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"A Scratch with the Rebels" -- The Inspiration
"A Scratch with the Rebels" -- a Photographic Record
"A Scratch with the Rebels" -- A Synopsis
Harriet Tubman and the Raid on the Combahee
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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

December 2012

Lincoln Rejects Gen. Hunter's Emancipation Decree

One difficulty Hunter faced was the lack of administrative support. Since his scheme did not have official governmental approval, he had to scrounge for staff officers. Some of the Roundheads, invited to help with the formation of the black regiment, witnessed at first hand the unit's problems of leadership and organization. John H. Stevenson reminisced:

This was called the 1st South Carolina Volunteers, though the fact of volunteering was far from being a fact, as many of the slaves were brought in as recruits by squads of armed white soldiers. [I] was tendered a commission, but Col. Leasure dissuaded me from accepting the same, though quite a number of "Round Heads" were accepted as captains [and] lieutenants, and this regiment was subsequently disbanded as the government did not seem to be ready for such a bold scheme.

            The real problem was that the Federal government was not yet ready to accept emancipation, and President Lincoln acted quickly to repeal Hunter's decree. On 19 May, he issued the following statement:

I, Abraham Lincoln, president of the United States, proclaim and declare, that the government of the United States, had no knowledge, information, or belief, of an intention on the part of General Hunter to issue such a proclamation; nor has it yet, any authentic information that the document is genuine. And further, that neither General Hunter, nor any other commander, or person, has been authorized by the Government of the United States, to make proclamations declaring the slaves of any State free; and that the supposed proclamation, now in question, whether genuine or false, is altogether void, so far as respects such declaration.

Lincoln went on to explain that he would encourage any state to consider the gradual emancipation of slaves and would offer the cooperation of the federal government in such efforts, but Hunter's decree was effectively dead. Most of the blacks rounded up in the recruitment drive of 12 May were home within ten days.

Little wonder, therefore, that when the official announcement finally arrived later that year, the slaves were reluctant to believe that this time the government really meant it.  On New Year's Eve, we are told, slave churches were full, holding "Watch Night" services, but with fervent prayers that the coming Emancipation Proclamation would last longer than the previous one.

Gen. David Huner's Emancipation Proclamation

After the Battle of Port Royal Sound on Nov. 7, 1861, the victorious Union forces discovered that all of the plantation owners and their families had fled, leaving thousands of slaves behind. Many of the military officers tried to organize help for the abandoned slaves by requesting government aid. General Hunter's solution was quicker, more expedient, and far less attuned to the anti-abolitionist sentiments still prevalent in much of the Union. He simply emancipated the former slaves. In an order, issued from Hilton Head on 9 May 1862, he wrote:

The three States of Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina, comprising the Military Department of the South, having deliberately declared themselves no longer under the protection of the United States of America, and having taken up arms against said United States, it became a military necessity to declare martial law. This was accordingly done the 25th day of April, 1862. Slavery and martial law in a free country are altogether incompatible; the persons in these three States, Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina, heretofore held as slaves, are therefore declared forever free.

Both the North and the South regarded the proclamation with disapproval. The New York Times dismissed it as absurd: "His declaring freedom to all the slaves in three States, when he has no power to free a single one outside of his camp, is regarded in Washington as an act of stultification highly discreditable to any one holding the rank of General, supposed to have ordinary intelligence."

            On St. Helena Island, the missionaries were as surprised as anyone else to learn of the emancipation, and their reaction reflected their ambivalence toward the former slaves' preparation for independence. Philbrick did not think that the emancipation decree was a very good idea, and he seemed to expect Hunter to lose his job over it. As for the blacks, he called the effect of the proclamation " . . . inconsiderable. They don't hear of it, to begin with, and if they did they wouldn't care for it." On the day the emancipation was announced, however, Harriet Ware overheard one of the house servants tell someone, "Don't call me 'Joe'; my name is Mr. Jenkins." It was a lovely expression of what freedom might mean to former slaves, but the reality was something quite different.

Hunter immediately followed up his proclamation with an intensified drive to recruit soldiers from the newly emancipated slaves. On Sunday, 11 May, "Capt. Hazard Stevens arrived at Pope's Plantation on St. Helena Island, bearing an order from General Hunter notifying the plantation that on Monday morning 'all colored men between 18 and 45 capable of bearing arms shall be taken to Hilton Head'—no explanation."

(This passage is quoted from my first book, A Scratch with the Rebels.)

Tomorrow, we'll look at Lincoln's response to this premature act.

Lincoln's 1863 Emancipation Proclamation--The Day of Jubilee

January 1, 2013, will mark the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.  In my new book, The Road to Frogmore: Turning Slaves into Citizens, that day became a crucial turning point for my characters.  In one way or another they all witnessed the first reading of the proclamation and realized that their lives had changed forever.  One spontaneous incident in particular stays with me.  Here are two reactions to that incident taken from the book. The first contains an actual quote from the journal of the white commander of the First South Carolina Colored Regiment:

Reverend Mansfield French had just presented Colonel [Thomas Wentworth] Higginson with the new flag of his regiment. Higginson unfurled it and held it high for all to see. Then, from somewhere within the crowd, an elderly black man with a wavering and cracked voice began to sing, “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.” One by one, the people around him joined in. Those on the platform, startled at first by this unscheduled moment, stood transfixed as the notes swelled and flowed around them.

Higginson wrote of the moment in his diary: “It seemed the choked voice of a race at last unloosed. Nothing could be more wonderfully unconscious; art could not have dreamed of a tribute to the day of jubilee that should be so affecting . . . Just think of it!—the first day they had ever had a country, the first flag they had ever seen which promised anything to their people.”

The second is a monologue spoken by  a Gullah woman, a former slave, who witnessed the moment from crowd's perspective:

Den we hasta walk some mo to de big army camp uh de new colored troop. Who’d a blieved dat dere could be a whole camp full uh colored soljers, all dressed up in uniforms an actin like white folk? Hastins, he say he know where we be gwine cause he kin smell de beeves a cookin.

It were a sight fuh behold. All dem black people dere, all dressit up in dere Sunday best, an de black soljers in dey uniforms, an de white folk ridin in on dere horses an carriages. Dere be a band on de platform in front, makin hand-clappin music, an eberbody be in a good mood.

Course, de white officers, dey all hasta make speeches, mostly bout what a great day it be, an why we should all be happy an grateful. Hastins mumble dat he be grateful when he git sumptin fuh eat, but I tells him fuh hush. Den dey start wavin flags round, an dat ol man Zekial, from Mr. Eustis’s place, he start singin “Muh Country ‘Tis uh Dee.” Eberting gots real quiet, an den folk start joinin in. Eben I starts singin, an Lawd know I caint sing much.

Bout den, dis all start makin sense fuh me. Dey sayin we be really free, an dat nobody caint hinder we no mo. I bin singin dose words long time, but I neber blieved dem fore. I looks round an sees people cryin fuh joy. Aint dat be sumptin!

7 New Year Resolutions for Indie Authors & Self-Published Writers

Thanks to Debbie Young for this wise list, and to Helen Hollick for passing it along.  These are resolutions that all Indie writers can appreciate.

I love new beginnings and the opportunity they bring to replace bad habits with good ones. New Year’s Eve is, for me, inextricably linked with Resolutions.
This year, I’m making not one list but two: one for my personal life and one for my life as a self-published writer and indie book promoter.
I’m sharing that second list here in case you need inspiration as 2013 dawns.
If you’d like to add any of your own at the end, please do – I’ll be happy to take them on board!

1) I will not become obsessed with statistics.
It’s too easy to waste time on statistics. Checking my Amazon sales rankings, my blog hits, my Twitter followers – and unfollowers… It’s not only a waste of time better spent elsewhere. It’s also often misleading, causing false hopes and needless despondency. Amazon employs such mysterious, ever-changing algorithms for its supposed sales figures, that they vary dramatically from one minute to the next, and are not accurate indicators of real sales, even for those published solely on Kindle. They’re best avoided. But of course, if I happen to spot a favourable figure, e.g. hitting the top 100 in an Amazon category, I reserve the right to celebrate! In the meantime, I will do all I can to optimise my  stats – which means actively promoting my books, not gazing for hours at sales graphs – without obsessing about them.

2) I will learn all I can from fellow authors in the indie/self-publishing sector.
in 2013, I’m going to make the most of the very supportive online indie author community. I will NOT do an impression of a lonely writer sitting in a garret (or study with nice garden view, in my case), with only a blank page (screen) for company. I’ll read other authors’ blogs, tweets and comments, I’ll follow the stimulating Facebook discussions of the specialist community groups that I belong to (Alliance of Independent Authors, aka ALLi, and the SilverWood Authors Community). I’ll check in regularly to GoodReads. And while I’m gaining other authors’ input and support, I’ll try to give even more than I receive.  ”You’re gonna reap just what you sow”, as Lou Reed sings in “Perfect Day” (scheduled to be played at my funeral, but preferably not in 2013!)

3) I will use Twitter wisely.
I will continue to use Twitter to focus on my self-publishing and writing interests. I will not get distracted by Stephen Fry, Gin O’Clock’s parody of Queen ElizabethThe Poke, hashtag games and other such frivolities. Oh alright, most of the time. 99% of my Twitter time will be spent on productive transactions. Honest.

4) I will blow my own trumpet.
When I achieve any significant milestones, I will give myself permission to brag about them – briefly. For example, when a great new review is published, I’ll tweet a few links, but then and only then. I will justify a little self-aggrandisement by the thought that other authors will be encouraged by a fellow writer’s success (I know I am). Success breeds success, and no writer is an island, as John Donne almost said. But I won’t bang on about it till it becomes tiresome. I will remember that Twitter is a two-way street, not a soapbox.

5) I will review other indie authors’ books.
Speaking of reviews, I will definitely continue one of the most rewarding practices that I started in 2012, which was to post reviews of books by other self-published writers on my website and elsewhere. It’s been a really helpful process not only to them but to me too. (Click here to read more about why I believe ALL indie authors should review other self-published writers’ books. )

6) I will always be prepared to promote my book.
Like a boy scout, I resolve to be prepared at all times to capitalise on any opportunity to promote my book. When Sell Your Books! was first published in October, I was caught out early on several times by enquiries from unlikely sources to which I was unequipped to respond straight away. These days, I carry a copy with me in my handbag at all times, along with business cards and bookmarks, ready to slip into the hand of the unexpected enquirer – someone I get chatting to in a shop or at the school gate for example.  This will increase the chance of converting their interest into an actual sale.

7) I will, er, write.
I’m an indie writer, therefore I will promote my books. But most importantly, I’ll keep  writing – and I will make more time to write (and format and self-publish) than I did in 2012. Because if I don’t, I’ll stop being a writer. Instead I’ll just be an online author groupie aspiring but failing to live my dream.

In 1862, Christmas Did Not Seem Very Important.

In recognition of the Civil War Sesquicentennial, "Civil War-Era Memories" features excerpts from The Memphis Daily Appeal of 150 years ago. The Appeal is publishing from Jackson, Miss. Perspective from our staff is in italics.

Dec. 17, 1862

CHANGE OF LOCATION. Having removed the publication office of the APPEAL from Grenada to Jackson, we have to request that all letters and communications, as well as the exchange favors of our editorial contemporaries, be hereafter directed to the latter instead of the former place. The interval of two weeks, lost in the removal of the office, will be made up to all subscribers now on our books.

Dec. 18, 1862

BATTLE OF FREDERICKSBURG. The engagement of Saturday shows what decisive advantages may be obtained over superior numbers by courage and determination. The loss of the enemy is shown to be three times as great as ours, and it is evident that the hearts of The Federal troops are not in the war ... Their spirit is broken by the conversion of the war into an Abolition crusade, and we predict that on all future battle-fields they will fall easy victims to the prowess of our arms. (Visit the battlefield at http://bit.ly/YugT74)

(Readers of Beyond All Price will remember that the Battle of Fredericksburg gave Nellie Chase a national reputation as an angel of mercy, as well as providing the title of my book about her.)

Dec. 19, 1862

The Yankees call the soldiers of our army "seedy." From the way their generals are superceded of late, we incline to the belief that they are getting super-seedy.

Dec. 20, 1862

As soon as the rains set in it will be impossible for large armies to advance through Mississippi. But these same rains will raise the rivers so the enemy, having control of the waters, can use them for offensive purposes.

Dec. 22, 1862

The removal of the APPEAL to Jackson, compulsory upon the coming of the Yankees to Grenada, will impress the public yet more strongly with the vitality of the paper. One object the Yankees had in their raid toward Grenada was its suppression. The frequency with which your editorials are quoted in the Northern journals, and the impression they make on Yankee and foreigner, show the importance of maintaining the regular issue of the journal, and be the day of its return to Memphis near at hand or distant, let us hope it will never know a week's hiatus. DIXIE. (Dixie was the Appeal's Richmond correspondent.)

Dec. 23, 1862

The Gunboat Cairo. The admission of the enemy settled the question of the complete destruction of the gunboat Cairo on the Yazoo river. This was one of their most formidable vessels and the success of the gentlemen engaged in planting the destructive missiles will be hailed with joy. The feat is a victory that can and will be followed up until their monsters are driven from our waters. (The USS Cairo, which helped to defeat Memphis the previous June, is one of only three Civil War-era gunboats still in existence. It can be seen here as it appears today: http://1.usa.gov/U2crWQ)

Owing to the failure of a supply of paper of our usual size, which has been in transit several days, to reach us, we are compelled to lay before our readers a smaller sheet than heretofore. The difficulty will be overcome in a short time, and meanwhile the quantity of reading matter will not be lessened, as we shall fill our present space with as small type as possible.  (I was tempted to print this whole article in a tiny font, but took pity on aging eyesight, including mine!)