The Civil War in Missouri

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Iron Slave Collar

ca. 1835-1865
MHM Collections

This wrought-iron collar is one example of a variety of implements used to punish slaves and control their mobility in order to prevent escape. An estimated 24,000 slaves in Missouri succeeded in running away to Canada despite these efforts. Union soldier Sergeant Charles O. Dewey of the 4th Iowa Volunteers described one such “instrument of torture” in Montgomery City, Missouri. An escaped slave entered within their lines wearing “a heavy iron ring, fitting closely round the neck, from which extended three prongs, each two feet in length, with a ring on the end,” which he had been wearing for two months. “The form of the instrument prevented him from lying down and taking his rest at night, and its weight and close fit rendered it very burdensome during the day.” The slave’s owner, Dudley Wells, described as “destitute of all humanity,” was arrested as a traitor—probably for being deemed secessionist—and held prisoner.