Life in the North During the Civil War
Life and Times of Odell Jackson
My name is Odell Jackson. I live in Troy, Michigan. The year is 1862. I am 27 years old. I live by myself with a few white folk by the name of Troy. Mr. Troy and his three sons went to fight for the union in the civil war. The Troys are all abolitionists, and they helped take me in after I escaped from the South. I am a runaway slave you see, so for a family like the Troys to help me is a saint-like thing to do.
February 7, 1862
Today, I helped Mrs. Troy with household chores and work. Since the men of the house are gone, me and her have to do all the work ourselves. We started out this morning by cleaning the dishes from last nights dinner. After that, we had to go outside and slop the pigs with the leftover scraps. Then she wanted me to carry some feed for the horses from the storehouse to the barn. After I was done with that, we did some dusting around the house. Later that day, Mrs. Troy started crying because she was afraid that her darling men would be lost to the war. I told her not to cry because God would watch over them and make sure they are safe. Saying this calmed her down some, but tears just kept streaming down her face... I did whatever I could to help out during the evening, so I helped Mrs. Troy with anything I could manage. She had to give lessons to their youngest child Melissa, and since I hadn't been taught yet to read and write, she said I could join in too and so I did. After Melissa's daily lesson was over, I cooked supper for us so that way Mrs. Troy could be off of her feet for a while. We ate supper in silence because we could here cannon fire. We didn't know what battle was being fought, but we were all tense for some reason. When dinner was over for us, we heard a knock at the door, and there was an official union Sergeant with a small group of soldiers. They had been walking all day, and asked if they could lay down in the barn for the night. Mrs. Troy, being a very generous lady said that a barn floor is no place for the people who are battling for the union, but they insisted that the barn was the only place that they wouldn't feel like they were intruding. SO when they went over to the barn, I started to cook an extra dinner for them all.
February 17, 1862
Today, Mrs. Troy and I heard news that the union forced the confederates to surrender at Fort Donelson. We were so happy that the union was pushing the war forward that we decided to write a letter to Mr. Troy. Since I had been practicing my reading and writing, Mrs. Troy let me write. What I wrote went a little like this:
Dear Mr. Troy,
We miss you here at the house. We just heard about the surrender at Fort Donelson! The newspaper headline read: UNION ARMY FORCES CONFEDERATES TO SURRENDER. We were so happy that we decided to write this letter to you. The days here are really slow, and Mrs. Troy gets lonely and cries from heartache. I think that she's afraid that you won't come back from the war, but I know that a strong man like you will definitely return. Melissa and I work really hard in our schoolwork, and we are getting pretty smart. I really hope you return sir.
March 3, 1862
Today was a very easygoing day. Mrs. Troy only needed help moving some things from the cellar, and cleaning up the attic. We haven't gotten a letter back from Mr. Troy so Mrs. Troy is worried sick about what could be happening to him. She even sent money to the union factory to help the production of firearms for union soldiers. Its been a while since the last group of soldiers came to rest in our barn, but I took the liberty of setting up extra mattresses and blankets just in case more soldiers stop by. Mrs. Troy and I also donated a few of our finest horses to the nearest fort.
March, 22, 1862
Today was the day that we finally heard back from Mr. Troy! The post man arrived with a little envelope for us this morning. It was signed to his darling family. I got to read it out loud to Mrs. Troy and Melissa. We were so excited to hear from him that we were all shaking from anticipation. The letter started like this:
I know it has been a month or two since you have sent me your letter. If I've worried you by not responding right away, I am deeply sorry about that, but our army leaders wouldn't let us send letter to our family for a while. I assure you that I am doing just fine, but one thing that could be better would be the food that they make for us. Elizabeth (that's Mrs. Troy's first name) I am sorry to inform you of this, but after our darling boys and I got stationed in our fort, they split us all up into different platoons. I haven't seen them for two weeks or so, but several days ago I was involved in what we are now calling the battle of pea ridge. We crushed the confederates, and loosened their hold of Missouri and part of the Mississippi. If anything else comes up, I'll write to you guys again. But until then, don't worry about me or the boys; we are all strong enough to outlive any man on this battlefield, but you didn't hear that from me.
January 2, 1863
Today we got news of what had happened just yesterday. The headlines read EMANCIPATION CELEBRATION and GRAND CELEBRATION OF THE EMANCIPATION, and apparently Abraham Lincoln passed the emancipation proclamation. The emancipation is supposed to allow slaves in the confederate states to be free. This is great news to me and Mrs. Troy. She says that bringing an end to slavery was something the U.S. should have done a long long time ago. I say that slavery should never have even started, but Lincoln doing something this bold in the midst of a civil war could mean a bigger push from the south.
I hope that Mr. Troy has heard news about the emancipation. He always did want something like this to be passed, and now that it has happened I'm pretty sure he'd be overjoyed! I really look forward to seeing families, who were split up by slavery, join back together. An end to slavery for African American means a beginning to a better America.
The biggest thing that came with the Emancipation was the realization that now that Negroes were free, I could get a job soon. Mrs. Troy says that if I got a job I could earn my own money. Mr. Lincoln is a great man if he is able to end slavery just like that. I feel like a man who can end something as daunting as slavery could move mountains for the United States. The emancipation might also give me a chance to do what I've always wanted to; start my own family in the U.S.