Three years ago, I ran away from that Georgia plantation and hid in the creek. That part was easy. Sargent Simmons took me to the Union Army and joined the colored troops. Changed my life. I’ve learned to shoot a rifle and use a bayonet. I’ve stolen food from Rebel farms. I’ve seen soldiers’ bodies missing arms, legs feet and hands. Some with parts of their heads shot off. Every night, I just want to know my family is somewhere safe; I promised them we’d all be together again.
It rained as hard inside our cabin as it did outside. But, in North Carolina, the drafty tents in muddy fields were worse. Canvas is no match for cold wind and rain. Night after night, I wrapped myself in whatever I could find and shivered; listened to grown men and young boys crying, coughing or moaning in pain. More men died from being sick then got killed fighting. We tended horses, marched during the day and set up the next camp. Some cooked. Others dug ditches while white soldiers risked their lives on the battle line. But, we did too. Killed a few Rebels and watched our soldiers get hurt and die. Someone patched up the wounds, we buried the dead and we marched again. Day in and day out every one of those men is a hero; the ones who died and the ones who lived.
We told each other we were fighting to free all slaves but I was fighting to stay alive and be with my family again. I want to sit with my sister and brothers. Smell greens and taste sweet corn. Not one more bite of dried beef; not another hard dry biscuit sopping up pot liquor for me. But, I can’t keep searching. I can’t. I’ll never stop thinking about them. Did they leave Georgia? Did they get to a camp? Did they die trying? Are they free? I hope so.
Guess I’ll settle here in Virginia. Find a good wife and be a carpenter again. This time, I’ll get my money, not Mister. And, my children? They’ll learn to read and write.