Home History How This Escaped Slave Got His Revenge on the Confederacy

How This Escaped Slave Got His Revenge on the Confederacy

by Enochadmin

In his 33 quick years of life, Abraham Galloway impacted the course of American historical past greater than males who lived to be twice his age—starting along with his daring escape from slavery. Within the span of just a bit greater than a decade, he risked his life as a spy for the Union Military in the course of the Civil Conflict, helped increase regiments of Black males preventing for the liberty of their race, campaigned for the rights of girls and Blacks, and served two phrases as a Republican state senator of the state into which he was born into bondage.

Galloway was born to an enslaved lady and White father on February 8, 1837, in Smithville (now Southport), a small coastal city in Brunswick County, N.C. At 11, he was apprenticed to a brick mason, and finally turned expert on the commerce. Earlier than Galloway’s twentieth birthday, his proprietor moved with him to Wilmington, N.C. At his earliest alternative, the youth—together with one other slave, and beneath the attention of a sympathetic captain—secreted himself within the cargo maintain of a schooner sure for Philadelphia. From right here, the abolitionist Vigilance Committee performed him through the Underground Railroad to Canada and freedom.

Within the 4 years previous to the Civil Conflict, Galloway—not content material to stay at liberty in Ontario (then often known as “Canada West”)—traveled again throughout the border, establishing robust relationships with famous abolitionists. At nice private danger, he ranged from Ohio to New England giving fiery speeches.

In January 1861—simply three months earlier than the firing on Fort Sumter—the 23-year-old Galloway sailed to Haiti, together with a number of different militants, together with Francis Merriam, a survivor of John Brown’s abortive raid on the Harpers Ferry arsenal. The group’s agenda was to recruit volunteers for a John Brown-style navy invasion of the Southern states, with Haiti as their base of operations. The opening salvos of the struggle put an abrupt finish to their efforts, although, and he sailed again to the USA, resolved to assist within the Union effort.

Galloway then put his life and liberty in danger once more by volunteering to return to the slave South—as a spy for the Union Military. For the following two-and-a-half years, he reported on to Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Butler, and traveled surreptitiously by way of North Carolina, Louisiana, and Mississippi, disappearing inside Black communities whereas gathering intelligence. All of the whereas, he needed to evade Insurgent troops, slave catchers, and White civilians.

After using Galloway as an agent throughout his seizure of New Orleans, Butler despatched him to Vicksburg together with six firms of the 4th Wisconsin, to evaluate the town’s defenses. It led to his seize.

No particulars are identified of his apprehension, or of how he regained his freedom. Actually, if the Confederates had acknowledged him as a spy, they’d have peremptorily hanged him, so he may nicely have escaped. Galloway, a lot debilitated from his ordeal, made his strategy to Union-occupied New Bern, N.C., the place a former slave helped restore his well being.


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His profession in espionage at an finish, Galloway divided his time between creating whole regiments by recruiting African People from New Bern’s giant Black inhabitants into the Union Military, and actively advocating for abolition. In late 1863, he traveled 75 miles exterior Union strains to Insurgent-held Wilmington, N.C., from which he managed to spirit his mom to New Bern and freedom. And, within the phrases of biographer David S. Cecelski, he additionally “developed a genius for politics. Amongst North Carolina’s freed folks, he turned a grassroots organizer, a coalition builder, and an inspiring orator.”

At the moment, he met and married 18- or 19-year previous Martha Ann Dixon, the daughter of slaves, and based on an observer, “a priceless gem among the many sands of poor Beaufort.” Martha Ann shared her new husband’s burning ardour for abolition and Black suffrage, and composed a number of fiery missives for the Anglo-African newspaper.

After President Lincoln’s January 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, the U.S. Military aggressively recruited former slaves and free Blacks to navy service with posters.
(Nationwide Archives)

A strong speaker, Galloway drew giant crowds, whom he impressed along with his eloquence and fervor. Commented one observer who attended one in all Galloway’s orations at New Bern’s Andrew Chapel, “He dealt with secessionists and…Copperheads with out gloves, and his speech was acquired with roars of laughter and nice applause.”

By the spring of 1864, the struggle nonetheless had one other 12 months to run. On April 29, Galloway led a delegation of Black Southerners—a few of them former slaves—to the nation’s capital, and into a gathering with President Abraham Lincoln. By now, there have been tens of hundreds of African People in blue uniforms, and Galloway’s priorities had grown from merely selling Black enlistments into the Union Military. Seeking to a postwar future, he broadened his scope to incorporate unilateral Black suffrage, in addition to social and political equality. To his pondering, America’s Blacks ought to, and finally would, vote and maintain public workplace.

Though Lincoln had met with Northern Black luminaries, together with Frederick Douglass, in the course of the course of the struggle, based on biographer Cecelski, “[T]his appears to have been his first assembly with African American leaders from the South.” The delegation introduced Lincoln with a petition, urging the President, partially, “to complete the noble work you’ve begun, and grant unto your petitioners that biggest of privileges…to train the precise of suffrage, which is able to significantly prolong our sphere of usefulness, redound to your honor, and trigger posterity, to the newest era, to acknowledge their deep sense of gratitude.” The primary signature on the petition was that of Abraham Galloway.

Lincoln listened respectfully to their feedback, and—based on the Anglo-African—gave them “assurances of his sympathy and cooperation.” The delegation then walked to the Capitol, the place they distributed copies of the petition to the congressmen.

Instantly after his go to to the White Home, Galloway led members of his delegation on a tour of the Northern states, throughout which he took each alternative to talk on behalf of Black suffrage. 

On his return to New Bern, Galloway was chosen to symbolize North Carolina as a delegate to the Nationwide Conference of Coloured Males of the USA, in Syracuse, N.Y., from which was born the Nationwide Equal Rights League. It was a robust assemblage, and Galloway stood out as a serious luminary. The Conference elected Frederick Douglass its president, and Galloway amongst its vice presidents. On taking workplace, Douglass requested Galloway to serve on the chief board.

Group photo of 35th USCT reunion
Veterans of the thirty fifth United States Coloured Troops Regiment pose with members of the family throughout a 1905 reunion in Plymouth, N.C. The thirty fifth shaped in close by New Bern, N.C., on June 30, 1863.
(North Carolina State Archives)

Returning to New Bern solely briefly, he spent appreciable time in New York Metropolis and Boston, fundraising and addressing political capabilities. “He appeared to seem in every single place,” Cecelski writes, “and at any time, at all times energetic and on the run.” Then, in mid-December 1864, Abraham’s and Martha Ann’s first son, John, was born. The John Brown League, of which Galloway had turn out to be president, introduced the couple with a finely engraved Bible—the primary household Bible both household had owned.

Two years after the struggle ended, Galloway was named a delegate to the Constitutional Conference in Raleigh. The next 12 months, Abraham Galloway—former escaped slave and self-made activist for his folks—turned North Carolina’s first Black elector. He was twice elected to the state Senate—in 1868 and once more in 1870.

Abraham Galloway died unexpectedly on September 1, 1870, simply six months after the beginning of a second son, Abraham Jr., and shortly following his reelection to the state Senate. Regardless of fixed threats on his life, there was no indication of foul play; Martha Ann later revealed that he had lengthy suffered from each rheumatism and what she known as “coronary heart troubles.” Greater than 6,000 folks attended his funeral.

Finally, in advocating for Black suffrage and social equality, Abraham Galloway was a civil rights chief at a time when the idea of civil rights had not but been totally shaped. Had he lived longer, historical past may nicely have ranked him alongside Frederick Douglass as some of the influential Black males of his time. Because it was, his temporary political profession apart, Galloway’s contribution to the Union struggle effort alone was extraordinary, motivated by a driving dedication to the emancipation of his folks. Maybe his self-defined mission was finest outlined by biographer Cecelski: “Galloway’s struggle had little to do with that of Grant or Lee, Vicksburg or Chilly Harbor. It had nothing to do with states’ rights or preserving the Union. Galloway’s Civil Conflict was a slave insurgency, a struggle of liberation that was the fruits of generations of perseverance and religion. It was, finally, the slaves’ Civil Conflict.” 

Ron Soodalter writes from Chilly Spring, N.Y.

This text first appeared in America’s Civil Conflict journal

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