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Wisconsin in the Civil War

A Jackson County Captain Reflects on Slavery and Black Women

Most Wisconsin volunteers set off for war in order to preserve their country with no strong feelings about slavery. Most had never met a black person. But as they witnessed slavery firsthand, their motives for fighting gradually changed. A few miles south of Nashville, Tennessee, Captain William Moore of Black River Falls writes in his diary on May 10, 1862, about the working conditions of black women.

Corn and Cotton, was almost the only crops that could be seen growing any where along the Road. These crops were planted, cultivated and harvested altogether by slaves. It was no unusual thing to see from five to twenty Negro women plowing in the fields with the men.

This to a man who had my feeling of respect for the female Sect, whether white or black, is revolting in the extreme. I would not have them placed on a level with our own wives & mothers, but I would not have them converted into Draymen or Plow Boys, to work all day in the hot broiling sun, under the severe lash of a renegade northern man, hired as an overseer. Such a man deserves not the name of man. He should have inhabited some lonely isle where the Female form should never grace his sight, and where pondering upon this curious freak of nature, he might hate himself to death.

Oh! hardened depraved man, to think of owning property in men, women and children. Man, the last and noblest work of God, possessed of body, mind and soul, of passions, love and hate. All bought and sold by man for a concideration and computed in dollars and cents. Is there a just God, and will he always see his creatures thus oppressed, and not send retributive justice with a sword of vengence to teach traitors their duty, and punish them for passed offences?

Source: Moore, William P. "Civil War Diary, 1861-1862," pages 51-52.

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Tennessee slaves picking cotton.
Tennessee slaves picking cotton.

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