Communion Of Dreams

“…and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me. “
April 23, 2010, 9:00 am
Filed under: Civil Rights, Constitution, Government, Guns, Humor, MetaFilter, movies, Society, Violence

The news this week about the discovery of ‘lost’ documents from the coroner’s inquest following the gunfight at the O.K. Corral has fired the imaginations of many. Unsurprising, given the historical nature of that event and the number of books and movies made concerning it.

But I want to pass along something else from a little earlier in our history. It wasn’t lost, as such, but I never knew of it. And I wish I had.

It was a letter of former slave to his owner, and it provides a fascinating glimpse into the life of the man (Jourdon Anderson), and how the Civil War changed things. Here’s the introduction:

Dayton, Ohio, August 7, 1865

To My Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee

Sir: I got your letter and was glad to find you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Col. Martin’s to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville Hospital, but one of the neighbors told me Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.

There’s a taste of Mr. Andserson’s wry cutting humor. There’s a bunch more in the letter, as he goes on to say that he’s willing to return to his former master but asks for back pay (and interest) for the work he and his wife did over decades as a sign of good faith of the Colonel’s intent. The letter isn’t long, and ends with this:

P.S. —Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.

Jourdon Anderson was evidently illiterate, and this letter was written for him (but according to his instruction.) I don’t know whether the actual phrasing was his or someone else’s. But it really doesn’t matter – it remains a masterpiece. And it is a shame that it isn’t more widely known. I don’t expect that it will ever receive the attention that the O.K. Corral documents have. But I would have to say that it is in many ways more important that those documents, for what it tells us about our history.

Jim Downey

(Via MeFi.)

1 Comment so far
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Fabulous letter! Thanks for sharing it.

Comment by wrobrtso

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