Southern Black Men Defending Their Families From Union Soldiers

From: “Jim Brooks” []
Date: Jan 5, 2018
Subject: Southern Black Men Defending Their Families From Union Soldiers
To: []

Compatriot Edgerton,

I have already donated to your cause and will do so again in the future. I have a story to share that I think will interest you. It is a story my grandmother heard from former slaves. This was in Fayette County, Tennessee. My grandmother heard from both former slaves and from her own family, of Union soldiers repeatedly raiding her grandparent’s farm, taking all the food that they could find. She was told they took most of the cows and killed the rest, took all the produce from the garden that they wished and drove the cows across the garden afterwards. They did this both to her grandparents’ garden and to the slaves’ garden patches. She was told that they missed one old cow and some of the chickens. Everything else eatable was taken or destroyed. Detachments of Union soldiers returned on a regular basis, again and again, looking for any food the people might have left. The slave women and the little children would get down on their knees, crying, and beg the soldiers not to take their food and leave them hungry. Some of the soldiers apologized, saying they were acting under orders. If the civilians were forced to go hungry then the Confederate soldiers would desert and come home to get food for their starving families. So the reasoning of higher ups in the Union Army ran. This would help the Union to win the war, the soldiers told them, saying they were acting on orders from higher ups. The families on the farm were reduced to hiding the one remaining cow. They hid her in a honeysuckle patch down on the river bank. The milk the cow produced was given to the sick and to the little children. They also had some chickens that they kept cooped up under the “big house.” Here they thought the raiding Yankees would not see them. There was one young slave on the farm. I wrote his name down as a child but lost it long ago when we moved. This young man was a veritable true giant. My grandmother was told that he was 8 feet 5.5 inches tall and had the girth to match his height. His parents died when he was just a child. He had no kin on the farm so everyone took a hand in raising him. He was fully grown though still a young man when the War broke out. He had always been something of a loner. He would be gone for days and sometimes weeks at a time. In spite of his size he could move as quietly as any Indian. You know how sometimes you will feel someone watching you even tho you do not see them? People told my grandmother that sometimes they would think they were alone but would feel someone’s eyes on them. When they turned around, there would be the giant. He moved so quietly that he had come right up behind them without them being aware of him. He knew how to live of the land and was perfectly at home in the woods. The raiding Yankees had never seen him or heard of him. One day, suddenly the Yankees were upon them. The lookout had failed to watch and the first they knew of the Yankees being there was when they heard gunshots as the Yankees began shooting their few remaining chickens, laughing while they killed them.

Suddenly, there was total silence! Around from behind the corner of a house had stepped the giant! He had a big double sided woodsmen’s axe in his hand and was swinging it like it was a toy. The other black men on the place were with him, armed with whatever they could use as a weapon. The Yankees, tho, had eyes only for the giant. Their eyes were big as saucers and they could not take their eyes off of him. For every step he took forward, they took two steps back. In this way he backed them out of the yard. Rather than fight him and his armed men, the Yankees left. The giant was thanking by everyone. My second great grandfather was old and bedfast. He called the giant into his room to thank him for what he had done. The giant reminded my 2nd great grandfather that when he was orphaned as a little boy, everyone had taken him in, and had loved and cared for him. White and Black, you all are my people, the giant said. Knowing that the Yankees might well come back looking for him, he withdrew to the woods that surrounded the farm. He promised however that he would never go far away and would be watching and waiting to help them if he was needed. As long as the war lasted, people who were there told my grandmother that from time to time the birds in one or another part of the woods would grow silent, and they would know it meant the giant was there, keeping an eye on them as he had promised. After the war, he moved away. No one knew where. He was remembered however.