Thursday, May 26, 2016

"Contraband" Scholars in 1864 Baton Rouge

The new episode of Antiques Roadshow that aired on Monday, May 23, 2016 — the third hour from the visit to Cleveland that was filmed on July 11, 2015 — had an incredible item.  A man brought in some papers that came from a box of stuff that he bought for $2 at a rummage sale about 15 years ago.  The items are an amazing piece of black history from Louisiana during the Civil War.

A man named George Tallman, possibly a colonel in the Union army (according to the guest), was in Baton Rouge after the Union forces had taken it over.  He sent for his wife, Susan Carhart Tallman, who was a teacher, so she could set up a school to teach some of the children of the slaves who had been freed in the area.  Somehow, some of her papers ended up in the box from the rummage sale.  The man brought in a photo of George and Susan Tallman, a school attendance sheet with a narrative written over it, and Susan Tallman's drawings of twelve of her students.  She called them her "contraband scholars."

The students' names are Henry and Horace, Ellen's sons; Melvina Blufus; Comfort Holmes; Frederick Johnson; Mary Lawrence; Tilda Ann Mingo; Julia Morris; Alice Parkins; Earnest Scott; and Susanna Thomas.  Of the twelve drawings, only one, that of Comfort Holmes, was not shown clearly enough for me to capture the image.  One drawing, of a 7-year-old boy, did not have a name on it.

Oct. 1864 Baton Rouge La Henry, Ellen's three year old boy. Sweet, forward
Horace, Ellen's son aged 5 Oct 3d 1864 Baton Rouge La
Frederick Johnson
Alice Parkins aged 11 A tenderhearted, affectionate neat girl,
good to work & studious, but slow about learning Baton Rouge La
Aged about 7 A handsome pleasant little boy Intelligent, but not too forward Oct 24 1864 Baton Rouge La
Earnest Scott, aged 10 Baton Rouge, La. Aug 1864 A left-handed little artist
Tilda Ann Mingo aged 9 Sept 30th, 1864, Baton Rouge La
Julia Morris aged 10 Baton Rouge Aug. 1864 Sings like a mockingbird. black. A real Gipsy. deceiftul quick
Mary Lawrence, aged 12 years Baton Rouge Aug. 30 1864 A good scholar, pleasant girl
Susanna Thomas aged 13 Baton Rouge Aug 30, 1864
Melvina Blufus aged 15 Baton Rouge, La Aug 1864
Comfort Holmes Sept 1864 Age 14 Baton Rouge La

I hope that someone finds a family member in these drawings.

There might have originally been more than these twelve drawings.  Several of the drawings have numbers in the upper-left corners; that of Frederick Johnson has a 16.

I'm working on transcribing the letter and hope to post it soon.

If you visit the link to this appraisal on the Antiques Roadshow site, you can watch the video and read the transcript.

Update:  The transcription of Susan Carhart Tallman's narrative has been posted!


  1. What wonderful sketches! I have added a link to this post on the Slave Name Roll Project. Thank you for letting me know about it.

    1. Thank you! I'm glad you think it was appropriate for the project.


    Has more about her and her life, her stories as a schoolteacher in the newly liberated South were published in Good Housekeeping Magazine, along with some sketches.

    1. Thank you for the link! Now I'm off to look for the Good Housekeeping issues online . . . .

    2. Lieutenant George Washington Tallmon and Susan Carhart Tallmon were my great great grandparents. Susan kept journals her whole life. It was wonderful to see these papers. Could we as a deasendant have a copy of these papers to add to her journals? Thank you again for sharing. Susan Stone

    3. Your best bet is to contact Antiques Roadshow and ask them to put you in touch with the man who brought the items to the filming. Contact information for the program is at

  3. Like many descendants of Susan Carhart and George Tallmon, I sat awe-struck at the roadshow program. I have letters from Susan and papers from Lt. George Tallmon's term as quartermaster. I've always wondered what to do with them. Diane Tallmon-Hudnall

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. ou are very fortunate! I wish I had old letters from my family.

      As I am fond of saying, the first thing you should do is transcribe the letters! That way more people will have access to the information in them. You can share the transcription with other family members and with historical and genealogical organizations in the ara where the couple was from.

      As for long-term preservation, if you do not want to keep them in the family, talk to historical societies and archives in the areas that the family lived, where the letters were written, or where the topics of the letters are. If you want to keep them, consult with a conservator about how to keep them safe and in good condition. The American Institute for Conservation ( has a database available for searching, or contact a museum in your area for recommendations.

    3. Make copies, take pics of those letters, etc. Share them. How fantastic!

  4. I just saw these articles on A.R. last night. What an amazing little collection to have and found for $2 at a garage sale. At least they didn't get tossed. I love such finds. These children may have never been known of if not for Susan Carhart's personal caring to preserve in time, students she had known. Just amazing and priceless. Where was Susan actually from? Just curious.

    1. Unfortunately, the link that another reader provided that had information about the couple no longer seems to be good. From what I remember, I think they were from Illinois, but I wouldn't swear to that.


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