Albert, Octavia V. Rogers
|CHAPTER XI. -- PRISON HORRORS.|
Uncle John taking lessons--Andersonville horrors--Blood-hounds--Silas bitten by blood-hounds and eaten by buzzards.
UNCLE JOHN always made it a habit to stop in on Saturday evenings. He was a steward of his church, and as he could not read very well he said he had made up his mind to study and try to learn more. He wanted to learn to read the Bible and hymnbook, anyhow, he said. He had to lead prayer-meeting in his church very often, and he said it would do him so much good if he could only read his Bible and hymn-book; so he employed me to teach him. I must confess Uncle John was pretty hard to teach. His mind was blunted, no doubt, and, having to work hard every day, and old and feeble as he was, I did not expect much of him. He decided that the first thing I must do was to read a chapter in the Bible, and also to read
He would say: "La, Mrs. A., if I only had these good times in my young days! But I tell you, ma'am, I am glad I'm blest to see freedom! How many of my poor people died in slave-time and never knowed nothing but hard work all their life-time! I know," he said, "my poor Nancy is dead, and buried somewhere in Georgia. She worked hard all of her life-time, for the white folks never knowed what rest was. Sometimes I dream of all of my people I left in Georgia. It seems I can see my mammy in my sleep, and she comes right up beside my bed and talks with me sometimes. I know she is in heaven, for she used to be always talking about heaven when I was with her."
I said: "It would afford you so much joy to see your children once more; I reckon they are still living."
He said: "Yes, ma'am; I reckon if they is still living they is all married; but the white folks was so bad in slave-time I expect they all
"Yes, ma'am; the white folks was bad here in Louisiana, but I think they was worse in Georgia for blood-hounds."
"Why, Uncle John," I said, "it looks as if allowing the dogs to bite them would bring on hydrophobia, and thereby cause a great many deaths among the slaves?"
"Yes; they did die often; but I always thought they died from being worked to death. Why, ma'am, I have seen poor colored men bleeding and dying from dog-bites. Once right in Georgia I saw a man where he crawled 'way off from his plantation and died under a shade-tree. Madam, that poor man had iron around his feet when we found him, and the buzzards had almost eaten his body up. I knowed the poor man; his name was Silas.
Uncle John said: "Poor Silas! I will never forget how I went out one Sunday morning and found him laying dead under that big oak-tree. He had a wife and six or seven children. He lived on one of the plantations in Georgia. We used to go to church on Sundays together. O, how he used to love that hymn, 'How firm a foundation!' He knowed every word of it by heart," said Uncle John. "We used to hear the white people sing it at church."
I asked Uncle John if Silas's master allowed him to attend church, and he said:
"Why, yes, ma'am; he used to let his slaves go to church on Sunday, and he went too; but that did not keep our white people from beating us through the week. They took sacrament in the morning, and we colored people took it in the evening."
"You were never allowed to take the sacrament with your masters?"
"No, ma'am; we been always separated here, and I reckon when we get up yonder in glory they will want to be separated," said Uncle John.
"No; there is no separation in glory. We read in the third chapter of Galatians, twenty-sixth to twenty-eighth verses: 'For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.' Thus you see and hear what the Bible says: 'We are all one.'
"'God is faithful; he will never
Break his covenant sealed in blood;
Signed when our Redeemer died;
Sealed when he was glorified.'"
"Well," said Uncle John, "how in the world could the whites know the word of God, and so many used to seem to have religion, and yet treat us poor people just like the brutes?"
"I fear that a very few slave-holders had religion, Uncle John, If they had any at all it was not the Bible religion. Nevertheless, I do say there were some good white people who did not brutalize their slaves. But I regret to say that there were very few. They would punish them in many ways. If they did not kill them outright they killed them by brutalizing them. And we know that no murderers can enter that 'rest' prepared for the people of God unless they repent."
"They used to go to church," said Uncle John, "in Georgia, and I have seen them happy, too; but, madam, they would come right back from church and beat us all the week and make us work ourselves nearly to death."
"Uncle John, that was inconsistent with the teaching of the Bible. The Spirit of God is love, peace, joy, and contentment."
"Madam, I have talked so long this evening
"'How firm a foundation,' Uncle John?"
"Here it is:
"'How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in his excellent word!"
What more can he say, than to you he hath said,
To you, who for refuge to Jesus have fled?
"'Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, I will still give thee aid;
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my gracious, omnipotent hand.
"'When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
For I will be with thee thy trials to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
"'When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply,
The flames shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.
"'E'en down to old age all my people shall prove
My sovereiegn, eternal, unchangable love;
And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in my bosom be borne.
"'The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell shall endeavor to shake,
I'll never, no never, no never forsake!'"
Uncle John said: "O, bless the Lord! how often I heard that hymn sung in Georgia! Silas, poor man, did love it too. Madam, I do believe the angels came for Silas that day he crawled out under that big oak-tree and died there. You remember I told you we lived joining plantation, and many times I used to see him on his knees praying and praising God at twelve o'clock in the cottonfield. O, yes; I expect to meet Silas high up in glory!"
"Uncle John, I've often heard and read of Andersonville, Georgia, where so many Union soldiers were imprisoned during the war. I've been informed that blood-hounds were kept to chase the prisoners who escaped the stockade."
"Yes, madam; I know a man near this place now that came from Georgia about four years ago, and he lived somewhere near Andersonville in the time of the war. Madam, that man would make you cry if you could hear him tell how the white people used to make the blood-hounds chase the Yankees at that stockade in Andersonville, Georgia. He told me they had blood-hounds all around Andersonville."
"Uncle John, what is the man's name?"
"He is named Samson Jones. Madam, Samson said they had a big dog-kennel where they kept the dogs to chase the Yankees. They run them all through the woods whenever one escaped from the stockade. He told me he had seen many Yankees bitten almost to death by the blood-hounds. He said they used to get out of the stockade and run just like we poor darkies did, with the dogs right behind them. He said the Yankees died like flies in prison, and that he was one of the colored men that helped to bury them there."
"Brother Samson is from Georgia, and he knows all about the Andersonville stockade. So I suppose that his account of the stockade is certainly true?"
"Yes, madam, I believe he is reliable. He told me the wagons used to run night and day burying the prisoners in the warm season. I tell you, madam, Samson could talk all day to you about what he has seen in that stockade at Andersonville, Georgia. He told me thousands of Yankees were walled up in the stockade made of pine-trees, and they had no shed over them. The hot sun used to almost
"I've said already, Uncle John, I've read of the horrors of Andersonville; but how strange that these things should be in the State of Georgia, where religion abounds, and where the Gospel was preached Sunday after Sunday, within hearing, perhaps, of the stockade, and that thousands of human souls should receive such brutal treatment!"
They were reduced to a level with the brutes, the barren earth for a floor and the sky their only covering overhead! Samson said the white women used to visit the stockade. They had a platform made so they could walk out and look over the stockade down on the prisoners; and one time a white woman said, when she was looking over at them, "I wish God would rain fire and brimstone down on your heads." Samson said he heard her say it to the Yankees. There they were, dumb and helpless, some dead, some dying, and others almost starved to death. And a Christian woman, so called, cried out to them, "I wish God would rain fire and brimstone down
"Shout, for the foe is destroyed that inclosed thee,
The oppressor is vanquished, and Zion is free!"
Not only the bloody ground at Andersonville will condemn the Christians in these Southern States in the general judgment, but what must we say of the millions of poor, innocent slaves that have been murdered here in this Christian land for two hundred and fifty years! "Their blood be upon you and your children!" "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins."