Ride, Iry, Ride! by David A. Laibow

EXTRACT FOR
Ride, Iry, Ride!

(David A. Laibow)


Chapter One
Harris Heights Plantation,
Harris County, South Carolina
March 17, 1863

“Don’t hit that girl again!”
The stout white woman in the grimy blue dress looked up for an instant in surprise, then raised the short wooden club in her right hand, preparing to hit the forehead of the frightened negro girl, whose curly hair she grasped in her left hand.
The negro girl could not have been more than fifteen or sixteen years old, wearing a short dress made out of a burlap sack, with crude holes for her arms and head. She knelt at the white woman’s knees, wailing piteously, and trying unsuccessfully to escape the next blow.
“Oh, pleeze, mis’ Courtney, don’ hi’ me no’ mo’, I din’ do nuff’n fo’ you’ ta do dis, ‘deed I din’, oh, pleeze, don’ hi’ me no’ mo’ …” She twisted and writhed unsuccessfully, but the white woman’s grip in her hair was too strong. In a dreadful instant, First Lieutenant Ben Atherton saw his own daughter writhing there in her place. He shut his eyes, and opened them in an instant.
“Sergeant Justice,” he told the burly Negro soldier on his right, “disarm that woman! If she offers to strike that girl again, shoot her in the arm! Madam,” he told the woman, who shook her grey curls in defiance, “you’ve heard my sergeant! Let that girl go, or suffer the consequences!”
“Consequences? Consequences?” the woman screamed, loosening her grip on the girl’s hair, but brandishing the club until Sergeant Justice wrested it from her hand. “You go straight to hell, you mother-pronging, bluebellied slavehound! The girl’s mine, and I’ll use her just as I please!” The woman reached out a foot to stamp on the girl’s ankle, to prevent her flight, but the girl had moved away from her, crabwise, across the ground, and had wrapped her arms around Sergeant Justice’s knees, momentarily immobilizing him, tears .
“Now, girl-child, you’re safe with us,” Sergeant Justice reassured her in a soft voice. “Now, no one’s going to hurt you while we’re here. You just let me go so I can do my duty, and you sit here. We’ll keep you safe. Father Abraham sent us here, just to make you safe.” Uncertainly and reluctantly, the girl released her grip on the sergeant’s legs, and sat a few feet away, pulling her flimsy dress as best she could over herself, putting her arms around her knees, her shadow lengthening in the late afternoon sun.
“Sergeant, give her your jacket to cover herself with,” Lieutenant Atherton ordered, and the sergeant removed his blue jacket with the three gold chevrons and single arc, and put it over her knee.
“Who are you, you mother-pronging bastard son of a sea turtle?” the white woman shouted, hands on hips.
“I’m First Lieutenant Benjamin Franklin Atherton, madam,” he explained, removing his hat and flourishing it in what he hoped was a courtly gesture from horseback, “commanding the Second Platoon of Troop ‘C’, Fifth Squadron, Ninth United States Cavalry Regiment, and these,” he gestured at the fifty-three blue-clad negro mounted troopers right, left, and behind him, “are my men.” Without looking at them, he knew that they were grinning at the woman’s rage and discomfiture. He replaced his hat on his head.
“Sergeant Cooley, you set pickets around this house and at the main gate. No one leaves the farm without my permission, personally given. Send a man into the house; present my compliments to every inmate of the house, and say that I request and require the presence of every gentleman who is not seriously bedridden on that porch in fifteen minutes’ time. Any lady who wishes to be present will be welcome. Set a sentry over that lady” – he pointed his Colt revolver at the girl’s former captor -- “and do not permit her to leave the porch without my approval.”
“Sergeant Justice,” he continued, “take three men and go out to the fields. Everyone you find there, white or negro is to be brought here within fifteen minutes time. If anyone, such as a white overseer, offers resistance to my invitation, you are to bind them and bring them here. In the case of armed resistance, you should shoot the person resisting in the legs, bind them, and bring them here for trial by court-martial.
“Corporal Baines, inspect the barns and outbuildings, and report to me on their suitability to make our headquarters and to quarter the platoon. Confiscate all weapons and other materiel of resistance, but do not damage any crops or foodstuffs. Report on the presence of a smith and smithy, and on the presence of any horses and mules suitable for purchase into the service.
“The rest of you men can dismount and water and care for your horses, and then take your rest here in the yard, until you’re called to assemble. You passed a brook before the entrance to this farm; take the horses in groups of two and three at a time.”
A grizzled trooper, with an ebony skin, a crushed-in nose, and white hair shouted, “the lieutenant’s horse first, you there!” A young trooper came forward to take the bridle of the lieutenant’s horse, and led him away.
“And how do you propose to pay for what you take, you mother-pronging brigand?” the heavy-set woman spat out. “Oh, I know you Yankees! You’ll steal what you want, and burn what you can’t take with you!”
By this time, Lieutenant Atherton had dismounted. Resisting the urge to slap the woman with his leather gauntlets, he mounted the three steps of the weather-beaten porch, and confronted her. Removing his hat once more, he informed her, “In United States gold coin, or in banknotes of the Confederate States of America, as you elect, ma’am. I wouldn’t insult you with United States greenbacks.” He grinned as he waited for her answer.
“I’ll take our own notes, thank you,” the woman informed him, haughtily. “You’ll lose this war, and then I’ll be sitting pretty. Where would you get Confederate banknotes?”
“Our troop subdued a wagon train carrying them, together with other materiel of war, at an action at Ardmore Station, last week. We divided up the contraband, and that included the Confederate currency. If the action had gone the other way, your troops would now have in their possession a meaningful sum of United States gold coin.”
“We’ve beaten you time after time since Fort Sumter,” the woman sneered, “and we’ll beat you again!”
“Perhaps, madam, perhaps,” Atherton replied. “But we mean to give a good account of ourselves, and the dispatches are beginning to report our victories more often than our revcrses.
“In the meantime, may I not have the honor of knowing whom I address?” he asked.
“I am Missus Henrietta Harris Courtney, of Harris County Courthouse, South Carolina, and the property upon which you are trespassing is Harris Heights Plantation. The property belongs to my father, Colonel Horatio Harding Harris.” By this time, two white men, a teen-aged boy and four white women had come from inside the house, followed by three negro house servants. One of the men was elderly, with a white frock coat, a grey goatee and a bushy grey moustache; the man was younger, clad in the grey-and-red uniform of an officer of Confederate artillery, with his left arm in a sling.
“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for answering my summons in such a timely manner,” Atherton greeted them. “I am First Lieutenant Benjamin Franklin Atherton, of the United States Cavalry.
“Sir,” he continued, pointing to the elderly man, “are you Colonel Harris?”
“I am, sir,” the elderly man replied. “I served at the heights of Tehauntepec in eighteen-forty-five, with General Scott himself. I was beside him when we stormed those heights, young man.”
“You served with credit in a desperate situation, sir,” Atherton replied. “For the sake of our common oath of allegiance, will you give me your parole while we are here?”
“With reluctance, yes,” the Colonel replied. “But I can not and will not shelter any one else behind that parole.”
“I cannot give you my parole, sir,” the young officer replied. “I am Captain Wilson J. Hammond, husband of Anna Harris Hammond, and I have a duty to confound whatever you attempt to do, sir, and to escape your custody and warn my comrades in arms if I can.” He looked at the slim woman at his left, who leaned her head on his left shoulder, tightening her grip on his wounded arm.
“You do, indeed, Captain Wilson,” Atherton told him, saluting; Hammond returned the salute with his uninjured hand. “I am afraid that I will therefore have to place a picket at the front door of your home. If you attempt to confound my actions, I will be forced to detain you in irons, sir.” The captain bowed his head in assent. “May we go upstairs, Lieutenant? My wife is unwell, I’m afraid.”
“Your wife may go upstairs, Captain, but I shall require your presence for a few moments, after which you may attend her.” He looked around, and saw that the fifty or sixty Negroes he expected to have come from the fields were walking toward the house from the area behind the mansion, followed by two white men. To Atherton’s surprise, the Negroes were not in rags and tatters; the men and boys were neatly dressed in homespun pants and shirts, with straw hats; the women and girls wore clean, but plainly tailored dresses, wearing straw hats or turbans, most with white scarves at the neck and shoulders.
The two white men, obviously the overseers, were as neatly dressed as the Negroes; one wore a frock coat and carried what could only be a bible. The Negroes stopped in a body, standing quietly and respectfully near the house. Atherton glanced around, looking for the girl he had spared from a beating. She huddled by herself, near his troopers, away from the Negroes.
Followed by Sergeant Justice, holding the American flag on its staff, and by the platoon’s bugler, Lieutenant Atherton mounted the porch, and stood at the center, at the steps. The sergeant reached into the leather despatch pouch which he had strapped across his chest, and removed a document, which he pressed into Atherton’s hand, and Private First Class Jeremy Wilson, the bugler, sounded a three-note fanfare. Atherton looked at his troopers, in five ranks of twelve each, smiled, nodded, and began to read:

“By the Honorable Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, a Proclamation:
“Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among things, the following, to wit:”

As he read, he was conscious of the disbelief and dismay of the whites on the porch behind him; of the amazement and dawning realization of the negroes before him; and of the grim satisfaction of the troopers, who were witnessing this scene for the tenth time since the regiment had been raised, and for the fifth time in South Carolina.

“Now, Therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln … Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina …
“And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind and the gracious favor of Almighty God …”

Atherton, when he had completed the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, folded it tenderly and carefully, and gave it to Sergeant Justice. As he had done nine times before, the Bugler Wilson blew a three-note fanfare.
“Father Abraham’s proclamation, which I have just read to you,” he told the Negroes, “means that slavery‘s over. You’re not bound to the land, nor to your masters or mistresses, any more. You can leave here or stay, as you like, but no one can hold you by force of law or force of arms.
“Father Abraham thinks that you should work here for wages if you wish to, but you don’t have to. If any of you wish to leave, you’re free to go. The Army will protect you from anyone who tries to enslave you again. And the Federal Government will give you food and clothing and shelter, and eventually, land that you will be able to own and have your own farms.”
“God has delivered us from bondage, just as he delivered the children of Israel,” the white man in the frock exclaimed, sinking to his knees. The Negroes and all the whites on the porch knelt as well; only the white overseer and Henrietta Courtney remained standing.
“Glory, hallelujah!” the white overseer cried, tears in his eyes. “The day of jubilee is at hand, at last!”
From the porch, Henrietta Courtney screamed, “I’ll see that you all burn in hell, all of you! Get off my land, you mother-pronging, nigger-loving, nigger bluebellies! Get off my land!”
“I don’t think that will be possible, madam,” Atherton informed her, turning and bowing again. “Colonel, I am afraid that while we will gladly leave you and yours in possession of the house, but with a picket around it, and we will quarter in your barn and outbuildings, and here on the lawn. As I explained to your daughter when we arrived, we are prepared to pay for all that we use in either Confederate notes or United States gold coin. Your daughter prefers Confederate notes. You have, I have been informed, a smithy which we shall make use of, and six horses my armorer considers suitable for cavalry service. I will purchase those from you at two hundred Confederate dollars each.
“You are more than welcome to do so, sir,” Colonel Harris informed him. “But I would prefer to be paid in the coin of the United States. My daughter spoke hastily, I fear.”
“As you wish, sir,” Atherton replied. “I am very surprised, I admit, sir. I had expected a greater resistance to the proclamation. Except for Missis Courtney, you all appear to have more the character of sympathizers with the Union, than adherents of the Confederacy.”
“We support the Confederacy on the ground of the right of sovereign states to secede from what they consider a baleful combination, sir,” the Colonel replied. “But slavery is a hateful, loathesome practice which is absolutely condemned by the Bible, sir. Your proclamation does away with a hateful and vile custom whose departure discomfits us not at all. We are glad to be rid of it.”
“I don’t imagine you’re very popular with your neighbors, then,” Atherton ventured.
“No,” the Colonel explained. “But if our neighbors are benighted and unproductive, that’s their misery, not ours. For example, we are not burdened with constantly looking for ways to remind our Negro colleagues of their own inferiority or our superiority, and we have a more productive enterprise than our benighted neighbors. For example, the reason you found no one in the fields is that we work in the fields during the night, to avoid the oppressive heat of the day. If you will inspect them, you will find that our Negro colleagues live in neater cottages, are better dressed and fed, better tended to in illness, than the Negroes of other farms in this part of the country. One advantage of your proclamation is that it nullifies the laws which have forced us to make our school clandestine; now we don’t have to hide it any more.
“You educate your Negroes?” Atherton exclaimed in disbelief.
“Of course,” the Colonel replied. “They are happier and more productive, and why should they not be educated? Our family has loathed slavery since we settled here before the Revolutionary War. We free our Negroes when they are baptized. We pay them wages, and we treat them with respect, as befits their common humanity with ourselves. If our neighbors are not as enlightened, that’s their handicap, not ours.”
“I had expected the same resistance here as we’ve encountered elsewhere,” said Atherton. “Most of your neighbors oppress their Negroes, and we’ve made a true change in their lives by liberating them.”
“We’ve had to support the abolitionist cause clandestinely,” the Colonel explained. “As I have told you, we differ absolutely and intractably on the issue of a sovereign state leaving a hateful combination, but we will have no part of slavery. Would you care to join us for dinner this evening, Lieutenant? My thought is that our Negroes and yours might care to celebrate this great event with festivity and dancing, while we foregather inside.”
“That would be a great pleasure for me, sir,” Atherton responded. “But what about – Missis Courtney? And – and the girl?” He gestured toward the girl, who still huddled alone near a tree, removed from all the others.
“My daughter will have her tray in her chamber, and I will see that the women take Iry under their protection. If you like, afterwards, I’ll explain the tragic connection between them to you.”
“May I call upon you at seven o’clock, sir?” Atherton asked. “I have my men’s accommodation to see to. I wonder, are you an acolyte of Tacitus or Pliny?”
“To a limited extent,” the Colonel replied. “Marcus Aurelius and Catullus are more to my liking. Are you an Academy graduate, sir?”
“Regretfully, no, Colonel,” Atherton explained. “I was originally commissioned out of the Pennsylvania Militia in the spring of eighteen-sixty-two. My family has always been prominent in the abolitionist movement, and when the Army raised a Negro regiment, my name was sent in by Governor Mifflin and Major-General Morton, the commander of the Pennsylvania Militia.”
“Ah, Pennsylvania,” the Colonel mused, glancing around. “May we retire, sir? The hour grows late. Do you care for brandy? I have a bottle of not altogether unsatisfactory Philippine Imperador, of the eighteen-oh-four vintage. I will expect you at seven.” The Colonel bowed to Atherton, then turned to his companions, shepherding them inside the house.
He turned to the others on the porch, as if he were motioning for a flock of birds to enter a coop. The ladies hurried inside, and the gentlemen more slowly, a few with backward, speculative glances. A young Negro girl was among the last to go in the house, but not before she had sent a shy smile in the direction of the troopers.

Ride, Iry, Ride! by David A. Laibow

EXTRACT FOR
Ride, Iry, Ride!

(David A. Laibow)


Chapter One
Harris Heights Plantation,
Harris County, South Carolina
March 17, 1863

“Don’t hit that girl again!”
The stout white woman in the grimy blue dress looked up for an instant in surprise, then raised the short wooden club in her right hand, preparing to hit the forehead of the frightened negro girl, whose curly hair she grasped in her left hand.
The negro girl could not have been more than fifteen or sixteen years old, wearing a short dress made out of a burlap sack, with crude holes for her arms and head. She knelt at the white woman’s knees, wailing piteously, and trying unsuccessfully to escape the next blow.
“Oh, pleeze, mis’ Courtney, don’ hi’ me no’ mo’, I din’ do nuff’n fo’ you’ ta do dis, ‘deed I din’, oh, pleeze, don’ hi’ me no’ mo’ …” She twisted and writhed unsuccessfully, but the white woman’s grip in her hair was too strong. In a dreadful instant, First Lieutenant Ben Atherton saw his own daughter writhing there in her place. He shut his eyes, and opened them in an instant.
“Sergeant Justice,” he told the burly Negro soldier on his right, “disarm that woman! If she offers to strike that girl again, shoot her in the arm! Madam,” he told the woman, who shook her grey curls in defiance, “you’ve heard my sergeant! Let that girl go, or suffer the consequences!”
“Consequences? Consequences?” the woman screamed, loosening her grip on the girl’s hair, but brandishing the club until Sergeant Justice wrested it from her hand. “You go straight to hell, you mother-pronging, bluebellied slavehound! The girl’s mine, and I’ll use her just as I please!” The woman reached out a foot to stamp on the girl’s ankle, to prevent her flight, but the girl had moved away from her, crabwise, across the ground, and had wrapped her arms around Sergeant Justice’s knees, momentarily immobilizing him, tears .
“Now, girl-child, you’re safe with us,” Sergeant Justice reassured her in a soft voice. “Now, no one’s going to hurt you while we’re here. You just let me go so I can do my duty, and you sit here. We’ll keep you safe. Father Abraham sent us here, just to make you safe.” Uncertainly and reluctantly, the girl released her grip on the sergeant’s legs, and sat a few feet away, pulling her flimsy dress as best she could over herself, putting her arms around her knees, her shadow lengthening in the late afternoon sun.
“Sergeant, give her your jacket to cover herself with,” Lieutenant Atherton ordered, and the sergeant removed his blue jacket with the three gold chevrons and single arc, and put it over her knee.
“Who are you, you mother-pronging bastard son of a sea turtle?” the white woman shouted, hands on hips.
“I’m First Lieutenant Benjamin Franklin Atherton, madam,” he explained, removing his hat and flourishing it in what he hoped was a courtly gesture from horseback, “commanding the Second Platoon of Troop ‘C’, Fifth Squadron, Ninth United States Cavalry Regiment, and these,” he gestured at the fifty-three blue-clad negro mounted troopers right, left, and behind him, “are my men.” Without looking at them, he knew that they were grinning at the woman’s rage and discomfiture. He replaced his hat on his head.
“Sergeant Cooley, you set pickets around this house and at the main gate. No one leaves the farm without my permission, personally given. Send a man into the house; present my compliments to every inmate of the house, and say that I request and require the presence of every gentleman who is not seriously bedridden on that porch in fifteen minutes’ time. Any lady who wishes to be present will be welcome. Set a sentry over that lady” – he pointed his Colt revolver at the girl’s former captor -- “and do not permit her to leave the porch without my approval.”
“Sergeant Justice,” he continued, “take three men and go out to the fields. Everyone you find there, white or negro is to be brought here within fifteen minutes time. If anyone, such as a white overseer, offers resistance to my invitation, you are to bind them and bring them here. In the case of armed resistance, you should shoot the person resisting in the legs, bind them, and bring them here for trial by court-martial.
“Corporal Baines, inspect the barns and outbuildings, and report to me on their suitability to make our headquarters and to quarter the platoon. Confiscate all weapons and other materiel of resistance, but do not damage any crops or foodstuffs. Report on the presence of a smith and smithy, and on the presence of any horses and mules suitable for purchase into the service.
“The rest of you men can dismount and water and care for your horses, and then take your rest here in the yard, until you’re called to assemble. You passed a brook before the entrance to this farm; take the horses in groups of two and three at a time.”
A grizzled trooper, with an ebony skin, a crushed-in nose, and white hair shouted, “the lieutenant’s horse first, you there!” A young trooper came forward to take the bridle of the lieutenant’s horse, and led him away.
“And how do you propose to pay for what you take, you mother-pronging brigand?” the heavy-set woman spat out. “Oh, I know you Yankees! You’ll steal what you want, and burn what you can’t take with you!”
By this time, Lieutenant Atherton had dismounted. Resisting the urge to slap the woman with his leather gauntlets, he mounted the three steps of the weather-beaten porch, and confronted her. Removing his hat once more, he informed her, “In United States gold coin, or in banknotes of the Confederate States of America, as you elect, ma’am. I wouldn’t insult you with United States greenbacks.” He grinned as he waited for her answer.
“I’ll take our own notes, thank you,” the woman informed him, haughtily. “You’ll lose this war, and then I’ll be sitting pretty. Where would you get Confederate banknotes?”
“Our troop subdued a wagon train carrying them, together with other materiel of war, at an action at Ardmore Station, last week. We divided up the contraband, and that included the Confederate currency. If the action had gone the other way, your troops would now have in their possession a meaningful sum of United States gold coin.”
“We’ve beaten you time after time since Fort Sumter,” the woman sneered, “and we’ll beat you again!”
“Perhaps, madam, perhaps,” Atherton replied. “But we mean to give a good account of ourselves, and the dispatches are beginning to report our victories more often than our revcrses.
“In the meantime, may I not have the honor of knowing whom I address?” he asked.
“I am Missus Henrietta Harris Courtney, of Harris County Courthouse, South Carolina, and the property upon which you are trespassing is Harris Heights Plantation. The property belongs to my father, Colonel Horatio Harding Harris.” By this time, two white men, a teen-aged boy and four white women had come from inside the house, followed by three negro house servants. One of the men was elderly, with a white frock coat, a grey goatee and a bushy grey moustache; the man was younger, clad in the grey-and-red uniform of an officer of Confederate artillery, with his left arm in a sling.
“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for answering my summons in such a timely manner,” Atherton greeted them. “I am First Lieutenant Benjamin Franklin Atherton, of the United States Cavalry.
“Sir,” he continued, pointing to the elderly man, “are you Colonel Harris?”
“I am, sir,” the elderly man replied. “I served at the heights of Tehauntepec in eighteen-forty-five, with General Scott himself. I was beside him when we stormed those heights, young man.”
“You served with credit in a desperate situation, sir,” Atherton replied. “For the sake of our common oath of allegiance, will you give me your parole while we are here?”
“With reluctance, yes,” the Colonel replied. “But I can not and will not shelter any one else behind that parole.”
“I cannot give you my parole, sir,” the young officer replied. “I am Captain Wilson J. Hammond, husband of Anna Harris Hammond, and I have a duty to confound whatever you attempt to do, sir, and to escape your custody and warn my comrades in arms if I can.” He looked at the slim woman at his left, who leaned her head on his left shoulder, tightening her grip on his wounded arm.
“You do, indeed, Captain Wilson,” Atherton told him, saluting; Hammond returned the salute with his uninjured hand. “I am afraid that I will therefore have to place a picket at the front door of your home. If you attempt to confound my actions, I will be forced to detain you in irons, sir.” The captain bowed his head in assent. “May we go upstairs, Lieutenant? My wife is unwell, I’m afraid.”
“Your wife may go upstairs, Captain, but I shall require your presence for a few moments, after which you may attend her.” He looked around, and saw that the fifty or sixty Negroes he expected to have come from the fields were walking toward the house from the area behind the mansion, followed by two white men. To Atherton’s surprise, the Negroes were not in rags and tatters; the men and boys were neatly dressed in homespun pants and shirts, with straw hats; the women and girls wore clean, but plainly tailored dresses, wearing straw hats or turbans, most with white scarves at the neck and shoulders.
The two white men, obviously the overseers, were as neatly dressed as the Negroes; one wore a frock coat and carried what could only be a bible. The Negroes stopped in a body, standing quietly and respectfully near the house. Atherton glanced around, looking for the girl he had spared from a beating. She huddled by herself, near his troopers, away from the Negroes.
Followed by Sergeant Justice, holding the American flag on its staff, and by the platoon’s bugler, Lieutenant Atherton mounted the porch, and stood at the center, at the steps. The sergeant reached into the leather despatch pouch which he had strapped across his chest, and removed a document, which he pressed into Atherton’s hand, and Private First Class Jeremy Wilson, the bugler, sounded a three-note fanfare. Atherton looked at his troopers, in five ranks of twelve each, smiled, nodded, and began to read:

“By the Honorable Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, a Proclamation:
“Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among things, the following, to wit:”

As he read, he was conscious of the disbelief and dismay of the whites on the porch behind him; of the amazement and dawning realization of the negroes before him; and of the grim satisfaction of the troopers, who were witnessing this scene for the tenth time since the regiment had been raised, and for the fifth time in South Carolina.

“Now, Therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln … Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina …
“And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind and the gracious favor of Almighty God …”

Atherton, when he had completed the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, folded it tenderly and carefully, and gave it to Sergeant Justice. As he had done nine times before, the Bugler Wilson blew a three-note fanfare.
“Father Abraham’s proclamation, which I have just read to you,” he told the Negroes, “means that slavery‘s over. You’re not bound to the land, nor to your masters or mistresses, any more. You can leave here or stay, as you like, but no one can hold you by force of law or force of arms.
“Father Abraham thinks that you should work here for wages if you wish to, but you don’t have to. If any of you wish to leave, you’re free to go. The Army will protect you from anyone who tries to enslave you again. And the Federal Government will give you food and clothing and shelter, and eventually, land that you will be able to own and have your own farms.”
“God has delivered us from bondage, just as he delivered the children of Israel,” the white man in the frock exclaimed, sinking to his knees. The Negroes and all the whites on the porch knelt as well; only the white overseer and Henrietta Courtney remained standing.
“Glory, hallelujah!” the white overseer cried, tears in his eyes. “The day of jubilee is at hand, at last!”
From the porch, Henrietta Courtney screamed, “I’ll see that you all burn in hell, all of you! Get off my land, you mother-pronging, nigger-loving, nigger bluebellies! Get off my land!”
“I don’t think that will be possible, madam,” Atherton informed her, turning and bowing again. “Colonel, I am afraid that while we will gladly leave you and yours in possession of the house, but with a picket around it, and we will quarter in your barn and outbuildings, and here on the lawn. As I explained to your daughter when we arrived, we are prepared to pay for all that we use in either Confederate notes or United States gold coin. Your daughter prefers Confederate notes. You have, I have been informed, a smithy which we shall make use of, and six horses my armorer considers suitable for cavalry service. I will purchase those from you at two hundred Confederate dollars each.
“You are more than welcome to do so, sir,” Colonel Harris informed him. “But I would prefer to be paid in the coin of the United States. My daughter spoke hastily, I fear.”
“As you wish, sir,” Atherton replied. “I am very surprised, I admit, sir. I had expected a greater resistance to the proclamation. Except for Missis Courtney, you all appear to have more the character of sympathizers with the Union, than adherents of the Confederacy.”
“We support the Confederacy on the ground of the right of sovereign states to secede from what they consider a baleful combination, sir,” the Colonel replied. “But slavery is a hateful, loathesome practice which is absolutely condemned by the Bible, sir. Your proclamation does away with a hateful and vile custom whose departure discomfits us not at all. We are glad to be rid of it.”
“I don’t imagine you’re very popular with your neighbors, then,” Atherton ventured.
“No,” the Colonel explained. “But if our neighbors are benighted and unproductive, that’s their misery, not ours. For example, we are not burdened with constantly looking for ways to remind our Negro colleagues of their own inferiority or our superiority, and we have a more productive enterprise than our benighted neighbors. For example, the reason you found no one in the fields is that we work in the fields during the night, to avoid the oppressive heat of the day. If you will inspect them, you will find that our Negro colleagues live in neater cottages, are better dressed and fed, better tended to in illness, than the Negroes of other farms in this part of the country. One advantage of your proclamation is that it nullifies the laws which have forced us to make our school clandestine; now we don’t have to hide it any more.
“You educate your Negroes?” Atherton exclaimed in disbelief.
“Of course,” the Colonel replied. “They are happier and more productive, and why should they not be educated? Our family has loathed slavery since we settled here before the Revolutionary War. We free our Negroes when they are baptized. We pay them wages, and we treat them with respect, as befits their common humanity with ourselves. If our neighbors are not as enlightened, that’s their handicap, not ours.”
“I had expected the same resistance here as we’ve encountered elsewhere,” said Atherton. “Most of your neighbors oppress their Negroes, and we’ve made a true change in their lives by liberating them.”
“We’ve had to support the abolitionist cause clandestinely,” the Colonel explained. “As I have told you, we differ absolutely and intractably on the issue of a sovereign state leaving a hateful combination, but we will have no part of slavery. Would you care to join us for dinner this evening, Lieutenant? My thought is that our Negroes and yours might care to celebrate this great event with festivity and dancing, while we foregather inside.”
“That would be a great pleasure for me, sir,” Atherton responded. “But what about – Missis Courtney? And – and the girl?” He gestured toward the girl, who still huddled alone near a tree, removed from all the others.
“My daughter will have her tray in her chamber, and I will see that the women take Iry under their protection. If you like, afterwards, I’ll explain the tragic connection between them to you.”
“May I call upon you at seven o’clock, sir?” Atherton asked. “I have my men’s accommodation to see to. I wonder, are you an acolyte of Tacitus or Pliny?”
“To a limited extent,” the Colonel replied. “Marcus Aurelius and Catullus are more to my liking. Are you an Academy graduate, sir?”
“Regretfully, no, Colonel,” Atherton explained. “I was originally commissioned out of the Pennsylvania Militia in the spring of eighteen-sixty-two. My family has always been prominent in the abolitionist movement, and when the Army raised a Negro regiment, my name was sent in by Governor Mifflin and Major-General Morton, the commander of the Pennsylvania Militia.”
“Ah, Pennsylvania,” the Colonel mused, glancing around. “May we retire, sir? The hour grows late. Do you care for brandy? I have a bottle of not altogether unsatisfactory Philippine Imperador, of the eighteen-oh-four vintage. I will expect you at seven.” The Colonel bowed to Atherton, then turned to his companions, shepherding them inside the house.
He turned to the others on the porch, as if he were motioning for a flock of birds to enter a coop. The ladies hurried inside, and the gentlemen more slowly, a few with backward, speculative glances. A young Negro girl was among the last to go in the house, but not before she had sent a shy smile in the direction of the troopers.

EXTRACT FOR
Ride, Iry, Ride!

(David A. Laibow)


Chapter One
Harris Heights Plantation,
Harris County, South Carolina
March 17, 1863

“Don’t hit that girl again!”
The stout white woman in the grimy blue dress looked up for an instant in surprise, then raised the short wooden club in her right hand, preparing to hit the forehead of the frightened negro girl, whose curly hair she grasped in her left hand.
The negro girl could not have been more than fifteen or sixteen years old, wearing a short dress made out of a burlap sack, with crude holes for her arms and head. She knelt at the white woman’s knees, wailing piteously, and trying unsuccessfully to escape the next blow.
“Oh, pleeze, mis’ Courtney, don’ hi’ me no’ mo’, I din’ do nuff’n fo’ you’ ta do dis, ‘deed I din’, oh, pleeze, don’ hi’ me no’ mo’ …” She twisted and writhed unsuccessfully, but the white woman’s grip in her hair was too strong. In a dreadful instant, First Lieutenant Ben Atherton saw his own daughter writhing there in her place. He shut his eyes, and opened them in an instant.
“Sergeant Justice,” he told the burly Negro soldier on his right, “disarm that woman! If she offers to strike that girl again, shoot her in the arm! Madam,” he told the woman, who shook her grey curls in defiance, “you’ve heard my sergeant! Let that girl go, or suffer the consequences!”
“Consequences? Consequences?” the woman screamed, loosening her grip on the girl’s hair, but brandishing the club until Sergeant Justice wrested it from her hand. “You go straight to hell, you mother-pronging, bluebellied slavehound! The girl’s mine, and I’ll use her just as I please!” The woman reached out a foot to stamp on the girl’s ankle, to prevent her flight, but the girl had moved away from her, crabwise, across the ground, and had wrapped her arms around Sergeant Justice’s knees, momentarily immobilizing him, tears .
“Now, girl-child, you’re safe with us,” Sergeant Justice reassured her in a soft voice. “Now, no one’s going to hurt you while we’re here. You just let me go so I can do my duty, and you sit here. We’ll keep you safe. Father Abraham sent us here, just to make you safe.” Uncertainly and reluctantly, the girl released her grip on the sergeant’s legs, and sat a few feet away, pulling her flimsy dress as best she could over herself, putting her arms around her knees, her shadow lengthening in the late afternoon sun.
“Sergeant, give her your jacket to cover herself with,” Lieutenant Atherton ordered, and the sergeant removed his blue jacket with the three gold chevrons and single arc, and put it over her knee.
“Who are you, you mother-pronging bastard son of a sea turtle?” the white woman shouted, hands on hips.
“I’m First Lieutenant Benjamin Franklin Atherton, madam,” he explained, removing his hat and flourishing it in what he hoped was a courtly gesture from horseback, “commanding the Second Platoon of Troop ‘C’, Fifth Squadron, Ninth United States Cavalry Regiment, and these,” he gestured at the fifty-three blue-clad negro mounted troopers right, left, and behind him, “are my men.” Without looking at them, he knew that they were grinning at the woman’s rage and discomfiture. He replaced his hat on his head.
“Sergeant Cooley, you set pickets around this house and at the main gate. No one leaves the farm without my permission, personally given. Send a man into the house; present my compliments to every inmate of the house, and say that I request and require the presence of every gentleman who is not seriously bedridden on that porch in fifteen minutes’ time. Any lady who wishes to be present will be welcome. Set a sentry over that lady” – he pointed his Colt revolver at the girl’s former captor -- “and do not permit her to leave the porch without my approval.”
“Sergeant Justice,” he continued, “take three men and go out to the fields. Everyone you find there, white or negro is to be brought here within fifteen minutes time. If anyone, such as a white overseer, offers resistance to my invitation, you are to bind them and bring them here. In the case of armed resistance, you should shoot the person resisting in the legs, bind them, and bring them here for trial by court-martial.
“Corporal Baines, inspect the barns and outbuildings, and report to me on their suitability to make our headquarters and to quarter the platoon. Confiscate all weapons and other materiel of resistance, but do not damage any crops or foodstuffs. Report on the presence of a smith and smithy, and on the presence of any horses and mules suitable for purchase into the service.
“The rest of you men can dismount and water and care for your horses, and then take your rest here in the yard, until you’re called to assemble. You passed a brook before the entrance to this farm; take the horses in groups of two and three at a time.”
A grizzled trooper, with an ebony skin, a crushed-in nose, and white hair shouted, “the lieutenant’s horse first, you there!” A young trooper came forward to take the bridle of the lieutenant’s horse, and led him away.
“And how do you propose to pay for what you take, you mother-pronging brigand?” the heavy-set woman spat out. “Oh, I know you Yankees! You’ll steal what you want, and burn what you can’t take with you!”
By this time, Lieutenant Atherton had dismounted. Resisting the urge to slap the woman with his leather gauntlets, he mounted the three steps of the weather-beaten porch, and confronted her. Removing his hat once more, he informed her, “In United States gold coin, or in banknotes of the Confederate States of America, as you elect, ma’am. I wouldn’t insult you with United States greenbacks.” He grinned as he waited for her answer.
“I’ll take our own notes, thank you,” the woman informed him, haughtily. “You’ll lose this war, and then I’ll be sitting pretty. Where would you get Confederate banknotes?”
“Our troop subdued a wagon train carrying them, together with other materiel of war, at an action at Ardmore Station, last week. We divided up the contraband, and that included the Confederate currency. If the action had gone the other way, your troops would now have in their possession a meaningful sum of United States gold coin.”
“We’ve beaten you time after time since Fort Sumter,” the woman sneered, “and we’ll beat you again!”
“Perhaps, madam, perhaps,” Atherton replied. “But we mean to give a good account of ourselves, and the dispatches are beginning to report our victories more often than our revcrses.
“In the meantime, may I not have the honor of knowing whom I address?” he asked.
“I am Missus Henrietta Harris Courtney, of Harris County Courthouse, South Carolina, and the property upon which you are trespassing is Harris Heights Plantation. The property belongs to my father, Colonel Horatio Harding Harris.” By this time, two white men, a teen-aged boy and four white women had come from inside the house, followed by three negro house servants. One of the men was elderly, with a white frock coat, a grey goatee and a bushy grey moustache; the man was younger, clad in the grey-and-red uniform of an officer of Confederate artillery, with his left arm in a sling.
“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for answering my summons in such a timely manner,” Atherton greeted them. “I am First Lieutenant Benjamin Franklin Atherton, of the United States Cavalry.
“Sir,” he continued, pointing to the elderly man, “are you Colonel Harris?”
“I am, sir,” the elderly man replied. “I served at the heights of Tehauntepec in eighteen-forty-five, with General Scott himself. I was beside him when we stormed those heights, young man.”
“You served with credit in a desperate situation, sir,” Atherton replied. “For the sake of our common oath of allegiance, will you give me your parole while we are here?”
“With reluctance, yes,” the Colonel replied. “But I can not and will not shelter any one else behind that parole.”
“I cannot give you my parole, sir,” the young officer replied. “I am Captain Wilson J. Hammond, husband of Anna Harris Hammond, and I have a duty to confound whatever you attempt to do, sir, and to escape your custody and warn my comrades in arms if I can.” He looked at the slim woman at his left, who leaned her head on his left shoulder, tightening her grip on his wounded arm.
“You do, indeed, Captain Wilson,” Atherton told him, saluting; Hammond returned the salute with his uninjured hand. “I am afraid that I will therefore have to place a picket at the front door of your home. If you attempt to confound my actions, I will be forced to detain you in irons, sir.” The captain bowed his head in assent. “May we go upstairs, Lieutenant? My wife is unwell, I’m afraid.”
“Your wife may go upstairs, Captain, but I shall require your presence for a few moments, after which you may attend her.” He looked around, and saw that the fifty or sixty Negroes he expected to have come from the fields were walking toward the house from the area behind the mansion, followed by two white men. To Atherton’s surprise, the Negroes were not in rags and tatters; the men and boys were neatly dressed in homespun pants and shirts, with straw hats; the women and girls wore clean, but plainly tailored dresses, wearing straw hats or turbans, most with white scarves at the neck and shoulders.
The two white men, obviously the overseers, were as neatly dressed as the Negroes; one wore a frock coat and carried what could only be a bible. The Negroes stopped in a body, standing quietly and respectfully near the house. Atherton glanced around, looking for the girl he had spared from a beating. She huddled by herself, near his troopers, away from the Negroes.
Followed by Sergeant Justice, holding the American flag on its staff, and by the platoon’s bugler, Lieutenant Atherton mounted the porch, and stood at the center, at the steps. The sergeant reached into the leather despatch pouch which he had strapped across his chest, and removed a document, which he pressed into Atherton’s hand, and Private First Class Jeremy Wilson, the bugler, sounded a three-note fanfare. Atherton looked at his troopers, in five ranks of twelve each, smiled, nodded, and began to read:

“By the Honorable Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, a Proclamation:
“Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among things, the following, to wit:”

As he read, he was conscious of the disbelief and dismay of the whites on the porch behind him; of the amazement and dawning realization of the negroes before him; and of the grim satisfaction of the troopers, who were witnessing this scene for the tenth time since the regiment had been raised, and for the fifth time in South Carolina.

“Now, Therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln … Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina …
“And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind and the gracious favor of Almighty God …”

Atherton, when he had completed the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, folded it tenderly and carefully, and gave it to Sergeant Justice. As he had done nine times before, the Bugler Wilson blew a three-note fanfare.
“Father Abraham’s proclamation, which I have just read to you,” he told the Negroes, “means that slavery‘s over. You’re not bound to the land, nor to your masters or mistresses, any more. You can leave here or stay, as you like, but no one can hold you by force of law or force of arms.
“Father Abraham thinks that you should work here for wages if you wish to, but you don’t have to. If any of you wish to leave, you’re free to go. The Army will protect you from anyone who tries to enslave you again. And the Federal Government will give you food and clothing and shelter, and eventually, land that you will be able to own and have your own farms.”
“God has delivered us from bondage, just as he delivered the children of Israel,” the white man in the frock exclaimed, sinking to his knees. The Negroes and all the whites on the porch knelt as well; only the white overseer and Henrietta Courtney remained standing.
“Glory, hallelujah!” the white overseer cried, tears in his eyes. “The day of jubilee is at hand, at last!”
From the porch, Henrietta Courtney screamed, “I’ll see that you all burn in hell, all of you! Get off my land, you mother-pronging, nigger-loving, nigger bluebellies! Get off my land!”
“I don’t think that will be possible, madam,” Atherton informed her, turning and bowing again. “Colonel, I am afraid that while we will gladly leave you and yours in possession of the house, but with a picket around it, and we will quarter in your barn and outbuildings, and here on the lawn. As I explained to your daughter when we arrived, we are prepared to pay for all that we use in either Confederate notes or United States gold coin. Your daughter prefers Confederate notes. You have, I have been informed, a smithy which we shall make use of, and six horses my armorer considers suitable for cavalry service. I will purchase those from you at two hundred Confederate dollars each.
“You are more than welcome to do so, sir,” Colonel Harris informed him. “But I would prefer to be paid in the coin of the United States. My daughter spoke hastily, I fear.”
“As you wish, sir,” Atherton replied. “I am very surprised, I admit, sir. I had expected a greater resistance to the proclamation. Except for Missis Courtney, you all appear to have more the character of sympathizers with the Union, than adherents of the Confederacy.”
“We support the Confederacy on the ground of the right of sovereign states to secede from what they consider a baleful combination, sir,” the Colonel replied. “But slavery is a hateful, loathesome practice which is absolutely condemned by the Bible, sir. Your proclamation does away with a hateful and vile custom whose departure discomfits us not at all. We are glad to be rid of it.”
“I don’t imagine you’re very popular with your neighbors, then,” Atherton ventured.
“No,” the Colonel explained. “But if our neighbors are benighted and unproductive, that’s their misery, not ours. For example, we are not burdened with constantly looking for ways to remind our Negro colleagues of their own inferiority or our superiority, and we have a more productive enterprise than our benighted neighbors. For example, the reason you found no one in the fields is that we work in the fields during the night, to avoid the oppressive heat of the day. If you will inspect them, you will find that our Negro colleagues live in neater cottages, are better dressed and fed, better tended to in illness, than the Negroes of other farms in this part of the country. One advantage of your proclamation is that it nullifies the laws which have forced us to make our school clandestine; now we don’t have to hide it any more.
“You educate your Negroes?” Atherton exclaimed in disbelief.
“Of course,” the Colonel replied. “They are happier and more productive, and why should they not be educated? Our family has loathed slavery since we settled here before the Revolutionary War. We free our Negroes when they are baptized. We pay them wages, and we treat them with respect, as befits their common humanity with ourselves. If our neighbors are not as enlightened, that’s their handicap, not ours.”
“I had expected the same resistance here as we’ve encountered elsewhere,” said Atherton. “Most of your neighbors oppress their Negroes, and we’ve made a true change in their lives by liberating them.”
“We’ve had to support the abolitionist cause clandestinely,” the Colonel explained. “As I have told you, we differ absolutely and intractably on the issue of a sovereign state leaving a hateful combination, but we will have no part of slavery. Would you care to join us for dinner this evening, Lieutenant? My thought is that our Negroes and yours might care to celebrate this great event with festivity and dancing, while we foregather inside.”
“That would be a great pleasure for me, sir,” Atherton responded. “But what about – Missis Courtney? And – and the girl?” He gestured toward the girl, who still huddled alone near a tree, removed from all the others.
“My daughter will have her tray in her chamber, and I will see that the women take Iry under their protection. If you like, afterwards, I’ll explain the tragic connection between them to you.”
“May I call upon you at seven o’clock, sir?” Atherton asked. “I have my men’s accommodation to see to. I wonder, are you an acolyte of Tacitus or Pliny?”
“To a limited extent,” the Colonel replied. “Marcus Aurelius and Catullus are more to my liking. Are you an Academy graduate, sir?”
“Regretfully, no, Colonel,” Atherton explained. “I was originally commissioned out of the Pennsylvania Militia in the spring of eighteen-sixty-two. My family has always been prominent in the abolitionist movement, and when the Army raised a Negro regiment, my name was sent in by Governor Mifflin and Major-General Morton, the commander of the Pennsylvania Militia.”
“Ah, Pennsylvania,” the Colonel mused, glancing around. “May we retire, sir? The hour grows late. Do you care for brandy? I have a bottle of not altogether unsatisfactory Philippine Imperador, of the eighteen-oh-four vintage. I will expect you at seven.” The Colonel bowed to Atherton, then turned to his companions, shepherding them inside the house.
He turned to the others on the porch, as if he were motioning for a flock of birds to enter a coop. The ladies hurried inside, and the gentlemen more slowly, a few with backward, speculative glances. A young Negro girl was among the last to go in the house, but not before she had sent a shy smile in the direction of the troopers.