One Last Civil War Thought For The Day

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If you do nothing else, read this letter from one Jourdan Anderson, to his former master in Tennessee. Anderson has escaped and is living in Ohio with his family. Anderson's ex-master is hoping he'll return to work for him. The irony and understatement in this piece is so well done, that when I read it, I actually thought it was fraudulent. But Historian David Blight cites it in his letters.

A quick excerpt:

Sir: I got your letter and was glad to find you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Col. Martin's to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again and see Miss mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville hospital, but one of the neighbors told me Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.

Read the rest. It's incredible. So much blackness there, and then something of that sense of Southern understatement there also, that whole playing dumb act while driving home a dead serious point. And maintaining a veneer of politness also, even while discussing truly grave matters.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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