Prompt: How did the different backgrounds of John, Cornelia, Lou, and Samuel affect their abilities to adjust to the end of the war? How did the end of the war affect their daily lives? Explain, making sure to support your answer with evidence and quotes from the text.
A Year in the South: Four Lives in 1865
The background of an individual allows the individual to adapt to new circumstances no matter how radical the change may be. It is very apparent that in the book, A Year in the South: Four Lives in 1865, that people whether they were black or white suffered different hardships, however their background was what enabled them to succeed or fail after the war. There were four people which this book was focused upon: Louis Hughes, who was an educated slave in the Deep South, in Tombigbee, Alabama; Cornelia McDonald, who was the wife of a Confederate soldier, and the mother of 7 children in Lexington, Virginia; Samuel Agnew, who was a priest exempted from military service due to his position in the church, in Tippah County, Mississippi, and John Robertson, who was an ex-confederate soldier looking to settle down and live a religious life accepting defeat as a Confederate soldier, in East Tennessee. Although the backgrounds of each of these individuals were different, their skills gained from their background is what led them to be able to adapt or fail to adapt to the end of the war.
Louis Hughes was an educated slave who was taught many skills by his master whom he refers to as boss, and skills he learned from various jobs but not limited to nursing, working in the fields, and working the salt works. Louis Hughes was very highly skilled for a slave. “Nursing was only one of many skills Lou acquired in the McGehee household. He could drive a carriage, cultivate an ornamental garden, and even operate a sewing machine, not to mention serve expertly as butler and body servant.” (Ash 25) This shows how well rounded Lou was as a slave and as an individual. Lou was also of an entrepreneurial mindset and is shown when he was in the salt works, where he borrowed money from the other slaves and bought tobacco plugs to sell. Having discerned that the area could only produce salt, he was highly successful and procured a fifty dollar profit from the sales which granted attention from N.S. Brooks. Brooks then obtained five hundred plugs for Lou to sell in which he made a huge profit from. Lou had noticed that “it was all rebel money” but was sharp enough and “bought up all the silver” he could get his hands on. (Ash 21) This lead to believe that Lou would buy something that will retain its value if the confederacy were to lose or win. That way he could keep his assets safe. As soon as the first sign of invasion was near Madam had sent for all her slaves. Lou had been sent out to the fields for the remainder of the time of the invasion was upon arrival, even though there was hardly a presence in the remote area he was in. During the time he was working in the field he remembered how his master had shown two sides of his master. On one side, his master had been seen as a benevolent and would go out and cure people. On the other hand, there was one where he was seen as temperamental and aggressive. Lou has held much resentment towards this side, and recalls a time where Boss gave him a whipping. This made Lou’s yearning for freedom even greater than it was before. Eventually in the summer, Lou and another slave named George had decided to escape, not knowing that the war had ended and they were granter freedom. The two unknowing freedmen then made their way to Memphis, mostly by foot with fear that they might be caught and sent back. The last bit, after they felt more secure was by train, Lou had purchased using his earnings from the plugs. There they were turned down by the official in charge, found that the war had ended in the Union victory and traveled back Senatobia. On their way there, with a rented wagon and two bottles of...
Bibliography: Ash, Stephen V. A Year in the South: Four Lives in 1865. New York City: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.
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