A Little Justice Here, Folks! (pt. 1)


part one of a series

On February 6 of this year, I wrote a blog post about Abraham, a formerly enslaved person who was “blown to freedom” at Vicksburg.

I found something very compelling about this man. He is young, seems to be relatively healthy, and has a look on his face in his DVD that is simple and direct. His story struck me as unusual, and it stayed with me for months after I initially read it. Luckily, Abraham’s story struck ECW reader Mike Maxwell in a similar way.

I am not sure if anyone knows why someone or something appeals to a person. It seems random to me, but I am no psychologist. Abraham, Mike, and I just hit it off. Mike replied to the initial post several times, and finally, I asked him if we could talk further, only not at ECW. We both had the same questions concerning Abraham. To whom did he belong initially? Was he really inside the mine? What happened to him immediately after the explosion? What happened later? Was General Logan involved in any way? Mrs. General Logan? We wanted to know more.

It is difficult to track down information when one is dealing with enslaved people. The destruction of massive amounts of Confederate war records alone is problematic, but slave records are hard to come by as well. We agreed to begin with information about the Third Louisiana Redan. First, I needed to know what a redan was. Apparently it is a fortification having two parapets forming a salient angle, an unfortified entrance usually protected by its location (as on the bank of a stream, at the head of a bridge, or in advance of a strong line), and often a connection (as by curtains) with other such fortifications as a simple form of fieldwork. Using this definition courtesy of Merriam-Webster, I looked at maps of the siege area at Vicksburg. I found the site of the redan and quickly saw why the idea of counter-mining the area to create a crater might have seemed like a good idea to the Confederates. Historian Terry Winschel relates the story of the results of the second explosion and Abraham for the American Battlefield Trust at this link: https://www.battlefields.org/learn/videos/vicksburg-third-louisiana-redan.

General Logan

I plan to tell ECW readers the story of researching Abraham in a series of posts, of which this is the first. Mike and I found some incredible primary source information, including a letter from P. T. Barnum to General Logan. We learned a lot about how slaves were hired by the Confederacy to do jobs that white soldiers did not care to do–like digging a mine. We answered some of our questions, but not all of them. We even found more questions, but not always more answers. We met interesting people with whom we continue to correspond. We ran into many dead ends.

Working in tandem with a talented researcher like Mike Maxwell has been an enjoyable experience for me. Sometimes it is absolutely necessary to try an idea out on someone else before jumping down a rabbit hole, and Chris Mackowski is not always available to haul my sorry self out of the ground. Mike is a pleasure to work with, and if you have not had the experience of historical teamwork, try it. I will share our methods, our successes, and our failures right here at ECW. So if our readers have ever wondered just exactly what it is that historians do, this series should serve as one example.

I am looking forward to telling as much of Abraham’s story as possible. After all this time, he deserves a little justice.

9 Responses to A Little Justice Here, Folks! (pt. 1)

  1. I totally get the random fascination about a person or event. I’m struggling with my own research into a soldier with the 6th Louisiana Infantry. I’ve hit way too many dead ends and it just makes the mystery more gripping in some ways. I look forward to hearing about your methods and learning from them.

    1. When researching the 6th Louisiana Volunteers (Sixth Louisiana Infantry) recommend the following
      – Start with search for above regiment names on favourite search engine;
      – Try familysearch.org https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/6th_Regiment,_Louisiana_Infantry_(Confederate)
      Investigate NPS https://www.nps.gov/civilwar/search-battle-units-detail.htm?battleUnitCode=CLA0006RI
      – Try https://lagenweb.org/ Search by parish for companies that mustered into Sixth Louisiana Tigers (NPS indicates parishes of Sabine, Union, Ouachita, Saint Landry and Saint Bernard)
      – Lagenweb may provide contact details for county (parish) historians and genealogical societies. If searching for info concerning a particular individual, these contacts can be valuable (click on “See our Parish sites”)
      – Battles: the 6th Louisiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment took part in (First Manassas, Jackson’s Valley Campaign, Battles of the Seven Days, Cold Harbor, Gettysburg, Chancellorsville, Shenandoah Campaign, Appomattox and more…) Some battles have excellent blogs that discuss aspects of the battle (including individual unit participation and movements.) Recommend check for a blog on every battle the 6th Louisiana played a part. (one such blog is http://www.gdg.org/ Gettysburg Discussion Group.)
      – Newspapers: local papers often made mention of actions, return home of soldiers, and other events involving the 6th Regiment of Infantry https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/search/pages/results/?state=Louisiana&date1=1861&date2=1862&proxtext=Tigers&x=0&y=0&dateFilterType=yearRange&rows=20&searchType=basic A few papers to try…
      – POW prison records. It was a fact of life that many soldiers, North and South, were captured during the war and familysearch.org has an excellent collection of POW muster rolls: https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/1916234 (click on “Browse 51,108 images” for access to Confederate Prisoner muster rolls kept at Rock Island, Camp Douglas, Alton, Camp Chase and others).
      https://www.findagrave.com/virtual-cemetery/297721 Find-a-grave often has information IRT the final resting place of Civil War soldiers. And the attached link is to a virtual cemetery created for 6th Alabama Infantry (just to illustrate what may be available.)
      – Make contact. If while searching you find the name of a museum curator, blog member or anyone else who might possess knowledge you are seeking, make contact. (Most will provide info for free; for the others, Do not pay any money until you are certain they have something you want.)

      Happy Hunting!

      1. WOW! Thank you so much for all those leads! My soldier was killed at the first battle of Winchester in 1862. He’s buried there, but his headstone has been worn away by time, so it doesn’t have any information besides what the cemetery records say. I know he mustered in at Camp Moore in 1861, but before that is a mystery. I’m going to dig into that LAGenWeb and see if there’s anything there. He was from Company A, so it’s likely he’s from either a Union or Sabine parish. I picked up the only book I could find about the regiment and it gave me a lot of information, but nothing person-specific. It was a wonderful read though.
        Again, thank you for the tips! I will definitely use them 🙂

      2. The site familysearch.org also allows access to complete Census records. If you have a last name, and a Parish you want to search, set up a free account and follow the search cues (with likely period of residence maybe 1839 – 1861 (to get the 1840, 1850 and 1860 Census records) and in bottom cue select Census records. Attached is sample search for man named Smith: https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MFPX-B1R

    2. You might have read this already, but if not go get “Lee’s Tigers” by Terry Jones. It’s got a lot of information on each of the Louisiana regiments that were sent to Virginia, which include the 6th Louisiana. His bibliography probably can point you in a number of directions.

  2. My upcoming book on the 45th Illinois (hopefully 2020) will cover the digging of the mine under the redan, known as Fort Hill to the Union soldiers. By many accounts it was the strongest, most formidable fort along the Confederate fortifications. The first mine was blown on June 25, with the 45th Illinois volunteering to lead the attack to break through the lines. Unfortunately the attack failed over some 21 hours, with several other regiments also fighting in the resulting crater post-explosion. Another mine was dug and exploded on July 1, where Abraham was blown into the Union lines, but Grant choose not to attack. Tom

    1. The 45th Illinois was the first unit belonging to U.S. Grant’s Army to employ former slaves as Cooks and Undercooks (freeing soldiers from regimental Mess duties.) Major General Logan found the experiment successful; all of Logan’s regiments adopted the scheme, employing for wages perhaps eight men per regiment, and it spread from that Division to the rest of Grant’s Army.

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