Accession number: 1990.114
This whipping post from what was called the "negro jail" in Portsmouth, Virginia, was taken to upstate New York as a war trophy by Private Charles C. Miller of Company I of the 148th New York Volunteers.
A committed abolitionist, Miller wrote in his Civil War diary, "I will pour hot oil into anyone's bowels that upholds slavery."
Miller first mentioned the whipping post in his diary entry for April 2, 1863. On seeing the post he made an oath to destroy it and got several escaped slaves to help him. They sneaked out of camp and made their way to Portsmouth, but found they could not detach the post from its platform without a saw. They had to return to camp to get a saw, then sneak out a second time. Finally, they sawed the post off, disassembled it into smaller pieces, and shipped them off to Miller's brother "to be preserved as a relic of barbarism."
Based on what he had heard, Miller believed that at least a thousand blacks had been whipped at the post. During a campaign parade when Ulysses S. Grant ran for president in 1868, the post was paraded through the streets of Penn Van, New York, on a hay rigging as a black man received a mock whipping. Miller gave this relic to the Sloan Post of the Grand Army of the Republic, a union veterans organization, which in turn gave it to the Yates County Historical Society, which generously donated it to the Virginia Historical Society.
In this video, Geoff Cohrs discusses the whipping post in the "Becoming Southerners" gallery.