Sketches of Southern Life

The Deliverance

Master only left old Mistus
One bright and handsome boy;
But she fairly doted on him,
He was her pride and joy.

We all liked Mister Thomas,
He was so kind at heart;
And when the young folkes got in scrapes,
He always took their part.

He kept right on that very way
Till he got big and tall,
And old Mistus used to chide him,
And say he’d spile us all.

But somehow the farm did prosper
When he took things in hand;
And though all the servants liked him,
He made them understand.

One evening Mister Thomas said,
“Just bring my easy shoes:
I am going to sit by mother,
And read her up the news.”

Soon I heard him tell old Mistus
“We’re bound to have a fight;
But we’ll whip the Yankees, mother,
We’ll whip them sure as night!”

Then I saw old Mistus tremble;
She gasped and held her breath;
And she looked on Mister Thomas
With a face as pale as death.

“They are firing on Fort Sumpter;
Oh! I wish that I was there!—
Why, dear mother! what’s the matter?
You’re the picture of despair.”

“I was thinking, dearest Thomas,
‘Twould break my very heart
If a fierce and dreadful battle
Should tear our lives apart.”

“None but cowards, dearest mother,
Would skulk unto the rear,
When the tyrant’s hand is shaking
All the heart is holding dear.”

I felt sorry for old Mistus;
She got too full to speak;
But I saw the great big tear-drops
A running down her cheek.

Mister Thomas too was troubled
With choosing on that night,
Betwixt staying with his mother
And joining in the fight.

Soon down into the village came
A call for volunteers;
Mistus gave up Mister Thomas,
With many sighs and tears.

His uniform was real handsome;
He looked so brave and strong;
But somehow I couldn’t help thinking
His fighting must be wrong.

Though the house was very lonesome,
I thought ‘twould all come right,
For I felt somehow or other
We was mixed up in that fight.

And I said to Uncle Jacob,
“Now old Mistus feels the sting,
For this parting with your children
Is a mighty dreadful thing.”

“Never mind,” said Uncle Jacob,
“Just wait and watch and pray,
For I feel right sure and certain,
Slavery’s bound to pass away;

“Because I asked the Spirit,
If God is good and just,
How it happened that the masters
Did grind us to the dust.

“And something reasoned right inside,
Such should not always be;
And you could not beat it out my head,
The Spirit spoke to me.”

And his dear old eyes would brighten,
And his lips put on a smile,
Saying, “Pick up faith and courage,
And just wait a little while.”

Mistus prayed up in the parlor,
That the Secesh all might win;
We were praying in the cabins,
Wanting freedom to begin.

Mister Thomas wrote to Mistus,
Telling ’bout the Bull’s Run fight,
That his troops had whipped the Yankees
And put them all to flight.

Mistus’ eyes did fairly glisten;
She laughed and praised the South,
But I thought some day she’d laugh
On tother side her mouth.

I used to watch old Mistus’ face,
And when it looked quite long
I would say to Cousin Milly,
The battle’s going wrong;

Not for us, but for the Rebels.—
My heart ‘would fairly skip,
When Uncle Jacob used to say,
“The North is bound to whip.”

And let the fight go as it would—
Let North or South prevail—
He always kept his courage up,
And never let it fail.

And he often used to tell us,
“Children, don’t forget to pray;
For the darkest time of morning
Is just ‘fore the break of day.”

Well, one morning bright and early
We heard the fife and drum,
And the booming of the cannon—
The Yankee troops had come.

When the word ran through the village,
The colored folks are free—
In the kitchens and the cabins
We held a jubilee.

When they told us Mister Lincoln
Said that slavery was dead,
We just poured our prayers and blessings
Upon his precious head.

We just laughed, and danced, and shouted,
And prayed, and sang, and cried,
And we thought dear Uncle Jacob
Would fairly crack his side.

But when old Mistus heard it,
She groaned and hardly spoke;
When she had to lose her servants,
Her heart was almost broke.

‘Twas a sight to see our people
Going out, the troops to meet,
Almost dancing to the music,
And marching down the street.

After years of pain and parting,
Our chains was broke in two,
And we was so mighty happy,
We didn’t know what to do.

But we soon got used to freedom,
Though the way at first was rough;
But we weathered through the tempest,
For slavery made us tough.

But we had one awful sorrow,
It almost turned my head,
When a mean and wicked cretur
Shot Mister Lincoln dead.

‘Twas a dreadful solemn morning,
I just staggered on my feet;
And the women they were crying
And screaming in the street.

But if many prayers and blessings
Could bear him to the throne,
I should think when Mister Lincoln died,
That heaven just got its own.

Then we had another President,—
What do you call his name?
Well, if the colored folks forget him
They wouldn’t be much to blame.

We thought he’d be the Moses
Of all the colored race;
But when the Rebels pressed us hard
He never showed his face.

But something must have happened him,
Right curi’s I’ll be bound,
‘Cause I heard ’em talking ’bout a circle
That he was swinging round.

But everything will pass away—
He went like time and tide—
And when the next election came
They let poor Andy slide.

But now we have a President,
And if I was a man
I’d vote for him for breaking up
The wicked Ku-Klux Klan.

And if any man should ask me
If I would sell my vote,
I’d tell him I was not the one
To change and turn my coat;

If freedom seem’d a little rough
I’d weather through the gale;
And as to buying up my vote,
I hadn’t it for sale.

I do not think I’d ever be
As slack as Jonas Handy;
Because I heard he sold his vote
For just three sticks of candy.

But when John Thomas Reeder brought
His wife some flour and meat,
And told her he had sold his vote
For something good to eat,

You ought to seen Aunt Kitty raise,
And heard her blaze away;
She gave the meat and flour a toss,
And said they should not stay.

And I should think he felt quite cheap
For voting the wrong side;
And when Aunt Kitty scolded him,
He just stood up and cried.

But the worst fooled man I ever saw,
Was when poor David Rand
Sold out for flour and sugar;
The sugar was mixed with sand.

I’ll tell you how the thing got out;
His wife had company,
And she thought the sand was sugar,
And served it up for tea.

When David sipped and sipped the tea,
Somehow it didn’t taste right;
I guess when he found he was sipping sand,
He was made enough to fight.

The sugar looked so nice and white—
It was spread some inches deep—
But underneath was a lot of sand;
Such sugar is mighty cheap.

You’d laughed to seen Lucinda Grange
Upon her husband’s track;
When he sold his vote for rations
She made him take ’em back.

Day after day did Milly Green
Just follow after Joe,
And told him if he voted wrong
To take his rags and go.

I think that Curnel Johnson said
His side had won the day,
Had not we women radicals
Just got right in the way.

And yet I would not have you think
That all our men are shabby;
But ’tis said in every flock of sheep
There will be one that’s scabby.

I’ve heard, before election came
They tried to buy John Slade;
But he gave them all to understand
That he wasn’t in that trade.

And we’ve got lots of other men
Who rally round the cause,
And go for holding up the hands
That gave us equal laws

Who know their freedom cost too much
Of blood and pain and treasure,
For them to fool away their votes
For profit or for pleasure.


Icon for the Public Domain license

This work (Sketches of Southern Life by Frances Harper) is free of known copyright restrictions.