The great gathering of slaves on the first Sunday in November at the forks of the Saluda and Broad rivers was ostensibly a religious meeting. But there was an immense amount of policies on the side, and by special invitation we five officers of the northern army took part in the political council. The chairman who presided over this body of forty or fifty colored men was a white-haired man of about seventy. He stated the object of the meeting briefly and clearly.
Gen. Lee., in an official report to President Davis, had recommended that the able-bodied slaves in the south be armed and put in the field to fight the northern troops, and urged that fifty thousand be sent forward to his command immediately.
The newspapers and statesmen of the south had been discussing the question. Some of the Confederate states seemed to favor the proposition, but South Carolina balked and kicked. The Charleston Mercury declared that "South Carolina had gone into the war of secession to retain their property in slaves, and it did not make much difference whether they voluntarily freed their own slaves or lost them by the fortune of war. They would have nothing left to fight for, and their blood and treasure would have wasted in vain."
The secretary, a brown man of middle age, gave a brief resume of the auction taken by several state legislatures, the opinions of leading men and the position taken by leading newspapers.
Then the question, "What shall we do," was laid before the meeting for discussion. A venerable man arose and said: "We all hab prayed foh yeahs dat we might see de salvashun ob de Lawd. Now hi 'pears lak hi done come nigh us. Let us keep on prayin'."
Another said: "Prayin's might good, but some ob us pray bettah wiv our hans and feet dan we do wiv our moufs."
A third suggested, "A fish in de reah."
A fourth said: "Remembah de pore women and chillun befoh you sets out dat fish."
A sly looking fellow said: "You all done seed dawgs fight ovah a bone; de bone don't nevah fight."
His neighbor said: "My bones don got live meat on um; I ain't gwin to wait fer no dawg to begin gnawin um. We'uns am de bone."
A bright, quick-speaking yellow man outlined a plan of campaign, embracing burning of the government depots, all manner of supplies for the Confederate States army, the destruction of rail bridges, and the final escape to the north of those engaged in this enterprise.
A feebler brother objected that such a plan being carried out would be taking the Lord's work right out of his hand leave him nothing to do. Then a serious looking man rose and said "Our mastahs are our natural enemies, and the northern people are our friends. Why else do our mastahs hate and fear the northern people and try to make us hate and fear them, too? And we must not join the army and fight against our friends of the north. We must die where we are, rather than do that."
Then a square-headed, practical man got up and said: "Ouah mastahs have de powab; we mus use du cunnin'. If day calls on us to enlist for sogers, we mus come a runnin, and make out lakwese mighty pleased to git de chance. Den we mus obey awdahs and learn fast. Den when de time cums and we are drawed up in line of fight; we goes right ovah to de udder side."
"Hol on, sah," said another man. "Don you know, sah, dat when dat time cums dah'l be a rigimant uv white sogers right behind youh rigiment uv brack sogers, wiv deir guns pintin right at youh backs."
"Well, den, we tuhn roun an fish a wolly to de reah firs, an den we go ovah," was the reply. And the crowd said "Amen."
Then the visiting statesman from the north were called on for speeches. I excused myself. I had been a prisoner so long I did not know much of recent events, but assured them that when the war was over, whether sooner or late, the north would be victorious, and the slaves would all be free.
Capt. Smith told them the war would be over in six months, and all the former slaves would receive forty acres of land and a mule.
After supper I achieved the musical triumph of my life by singing "Kingdom Coming" to an audience of several hundred negroes [sic], who had never heard it before. Then they started us on our way toward Atlanta with a guide, who went with us until 3 o'clock next morning. His last request before he turned back was "Please whistle dat chune once more." We tramped on till nearly daylight, then selected our bed rooms in a secluded place under the pine trees and slept well.
#1 photo of H. R. Hubbard (shown)