Saturday, November 26, 2016

Robert E. Lee Has His Slaves Whipped and Brine Poured Into the Wounds

The vicious character of Robert E. Lee is revealed here.

The following account if from the book, “Slave Testimony: Two Centuries of Letters, Speeches, and Interviews, and Autobiographies,” edited by John W. Blassingame. It is published by Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge 70893. It is in paperback and not expensive at all.

On page 467 in the section Newspaper and Magazine Interviews, 1864‑1938.


Interviewed, 1866(?)

b. Virginia

Enslaved: Virginia

It has frequently been represented by the friends and admirers of Robert E. Lee, late an officer in the rebel army, that, although a slave­holder, his treatment of his chattels was invariably kind and humane. The subjoined statement, taken from the lips of one of his former slaves, indicates the real character of the man:
"My name is Wesley Norris; I was born a slave on the plantation of George Parke Custis; after the death of Mr. Custis, Gen. Lee, who had been made executor of the estate, assumed control of the slaves, in number about seventy; it was the general impression among the slaves of Mr. Custis that on his death they should be forever free; in fact this statement had been made to them by Mr. C. years before; at his death we were informed by Gen. Lee that by the conditions of the will we must remain slaves for five years; I remained with Gen. Lee for about seven­teen months, when my sister Mary, a cousin of ours, and I determined to run away, which we did in the year 1859; we had already reached Westminster, in Maryland, on our way to the North, when we were apprehended and thrown into prison, and Gen. Lee notified of our arrest; we remained in prison fifteen days, when we were sent back to Arlington; we were immediately taken before Gen. Lee, who demanded the reason why we ran away; we frankly told him that we considered ourselves free; he then told us he would teach us a lesson we never would forget; he then ordered us to the barn, where, in his presence, we were tied firmly to posts by a Mr. Gwin, our overseer, who was ordered by Gen. Lee to strip us to the waist and give us fifty lashes each, excepting my sister, who received but twenty; we were accordingly stripped to the skin by the overseer, who, however, had sufficient humanity to decline whipping us; accordingly Dick Williams, a county constable, was called in, who gave us the number of lashes ordered; Gen. Lee, in the meantime, stood by, and frequently enjoined Williams to 'lay it on well,' an injunction which he did not fail to heed; not satisfied with simply lacerating our naked flesh, Gen. Lee then ordered the overseer to thoroughly wash our backs with brine, which was done. After this my cousin and myself were sent to Hanover.

Mr. Norris’ account though descriptive doesn’t really express what is was like to have salt or brine put in your open wounds. Being a victim he probably would not like to describe his own behavior. I am not exactly an expert on torture and its psychological impact on its victims. The following historical record gives a very accurate description.

An Eye Witness Account of a Slave Whipping Using Salt

“This white man was whipping him and the blood was all over this nigger and he was saying "o, master, o, master, I pray you not to hit me any more. Oh, Lordy, oh, Lordy, has mercy on me. Master, please has mercy on me, please has mercy." But this man wouldn't stop a minute and spits tobacco juice and cuss him and then starts in whip­ping him again. This nigger was jumping around on the ground all tied up, just like a chicken when you chops his head off when this man was whipping him and when the white folks would stop awhile this nigger would lay there and roll from side to side and beg for mercy.

I runs off a good piece when this white folks started whipping him and stopped and looks back at him, I was so scared that I just stood there and watched him till he quit. Then he tells some of the slaves to wash him off and put salt in the cut places and he stood there to watch them to see that they did. He was chewing his tobacco, spitting and cussing that nigger and when they gets him washed off and puts salt in the raw places he sure did scream and groan.

But when he groaned they just keeping putting the salt in to the wounds on his poor old beat up body.

The first thing that I know my father was patting me on the back and said, "Honey, you better run along home now," and I sure did and I didn't go back over there any more. That was the only slave I ever saw get a whipping.”
This is quoted on page 147 in the book, “An Empire for Slavery: The Peculiar Institution in Texas, 1821-1865.” It is an account of whipping by a white women remembering a childhood experience. The primary reference is Am. Slave, Supp., Ser. 2, IV, 1120-21, (Mollie Dawson). This book in the same section has the description of whippings and its use in slave life. The author Randolph B. Campbell is a professor at the University of North Texas. The book is published by the Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge 70893 and is available in paperback.

I enclose this text to let the reader know what it would be like to be whipped and then have salt put in the wound. Whipping is painful enough. Imagine the burning of salt in an open raw wound, it must have been like the fires of hell.

Robert E. Lee supports campaign to deprive African Americans of the vote


In the upcoming elections of 1868, Rosecrans, Civil War general and now Democratic party campaigner sought to counter the Republican party in the election by getting a statement from former Confederate leaders and prevailed upon Robert E. Lee to write a letter to do so.  This letter is also known as the “White Sulphur Manifesto.” With Lee signing the letter, other ex-Confederate leaders also signed the letter, with Lee both suggesting signatures to collect and encouraging others to collect signatures for the letter. 

The purpose of the letter is to undermine and oppose the civil rights policies of the Republican Party during Reconstruction. Robert E. Lee, through this letter, plays a significant role in defeating civil rights and condemning African Americans to nearly a century of discrimination, lynching, segregation, and violence. This letter is addressed to Rosecrans. This text of the letter is from “R. E. Lee: A Biography by Douglas Southall Freeman published by Charles Scribner’s Sons,  New York and London, 1934, pages 375-377.

It also shows what a pompous self-congratulatory racist he was. 


“I have the honor to receive your letter of this date, and, in accordance with your suggestion, I have conferred with a number of gentlemen from the South, in whose judgment I have confidence, and who are well acquainted with the public sentiment of their respective States.

“They have kindly consented to unite with me in replying to your communication, and their names will be found, with my own, appended to this answer.

“With this explanation, we proceed to give you a candid statement of what we believe to be the sentiment of the Southern people in regard to the subjects to which you refer.

“Whatever opinions may have prevailed in the past with regard to African slavery or the right of a State to secede from the Union, we believe we express the almost unanimous judgment of the Southern people when we declare that they consider these questions were decided by the war, and that it is their intention in good faith to abide by that decision. At the close of the war, the Southern people laid down their arms and sought to resume their former relations to the government of the United States. Through their State conventions, they abolished slavery and annulled their ordinances of secession; and they returned to their peaceful pursuits with a sincere purpose to fulfil all their duties under the Constitution of the United States which they had sworn to support. If their action in these particulars had been met in a spirit of frankness and cordiality, we believe that, ere this, old irritations would have passed away, and the wounds inflicted by the war would have been, in a large measure, healed. As far as we are advised, the people of the South entertain no unfriendly feeling towards the government of the United States, but they complain that their rights under the Constitution are withheld from them in the administration thereof. The idea that the Southern people are hostile to the negroes and would oppress them, if it were in their power to do so, is entirely unfounded. They have grown up in our midst, and we have been accustomed from childhood to look upon them with kindness. The change in the relations of the two races has brought no change in our feelings towards them. They still continue an important part of our laboring population. Without their labor, the lands of the South would be comparatively unproductive; without the employment which Southern agriculture affords, they would be destitute of the means of subsistence and become paupers, dependent upon public bounty. Self-interest, if there were no higher motive, would therefore prompt the whites of the South to extend to the negro care and protection.

“The important fact that the two races are, under existing circumstances, necessary to each other is gradually becoming apparent to both, and we believe that but for malign influences exerted to stir up the passions of the negroes, the relations of the two races would soon adjust themselves on a basis of mutual kindness and advantage.

“It is true that the people of the South, in common with a large majority of the people of the North and West, are, for obvious reasons, inflexibly opposed to any system of laws that would place the political power of the country in the hands of the negro race. But this opposition springs from no feeling of enmity, but from a deep-seated conviction that, at present, the negroes have neither the intelligence nor the other qualifications which are necessary to make them safe depositories of political power. They would inevitably become the victims of demagogues, who, for selfish purposes, would mislead them to the serious injury of the public.

“The great want of the South is peace. The people earnestly desire tranquillity and restoration of the Union. They deplore disorder and excitement as the most serious obstacle to their prosperity. They ask a restoration of their rights under the Constitution. They desire relief from oppressive misrule. Above all, they would appeal to their countrymen for the re-establishment, in the Southern States, of that which has been justly regarded as the birth-right of every American, the right of self-government. Establish these on a firm basis, and we can safely promise, on behalf of the Southern people, that they will faithfully obey the Constitution and laws of the United States, treat the negro populations with kindness and humanity and fulfil every duty incumbent and peaceful citizens, loyal to the Constitution of their country.”

Robert E. Lee thinks Virginia would be better without African Americans


From the “Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction,” of congress, pages 135-136, testimony of Robert E. Lee before the Congressional Joint Committee on Reconstruction in response to questions by Mr. Blow, on February 17, 1866. Blow is asking all the questions and Robert E. Lee is giving all the answers.

By Mr. Blow:

Question. Has there been any considerable change in the number of the negro population?

Answer. I suppose it has diminished, but I do not know.

Question. Diminished in consequences of more negroes going south than was made up by the natural increase?

Answer. My general opinion is that the number has diminished and for the reason you give.

Question. I suppose that the mass of the negroes in Virginia, at the present time, are able to work; that there are not many helpless ones among them?

Answer. There are helpless ones, certainly, but I do not know to what extent.

Question. What is your opinion about its being an advantage to Virginia to keep them there at all. Do you not think that Virginia would be better off if the colored population were to go to Alabama, Louisiana, and the other southern States?

Answer. I think it would be better for Virginia if she could get ride of them. That is no new opinion with me. I have always thought so, and have always been in favor of emancipation—gradual emancipation.

Question. As a matter of labor alone, do you not think that the labor which would flow into Virginia, if the negroes left it for the cotton States, would be far more advantageous to the State and to its future prosperity?

Answer. I think it would be for the benefit of Virginia, and I believe that everybody there would be willing to aid it.

Question. And do you not think it is peculiarly adapted to the quality of labor which would flow into it, from its great natural resources, in case it was made more attractive by the absence of the colored race.

Answer. I do.

Robert E. Lee on African Americans during the Civil War

This letter of Robert E. Lee to Hon. Andrew Hunter, January 11, 1865 concerning the institution of slavery also shows Lee’s views regarding slavery. The Confederacy would shortly come to its total destruction in April 1865, and Lee was desperate for troops, and persons in the Confederate government had started thinking about arming slaves in exchange for their freedom to fight for the Confederacy before they ran off. Lee in the early part of the letter asserts his views on slavery. The letter is from “Memoranda on the Civil War,” pages 600-601, The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine, Vol. 36 No. 4, August 1888.

The key sentence is "Considering the relation of master and slavery, controlled by humane laws and influenced by Christianity and an enlightened public sentiment, as the best that can exist between the white and black races while intermingled as at present in this country, I would deprecate any sudden disturbance of that relation unless it be necessary to avert a greater calamity to both." 

The Confederacy is collapsing around him and Lee is too block headed to reconsider his views on slavery.  The "greater calamity" that concerns Lee is that the Union armies are about ready to overrun the Confederacy and free all the slaves anyways and this emancipation given by the Union armies will not include any white supremacist policies. 

Headquarters Army North Virginia,
11th January, 1865 Hon. Andrew Hunter, Richmond, Va. Dear Sir: I have received your letter of the 7th inst., and, without confining myself to the order of your interrogatories, will endeavor to answer them by a statement of my views on the subject. I shall be most happy if I can contribute to the solution of a question in which I feel an interest commensurate with my desire for the happiness of our people. Considering the relation of master and slavery, controlled by humane laws and influenced by Christianity and an enlightened public sentiment, as the best that can exist between the white and black races while intermingled as at present in this country, I would deprecate any sudden disturbance of that relation unless it be necessary to avert a greater calamity to both. I should therefore prefer to rely upon our white population to preserve the ratio between our forces and those of the enemy which experience has shown to be safe. But in view of the preparations of our enemies it is our duty to provide for continued war, and not for a battle or campaign, and I fear that we cannot accomplish this without overtaxing the capacity of our white population. Should the war continue under existing circumstances, the enemy may in course of time penetrate our country and get access to a large part of our negro population. It is his avowed policy to convert the able-bodied men among them into soldiers, and to emancipate all. 
The success of the Federal arms in the South was followed by a proclamation of President Lincoln for 280,000 men, the effect of which will be to stimulate the Northern States to procure as substitutes for their own people the negroes thus brought within their reach. Many have already been obtained in Virginia, and should the fortune of war expose more of her territory, the enemy would gain a large accession to his strength. 
 His progress will thus add to his numbers, and at the same time destroy slavery in a manner most pernicious to the welfare of our people. Their negroes will be used to hold them in subjection, leaving the remaining force of the enemy free to extend his conquest. Whatever may be the effect of our employing negro troops, in cannot be as mischievous as this. If it end in subverting slavery it will be accomplished by ourselves, and we can devise the means of alleviating the evil consequences to both races. I think, therefore we must decided whether slavery shall be extinguished by our enemies and the slaves be used against us, or use them ourselves at the risk of the effects which may be produced upon our social institutions. I believe that with proper regulations they can be made efficient soldiers. They possess the physical qualifications in an eminent degree. Long habits of obedience and subordination, coupled with the moral influence which in our country the white man possess over the black, furnish an excellent foundation for that discipline which is the best guarantee of military efficiency. Our chief aim should be to secure their fidelity. 
There have been formidable armies composed of men having no interest in the cause for which they fought beyond their pay or hope of plunder. But it is certain that the surest foundation upon which the fidelity of an army can rest, especially in a service which imposes peculiar hardships and privations, is the personal interest of the soldier in the issue of the contest. Such an interest we can give our negroes by giving immediate freedom to all who enlist, and freedom at the end of the war to the families of those who discharge their duties faithfully (whether they survive or not,) together with the privilege of residing at the South. To this might be added a bounty for faithful service. 
We should not expect slaves to fight for prospective freedom when they can secure it by going to the enemy, in whose service they will incur no greater risk than in ours. The reasons that induce me to recommend the employment of negro troops at all render the effects of the measures I have suggested upon slavery immaterial, and in my opinion the best means of securing the efficiency and fidelity of this auxillary force would be to accompany the measure with a well-digested plan of gradual and general emancipation. As that will be the result of the continuance of the war, and will certainly occur if the enemy succeed, it seems to be advisable to adopt it at once, and thereby secure all the benefits that will accrue to our cause. 
 The employment of negro troops under regulations similar in principle to those above indicated would, in my opinion, greatly increase our military strength, and enable us to relieve our white population to some extent. I think we could dispense with our reserve forces except in cases of necessity. 
 It would disappoint our which our enemies base upon our exhaustion, deprive them in a great measure of the aid they now derive from black troops, and thus throw the burden of the war upon their own people. In addition to the great political advantages that would result to our cause from the adoption of a system of emancipation, it would exercise a salutary influence upon our whole negro population, by rendering more secure the fidelity of those who become soldiers and diminishing the inducements to the rest to abscond.
 I can only say in conclusion, that whatever measures are to be adopted should be adopted at once. Every day’s delay increases the difficulty. Much time will be required to organize and discipline the men, and action may be deferred until it is too late.
 Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
 R. E. Lee, General.

Robert E. Lee's views on slavery before the Civil War.

Freeman, Douglas Southall, “R.E. Lee,” 4 vols., published Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1934-1935, from volume 1, pages 371-373, and his reference is, Lee to Mrs. Lee, Dec. 27, 1856; Lee MSS., Library of Congress.

This is the entire text. Sometimes defenders of Robert E. Lee will very selectively quote this letter. 

Their quote will be, "In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral and political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages"  They will say, see Robert E. Lee was against slavery. 

However, a fuller quote is: 
"In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral and political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it however a greater evil to the white than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically."
So Robert E. Lee believes slavery is a greater evil to white people than the enslaved African Americans who he feels is benefited by slavery.

After this Lee thinks that freedom should come in some distant future, and when we say distant we means tens of thousands of years or longer.

Read the whole thing to not only to find out Lee's real view of slavery, but what a pompous ass he was. Also, it is good instruction to learn how the defenders of Robert E. Lee don't exactly lie, but often obscure the full truth.

From a letter by Robert E. Lee to his wife, December 27, 1856, commenting on the benefits of slavery for Africans.[1]

“The steamer also brought the President’s message to Cong; & the reports of the various heads of Depts; the proceedings of Cong: &c &c. So that we are now assured, that the Govt: is in operation, & the Union in existence, not that we had any fears to the Contrary, but it is Satisfactory always to have facts to go on. They restrain Supposition & Conjecture, Confirm faith, & bring Contentment: I was much pleased with the President’s message & the report of the Secy of War, the only two documents that have reached us entire. Of the others synopsis [sic] have only arrived. The views of the Pres: of the Systematic & progressive efforts of certain people of the North, to interfere with & change the domestic institutions of the South, are truthfully & faithfully expressed. The Consequences of their plans & purposes are also clearly set forth, & they must also be aware, that their object is both unlawful & entirely foreign to them & their duty; for which they are irresponsible & unaccountable; & Can only be accomplished by them through the agency of a Civil & Servile war. In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral and political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it however a greater evil to the white than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence. Their emancipation will sooner result from the mild & melting influence of Christianity, than the storms & tempests of fiery Controversy. This influence though slow, is sure. The doctrine & miracles of our Saviour have required nearly two thousand years, to Convert but a small part of the human race, & even among Christian nations, what gross errors still exist! While we see the Course of the final abolition of human slavery is onward, & we give it all the aid of our prayers & all justifiable means in our power, we must leave the progress as well as the result in his hands who sees the end; who Chooses to work by slow influences; & with whom two thousand years are but as a Single day. Although the Abolitionist must know this, & must See that he has neither the right or power of operating except by moral means & suasion, & if he means well to the slave, he must not Create angry feelings in the Master; that although he may not approve the mode which it pleases Providence to accomplish its purposes, the result will nevertheless be the same; that the reasons he gives for interference in what he has no Concern, holds good for every kind of interference with our neighbors when we disapprove their Conduct; Still I fear he will persevere in his evil Course. Is it not strange that the descendants of those pilgrim fathers who Crossed the Atlantic to preserve their own freedom of opinion, have always proved themselves intolerant of the Spiritual liberty of others?”

[1] Freeman, Douglas Southall, “R.E. Lee,” 4 vols., published Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1934-1935, from volume 1, pages 371-373, and his reference is, Lee to Mrs. Lee, Dec. 27, 1856; Lee MSS., Library of Congress.

Robert E. Lee Sr. advises Robert E. Lee Jr. not to hire African Americans who he feels are enemies.

Robert E. Lee Sr. advises Robert E. Lee Jr. that African Americans are their enemies and not to hire them.

The book, “Recollections and Letters of General Lee,” by Robert E. Lee Jr. published by Doubleday, Page & Company in 1904, has a letter by Robert E. Lee Sr. to Robert E. Lee Jr. advising him not to hire African Americans.

From page 305 to 307 of the book, “Recollections and Letters of General Lee,” by Robert E. Lee Jr. published by Doubleday, Page & Company in 1904, A letter by Robert E. Lee Sr., the famous general, to his son Robert E. Lee Jr. advising him to not hire African Americans since he considers them their enemies.

Extract from the letter:

Lexington, Virginia, March 12, 1868.

“My Dear Rob: I am sorry to learn from your letter of the 1st that the winter has been so hard on your wheat. I hope, however, the present good weather is shedding its influence upon it, and that it will turn out better than it promises. You must, however, take a lesson from the last season. What you do cultivate, do well. Improve and prepare the land in the best manner; your labour will be less, and your profits more. Your flat lands were always uncertain in wet winters. The uplands were more sure. Is it not possible that some unbidden guest may have been feasting on your corn? Six hundred bushels are a large deficit in casting up your account for the year. But you must make it up by economy and good management. A farmer’s motto should be toil and trust. I am glad that you have got your lime and sown your oats and clover. Do you use the drill or sow broadcast? I shall try to get down to see you if I go toRichmond, for I am anxious to know how you are progressing and to see if in any way I can aid you. Whenever I can, you must let me know. You must still think about your house and make up your mind as to the site and kind, and collect the material. I can help you to any kind of plan, and with some ready money to pay the mechanics. I have recently had a visit from Dr. Oliver, of Scotland, who is examining lands for immigrants from his country. He seems to be a sensible and judicious man. From his account, I do not think the Scotch and English would suit your part of the country. It would require time for them to become acclimated, and they would probably get dissatisfied, especially as there is so much mountainous region where they could be accommodated. I think you will have to look to the Germans; perhaps the Hollanders, as a class, would be the most useful. When the railroad shall have been completed to West Point, I think there will be no difficulty in getting the whites among you. I would try to get some of our own young men in your employ. I rode out the other day to Mr. Andrew Cameron’s and went into the field where he was plowing. I took great pleasure in following the plows around the circuit. He had four in operation. Three of them were held by his former comrades in the army, who are regularly employed by him, and, he says, much to his satisfaction and profit. People have got to work now. It is creditable to them to do so; their bodies and their minds are benefited by it, and those who can and will work will be advanced by it. You will never prosper with the blacks, and it is abhorrent to a reflecting mind to be supporting and cherishing those who are plotting and working for your injury, and all of whose sympathies and associations are antagonistic to yours. I wish them no evil in the world—on the contrary, will do them every good in my power, and know that they are misled by those to whom they have given their confidence; but our material, social, and political interests are naturally with the whites. Mr. Davis’s trial was fixed for the last of this month. If Judge Chase’s presence is essential, I do not see how it can take place, unless that of Mr. Johnson is to be postponed. I suppose that will be decided to­day or to­morrow, and then I shall ...

Robert E. Lee

Robert E. Lee advises a friend that he shouldn't hire African Americans.

Robert E. Lee advises friend to hire whites only, Lee thinks African Americans make things worse. 

This is from the “Recollections and Letters of General Lee,” by his son, R.E. Lee, Jr. which was published by Doubleday, Page & Company in 1904. The following is a section about R.E. Lee Sr. visiting “Corbin Braxton’s widow” for dinner with some friends and his son gives an account on page 168 of the 1988 reprint by Broadfoot Publishing Co. In reading the book it is not clear exactly when this occured, but it was at some time right after the Civil War, but before he became president of Washington College.

Extract from the book:
…. a repast composed of all the good things for which that country was famous. John and I did not seem to think there was too much in sight—at any rate, it did not daunt us, and we did our best to lessen the quantity, consuming, I think, our share and more! We had been for so many years in the habit of being hungry that it was not strange we continued to be so awhile yet. But my father took a different view of the abundance displayed, and, during his drive back, said to Colonel Carter.: “Thomas, there was enough dinner to­day for twenty people. All this will now have to be changed; you cannot afford it; we shall have to practice economy.”
In talking with Colonel Carter about the situation of farmers at that time in the South, and of their prospects for the future, he urged him to get rid of the negroes left on the farm―some ninety­-odd in number, principally women and children, with a few old men―saying the government would provide for them, and advised him to secure white labour. The Colonel told him he had to use, for immediate needs, such force as he had, being unable at that time to get the whites. Were upon General Lee remarked:
“I have always observed that wherever you find the negro, everything is going down around him, and wherever you find the white man, you see everything around him improving.”

A book to read to learn about Robert E. Lee and his racism and to learn how the whole Lost Cause idea of Lee as being a hero is just humbug.

Alan T. Nolan called the book, "Lee Considered" instead of "Lee Reconsidered" since, as Nolan explained, prior book about Robert E. Lee were just hokum, junk and not historical.

Here is a review in the New York Times.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

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