D.H. Strother observes… “negro servants bearing arms”

Posted on June 29, 2014 by


This afternoon, I spent some time revisiting Strother’s recollections of the early war. As always, “Porte Crayon” never disappoints…

Still a civilian at the time, Strother made various notes regarding what he saw on Saturday, June 15, 1861 (153 years ago this month), as Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederates marched through Charles Town, Virginia…

Looking along the line you were struck with the uniformity of size and height, all healthy, athletic men, between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-five. In the Second Virginia and First Maryland regiments there appeared, on the contrary, to be many boys under the size and under military age.

Each regiment was followed by a gang of negro servants all bearing arms of some kind, and apparently as much interested in the cause as the whites.

This being said, however…

Men must be totally blinded by passion not to perceive the sinister significance of this servile armament. It is to be expected that after having become familiarized with the license of camps and excitement of campaigning that these men will resume their former lives of rural simplicity and contended bondage? Will the hand that has acquired the usage of pistol and sabre quietly take up the shovel and the hoe again at the bidding of a master? This seems only an example of the general fatuity – a war instituted ostensibly in defense of negro slavery, against the only power on earth which has the will and ability to insure its protection – a war which must inevitable destroy the institution it professes to defend.

Source: “Recollections of the War”, by David Hunter Strother, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine , Volume 33, Issue 194 (July 1866).