Page images
PDF
EPUB

A TALE OF REBEL PERSECUTION.

241

back. He 'll get warned; and then if he don't leave, he must bok out!'

I think if the “ dog-goned Rebel" had seen what I saw, in the deadly determination of the man, he would have needed no further warning.

I listened to many tales of persecution and suffering endured by loyal East Tennesseeans during the war. Here is the outline of one, related to me by a farmer in Greene County.

“ After the Rebel Conscript Act passed, I started with my son and a hundred other refugees to go over the mountains into Kentucky. The Rebels pursued us, put on the track by some of our secesh neighbors. Some escaped, my son with them; but I was taken, and brought back with irons on my wrists. That was the twenty-fifth of July, 1863. I was carried to Richmond, and kept in Castle Thunder till the twentieth of October. They then put me on a train to take me to Salisbury prison, in North Carolina. I was in a box car, and I found that a board at one corner of it was so loose that I could pull it off with my hands. Just at night, when we were about eighteen miles from Salisbury, and the train was running about ten miles an hour, I pulled away the board, and jumped off. I took to the fields, and tramped till I came to the Yadkin River, where a nigger took me over in his canoe. I tramped all night, and lay by the next day in the woods, and tramped again the next night, and lay by again the next day, and so on for fourteen nights and days ; in which time I travelled three hundred miles. They were moonlight nights, and I got along very well, only I near-about starved. I lived on raw corn and pumpkins. I kept the line of the Western Railroad; I flanked the depots and pickets, but I was several times nigh being caught. I never entered a house, or passed near one, if I could help it. It was a hard, long, lonesome tramp. I did not speak to a human being, except the nigger that took me across the Yadkin, and another I almost run over on the road as I was coming to Asheville. He said to me, Good evening.' I muttered back something, and went on. I had n't gone far before I changed my mind. Something said to me,

[ocr errors]

• Ask help of that nigger.' I was sick and worn out, and almost perishing for want of food. Besides, I did not know the country ; I saw I was coming to a town, and there was danger I might be taken. I went back, and said to the nigger, • Can you give me something to eat ?' He was sitting on the ground; but he jumped up, and looked at me by the moonlight, and said, · Where do you want to go?' I told him. Then he knew I was a Union man running away from the Rebels. He told me to wait for him there, and came back in a little while with a heap of bread and beef. Never anything tasted so good. After I had eaten, he gave me directions how to avoid the guard, and strike the road beyond Asheville. I came over the mountains, and reached here the fourteenth night.”

East Tennessee contributed a liberal quota to the national army. Twenty-five thousand loyal refugees escaped into Kentucky, and fought their way back again with Burnsile's forces in 1863.

COMMON-SCHOOL FUND.

243

.

CHAPTER XXXII.

EAST TENNESSEE FARMERS.

I FOUND the East Tennesseeans a plain, honest, industrious, old-fashioned people. Only about four out of five can read and write. Men of the North and West would consider them slow. They are dressed, almost without exception, in coarse, strong “domestic,” as the home-manufactured cloth of the country is called. It is woven on hand-looms, which are to be found in nearly every farm-house. Domestic is, in fact, an institution, not of Tennessee alone, but of the entire Southern country. In the absence of manufacturing establishments, the interest in this primitive private industry has not been suffered to decline. It stood the South in good stead during the war. After the importation of goods was cut off, it clothed the people. All classes wore it. Even at the time of my visit, I found many proprietors of large estates, the aristocrats of the country, wearing garments which had been spun, colored, and woven by their own slaves.

Tennessee has no system of free schools. There was a common-school fund, derived mainly from public lands given for the purpose by the United States. The State was the trustee of this fund, which the Constitution declared “permapent, never to be diminished by legislative appropriation,” nor " devoted to any other use than the support and encouragement of common schools.” The proceeds of this fund distributed among the schools in 1859, amounted to $230,430, or seventy-five cents for each scholar in the State. Treason, which betrayed so many sacred trusts, betrayed this. According to Governor Brownlow “a more perfidious act than the appropriation of this fund to treasonable purposes was not committed during the late perfidious rebellion.”

The people of East Tennessee took more interest, perhaps, in common-school education, than the inhabitants of other parts of the State ; but that was not much. The school-fund went but a little way toward the support of schools. There were scattered throughout the country log school-houses capable of accommodating fifty pupils each. The tuition varied from two dollars and a half to three dollars a scholar. The teachers were supported by neighborhood subscriptions. But education was regarded by the poor as a luxury which they could not afford; and even the middling class was apt to consider their money and their children's labor of more importance than book-learning. The war, and the waste of the school-fund, had for four years put an end to schools, and I found the new generation growing up in ignorance.

The school-houses serve as meeting-houses. There are few churches beside. Outside of the larger towns, scarce a spire points its finger towards heaven. This is true not only of Tennessee, but of the whole South. It is one of the peculiarities of the country which strike the Northern traveller unplease antly. The village green, with the neat white-steepled edifice standing upon it, distinguishable from all other buildings, is no feature of the Southern landscape. You may travel thousands of miles and not meet with it.

Yet the East Tennesseeans are a church-going people. No especial form of meeting-house, any more than form of worship, is necessary to the exercise of that divine faculty by which man communes with his Maker. The Holy Spirit enters as readily the log-hut, where two or three are gathered together, as the great temples where multitudes assemble.

The Methodist Church predominates in East Tennessee. The United Brethren, who admit to their communion no rum. seller, rum-drinker, nor slaveholder, have a powerful influ. ence. They were much persecuted in the South before the war, as was natural in a country where the prejudice in favor of rum and slavery was so strong; but of late, in East Ten. nessee, they have grown in strength and popularity.

Farming is behind the age. Mowers and reapers, which

HORSES AND MULES.

245

might be employed to fine advantage on the beautiful smooth meadows and grain-fields of East Tennessee, have scarcely come into use at all. In Greene County I heard of but three. Manures are wasted. It is customary to rotate crops, until even rotation must cease, giving place to a usurpation of weeds and broom-sedge. A favorite method of improving land is to "clover” it; that is, to plough in crops of clover and grass. Farming utensils are nearly all brought from the North ; and there is a great need for home manufactures here also. The farmers generally work mules and mares. The mares are kept chiefly for breeding mules. For which purpose likewise every neighborhood, if not every farm, has its “jack.”

The further my observations extended, the more strongly I was convinced that mules were an indispensable substitute for horses in the South. Animals there do not receive the cherishing care they get at the North ; and the rough, careless treatment which I saw almost universally shown to beasts of burden, not only by the negroes, but also by the whites, can be endured by nothing less hardy than the mule. This valuable creature, besides possessing the advantages I have elsewhere alluded to, is recommended for his brave appetite, which slights no part of the product of a hill of corn, but sturdily masters stalk, cob, and shucks.

Animals are driven, both at ploughing and teaming, by one rein, which is attached to the middle of the bridle-rein on the neck of the “ lead” horse or mule, as the “near” or left-hand beast is called. The driver gives two little jerks for gee, and a steady pull for haw. This is the custom throughout the South.

I found horses cheap in Tennessee. A farmer said to me, “A hundred and a half will buy our best animal. This is not because horses are plenty, but because money is scarce. Formerly we used to take large droves of our stock to Georgia and the Carolinas; but that market is closed now, there is no money there." Several weeks afterwards, in one of the middle counties of South Carolina, I met this very man, who told me he had come into the State with eleven horses, and sold them

« PreviousContinue »