Monday, April 21, 2008
A Confederate Map Pt. 2
I had read the tiny and faded writing until my eyes hurt from the strain but the thought that he had been smart enough to hide two gold pieces inside of the butt of his rifle caught my imagination. Where did the coins come from, and what was this handwritten map that he mentioned? Was it a treasure map to a chest of gold pieces? That would be too wild, but my heart leaped at the thought of it. Reality was that it was a map for something else. Maybe a proposed railroad or an engineers map of some kind.
I hid the diary away, but later that week I stayed late at the office, got a magnifying glass and reading lamp and opened the yellow pages again. The map was not really mentioned but the horror of Reconstruction was in full swing.
He wrote about the need to get the fields going as gardens. There was no cotton crop or thought of that. It was a matter of survival. He mentioned that many of the ex-slaves had come back to the place for protection and a chance to at least eat. They were welcomed as family, given food and shelter and promised jobs when and if they ever got any money.
He wrote about thousands of people traveling the roads with nowhere to go. Julian and his wife fed as many as mercy or kindness would allow and a camp quickly sprang up on the property that filled with these Reconstruction Era nomads. The old slave quarters were filled with families both black and white. The ex-soldiers, ex-slaves and farmers worked day and night to survive the brutal, heavy hand of the Reconstruction Government and the carpetbaggers in charge.
They lost most of the property to taxes but still kept the main part of the low ground. The men worked as hard as they could just to grow crops or fix the homes so they had a roof over their heads. They all worked, ate and slept together and protected each other in a very lawless time.
Many of the people (especially women) stayed to help tend the needy which were too sick to travel, and stayed till they recovered or died and the many others that constantly took their place. The first year was a nightmare, but a small close knit community sprung up with a tiny store and the organization of the first groups of sharecroppers trying to make it after the Civil War.
There were hundreds of people coming and going and Julian Christmas and his family took them all in. It was a busy time and though the map was mentioned once or twice, it was only mentioned how dangerous it would be to use it.
For almost two years Mr. Christmas and his family did everything they could to help his neighbors and himself survive.
The other thing is that Mr. Christmas developed a chest cold and cough that he could not get rid of.