Autobiography Of Richard Slaughter





(Given by himself as an oral account during an interview between himself

and writer, December 27, 1936.) Claude W. Anderson--Hampton, Virginia





"Come in, son. Have a seat, who are you and how are you? My life? Oh!

certainly you don't want to hear that! Well, son, have you been born

again? Do you know Christ? Well, that's good. Good for you. Amen. I'm

glad to hear it. Always glad to talk to any true Christian liver. God

bless you, son.



"I was born January 9, 1849 on the James at a place called Epps Island,

City Point. I was born a slave. How old am I! Well, there's the date.

Count it up for yourself. My owner's name was Dr. Richard S. Epps. I

stayed there until I was around thirteen or fourteen years old when I

came to Hampton.



"I don't know much about the meanness of slavery. There was so many

degrees in slavery, and I belonged to a very nice man. He never sold but

one man, fur's I can remember, and that was cousin Ben. Sold him South.

Yes. My master was a nice old man. He ain't living now. Dr. Epps died

and his son wrote me my age. I got it upstairs in a letter now.



"It happened this a-way. Hampton was already burnt when I came here. I

came to Hampton in June 1862. The Yankees burned Hampton and the fleet

went up the James River. My father and mother and cousins went aboard

the Meritanza with me. You see, my father and three or four men left in

the darkness first and got aboard. The gun boats would fire on the towns

and plantations and run the white folks off. After that they would carry

all the colored folks back down here to Old Point and put 'em behind the

Union lines. I know the names of all the gunboats that came up the

river. Yessir. There was the Galena, we called her the old cheese box,

the Delware, the Yankee, the Mosker, and the Meritanza which was the

ship I was board of. That same year the Merrimac and Monitor fought off

Newport News Point. No, I didn't see it. I didn't come down all the way

on the gunboat. I had the measles on the Meritanza and was put off at

Harrison's Landing. When McCellan retreated from Richmond through the

peninsula to Washington, I came to Hampton as a government water boy.



"While I was aboard the gunboat, she captured a rebel gunboat at a place

called Drury's Bluff. When I first came to Hampton, there were only

barracks where the Institute is; when I returned General Armstrong had

done rite smart.



"I left Hampton still working as a water boy and went to Quire Creek,

Bell Plains, Va., a place near Harper's Ferry. I left the creek aboard a

steamer, the General Hooker, and went to Alexandria, Va. Abraham Lincoln

came aboard the steamer and we carried him to Mt. Vernon, George

Washington's old home. What did he look like? Why, he looked more like

an old preacher than anything I know. Heh! Heh! Heh! Have you ever seen

any pictures of him? Well, if you seen a picture of him, you seen him.

He's just like the picture.



"You say you think I speak very good English. Heh! Heh! Heh! Well, son I

ought to. I been everywhere. No I never went to what you would call

school except to school as a soldier. I went to Baltimore in 1864 and

enlisted. I was about 17 years old then. My officers' names were Capt.

Joe Reed, Lieutenant Stimson, and Colonel Joseph E. Perkins. I was

assigned to the Nineteenth Regiment of Maryland Company B. While I was

in training, they fought at Petersburg. I went to the regiment in '64

and stayed in until '67. I was a cook. They taken Richmond the fifth day

of April 1865. On that day I walked up the road in Richmond.



"When we left Richmond, my brigade was ordered to Brownsville, Texas. We

went there by way of Old Point Comfort, where we went aboard a

transport. When we got to Brownsville, I was detailed to a hospital

staff. We arrived in Brownsville in January 1867. The only thing that

happened in Brownsville while I was there was the hanging of three

Mexicans for the murder of an aide. In September we left Brownsville and

came back to Baltimore. Before we left I was sent up the Rio Grande to

Ringo Barracks as boss cook.



"I then returned to Hampton and lived as an oysterman and fisherman for

over forty years.



"I have never been wounded. My clothes have been cut off me by bullets

but the Lord kept them off my back, I guess.



"I tell you what I did once. My cousin and I went down to the shore

once. The river shore, you know, up where I was born. While we were

walking along catching tadpoles, mimows, and anything we could catch, I

happened to see a big moccasin snake hanging in a sumac bush just a

swinging his head back and forth. I swung at 'im with a stick and he

swelled his head all up big and rared back. Then I hit 'im and knocked

him on the ground flat. His belly was very big so we kept hittin' 'im on

it until he opened his mouth and a catfish as long as my arm (forearm),

jumped out jest a flopping. Well the catfish had a big belly too, so we

beat 'em on his belly until he opened his mouth and out came one of

these women's snapper pocketbooks. You know the kind that closes by a

snap at the top. Well the pocket book was swelling all out, so we opened

it, and guess what was in it? Two big copper pennies. I gave my cousin

one and I took one. Now you mayn't believe that, but it's true. I been

trying to make people believe that for near fifty years. You can put it

in the book or not, jest as you please, but it's true. That fish

swallowed some woman's pocketbook and that snake just swallowed him. I

have told men that for years and they wouldn't believe me.



"While I was away my father died in Hampton. He waited on an officer. My

mother lived in Hampton and saw me married in 1874. I bought a lot on

Union Street for a hundred dollars cash. I reared a nephew, gave him the

lot and the house I built on it an he threw it away. When I moved around

here, I paid cash for this home.



"Did slaves ever run away! Lord yes, all the time. Where I was born,

there is a lots of water. Why there used to be as high as ten and twelve

Dutch three masters in the habor at a time. I used to catch little

snakes and other things like terapins and sell 'em to the sailor for to

eat roaches on the ships. In those days a good captain would hide a

slave way up in the top sail and carry him out of Virginia to New York

and Boston.



"I never went in the Spanish American War. Too old, but I had some

cousins that enlisted. That was during McKinley's time. He went down the

Texas and some of them other ships they gave Puerto Rico Hail Columbia.

They blew up the Maine with a mine. She was blowed up inward. The Maine

left Hampton Roads going towards Savannah. When they looked at what was

left of her all the steel was bent inward which shows that she was

blowed up from the outside in. Understand. During the World War I went

to Washington and haven't been anyplace since. I'm a little hard of

hearing and have high blood pressure. So I have to sit most of the time.

Got an invitation in there now wantin' me to come to a grand reunion of

Yankees and the Rebels this year but I can't go. Getting too old. Well

goodbye, son. Glad to have you come again sometime."





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