Freed by the Civil War
April 22, 2010 6:58 AM   Subscribe

In 1865, after the end of the Civil War, Col. P. H. Anderson of Big Spring, Tennessee, wrote to his former slave, Jourdon Anderson, asking him to return to work for him. In reply, Jourdon Anderson told Colonel Anderson exactly where he could stick his offer. This letter was part of The Freedmen's Book (full download in many different formats) which was distributed to those freed after and during the Civil War, so that they would know stories of other freedmen who had done well, including Touissant L'Ouverture, Phillis Wheatley and Frederick Douglass. The book was put together and published by Lydia Maria Child, abolitionist, women's rights activist, Indian rights campaigner and all around awesome person. She became famous in her own time for her cookbook The Frugal Housewife, but today her best known work is Over the River and Through the Woods. The Freedmen's Book was part of an effort by abolitionists after the war to educate freed slaves. The American Antiquarian Society has a great website about that movement, Northern Visions of Race, Region and Reform, which has plenty of primary sources and images galore.
posted by Kattullus (92 comments total) 135 users marked this as a favorite

 
This had apparently been posted before, but all the way back in 2000.
posted by delmoi at 7:05 AM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


P.S. Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.

If I accomplish nothing else in my life, I hope one day to write a P.S. as awesome as that.
posted by The Bellman at 7:06 AM on April 22, 2010 [42 favorites]


I'm so curious if there was a reply from Col Anderson, and also to see his initial letter.
posted by fuzzypantalones at 7:09 AM on April 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Awesome post, thanks for putting it together. One of the most interesting books I've read in the last few years was Arguing About Slavery, by William Lee Miller, which chronicles the years of legislative/parliamentary jiu-jitsu that took place in the Congress - the gag rule, which forbade even broaching the subject on the floor, Reed's Rules, which basically re-cast the way votes were taken, and so on. As one Amazon reviewer put it, the book should be required reading for all Southern apologists.
posted by jquinby at 7:10 AM on April 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have read this several times, love this letter.

[I] have a comfortable home for Mandy, —the folks here call her Mrs. Anderson

Too awesome.
posted by shothotbot at 7:13 AM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


You might want to add the Celebrating Confederate History Month tag.
posted by shothotbot at 7:14 AM on April 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm so curious if there was a reply from Col Anderson

I'm picturing Yosemite Sam cursing up a storm and stomping on his hat.
posted by anti social order at 7:14 AM on April 22, 2010 [22 favorites]


Take this job and shove it, I ain't working here no more.
posted by bwg at 7:15 AM on April 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


"P.S. —Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me."

Now there is a civilised man.
posted by bwg at 7:18 AM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


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.

Jesus Christ. How many people - even those who call themselves Christian - could say such a thing? Not many.

I've always thought that one of the reasons that black slavery existed was that Africans were just too damned nice and too damned decent. Slaveowners confused this with docility.

We all have a lot to learn from people like this.
posted by three blind mice at 7:22 AM on April 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


I can only wonder if he wrote this letter calmly, or if he giggled a little as he wrote some of the passages. Good on you, Jourdon Anderson.
posted by mikeh at 7:27 AM on April 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


I've always thought that one of the reasons that black slavery existed was that Africans were just too damned nice and too damned decent. Slaveowners confused this with docility.

Black people turn the other cheek like this, but white people? They turn the cheek like this.
posted by TypographicalError at 7:27 AM on April 22, 2010 [11 favorites]


In better times, Mr. Anderson might have made one hell of a novelist. His delicate sarcasm is just exquisite.

I suspect Mark Twain would have been hard-pressed to equal that letter.
posted by Malor at 7:29 AM on April 22, 2010 [10 favorites]


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.

LOL

Awesome post.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:31 AM on April 22, 2010


the folks here call her Mrs. Anderson

When my father was a voting rights worker in the '50s and '60s in Northwest Tennessee, one of the campaigns he worked on putting into action was a simple, basic level of respect demanded by the women of the African-American community. It seems that the birth announcements in the local newspapers for a white family would read:

Mr. and Mrs. John Smith proudly announce the birth of their third daughter Lulabelle on April 20th at 2:00 PM at Lee/Jackson Memorial hospital...blah blah blah

While for a black family it would state:

Effie Mae Jackson gave birth to a boy on Tuesday.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:31 AM on April 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


That was an amazing read.
posted by djduckie at 7:31 AM on April 22, 2010


Jourdon Anderson is my new hero.
He states that they earned over $11,000 in a year. Wouldn't that be something like eleventy nundred billion dollars today? Awesome!
posted by NoMich at 7:39 AM on April 22, 2010


It wasn't for a years labour. The $11680 was based on $25 a month over 32 years, plus $2 a week for his wife over 20 years.
posted by vbfg at 7:46 AM on April 22, 2010


Right. I misread that part somehow.
But hey, he was making $25 a month when he wrote that letter. That was quite a bit for then, right?
posted by NoMich at 7:55 AM on April 22, 2010


This letter made my week. Some actor with a great voice needs to make a recording of it, and then there should be a dance mix that gets radio play.
posted by tula at 7:56 AM on April 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think the true power of Mr. Anderson's letter is shown in how we all read it and were instantly derailed from the rest of the post to come here and talk about how awesome it was.

Because seriously? That P.S.? Blew my mind.
posted by komara at 7:57 AM on April 22, 2010


When my father was a voting rights worker in the '50s and '60s in Northwest Tennessee, one of the campaigns he worked on putting into action was a simple, basic level of respect demanded by the women of the African-American community.

Prior to the late 1960s, polite people who didn't know each other well addressed with the proper title (Mr. Miss, or Mrs.) and surnames. But it was common for white people to address black men by the first names, or by the name Jim, even if the man's name wasn't Jim. At most, an elderly, well-respected black man or woman would get called Aunt [first name] or Uncle [first name]. It was meant as a title of respect, but obviously was anything but.

Children's author Elizabeth Gray Vining wrote in her autobiography that when she lived in Chapel Hill in the thirties, her husband, a university professor, would always address black men the same way he did white ones regardless of what the man did for a living. The other members of the faculty were very antagonistic towards him for bucking the status quo.

I just cannot imagine living with that level of disrespect and disregard on a daily basis, not to mention the larger issues of systemic discrimination and bigotry. Surely the effect could only have been corrosive.
posted by orange swan at 8:01 AM on April 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


How much $25 would be worth in 1865
posted by edgeways at 8:02 AM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


@Tula: I had Morgan Freeman read the letter to me in my head using his Shawshank Redemption voice. Worked out quite well.

Mr. Anderson appears (from his letter) to have been quite an educated individual. That, or he had significant help composing it.
posted by a3matrix at 8:03 AM on April 22, 2010


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 chance.

This is a terrific post. Thanks. A potent reminder of part of the history of Nashville and Tennessee that's all too easy to overlook nowadays. It reminds me that there's an exhibit at the Tennessee State Museum here about the civil rights sit-ins and demonstrations that were going on just 50 years ago here.
posted by blucevalo at 8:04 AM on April 22, 2010


It's a great letter. Has it been confirmed authentic, or could it have been purpose-written for the book? Either way, the tone and humor are perfect, and I would love to have been the fly on the wall when the colonel read it.
posted by Forktine at 8:05 AM on April 22, 2010


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...

attempted murder

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 chance.

conspiracy to murder

If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past we can have little faith in your promises in the future.

theft

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-looking girls. You know how it was with Matilda and Catherine.

rape
posted by ennui.bz at 8:05 AM on April 22, 2010 [9 favorites]


[I] have a comfortable home for Mandy, —the folks here call her Mrs. Anderson.

In my head, I'm totally hearing this in the voice of Sidney Poitier, à la "They call me MISTER Tibbs."
posted by Atom Eyes at 8:05 AM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


three blind mice: "I've always thought that one of the reasons that black slavery existed was that Africans were just too damned nice and too damned decent. Slaveowners confused this with docility. "

The criticism of Christianity as being a slave morality seems particularly germane here.
posted by idiopath at 8:06 AM on April 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you are sincerely disposed to treat us justly and kindly; and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you.

Oh hell yes.
posted by DU at 8:07 AM on April 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


Jourdan makes all the injustices he and his family suffered very clear. It sounds like Colonel Anderson was actually among the more humane slave owners. Jourdan clearly was given the opportunity to learn to read and write, they got medical attention and the family was kept together. Jourdan illustrates beautifully how unjust his treatment was, and I can't imagine being in complete servitude for 30 years. Then I think about what it must have been like to be a slave to someone worse than Colonel Anderson and it's nearly unfathomable.
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:07 AM on April 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


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-looking 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.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 8:08 AM on April 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Jourdon Anderson is my new model for corresponding with assholes.
posted by oraknabo at 8:08 AM on April 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


err...

If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past we can have little faith in your promises in the future.

murder

Although you shot at me twice before I left you...

attempted murder

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 chance.

conspiracy to murder

If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past we can have little faith in your promises in the future.

theft

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-looking girls. You know how it was with Matilda and Catherine.

rape

The thing is, I'm sure Colonel P.H. Anderson and Henry were still looking to shoot Jourdon; they just thought maybe he was naive enough to put himself in the cross hairs.
posted by ennui.bz at 8:08 AM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


$25 wasn't at all bad for those times. A dollar a day was decent wages for the average working man, and since Jourdan Anderson probably worked six days a week, he would have been paid slightly more than that.
posted by orange swan at 8:08 AM on April 22, 2010


It would be awesome to find out more information about all the side details Jourdon mentions.

Like, I wonder who Henry was, and why he wanted to shoot Jourdon.
posted by Nyarlathotep at 8:10 AM on April 22, 2010


i keep screwing this up....

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.

murder
posted by ennui.bz at 8:10 AM on April 22, 2010


Thank you for this. This was a most inspiring and amusing read.
posted by Tacodog at 8:14 AM on April 22, 2010


I found the reply:
To Jourdon Anderson,

Tl;dr.

From your old master,
Colonel P.H. Anderson
posted by geoff. at 8:15 AM on April 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


I think the true power of Mr. Anderson's letter is shown in how we all read it and were instantly derailed from the rest of the post to come here and talk about how awesome it was.

That's it for me. Awesome.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:15 AM on April 22, 2010


OK I promise not to bitch about my job, at least until like noon or something.
posted by Danf at 8:19 AM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm favoriting that letter so hard.
posted by contessa at 8:24 AM on April 22, 2010


Not to derail, as you're making a quite good point ennui.bz, but there's this preview thingy below the comment field.
posted by brokkr at 8:24 AM on April 22, 2010


There it is, the power of language. Colonel Anderson would have destroyed a man's life with a pistol, and we all eventually die, but, one hopes, when our time is due, and not at the hands of a racist. But, with a pen dipped in acid, Jourdon has destroyed his former master for as long as we continue to read these things -- and, when words are this well-crafted, we have demonstrated a willingness to reread them for a thousand years, or more.

You thought your gun gave you power, Colonel Anderson. If there is an afterlife, and you are looking down from it, I hope you can see that the man you called slave had power you couldn't summon, or fathom, and he carried it with him, always, where you couldn't get to it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:25 AM on April 22, 2010 [35 favorites]


This was an excellent post all around.
posted by amethysts at 8:25 AM on April 22, 2010


I think there are details in here that we are missing, too. Like mentioning he'll meet his master's family in heaven. Did slaves go to the same heaven as owners in the Old South Mythology? Is he making a pointed remark there?
posted by DU at 8:39 AM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


This whole letter is filled with fuck yeah.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:40 AM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think there are details in here that we are missing, too. Like mentioning he'll meet his master's family in heaven. Did slaves go to the same heaven as owners in the Old South Mythology? Is he making a pointed remark there?

I read that bit as "Some members of your family were not complete douchebags, and I wouldn't mind seeing them, but only if you aren't there, you murdering evil fuck."
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:45 AM on April 22, 2010


That was brilliant. Thanks for posting this.
posted by homunculus at 8:56 AM on April 22, 2010


But hey, he was making $25 a month when he wrote that letter. That was quite a bit for then, right?

Another way of looking at it: up until the Civil War (this is immediately after, but hopefully this willl be fairly close), $25 was 1.25 ounces of gold, or 21.2 ounces of silver. By the gold measure, $25 would be about $1400 today. Measured in silver, it would be about $375. I imagine the real value would have been somewhere in between. A straight average of the two would be about $885. Also note that he's getting food and clothing as well, probably another $150/mo by modern measures.

Intuitively, that seems about right, maybe a little high. Standards of living were much lower back then, and there was no shortage of space, so housing was very cheap. I imagine he likely felt quite prosperous.

As an aside, I remember reading that Laura Ingalls Wilder was able to buy a pound of hard candy for one cent when she was young. I'd try to measure it that way too, but I see two issues with doing that. First, candy was a super-luxury item on the prairie, hard to ship and store, and thus very expensive. Second, I have no idea what a pound of hard candy costs these days. :)
posted by Malor at 8:58 AM on April 22, 2010


The remarks about his daughters stuck out for me. Not that I wa surprise at all by the fact of sexual violence towards black women, but perhaps that this dark reality was not censored in the printing of the letter.

But that line is the strongest in the letter for me -- a reminder that slavery was not simply about unpaid labour, but about treating other human beings worse than one would treat an animal.
posted by jb at 8:59 AM on April 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


Mr. Anderson appears (from his letter) to have been quite an educated individual. That, or he had significant help composing it.

Via this Snopes forum thread, here's an image of the the August 22, 1865 issue of the New York Daily Tribune. There's a preface that says the letter "was dictated by the old servant, and contains his ideas and forms of expression." The letter initially appeared in the Cincinnati Commercial on August 7, 1865.

I have no idea what a pound of hard candy costs these days.
$20, same as in town.

posted by kirkaracha at 9:01 AM on April 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


I went looking to see if there was any more information about Jourdan Anderson out there. Apparently he was a real person...and apparently he was illiterate. It's possible this letter is fake, albeit one that was faked back in 1865 (it's incontrovertibly from that time, since it's in the book published then).

More discussion
posted by DU at 9:01 AM on April 22, 2010


Also -- It heartens me to see a man from this period address rape as a threat to the happiness and security of his daughters -- (he uses the word honour but is clear it's about them not himself.)
posted by jb at 9:02 AM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's all about the letter. 140+ years later, still kicks ass.
posted by jscott at 9:02 AM on April 22, 2010


Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.

Nicely said.
posted by fuq at 9:08 AM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


For those trying to work out what $25/month in 1865 meant -- real wages are calculated based on costs of living (food, shelter, etc). The gold exchange won't necessarily follow the other prices. I don't have the 1860s data in my head, but come c1900 white working-class families in NYC had incomes of about $500-600/year or about $50/month. Given 30-40 years and the difference between urban and rural wages, $25/month sounds reasonable for a working-class rural wage c1865. I wonder how many freed slaves did that well?

Of course, someone could always look up the wage data for the period -- it may be online or not.
posted by jb at 9:09 AM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


One of the best fuck offs I've ever read. Much better than Van Halen's OU812.
posted by zzazazz at 9:11 AM on April 22, 2010


I had Morgan Freeman read the letter to me in my head using his Shawshank Redemption voice. Worked out quite well.

I think I was kind of subconsciously doing the same thing, with his nice unhurried cadence, so every bit of sarcasm and irony is fully realized.
posted by tula at 9:13 AM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think someone needs to buy jourdon a Meafilter account!
posted by cmoj at 9:16 AM on April 22, 2010


If there is an afterlife, and you are looking down from it,

Hopefully DOWN would be the direction the living would need to gaze to find him, not the other way around.
posted by spicynuts at 9:29 AM on April 22, 2010


This whole letter is filled with fuck yeah.

I'd say this whole letter is filled, politely, with fuck YOU.
posted by gottabefunky at 9:40 AM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


It heartens me to see a man from this period address rape as a threat to the happiness and security of his daughters

Uhmm, I think most fathers in all periods and eras would have tried to rip off the balls of any bastard who even thought of raping their daughters. (In fact, even consensual sex has tended to be pretty risky if the father found out.)
posted by Skeptic at 9:40 AM on April 22, 2010


Personally, I would like to see Col. P. H. Anderson's (theoretical) response remixed into a Downfall video, but apparently that's yet another avenue of pleasure the government sees fit to deny me.
posted by Keith Talent at 9:45 AM on April 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is going into my personal Letter Hall Of Fame, along with these two.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:49 AM on April 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


I get the impression that even if Mr. Anderson (as I'm sure he would want to be addressed) was not able to read himself, his extreme value of education plus the postive -turn-the-other-cheek attitude assumed by the letter suggests that he understood that expressing himself in this fashion was the best form of revenge.

Even if this was, say, put together by his employer with the actual Mr. Anderson cursing a blue streak, it says good things about the situation and I don't think it loses any merit. It doesn't matter if he was expressing himself directly or indirectly, he's still 100% win.

Of course it could be a fraud, but it's talking about real situations, and I'm willing to excuse good writing from a second hand perspective to make a point.
posted by Phalene at 9:51 AM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


My goodness, but that Jourdon Anderson letter is Full of Win. What an awesome example to set for others.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:04 AM on April 22, 2010


I'm not finding any Col. P. H. Anderson of Big Spring, Tennessee anywhere. I find a Col Paul F. Anderson of the Fourth Tennesse Cavalry, but he's domiciled in Texas. I find a Col. John H. Anderson of the Eighth Tennessee Infantry, but don't find a lot of bio on him.

Anyone can do better, I'd be interested.
posted by IndigoJones at 10:06 AM on April 22, 2010


I was curious about the authenticity, so I did the dorky two-minute check:

1870 census, Dayton, Ohio:
Jordan Anderson, 45, black, born Tennessee, hostler (means "stableman")
Amanda Anderson, 39, black, born Tennessee
Jane Anderson, 19, black, born Tennessee, attending school
Felix Anderson, 12, black, born Tennessee, attending school ("Grundy"?)
[and some more kids]

Seems to be a real guy.
posted by zvs at 10:06 AM on April 22, 2010 [11 favorites]


This is going into my personal Letter Hall Of Fame, along with these two.

I've mentioned it on MeFi before, but when then Alabama Attorney General Bill Baxley reopened the case agaisnt "Dynamite" Chambliss for the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, in a letter sent to his office the Klan threatened him and named him an "honarary nigger." Baxley's official response was simple and to the point:

My response to your letter of February 19, 1976 is - kiss my ass.

Sincerely,
Bill Baxley
Attorney General

posted by Pollomacho at 10:06 AM on April 22, 2010 [19 favorites]


I think there are details in here that we are missing, too. Like mentioning he'll meet his master's family in heaven. Did slaves go to the same heaven as owners in the Old South Mythology?

In Stephen Vincent Benet's poem 'John Brown's Body' - a character sketch of a plantation mistress during the civil war - the woman is depicted as believing:

"—In Heaven, of course, we should all be equal,
But, until we came to that golden sequel,
Gentility must keep to gentility
Where God and breeding had made things stable,
While the rest of the cosmos deserved civility
But dined in its boots at the second-table."

The poem was written in the 20s, and I don't know enough about Benet to know where his sympathies lay, but combined with the comment in the letter it might be indicative that there was some belief taught in the old south that slaves and owners would share the same heaven. Belief for this could have had two motivations: an attempt to keep slaves in a state of acceptance or passivity about their lot ("just wait it out long enough and you'll be living like the masters in the next life") and an attempt to quiet any possible twinges of conscience felt by slave-owners.
posted by frobozz at 10:20 AM on April 22, 2010


Reminds me of the (possibly apocryphal) anecdote in Battle Cry of Freedom where a black Union soldier recognizes his former master in a group of Confederate prisoners and calls out "Hello massa, bottom rail on the top this time!"

Tragically, googling "bottom rail on the top" shows up in a bunch of crazy right wing sites as evidence that Obama is planning to enslave white people.
posted by electroboy at 10:36 AM on April 22, 2010


zvs for the win (in census research).
posted by jb at 10:58 AM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Aw. There's also a P. H. Anderson living at Tuckers Crossroads PO, Wilson County, TN in 1870. In 1860 he owns 32 slaves. Tuckers Crossroads refers to the junction of modern SR-141 and Big Springs Road, which makes him a very good contender to be the owner.
posted by zvs at 11:17 AM on April 22, 2010 [10 favorites]


A letter by freed slave and union soldier George Hatton
Camp of the 1st U.S. Colored Troops, Wilson's landing, Charles City Co., May 10th 1864.

Mr. Editor: -- You are aware that Wilson's Landing is on the James river, a few miles above Jamestown, the very spot where the first sons of Africa were landed, in the year 1620, if my memory serves me right, and from that day up to the breaking out of the rebellion, was looked upon as an inferior race by all civilized nations. But behold what has been revealed in the past three or four years; why the colored men have ascended upon a platform of equality, and the slave can now apply the lash to the tender flesh of his master, for this day I am now an eye witness of the fact. The country being principally inhabited by wealthy farmers, there are a great many men in the regiment who are refugees from this place. While out on a foraging expedition we captured Mr. Clayton, a noted reb in this part of the country, and from his appearance, one of the F.P.V's; on the day before we captured several colored women that belonged to Mr. C., who had given them a most unmerciful whipping previous to their departure.

On the arrival of Mr. C. in camp, the commanding officer determined to let the women have their revenge, and ordered Mr. C. to be tied to a tree in front of headquarters, and William Harris, a soldier in our regiment, and a member of Co. E, who was acquainted with the gentleman, and who used to belong to him, was called upon to undress him, and introduce him to the ladies I mentioned before. Mr. Harris played his part conspicuously, bringing the blood from his loins at every stroke, and not forgetting to remind the gentleman of days gone by. After giving him some fifteen or twenty well-directed strokes, the ladies, one after another, came up and gave him a like number, to remind him that they were no longer his, but safely housed in Abraham's bosom, and under the protection of the Star Spangled Banner, and guarded by their own patriotic, though once down-trodden race. Oh, that I had the tongue to express my feelings while standing upon the banks of the James river, on the soil of Virginia, the mother state of slavery, as a witness of such a sudden reverse!

The day is clear, the fields of grain are beautiful and the birds are singing sweet melodious songs, while poor Mr. C. is crying to his servants for mercy. Let all who sympathize for the South take this narrative for a mirror.

posted by shothotbot at 2:16 PM on April 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


There's also a P. H. Anderson living at Tuckers Crossroads PO, Wilson County, TN in 1870. In 1860 he owns 32 slaves. Tuckers Crossroads refers to the junction of modern SR-141 and Big Springs Road, which makes him a very good contender to be the owner.

Interesting! Though judging from lack of records, I'm wondering if the Colonel was more honorary than real. Also wondering what P.H. did during the war.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:23 PM on April 22, 2010


I hope this was even more satisfying to write than it was to read.
posted by audacity at 4:23 PM on April 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Owing to the two mentions, let's call up Morgan Freeman (what delicious irony in his surname) and ask him to do a reading of this letter for posterity.

Hell, I'd pay money just to hear it.
posted by bwg at 6:25 PM on April 22, 2010


This is great, thanks for posting and thanks to everyone who's doing followups in the census, old NY Tribune etc.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:22 PM on April 22, 2010


The 1900 Federal Census confirms that Jordan never learned how to read or write (he was 74 by that point) -- but his wife Amanda learned how to read and his children could do both. Jordan died sometime between 1900 and 1910, so he was between 74 and 84, and Amanda died sometime between 1910 and 1920, so she was between 80 and 90. So they did get to live nice long lives, far longer than the average lifespan of their day and especially notable given the hardships of their earlier lives as slaves.

The 1900 Federal Census also says that Jordan and Amanda's son Valentine Winters Anderson (born November 1870) became a physician! The "Directory of Deceased American Physicians, 1804-1929" says he attended Louisville National Medical College, class of 1900, followed by Michigan College of Medicine and Surgery, Detroit, class of 1904. He practiced in Dayton, Ohio.

Guess he got that schooling that his father wanted for him so badly...

I think I have something in my eye.
posted by Asparagirl at 9:44 PM on April 22, 2010 [23 favorites]


Just wanted to add to the chorus... what an excellent letter and an interesting and inspiring story!

Deserves much more than the usual 'favorite' :)
posted by joz at 10:24 PM on April 22, 2010


I'm not finding any Col. P. H. Anderson of Big Spring, Tennessee anywhere. I find a Col Paul F. Anderson of the Fourth Tennessee Cavalry, but he's domiciled in Texas. I find a Col. John H. Anderson of the Eighth Tennessee Infantry, but don't find a lot of bio on him.

Anyone can do better, I'd be interested.


Henry D. Harper To P. & P. H. Anderson, 1850
Wilson County, TN - Deed Book Y, pages 110 & 111


For the record I don't think Col. Sanders was a real Colonel either. ;)
posted by irisclara at 12:01 AM on April 23, 2010


A letter by freed slave and union soldier George Hatton

That was a great letter. You know what would have made it better? If the women, when given the opportunity to exact revenge would have shown their former master the mercy and humanity he never showed them.
posted by Pollomacho at 4:57 AM on April 23, 2010


For the record I don't think Col. Sanders was a real Colonel either.

What's your definition of a real Colonel? He really was a Kentucky Colonel.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:04 AM on April 23, 2010


"Kentucky Colonel" is an honorary title bestowed upon individuals by approval of the governor of Kentucky. It is not a military rank, requires no duties, and carries with it no pay or compensation other than membership in the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels."
posted by kirkaracha at 6:22 AM on April 23, 2010


The letter from George Hatton turns my stomach. Not claiming that I wouldn't have done the exact same thing if I'd been enslaved and cruelly treated all my life the way those two women were... but two wrongs don't make a right. Jourdan Anderson's letter is very much more to my taste.
posted by orange swan at 7:03 AM on April 23, 2010


I have no problem with slave owners getting whipped.
posted by amethysts at 8:02 AM on April 23, 2010


I have no problem with the severed heads of slave owners been kicked through the most expensive windows of the slave owner's house.
posted by vbfg at 8:39 AM on April 23, 2010


I have no problem with slave owners getting whipped.

I don't either, and it's not like the story needed someone to point out the villain. I just tend to appreciate it when people are able to rise above.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:50 AM on April 23, 2010


Theoretically I feel like I want to agree with you. But what would be more helpful to someone who goes around whipping people than to be informed of what he was doing? Would the lesson have gotten through otherwise? I don't know. I would definitely appreciate and laud anyone's restraint who did not participate.
posted by amethysts at 10:07 AM on April 23, 2010


Why oh why isn't this sidebarred?
posted by bwg at 7:00 AM on April 25, 2010


Thanks, Irisclara!

Mind you, makes you wonder who, if not the CSA, promoted him - the man himself or the writer. Does give the story a little more oomph to make the man a senior officer.
posted by IndigoJones at 1:09 PM on April 25, 2010


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