At the age of 35, I was finally redeemed from my life of slavery. Having grown up as a slave in Zachary Taylor’s home, I was very used to slave life. At the age of 13, my mother was near her death and so I began to take over her chores in the Taylor household. The day after my mother died, Zachary Taylor’s daughter, Sarah, caught me crying as I was doing my chores. She sympathized with me, telling me that she would always regard my mother as an admirable woman because my mother nursed her into the adult she was. After that instance, we became friendly. She would always tell me about her life outside the Taylor house while I cleaned her room, constantly telling me about her white person problems. The minute she met Jefferson Davis, I knew they were going to get married, even if Mr. Taylor didn’t agree. So when Sarah told me her plan to elope with Mr. Davis in 1835, and how she wanted me to keep her company, I packed my bags and followed her. It was there that I met my husband, Anthony Henry, one of Davis’s most loyal slaves. After Sarah died, Anthony and I escaped to Maryland, where we stayed with John Bowley, Anthony’s friend. We stayed with him until 1850, when Harriet Tubman came to rescue her niece and his wife Kessiah from being sold. Since our kids grew up together, Tubman offered that we join the Bowleys on the escape. We agreed, and by 1851 we were settled in Frederick Douglass’s house. We stayed at the Douglass home for 6 months, until Frederick could find us a place to live. By 1853, we lived in a home of our own with our son, Aaron. We always raised our boy to fight for anti-slavery, so when the Civil War began in 1861, Anthony and I knew our boy would fight. Interestingly enough, when the war broke out, I remember Aaron asking Anthony, “Is Jefferson Davis the same Jefferson Davis you constantly had to serve your whole life?” Anthony, shocked at the question, finally answered that it was. Aaron then said one of the bravest words I have ever heard him say; “Not only will I serve my country; I will redeem our brothers and kill Davis if it’s the last thing I do.” His words encouraged me to give him the strength to survive the war. When he volunteered for the war in 1862, I would always write to him, letting him know I loved him and was proud of him for what he was doing. His first battle, the infamous Battle of Shiloh, was the most interesting to read in his thousands of letters. Aaron stated how the Confederates woke him up while he was sleeping under the church seats. Luckily he wasn’t found, so he grabbed his gun from beside him, hid in the bushes, and began to shoot some Confederates. He eloquently praised General Grant, stating that, “if I ever saw a hero, Grant overpowers him a thousand times. His military wisdom, even in times of crisis, would always prevail against the wicked Confederates.” He further explained how Grant called for back up, but if he hadn’t, he would’ve won the battle with his fatigued soldiers because of his divine leadership. Six months later, Aaron got shot in the leg and was paralyzed. He came home and continued to tell me of the miraculous battles of the Civil War and how he felt that when the Union won, slavery would be completely abolished just by looking at the bullet hole through Davis’s head.
Annakiya Henry: The Civil War
April 18, 2012