Charles Grandy Ex-slave

History of Ex-slave and Civil War Veteran

Charles Grandy was born February 19, 1842, in Mississippi. While still

an infant, he was brought to Norfolk. When the family arrived in Norfolk

his father was arrested on some pretentious charge, and the whole

family was placed in prison. After their release, they were taken to a

plantation near Hickory Ground, Virginia, and sold. Slaves, at this

time, were often taken to rural districts in carts, and sold to owners

of plantations, as they were needed. Family life, friendships, and love

affairs were often broken up; many times never to be united.

Following the general routine of slaves, the Grandy family was given a

shanty; food and clothing was also issued to them, and had to last until

the master decided to give out another supply. Usually, he issued them

their allowance of food weekly. Often the supply was insufficient for

their needs.

Charles played around the plantation "big house", doing small errands

until he reached the age of five, then his play days ended. While

playing on the wood pile one morning, his master called him, "boy do you

see this grass growing along the side of the fence? Well pull it all

[SP: al] up." When his first task was finished, he was carried to the

field to pull the grass from the young cotton and other growing crops.

This work was done by hand because he was still too young to use the

farm implements. Now he went to his task daily; from early in the

morning until late in the evening. The long toilsome days completely

exhausted the youngster. Often he would fall asleep before reaching home

and spend a good portion of the night on the bare ground. Awakening, he

would find it quite a problem to locate his home in the darkness of


From the stage of grass pulling by hand, he grew strong enough, in a

few years, to use the hoe rake and sickle. While attempting to carry

out his master's orders to cut corn tassels with a large sharp knife,

his elbow was seriously cut. He was taken to the house and treated,

the application being chimney soot, to stop the bleeding. After this

treatment the arm was placed in a sling, and eventually became deformed

from insufficient care. He was sent back to the fields to pick cotton,

with one free hand and his teeth, while painfully carrying the other

hand in the sling. Failing to obey this command, he would have been

given a whipping, or sent to the southlands. Sending slaves to the

plantations of Mississippi and other southern states was a type of

punishment all slaves feared.

Slaves were not allowed much freedom of worship. The Yankee soldiers

and officers played a great part in the slave's moral training, and

religious worship. They secretly instructed small gatherings of slaves,

at night. The points stressed most were, obedience and the evils of

stealing. There were some sections where masters were liberal in their

views toward their slaves, and permitted them to worship openly.

Slaves were allowed to have small quantities of whiskey, even during the

days of their worship, to use for medicinal purposes. It was a common

occurrence to see whiskey being sold at the foot of the hill near the


The news of war, and the possibility of Negroes enlisting as soldiers

was truly a step closer to the answering of their prayers for freedom.

Upon hearing of this good news Grandy joined a few of the others in this

break for freedom. One night, he and a close friend packed a small

quantity of food in a cloth and set out about midnight to join the

northern army. Traveling at night most of the time, they were constantly

confronted with the danger of being recaptured. Successfully eluding

their followers, they reached Portsmouth after many narrow escapes. From

Portsmouth they moved to Norfolk. Arriving in Norfolk, Grandy and his

friend decided to take different roads of travel. Several days and

nights found him wandering about the outskirts of Norfolk, feeding on

wild berries, etc. While picking berries along a ditch bank, he was

hailed by a Yankee soldier, who having come in contact with run away

slaves before, greeted him friendly, and questioned him of his home and

of his knowledge of work. He was taken to camp and assigned as cook. At

first, he was not very successful in his job, but gradually improvement

was shown. He was asked what wages he would accept. It was such a

pleasure to know that he had escaped the clutches of slavery, he did not

ask for wages; but instead, he was willing to work for anything they

would give him, no matter how small, as long as he didn't have to return

to slavery.

Within a short period he was given a uniform and gun; was fully enlisted

as a soldier, in the 19th regiment of Wisconsin, Company E. Here he

remained in service until November, 1862, after which time he returned

to Norfolk to spend some time with his mother, who was still living.

While sitting in the doorway one day, with his Mother, he was again

confronted with the proposition of reenlisting. He agreed to do so for

one year, to serve as guard at Fortress Monroe. He remained there until

the close of the War, offering brave and faithful services.

Mr. Grandy is now ninety-five [SP: ninty-five] years old, residing at

609 Smith Street, Norfolk, Virginia. He is still able to attend the

various conventions of Civil War Veterans. He can read, write, and has a

fair knowledge of the Bible. His main interest is the organization of

Negroes into strong groups. He enjoys talking about religion and is

quite an interesting and intelligent person to talk with.

Charles Grandy Charles Green Dortch facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail