Gleanings of Freedom
Free and Slave Labor along the Mason-Dixon Line, 1790-1860
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: University of Illinois Press
Title Page, Copyright, Quotes
These are the last passages that I will write in a project that has been a part of my life for the past decade. It is, therefore, something of a bittersweet experience. Looking back, however, I am struck with a profound sense of gratitude to the many people who made these years some of the happiest and most rewarding of my life. ...
Introduction: Sharpsburg, Maryland, 1803
On 17 September 1862, the Union’s Army of the Potomac and the Confederacy’s Army of Northern Virginia clashed on the corn and wheat fields, pastures, and woodlots surrounding Sharpsburg, Maryland. When the smoke cleared, upward of twenty-three thousand men had been killed or wounded and the “irrepressible conflict” between societies ...
1. “The Land Flows with Milk and Honey”: Agriculture and Labor in the Early Republic
Northern Maryland’s landscape was inspiring. In 1776, traveler John F. D. Smyth found that “the land around Frederick-Town is heavy, strong, and rich, well calculated for wheat, with which it abounds.” It was, he believed, “as pleasant a country as any in the world.” To Polish nobleman Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz, the counties on the Mason-Dixon ...
2. “A Strange Reverse of Fortune”: Panic, Depression, and the Transformation of Labor
In 1831, John P. Thompson of the Frederick-Town Herald climbed the “High Knob” of Catoctin Mountain. There, he was confronted with a glorious vision. “I have stood upon the mountain high in the air, and witnessed on all sides, as far as the eye can reach, an almost unbroken line of yellow grain, which reflected in the sun, like the shining bed of Paetolus.”1 ...
3. “There Are Objections to Black and White, but One Must Be Chosen”: Managing Farms and Farmhands in Antebellum Maryland
Between 1845 and 1847, Arthur W. Machen, a slaveholder in Fairfax County, Virginia, peppered his father with questions about the composition of his workforce. Like other landowners in this northern Virginia county, Machen was reeling from economic reverses. Soil exhaustion, languishing commodity markets, and increased competition from western wheat producers ...
4. “. . . How Much of Oursels We Owned”: Finding Freedom along the Mason-Dixon Line
The image still haunted her. In the spring of 1820, Eliza Thomas had witnessed her master, Colonel James Samuel Hook, being “caught in a sawmill, and drawn out like a plank. . . . [Y]ou could n’t tell he’d ever been a man.” Decades later, she remembered that the colonel’s death was the beginning of “awful times” for his enslaved men and women. ...
5. “Chased Out on the Slippery Ice”: Rural Wage Laborers in Antebellum Maryland
In July 1861, a white farmhand identified only as Grimes and several free black harvesters left the Carroll County store of C. S. Snouffer, where they had spent the evening drinking. As they milled outside the store “talking about the nearest road to the place they were at work,” a Mr. Drum “took the idea that it was a squad of Negroes” and accosted the farmworkers. ...
Conclusion: Sharpsburg, Maryland, 1862
The fires that engulfed the barns and stables of George Carey and the Mumma family were distant memories on 17 September 1862, when once again the farms outside Sharpsburg were embroiled in fire and smoke. Most people in the neighborhood had forgotten “Negro Anthony” and his desperate flights to avoid being sold south for conspiring to torch Carey’s outbuildings. ...
About the Author, Further Reading, Production Notes, Back Cover