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Richmond, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Use of Arms

Richmond Slave Trail

 
 
Use of Arms Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, April 21, 2011
1. Use of Arms Marker
Inscription. “The Confederate war machine required slave labor to build its fortifications, work its factories, quarry its mines, fix its railroads, defend its harbors, tend its urban areas, and serve its soldiers.”
The Freed People in the Tobacco South: 1860-1900, Jeffrey R. Kerr-Ritchie

“Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letters, U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pockets, and there is no power on earth which can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship in the United States.”
- Frederick Douglass

As the intensity of the Civil War increased, life for Africans in America and living in Richmond became more and more dire. Not only did they endure wartime hardships such as lack of clothing and food with the rest of the city’s residents, but Africans especially fell under the scrutiny of their neighbors. As the Union troops approached the city, both free and enslaved Africans were viewed as potential insurgents, leading to a heightened fear of a rebellion by the enslaved.

Converting Richmond into the capital of the Confederacy, military engineer General Robert E. Lee, who earned the moniker, the “King of Spades,” worked quickly to prepare the city’s defenses, enlisting both free and enslaved Africans
Richmond, Va. Barges with African Americans on the Canal; ruined buildings beyond image. Click for full size.
By Alexander Gardner, 1865
2. Richmond, Va. Barges with African Americans on the Canal; ruined buildings beyond
albumen photographic print 1865 Library of Congress, Prints and Photographic Division, Civil War Photograph Collection, LC-B817- 7617 [P&P]
to prepare the city for war. Thousands of pounds of soil were removed and reshaped by hand to form trenches and berms; forests were cleared to provide lumber for the construction of camps; dikes were built to control the waters. By 1864, 10,000 men were working to improve Richmond’s defenses, the majority of them African descendents who had been arrested on the streets by the Provost Marshal and ordered to join the labor efforts.

As the strength of the Confederate forces waned, many military personnel believed that the South’s only chance for victory rested in the hands of the enslaved. However, President Davis opposed this recruitment strategy; by the time he realized its potential the war had nearly ended. In the North, blacks could enlist in Union units only after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Serving on both land and sea, roughly 180,000 formerly enslaved or freed people served in the Union army while countless others fought as navy seamen. The response of Africa’s descendants to President Lincoln’s visit to Richmond on April 4, 1865 signified the fulfillment of emancipation.

Sources: Selden Richardson, Built by Blacks; The National Parks Service — African American Civil War History
 
Erected 2011 by Richmond Slave Trail Commission. (Marker Number 10.)
 
Location.
Black Soldiers in the Federal Army, ca. 1863-64 image. Click for full size.
3. Black Soldiers in the Federal Army, ca. 1863-64
Joseph T. Wilson, The Black Phalanx: A History of the Negro Soldiers of the United Sates in the War of 1775-1812, 1861-’65 (Hartford, Conn., 188), p. 236. As shown on www.slaveryimages.org (image reference Wilson237), sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Library.
37° 31.979′ N, 77° 25.987′ W. Marker is in Richmond, Virginia. Marker can be reached from the intersection of S 14th Street (U.S. 360) and Dock Street. Touch for map. This marker is on the Richmond Riverfront Canal Walk between S 14th Street and Virginia Street. Marker is in this post office area: Richmond VA 23219, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. African Americans and the Waterfront (within shouting distance of this marker); James River & Kanawha Canal (within shouting distance of this marker); Burnt District (within shouting distance of this marker); Early Shockoe (within shouting distance of this marker); Shockoe Slip (within shouting distance of this marker); George Washington’s Vision (within shouting distance of this marker); Canal Walk / Historic Canals (within shouting distance of this marker); Tobacco District (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Richmond.
 
Also see . . .  Richmond City Council Slave Trail Commission. (Submitted on April 22, 2011, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.)
 
Categories. Abolition & Underground RRAfrican AmericansWar, US Civil
 
Use of Arms Marker on the Richmond Canal Walk image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, April 21, 2011
4. Use of Arms Marker on the Richmond Canal Walk
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on April 22, 2011, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia. This page has been viewed 470 times since then and 40 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on April 22, 2011, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.
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