Testimony by a Corporal in a Louisiana Black Regiment before the American Freedmen's Inquiry Commission

[New Orleans  February? 1864]

Deposition of Octave Johnson, Corporal Co. C, 15th Regt. Corps d'Afrique.

I was born in New Orleans; I am 23 years of age;  I was raised by Arthur Thiboux of New Orleans;  I am by trade a cooper;  I was treated pretty well at home;  in 1855 master sold my mother, and in 1861 he sold me to S. Contrell of St. James Parish for $2,400;  here I worked by task at my trade;  one morning the bell was rung for us to go to work so early that I could not see, and I lay still, because I was working by task;  for this the overseer was going to have me whipped, and I ran away to the woods, where I remained for a year and a half;  I had to steal my food; took turkeys, chickens and pigs;  before I left our number had increased to thirty, of whom ten were women;  we were four miles in the rear of the plantation house;  sometimes we would rope beef cattle and drag them out to our hiding place;  we obtained matches from our friends on the plantation;  we slept on logs and burned cypress leaves to make a smoke and keep away mosquitoes;  Eugene Jardeau, master of hounds, hunted for us for three months;  often those at work would betray those in the swamp, for fear of being implicated in their escape;  we furnished meat to our fellow-servants in the field, who would return corn meal;  one day twenty hounds came after me;  I called the party to my assistance and we killed eight of the bloodhounds;  then we all jumped into Bayou Faupron; the dogs followed us and the alligators caught six of them; “the alligators preferred dog flesh to personal flesh;”  we escaped and came to Camp Parapet, where I was first employed in the Commissary's office, then as a servant to Col. Hanks;  then I joined his regiment.

Testimony of Corporal Octave Johnson before the American Freedmen's Inquiry Commission, [Feb.? 1864], filed with O-328 1863, Letters Received, ser. 12, Adjutant General's Office, Record Group 94, National Archives.

Published in The Destruction of Slavery, p. 217, and in Free at Last, pp. 408–10.