Slaves were not given a last name. For years, he was only known as "William".
Born in 1814, escaped January 1, 1834, Acquired the name "William" Wells Brown.
William is born in 1814, the youngest child of his mother by 7 different men. She was a field slave, who was bred for breeding purposes. His mother told him that his master is Doctor John Young of Kentucky and that his father is George W. Higgins (Dr. Young's first cousin).
Dr. Young had a plantation near Lexington, Kentucky. In 1816 Dr. Young moves his family and slaves to Saint Charles, Missouri, about 20 miles from St. Louis and then later to St. Louis.
William is a household slave who can be hired out to work for others. Among those that paid his master for his work, is John Colburn, manager of the Missouri Hotel, a cruel man; steamboat captains; slave traders; and Elijah P. Lovejoy, Publisher and Editor of the St. Louis Times, where William learns to run the presses.
In 1834, William makes a successful escape from Cincinnati, Ohio. 50 or 60 miles north of Dayton, he is exhausted, with frozen feet and fever. Wells Brown rescues him.
Wells Brown had to explain to William that he needed a second name. Slaves were not given a last name, just a first name. This was to hide who was his father. Wells Brown offered William his name, and he gladly accepted. He is now William Wells Brown.
William Wells Brown makes his way to Cleveland, Ohio. He uses his experience working for steamboat Captains to smuggle fellow slaves on the underground railway to Canada. He lives in Buffalo, New York, then Farmington, and then in Boston, Massachusetts, where he forms a working relationship with the Anti-Slavery Society, and William Lloyd Garrison, Publisher and Editor of The Liberator. Among the Anti-Slavery Newspapers, The Liberator had the largest circulation.
When the Fugitive Slave Act passes, William is in England and Europe. William is still considered a slave by the Federal Government. This does not change until William's friends pays his legal owner for his freedom. With the respect and trust of fellow slaves, William is able to furnish details of what happened at Fort Pillow that no one else is willing to report.
In the 90's, when I first read the amazing detail, I had to confirm it by checking the reference that was given. This led me to the American Rebellion by William Wells Brown. I found the book in the research library of the University of Florida. When I turned to page 246 and 247, I was greatly disappointed. Why? What was wrong? Someone had ripped out the pages. I discovered it is a rare book, and I could not find another copy.
Years passed. It is now August 2022. Thanks to Project Gutenberg Ebook, I found the AMERICAN REBELLION by William Wells Brown. It was released October 4, 2015, and updated November 2, 2016. Quickly, I turned to page 246 and 247. To my delight it is there. In the early 90's I wrote about Love being Stronger than the fear of Death. Now that it is confirmed as true, I include the eye-witness account in the SECOND EDITION of EXTINGUISH the Flames of Racial Prejudice - THE FORT PILLOW MASSACRE, and I will include it Now, for you.
Love is stronger than the fear of Death
What is below is quoted from William Wells Brown's book: American Rebellion, 1867, pages 246-247.
"When the murders returned, the day after the capture, to renew their fiendish work upon the wounded and dying, they found a young and beautiful mulatto woman searching among the dead for the body of her husband. She was the daughter of a wealthy and influential rebel residing at Columbus (KY). With her husband, this woman was living near the fort (in one of the new houses built for slaves at the Education Center) when our forces occupied it, and joined the Union men to assist in holding the place. Going from body to body with all the earnestness with which love could inspire an affectionate heart, she at last found the object of her search. He was not dead; but both legs were broken. The wife had succeeded in getting him from among the piles of dead, and was bathing his face, and giving him water to drink from a pool near by, which had been replenished by the rain that fell a few hours before. At this moment she was seen by the murderous band; and the cry was at once raised, "Kill the wrench, kill her!" The next moment the sharp crack of a musket was heard, and the angel of mercy fell a corpse on the body of her wounded husband, who was soon after knocked in the head by the butt-end of the same weapon. Though these revolting murders were done under the immediate eye of Gen. Chalmers, the whole was planned and carried out by Gen. Forrest whose inhumanity has never been surpassed in the history of civilized or even barbarous warfare."
This account, and the account found in "Research and the Story it Tells" from the 1864 Military Report, identifies General Forrest as giving the orders and General Chalmers obeying them. Later, Chalmers succeeded in altering military records to hide the fact that he ordered the killing of a little boy that a Confederate Officer was trying to save.
You will find that the words, "Kill the wrench, kill her!" are similar to the orders General Chalmers shouts out when he orders the small child killed.