…the hopes of liberty which they had kept alive…

Written on:November 29, 2011
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On July 7, 1862 a fierce but small battle took place near Bayou Cache River in eastern Arkansas. During the fight the Ninth Regiment Illinois Cavalry Volunteers was called into action to help sustain a charge that resulted in the Confederates fleeing from the battlefield. The regiment hisorian noted the arrival after the battle of Contraband, who he described as literally crawling out of the woodwork and flocking to the Union line:

On our march the negroes had fairly swarmed around us, coming from every mansion, log cabin, and habitable place in the whole region. Some of the women had taken the finery belonging to their mistresses, and, putting it on, strutted alongside of the column with great bundles on their heads. Little children walked briskly, while old men and young plodded on as if their lives depended upon reaching some place in front — exactly what place they neither knew nor cared. So excited a body of humanity never was seen before; here was the realization of the hopes of liberty which they had kept alive for years. Some were almost delirious with joy, and for a time forgot the hunger which would soon be upon them. We had not much ourselves, and could not well spare a great deal for these poor creatures, but they got along some way, and never returned to their old masters and mistresses. A new life was opening up before them, and they were to make their way as best they could.

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