Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Thirty-Five Pounds of Chains

A fellow citizen sends us for publication a couple of letters from the Jefferson (Pa.) Star written by a worthy citizens of the county in which that paper is printed, giving his reasons for being under arrest.  The second letter, which we omit, states that Mr. Jenks is no longer under arrest, but is in command of a company and doing good service for the Union.  The gist of the matter is that the Major Leffingwell alluded to so honorably in this connection, is none other than Judge Leffingwell, of Clinton county, Iowa, well known for his strong pro-slavery sentiments.  Like every conscientious Democrat, who has enlisted in defense of his country in her hour of peril, he has had his eyes opened to the enormity of slavery and now refuses to lift a hand in furtherance of the cause of all our national troubles.  Good for the Judge! May he return home thoroughly reformed:

LEXINGTON, MO., Feb. 28, 1862.

DEAR BROTHER: You will, no doubt, be surprised to learn that I am under arrest.  The reasons are as follows:  Yesterday I was informed that there was a negro in irons about three miles from town.  Last night I called at the house, accompanied by a few of my own men.  I found the negro with chains on him weighing thirty-five pounds!  I brought him into camp; Lieut. Burdell, a sergeant of Company B, and myself, took the chains off him.  Col. Stephenson of the Seventh Missouri, ordered Major Leffingwell to arrest me.  This he refused to do, but said he would call me in, which he did, and the following conversation took place:

Colonel – “Lieut. Jenks, did you go to the country, get a negro and bring him into the camp last night?”

Answer – “I did.”

Colonel – “Are you aware that you have violated an order of Gen. Halledk?”

Answer – “I am not, Sir.”

Colonel – “By whose order did you act?”

Answer – “I acted on my own responsibility, and by order of suffering humanity.”

Colonel – “You will return the negro immediately.”

Answer – “Colonel, that is impossible; I do not know where he is.”

Colonel – “you may then consider yourself under arrest – bring me your saber.”

Answer – “Very well, sir.”

So I am arrested for daring to take the chains off a human being – a man who has a soul like our own.  He was chained because he dared to attempt to escape from the hellish bondage in which he was held.  This man had done what he could for the Union cause in the battles at this place.  Now, brother, I feel that I have done right in the sight of Heaven, and with the blessing of heaven, I fear not what man can do with me.

Your brother,

– Published in The Davenport Daily Gazette, Davenport, Iowa, Wednesday Morning, May 14, 1862, p. 2

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