Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Susan Carhart Tallman's Narrative from 1864

When I posted the drawings of the twelve students from the 1864 school for freedmen in Baton Rouge , I said I was working on transcribing the narrative that the teacher, Susan Carhart Tallman, wrote over a school form.  I had several deadlines pop up over the weekend, but I made time to finish the transcription tonight.  I was able to read most of the handwriting, but four words have continued to elude me, and I'm unsure of a few others.  If anyone can figure out what the missing words are, or if you think I've made a mistake somewhere, please post and let me know.  I will be happy to update the transcription as necessary.

I think I captured all the close-ups shown in the segment.  Normally I make graphics smaller for my blog, so posts will load more quickly, but I've left these images as large as possible, to help facilitate legibility.

Here's my transcription.  I did both Tallman's narrative and the form itself.  I figured I might as well do it all while I was working on it.

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Susan (Carhart) Tallman’s handwritten note over the school form:

Left page:

[At?] my place

Oct 21, during this week Miss(?) Davis(?) was called home.  I was sorry as she seemed naturally fitted for a teacher.  She was interested in the school, kept good order + had the respect of her pupils, + they were learning well.  Mrs. Reese(?) has no faculty for [illegible] at all + I have the care of two schools.  I think she is learning some about it and hope she will do pretty well.  ——  On the evening of Oct 18, Tues. we were kept from returning until very late + sat without lights + with our bonnets on ready to run when the school should be attacted [sic] by the rebels who were said to have attacted [sic] our guard   There is also talk of removing the last(?) of soldiers now here.  I have had no answer from the board since I wrote to [illegible] if I could do any teaching before 1 P.M. + as Mrs. Boggs with whom I am boarding says I must eat at noon I have to teach according to the instructions though I am much disturbed by having to let part of my school leave before I close to go into the cotton field.  ——  Since Mrs. Boggs has applied for my school, if no other(?) teacher is sent, [illegible] I suffer she will teach after I close(?), which I expect to do

Right page:

on the first of November, as I wrote to the Board several weeks ago.  When I leave, the teachers here are boarded(?) by the Lt. in charge of the place + [illegible] him, but he does not furnish them with separate room however great strangers they may be.  [In the narrative, Tallman had crossed out with Xes this section I have marked with strikethrough.]

Sun. Oct 23d Last night the Rebels attacted [sic] and robbed a place three miles below this.  One man once a Major in the Union army lost some 2000.00  We do not feel very safe, here. —


School attendance form:

Report of Attendance
In Department No ……..… School No …………
Parish of East Baton Rouge.

For the week ending Sept. 30th, 1864.

                                                     BOYS.            GIRLS.            TOTAL.
Number of different Pupils                26                22                    48
“ Average attendance                        19                16.2                  35.2
“ Instances of absence                       35                29                     64
“ Instances of tardiness
“ Admitted
“ Transferred
“ Left                                                   1                  1
“ Who Study the Alphabet
“ Who Spell                                       26               22                    48
“ Who Read                                       26               22                    48
“ Who study mental Arithmetic        24                15                   39
“ Who study written Arithmetic
“ Who study Geography                   10                 10                   20
“ Who study Grammar
“ Who Write in Copy Books
“ Who Write on Slats                        25                21                    46

I certify that the above report is correct, and that the accompanying regulations have been complied with.
Susan G. Tallman, Teacher


Board of Education rules:

Office of Board of Education

To the general instructions personally given by the Board to the Teachers under its charge, the following more specific regulations are added.  Non-compliance with these rules will be regarded as disobedience of Orders.

I.  That each School be kept in session every week-day except Saturday and Sunday, from 8. 45 A. M., to 2. 30 P. M., with a half hour’s recess at mid-day.

II.  That each teacher be present at the school-room daily at 8. 30 A. M. to secure orderly assemblage and prompt readiness for the regular exercises at 8. 45 A.M.

III.  That the presence of each pupil at 8. 45 A.M. be noted by roll-call or otherwise, and that the first exercise be either the singing of an appropriate melody, the repeating of the Lord’s Prayer, or the reading of a selection from the Bible.

IV.  That there be a regular Order of School Exercises; that it be conspicuously posted in the school-room; that duplicate copies thereof be furnished to the Board; that, in schools where the formation of classes is practicable, no class exercise exceed thirty minutes.

V.  That during any exercise in which the whole school may not participate, stillness and industry be preserved among the non-reciting pupils by such memory, slate, or other silent exercises as have been found requisite to every well ordered school.

VI.  That the pupils pass into and out of the school-room and the classes, to and from their seats in military order.

VII.  That each teacher promptly account to the Board for all books, slates, charts, &c., delivered to the school, and in failure thereof, that the value of the same be deducted from the teacher’s salary.

VIII.  That each teacher faithfully render to the Board the weekly report of attendance etc., as indicated in the accompanying blank, together with all other facts pertinent to the welfare of the school.
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Something I hadn't picked up on while watching this, but that became clear to me while transcribing the document, was that even this early the school was under the auspices of the military.  The Board of Education was part of the Department of the Gulf, the students were to go everywhere in military order, and the person in charge of "the place" (the school, I believe) was a lieutenant.

One thing I'm wondering about is how Mrs. Tallman could have a partial student.  The average attendance for girls was 16.2.  I suppose it would make more sense if I knew what the average was computed from — daily attendance over the week, perhaps?


  1. Ms. Sellars, I came across this post because I saw an old episode of Antiques Roadshow in which the text and sketches of students were shown. Your transcription of the text such a wonderful gift, and I am wondering if you or anyone has pursued trying to find descendants / family of any of these students? I can only imagine that a tiny sketch of a great great grandfather or grandmother could be incredibly significant to someone who has little or no record of family history or photographs. Although it is likely that there is too little information to try to make any genealogic connections, I was so curious I had to write and ask you. Thanks for your time.

    1. Thank you very much for writing, and I am glad you found and appreciated my post. I have not heard of anyone who has tried to find descendants of these students but would love to know if anyone has done so. It is a project I would like to work on myself but sadly have not had time to do so.

  2. Watching this segment now on PBS's Antiques Roadshow. One of the female students was Tilda Ann Mingo. That surname is in the family of my ex-son-in-law. His MINGO ancestors were enslaved in MS. Very interesting story. Should be a movie.

    1. I agree, it is quite an interesting story. I'm glad PBS has continued to replay that episode, as it gives more opportunities for people to see the names and perhaps recognize family members.

  3. Hi. Very interesting. There is a segment posted on youtube 6 days ago (8/16/2023) that shows this collection starting at 35.12. Is this a repeat? Thanks.

    1. I'm sure it is a repeat, as I can't imagine that they had a brand-new episode with the same material. It's possible that the episode has been updated with new values for the items, but it should be the same original content otherwise.


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