Dartmouth connections to Slavery & War

Just a random history podcast about American History – and wouldn’t you know – it pertains to Dartmouth.

Alan Taylor, the Thomas Jefferson chair of American history at the University of Virginia, is a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for United States history and the author of seven books, most recently “The Internal Enemy: Slavery and war in Virginia 1772 to 1832.

Here he relays the beginnings of his latest book:

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“…I started out from an unusual direction in that I was doing a book about Canada and the United States during the era of the War of 1812, and in the course of that I did research at the Public Archives of Nova Scotia.

To my surprise I found records of American former slaves who had become refugees during the War of 1812, and the government of Nova Scotia was settling them on lands around Halifax and this was a story that I knew nothing about…”

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Those “lands around Halifax” he refers to, where former Chesapeake Bay slaves were settled, were Preston and Hammonds Plains, among others. Undoubtedly, some of these escaped slaves later resettled to Dartmouth.

One such person was Mrs. Rebecca Cassidy who JP Martin in The Story of Dartmouth (on p. 421) notes lived on the “Colored Meeting-House Road” (Today’s Crichton Avenue) and that she had reached her 115th year when she died in 1885. She was widow of Louis Cassidy and had been born a slave in the Southern States.

At just after 30 minutes Alan relays the story of a dramatic slave rescue that occurred utilizing a pilfered ferryboat

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“…probably the most dramatic of these escapes occurred in October of 1814 on the Virginia side of the Potomac. A few young men crossed the river to the Maryland side where there was a ferryboat which they somehow extricated from its lock and then went back to the Virginia Shore on the Potomac and loaded up 17 people, women and children (slaves).

They needed a boat that was big enough for this larger group to escape in and that’s where the ferry boat came in and somehow they pulled this off and managed to get away having taken some property from their masters and what little property they had in their own huts.

They escaped from pursuit and they reach the British warship, and then years later the leader of this escape of wrote a letter to his master and this letter remarkably survives.

In this letter the leader of that escape, a man named Bartlett Shanklin, briefly reviews the escape but is also just telling the Masters in a very in-your-face manner that how much better off this Bartlett Shanklin has become by gaining his freedom in Nova Scotia, with the help of the British and with the help of his own ingenuity in engineering, this remarkable escape with a ferry boat in October of 1814…”

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This is corroborated briefly in Martin’s “Story of Dartmouth” on the bottom of Page 121:

“About this time, a number of slaves who were escaping from plantations in the United States, took refuge on British men-o-war in Chesapeake Bay. Many of these were sent to Halifax and located at Preston and Hammond’s Plains.”