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Monday, September 10, 2012


Moving this to soon.     Under Construction. 

Why is that for 150  years no one was allowed to study Lee's slave ledgers?

Finally,  one person was allowed to study the slave ledgers -- or as Pryor called them "his personal papers.".

Elizabeth Pryor wrote an amazing -- and very careful --- book about Lee's "personal papers."


The "famous" trunks full of Lee's papers, 
including his slave ledgers.  Pryor with members of the Lee family and Virginia Historical Society. 





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

We can't be sure of the reason, but we can make a very good guess at the reason, now that Pryor wrote  her book

If Lee's papers, including slave ledgers, matched the myth that  we created about Lee - the Lee family would likely be EAGER to get those papers out - actual copies.  Many Civil War figures had their papers published.

Not Lee-- and even now, we don't have access to the actual documents, that he wrote, in his own handwriting.



It might be 150  more  years before they let anyone see them again. Hard to tell what they thought of Pryor. 

How do we know they are slave ledgers?

We know because Pryor  gathered enough prices he paid for girls of which age, and could compare that to prices he paid for males. 

She did not get that information from a duck.  She got that information from those "monthly account books".

Clearly they were his slave ledgers, but Pryor was so careful she never dared use that term.

That's pretty much her level of candor on everything. 



Elizabeth Pryor died in 2015 in a car accident, not that far from where Lee died.   As is right and just, Pryor  had an infinite number of ways to describe Lee's papers -- it was her book.  

She was under no obligation to be candid.   Nor was she.

Nor did she claim to be candid.

She had taken no oath and asserted no promise to be candid. We can not say, because we do not know, what the actual and implied agreement was between  Pryor and the people who allowed her such marvelous access Lee's papers -- and yes, his slave ledgers.

But clearly she and the Lee family would work that out.  They picked her for a reason.  They could have given access to any University in the country.   They could have just published them.

They let her look at them. So of course they had some kind of relationship, some kind of understanding.

Pryor  does  not show you any pages. 

Why not show those pages upon which Lee wrote the prices?  

In 30 seconds, she could have copied any page from any slave ledger she chose -- assuming the Lee family allowed it, and that was their agreement.

There is a REASON Pryor did not show a page of Lee's slave ledgers with prices -  she did not want you to know.

What other reason could there be?

This is not rocket science.

Never, not once, does she make it clear where she got the most stunning information - like Lee purchase of kidnapped women from the North. Yes, Lee bought women from the North, women that were not slaves, not escaped slaves. Pryor relates that to us as "and others". 

Yet no one else told us as much, candid, cleverly, or otherwise. 


One of the few things she showed was a drawing Lee did about a water pump.  As if the water pump showed us much about Lee.

She instead showed a letter Lee wrote to his children, fatherly and noble sounding.

She compared Lee right off the bat with Richard The Lionhearted.   

So her book started like 1000 other books on Lee -- this would be page after page of adoration.  

Not so much. 

Pryor did reveal, in clever ways,  more than anyone before her.

Lee wrote a lot of things -- including instructions to punish slaves, and records of purchases of slaves. Yes, Lee bought slaves.

Lee also wrote letters to justify his treatment of slaves.

Every slave owner justified his or her actions.  Lee was no exception

Like every slave owner we know about, religion was Lee's go to excuse,  he even insisted God ordained slavery, and only God can end it.


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

Could be the next best thing to giving Lee a video camera, to  record as he went about his business.  But no one gave him a video camera.

He bought and used slave ledgers,  himself.

"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.


Pryor also found that his father had actually hung girls - a girl about 15 years old.  Why did Lee's father hang her?   He could have just had her whipped. 

He had her hung because she pushed down the man whipping her.  Lee had her hung. Don't forget that.  That was Lee's dad.  Lee came from that mind set. 

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


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

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.

"Poor cross cultural communication skills"

Pryor wants us to believe Lee's discipline (torture is the right word, as you will see) of slaves was  not out of cruelty. 

Pryor blames the tortures on "Lee's poor cross cultural communication skills."

She was not kidding. 

Rather 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 were ever taught, in 150 years, of what Lee did to slave girls.


Is that how "education"  is supposed to work?  


This blog 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 wrote about the Fugitive Slave Act in this book about Lee.  Do you know why?

She  mentioned rather casually that the bounty hunters brought him escaped slaves ---- "and others".


Who were the others?  She does not say.

In fact, she does not give a hint whatsoever.

Did she not know who these others were? 

Highly unlike that Pryor knew the names, ages, and prices Lee paid for these "others".

But they were not his escaped slaves.  They were "others".  

Surely Lee did not just write "others"  with no information about them.  Pryor had to have written it this way for a reason -- the only logical reason?   She did not want her readers to know the names and prices of these people Lee bought from bounty hunters.

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.  But she did have an interesting comment......


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.   Lee failed to fill out the time consuming paperwork, as if Lee was the victim here.  

Of course there is no paperwork, time consuming or not, for grabbing human beings,  taking them South, and selling them as slaves.

So Pryor was not just willing to use Orwellian double speak and euphemism. In her eagerness to defend Lee, Pryor would just make shit up, too.  

We can't tell for sure, of course, unless we   see and study the slave ledgers and bounty hunter letters ourselves. 

Pryor made sure we could not actually see those things.  Remember, there is a reason the Lee family did not open these records, or give copies of them, to the public.



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.