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From A Dividing Stream


[The announcement of the war swept across the nation like a tidal wave. Some met the news with surprise and disbelief, while others had seen it coming for several years. At the beginning of the war, both sides relied on short-term volunteers: the Union for 90 days; and the Confederates for one year. Both sides believed the war would be of short duration.
Adam, Walter, and Daniel were present on April 23, 1861, when a rally was held at the town square in Jackson. After listening to a moving patriotic speech, many of the men volunteered to serve for one year in the Rebel Army. Most of the farmers in the group declined, saying they must finish getting their crops in the ground. Some promised to join after the fall harvest. It was a somber group as the three men rode homeward, each deep in his own thoughts.
Finally, Daniel spoke, “I think I’ll go up to Montgomery and ask to meet with Jeff Davis. I need to know how and where I can best support the Cause.” He did not mention the money he wanted to donate and the fact that he wanted to make sure it fell into the right hands.
Walter spoke next, “I’m too dang old to go off fightin’ in a young man’s war, but if them damn Yankees come `round here, I’ll give `em a thang or two. I’m thinkin’ both Jake and Luke, bein’ doctors, will shorley be needed.”
I must be honest, thought Adam, there is a certain excitement about going to war. Maybe it’s something as far back as the caveman when he had to fight in order to eat. I just don’t know. Anyway, before I can go, I’ll have to finish getting the crop in and make sure everything’s in order for Jenny and the kids. She’s one in a million and will probably be all right while I’ll be away but, Lordy, how I will miss her.
Adam spoke out loud to his companions, “There’s a lot to be considered. Maybe, as some folks think, the war will be over soon.” Nearing Walter’s farm, the two other men declined his offer to stop and continued toward their respective homes.
“Your boys are getting quite big by now, aren’t they?” Daniel asked.
“Growing like weeds. Matt is fourteen, Andrew is thirteen, and Buck is nine. The two older boys are almost as tall as I am,” answered Adam. “Sarah is the apple of my eye, and she keeps me wrapped around her little finger,” he said with a laugh.
“I wouldn’t have minded if Charles had been a girl, although now I can’t picture him being anything except the rambunctious eleven-year-old he is,” Daniel said. “I guess the worst thing he ever did was, when he was eight and my sister, Anne, married into a real hauteur Virginia family, Charles spiked the punch during the reception. I have never, in all my life, seen so many tipsy matrons. In fact, a few of them were almost falling down drunk. Anne wanted to kill him, of course. Myself, I sort of took pride in the fact that he carried it off, although I couldn’t let him know. Maybe one day we can laugh about his escapades.” As they neared the Dupree farm, the two men bid each other goodnight and Daniel continued to Seven Oaks.]

[When they returned home with their empty wagon, Jenny left it in the field to be replenished with more bags of cotton. The next picking would produce less, but each boll was needed. By now, their fingers and hands were severely cut by sharp husks on the cotton bolls. Each morning, they soaked their hands in warm water to relieve the soreness.
“Let’s give the rest of the cotton time to mature,” Jenny told the children, “maybe by then, our hands will be better.”
The next morning, Jenny told the children to grab a basket. “I have a good idea. Let’s go pick muscadines.” Buck and Sarah were so excited because their mother made jelly out of the grapes to put on hot biscuits. The trio made it to the wild muscadine vines at the tree line and starting picking the ripe fruit. After awhile, Jenny called out. “Come down here; I found the honey hole!”
As they picked the abundant fruit, Buck said, “This is more fun than picking cotton, and I’ve eaten as many as I’ve put in my basket.”
“Yeah, and they’re so sweet,” Sarah said as juice dripped down her face.
They filled all of their baskets to the brim and knew the struggle to get the heavy loads home would be worth it. As they poured the three baskets of grapes together to be washed, they looked at each other with grins. They felt rich. What a plentiful harvest they had worked for.
Jenny sent Buck and Sarah off to play for the rest of the afternoon before she cleaned the fruit and started working to make muscadine jelly. I’ll make sure to give some to Maggie and Walter to thank them for all of the help they give us, she thought to herself.
On the third day after the cotton picking resumed, the tired threesome came home to find a disaster awaiting them. While they were in the field, Yankee soldiers had stolen the horse, the mule, and the meat in the smokehouse. The house had been ransacked, and the food Jenny cooked the night before had been eaten.
“Did they get the pony?” Sarah asked as she ran toward the barn.
“No, nor the pigs,” answered her mother.
The cow, that had been turned loose to graze in the cornfield, wandered home to be milked.
“Thank the good Lord,” Jenny said as she thought to herself, I mustn’t let the children know how serious this is.]

[That night, Amos met Isaac and Will at the cabin of Ben and Selena. In a whisper, he told all he had heard of the officer’s plans.
“I’m glad we’re gonna be left alone but Lordy, I feel sorry for them folks in Jackson,” Selena said with a moan.
Thinking Pansy was sound asleep, the group continued discussing the change that had taken place since the Union soldiers arrived at Seven Oaks. After the men left, Pansy arose and went to her parents.
“I’m thinkin’ I needs to go warn dem folks. The Yankees won’t miss me `cause you kept me hid ever since dey come here.”
“But child, you know how scared you are o’ the dark; anyway, you can’t get a horse, they’d know `bout that. Get back to bed; there ain’t nothin’ we can do now,” Ben spoke softly to the young girl.  
After her parents were asleep, Pansy lay awake, torn as to what to do. She had always done as she was told, but thoughts of the people in Jackson gave her the courage to slip out the door quietly and into the night. She stood, afraid to breathe as her eyes became accustomed to the darkness. A few stars could be seen as clouds moved across the sky. The crescent moon emerged, casting a weak beam of light. That’s good, she thought, I’s not be seen so easy. If’n the moon was full, I doubt I’d get past dem guards.
The young, barefoot slave girl began a daring journey to save a small southern town. By daybreak, she had passed the empty Dupree farm and was in sight of the Ross home. Walter, an early riser, was busy feeding his livestock when he saw Pansy trudging toward the house.]