“We Heard Bugles Blowin'” – Appalachian Slave Narratives

Welcome to the second and final posting of Appalachian slave narratives capturing individual responses regarding freedom. You’ll find part one here. Visit the following sources for more extensive and wide ranging interviews:



Bert Mayfield
Born May 29, 1852 in Garrard County, KY

“I received the first news of freedom joyfully. I went to old man Onstott’s to live. I lived there two or three years. I think Abe Lincoln is a great man. He did not believe in slavery and would have paid the southern people for their slaves if he had lived. All the slaves on Morse Stone’s place were treated well.”


Mrs. Duncan, unknown age
Albany, KY, Clinton County

“After the War was over mammie’s old man did not want us with them, so he threatened to kill us. Then my old mammie fixed us a little bundle of what few clothes we had and started us two children out to go back to the Campbell family in Albany. The road was just a wildnerness and full of wild animals and varmints. Mammie gave us some powder and some matches, telling us to put a little down in the road every little while and set fire to it. This would scare the wild animals away from us.”
“We got to the river at almost dark and some old woman set us across the river in a canoe. She let us stay all night with her, and we went to ‘Grandpap Campbell’s’. (We always called him grandpap instead of master, as the others did.) When he saw us comin’ he said ‘Lawd have mercy here comes them poor little chillun.’”
“I stayed with them that time until I was big enough to be a house girl. Then I went to live with the Harrison family in Albany; and I lived with them until I married old Sam Duncan . . .”
1913 – Mr. D.N. Leathers Sr. Celebrating Juneteenth – Wikimedia



Ike Woodward
Born July 4, 1855 in Pittsboro, Calhoun County, MS

“When dem Yankees come through from de north travelin’ south dey stole lots of de wealthy peoples good stock an’ left their ole wore out plugs in their places.”
“When de war was over didn’t nobody at Massa Conners tell us n—–s we was free. One mornin’ several days after de 8th o’ May de white folks sent me to de well down in de valley below de house to get a bucket o’ water. When I started to draw de water I saw my brother comin through de woods ridin a blazed face mare. He never said a word but galloped to de well, picked me up an put me on de horse with him an’ carried me from Massa Conners to de Woodwards. Massa Woodward had told my papa if he’d stay on with him an’ work when crops was gathered he’d give him half we made, so we did.”
“Young people now have better times than we did when I was a boy.”
“Back then if de white folks did let us n—–s go anywhere they would write us a pass describin’ who we belonged to, our name, description an’ where we was goin’, cause some white folks might take us up thinkin’ we was a run-a-way slave.”


Sam McCallum
Born near Dekalb, Kemper County, MS

“Dey were such a sca’city o’ men, dey were a-puttin’ ‘em in de war at sixty-five. But de war end ‘fore dey call dat list.”
“Mistis didn’ have nobody to he’p her endurin’ de war. She had to do de bes’ she could.” When she hear’d de N—–s talkin’ ‘bout bein’ free, she wore ‘em out wid a cowhide . . . Dey warnt nothin’ a N—–r could do but stan’ up an’ take it.”
“Dey were a heap o’ talk ‘bout de Yankees a-givin’ ever’ N—–r forty acres an’ a mule. I don’t know how us come to hear ‘bout it. It jus’ kinda got othin’. I picked out my mule. All o’ us did.”
“Mistis put us out. She sent me to Mr. Scott close to Scooba. I were mos’ a grown boy by den a’ could plow pretty good. Come de surrender, Mr. Scott say, ‘Sambo, I don’t have to pay yo’ mistis for you no more. I have to pay you if you stay. N—–s is free. You is free.’ I didn’ b’lieve it. I worked dat crop out, but I didn’ ask for no pay. Dat didn’ seem right. I didn’t un’erstan’ ‘bout freedom, so I went home to my old mistis. She say, ‘Sambo, you don’t b’long to me now.’”
“Den us went back to Stephenson’s where us were born, to git us age. Old mistis say, ‘Sambo, you aint twenty-one yet.’ She cried ‘cause I had to go back to Mr. Overstreet. But I didn’. My mammy an’ me went back to McAllum’s an’ stayed until a man give us a patch in turn for us he’pin’ him on his farm.”


North Carolina

Sara Gudger, age 121 (!) – See image
Born about “two mile fum Ole Fo’t on de Ole Mo’ganton Road [McDowell County]”

Sarah Gudger – Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration, Volume XI, Part I – Library of Congress
“Dat wah awful time [the War]. Us da’kies didn’ know whut it wah all bout. Ony one of de boys f’om de plantation go . . . Many de time we git word de Yankees comin’. We take ouh food an’ stock an’ hide it till we sho’ dey’s gone. We wan’t bothahed much. One day, I nebbah fo’git, we look out an’ see sojers ma’chin’; look lak de whole valley full ob dem. I thought: ‘Poah helpless crittahs, jes goin’ away t’ git kilt.’ De drums wah beatin’ and de fifes aplayin’. Dey wah de foot comp’ny. Oh, glory, it wah a sight. Sometime dey cum home on furlough. Sometime dey git kilt afore dey gits th’ough.”
“When de wah was ovah, Marse William he say: ‘Did yo’all know yo’all’s free, Yo’ free now.’ I chuckle, ‘membahin’ whut ole woman tell us ‘bout freedom, an’ no larnin’. Lotta men want me t’ go t’ foreign land, but I tell ‘em I go live wif mah pappy, long as he live. I stay wif de white folks ‘bout twelve months, den I stay wif mah pappy, long as he live.”
“. . . I cain’t membah sech a lot ‘bout it all. I jes’ knows I’se bo’n and bred heah in dese pa’ts, nebbah been outten it. I’se well; nebbah take no doctah med’cine. Jes’ ben sick once; dat aftah freedom.”



Fleming Clark, aged over 74 years
Born possibly in Jefferson County

“When freedom come dey were all shoutin’ and I run to my mother and asked her what it wuz all bout. De white man said you are all free and can go. I remember the Yankee soldier comin’ through the wheat field.”
“I just heard a little about Abraham Lincoln. I believe he wuz a good man. I just hed a slight remembrance of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis. I have heard of Booker T. Washington, felt just de same bout him. A pretty good man.”
“ I think it wuz a great thing that slavery anded, I would not like to see it now.”



John Anderson, age unknown
Born “in Pennsylvania, on Shiptown road, Clinton County”

“While the wah was goin’ on, the soldiers were campin’ all about us and when they heerd the Grays was comin’ they got ready for battle, and when they did come they fit ‘em back, and they made their stand at Harpers Ferry, Va., and had a hard battle there. My mammy was scared of the Grays and when she heer’d they was comin’, would hide us three boys in some white folks cellar until they was gone. They would take all the young n—–s with them they could get hold of, and soon as they’d gone, we would go back home.”
“When the wah was over, me and some boys went over to the battlefield and foun’ a cavalry gun which I had for years. We lived in a log cabin on a farm and worked for a farmer in the fields while my mammy worked in the house for the white folks. We had lots of things that is good and bad luck.”


South Carolina

Fannie Moore, age 88 – see image
Moore, Spartanburg County, SC

Fannie Moore – Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration, Volume XI, Part II – Library of Congress
“After de war pappy go back to work on de plantation. He make his own crop on de plantation. But de money was no good den. I played wif many a Confed’rate dollar. He sho was happy dat he was free. Mammy she shout fo’ joy an’ say her prayers war answered.”
“After de war de Ku Klux broke out. Oh, miss dey was mean. In dey long white robes dey scare de n—–s to death. Dey keep close watch on dem afeared dey try to do somethin’. Dey have long horns an’ big eyes an’ mouth. Dey never go roun’ much in de day. Jes night. Dey take de poor n—–s away in de woods and beat ‘em and hang ‘em. De n—–s was afraid to move, much less tryin’ to do anything. Dey never know what to do, dey hab no larnin’. Hab no money. All they can do was stay on de same plantation til dey can do better. We lib on de same plantation till de chillun all grown an’ mammy an’ pappy both die then we leave. I don’ know where any of my people are now.”


Tom Hawkins, age 75
Born in Belton, Anderson County, SC

“I never will forgit de day dey told us de war was over and us was free. One of de ‘omans what was down by de spring a washin’ clothes started shoutin’: ‘Thank God-a-Moughty I’se free at last!’ Marse Tom heard her and he come and knocked her down. It was ‘bout October or November ‘fore he ever told us dat us was free sho’ ‘nough. Dat same ‘oman fainted dead away den ‘cause she wanted to holler so bad and was skeered to make a soun’. De Yankees come thoo soon atter dat and said us was free and ‘vited all de N—–s dat wanted to, to go ‘long wid dem. I never will forgit how bad dem yankees treated Ole Miss. Dey stole all her good hosses, and her chickens and dey broke in de smokehouse and tuk her meat. Dey went in de big house and tuk her nice quilts and blankets . . . when dey foun’ her gold, she just broke down and cried and cried. I stayed on and was Miss Annie’s houseboy long as she lasted. I was 21 when she died.”
“I think Mr. Jefferson Davis and Mr. Lincoln was bofe of ‘em doin deir best to be all right. Booker Washin’ton, he was all right too, but he sho’ was a ‘maybe man.’ He mought do right and den he moughtn’t.”
“Yes Ma’am, if Old Miss was livin’ I’d ruther have slavery days back, ‘cause den you knowed you was gwine to have plenty t’eat and wear, and a good place to sleep even if Mist’ess did make you wuk moughty hard. Now you can wuk your daylights plum out and never can be sho’ ‘bout gittin’ nothin’.”



Unknown name, age, place 1)Sutcliffe, Andrea, ed. 2000. Mighty Rough Times, I Tell You: Personal Accounts of Slavery in Tennessee. Winston-Salem: John F. Blair. pgs. 7-10

“Well, the free n—-s was free, and then they wasn’t free. They had a guardian over them. When I came to Nashville, I came up here with a lot of them kind – you know, the free ones. The guardians hire them out and got their pay, you know. Now, if you was a free n—–r and did something you didn’t have no business doing, you was sent to the penitentiary like anybody else. That was the difference. The slaves never went to the penitentiary for nothin’ they did. They was whipped and beat on by the ole marster or the ole overseer.”


Frankie Goole, age 85
Born in Smith County, TN

“Mah Missis didunt gib me nuthin, cept mah clothes, en she put dem in a carpet bag. Atter freedom mah mammy kum fum Lebanon en got me. Ah’ll neber fergit dat day – Oh Lawdy! I kin see her now. Mah ole Missis’ daughter-in-law had got a bunch ob switches ter whup me, I wuz standin’ in de do’er shakin’ all ovuh, en de young Missis wuz tellin’ me ter git mah clothes off. I sezs, ‘I s’d a ‘oman kum’g thro de gate.’ Mah Missis sez, ‘Dat ez Lucindia” en de young Missis hid de switches. Mah mammy sezs I’se kum ter git mah chile. Mah Missis tole her ter let me spend de nite wid her, den she’d send me ter de Court House at 9 o’clock next mawnin’. So I stayed wid de Missis dat night . . . De mawnin’ I lef mah Missis, I went ter de Court House en met mah mammy; de Court room wuz jammed wid people. De Jedge tole me ter hold my right hand up, I wuz so skeered I stuck both hands up. Jedge says, ‘Frankie ez dat yo mammy?’ I sezs, ‘I dunno, she sezs she ez.’ (W’at did I know ob a mammy dat wuz tuk fum me at six weeks ole.) He sezs, ‘Wuz yo Marster good ter you?’ I sezs, ‘Mah Missis wuz, but mah Marster wasn’t – he whup’d me.’ De Jedge said ‘Whar did he whup you?’ I told him on mah back . . .”
“I never voted en dunno nothin’ ‘bout hit . . . Cain’ member nothin’ ‘bout re’struction . . . I sometimes wish fer de good ole days. Deze days folks don’t hab time fer ‘ligion. De dog-gone ole radio en udder things ez takin’ hits place.”
Oil painting – The Last Sale of Slaves by Thomas Satterwhite-Noble, Jan 1, 1861 – Picryl



The slave narratives I found from Virginia listed a little over 15 accounts – none in Appalachian Virginia. Of course, that doesn’t mean slavery didn’t exist there.


West Virginia

Nan Stewart, age 87
Born in Charleston, WV

“I ‘member very well de day de Yankees cum. De slaves all cum a runnin’ an’ yellin’: ‘Yankees is comin’, Yankee soljers is comin’, hurrah.’ Bout two or three clock, we heard bugles blowin’ an’ guns on Taylah Ridge. Kids wuz playin’ an’ all ‘cited. Sumone sed: ‘Kathrun, sumthin’ awful gwine happen,” an’ sumone else sez; ‘De’ is de Yankees.’ De Yankee mens camp on ouah farm an’ buyed ouah buttah, milk an’ eggs. Marse Hunt whut you all call ‘bilionist [abolitionist] an’ he wuz skeered of southern soljers an’ went out to de woods an’ laid behind a log fo’ seben weeks and seben days, den he ‘cided to go back home . . .”
“One ob my prized possessions is Abraham Lincoln’s pictures an’ I’se gwine to gib it to a colored young man whose done been so kind to me, when I’se gone. Dat’s Bookah T. Washington’s picture ovah thar.”




**Featured image of Jubilee Singers at Fisk University,1866 – National Parks Gallery


1 Sutcliffe, Andrea, ed. 2000. Mighty Rough Times, I Tell You: Personal Accounts of Slavery in Tennessee. Winston-Salem: John F. Blair. pgs. 7-10

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