May 1, 2011

I Could Not Pray Aginst My Conscience

From Sherman's Fifth Corps:

Sunday, November 12, 1864

JENNIE LEWIS, Neal House, Atlanta


Dear Papa,

     We met to-nite at Friendship Baptist. The question on everyones lips is ‘Are you going?’ Rev. Woods from Marietta said colored folks should not follow a Yankee solder past the front gate. ‘The northern people are not frends of the negro and many a time from my pulpit have I warned niggers about going North. No, sir, the colored man dosent belong in the North—and you may tell the world that the Reverend Joseph Wood makes no bones about saying that!’

Rev. Quarles preeched next. He said ‘I lerned to pray when very yung and kept it up even in my unsaved days. My wite masters new me to be a praying boy, and asked me to pray to God to hold the Yankeys back! Of course, I didnt have any love for any Yankeys—and havent now, for that matter—but I told my wite folks strate from the sholder that I cold not pray along those lines. I told them flatfootedly that wile I loved them, I cold not pray aginst my conshus: that I not only wanted to be free, but that I wanted to see all the negroes freed!'

‘Yes Lord!’ the peeple said.

‘I told them that God was using the Yankeys to scurage the slave-holders just as He had, sentrees before used heethens to scold His chosen peeple. If we are going to end slavery for all colored peeple, we must take up with the Union Army and work with them. Never mind what the Yankey solders will do for us. What will we do for ourselves and our country?’

Just then some wite solders came into the church. Rev. Quarles stopped preeching and told us to sing. ‘Didnt my Lord deliver Daniel? Then why not every man?’ and ‘Whose that out there dressed in red, must be the people that Moses led.’ I looked at Mama. She looked back at me and shook her hed.

After a long time Uncle Ned stood up. He is an elder of our church so we had to be quite and lissen to him. He said ‘My children, I am old and feeble, and nere the border land, but I want to tell you my brothers and sisters to take up the cross and bare it. The Bible dose not say we walk throu the valley of death it says we only pass thru the shadows of it.’ Uncle Ned is going away to be Free and he has been a slave for 75 yeres!

To-nite I asked Mama, ‘If Uncle Ned is going why cant we? You can nurse solders along the way. I can wash clothes. Them solders at the church to-nite said the Army will pay the colored folks to do work. Cousin Aleck is alredy going. Pleese Mama lets leve with the Sherman Army.’

‘Jennie! You are all I have left. Your sister sold away. Your father in harms way. I wont let you out of my site. When the solders leve we going back to Decatur. Your Papa will look for us there.'

This is the state of things Papa. It seems I am not free after all. How can that be Papa?

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