This was my third day of fasting, my stomach seemed to be attached to my backbone, my vigorous appetite would not allow me to sleep.
I heard distant cannon firing somewhere to the east of me. I did not meet human dwelling, plantation, or domestic animal that day. I began to think I had left the inhabited part of the earth behind me. About 9 o'clock in the evening I met two men in the road, supposing them to be slaves I spoke to them, but when they answered I knew they were white men. They were just as bashful and shy as I was, but finally told me that there had been a battle at Grahamville that day and they thought it a good time to go home. We parted with mutual alacrity.
In another hour I came to a plantation and heard singing at a lone cabin a quarter of a mile from the road. I reconnoitered and found a colored preacher practicing his next Sunday's services. He was alone, all of the other slaves and gone to a frolic and would not be back til morning.
I introduced myself and spent two or three hours with him very profitably.
I introduced the subject nearest my heart very early in our conversation. He explained that he took his tin plate and cup to the big house for every meal, and trusted entirely to the Lord and old Missis for everything. But realizing that the source might not be available for me he added; 'I knows where de tater heap is I reckon dat would be stealin' but maby be good Lawd would 'scuse me dis time' I assured him that he would be excused, but if there ever was any trouble about it, it should be charged to account. He went and got about a peck of sweet potatoes, put some in the ashes to roast and filled a small iron pot and hung it over the fire to boil. I did not run any risk of having those potatoes overdone, or burnt before sampling them. I ate while the preacher talked.
When the potatoes were about gone I remarked, I suppose, uncle I can trust all the darkies can't I? He replied emphatically, 'yassah ebery one, 'cept one, and he's dead. Then he told me the 'faithful servant' story substantially as I had previously read it in the Augusta paper, but added; Dat niggah folloh his mastah around jest lak a dog foh mohn a week. Den one day he went out in de woods, as he lay yit. When I left the old preacher my stomach had ceased gnawing at my backbone. The woods were not so lonesome, my conscience did not trouble me and towards morning I lay down and slept the sleep of the just—been fed.
When night fell I cheerfully took to the road again. The weather was cloudy and the night was dark, my shoes were nearly worn out; The rest of my clothing was in rags, and thin for winter wear, but I was more than ever determined to reinforce Sherman's army. About 9 o'clock I met a black man who told me that we was body servant to an officer in the Home Guards, stationed at "Sistah Ferry' [sic] that they had gathered up all the boats on the River and were guarding them to keep the black people from going to Sherman's army. He was then on his way to visit his wife, carrying a savory mess of baked possum and sweet potatoes and some light bread as a treat for his wife; this he transferred to me, and I am sure Dinah could not have enjoyed it any more than I did. About midnight I passed a plantation, where someone who ought to have been in bed and sleep saw me and put the dogs on my track.
The pleasures of hunting are all on one side; there are none for the hunted.
I made good time to the river, arrived just as a little shower had driven the guards under shelter. I selected a boat from some twenty tied up in the mouth of a little creek or lagoon, and paddled out just as the dogs that had been following me came trailing down the bank.
Then the guards were aroused on both sides of the river, and got out boats above and below me with the expectation of capturing or killing a niggah.
Realizing how vicious and determined they were I did not wish to associate with them at all so I slipped overboard and when near enough dived and passed under both boats and kept on down the river. I swam and floated for about a mile then I thought I would land, but found the bank so high and steep that I had to go down a quarter of a mile farther where a tree top had fallen in the water, with its roots still fast at the top of the bank, enabled me to crawl out into a cane brake so thick and tangled with green brier and other vines, that I could make no progress in the darkness. I tried to cut my way through but lost my knife, then lay down to rest a few minutes. The next thing I knew the sun was shining on the frost of my clothing so brightly that my shoulder seemed to be covered with a coat of mail.
I was so stiff that the only joints I could move were my eyelids, it took me half an hour to get up motion enough to crawl around like a dog making his bed and hour before I could stand and walk.
Then commenced the hardest day's work I have ever done in my life, to get through a mile or more of that cane brake and swamp. Successive floods had bent the cane down nearly flat, then the cane would grow up through the drift to be again bent down at a higher level, the whole bound together by vines, fallen timber, drift wood. A large tree or large log helped some, the cane arched over them leaving a little space for me to crawl through for a few feet.
Once I disturbed a small brown bear, but I had lost no bears to I backed out and left him in possession of the premises. When I struck an alligator path the going was much improved, and in the swamp with water knee deep I made good time. All day I heard a gang of negroes under guard telling timber across the road to the Ferry. Just at night I struck a lone cabin where an old negro woman lived. She told me that four Yankee soldiers had been taken prisoners at the big house that morning, and the the whole country was swarming with Yankees. She gave me a good supper which was breakfast and dinner. A grandson of the old lady's just from Sylvania, Ga., reported that division of Sherman's army was camped there 'right now' and would pass along the big road two miles away next day sure. He volunteered to show me a place in sight of the road only a quarter of a mile away at the back of a field.
About 11 o'clock at night he went with me and I lay down in a little patch of buck brush in the open pine woods, and slept soundly until daylight. When I opened my eyes I saw several men on horse back, who appeared to be watching me. They were about fifteen yards away and I recognized them as Confederate soldiers on picket guard. On called out "Say, Bill what you all doin thar?" I thought he spoke to me, but some one behind me that I had not yet seen answered and the rode past me and joined the others.
#1 photo of H. R. Hubbard (shown)