Feb. 5th 1866
Dear Mrs. May;
When I last wrote we had just opened a school at Savannah. There were already several schools opened there and Col. Sickles was administering the affairs of the Bureau in a most admirable manner, so it did not seem right to tarry in that charming city, though we could have found enough important work to fill every moment. Wishing to work where there was the most need (there being so many places where nothing has been done for the Freedmen, and where they are sorely persecuted), we came here, where a school house, built by the soldiers, had just been destroyed by the citizens and the feeling is intensely bitter against anything Northern. The affairs of the Bureau have been rightfully mismanaged here; and our Govt has been disgraced by the troops who were stationed here. Now the troops are withdrawn, and the people are chafing at the presence of the Bureau and “a few pious and enthusiastic N.E. school marms:” “both must be cleared out of the place,” says the daily press.
We have never seen any discourtesy in any of the citizens, but we know that we are generally discussed in circles; and many plans are proposed for “getting rid” of us.—We have glorious schools in full blast - And I am so satisfied with the work here that nothing in the world could make me wish to be in another place, or doing anything else. In my own day school and night school, I have 140 pupils, who have made truly wonderful progress, in the five weeks I have been teaching.
How much I wish you could see my school! A more earnest, fine looking set of scholars could not be found—than I could show. Wouldn’t I like to grace your Academy Halls with their presence, giving the good people a chance to talk with them and hear their varied experiences. I find the people here more tidy and thrifty than in any place I am acquainted with— though many are intensely poor—and there has been nothing given them from the North, they are always tidy, cheerful and hopeful, ever anxious to improve. “How I wish I were rich!” For the first time in my life I say it, for I have so much need of money here. We are too far from the North to make it worth while to send any boxes here—the expense is so great—but I ought to have a purse to get an occasional flannel, or drug or splint for a broken limb or piece of bedding for some good old soul, who has “raised eight children for missus, as if they were my own; and nussed master so well, the Dr. said I saved his life ;—and now I’m too old to work— I’se turned out to die like a dog.” Though I have a liberal allowance from home-the expense of living is very great; and no individual purse is long enough for the absolute needs— One dollar note is worth more to me, than a bbl which cost many dollars and much time; for with it I can get the one thing needful for the moment, - which perchance might save a life ;—and forty bbls might not furnish. Accounts of the use made of monies sent would be returned.
There are a number of colored people in this place who are very well off—and they cheerfully bear their burden of the new dispensation, but in a population of about 8 thousand they can do little. I shall organize mutual relief societies in the Negro churches (Baptist and Methodist) as soon as possible. Large numbers are working for their food alone; and the white people tell them that they are not free yet. Across the river, in Alabama, several Negroes have been shot because they were free!
Union! I can more easily conceive of the Lion and Lambs lying down together, than of a union of the North and South. In all the counties around here, the Union familys are suffering shameful persecution, and the people do not hesitate to say that those who favor the North, shall not live in their communities. We have now with us a family who fled for their lives from their plantation—fourteen miles out—They have never owned slaves & always been loyal; and consequently the neighbors have been killing their cattle and taking their farming utensils and doing many things to make them leave their place. A few nights ago, a regular armed force from the county round threw out guards around their house, and surrounded it for the purpose of killing the whole family—but finding one of the sons absent, withdrew to decide whether to postpone it for another time or not—in the delay a part of the family escaped to the woods.
Such things are occurring the whole time; but it does not do to write North about them; for if they get in print, it gives encouragement to many communities who are ready to go and do likewise. Now the military courts are withdrawn I see no alternative for Southern Unionists, in many parts of the South, between constant persecution, and going North--
No mortal is happier than I am in my work; and my success is fairly intoxicating. -- I give no thought to the hatred of the whites, knowing how useful it is my good fortune to be, to the blacks--and how truly they love me. We lose so many letters through the mail--I have no reason to think those I mail, will reach their destination--consequently I can not feel much inspiration in writing. Our letters are probably opened, by order of the secret societies, to see that we write nothing that they are unwiling to have known at the North.
Should any money be sent, it must be in the form of a check on a N. Y. bank; as money which has been sent from my family, has failed ot reach me. Please have some one tell me if you receive this--With ever best wishes--
With ever best wishes—singing at the plough.
A crowd are waiting around my table for me to drop my pen--