I want to honor a girl who may not be known except for these here letters. She was stubborn, but caring. She lost both parents; her father died, and her mother was taken away from her. The only family she had left was her two younger sisters. This girl fought for her beliefs, her family and eventually, her freedom. I believe her story should be told to remind us of the forgotten ones; the random faces in the crowd, or the ones we see everyday, but may never talk to. The people who do the little things in life that we simply ignore. In this case, it was a girl. A girl who was unwillingly forced into slavery. An unknown name among the town, but deeply loved in my heart. She was like a daughter to me. My wife may not have been too fond of her, but I enjoyed her company.
You may think I am a horrid man to own slaves and to be living in Virginia during the Civil War, but I'm not that bad; or so I think. My wife would tell you otherwise, but I too am an innocent person. The only reason I have slaves is to keep them from being killed in other places. Of course, they do help around the house; it's a rather large home, but I do give them some freedom. That's the other thing though, I had to keep this a secret. You see, most people in the south wanted slaves, but I agreed with President Lincoln; that they aren't so different from us, and we shouldn't treat them differently. I did however have to make them do a little bit of work, such as laundry or dishes in order not to have rumors spread around town. No one wants rumors spread about them.
But this story isn't about me, it's about an unknown girl. A name nobody would care to remember. But I remember that name, and I always will. That name was Madeline Walter
October 19th , 1862
I can't believe you are dead. This is why I write to you. You helped me in this world, n' I wish you would do the same in the world you are in now. Mamma has always helped too, but not like you. I was good some in Mamma's arms, but not the same. I don't have her either now. After Master beat you dead, he sent us to town to be sold. Had a potato sack to carry our little things, n' was wheeled to town on a caged in wagon. Master led us to the platform. When we walked the steps, Abigail tripped n' fell. She tried to get up, but Master picked her up n' threw her down on the steps. He call her lazy n' words I don't know. She hit her head n' blood ran down her face. Mamma helped her up, n' carried her the rest o' the way. Anne held her rag doll n' my hand tight. We stand with tears in our eyes. I pray for us n' hope a good master take us home. I was scared, but I had to be brave for little Anne. I try to be calm, n' tell Anne it was okay, but I had a lump in my throat n' couldn't speak.
Mamma was sold real fast, but to 'nother master. She hugged us n' drowned us with kisses. She cupped my face in her hands n' looked into my eye. Last thing she says to me is stay with Abigail n' Anne no matter what, n' she loved us. Her new master watched us, then came up n' took Mamma from us. She had tears in her eye n' blew kisses as she was taken away. Anne was cry'n n' I calm her. Didn't help that I too wanted to cry, but at least Anne wasn't makin' noises .
Three of us are still together. If we been split, I don't know what I or they would do. After Mamma was taken from us, us held hands n' didn't let go. I pray in my head. I would not let us be split again. Men glanced at us, but no one wanted a fourteen year old n' her sisters.
Hours went n' a large woman came up to buy me. Wobbling on her thick legs, she gave Master a handful of coins n' grabbed my hand. She pulled me, but I wouldn't let her take me away from 'em. I need 'em n' they need me. Mamma said to keep us together, n' that's what I was to do. I pull n' twist, but the woman had a strong grasp. I kick n' scream. Anne hugs her doll n' Abigail try to free me. The woman dig her nails in my skin as she pull n' glare at me. It look like knives coming from her eyes. Tears ran down my face n' the woman began clawing me. Her long nails raked across my check n' cut my lip. Blood came from the cuts. I clawed back, almost hitting her eye. I wish I did. She was screaming at me n' threw me down on the platform. The woman got over me n' kick me in the ribs. I fought back, hittin' n' screamin'. A man ran up to the platform n' pull the woman off . I think this was her husband, 'cause nobody looked brave to stop this woman. He talk to her.
I ran to Abigail n' Anne n' pull 'em close. I held 'em tight n' kissed their foreheads. I try to steady my breathing, but my sides hurt. A mix o' blood n' tears fall to the platform. Anne was crying again n' I wipe tears from her face. Abigail was shaking, tears run o'er the dry blood on her face. There is marks on my arms from the woman's nails; on scars I got the week when Master beat us, n' long, thin scars 'cross my face. Blood dripped from my lip to the platform. Bruises covered my sides n' arm. The pain was bad, but my thoughts were 'bout Mamma n' my sisters.
The woman came back to the platform with the man. The woman too had marks, not big as mine, but thin, red lines o'er her eye n' a bruise on her arm. Hair from her bun fell on her shoulders. She was real big n' nasty' lookin'.
The man walk to my sisters n' I n' spoke to us. He says his name is Nicholas Taylor n' him n' his wife want us to come with 'em an' help 'em 'round the house. He turn to me n' lower his voice . He told me his wife only wanted me, but he saw our faces when Mamma left. He told me he don't want to split us, or cause more pain. Mr. Taylor smiled n' say Abigail n' Anne come too. So happy, I gave him a hug. He hugged me back. I told him I was thankful, n' smiled.
When we got to Mr. Taylor's house, we was taken to head slave; Cecile Williams, who took us to our quarter. Down a flight o' stairs n' in the cellar. Was little n' had a small window by the ceiling. A bed o' straw was in the corner, n' two crates pushed together in the other corner. Crates on their sides so things could be put in 'em , n' on top. Candles on top o' the crates, with a few matches. Two pillows n' a thin blanket were on the hay pile. Five nails stuck out o' a wall, n' a clothesline for clothing. 'Nother blanket was on the clothesline as a wall between Cecile n' us. I tell her thank you, n' she leave after give a nod.
We unpacked our things. Abigail had clothes on her back n' a small mending kit. Anne had an extra dress, rag doll Mamma made n' pebbles from the creek we used to live by. I had the clothes on my back, my small blank book n' a penny I found. I sewed it in the hem o' my dress. I've been keeping that penny for a "just in case", we don't get 'nough food, or need to run away.
Little Anne hung her extra dress n' us put our things in crates. I sends Anne n' Abigail to lie down. Was a hard day n' they need rest for the next; our first day with the new master. Mr. Taylor was a good man, but his wife is a mess. She has a temper, but I does too. I need to hold my tongue n' not be stubborn.
Am alone. Both you n' Mamma are gone, so I has to look after Abigail n' Anne myself. I'm just a girl; still growin' n' learnin'. I can't be strong all the time. I needs to for Abigail n' Anne, but it's a lot. I think this is the main reason I write to you.
Daddy, I miss you, n' wish you here. I miss your ideas n' teachin's. Anne, Abigail n' I send our love.
January 1st , 1863
I is sorry I can't write much. Had to burn most o' my journal so we be warm this winter. I has little paper left. N' if Mrs. Taylor find out, I in trouble. Christmas was hard. Abigail n' I made the feast for Mr. Taylor's family n' friends, n' Anne prepare rooms for guests. We did celebrate, when no daylight left n' had to tell stories by candlelight. Don't have anything to give, but Mr. Taylor gave leftovers from Christmas feast n' some thick blankets for winter (both he did behind Mrs. Taylor's back).
Speaking o' Mrs. Taylor, Anne is washing dishes while Mr. Taylor was gone, n' was eating scraps off plates. Mrs. Taylor see her n' start slapping her. Told Anne she was stealing food n' the scraps could go to the pigs. I run to Anne n' push her out o' the way, taking the beating. Mad, Mrs. Taylor grab dirty dishes n' throw 'em at me. Dishes shatter on the floor n' cut my skin. With no more dishes to throw, she run at me n' hit me with the broom. Mr. Taylor was coming n' hear Anne screaming. He run home n' see his wife beating me. Pull Mrs. Taylor off o' me n' out o' the kitchen. Abigail stare in shock. Cecile n' Anne goes to me to sees if I okay. Anne hug me n' Cecile look at injuries. I has new cuts on my arms n' legs n' a large gash on my back. One o' the dishes torn my dress n' glass was all over the floor. Cecile wash my cuts n' send Anne n' I to our space in the cellar, n' Abigail to sweep the dishes.
For good news, President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation is approve today in northern states. We is in Virginia, but if one part is doing it, the other part do it too? Hope so. Don't know how long I can take Mrs. Taylor.
I love you Daddy, n' always will.
March 3rd, 1863
The war is worse. Southern part still don't give up their slaves. Remember drafting o' men in Virginia last year? Now drafting men in the north too. Wish this war ends. Why can't south free slaves n' do work themselves? Would be better. Families stay together n' the people we call "masters" can loose weight they gained. Mrs. Taylor could use that. See how it feels to be us n' loose weight as she goes. Can barely get to her bedroom now, n' has trouble getting out o' bed.
I sorry for Mr. Taylor. He is good n' sweet, but deal with Mrs. Taylor must be a handful. Had to be an arranged marriage. Man like Nicholas Taylor don't marry women like Elizabeth Taylor. Is surprising he last this long.
Must hurry, is noon n' the witch wants dinner.
You may be curious as to how I got these letters. I'm afraid it was another incident with my wife, Mrs. Taylor. You see, Madeline was supposed to be preparing our meal, but was a little late. I didn't mind; I was too busy reading the morning's paper, but Elizabeth grew impatient. She went to go find Madeline and see what was taking so long. She wasn't in the kitchen, so Elizabeth went to Madeline and her sisters' room. She found Madeline there writing in her little journal. My wife snatched the journal and hit Madeline on the head with it. She furiously walked back to the dinning room and began ripping pages out and throwing them into the fireplace. Madeline had ran after Elizabeth and was trying to snatch the papers out of the fireplace. I jumped up from my chair and tried to calm them down. I gave Madeline my handkerchief to wipe away the tears and sent both of them to their rooms. Once I was sure Elizabeth was out of range, I reached into the fire and gathered the remaining intact papers. I'm afraid these are the only ones that survived Elizabeth's anger and the fire, but I do know how Madeline and her family are doing now.
Madeline is no longer a girl, but a mother of three; a girl and two boys. She lives happily in her own little home not far from here. I visit her and her new family quite often. She tells stories of the war and of her parents. She teaches her children to read and write as her father taught her.
Her sister Abigail too has a family of her own, but moved to Pennsylvania, so reunions with her are harder. Little Anne is now almost an adult. She lives with her sister Madeline at the moment and enjoys playing with the other children.
I myself am still married to Elizabeth. I can't say she's changed at all, but I've learned a few things from this experience. One is that other people don't always see the things the way you do. Sometimes you just have to stick with what you believe in; even if it isn't what others think, or it may seem risky. Always do what you think is right. Another thing is love. Without love, the world would be a disaster. If you show kindness, you will most likely receive kindness. Madeline would tell you that if it weren't for love and the sake of that foolish wife of mine, she would be out of the house. Or that's what she tells me anyway. It's one one of our many jokes.
I suppose what I'm trying to say is to simply be yourself and to treat people how you would want to be treated. As long as you are you and help and care for others, everything in life will be alright. Love others, have faith in God and appreciate the little things in life. I hope you have learned something from Madeline; I sure did.
May God Bless you,