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Gleanings of Freedom

Free and Slave Labor along the Mason-Dixon Line, 1790-1860

Max Grivno

Publication Year: 2011

Late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century landowners in the hinterlands of Baltimore, Maryland, cobbled together workforces from a diverse labor population of black and white apprentices, indentured servants, slaves, and hired workers. This book examines the intertwined lives of the poor whites, slaves, and free blacks who lived and worked in this wheat-producing region along the Mason-Dixon Line. Drawing from court records, the diaries, letters, and ledgers of farmers and small planters, and other archival sources, Max Grivno reconstructs how these poorest of southerners eked out their livings and struggled to maintain their families and their freedom in the often unforgiving rural economy.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Series: The Working Class in American History


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Quotes

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

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. ...

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Introduction: Sharpsburg, Maryland, 1803

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pp. 1-22

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 ...

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1. “The Land Flows with Milk and Honey”: Agriculture and Labor in the Early Republic

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pp. 23-63

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 ...

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2. “A Strange Reverse of Fortune”: Panic, Depression, and the Transformation of Labor

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pp. 64-90

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 ...

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3. “There Are Objections to Black and White, but One Must Be Chosen”: Managing Farms and Farmhands in Antebellum Maryland

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pp. 91-114

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 ...

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4. “. . . How Much of Oursels We Owned”: Finding Freedom along the Mason-Dixon Line

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pp. 115-151

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. ...

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5. “Chased Out on the Slippery Ice”: Rural Wage Laborers in Antebellum Maryland

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pp. 152-194

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. ...

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Conclusion: Sharpsburg, Maryland, 1862

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pp. 195-200

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. ...


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pp. 201-256


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pp. 257-270

About the Author, Further Reading, Production Notes, Back Cover

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pp. 288-298

E-ISBN-13: 9780252093562
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252036521

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: The Working Class in American History
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OCLC Number: 826443590
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Gleanings of Freedom

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Subject Headings

  • Slave labor -- Maryland -- History -- 19th century.
  • Slavery -- Maryland -- History -- 19th century.
  • Freedmen -- Maryland -- History -- 19th century.
  • Agricultural laborers -- Maryland -- History -- 19th century.
  • Mason-Dixon Line.
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