Efforts to Secure More Pension for "Jake" Cartlidge
Born in Slavery, Sold on the Block,
Beaten by Cruel Taskmasters--
Served in Pennsylvania Regiment.
Efforts are being made in behalf of "Jake" Cartlidge, Brattleboro's only living ex-slave, that he may secure an increase in pension under a recent act of Congress. As Mr. Cartlidge does not know his exact age the decision of the authorities in Washington is doubtful. He claims to be about 75 years old. He has had an interesting life-story and for the past 40 years has been a familiar figure in the town.
According to "Jake's" own story, he was born in Georgia, the son of a slave. When in a talkative mood he tells interesting stories of his early life and of the beatings that he received at the hands of cruel masters. He remembers being sold on the block at one time and his memory on this point may go far toward getting his pension increased from $12 a month to $20. For some reason not explained he was taken to a town with a number of other slaves one day and they were placed on the block. He says with some degree of pride that he was a "likely" worker and when he was placed on the block the auctioneer of human flesh extolled his qualities in that respect. A man in the crowd about the block asked, "How old is that yar nigger?" The auctioneer answered "Thirty years old." As that was shortly before Cartlidge enlisted in 1864 it places his age around 75 years, as he claims.*
After being sold he was taken to a town in Georgia where he says he was under the hand of a hard task-master. "Jake" says that many nights he was unable to sleep because of the whip-lash welts on his body and for lack of food. It was in the latter part of 1863 that that he suffered these beatings and harsh treatment, and as the slave-holders of the South were in straightened circumstances because of the war it is no wonder that the slaves felt the effects.
For several months the slave was abused by his master and then, unable to stand the treatment longer, he made a break for liberty. He worked his way north and trudged many weary miles, and he can remember going many days without food and of sleeping in the fields and woods at night. Finally he reached a point in what is thought to have been Pennsylvania and obtained work in a gang of colored men who were cutting ties for a new railroad. Cartlidge was at work one day when a man on horseback approached and asked him a few questions and then said, "How would you like to be a soldier?" "Jake" never had had any experience with the soldiers and said, "What do I have to do?" The man on horseback told him that all he would have to do would be to carry a gun and wear a handsome uniform. The latter argument was a strong one with the colored man and he agreed to become a soldier. The man on the horse directed him to the union camp and there "Jake" was enlisted under the Stars and Stripes. He became a member of Company D, 43d Pennsylvania regiment, United States colored infantry, March 23, 1864, and remained in service until Oct. 28, 1865, when he was mustered out in Brownsville, Texas.**
He does not remember any very severe engagements with the soldiers of the South, but he was in one of the important coups of the war and which would have been effective had the Union soldiers done as was expected. They were before Petersburg and the Confederates were fortified on a hill. Between the two lines there was a ravine and under it the troops dug a tunnel, mined it and exploded a large quantity of powder. The southerners' fortifications were blown up and the colored troops charged the enemy. They entered behind the fortification and engaged the Confederates but the other Union forces did not come to their assistance as had been planned and the 43d Pennsylvania was forced to retreat. That was the hottest fight in which Mr. Cartlidge was engaged.
After he was mustered out he tramped from Texas to Vermont and arrived in Rutland. He remained there probably not more than a year and then came to this town. For about 40 years he has lived here and made a living by doing odd jobs and working on teams. He worked for several years for Leslie Yauvey, the coal dealer, but advancing years have reduced his strength and he is not able to perform much hard labor. He is under the care of a guardian, Bert Thatcher of Chesterfield, N. H., who advises him what to do. He has a small sum of money in the bank, but he can not earn much money and the pension he draws barely pays his board and room in the old Putnam house on Prospect street. If he is not granted an increase in pension efforts may be made to get him into the soldiers' home in Bennington, but as that institution is for Vermont soldiers only he may not be admitted.
At one time Mr. Cartlidge lost a part of one foot while working in a coal mine in Virginia.
*Since the auction which sold Jacob Cartlidge took place early in 1863---and his age was stated to be thirty---then Jacob would be born about 1833. In other words, he was more like seventy-nine years old, than seventy-five, in December 1912 when this article was printed.
If the auctioneer was enhancing his sale by reducing the slave's real age, then Jacob may have been older than thirty in reality---and so eighty years or older at the closing of year 1912.
**The present records give Jacob's mustering in with the 43rd Pennsylvania Regiment as January 23, 1864, and his mustering out with the company as October 20, 1865.
The Battle of the Crater took place on July 30, 1864.
Jacob Cartledge, a negro best known to local fame through an incident connected with the Sugland trial, has received a pension with a comfortable sum of back pay, and is now a gentleman of leisure. He served in a Pennsylvania regiment.
Jacob Cartledge died at the Brattleboro Retreat on November 11, 1919 at the age of eighty-five. He had been living at the Retreat for the last five years. His last guardian was Henry J. Allen, the Canal Street florist.
His father was also named Jacob Cartledge. This son who escaped from Georgia was buried in the Mather Street, or the West Brattleboro Cemetery. The funeral service was conducted by Rev. Delmar E. Trout from the Universalist Church.
When Jacob Cartledge first came to Brattleboro, he chopped in the woods for a living. He then became a helper with the coal teams of Leslie B. Yauvey and E. B. Barrows, for which he is best remembered.
Cartledge then worked on farms in West Chesterfield, New Hampshire, and later removed to the John Allaire house on Prospect Street in Brattleboro, formerly the residence of Lewis Putnam, the old-time liveryman, thence to the Brattleboro Retreat.
Jacob Cartledge's obituary in the Reformer for November 13, 1919 records that---
He drew a pension of $38 a month, and at one time he had several hundred dollars in a savings bank, but it gradually dwindled away and some of it fell into the hands of unscrupulous persons who took advantage of him.
"Good morning my good man."