CHM Epilogue: The Spotswood Rice Edition

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Man, even the slaves had great names. I mean, come on--Spotswood Rice. You just don't see people today named "Spotswood." Anyway, those of you familiar with Ken Burns' Civil War piece should be familiar with old Spotswood. He ran off, joined the Union Army and engaged in a rather epic letter-feud with his old mistress. Somewhat ironically, I did some edit here. The original is here.


Here's Rice writing his children:

My Children I take my pen in hand to write you  few lines to let you know that I have not forgot you and that I want to see you as bad as ever. Now my Dear children, I want you to be contented with whatever may be your lots. Be assured that I will have you if it cost me my life on the 28th of the month. 8 hundred White and 8 hundred black soldiers expects to start up the rivor to Glasgow and above...

Dont be uneasy my children I expect to have you. If Diggs don't give you up this Government will, and I feel confident that I will get you. Your Miss Kitty said that I tried to steal you. But I'll let her know that God never intended for man to steal his own flesh and blood. If I had no confidence in God I could have confidence in her. But as it is if I ever had any Confidence in her I have none now and never expect to have.  And I want her to remember if she meets me with ten thousand soldiers she will meet her enemy 

I once thought that I had some respect for them. But now my respects is worn out and have no sympathy for Slaveholders. And as for her Christianity, I expect the Devil has Such in hell.   You tell her from me that She is the first Christian that I ever hard say that a man could steal his own child, especially out of human bondage. You can tell her that She can hold to you as long as she can.  I never would expect to ask her again to let you come to me, because I know that the devil has got her heart set against that that is right. Now my Dear children, I am a going to close my letter to you. Give my love to all inquiring friends. Tell them all that we are well and want to see them very much. And Corra and Mary receive the greater part of it yourselves, and don't think hard of us not sending you any thing. I, your father, have a plenty for you when I see you.   Spott & Noah sends their love to both of you Oh! My Dear children how I do want to see you.

Here's Rice writing to Ms. Kitty Diggs:


I received a leteter from Cariline telling me that you say I tried to steal to plunder my child away from you. Now I want you to understand that Mary is my Child and she is a God given rite of my own. And you may hold on to hear as long as you can but I want you to remember this one thing--that the longer you keep my Child from me the longer you will have to burn in hell and the quicker you'll get there,  for we are now making up a bout one thousand black troops to Come up through...And when we come woe be to Copperhood rebbels and to the Slaveholding rebbels, for we don't expect to leave them ne'er root nor branch. But we think however that we that have Children in the hands of you devils. We will try your virtues

I received a leteter from Cariline telling me that you say I tried to steal to plunder my child away from you. Now I want you to understand that Mary is my Child and she is a God given rite of my own. And you may hold on to hear as long as you can but I want you to remember this one thing--that the longer you keep my Child from me the longer you will have to burn in hell and the quicker you'll get there,  for we are now making up a bout one thousand black troops to Come up through...And when we come woe be to Copperhood rebbels and to the Slaveholding rebbels, for we don't expect to leave them ne'er root nor branch. But we think however that we that have Children in the hands of you devils. We will try your virtues

The day that we enter Glasgow I want you to understand Kittey Diggs that whereever you and I meets we are enemies to each other. I offered once to pay you forty dollers for my own Child, but I am glad now that you did not accept it.  Just hold on now as long as you can and the worse it will be for you. You never in you life before I came down here did you give Children anything, not anything whatever, not even a dollar's worth of expenses. Now you call my children your property. Not so with me. My children is my own and I expect to get them. And when I get ready to come after Mary, I will have bout a power and authority to bring her away and to execute vengeance on them that holds my Child. You will then know how to talk to me.   I will assure that and you will know how to talk right too. I want you now to just hold on to her if you want to. If your conscience tells that's the road, go that road...

I have no fears about getting Mary out of your hands. This whole Government gives cheer to me, and you cannot help your self.

When I first read this letter I thought, "Damn, that's uncivil." Then I thought, "Wait, she tried to charge him for his daughter. And she said no." Can you imagine someone charging you for your kid?
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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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