Mrs. Dred Scott: A Life on Slavery's Frontier

By Lea Vandervelde | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 29
Declared Free

ALTHOUGH THE SCOTTS were declared free, there was a good chance that the widow’s attorneys would appeal. So, pending a possible appeal, they remained in custody. As long as D. N. Hall, their lawyer continued to hire Dred, he could avoid jail. Harriet remains unaccounted for. The Scotts were probably at greater liberty to organize their own work under this arrangement. The two girls, now reaching early adolescence, were never mentioned in these hiring contracts, nor in the state court papers.1

Ten days after the verdict, the Russells’ house, where it seems that Harriet had patiently waited for Dred, was mobbed by a crowd waiting to catch a glimpse of the debutante wedding and social spectacle of the year—as one historian described it, “the union of wealth and military prestige.”2 The Russells’ golden-haired Almira married a very promising West Point lieutenant, W. S. Hancock, who would eventually run for president with the nickname “Hancock the Superb.” Almira had made a very good catch.3

Lieutenant Buell, the stocky young man who had once been court-martialed as Capt. Bainbridge’s subordinate, was best man.4 Given Mary Bainbridge’s talent for social maneuvering, the Bainbridges were probably there also.5 Jefferson Barracks had again become the home of “a very lively garrison” with frequent parties and balls.6 The Russells went over the top in terms of finery for the wedding. Almira’s wedding dress was adorned with glass beads fashioned by immigrant German craftsmen. In the streets a rumor had circulated that the bride’s dress was made of glass, and a large crowd gathered around the house to see. The weather turned stormy, but the crowds stayed to glimpse the bride, despite the rain and lightning.

The bridal pair was also feted at the neighbors’ home. That the Harneys hosted a reception was a social compliment for the couple, since the wealthy heiress Mrs. Harney did not associate with “low people.”7 Col. Harney was famous for taking a tough line in executing the Seminoles in war as well as being the army officer who had beaten a slave woman to death, a crime for which he’d been charged but

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