“When my husband enlisted my master beat me over the head with an ace handle saying as he did so that he bet me for letting Ely Burdett go off”
During the Civil War, Kentucky joined the side of the Union, and many free blacks fought on the to help in the end of slavery, however former slave owners in this area were very resentful of that. This quote comes from an account of Clarissa Burdett, a former slave who still worked for her master, who recalls being beaten by her former slave master because her husband went to fight in the Union. It is ironic that women who had no say in any “public” matters were held to such a high punishment when their husbands did something that was not deemed socially acceptable. Women were not supposed to tell their husbands what to do, but clearly in this case the master did not care as long as he had someone weaker to take his aggressions out on. It shows the racial divides because a white woman during the Civil War would never have another man who was not her husband lay a hand on her, yet Burdett lived in constant fear of being abused because of the social inferiority that was presented with the color of her skin.
“Union Women In Wartime” In Root of Bitterness: Documents of the Social History of American Women, 268-273. 2nd ed. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1996.