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ABOUT THIS EPISODE

America’s divided. And it always has been. Uncivil, Gimlet’s new history podcast, takes you back to a time when America was so divided that it split in two. In each episode hosts Jack Hitt and Chenjerai Kumanyika ransack the official history of the Civil War… that boring, safety-first version you were taught in school. They’ll bring you untold stories of covert ops, mutiny, counterfeiting, and the 1860s version of drone warfare. And give you a better sense for how these forgotten struggles connect to the political battlefield we’re living on right now.

In this first episode of Uncivil, The Raid, a group of ex-farmers, a terrorist from Kansas, and a schoolteacher attempt the greatest covert operation of the Civil War.

New episodes of Uncivil come out every week. Listen on:
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English
United States
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TRANSCRIPT

00:00:068 Pat year I wanted to drop in quick to tell you about a new show I've been working on pretty much since undone ended 6 months ago it's called uncivil and I think you're really going to like it it's a joke about the Civil War end it couldn't be more relevant right now it tells stories that have been left out of the official version of the history Has Two Hosts who are amazing to have my all-time favorite people the first is Chandra kenneka he's a professor at Rutgers and activist and a former hip hop artist you might have heard him before on NPR code switch invisibilia or the excellent podcast seen white II is Jack hit he's a writer for the New York Times magazine Harper's and lots of other great magazines and he's also done some of the most memorable pieces that have ever aired on This American Life and he was on undone last year the idea for episode the ancient one came from an article Jack Road in Harpers and he helps tell the beginning of that story
00:01:06anyway they're fantastic and so are the stories they found I want to play one of them for you I've been before I do remember the show is out now so if you like this please go and subscribe on Apple podcast on Google Play or wherever you get your podcasts tell your friends post on Facebook do all the things it really helps okay so this is the first episode of the show and it's the story of the most radical covert operation of the entire Civil War it was put together by this unhinged soldier from Kansas and abolitionist school teacher and a group of formerly enslaved people so from uncivil this is the rate
00:01:49stories about Civil War monuments have been on the news all summer but the monument that bothers us the most doesn't feature Robert E Lee or the Confederate flag in fact it features Abraham Lincoln that's about how high is that maybe 20 feet
00:02:06Lincoln is kind of looking down on us His Hands Extended got this black man on his knees in front of Lincoln maybe trying to stand up a ride to the shackle around is on it looks like maybe the slave person might be shining Lincoln shoes or something the statues called the Freedmen's Memorial it's in Washington DC put up in 1876 so much in the Statue I mean the man that the Freed Man who may be rising is he's got a broken chain on his arm but he's dressed like he's only got like a loincloth
00:02:45otherwise he is he's actually making meanwhile Abraham Lincoln is in a full 19 century dress coat pants boots
00:02:56Lincoln still standing over to dude and in a way it doesn't really give any credit or represent the agency of black people in free themselves black people trying to read themselves Rebelle from slavery before the Civil War even start
00:03:09I hate the statue I hate it too
00:03:15I'm Jack hit and I'm changer Aku menikah
00:03:21this is uncivil
00:03:25Toby ransack America's history and discovered that the past is never really fast
00:03:37spell we're going to bring you stories of Espionage black in the survive betrayal I feel like someone has put a dagger through my heart con artists he produced 15 million dollars worth of fake money and black people fighting back and sells you know the girl was bad I think the Civil War still relevant Now American society is was Bill out of the Civil War the story of slavery the start of the Civil War statue at the story of America
00:04:20I'm going to kick things off with a story that was written out of the official history just weeks after it happened it's about the most ambitious covert operation of the Civil War and it's about black people who never thought they pick up a gun but they did one of those people was named Cedric man to go to his family he was Pasha said he would like a little bit of a beard this is Fallon green paw sheds great-great-granddaughter she's a paralegal in Beaufort South Carolina just a couple of miles from where a story takes place growing up she heard a little about Paw she said she knew that he built the church our family went to bed as she got older she begin digging deeper and her family history and started asking about him and it turned out wonderful living relatives Uncle baby actually new Posh yet so I was told that I should go to my uncle baby and try to find out a little bit more of the details
00:05:20my shed is he the first person to tell you about your great-great-grandfather
00:05:32light was a little you know it very well and so it's a little it was little I was like magical kind of cheated on him and he sat me you didn't look mean yeah I kind of like starting to think about his and let me get it right and he starts to tell me about the story and it was just lightening the story Uncle baby told Fallon was it right at the beginning of the Civil War Posh it was sold to a plantation in South Carolina called Hazel farm he hates his oversea
00:06:10whoever it is that they're so he decides to run away to do it you got to remember it was deep in the Confederate controlled South Maps now show the south is rad the north is blue but there were patches of blue in the South one of them was a union control Fort on an island in Port Royal sound and it happened to be not far from where I said was enslaved so on the Fly he came up with the plan to get over to the fort and then they put it by the banks of the river cover it with brush they come back in the Dark Knight Layton 4 phone cover the pine lot
00:06:56and the visual that I'm given with the story is that they straddle that pineloch and they loaded as it was said to me loaded to mail in Buford
00:07:10that morning passion is brother made it to Freedom as it turned out just a few weeks before they got their new military leaders had arrived at Port Royal and among them was a radical abolitionist Colonel James Montgomery get a sense of this guy you need to see a daguerreotype picture of him he has that thousand-mile stare of an underfed lunatic and bed hair that looks like he cut himself with broken glass Montgomery wasn't trained at West Point he learned guerrilla warfare fighting against pro-slavery settlers in Kansas one time after his farm was attacked detract them in back to where they lived and burn down the entire town
00:07:52in Kansas people like Montgomery recalled jayhawkers nowadays they call him a terrorist I'm Brody James Montgomery I am the third great-grandson Colonel James Montgomery I am the owner and founder of Grody Spirits we make moonshine Brody is proof the genetics is not always Destiny the colonel wasn't your standard Frontier wild man he was fiercely religious which was great-grandsons dismay he was also will prohibitionist he wasn't going to drink who doesn't drink Montgomery came to Port Royal ready to fight and he wanted to recruit free black people like Pasha to fill out his regiment but military leaders of North Warren into it in fact they specifically for bid arming black men
00:08:40Montgomery Inn is Commander's did it anyway and I can see I'm just going outside and going all right everybody come on over grab some guns go kill some people these guys going to die
00:08:53it's hard to know exactly how Montgomery's new black recruits don't about all this. Just risked his life to gain his freedom but then he found out he only had one to enlist in the United States Army in that kind of fervor of other men saying you don't I'm taking up arms and I'm going to fight for my freedom you get this feeling of power this is big one Summer Morning Montgomery in the other officers lined up their new recruits
00:09:27shoe size you have you don't have shoes you've never worn shoes when they give you a uniform they tell you how to keep it clean you put on the trousers you've never really had trousers that went all the way down now you do you know you've you've got a Polish buttons that are your own buttons not some other person's buttons you know you got to learn how to March you know you got hacked you got a gun let's be clear about something the history of slavery 250 years of it is a history of keeping guns out of the hands of black people even being found near a gun can get you hang now men like Tasha but going to pick up guns and use them happened to be standing us to Colonel James Montgomery
00:10:24Montgomery called this new unit the 2nd regiment South Carolina volunteer infantry African descent in even though lots of slaves were escaping the Port Royal Montgomery still needed more soldiers so he and his commanders decided why wait for men like Pasha to come to them why not go straight to the plantations but he needed a plan he needed good Intel and a strategy what he really needed was a spy
00:10:51and the perfect person was already at Port Royal to her and her to be really handsome and some people don't necessarily think that's the best description of any woman but I mean I think she had incredible bone structure at she was shorter than I am I'm five to choose like five five feet she's just you know a little tiny thing but she did this massive job right that's Kimberly Cornish a descendant of the spy and here's another descendant I think that and that damn time you had to be a spy there had to be a lot of stuff by in you to be black and the survive
00:11:31she grew up on a slave plantation so she knew what it was like to maybe walk by a master and hear information then tell another slave that information she had a lot of experience being a spy and being under a lot of pressure by the time she met Montgomery
00:11:51my name is Jayden Lee and I am the great great great grand niece of Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad the government to sign of the Port Royal to work as a nurse in teacher but she quickly took on a new role as well escaping slaves were debrief by Harriet Tubman said they would have had some intelligence and and that's where Harriet Tubman kind of shines let's see if Greg he runs a boat motor repair shop near Port Royal and spends many of his weekend researching this Expedition he wrote a book about it it's the only book exclusively dedicated to Montgomery and Tubman's plan what they came up with was on dacious bordering on Reckless they would take both of the nearby river deep in the heavily fortified Confederate territory Andrade eight separate plantations they would recruit all the black people enslaved along the shore and somehow
00:12:51make it out alive how would they pull it off Harriet Tubman could help the banks of these Rivers we usually line with cannons but the Confederates and pulled them from several of these Rivers one of them was the come be only a few Rifleman remained and why the river was filled with explosive mines the men who laid them had escaped and told Tubman exactly where they were she is not so much the scouter the Spy she's the one who took the information gathered at put together disseminated to the proper people which made this raid possible by Master I like into and said she was not the James Bond she was him who is more important at James Bond although a good figure for the movie was Expendable and was not expendable
00:13:46on June 1st 1863 some 300 mostly black soldiers including Pie shed got on 3 gunboats led by Tubman and Montgomery and steamed off into the harbor
00:13:59eventually we'll get to the mall
00:14:07after the break the second South Carolina regiment goes deep into Confederate territory
00:14:21Jeff Greg took us out on the water so we can see what pie should have seen this the bolts approach to come be by the the dark Waters of the st. Helena sound this area is filled with Dolphin Turtles even summer time we can manatees come up into this area the gunboats it said off under the cover of night
00:14:49three ships Left Behind Buford approximately 9 p.m. on the 1st of June what's the soldiers into the mouth of the river they sent silence all night
00:15:03I could just see Pasha there in that boat wondering what's going to happen when he gets up River to the plantations you been enslaved there and now he was going back and if he got caught he knew it be shy or tortured and sent back to slavery
00:15:19the trip upriver took all night it was done when the boats pulled up to the first Plantation people were already working in the fields
00:15:28the soldiers jumped off the boats and began marching at the Levee it didn't take long for the enslaved families to figure out what was happening and just start running to The Landings
00:15:40and then Montgomery gave his regiment another order
00:15:44burn it all down
00:15:53when they went on these rage they would literally burn everything with the exception of the slave streets because if there is any that did not come they want them to still have housings but the main house where is the Barnes the rice Mills all that would have been burned anything to economically hurt the the plantation owners so if you know part of like one of the second volunteers under Montgomery I'm still going to a place that was like hell for me and what I've been thinking at that moment you know I would think that if if you had come from on these plantations should be glad to be going back to liberating your people when they got to the Hayward until Lounge plantations that's a cross on mile-wide Marsh that was nothing but open rice fields there's no trees there is no cover absolutely open ground there L train they'd only been in existence for a few months
00:16:52not the first man turn around nobody shirt and I think it's one of the greatest examples of Bravery by any troops anytime in the more now imagine you're one of the plantation owners you get up at 5 in the morning like you always do walk over to the window and what do you see hundreds of uniform black soldiers heading straight towards you we actually found a letter from one of these plantation owners his name was Joshua Nichols and he wrote to the local paper describing what happened when he sees the soldiers he panics and calls together all his faithful slaves he actually use the word baseball you let me read this part my house servants did all around me professing the utmost attachment and they're perfect willingness to obey my commands I ordered them to follow me and take to the woods the unprofessed a willingness to do so but not one made a sign of moving so I was forced to fly to the woods for protection picture that scene Nichols turns to his slaves
00:17:52says the union is coming let's go and they're like yeah you first it's like when was gumbo showed up the power dynamics switched up so fast Nicholas can't catch up and you really thinks his slaves are going to follow his ass these folks are looking at those same black soldiers and what they see is freedom go see something else hears what he says in the letter I saw the enemy come up to my house in a very short time it was set on fire gear was really Panic. He puts it the Negroes men and women were rushing to the boat with their children now and then greeting someone who may recognize early transformed drunk with excitement incapable of the wildest excesses the Roaring of the Flames the Barber's house the blowing of horn the heart steam whistle in the tower and columns some smoke made an impression on my mind which can never be effaced
00:18:48Up and Down the River plantation's burned hundreds of now Free People climbed onto the soldiers boats
00:18:54my passion would have been on that boat looking out you know after women coming I see him there got to the bank so that Plantation we think they saw
00:19:07the world being right again I think they saw the families I think they knew each other and maybe had someone rescue you know over there you know they may be able to bring your kids
00:19:21when I look at who I would be if I was in that time I think wow you know I think it's beautiful I think it is something I never would have dreamed of you. Really you need something so much and it just never happened you just forget it and you don't ever think about it because just terrible thing to think about cuz it hurts and then one day that one thing happens that you need and you just overwhelmed
00:19:51the boats headed back down to Cumby River at the last Ben and rage Confederates appeared with cannons but Montgomery's troops fired first and slip past with just enough time to check out of range on board with more than 700 newly freed people
00:20:08just to put that in context if you look at Tubman's work on the Underground Railroad most conservative estimates say that she helped free roughly 75 people over the course of 10 years but in the Cumby raid more than 700 in a single trip after they got the Port Royal nearly all the freedmen a fighting age immediately enlisted and by the end of the war 10% of the US Army was African American
00:20:38the success of the Cumby raid was front-page news in 1863 North and South heading upriver daringly making a strike Behind Enemy Lines a month later Robert E Lee tried the exact same tactic of Gettysburg a daring Dash Behind Enemy Lines and we all know how that worked out major movies have been made about Lee's greatest disaster but there's never been a movie about the success of the comedy rate in fact I only heard of it because it was the name of the feminist collective in the 1960s took their name from Harriet Tubman's leadership in the rain it's not on any standard history textbooks only official recognition is a tiny Bridge down where the highway crosses the company is named after Harriet Tubman but it took two years of political wrangling to get a small sign place at the river
00:21:25to change if you did make a big Gettysburg like moving out of this I mean why haven't they made a movie out of this well probably cuz it wouldn't have liked that typical Civil War ending you know the kind where everybody just dies and Glory at the end you know especially the black Heroes so how would it in then well you know you have to talk about Harriet Tubman so she buys a piece of land up in Auburn and then basically spend all kinds of time and energy trying to fight for her pension but you have to talk about crazy ass Montgomery you know he basically moved back to Kansas and just continues being a terrorist for good or something and then you have to talk about Josh yet I mean what's his legacy well number one he lives you know he has a family becomes like this local leader so what would be the last scene in your movie
00:22:15for me the last scene where in Beaufort right and you just see this log and acts comes down a lot like that and but this time it isn't making a raft to escape slavery he's putting the law to build his church you know and so then you see him take the pine logs and then maybe you have one of those sequences where we see them build the church and then a camera falls back right there is the church it's like a beautiful Southern day Blue Sky clouds in the harbor Spanish moss on the trees and you see the crowd beginning to file in for the church service and then you realize from the clothes they're wearing this is 2017 wow it's not sheds church and this is his family and then you hear the final voice over
00:23:05basically built the community where we live in now like he in 1892 he donated the four acres that we have now for acres to build the church it was his son hit him and his sons who like split the pine logs to build second-guessing me to church today you Baptist Church in the stands today and people still worship and go my mom still goes
00:23:59uncivil is produced by Chris Neary Chiquita Pascal and say ET John Thomas we had more help from Stevie Lane and Alvin Malave are senior producer is Kimmy regular editing by Pat Walters Jorge just Caitlin Kenny and Alex blumberg our show is mix by Bobby Lord the music from civil was composed by Bobby Lord and Matthew Bowl in collaboration with and Caldwell in the Magnolia singers as well as Mount Zion AME church on Glebe Street in Charleston South Carolina we like to thank everyone in the Lowcountry for a fantastic week of recording additional music features JC Brooks son Little Rocker Walker hailee Shaw and Saeed tejan-thomas fact-checking by Michelle Harris our secret weapon is Christopher Peak special thanks to Captain Meg of Botany Bay Eco tours in South Carolina the pain center staff Eric Bailey Joan and John
00:24:50what symbol is a production of gimlet media our website is uncivil. Show where on Twitter and Facebook and uncivil show I'm Jack hit I'm changing my Kumon Nika on next week's episode of uncivil a 19th century promise and a 21st century betrayal I feel like someone has put a dagger through my heart my siblings and I have been robbed will see you next week

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