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The Escape of A Hopeful Slave (chapter 3)
THE CIVIL WAR
my grandfather would not stop searching for my mother even though we were in the middle of the war. We did not want to be found by the Yanks or we would be killed. Even more than this we had to go back to Michigan as fast as we could. We started our trip from kentucky. We needed to go to Kentucky as fast as we could to search for my mother and the safest way to go there was by walking in the dark by ourselves so that no one would see us. We were running like horses in a race. I felt like we were prisoners risking everything to just meet and save one person even if it would cost our lives.
My grandfather and I trudged tirelessly through forests and outskirts of villages trying to avoid battles. But in an instant, I realized we weren't successful. Walking through the war zone, we saw artillery and cannonballs flying over head like a group of birds migrating to a safer place. We smelled the gunpowder just like the smell of rotten eggs. We heard the shots and the snaps of each bullet and weapon that mirrored the panicked beatings of my own heart. The earth rambled and shook like an earthquake, but its terrible trembles were not caused by god but rather by humans. missiles, bullets, grenades and cannonballs flying through the air and lands into the earth just like divers. Being in the middle of the battlefield with finite amount of shells and bullets to save ourselves and everyone to save their own selves. We stopped everything. We stopped thinking, worrying, looking over our shoulder, wondering, doubting, fearing, hurting.
And we crawled like a snake trying to hide from the slave traders that might send us back to slavery. We got out of Michigan and we walked in a places with no people or houses in it and we kept going until we reached another huge group of houses and lights then we knew that we got to Indiana. We did not rest or eat at all but then the same happened and the houses stopped and when the houses were seen we were in Kentucky. We never stopped walking. We were like sticks and bones moving through the woods. What made matters worse was the gnawing incessant of hunger driving us forward. We felt much like a desperate lion long deprived of prey. Once we found a huge group of houses appear out of nowhere and that people looked different and we saw other slaves free we knew that we got to Kentucky and we split up to search for my mother. We looked for her in every house, barn, store, ditch, hole, and wall. We searched everything, but we could not find her. We searched twice, thrice and still we could not find her.
My mother tells her story
I was worried that I would not see any of my kids and grandkids ever again. I was sleeping after a hard, tiring day of working in the boiling sun. It was a hot day, so I slept without a blanket on me and I felt safe like I never felt before. I thought nothing bad would happen. During the middle of night and in my deepest sleep I felt something over me. When I woke up I found my master raping me. I could not do anything because he was like an entire house on me and I could not move or defend myself. When my master was done, he left and the next day he talked to me as if nothing had ever happened.
That day I decided to escape slavery. I trusted Peg Leg Joe to take me to Michigan. After couple of days he came to me and told me that he would take me in a wagon with other slaves today in the night. I waited for hours and hours. That day was the longest, most stressful day of my life. I waited and waited until midnight. When everyone was asleep, he came to me. The wagon was filled with slaves but they smelled like a nearly rotten piece of dead animal, they were like bones that were alive without any flesh on them. Blood was dripping off the wagon like a red rain that just started.
I sat disgusted from all the blood and sweaty smell, weary from walking for days and days, but passionate to meet my other kids and family. So I sat their just praying that I would meet my family and that I would be free for the rest of my life. What I did not know was that he was a traitor and a rapist. He stopped in the middle of nowhere and being the only person and woman that is awake he told me that if I wanted to live, meet my family, and be free I have to let him rape me. I was afraid, frightened, terrified, shaking like a leaf, and scared to death at that time. When he finished, stopped and then continued our journey until we reached michigan. I started hunted for my son. I asked each and every person that lived in michigan and I searched the entire . I scanned every cemetery in search of him but I found nothing. I was so tired and exhausted even though I did not walk the entire distance. I found an abandoned house that no one lived in. I got in it and when I sat I passed out. I felt some hands and fingers on my shoulder. I got up frightened.
“it is ok, you are safe.” the neighbors whispered.
“Who are you?” I questioned.
“Just the neighbors, we saw that you have not eaten anything, so we bought some food.”
Tears swam from my eyes to my cheeks and I said “thank you” quietly.
“Where are you from?” they wondered
“Kentucky.” I responded.
“Are you searching for someone?” they quired.
“Yes, my son. Have you seen him?” I requested.
“Sadly, no.” they whispered.
I ate everything and slept. I do not know if they stayed or left.
Back to my grandfather’s story.
When he could not find my mom in the first couple of days, he turned his anger and frustration into the war. He fought for five exhausting years. He did not eat for five days in a row and whenever he was hungry he would eat rotten food that made him sick. He fought from the beginning of Battle of Fort Sumter through the Battle of Mount Zion Church, through Battle of Gettysburg and Vicksburg, until the end of the Battle of Palmito Ranch.
Everyone had a strong sense of duty toward their state. Every slave joined the war to free themselves and the future generations. The uniforms on the white soldiers were torn up and their color was dyed with red from the blood. Slaves and slaveholders were both in fear. Slaves hit the slave owners through the neck and the skull. Everyone sang songs and trained between wars. Slaves were always under a shower of bullets. None of the slaves knew how to use a weapon. In the battlefield groans of the wounded, roars of the artillery, rathe of the musketry.
When the slaves got fed up with their masters everyone started to kill them. They did that because of how terrible the masters would whip, beat, hang, starve the slaves and because they got the opportunity to do it and because they got the support of the free states. Then my grandfather killed his own master while others did the same for their master, they were able to do that because the number of the slaves were four times the number of the owners. But the other slaves tortured their masters, strip them out of their clothes, burnt them alive into ashes, but my grandfather did not. He killed him instantly, even though his slave tortured him.
My grandfather never believed in torturing people, because only god can torture people so he just killed him. Then he moved on to every other master he saw until he found my mother’s master. He tried to kill him, but he failed. Every slave left my grandfather until he finished every bullet he had and lost his sword and grenades. Then the master killed him with a bullet through his stomach blowing every organ from his body outside of it....
After my father’s death, we knew that she was not in Kentucky. However, I kept going and searching by myself. I heard one of my grandfather’s friends say that my mother was in Michigan. I started travelling on the same route to Michigan. Then the houses vanished into nothing gradually until nothing could be seen, i kept walking and walking then I found some houses and lights again just like light in the end of the tunnel, I knew that I am in Michigan. I started searching for her by myself. I entered every house, aisle, bunker, field, and everything. I kept searching for days and days never stopping. After I finished the whole state, I found an abandoned house that no one lived in. It was my last hope to find my mother.
Afraid, I stepped carefully into the house. I saw a body laying down on the ground without any cover and had some food around it. The body’s chest was rising and falling softly with its sleeping breath so I knew that it is a living body. Not being covered with anything except its clothes, I recognized a birthmark on the worn, tangled, jagged, and exposed leg that reminded me of someone I lived with before someone separated us. I tried to remember the body; it was a woman. Then just like my brain started working I remembered her. She is my mom. My true mom. I softly and slowly tapped on her shoulder and she woke up scared. I said, “Hi mom.”
Confused, and scared she replied, “Who are you?”
“Do you not remember me, mom?” I questioned sadly.
“Who are you?” she shouted.
“Mom calm down, I am your son.” I whispered.
“How did you come, How did you escape?” she asked puzzled.
“It is a long story mom.” I sighed.
She hugged me as hard as roots of a tree hug the soil. After a while my mother recognized me.
“Did you marry and have kids?” she questioned.
“Yes mom I did marry and I have three kids.” I exclaimed.
She cried like a stream of water running down a mountain.
“Where are they?” she whispered.
“In my house. Do you want to see them” I replied.
She shouted “Yes.”
I went to my house and snatched my kids and my wife and I got even more food because there wasn't any food. I bought everything I could buy. It was late when I got home because on my way home there was slave hunters.
I tried to hide anywhere I saw. I penetrated in an old, broken, rotten, cabin that the mice had eaten and the smell was terrible. I felt that my body that was decomposing and after realising what was around me I found the body that is decomposing. The sight and the sound of the mice feeding on the body was so disgusting that I threw up and even more mice crawled out like soldiers to have a feast on the body. I ran out of the cabin and the hunters were still outside.
I had to hide so I found a cart that had boxes loaded with dead bodies and I did not see the horse that should pull the cart. I jumped without knowing what was in the boxes. After a couple of moments, I felt the cart moving and when it stopped, I crept out to see where was I. I knew where I was and I could not find any traders so I flew out and returned home.
“Is that they you were late?” my wife questioned me.
“Yes” I replied to her, exhaling fast from running.
She prepared everything while I took a nap and my kids were with my mother. I could hear what they were talking about. One of my kids asked my mom, “Why do you have these marks on your back?” he asked.
She told him, “It is just because…..”.
She trembled at the end and I got out of my nap and told my daughter, “Because she was not good to her family, and her father whipped her until her back became like this.” I lied. My children ran away frightened after this and did not come down from their room for many hours. I never wanted my kids to know what we had gone through.
We finished our food and we started to drink some tea with my mom and my wife. It was quiet in the room. Then my mom asked, “Have you seen your father?” she requested.
“Yes” I snapped.
“Where?” my mom shouted.
“He was searching for you in everywhere and he went to fight in the…..”, I trembled.
“In the what?”, she questioned.
“In the…… in the…..”, I whispered.
“The battlefield” I answered.
“What happened to him?” she demanded.
“He fought in every battle in the war. He killed his master, other masters, and tried to kill your master.” I answered.
“What did he do to him?” she whispered, crying.
“He did not have any weapon or anything on him. So your master killed him.” I replied.
She wept more than ever.
“Did you bury him?” she requested.
“Yes, I did.” I answered.
Everyone was silent for a long period of time.