When the Confederates seized Mercersburg’s black citizens

Posted on May 12, 2009 by

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As a comment to my May 5 post about Mercersburg, Marc asked if the African-American community there was impacted during the 1863 campaign. Of course, as we know and as Marc indicates, the Army of Northern Virginia rounded-up blacks during that campaign and sent them South “back” into slavery.

Well, during my “Chambersburg ride” a couple of weekends back, and after snapping several photos related to the burning of Chambersburg and John Brown’s time in the “burg,” I came across a pamphlet that mentioned a marker in Mercersburg that just so happened to focus on the seizing of civilians from that town. Being a “marker hunter” (though not quite to the dynamic level as Craig Swain :-) … ), I had to take-on a couple extra miles and began my drive to Mercersburg. In addition to a number of other markers in the town, I found the marker about the seizing of civilians. Yet, the marker mentioned the seizing of civilians by Confederate soldiers in both October 1862 AND June/July 1863.

To answer Marc’s question… yes, Confederates did take free blacks from Mercersburg during the 1863 Campaign. As the final portion of the text on the marker states, “John Filkil, Findley Cuff, Samuel Brooks, Amos Barnes and other African Americans [were] sent to Richmond and kept them from their families for months.” It’s interesting to note however, that these blacks were released and allowed to return (as the sign indicates, after “months”) to Mercersburg, during the war.

As for the seizing of Mercersburg’s white civilians in 1862, I will have more to say about this in an upcoming post.

*Update: I took some time to look-up the names of the four Mercersburg African-Americans on the Web and could find only two pieces of information that might be of interest. For one, I now know that Findley Cuff was apparently married when he was seized by the Confederates. He married Harriett R. Brown on March 14, 1859, in the Upper West Conococheague Presbyterian Church.

More interestingly, however, is the info that I found on the Valley of the Shadow site. On page 8 of the Dec. 23, 1863 issue of the Franklin Repository, there is the mention of Amos Barnes being released, “through the help of Mercersburg friends and Revs. Creigh and Moore. Barnes, a black resident of Mercersburg, was captured by the rebels on July 2, and sent to Richmond where he worked in Camp Winder.” So, while he wasn’t sold into slavery, Barnes was used by the Confederates for labor.

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