Mississippi Blue Flood Blues


The Colored Volunteer Marching Into Dixie
The Colored Soldier, Marching into Dixie; 1863; hand-colored lithograph; from New York: Published by Currier & Ives, New York; Originally part of a McAllister, Hart, Phillips Civil War scrapbook
Description: Portrait of an earnest African American Union soldier dressed in his blue uniform, a “U.S.” belt buckle, and a cap. He holds his rifle over his shoulder and carries a sleeping mat on his back.
Image and Description Source: Library Company of  Philadelphia, African Americana Collection – African American Graphics Collection; see here for Library Company of Philadelphia’s homepage.

The Mississippi Blue Flood Blues
By Alan Skerrett

There’s a blue flood in Mississippi
That’s where my baby be
There’s a blue flood in Mississippi
That’s where my baby be
They’re wearin’ eagles on their buttons [1]
Tellin’ us it’s Jubilee [2]

There’s a dark cloud over Vicksburg [3]
I hope my baby found a cave
There’s a dark cloud over Vicksburg
Sure hope my baby’s in a cave
But that blue flood is surely coming’
And I know my baby will be saved

There’s thunder and lighting in Natchez
Where there used to be crying on the block [4]
There’s thunder and lighting in Natchez
Where my baby was crying on the block
But when that blue flood comes to Natchez
We’ll take the keys and break the locks

There’s a horn blown’ in Jackson [5]
Blowing just like Jericho
Lord, there’s a horn blowin’ in Jackson
Strong and loud like Jericho
When you hear that horn a wailing,
Pack your bags, child, time to go!
—————

[1] African Americans soldiers were a vital part of the Union forces in the Mississippi Valley. Almost 18,000 black men from Mississippi enlisted in the Union army; only Louisiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee provided more African descent troops to the Union cause. During the war, Frederick Douglass famously said “Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letter, U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket, there is no power on earth that can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship.” Earnest McBride, in his essay “Black Mississippi troops in the Civil War,” writes that “the most noteworthy battles fought by Mississippi black troops to liberate themselves, their families and the entire nation are the Battle of Milliken’s Bend, June 7, 1863, as part of the Vicksburg Campaign; two battles in or near Yazoo City, February and March, 1864; Big Black and Concord Church, Nov. 23-Dec. 4, 1864; Brownsville, MS, April, 1864; Brice’s Crossroads, June 1-13, 1864; Tupelo, July 5-1864.”

[2] Leviticus 25: 10, the Bible-New International Version, reads “Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan.” Many slaves, having been raised in the biblical tradition, saw the Civil War as the time of their jubilee.

[3] The city of Vicksburg, Mississippi, on the Mississippi River, was a key target of Union army and naval forces. For 47 days in the summer of 1863, the city was surrounded and besieged by Union forces. During this time, some residents retreated to caves to find shelter from Union shelling. The city surrendered to Union forces on July 4, 1863.

[4] As noted here, “In the decades prior to the American Civil War, market places where enslaved Africans were bought and sold could be found in every town of any size in Mississippi. Natchez was unquestionably the state’s most active slave trading city, although substantial slave markets existed at Aberdeen, Crystal Springs, Vicksburg, Woodville, and Jackson.” Natchez surrendered to the Union after the fall of New Orleans in May 1862, and was largely undamaged during the War.

[5] In his book Mississippi in the Civil War: the Home Front, p 143, historian Timothy B. Smith writes

The blue-clad cavalry arrived at Jackson, Mississippi, that July 1864, causing the inhabitants to fully realize what had happened to their state their Confederacy, and most important, their lives. These were not typical Union cavalrymen, which the citizens of Jackson had seen before. These were African American Yankees, the Third Regiment Cavalry U.S. Colored Troops, raised and organized out of Mississippi slaves in 1863.

Firmly in control of the city and all functions that took place in it, the cavalrymen openly displayed a new manner in Mississippi; old cultures and society were obviously changing. A white officer in a black regiment noted the change: “The slaves are the masters and the masters, or rather, the mistresses, for there are few masters at home, are the slaves, through fear.” One former slave put it more succinctly when he spoke of the “bottom rail on top.” That day had come in Mississippi.

image
“The War in Mississippi—The 1st Mississippi Negro Cavalry Bringing into Vicksburg Rebel Prisoners Captured at Haines Bluff. –From a Sketch by our Special Artist, Fred B. Schell”
Image Source: Frank Leslie’s Illustrated News, December 19, 1863; see here and here

A monument to African descent Union soldiers has been installed in Vicksburg National Military Park; you can read more about the monument here. Also, in Corinth, MS, there is a monument to the civilians and blacks soldiers at the contraband camp that was located there during the war. It’s great to see these monuments; but if I could snap my magical-monument finger, and install a memorial to black soldiers anywhere I wanted, Jackson, Mississippi would be on the list. There were black troops in the city during the war, and it is fitting that the capital city of Mississippi give honor to those men, who helped bring freedom to a state whose population, at the time of the war, was over 50% African American.


African American Monument in Vicksburg National Military Park
The inscription reads, “Commemorating the Service of the 1st and 3d Mississippi Infantry, African Descent and All Mississippians of African Descent Who Participated in the Vicksburg Campaign.”
Image Source: from Flickr

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s