American History of Shade
"No regiment of 'Fugitive Slaves' has been, or is being organized in this Department. There is, however, a fine regiment of loyal persons whose late masters are 'Fugitive Rebels.'" Major General Dave Hunter, June 23, 1862
This has to be one of my favorite historical quotations EVER. There is so much shade being thrown!
Here's the backstory, which makes this quote even better.
There is nothing stuffy about David Hunter. He was a woke AF Bad A$$ of the 19th century.
While Hunter was stationed at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas in 1860, he started writing to Abraham Lincoln about how the United States should abolish slavery. They became friends and Hunter even accompanied Lincoln on the train as he traveled from Illinois to DC for his inauguration. He was literally in the thick of it, so much so that in Buffalo, NY his collarbone was dislocated as he tried to protect the President-Elect from the crowds surging towards him. When they arrived in Washington, Hunter was put in charge of security at the White House.
Hunter did not stay in Washington long and was at the First Battle of Manassas/Bull Run where he was wounded in the neck and the cheek. He bounced around a little after that, but eventually was put in command of the Department of the South, and that is where Hunter got busy.
So he gets down there says, "The first thing we've got to do is free all these slaves.*" So, on May 9, 1862, he issues General Order No, 11.
"The three States of Georgia, Florida and South Carolina, comprising the military department of the south, having deliberately declared themselves no longer under the protection of the United States of America, and having taken up arms against the said United States, it becomes a military necessity to declare them under martial law. This was accordingly done on the 25th day of April, 1862. Slavery and martial law in a free country are altogether incompatible; the persons in these three States — Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina— heretofore held as slaves, are therefore declared forever free."
Well, Lincoln was like "Bro! What are you doing to me? The border states are going to lose their ish when they hear about this!*"
"I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, proclaim and declare, that the government of the United States, had no knowledge, information, or belief, of an intention on the part of General Hunter to issue such a proclamation; nor has it yet, any authentic information that the document is genuine– And further, that neither General Hunter, nor any other commander, or person, has been authorized by the Government of the United States, to make proclamations declaring the slaves of any State free; and that the supposed proclamation, now in question, whether genuine or false, is altogether void, so far as respects such declaration."
Lincoln goes on to put this resolution before Congress, "Resolved, That the United States ought to co-operate with any State which may adopt a gradual abolishment of slavery, giving to such State pecuniary aid, to be used by such State in its discretion, to compensate for the inconveniences, public and private, produced by such change of system."
(Basically, this is all 19th century speak for "Brah. Slow your roll.*")
While in South Carolina, Hunter repeatedly wrote to Washington DC asking for more troops, and every time was told that they had none to spare. Eventually, he was like, "Screw it. I have all these black men flooding into camp; I'll make them soldiers."*
Well, this gave Sen. Charles A. Wickliffe of Kentucky a serious case of the man vapors. "You have given guns....to the negros? Say it isn't so or I shall faint dead on the spot. You can not arm the fugitive slaves. Do you know what we did to these people?*"
And that is when Hunter throws some Grade A Shade on the bar-b-q and listens to the sizzle.
"No regiment of 'Fugitive Slaves' has been, or is being organized in this Department. There is, however, a fine regiment of loyal persons whose late masters are 'Fugitive Rebels.'"
BOOM! Mic drop.
Of course, they tell him to stop it, and he's like, "If these men are good enough to carry shovels and frying pans, they're good enough to carry guns.**"
Hunter was just a little before his time; he was fighting a war and did not have time to wait around for these people to catch up with him. Eventually Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and black soldiers made up 10% of the Union Army.
Hunter then went totally scorched earth in the Shenandoah Valley and burned everything he came across including VMI and Washington University (now Washington & Lee University).
Robert E. Lee is reported to have said in response to this, "[Hunter] had no respect for colleges, or the peaceful pursuits of professors and students, or the private dwellings of citizens, though occupied by women and children only, and during his three days occupancy of Lexington in June, 1864, the college buildings were dismantled, apparatus destroyed, and the books mutilated." (Dude. It's a war not Dead Poet's Society.)
When Hunter ran out of bullets, his troops retreated to West Virginia leaving Washington DC vulnerable, which was just the excuse the big muckity mucks needed to put him out to pasture where he was put in charge of overseeing court marshals.
Later he was part of the honor guard that accompanied Lincoln's body back to Springfield, IL and was president of the military committee that tried the conspirators accused in Lincoln's assassination.
In the March 14, 1863 edition of Harper's Weekly, it was revealed that the regiment of soldiers Hunter put together in South Carolina, gave him the affectionate nickname of "Black Dave." There are no statues of David Hunter, and that is a shame.
* I'm not sure I should have to say this, but these are not real quotations.
** This is basically what he said but Hunter used more words.