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There was in Chattanooga a post-school for the children of poor whites and refugees. It numbered one hundred and fifty papils of various ages, - young children, girls of fifteen and sixteen, one married woman, and boys that were almost men, all wofully ignorant. Scarcely any of them knew their letters when they entered the school. The big boys chewed tobacco, and the big girls “ dipped.” The mothers, when they came to talk with the teacher about their children, appeared with their nasty, snuffy sticks in their mouths : some chewed and spat like men. One complained that she was too poor to send her children to school ; at the same time she was chewing up and spitting away more than the means needful for the purpose. Tobacco was a necessity of life ; education wasn't. The tax upon pupils was very small, the school being mainly supported by what is called the “ post-fund,” accruing from taxes on sutlers, rents of buildings, and military fines. The post-school is usually designed for the children of soldiers ; but Chattanooga being garrisoned by colored troops, their chil dren attended the freedmen's schools.
The freedmen's schools were not in session at the time of my visit, owing to the small-pox then raging among the negro population ; but I heard an excellent account of them. They numbered six hundred pupils. The teachers were furnished by the Western Freedmen's Aid Society and paid by the freedmen themselves. One dollar a month was charged for each scholar. “ The colored people," said the school-superintendent,“ are far more zealous in the cause of education than the whites. They will starve themselves, and go without clothes, in order to send their children to school.”
Notwithstanding there were three thousand negroes in and around Chattanooga, Captain Lucas, of the Freedmen's Bu reau, informed me that he was issuing no rations to them. All were finding some work to do, and supporting themselves. To those who applied for aid he gave certificates, requesting the Commissary to sell them rations at Government rates. He was helping them to make contracts, and sending them away to plantations at the rate of fifty or one hundred a week. “ These people,” said he, “ have been terribly slaa. dered and abused. They are willing to go anywhere, if they are sure of work and kind treatment. Northern men have no difficulty in hiring them, but they have no confidence in their old masters.” It was mostly to Northern men, leasing plantations in the Mississippi Valley, that the freedmen were hiring themselves. The usual rate of wages was not less than twelve nor more than sixteen dollars a month, for full hands.
The principal negro settlement was at Contraband, a village of huts on the north side of the river. Its affairs were administered by a colored president and council chosen from among the citizens. These were generally persons of dignity and shrewd sense. They constituted a court for the trial of minor offences, under the supervision of the Bureau. Their decisions, Captain Lucas informed me, were nearly always wise and just. “I have to interfere, sometimes, however, to mitigate the severity of the sentences.” These men showed no prejudice in favor of their own color, but meted out a rugged and austere justice to all.
One afternoon I crossed the river to pay a visit to this little village. The huts, built by the negroes themselves, were of a similar character to those I had seen at Hampton, but they lacked the big wood-piles and stacks of corn, and the general air of thrift. Excepting the ravages of the small-pox, the community was in a good state of health. I found but one case of sickness, — that of an old negro suffering from a cold on his lungs, who told me there was nothing in the world he would n't give to “git shet of dis sher misery."
I entered several of these houses ; in one of which I surprised a young couple courting by the fire, and withdrew precipitately, quite as much embarrassed as they were. In another I found a middle-aged woman patching clothes for her little boy, who was at play before the open door. Although it was a summerlike December day, there was a good fire in the fireplace. The hut was built of rails and mud; the chimney of sticks and sun-dried bricks, surmounted by a barrel. The roof was of
split slabs. There was a slab mantel-piece crowded with bottles and cans ; a shelf in one corner loaded with buckets and pans; and another in the opposite corner devoted to plates, cups, and mugs. I noticed also in the room a table, a bed, a bunk, a cupboard, a broom without a handle, two stools, and a number of pegs on which clothing was hung. All this within a space not much more than a dozen feet square.
I asked the woman how her people were getting along.
“Some are makin' it right shacklin',” she replied, “ there's so many of us here. A heap is workin', and a heap is lazin' around." Her husband was employed whenever he could get a job. “Sometimes he talks like he'd hire out, then like he 'd sooner take land, — any way to git into work. All have to support themselves somehow.”
She knew me for a Northern man. “I'm proud of Northern men! They ’ve caused me to see a heap mo'e pleasure 'n I ever see befo'e.” Her husband was a good man, but she was not at all enthusiastic about him. “I had one husband ; I loved him! He belonged to a man that owned a power o' darkeys. He sold him away. It just broke my heart. But I could n't live without some man, no how; so I thought I might as well marry again.” She regretted the closing of the schools. “ My chap went a little, but not much.”
" Are these your chickens ?”
“No, I can't raise chickens.” It was the fault of her neighbors. “They just pick 'em up and steal 'em in a minute! Heap of our people will pick up, but they're sly. That comes from the way they was raised. I never stole in my life but from them that owned me. They'd work me all day, and never give me enough to eat, and I 'd take what I could from 'em, and believe it was right.”
Hearing martial music as I returned across the river, I went up on a hill east of the town and witnessed the dress-parade of the sixteenth colored regiment (Tennessee). I never saw a finer military display on a small scale. The drill was perfect. At the order, a thousand muskets came to a thousand shoulders with a single movement, or the butts struck the
ground with one sound along the whole line. The contrast of colors was superb, — the black faces, the white gloves, the blue uniforms, the bright steel. The music by the colored band was mellow and inspiring; and as a background to the picture we had a golden sunset behind the mountains.
The next morning General Gillem, in command at Chattanooga, supplied me with a horse, and gave me his orderly for an attendant, and I set out to make the ascent of Lookout Mountain.
Riding out southward on one of the valley roads, we had hardly crossed Chattanooga Creek before we missed our way. Fortunately we overtook a farmer and his son, who set us right. They were laboring over the base of the mountain with a wagon drawn by a pair of animals that appeared to have been mated by some whimsical caprice. A tall, bony horse was harnessed in with the smallest mule I ever saw. Imagine a lank starved dog beside a rat, and you have an idea of the ludicrous incongruity of the match.
The man had in his wagon a single bag of grist, which he had to help over the rough mountain-roads by lifting at the wheels. He had been twelve miles to mill: “away beyant Missionary Ridge." I asked him if there was no mill nearer home.“ Thar 's a mill on Wahatchie Crick, but it 's mighty hard to pull thar. Wahatchie Hill is a powerful bad hill to pull up.” He did not seem to think twelve miles to mill anything, and we left him lifting cheerfully at the wheels, while his son shouted and licked the team. I trust his wife appreciated that bag of grist.
Riding southward along the eastern side of the mountain, we commenced the ascent of it by a steep, rough roail, winding among forest-trees, and huge limestone rocks colored with exquisite tints of brown and gray and green, by the moss and lichens that covered them. A range of precipitous crags rose before us, and soon hung toppling over us as we continued to