to be forever free of their servitude, as well as a new militia act that allowed black men to serve in the military. Then, in September, President Lincoln announced his plans to issue an even broader Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, which would free all slaves in areas still in rebellion.
Unionist slaveholders howled with displeasure over the mounting signs that Lincoln wanted slavery abolished, though none of his steps should have been a complete surprise. In May, Lincoln had warned the border slave states that the signs of the times pointed to emancipation. On July 12, two days before Morgans raiders arrived at Ward Villa, Lincoln had met with border state congressmen again, urging them to reconsider his offer to support gradual, compensated emancipation. Soon enough, he counseled, the abrasions of war would lead to the end of slavery by other means.18
Those abrasions came to Kentucky in full force that fall. Emboldened by the successful raids of cavalry officers such as Morgan, Confederate generals in the West launched a two-pronged attack on Kentucky. The rebels briefly occupied Frankfort in September, before fresh US troops swept across the state, repelling the rebels at the Battle of Perryville on October 8. As Northern regimentsmany of them composed of abolitionist soldiersmoved across the Bluegrass, enslaved people reacted as they did elsewhere when the opportunity arose: they fled in large numbers to US Army lines.19
Kentucky slaveholders tried in vain to hold on to their human property. Even though Lincolns forthcoming Emancipation Proclamation exempted loyal states, the application of military policy on the ground undermined slavery in Kentucky anyway. Soldiers in the Twenty-second Wisconsin, for example, sheltered fugitive slaves in their ranks as they marched across Kentucky that winter. In one case on the road between Lexington and
Frankfort, a white Kentuckian appeared alongside a group of Northern troops on the march and found a man he claimed as his slave. Holding a gun to the black mans head, the enslaver demanded that he come along. A colonel appeared and sent the white man packing.20
Startled by such stories, conservative Unionists like Ward struggled to accept how dramatically things had shifted since 1861. A week before Christmas, even Woods former lawyer George Kinkead lamented recent events in a letter to his brother-in-law. The political skies look to me gloomy as midnight, he wrote. Noting rumors from the Deep South that the negroes have broke loose and are with savage ferocity claiming their freedom, Kinkead bemoaned that each Union defeat emboldened abolitionists in Washington. We are still annoyed here by the soldiers enticing our slaves away.21
In Frankfort, Kinkeads dismay was echoed by the man he had once tried to defeat in Wood v. Ward. After Lincoln had issued his promised Emancipation Proclamation, Ward used a debate in the General Assembly over a military funding bill to launch into a tirade about the unconstitutional and iniquitous course of the Radicals in Washington. Then Ward registered his disgust by proposing an amendment making clear that Kentucky would not ask its soldiers to enforce emancipation. He still hoped slavery in Kentucky could survive the maelstrom of war.22
For Brandon, news of the Emancipation Proclamation could not have come at a worse time. The death of his other twin daughter on December 13, 1862, had cast a pall over Brandon Hall again. Embargoes and droughts had also weakened cotton production, and in 1862 the bottom had fallen out of the market, leaving bales in the field across the cotton kingdom. Brandons hundreds of slaves provided a tenuous economic safety net as the new year began, but now Lincolns proclamation threatened that capital, too.23
Most concerning were the signs that US military commanders were refocusing their attention on the Mississippi River. In November and December, federal forces from New Orleans pushed farther into the Louisiana interior, liberating slaves wherever they went. As 1863 began, Ulysses S. Grant developed new plans for besieging the Confederate stronghold of Vicksburg, Mississippi, the last significant obstacle to total Union control of the Mississippi River. Meanwhile, US commanders in
Louisiana began to make extensive use of black regiments, for both military labor and combat operations.
The worst nightmares of white Confederates seemed to be coming to pass. From a Louisiana plantation just below Vicksburg, one diarist noted with concern the federal recruiters moving through the plantation districts and persuading slaves to join them, the Negroes generally going most willingly, being promised their freedom by the vandals.24
Many slaveholders now determined that their only option was to run away themselves, forcing as many enslaved people as possible to come with them. That May, Brandon received a letter from T. C. Holmes, a planter who had lived in Natchez before moving to New Orleans. It informed him that Holmes had taken his slaves to a plantation Brandon owned on the Louisiana side of the river, near Waterproof. Holmes had tried to push on toward the Red River, but he backtracked when he discovered troops in the area and local residents more panic stricken there than here. Hemmed in but hopeful that the Union forces would not come farther down the Mississippi, he asked Brandon permission to remain on his place. Holmes would start planting corn if the yankees leave me alone.25
Before long the Yankees came. The town of Vicksburg surrendered to Grant on the Fourth of July. US troops in Pennsylvania won the pivotal Battle of Gettysburg on the same day. The last serious rebel garrison on the Mississippi fell a few days after, and the whole of the river now finally lay under federal control. Little more than a week after the capture of Vicksburg, Union soldiers arrived in Natchez and took it without a shot.
Afterward, enslaved people in the Natchez District fled their plantations by the thousands and streamed into town. Quickly overwhelmed by the refugees, US Army officers struggled to provide for the freedom-seekers in crowded, disease-ridden camps that were hastily organized under the bluffs. Fleeing from the countryside to Union lines remained dangerous even then. In one case, a group of twenty enslaved people were killed near Natchez while trying to get to town. According to Northern abolitionist Laura Haviland, who had arrived to help in the camps, slave owners also shot at an escaping black mother and hit a baby she was carrying. The mother continued to Union lines, Haviland reported, with her dead child in her arms, to be buried, as she said, free.26
The arrival of Northern troops and the flight of slaves brought revolution to Adams County at last. Victory over the rebels in their own States, wrote one correspondent from Natchez to a Chicago newspaper, is necessarily followed by the freedom of their slaves. Almost immediately, US officers in Natchez also began to enlist black men. A white officer in one of the new black regiments in Natchez described its operations for a Wisconsin paper in January 1864, reporting that our first quarters were in a long range of barracks used for a number of years as slave pens. He referred to the buildings outside town that had once been Forks of the Road.27
Very many of the men composing the regiment had been sold in these pens, explained the correspondent to the Milwaukee Sentinel, brought from Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and other slave States, in large gangs ironed. Because the ramshackle buildings at the Forks were exposed to attack, the regiment soon received orders to tear them down and use the lumber to construct new quarters in town. The order came just at evening and was hailed with the wildest enthusiasm by these men, who worked throughout the night. The morning sun saw the slave pens of Natchez leveled to the ground, a striking proof of the revolution emancipation had brought.28
Henrietta Wood, however, did not get to see the change, for by the time an army of liberation arrived in Natchez, she was already long gone. When the news came to master that the Yankees were coming toward us, she recalled in her interview with the Ripley Bee, his wife made him take us to Texas. For Wood, and a few hundred other people who lived at Brandon Hall, freedom was still years away.29
C H A P T E R F I F T E E N
T H E M A R C H
Gerard Brandon was already on the run when he learned that Confederate forces had lost control of the Mississippi. He had made the decision to flee on July 1, 1863, leaving his wife and children behind and setting out for the West. He had forced a large group of slaves to go with him to the river probably close to three hundred souls, maybe two hundred more. Overseers had also come with wagons and supplies. Then Brandon had paid to ferry them all across the water, mere days before Vicksburg fell to Grant.1
After the crossing, the caravan turned its back to the river and marched. Gerard marked their progress in a small leather book. In the first days they were slowed by more ferries at Cocodrie Bayou, Cross Bayou, and Little River, each one putting more distance between his slaves and the Yankees. Finally they got all the way to Alexandria, a Confederate military headquarters in the heart of Louisiana. And then he received the news of the defeat at Vicksburg.2
Going back now, he knew, meant surrender to the Republicans and losing his slaves. It meant going bust, which was why he had gone away. So Brandon ordered the people he enslaved back onto the road. His thought was to reach the Sabine River and cross it into Texasthe last refuge, it seemed, for a slaveholding refugee.
Old Brandon picked out five hundred of his best slaves and went to Texas for safety, Lafcadio Hearn would write in 1876, and Henrietta Wood recollected it all, because she was one of the marchers. When we had got about 100 miles from Natchez, she remembered, Brandon got a dispatch that Vicksburg had fallen into the hands of the Yanks. When he read it he said, Oh hell! we are done for. We might as well go back. But instead, Wood continued, we went on some 400 miles into Texas.3
By July 1863, Brandon was not the only Confederate planter in flight. As federal armies tightened their grasp on the Mississippi River, attracting fleeing slaves to their lines wherever they went, many slaveholders had decided to flee. Texas beckoned as one of the places where US troops had not reached, and where cotton continued to be grown and sold across the border to Mexico.4
One Confederate cavalryman reported from Arkansas in November 1862 that every day we meet refugees with hundreds of Negroes, on their way to Texas. A few months later, a Massachusetts chaplain stationed in southern Louisiana found it common to come across households led by white women, each of whose husbands had gathered together his best hands (the young, strong-limbed men), his finest horses, and all his mules, and started for the prairie near Alexandria, whose soil the foot of the Yankee, he thought, would never desecrate.5
Running was risky, however, and always a last resort. The crowded roads were often in total disrepair. Food, supplies, and medicine were scarce, making prices high, and avoiding Yankee troops was never guaranteed. Only a few months before Brandon and his caravan arrived in Alexandria, federal forces had briefly occupied the town, freeing thousands of people in the parishes around.6
Even if a planter such as Brandon could get to northeastern Texas, refugees there also faced a different kind of threat. By the end of 1863, Confederate officials in Texas were pressuring planters to provide slaves for forced military labor, such as building fortifications to keep the Yankees out. Many believed that refugees should bear the brunt of the levies. In September 1863, a few months after Brandon began his own flight, planters around Alexandria were hearing troubling rumors from persons returning from Texas that as many as half of a refugees slaves might be impressed by the state.7
Many planters left to take their chances in Texas anyway. One formerly enslaved man in Mississippi later recalled his owner ordering his slaves to git everything bundled up and in the wagons for a long trip. When one man refused to go along for the ride, the white man viciously flogged him. Other planters relied on different kinds of duress, such as separating spouses and families on the march, moving people too sick and too weak to resist, or telling lies about what Lincolns men would do when they came.
We met several planters on the road, noted an eastbound traveler in Louisiana at the time, and one road seemed to be almost alive with negroes, who are being run into Texas. We must have met hundreds of them. Tens of thousands of slaves eventually made the trek.8
As for Brandon, on July 8, 1863, he was still in Alexandria, ruing the news from home and the desperate road ahead. It was a Wednesday when he appeared at the military headquarters in town to get a Pass permitting travel through Confederate lines to Texas. A strange thing for a master: to be told where he could go. But Brandon counted himself lucky to have gotten off with his slaves. He even wondered now whether he should have brought more, though with Vicksburg lost, there was nothing to be gained by looking back.9
At last, on July 14, he reached the Sabine River. Two weeks after leaving Brandon Hall, Brandon had made it to Texas. But his slaves had barely managed to survive the grueling trip.
Henrietta Wood had never walked so many miles in her life, camping out on the road even in the worst of weather. Years later, she tried to convey the misery of the march. Brandon had brought some wagons on the journey, she said, together with what Wood recalled as a whole drove of mules. Some people rode one of them, she explained. Yet Henrietta refused to straddle a donkey like a hair pin, and she only spent one day riding on the march. She also feared that a wagon would tip over, and not without reason. Brandon could have chosen to travel through Natchitoches, joining a very old road that snaked to Milam, Texas. But he may have decided instead to stay off the road altogether, moving due west from Alexandria to a crossing at Sabinetown. If so, the last week of the journey was across a gullied landscape not easy to navigate on wheels.10
The roads in Texas were not much better, especially under the increased wartime load. By the end of the war, somewhere between 50,000 and 150,000 slaves were refugeed to Texas by fleeing planters. No one was sure exactly how many came, but it was more than enough to make most of the states roadways impassable. One newspaper editor in the town of Marshall, Texas, even proposed that all the incoming slaves be put to work on public roads, especially since there are more negroes in the State now than were ever here before.11
Planters were more interested in renting land and putting their slaves to work producing cotton again. Brandons first stop was near the town of Butler in Freestone County, the northern edge of rich cotton country known as the Bottomlands. Fed by the water of the Brazos River, the east-central counties of Texas had produced a profusion of cotton in the decade before the war, and Brandon encountered many refugees already in the region. He traveled around for several weeks looking for land to rent, before finding a farm owned by Joseph S. Able in Robertson Countyright along the banks of the river Brandon misspelled as the Brassos. A county tax collector found him settled there in 1864 along with 270 slaves.12
Wood was among them. She later told Hearn that her health and strength were gone, but at least she had survived. Others had reached Texas just in time to die, such as Jack Mose, Dudly, and a baby belonging to Lucy. Brandon recorded their deaths and others in his small leather pocketbook, wedged between pages that listed his traveling expenses:13
Thornton drowned on 24 July, found body next day
William (7 years) died August 5th
Winston (Mandys) died August 10th 63
Winstons death worries me, Brandon confessed. It was a fine child, seemed but little sick at first.14
Frances (Diceys) (4 years) died August 15 63 Lucinda (Jane) (10 months) died August 15 63 Gerard (Diceys) (2 years) died August 18 63 George (Palina) 6 years died September 13
The list of deaths reached eighteen names as the days passed, often with no meat. Mules sickened, too, and by September Brandon seemed to give up on cataloging it all: how many cases I have doctored of sick negroes swelled feet & legsswelled stomachsDiphtheriafever. Wood herself was among the sick and the lame, later telling the Ripley Bee I was sick a whole year from exposure.15
Yet in one significant way, at least, Henrietta had been spared. All around her now were women whose babies had died on the road, or on Ables land in the northwestern corner of Robertson County. There were also mothers whom Brandon had forced to abandon their children in Mississippi, and who wondered if they would ever be reunited. But
Henrietta did not have that sorrow to add to her sufferings, for when Brandon fled, she later said, I coaxed him to let me take my child with me.16
It was the first time in her story to the Ripley Bee that Wood had mentioned her son.
P A R T I I I
T H E R E T U R N O F H E N R I E T T A W O O D
C H A P T E R S I X T E E N
A R T H U R
Lafcadio Hearn knew that Henrietta Wood had a son, but he did not meet the man and he did not publish his name. What the Cincinnati reporter said in 1876 may have been all that he knew: her only child, a boy, was in Chicago, doing well.1
In 1948, however, more than seventy years later, a reporter named Dennis Murray would interview Woods son, by then an elderly man named Arthur H. Simms. Wood had been dead for three dozen years, but Simms remained in Chicago. According to an article by Murray in the Sunday Chicago Tribune, he was just about to turn ninety-three years old and had worked for decades as a lawyer in the city.2
By that time, nearly a century had passed since Simmss mother was sold in Natchez, Mississippi. The world looked very different. People now listened to radios and traveled by cars and planes. Televisions were spreading into the homes of American families. Simms had been married, fathered two kids, and buried his wife and children. Atomic bombs had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
A photograph with Murrays article in the Tribune showed a dapper man with a serious face dressed in a three-piece suita venerable barrister, Murray wrote, who pulled himself up from slavery and was still practicing law. The accompanying text focused mainly on his legal career and his advanced age; it said little about the woman who was his mother, whom Murray called a laundress and did not name, but census returns and other records showed that she was in fact Wood. The Tribune piece reported only that Simms was born a slave in January, 1856, on a farm 11 miles from Natchez, Miss. His mother had been sold to the plantation owner only a month before his birth.3
If so, then Henrietta had become pregnant with Arthur even before she reached Forks of the Road. When he died in 1951, however, his own death certificate would provide few details about his birth. Place: Mississippi. Date: January 8, 1856. Mothers name: Hattie Woods. Fathers name: unknown.4
Wood herself was the person who could have filled in the most blanks about Arthurs birth. Who the father was and why she had chosen his name. Whether she had been forced to work until her labor began, and who had attended the delivery. Whether she had been permitted to feed him herself or forced to give him to another woman to suckle, so that she could return more quickly to the cotton.5
Yet whatever she knew about the identity of Arthur Simmss father did not survive in the records that she or her son left behind. Although the surnames slave children bore sometimes told their paternity, that was not true in every case, and Wood herself might have preferred to keep the knowledge concealed. After all, if Simms remembered his birthday correctly, then she had been impregnated while imprisoned in a Lexington slave jail, or while laboring for a prison keeper who had abducted her. Remembering it, for her, was almost surely a torment.6
Wood might never have told her son exactly how it happened. It is difficult to imagine that she consented to his conception, given her captivity at the time. Becoming a mother would also have been shadowed by the recent terror and grief of reenslavementas well as the knowledge that her child would now be born enslaved. Wood once told Mary Ward that only a man could whip her; perhaps the defensive boast was the scab for a deeper wound.7
Specific dates would help to clear up parts of the mystery. One possibility is that Arthur was actually born before 1856, maybe even before his mothers sale at Forks of the Road. After all, she told Hearn that she was forced to nurse for the Wards, an ambiguous term that could have meant she was forced to breastfeed their children, and if so, then she must have given birth before then.8
Another possibility is that Wood became pregnant after Ward had returned her to Lexington and the negro traders, a class of men notorious for raping women they sold. Or Arthur could have been conceived on the way to Mississippi. A steamboat like the one that carried Wood down to
Natchez would have had many corners where men could assault women. One formerly enslaved man who was forced to work for a slave trader remembered being ordered to put a particular woman, Cynthia, in a stateroom apart from the other slaves on a riverboat. Then he listened as the trader made a series of vile proposals and forced himself upon her. Perhaps Pullum or Griffin or one of their firms agents had a similar motive for taking Wood alone by rail and boat to Natchez, while the rest of the gang was marched overland from Kentucky.9
Henriettas son might have been conceived in any of these ways, or another not already named. A rape at Brandon Hall may have been among the pictures of plantation life that were later deemed, by Hearn, too horrible to tell. Then again, Wood herself may never have told Hearn or anyone else about what had occurred. The mystery surrounding Arthurs birth could suggest a trauma that pained her too much to recount.10
Whatever the case, Simms was certainly not alone in having an unknown father. According to Henry Bibb, a former slave who wrote an autobiography and was born in Kentucky just a few years earlier than Wood, it was almost impossible for slaves to give a correct account of their male parentage. After Bibb escaped from slavery in 1842, he wrote what he knew about his paternity: my mother informed me that my fathers name was James Bibb, a white slaveholder. Beyond that, Bibb knew little for sure.11
Even when it came to her own parentage, Wood knew only what her own mother had told her, though she passed that information down to her son. After her death in 1912, Arthur became the informant for his mothers death certificate, which listed her parents as William Williams and Daphne Williams. William may have been Simmss own recollection of the name that Henrietta and her brother had remembered as Bill. That name also appeared, with Daphney, in the 1834 list of Moses Touseys slaves. Her fathers eponymous last nameWilliamsmay have stood in place of a surname that Simms never knew, or her parents never had. After all, Josh had said they were called by the last name Tousey.
Adding to the mysteries surrounding Woods own paternity are the various words that were sometimes used to describe her appearance. After her kidnapping, for example, some court records and newspaper reports described her as a mulatto or yellow girl, terms meant to convey that a
person came from mixed-race parents. They could mean only that her skin did not seem very darkracial ascription always depended on the eye of the beholderbut the terms might be a sign that white men were among her immediate forebears. Like her son, Wood had no official birth record, no way to check what her mother had told her about her father.12
Slaveholders, of course, wanted it this way. Their wealth depended on denying that it mattered who a slaves father was. Whenever a birth occurred in a slave state in the antebellum period, the laws were very clear. If the mother was enslaved, so was the child; if not, then neither was he theoretically, at least. Either way, the status and race of the father were immaterial, as was the question of how a slave womans child was conceived. Legally, her increase belonged to her owner, and owners used these rules to their financial advantage. One white Kentuckian, for example, once wrote of his desire to obtain a negro woman about twenty four or five years of age of good qualities that would breed. Another advised his son, in 1825, that there is no species of property that improves an estate as fast as a healthy breeding negro woman whose children do well.13
Some enslavers grew their estates by encouraging the people they owned to procreate, exploiting their human longings for love, family, and marriage. But the law did not recognize slave marriage as an inviolate bond, or as the start of a family that could pass on an inheritance. Bibb, for example, recalled falling in love with an enslaved woman, Malinda, whose master was very much in favor of the match, but entirely upon selfish principles. He knew that their progeny would bring him profit. Another enslaved man, also born in Kentucky, remembered his owner forcing him to marry a certain woman, hoping that their union would enrich his plantation. Moreover, as Bibbs memoirs also pointed out, enslaved men and women had no legal power to prevent licentious white men from committing acts of rape that further increased their wealth when mulatto children were born. Even Malindas master only consented to her union on a condition that Bibb deemed too vulgar to repeat.14
The white man likely made clear that Malindas body remained his: he could use it however he pleased. Or perhaps he made a slur about what pleased her. Centuries of racist propaganda, dating to before the start of the transatlantic slave trade, maintained that women of color were naturally promiscuous. In an influential 1858 book, the Georgia attorney Thomas Cobb even questioned the need for laws against the rape of a female slave,
since what he called the known lasciviousness of the negro made it unlikely that a black woman would not consent to sex. Only a few years after Wood was sold in Natchez, the Mississippi State Supreme Court had agreed, in a case called George v. State, that rape was not a crime that could occur between slaves.15
Such rulings strengthened a stigma around sex and black women, one that each resisted in her own way. In an 1861 narrative about her life, one formerly enslaved woman, Harriet Jacobs, openly described the sexual economy of the antebellum slave plantation, naming the dangers that black women faced, describing assaults that she suffered, and narrating her search for love even within bondage. Slavery is terrible for men, but it is far more terrible for women, she said.16
Not all formerly enslaved women spoke as openly as Jacobs, however. Even after the Civil War and after emancipation, some black women held their intimate lives close, lest they be twisted by racists into proof of promiscuity. Reticent when it came to discussions of sex, these women used privacy as a shield to protect both their bodies and their interior lives.17
Wood may have wanted privacy, too, at least when it came to matters such as the name of Arthurs father. Some of the curtains around her story she may have drawn herself. And there were other parts of her past she may have chosen to keep concealed, including the origins of her own last name. She was already known as Wood by the time of her abduction. Some later records would call her a widow, too. Her surname may have belonged to a partner whom she loved, maybe someone back in Louisville or even Cincinnati, maybe someone she was forced to leave behind by the Cirodes. But neither of her interviews ever said a word about a husband or a lover. And the surname Wood might instead be another clue about paternity, a sign that her biological father was someone other than the man she remembered.18
One thing at least is clear: Arthur was Henriettas son. And his birth added the experiences of motherhood to all the other adjustments that her sale to Natchez brought. The future lawyer grew up around Brandon Hall.19
Simms himself, however, said little about that time. In 1948, he remembered being just a skippin baby when the Civil War began. His only recollection of the crisis, according to Dennis Murray, was of Confederate soldiers encamped near the plantation provided with provisions
by the farm, a memory, perhaps, of militias that had formed in Adams County after the state seceded. The Chicago Tribune article said nothing about a forced march to Texasor even, for that matter, about the suit that Simmss mother would later file against Zebulon Ward.20
Wood, though, remembered the days when Brandons wife had told him to run off to Texas, taking slaves with him to keep them enslaved. She also made sure her interviewers knew that she had coaxed Brandon to let her take her child along on the journey, and that somehow she succeeded. Sometime after her sale to Natchez but before her march to Texas, Woods story had become the story of a mother, too. From that point on, her struggle was for more than her life alone.
C H A P T E R S E V E N T E E N
R O B E R T S O N C O U N T Y
After marching hundreds of miles from Brandon Hall, Henrietta Wood arrived in Robertson County, Texas, in the summer of 1863, barely able to put one foot in front of the other. In 1876, Lafcadio Hearn reported that she had to walk on crutches for a year.1
That would have made it difficult for Wood to do the kinds of labor that Brandon most valued upon his arrival in Texas, where he hoped to be, as his journal put it, at Home for the war. The refugee planter wanted his slaves to raise cotton there, though he also rented the labor of some of his slaves to locals desperate for help. On August 29, Brandon wrote in his small journal that he had been besieged for two days by persons wanting to hire negroes, men & women, especially for domestic service. When healthy, Wood might well have been among the women he would have hired out.2
Injury did not exempt Henrietta Wood from hard work; it merely determined the kind of hard work she could do. Her recollections about the move to T
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The Multicultural Lesson Plan cheap essay help
Please see the attached assignment. There is also a sample for you to review. This assignment will be checked by the professor for plagiarism. Please be original.
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How many women of color have to cry? write essay help: write essay helpCurrent Topic Project is a report on a news article which will connect our course work to the most current developments of interest to the field, especially those that impact people’s day-to-day lives.
Select a news article published in the last 12 months that focuses on a topic of interest to Women’s Studies [choose from the list below, or choose your own based on the criteria described in the next section of this assignment]……….
My topic How many women of color have to cry?: Top feminist organizations are plagued by racism, 20 former staffers say (The Lily) [July 2020]
After you have read your chosen news article, respond to the questions below in a 700-1,000 word (3-4 page) report about the article and what you have learned, focusing on the aspects of interest to Women’s Studies:
Title, author, publication, date, and url for your news article.
Brief (1-2 sentence) summary of the main topic of the article.
Why would this article be of particular interest to a Women’s Studies student or scholar? If you’re not sure, one place to start is to review the information about Women’s Studies found in Module 1: What Is Women’s Studies?.
What did you learn that you didn’t already know by reading this article?
Which topic, person, example, or idea in the article would you like to know more about? What questions would you suggest the reporter ask in a follow-up article?
What social, political, personal, historical, economic, artistic, or other impact might the information in this article have? Why?
Is there anything you read or thought about while reading the article that has relevance to your life outside of this class or outside of the article itself?
Include quotes and examples to support your discussion as part of your responses to questions 3-7. Remember to include in-text citations and a References list for all references to the article or class learning resources, whether quoted, paraphrased, or summarized.Please note that this assignment is a report, not an essay. You must write in complete sentences, but you do not have to write it as an essay with a thesis, body paragraphs, etc.. Instead, it is recommended that you number each response as you answer the questions. To meet the word count requirement, be sure to answer questions 3-7 in detail, and give specific examples or quotes (cited!) for each answer.There is a sample News Report Essay attached to this assignment.Choosing a news article:An acceptable news article for this assignment meets all four of the following criteria:
is found on one of the publications/sites listed in this Forbes report of 10 Journalism Brands Where You Find Real Facts Rather Than Alternative Facts: [there are many more than ten reliable news sources to choose from if you scroll to the bottom of the article]
was published in the last 12 months.
has a byline (a named author), and is not marked “op-ed,” “opinion,” or “editorial”
has as its main focus a topic of interest to Women’s Studies
Writing Guidelines:This report should demonstrate that you
read the article closely.
are considering the article from the perspective of Women’s Studies.
can write an organized, clear, detailed, and properly cited report .
Use APA Style to format the report and all citations (in-text and in the references list).
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250-300 word reflection paper buy argumentative essay help: buy argumentative essay helpInstructions:
Students are required to write a 250-300 word reflection on this question:
With afocus on main thinkers who developed thoughts on human nature and its constrains, reflect on the centrality of human nature to (classical) realist theory of IR
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HIST 1378: Information Literacy Reflection Assignment college essay help online freeDr. Young : Summer 2021
Information Literacy Reflection Assignment
Due Date: Wednesday, July 7, at 11:59 p.m. No late papers accepted or graded.
Submit your paper to the Turnitin.com link in the Week Fourteen folder on the course Bb page. Worth 50 points/5 percent of the course grade.
Required length: three to five pages (900-1500 words).
PURPOSE: The purpose of this assignment is for you to reflect on the process of doing history. Once you develop the habit of reflecting on your learning process for your individual courses, you will better retain the critical thinking skills developed in those courses. Doing so will benefit you throughout your college career and into your professional lives beyond the university. Craft a response to the question prompts listed below under task. SKILLS: Successful completion of this assignment requires the skill of self-reflection and assessment along with clear and crisp writing. Ultimately, success in college and beyond depends on how well you reflect on your own work and change course as needed. KNOWLEDGE: First for the definitions: According to the American Library Association, information literacy is defined as a set of abilities requiring individuals to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information. This assignment asks you to tell us how you learned in this class. Because one of the goals of the course involves learning historical mindednessa concept that merges knowledge of historical evidence, critical thinking skills, and effective research strategiesit is important to reflect on that process at the end of the semester. Reflection matters in the learning process because it helps one solidify and internalize what has been gained from the course. Over time I have discovered that students who are most successful in college coursework are the ones who internalize and/or personalize the material. Once they see how it applies to them specifically, not just to the history of the United States (in the case of this class), they become more engaged and retain the critical thinking skills and the material longer. TASK: Write a letter to future students in this class in which you explain how to succeed. There are no wrong answers for this assignment, but there are specific concepts that must be discussed and evaluated as you deal with the following charge: Your letter must address the larger context of how the class impacted you on a personal level. How did it reinforce and/or challenge your beliefs, convictions, assumptions, previous knowledge, etc.? Be honest and be thoughtful. In doing so, your letter must explain:
1) why and how this courses approach to history is different from rote memorization; 2) why and how information literacy skills helped improve the process of doing history;
3 how you went about selecting which documents to evaluate in your essay assignment and in your discussion board work for each topic; 4) why and how seeing scholarship (meaning academic writing, not scholarship money) as an active conversation in which you are a participant changes the way you think about your role as a student; 5) and, why and how textual, audio, video, and visual sources are similar and different, noting the rewards and challenges of working with each.
If putting the assignment in the form of a letter proves too difficult for you, you may write a straightforward reflection, but to be eligible for full credit your work must adhere to all the requirements described above. CRITERIA FOR SUCCESS:
1. Permissible and impermissible sources: Completion of the paper assignment requires consultation of no additional sources beyond those materials assigned for the class. Any use of class materials should only be done to support points you make as you reflect. You must not use Wikipedia or any other Internet source. What you write must be entirely your own work.
2. Formatting: Make sure that your paper is typed and double-spaced, has standard one-inch margins, 12-point font, Times New Roman. Put page numbers on your document.
3. Late papers: Late papers will not be accepted.
4. Citations: There should be no need to cite because there should be no need to quote for this assignment but if you do cite any of the assigned course materials then use the parenthetical method as you did for the Section Assignments.
5. Word Counts: Word counts will be strictly enforced. Essays that are too short will earn a failing grade. Your TA will quit reading at the 1500th word, meaning that any words after that wont be graded.
PURPOSE:SKILLS:KNOWLEDGE:TASK:CRITERIA FOR SUCCESS:
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Life and Times of Frederick Douglass mba essay help: mba essay helpRead the Life and Times of Frederick Douglass and answer the following 2 questions in essay form (sentences in paragraphs). All work must be in your own words. You cannot use any quotes from any source . Your responses to the test questions must come exclusively from Douglass’ autobiography or the course textbook, Give Me Liberty. The question that is worth 100 points must be at least a minimum of 600 words and the other essay must be a minimum of 300 words. Each response must meet the minimum word requirement or it will not be graded. Please number your responses so that I know which question you are answering. If you do not do so, I will deduct 25 points from your test score.
1. Discuss Frederick Douglass relationship with John Brown. Include in your discussion: their meetings, their differences on freeing slaves, Douglass view (supportive or unfavorable) regarding Browns retribution on pro-slavers in Kansas, Harpers Ferry, and the governments hunt for Douglass after Harper Ferry. (100 points)
2. Describe Douglass views on his treatments and receptions in republican Massachusetts (a free state) with his treatment in monarchial Europe (England and Ireland). Also, include in your essay his views on the two voyages (to and from Europe) on the Cambia, and the bittersweet result of his return trip on that steamer. (50 points)
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What determines a persons gender? university essay helpBased on the learning resources for this week, what do you conclude determines a persons gender? Did the reading change any of your thinking on gender? If so, which ones and why?
Next, answer one or more of the following questions using the learning resources for support:
Is it useful to create additional categories for gender? What would we gain as a society? What might individuals gain? Would we lose anything? What if we were to do away with gender categories altogether?How do the words we use affect the way we understand the world around us? Can changes in language be an effective way to combat sexism and racism? Can you think of an especially useful example?How do the accepted gender norms for “femininity” and “masculinity” limit human potential? Who is most limited by these categories? In what ways?What are some of the issues or pressures faced by women regarding their sexuality that do not exist in the same way for men? Does race, class, or sexual orientation add to (or, perhaps, subtract from) any of those pressures?Why do you think that our culture is generally more comfortable with women taking on characteristics of masculinity than with men taking on characteristics of femininity? How has this comfort (or lack thereof) affected changes in social gender norms and expectations over time?Do our current societal structures present particular challenges to gender-fluid or gender non-binary people [people who do not identify themselves as either female or male] that are different from those experienced by cisgender or transgender people? Do you know of any ways those challenges are being addressed?What role do you think parents should play in the development of their childrens gender identity and/or their understanding of their sexuality?References, watch, or listen to all of the learning resources listed below.
Gender lecture- this loads slowlyLinkTask: View this topicUnit II: Challenging Binary Systems and Constructions of Difference sections 7-11LinkTask: View this topicAlmost 90% of men/women globally are biased against women.LinkTask: View this topicA Vindication of the Rights of WomanLinkThe Social Construction of GenderLinkThere Are More Than Two Human SexesLink
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