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1861: The American Civil War and Paternal Instincts




It was 13th April 1849 that I set sail from my hometown Cork, Ireland to the New World. The Great Famine had killed many of my family members. Help from the English government was dismal. Our crops were infected with blight, especially potatoes which was our staple diet. It was a black moment for us. Our food turned black, and the deaths made our dress and sentiments black. It was better to commit crime and be transported to some colonies of the English than to stay and starve at home. But my reasons were different. I had a fortune to make, for I was young, only 18, then. We Irish, are proud people and love a good adventure. America was good for those who wanted adventure and quick money.
After two months of perilous journey on the sea, I finally reached New York. I wanted to seek my fortunes in the South, because it was a rich land compared to the North. The Southerners were rich in terms of export. Cotton was grown in the warm South while corn was grown in the cold North. I was ready to work for anything and learn the trade of the world. After I stayed for a while in New York, I travelled to Indiana where I did various odd jobs. I worked for Mr. Robertson who was a judge and a free thinking man. He believed in the Lord and hated slavery. Though I didn’t much favour his views, I stayed there for about a year before heading south again. I travelled to Kentucky which was a slave state.
Slaves were captured and brought mainly from Africa. However, with the imposition of the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves from outside the United States in 1807, internal breeding and trading of slaves was encouraged. Slaves had no rights and were bought and sold like cattle. Their lives depended upon the kindness of their masters. Cattle would be treated far better than slaves. Slaves were mostly blacks. And if the slaves were freed, then the landlords thought their economy would slump.
My next master, Mr. Humphry owned a large slave business in Kentucky. Slaves were needed to work in the large cotton plantation in the south. Those were the times when America was undergoing a drastic change. New railway lines were constructed throughout the country and quick movement of people brought new ideas with them.
I didn’t care whether the blacks were free or slave. It was none of my business. I had arrived new into the continent, and with a warm blood, I wanted to build a fortune of my own. Mr. Humphry had a large ranch, and owned a large plantation south to Kentucky in Tennessee. I was to look after his horses. Mr. Humphry was a cruel master to his slaves. He traded his old slaves and those who couldn’t work on the plantation.
 “Not a crumb of bread for those who can’t work,” said he.
He was however, kind to the whites who worked under him. The reason I knew much later, when I was offered to bed one of his black female slaves. Slaves had no rights. The masters could use them as they pleased. Slaves couldn’t marry, for their marriages were not recognised. They could cohabit with other blacks but eventually, it was the will of their masters to keep them or sell them. The children bred out of such co-habitations were the property of the masters. The mother could be sold to someone and the children to someone else. So, any children born out of black slave woman even when they had cohabited a white man, were slaves.
Mulatto slaves were more in demand and better priced, and acquiring them was seen as a symbol of status. Mulatto may have its origin from mule which is a hybrid between a male ass and a female horse (mare). Mulattoes are born when the parents are of different races (that is one parent is white and one black) or are mulattoes. Unlike mules which are sterile, because there is cross-species breeding, mulattoes being product of just different races are not infertile. A mulatto born from a white free woman was born free, while a mulatto born from a black slave woman was a born slave.  
Mr. Humphry saw to it, that white men slept with the young female slaves. Well, we were paid handsomely for it. I wasn’t much interested in cohabiting with black woman.
It was after my four years of service, when a new slave woman was bought by Mr. Humphry. Her eyes were big like that of a gazelle, so I had nick-named her Gazelle. Her primary work was to serve Mrs. Humphry and do the household chores. She spoke fine, unlike most niggas who half-ate their words. She could read well. And even though she was a slave, she was proud. Her pride actually made me hate her. She was black, and a slave – she had no right to be proud! Well, it took some time for me to really hate her. Gazelle wouldn’t listen much to my commands. I was not her master. But I had to tame her. And that would be possible if I could force myself on her.
I turned out to be a monster, for I did something which neither I enjoyed nor she enjoyed but happened because I just wanted to do it to satiate my self-pride of white supremacy. She had no rights to complain of her sexual abuse to anyone. And Mr. Humphry benefited the most. For after some months Gazelle became pregnant. And later she delivered a mulatto child.
Hans worked in the ranch with me. He came running to deliver me the news.
“Hey, man! The young’un she has delivered looks like you. A mulatto he is. Go and have a look!”
I wondered what to do. I ran to see the baby in the cottage. And suddenly the parental instincts rose within me. I took the baby in my arms. I looked at my son gazing at me. Yes, he looked like me. Same features as me, just that he was much darker than me. I could feel his gaze penetrate my soul. I looked at the woman beside. She was not my wife, but she was the woman I made love multiple times. No, I actually had raped her!
I could feel my son’s gaze accusing me of the terrible wrong I had done. Would God forgive me for the sins I had committed? I was a monster! Yes, greed and vanity had made me a monster!
Ever since, I was kind to Gazelle. They named my son Emanuel, and he was property of my master. I tried being a father, but my hands were restricted. Emanuel didn’t belong to me. Emanuel grew up like most of the slave lads doing nothing but getting prepared for a life of slavery. Emanuel habits were like mine and I grew fond of him. However, I couldn’t meet Gazelle in the eye.
It was winter of 1860. A new era would dawn soon. The Mississippi had frozen.  Abe Lincoln has been doing something for humanity. George Washington thought for his country, but this man has thought for the whole of human race. He will go down in history as the greatest man to rule America. Abe Lincoln was elected the President on November 6, 1860.
“The Republicans are born out of Devil,” Mr. Humphry said. “And they have elected the Devil to be the president. Soon he will abolish slavery, and we all will be damned! Who will work in the fields, then?”
No one liked Abe Lincoln in the South, even though he had the reputation of being “Honest Abe”.
Emanuel had grown to be five years old. He looked like me - no doubt, he was my son. Mr. Humphry wanted to sell Emanuel in the slave market.
I wondered, what I should do. See me son sold to servitude. No, I couldn’t!
“You old sire,” Gazelle would say, when she met me. “Would you like to see your son as a slave?”
I hung my head and would say nothing.
The South slave states didn’t like Abraham Lincoln as the elected President and decided to secede from the Union. As the tension rose, it was more of war over morality. The Confederates attacked Fort Sumter in April 1861. The South wanted to uphold the Slavery laws. But their design was evil. So long as they win, slavery will exist. Humans will continue to subjugate humans and treat them worse than animals. But in God’s kingdom, this won’t happen. We have to change. We should have the desire to change.
Mr. Humphrey lost his business during the war. The Yankees had attacked the Southern region, and they were burning everything that they came across. Kentucky was a border state that didn't come to much harm, but Tennessee suffered the most due its strategic location. His cotton fields in Tennessee were burnt and he lost everything. It was difficult for Mr. Humphry to keep many slaves and so he decided to sell some of his slaves.
Hans came running to me one day, when I was in the ranch.
“Old boy!” He said, “The Lord help you. Master has decided to sell your lad. Tomorrow they are coming for him!”
I had enough. I decided to take Gazelle and Emanuel across the Mississippi where there was freedom. The states of Indiana, Ohio and Illinois north to Kentucky were Free states. This human kind has both kindness and wickedness ingrained in them. It all depends on circumstances, which feature is exhibited. I had to evict Gazelle and Emanuel from the ranch and take them to over to the north, possibly Indiana. The thought of Mr. Robertson came into my mind, who was sympathetic to slaves and was a Republican. I had earlier mocked his views. But now, I realized how right he was! He would take care of my son and Gazelle. No matter what, my blood was in him. How could I let my blood into the shackles of slavery? No father could do that to his son!
I used whatever I had saved to build my fortune during the ten years of my stay in America to help Gazelle and Emanuel escape. Maybe my son’s freedom was indeed my fortune!
I escaped with Gazelle and Emanuel in the dead of the night. After I had made my way safely to Indiana with Gazelle and Emanuel, I decided to conscript into the Union army. This war was a war for freedom of humanity from the evil of slavery. No man born has the right to be slave of another. Maybe, I was taken into this war for the sake of my son, or I would still have supported slavery and the Confederates. But God guides whom He will.
I left Gazelle and Emanuel in the hands of Mr. Robertson, beseeching him to look after them well in my absence. Good old fella he was. He remembered me, and had no prejudice against me.
I wrote a letter before going to join the Union army and asked Gazelle, to give the letter to my son, when he would be eighteen.
Dear son,
Now that you are eighteen you will understand the world better. I regret that I wronged your mother. That was my mistake to have wronged her. But now, I hope to absolve myself for the sins I committed. I am going to fight a war that will set slave men free! I do not know if I will return dead or alive, or maybe I may not return, but then, know your dad did his best. To protect your rights, to protect humanity and individual freedom, your dad took to serve Abe Lincoln. History will not take my name, for I will be lost in the millions who died for a cause, but then I hope we rewrite history so that no man is born slave again! That everyone is equal in this country as they are in before the eyes of God! I give my blood so that this nation becomes a free nation, where people are born free and die free. Where free thinking men will make the nation great and will show a path for others to follow. Let my life go not in vain, and make America what the founding fathers wanted it to be!
On your eighteen birthday, I have nothing to give you but freedom. Use it well.
Your loving daddy,
Michael O'Brien.
“Tell him, that your dad loved you. That’s why he went to fight the war.”
I looked at the dark face of Gazelle. Her eyes shone bright. That was the first time, I saw emotions in them for me. I could tell, it was not hatred. No, her soul was not dead. And that time when I looked into her eyes, I saw her soul. Blacks too had soul in them. And it was not black! It was beautiful. Far better than many whites!
I touched her hands gently, and her lips quivered. She trembled, and tears flowed down her eyes. She was beautiful. I hadn’t seen her as a woman before! It was my fault. I stepped closer, and hugged her.
“Old master,” she said. “Be careful!”


1861: The American Civil War and Paternal Instincts Reviewed by Polymath on 9:32 am Rating: 5

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