A Slave A Plantation A War: Post-Visit

At the end of this lesson, each student:

Will compare the words of a slave, a plantation owner, and a war general to those reflected in the song lyrics of the previous activity.

Will explain how songs can reflect inaccurate viewpoints of the Civil War and provide at least two viewpoints of slavery, plantation life, and the Civil War.

Will explain how the lives of the people on this plantation changed at the war's end.

Diary excerpts, letters, and other primary source documents containing the words and viewpoints of a slave, a plantation owner, and a Union war general.

Following the field trip to City Point, students will have a greater understanding and visual perception of how one slave, one plantation owner, and one war general lived before and during the war. Students will be familiar with the experiences of Paulina Eppes, Dr. Richard Eppes, and General Grant following this field experience. They will compare the experiences these individuals had before and during the war to the opinions expressed in the lyrics of the songs. While songs reflect general feelings of a culture, they cannot express the opinions of a whole group of people.

Involvment of the Learners:
Open the activity by reading the following document:

Song Entitled: We are coming from the cotton fields

We are coming from the cotton fields
We are coming from afar;
We have left the plow, the hoe, the axe
And are going to the war;

We have left the old plantation seat
The sugar and the cane
Where we worked and toil'd with weary feet,
In sun and wind and rain.

Words: J.C. ---n; music: J.C. Wallace; pub.; Root & Cady, Chicago, 1864
The Civil War Songbook, Richard Crawford

Transition to Explanation:
How does this document portray the life of a slave? What are the truths of the song lyrics? What are the misconceptions of the song lyrics? Now, how do the words of the following people fit into your own ideas of slave life, plantation life, and the reasons for the Civil War?

Students will work in small groups to create a web or a list of characteristics of a slave, a plantation owner, and a Union Soldier.

Students may work in pairs to read the primary source documents of a slave, a plantation owner, and a war general.

Upon reading these documents, students will summarize the basic feelings of this particular slave, plantation owner, and war general. Student will then compare the words of these three people to the opinion list they have formed. Do the two documents match or are there some differences?

Students will discuss the differences they have found in their perceptions of slave life, plantation life, and soldier life and those espoused by the examples.

Words of Slaves

"Yes, Tom Hatcher was very kind to his slaves an' didn't 'low dem to be too severely punished. Yes, sometimes slaves would run away an' take refuge on Tom Hatcher's place an' he was very kin' to 'em an' didn't return 'em to dey masters. Yes, he protect dem 'til he foun' out where dey came f'om an'de circumstances o'de leavin.' Well, yes, his 'state was said to be a refuge fer slaves when dey run away f'om dey cruel masters."

Mrs. Patience M. Avery
215 Kentucky Ave., Petersburg, VA
Interviewed March 19, 1937

"I was born January 9, 1849 on the James at a place called Epps Island, City Point. I was born a slave. How old am I! Well, there's the date. Count it up for yourself. My owner's name was Dr. Richard B. Epps. I stayed there until I was around thirteen or fourteen years old when I came to Hampton.

I don't know much about the meanness of slavery. There was so many degrees in slavery, and I belonged to a very nice man. He never sold but one man, fur's I can remember, and that was cousin Ben. Sold him South. Yes. My master was a nice old man. He ain't living now. Dr. Epps died and his son wrote me my age. I got it upstairs in a letter now."

Richard Slaughter (b. 1849), Interviewed December 27, 1936

"Weevils in the Wheat, Interviews with Virgini Ex-Slaves"
Compiled and edited by Charles L. Perdue, Jr., Thomas E. Barden, and Robert K. Phillips

Word of a Plantation Owner

"John Corn applied today for permission to marry a woman named Celia belonging to Mr Hill Carter, could not give my consent but told him I would sell him to Mr Carter or a neighbor if he desired to marry the woman as I did not wish to separate families it being a rule of the plantation which though bearing hard on individual cases I regard as absolutely essential to the general good."

Sunday, December 4th 1859
The Diary of Richard Eppes

"Today should truly be marked with a black as old Horace would say, being one of the most unpleasant I have spent in many days. To sum up its events, as soon as I had finished my breakfast, the negro being assembled in the washroom, I read the law of leaving the plantation without my permission to Henry Corson, the others being present and administered to him 15 lashes this having been the third time he has done the same thing each time previous having been warned. The taking away of our boats, the stealing of our oars and the absence of the negros at night from their houses has become intolerable and finding that talking and threatening had no effect I was resolved to put a stop to it by administering in full effect our plantation laws."

Friday, September 2, 1859
The Diary of Richard Eppes

..."My neighbor Mr James Proctor called & spent the evening, he brought with him a paper to obtain signatures to instruct our delegate, Mr Timothy Rives, in the State Convention to vote for an ordinance of Secession for the State of Virginia which I signed having lost all hopes of our Union with the Northern States since President Lincoln has adopted the policy of Coercion of the seceeded states. This step is perhaps the most important of my life but as the question is now narrowed down to the bare option of my State taking sides with or against the South, both my feelings and interest induce me to give my individual vote for the South, though could our rights have been fully guaranteed in the old Union of the States North & South I should have much preferred it to new combinations attended as it may with civil war & general confusion for months perhaps year."

Monday, April 15th, 1861
The Diary of Richard Eppes

Words of a General

Letter written by General U.S. Grant to General Robert E. Lee
Cold Harbor, VA., June 5, 1864

"It is reported to me that there are wounded men, probably of both armies, now lying exposed and suffering between the lines occupied respectively by the two armies. Humanity would dictate that some provision should be made to provide against such hardships. I would propose, therefore, that hereafter, when no battle is raging, either party be authorized to send to any point between the pickets or skirmish lines, unarmed men bearing litters to pick up their dead or wounded, without being fired upon by the other party..."

"As soon as Warren was fortified and reinforcements reached him, troops were sent south to destroy the bridges on the Weldon Railroad; and with such success that the enemy had to draw in wagons, for a distance of about thirty miles, all the supplies they got thereafter from that source..."

Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant

Question for thought: If you grew up as a slave at City Point and saw the Civil War end, how would you feel when you were told you were free?
Read the following excerpt from Arthur Greene, a slave from Petersburg Virginia:

"You know after de surrender us colored people didn' have no whar to go but on de road. Folks jes' stayed on wid dair masters an' mistress cause dey had no whar to go. Pitiful! Pitiful! Pitiful times an' discument we was in. Now while you stay on de plantation you had to do as dem ole white folks said; if you didn' you had to git off. See we was bound to eat so fer a while we took anything 'till we straightened ourselves out..."

"Weevils in the Wheat, Interviews with Virgini Ex-Slaves"
Compiled and edited by Charles L. Perdue, Jr., Thomas E. Barden, and Robert K. Phillips

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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