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Charles Grandy Ex-slave

From: General

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.

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