“I bought myself”… Henry Roy’s Civil War

Posted on July 19, 2011 by


First, we have USCT soldiers from the Shenandoah Valley (and, yes, there are more stories to come about those men).

Now, in yet another effort to add dimension to the Civil War in the Shenandoah Valley, I present Henry Roy…

Roy was a resident of Warren County, Virginia, in the northeast central Shenandoah Valley. A former slave, he claimed to have purchased his own freedom in years prior to the war (though another local interviewed said that Roy bought his freedom from his master, Gibson N. Roy, only upon the first occupation of Front Royal by Union soldiers). In 1871, Roy applied for a Southern Loyalist Claim, for losses from the Civil War, on account of Union troops. In the end, Roy was one of a few who from Warren County who were granted claims. In all, Roy was awarded $740, but $95 was disallowed.

The following is from the interview between the Claims commissioners and Roy, in 1871. There’s a lot going on in this question and answer series; from the question that asked about “colored men” in his vicinity serving as Confederates, to the treatment of Roy as a freedman by Union soldiers during the war. Enjoy the exchange…

Sworn and Examined

By Commissioner Ferriss

Q. Where did you live during the war?

A. In Warren Co., Va., near Front Royal.

Q. Were you a rebel?

A. No sir I wasn’t.

Q. Do you know any colored men in your vicinity who were rebels?

A. No sir I don’t.

Q. What did you think the war was about when it begun?

A. I can’t exactly say.

Q. You had some idea about it- did you think slavery had anything to do with it?

A. Yes sir I did.

Q. You understand that?

A. Yes sir.

Q. There were some loyal white people up in the Shenandoah Valley?

A. Yes sir, one or two. Mr. Beecher and Mr. Forney were the only ones in my vicinity.

Q. They told you something about it?

A. Yes sir.

Q. You lived in Virginia all your life time?

A. Yes sir.

Q. The Virginia troops were in the Rebel army were they not?

A. Yes sir.

Q. Did you like to have your own state troops whipped?

A. Yes sir I did; I wished them to be whipped.

Q. Didn’t you wish your own state troops to be beat?

A. No sir, I wanted them to be whipped.

Q. Were you a slave?

A. No sir, I bought myself.

Q. You were a slave?

A. Yes sir, I bought myself a few years before the war.

Q. What property did you own when the war broke out?

A. I owned a little house, and four or five horses, and some ten, fifteen or twenty hogs and cattle - twelve head of cattle and five head of horses.

By Counsel

Q. Did you have anything for your horses to haul?

A. Yes sir, I had a wagon and four sets of gearing.

Q. How much land had you connected with house.

A. Only one acre.

Q. Were you doing any kind of work?

A. Yes sir, I was farming.

Q. How can you farm an acre?

A. I rented.

Q. How much?

A. I rented 80 or 90 acres.

Q. Who of?

A. I rented from Mr. Gardiner and Mr. Ashby.

Q. What year did you rent?

A. I rented in 1861, and 1862, and 1863.

Q. Did you have any corn on hand when the army came there?

A. Yes sir.

Q. How much?

A. After I got through I measured the crib and there were 115 barrels, five bushels to the barrel.

Q. 115 barrel of corn in the ear?

A. Yes sir.

Q. How many barrels of shelled corn would that make – I suppose you mean 115 bushels of shelled corn.

A. Yes sir, that is what I mean.

Q. How many bushels of corn were there in these barrels – before it was shelled , how many bushels would it take to make a barrel?

A. It would take ten.

Q. Were these 115 barrels of ten bushels each?

A. Yes sir.

Q. How do you know you had that?

A. I measured it.

Q. Where did you have it – in the barn?

A. Yes sir.

Q. What was it in?

A. It was in an old shop I had on the place.

Q. When was that?

A. It was in 1863.

Q. Were these men that you rented this land from rebels?

A. Yes sir; the corn land I rented from Mr. Gardiner [possibly Samuel B. Garner].

Q. How much did you give them for the use of the land?

A. I cleaned it up and fenced it. You see – it was all torn to pieces, the fences were.

Q. Didn’t they have any share of the crop?

A. No sir, none of the crop I raised on it. The first crop of corn I had for fencing and cleaning it up, and the land I got from Mr. Ashby I put in wheat.

Q. Was this 115 bushels of corn all one crop?

A. Yes sir.

Q. What year did you raise that?

A. In 1863.

Q. Was that from Mr. Gardiner’s land?

A. Yes sir, the corn was.

Q. What became of it?

A. The Union army took it.

Q. When?

A. They took it in the fall of 1863.

Q. Who commanded the Union army?

A. A man named McDowell I think. My place is about 19 miles from Winchester towards the east.

Q. How did they take it?

A. They loaded it up, and hauled it away in wagons.

Q. How much did they take?

A. They took it all every bit of it.

Q. What was the corn worth then in good money, not Confederate stuff?

A. It was worth $5.50 a barrel in gold. I paid after that $1.10 a bushel for corn.

Q. How much land did you cultivate in corn that year?

A. 32 ½ acres were said to be in the field.

Q. Was it a good crop?

A. Yes indeed: we supposed would yield eight or ten barrels to the acres.

By Commissioner Howell.

Q. What became of the rest of it?

A. Well there was another old gentleman got the other part of it… Henry Anderson. There were 220 barrels, and we got 115. Barrels apiece.

By Commissioner Ferris

Q. Did you and Anderson work it in shares?

A. We worked it and then we divided it, he took his half and cribbed it, and I did the same

Q. Did he make the bargain with Gardiner?

A. No sir, I made the bargain with Gardiner and I went to him, and he agreed to help me clear it up and work with me and divide the crop.

Q. Did the Union army get all of this?

A. Yes sir, every bit of it, the whole of it. They got all my fodder but I didn’t say anything about that.

Q. Anderson saved his didn’t he?

A. No sir.

Q. The union people got that too?

A. yes sir.

Q. All of that?

A. Yes sir.

Q. What about the hogs?

A. Well they got eight hogs of mine.

Q. Who did?

A. The same army.

Q. At the same time?

A. Yes sir.

Q. Well how did they take them?

A. They killed them, and took them out. I had them in the pen, and they took them out and killed them.

Q. Did they kill them before they took them out of the pen?

A. Yes sir, they just killed them.

Q. What did they do with them?

A. They carried them off to the army.

Q. Didn’t you get any voucher for those?

A. No sir; they told me to come up the next morning and get them, and I went up to get them and they wouldn’t let me through.

Q. Did they take the eight all at once?

A. They took a part of them right soon in the morning and they came after a while at breakfast and got the other.

Q. How many men at a time?

A. There seemed to be some four or five; they said they would have to have them.

Q. How did they take them to camp?

A. They carried them in a little wagon.

By Commissioner Howell

Q. What time of the year was that?

A. It was in the fall, I don’t recollect the month.

By Commissioner Ferris

Q. How large were the hogs?

A. 140 to 150 pounds a piece; they were put up to fatten for the winter.

Q. About your horse?

A. They took that.

Q. Who took him?

A. The same men; they took a horse and wagon.

Q. The same command?

A. Yes sir.

Q. Did you say how that was done?

A. They had a little fight out in the gap, this side of Front Royal, and they came there and tol me they wanted that wagon to haul wounded in and I made a little objection, and they told me I had better not, that I had better let them have it, and they took it- a horse and wagon, and two pair of gearing harness.

Q. How many came?

A. There were three or four; there were several, it was after the fight.

Q. Any officers?

A. Yes sir.

Q. What kind of an officer, do you know; was he a full sized brigadier general?

A. No sir, I don’t suppose he was more than a captain; he professed to be that.

By Commissioner Howell

Q. Where did they haul their wounded to?

A. Just this side of Front Royal; about two miles from town.

Q. Did you get the wagon back again that they took from you?

A. No sir, I never saw it any more.

By Commissioner Ferris

Q. What kind of a wagon was it?

A. It was a two horse wagon.

Q. You never saw the wagon or horse again?

A. No sir; I paid one hundred dollars for the wagon.

Q. Was it a spring wagon?

A. No sir.

Q. Was it a farm wagon?

A. Yes sir.

Q. What kind of harness was it?

A. Jersey harness.

Q. What kind of harness was that – good?

A. It was like carriage gearing with half iron traces.

Q. How much was the gearing worth?

A. It was worth about thirty-five dollars, that is what I gave for it.

Q. The harness was worth thirty-five dollars?

A. Yes sir.

Q. And the horse was worth how much?

A. I bought the horse at one hundred dollars; he was a young horse about 4 years old, and would bring one hundred and twenty-five now. It was a male horse.

By Commissioner Howell

Q. What kind of land was that.

A. It was good bottom land.

Q. Did you cultivate it well?

A. Yes sir.

Q. How many times did you plow it?

A. Three times.

Q. Are you a good farmer?

A. Yes sir.

By Commissioner Ferriss

Q. Did you do anything for the union army?

A. Yes sir. I travelled with the army right smart, and I drew a map, and brought it to Mr. Tindal who was one of our head men at Front Royal and he followed it and captured a right smart army of rebels.

Q. You furnished him with a map of the country?

A. Yes sir.

Q. And he was a union officer?

A. Yes sir.

Q. Did they consult you frequently – the Union officers?

A. Yes sir.

Q. and you gave them all the information you could?

A. I did.

There aren’t that many African-Americans in the Valley who applied, but stay-tuned. I’ll be featuring more freedmen in their efforts to secure loyalist claims…

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