Civil War Digital Scrapbook
February 28, 1860
I recently got this diary from one of my masters in the house the other day and thought that it could be good to make something out of it. My grandmother taught me how to read and write when I was young and now I use the gift to teach my siblings and even my own mother. Anyways, my brother John got whipped today in front of us all. He got whipped so bad that it got blood all over. He got whipped because he tried to run away. He got caught and made it so that all of us had to start work before the sun. I prefer to write in the mornings before dawn and eat whatever the masters, Mrs. and Mr. Cowan, will give us. Usually it is something like a half a potato or a bit of cornmeal. Today, however, we had to skip breakfast because John tried to run. I live in Savanna Georgia and it is awful and my dad lives on a different plantation but he would have cheered John up if he were here. All of the other of our kind also tried to cheer him up because he was very hurt from the whipping. It’s not his first time being whipped either. He still says it hurts like it’s the first time every time though. He started trying to run when he was nine years old and he has gotten whipped time after time. He is now seventeen and still can’t make it away. I hope soon he’ll learn his lesson. This is a sketch of the house in which I work. I am house slave. It is a very nice house. Very much like the house that I will have when we are free.
January 23, 1863
A war recently broke out between the two countries that used to make up one. The north calls themselves the Union and I hope that they win. If they do win then I get to become free with all of the other colored folk. The battle of Fort Henry was a battle in the civil war. It was the most important to me that has taken place so far. That is what the masters say. I read about the battle in the newspaper that I found in the garbage can in the house today. It was important because the Union took two rivers from the south and begun to win the war little by little. Also, my sisters and brothers, all except John and I, walked out a couple of days ago due to the Emancipation Proclamation. It was the document that President Lincoln wrote and it freed us all. John didn’t want to take any chances so I stayed back with him. I would never leave my brother that has stayed with me and helped me my whole life. He didn’t want to get caught and whipped again like his previous run aways that he has tried. John is still thinking about weather to go or not but he is still thinking about where he might go and what he would do. He is smart to think more about it. If he doesn’t go then neither do I. All of my siblings being out and free makes me happy and that is why I drew a bible. It reminds me that the God in heaven got them out. That we didn’t get freed on our own and that we needed him the whole time.
October 7, 1863
Though it is sad, the south has been winning most of the battles so far in the war. I remember that in the second battle of Bull Run how well Robert E. Lee did and how he crushed the Union in that battle. All I need is to be free and have my family back. I hope that the Union will bring up a big win so that I can have that. The Emancipation Proclamation was apparently not right. My master whipped all of us that he could find and anyone who went in his way when he went searching for the others that took off the night of January 1st when the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. Every one of us knew to just go do our jobs because Master Cowen was angry. He never found any of the runaway slaves because they must have gone too far already. Anyway, my mom died last week and we have all been extremely sad and miss her awfully much. She died from old age and heart problems because she just died in her sleep. My brother and I talk every night and last night we talked about my mom. Eventually that led into my dad and we talked all about him. I was just a few days old when he was sold away to a different master but John knew him. John loved him and he remembered all about how he was hardworking and confident. He said that my father knew that one day we would be free and live in nice homes. Now that my mother died, it is just John and I. We only have each other. This is a drawing of John as a little boy. He is all that I have left.
Things are finally looking up for the north. The news is spectacular. Gettysburg was outstanding because so many people from the south died and the Union won. I feel like this is amazing because when I found out, I was so shocked. Many people kept thinking that this was going to be a short war when it started but now, I don’t think that it is ever going to end. When it does, however, I highly hope that the north will end up with the win. The Emancipation Proclamation was good for many slaves but again, Master Cowan freaked out. Almost half of his slaves left his plantation and it will take a lot to make him forget about what happened. I keep hoping that my siblings are okay and I keep wondering what they are doing and where they are living. I wish that I could write to them all about how it is and what they do. If I could check up on them every once in awhile then I would think that the world is becoming a better place. Until then, I don’t know what I think of the world. I drew a picture of a gun because one day the war will end. What will happen then.
Many Union men marched all over the plantation for the war. It was hysterical and awful. I don’t know what they were doing but they completely destroyed the plantation and no one knew what to do. They burned the whole place top to bottom here in Savanna Georgia and it was terrible. Master Cowen lost so many slaves by the Emancipation Proclamation that he could not bear to lose any more slaves and he told us to all come with him right away. We all ran off the plantation. Most of us slaves had to carry one of the master’s children. A couple of days later, we all went back to check out the damage from the march. There was a nothing there. All of the trees had been burned down and the house and all of the crops had to be replanted and harvested. I’m positive that all Master Cowen saw that day was money that he would have to pay to fix the plantation. He had to rebuild the house and he had to pay for more seeds and new everything. All of us were in despair. We didn’t ever have a lot but now we had even less. The Union troops killing the land made me think of the Union folks winning. If they win the war then I become free and even though I look out to a burnt down plantation, when I close my eyes I think of a flower in and open field like how I would be if I were free with John. This is me and John. There is nothing holding us back from our dream of being free.
April 12, 1865
The war has finally ended with a Union victory. I was very ecstatic when I found out and I was very ready to pack up and leave right when I heard about this glorious news. Even though I still have to work with the new plants and cotton and I still have to sleep in the rebuilt shack, I get paid. Half of the money that I make goes to pay for the shack in which I still live. The good news is that I get almost twice the food supply that I used to. The food costs another forty percent of the money that I make but I get to keep ten percent of the money that I make and I get fed significantly better. The conditions are better too. We don’t get whipped anymore at all. The free life is much better than working the hard life of not getting paid with harsh conditions. Some people get what they want and they don’t give God the glory that he deserves but I thank God with all of my heart night and day. I, along with all of my fellow workers, are free like the white folks. We can own a big house and be just like them. We can be like the white people and maybe even better. I heard about white people having their jobs taken from them with us colored people but I don’t believe them. When I get a job in a factory I will get the it because I’m more hard working and get it for my quality not my quantity. This is a drawing of the bread that we were given now that we are free. We now live a much better life than before.