"I THOUGHT THE YANKEES WOULD HAVE HUNG YOU LONG BEFORE THIS"
Jourdon Anderson, an ex-
slave, declines his former master's invitation to return as a laborer on his
Dayton, Ohio, August 7, 1865
To My Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee
Sir: I got your letter and was glad to find you had not forgotten
Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again,
promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy
about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this for
harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about
your going to Col. Martin's to kill the Union soldier that was left by his
company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I
did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It
would do me good to go back to the dear old home again and see Miss mary and
Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and
tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would
have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville hospital,
but one of the neighbors told me Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a
I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give
me. I am doing tolerably well here; I get $25 a month, with victuals and
clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy (the folks here call her Mrs.
Anderson), and the children, Milly, Jane and Grundy, go to school and are
learning well; the teacher says grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to
and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated; sometimes we
overhear others saying, "The colored people were slaves" down in Tennessee.
The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks, but I tell them it was no
disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Col. Anderson. Many darkies would have
been proud, as I used to was, to call you master. Now, if you will write and
say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it
would be to my advantage to move back again.
As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained
on that score, as I got my free-
in 1864 from the Provost-
of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back
without some proof that you are sincerely disposed to treat us justly and
we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages
for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores,
and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you
faithfully for thirty-
years and Mandy twenty years. At $25 a month for me, and $2 a week for Mandy,
our earnings would amount to $11,680. Add to this the interest for the time
our wages has been kept back and deduct what you paid for our clothing and
three doctor's visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance
will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the money by Adams
Express, in care of V. Winters, esq, Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for
faithful labors in the past we can have little faith in your promises in the
future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you
and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for
generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night,
but in Tennessee there was never any pay day for the Negroes any more than for
the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who
defraud the laborer of his hire.
In answering this letter please state if there would be any safety for my
Milly and Jane, who are now grown up and both good-
girls. You know how it was with Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay
here and starve and die if it comes to that than have my girls brought to
shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also
please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in
your neighborhood, the great desire of my life now is to give my children an
education, and have them form virtuous habits.
howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you
were shooting at me.
From your old servant,
Source: Cincinnati Commercial, reprinted in New York Tribune,
August 22, 1865.