|JJ Smith Plantation: Source: Google Art Project|
Christian Recorder: March 4, 1865
Mr. Editor: - Since I last wrote to you from this place things have undergone some transitions which I trust will tend to the progress of society here. The infamous Yankee hatred so strongly cherished by our secesh neighbors, is melting down in elementary proportions before the warmhearted and philanthropic endeavors of our gallant soldiers to transform the lethargically inertness of their southern customs into the lively interest so characteristic of northern energy. As an evidence of this, boats can be seen daily plowing the waters in every direction, while wagons are driven, horses are ridden, mules are freighted, cows milked, dogs bark, cats mew, &e. Besides, churches, theatres, and ball-rooms are being filled up. I am trying to establish a religious nucleus around which to gather the religious and moral, and the soldiers (white) are fixing up a hall for theatrical performances, as several are well versed in the science of theatres, while the more vulgar and ignorant class are getting ready to hop and squat on the ball-room floor.
We have a great many hard-looking customers here called southern belles, who generally keep themselves rather retired from the raw-boned and bloody handed Yankees, and I believe the boys intend to try and get them out doors once more before the world ends. I have been rather more fortunate than the rest; being a sort of a lay-low-preacher, I have had the pleasure of addressing a few large audiences, which has caused great slaughter among the fowls, if nothing else. Every evening I am out to tea, and nearly every day to dinner, and somehow these North Carolina chickens will get in my way at every invited meal, and I have such a dislike for them that I most unmercifully devour them wherever I find them.
Last Sabbath afternoon I had the inestimable pleasure of organizing the first A.M.E. Church in the State of North Carolina. I selected the courthouse as my church, where I preached at 11 o’clock and at night, and laid the claims of my church before them in the afternoon. After the bell was rung at 11 o’clock, several of the natives (white) came to the door and saw this colored brother occupying the judge’s stand, and took with a polite leaving. I inquired, after service, of the colored people, why the white people left. Was it because I was ugly? They said no; but it was preaching enough for them to see a Negro occupying the platform in their court-house. That sight alone was as much gospel as they could swallow in one week, and to receive any more would be murder.
Our afternoon service was not so well attended, in consequence of the bell not being rung, but to those who came out I tried to speak at some length, holding the discipline of the A.M.E. church in one hand, and the discipline of the M. E. Church south in the other, reading and commenting from both. After concluding my remarks… no action was taken further than the leading men coming forward and saying, “Here, take my name.” This they continued to do until thirty came forward, each thanking God that the light had come. And during the week a large number have come to me requesting their names recorded among those received last Sabbath, as they were not at church on the occasion. I learn there are not more than fifty pious persons in the town, and many of them had back-slidden in consequence of no care being taken of them. They had not met a class for four years, nor heard of a prayer-meeting for the same length of time, and every sermon was a speech on slavery. They tell me here that one southern minister had the spunk to preach that the north would whip, for slavery was a curse, and God would subdue it or suffer every southern man to be killed, and that he was not even arrested, much less shot or hung. But as regards our church here, I am certain that every person holding membership in the M.E. Church South, will, at the first opportunity, give in their names. I have been trying to find one of the brethren whom I could license to take charge in the event I am called away, but a competent one I shall fail to find. Oh, what a field for some young man looking to the ministerial position! Here might he study, teach and preach receiving both the blessings of God and the endless thanks of a grateful people, till his capacities were developed to their full maturity and strength.
Recruiting in this department goes on finely. We have enlisted several hale, stalwart-looking fellows, whom we think will fill their places nobly. One man wants his gun now, so he can get killing right off…. The colored people are coming in from all quarters, even from plantations one hundred and fifty miles in the country. Three women came in the other night who had traveled through woods for a hundred miles. Several rebels have endeavored to block up the roads and bridges, but all to no purpose. Still they come. Report says many have been caught and killed. Some who succeed in getting in tell frightful tales about their narrow escapes. One man, who was pursued for several hours by the rebel kidnappers, arrived here a few morning ago very ill. The circumstances are as follow: Since my arrival here I have been acting as a one-horse doctor, in recommending castor oil, Epsom salts, and a few army pills for every kind of disease a person has; so a few mornings ago I was called to bestow my surgical skill on a man who had been terribly chased in his attempt to get within our lines I consequently hastened to his quarters, and put him through a rigid examination. I found him lying just at the point of time, looking for every moment to be the next. He had an awful pain upon his appetite, his stomach pulse beat very slowly; his eyes exhibited signs of a previous fright, and his heart seemed to throb under a reactionary impulse of joy on his reception into the Yankee lines. With this knowledge of his case I was enabled to console his friends, and pronounce his condition quite hopeful. I then turned to my assistant surgeon, (the cook) and recommended that he (the man) be given a heavy dose of fat meat and hard tack and that his insides be well bathed with warm coffee or tea, and that he be furnished with the floors and as much sleep as could be packed in a twenty four hour measure. The next time I saw the gentleman he had recovered, and had come around to enlist as a U.S. soldier.
But I must confess that I was offered a case this morning too hard for me. I was hailed by a boy while going to breakfast, who told me his mother wanted me, to come there immediately. I inquired the object and was informed she had been badly beaten. I hastened there and found her lying on a bench, with a most frightful gash cut on her forehead, about three inches long, and apparently the entire depth of the flesh. She was covered with blood, yet nothing excited me so much as to learn that her own daughter had inflected the wound. I did not regard the blood nor the wound anything at all, but what startled me was the idea of it being done by the hand of her own daughter, and she was a young woman, and that it was the result of being hissed on by some white women, who were afraid to attempt it themselves. There was a young man there from Baltimore, who loaded his gun to shoot the daughter, but she was concealed by some of her white backers. The lady’s wounds, however, were attended by one of our army surgeons, and the daughter will be seen also.
We heard great rumors of peace being declared through lip communication; how true this is I am not able to say, for we get no newspapers here. I have only seen two newspapers this year. I neither get Recorders, Anglos, letters, nor hear anything from the northern world, only some stray tales, which fly by sometimes and a part of which, I suspect, is false. I hear more of what is going on north from the colored people who come in our lines, than from any other source. So far as news is concerned a man might as well be in the penitentiary, though I hope it will soon be better. But, referring to peace again, I pray that it may soon come, for I have seen just as many men killed as I wish to. Likely, for one, I am case-hardened to death, as men generally get to be; for when I am tired I had much rather sleep a night in a house with dead people than living, because the dead don’t bother me, by either talking, laughing or walking about, and a man can rest quietly, yet feel that he has company. But for all, I must say, to walk over a field covered with dead and wounded men, is no pleasant sight. God grant that peace may speedily arrive, upon honorable terms.
I have the honor to be your most obedient servant,