710: Sorting Through the County Historiography

I finally got the chance to browse through Susie Blaylock McDaniel’s Official History of Catoosa County Georgia, 1853-1953.  Unfortunately, the book is not giving me much insight into the slave history of Catoosa County. Published for the first time in 1957, the book lacks significant scholarship over the last sixty years. What little information is in the book, is wrapped in the old Lost Cause narrative. Take for example McDaniels dedication to “[Catoosa’s] Colored Citizens,”: 

These people [colored citizens] deserve mention among our citizenry. The muscles of the slaves of the pre-Civil War days hewed down the massive forest trees that covered the country and put our fields into cultivation. They continued to do the hard labor on the farms until freed.

There is nothing in history to compare with the faithfulness of the Negroes during the Civil War. While their masters left home and went away to fight to keep them in bondage, they stayed at home, worked the plantations, cared for the women and children, and proved faithful to the trust imposed in them by their owners. There is not one instance of a slave proving himself a danger to the white women and children left in his care. In one night, if they had organized and started on a campaign of murder and arson, they could have stopped the war and brought the men home to care for their families. But they did nothing of this sort. All honor to them for this faithfulness! This proves that much of the excitement of the north about the mistreatment of the Negroes by the whites was unfounded.

This short snippet reminds me of the “loyal slave narrative” mentioned often over at Kevin Levin’s Civil War Memory blog.

3 thoughts on “710: Sorting Through the County Historiography

  1. But this line,

    While their masters left home and went away to fight to keep them in bondage. . . .

    seems very modern and completely out of line with the rest.

    1. I thought the same thing. It made me wonder if the author said it ironically. What going to be interesting is trying to define slavery in this Appalachian economy which has a railroad connection to the deep south economy.

  2. There is a four county history here for Knox, Lewis, Scotland, and Clark counties. It is often used as the go to history of the counties for anything before 1900. The Civil War sections for each county were written by different people because the style of writing is different as is the interpretation. The two counties are in the northeast part of Missouri bordering Iowa and Illinois. I do not see the outright lost cause narrative written into them, but the tone in some places indicates its existence.

    What I like about the Lewis County section is that it talks about a convention that was held in one of the river towns along the Mississippi. Representatives from the county came to it, but only the ones that wanted to support the idea of secession. So another convention was held at the river town to the north of the other one. There, they opposed secession. The author pointed out that the anti-secession group took pains to ignore the issue of slavery as to not inflame their neighbors while the secession group’s speeches were all about the dangers to slavery posed by the incoming Lincoln administration.

    This is a topic that I find very interesting. Once I finish this doctorate next year I plan to do some work on those conventions because the people involved in them began to arm themselves after they were over. They met in a battle at Athens, MO on August 5th, 1861 where the Missouri Home Guard (Union) routed the Missouri State Guardsmen (CSA). It is worth noting that the Home Guard was outnumbered by more than 6-1 odds.

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