History of Emancipation: Gen. David Hunter and General Orders No. 7

The History of Emancipation:  Gen. David Hunter and General Orders No. 7 historical marker was dedicated on June 17, 2008. View the History of Emancipation:  Gen. David Hunter and General Orders No. 7 historical marker listing.


 Historical Background

Created by SCAD student Erica Corso as part of her SCAD art history department coursework with guidance from art history professor Holly Goldstein, Ph.D., 2015.

Thomas Jefferson wrote, “the institution of slavery was like holding a wolf by the ears, we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go.” [i] General David Hunter’s orders on Fort Pulaski connected the fort and Cockspur Island to the long history of emancipation. By freeing the enslaved in the area, the place became not only a home to newly freed African-American soldiers, but also a stop for others on the longer journey to freedom in the northern United States and Canada.

Although the orders of General David Hunter paved the way for Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, Hunter was less concerned with the wellbeing of the newly freed people, than with increasing his troop size. He initially believed that the freed men would be sympathetic with the United States and gladly join his service, but he found that few volunteered. Hunter envisioned attracting blacks escaping their masters beyond the U.S. lines but met with the reality that liberation was more enticing than enlisting. Desperate, as the U.S. troops were well outnumbered locally by Confederates, Hunter required that all freed men enlist in the army. [ii]

In May 1862, having issued proclamations freeing the enslaved of the surrounding areas, Hunter ordered his soldiers to draft all able-bodied black men into the military, which caused the plantations to go into a state of chaos. Southern masters spread rumors within the enslaved communities that Hunter would send them off to be sold in Cuba, further generating widespread panic. [iii] As all newly-freed men between 18 and 45 were rounded up, the scenes on the plantations were tragic; some men fled to the woods with soldiers trying to hunt them down while their loved ones cried. Over 500 men were brought to Hunter’s headquarters. A document from a plantation superintendent stated, “Never, in my judgment, did major-general fall into a sadder blunder and rarely has humanity been outraged by an act of more unfeeling barbarity.” [iv] To distinguish them from other soldiers, Hunter had the forced recruits uniformed in bright red trousers. [v]

Hunter later narrowed down his “recruitment” to only the men who claimed to be willing to fight. Some drifted back home but Hunter was so persuasive that many remained. However, Hunter had no way of paying them since he was disobeying instructions and the funds were not authorized. As fellow blacks were earning money working as servants or laborers in local areas under U.S. control, there was a rising sense of discontent among the black soldiers. They also faced discrimination and humiliation from many of their fellow white soldiers. Some of the blacks tried to flee the army and go back to the plantations. [vi] However, by the end of the war, about 200,000 U.S. soldiers were black men. One third of them would die in battle, some earning the highest military honors. [vii]

Susie King Taylor wrote about her experiences and observations within the 33rd US Colored Troops in her book, A Black Woman’s Civil War Memoirs. Taylor’s uncle enlisted in the regiment of black soldiers organized by General Hunter at Port Royal. [viii] She reported that the first colored troops didn’t receive pay for 18 months, many with large families that they couldn’t support. Wives had to provide for the families by washing and baking for officers in camp. In 1863, the government decided to offer the colored men half pay. However they refused under the encouragement of their Captain, declaring they wanted full pay or nothing. They received full pay in 1864. [ix]

Fort Pulaski also served as a stop on the road to freedom in the North. [x] The freedom seekers were declared to be “contraband of war” if their labor had been used to aid the Confederacy.  This encouraged many enslaved people to cross U.S. lines, many fleeing to Fort Pulaski. [xi] Some were under the guidance of a former slave, March Haynes. Haynes brought hundreds of escaped slaves to the island, where they could take up residence in the fort’s old construction village. The United States Army put some of the slaves to work as laborers. They were found to be helpful in particular as navigators of the confusing network of creeks surrounding the area. [xii] General Hunter’s orders freeing the slaves on Fort Pulaski and Cockspur Island made it one of the most southern destinations on the road to freedom in the North. [xiii]

 


[i] “Slavery: Cause and Catalyst of the Civil War,” US Department of the Interior National Park Service. NPS Collection; Southeast Region, Division of Interpretation and Education.

[ii] Howard C, Westwood, “Generals David Hunter and Rufus Saxton and Black Soldiers,“ The South Carolina Historical Magazine 86, no. 3 (Summer 1985), http://www.jstor.org/stable/27567905 (accessed May 18,2015); Charles J. Elmore, General David Hunter’s Proclamation: The Quest for African-American Freedom Before and During the Civil War (Fort Washington, PA: Eastern National Park, 2002).

[iii] Westwood, 170.

[iv] Ibid., 171.

[v] “From Slave to Soldier on the Georgia Coast,” National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/fopu/planyourvisit/upload/slavetosoldier-final.pdf (accessed May 18, 2015).

[vi] Ibid., 175.

[vii] “Slavery: Cause and Catalyst of the Civil War,” 24.

[viii] Susie King Taylor, A Black Woman’s Civil War Memoirs: Reminiscences of My Life in Camp With the 33rd U.S. Colored Troops, Late 1st South Carolina Volunteers, edited by Patricia W. Romero (New York: Markus Wiener Pub, 1988), 9.

[ix] Ibid., 42.

[x] “Slavery: Cause and Catalyst of the Civil War,” 13.

[xi] Ibid., 23.

[xii] “From Slave to Soldier on the Georgia Coast.”

[xiii] “Underground Railroad,” National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/fopu/learn/historyculture/underground-railroad.htm (accessed May 15, 2015).

1. “Slaves on Fort Pulaski Wearing Old Union Uniforms, Living in Outbuilding Around the Fort,” 2015. Courtesy of Erica Corso.

2. “Some of the First Black Soldiers,” 2015. Courtesy of Erica Corso.

3. History of Emancipation: Gen. David Hunter and General Order No. 7 marker text, 2015. Courtesy of Erica Corso.

4. View from the top of the fort, 2015. Courtesy of Erica Corso.

5. Gibson, James F., photographer. “Cumberland Landing, Va. Group of ‘contrabands’ at Foller’s house,” May 14, 1862. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Civil War Photographs, [LC-DIG-cwpb-01005.]

6. O’sullivan, Timothy H., photographer. ”Culpeper, Va. “Contrabands,”” 1863. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Civil War Photographs, [LC-DIG-cwpb-00821.]

7.O’Sullivan, Timothy H., photographer. “Port Royal Island, S.C. African Americans preparing cotton on Smith’s plantation,” 1862. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Civil War Photographs, [LC-DIG-cwpb-00747.]

8. “Bermuda Hundred, Va. African-American teamsters,” 1864. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Civil War Photographs, [LC-DIG-cwpb-02004.]

9. “City Point, Va. African American army cook at work,” 1864. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Civil War Photographs, [LC-DIG-cwpb-02004.]

10. “Deacon March Haynes” From the New York Public Library Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.

11. Excerpt from “A collection of Fort Pulaski portraits” by Rusty Fleetwood. Boston, MA: Plastichrome, 1980. From the Georgia Historical Society Rare Books Collection.

12. Excerpt from “A collection of Fort Pulaski portraits” by Rusty Fleetwood. Boston, MA: Plastichrome, 1980. From the Georgia Historical Society Rare Books Collection.

13. Excerpt from “A collection of Fort Pulaski portraits” by Rusty Fleetwood. Boston, MA: Plastichrome, 1980. From the Georgia Historical Society Rare Books Collection.


Further Reading

Charles J. Elmore. General David Hunter’s Proclamation: The Quest for African-American Freedom Before and During the Civil War. (Fort Washington, PA: Eastern National Park, 2002).

“From Slave to Soldier on the Georgia Coast,” National Park Service US Department of the Interior Fort Pulaski National Monument. http://www.nps.gov/fopu/planyourvisit/upload/slavetosoldier-final.pdf

Phillip Morgan, ed. African American Life in the Georgia Lowcountry: The Atlantic World and the Gullah Geechee (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2011).

“Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln,” 19 May 1862, #90, Presidential Proclamations, series 23 Record Group 11, National Archives. Published in The Destruction of Slavery, pp. 123–25, and in Free at Last, pp. 46–48. http://www.freedmen.umd.edu/hunter.htm.

“Slavery: Cause and Catalyst of the Civil War,”  US Department of the Interior National Park Service. NPS Collection; Southeast Region, Division of Interpretation and Education.

Susie King Taylor. A Black Woman’s Civil War Memoirs: Reminiscences of My Life in Camp With the 33rd U.S. Colored Troops, Late 1st South Carolina Volunteers, edited by Patricia W. Romero (New York: Markus Wiener, 1988).

“Underground Railroad,” National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/fopu/learn/historyculture/underground-railroad.htm.

Howard C, Westwood, “Generals David Hunter and Rufus Saxton and Black Soldiers,“ The South Carolina Historical Magazine 86, no. 3 (Summer 1985), http://www.jstor.org/stable/27567905.