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The Infamous "Slave Pen" - Alexandria, Va. - Circa 1862

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posted by Paul Taylor alias civilwar3dhighdefwidescreen on Tuesday 9th of March 2021 05:44:11 AM

3D red/cyan anaglyph created from glass plate stereo negative at Library of Congress - Prints & Photographs Online Catalog at: LOC Title: Alexandria, Virginia. Slave pen. Interior view Date: Circa 1862 Photographer: Not Identified Notes: A stereograph of a small section of the infamous "Slave Pen" complex in Alexandria, Va., where for over 30 years (1828 - 1861) slave traders conducted their business, operating a holding pen for enslaved people, who were transported to the deep south and sold to work the cotton plantations. In May 1861, the Union army occupied Alexandria and took control of this site, converting it into a military prison. During the Civil War, all manner of prisoners would have passed through here - Confederates prisoners en route to other prisons, Union soldiers arrested for petty or major offenses, and civilians that ran afoul of military authority. The individual cells that you see here were evidently not part of the original slave holding area, and were still under construction by Union forces when this photograph was taken, according to a 1987 archeological study of the site: "Assumptions have been made in the past about the physical character of the site when used by the slave traders, based on photographs taken in the 1860's. Careful analysis of surviving photographs now suggests that the small pens illustrated, which were previously interpreted as slave holding units, were actually constructed during the Union occupation for incarcerated soldiers or townspeople." The 1987 report also includes a description for this same stereograph: "This detail from a Civil War era photograph shows the whitewashed walls of the interior complex, probably on the men's side. Note that doors are under construction, probably using old wooden troughs or barrels as lumber. Iron strapping has not yet been placed on the cell windows." Link to the full 189-page 1987 report in pdf format: Given that the "Slave Pen" was converted to a military prison, with the majority of its population being Union soldiers, held for "drunk and disorderly" conduct, I think it explains why the photographer included a guard standing next to Union soldiers, seemingly locked-up, posing behind bars. It would be interesting to know if these were actual prisoners, or other guards enlisted for the photograph. For additional background, below are various newspaper articles from the Library of Congress digital collection that make reference to the "Slave Pen." ---------------------------------------------------- The Holmes County Republican Millersburg, Holmes County, Ohio, Thursday, May 24, 1860 Dark Life at the Capital. "Occasional,” the Washington correspondent of the Philadelphia Press, gives the following: "One of those cases which awaken the sympathies of all men came to my knowledge the other day, and it is of so interesting a character that I cannot refrain from giving it to the world. An estimable colored man, well known in Washington, called upon me on Monday, with tears in his eyes and said: “I have bad news to tell you. My wife, with whom I have lived happily for twenty years, was sold by her master on the 19th of March, and is now in the slave pen at Alexandria, and will be sent by the slave-trader to the extreme South unless I can raise $800 by Saturday to buy her back to my bosom, and to give to our poor children their faithful and devoted mother. We have had eleven children, of whom seven are now alive. On inquiry, I found that the woman was an honest and trustworthy servant; and I know her husband to be one of the best fellows of his race. A subscription was immediately started, and I hope we shall be enabled to rescue her from her impending doom. I am not disposed to enter into an argument against slavery, but is it not a galling reflection, that here, in the District of Columbia, that this infernal traffic in human flesh is carried on, and that a slave pen is within sight of the Washington Monument….” -------------------- National Republican Tuesday, May 28, 1861 THE SLAVE BARRACCON -- CAPTURE OF CAVALRY. “….The next point of interest was the magazine of Price, Birch, & Co, dealers in slaves, as large letters over the door informed the public. At this corner, the squadron of cavalry mentioned yesterday was captured by the Michigan regiment and Sherman's battery. Their quarters for horses and men were in the slave pen. The Michigan regiment had received orders to fire, when Sherman's battery whirled up before them, and brought the cavalry within easy range. The slave cavalry then threw out a white flag and surrendered. Only one escaped. Entering the slave pen, we found grinning behind a grate, a swarthy F. F. V., armed with a knife. He deprecatingly assured us that he had kept the knife to protect his wife and children. We learned that arms had been found secreted in his house, and he resisted a search with this knife. The pen which he ornamented is about fifty feet square, open above, and surrounded by walls twenty feet high, with brick flooring, and dungeons underneath. In the back yard we found a happy African, surrounded by Zouaves and Michiganders. When the building was seized he was the sole occupant of the slave-pen. He was liberated by the Zouaves, who picked the lock, and has been adopted by the Michiganders as their cook. He likes cooking, but says he must have a musket if fighting is to be done. He was raised in Prince George's county, Maryland, and is consigned for sale in Virginia on account of the owner's fear that the property would be unsafe in Maryland. He thoroughly appreciates this unexpected change of masters. The Zouaves are apparently determined to free all slaves they find in confinement. They broke into another pen, by knocking a hole a foot square in a brick wall, but found nothing. Thirty slaves had been carried off shortly before, and embarked from a point in the woods.” -------------------- The Local News Monday Evening, November 11, 1861 Alexandria Va. The Military Court "The Military Court held its usual session at the Court House, this morning Judge Freese presiding. There were a large number of cases of unimportant character before the Court, being cases of drunkenness and disorder- the soldiers having been paid recently, the Court docket has, for some days past, been larger than usual. Those who have been merely drunk are generally fined one dollar, or imprisoned in the slave pen one day on bread and water. – Disorderly persons are fined a greater amount. Whenever a prisoner is before the Court for the first time, on a charge of drunkenness only, he is allowed to go scott free, if he names the place in Alexandria at which he procured the intoxicating beverage. In that case the liquor seller is held responsible for the drunkenness, and is generally fined five dollars. Arrest – One of the Police Guard yesterday arrested a little girl, who wore a red and white cape, alledging the colors of the cape were obnoxious. The mother of the girl accompanied her to the office of the Provost Marshal, where she stated that the article of dress had been made four years since. Capt. Griffith promptly ordered the release of the little lass, and directed the guard to devote his attention in future to weightier matters than the clothing of children.” -------------------- The Cleveland Morning Leader Cleveland, Thursday Morning, February 13, 1862 The Alexandria Slave Pen - - The Difference between Rebel Prisoners and Our Own. [Dispatch to the Philadelphia Inquirer.] "The old slave pen in Alexandria, to the burning shame of our officers though it be, is still used as a guard house for the soldiers. There are no windows and but one door; no roof ever it, except a narrow strip over one corner to keep off the pelting storm or cold and poisonous malaria that fills the air at night. A stream of filthy water runs through the centre, and the floor is of brick - - always cold, damp, and dirty. Here the soldiers are placed who are arrested for any cause. If a man overstays his time from camp, gets into a quarrel with another soldier or a Secesh, if he comes into town without a pass, or violates any of the orders, away he is marched into this den. The Rebels used it as a place of punishment for slaves or a storehouse for " property," alias negroes. We deprecate their conduct for inhumanity, and then degrade our own troops by putting them upon a level with the "property." We do not question the propriety of arresting the soldiers for divers offences, for it is absolutely necessary to maintain order and discipline, but why when Rebel soldiers are taken, when Secesh emissaries and spies are arrested, are they taken to good quarters, in clean houses, and well provided for? There is a grievous wrong here that should be remedied at once..... Last Tuesday night, a private of the New York Sixty-third was placed in this pen intoxicated. He laid down on the only vacant space in bed, snow and slush over three inches deep, and next morning, when the iron grate was swung open he was carried out a corpse. An inquest was held, and a surgeon testified that he died from drunkenness and exposure; but the surgeon-in-chief says he was frozen to death…..” ------------------------- Chicago Daily Tribune February 24, 1862 The Committee on the conduct of the War are investigating the conduct of Gen. Montgomery, who has charge of military affairs at Alexandria. Messrs. Odell and Gooch were authorized to proceed to that city and examine into the matter. They have made their report. It appears that within the last few months some three thousand soldiers have been imprisoned in the famous slave pen of Price & Co. The inhuman treatment of our poor soldiers beggars description. The matter has been reported to the Secretary of War. ------------------------ The Alexandria Gazette April 17, 1863 Military Orders Provost Marshal's Office, Alexandria, Va., April 2, 1863. "Notice is hereby given that all thieves, pickpockets and burglars, and persons found in this city, after the 10th of April, 1863, who are not engaged in any honest calling, and have no visible means of support, except gambling and thieving, will be arrested, and confined in the slave-pen, and, at the expiration of their confinement, be sent across the Potomac. By order of H. H. WELLS, Lieut. Colonel and Provost Marshal, Alexandria, Va." ---------------------------- The Alexandria Gazette Saturday Evening, June 13, 1863 “A few days since, while Daniel Golden, of company A, First District of Columbia regiment, with a number others, was unloading a lot of muskets from a wagon at the slave pen in Alexandria, one of the muskets, which had been carelessly left loaded, was discharged, the contents entering the body of Golden killing him instantly. He leaves a wife and family, two of his sons being drummers in the same regiment in which he was serving.” ----------------------- The Alexandria Gazette December 16, 1865 "Last night, about half-past eight o'clock, a rencountre occurred on the upper end of Prince street, between two members of the one hundred and ninety fifth 0hio regiment, stationed in this city, in which Rorick, of Co. E was shot three times -- in the breast, stomach and head -- by Ganty, of Co. A. Rorick, is not expected to survive his injuries. Ganty is confined in the slave pen." ------------------------ Cleveland Daily Leader Thursday, December 28, 1865 "Riot at Alexandria. Washington, December 27. -- The Alexandria Journal, in giving an account of a riot there on Christmas, says: Whisky flowed in streams from many Restaurants, and it was dealt out liberally to colored people as well as to white. Early in the morning it was observed that the reconstructed were all armed. Rioting commenced at an early hour in the morning, and by one o'clock in the afternoon had assumed such fearful proportions that the Mayor found it necessary to call on the military to suppress it. Three companies of Hancock's veterans were ordered out, and proceeded to arrest all found in a rioting or disorderly conduct. Many persons were dangerously and seriously wounded before the military appeared on the scene of action. Between fifty and a hundred of the ringleaders were sent to the slave pen, and there compelled to remain during the balance of the day. Some them were released yesterday morning, while the more guilty, are still in confinement….” ------------ Red/Cyan (not red/blue) glasses of the proper density must be used to view 3D effect without ghosting. Anaglyph prepared using red cyan glasses from The Center For Civil War Photography / American Battlefield Trust. CCWP Link:

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