The harsh winter of 1861-1862 slowly yielded to spring and new growth, new signs of life re-awakening – and a barely recognizable man coming across the yard to Fountain Rock:
One chilly day in March the family at Fountain Rock saw a strange man slowly making his way through the grove from the Ridge road. He appeared old and ill and no one knew that it was Davis until he reached the porch. Knowing that his life was nearly gone he had sworn to give no further aid or assistance to the cause he had loved and had come home. He had walked all the way from Harper’s Ferry. Always a lover of the fields and woods and mountains, and especially a lover of the river near which he had lived all his life, Davis Shepherd had come home spent and heart-broken to die. – (1).
Freedom Is Offered by Hugh Pendleton at Westwood to His Many Enslaved; George Slow Also Finds A Friend For A Lifetime.
In late February, 1862 Federal General Nathaniel Banks crossed into Virginia at Harper’s Ferry, ventured through Charlestown and continued deeply into the Shenandoah Valley into what would be for his troops a disastrous encounter with Confederate General Stonewall Jackson’s very fleet and hard-fighting brigade.
Those enslaved persons in Jefferson County and beyond seized the opportunity to depart from the farms they worked and stubbornly affix themselves and their families to this massive Federal army, while it was here and available. Many found finding work and shelter at Harper’s Ferry.
Their number probably would soon exceed two thousand, based on newspaper reports of the number of African-Americans at Harper’s Ferry in September, 1862. – (2).
The exodus began in March, shortly after Bank’s army appeared in the County. His chief-of-staff, David Hunter Strother, whose wife lived in Charlestown and who had memorably encountered his friends in the Virginia militia in April, 1861, as war was starting, kept a diary that charted the number of African-Americans arriving in the spring of 1862 at Federal encampments.
He remarked in his diary on March 8th – An excitement was produced in town by the arrival of a wagon load of Negro women and children with bag and baggage as if bound for a free country, . . . I understand they were forwarded to Harper’s Ferry. . . Numbers of men have flocked into town more or less every day since our occupation (of about ten days.-JS). – (3).
Enslaved were leaving their farms all over the county. At Adam Stephen Dandridge’s farm, The Bower, Dandridge recorded leaving that spring of 1862: a woman and her two children, two men and one boy, “some men,” 38-year-old John Pinco, and 19-year-old William. – (4).
James and Ann Hooff wrote in their daily farm diary on March 12, 1862: When we got up we found every women and child gone – took our wagon and moved everything – several of the neighbors’ servants gone at the same time. – (5).
Enslaved African-Americans leave Mt. Pleasant farm of Charles Aglionby and his family. He wrote in his farm diary:
March 10 – Monday – Negroes go into the Union Lines – Left the premises last night the following slaves:
Martha – 17 years old, sound, healthy, stout, color rather light;
Laura – black, 39 years old, medium size, handy at all works;
Louis – 23 years old, not very tall, but thick set complexion, copperish;
Bob – 17 years old, a mulatto, chunky, but not tall or large for his age;
Henry Robinson – dark complexion, slender male, age supposed to be thirty or upwards, he is the property of Mrs. Elizabeth Strider and had Laura for his wife.
March 13 – Wednesday – More workers leave by night:
Left last night Ralf Madison Hall, aged 26, dark, good looking, heavy set, medium height, boot and shoe maker; Silas Hall ditto from Mr. Conklyn about same time, aged 14 years. – (6).
Some returned to their farms and owners in May when it briefly appeared that Stonewall Jackson might capture Harper’s Ferry. Hoping for mercy, some of these returnees were promptly and angrily re-sold by the owner. – (7).
Hugh Nelson Pendleton, who built in the early 1850s his farm abode called Westwood just west of Rippon and near the border with Clarke County, had written of his animus against enslavement.
As of the summer of 1860, he had ten men and six women at Westwood, including a seven-month-old baby girl. – (8).
According to his daughter-in-law – Tippie Boteler, he had written: “all my slaves are kindly treated and seem contented and happy, but I have no doubt they would gladly be free. All have been more or less instructed and some read very well,” despite, Tippie Boteler added, the fact that it was considered illegal to teach literacy to those enslaved in Virginia. – (9).
Pendleton wrote, acknowledging the Thorntons, a family of enslaved workers, who worked a nearby farm and sometimes Pendleton’s and as well as the Boteler’s, had opted to find better opportunities in Liberia and ten of that family, left for Cape Palmas in 1855. (10) (11) (12).
With the federal army literally in his own back yard that spring in 1862, Pendleton, the family history goes and is supported, decided to offer freedom to those he enslaved.
The first man to opt for freedom at Westwood was 32-year old George Slow, who was born there in 1830 when it was part of another farm property. Two other men, one thirty-one and the other thirty-five-years-old in 1862, also joined the army with George. The oldest woman who was sixty-three chose to stay. – (13).
Captain Frank A. Donaldson later of the 118th Pennsylvania Corn Exchange Regiment, described his first meeting Slow while his army was moving towards Berryville from Charlestown in early March, 1862.
(Donaldson was born in Philadelphia, June 7, 1840. He was enrolled as a sergeant of the 71st Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers (Baker’s California Regiment), May 26, 1861, and was mustered into the service June 4, 1861. He was taken prisoner at Ball’s Bluff, October, 1861. His conspicuous gallantry in this engagement was rewarded by promotion to a second lieutenancy, May 1, 1862. He was severely wounded at Fair Oaks, May 30, 1862. Upon his recovery he was mustered out to accept the captaincy of Company H, 118th. He was honorably discharged, January 14, 1864.) – (14).
Donaldson who befriended George Slow for a lifetime wrote how their encounter happened:
Donaldson wrote his brother March 15th from Bolivar, describing the beauty and devastation of Harper’s Ferry, the homes in Charlestown and then his journey towards Berryville when he meets George Slow:
Here I am once again on old Virginia’s sacred soil. In the few lines written from Harper’s Ferry, I said I did not think much of the place. That was literally true as regards the town, but as to the beauty of the country, the magnificence of the surrounding landscape, there can be no question.
Harper’s Ferry is situated at the junction of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, and is probably one of the most picturesquely located places in America. I can conceive of no more beautiful scene than just here. Then, too, it is full of memories of the stirring past, although desolation and ruin reign everywhere. There is scarcely anything besides a few standing walls, to remind one of the busy arsenal where so many muskets, now in the hands of the enemies, as well as its own troops were made by the Government. The Engine house where John Brown battled for abolition’s cause is still standing, but the citizens of the town itself have deserted it. The only place of business open are our own people and the only customer, too, are our own army. Everything wears an aspect of utter decay and destruction.
I left on Thursday morning and rode as far as Charlestown, a distance of nine miles, in the Sutler’s wagon, when finding he was not going further, I took up my journey on foot for Berryville, a distance of a trifle less than thirteen miles.
Charlestown is a pretty place, with numberless frame cottages, painted white, with green Venetian shutters. I did not have time to go all over the place, but a number of historical places were pointed out to me, notably the Court house where old John Brown was tried, and the jail where he was kept prisoner.
Nothing of note happened on the journey excepting the meeting with a mounted officer who had kept me company until near Berryville. He said he was a Major of a Rhode Island regiment, and asked so many questions about myself and the probable number of troops at Harper’s Ferry, that I became suspicious, in fact alarmed, and told him a pretty lively tale about the latter place. While conversing with him I could not understand why if he was journeying from Harper’s Ferry he knew so little about the situation there. However, I feared to ask him the question, lest my suspicions proving correct, I might again be taken prisoner. He was a very gentlemanly man, and was dressed in our uniform, that is so much of it as I could see. He had a glazed forage cap, and a long dark blue, almost black, circular, or officer’s cavalry overcoat, and was armed with holster pistols and one also attached to his waist belt, but carried no sword. He was about 40 years of age and wore his beard cut close all around his face. Just before reaching Berryville, he stopped at a private roadside house, where a female evidently a lady came out, and while pumping water for him, conversed in a tone of voice inaudible to me, at least. I stood aside while they talked together and was satisfied that they knew each other quite well. Here he left me after cordially shaking my hand. He said he had enjoyed my company very much which had helped him to pass way many tedious hours of lonely traveling.
All along the good solid turnpike to Berryville (Route 340 in 2014.-JS) there were evidences of the passing of large bodies of troops, there being scarcely a fence rail left in the whole distance, and the sad havoc made with the woods, where an encampment had taken place and was most marked. I saw no soldiers during this tramp. The farmers appeared to have been at work and the country as far back as I could see, was well cultivated and full of fine-looking wheat; at least, to my unpracticed eye, it looked remarkably good and heavy.
They Meet George Slow.
As we moved away from the vicinity of Charlestown, we saw a number of Negroes leaning on a fence surrounding a neat little house on what appeared to be a large plantation. Captain Urie spoke to one of them and asked whether he would like to join the army. Replying that he would, the Captain told him to come along, and he and two or three others did so.
In conversation with him I learned his name to be George Slow, and that he was or had been, a slave, but, his master (Pendleton), knowing that he could not keep his slaves, had given him his freedom, and he (George) would like me to go back and corroborate what he said. He had been a house servant and nicely brought up. We like him very much and he is a first-rate cook and very handy generally.
Slow continued with the army, acting first as a servant to Captain Urie; but when Urie took sick, Slow in May, 1862 transferred to the service of Donaldson with whom he stayed through many battles, starting May 30th at Fair Oaks – outside of Richmond – where Donaldson was wounded and George Slow relentlessly stayed by his side or brought help, saving Donaldson’s life. – (15).
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