“An honest-looking contraband”
“Charles”—his only name, as if to symbolize how slavery diminishes a man—arrived today, with ten others runaway slaves, at Camp Union in Fayetteville, western Virginia. He had walked more than
An intelligent and observant man, Charles brings a trove of information about the Confederate enemy along with some insights into the plight of slaves. Charles had lost his wife five years ago when their owner, a farmer near the town of
Slavery’s apologists like to claim how slaves are happy with their lot. Apparently not: Southerners at this time are trying to scare slaves out of escaping by telling them (Hayes recorded) that “Yankees cut off the arms of some negroes to make them worthless and sell the rest in Cuba for twenty-five hundred dollars each to pay [the] cost of the war.”
Charles also tells Hayes how Confederate authorities exploit inequality among the whites. They take the horses of poor people but not the rich, give sons of rich men discharges from military service, and force poor people to mount patrols to keep rich people’s slaves from running away.
When the fleeing Charles and his party were halted by Federal picket guards, they feared they would be mistreated. However, a blue-clad soldier lowered his gun and said to the other soldiers, “Boys, these are some of our colored friends” telling the blacks ‘come on, not to be afraid,’ that they were safe.
Charles exclaimed to Hayes, “Oh, I never felt so in my life, I could cry, I was so full of joy. And…all [the soldiers] I have seen [have been] so friendly—such perfect gentlemen, just as we hoped you were, but not as they told us you were.”
Captain Spiegel is falling in love.
IT’S COMING SOONER THAN YOU THINK:
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