Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Why would slaves fight for the United States, a nation that kept them in bondage, during the War of 1812? Why did free blacks join with the British or with the Spanish, or with Native American communities during the conflict? These questions form the basis for Gene Allen Smith’s new book, The Slaves’ Gamble: Choosing Sides in the War of 1812. In this gripping story, Smith, a history professor at Texas Christian University, recreates the growing conflicts between the fledgling United States, Great Britain, Spain, and various Native American groups, and shows how each group “tried to mobilize the free black and slave populations in the hopes of defeating the other.” When the War of 1812 began, free blacks and slaves consciously chose the side they would support, and those tenuous choices dramatically impacted their future freedom and opportunity as well as the future of the United States.
This book looks at African American combatants during the War of 1812 as a way to understand the conflict as well as the evolution of racial relations during the early nineteenth century. Black participants—slaves and freemen both—had to choose sides and these choices ultimately defined their individual and collective identities. Canadian slaves escaped south into Michigan during the first decade of the nineteenth century and joined the militia in Detroit and later surrendered with General William Hull in August 1812; this contradicts common perceptions that the Underground Railroad always ran north to freedom in Canada. In fact, for a very few years during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries the route to freedom proceeded south from Canada to the free territories of the Old Northwest. Once the war ended, the route turned north to freedom in Canada.
Along the Chesapeake Bay during 1813 and 1814 many slaves joined the British Colonial Marines and later marched with Redcoats on Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, while others chose to remain with their masters. Maryland slave Charles Ball consciously declared himself a freeman and joined Joshua Barney’s flotilla in the Chesapeake. During the British 1814 Chesapeake campaign Ball fought for the Americans at Bladensburg and in the defense of Baltimore. During the fall of 1814 in New York City, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, slaves and free blacks joined alongside white American workers to construct defenses for those cities.
Later in 1814 along the coast of Georgia and South Carolina slaves had to choose sides. Cumberland Island slave Ned Simmons immediately discarded his shackles to join the British army, yet he was never transferred off the island. When peace came he became victim of tense Anglo-American negotiations. Stripped of his British uniform, Simmons was re-enslaved, and did not secure his freedom until 1863; the centenarian Simmons died only a few months after being liberated by Union troops.
Along the Gulf of Mexico during the War of 1812 slaves found multiple choices—some joined with the Spanish, some with Native American tribes and others with the British. During the weeks before the climactic January 1815 Battle of New Orleans, both the British and General Andrew Jackson competed for slaves and free blacks. Two regiments of free men of color volunteered to defend the city, and then Jackson promised freedom to slaves who would labor on the American line. Jackson ultimately secured their assistance with promises of equality and freedom that never fully appeared.
During the years prior to the War of 1812 African Americans had gained increased political, economic, and civic rights; many of these concessions had been won by black participation during the War for Independence and their support for a new political system based on the primacy of the United States. Slaves saw this jostling for their loyalties as “an avenue to freedom,” and consequently joined armies or communities of Native Americans or mulattoes on the fringes of society.
The War of 1812 did not create opportunities for all slaves, as for the most part slaves fled or joined militias only when hospitable troops were in the area. Those who remained in the United States generally remained in bondage, while those who took the chance to flee to British lines were mostly evacuated from the United States. The latter group found freedom in British colonies such as Bermuda, Canada, or Trinidad, where they and many of their descendants remained impoverished economically. This gripping tale of the evolution of race relations in early America reveals how these people won their freedom.
By the time the War of 1812 ended the United States had reaffirmed its political, economic, and cultural freedom, and white Americans had finally realized that armed blacks posed serious threats to the existing status quo, and that threat would have to be eliminated. The optimism that had flowed from the Revolutionary period into the War of 1812 era lost its influence on American southerners who still maintained their human property, but thereafter had to worry about holding onto it. In the end, the free blacks and slaves who had sided with the Americans, like those who had joined with the British, the Spanish, or with Native Americans, wanted only one thing—their land of the FREE. Instead the War of 1812 confirmed the security of the United States, and provided the last chance for blacks as a group to secure their freedom through force of arms until the American Civil War finally ended slavery once and for all.
The Slaves' Gamble is written by:
Gene Allen Smith
Dept of History
Texas Christian University
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
May 2012's National Geographic will be featuring some of this extensive Civil War collection, the largest organized sketch book collection to date.
Sunday, March 11, 2012
Monday, January 23, 2012
Friday, October 7, 2011
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Near Richmond you find the Richmond National Battlefield Park with extensive information about the two key Union Army campaigns to capture Richmond. Here you'll explore battlefields from the Peninsula Campaign and later actions.
A driving tour of several civil war sites in the greater Richmond area is maintained by the "Virginia Civil War Trails". The White House of the Confederacy is now part of the Museum of the Confederacy. This building has been fully restored to look as it did in the Civil War era. Daily tours. Next door is the "must see" attraction of this area - the Museum of the Confederacy (see below for description).
Do not miss the new "Richmond Slave Trail" and museum, which features exhibits and a walking trail to showcase the inhumanity and hardships of the southern slave economy.
4305 Sulgrave Road. English manor home originally built in 15th century and then dismantled and transported to Richmond in 1928. Leaded glass windows, Tudor and Stuart artifacts, authentic furnishings and formal gardens.
1109 W. Franklin St., the museum features artifacts of international, national and local Jewish life and history. It is open to the public Sunday through Thursday from 10 am to 3 pm. For information on exhibits, guided tours, lectures or volunteer opportunities, please call (804)353-2668.
Located at 1142 W. Grace St., this National Historic Landmark was restored to Federal Period grandeur. It houses the Monument Avenue Museum, The US Marine Raider Museum and the Military Knife and Bayonet Museum.
For additional information, call (804) 353-1812.
00 Clay Street. Neoclassical style structure built in 1832 and purchased by Maggie L. Walker in 1922. In 1932, it became the African-American branch of the Richmond Public Library; in 1991 it was converted to a museum and cultural center for visual, oral and written records and artifacts commemorating the lives and accomplishments of Blacks in Virginia from their arrival in 1619 to present. Artifacts, videos, historical documents, and photographs are used to highlight the achievements of African-Americans in Virginia through.
For more information, call (804)780-9093.
The Children's Museum of Richmond is located at 2626 W. Broad St.. Come out and explore over 250 interactive exhibits including the wonders of flight, illusions and astronomy in the 42,000 square-foot museum. An interactive, hands-on museum for children ages 6 months to 12 years. Permanent participatory exhibits include - How it Works, the Feeling Food Neighborhood, the Art Studio and Our Great Outdoors. There is also an OMNIMAX film and multimedia planetarium show.
For more information, call (804)474-2667.
Located at 3215 E. Broad St., the museum stands on the eastern end of downtown Richmond, at the site of the Civil War's famous Chimborazo Hospital. Between 1861 and 1865 more than 75,000 Confederate soldiers received treatment at this sprawling facility. The medical museum tells the story of those patients and the hospital and physicians that cared for them. Using artifacts, uniforms and documents, the exhibits describe the state of medicine in 1860. In highlights the care of wounded and sick soldiers on the battlefields, and in the many large centralized Richmond hospitals like Chimborazo. Chimborazo Medical Museum is open to the public, free of charge from 9 - 5 daily.
For more information, call (804)226-1981.
Located between 19th & 20th Streets on East Main Street, this museum features exhibits on the life and career of Edgar Allan Poe. By documenting his accomplishments with pictures, relics, and verse, and focusing on his many years in Richmond; visitors get a glimpse of what Edgar Allan Poe was like. Five small buildings and an enclosed garden house the poet's possessions and memorabilia.
For more information, please call (804)648-5523.
Located at Ninth and Marshall Streets, this house was the home of John Marshall for 45 years. He was the pioneer chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. The house was built in 1790 and is the oldest brick house surviving the City. Restored as a house museum, it contains artifacts from Marshall's home and professional life.
For more information, call (804)648-1889.
Located at 110-1/2 E. Leigh St., the Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site commemorates the life of a progressive and talented African American woman. Despite many adversities, she achieved success in the world of business and finance. She was the first woman in the United States to found and serve as president of a bank. The bank she founded, now Consolidated Bank & Trust, is the oldest surviving black-operated bank in the United States. The site includes her residence of thirty years and a visitor center detailing her life and the Jackson Ward community, in which, she lived and worked. The house is restored to its 1930's appearance with original Walker family pieces.
For more information, call (804)780-1380.
Located at 1700 Hampton St., this 100-acre Victorian estate, once home of Major James H. and Sallie May Dooley, was bequeathed to the City of Richmond in 1925. Features include: nature center and gardens, a carriage collection, children's farm and native Virginia wildlife exhibits (with more than 300 animals, almost 60 species), and the restored mansion. Since 1975, Maymont has been maintained and operated by the private nonprofit Maymont Foundation.
For more information, call (804)358-7166.
Meadow Farm Museum/Crump Park
Located at 3400 Mountain in Richmond, this 1860's living historical farm recreates the life of a middle-class rural family. Changing exhibits, gift shop and orientation videos are features in the orientation center.
For more information, call (804)501-5520.
Located at 1201 E. Clay St., adjacent to the restored historic White House of the Confederacy, this modern facility holds the world's most comprehensive collection of military, political and domestic artifacts and art associated with the period of the Confederacy, 1861-1865.
For more information, call (804)649-1861.
Located at 102 Hull St., steam, passenger, freight and other artifacts of Virginia's rail heritage are on display near the 1831 birthplace of Virginia railroading. For more information, call (804)233-6237.
Located at 3215 E. Broad St., in the Chimborazo Park Visitor's Center Between 1861 and 1865, Union armies repeatedly set out to capture Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy, to end the Civil War. Three of those campaigns came within a few miles of the city. The park commemorates eleven different sites associated with those campaigns, including the battlefields at Gaines' Mill, Malvern Hill and Cold Harbor. Established in 1936, the park protects 763 acres of historic ground. Begin with an explanatory film, and then tour the well-preserved sites of the Civil War battle fields. There are history programs and more at the Chimborazo Park Visitors Center.
For more information, call (804)226-1981.
Located at 2500 W. Broad St., this museum offers wonderful hands-on learning and fun. There is also a planetarium and special shows all year.
For more information, call (804)864-1400.
Located on the University of Richmond campus, the university has three museums: The Lora Robins Gallery of Design from Nature, The Marsh Art Gallery and The Joel and Lila Harnett Print Study Center.
For more information, call (804)287-6424.
Located at 1015 E. Clay St., this museum features the life and history of Richmond. Major changing exhibitions focus on American urban and social history, costumes, decorative arts and architecture. The museum's 1812 Wickham House features rare neoclassical wall paintings.
For more information, call (804)649-0711.
Located at Richmond International Airport, 5701 Huntsman Road, the Virginia Aviation Museum is a division of theScience Museum of Virginia. This shrine to the "Golden Age of Aviation" enhances the Science Museum's aerospace exhibits with its extensive collection of vintage flying machines. Learn which planes earned the nicknames: Rolls Royce, Cadillac and Flying Bathtub. Stroll past exhibits on pioneer aviation, World War II and the Virginia Aviation Hall of Fame. Enjoy aviation films and lectures in the Benn Theater. And if that's still not enough, how about getting an up-close view of the incomparable SR-71 Blackbird!
For more information, call (804)236-3622.
Located at 200 W. Marshall St., this museum houses antique fire and crime fighting memorabilia and operates as a museum and educational center. The museum is a National Historic Landmark. Richmond has the distinction of having the second oldest police force in the country and one of the oldest fire departments as well.
Located at 2000 E. Cary St. in Shockoe Bottom, this museum is a tribute to Holocaust survivors. It features hands-on children's exhibits and an educational resource center. For more information, call (804)257-5400.
Located at 428 N. Boulevard, this museum offers a comprehensive collection of Virginia History. Nine-museum galleries exhibit rarely seen Virginia treasures. An extensive library for historical and genealogical research is also available. For more information, please call (804)358-4901.
Located at 4301 Sulgrave Road, this reconstructed English manor was home to Alexander Weddell, former United States Ambassador to Spain, and reflects his fascination with England and its history. The gardens are one of the highlights of the tour.
For more information, call (804)353-4251.
This top ten comprehensive art museum features 5,000 years of artistic achievement from the glories of ancient Greece and India, to contemporary international art. Major special exhibitions at all times. Also a not-to-be-missed museum shop, cafe´ and restaurant. Open 365 days a year and general admission is always free. For more information, call (804) 340-1400. Located at 200 N. Boulevard.
Located at 2200 Mountain Road, this National Historic Landmark commemorates the career of a pioneer of vocational education. For more information, call (804)261-5029.
Located at 215 S. Wilton Rd. off Cary Street, this house is an impressive example of mid-18th century Georgian architecture with fine interior paneling accented by exquisite period furnishings. Wilton house is one of Richmond's architectural treasures.
For more information, call (804)282-5936.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Philadelphia Pennsylvania offers the history traveler some of the richest experiences in the USA, from tours of the Betsy Ross home (background here) to Independence Hall and the US Mint. You'll also find extensive colonial architecture as well as the Liberty Bell and much, much more. Here was the home of Betsy Ross, an early American Patriot who created the first US Flag at the behest of George Washington. Players offer free shows here and at other Philadelphia venues that address the historical and cultural themes of early life in the American colonies.
Also don't miss "Franklin Court" with the exceptional museum of Benjamin Franklin artifacts and history.