A love is torn apart

Slave Market, Atlanta Georgia 1864, Library of Congress

Georgeanna Woolsey was a nurse that served in the Sanitary Commission for the Union during the Civil War. On a visit to Charleston, S.C. just before the war, she witnessed a huge slave auction that forever confirmed her opposition to slavery. She and her family exchanged letters throughout the war. In one of those letters, she related her experience:

Georgeanna Woolsey

Letters of a Family in the Civil War

Charleston, SC

Jeffrey, Chattel #319, being human in his affections, had dared to cherish love for Dorcas, chattel #278; and Dorcas, not having the fear of her master before her eyes, had dared to give her heart to Jeffrey. Jeffrey was sold. He finds his new master, and hat in hand, the big tears standing in his eyes, and voice trembling with emotion, he stands before that master, and tells his simple story:

“I loves Dorcas, young Mas’r; I loves her well and true. She says she loves me, and I know she does. De Good Lord knows I love her better than I love anyone in de wide world – never can love another woman half so well. Please buy Dorcas, Mas’r. We’ll be good sarvants to you long as we live. We’ll be married right soon, and de chillun be healthy and strong, Mas’r and de be good sarvants too. Please buy Dorcas, young Mas’r. We loves each other a heap – do – really true, Mas’r.”

Then comes the moment of truth – Dorcas standing on the auction block. But now the most unexpected feature in the drama is unmasked – Dorcas is not to be sold alone, but with a family of four others [ by lot, at the auctioneers doing ]. Full of dismay, Jeffrey looks at his master, who shakes his head, for though he might be induced to buy Dorcas alone, he has no use for the rest of the family. Jeffrey reads his doom in his master’s look, and turns away, tears streaming down his honest face.

And tomorrow, Jeffrey and Dorcas are to say their tearful farewell, and go their separate ways in life, no more to meet as mortal beings. That night, not a steamer left that southern port, not a train of cars sped away from that cruel city that did not bear each its own sad burden of those unhappy ones.

Georgeanna Woolsey, By unknown – https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/07/nursing-the-wounded-at-gettysburg/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=100338200

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