Albert, Octavia V. Rogers
|CHAPTER XVII. -- A COLORED SOLDIER.|
Colonel Douglass Wilson on the war--Color-bearer Planchiancio and Captain Caillioux--Joel Brinkley, a Yankee school-teacher, caned nearly to death.
AFTER my conversation with Uncle Cephas in the last chapter I did not get to see any one particularly for a month or more who could add materially to my story anything that might interest you; but during the succeeding summer, after this last conversation, I met Colonel Douglass Wilson, a colored man of considerable prominence, not only in Louisiana, but in the nation. He and his family and my husband, daughter, and I were spending a vacation at Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, a very popular watering-place on the Mississippi Sound. He and my husband were very great friends, and used to visit each other during our stay there. One day I said to him:
"Colonel, from what I have heard you say and learned of you generally, as a public man,
"Yes," said he, "my experience is a rich and varied one, and I am so constantly telling it every-where and on every occasion that I fear sometimes that people will say that I have a hobby."
"I assure you," said I, "you will never hear that from me, because I believe we should not only treasure these things, but should transmit them to our children's children. That's what the Lord commanded Israel to do in reference to their deliverance from Egyptian bondage, and I verily believe that the same is his will concerning us and our bondage and deliverance in this country. After thirty-three centuries the Jews are more faithful in the observance of the facts connected with their bondage and deliverance than we are in those touching ours, although our deliverance took place scarcely a quarter of a century ago."
"You are right, Mrs. Albert," replied the colonel," and that is my principal reason for so heartily concurring with those of our leading colored men who are doing all in their power to induce all of our people in this country to unite every year in the observance of January as National Emancipation Day. There can be no doubt that that is the day every true American should celebrate as National Emancipation Day, as that was the day on which Mr. Lincoln's ever-memorable proclamation of freedom was issued--January 1, 1863."
"Colonel, let me ask you, were you ever a slave?"
"A slave? Why, yes; I was a slave until Mr. Lincoln's proclamation of freedom. It found me, however, on the battle-field at Port Hudson, La., where the colored troops fought so nobly as to extort from their chief officers such praises as were showered upon few soldiers at any time or place. I was there in the hottest of the fight, when Captain Caillioux, that valiant negro, fell, one whose praises can never be too loudly proclaimed. If ever patriotic heroism deserved to be honored in stately marble or in brass that of Captain Caillioux
"O, yes, I was a slave, but I became, a soldier, too, and fought for freedom and the Union, and I am proud of it. But I want to tell you that this last war exploded many false notions in the minds of our Southern people, and in some of our Northern neighbors, too. They used to say,'The negro doesn't care to be set free, and but for Northern meddlers you would never hear any complaints from him.' They said, 'If you free him he will die out;' but I tell you he is the liveliest corpse this nation has ever handled. He is multiplying faster than any people in this country. When it was proposed to make a soldier out of him, why, they said, 'He can't fight.' But what was the universal verdict at the close of every battle? Why, he fought like a demon. After the war they said, 'O, he can't learn!' But what mean these laurels that he is getting at Yale, Cornell, Dartmouth, and other colleges over white competitors? whether he wanted freedom or not is beautifully illustrated in a story that came under my observation.
"Among thousands of contrabands, as they were called, that flocked into the Union lines, as the Yankees captured various sections in
"Colonel, tell me something about the Kuklux. Did you know anything about them? They were said to be very bad and numerous in Georgia and South Carolina."
"That's true; at that time they were very bad and numerous in both Georgia and South Carolina, but they were equally bad in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and, in fact, throughout the South. They were known in some places as the White Camelias, the White Cohort, and other such names, but after all they were nothing more nor less than the Confederate army that had surrendered at Appomattox that was really continuing a sort of guerrilla warfare against Union men and the poor freedmen. This was what made the task of reconstruction such a difficult one throughout the South. The Kuklux were determined that the colored people, if now free, should not enjoy their freedom, but should remain in a condition of peonage. To accomplish their purpose they heaped all sorts of indignities upon the northern white missionary preachers and teachers that followed the march of the Union lines to
"I remember, just now, the case of Mr. Joel Brinkley, who was taken out of his school-house, right before his scholars, in broad day-time, and caned half to death by a mob of nearly a hundred of those hyenas. After that they gave him five hours in which to leave the town of Springdale, where he was teaching. After he started off they thought they ought to have killed him, so they started off after him to catch him, and they followed him for ten days, trying to catch him. He had to hide in the swamps, sleep in the cane-rows and ditches and under negro cabins to save his life. A reward of five hundred dollars was offered for his apprehension and delivery into their hands, but the Lord was with him, and he finally reached New Orleans in safety, where he could continue in the same line of work with a little more security. I have often heard him tell of how kindly the colored people treated him when he was then fleeing for his life.