Amos Gadsden

Project #-1655

Martha S. Pinckney

Charleston, S.C.



"My name is Amos Gadsden, not Gadson, like some call it--the same old

name Gadsden"--he added, with a friendly smile.

"I was born at St. Philip's Street; that is where old Miss lived then.

(We belonged to old Mr. Titus Bissell) I don't rightly know what year,

but I was nineteen years old before the War, when the family Bible was

lost; old Mistress had my birth written in the Bible. I keep my age by

Mas. Henry, he died three years ago; he was 83, and I was five years

older than he was, so I am 88. Oh, yes, I can remember slavery! My

grandmother was a 'daily gift' to old Mistress when they were both

children. Grandmother was nurse to the children; she lived over a

hundred years and nursed all the children and grandchildren. She died at

the Bissell's home on Rutledge Avenue years and years after slavery.

Mother Ellen was laundress; she died first part of the War. My father

tended the yard and was coachman.

"I never got a slap from my mistress; I was treated like a white person;

if my mistress talked to me to correct me, I want to cry. Sometime I

slept at the foot of my mistress bed." Whatever the occasion, Amos was

very proud of it, and mentioned it a second time in his story, and

added--"it ain't every little boy that could say that.

"We spent the summers in Charleston--winters on the plantation; Cypress

Plantation which belonged to Mr. Bissell's father, Mr. Baker, was near

Green Pond. The smoke house was there full of meat; the fields and the

gardens were there and everybody had plenty to eat--but still there was

bad people just like they are now. You can make yourself respectable,

but some never do it. The bad ones had to be punished; they got a few

lashes on 'um. Now they go to Court, and they go to jail--If there was a

place to whip bad coons, they would be scared to behave like they do

now--the jails wouldn't be so full. There was no bad treatment of our

people. Some neighbors that never owned any slaves, hired negro help and

ill-treated them--old mistress felt so bad about this.

"I grew up with the white children in the family, but I was trained to

step aside at all times for white people. My grandmother's name was Affy

Calvert; she was a 'daily gift' to old Mistress; she was given to her

when they were both children and trained up in her service. Old Mistress

died long before her because she lived over a hundred years, and nursed

all the children and grandchildren. She brought me up more than my

mother; she and I never gave up the family."

Amos makes a strange statement: "Old Mausa, Mr. T.L. Bissell, (voice

lowered) was a =Yankee=, but he lived long before the War," with an

indulgent smile, and in a lower voice, with his hand up to his mouth he

continued as though communicating a dangerous confidence, "Oh, yes,

Ma'am--but he was a =Yankee=!" What Amos meant will remain a family


"I was trained by old Tony for yard boy before the War. I looked out

that no harm came to the older children, but one day they got away from

me," Amos chuckled, "they went to play on the logs in the lumber yard,

around what is now Halsey's Mill. The water was full of timber, open to

the river, (Ashley) and the tide was running out. One of the boys got on

a log, and two others on another log, and the little scamps paddled the

logs out, but when they found themselves in the tide they were scared,

and screamed at the top of their voices. I wasn't far off and heard

them. I was scared too. I jumped into the water and swam to get a

bateau; when they saw me they hushed. The tide had carried them some

distance before I caught up with them--was down near Chisolm's Rice

Mill. Mr. Chisolm saw it; he gave me a five dollar bill, Confederate

money, for saving the children."

Amos throws a new light on old history;--"Before the War come here it

was down in Beaufort, on the Port Royal Road; Confederates on one side,

Yankees on the other, and things happen here that belong to War. One

evening, early dusk, because it was winter, I was with two white boys on

the corner of Hasell street and East Bay. We stopped to watch a balloon

slowly floating in the sky. I never saw anything like it before--it

looked so pretty--and while we were looking a streak of fire came

straight down from the balloon to Russell's Planing Mill at the foot of

Hasell street,[1] right by us. In a short time the mill was on fire;

nothing could put it out. One place after another caught, and big flakes

of fire were bursting up and flying through the air, and falling on

other buildings. (illustrating with his arms, hands, and whole body) The

first church that burned was the Circular Church on Meeting Street; then

Broad street and the Roman Catholic Church, and St. Andrews Hall. Yes,

Ma'am, 'course I remember St. Andrews Hall, right next to the Roman

Catholic Cathedral on Broad Street! That was 1861, before I went to

Virginia with Dr. H. E. Bissel. That balloon went on down to Beaufort, I

s'pose. Yes Ma'am, =I saw it= drop that fire on Russell's Mill.

"I went to Virginia with Dr. H.E. Bissell in the Army; he was a surgeon.

A camp of Negroes went ahead to prepare the roads; pioneers, they called

them. I remember Capt. Colcock, (he mentioned several other officers,)

Honey Hill--terrible fighting--fight and fight! had to 'platoon' it. I

was behind the fighting with Dr. Bissell. I held arms and legs while he

cut them off, till after a while I didn't mind it. Hard times came to

the Army; only corn to eat. When the bombardment came to Charleston the

family moved to Greenville; I was in Virginia with the Doctor. The

railroad bridge across the Ashley River was burned to prevent the

Yankees from coming into Charleston; the ferry boat 'Fannie' crossed the

river to make connections with the Savannah Railroad. The 54th

Massachusetts Regiment was coming down to Charleston; they destroyed

railroads as they came. Sherman set fire everywhere he went--didn't do

much fighting, just wanted to destroy as he went.

"After Freedom, we went back to the Plantation; lived catch as catch

can. The smoke house had been emptied by the Yankees, and no money.

Lieutenant Duffy, at the Citadel, fell in love with me and offered me a

place to work with him for money. I took it and worked for him til he

left--but I didn't give up the family. I work for Mas. Titus now;

haven't stopped calling Mr. Orvel Bissell 'Mas' today; I raised him but

I still call him Mas. Orvel. My young Missus was the one who taught me;

she kept a school for us; we took it for a play school; when I was a

little boy I knew the alphabet.

"We buried our valuables in sacks in holes, then put plants over the

hiding places. The silver was buried by Cypress Pond; and we saved all

buried valuables.

"To show how Mas. Titus (Bissell) will look out for me--a man I rented

from wanted to put some 'coon' in my room. I had paid him the rent, but

one day I came and find my things being put out. I went right to Mas.

Titus and told him. He was mad, and, excusing the words, he said, 'do

you mean that damned so-and-so is putting your things out, well, we'll

go there'--so we went, and the man was so scared he wanted to put the

things back but Mas. Titus said: 'He sha'nt bother with any such damned

person as you are. I'll find a proper place for him,' and he found me a

good room on Short Street where I stayed for 8 years until the house was

sold--that make I move on Elliott street where I am now.

"My wife is long dead, and I have no children--this is my niece; my

brother's daughter. He went from this State three years ago and we have

never heard a word from him since. I take care of her. Does she do right

by me? She got to! I make her!"

=Source:= Amos Gadsden, 88, 20 Elliott Street, Charleston, S.C.

[Footnote 1: King, William L. in "The Newspaper Press of Charleston,

S.C." Lucas and Richardson (Book Press) 1882--200p--pp-120-121.

Charleston Library Society.

Confirms the statement that the fire of 1861 started in the

Russell's Planing Mill, though no mention is made of its origin.]

Amos Clark Amsy O Alexander Interviewed By Samuel S Taylor facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail