Antebellum: Joyful Times Before the Storm

– 15 May 2017 –

Barzillai “19th Century” Bozarth:

So often the memories of times before a great calamity are colored and distorted by romanticism and nostalgia. It is easy for one to remember golden years filled with prosperity and happiness, all the more heavenly in contrast to the horrors and deprivations that followed.

Yet, in cases where a nation was destroyed, its society uprooted and forcibly transformed, the years preceding such revolutionary changes unquestionably experienced more prosperity and stability and innocence than the bleak years that followed. This was true in the French and Russian revolutions, and it was true for the South in the American Civil War. The following letter demonstrates this fact.

In this letter, written sometime between the years 1850 and 1856, an unknown woman using the pseudonym “Kate Cunnyngham” describes her light-hearted experiences at a fox hunt in rural Tennessee. Several of her letters, which detailed her travels throughout the antebellum South, were compiled in the book The Sunny South, or The Southerner at Home: Embracing Five Years Experience of a Northern Governess in the Land of the Sugar and the Cotton, published in 1860.

Mr. —

Have you ever been fox hunting? If you have, you have seen very respectable, rough and tumble enjoyment ; if yon have not, there are yet before you certain experiences.

I have already spoken of the fine, broadly spread landscape, visible from the portico of Overton Park Lodge. In the late autumnal months when the crops are well gathered, and there is nothing to trample down in the fields, this wide landscape is converted into a vast fox hunting ground, full eleven miles across. By concert the neighboring planters open their fences with many a gap across the country, and so a clear ride of ten or twelve miles is left free to the adventurous huntsman or huntswoman.

Two evenings ago as I was about to mount my beautiful dapple mule, (don’t laugh at my mule, for it is the dearest little fellow with ears like velvet, and feet and fetlocks like an antelope’s, a special gift to me for its beauty and gentleness, from Colonel Peyton,) to pace down the avenue to the turnpike, I was surprised to see suddenly appear in sight a party of seven young gentlemen. They were riding at top speed, and in great glee, and all came dashing up toward the villa at that rapid rate the Tennesseean loves to ride.

“Ah, my boys,” cried the colonel, “who was about to ride out with me, removing his foot from the stirrup, while I hesitated whether to remain on the flight of steps or fly from such a battalion. “Don’t go, Miss Kate. They are only some of the young fox hunters come over to make preparations.”

And before I could escape—

“Miss Conyngham, gentlemen!”

The young men, who drew up their horses on seeing a lady, lifted their caps and hats, and I was struck with their general appearance; four of them being fine-looking, yet dressed in blue linsey woolsey, with boots pulled on over their pantaloons; and the other three in thick coats and caps, or broad felt hats slouched behind—a very common head covering in these parts and not unpicturesque.

Every young man was armed with a gun, and attended at least by two dogs, and beautiful creatures some of them were —not the young men, Mr. —, but the hounds.

“Well, colonel, we have come over to settle upon the day,” said one of the young gentlemen.

“That is right! I like to see the rising generation prompt to engage in such noble sports. I think that the day after to-morrow we will give Reynard our compliments in person. I will have my men ready, and if you will meet me at the edge of the wood, by the lion’s head cliff, at six in the morning, we will do our best for a day’s sport.”

“We’ll be there, colonel,” was the response; “and then we shall stand a chance of bringing down a deer or two,” added one of them. “I saw one on the ridge by the creek as I rode over.”

“No doubt we shall see plenty of sport. And you must accompany us, Miss Kate,” added the colonel turning to me, as I stood with the bridle of my mule in my hand, trying to check his restive movements, for the prancing horses of the young men fired his ambition to prance too.

After suffering myself to be urged a little by two of the young gentlemen, I consented to join the party, if other ladies did so. The cavalcade then escorted us to the gate of the main road, and the horsemen separated each to his own home; while the colonel and I took a forest road, that, after a league’s windings, came out near the villa. As we rode, the colonel entertained me with a great many anecdotes of hunting, from Bruin to the Hare. As we approached the mansion on our return, the avenue was temporarily blocked up by not less than fifty slaves of both sexes; for it was now twilight, and they had just completed their day’s work, and were wending their way to their village, or quartier.

The women carried hoes upon their shoulders, and trudged along, some dull, and with expressionless faces, others laughing and singing. The men, I remarked, were more cheerful than the women, and had more lively countenances. One and all were clad in their coarse white cloth, known as negro cloth— the men with straw hats and the women with handkerchiefs upon their heads. I have not yet seen a negro woman wear a bonnet on Sundays, it is only a gayer kerchief.

As we passed, they drew up on each side of the narrow road for us to pass—the men all taking off, or touching their hats, and replying with a smile to their master’s salutation of “Good evening, boys!” and the women—some of them, slightly nodding, but without the smile. One of them had a huge cotton basket upon her head.
“Peep into it,” said the colonel, as I rode by. I did so, and beheld four little cunning black babies!—they were nestled together, and quite naked. These babies had been taken by their mothers to the field, and while they were at work, were placed under the care of the girl who had them in charge.

I am already getting reconciled to slavery, since I find that it does not, in reality, exhibit the revolting horrors I was taught in the North to discover in it. There are many things to admire and to interest one in the social and domestic condition of the slaves, and I am almost ready to acknowledge that the African is happier in bondage than free! At least one thing is certain: nearly all the free negroes I have ever seen in the North were miserable creatures, poor, ragged, and often criminal. Here they are well clad, moral, nearly all religious, and the temptations that demoralize the free blacks in our northern cities are unknown to, and cannot approach them.

Even many former slaves looked back on their lives before the Civil War with nostalgia, to the point where their narratives are discounted today. In reality, most of them lived harder lives after the war.

As we drew near the front of the villa, my mule, not liking the shrill cry of a superb peacock, which conceived the idea of welcoming us with a song, and a resplendent unfolding of his prismatic-eyed tail, started to run with me at top speed. I am a tolerable rider, and as I could not fall far if I were thrown, the mule being so little and low, I did not feel half the alarm the colonel manifested for my safety, who began to ride after me; when finding his horse only gave fresh impetus to the speed of my mule, he drew rein, and called to a negro man to stop my career. But the mule was not to be stopped. Instead of taking the carriage-way, he bolted across the lawn, and made straight for the stable. To stop him was impossible. I found I might as well pull at a granite column as at his jaws. The door of his stable was open, and I saw that he would only stop at his crib. I measured the ground to spring to it, but the dreadful idea that my skirt might entangle with the horns of the saddle, deterred me. In another moment the stable was reached! The door was open. I threw myself forward, clasped neck and mane, and stooping low went safely in with him. The suddenness with which he stopped at his manger, tossed me into the rack, out of which I was taken unhurt, and with many a joke and laugh upon my mule race. But a mule race is not a fox hunt, you say! Bide a wee, sir.

Yours,

Kate.

Ingraham, J. H., “Letter VII.” The Sunny South, or the Southerner at Home, Embracing Five Years’ Experience of a Northern Governess in the Land of the Sugar and the Cotton, 56-60. Philadelphia: G. G. Evans, 1860.

Janus:

Cycles and seasons govern collective human behavior, whether they are irregular economic cycles from decade to decade, or the lifespan of a nation or civilization across the centuries. Likewise, some primeval force seems to take hold of a people once every human life-span or so, a force that drives a people to stand up and fight their enemies, to die if they have to, to declare that the time for compromise has reached its end because further concessions will ultimately destroy who they are as a people. Sometimes the people aim their wrath at enemies outside the gates, sometimes at the enemies within.

We are living in the cusp of such a time today. Traitors and parasites rule over the white nations of the West. They seek our displacement as a people at the very least, and they are setting the world stage for another fratricidal world war to cement their power. And the white people under their rule remain almost hopelessly confused and divided, ready to kill each other because the time for compromise has reached its limit. The lines are being drawn.

In perhaps months, or maybe a few years, the blood of thousands or millions will flow. And in the years after this season has passed, when whatever remains of the nations struggle to rebuild, the survivors will look back on today’s opulent, relatively peaceful, and carefree years as a golden age. And in many ways, in comparison to the future, maybe these years will actually be golden ones.

As we prepare ourselves for the battles to come, I recommend that we take the time to give thanks for our families and good friends, for the decent people that still exist out there, for good health and good hospitals, for our plentiful food and clean water, and every other joyous and fragile thing that we tend to take for granted. Let us appreciate them while we can.

May the Lord have mercy on us all.

Advertisements
Leave a comment

1 Comment

  1. Reblogged this on Brittius.

    Like

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  • May 2017
    S M T W T F S
    « Dec    
     123456
    78910111213
    14151617181920
    21222324252627
    28293031  
%d bloggers like this: