Coswell Tims
Jim Littlefield as Coswell Tims


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About Jim Littlefield's Living History Programs


Littlefield captures the persona of the character he portrays, and he selects real characters to portray! Among his characters are a Confederate soldier and a slave catcher. After studying the speaking style of Southerners' he is able to carry on conversations in the Southern dialect, making his portrayals more believable and entertaining. While his characters are fictional, his portrayals are accurate to the time period and historical context. He works to open the eyes of his audience to the issues and questions of the time.


Below is an example of one of his speaking programs involving Coswell Tims, a slave catcher -- written in the form of the biography of Coswell Tims.

Biography of Coswell Tims as portrayed in one of JIm's living history programs


    Coswell Tims is a slave catcher from Milledgeville, Georgia operating before and during the War Between the States. He attempts in his presentation to portray himself as a law abiding, upstanding citizen who actively assists law enforcement and upholds the legal code(s) of the times. While explaining America's initial embrace of slavery and the subsequent fugitive slave laws of 1794 and 1850 that were enacted, Coswell reminds people of a citizens' duty to follow all the laws of the land, not just the ones that appeal to them personally.
     Besides hiding behind the law to justify his rather unpleasant lifestyle, Coswell also claims economic hardship and a certain entrepreneurial spirit. "Bein' as I was too old for the conscription of 62," and seeing an economic niche, Coswell reveals the scope of his activities...assisting the local sheriff’s office, hunting down escaped federals, tracking down southern deserters in addition to his more regular slave catching duties which he admits makes up the mainstay of his business. He says he has no prejudice, hates no one group in particular but "if a man be runnin', he's runnin' for a reason and that reason more like as not is they is runnin' from the law!" Coswell Tims' mission then, is to return these people to the proper authorities and see justice done!
     Coswell Tims also attempts to endear himself to his audience through his sensitivity and expertise with his hounds which serve as tracking dogs. He is proud of his bloodhounds ("The canine world’s best detectives") and explains their God-given abilities as well as the training techniques that he and his brother Jesse have used to become "Masters of Hounds." Coswell sees himself not only as a man with a high moral mission, but a specialist as well.
     Eventually the slave catcher gets around to explaining the specifics of his grim business. Displaying ropes, shackles for feet and hands, sawed-off shotgun ("for gettin' uncooperatives out of the trees") and, of course, the bullwhip!  He gives a demonstration with the whip showing the devastating effects it can have. But even here, Coswell denies any personal excesses, admitting occasional use but sharing anecdotal stories of great cruelties done by others...patrollers, overseers, plantation owners and other professional slave catchers. He says he prefers to use this instrument for "intimidatin'" more than an instrument of punishment or personal expression. He even distains the extra 5.00 tip for "a professional whippin'" often offered slave catchers.
     Coswell then takes his audience on a "virtual" tracking experience after a runaway slave named "Big Sandy." Coswell and his brother Jesse do succeed with the help of their bloodhound Beauregard in tracking down this fugitive, but the story has an unhappy ending, prompting Coswell to reconsider his future business prospects after the war's end. Coswell Tims' story should elicit some strong reactions on the part of the audience and generate some interesting questions and answers as well!



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