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Planning Civil War Slave Patrols
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McKewn tabulates a list of 15 men headed “Patrol,” men previously tabbed to participate in the “slave patrols” used to round-up runaway slaves. Only four men appear to be qualified and prepared for duty. At bottom McKewn inquires of the Governor if some others can be required to do duty. Bonham forwards the letter to General Beauregard.

MILLEDGE L. BONHAM. Autograph Endorsement Signed twice as Governor of South Carolina, to G.T. Beauregard. August 12, 1863. 2 pp. On verso of J.C. McKewn. Autograph Document Signed. [likely Charleston, S.C.], [ca. August 1, 1863]. 1 p.

Inventory #21840       Price: $1,900

[in McKewn’s hand:] “…Can the non-slaveholders over 60 years be required to do duty, and those slaveholders over that age? You will see that 4 men are appointed to perform patrol duty over a territory 15 miles in length & from 6 to 8 miles in breadth...”

[in Bonham’s hand:] “Ex[ecutive]Dept. Aug. 12/63 Resp for[war]d to Genl. Beauregard at request of Senator McKewn. M. L. Bonham.”

[in Bonham’s hand in pencil:] “Refered to Genl DeSaussure who will present & return this. I sent a copy to Genl Beauregard M.L.B.”

Historical Background

Milledge Luke Bonham (1813-1890) was a well-connected military officer and politician in antebellum South Carolina, fighting in the Seminole War and Mexican American War, and serving in the state legislature and in Congress. He joined the Confederate Army in 1861 and was given command of the 1st Brigade of General G.T. Beauregard’s “Army of the Potomac” (later renamed the Army of Northern Virginia). After serving with distinction in this command at the First Battle of Manassas, Bonham resigned his commission to run successfully for a seat in the Confederate Congress, moving on in 1862 to serve as Governor of South Carolina.

As the war raged on it became harder and harder for the Confederacy to continue to fight as well as keep the slave population in check.

Confederate forces under Beauregard, aided by state forces under Wilmot DeSaussure, had weathered several attacks from the Union Army and Navy in the past month, including the famous assaults on Fort Wagner (or Battery Wagner, as called here) in July. By August, the Union Navy was bombarding Fort Sumter and, occasionally, the city itself. Sumter survived in Confederate hands, but was badly damaged. De Saussure commanded 2 cavalry regiments, 4 infantry regiments (2 state, 2 militia) and several artillery units. Though the Union armed forces remained a constant threat to the principal port city of South Carolina, Confederate defenses in 1863 were well-coordinated.


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