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Monday, September 10, 2012


Moving this to soon.     Under Construction. 

"Until now, however, almost no one had seen Lee's slave ledgers and letters to/ from bounty hunters."

The "famous" trunks full of Lee's papers, 
including his slave ledgers. 

The "clever and careful"  book  Elizabeth Pryor wrote about the slave ledgers. 



There is a reason that Lee family took 150 years to let one person to study those slave ledgers/ bounty hunter lettes.

And there is a reason it might be 150  more  years before they let the public see them -- if ever 

Pryor wrote about the slave ledgers. 


Lee wrote a lot of things -- including slave ledgers, and instructions to bounty hunters, and a defense of slavery justifying  the painful discipline"  of slaves.

Pryor does not, in any way, show all Lee's letters.  

Those slave ledgers and bounty hunter letters still exist.

Could Lee's slave ledgers and bounty hunter letters be important?

Could the be the next best thing to giving Lee a video camera, to  record himself talking to bounty hunters, going to slave auctions (yes, he used slave auctions)  and "disciplining" his slaves?

Of course they could.  And are. 


"Hang on to your hats, Lee lovers.  

It might  to be a bumpy ride"





We all heard it -- all our lives.

Robert E Lee had no slaves.  He did not fight on the side of slavery.

In fact, he freed his wife's slaves.  We even heard they liked Lee so well, they did not want to leave him.

 Pulitzer prize winning historians told us how kind, how gentle, how chaste, how devout Lee was.

High school teachers smugly told us Lee "hated slavery".  

Every Lee devotee-- 100% - claimed a letter Lee wrote to his wife proved all this. That letter said slavery was a "political and moral evil".

Well, there is a lot more than that letter --as you will see.  But even in the letter Lee defended the pain inflicted on slaves as "necessary for their instruction"   and claimed blacks were lucky to be slaves. 

Abolitionist "are on an evil course"  he wrote, too.  They are trying "to destroy the American church".   God ordained (ordered) slavery.  Only God can end it.

It was an evil -- against GOD -- to try to end slavery, other than by prayer.

And that is nothing --nothing -- compared to how personally cruel Lee was to his slaves -- including the slave girls.


Lee was so devout, he and his officers would dismount from their horses during battle, take off their hats, as bombs blew up around them, and together say a silent prayer to the almighty.


From about 1880 to 1930, there were hundreds of Lee biographies or articles.  Practically speaking, they competed against each other to be the most flattering

Those books are where much of the nonsense comes to us, about Lee.  No one said word one about the slave ledgers during those years.

Or torture of slave girls.

Or white looking slave girls.

Or purchase of kidnapped women.

Or Lee's sexual letters to various women.

Or 100 other things.  

Just wait (maybe 150 years).  If the Lee family ever allow those papers to be shown, there could be much more.


One thing for sure -- we have to start over about Lee. 

If nothing else, had Pryor only  documented Lee's torture of slave girls -- including a girl so small that the regular overseer refused to whip her -- she would deserve accolades.

But she did much more, though carefully so.

Pryor found indisputable documentation in Lee's own handwriting that the newspaper report (three newspaper reports) of Lee's torture of a small slave girl was correct. 

Lee's payments on those dates, and payments to the bounty hunter named in the newspapers as the man Lee had whip the girl (after the regular guy refused), were just one proof.

Pryor found that after the war,  reporters went to Arlington and got information about the torture of the girl the newspaper wrote about.  They found a witness, one of the males whipped the same day as the girl was whipped, who confirmed it.

SO no, the newspaper story was valid.  Lee did have a girl whipped that was too small for the regular overseer to whip. But a nearby bounty hunter accepted the cash.

Not only that, but Pryor found other evidence of other tortures -- and tortures of various kinds.  The whip was just one of the tortures -- he had others and he used them.

Pryor also found that his father had actually hung girls - a girl about 15 years old.  Why did Lee's father whip her?  Because she pushed down the man whipping her.  Lee had her hung.

In fact, one of the first thing Lee did when taking over the slaves -- he had a whipping post installed -- and he used it.


Therefore, what we have been told is apparently basically nonsense.  No matter how many times people repeat nonsense, it's still nonsense. 

We could never know that, if Lee had not written it all down.

Or if he had simply burned his slave ledgers and bounty hunter letters.

But Lee did not burn them.  


The big story here -- you can ignore the rest if you'd like -- is that Lee's slave ledgers, bounty hunter letters still exist.



Pryor never uses the term "slave ledgers".   She calls them "monthly account books".   Using the term "slave ledgers" would probably stop newspapers in Virginia from being printed, and be a "breaking story" on television news.

In some ways, Lee never had a better friend that Elizabeth Pryor. In her hands she held shameful, even vile, information about Lee, in his own handwriting.

Yet Pryor  flattered him as much as possible.

Pryor  begins her book by comparing Lee to Richard the Lionhearted.

She presents a lovely letter Lee wrote to his children urging them to be noble people worthy of honor.

It takes her a while to get into  the ugly stuff, but get there she does --in clever language or not, euphemism or not, even Orwellian double speak -- she does get there.

It just takes her a few chapters.


Poor cross cultural communication skills

Lee's discipline (torture is the right word, as you will see) of slaves was  not out of cruelty. Not out of anger.

The discipline by the whip and other means only happened because of "Lee's poor cross cultural communication skills".

Very much like the movie "Cool Hand Luke"  where a prisoner (Paul Newman) was whipped.   "What we  have here" said the man torturing Newman with a whip, "is a failure to communicate".


It's unlikely you ever saw the name Lee on the same page as the term slave ledgers. 

Until now.  He had no slaves, right? So no need for ledgers about them. 

We were told that Lee "detested" slavery, and freed his wife's slaves. So indications that Lee's slaves said he was "the worst man"  we ever saw, that can't possibly be true.

We were told that by Prize winning -- Pulitzer prize winning -- historian Douglas Southall Freeman that  Lee was the "most" kind, the "most chaste"  the "most devout man".  On and on, every page praising him for kindness, honor, and wisdom.

"Those who knew Lee best, loved him the most" --- Freeman was talking about Lee's "servants"  in that context.

Freeman might have even believed part of it.  Hard to tell now.

Freeman even told us that Lee's own slave wrote a book about how kind Lee was, the slave "Mack Lee".

Freeman "forgot" to tell us - Mack Lee was never Lee's slave.  His name is not anywhere on Lee's papers.  Lee had four slaves with him during the Civil War -- not one of them by that name.

Further the details in Mack's Lee book were goofy.  Mack Lee would speak to groups -- including state legislatures -- wearing a Confederate uniform.  He would tell the white people that blacks should appreciate what whites did for blacks.   He would take up offerings for a church he claimed he was building.

The "book"  was actually a pamphlet Mack handed out as she went town to town, inviting the public to his sermons.

Mack told stories that were demonstrably false -- like his claim he and Lee were in a house as a cannonball came through the wall. It bounced around and Mack Lee was struck in the head, dazed.

Lee, according to Mack, ran to him and said something like  "I ain't never seen a nigger hit like that".

Lee was never in a house that was hit by cannon balls. He never had a slave by that name.

Douglas Southall Freeman knew all that, of course.

He made sure his readers did not know.




 If Lee's slave ledgers are to be believe, even in the careful way Pryor writes about them, then Freeman  hardly issued a honest candid word about Lee.


We find out from Pryor that Lee's slaves considered him "the worst man" we ever saw.

What made  Pryor write that?  We don't know. 

What made the slaves say that?   We don't know.

Pryor had to see something that gave her that information. In the page where she wrote about Lee being "the worst man we ever saw "  she could have easily made it clear, even show  us pictures, of the place in Lee's papers where she found that information,.

Pryor defends Lee--  even blames the slaves for trying to escape. Lee and his wife, according to Pryor, felt the slaves did not appreciate what he did for them.   

Pryor wrote that the slaves "did not fully agree with Lee's  theory of labor management. "

Labor management - fully agree?  


If you are against slavery, why employ bounty hunters? 

Pryor could have told us how many bounty hunters Lee hired. She could have shown us the actual pages -- made a spread sheet of the prices he paid them, for which slave, and where the slave was caught.

But she did not.  But at least she gave us what she did.


More stunning -- Lee's bounty hunters, according to one of Pryor's more careful pages,  sold "others" to Lee.  More about "others"  sold to Lee later.   


One of Lee's white looking slave girls.



What tells more about a person?

That Lee bought women from bounty hunters---or that he had a pet chicken?

We teach the chicken, at least in Virginia.   We don't mention the bounty hunters.


Of course take anyone ever born, but when creating the myth later, omit everything cruel, foul, illegal, vile, and cowardly, and in no time at all, they are by necessity the most wonderful person in history.




In any given week more school children are taken by the grave of Robert E Lee's horse,  than are ever taught what Lee did to slave girls.

Thousands of children have paid respect at Lee's grave, and the grave of  his horse.  None were taught, we suppose, the names of Lee's slave girls, nor told what he did to them.

Is that how "education"  is supposed to work?  

The name of Lee's pet chicken was Pearl.

The name of Lee's horse was Traveller.



This blog (I have a coming) is an amateurish report on Elizabeth Pryor's  flattering, book about Robert E Lee slave ledgers and bounty hunter letters.

But read her book yourself. You may get an entirely different view. 

Pryor, in her book wrote about Lee and the  Fugitive Slave Act.  She  mentioned rather casually that the bounty hunters brought him escaped slaves "and others".


Who were the others?

Did she not know who these others were? She got this information from his slave ledgers or bounty hunter letters.  Surely Lee did not just write "others"  with no information about them.

Pryor could have given us the names, ages, gender, where they were captured, and prices, of both the escaped slaves  and the others. 

But she did not do that.   

Pryor could have said the "others"  were impossible by his records to identify .   

But she did not do that. 

The "others"  had to be other than his escaped slaves. 


Pryor wrote in that context "technically Lee may have broken the law".  She even added that Lee "failed to fill out the time consuming paper work".  

Clever right -- time consuming paperwork. 

As if there is paperwork involved in capturing "others" who are not escaped slaves. 



You should read her book first, frankly. 

 Pryor is (was)  a professional diplomat and scholar.

She did such a scholarly job on her book that she won awards for it, and accolades from the likes of Journal of Southern History, and the Virginia Historical Society.

 She worked with the Lee family and apparently got along quite well with them. No one accused her in academic circles of trashing Lee-- nor does she in the slightest.

In fact, Pryor bends over backwards on every page, if not every paragraph to justify Lee, no matter what he did. She blamed the slave themselves for their punishments, for example, and said Lee had "every right"  to "protect his property." 



Pryor  adored Lee, apparently, even after she found out about his punishment (torture is the right word, actually) of slave girls so small, the professional "overseer" (the man who usually tortured the slaves) refused to whip a girl because she was so small.

What did Lee do, according to his own hand written ledgers?

He paid a bounty hunter to whip the girl.

Pryor was not offended -- she claimed Lee had every right to protect his property.


Not out of cruelty ---  

Lee just had "poor cross cultural communication skills" 

Pryor did not want her readers to think Lee was cruel -- though the facts show a remarkably cruel man.   Pryor wrote that the punishments were the result of "Lee's poor cross cultural communication skills---" one of many bits of Orwellian double speak that Pryor uses throughout her book.



The newspapers at the time did not cover whipping of slaves, they were actually routine, as you will see.

So why publish these whippings?

Because the first overseer refused- - refused-- to whip her, and Lee paid someone to whip the slaves (including the small girl) .

The whip was only one of the tortures Lee used on her. There were other tortures in store for her, and Lee taunted her before her torture.  All of that was in those newspapers.  

If there is one thing Pryor did rather candidly --  Pryor lays it out there --the reports in the paper are undeniably accurate, because Lee himself validated them in his ownwritings, in the details she found in his slave ledgers. 

Not only did Lee's details in his own ledgers -- payments to the bounty hunters, payments to the other places named in the reports -- match things reported,    there was more.

Yes, more.

Reporters who remembered that story in the papers before the war, went  Lee's plantation after the war, to ask around.

They found witnesses to the whippings.   They even found one of the slaves whipped.   Those witnesses validated the earlier newspaper reports.

And remember, those reports Lee himself corroborated, in his own slave ledgers.

Pryor really had no choice, with this amazing verifications, overlapping and from various sources, on the details that matched Lee's handwritten records.

Pryor did a noble thing, she stuck to her guns on this one point -- that Lee himself validated the details of what appeared in the newspapers, in his own hand written slave ledgers. 

Don't forget this.  Lee's hand written slave ledgers validated -- to an astonishing degree-- what newspapers wrote at the time. And what witnesses themselves said after the war. 

More below. 



Pryor is no longer alive (traffic accident, 2015) to respond to questions or comments. 

 No doubt she would and could quickly dispense with my silly "nitpicks"  about the words and phrases she used to characterize Lee's slave ledgers and bounty hunter letters, that is, if she had the material necessary to correct these observations and answer these questions.

This blog may help a little, or it could be entirely wrong.  

We need to see the actual slave ledgers and bounty hunter letters to know best how to characterize them.

Pryor actually studied those records,  no one else till then had. I certainly did not.  It could be she was perfectly candid in her book,  and my rantings are silly.

But I have reasons to doubt that. 





Casually skim Pryor's book, and you can miss some doozies.

Pryor early on presents "sex between the races"  as "dalliances"  -- which is a brief casual affair,  sexual or otherwise.

Ginger Rogers & Fred Astaire had a 

Pryor  spoke in that part of the book in terms of "dalliances".  Really.

Her  "rape was common"  information she puts far in the back of the book, after most readers fell asleep in the slumber of her careful handling of Lee facts.

When speaking of rape, Pryor does not make it clear she is talking about Arlington, the phrasing is such that you can easily think she is writing about slave owners in general.

But she was writing about Lee's papers.   She was writing about Arlington. 

She does posit  "there is no evidence"  Lee himself took part in such activity, but what "evidence"  would she need, or find in his papers?   A DNA test?

There is much evidence Lee was cruel, and much evidence that rape was common there at Arlington, Pryor all but admits it.


Pryor quotes a black man -- using ebonics  no less, to tell us slave rape was common.  We did not need that, if you read the reports of eye witnesses,  torture  (discipline) was common. And the 50% of  mulatto slaves at Arlington were not dropped out of the sky or mothered by the Blessed Virgin Mary. 


What did she see in his papers?

Who did the "coercion"  Does that mean the woman got yelled at for not obeying sexual demands? 

Does it mean she was terrorized,  paid? 

Who did the coercion? 

Did they have a name?

Did the slave have a name? 

How old was the rape -- coercion-- victim?


1 comment:

  1. How do you know the child is a male? He had white looking slave girls of various ages, and Pryor tells us that "increasingly" whites (meaning Lee) were enslaving other whites.

    You have no idea if the child is male or female. You apparently hope that by enslaving white males, instead of females, that Lee seems less of a vile POS he is. Lee had slaves, FROM BIRTH, that looked white. Too complicated? If he did not own them from birth, he would have had to buy the white looking females at auction.

    This whole notion of Lee's ownership of whites --as worse than owning blacks -- shows a basic misunderstanding of pain. Do you not think enslaving, torturing, raping, and selling the children of black women is equally as vile as enslaving torturing raping and selling the children of white women?

    Clearly you do not know that enslaving of whites was a "growing thing" in the South as the rapes of slave women by white men progressed. And as we know, from Pryor herself, rape was common.

    Common. Rape. Was. Common.

    Those rapes -- then when that female child is old enough, they raped her. This is clearly the case not only because of written evidence at the time, but the growing number of white looking slaves. White looking FEMALE slaves, we know, were prized and priced higher. I bet you did not know that?

    Do you think men who tortured slaves, raped them, bought women at auction, etc etc, suddenly stopped their actions and said "Oh my God, this child is white looking -- let us hurry to get her to a white woman for her care and upbringing"

    Hell no. ANd remember we have evidence that white looking women were valued at auctions, and went to men for sex slaves, and to whore houses, often in New Orleans.

    Why would white looking, or light skinned women, be sold to whore houses? Because whore houses found -- according to written evidence at the time --that white men preferred to use a whore that was not dark, with negroid nose. They were taught, since birth, that black was a vile color for a human. But lighter skinned women, with white features -- they could make those women be prostitutes, without pay, until they died.

    Lee was part of that.