By John Hennessy:

The program:  Thursday, February 10, at 7 p.m., at the England Run Branch of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library.  I’ll present The Crossing: Slaves, Stafford, and the Great 1862 Exodus to Freedom. 

One of the unexpected benefits of doing Fredericksburg Remembered and Mysteries and Conundrums is that they have occasionally prompted readers to pass along interesting and important material. Last week I received an email from Patrick Sullivan of South Carolina, who is a descendant of Absolom and Nancy Row of Greenfield Plantation in Spotsylvania (the site is now consumed by the lake and subdivision at Fawn Lake, off Route 621–you can read a nice article on Greenfield here). Pat has spent years accumulating material on his family–some from archives, some from other family members, some from his own collection–and has generously passed along some intensely interesting items.

Nancy Row, wartime mistress of Greenfield Plantation. She authored the affidavit, below. Courtesy Patrick Sullivan.

His collection constitutes a vivid look into one family’s relationship with slavery. He has the proceedings of an inquest into a murder of one slave by another; he has documents relating to Absolom Row’s (died 1855) involvement with slave patrols in Spotsylvania County; he has ads for runaway slaves, newspaper advertisements and articles, ledger books, postwar labor contracts with former slaves, and a variety of other material. He has graciously permitted me to use them as I work on the book, and to share some of the material here. In 1860, Nancy Row owned 24 slaves. 

Given our recent posts about the 1862 slave exodus, perhaps the most immediately interesting piece Pat sent along was this, a statement of slaves lost by Nancy Row in the summer of 1862. It includes the names of 20 slaves:

Click to enlarge. From the collection of Patrick Sullivan.

The document includes two separately dated entries, each documenting the escape of slaves from Greenfield Plantation.  This document is exceptional in two ways. First, it gives several slaves’ last names.  We have written about this before, but the vast majority of slaves listed on inventories do not include last names. These do, which opens the possibility of tracking them in the historical record after emancipation (anyone want to do some digging?). 

Secondly, the document clearly shows the departure of family units, including children of all ages.  I have often speculated that children were probably a great reason for caution when slaves took on the question of whether to stay or go, and indeed many slaves (especially females) chose not to run to Union lines because of the presence of children. But here are at least three apparently family units leaving.

We cannot know for certain their course, but it seems likely that in both cases the escapees fled toward Union lines, and eventually across the Rappahannock.  It seems safe, then, to include these names on The List–the roster (mostly first names only) of slaves known or presumed to have escaped into Union lines that summer.  Bear in mind, the spelling of names often appears approximate. Taliferrer, for example, is likely a misspelling of Taliaferro, and Upsher of Upshur.

Escaped June 15, 1862:

William Upsher 22

Mary Agnace U 28 and 2 children Betsy 18 and Robert 3 (we presume the U means Upsher)

Matilda U 26

Peter U 18

Silas Right U 15

Edward Brown 46

Addison Taliferrer 28

Malinda T 31  and four children (we presume the T means Taliferrer)

Mildred `4

Cornelious 12

Sarah Ann 10

Lucy Taylor 6

Mariah T 26

Escaped August 13, 1862

Thornton 22 a good blacksmith


Kitty 20

Charles Henry 3

Infant 6 months old