Molungeons & Melungeons

Updated October3, 2009

On July 8, 1864 under WAR NEWS the DAILY SOUTH CAROLINIAN  writing on the battle that had taken place at Sapponi Church and Reams Station said;
"The poor negroes was the most notable feature of this great capture.  They comprised every conceivable class of the race, and as the vast throng crowded to the office of Provost Marshall Hawes yesterday afternoon, marching in open and rather promiscous order, they occupied nearly the whole of Bank Street. We notice among them the old and the young; the robust and the infirm; the quick footed and the halt; the bright mulatto clad in tawdry finery, and the ebo-shin and the "molungeon," dressed in homespun"  -----  (The quotes are in the original clipping and are not mine jp)

The question is how did this man writing in the South Carolina paper determine they were ''molungeons'' caputured that day -- and how did he determine the difference between the ''molungeon'' and the bright mulatto?  Was it the difference in their clothing -- skin color -- facial features or what?  Were these Virginia Molungeons different from the Tennessee Melungeons?  Or were they kin? 

Perhaps as more articles, clippings, etc., find their way online it may shed more light, as this newly found article published in 
The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 32, No. 2 (1911), pp. 210-215  by The Johns Hopkins University Press and written 
by Basil Gildersleeve has at least provided some possibilities.

Some information on Gildersleeve;

  • Born (October 23, 1831 – January 9, 1924), American classical scholar, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, son of Benjamin Gildersleeve (1791–1875), a Presbyterian evangelist, and editor of the Charleston Christian Observer from 1826 to 1845, of the Richmond (VA) Watchman and Observer from 1845 to 1856, and of The Central Presbyterian from 1856 to 1860.
  • December 11, 1875, Daniel Coit Gilman, president of the newly-founded Johns Hopkins University, approached Gildersleeve with the offer of teaching Classics there, and he gladly accepted.
  • In 1880, the American Journal of Philology, a quarterly published by the Johns Hopkins University, was established under his editorial charge
  • He was elected president of the American Philological Association in 1877 and again in 1908 and became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters as well as of various learned societies. He received the degree of LL.D. from William and Mary (1869), Harvard (1896), Yale (1901), Chicago Pennsylvania (1911); D.C.L. from the University of the South (1884); L.H.D. from Yale (1891) and Princeton (1899); Litt.D. from Oxford and Cambridge (1905).
Information from Wikipedia found Here

In his review of THE ORIGIN OF TRAGEDY WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO THE GREEK TRAGEDIANS  by William Ridgeway he writes on page 214;

"In the Preface to his Choephori Mr. Verrall mentions his debt to Professor Ridgeway for the hint out of which has been developed the essay on the scene of the Recognition; "important" he adds modestly, 'if anything in this volume is such."  The hint is the racial peculiarity of the Pelopid hair and foot, a racial peculiarity that effetively disposes of the cheap hint that Mr. Tucker has also taken in his edition of the play, though, as Mr. Ridgeway complains, without acknowledgement of the source.  The explanation, as stated by Mr. Verrall, had a certain fascination for me, having lived all my life in constant presence of an alien race in which hair and foot are makred peculiarities, so that I was prepared to accept entuhisastically Mr. Verrall's statement that Orestes and Electra were octoroons.  'Ebo-shin' and 'gizzard-foot' were familiar words in the mouth of that typical Virginian, Henry A . Wise, who was a close observer of racial peculiarities and taught the youths of my generation to distinguish between the 'mulatto' and the 'molungeon'........................."

Who Are These Molungeons of Virginia

--- The platform of Feb 1856 which expunged and ignored the 12th section and in a letter which goes expressly for restoring the Missouri Compromise. The Mulungeons of Richmond endorsed the 'late convention' at Philadelphia too; but will any southern man-- a Stuart or an Imobdin even -- endorse this letter for the restoration of the Missouri Compromise.''


From the Richmond Whig. Letter from Hon. John M. Botts
Date: March 26, 1859
Location: Maryland
Paper: Easton Gazette
Article type: Letters

......when the Sheriff came to count up the votes at the close of the polls, they counted but five -- and if I had received the vote of one ''Molungeon,'' and he had been authorized by the Constitution to vote, and had 'had' a majority of only one--- it would have been difficult to tell, whether I was most indebted for my election to the "Molungeon" or to the Chief Justice of the U.S.; and if my competitor had received six "Molungeon" votes, or the votes of six worthless and degraded locofocos (supposing they could be any such) they would have more than balanced these five of the first men of the State could boast...........


Date: March 28, 1859
Location: Alabama Paper: Daily Confederation

Thirteen congressional electors, fifty senatorial electors, and three hundred and sixty county electors have been notified to hold themselves in readiness to repel the Dragoon of Rockbridge. Botts too, will dash to the rescue at the head of a noble band of "Molungeons and Eboshins" as soon as the weather becomes sufficiently warm to render his odoriferous forces efficient.

The Slave Power; its Character, Career, and Probable Designs. By JE...

Continental monthly: devoted to... - Cornell University - Jan 1, 1863

"Whether their own children were sold may be imagined from an anecdote long current in Virginia, relative to ex-Governor Wise, who, in a certain law case where he was opposed by a Northern trader, decided of a certain slave, that the chattel, being a mulatto, was of more value than 'a molungeon.' And what, in the name of God, is a molungeon?' inquired the astonished 'Northern man." 'A mulatto' replied Wise, ' is the child of a female house-servant by 'young master' --a molungeon is the offspring of a field hand by a Yankee peddler."

Mr. Cairnes has, no doubt, not often heard of mulattoes--they constitute the great majority of Virginia slaves. But did he ever hear of a 'molungeons'?

December 1864
-- Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Battles and Sketches of the Army of Tennessee - Page 511
It soon became noised that these men were to be shot as bushwhackers General Forest informed General Rousseau, by flag of truce, that those men were his regular soldiers, and that if he shot them it would be at his peril.
The names of his soldiers were sent in, but the scout and Bose Rouss (some called him Malungeon), who had killed a Federal detective, were not mentioned in the list.

-Thursday 2d July 1863
--Bluegrass Confederate: The Headquarters Diary of Edward O. Guerrant By Edward O. Guerrant

Came on to Mr Hortons for dinner—found him in a tornado furiosus-against Virginians, who fed his grass &c. and in ecstatic panegyrics of all Kentuckians—”all of whom were “interesting” gentlemen”—& no “malungens”. ...
(1/2 b & 1/2 w) [2 ]

From Our Own Correspondent Fredericksburg,
 January 10, 1864
"the "Government organ," however, announces that the observed of all observers were four negroes, "of genteel exteriour, and with the manners "of gentlemen, who joined in the throng that 'crowded the Executive Mansion, and were coridaly received by the President of the Untied State,'' The Molungeon Chronicle adds; -- We are not aware that anybody was hurt on the occasion, and we rejoice that we have a President who is a democrat in fact, as well as by nature."

Utica Weekly Herald [New York]
March 29, 1864
The "Richmond Whig" makes the following comments on the last call for men.
It is certain, therefore, that the "rebels" will now back down.  Twenty millions of mongrels have undertaken to whip them.  The Yankees soon got sick of the fight, and levied on the Dutch and Irish. The resident Irish and Dutch began to flag and 75,000 Paddies were recruited in Ireland, with the approval and assistance of Earl Russel.  Then 100,000 n****** were enlisted.  And now 200,000 n******, Yankees, and other molungeons, half breeds, mestizoes, and Yaboes [Yaboes—a Davis coinage for the 70,000 Yank hoboes in the armed services] are to be drafted.  What wonder that the "rebels" are completely broken hearted?  Who blames the European by-standers for advising the "rebels" to give the cause up?
For ourselves, we are free to say that we are for peace.  We want peace. We will have it.  We must have it, on any terms?  Yes, on any terms -- which General Lee, standing in Faneuil HHall, may choose to dictate to the base born wretches who have sought to enslave us.  The game is a very pretty one as it stands.  Our enemies must be conquered by us, or conquered by Lincoln. They must make terms with gentlemen or they must make terms with a blackguard and a baboon.  Take your choice, O Yankees.

Staunton Spectator
May 25, 1869

The Duties of Election Day
(Column 01)

Summary: Declared that all eligible voters have the duty to vote on election day to ensure the defeat of certain sections of the Underwood constitution and to elect Walker as Governor. Wanted to ensure at least some form of control for white Virginians in the state.

Full Text of Article:

The election which will take place on the 6th day of July next, by appointment of the President, will decide whether the people of this State are to be cursed with the Underwood abomination, called a Constitution, as it came from the hands of the Molungeon Convention, or whether it will be modified by having the test-oath and disfranchising clauses stricken out -- whether Walker or Wells will be our Governor, and whether proper men will be elected to represent the State in the Legislature.

"Mulungeons and Eboshins": Ethnic and Political Epithets

by Wayne Winkler