Read CHAPTER II of The Life and Adventures of Nat Love Better Known in the Cattle Country as "Deadwood Dick", free online book, by Nat Love, on ReadCentral.com.

War. “The rebels and Yankees.” I raise A regiment to fight. Difficulty in finding an enemy. Ash sake. Freedom.

When I was ten years old the war broke out between the “North and the South.” And there was little else talked about, among the slaves as well as the slave owners of the neighborhood. And naturally the many different stories we heard worked us children to a high state of excitement. So much so that we wanted to go to war, and fight for the Union, because among us slave children there was no difference of opinion, as to which side was right.

The Union was “It,” and we were all “Yankees.” Not being able to go to war as our masters did, we concluded to play war, accordingly I gathered all the boys of the neighborhood together, into a regiment, which it was my intention to divide into two parties of Rebels and Yankees, but in this I met an insurmountable obstacle. Not one of the boys wanted to be a rebel, consequently we had to look elsewhere for an enemy to give us battle, and serve as a vent for our growing enthusiasm. The next Sunday preceding the organization of our regiment, we started out over the surrounding country in quest of trouble, which we were not long in finding, as we soon ran across a nest of yellow jackets. These we proceeded to exterminate, in which we were successful after a short but destructive battle. We suffered considerably in wounded but lost none of our soldiers. This engagement we called the capture of fort “Hell.” For some time thereafter we made regular raids into the surrounding country in quest of an enemy. We were eventually successful in our quest, as in quick order we ran across and captured a company of bumble bees. This we called the “Battle of the Wilderness.” Victory over a nest of hornets we called the capture of “Fort Sumter.” A large nest of wasps gave us perhaps the hardest fight of our campaigning. This we ran across in the fields not far from home. There was an unusually large number of them, and as is usually the case with these insects, they proved very ferocious. Nothing loth, however, we attacked with cheers, only to be driven back time and again and finally we were compelled to make a very undignified retreat, at full speed in the direction of home. Not to be beaten, however, we secured reinforcements and more ammunition, in the shape of old rags, brooms and so forth, and returned to the charge, and although we were driven back several times we stayed until we won out, and the last insect lay a quivering mass on the ground. There was not one among us, not wounded in some manner, as for myself I had enough of it. My nose looked like a dutch slipper, and it was several days before my eyes were able to perform the duties for which they were made. However, the Union forces were victorious and we were happy. Our masters told us if the soldiers caught us, they would hang us all, which had the effect of keeping most of us close around home. Master had gone to join Lee’s forces, taking with him father, who was engaged in building forts, which work kept him with the Confederate army until General Grant arrived in the country, when he was allowed to come home. From then on Union soldiers passed the neighborhood most every day on their way south, to join the fighting regiments.

We soon found out they would not hurt us and they were the wonderment and pride of our youthful minds. They would take everything they could find to eat for themselves and horses, leaving the plantation stripped clean of provisions and food, which entailed considerable misery and hardships on those left at home, especially the colored people who were not used to such a state of affairs, and were not accustomed to providing for their own wants. Finally Lee surrendered and master returned home. But in common with other masters of those days he did not tell us we were free. And instead of letting us go he made us work for him the same as before, but in all other respects he was kind. He moved our log cabin on a piece of ground on a hill owned by him, and in most respects things went on the same as before the war. It was quite a while after this that we found out we were free and good news, like bad news, sometimes travels fast. It was not long before all the slaves in the surrounding country were celebrating their freedom. And “Massa Lincoln” was the hero of us all.

While a great many slaves rejoiced at the altered state of affairs; still many were content to remain as before, and work for their old masters in return for their keep. My father, however, decided to start out for himself, to that end he rented twenty acres of land, including that on which our cabin stood, from our late master.

We were at this time in a most destitute condition, and father had a very hard time to get a start, without food or money and almost naked, we existed for a time on the only food procurable, bran and cracklins. The limited supply of provisions made the culinary duties most simple, much to the disgust of mother, who was one of the best cooks in the country, but beggars cannot be choosers, and she very cheerfully proceeded to make the best of what we had. She would make a great fire in the large fire place in the cabin. The fire when hot enough, was raked from the hearth and a small place cleaned away, in the center of this clean space, mother would lay a cabbage leaf, on which she would pour some batter made from bran and water or buttermilk and a little salt. Then on top another cabbage leaf was laid and hot coals raked over the whole, and in a short time it would be baked nicely. This we called ash cake.

This, with occasional cracklins made up our entire bill of fare for many months. Father would make brooms and mats from straw and chair bottoms from cane and reeds, in which my brother and I would help him, after he had taught us how. During the week a large load was made and Friday night father would take the load on his shoulders and walk to town, a dozen miles, where he would sell them and bring seed and food home. When the weather would permit we worked in the field, preparing for our first crop.

The twenty acres, being mostly uncultivated, had to be cleared, plowed and thoroughly harrowed. Our first crop consisted of corn, tobacco and a few vegetables.

Father would lay off the corn rows. Jordan and I would drop the corn while father came behind and covered the rows.

In this manner we soon had in a considerable crop of corn and some vegetables for our own use. During the winter which was sometimes severe, during which time nothing, of course, could be done in the farming line, and when not otherwise engaged, we started to try and learn ourselves something in the educational line. Father could read a little, and he helped us all with our A B C’s, but it is hard work learning to read and write without a teacher, and there was no school a black child could attend at that time. However, we managed to make some headway, then spring came and with it the routine of farm work. Father was a man of strong determination, not easily discouraged, and always pushing forward and upward, quick to learn things and slow to forget them, a keen observer and a loving husband and father. Had he lived this history would not have been written.