I noticed upon the hurricane-deck, said a letter-writer, an elderly darkey with a very philosophical and retrospective cast of countenance, squatted upon his bundle toasting his shins against the chimney, and apparrently plunged in a state of deep meditation. Finding upon inquiry that he belonged to the Ninth Illinois, one of the most gallantly behaved and heavily losing regiments at the Fort Donelson battle, and part of which was aboard, I began to interrogate him upon the subject. His philosophy was so much in the Falstaffian wein that i will give his views in his own words, as near as my memory serves me.

“Were you in the fight?”

“Had a little taste of it, sa.”

“Stood your ground, did you?”

“No, sa, I runs.”

“Run at the first fire did you?”

“Yes,–sa, and I would have run soona, had I knoad it war coming.”

“Why, that wasn’t very creditable to your courage.”

“Dat isn’t in my line, sa–cookin’s my profeshun.”

“Well but have you no regard for your reputation?”

“Reputation’s nofin by the side of life.”

“Do you consider your life worth more than other people’s.”

“It’s worth more to me, sa.”

“Then you must value it very highly!”

“Yes, sa, I does –more dan all dis world–more dan a million ob dollas sa, for what would that be wuth to a man with the bref out of him? Self preserbashum am the first law wid me.”

“But why should you act upon a different rule from other men?”

“Because different men set different values upon dar lives–mine is not in the market.”

“But if you lost it, you would have the satisfaction of knowing that you died for your country.”

“What satisfaction would dat be to me when de power of feelin’ was gone?”

“Then patriotism and honor are nothing to you?”

“Nuffin whatever, sa,–I regard them as among de vanities.”

“If our soldiers were like you, traitors might have broken up the government without resistance.”

“Yes, sa, dar would have been no help for it. I would’nt put my head in de scale, ‘gainst no gobernment dat eber existed, for no gobernment could replace de loss to me.”

“Do you think any of your company would have missed you if you had been killed?”

“”May be not, sa–a dead white man ain’t much to dese sogers, let lone a dead nigga–but I’d a miss myself, and dat was de pint wid me.”

It is safe to say that the dusky corpse of that African will never darken the field of carnage.




Originally posted 2008-12-19 17:01:30.

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I'm a lover of God and His Son Jesus Christ. In addition I love to make yesterday's words come alive through the republishing of good and profitable books of old. The Civil War project is an ongoing labor of love. - Karan
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