Forgetting History

I’m going to leave this up for a few days. Does anyone know what bit of American history this sculpture represents?

(If you were there when this picture was taken, please do not answer.)

 

This statute is located in Natchez MS, across from the city’s big historical graveyard. Which is fitting, since this statute overlooks another graveyard. There are no headstones, there are no other monuments, nor is there a plaque explaining this lone piece of art. It just sits lonely, on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. Below the bluff, is a natural bowl.

bowl

This location has the dubious name of The Devil’s Punch-bowl Way before the US decided to put Japanese-Americans into camps, we put newly freed and runaway slaves into camps.

Before anybody starts saying to themselves, “Well, what do you expect from the South during the Civil War?” You should all know, it was the Union Army that forced people into these camps.

Here is the story:

At the end of the Civil War, as former slaves were being freed, and others ran away not wanting to wait for official manumission, they headed for Natchez MS. Union forces had taken control of the town, and seemingly overnight the population of former slaves went increased from around 10,000 to over 100,000. The Union Army was outnumbered 10 to 1. So, what happens?

Well, those newly freed people where forced into three natural bowls along the river no bigger than this one here. As they say, idle hands are the devils plaything. To alleviate the boredom of nothing to do, these former slaves were put to work. Attempting to dig a channel through the swamp.

Try to imagine the conditions in those camps. One account said they weren’t that bad, more like refugee camps. Yeah, refugee camps in the mid-1800s. Refugee camps today are shitty places. Think about a refugee camp before Germ Theory was accepted.

To recap, there are over 100,000 men, women, and children forced to live in very tight conditions, forced to work in a swamp, and they all have poor hygiene. Guess what happened next?

If you guessed disease, then you are 100% correct. It seems they might have had a smallpox outbreak. Not entirely sure what the disease was, but the accounts are pretty clear that something broke out and it killed a lot of people. Anywhere from just a few 1000 to 20,000. Either number is horrific.

So, when the disease was running through the camp, the Union Army decided it was best to quarantine the camps. They would not let anybody out of the camps, and would not go into the camps.

When the former slaves asked to be allowed to bury their dead, they were handled shovels and told to bury them where they died.

Men and women were begging to be allowed to return to plantations they had run away from, just let them out of the Punch-bowl

As people talk about taking down monuments to the Confederate States, remember this. We all know what the South did, we don’t need monuments to remind us of the Confederacy. Especially monuments that put them in heroic poses.

What we need, are monuments to things like the Devil’s Punch-bowl That is the history we are forgetting.

Hell, that is the history most of us don’t even know.

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