The Slaughter Family
The Slaughter family was a large family who had an ancestral attachment to the plantation dating from at least the late eighteenth century. Matthew (born 1781) and Hannah (born 1786) Slaughter were the oldest slaves on the estate. Mat had a previous marriage which produced a son named Paul (born 1803). Hannah served as a cook in her younger days. By the 1850s, Hannah and Mat were both removed from active labor and living on the Hopewell farm and managed a poultry yard.
Matthew and Hannah’s son Stewart (born 1817) was a foreman. He married, Susan Corn (born 1813), the daughter of Amy Corn. Susan was the cook by the time Richard Eppes was managing his property. Stewart and Susan received privileges that other field hands did not. As a foreman, Stewart not only was able to keep a garden, raise ducks or chickens, and receive holiday breaks but was also able to cut “eight cords of wood” in which he could receive “$10 when brought over and deposited in [Eppes’] woodhouse.” In addition, the Slaughters would be able to raise “two hogs.” Stewart and Susan had four daughters (Dilsy, born in 1841; Amy, born in 1844 and died July 15, 1861 in childbirth; Louisa, born in 1850; Emma, born in 1858) and three sons (Tom, born in 1846; Richard, born in 1849; and Peter, born in 1853).
Patty (born 1821), daughter of Jenny Oldham, married into the Slaughter family to an unknown male. She was the mother of Ursula (born 1844) and Sally (born 1847). After December 1857, Ursula shadowed her aunt Sarah in the kitchen as requested by her mistress, Elizabeth Eppes. While officially listed by Dr. Eppes as a scullion (dishwasher), Ursula was being passed the knowledge of cooking from her aunt.
Dilsy had a child named Willie who was born in 1858 but he died a little over a year later.
The Civil War shattered the shackles of bondage but it also dispersed this family. Stewart, Dilsy, Richard, Louisa, Patty, and Sally ran off the plantation in the summer of 1862. Mat and Hannah were too elderly to run away. Tom Slaughter was still on the plantation but did not runaway. Susan, Ursula, Peter, and Emma had moved to Petersburg with the Eppes family in May 1862 and thus had no opportunity to make a decision whether to stay or go. They were reunited with their family after the war and did not stay to work for the Eppes.
Richard Slaughter's involvement with the war goes further than taking flight. He mustered into Company B, 19th US Colored Trops on September 3, 1864. His unit served in the Army of the Potomac's IX (9th) Corps until incorporated into the Army of the James' XXV (25th) Corps. It is possible the Private Slaughter may have been involved with his regiment at the Battle of Boydtin Plank Road in October 1864. During the rest of the Petersburg Campaign the regiment served at Bermuda Hundred. Ironically, this land was part of Richard Eppes' plantation where Slaughter had been enslaved just a few years earlier. In June 1865, Slaughter's regiment went to Brownsville, Texas until January 1867. Private Slaughter mustered out of the United States Army on January 15, 1867. Slaughter later recalled being a cook in the 19th USCT and being detailed as a hospital staff person while the regiments was in Texas. His father, Stewart, an aide to a Union officer, died somewhere between 1865 and 1867. Richard began a career as a fisherman upon his return to Virginia.
At the time of the 1920 census, Richard Slaughter was 71 years old and living in Hampton, VA. He was married to Lucy, who was ten years his junior. His son, Junius and his wife Elsie and their son Junius Jr., lived with the Slaughters. Richard was still employed as a fisherman. His son was working in a shipyard and Elsie was a cook for a family. A decade later Richard and his wife were still living in Hampton but the household was then headed by his son.
Did You Know?
Petersburg National Battlefield is home to 23 species of mammals, 22 species of fish, 48 species of amphibians and reptiles, and 129 species of birds including 18 species of birds that are listed as species of Special Concern in Virginia.