CHAPTER 51
The Tracy Family History
Slavery


 

Locust Grove
(Charlottesville)
Home of Judge Lemuel F. Smith

    It is back to Albemarle County and another of the Meriwether plantations; this time, Locust Grove.
    In his will, the slave owner, “... he directed that the families of his servants should not be separated, and expressed regret that circumstances prevented their emancipation.”
    A lot of our people owned a lot of slaves. However, there were no more than a dozen plantations in Virginia that had more than a hundred slaves.

    "William Woods, the eldest son of Michael and Mary Woods: He acquired a large estate in Albemarle and adjacent counties in Virginia and took an active part in the Colonial Wars, holding the rank of Colonel. At one time, he conveyed 60 Negroes and 7,200 acres of land to his cousin, Capt. McDowell."

    The disposition of slaves is quite common in our people's wills. In many of the wills, their slaves are listed simply as other properties; to wit:

"State of South Carolina. In the name of God, Amen. I, James Wallace, of Jacksonborough, in the State aforesaid, practitioner of Physics, (He was a doctor. I suspect he was the doctor who went behind enemy lines at Guilford Court House to attend the American wounded.) being sick and weak in body, but of sound and disposing mind and memory, do make, ordain, constitute and declare this to be and contain my last Will and Testament in manner and form following: First, I will and devise that all my just debts and funeral expenses be paid out of my ready money, and that the Balance thereof be divided equally among my five Brothers named as follows, Gustavus Wallace, Michael Wallace, William Wallace, Thomas Wallace and John Wallace, share and share alike. Also I give and bequeath unto my five brothers aforesaid to be equally divided among them all of my land and Negroes in the State of Virginia, my Kentucky lands, my slaves in South Carolina named Jim, Minda, Little Jim, Abraham and a Female infant Daughter of said Minda, as also my Bonds, Notes, and Book Debt. Also it is my will and desire that my present crop of Rice be made up for the purpose of discharging my Debts and funeral Expenses and that any balance which may arise therefrom be equally divided among my five brothers aforesaid. And whereas I lately purchased at Sheriff's sale a Negro man nam'd Stepney who is now in possession of Mr. Joseph Morquiss and by him detained contrary to my consent it is my express Will and desire that as soon as the said Negroe can be recovered, he be sold as also my stock of Medicines and Instruments and stock of Horses, Mares, Colts, Cattle, and the money arising from the Sales be equally divided among my five brothers aforesaid."

    The variables of slavery are unbelievable. At the end of his will our cousin frees one of his slaves and then gives her slaves!.
    "And whereas my Mulatto Woman Slave by the Name Diana has served me with obedience and fidelity in consideration thereof I declare it to be my Express Will and desire that after my Death she be thence forever free and liberated from all servitude, and I give and bequeath unto her the said Diana to her and her Heirs forever My two negro Men named Peter and July also all my Household and Kitchen Furniture."
    This one will tells us a lot about that "peculiar institution."

    Another of our cousins was appointed Justice of the Peace for Madison County, Kentucky, in 1785. He was given "…full jurisdiction to try and punish slaves for all penal and criminal offenses, including the infliction of capital punishment."

“Mr. James Woods, Jr., was a tall man, and very erect. His hair was iron gray, and his face smooth-shaven. He dressed with extreme neatness. He usually carried a gold-headed cane. He had large iron works on the Cumberland River, where he employed about 1,500 slaves, all of whom he owned, to work out the iron, which was brought to Nashville. The firm in Nashville was Woods, Yeatman & Co. Mr. James Woods died very suddenly at eighty-two years of age.”

    From early on, our people owned slaves, and from the beginning, up to and through the Civil War, we were on both sides of the issue of slavery, sometimes vehemently. Their stories are yet to come.

Blacks and the Revolutionary War
    The information on the number of blacks, both freemen and slaves, that took part in the Revolutionary War is contradictory. This is because military rolls did not distinguish as to race. However, observations that were written at the time give us a pretty accurate picture of the slaves in the war.
    In 1776, Slavery existed in all of the colonies, although more than half were in Virginia and Maryland. 25% of all colonists owned slaves, including the Quakers. Many historians believe that only a small percentage of the armies had slave soldiers. However, eyewitnesses give us another story.
    The British offered the slaves their freedom to join the British army; a strong inducement. The Patriots countered by offering slaves their freedom to join the American army. Freedom? Maybe, very iffy. (The offer to let slaves join the American army was fought against by many; including George Washington, who eventually changed his mind and wholeheartedly accepted their servitude on a higher scale.)
    3,000 free blacks and slaves served in just the Continental army alone. They made up between 6% and 12% of George Washington's army. This does not cover the militias. They were not always in segregated units. Many militias were integrated. The Continental army was integrated.

Observers at the time
    “...met with a detachment of the Rhode Island Regiment.... The majority of the enlisted men were black or mulattos; but they ae strong robust, and those I saw made a very good appearance.”
    At Yorktown: “A quarter of them (The American army) are Negroes, merry, confident and sturdy.”
    The Rhode Island Regiment was a crack outfit: “...the most neatly dressed, the best under arms, and the most precise in its maneuvers.”
    “...no regiment is to be seen in which there are not Negroes in abundance; and among them there are able bodied, strong and brave fellows.”

    Time after time the slaves fought bravely for the Patriot cause, most doing so without pay.
    Why?
    All know the story of the underground railway. This would come years later. The purpose was to transport the runaway slaves to Canada. There, in their new homes, they would be treated as equals, usually, with respect and dignity. What is not known is that after the Emancipation Proclamation, almost all of these former slaves returned to America.
    Why?
    This was their home. They were Americans.
    The point I am making: Our people owned slaves and it is even possible that they fought, side by side with their slaves, for this country's independence.

    I have pondered the issue carefully and come to this conclusion: Because they were our people, we can only assume that they were kind to their slaves.

My family history web site has 79 chapters. If you would like to know more about the other chapters then go to my
Home Page    www.thetracyfamilyhistory.net 

                                                                                                    Next Chapter