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. Slavery in the Clover Bottoms joins an important body of newly published slave narratives. Its compelling story spans a continent and tells us much about relationships between the races in the middle and late nineteenth century.
Born to slavery in Tennessee around 1851, John McCline experienced plantation life (including the whip) at first hand. McCline was about 11 when, in December 1862, he left the plantation to join the 13th Michigan Infantry. Working as a muleteer with the 13th, McCline labored through key battles at Murfreesboro, Chickamauga Creek and Lookout Mountain. He dispels the notion that blacks were complacent in bondage: inspired by reports of militant abolitionist John Brown, several of McCline's fellow slaves kept pistols secretly ready for an uprising that became unnecessary once Union troops overran rural Davidson County in 1862. McCline's description of the war is equally illuminating and rich in detail, as when he describes the mechanics of destroying a Southern railroad during Sherman's march to the sea. After the tracks were torn up, they were in turn heated on great bonfires till they glowed red. Then, with General Sherman looking on, they were bent round trees with the help of mules driven by teamsters such as McCline. The final chapter briefly recounts McCline's life after the war as he sought his family, work and the education that led to these unusually concise and elegant recollections. McCline's remarkable 1920s memoiredited by Furman, an associate professor of early American literature at the University of Michigan, Flintprovides a compelling account of one child's slavery and one adolescent's Civil War. (July)
McCline grew up in bondage in Tennessee and as a boy ran off with the Union army as it passed through his county in 1862. The bulk of his memoir written in the 1920s but finally published relates his 18 months as a teamster with the 13th Michigan Infantry during the Civil War. McCline adds little to the abundant literature on battles and camp life, but he does offer a rare perspective on supplying and moving armies, especially during Sherman's March to the sea. McCline's record of his plantation days is brief and bleak, and his postwar life in Chicago, St. Louis, and Santa Fe exists only as a postscript. McCline writes well, and his introduction into "Yankee" culture, from foodways to the meaning of freedom, makes for interesting reading. But the appeal and utility of this narrative likely will be limited to scholars. Recommended for academic libraries.Randall M. Miller, St. Joseph's Univ., Philadelphia