Forgotten Heroes of Southern History: Jermain Loguen – Liberated Slave, Abolitionist, and Preacher

The Confederacy and Southern Cause are, of course, huge parts of Southern history. The battles where Southern men killed and died and were led by leaders almost god-like in their reverence consume nearly the full focus of the subject. While many celebrate the bravery and actions on the battlefield and homefront alike, how many pause to remember the Southern slaves, abolitionists and even pacifists?

The heroic bravery of the slave in revolt is fully a part of Southern history, every bit as real as the victory at Second Manassas. The Southern abolitionists, though few in number, are sons and daughters of the South just as much as Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. And yet, too many deny them their rightful places in Southern history. They are forgotten, even scorned, despite their heritage. By the time of the Civil War, the vast majority of the slaves had been Southerners numerous generations longer than even the families of Jeff Davis or Stonewall.

From time to time, I’d like to highlight these forgotten heroes of Southern history – the slaves, the abolitionists, the draft dodgers, the Unionists. Though they fought against the Confederate Cause, they were Southerners through and through. The same Southern blood ran through their veins, just as they held the same affection, reverence and undying devotion to their own cause. It’s our duty, Southerners or not, to cultivate, perpetuate and even sanctify their memory and their place in Southern history.

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loguen

Jarmain Loguen, or as he had been known when he was a slave, Jarm Logue, was born in Tennessee in 1813. He was the child of a women named Cherry who had been born free in Ohio, but kidnapped into slavery. His father was her master, and he was conceived of rape. Though some kind of fidelity was implied, his father was still his mother’s master, and she was still his father’s slave. Because of this relationship, Jarm was born into slavery, owned by his father, his master.

Around the age of seven, Jarm’s master-father grew tired of raping his mother and cast her aside, whipping her. Overseers beat her bloody. His master-father soon took a white wife and Jarm’s mother, who had bore three children to this man, was forgotten in any role but slave. Before long, Jarm and his mother were sold, chained in the dead of night. A dozen or so slaves were bound together in a coffle and marched south to their new residence.

A couple of years later, Jarm was beaten by his new master for dropping a hoe. The man lept upon him, hitting his head with a fist, and then pressing a wedge of wood against his teeth. Jarm opened his mouth so the teeth would not break, and the wedge was rammed all the way into the back of his mouth. His master beat upon it, pounding it in deeper. Jarm managed to wrestle the master’s arm and wedge away, but now the wedge was a weapon, swung at Jarm, connecting with bloody gashes. At last, the master grew tired of beating on a boy who was hardly a teenager. With his mouth and lips mangled, Jarm spat out blood and got back to work hoeing the ground.

Somehow or another, Jarm’s master found religion. Rather than freeing his slaves, however, he leased them out to neighbors. Hard up for money, and wishing to have a few less mouths to feed, one day, the master sent the adult slaves into the fields, but asked to keep the children behind. The children, Jarm included, were lined up and told to remain quiet while a stranger examined them. These were slave traders, and they purchased Jarm’s thirteen year old brother and eight year old sister, from whom he had never been separated for even a day. The sister, figuring out what was going on, let out a scream, and the adult slaves, Jarm’s mother included, came running.

“I thought you were going to put those black bastards out of sight and hearing,” scolded the slavers. What the adults saw gave them pause. There was a chained line of seventy-five children, collected from over twenty-five families, lined up all along the house. Undeterred, Jarm’s mother, Cherry, embraced her two children.

“Get way, you black bitch!” said the slaver, as he dragged her two children away from her. He then fell upon her with the lash, cutting her deeply, raining blow after blow upon her with no effect whatsoever. Two large men grabbed Cherry and chained her inside a room, and with that, Jarm’s brother and sister were gone.

The years then dragged on, punctuated here and there with beatings and whippings. Once Jarm’s master beat him nearly to death – he woke from unconsciousness to realize that he would much rather be dead than a slave. Though his master repeatedly beat him to the brink of death, he knew that he could not kill him – “he is worth a good deal of money.”

When Jarm reached early adulthood, he was leased to another master, separating him from his mother. It was with great fortune that this new master was almost no master at all, but a poor farmer who leased slaves, giving them almost as much freedom as they might have if they were free. This odd occurrence suited Jarm well. He soon loved the mother and father as parents, and the children as his own brothers and sisters, and they loved him as their own. He lived with them, and was treated as an equal. There was no lash, no fists – Jarm was not to call his new master “master.” He ate his meals with them, and slept along side them. There was no overseer, and Jarm was left on his own to work, and soon built a house for himself. This was as close to freedom as Jarm had ever been. Still, it was not freedom.

Though not freedom, it was enough to show Jarm a contrast to chattel slavery. It gave him a small taste of true freedom. Still, he was owned by his master. For nearly three years he lived with this family, until his master called to reclaim him. The family offered to buy Jarm, but the master would hear none of it – he did not like how much freedom they gave to him. With a few threats of violence, Jarm was ceased and taken away.

A Slave and a Freeman - from where the bulk of this short biography comes.
A Slave and a Freeman – from where the bulk of this short biography comes.

Jarm had now resolved that for him it would be either death or freedom. After talking about freedom with a fellow slave, he determined to make his escape. He had been staying only because of his mother, but now even that could not keep him in bondage. He had been given a small taste of freedom, and now wanted it all. He understood why enslavers kept them so beaten down – any morsel of liberty only made them crave more, only made them wish to escape.

A year and a half later – a year and a half of waiting, Jarm, another slave named Jerry, and an agent on the Underground Railroad began meeting in a nearby cave. They determined to steal their masters’ horses and make for Illinois. Following yet another altercation with his master, Jarm decided to leave without preparation – he could endure no more. On December 24, 1834, Jarm Logue made his escape, and became Jermaine Loguen.

Through Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio he traveled with a fellow slave. Upon reaching Michigan, they made their way into Canada and true freedom. By the spring of 1837, Jarm was farming in Ontario, but he was not quite finished with America.

He moved to New York, got an education, and began teaching at an elementary school in Utica. He also became a preacher with a church in Syracuse. Giving back to the Underground Railroad which had aided in his freedom, he became an agent. Through the 1850s, he was an outspoken abolitionist, and published his memoirs. His writing and speeches gained him enough notoriety that his former master took notice.

In 1860, the wife of his master wrote to him, and she was far from happy.

Maury Co., State of Tennessee,
February 20th, 1860.

To JARM:—

I now take my pen to write you a few lines, to let you know how well we all are. I am a cripple, but I am still able to get about. The rest of the family are all well. Cherry is as well as Common. I write you these lines to let you the situation we are in—partly in consequence of your running away and stealing Old Rock, our fine mare. Though we got the mare back, she was never worth much after you took her; and as I now stand in need of some funds, I have determined to sell you; and I have had an offer for you, but did not see fit to take it. If you will send me one thousand dollars and pay for the old mare, I will give up all claim I have to you. Write to me as soon as you get these lines, and let me know if you will accept my proposition. In consequence of your running away, we had to sell Abe and Ann and twelve acres of land; and I want you to send me the money that I may be able to redeem the land that you was the cause of our selling, and on receipt of the above named sum of money, I will send you your bill of sale. If you do not comply with my request, I will sell you to some one else, and you may rest assured that the time is not far distant when things will be changed with you. Write to me as soon as you get these lines. Direct your letter to Bigbyville, Maury County, Tennessee. You had better comply with my request.

I understand that you are a preacher. As the Southern people are so bad, you had better come and preach to your old acquaintances. I would like to know if you read your Bible? If so can you tell what will become of the thief if he does not repent? and, if the the blind lead the blind, what will the consequence be? I deem it unnecessary to say much more at present. A word to the wise is sufficient. You know where the liar has his part. You know that we reared you as we reared our own children; that you was never abused, and that shortly before you ran away, when your master asked if you would like to be sold, you said you would not leave him to go with anybody.

Sarah Logue.

Incredibly unamused, Jermaine made his reply:

Syracuse, N.Y., March 28, 1860.

MRS. SARAH LOGUE:—

Yours of the 20th of February is duly received, and I thank you for it. It is a long time since I heard from my poor old mother, and I am glad to know she is yet alive, and, as you say, “as well as common.” What that means I don’t know. I wish you had said more about her.

You are a woman; but had you a woman’s heart you could never have insulted a brother by telling him you sold his only remaining brother and sister, because he put himself beyond your power to convert him into money.

You sold my brother and sister, ABE and ANN, and 12 acres of land, you say, because I ran away. Now you have the unutterable meanness to ask me to return and be your miserable chattel, or in lieu thereof send you $1000 to enable you to redeem the land, but not to redeem my poor brother and sister! If I were to send you money it would be to get my brother and sister, and not that you should get land. You say you are a cripple, and doubtless you say it to stir my pity, for you know I was susceptible in that direction. I do pity you from the bottom of my heart. Nevertheless I am indignant beyond the power of words to express, that you should be so sunken and cruel as to tear the hearts I love so much all in pieces; that you should be willing to impale and crucify us out of all compassion for your poor foot or leg. Wretched woman! Be it known to you that I value my freedom, to say nothing of my mother, brothers and sisters, more than your whole body; more, indeed, than my own life; more than all the lives of all the slaveholders and tyrants under Heaven.

You say you have offers to buy me, and that you shall sell me if I do not send you $1000, and in the same breath and almost in the same sentence, you say, “you know we raised you as we did our own children.” Woman, did you raise your own children for the market? Did you raise them for the whipping-post? Did you raise them to be driven off in a coffle in chains? Where are my poor bleeding brothers and sisters? Can you tell? Who was it that sent them off into sugar and cotton fields, to be kicked, and cuffed, and whipped, and to groan and die; and where no kin can hear their groans, or attend and sympathize at their dying bed, or follow in their funeral? Wretched woman! Do you say you did not do it? Then I reply, your husband did, and you approved the deed—and the very letter you sent me shows that your heart approves it all. Shame on you.

But, by the way, where is your husband? You don’t speak of him. I infer, therefore, that he is dead; that he has gone to his great account, with all his sins against my poor family upon his head. Poor man! gone to meet the spirits of my poor, outraged and murdered people, in a world where Liberty and Justice are MASTERS.

But you say I am a thief, because I took the old mare along with me. Have you got to learn that I had a better right to the old mare, as you call her, than MANNASSETH LOGUE had to me? Is it a greater sin for me to steal his horse, than it was for him to rob my mother’s cradle and steal me? If he and you infer that I forfeit all my rights to you, shall not I infer that you forfeit all your rights to me? Have you got to learn that human rights are mutual and reciprocal, and if you take my liberty and life, you forfeit your own liberty and life? Before God and High Heaven, is there a law for one man which is not a law for every other man?

If you or any other speculator on my body and rights, wish to know how I regard my rights, they need but come here and lay their hands on me to enslave me. Did you think to terrify me by presenting the alternative to give my money to you, or give my body to Slavery? Then let me say to you, that I meet the proposition with unutterable scorn and contempt. The proposition is an outrage and an insult. I will not budge one hair’s breadth. I will not breathe a shorter breath, even to save me from your persecutions. I stand among a free people, who, I thank God, sympathize with my rights, and the rights of mankind; and if your emissaries and venders come here to re-enslave me, and escape the unshrinking vigor of my own right arm, I trust my strong and brave friends, in this City and State, will be my rescuers and avengers.

Yours, &c.,
J.W. Loguen

Shortly after the letters were exchanged, the war began. He stayed in New York for the bulk of it, preaching in various churches from 1864 until 1872, when he died. In his final years, he toured his speeches through Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, and even Tennessee.

The entire auto-biography can be read here.

Eric
Eric has always had a love for history and the Civil War. During the 150th anniversary of the war, he wrote the Civil War Daily Gazette blog, which published daily for nearly five years. Wishing to continue the exploration, following the Charleston murders in 2015, and the activism around removing the Confederate Battle Flag, he decided to dig a little deeper into the causes and repercussions of the War.
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