Letter to Slave Master

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August 7, 1865
To My Old Master, Colonel P.H.
Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee
Sir: I got your letter, and was
glad to find that you had not
forgotten Jourdon, and that you
wanted me to come back and
live with you again, promising to
do better for me than anybody
else can. I have often felt uneasy
about you. I thought the Yankees
would have hung you long before
this, for harboring Rebs they
found at your house. I suppose
they never heard about your
going to Colonel Martin's to kill
the Union soldier that was left
by his company in their stable.
Although you shot at me twice
before I left you, I did not want
to hear of your being hurt, and
am glad you are still living. It
would do me good to go back to
the dear old home again, and see
Miss Mary and Miss Martha and
Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee.
Give my love to them all, and
tell them I hope we will meet in
the better world, if not in this. I
would have gone back to see you
all when I was working in the
Nashville Hospital, but one of
the neighbors told me that
Henry intended to shoot me if
he ever got a chance.
I want to know particularly what
the good chance is you propose
to give me. I am doing tolerably
well here. I get twenty-five
dollars a month, with victuals
and clothing; have a comfortable
home for Mandy,—the folks call
her Mrs. Anderson,—and the
children—Milly, Jane, and
Grundy—go to school and are
learning well. The teacher says
Grundy has a head for a preacher.
They go to Sunday school, and
Mandy and me attend church
regularly. We are kindly
treated. Sometimes we overhear
others saying, "Them colored
people were slaves" down in
Tennessee. The children feel
hurt when they hear such
remarks; but I tell them it was
no disgrace in Tennessee to
belong to Colonel Anderson.
Many darkeys would have been
proud, as I used to be, to call you
master. Now if you will write
and say what wages you will give
me, I will be better able to
decide whether it would be to
my advantage to move back
again.
As to my freedom, which you say
I can have, there is nothing to be
gained on that score, as I got my
free papers in 1864 from the
Provost-Marshal-General of the
Department of Nashville. Mandy
says she would be afraid to go
back without some proof that
you were disposed to treat us
justly and kindly; and we have
concluded to test your sincerity
by asking you to send us our
wages for the time we served
you. This will make us forget
and forgive old scores, and rely
on your justice and friendship in
the future. I served you
faithfully for thirty-two years,
and Mandy twenty years. At
twenty-five dollars a month for
me, and two dollars a week for
Mandy, our earnings would
amount to eleven thousand six
hundred and eighty dollars. Add
to this the interest for the time
our wages have been kept back,
and deduct what you paid for our
clothing, and three doctor's
visits to me, and pulling a tooth
for Mandy, and the balance will
show what we are in justice
entitled to. Please send the
money by Adams's Express, in
care of V. Winters, Esq., Dayton,
Ohio. If you fail to pay us for
faithful labors in the past, we
can have little faith in your
promises in the future. We trust
the good Maker has opened your
eyes to the wrongs which you
and your fathers have done to
me and my fathers, in making us
toil for you for generations
without recompense. Here I
draw my wages every Saturday
night; but in Tennessee there
was never any pay-day for the
negroes any more than for the
horses and cows. Surely there
will be a day of reckoning for
those who defraud the laborer
of his hire.
In answering this letter, please
state if there would be any
safety for my Milly and Jane,
who are now grown up, and both
good-looking girls. You know
how it was with poor Matilda and
Catherine. I would rather stay
here and starve—and die, if it
come to that—than have my
girls brought to shame by the
violence and...
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