Slavery in the Clover Bottoms
John McCline's Narrative of His Life During Slavery and the Civil War
- Author(s): Furman, Jan
- Series: Voices of the Civil War
- Imprint: Univ Tennessee Press
- Publication Date: 1998-08-26
- Status: Active
- Available in Paper: Price $29.95 | Buy Now
“This highly significant, carefully edited memoir provides an unusual perspective on slavery and the Civil War during a critical era in the African American experience. A superb introduction by the editor greatly enhances the value of this work.”—Willard B. Gatewood, University of Arkansas
Born into slavery on a Tennessee plantation, John McCline escaped from bondage, worked for the Union Army in the Civil War, and eventually found a new life in the American West. Slavery in the Clover Bottoms is his own story, recollected in later years, of his life as a slave and as a free man.
McCline’s memoirs, completed in the 1920s and now published for the first time, vividly describe the James Hoggatt plantation in Davidson County: the work and routine of slaves; their religious, family, and social life; the behavior of the overseers; and the atmosphere of violence under Mrs. Hoggatt’s omnipresent whip. McCline tells of how he worked with livestock, a boy doing a man’s job, until he ran away with the Thirteenth Infantry of Michigan late in 1862, when he was little more than ten years old. For the next two-and-a-half years, young John worked as a teamster and officers’ servant, and during that time he witnessed some of the Civil War’s most famous battles—such as Murfreesboro, Chickamauga Creek, and Lookout Mountain—as well as Sherman’s march through Georgia.
McCline worked in Michigan, Chicago, and St. Louis after the war. He eventually made his way to Colorado, where his skill with horses helped him find employment with James John Hagerman, whose son Herbert would later be appointed governor of New Mexico Territory. McCline lived in Santa Fe from 1906 until his death in 1948 and became a leader in that city’s black community. During that period Herbert Hagerman encouraged McCline to write his memoirs and contributed an introduction that also appears in this volume. Jan Furman’s introduction puts McCline’s story in context, and her notes to the text clarify references.
Slavery in the Clover Bottoms joins an important body of newly published slave narratives. It provides a vast amount of firsthand detail about slavery and the Civil War and is particularly notable for presenting a former slave’s perspective on Sherman’s march. Its compelling story spans a continent and tells us much about relationships between the races in the middle and late nineteenth century.
The Editor: Jan Furman is associate professor of early American literature at the University of Michigan, Flint, and author of Toni Morrison’s Fiction.