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 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 A note about the inaugural...
 Contributors
 Florida archival resources
 Unfurled nationalism
 The permanence of the 1960s
 The courts-martial of east Florida,...
 Medieval converts
 The "principall and only means...
 Book reviews


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Alapta : a journal of history
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00090930/00001
 Material Information
Title: Alapta : a journal of history
Physical Description: Serial
Language: English
Creator: History Department, University of Florida
Publisher: History Department, University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Creation Date: 2004
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Genre: serial   ( sobekcm )
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Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
System ID: UF00090930:00001

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Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Page i
        Page ii
    Table of Contents
        Page iii
        Page iv
    A note about the inaugural issue
        Page v
        Page vi
    Contributors
        Page vii
        Page viii
    Florida archival resources
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
    Unfurled nationalism
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
    The permanence of the 1960s
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
    The courts-martial of east Florida, 1785-1795
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
        Page 83
        Page 84
    Medieval converts
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
        Page 88
        Page 89
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
        Page 96
    The "principall and only means to ripen the fruit of new hopes"
        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
        Page 109
        Page 110
        Page 111
        Page 112
        Page 113
        Page 114
        Page 115
        Page 116
        Page 117
        Page 118
        Page 119
        Page 120
        Page 121
        Page 122
        Page 123
        Page 124
        Page 125
        Page 126
    Book reviews
        Page 127
        Page 128
        Page 129
        Page 130
        Page 131
        Page 132
        Page 133
        Page 134
        Page 135
        Page 136
Full Text







University of Florida
Volume 1, Spring 2004


MANAGING EDITORS




EDITORS












FACULTY ADVISOR

SPONSOR



COVER DESIGN


Samuel Pierce
Graduate
Anne Osborn
Undergraduate

Jason Crockett
Allison Riggs
Jace Stuckey
Ben Houston
Jessica Smith
Chris Sahl
Keith Manuel
Rob Lever
Matt Bewig
Kelly Minor

Dr. Jack E. Davis

University of Florida
Department of History
Dr.Brian Ward, Chair

Chris Nyffeler


GAMMA ETA CHAPTER










TABLE OF CONTENTS




A Note about the Inaugural Issue v
Contributors vii

SPECIAL SECTION

Florida Archival Resources 1

ARTICLES
Unfurled Nationalism: Patriotic Displays after the Baltimore Riot of
April 19, 1861 13
Paul Emerson
The Permanence of the 1960s: Prison, Political Prisoners, and
the Brinks Affair of 1981 31
Dan Berger
The Courts-Martial of East Florida, 1785-1795: Crime and Punishment
on the Periphery of the Spanish Colonial Empire 57
Nick Linville
Medieval Converts: Understanding the Jewish Conversion to Christianity
in Medieval England, Italy, and Spain 85
Jacob Terpos
The principall and only means to ripen the fruit of new hopes": Husbandry
Manuals and Parliamentary Enclosure in Early Moder England 97
Kelly Minor

BOOK REVIEWS

Maria Bucur, Eugenics and Modernization in Interwar Romania 127
Jason W. Crockett
Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in
the Age ofReason 129
Craig Dosher

Patrick Geary, The Myth ofNations: The Medieval Origins of Europe 131
Jace Stuckey

E. A. Burtt, The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science 133
Jason Antley










A NOTE ABOUT THE INAUGURAL ISSUE




We are pleased to present to you the inaugural issue of Alpata: A
Journal ofHistory. Since this is the first Phi Alpha Theta journal from the
University of Florida, we had many decisions to face during production.
The title is drawn from the Timucuan word for alligator. The Timucuans
were a culture indigenous to Florida, and the alligator is a representative
feature of Florida's natural landscape and the mascot of the University of
Florida. This title represents a mixture of present and past, emphasizing
the crucial link between our world today and those who went before us.
The articles contained in Alpata demonstrate the breadth of the
historical research undertaken within our department. Beginning with
a study of nationalism during the Civil War, Alpata includes articles on
topics as diverse as military trials in Spanish Florida, post-1960s American
radicalism, the conversion of medieval Jews, and enclosure in Early
Modem England. The eclectic nature of these articles illustrates a number
of different historical problems and approaches.
The effort involved in preparing this journal was compounded by the
fact that it was our first attempt. Not only did we ready the articles for
print, but the entire design for the journal had to be created. We thank
Chris Nyffeler for his work in preparing the cover, which began as only a
vague notion and became something beautiful.
We also wish to thank the University of Florida's Department of
History for providing funding for the production of the journal. Our Chair,
Dr. Brian Ward, has been very generous.
We are especially grateful to Dr. Jack E. Davis, whose guidance and
support has been crucial in this, our first year of publication. Without him,
this journal would not have succeeded. He gave us the idea of a journal
and let us choose the vision.
And so, it is with great pleasure that we invite you to browse the pages
of Alpata: A Journal of History.


The Editors










CONTRIBUTORS



Paul Emerson is a senior history major interested in baseball and
reading.

Dan Berger graduated summa cum laude from the Interdisciplinary
Studies Program and magna cum laude from the Department of Journalism
in December 2003. He lives in Philadelphia, where he is completing a
book about the Weather Underground, David Gilbert, and media.

Nick Linville is an M.A. student in United States History. His area of
study is the territorial and early statehood periods of Florida history.

Jacob Terpos is a fourth-year history maj or with an emphasis in Christianity
and the history of Science. He would like to thank Dr. Nina Caputo for her
help and guidance.

Kelly Minor is a Ph.D. candidate. She received her B.A. in history
education, and her M.A. in history at the University of West Florida. She
is currently working on a dissertation on rural reform in Florida. While not
her area of focus, she is also interested in agrarian history, with a decided
attachment to Early Modem English and American agrarian reform
history.

Jason W. Crockett is a second-year M.A./Ph.D. student in modem
European history. He studies the political culture of the Habsburg Empire
during the ninteenth century.

Craig Dosher is a Ph.D. candidate in United States history. His areas
of interest include the history and literature of the South, race relations,
gender, Caribbean and Brazilian history, and intellectual history. He is a
native North Carolinian and former Peace Corps volunteer.

Jace Stuckey is a Ph.D. candidate. His area of research is Medieval Europe,
and he is currently working on a dissertation studying the Crusades.

Jason Antley is a senior in history, with a minor in archaeology. His
primary interest is the intersection of the British Empire, science, and
exploration. He is also the president of the Gamma Eta Chapter. He will
attend graduate school at the University of Florida this fall.










SPECIAL SECTION




Florida Archival Resources




For the benefit of scholars researching in Florida, the editorial board
of Alpata is providing information on selected repositories holding
materials on Florida history. The essays that follow offer brief, and by no
means complete, descriptions of the fascinating collections to be found in
archives, libraries, and centers around the state. Although Florida has many
more repositories than those listed here-found at local historical societies,
museums, and courthouses--what follows is a representative sampling of
the type of material that researchers will find most accessible.

University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries
208 Smathers Library
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611
(352)392-0342
Email: special@mail.uflib.ufl.edu
Web: <>
Hours: 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM Monday-Thursday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Friday
Contact the library for special holiday and intersession hours.

The Department of Special and Area Studies Collections of the George
A. Smathers Libraries at the University of Florida, Gainesville, holds
a great variety of sources for the historical researcher. The department
is divided into two large divisions: the Area Studies Collection and the
Department of Special Collections. Each of these divisions is in turn
composed of several constituent parts.
Contained within the Area Studies Collection are the Latin American
Collection, the Africana and Asian Studies Collections, and the Isser and






Special Section


Rae Price Library of Judaica. The Latin American Collection, housed
on the fourth floor of Smathers Library East, contains an overwhelming
amount of material on Latin America as a whole-"approximately 350,000
volumes, 1,100 current/active serial titles, some 50,000 microforms, and
a growing amount of computer-based information and access"-but the
collection is especially strong in the Caribbean region.
The Africana and Asian Studies Collections, both of which form part
of the general collections of Library West, are currently available in the
second floor reading room in Smathers Library East while Library West
undergoes renovations through spring of 2006. For those researchers
interested in Asian Studies, sources available include more than 30,000
volumes on East Asia in a variety of Asian and European languages.
The Africana Collection holds five major collections: the papers of
Gwendolen M. Carter, a former professor of political science at the
university; anthropology professor Robert Cohen's papers; the George
Fortune Collection containing 1,200 linguistic-related materials; Rene
Lemarchand's papers on political science in Rwanda, Zaire, and Chad;
and George Shepperson's papers relative to David Livingstone's travels in
Southern Africa.
Finally, the Isser and Rae Price Library of Judaica, housed in Norman
Hall, holds 75,000 volumes of material on all aspects of the Jewish
experience, ranging from sixteenth-century Hebrew manuscripts to a large
collection on the Holocaust, as well as sources on "Virtually every Jewish
population from Alaska to Argentina and from Scandinavia to Hong
Kong." Additional information on this library and all of the Area Studies
Collections may be found at the Smathers Library Homepage.
The Department of Special Collections, located on the second floor of
Smathers Library, holds a great number of smaller divisions. The Baldwin
Library of Historical Children's Literature boasts "more than 93,000
volumes published in Great Britain and the United States from the early
1700s through the 1990s." Another collection within this department is
the Belknap Collection for the Performing Arts, which contains more than
60,000 items ofephemera-from cinema, dance, theater, music, and more-
from ninteenth- and twentieth-century Europe and America. Of great local
interest is the P. K. Yonge Library of Florida History, housing materials on
all periods of Florida history. For the colonial period, researchers can find
collections drawn from the Archivo General de Indias and the East Florida


Alpata: A Journal of History






Florida Archival Sources


Papers of the Library of Congress, as well as various British archives.
Researchers with more modem sensibilities will find papers of political
figures, newspapers, and a great many other materials.
The final three collections of the Department of Special Collections
contain especially rare holdings. All are located in the second-floor reading
room, Smathers Library. The Rare Books Collection, as the name suggests,
contains a great variety of rare printed material, ranging from works of
literary and theological value to natural science, almanacs, and various
Latin American and Judaic materials. Next, the University Archives is
the official repository of materials generated by the University of Florida,
including university presidential papers, yearbooks, record copies of theses
and dissertations, and the records of university organizations. Finally, the
Manuscript Collection contains an immense variety of sources acquired by
university archivists. Just a sampling of these sources includes the papers
of noted author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings; the Braga Brothers Collection,
papers of an American firm engaged in the sugar trade in Cuba in the early
twentieth century; and the Margaret Dreier Robins Papers on the Women's
Trade Union League.
Researchers may find primary sources, as well as agreatmany secondary
sources, through the Department of Special Collections and Area Studies
on an incalculable number of topics, ranging from economics, psychology,
and anthropology to the performing arts, literature, and photography. The
only resource surpassed by the collections themselves are the librarians
waiting for a researcher to arrive at the library, eager to pursue a new
research project or expand an old one.


The Florida State Archives
500 South Bronough Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0250
(850) 245 6700
e-mail: barm@dos.state.fl.us
Web: <
Hours: 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Monday thru Friday; 9:30 AM to 3:30 PM
Saturday
Closed Sundays, on state holidays, and on Saturdays of Friday or
Monday holidays.


Spring 2004






Special Section


The Florida State Archives (FSA), located on the first floor of the
R. A. Gray building, two blocks west of the State Capitol, is the official
depository of the state government. As such, Florida's state records,
comprising the executive, legislative, and judicial branches from 1821
to the present, are housed at FSA. Additionally, the Archives maintains
some local government records, including county tax, deed, marriage, and
probate records, as well as some birth and naturalization records. There are
also a number of non-governmental manuscripts covering correspondence,
diaries, maps, and organizational papers of various business, religious,
fraternal, professional, and social organizations.
Genealogists will want to consult the rich holdings of genealogically
relevant materials, including county and census records, immigration
records, Florida Pioneer Certificates, Florida military veterans records,
and much more. Special topical indexes include guides to the Black
Experience in Florida, the Film and Video collection, and Women's History
resources. Of particular interest to Interet-savvy researchers are the on-
line collections of World War I Service Cards, Florida Confederate Pension
Application Files, the Call and Brevard Family Papers, Florida's Early
Constitutions, Spanish Land Grants, and the Photographic Collection. The
latter is another mainstay of the FSA's holdings, comprising over 800,000
still images and over 2,000 movies, which the Archives touts as "the largest
and most comprehensive grouping of Florida-related images in existence."
The Photographic Collection spans from colonial-era maps and prints to
mid-nineteenth-century photographs and films and videos from the 1950s
to the present.
The Photographic Collection constitutes one segment of the impressive
Florida Memory project (http://www.floridamemory.com), which matches
these images with time-lines, on-line exhibits, and primary sources to
complement the "On-line Classroom," allowing students and teachers to
incorporate these materials into their daily educational use. Over the next
two years, the wide-ranging Florida Folklife Collection, which documents
the cultural tradition of a number of ethnic groups from Florida, will be
the focus of much of the FSA's efforts, as it digitizes, indexes, and catalogs
these materials and incorporates them into the Florida Memory Project.


Alpata: A Journal of History






Florida Archival Sources


Florida State University Archives
Strozier Library and Claude Pepper Library
Florida State University
Tallahassee, FL 32306
Email: spc@reserves.lib.fsu.edu
Web: <>
Hours: 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Monday-Friday
Closed Saturday and Sunday. Contact the library for special holiday and
intersession hours.

The collections at the Florida State University archives are numerous
and diverse. They range from Civil War manuscripts to childhood themes
in poetry. The archives are located in the Strozier Library and the Claude
Pepper Library on the main university campus. The collections are open to
students of the university as well as the public.
The Claude Pepper collection contains material associated with Claude
Denson Pepper's political career, which spanned more than fifty years as
Pepper served as a member of the Florida legislature, the United States
Senate, and the United States House of Representatives. The collection
includes both personal and official documents and correspondences, and
its scope rivals many large presidential libraries.
The Strozier collection includes the John McKay childhood-in-
poetry collection, which is primarily English and American poetry of the
nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Over 5,000 volumes represent works
from Wadsworth, Tennyson, Whitman, Coleridge, and many others. The
Robert M. Ervin Jr. collection has over 1,200 titles in genres such as
science fiction, fantasy, and horror, all from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.
A Scottish collection provides sources for research on Scotland and the
Scottish influence in the southeastern United States and especially north
Florida. The Florida collection deals primarily with north Florida and
includes sources on environmental history, native peoples, industry, and
government (this includes a manuscript collection on Florida governors).
There is also a large collection of material on the French Revolution and
the Napoleonic era.
Other holdings include numerous Civil War manuscripts, a collection
of the history of the university (including a photo archive), and a rare book
and printed collection, which has a 1611 King James Bible and a page from


Spring 2004






Special Section


a Gutenburg Bible (c. 1450s). Most, if not all, of the collection's specific
holdings are listed on-line and can be accessed through the university's
special collections web-page.


Rollins College Special Collections
Olin Library
Rollins College
Winter Park, FL 32789
(407) 646-2421
Web:<>
Hours: 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM Monday-Friday
Closed Saturday and Sunday. Contact library for information on holiday
and intersession hours.


Located in Winter Park, Florida, the Olin Library at Rollins College is
home to over 280,000 volumes ofbooks, 1,500 periodical subscriptions, and
4,200 electronic periodicals. In addition, the library has numerous digital
resources and is a U.S. Government Documents Depository containing
approximately 74,000 items. The Olin Library is open for public use and
provides a number of computers for on-campus access to its databases.
Community users may purchase borrowing cards to check out books and
other materials. Study areas, including conference and group study rooms,
are available throughout the library.
The Olin Library Archives and Special Collections Department
is located on the first floor and contains numerous items of interest to
historians of Florida and Southern history. Rollins College opened in 1885
and the library archives provide books, artifacts, documents, and other
information related to the history of the school, its students and faculty,
and the surrounding community of Winter Park. The special collections
section of the library includes the Rex Beach collection, the Blackman
Manuscript collection, the Bucklin Moon Manuscript collection, and the
Jessie Belle Rittenhouse collection. The library catalog also includes a
collection of rare books and books about Florida included in the library
catalog.
Of particular note is the Majorie Kinnan Rawlings collection. It
charts-through photographs, letters, and transcripts of on-campus
readings-her numerous visits to the campus. The collection's most prized


Alpata: A Journal of History






Florida Archival Sources


asset is a forty-eight-piece correspondence between Rawlings and former
Rollins College president Hamilton Holt that covers the years 1933 to
1949. This collection is an important supplement to the Marjorie Kinnan
Rawlings papers located at the University of Florida.


The Tampa Bay History Center
225 S. Franklin St.
Tampa, FL 33601
(813) 228-0097
Email: info@tampabayhistorycenter.org
Web: <>
Hours: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM Tuesday-Saturday
Closed Sunday, Monday, and holidays.

The Tampa Bay History Center provides scholars with a wide range
of sources on the history of Florida. Admission to the center in downtown
Tampa is free, but memberships are available starting at thirty-five dollars.
Individual members receive invitations to special events, home delivery
of the center's quarterly newsletter, reduced admission to lectures/
workshops, and a ten percent discount at the center gift shop. The center
hosts continuing exhibits that focus on the history of west central Florida,
including the Seminole wars, the Spanish-American War, the cracker cattle
trade, railroads and shipping, and the Ybor City cigar industry. In addition,
the center periodically presents special exhibits on the region's history.
Recent topics include the Hillsborough County homefront and World War
II, the development of American culture in Florida and the Caribbean,
and a history of settlements in the Everglades from the early 1800s to the
present.
In addition to its museum exhibits, the Tampa Bay History Center
features a research library containing recent publications on state and local
history, as well as a variety of other subjects. The library is also home
to the Hillsborough County Historic Commission's collection, which
includes books, maps, and other documents that deal with the history of
the county and state. Scholars may also use a large genealogy section that
contains information on Tampa and Hillsborough County pioneers, as well
as Southern genealogy in general. The library accepts research requests
through its website for those patrons unable to visit. This service costs five


Spring 2004






Special Section


dollars per half hour of research time (the first half hour is free), as well as
ten cents each for copies of documents. A free search engine is available
on the center's website for browsing its holdings.
Hillsborough Communities is a collection of histories that detail the
settlements of Hillsborough County over the past 10,000 years. Published
by the Tampa Bay History Center, this book focuses on more than two
dozen communities and includes rare photographs and maps. The center
also works closely with the Florida Studies Center atthe University of South
Florida to host the Florida Conversations lecture series. These informal
talks address a vast array of themes dealing with Florida. They take place
at various Tampa-area locations around the Tampa area, including the
center, the university campus, and county public libraries. The center's
website has a current listing of upcoming programs in this series.


University of South Florida Libraries
4202 E. Fowler Ave.
Tampa, FL 33620
(813) 974-2731
Web: <>
Hours: Varies by collection.
Contact the library for hours and information on other collections.

Valuable sources abound within the University of South Florida (USF)
library system. The main library on USF's Tampa campus is home to the
Florida Studies Center. The Nelson Poynter Library of USF St. Petersburg
and the Jane Bancroft Cook Library of New College of Florida/USF
Sarasota each house distinct archival collections related to local topics.
The Tampa Library on the USF's Tampa campus boasts a Florida
Studies Center dedicated to the promotion of arts and humanities in
the Sunshine State. In 1997, the library began an oral history program
focused on Florida politics, social justice, the history of USF, and Tampa
Bay's economic development. The Tampa Library holds extensive special
collections that include personal papers and historical photographs. The
collections can be searched online.
The Nelson Poynter Library on USF's St. Petersburg campus also
holds a useful special collections. The Florida History Research Collection


Alpata: A Journal of History






Florida Archival Sources


contains over fifty papers about south Florida history written by USF
students and outside scholars and researchers. The Poynter Library holds
the papers of the library's namesake Nelson Poynter, longtime publisher
and editor of the St. Petersburg Times. Not surprisingly, special collections
related to south Florida journalism history are a particular strength of the
Poynter Library. USF history professor Raymond O. Arsenault donated
boxes of his personal research materials to form the foundation of a
collection in his own name. The material includes clippings, public records,
audiotape interviews, and photographs covering the years 1881-2001, with
the majority of items falling between the years 1981 and 2001.
The special collections of the Jane Bancroft Cook Library contains
numerous personal papers related to Sarasota history. A feature collection
is the Ringling family papers, which trace several generations of the family
being the Ringling Bros. Circus. The Cook Library is also a repository
for over 250,000 United States Government documents published by
various federal agencies. Additionally, the library holds more than 250,000
Florida State Government documents and provides links to many Florida
documents that can be accessed online.


Miami-Dade Public Library
101 W. Flagler St.
Miami, FL 33103-1523
(305) 375-2665
Web: <>
Hours: 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM Monday-Saturday, 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM
Thursday, 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM Sunday (19 October-6 June)
Closed county holidays.

The public library complex of the main library on historic Flagler
Street in downtown Miami contains a wealth of materials on south Florida
and Cuban history. In the periodical and microform section of the library,
researchers will find Florida newspapers not available elsewhere. The
Miami library, for example, is one of only two repositories in the state that
holds a complete selection of the Miami News-Record, the predecessor
of the Miami Herald. The library's Florida Department includes rare
books, documents, and the Gleason Waite Romer Collection of 17,500
photographic prints and negatives depicting south Florida history from


Spring 2004






Special Section


the early twentieth century to the 1950s. Few researchers are aware that
this section of the library also contains a cache of small but invaluable
manuscript collections not found elsewhere in the state. They are hidden
away in file cabinets, where their accessibility requires the assistance
of a librarian. The library's Cuban Collection is a repository for Cuban
literature, art, religion, and history. Among its holdings are the works of
Cuban revolutionary leader Jose Marti.
Across the plaza from the library is the Historical Museum of Southern
Florida, an important repository for researchers. The archival collections-
photographs and documents--at the museum are quite extensive, relating
to archeology, history, folklife, and cultures of south Florida and the
Caribbean. The collections can be searched on-line.

Hispanic Branch:
2190 W. Flagler St.
Miami, FL 33135
(305) 541-9444
Hours: 9:30 AM to 6:30 PM Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday;
11:30 AM to 6:00 PM on Wednesday
Closed Friday, Sunday, and county-observed holidays.

Located in the center of Little Havana, the Hispanic Branch constitutes
a collection of 60,000 printed and photographic items in literature, history,
and linguistics. Much of the material deals with the Cuban exile/immigrant
experience in south Florida. The Cuban collection at the Hispanic Branch
contains a number of rare books.


Florida Historical Society
Alma Clyde Field Library of Florida History
435 Brevard Avenue
Cocoa Beach, Florida 32922
(321) 690-1971
Email: fieldlib@aol.com
Web: <>
Hours: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM Tuesday-Saturday


Alpata: A Journal of History






Florida Archival Sources


The Alma Clyde Field Library has more than 8,000 maps of Florida,
dating from the late 1500s. In addition, the manuscript collection holds
the Richard Keith Call Papers, the Pleasants W. White Papers, El Destino
Plantation records, John Milton Letterbooks, the Francis Fleming papers,
and several other minor collections. There are approximately 3,000
photographs, with a heavy concentration of East Coast photographs.
Recently, the Field Library has acquired the organizational papers of
the Sons of the Spanish-American War group, as well as someof the
administrative records of the Florida Women's Club. In the Library's
collections are papers from the WPA Federal Writers' Project in Florida,
approximately 3,000 books, many of which are limited-run local history
publications from around the state. Because of renovations to the library,
scholars wishing to use the collection are encouraged to call in advance
of their visit in order to allow the archivist time to access the needed
materials. There are no research fees, but fees for photocopies and copies
of pictures are assessed.


Spring 2004










UNFURLED NATIONALISM

PATRIOTIC DISPLAYS AFTER THE BALTIMORE RIOT
OF APRIL 19, 1861






Paul Emerson

In his official report, Colonel Edmund Jones of the Sixth Massachusetts
Regiment described his experience in the American Civil War's first
bloodshed: "[Union soldiers] were furiously attacked by a shower of
missiles, which came faster as [the troops] advanced .... pistol-shots were
numerously fired into the ranks, and one soldier fell dead. The order 'Fire!'
was given [by a Union commander], and it was executed."' This battle
did not take place on a battlefield, but on the home front, in the nation's
second largest city-Baltimore, Maryland.2 On the nineteenth of April,
1861, Union troops from Massachusetts passed through the city en route
to Washington, D.C., to protect the capital from possible Confederate
invasion. These Massachusetts soldiers met a furious Baltimore mob, and
a riot ensued, resulting in sixteen deaths.
Baltimore's citizens faced many consequences after the violence. First,
and most importantly, the Union army quickly took control of Baltimore
and imposed martial law. Second, to bolster this military occupation,
Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus, allowing the arrest,
without charge, of those whom the government believed posed a threat
to the Union. Third, the aftermath of the riot revealed Maryland's mixed
allegiance to the North and South, and a heightened sense of patriotism
for both regions arose. While Southern sympathizers pitied the civilians
killed by the army, Unionists supported the Northern troops who were
"unreasonably attacked" by the large rebel mob. Fourth, Baltimoreans
displayed flags and wrote songs that defined Baltimore's patriotic mood.
Using abroad range of materials-such as newspapers, letters, diaries,
songs, official documents, and the mayor of Baltimore's memoir-this
essay will address the following question: how did Baltimoreans display
nationalism after the riot of April 19, 1861, and the subsequent Union
occupation? Before considering the roles that nationalism played after the






Paul Emerson


uprising, it would be helpful to examine, in greater detail, the Baltimore of
early 1861, and especially the riot itself.


Early 1861 and the Baltimore Riot

Baltimore, like the state of Maryland, was divided over national loyalty
during the Civil War. On the one hand, The New York Times reported on
April 15, 1861, that "The Union feeling in this city [Baltimore] has been
unmistakably displayed since Friday [April 12, the day that the attack on
Fort Sumter commenced]. Men with cockades and secession emblems
have been chased by crowds and protected by the police."3 On the other
hand, according to Baltimore Mayor George Brown, who was in office
from October 1860 to September 1861, only 2,294 of Maryland's white
population of 515,918 voted for Abraham Lincoln in the 1860 presidential
election.4 Hence, on the eve of war, Lincoln and the Republican Party
had no foothold in this critical border state. In fact, according to Brown,
the sympathies of Maryland were "divided between the North and South,
with a decided preponderance on the Southern side."5 These considerable
pro-Southern sentiments in Maryland led to two famous episodes in early
1861-the supposed assassination plot against President-elect Lincoln,
and the Baltimore Riot.
In February 1861, while journeying to Washington for his inauguration,
Abraham Lincoln became convinced that there was a plot to assassinate
him in Baltimore. Therefore, the president-elect secretly rode on a train
through the city at night and thus evaded the possible attempt on his life.6
This episode revealed many Northerners' fear of pro-secessionists in
Baltimore and the potential for a violent outbreak.7
The Confederate bombardment of Union-held Fort Sumter on April 12,
1861, marked the beginning of the Civil War. On April 15, following the
Union surrender of the fort, President Lincoln issued a proclamation calling
for 75,000 troops to fight for the Union.8 In order to defend Washington,
D.C., troops had to travel through the divided state of Maryland, with many
citizens there, especially in Baltimore, unwilling to let an "invading" army
enter their city or state.
On April 18, the States Rights Convention of Maryland adopted
resolutions warning the federal government that sending troops through
Baltimore would be an insult to the state. If Union soldiers entered


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Baltimoreans' Displays of Nationalism


Maryland, the convention recommended that they be attacked. As the
convention chairman, A. C. Robinson, stated: citizens should "repel, if
need be, any invader who may come to establish a military despotism over
[Maryland]."9
When President Lincoln ordered the call to arms on April 15, 1861,
the Sixth Massachusetts Regiment was the Union army's first division
completely equipped and organized. Before arriving in Baltimore, the
regiment's 700 soldiers learned that their passage through the city could
bring a heated conflict with Southern sympathizers. Given this warning
about the tumultuous nature of Baltimore and the potential for a violent
outburst against the Yankee troops, the regiment's commander, Colonel
Edmund Jones, ordered his troops to ignore potential rioters, even if they
assaulted them. However, if anyone fired on a soldier, then an order to fire
on the mob would be given.10
On April 19, 1861, the Sixth Massachusetts Regiment arrived at
Baltimore's northbound President Street Station." Since rail lines did not
traverse the city, the troops had to walk for over a mile to the southbound
Camden Station to continue the trek to defend the nation's capital.12 It
appears that the States Rights Convention got across its message of the
previous day about attacking Northern troops, as the soldiers met an angry
mob of an estimated 5,000 Baltimoreans.'3
Many of these Southern sympathizers cheered Jefferson Davis and
displayed the Confederate flag. They told the Massachusetts troops that the
Baltimore rioters would "kill every 'white nigger [Northern soldiers],'"14
rather than let a Union army march through the city. According to a soldier's
journal, rioters attempted to inhibit the troops by making the roads almost
impenetrable: digging up the streets and filling them with stones and
boards.'5 The mob also tried to block a bridge on Pratt Street, the main
road between the two railroad stations, by barricading it with anchors,
rocks, and planks. Adding to the soldiers' troubles, the bridge floor was
torn up, so after climbing over the barricade, they had to cross it on the
stringers.16 Finally, some rioters attacked the troops directly. Rioters threw
stones and bricks and even shot pistols toward the Union soldiers. The
troops responded by shooting into the crowd, as Colonel Jones previously
ordered. When the smoke cleared, four soldiers and twelve civilians were
dead.17 These sixteen individuals were the first casualties of the Civil War,
a conflict which ultimately took over 600,000 lives.


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Paul Emerson


An incident at the end of the riot helped spark increased Southern
sympathy. While the Massachusetts regiment was leaving Baltimore, a few
Southern sympathizers, including Robert W. Davis, were standing on the
side of the railroad track cheering for Jefferson Davis and the South. Even
though these rebel supporters were not rioters-they probably had not yet
learned that these troops had just been attacked-a distressed soldier fired
his gun from the train and killed Robert Davis, the last casualty of the riot.
Since Davis's death was not a result of a soldier's self-defense, many felt
that this was an unjustifiable action taken by the Yankees.'" According to
Mayor Brown, this incident inflamed many Southern supporters against
Northern troops.19
Many people feared that more Union regiments were headed to
Baltimore. If additional troops entered the city, another riot may have
ensued. Bearing this in mind, Mayor Brown, with the consent of Maryland
Governor Thomas Hicks and the help of the Baltimore police, gave the
order to bum and disable railroads and bridges surrounding the city in an
effort to prevent more troops from entering Baltimore.20
Secessionist groups even cut telegraph wires to the capital, thereby
temporarily isolating Washington from the rest of the North. Outraged by
the trouble that supposedly loyal Baltimore was causing, some Northerners,
including New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley, demanded the city be
burned.21


Governmental Responses to the Riot

Even after commanding the burning of bridges and tearing up of train
tracks to prevent more troops from entering Baltimore, both the mayor and
governor appealed to President Lincoln to order no more troops through
the city: "No more troops can pass through Baltimore unless they fight
their way."22 Lincoln concurred in a letter to Brown and Hicks discussing
his military plan: "I make no point of bringing them [troops] through
Baltimore."23 By ordering Union armies to avoid Baltimore, the president
used his power as commander-in-chief to prevent another potential riot
(which could have caused Maryland to secede from the Union).24
In early May 1861, a state criminal court organized a grand jury to
determine what happened on April 19 and who participated in the riot.
The court attempted to ensure that the rule of law still existed in Baltimore


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Baltimoreans' Displays of Nationalism


and, therefore, that this violent day would not be "passed over [by the
government] without punishment, or accepted as lawful and pardoned as
excusable."25 This shows that the government investigated the Baltimore
riot to punish individuals responsible for the attack on the soldiers and
to prevent another violent eruption. Along those lines, the Baltimore
city council, on April 20, appropriated $500,000 under Mayor Brown's
direction to defend the city from a second possible outbreak of violence.
Brown asked all Baltimoreans to donate their weapons to the police. In
addition, the police temporarily enrolled 15,000 men, heavily armed with
muskets, shotguns, and pistols.26 Many of these "defenders" thought that
their purpose was not to restrain potential rioters, but to deter Yankee
invaders. Indeed, some of these men eventually fought in the Confederate
army.27
After the Maryland state legislature refused to secede from the
Union,28 many young men, still upset about the riot, took matters into their
own hands by deserting the state and Union to join the Confederacy. An
estimated 20,000 white men ultimately left Maryland,29 with many from
wealthy and renowned families.30 One such soldier wrote a song stating
that he departed Maryland to fight for the Confederacy and to free the state
from the North's grasp.31
The most important governmental response to the riot occurred on
April 23, when U.S. martial law was declared in Baltimore. All Baltimore
citizens faced a curfew requiring them to stay in their houses and thereby
prevent more uprisings. Also, all places of "amusement" were closed,
perhaps to avoid having large groups of people in one area simultaneously.33
Baltimore's citizens justifiably feared incarceration merely for seeming
unsympathetic to the Union cause.34 Citizens suspected of favoring the
rebellion were prohibited from entering the jail housing Confederate
prisoners of war. The Baltimore police, appointees of the Union army,
seemed to enjoy wrecking havoc on civilians, including women.5
On May 13, 1861, the Union army, led by Brigadier-General Benjamin
Butler, entered and occupied Baltimore. This was the first major Northern
army incursion into the city since April 19, but Butler faced no real
opposition. On the following day, Butler issued a proclamation explaining
the intentions for military rule in the city: "A detachment of the forces of
the Federal Government under my command have occupied the city of
Baltimore for the purpose, among other things, of enforcing respect and
obedience to the ... United States laws, which are being violated within
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Paul Emerson


its limits by some malignant and traitorous men."36 According to Butler,
the occupation's purpose was to guarantee that Baltimore remain loyal to
the Union.
The United States military's control of Baltimore placed a heavy
financial burden on many civilians. For instance, according to Mayor
Brown, "If horses and fodder, fences and timber, or houses and land,
were taken for the use of the [Union] Army, the owner was not entitled to
compensation unless he could prove that he was a loyal man; and the proof
was required to be furnished through some well-known loyal person."37
Moreover, even the most fundamental aspect of democracy-voting-was
limited in Baltimore, as only loyal men were given this right.38
Arguably, the greatest burden the federal government placed on
Baltimore was the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.39 President
Lincoln authorized the suspension as a means to protect public safety. With
this power, Lincoln gave military commanders of the city the authority to
arrest essentially anyone "disloyal" to the Union without proving a crime
or even filing charges. In fact, alleged disloyalty of any sort became a
punishable crime, one for which a judge might never hear the imprisoned
suspect's demand for a hearing. So, for example, any Baltimorean wearing
red and white-the Confederate national colors-could be arrested for
encouraging rebel sentiment. Additionally, newspapers that "promulgated
disloyal sentiments" were censored and their editors were imprisoned.40
Even religious organizations were impacted, as any clergyman who did
not encourage loyalty was likely to get arrested.41 Almost every aspect of
life in Baltimore, from the media to religion, was controlled by the Union
military and its right to ensure loyalty.
The occupation force, then under Major-General Nathaniel P. Banks's
command, arrested the Baltimore police commissioners on July 1, 1861,
and established a new police force directly controlled by the Union army.42
Although the grounds for these arrests were not clearly stated, Banks most
likely imprisoned the commissioners to give the army-appointed police
more discretion, with no potential interference from the local government,
when these new police took action to "protect" the city from allegedly
disloyal citizens.
Finally, in September 1861, five months after the riot, federal officials
grew concerned, although erroneously, that the Maryland state legislature
would vote for secession. Thus, Secretary of War Simon Cameron ordered


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Baltimoreans' Displays of Nationalism


the arrests of prominent legislators, newspaper editors, and Mayor Brown
to stop Maryland's supposed attempt to join the rebellion. In addition,
these arrests were meant to demonstrate that the federal government
controlled the entire state and thereby intimidate Baltimore's Southern
sympathizers.43


Nationalism Displayed in Baltimore After the Riot

Historian Gary Gallagher has defined nationalism during the Civil
War as "strong feelings of national identity" for either the Union or
the Confederacy.44 After the violence of April 19, 1861, both forms of
nationalism-pro-North and pro-South-grew tremendously, as many
Baltimoreans openly displayed their political beliefs by various methods,
including displaying flags and writing songs. Numerous Southern
sympathizers were enraged over the Union Army's incursion into their
city and the Union occupation following the riot. On the other hand, many
Unionists rallied behind the American flag or other national symbols, and
they viewed the rebel mob as lawless men who had attacked the very
soldiers who were risking their lives to keep the nation intact. Even songs,
such as "Maryland, My Maryland," were written with the violent attack on
the soldiers in mind and as a means to articulate nationalistic (in this case,
Confederate) feelings. A few days after the riot, for example, The New
York Times stated that Baltimore was peppered with rebel flags and "no
man [would] dare proclaim himself in favor of the Union."45 Baltimore
seemed to have a strongly pro-Confederate tilt after the riot.
Even with Baltimore's seemingly fervent Southern sentiment, Mayor
Brown believed that geography was destiny: a pro-North Maryland was
required to prevent the isolation ofthe North's capital, so most Marylanders
shared "an underlying feeling that by a geographical necessity her
[Maryland's] lot was cast with the North."46 Although many Baltimoreans
were passionate Southern nationalists, the remainder of the Union would
not permit Maryland to leave the Union and isolate the capital.
Immediately after the riot, a town meeting was held. Speakers,
including Mayor Brown and Governor Hicks, focused their energy on
promoting peace between the nation's splintered regions. In fact, when
the governor reported that he was devoted to the Union's reconstruction,


Spring 2004






Paul Emerson


a large portion of the crowd shouted: "No, never."47 This reflected the
substantial Southern loyalty in Baltimore. Significantly, a huge Maryland
flag, not the national flag, served as the backdrop for this large public
gathering.48 The fact that the state flag was used revealed the sense that
the public's mood was focused on Maryland, not the Union. In the weeks
following the Baltimore riot, the American flag largely disappeared, as
many Baltimoreans favored secession.49
As perhaps the most important patriotic symbols, flags continued to
play a key role in deciphering the nationalistic mood of Baltimore. For
example, on May 1, 1861 the American flag was raised over Baltimore's
post office. According to the Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, newspaper
The Valley Spirit, the ceremony was marked by a nonviolent contest of
competing nationalists: Southern sympathizers protesting the Union
banner, and Unionists singing Baltimore's own "Star Spangled Banner."0s
Therefore, many civilians recognized the United States flag as a powerful
national icon, either by protesting its display or by celebrating its unfurling
via a chorus of a rousing, patriotic song.
Knowing that flags influence patriotism, city authorities attempted
to limit their use. On April 29, 1861, Baltimore's city council passed an
ordinance prohibiting "the public display of all flags or banners in the
city of Baltimore, except on buildings or vessels occupied or employed
by the Government of the United States."51 A few weeks later, General
Butler banned only Confederate national symbols. In fact, Butler equated
displaying a Southern flag or banner with actually aiding "enemies of
the [Union]."52 In September 1861, President Lincoln banned "the sale
[in Baltimore] of Confederate flags, badges and envelopes and also the
likeness of President Davis, Generals Beauregard, Lee, Johnston, and all
persons [who are] citizens of the Confederate States."53 These restrictions
on flag usage, especially the Baltimore ordinance completely banning all
public displays of any flag (Union, Confederate, or otherwise), indicate
how extensively the authorities pursued any means to prevent more
violence inspired by conflicting nationalist symbols.
Many loyal Baltimore citizens showed their patriotism by presenting a
large American flag to the Sixth Massachusetts Regiment on Independence
Day, 1861.54 Symbolically, this was important, as July Fourth, a national
holiday, was chosen as the day to give the soldiers this gift. Citizen
backing of the very soldiers who had endured the mob attacks on April


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Baltimoreans' Displays of Nationalism


19 accentuated the strong, pro-Union sentiments of these Baltimorean
patriots for the North.
Even children were brought into the nationalist struggle. A Mr.
Rawlings described how a secessionist manipulated Rawlings's eight-
year-old son. After the boy erected a little American flag in the Rawlings's
garden, a man demanded the flag's removal, as it offended his Southern
sensibilities. Later, the man gave the boy a rebel cockade to wear on his
hat and told the youngster that he must wear the Southern symbol. After
these incidents, the Rawlings family decided to leave Baltimore, as they
did not wish to remain in an atmosphere where children were used for
Southern propaganda.5 This story supports historian Peter Bardaglio's
argument that children were used to show patriotic feelings in Baltimore.
For example, Bardaglio claimed that adults, usually parents, encouraged
children to take part in this internal struggle by wearing nationalistic
symbols, as the Rawlings boy did, or even taunting the Northern soldiers
as many children did throughout Baltimore's occupation.56
Some diarists, such as Reverend Abraham Essick of Pennsylvania,
pointed out that even though Southern nationalism was increasing in
Baltimore, many ofthe city's Unionists were also patriotic. As Essick noted,
"the idea that the Federal troops should not be allowed to pass peaceably
through a city [Baltimore] still [sic] owing allegiance to the union, to the
defense of their own capital, has justly awakened the extreme indignation
of a loyal people.""' Therefore, many Baltimoreans rallied behind the
American flag in light of the pro-rebel attack on Union soldiers.
In his diary, Essick noted the importance of religion in patriotism.
While in Baltimore, he "heard ministers . declaring that the [United
States] government must be sustained, that to fight for the union was doing
God [sic] service, and that it is the duty of all good christians [sic] to
come up to the rescue"5" and fight for the Union.59 Essick even compared
Baltimore to Sodom and Gomorrah. According to Essick, Baltimore
would not meet the same fate of those Biblical cities because of the large
number of citizens working to save the Union.60 Historian Drew Faust
notes similar language in Mothers of Invention. Faust claims that many
white Southerners viewed themselves as "God's chosen" and prophesied
that God had promised a Confederate victory.61 Hence, both sides invoked
religion as a source of moral support and nationalism. Both the North's
and the South's supporters truly felt that God was on their respective side,


Spring 2004






Paul Emerson


and they would therefore win the war.
Soon after the riot, at the height of Baltimore's Confederate
nationalism, some white men stood up for their pro-Union beliefs. For
example, in late April 1861, John Schoonmaker exclaimed to a large crowd
in the city that he would never desert the stars and stripes and wanted
the rebels to be hanged. For this public outcry, a gang of eleven rebels
broke into Schoonmaker's house in the middle of the night and forced
him to leave Maryland with nothing except the clothes he was wearing.62
This confrontation exposes the tensions Baltimoreans then faced, as many
people clashed over differing nationalistic beliefs.
Confederate loyalist John Breckinridge of Kentucky-who had run for
president in 1860-traveled to Baltimore to give a speech to secessionists
on August 8, 1861. The majority of the several thousand present, however,
were Unionists who refused to allow Breckinridge to talk. These Northern
loyalists demanded that the band attending this event play Union patriotic
songs, such as the "Star Spangled Banner" and "Yankee Doodle." The band,
however, only would perform the Confederate tune "Dixie." In response,
Union supporters brought up the riot: "Remember the 19th of April!"63
Shouting insults at the Southern sympathizers, the pro-Northerners in the
audience blamed these rebel supporters for causing the bloody riot and
its aftermath: "Remember the Week of Terror!"64 Therefore, nearly four
months after the riot, many pro-Union nationals stood up for their cause by
refusing to let a renowned secessionist speak in Baltimore.
The spread of nationalism due to the riot was even heard in several
songs, including James Ryder Randall's "Maryland, My Maryland," now
Maryland's state song. This boom in music and poetry helps to corroborate
Alice Fahs's argument in The Imagined Civil War that the Civil War
produced a large quantity of war-related literature, including songs.65
Randall, a native Baltimorean, was teaching in New Orleans at the Civil
War's outset and was a strong Confederate supporter. With the violence in
Baltimore fresh on his mind, Randall wrote his poem on April 26, 1861.66
In fact, the poem directly mentioned the Baltimore riot: "Avenge the
patriotic gore / That flecked the streets of Baltimore, / And be the battle
queen of yore, / Maryland! My Maryland!"67 The language in Maryland's
state song is clearly pro-Confederate and promises vengeance on Lincoln
and the North. Depicting Northerners in repulsive terms, Randall used
phrases such as "Northern scum" to describe the Union and words such as


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Baltimoreans' Displays of Nationalism


"despot" and "tyrant" when mentioning the American president.68
Similar to "Maryland, My Maryland," another song, "Baltimore,"
presented Baltimore as a city placed in chains by "Northern vandals."69
The song's anonymous author concentrated on the notion that Northerners
trampled Baltimoreans and stole their rights with martial law. In keeping
with the common theme of revenge upon the North, "Baltimore" promised
to "hurl the invaders" out of the city.70 Alice Fahs supported the claim that
"Maryland, My Maryland" encouraged nationalistic ideals in Baltimore
comparable with "Baltimore" and other poems and songs of the era.71
Additional songs, "Welcome 'Jeff' to Baltimore" and "The Maryland
Martyrs" depicted Baltimore as a pro-Confederate city. "Welcome 'Jeff'
to Baltimore" attempted to woo to Baltimore such Southern heroes
as Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson, because the
author was "sure they'll [sic] feel at home."72 As this song indicates, some
Baltimoreans felt that pro-Confederate sentiment was strong enough in the
city to make the leaders of the rebellion feel at ease there. "The Maryland
Martyrs" portrayed Baltimoreans arrested for being disloyal to the Union
as martyrs who should be freed.73 The song revealed that some people in
Baltimore sympathized with those who were arrested simply for being
anti-Union, and these people, in championing the detainees' rights, tried
to rally others against this Northern practice of jailing citizens on flimsy
or nonexistent charges.
Even though his diary entry was written nearly a year after the riot,
Andrew Brooks of Virginia provided an interesting account of Baltimore.
Brooks was a captured Confederate soldier writing of his time in Baltimore
as a prisoner of war. Interestingly, as Brooks was marched through the city,
thousands of civilians gathered to see the prisoners. Many women and
children "waved their handkerchiefs and ... hurrahed for Jeff Davis."74
Baltimore Confederate supporters even provided Southern prisoners, such
as Brooks, with clothing. Many Baltimoreans were so committed to the
rebel cause that they assembled by the jail that held Confederate prisoners
and "testified their sympathy and support by every demonstration of their
power."75 Brooks's statements offered evidence that, long into the Union
occupation, many Baltimore citizens remained patriotic to the South in a
key way-showing loyalty to those fighting for the Confederacy.


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Paul Emerson


Conclusion

The Baltimore Riot of 1861 was a key moment during the Civil War.
That violent day marked the first casualties of a long and bloody war. In
the aftermath of the riot, the city became an occupied fortress with the
Union army trying to prevent further chaos and controlling the citizens'
lives through comprehensive, intrusive, and onerous measures, such as
confiscating the property of Confederate supporters, enforcing curfew,
banning large gatherings, and suspending the writ of habeas corpus.
Besides frequent confrontations between Northern and Southern
supporters, Baltimoreans displayed nationalism in less physically
threatening but nonetheless quite obvious ways after the riot of April
19, 1861. Such methods included the display of flags, use of children as
proxies for advancing one side's cause, finding martyrs and religion to
support either the North or the South, and putting sectional beliefs into
words and music.
The riot revealed a severe split in Baltimoreans' nationalistic fervor.
In the days before the riot, the city seemed to favor heavily the Union. In
the months after the riot, however, Baltimore was deeply divided between
Northern and Southern sentiment. Numerous images of patriotic feelings
were displayed through flags, as many Baltimoreans used these icons of
their "country" to indicate their nationalistic mood, whether pro-South or
pro-North. Children were even used as tools to represent patriotic moods.
Each side invoked religion for support, and there were martyrs-soldiers
and citizens, respectively-for the Northern or Southern cause. Some
Unionists were expelled from Baltimore by Southern sympathizers after
standing up for their pro-Northern beliefs. On the other hand, the spate
of arrests and other Union occupation "outrages" led many young men
to flee southward to join the Confederacy. Moreover, by the summer of
1861, instilled with a confidence no doubt bolstered by the presence of
an occupying Union army, Baltimorean pro-Union nationals shouted
down Confederate loyalists, whether homegrown or invited, who tried to
engage in secessionist or other "traitorous" speech. Even popular culture,
notably songs, such as "Maryland, My Maryland" and "Baltimore," played
significant roles defining nationalism in the city for the first several months
of the Civil War.


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Baltimoreans' Displays of Nationalism


In early to mid 1861, Baltimore's citizens, whatever their beliefs,
were very effective in getting their patriotic views before the public. That,
indeed, was a major rationale for Union army suppression of all pro-
Confederate expressions, so that further displays of nationalism would be
of just one kind: ardently pro-Union.


Notes


1 George William Brown, Baltimore and the Nineteenth ofApril, 1861: A Study
of the War (1887; Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001), 46-47.
2 Although the war began at Fort Sumter in South Carolina's Charleston Harbor,
there were no deaths there.
3 "How Received in Baltimore," The New York Times, 15 April 1861.
4 Brown, Baltimore and the Nineteenth, 30.
SIbid.
6 Ibid., 11, 17-18.
7 Ibid., 19. Mayor Brown commented that this distrust-reflected in Lincoln's
nocturnal, secretive trip through Baltimore-was not based on any genuine
intelligence, and the incoming federal administration's approach was
counterproductive; it created or worsened anti-Union feelings in Baltimore.
8 J. Matthew Gallman, The North F, i 1 the Civil War: The Home Front
(Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, Inc., 1994), 12.
9 A. C. Robinson, "Resolutions of the States Rights Convention," as cited in
Brown, Baltimore and the Nineteenth, 37-38.
10 Brown, Baltimore and the Nineteenth, 42-44.
" Ibid., 44-45.
12 Gallman, The North F, .h, the Civil War, 13.
13 Brown, Baltimore and the Nineteenth, xiii.
14 Captain Follansbee, "Letter to H. H. Wilder, Esq.," 20 April 1861, (http://
letterscivilwar.com/4-20-6 la.html).
5 W. D. G., Journal Entry, 20 April 1861, (http://letterscivilwar.com/4-20-61c.
html).
16 W. D. G., Journal Entry. Stringers were wood beams that were part of the
bridge's framework and supported the floor.


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Paul Emerson


17 Brown, Baltimore and the Nineteenth, 53.
18 Undoubtedly, it further provoked many Marylanders that there was no arrest
for Davis's homicide.
19 Ibid., 52-53. In their reaction to Davis's death, many pro-Southern
Baltimoreans acquired an even greater sense of Confederate nationalism.
Moreover, many neutral persons, if not then favoring the South, may at least
have come to dislike the Union military.
20 George William Brown, "Message to the Baltimore City Council," 11 July
1861, (http://www.civilwarhome.com/Baltimore3.htm).
21 "Baltimore Riot," (litlp \\ "\ civilwarhome.com/baltimoreriot.htm).
22 "No More Troops Through Baltimore," The New York Times, 21 April 1861.
23 Brown, Baltimore and the Nineteenth, 62. (emphasis in original quotation).
24 Shelby Foote, The Civil War a Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville, (New
York: Vintage Books, 1958), 53. Lincoln refused to listen to some appeals to not
send any troops through Maryland, using an interesting analogy: "Our men are
not moles, and cannot dig under the earth, ... They are not birds, and cannot fly
through the air. There is no way but to march across [Maryland], and that they
must do."
25 "From Baltimore: Judge Bond's Charge to Grand Jury in Reference to the
Attack on the Military by the Mob," The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 2 May 1861.
26 Probably most of these weapons came from citizens who volunteered their
arms, as the mayor had requested.
27 Brown, Baltimore and the Nineteenth, 63.
28 The vote was an overwhelming fifty-three against secession to thirteen
for leaving the Union. "Important from Maryland: Secession Killed in the
Legislature," The New York Times, 30 April 1861.
29 More men, 30,000 Marylanders, fought for the Union. Gallman, The North
Fgi, the Civil War, 14.
30 Brown, Baltimore and the Nineteenth, 85.
31 "The Exiled Soldier's Adieu to Maryland," Wake Forest University Rare
Books and Manuscripts Department, 5 July 1861, (http://www.wfu.edu/
Library/rarebook/broads/exiled.jpg). No doubt many Marylanders joining the
Confederacy echoed the soldier's sentiments. See also Amy E. Murrell, "Union
Father, Rebel Son: Families and the Question of Civil War Loyalty," in The
War Was You and Me: Civilians in the American Civil War, Joan E. Cashin, ed.
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002), 359.


Alpata: A Journal of History







Baltimoreans' Displays of Nationalism


33 "The Very Latest from Baltimore," The New York Times, 24 April 1861.
34 Brown, Baltimore and the Nineteenth, 94.
35 For example, when female supporters of the Confederacy surrounded Southern
prisoners, they begged for buttons from the prisoners. When a button fell at one
lady's foot, "a policeman grabbed it up and refused to let her have it." Andrew
Brooks, Diary, March 28-29, 1862, Valley of the 1/1,. /. Two Communities
in the American Civil War, Virginia Center for Digital History, University of
Virginia (http://etext.virginia.edu/etcbin/ot2www-cwdiaries?specfile=/web/data/
civilwar/valley/cwdiaries.o2w&act=text&offset=1712673&textreg=2&query=B
altimore).
36 Benjamin F. Butler, "Proclamation from General Butler," The Valley Spirit, 14
May 1861.
37 Brown, Baltimore and the Nineteenth, 94.
38 Ibid.
39 Gallman, The North Fih i, the Civil War, 14. The writ of habeas corpus is
used to test the legality of an arrest, extradition, or imprisonment, the right to
or amount of bail, or the jurisdiction of a court that has imposed a criminal
sentence. Bryan A. Garner, ed., Black Law Dictionary, Seventh Edition (St.
Paul, Minnesota: West Group, 1999), 715.
40 Brown, Baltimore and the Nineteenth, 94.
41 Ibid.
42 Brown, "Message to the Baltimore City Council."
43 Brown, Baltimore and the Nineteenth, 101-103, 108.
44 Gary W. Gallagher, The Confederate War (Cambridge: Harvard University
Press, 1997), 63.
45 "Latest from Baltimore and Washington," The New York Times, 22 April 1861.
46 Brown, Baltimore and the Nineteenth, 34.
4 "Meeting of Citizens of Baltimore," The New York Times, 21 April 1861.
48 Ibid.
49 Brown, Baltimore and the Nineteenth, 81. Both sides-Union or rebel-could
favor display of the Maryland flag, while national flags-North or South-held
divided loyalties within Baltimore.
5s "The American Flag in Baltimore," The Valley Spirit, 8 May 1861.
51 Brown, Baltimore and the Nineteenth, 82.


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Paul Emerson


52 Butler, "Proclamation from General Butler."
53 "More Tyranny," Staunton Spectator, 17 September 1861, page 1. Note: this is
a quotation from the Virginian newspaper, not from Lincoln, as he would never
have referred to people in the rebellious states as "citizens of the Confederacy."
54 "The Fourth of July in Baltimore," The New York Times, 4 July 1861.
55 "Citizens Fleeing From Baltimore: Narrative of Mr. Rawlings," The New York
Times, 28 April 1861.
56 Peter W. Bardaglio, "On the Border: White Children and the Politics of War in
Maryland," in The War Was You and Me, Joan E. Cashin, ed., 317
57 Abraham Essick, Diary, 8 May 1861, Valley of the 1/l,. ,. Two Communities
in the American Civil War, Virginia Center for Digital History, University of
Virginia (http://etext.virginia.edu/etcbin/ot2www-cwdiaries?specfile=/web/data/
civilwar/valley/cwdiaries.o2w&act=text&offset=2295747&textreg=2&query=B
altimore).
58 Essick, Diary, 8 May 1861.
59 Even though, according to the New York Times, Baltimore's Catholics were
less likely than Protestants (such as Essick) to support the Union, the Baltimore
Archbishop wrote a decree for all of the city's Catholics to rally behind the
American flag. "Important from Maryland," The New York Times, 6 May 1861.
60 Essick, Diary, 8 May 1861.
61 Drew Gilpin Faust, Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in
the American Civil War (New York: Vintage Books, 1996), 180-81.
62 "Citizens Fleeing From Baltimore: Narrative of Mr. Schoonmaker," The New
York Times, 28 April 1861.
63 "Exciting Times in Baltimore," The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 9 August 1861.
64 Ibid.
65 Alice Fahs, The Imagined Civil War: Popular Literature of the North and
South, 1861-1865 (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2001),
1.
66 Fahs, The Imagined Civil War, 80.
67 James Ryder Randall, "Maryland, My Maryland," Maryland State Archives,
(http://www.mdarchives.state.md.us/msa/mdmanual/01 glance/html/symbols/
lyricsco.html). Randall went on to write other songs and poems about Baltimore.
But "Maryland, My Maryland" is his most famous and certainly is one of his
most staunchly pro-Confederate works.


Alpata: A Journal of History







Baltimoreans' Displays of Nationalism


68 Randall, "Maryland, My Maryland."
69 "Baltimore," Wake Forest University Rare Books and Manuscripts
Department, (http://www.wfu.edu/Library/rarebook/broads/baltimor.jpg).
70 Ibid.
71 Fahs, The Imagined Civil War, 62, 80.
72 "Welcome 'Jeff' to Baltimore," Wake Forest University Rare Books and
Manuscripts Department, (http://www.wfu.edu/Library/rarebook/broads/
welcjeffx.jpg).
73 "The Maryland Martyrs," Wake Forest University Rare Books and
Manuscripts Department, (http://www.wfu.edu/Library/rarebook/broads/
maryla8.jpg).
74 Brooks, Diary, 25 March 1862.
75 Ibid., 28 March 1862.


Spring 2004










THE PERMANENCE OF THE 1960S

PRISON, POLITICAL PRISONERS, AND THE BRINKS
AFFAIR OF 1981




Dan Berger



"We study history not for the purposes of nostalgia or
exotica but rather to learn the lessons to enable us to
make history, to fight for a future that affords all people
the conditions for survival and the opportunity to make a
positive contribution. "David Gilbert'

Attica Correctional Facility, New York's most infamous prison, is
just two and a half hours from the town where I grew up. In July 2002,
I first walked through the front door-a mouse hole in the castle-like
walls surrounding the prison-and stepped into history. To most people,
the prison is historic because of the 1971 revolt by prisoners there, and
the tragic, brutal attack by the state that indiscriminately killed dozens of
prisoners and guards to quell the rebellion. For me, I stepped into history
because I came to visit David Gilbert. The state of New York calls him
prisoner #83A6158, but law professor Bemardine Dohrn describes him as
"one of those brilliant figures ... a real intellectual .. a gentle person ...
who, if it hadn't been 1968, would surely have become a professor and an
academic and written books."2
History is kept well guarded here at Attica. After waiting about twenty
minutes, going through a metal detector, waiting for gates to open so we
could walk down four long hallways, showing our invisible ink stamp under
a black light and our paperwork twice, we finally make it to the visiting
room. Then we wait some more. Another twenty minutes of observing our
surroundings, and then the groan of the back door sounds, and in walks
David Gilbert. He is wearing green pants, like the other prisoners, and a
short-sleeved red-collared shirt. He looks like the pictures I had seen of
him, only now he is wearing glasses-thick glasses with big frames, like






Daniel Berger


the kind my father used to wear. He has an air of compassion and a tender,
unassuming quality about him. The three of us visiting stand up to greet
him-he was maybe two or three inches shorter than I. He warmly shakes
our hands with a gentle, caring grip that matched his personality. As we
move to sit down, he cautions my friend who had been sitting facing the
guard. "That's the prisoner's chair," he says with a smile. "Good thing
you're not wearing green pants!"
In a way, it is ironic to be sitting in Attica with a former member of
the Weather Underground Organization (WUO), a white anti-imperialist
group of the 1970s. Among their many actions, the WUO bombed the New
York Department of Corrections after the state's vicious response to the
1971 Attica rebellion that left thirty-nine dead, ten of them prison guards,
all killed by New York State Troopers in a hail of tear gas and bullets.3
The WUO's action was intended to draw attention to the state's cruelty in
addressing legitimate grievances by prisoners. As with its other actions,
the WUO took special precautions to ensure that no one was hurt. Yet,
the same government that indiscriminately gassed, shot, beat, and killed
prisoners and guards to quell the rebellion labeled the WUO "terrorist."
The WUO, initially called the Weathermen, grew out of Students for a
Democratic Society (SDS), arguably the most organized representation of
radical white youth inthe 1960s. Combining elements ofcounterculture with
political activism, SDS blossomed amidst the inspiration of revolutionary
movements worldwide.4 Movements led by people of color inside the
United States along with the National Liberation Front of Vietnam and
radical movements in Mexico, Japan, Germany, Angola, and elsewhere
helped push SDS in a more radical direction. The organization shifted its
strategy from "shaking the moral conscience of America" to identifying
the system as in need of sweeping and fundamental change. Along with
other radical activists, SDS began to define the system as imperialism. In a
rising tide of global revolutionary struggles and increasingly severe attacks
on radical movements, SDS, followed by the WUO, adopted a discourse
that defined the system as in need of a total, if violent, overhaul. This talk
of revolution became the language of the day. By the time of its death
in 1969, SDS claimed more than 100,000 members.5 A few months after
Nixon invaded Cambodia in May 1970, The New York Times reported that
"four out often college students-nearly three million people-thought a
revolution was necessary" in the United States.6 This upsurge in radicalism


Alpata: A Journal of History






The Permanence of the 1960s


records only the increasing commitment of the student population; the
actual number of those in the United States believing in revolution was
much higher.
David Gilbert was in the thick of it. The man sitting next to me,
whose dark hair is salted with gray and whose palpable warmth almost
makes me forget that I am in a maximum-security prison, co-wrote the
first SDS pamphlet describing "the system" as imperialism.' At Columbia
University, he helped start both the Independent Committee on Vietnam
and Columbia's chapter of SDS. Also a member of the Congress of Racial
Equality, Gilbert earned the title "father of the Columbia left."8 After
graduating Columbia in 1966, he attended the New School for Social
Research and was a member of the strike committee during the famous
Columbia student strike of 1968. He was part of the "praxis axis" wing
of Columbia SDS, the section of the group that, in contrast to the "action
faction," put more emphasis on theory, discussion, and building a base
than in carrying out the biggest and most daring actions. SDS and its non-
student offshoot, Movement for a Democratic Society, published several
of Gilbert's articles in pamphlet form from 1967 to 1970.9
A pacifist for his first seven years of political activism, Gilbert's
views started to shift in 1967, as realities about the U.S. government's war
against dissent, domestically and abroad, came to light. He was recruited
early to WUO by Ted Gold, one of his best friends at the time, who died
in an accidental WUO explosion on March 6, 1970. In recruiting Gilbert,
who had a reputation of being too intellectual, Ted Gold took a risk in
bringing a theory-heavy person into what was then an action-oriented
group. That Gilbert was and remains an intellectual is a deeper irony to
his incarceration. In reporting on the group, most histories characterize the
WUO as a hedonistic collection of anti-intellectuals, making it seem more
likely that the members who initially disregarded theory in favor of action
would remain in prison rather than vice versa.10
Unlike most 1960s-era activists, Gilbert ended up in prison with a
life sentence for his role as a white ally to the Black Liberation Army.
An offshoot of the Black Panther Party, the BLA was a clandestine
organization that used bank robberies to finance itself and certain black
nationalist community programs. Gilbert was arrested on October 20,
1981, following his participation in the notorious Brinks robbery outside
of New York City. Two police officers and a Brinks guard were killed in


Spring 2004






Daniel Berger


the melee surrounding the robbery and attempted escape. Captured at the
scene, Gilbert was one of four given a life sentence for the deaths. How
could a person convicted of killing three people have anything valuable to
say about history-or the present?
The answer to this question lies in the 1960s, a decade when David
Gilbert was just one of many "young soldiers for the revolution."" His
story is emblematic of 1960s movements and points toward a new way of
talking about the social movements of this era. Like millions of people of
his generation, Gilbert began his activism as a pacifist focused on altering
the consciousness ofthose in power. His activism started when the "beloved
community" was a dominant movement theme. But this reform-oriented
view shifted to a revolutionary perspective aimed at overturning existing
power systems. His transition from a belief in changing consciousness to
changing structures mirrors the shift that many of the serious, engaged
radicals underwent as the 1960s progressed. Like other radicals of the time
period, Gilbert came up against a state that used violence against citizens
exercising their rights to speak, long before he considered the possibility
of clandestine action.
Some scholars suggest that this shift to a more structural analysis
of society represented a "death of the dream" of the 1960s, a conscious
allusion to Martin Luther King's famous dream.12 But the "dream" did not
simply die; it was killed by the state, along with dozens of activists during
the 1960s and 1970s. Pacifist leader Martin Luther King was killed in 1968,
shortly after becoming more vocal in his opposition to U.S. foreign and
domestic policy. At the same time, the FBI's CounterIntelligence Program
(COINTELPRO) targeted the Black Panther Party for destruction.1
Dozens of African American, Native American, Chicano, and, to a lesser
extent, white radicals were also murdered during this time. Black Panther
leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark became two of COINTELPRO's
most famous murder victims. Hampton, head of the Illinois Black Panther
chapter, was a dynamic leader and powerful speaker. After being drugged
by an FBI informant, Hampton was murdered asleep in his bed at 4:00
AM on December 4, 1969. A storm of police bullets killed not only the
21-year-old Panther leader, but also Mark Clark, who stood guard in the
front of the apartment.14 Two years later, the Black Panther Party was
functionally dead, at which point the FBI set its sights on the American
Indian Movement. Between 1973 and 1976, more than sixty AIM members
were killed by COINTELPRO.15
34 Alpata: A Journal of History






The Permanence of the 1960s


COINTELPRO was a full-fledged campaign against dissent in
the United States. Its tactics included not only murder, but high-level
surveillance, the planting and disseminating of false information to promote
splits in organizations, and petty arrests to waste money and time. It was
domestic counterinsurgency warfare at its highest. An internal memo by
FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover said the program's goal was to "expose,
disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize" political opposition,
particularly among African Americans and American Indians.16
Seeing his friends and heroes arrested on trumped-up charges or even
murdered, Gilbert was one of many who now felt an exigent need to build
a movement to topple the state.1 If one year marked a turning point toward
this more revolutionary direction, that year would be 1968. In the first
half of 1968 alone, both Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy-two
beacons of hope for those believing in the possibility of reforming the
system-were assassinated. Bobby Hutton, the first and youngest member
of the Black Panthers, was killed by police on April 6, just two days after
King's death. Riots erupted in African American communities all across the
country following King's murder. In the same year, student strikes brought
college campuses to a halt in New York, San Francisco, Mexico City, Paris,
Prague, and elsewhere. The Columbia strike was the first campus rebellion
of its kind in the United States, and Gilbert had a significant role in it,
both in terms of laying the base for the strike through his previous work
at Columbia as well as his more direct role as a strike leader. That strike
energized and radicalized the youth movement to the extent that a national
slogan quickly became "create two, three, many Columbias."18 Gilbert's
story thus illuminates the radicalizing of social movements, particularly in
relation to the effect of government repression.
By 1969, fewer people could turn their other cheek to the violence
of the state. Convinced that, as Frederick Douglass asserted more than
100 years previously, "power concedes nothing without demand," talk
of revolution reached a fever pitch.19 One outgrowth of this fervor was
the Weather Underground, which went underground with its symbolic
bombing campaign. Viewing Black Power as a positive challenge for
white radicals to organize other whites against racism, the WUO emerged
as a white anti-racist group to act in solidarity with, and take some of the
pressure off of, radical groups of color. The people who formed the Weather
Underground-coming of political age at a high-tide of national liberation


Spring 2004






Daniel Berger


struggles, with black ghetto rebellions and a developing understanding of
the United States as a repressive and imperialist power-were attempting
to make real a militant anti-racism among whites.
Yet this interpretation is lost in the pathologizing process that labels
white anti-racism as "guilt" and Black Power as separatist and divisive.
The emergence of consciously anti-racist white radicals is an important
step in U.S. history that cannot be dismissed as "guilt."20 "There is nothing
guilt-ridden about identifying with oppressed people-especially when
they have been blazing the trail toward humane social change," Gilbert
wrote in 1985.21 In fact, Gilbert argues, to dismiss identification with and
respect for oppressed people as a psychological problem only proves the
depths to which racism and arrogance afflict this country.22
During the seven years of its existence, the WUO took responsibility
for more than twenty bombings against corporate and government targets.
Looked at in isolation, this number seems staggering, but it is a mere fraction
of the thousands of bombings and other acts of sabotage of the 1960s
and 1970s.23 With revolution seemingly imminent, clandestine activity
became an important trajectory following the more mass-based activism
of the 1960s. The WUO was one of about a half dozen active, well-known
underground groups in the 1970s.24 Among its lesser-known achievements,
the WUO published a book on its political beliefs, a newsmagazine, poetry
pamphlets by the women in the organization, theoretical and strategic
pamphlets, and a songbook. The group also was featured in a documentary
called Underground, in which filmmakers met with five members of the
organization in a safehouse to discuss (without showing the faces of the
WUO members) the politics of being a white underground organization.
The WUO also wrote communiques after each action and sent them to
both establishment and radical papers. As time passed, some members of
the organization's leadership decided to surface in an attempt to resume
legal revolutionary political activity above ground. But other members of
the group bitterly opposed this direction, known as inversion. Combined
with criticisms of sexism, elitism, and even racism in the organization, the
decision to surface was viewed as the last straw among many members.
The group disintegrated in a flurry of bitter sectarianism by 1977, about
seven years after it began.25
After the WUO imploded, not all members of the group resumed
above ground activity. Some members critical of inversion formed what


Alpata: A Journal of History






The Permanence of the 1960s


they called the Revolutionary Committee and were arrested trying to blow
up the offices of a homophobic California politician.26 Like David Gilbert,
mostWUO members, however, were aligned neither with the Revolutionary
Committee nor the Central Committee, the former leaders of the group that
pioneered the inversion strategy. Gilbert surfaced in Denver for eighteen
months before returning underground to continue building a clandestine
fighting force and to rejoin his partner, Kathy Boudin.
The two former WUO members, along with other militant anti-
racist whites, tried to learn from and correct the mistakes of the WUO,
particularly its white self-centeredness and a lack of accountability. To do
that, Boudin and Gilbert joined what became known as the Revolutionary
Armed Task Force (RATF), a unit of the Black Liberation Army with
white members acting under their leadership. Boudin and Gilbert were
not the first whites to join the RATF.27 The RATF was an attempt to build
a black-led multiracial clandestine group to respond to state aggression
against black communities. But more importantly, it was an underground
effort to do what radicals across the world have done: continue building
an underground capacity for revolutionary movements, even (especially)
in a reactionary time.
As with other clandestine organizations around the world, the RATF
was composed of long-time organizers. The RATF comprised mainly
former Black Panthers, such as Kuwasi Balagoon and Sekou Odinga, and
white activists, such as Boudin, Gilbert, and Marilyn Buck, who were allied
with the politics of the Weather Underground. In its ranks were people,
including Odinga, who had been underground for more than a decade and
those, such as Judy Clark, who were still living public lives. Although
composed mostly of seasoned revolutionaries, not all members shared this
rich history of political commitment. Sam Brown and Tyrone Rison, for
instance, were picked for their knowledge of cars and weapons rather than
their political knowledge or experience. Both men later cooperated with
police against their former comrades.28
As was true of other clandestine organizations, some of the RATF's
members were parents.29 Judy Clark had a young daughter, and, after years
of putting it off, Boudin and Gilbert finally decided to have a child. On
August 20, 1981, Chesa Jackson Gilbert Boudin was born, feet-first. (His
name is Swahili for "dancing feet," because Gilbert, who watched the
birth, said it looked like Chesa was born dancing.)30 Fourteen months after


Spring 2004






Daniel Berger


his birth, Chesa's parents were arrested when the RATF unsuccessfully
attempted to rob an armored car.
The RATF first made big headlines in 1979, when it helped BLA
leader Assata Shakur escape from a New Jersey prison.31 For the white
radicals involved with the group, RATF represented a different way of
operating than the Weather Underground. Instead of being an all-white
organization like the WUO, the RATF was explicitly black-led. The RATF
attempted to carry militant black nationalist politics into the Reagan era.
One of the ways it did this was through what they called expropriations,
or robberies for revolutionary purposes, of armored cars. Operating under
the notion that all revolutions have had to take money from the elite, the
BLA used this money to fund itself and nationalist programs in Harlem's
Black community.32
The events of October 20, 1981, catapulted the RATF into headlines
and public consciousness. On that day, Kathy Boudin, Sam Brown, Judy
Clark, and David Gilbert were arrested in Nyack, New York, after an
attempted robbery of a Brinks armored car. At the Nanuet Mall in Nyack,
a group of revolutionaries surprised a Brinks truck making a delivery at
about 3:45 PM33 Shooting broke out, after which one Brinks guard was
killed and two were wounded. The radicals made off with $1.6 million
and left the mall to meet their getaway car-a U-Haul truck, driven by
the white allies, including David Gilbert and Kathy Boudin-behind a
Korvettes store separate from the mall.34 The BLA members climbed into
the back of the U-Haul and the truck sped off. As they tried to escape, the
truck was stopped by three police cars at a roadblock. Another exchange
of gunfire erupted, during which policemen Waverly Brown and Edward
O'Grady were killed.
To say it is difficult to write about the Brinks arrests and trials is
like calling the Grand Canyon a pothole; it is an understatement of
incomprehensible proportions. People died that day and in the ensuing
days, which always heightens emotional intensity. Furthermore, several
people received long prison sentences, from twelve to seventy-five years,
for their roles, real or imagined, in the day's events. Even basic information
is hard to come by, as most of the existing works on the subject, from the
left or the right, are mired in sectarian arguments rather than an engaged
factual discussion, while media reports were unreliable, hostile, and
condescending.35


Alpata: A Journal of History






The Permanence of the 1960s


Though it exists, an explanation for the Brinks affair is outside the
framework of U.S. consciousness. In a time when supporting affirmative
action often brands one as radical, popular discourse has no room to
discuss people of color as constituting internal colonies; being militant in
fighting for justice wins one few friends. If affirmative action is attacked
as "reverse racism," what hope do revolutionaries have to engage the
mainstream in a discussion of reparations?
In the overall scheme of post-1960s radical actions, Brinks was not
typical. People died that day, one of the few times a shootout happened at an
attempted robbery by radical forces. Furthermore, the state's investigation
resulted in the arrest and incarceration of dozens of people, making
the Brinks affair an opening for judicial action against revolutionary
organizations, both legal and clandestine. Atypical as it may be, the Brinks
affair is nonetheless an important event to explore to understand the lessons
and legacies of the 1960s. The RATF involved more than a half dozen
seasoned and well-known organizers from the anti-imperialist and Black
Power movements, making it a significant but often overlooked trajectory
of post-1960s efforts at building revolution. Furthermore, the trials raised
tough legal questions about whether and how a government can fairly try
its political opponents. Thus, for all its uniqueness, the Brinks affair is
crucial in understanding the full meaning of 1960s-era social movements.
The arrests and trials raise certain fundamental questions about society
and radical movements. What does it take to build a society truly free of
white supremacy? In what ways are clandestine movements a response
to state repression? How can movements address their own mistakes
while still acknowledging the force of state repression and oppressive
social conditions? In what ways are the media tied to systems of power
in American society? Answers to these questions reveal that major
institutions in U.S. society-namely, the criminal justice system but also
the mainstream media-are woefully unequipped to comprehend political
resistance except as criminality and psychosis.
Accurate details of what happened on October 20, 1981, are hard to
come by. There are the eyewitness reports, which a reporter later called
unreliable because of the fast pace with which everything happened.36
Accounts by people who were there are sparse and equally circumspect.
Radicals who were there that day have hotly contested information
presented in the newspapers by police." Police accounts are full of


Spring 2004






Daniel Berger


inaccuracies.38 In short, it is nearly impossible to easily and fully recreate
what happened that day.
What follows, then, is a summary pieced together from the radicals'
interpretations as well as the media reports of the time, which were based
on police and eyewitness accounts. When the U-Haul truck was stopped
at the police roadblock, former Weatherwoman Kathy Boudin was asked
to step out of the cab of the vehicle. Shooting started after police opened
up the back of the truck, where the black radicals were hiding. When the
police opened the back of the truck, Boudin started running toward the
Thruway. Before any policemen were killed, Boudin was captured by an
off-duty corrections officer who saw her flee. Some of the radicals managed
to get away in other cars or on foot through some nearby woods. As Sam
Brown, Judy Clark, and David Gilbert tried to escape in a tan Honda, the
car took a sharp turn and crashed. The three, along with Boudin, were
taken into police custody. On October 23, Black Liberation Army member
Sekou Odinga was captured in Queens following a high-speed chase with
both sides shooting at each other. Fellow BLA soldier Mtayari Shabaka
Sundiata was killed by police in the same incident. Brown, Clark, Gilbert,
and Odinga remain in prison with life sentences; Kathy Boudin was granted
parole in August 2003, after twenty-two years in prison.
Once captured, Clark and Gilbert were subjected to physical abuse
from the police. She was knocked down, and he was beaten for more than
three hours. At one point, police put a shotgun to his neck, telling him
to talk.39 But the treatment accorded Sam Brown and Sekou Odinga, the
two black people arrested, was markedly more severe than the beatings
suffered by the white detainees. Police broke Sam Brown's neck in two
places and denied him medical care for eleven weeks-until after he
agreed to cooperate with the police against his former comrades.40 Sekou
Odinga spent three months in the hospital with intravenous care after
police burned him with cigarettes, flushed his head in the toilet, and beat
his pancreas so bad it had to be removed. Odinga never wavered from
his political commitment to not cooperate with the state.41 In court, the
Rockland County District Attorney said no beatings of any kind took
place.42
Trials lasted until the late 1980s. As the story unfolded, there were
three main arenas of legal battles: state murder trials, federal conspiracy


Alpata: A Journal of History






The Permanence of the 1960s


trials, and grand juries used for investigative purposes. The state trials
took place first and were the most heavily reported of the three legal
proceedings. These trials were for those captured on or directly tied to
the events of October 20, 1981. Initially, six people were charged in one
case at the state level: Kuwasi Balagoon, Kathy Boudin, Sam Brown,
Judy Clark, David Gilbert, and Sekou Odinga. Testimony from informant
Tyrone Rison cleared Odinga of being on the scene that day, at which
point Odinga was then moved to the federal level.43 Balagoon, Clark, and
Gilbert stood trial together, fighting a political rather than legal battle in
the courtroom. Both Boudin and Sam Brown stood trial alone; the two
put up more traditional legal defenses, and Boudin had an accomplished
legal team. The state trials cost Rockland County more than $8 million in
security and legal expenses alone.44
Viewing themselves as captured freedom fighters against a racist,
colonial regime, the people on trial refused to be tried for the criminal
acts. Balagoon, Clark, and Gilbert sat out much of their own trial, often
on their own volition. They argued that to participate in the trial would be
recognizing the legitimacy of the court to proceed with criminal hearings
ofpolitical offenses. When the judge prohibited them from raising political
issues, the three often left the courtroom. When they did appear, they
used the courtroom for political purposes, condemning white supremacy
and U.S. imperialism and calling only one witness. (The prosecution,
meanwhile, called eighty-one witnesses.)45 The one witness for the defense
was Sekou Odinga, who had been separated from the state trial to face
federal conspiracy charges. Odinga's testimony served only to defend the
right of revolutionary movements to expropriate from the ruling power as
well as to highlight the importance of privileged people to fight alongside
oppressed people.46
The people on trial thus demanded to be tried as political combatants
in an international court under United Nations jurisdiction rather than in
a United States court under U.S. law.47 Arguing for international tribunals
is a strategy political people and revolutionaries have used across the
globe when arrested by the state they are organizing against. Toward the
end of his life, for instance, Malcolm X urged the civil rights and Black
Power movements to build a campaign taking the United States to the
U.N. and World Court on charges of genocide. He argued that anti-racist
movements could never be successful asking the U.S. government for


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Daniel Berger


change (and reparations) because the United States was the guilty party.
Malcolm X said the World Court should serve as the independent arbiter
because "Uncle Sam ... created the problem. He's the criminal. You don't
take your case to the criminal, you take the criminal to court."48
While those on trial fought an undoubtedly political battle in the
courts, it is important to remember that the state also fought a political
trial, even if it used criminal charges as the basis for its legal maneuvers
and scoffed at the radicals' dismissal of the court. Those on trial were
treated differently from people arrested for non-political offenses. In his
opening statement, Balagoon said, "I am not treated like a criminal, [and I]
am never in the company of prisoners with non-political charges."49 Those
arrested at the scene on October 20, 1981, were first held in the federal
system, although it is illegal to hold people without federal charges there.
Boudin's lawyers sued, and all were transferred to a state prison, the first
time in New York that non-convicts were held at a state prison and that
women were held in a men's prison.50
When the first state trial ended on September 15, 1983, Kuwasi
Balagoon, Judy Clark, and David Gilbert were all convicted and sentenced
to the maximum penalty: seventy-five-years-to-life on charges of triple
murder. The District Attorney who prosecuted the case said he was upset
that New York lacked a death penalty.51 In New York, however, there is no
shortcut around the minimum; the earliest Gilbert could see the parole board
is in the year 2056, at the age of 112. He was never charged with shooting,
or even having a gun. He was not even at the scene where Brinks guard
Peter Paige was killed.52 Furthermore, none of the prosecution's eighty-one
witnesses identified any of the three as the people who killed Paige or the
two policemen.53 The police had more information connecting informant
Tyrone Rison to acts of violence than either Gilbert or Kathy Boudin.54 But
Rison cooperated with the state and testified against his former comrades.
Under New York's felony murder law, anyone associated with a murder
can receive the same sentence as the one who pulled the trigger.55 This was
Gilbert's first felony conviction.


Prisons and Social Control

The treatment of political prisoners as inmates charged with criminal
acts further reveals the use of prisons as a means of control. Put simply,


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The Permanence of the 1960s


political prisoners do harder time, even if arrested on the same charges as
an apolitical person. Although its structural aspects are more searing, this
harder time exists on the daily level of prison life-from denied visits to
lost mail to even more severe treatment from guards. Despite the state's
insistence that captured revolutionaries will be tried and treated the same
as common criminals, political prisoners and prisoners of war are given
longer sentences and suffer far more harsh prison conditions than even
the most hardened criminals.56 Most political prisoners are housed in
the most repressive of institutions-whether it be control units inside an
existing prison (where people are locked-down and separated from any
human contact for twenty-three hours a day) or in specially designed
repressive federal prisons such as Marion or the "Maxi-Max" prison in
Florence, Colorado. In these SuperMaxes (super maximum security
prisons), prisoners are constantly monitored on closed-circuit televisions
and separated from anyone else for most of their day.
Many political prisoners, including Sundiata Acoli, Marilyn Buck, Yu
Kikumura, Ray Luc Levasseur, Leonard Peltier, Russell Maroon Shoats,
and others, have found themselves held in super max prisons and control
units.57 These repressive circumstances are not the result of disciplinary
infractions but rather a punishment and a means to stifle dissent, to
preemptively stop people who the state knows to be organizers from doing
anything that could disrupt incarceration as usual. While drug-war prisoners
may be unwanted baggage from social problems, political prisoners are
those people incarcerated for fighting to solve social problems-chiefly,
white supremacy, patriarchy, homophobia, and class oppression. Their
incarceration raises the question of the existence of these problems.
Thus, it is easier for the state to pretend that a system of racism does not
exist in this country (just like political prisoners do not exist) than it is to
fundamentally solve the problem of racism.
Because he was tried and convicted by the state of New York, David
Gilbert is incarcerated in state, rather than federal, prisons. Although he
has not been subjected to the federal super maxes, Gilbert's treatment in
New York's roughest prisons mirrors that of other political prisoners-
a noticeably different and harsher treatment than most prisoners. He is
subjected to frequent cell searches, where his property is strewn about
(and sometimes taken); his mail is periodically "lost"; guards are often
more hostile to his visitors than others. For instance, at least three


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Daniel Berger


correspondences between him and me written during the completion of
this article were "lost." After the first day of one of our two-day visits,
Gilbert received a 90-minute cell search, far beyond the normal time for
such a procedure.58
At its most fundamental level, the question of trying and incarcerating
political prisoners comes down to this: how can enemies of the state get
a fair trial by the state they oppose? Existing United Nations standards
provide at least a base model for fairly and accurately determining eligibility
for those claiming status as political prisoners. The U.N. defines apolitical
prisoner as any "person incarcerated for actions carried out in support
of legitimate struggles for self determination or for opposing the illegal
policies of the government and/or its political subdivisions."59 Similarly,
the U.N. Geneva Convention, ratified in 1948, defined prisoners of war
as thoseoe combatants struggling against colonial and alien domination
and racist regimes captured as prisoners."60 U.N. Resolution 3103
mandates that, once captured, "their treatment should be in accordance
with the Geneva Convention." While the United States often criticizes
other countries for not abiding by these regulations, the situation is quite
different domestically. Because it is a "democracy," politicians assure
the people that there is no need to discuss self-determination or struggles
against racism within these borders.61
Four years before the Brinks incident, the U.N. passed a resolution
for the "Protection of Persons Detained or Imprisoned As a Result of
Their Struggle Against Apartheid, Racism and Racial Discrimination,
Colonialism, Aggression and Foreign Occupation and for Self-
Determination, Independence and Social Progress for Their People."62
The resolution "[e]xpresses its solidarity with the fighters for national
independence . against racism" and demandsns the release of all
individuals detained or imprisoned as a result of their struggle against
... racism and racial discrimination ... and for self-determination."63 This
resolution, and others like it ratified since 1948, constitute the foundation
of international law regarding the treatment of political prisoners and
prisoners of war. These resolutions demand that member countries treat
captured combatants in accordance with the Geneva Convention's rules
on the treatment of political prisoners. In many cases, these resolutions
support the unconditional release of political prisoners, including those
who used armed struggle to secure liberation.64


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International law thus declares that it is not criminal acts that determine
whether one is a political prisoner, or a prisoner of war, as opposed to
a "common criminal." In fact, the argument could be made that these
definitions-accepted at an international level, even by the United States,
though this country does not apply these definitions domestically-assume
that criminal or illegal acts have occurred and thus make allowances for the
purpose and intent of the acts. As independent journalist I. F. Stone said of
the Weather Underground, "a guerrilla movement is a political movement,
no matter how many crimes it commits."65 That-or even if-international
law supported the Brinks defendants claims as political prisoners was
neither entertained by the court nor taken up by the media.
Recognizing that clandestine movements often break the law is not to
suggest that anything and everything is acceptable as long as one's motives
are pure. Mistakes, including the mistakes of October 20, 1981, should
be pointed out and sanctioned, in the interests of achieving justice and
accountability for all people involved. But for any reconciliation process to
be pursued in earnest, two things should be recognized: first, no government
is going to make legal any revolution that displaces it from power, whether
that revolution is violent, non-violent, or, more likely, combines elements
of both. If a revolution could be achieved without breaking the law-if the
law afforded people the ability to make revolution legally-it is unlikely
that a revolution would be necessary. The very purpose of revolution is to
overturn and replace power structures, not reform them. The second point
is that revolutions are about struggles for power-the power to determine
one's life and to run society. Thus, there is power struggle between those
already in power and revolutionary forces. Power struggles are not one-
way streets; multiple parties are involved. Indeed, many of the RATF
members were driven to fight the government clandestinely after being
targeted and attacked by COINTELPRO.
Thus, asking whether someone "did it" is not the question, or at least,
it is not the whole question. Although U.S. revolutionaries, much like the
National Liberation Front during the Vietnam War, distinguished between
the people of this country and its government, they nonetheless have been
branded as threats to society because of their political beliefs and actions.
Criminal charges thus mask political prosecutions and what one former
political prisoner called attempts at "judicial annihilation."66


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Daniel Berger


Nelson Mandela "did it" in the sense that he was a member of the armed
wing of the African National Congress (ANC), which fought the brutal
apartheid system that had outlawed participation in political groups such
as the ANC. Yet Mandela was arguably the most famous and celebrated
of the world's political prisoners. His release in 1990 signified a hope to
many of building a new South Africa following the collapse of apartheid.67
Political people will often "do" at least part of what they are charged with
because revolution against those in power will always be illegal to those
in power. Good-evil binaries of innocence or guilt do not address the full
scope of why a revolutionary may be arrested or incarcerated.
Political prisoners have been released in Ireland, the Middle East, and
even under the fascist Pinochet regime in Chile. There is a global history
of political prisoners being released.68 But those people released are often
categorized as political prisoners upon their incarceration. Not so in the
United States. The national get-tough-on-crime rhetoric means that few
politicians will release a convict, whether that person is in for political
acts, criminal acts, or mistaken identity. "Only in the United States,"
activist Julio Rosado said, "where deviation from political orthodoxy is
typically presented as common criminal conduct, and where the act of
resisting the objectives of the status quo is cast as something unnatural,
akin to child molestation, selling drugs, or running a prostitution ring, do
we find a refusal to recognize any category of political 'criminality.'"69 This
criminalization of dissent allows the United States to occupy the position
of having the highest incarceration rate in the world while simultaneously
not having any (officially designated) political prisoners. By simply not
having a category for political offenses, the country attempts to justify the
continued imprisonment of its political internees.70
Keeping progressive political prisoners under lock-and-key with long
criminal charges is also an attempt at hiding the political bias of the U.S.
court system. On a first-time felony conviction for indirect involvement in
an action, Kathy Boudin received a sentence of twenty-years-to-life, David
Gilbert received seventy-five-to-life. Yet Ku Klux Klan leader Don Black
was released after serving only two years of a ten-year sentence after being
caught with a large cache of weapons and explosives he intended to use
in an invasion of Dominica, a sovereign black nation in the Caribbean.71
Similarly, Michael Donald Bray served only 46 months after bombing ten
abortion clinics.72 Klansmen who murdered five anti-racist communists in


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The Permanence of the 1960s


North Carolina in front of television cameras at an anti-Klan rally served
no time.7 All these incidents happened between 1979 and 1985-roughly
the same period as the Brinks trials.74


The Struggle is Forever: Gilbert's Life since Prison

In the twenty years since the Brinks case, David Gilbert has been
largely absent from media coverage. With the exception of brief mentions
after his son won a Rhodes Scholarship and after Boudin was paroled (in
the spring and summer of 2003, respectively), the media have had little
use for Gilbert. Once in prison, the "Gilbert story" is done; out of sight,
out of mind. The logic that says, "once caged, a person is irrelevant,"
thus presents a three-way connection between the mainstream media, the
criminal justice system, and the government. Using government officials
as sources, the media defines a group of people as dangerous and meriting
incarceration. At the state's command, the prison then buries those people
away from public view or discussion, relying on the media to maintain
this isolation.
Despite the media silence, Gilbert has continued to be an organizer
passionate about creating humane social change at a fundamental level.
He remains an activist, though prison imposes harsh restrictions on his
ability to interact with broader social movements. "[T]o me," he said in
a 1998 interview, "the most significant issue isn't really what happened
to me individually-I don't mean to be cavalier. I feel it, my family feels
it. But the most significant issue is, What are we doing to turn around the
greater suffering?"75
When I first sat down to write about Gilbert's life since being
incarcerated, I was tempted to write about how he has "missed" the past
20 years. But this is not the case. While it may be a form of being buried
alive, being imprisoned is not akin to being frozen alive. Although he has
experienced the past two decades from a notably different social location
than most people, David Gilbert has not "missed" the past 20 years like
someone cryogenically frozen in 1981.
Since being in prison, he has been able to maintain his values and
commitment, despite being subject to the Department of Corrections'
version of prison musical chairs. Although he has not committed any
disciplinary infractions in the twenty-three years he has been imprisoned,


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Daniel Berger


Gilbert has routinely been transferred among New York's most notorious
prisons-the "bur circuit" of Attica, Auburn, and Comstock correctional
facilities, as well as other repressive prisons in the state. Usually, these
transfers occur as punishment for his organizing inside, but they have been
unsuccessful in deterring his efforts.7 When his best friend and codefendant
Kuwasi Balagoon died of AIDS in 1986 after being diagnosed only a
month previously, Gilbert wholly committed himself to AIDS activism.7
Since that time, he has helped start participatory peer education groups
on AIDS at different prisons in New York state. These groups have saved
hundreds, if not thousands, of lives.78 His ex-wife and codefendant, Kathy
Boudin, together with Judy Clark, has engaged in similar work at Bedford
Hills Correctional Facility.79
Besides his AIDS education activism and his writing, Gilbert also has
tried as much as possible to work in a collective manner with those outside
the walls. He has been active in the movement to free black journalist
and political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal and has worked with political
prisoners Herman Bell and Robert Seth Hayes (along with a progressive
organization in Canada) to put out radical calendars as a fundraiser for
political prisoners in 2002 and 2003. He has also mentored youth activists.
At the height of the anti-apartheid and anti-intervention movements of
the 1980s, Gilbert wrote solidarity statements for teach-ins and civil
disobedience actions at Columbia University and elsewhere."0 With the rise
of the global justice movement following the successful anti-World Trade
Organization protests in 1999-and the post-9/11 anti-war movement-
he has written for several alternative newspapers to share lessons from
his history and ensure that any social movement is anti-racist and pro-
feminist at its very base.81 "Being a political prisoner is not just a status
designation," Gilbert wrote. "[I]t's a lifelong commitment to fight against
injustice."82
As a way to both understand his own history and to help current
movements (especially younger activists) find their political bearings,
Gilbert has reflected considerably on the mistakes and accomplishments
of the movements and organizations with which he has participated. While
prison has not removed him from the world, it has afforded him (or forced
upon him) the opportunity to engage in a self-critical evaluation of his forty
years as an activist. His lessons, published in book reviews, interviews,
and historical and theoretical articles, engage in dialogue with those eager


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The Permanence of the 1960s


to avoid the pitfalls of egotism, unreflective activism, and oppression
within movements. These actions-writing, AIDS education/organizing,
communicating with young activists-are extensions of, not deviations
from, his lifelong commitment to social justice. It is that commitment to
social justice that led him into SDS and the Congress of Racial Equality
in 1960, into the Weather Underground in 1969, into the Revolutionary
Armed Task Force in 1979, and, as a result, into the New York State
Correctional System in 1981.
In this reflection process, he has, of course, thought at length about
Brinks and his role in the Revolutionary Armed Task Force. Of all the
subjects, this has likely been the most difficult for two reasons. First, it
landed him in prison with a life sentence for something of which he is
quite critical. But equally important, the death of people that day (along
with Mtyari Sundiata's death three days later) weighs particularly heavily
on him. Contrary to media reports at the time, Gilbert has always had an
aversion to violence. "Even in a battle for a just cause," Gilbert has since
written, "we can't lose our feeling for the human element. ... I feel sorry
for the losses and pain of the families of those who were killed."83 Gilbert
also expresses regret for the pain to his own family, "who never got to
make choices about the risks I would take."84 While taking responsibility
for the tragic errors, he still tries to reframe the discussion of U.S.
incarceration, saying he would "rather be accountable to some community
group or something that represented legitimate power, not this murderous
government."85
David Gilbert has spent the past twenty years trying to be himself-
an intelligent, humble, gentle, and soft-spoken person trying to live his
convictions in the most difficult of conditions. He has been a father to
his son, seeing him at least twice a year for forty-eight-hour visits each
time. He has mourned the loss of both of his parents while in prison;
he was not allowed to attend either funeral. Through it all, he has been
able to persevere with remarkable clarity, never losing sight of the larger
struggle for social justice. His faith in the power of people to make change
is unshakable. It shines through in our discussions of history, the present,
and hopes for the future.


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Daniel Berger


Leaving the prison is a totally different experience than going in.
When the guard dispassionately yells "Visiting hours up!" at exactly 3:05
PM, I feel the urge to squeeze everything I can into the last few seconds.
How long do we have to straggle? Out of the comer of my eye, I see others
also taking their time in finishing up conversation, rising, and exchanging
farewells. We all smile quietly at each other as we rise. At the end of the
very first visit, I ask David if there is any procedure for leaving. He says
no, we just go. (David, of course, gets searched on his way back.) I feel
bad for asking the question, though, for it speeds up the leaving. He gives
each of us our own hug. We assure him we will be back soon. We then
start to make our way diagonally across the room to the door, passing
tearful goodbyes between parents and children, husbands and wives. I
look periodically back at David as we make our away toward the exit. He
watches as we leave, with a gentle smile. As we approach the door leading
out of the visiting room, I turn a final time, wave, and close my hand into
a clenched fist briefly before leaving-a small expression of solidarity and
hope in these difficult circumstances.
Things move much quicker once leaving the visiting room. The
hallways seem shorter, less foreboding. Unlike entering the visiting room,
when we walked all by ourselves, we now leave with the friends and loved
ones of other prisoners, complete with a guard to escort us. I once again
notice how few white people and how few men are among the visitors.
With the exception of the guard escorting us, we all submit our hands
under a black light for verification of the invisible ink stamp. We wait
again for the gates to open, spitting us back into the front room we entered
just five hours ago, though it feels like it is been much longer. The guards
seem relieved that visiting hours are over, though I can not help but feel
that they are especially glad that friends of the revolutionary are leaving.
Regardless, we walk out of the tiny door and back into the warm summer
air of Attica the village, leaving behind the cold, stilted air of Attica the
prison. A little girl who had been visiting her father is bawling as we step
outside.
My mind is filled with so many thoughts all at once. I wonder where
David is right now-getting searched? In his cell? Still waiting in the
visiting room to endure the hassles associated with leaving a visit? I


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The Permanence of the 1960s


marvel at all I learned from him today, at the thought of prison being the
quintessential place to learn about history-and the future. I glance at the
castle wall surrounding Attica, looming down on me. A guard on his way
home yells at me to get away from the prison and to my car. He is off duty
and I am outside the prison walls, yet he is still ordering people around.
It hits me how fully trapped the legacy of the 1960s remains behind these
prison walls and other such walls across the country. I want to scream,
organize, cry, shout, march, yell, laugh, stomp, write the walls down.
For the history of the 1960s cannot be told, let alone understood, without
unlocking the prison doors.


Notes

1 David Gilbert, "Message to Columbia Students," May 4, 1998. In author's
files, courtesy of Bob Feldman.
2 "Being Left: 30 Years After the 1968 Columbia Revolt." Interview with
Bernadine Dohrn" <>
3 For more on the Attica rebellion and its aftermath, see Tom Wicker, A Time to
Die (New York: Ballantine, 1975).
4 For how SDS was influenced by other movements, see Robert Pardun, Prairie
Radical (Los Gatos, California: Shire, 2001) and Kirkpatrick Sale, SDS (New
York: Vintage, 1974).
5 Sale, SDS, 664.
6 Max Elbaum, Revolution in the Air, (London: Verso, 2002), 18.
7 David Gilbert and David Loud, U.S. Imperialism, (n.p.: Students for a
Democratic Society, 1967).
8 Bob Feldman, "Sundial" (unpublished memoir in author's files), 149.
9 These include "The Port Authority Statement," "U.S. Imperialism," and
"Consumption: Domestic Imperialism."
10 See, for instance, Todd Gitlin in The Sixties: Years ofHope, Days ofRage
(New York: Bantam, 1993).
" The phrase is Angela Davis's, though it is quoted in bell hooks, Talking Back:
Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black, (Boston: South End Press, 1989), 10.
12 See, for instance, Gitlin, The Sixties.


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Daniel Berger


13 Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall, The COINTELPRO Papers (Boston:
South End, 1990).
14 Ibid. See especially pp. 103, 135, 138-41.
15 See Charles Johnson, The Black Panther Party Reconsidered, (Baltimore:
Black Classics Press, 1998), 363-90; and Churchill and Vander Wall, The
COINTELPRO Papers, 249. For a full discussion of COINTELPRO's impact on
AIM, see pp. 231-302.
16 Ibid.
17 Author's visit with David Gilbert, July 18, 2002.
18 This slogan was a play on Che Guevara's slogan for defeating imperialism,
"create two, three, many Vietnams."
19 The Freedom Archives, ed., The Roots ofResistance, vol. 1.
20 For more on white anti-racism as political, rather than guilt-driven, see
Thompson, A Promise and a Way of Life (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota
Press, 2001).
21 David Gilbert in "Beyond Brinks: David Gilbert Talks About The Robbery,
the Underground, the Struggle," interview with Bob Feldman, Columbia Daily
Spectator April 2, 1985. In author's files, courtesy of Bob Feldman.
22 David Gilbert, "To the Forum on Student Activism," November 1986. In
author's files, courtesy of Bob Feldman.
23 Elbaum, Revolution in the Air, 1-40, Sale, SDS, 369-90, 425-30, 474-77, 503-
18, 600-53.
24 Getting an exact number of underground organizations at this time period
is difficult, in part because some people acted clandestinely without being
underground per se. But in terms of organized underground activity in the 1970s,
among the most famous were the WUO, the Black Liberation Army, the George
Jackson Brigade, the Symbionese Liberation Army, Los Matacheros, Fuerzas
Armadas de Liberacion Nacional (FALN a.k.a. the Armed Forces for National
Liberation), and the Sam Melville/Jonathan Jackson Unit.
25 For more on the implosion of the WUO, see Ron Jacobs, The Way the Wind
Blew (London: Verso, 1997).
26 Ibid., 179.
27 Ibid.
28 For more on the cooperation with the state, see Castellucci, The Big Dance
(New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1986) or Balagoon, A Soldier Story (Montreal:


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The Permanence of the 1960s


Solidarity, 2001).
29 Members of other U.S. clandestine groups had children while living and
operating clandestinely. See Tim Blunk and Ray Luc Levasseur, Hauling Up the
Morning (Trenton, NJ: Red Sea Press, 1990).
30 David Gilbert, letter to the author, April 5, 2003.
31 This escape occurred on November 2, 1979. See Evelyn Williams,
Inadmissible Evidence (Lincoln, Nebraska: Universe.com, Inc., 2000).
32 David Gilbert, "Spectator Interview." In author's files, courtesy of Bob
Feldman.
33 "3 Killed in Armored Car Holdup," The New York Times, October 21, 1981.
34 See Castellucci, The Big Dance, 16-20.
35 From the left, both the Marxist Guardian and the left-liberal Nation rarely
printed anything on the Brinks case-and both were sharply critical. See A
Soldier Story and The Big Dance, 215. From the right, see David Horowitz and
Peter Collier, Destructive Generation: Second Thoughts About the Sixties (New
York: Summit Books, 1989).
36 Castellucci, The Big Dance, 303-4. In recreating the events of October 20
in the first few chapters of his book, reporter John Castellucci says eyewitness
testimony from that day is unreliable. Instead he relies largely on the testimony
police officers gave under hypnosis as the basis for these chapters. See pp. 226,
301.
37 See, for instance, David Gilbert, "Spectator Interview" and Balagoon, A
Soldier 's Story, especially pp. 25-70.
38 Ibid. Even mainstream journalist John Castellucci admits this in his book, The
Big Dance, 301-304.
39 David Gilbert, "Spectator Interview."
40 Castellucci; 222-24, 243, 247, 255, 257, 275. See also Gilbert, "Spectator
Interview."
41 New York State Task Force on Political Prisoners "Clemency Petition," 19.
See also Gilbert, "Spectator Interview."
42 "Civil Liberties and the 1981 Brinks Case," Downtown, October 23, 1991. In
author's files.
43 Visit with David Gilbert, July 31, 2003.
44 Castellucci, 288. The county even raised taxes to help pay for the trial. Visit
with David Gilbert, July 31, 2003.


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Daniel Berger


45 Castellucci, 283-84.
46 Ibid.
47 "Brinks Holdup Hearing Becomes a Free-for-All" in The Washington Post,
September 21, 1982.
48 Malcolm X, "This Government Has Failed Us," Malcolm XSpeeches and
Soundbites (Montreal: Abraham Guillen Press, 2003).
49 Balagoon, A Soldier Story, 27-28.
50 Visit with David Gilbert, August 1, 2003.
51 Castellucci, The Big Dance, 284.
52 As getaway drivers, Gilbert and Boudin were more than a mile away from
where the robbery occurred.
53 "State Jury Finds 3 Radicals Guilty in Brinks Killings," The New York Times,
September 15, 1983.
54 Rison confessed to an earlier killing-the only time, by Rison's account,
someone at a BLA action panicked and fired needlessly. Gilbert, letter to the
author, April 22, 2000 and visit with the author, July 31, 2003.
55 See Thompson, 270
56 Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall, eds., Cages ofSteel, pp. 382-385
(Washington, D.C.: Maisonneuve Press, 1992.). See also Assata: A Memoir
(Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 1987); Angela Davis: A Memoir (New York:
International Publishers, 1988); Jim Fletcher, et al, eds., Still Black, Still Strong
(New York: Semiotext(e), 1993); or Albert Nuh Washington, All Power to the
People (Montreal: Solidarity, 2002).
57 See CEML, ed., Can 'tJail the Spirit (Chicago: Editorial Coqui Publishers,
1998).
58 Author's visit with David Gilbert, August 1, 2003.
59 See <>.
60 Ibid.
61 See, for instance, the inaugural addresses of Richard Nixon (1969, available
from <>) and
Ronald Reagan (1981, available from < presiden/inaug/reaganl.htm>>).
62 Resolution 32/122, adopted by the General Assembly 105th plenary meeting,
December 16, 1977. Available from < ares32r122.pdf>>.


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63 Ibid. That the United States voted against the resolution is discussed in Mutulu
Shakur, et al., "Prisoners of War: The Legal Standing of Members of National
Liberation Movements," in Cages ofSteel, 163.
64 Proclaim Release! reprints several of these resolutions.
65 In Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Outlaw Woman (San Francisco: City Lights, 2002),
239-40; emphasis added.
66 Alan Berkman, "Resistance Conspiracy" video.
67 Nelson Mandela was a political prisoner from 1962 until 1990 for his role
as leader of the armed unit of the African National Congress, one of the main
organizations that struggled against apartheid. He was given a life sentence for
violating racist apartheid laws prohibiting travel or organizing by Africans. His
release came after a long international campaign against apartheid. See < www.anc.org.2a/people/mandela.html>>.
68 See Churchill and Vander Wall, eds., Cages ofSteel, 382-85.
69 Ibid.
7o See Joy James, Imprisoned Intellectuals (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and
Littlefield, 2003), 201-215.
71 See Churchill and Vander Wall, eds., Cages ofSteel, 368.
72 Ibid.
73 See Mab Segrest, Memoirs of a Race Traitor (Boston: South End Press, 1994),
5-9, 75-76, 120-21.
74 The International Tribunal on Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War in the
United States compared the sentences of these men (and others) to left-wing
radicals arrested on similar grounds, finding similar sentencing disparities.
Whereas Bray served forty-six months for bombing ten occupied abortion
clinics, Ray Luc Levasseur was sentenced to forty-five years for bombing four
unoccupied military buildings protesting U.S. foreign policy. Another abortion
bomber received seven years for possessing more than 100 pounds of explosives
in a populous New York City apartment. Tim Blunk and Susan Rosenberg each
received sentences of 58 years for keeping explosives in an empty storage unit.
Don Black, who violated the Neutrality Act with his attempted take over of
Dominica, was back on the streets after two years for possessing a boatload
of explosives and illegal weapons. Former Weather member Linda Evans was
sentenced to forty years for purchasing four weapons with false identification.
For more, see the excerpt of the tribunal's findings, published in Cages ofSteel,
403-13.
75 David Gilbert, "A Lifetime of Struggle" video.


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Daniel Berger


76 Thompson, A Promise and a Way ofLife, 270.
77 Washington, All Power to the People, 88. Gilbert's father died within three
months of Balagoon.
78 Ibid.
79 Thompson, A Promise and a Way ofLife, 270-76.
80 See, for instance, his "Statement to the [Columbia] Student Activist Forum,"
November 1986; "To Columbia Students," May 1998; and "To the Berkshire
Forum," July 1989. All these statements are courtesy of Bob Feldman.
81 See, for instance, his SDS/WUO pamphlet and his article "The Terrorism that
Terrorism Wrought."
82 David Gilbert, Enemies of the State, 45.
83 Ibid., 35.
84 Ibid.
85 David Gilbert, "A Lifetime of Struggle" video.


Alpata: A Journal of History






THE COURTS-MARTIAL OF EAST
FLORIDA, 1785-1795

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT ON THE PERIPHERY OF
THE SPANISH COLONIAL EMPIRE





Nick Linville


On a late September day in 1789, Lorenzo Barretto, a soldier of the
Royal Army of the Americas, was hanged in the square at St. Augustine,
East Florida. Days before, he stood trial by a military court that found him
guilty of murder and condemned him to die. Throughout the proceeding
against him, Barretto watched in silence as one witness after another came
forward and told the court aboutthe heinous crime that had been committed.
Not until all the testimony was heard did the judge allow Barretto to offer
his side of the story. The soldier told the court he had been sent to East
Florida from Cuba as punishment for deserting his company. Finding the
conditions of life poor and uncomfortable in this backwater of the empire,
Barretto again abandoned his post. After two months of hiding on the
outskirts of St. Augustine, he tossed away a blade he wore on his belt and
offered himself up to the mercy of the local church. But the sanctuary he
sought was breached by the power of the military tribunal, and he was
locked in the jail of the Castillo de San Marcos. In his testimony, Barretto
swore to God and Crown that he had nothing to do with the recent murder,
regardless of what the witnesses had to say. However, his word, and that
of accused criminals like him, carried little weight in the courts-martial of
East Florida. Provincial law held that any Spanish citizen who murdered
an Indian was to have his head turned over to the natives. Fearing trouble
with the Indians, the judge, with the authorization of the governor of East
Florida, bypassed normal procedure for a death sentence and sent Barreto
to his fate without the approval of the audiencia in Havana. Though bound
by wider imperial laws, the courts-martial of East Florida often negotiated
justice in a way that satisfied the reality of local conditions.'
This study examines how justice was administered to regular army
soldiers in the military courts of East Florida during the era known as the






Nick Linville


Second Spanish Period (1784-1821). The primary source of information
is the records created by the courts-martial at the provincial capital of St.
Augustine.2 My decision to focus on the years 1785 to 1795 has been made
for several reasons. During this decade, the courts-martial tried a total of
eighteen cases, a manageable number that allows for a closer examination
of the details surrounding each crime, the structure of the trials, and the
sentences delivered. Lesser offenses such as fraud, robbery, slander, and
assault were represented in the sample, as were more serious crimes of
dueling, desertion, sodomy, and murder. Often, more than one soldier
was tried in each case. Thus, the diversity of the crimes committed in
these years also underlies the decision to concentrate on this decade. The
first part of this paper will describe the size and composition of the East
Florida garrison as well as the conditions that soldiers experienced that
encouraged lawbreaking in the frontier province. Then, the procedure by
which accused criminals were tried will be discussed. As an institution,
the courts-martial of East Florida was part of the larger judicial system of
the Spanish colonial empire, and as such it was bound to certain standards
of operation that were uniform throughout Spanish America. In practice,
however, as the case of Lorenzo Barreto and many others illustrate, local
realities in East Florida often had a much greater influence on the actual
administration of justice by the courts-martial than did the wider imperial
laws regarding procedure.
The military was, without a doubt, the purpose of Spain's long presence
in East Florida. In 1783, the territory, which included the entire peninsula
westward to the Apalachicola River, was returned to Spain after twenty
years of British occupation. No strangers to the region, the Spanish had
controlled East Florida for over two hundred years before the British in an
era known to historians as the First Spanish Period (1565-1763). Then, as
in the Second Spanish Period (1783-1821), East Florida's importance to
the Spanish American empire was its strategic location. With shorelines on
the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, and the Atlantic Ocean, Florida offered
military protection for shipping lanes that transported gold and silver from
Mexico to Spain. The province also became a buffer zone between Anglo-
Americans to the north and the Spanish empire. Economically speaking,
what little development that existed was mostly connected to the local
garrison.3


Alpata: A Journal of History






The Courts-Martial of East Florida


Despite its physical size, East Florida's population was always very
small and centered around St. Augustine. A diversity of people walked the
streets of the city, including Floridanos (expatriates of the colony who had
resided in Cuba), Minorcans, Englishmen, and blacks (free and enslaved).
In the countryside were sparse settlements of Spaniards, some Americans,
and a few Swiss. Some country people were wealthy planters while others
squatted on land illegally. The dominant influence in East Florida, to be
sure, was Hispanic, not in small part due to the large concentration of
Spanish-born soldiers in St. Augustine.4
Between 1784 and 1795, the population of East Florida was roughly
1,600 persons, with soldiers making up about twenty-five per cent of that
number.5 The size of the regular army in the province rarely exceeded 500
men and usually averaged around 450. When the Spanish returned to St.
Augustine in 1784, they brought with them 164 men from the Immemorial
del Rey Regiment, 112 men from the 3rd Battalion Havana Regiment, and
164 from the Hibemia Regiment.6 These men were scattered across several
small outposts in the hinterland of the peninsula. On the northern reaches
of the St. Johns River stood San Vicente Ferrer, a crude fort manned by
about a dozen soldiers. There were other locations like it on the St. Marys
River and on Amelia Island that were built to absorb any potential invasion
from the north, while Fort Matanzas protected the southern approach to
St. Augustine. The vast majority of the province's troops, however, were
stationed in the capital where the main bastion of defense, the Castillo
de San Marcos, was located. East Florida's various governors during the
Second Spanish Period were also the head military commanders of the
garrison and carried the rank of commandant general.7 Spain's interest in
keeping the territory was part of a larger imperial defense strategy. If the
mother country wanted to maintain its position there, the army garrison
had to be disciplined.
The quality and character of the men who filled the ranks of the regular
army in Spanish America in the late colonial period was notoriously bad,
and Spain was largely to blame. Throughout the eighteenth and early
nineteenth centuries, Spain used its American regiments as a depository
for its thieves, alcoholics, and other unwanted miscreants. A common
sentence for petty offenders in Spain was eight years military service in
one of the overseas colonies. Crimes such as concubinage and adultery
received naval and military service sentences in lieu of prison terms.


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Nick Linville


Death sentences and jail time could often be exchanged for army service
in America. As for men who were already enlisted, assignment to frontier
regions such as Louisiana and Florida became a form of punishment by the
mid-eighteenth century. Quite a number of the American troops had been
exported from the peninsular army for desertion.8
As a result of Spain's policies, the behavior of soldiers across the
empire was a constant problem for colonial administrators and civilians.
In his study of the Cuban colonial military, historian Allan J. Keuthe
described the Havana garrison as being made up of "the most miserable
human beings."9 One reason that few native Cubans sought enlistment was
because most young men did not want to be associated with the hapless
vagabonds, criminals, and captured deserters that made up the regular army
on the island. The 400 to 500 troops in Spanish Louisiana "represented the
dregs of European and colonial society."10 Historian Christon Archer found
soldiers in New Spain in this period to be especially horrible. "Homicides
and crimes of passion committed by soldiers were so common as to be
scarcely noteworthy," he wrote. These "professional drunks, gamblers,
and plotters" who made up the colonial forces committed crimes so
frequently that a degree of disorder came to be expected wherever troops
were stationed."
The composition of the East Florida garrison was no better than that of
other locales in the empire, and it elicited a steady complaint from provincial
governors in St. Augustine. In a 1790 letter to the Subinspector General
of Cuba, Governor Vicente Manuel de Zespedes y Velasco described the
soldiers sent to defend the region as full of "vicious habits, from which
it is hopeless to reform them, especially their perverted inclinations to
steal, to get intoxicated, and to desert." Zespedes spoke from seven years
of experience with the East Florida lot. "Right from the start, they began
deserting by gangs, becoming scandalously intoxicated and stealing from
the gardens of the unfortunate settlers .... [T]hese men have been rejected
by every other corps in the army and should not be sent to this province."2
Zespedes's successor, Juan Nepomuceno de Quesada, complained of the
similar problems with the garrison. Duels, desertions, alcoholism, and
abandoning the guard plagued his administration. He feared for the safety
of civilians. Surrounding the soldiers' barracks was a high wall. Intended
to separate soldiers from civilians, the structure was a stark reminder of
the malevolent nature of the local garrison."


Alpata: A Journal of History






The Courts-Martial of East Florida


The conditions of life for troops in East Florida during the Second
Spanish Period were especially harsh and fostered much discontent. An
annual subsidy called the situado provided the money and goods that
were needed to maintain the provincial government, whose main expense
was the four hundred-plus soldiers it had to feed, clothe, house, and pay.
Historian Helen Tanner wrote that the appropriation of the situado "was
one of the items lost in the shuffle of inter-colonial correspondence."14 The
shipment, sent from New Spain (present-day Mexico), rarely arrived in a
timely manner, if it arrived at all. For example, Spanish East Florida went
without its situado in the years 1788, 1789, and 1790. Throughout the
1780s, officers' pay was usually one or two years late and regular soldiers
seldom received the small monthly allowance that was owed them.1
On the rare occasion when the situado was delivered on time,
the contents therein were usually inadequate. Few suffered more as a
consequence than the soldiers, whose existence was essentially dependent
on the allotment. In 1792, dozens of troops were hospitalized with stomach
ailments. Governor Quesada connected the sickness to the poor quality of
the flour sent to the province and implored the high offices in Cuba to
increase the quality of ration shipments.
Perhaps more than food, inadequate housing seems to have been the
most continuous hardship that soldiers endured. The barracks, located
south of St. Augustine's central plaza, dated back to the early British
period and were in an acute state of disrepair, inside and out. Governor
Zespedes imported blankets and straw mattresses from Charleston shortly
after he arrived in St. Augustine, but within a few years these were worn
out and soldiers were forced to sleep on the floor. During rainy months, the
men fought a constant battle to keep their knapsacks dry from leaky roofs
and broken windows.16
Problems with the troops' quarters were continual. When Governor
Quesada arrived in 1790, the roof was still in need of repair, as was the wall
around the building that kept soldiers locked-up at night. The governor's
warning to the intendancy in Havana in 1792 echoed that of Zespedes
before him: Poor living conditions, caused by the tardy and insufficient
situado, bred dissatisfaction among the East Florida garrison and created a
"propensity to revolt.""17 Fortunately for East Florida's governors, soldiers
there did not unite in any collective display of their displeasure with military
life. Nonetheless, they often expressed their discontent individually or in
small groups.'"
Spring 2004 61






Nick Linville


In Spanish East Florida, as in all of Spain's empire, soldiers accused
of criminal acts were tried by military courts. Ajudicial prerogative known
as thefuero military conveyed upon enlisted men the right to be tried before
military tribunals rather than before civil tribunals.19 Military courts were
part of the larger judiciary system in colonial Spanish America. The King,
who was considered a divinely ordained arbiter ofjustice, was at the apex
of this structure, although he invested his power in the Supreme Council of
the Indies. Cases from frontier areas like East Florida, whether military or
civil, usually did not progress to this level. Whenever appeals were made
from the provinces, the audiencias heard them. East Florida belonged to
the one located in Havana.20
Within the province itself, the governor was the chief judicial
authority over both civil and military cases. Any decision that a court
made required his approval, although he often referred cases to Havana.
Capital punishments could not be completed without the authorization of
the audiencia. When a soldier was accused of a crime in East Florida, as
in other frontier provinces, the case against him was heard by the local
Auditor of War (auditor de guerra) who held the military rank of captain
and was experienced in the administration ofjustice.21 Essentially a judge,
he had the responsibility to consult the letter of the law and determine the
appropriate resolution to a case with regard to the facts as he saw them.
His conclusion was always submitted to the governor.22
Historians who study the military in Spanish America have not
explained the actual procedure of the colonial Spanish American military
tribunal, nor have scholars of crime and punishment analyzed it. After
a close examination of the general process of the courts-martial in East
Florida, however, one finds that the reason for this lack of attention
becomes clear. Military tribunals were very similar in structure to their
civil counterparts. Trial procedure in the East Florida courts-martial cases
correlates with that of civil courts as described by historian Charles Cutter
in his study of northern New Spain. There, as in East Florida, criminal
proceedings against soldiers began by accusation (querella de parte), by
notification (denuncia), or at the judge's request (de oficio). After this
point came the three main phases of the criminal trial-the sumaria, the
plenario, and finally the sentencia. The first phase, the sumaria or fact-
finding inquiry, attempted to clarify the events surrounding the crime by
gathering testimony and investigating. When a case involved physical


Alpata: A Journal of History






The Courts-Martial of East Florida


injuries, a medical practitioner conducted a detailed examination of the
injured (fe de heridas) and submitted his report before any testimony
was gathered. More than anyone else, the judge shaped the course of the
sumaria and, by extension, the entire criminal proceeding. He determined
which witnesses were to be heard and formulated the questions they were to
be asked. No participation was allowed from the defendant in the sumaria.
As in many European-derived legal cultures of the day, the suspect's guilt
was presumed throughout the duration of his case. This feature led one
scholar to quip that in the sumaria phase, "the trial was configured and,
one could almost say, decided."23 In fact, the majority of the East Florida
courts-martial cases examined had guilty verdicts.
In colonial East Florida, as in the rest of Spanish America, the court
heard testimony regardless of the race, class, or gender of the witness.
Slaves testified often in the courts-martial criminal cases considered
here, as did children when determined competent to proceed.24 So many
languages were spoken in and around St. Augustine-Spanish, English,
Catalan, as well as African and Indian languages-that interpreters were
frequently called into military trials. Before they testified, soldiers were
asked if they were acquainted with the Royal Ordinances, the canon of law
that they served under. Judges also wanted to know if soldiers had accepted
"the charity of the army, performed their service, and practiced good
judgement on the honor of the Crown.""2 The response to both questions
was usually in the affirmative. Also important was the religious affiliation
of each witness. If not Catholic, one could expect further questioning as to
his or her belief in the divine power of God. Once his or her testimony had
been taken, the judge read the statements back to the witness and allowed
for alterations. The voice of the suspect was not heard until the end of the
sumaria. His/her testimony was called a confesion, the mere terminology
implying his guilt.26
The process of administering justice in East Florida and elsewhere in
the Spanish empire was sometimes delayed when military criminals sought
asylum in the church. Since medieval times, capture inside the church
often meant a lighter punishment than if one were captured elsewhere, so
criminals often fled to the local place of worship.27 While the influence of
the Catholic Church remained a considerable force throughout the entire
colonial period, the eighteenth century was a time of slow but inexorable
growth of secular over religious aspects of colonial administrations. In


Spring 2004






Nick Linville


St. Augustine and other parts of the Spanish empire, criminals were not
allowed the protection of the Church when tribunals called for them. In
1797, a new royal cedula streamlined the steps needed to remove military
men from churches and to speed the course of justice.28 Yet East Floridian
soldiers who committed crimes still fled to the church without hesitation.
After the initial sumaria phase of a criminal courts-martial proceeding
came the plenario. Cutter found that this stage, when present at all, often
blended into the sumaria. "Indeed, frequently the entire phase failed to
materialize in the court record, or did so only in abbreviated or haphazard
fashion."29 The same holds true for the East Florida criminal cases of the
courts-martial. Such procedural irregularity underscored the importance
of the sumaria in the colonial judicial process. On the rare occasion that
a formal plenario did occur, it consisted of the assignment of defenders
to each party. The defenders described the perceived facts of the case in
light of legal principles. In the course of the plenario, additional witnesses
could be requested. If testimonies differed substantially, a face-to-face
confrontation between the two parties, known as a careo, was held. In
East Florida, northern New Spain, and presumably other frontier areas, a
clear-cutplenario phase was rare and reflected the near absence of trained
legal professionals in these areas.30
The final phase of a courts-martial proceeding began withhe ' ni ,'t
Since there was no trial-by-jury in the Spanish legal system, the local judge
in East Florida again took the leading role. Always a military officer, his
influence was strengthened by the fact that Castilian law did not require,
indeed prohibited, an explanation of the legal points on which a judge
founded his sentencia. The general purpose of punishment was to turn the
guilty soldier away from his wicked ways and to repair any harm he may
have done to society. Incarceration was a form of punishment in Spanish
America in the eighteenth century, although it was not very common. In
civil cases, fines often served as punishment, but such a penalty never
appeared in the East Florida criminal courts-martial cases for 1785 to
1795.31
Perhaps a more important reason behind punishment than amending
the criminal or satisfying society was the need to deter further criminal acts.
Public humiliation, therefore, was a recurring aspect of the sentences that
East Florida judges ordered. In such a small community as St. Augustine,
where most troops lived, peer opinion held considerable weight. Soldiers


Alpata: A Journal of History






The Courts-Martial of East Florida


were sentenced to wear shackles and clean the barracks for months at a
time in a number of cases involving minor offenses.32 Convict, or presidio,
labor was a more common punishment for heavier offenses. Throughout
the empire, prisoners (or presidarios) performed the heavy manual labor
of construction, repair, and maintenance of fortifications and other military
facilities. In the late 1780s and early 1790s, public works projects were a
top priority in East Florida, and one of the government's main sources
of labor were presidarios.33 Not only physically strenuous, presidio labor
placed a convicted soldier in a very visible position in St. Augustine. They
were to serve as an example to other soldiers with criminal tendencies.34
East Florida's need for manpower often influenced the sentences
arrived at by the courts-martial. Juan Enguera was accused of stabbing
Antonio Denis, a soldier from his same company. The dispute apparently
began over a nail in the soldiers' barracks. Denis wanted to hang his hat
upon it but found Enguera's pack already there. Words were exchanged
over the next several days as the tension between the two men grew.
One evening after supper, Enguera encountered Denis smoking a cigar
on the patio of the barracks kitchen. Witnesses reported that Enguera
verbally assaulted Denis, calling him a "filthy pig." At this point, their
petty quarreling erupted into open physical confrontation. They kicked
and gouged one another for some time until Enguera managed to draw
a bayonet and stab Denis several times in his right thigh and forearm.3
Enguera immediately rose to his feet and, with little hesitation, fled to the
church. He was promptly extracted the following morning and brought
before the courts-martial.
Like most soldiers accused of crimes involving physical violence,
Enguera told the court that he acted in self-defense. After leaving the mess
hall one night, he stumbled upon an old bayonet point, which he decided to
keep. He then took a brief stroll outside of the barracks. On this point, the
judge, Captain Eduardo Nugent, was particularly angry since there were
"vigorous rules against leaving the soldiers' quarters at night." Enguera
responded that he planned to return before anyone knew. In fact, he said
he could have done so had he not been attacked by Denis and forced to
defend himself. The Judge had difficulty believing Enguera's case. No
witnesses could verify that Enguera was anything but the aggressor,
and so the suspect's innocence was unfounded. According to the Royal
Ordinances, ten years presidio labor in Europe or Africa was the proper


Spring 2004






Nick Linville


punishment for wounding a comrade. Nevertheless, Governor Zespedes
felt the need to mold the sentence to fit local needs, and thus he ordered
that Engueras serve out the punishment in East Florida on account of the
lack of labor there.36
Antonio Ruiz and Salvador Gonzalez faced a military tribunal for a
similar offense in 1787, although the sentence handed down was different.
The two soldiers, both from the Havana Regiment, had reportedly stabbed
fellow soldiers Estevan Rodriguez and Tomas Garcia. As the sumaria
revealed, the attack happened the night before the trial in a tavern near
the barracks. The victims called on the establishment with the intention
to drink a bottle of wine together and dance with the women of the house.
Across the room sat Ruiz and Gonzalez, who were sufficiently intoxicated.
In their drunken merriment, they began to sing some verses aloud that
Garcia and his company found a disturbance. Fed up with the noise, Garcia
and Rodriguez confronted Ruiz and called him a drunk. Ruiz retorted by
inviting his opponents outside to settle the matter. Moments later, he was
entangled with Garcia and Rodriguez on the dusty street in front of the
tavern. Hearing the ruckus from inside, Gonzalez and other soldiers rushed
out to try to break up the scuffle but they were too late. Ruiz drew a knife
and stabbed his opponents, Garcia and Rodriguez. Immediately, he tossed
the bloody knife away and ran in the direction of the church.
In their testimonies before the courts-martial, Rodriguez and Garcia,
who suffered non-fatal wounds, outwardly admitted that they started the
fight when they approached Ruiz about his singing. The two claimed that
they carried no weapons that evening and that they had no previous dispute
with Ruiz or Gonzalez. In his confesi6n, Ruiz flatly stated that he was not
the aggressor but rather the defender. He and Gonzalez, in fact, had left the
tavern to avoid a fight. According to Ruiz, Garcia was the one who pulled
the knife. Witnesses disagreed, including Ruiz's comrade, Gonzalez. That
Ruiz immediately fled the scene of the crime for the sanctuary of the church
did not help his case. Nonetheless, the judge was hesitant to announce a
sentence. Governor Zespedes appealed the case to the Captain General
of Cuba, Josef de Espleta, and within two months received a response.
Gonzalez, who by all accounts had merely tried to stop the brawl, was
to be freed since he had committed no crime. Here was one of very few
occasions when a suspect was absolved of any wrongdoing. Ruiz's guilt
was beyond doubt and he was ordered to serve one year of prison for his
crime.37


Alpata: A Journal of History






The Courts-Martial of East Florida


As was mentioned earlier, judges were not required to explain
the particular motives behind their rulings. Thus, the record gives no
information on why Ruiz's punishment was different from that awarded
to Enguera. Just two years before Ruiz's case was decided, Enguera was
convicted of wounding a comrade but received ten years of presidio labor,
a conceivably worse fate. This dichotomy might be explained by the fact
that the earlier wounding case was concluded in East Florida, whereas
Havana determined the latter one. Possibly, the colonial administration in
East Florida had more interest than Havana in assuring that punishment in
their province was sharp.
On the one hand, the delivery of justice in East Florida was often
slowed when the accused soldier offered up an alibi. On the other hand,
when a suspect was candid about his crime, the courts-martial delivered
a punishment with remarkable speed. Francisco Tejero, a soldier in the
Havana Regiment, had been enlisted in the service of the King's army
for hardly a year before he was called into the military court for having
robbed a shirt, a new pair of blue trousers, and several rations of bread
from drummer Evaristo Garrido. Tejero openly admitted to the court that
he stole these items from Garrido and said he sold the shirt to a local
civilian and the pants to a fellow soldier. The following morning, as if he
knew he would be caught, Tejero took sanctuary at the church, where he
confessed his crime and remained until he was extracted by a sergeant
of his company. A conviction came rather easy since Tejero offered no
defense whatsoever. Citing the appropriate Royal Ordinance, Captain
Nugent, the judge presiding, ruled that Tejero's crime was worthy often
years presidio labor in Europe or America. Governor Zespedes approved
the sentence, but only with the stipulation that the term be completed in
East Florida since the province could not afford to lose another man.38
In another robbery case, the unique way in which the crime was
perpetrated forced the East Florida courts-martial to refer the case to the
audiencia in Havana. Josef Bataller had stolen 193 rations of salted meat
from the Castillo over the course of several weeks by way of several forged
receipts. Bataller was one of few soldiers who could write his signature. He
could also sign that of his sergeant fairly well. As soon as the receipts made
their way back to the sergeant, they were instantly recognized as forgeries
and Bataller was suspected. He was temporarily locked-up in the Castillo
until a proper sumaria could be held. In the meantime, he adamantly


Spring 2004






Nick Linville


denied the accusations against him. While on a stretch break at some point
thereafter, he bolted for the church. As usual, military officials extracted
him with little problem. At the trial, two soldiers testified that they had seen
Bataller sell the meat to civilians in St. Augustine. Surprisingly, Bataller's
intense expression of denial dissipated in the face of the courts-martial.
Nonetheless, justice was postponed when Judge Nugent could not find
the definitive article in the Royal Ordinances that treated such an unusual
brand of robbery. Finally, he determined that ten years of presidio labor,
the articulated punishment for robbery, was a fitting punishment. Havana
agreed with Nugent. As may be expected, in the final ruling Governor
Zespedes added that the term must be fulfilled in East Florida.39
The special circumstances of East Florida frequently influenced the
way in which the courts-martial operated. Most crimes committed by
soldiers directly involved other soldiers, but sometimes civilians fell
within the jurisdiction of the military tribunal. As in northern New Spain,
there was a lack of trained legal administrators in East Florida who could
officiate over civil and criminal cases.40 Thus, the boundary of the courts-
martial was often arbitrarily defined to include civilians when they were
involved in cases against soldiers. Such incidents were in clear violation
of the code ofthefuero military, which dictated that the military could only
judge itself. A sodomy case involving many soldiers and several boys
illustrates the jurisdictional ambiguity that prevailed in St. Augustine in
the Second Spanish Period.
In 1788, three soldiers were accused of repeated acts of sodomy with
four local boys, but by the close of the proceeding, five additional soldiers
and two sailors had been indicted. The judge, Lieutenant Ignacio Royo,
began by interrogating the boys who had up to that time been held in the
dungeon of the Castillo. Timoteo Clarencia was born on Catalina Island,
Portugal. Judge Royo estimated him to be about eleven years old. His
godfather was Carlos Howard, a prominent citizen and captain in the
Hibernia Regiment. It was through Clarencia that the crime had been
discovered. He came home one day with a suspicious sum of money and
his godfather demanded to know the source of it. Clarencia said he stole
it from a Minorcan, but the truth eventually came out that he and some of
his friends had repeatedly received money from soldiers in exchange for
sexual favors. While on the witness stand, Clarencia, at Royo's prompting,
revealed in detail the sexual acts that were committed, where in town they


Alpata: A Journal of History






The Courts-Martial of East Florida


were committed, and the soldiers involved. The other boys faced similar
questioning. Of great importance to the court was each boy's motive in
committing the act. Archer Stone was eleven years old, born in Virginia,
and an orphan. He and Clarencia admitted that the crime was done for a
small sum of money. Nicolas Dimmaracht, ten years old and a native of
St. Augustine, concurred while Francisco de Le6n was the only one of the
youths who denied any involvement in the events.
Clearly, the courts-martial at St. Augustine was equally as suspicious
of the faithfulness of civilians who came before them as they were of
soldiers. Before the boys were asked their names, the judge closely
scrutinized the depth of their faith with a series of questions that echoed
the aggressive trials of the Inquisition. He demanded that the boys tell the
court how often they had taken confession over the past months. Clarencia
said he had done so several times. Since Stone was not a Catholic, whether
he knew God at all was an issue. He claimed he did but testified that he was
unfamiliar with any proper doctrine. Finally, the court sought to determine
whether each boy knew the sinful nature of his actions. Their responses
were, in the face of such pressure, short and affirmative. This facet of the
sodomy case reveals that, on occasion, the courts-martial at St. Augustine
overstepped its jurisdictional boundaries by exposing the bad behavior of
non-military witnesses.
The court faced great difficulty in determining the truthfulness of the
boys' statements, and thus searched for more evidence before turning to
the testimony of the accused soldiers. Governor Zespedes allowed the
presidario Eusebio de Le6n, Francisco's father, to be released temporarily
so that he could be interrogated. Le6n had little to offer and was essentially
used by the court in a failed attempt to determine if any of his son's other
friends were involved in the crime. A search of the home of Dimas Cortes,
one of the purported meeting places, turned up nothing. Cortes, an official
of the local Contaduria, told the court that two of the accused soldiers were
working at his home months earlier and that one of them was seen sharing
oranges with neighborhood boys. Clarencia's and Stone's teacher gave a
long report in favor of his students' character. Finally, the accused soldiers
were summoned to the witness stand. Each man absolutely denied that he
knew the boys and that he had anything to do with the case. The secrecy of
the criminal act postponed the deliverance of justice significantly.


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Nick Linville


Having made little progress, the court opted to broaden the case and,
consequently, the evidence against the accused mounted. The surgeon
Bourquet was ordered to conduct physical examinations of the boys to
determine if they suffered any physical damage as a result of the supposed
encounters. The results were positive for one of the youths. Two female
slaves from Timoteo's household testified that blood had been found on
his sheets on more than one occasion. Dozens of soldiers were questioned
if their comrades had solicited or participated in sexual relations with boys
and, in the process, the number of suspects expanded.
After weeks of interviews and investigations, the court at last came
to a verdict. The four boys were to be turned over to their guardians with
the recommendation that the youths be exiled from the province. Five
other soldiers and two sailors, grabbed up in the dragnet, were awarded a
similar fate for solicitation. The soldiers were exiled from Florida while
the two sailors were to suffer a month of prison during which time they
would be shackled and forced to clean the barracks. Josef de la Torre,
Ventura Villamarin, and Gregorio Quevedo, the original three suspects,
were found guilty of sodomy and sentenced to two years of presidio labor.
Such a large and complicated case could not be kept from the higher courts
in Havana. Nonetheless, the audiencia upheld the sentence that the St.
Augustine tribunal mandated with one exception: the three soldiers guilty
of sodomy were to serve out their presidio time in Puerto Rico rather than
East Florida.41
Given the small size of the population at St. Augustine, soldiers and
civilians were in close contact and, as a consequence, the latter frequently
were witnesses, accomplices, or victims in crimes that were committed by
soldiers. In a case that came before the courts-martial in the summer of
1786, Sergeant Antonio Borge from the Hibemia Regiment was accused
of murdering Matias Bernard, a soldier of the same regiment, at the home
of an English laundress named Ysabel Tailor. Bourquet, the garrison
surgeon, certified that the three stab wounds to the man's chest were done
by some type of sword-like weapon and were responsible for his death.
Tailor and her thirteen-year-old son, Jorge, were the only witnesses of the
brutal murder.
Tailor's testimony indicated that the fight that led to the murder had
broken out rather unexpectedly. Her guests, Sergeant Borge and a soldier
named Juan Cabrioly, had been discussing the sale of a pistol over a bottle


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The Courts-Martial of East Florida


of wine. No deal was made and the two went on chatting and drinking as
before. Cabrioly testified that as he got up to leave, he was accosted on
the patio by Bernard, who hit him over the head with a blunt object. The
people inside the house heard nothing. Tailor said that Bernard came into
the house and sat down on the edge of the bed near the table where Borge
sat. Borge then yelled at Bernard in a language Tailor did not comprehend,
and Bernard lunged upon him in response. At this point, Jorge, who had
been asleep in his bed, awoke to see the horrible crime committed.
Unfortunately, the text of Borge's confesi6n is illegible. Nevertheless,
it seems that the dispute, which led to Bernard's death, was over Tailor.
Jorge testified that Bernard was a regular at the house and usually "slept
in the same bed" as his mother, who herself admitted that she and Bernard
"lived together." When Bernard arrived at the house to see Cabrioly
leaving and Borge there with a bottle of wine, perhaps he was overcome
with a jealous rage. Regardless of Bernard's motive, the confrontation that
resulted from it was deadly. After lunging upon Borge, he held the sergeant
on the floor and punched him repeatedly in the face. All the while, the two
yelled back and forth in French as Tailor tried to separate them. Finally,
Bernard stood up, but he was far from finished. He grabbed a rifle barrel
that was lying around as Borge, his face covered in blood, stumbled to his
feet and unsheathed his saber. Bernard then ran at his opponent with the
barrel hoisted high but Borge, in one swift movement, dodged the blow
and sunk his saber deep into Bernard's chest. Somehow, Bernard was able
to make his way out of the house and into the street. A group of soldiers
a few doors down saw him collapse to the ground. Minutes later, he died.
Word of the murder spread rapidly.
Jorge's, Tailor's, and Cabrioly's presence at the scene of the murder
landed them in jail along with Borge, the accused murderer. Since Jorge
and Tailor were the only ones besides Borge who were conscious enough
to recall the events surrounding the homicide, they provided the crucial
testimonies in the case. Their account of events convinced the court that
Borge used unnecessary force to defend himself from the attacker.
A crime of this sort was worthy of the death penalty in the eyes of
Judge Diego Cortes. To fulfill the sentence, permission from the audiencia
in Havana was necessary. The response must have come as a shock to all
who followed the case. In his assessment, Josef Cartas y Texerina, the
Auditor of War in Havana, found that Borge's defense of himself had not


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Nick Linville


been excessive and the death sentence was therefore suspended.42 Such
reluctance to execute a death sentence was by no means unique to this case.
In the eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries, capital punishment was
rarely recommended as a sentence anywhere in Spanish America. Cutter
attributed this phenomenon to the close social and familial relationships
in many colonial communities.43 St. Augustine was without a doubt bound
by these, but for the most part the common soldiers seemed to be largely
outside of these relationships. This was in part due to their behavior and
the transient nature of their service. By the 1780s, American regiments
were regularly rotated from one province to another. The St. Augustine
garrison scarcely had a chance to become deeply connected to the local
society, and very rarely intermarried with citizens.44 For these reasons,
death does not seem to have been an uncommonly suggested punishment
in the courts-martial.45
Judge Ignacio Royo intended to send drummer Tomas L6pez and
Christoval Vais to the gallows for dueling. Both suffered non-fatal injuries
in the drunken knife fight, which began for unclear reasons at a tavern in
town. Before he proceeded with his confession, L6pez, who had previously
served in Cuba, was asked the usual question: have you received the charity
of the army in your time as a soldier? Most in his position responded
with a seemingly dishonest, yet uncomplicated, "yes," but L6pez was
feeling much more brazen, and instead took the opportunity to complain
about how he had not been paid for months. Clearly, the military tribunal
was the wrong setting to express such a grievance, especially when the
incriminating evidence against one was so overbearing. Moreover, L6pez
and Vais could put forth no believable alibi. The drastic sentence they
received was approved by at least three high-ranking officers, not including
the judge. Following standard procedure, the decision had to be finalized
by Havana. As in the murder case involving Sergeant Borge two years
earlier, the audiencia overturned the courts-martial's ruling and ordered in
its place six years of presidio labor for L6pez and Vais.46
Five men accused of desertion with intention to travel abroad came
before the courts martial at St. Augustine in 1789. Estevan Gonzalez
and Josef Arrosa were members of the fusileros company of the Havana
Regiment, and Diego G6mez and drummer Lorenzo Tallatigo belonged to
the CataluZa volunteers unit. Also indicted was Joaquin Faule, apresidario
who had worked in the royal army's panaderia in St. Augustine. All


Alpata: A Journal of History






The Courts-Martial of East Florida


the deserters had been enlisted for nearly four years at the time of their
desertion and were natives of Spain and the Canary Islands. During the
proceedings against them, over twenty soldiers, as well as several workers
from the royal bakery, gave testimony. The court wanted to know about the
deserters' motives, what they brought with them, when they left, and for
what destination. The deserters had left by canoe the night of November
11 of the previous year. Rumor had it that a pistol and other firearms were
taken. Faule, the interrogations determined, was doing presidario labor
for an earlier desertion when he absconded. None of the soldiers could
cite any motive. Before the confessions of the accused were taken, the
circumstances of their capture were related to the court. Sergeant Antonio
Carballo and several soldiers had caught up with the deserters several miles
from the Georgia border on the St. Marys River north of St. Augustine on
November 26. The bedraggled band of runaways, still in their military
uniforms, did not resist arrest.
Of top priority in the questioning of the deserters was, "Why did you
desert?" Their response gives us a brief glimpse into the everyday life of a
common Spanish soldier in the frontier colony of East Florida. G6mez and
his partners all pointed to the excessive work that was required of soldiers
at St. Augustine. Tallatigo claimed that he was required to stand guard
for lengthy periods without rest and to go through training procedures
that generally were not required of drummers like him in other parts of
the empire. Furthermore, his superior officers barked orders at him and
his comrades as if they were boys (Tallatigo was 25 years old). Arrosa
complained about the poor bedding, lack of rain gear, and "continuous
drills" one had to endure. Disdain for military life in East Florida clearly
had compelled them to desert.
As the deserters' confessions continued, the remarkable details of their
escape emerged. G6mez and Tallatigo had crept out of their quarters on
the evening of the 11th and made their way down to the beach where a
canoe awaited them. As they prepared to disembark, Arrosa and Gonzalez
appeared out of the shadows and asked the seafarers where they were
headed. G6mez answered that he and his shipmate were "going hunting."
The others, who recognized a desertion in progress, asked if they could
join. Believing, possibly, that safety was in numbers, G6mez and Tallatigo
made room for two more in the canoe. Still, the crew was not complete.
Before they pushed off, the presidario Faule happened upon the scene and
squeezed himself into the crowded vessel.
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Nick Linville


The court demanded to know the deserters' destination. Gonzalez
and Tallatigo plainly stated that they were headed for Havana. Faule,
the presidario, actually thought he was on a hunting excursion until they
crossed the bar and entered the open ocean. G6mez, perhaps more realistic
about their chances on the high seas, told the court that he had hoped to
make it to "Buena Ventura or Havana or Puerto Rico." As the testimony
unfolded even more, it became clear that the deserters' ultimate goal was
to present themselves to the captain-general at Havana in order to file a
report on the poor conditions of military life at St. Augustine. This plan
quickly fell apart as the deserters lost sight of land. Their meager supply
of food and water spoiled as the canoe quickly took on water. With no
sense of direction and an unfavorable current, the deserters decided to
make their case to the commanding officer at the frontier outpost on the
St. Marys River. They dipped into a rivulet and later disembarked, but they
were no more successful navigating on land than on water. After days of
confusion, hunger, and disillusionment in the wilds of East Florida, they
were apprehended.
Judge Royo found them all guilty of desertion with intent to go
abroad, a crime that carried the death penalty. The defensores of the guilty
party argued that such a punishment was inappropriate in consideration
of the circumstances of the case. This was simple desertion, not the more
serious type that the judge alleged. First, the deserters had never arrived
at their intended destination and thus they had not really deserted to a
foreign land. Second, they fled because they wanted to report to higher
authorities the poor quality of life for soldiers at St. Augustine. Essentially,
they meant no harm in fleeing as was evidenced by the fact that they put
up no resistance against their captors. (The loaded pistol and the two
flintlock rifles that were found in the deserters' canoe were conveniently
forgotten in the defenders' statement). In light of this appeal, Governor
Zespedes commuted the death sentence and ordered the deserters to serve
four months in prison in addition to eight years of military service. Since
Faule was already serving time as apresidario for desertion, his term was
extended by six more years.47
The harsh punishment that the military courts of East Florida demanded
for deserters indicates how important it was to deter other soldiers from
committing the crime.48 Deporting criminals, while it may have rid the
province of a troublemaker, probably did more to encourage lawbreaking


Alpata: A Journal of History






The Courts-Martial of East Florida


than to quell it. After all, East Florida was one of the last places that any
soldier wanted to be, from the lowliest grunt to the governor himself.
Therefore, by requiring convicted criminals to be punished in the colony,
military leaders and colonial administrators attempted to kill two birds
with one stone, so to speak: they retained manpower and used the example
of delinquent soldiers to dissuade other soldiers from breaking the rules.49
Deserters oftentimes were the most dangerous of criminals. They
commonly preyed upon unsuspecting civilians to maintain a life on the
lam. In late colonial Mexico, those civilians who knew about and did not
report deserters were liable to pay fines and they could be condemned
to serve out the deserter's enlistment. Civilians in St. Augustine and the
surrounding countryside had a vested interest with military officials who
wanted deserters brought to justice. By a royal cedula in 1785, rewards were
offered to individuals who could aid in the capture of such criminals.50
In East Florida, money was not the only inducement for civilians to
bring miscreant soldiers to justice. For Francisco Xavier Sinchez, a civilian
who led a small party that captured nine deserters in the fall of 1790,
the stronger incentive seems to have been his own desire for security. A
wealthy and powerful member of the St. Augustine community, he owned
two large plantations north of the city. One day in late September, while on
a walk through one of his plantations, he spotted several soldiers creeping
around the vicinity. Shortly thereafter, word came from a neighbor that
at least nine soldiers had abandoned their post. In the course of their
marauding, they had killed a man. Upon receiving the news, Sanchez
gathered up three of his slaves and his nephew and set out after the
brigands. He later described that he embarked on the search out of fear
that the deserters might attack his own home. Heavily armed, the party
soon found the criminals' trail and followed it cautiously until they heard
the soldiers' voices. Sanchez and his men came within twelve paces and
called out to them to surrender whereupon one of them, Francisco Rubio,
abruptly raised a hatchet. Seconds after, Sanchez and Juan, one of the
slaves, dropped Rubio to the ground with gunfire. Surrounded by their
well-armed pursuers, the deserters were apprehended.
Though no record has been found of criminal proceedings against
these soldiers, military authorities were particularly interested in the
circumstances of the deserters' capture, and the courts-martial held a
sumaria to determine if Sanchez and his slave shot Rubio in self-defense


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Nick Linville


or in an act of unnecessary aggression. Once again, the military courts
of East Florida had stepped outside of their designated boundaries in the
name ofjustice. Rubio lay in a hospital bed with two gunshot wounds as he
gave his deposition concerning his recent capture. A soldier from the Third
Battalion of Cuba, he planned his desertion in conjunction with Antonio
Marin and seven other soldiers of his company. He mentioned no motive
but his account was revealing of the activities of soldiers on the run in East
Florida. Armed with hatchets, he and his comrades fell upon a frontier
cabin. After ransacking it for supplies, they killed the English settler who
lived there and went on their way. Rubio denied his involvement in the
attack and the charge leveled by Sanchez that he had raised a hatchet in
anger. All Rubio remembered was that he was shot one time by Sanchez
and another time by someone else. The other deserters could offer few
details as most of them were asleep during the episode and only awoke
when they heard the gunfire.
To try to sort out the matter, the court transported the witnesses to the
scene of the fray to reenact what had happened. Amidst the arguing over
who was where and when, it became clear that Rubio was quite a distance
away from Sanchez and his party when the shots were fired. Indeed, the
bulk of the evidence indicated that Sanchez and the slave he commanded
to fire had overreacted. In spite of these indications of guilt, the court,
with little explanation, absolved Sanchez and his three slaves from any
wrongdoing. To be sure, his influence in the community helped his case.
Furthermore, the deserters' violent nature justified the method of their
capture.51
As can be imagined, not every criminal act committed by a soldier
was prosecuted by the East Florida courts-martial. Various pieces of
contemporary correspondence give the impression that there was more
crime happening in the province than was prosecuted by the courts-
martial.52 But even if one looks at the records that have survived for the
years 1785 to 1795, it is clear that a certain degree of unlawful behavior
was simply ignored by the courts-martial. Since the reoccupation of the
territory by Spain in 1784, a law existed that soldiers must remain in their
quarters after roll call at the end of the day unless specific permission was
given otherwise.53 Yet in at least half of the eighteen cases examined for
this study, the crime in question was committed while the suspect was
outside of his quarters after roll call. While on trial, soldiers alluded to


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The Courts-Martial of East Florida


such offenses as if they were accepted behavior. In the summer of 1790,
soldier Miguel Tenorio was accused of slandering sailor Francisco Pagan.
Tenorio recounted to the court the evening that led up to the dispute. At
11:00 PM, he crawled through a window of the barracks and made his way
for the house of trader John Leslie where a dance was being held for the
newly arrived Governor Quesada. While there, Tenorio ran into another
soldier, Sancho Gonzalez de Castro. Three hours and many glasses of wine
later, the two left the party but not before a romp around the plaza on a
couple of horses that did not belong to them. Thereafter, Pagin was roused
out of bed and protested the racket made by the drunks, who retorted with
a sequence of insults. The verdict of the courts-martial freed Gonzalez de
Castro, who merely watched the confrontation, but Tenorio was to suffer
one year in prison. That the two soldiers were out of their quarters at night
was, as in many other cases, overlooked by the judge. In other words, it
appears that military officials accepted a certain degree of unruly behavior
as impossible to control.54
In the courts-martial records of East Florida for the years 1785 and
1795, there are a number of recurring characteristics in the way justice
was delivered. For all of the eighteen cases that reached the court in this
decade, conviction rates were high. Of the thirty-eight soldiers who were
tried in tribunals, only two were found not guilty.55 Indeed, the accused
had very little hope of convincing the court of his innocence and hardly an
opportunity to do so. Exoneration for a crime usually came only from the
audiencia in Havana. The age-old practice of church sanctuary, illegal by
this era, was still a common recourse of criminals in East Florida, although
it was an ineffective means of bargaining for a lighter sentence.56 There
were no disputes between ecclesiastical and military officials as far as
legal jurisdiction in the cases studied here. By no means does this imply
that the courts-martial strictly obeyed the legal boundaries prescribed to
them by thefuero military. On numerous occasions, civilians were tried and
sentenced along with military offenders by the courts-martial. Interestingly
enough, an officer only stood trial for a crime one time in this decade.5
As has been explained, there were some crimes, the most notable of which
was being outside of the barracks after the evening roll call, that simply
were not prosecuted. Sentences were usually negotiated according to the
need for manpower in the province and the need for deterrence against
further criminal acts by soldiers and, without a doubt, civilians. Sometimes


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Nick Linville


punishment was particularly harsh. Though seldom carried out, the death
penalty was an oft-suggested sentence in East Florida as opposed to the
wider pattern in the empire. All told, the judge who presided over the trial
had the most influence over how the trial would proceed and how the
case would be interpreted. The governor of East Florida and the audiencia
in Havana could and, at times, did overrule the sentence arrived at by
the local magistrate, but the evidence that he gathered was always what
informed the new resolution.
Military officials in St. Augustine during the Second Spanish Period
had the responsibility of ensuring that the force that protected the province
was properly disciplined. This task, which was shared with administrators
like them in other parts of the Spanish empire and invested by the King,
was often made difficult in East Florida on account of the roguish nature
of the local garrison. Dissatisfied with their assignment to the region from
the start, soldiers languished under the harsh circumstances of living
on a frontier that was often forgotten in the greater scheme of colonial
maintenance. Troops repeatedly expressed their anger by disobeying the
laws that governed them. At other times, the crimes they committed were
purely of a personal nature. Regardless of motive, a crime was still a crime
and military judges in East Florida were required to prosecute them. As
the above cases have shown, judges consulted the wider imperial laws
regarding punishment but often the sentences they arrived at had more
to do with the needs of the province. Justice, as a result, took on its own
unique expression in the Spanish province of East Florida.


Notes

SEast Florida Papers. St. Augustine Martial Courts 1785-1821. Film 119. P. K.
Yonge Library of Florida History, Gainesville, Florida (hereafter EFP, PKY).
Barreto for murder of Indian, 22 September 1789, R1, film 119, bundle 280, doc.
1789-2.
2 The records of the courts-martial begin in 1785, nearly a year after Spain's
occupation, and end in 1821 with the transfer of the territory to the United
States. These cases deal with soldiers accused of crimes, as opposed to such
things as wills, property sales, debts, and so on. Only regular soldiers, and not
local militiamen, feature in the cases studied here.
3 William S. Coker and Susan R. Parker, "The Second Spanish Period in the Two


Alpata: A Journal of History







The Courts-Martial of East Florida


Floridas," in The New History ofFlorida, Michael Gannon, ed. (University Press
of Florida, 1996), 159.
4 Shery Johnson included Spaniards, Cuban/Floridanos, and Minorcan Catholics
in her definition of Hispanics in St. Augustine. In her estimate, they were 88
percent of the population. Johnson, "The Spanish St. Augustine Community,
1784-1795: A Reevaluation," Florida Historical Quarterly 68:1 (July 1989):
27-54, 39.
5 For population figures, see Jane Landers, Black Society in Spanish Florida
(Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999), 82.
6 In 1788, the Hibernia Regiment was called back to Spain. This translated to a
loss of about 150 men, but troops from Cuba filled the void and kept the number
around 450 men. See Helen Hombeck Tanner, Zespedes in East Florida, 1784-
1790 (Coral Gables, FL: University of Miami Press, 1963), 126.
7 Vicente Manuel de Z6spedes y Velasco served from 1784 to 1790 followed by
Juan Nepomuceno de Quesada, whose term lasted from 1790 to 1795. Tanner,
24 and 128-9.
8Derek Noel Kerr, "Petty Felony, Slave Defiance and Frontier Villainy:
Crime and Criminal Justice in Spanish Louisiana, 1770-1803," (PhD.
dissertation, Tulane University, 1983), 192-193; Juan Marchena Fernmndez,
Oficiales y soldados en el ejdrcito de Amdrica (Sevilla: Escuela de Estudios
Hispanoamericanos, 1983), 296-97.
9 Allan J. Keuthe Cuba, 1753-1815: Crown, Military, and Society (Knoxville:
The University of Tennessee Press, 1986), 88-89.
1 Kerr, 220.
" Christon I. Archer, The Army in Bourbon Mexico, 1760-1810 (Albuquerque:
University of New Mexico Press, 1977), 254.
12 Juan Nepomuceno de Quesada quoted in Kerr, 194.
3 Janice Borton Miller, Juan Nepomuceno de Quesada: Governor ofSpanish,
East Florida, 1790-1795 (Washington, D.C.: University Press of America,
1981), 28-29. When governors made these claims, they did not distinguish
between each regiment but rather generalized about the entire garrison.
14 The situado sent from New Spain also included Indian presents and rations
(for diplomacy), money for public buildings, and medicinal, linen and hospital
supplies. See Tanner, 112-13.
5 Paul E. Hoffman, Florida Frontiers (Bloomington: University of Indiana
Press, 2002), 243; Tanner, 119. In contrast to Archer's findings on soldiers in
Mexico and similar discoveries elsewhere in Latin America, epidemic outbreaks


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Nick Linville


were not a fact of life for soldiers in East Florida. See Archer, 266-67.
16Miller, 58-9; Tanner, 187.
7 Quesada to Las Casas, 1792, in Miller, 38.
18Miller, 55; There was no mass rebellion against authority in East Florida in the
Second Spanish Period, but in Santiago, Cuba, in May of 1765, 98 soldiers from
the Second Battalion of the Fijo took refuge in the cemetery of the cathedral to
protest their grievances over unpaid wages. See Keuthe, 84.
19 The roots of thefuero military could be traced to the sixteenth century in Spain.
From there, it developed into a more sophisticated body of law, codified by the
Bourbon monarchs of Spain, that distinguished between officers, militia, and
regular soldiers, among other distinctions. See Lyle N. McAlister, The "Fuero
Military" in New Spain 1764-1800 (Gainesville: University of Florida Press,
1957), 6-8.
20 Charles R. Cutter, The Legal Culture of ... ,. a New Spain, 1700-1810
(Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1995), 48-54.
21 When such an individual was not available in the territory, the governor
himself assumed the position. See Court martial of sailor Diego Segui for
slander and assault of soldier Juan Rosedo, EFP, PKY, 3 October 1787. R1, film
119, bundle 280, doc. 1787-2.
22 Cutter, 54-58.
23 Cutter, 113-14.
24 Indians featured only once in the East Florida courts-martial for the years
1785-1795. See EFP, PKY, Court martial of Barreto for murder of Indian, 22
September 1789, film 119, bundle 280, doc. 1789-2. Their legal status was
equivalent to that of a minor according to Cutter, 117-21.
25 For an example of this required oath, see any of the noted St. Augustine
courts-martial cases.
26 By the late colonial period in Spanish America, torture was rarely used to elicit
incriminating testimony from a witness. See Cutter, 123. The courts-martial
criminal cases of East Florida discussed here show no evidence, written or
implicit, of the use of torture.
27 The Catholic Church in St. Augustine was located on the main plaza near the
barracks. According to Miller, below the main floor and directly under the altar
were two rooms: one for the sacristan and the other for the temporary lodging of
soldiers. Miller, 55.
28 Cutter, 7; Archer, 273.


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The Courts-Martial of East Florida


29 Cutter, 125.
30 Cutter, 125.
31Cutter, 133.
32 For example, see EFP, PKY, Court martial of TomBs Lopez and Christoval Vais
for dueling, 3 June 1788, film 119, bnd 80, doc. 1788-3.
33 Tanner, 115.
34Ruth Pike, "Penal Servitude in the Spanish Empire: Presidio Labor in the
Eighteenth Century," Hispanic American Historical Review 58:1 (February
1978), 22.
35 Juan Bourquet, the surgeon for the Havana Regiment, verified the wounds.
36 EFP, PKY, Court martial of Juan Enguera for wounding Antonio Denis, 9 July
1785, film 119, bundle 280, doc. 1785-1.
37 EFP, PKY, Court martial of Antonio Ruiz and Salvador Gonzflez for
wounding Estevan Rodriguez and Thomas Garcia, 22 August 1787, film 119,
bundle 280, doc. 1787-1.
38 EFP PKY, Court martial Francisco Tejero for robbery of Evaristo Garrido, 12
August 1785, film 119, bundle 280, doc 1785-3.
39 EFP, PKY, Court martial of soldier Joseph Bataller for theft of provisions
through fraud, 26 April 1786, film 119, bundle 280, doc 1785-3.
40 Cutter, 125.
41 EFP PKY, Court martial of various soldiers for the crime of sodomy involving
boys, 13 September 1788, film 119, bundle 280, doc. 1788-1. Tanner indicated
that Archer Stone and the half dozen soldiers convicted of sodomy were shipped
out of East Florida to Havana in spring of 1789. No record has been found to
verify this statement. See Tanner, 195.
SEFP, PKY, Court martial of Sgt. Antonio Borge for murder of Matias Bernard,
4 September 1786, film 119, bundle 280, doc 1786-1.
4 Charles Cutter examined 600 criminal and civil cases from the entire
eighteenth century era in northern New Spain and discovered only a few cases of
capital punishment. See Cutter, 138-140.
4 Soldiers were not allowed to marry without official permission. Marriage
between officers and citizens was more common although it still was not
widespread. Johnson, 40.
45 In stark contrast to what Cutter found, there were four cases in one decade
of the East Florida criminal courts-martial in which the death penalty was


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Nick Linville


considered as a viable punishment. Besides the one described here, see EFP,
PKY, Court martial of Tomis L6pez and Christoval Vais for duelling, 3 June,
1788, film 119, bnd 80, doc. 1788-3. Also see EFP, PKY, Court martial of
Barreto for murder of Indian, 22 September 1789, R1, film 119, bundle 280,
doc. 1789-2. And finally, see EFP, PKY, Court martial of Estevan Gonzalez and
others for desertion, 13 January 1789, film 119, bundle 280, doc. 1789-1. (All
are examined in this paper).
46 L6pez was required to serve his time in Louisiana while Vais was to complete
his in Cuba. EFP, PKY, Court martial of Tomis L6pez and Christ6val Vais for
duelling, 3 June, 1788, film 119, bnd 80, doc. 1788-3.
47 Josef de Cartas y Texerina, the Auditor of War in Havana, upheld the
punishment in May of 1789. EFP, PKY, Court martial of Estevan Gonzalez and
others for desertion, 13 January 1789, film 119, bundle 280, doc. 1789-1.
48 In Spanish Louisiana, convicted deserters had to run the gauntlet between 200
men, plus serve ten years of prison. Kerr, 194.
49 Try as they did to prevent desertion, the crime was still a plague in East
Florida. A brief look at courts-martial cases in the East Florida Papers for the
years 1796 to 1821 shows many instances of desertion.
50 Officers in Mexico often referred to 'the epidemic of desertion.' See Archer,
267-269; Z6spedes mentions the receipt of the royal cedula in EFP, PKY,
Governor Z6spedes to Conde de Galvez, 24 February 1786, film 16, bnd 41B4,
doc 117.
1 EFP, PKY, Testimony concerning the capture of deserters by Francisco
Sanchez and three slaves, 4 October 1790. EF, R1, film 119, bnd 280, 1790-2.
52 The source for this information is EFP, PKY, Correspondence between the
Governor and Civil, Financial, and Military Subordinates on the St. Johns and
St. Mary Rivers, Matanzas, and other East Florida Outposts, 1784-1820. Therein
are scattered letters that mention deserters. For example, a 1788 letter from Sgt.
Josef Trujillo to Governor Z6spedes mentioned the apprehension of several
deserters on the St. Johns. However, no record has been found to indicate if they
were ever prosecuted by the courts-martial. See EFP, PKY, Trujillo to Z6spedes ,
30 November 1788, R1, film 45, bnd 119B10, doc 1788-358.
53 Tanner, 185.
54EFP, PKY, Prosecution of soldiers Miguel Tenorio and Sancho Gonzalez
de Castro for slandering sailor Francisco Pagan, 29 July 1790. R1, film 119,
bundle 280, doc. 1790-3; For other examples, see EFP, PKY, Court martial of
Juan Enguera for wounding Antonio Denis, 9 July 1785, film 119, bundle 280,
doc. 1785-1 and EFP, PKY, Court martial of Estevan Gonzalez and others for


Alpata: A Journal of History







The Courts-Martial of East Florida


desertion, 13 January 1789, film 119, bundle 280, doc. 1789-1.
55 Salvador Gonzalez was found not guilty in the knife fight (mentioned in
footnote 37), as was Sancho Gonzalez de Castro in the slander case (cited in
footnote 52). Sometimes, the sentence was not mentioned in the record, which
accounts for some differences. Of the thirty-eight men who were tried, thirty-one
were either guilty or their fate was not recorded. Still, the number of convictions
is great.
56 Although the privilege of asylum had been restricted by this date, the
continuation of jurisdictional and procedural disputes permitted some criminals
in Mexico to escape and others to commit new crimes before they might be
extracted from sanctuary. See Archer, 273.
57 Sgt. Borche for murdering soldier Matias Bernard. When officers broke the
law, justice was probably handled privately.


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MEDIEVAL CONVERTS

UNDERSTANDING THE JEWISH CONVERSION TO
CHRISTIANITY IN MEDIEVAL ENGLAND, ITALY,
AND SPAIN






Jacob Terpos


The history of Jews living under Medieval Christendom is a particularly
complex topic. Relationships between Jews and Christians were never
perfect and often were filled with mistrust by both groups. How Jews lived
among Christians, surviving physical attacks and attacks on their faith
during the Crusades and inquisitorial trials, is a testament of their ability
to survive as a dispersed people living within foreign kingdoms. While
living under European Christendom, the Jewish people were pitted against
a kingdom trying to define its religious beliefs and identity as a single
Christian entity, and thus were faced with the challenge of withstanding
conversion or expulsion. However, throughout the Middle Ages, thousands
of Jews ultimately converted to Christianity. There are many various causes
which led to these conversions, which will be examined in the rest of this
text. The following pages will trace the lives and acts of Jewish-Christians
living under Christendom, examining why they converted to Christianity
and how they in turn were accepted by their communities and Christendom
at large. This essay argues that the majority of Jewish converts converted
primarily in response to some sort of pressure, whether direct or indirect.
As often was the case, this pressure was an oppressive condition, exerted
by economic, mental, physical, or social disorder and distress. This kind of
pressure can also be considered to be "a constraining moral force, or any
burden, force, painful feeling, or influence."1 The majority of pressures,
however, took their physical form in the presence of the crusades, the
inquisitorial trials, the polemical debates and attacks against the Talmud,
laws directed at the Jews, and reaction from others in the community.
These pressures were complex and were often intertwined with each
other, only very rarely acting as independent causes for one's conversion. It






Jacob Terpos


is also necessary to define two key concepts, missionizing and conversion,
which acted independently of each other in certain examples, and in others
are the same idea. Conversion had the same goal as missionizing and
included the latter in its meaning. However, conversion tactics may be
implemented with forceful persuasion and pressure, and could be practiced
by non-clergy members as well as the Church. Such was the case with the
conversions that were carried out in the First and Second Crusades: Jews
were given the option of death at the hands of common villagers if they
did not convert to the Christian religion. Missionizing was the attempt to
bring non-Christians into the Christian religion and was mainly practiced
by members of the European Church. Furthermore, the ideal was for such
proselytizing and missionizing to be practiced peacefully. The Franciscan
and Dominican orders of monks were established to gather knowledge and
persuade non-Christians to convert. Moreover, conversions also occurred
due to indirect pressure. For example, a person, after hearing an apologetic
defense of the Christian faith or a particularly impressive sermon, may
have decided to convert not out of a direct confrontation with others but
from the persuasive voice of that person's own will.
Peaceful persuasion was what many of the popes and clergy promoted
as the acceptable means of conversion, yet it was a form of subtle pressure,
nonetheless. Pope Innocent III issued a decree in the twelfth century stating,
"no Christian shall use violence to compel the Jews to accept baptism." 2
This was done out of the understanding that anyone who received baptism
for any reason other than out of their own free will was not a true convert to
Christianity."3 Moreover, the Pope condemned those who showed avarice
toward Jews.
There was great social pressure imposed on the community, usually
resulting from laws made to govern Jews. Both faith groups lived
relatively close to one another, which created heightened tension. Jewish
scholar Robert Stacey notes that many churches were placed in the
middle of Jewish communities, and these were often old synagogues that
were revamped. Jews were also prohibited from appearing on the streets
during the Christian Holy Week or feasts. All the above social conditions,
as Stacey points out, led to increased violence, which also led to many
conversions.4 This was possibly due to exhaustion on the part of the Jews
from the fighting and living conditions. As a result of converts being
sent to monasteries, many families were separated. While the orphans,


Alpata: A Journal of History






Medieval Converts


widows, and parents would normally be taken care of by the rest of the
Jewish community, it was getting increasingly difficult to provide for the
growing number of family members left behind. As a result, many of these
people converted to survive.5 In the attempt to keep a unique Christian
identity, communication and trade between Jews and Christians were
forbidden, and Jews were to be moved to separate neighborhoods. Most
of the communities never became segregated, and as a result many Jews
were evicted, often dying from exposure. Historian David Nirenberg cites
the above examples as leading to thousands of conversions to escape this
segregation.6
Political persuasion, economic influence, and incentives were not
significant before 1232, at least in England. Jewish property was actually
forfeited to the crown as a consequence of their conversion.7 This changed
in England in the following years when King Henry ordered the building
of the House for Jewish Converts, also named the Domus Conversorum.
Designed to act as a halfway house for converts, the House provided
shelter, Catholic schooling of the faith, and a weekly stipend.8 The Domus
was designed to harbor the new converts while they made their transition
into the Christian community, yet it often served as a figurative prison.
Many stayed there for the entire course of their lives, marrying other
converts from the house and raising their families there. The difficulty of
being recognized as a full Christian and intolerance for Jews and Jewish-
Christians kept many in the house for their entire life.9 This guarantee
of provisions, as well as the annulment of certain taxes after conversion,
certainly must have appealed to some. Robert Stacey writes that an upsurge
in conversions between 1240 and 1260 reflected the harsh taxation of the
Jews by King Henry III, who collected more than 70,000 pounds from that
community in the first fifteen years.1
Other social pressures took the form of forced sermons. With the arrival
of the Dominicans into England in the thirteenth century, a new wave of
missionizing began in which Jews were forced to hear the Dominican's
sermons." Historian Joshua Starr argues that the majority of converts in
Italy changed their status due to the increasingly aggressive stance of the
Dominicans as inquisitors and missionaries. One estimate of converts in
Italy puts their numbers around 8,000.12 The Inquisition also enabled the
King to renew his profits by collecting the properties of crypto-Jews, also
called Judaizers (converts still secretly committed to Judaism), discovered


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Jacob Terpos


by the Inquisitors.13 Not only were the crypto-Jews hounded by the
Inquisition, but so too were Jews who never converted. A document by
Charles II in Italy granting the inquisitors more freedom in dealing with
the Jews suggests that increased pressure on Jews by the Inquisitors also
led to conversions.14
Converts represented a segue between the Jewish life and Christians
of Medieval Europe. Their treatment ultimately shaped Christendom in
Europe. Jewish heritage was something that was hard to give up, and this
led to dualities in the lives of many conversos and eventually fuelled the
fire for many of the rules imposed on Jews. One of the main arguments
indicating the majority of Jews converted out of pressure came about from
this dual livelihood. Judaizers were prime examples of this dual lifestyle,
and became the target of the Spanish Inquisition in later years. Many
tried to convert others back to Judaism, and many people returned to their
former faith. Although this was a consequence of the pressures exerted
onto the Jews, it indirectly shows that the converts felt something was
wrong with their new life that made them want to go back to their old way
of life. Judaizing was perhaps the most notorious charge held against these
Christians.
Conversion also occurred out of violence and death threats. The
most common examples are found in the crusades as well as the Black
Death riots. There are examples in England in the thirteenth century in
which Jewish prisoners facing death suddenly converted. One such case
involved a man named Isaac of Norwich who converted while on trial for
coin clipping. He was cleared of all charges after the conversion, as was
usually the circumstance for criminal converts.'5 While criminal charges
might have persuaded some, violent bloodshed threatened many others to
convert. As was the case with the conversions during the First Crusade, it
was rumored that many women who faced death during the Baron's Wars
of 1263-1265 in England converted.16
Understanding the reasons for conversion leads to more questions,
one being how the new converts interacted with their family, friends, and
neighbors, who were still followers of Judaism. One common practice was
the constant attempts by the new converts to bring the rest of the Jewish
community into the Christian fold. As the attempts to fight off Muslims in
the Crusades failed, Christians turned to methods of conversion as a way
of dealing with opposition to Christianity.


Alpata: A Journal of History






Medieval Converts


Polemics and apologetics held a high position in the art of conversion.
Rising from a need to defend the Christian faith, they also were used to
denounce other faiths as well as persuade the followers of other religions
to convert. Ramon Llull, a thirteenth-century Franciscan philosopher from
Majorca, Spain, recognized the importance of a strong Christian defense
of the faith. Along with advocating a Christian education of apologetics,
he persuaded rulers to force Jews to study Latin and liberal arts in hopes
of getting them to understand the Christian thought process and ultimately
accept it as truth.1 Llull primarily focused on the argument of the trinity
as a unified body in hopes of getting the Jewish audience to recognize
this unity. Frequently, Jews were threatened with expulsion if they did not
agree to adhere to Christian practices.18
However, most often, Jewish converts initiated these debates, having
known all the arguments from their previous faith and out of zeal to reveal
the truth to their fellow men and women. Nicholas Donin may be recognized
as one of the most notorious converts to debate and attack Jewish believers,
having led the assault on the Talmud in 1236.19 The primary technique for
conversion was through forced sermons. However, because the audience
consisted wholly of Jews, it was not often that they would part from their
comrades during these sermons. As a result, the conversion method spread
to the individual level. Sermons were often focused on the discrediting
of the Jewish faith. It is quite possible many converted as a result of
constant sermons claiming the Jews were no longer God's chosen people.
Ministers often pointed to the Jews' current social status as an example
for this argument. In his book Libre del Gentil, Llull, creates an imaginary
setting in which a Gentile philosopher, after engaging in dialogue with a
Jewish scholar, cites the dispersion of the Jewish nation as a punishment
and evidence of God's abandonment of the nation.20
There are exceptions to this model of harsh and forceful polemics,
however. In a letter to the Archbishop Anselm of England in the late
eleventh century, a Christian named Gilbert Crispin indicated how his
polemic disputations with a Jew were no more than friendly talks between
one another.21 The pair, who had also conducted business with each other,
never seemed to get into heated discussion; nor was there any violence
involved. As a result of these types of friendly discussions, Crispin
indicated in his letter that one of the Jews listening to the disputes received
baptism out of his own free will.


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Jacob Terpos


The practicing Jewish community generally embraced Jewish-
Christians. Due to the fact that the majority of converts were forced into
the Christian fold, the Jewish community viewed these people as still
faithful in their Jewish heritage. That is, they may have appeared to have
changed their whole lifestyle and beliefs through the symbolic baptism, but
there was still something distinctively Jewish about them. This argument
testifies to the many Judaizers who returned to their roots after their
baptism. Rabbi Solomon Bar Isaac, a popular Jewish scholar and legal
advisor of the eleventh century, was one of many in the Jewish community
who sympathized with the converts. In a communal affair dispute around
1100, Rashi, as he was more commonly referred to, gave his decision
on a case dealing with Jewish identity in the aftermath of conversions.22
Examining the validity of a married couple who were forced to convert,
Rashi claimed they were not directly at fault, and, quoting from the book
of Joshua, he stated that the couple was still Jewish at heart.23 Rashi, as
a leader of the community, led by example and forgave these people by
recognizing they were still part of the community. A similar example of
recognizing and accepting a convert, or in the following case a converse
occurred in a fifteenth-century poem from Spain. In it, the author identified
another poet, a Jewish convert to both Islam and Christianity, as a man
who remained a Jew even though he went through these conversions.24
There was also an attempt to universalize the Christian Europe under
one identity, one set of beliefs, and one dogma. People of different faiths
living under Christian Europe were viewed as corrupting the faith, thus
an attempt was made to limit relations between the groups. The Fourth
Lateran Council's decree requiring Jews to dress differently, based on
a passage in the Book of Numbers, was issued to separate Jews from
Christians, mainly to prevent intermarriage and sexual relations.25 Tassels
and dark-colored cloths were to be worn, symbolizing the Jewish people's
promise to adhere to the laws of God and to not stray into desires of the
flesh. This concept was part of the lingering fear of a mixture of interfaith
and old blood with new blood. Intermarriage was frowned upon, and
references to this mindset appear in many documents. One such text from
twelfth-century England reveals the discomfort among Christians of their
fellow sharers of the faith drinking with Jews, as well as entering into
Jewish homes.26 This discomfort arose out of the fear of sexual relations
and intermarriage between the two groups. Robert Stacey describes this


Alpata: A Journal of History






Medieval Converts


feeling in England of Jewish blood flowing still within the converts as
follows: "there was clearly an irreducible element to Jewish identity in
the eyes of many Christians, which no amount of baptismal water could
entirely eradicate, at least from a layman. Through baptism, coverts from
Judaism became Christians, but this did not mean that they had entirely
ceased to be Jews in the eyes of their brothers and sisters in Christ."27
Fifteenth-century Spain produced the first legal law document
pertaining to the issue of old Christian "pure" bloods pitted against the new
Christian "dirty" bloods.28 It banned conversos from public office because
of their impure blood quality. This text was also a precursor to the eventual
expulsion of the Jews from Spain. The whole focus on the "new bloods" as
being inferior gave the sense that conversion was no longer an acceptable
process for dealing with Jews in Christian lands. The underlying message
of the document was that repentance and baptism were completely ignored
as criteria for a Christian, and only works (or lack of works thereof) and
heritage indicated a true Christian. As a consequence of this text, many of
the new Christians, or neofiti as they were called in Italy, lived completely
separated from other Christians.29 The image of Christians as the body
and bride of Christ lay at the foundation of this rhetoric as well. Converts
with dirty blood, it was thought, would contaminate the body of Christ.
The bride was typically represented only by women, and for the women
to be contaminated by this blood in the eyes of the Christians was an even
greater offense.
Knowing the reasons behind the often-forceful conversions, it is
also important to know why such harsh treatment was handed out by
Christians towards the Jews in the first place. It is reasonable to assume
that Christians felt aggravated at the customs of Jewish law, particularly
since the Christian faith annuls most of the old laws. Many Christians felt
they were used as a means to do the Jews' "dirty" work, such as buying
the unfit meat from Jewish markets. The Shabbot Goy, a thirteenth-century
text from the Talmud, provides another example of this source of Christian
frustration, in which it justifies the use of kindling fires on the Sabbath, or
performing other works for that matter, by having a gentile perform the
stated work.30 By doing these tasks that Jews would not do, Christians felt
they were being mocked and made inferior in the eyes of the Jews. Jewish
defenses of their beliefs from polemics also antagonized the Christians.
The Toledoth Yeshu, a text passed down by Jewish scholars, who depicted


Spring 2004






Jacob Terpos


an alternate historical narrative of the life of Jesus, was one example of
these defense techniques used by the persecuted community to bring down
their oppressors. The text described Jesus as a mortal man, who stole the
sacred name of God and used it to perform miracles.31 Naturally, such
claims infuriated Christians. This aggravation also increased the levels of
intolerance toward the new Christians. It is also argued that during the
First Crusade, the warriors who struck the Rhineland did so out of sheer
heightened anxiety and emotion.
All the converts gave up some former part of their Jewish heritage. In
a letter by Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury in the eleventh century, it is
revealed that a recent convert from Judaism left his parents, their home,
and valuables as well, and most likely brought his family with him to live
under the care of monks. He also almost surely changed his name to what
is referred to as Robert in the letter, leaving behind almost all of his past.
Furthermore, Anselm beseeched Robert's caretakers to comfort him for
making the right decision and console him in his losses.32
Following the first wave of conversions in Spain in the early fifteenth
century, many conversos expressed their emotions, the social events, and
daily life through works of poetry called cancioneros.33 In these collections,
there lies the question of the new Christian dogma, grief over turning away
from old life, and other regrets that conversos shared. Montoro, a poet and
converse of fifteenth-century Spain, lamented in one of his poems that he
was unlucky and made this way by God, having little worth.34 From these
texts it is apparent that many conversos felt a great deal of sorrow over their
new way of life and the treatment they received. For those who seriously
accepted the baptism and all the spirituality Christianity offered, a great
deal of remorse and guilt was felt for the death of their Savior, and they
saw their Jewish lineage as a sin for this reason. In one poem, Montoro is
granted a pardon from his horse for the death of Christ.35 Some converts
also struggled with intellectual doubts of the Christian faith, as expressed
in their poems. Other poems refer to the disgust of eating pork and guilt
from being circumcised after receiving cruel jokes from other Christians.36
These writings offer examples of those who genuinely converted out of
their own will with probably very little pressure.
As Christians gained their identity in Europe, they sought to mark
Europe as wholly Christian, and persuasive conversions were undertaken
to bring not only Jews but also Muslims and Christian heretics into the


Alpata: A Journal of History