Anger and rage, like the winds of a hurricane, surge against George's attempts to calm his emotions. "Shut down!" "Shut down!" George yells to himself. "Blunt the emotions!" "Shut them down!" Slowly, George gains control. With trembling hands George folds the document and then places it in the inside pocket of his jacket. A mere piece of paper, a document, yet while reading it, it was as if a door had sprung open and there before George stood the one responsible for the blood and gore he witnessed at Fort Pillow. He could not get it out of his mind. The document holds the key to the Secret behind the Mystery responsible for the Massacre at Fort Pillow,
Tennessee. A Mystery George is going to expose, if he lives to do so.
In the shadows from across the street, soft blue eyes of innocent holiness burn with hate and loathing as they watch George fold the paper, and place it into his pocket. This "guardian of the secrets" trained in the ancient mysteries of the Assassins kills without leaving a clue. It's an art, and craft of great skill which the killer holds as a sacred religious duty. But now the word "Failure!" flashes in his brain, terrifying him. A surge of cool brisk air lifted, then slammed the waters of Lake Michigan against the Chicago shoreline with a Bang!, snapping George out of his dark mood. The bullet sounded like the buzz of a bee, and would have killed George if the sound of the surf hadn't caused George to quickly turn and hurry up the street.
As George approaches State Street, he turns right, then another right onto Randolph. He sees the sign, PUBLISHER H. M. HIGGINS, he pauses, and then enters. Thankfully, Higgins is alone. From across the street, eyes watch, as George gives Higgins a brief greeting. Then, as George turns to leave, something that looks like a leather-bound book is given George. The "Smile!" George's smile as he leaves Higgins office irritates the watcher. If he can get close enough, he will kill George.
Crossing the street, the watcher follows George. With the skill of a trained stalker he goes unnoticed. Closer and closer he gets, until finally he is about to strike. With the satisfied glee, and pleasure of one who enjoys killing, he grips his . . . "Hello! Father." The words of greeting startles and distracts the watcher.
George turns the corner and is lost in the crowd of men and women, colored and white, in elegant formal dress, walking to Crosby's Opera House.
In 1863, Uranus H. Crosby Esq., of Chicago, conceived the idea of building an Opera House that would serve as a show place in Chicago. Before its inauguration, the site will be used to honor the survivors and the brave men and women who fell at Fort Pillow, Tennessee.
Earlier, Higgins had given George a private tour of the Opera House. The soft plush seats, the ornate panel wood, the draperies and the limited seating capacity of 3,000 were all carefully designed so that everyone could see, hear and FEEL the music. But this evening, the audience will see, hear and FEEL the pain of the survivors. For the marquee, in BOLD letters, announced:
Daniel, called the Professor, is a self-taught highly educated slave who speaks with a clear cheerful voice and writes like a romantic poet. He has a patch over his right eye, and a sling for his shoulder and arm. George tells James, "Daniel was buried alive. He is speaking with Mrs. Nichols who arrived yesterday from Michigan. Her husband was sick in the hospital when the soldiers entered and attacked him. He lived long enough to give a sworn statement of what happened."
Looking for another survivor George notices Edward Benton speaking with Surgeon Chapman Underwood. "Edward," George explains, "is a member of Senator Benton's family. Their land grants, dating back to 1823, makes them the owners of the Fort Pillow Bluffs and the Mississippi River's waterfront from Fort Pillow to Randolph, Tennessee. Though southerners, the Benton's opposed slavery. "They are what some call 'Radical Liberals.' Edward added fuel to the fire when he started hiring slaves and paying them an honorable wage to work his plantation. Slave owners insisted this would break a plantation, but Edward proved them wrong.
"Dr. Underwood, also a Tennessee native, was the acting assistant Surgeon at Fort Pillow's Educational Center." James wasn't paying attention, for his eyes and mind were busy admiring Mrs. Nichols. Startled by the words, "been trying to kill them for more than a year." James blurts out, "Who???" "General Forrest," George answered, "He posted a $1,000 dollar bounty on their heads, ‘Dead or Alive.’" "It's hard to believe," exclaims James. "Why would Forrest want to kill honorable southern men?" "In the South," George said, "the penalty is death for anyone who helps an escaped slave. "Doctor Underwood was hated not only for his offering the slave medical help, but also for what he was doing to help Charley. As you know, the book 'American Slavery A Testimony Of A Thousand Witnesses' was venomously attacked as 'Lies' and 'Propaganda.' It was not lies, nor was it propaganda. It was the truth and Charley was out to prove it by having pictures taken of the slaves wounds and scars. Charley also kept a journal in which he wrote the slave's name, the description of the wounds, the reason why they were mistreated, and who was responsible. Charley discovered a large number of slaves with scars running from the back of their neck to the bottom of their legs. The whip and lash marks left distinctive patterns as if they were from the same source. It puzzled us because we couldn't see how a person could administer blows so consistently.
"The scars are huge cords of callous flesh with ridges as wide as two fingers and as high as a little finger. The slaves described what happened but it was so sadistic and cruel we refused to believe it, until we saw it with our own eyes. The distinctive patterns of the whip and lash were made by a machine that was invented. It was a six-foot square building that stood ten feet high. The victims were stripped and locked in place; their face to the wall and backs exposed. In the middle of the room stood a long upright rod. Attached to the rod were two-inch wide leather straps. Tied into the straps, were small thin pieces of leather. A series of cogwheels powered the rod, which whirled about two hundred revolutions per minute, whipping and beating those locked inside. The proprietor, Hampton Jones, with watch in hand, made sure they were beaten for ten to fifteen minutes.
"We also discovered a game that General Forrest and his brothers invented. They took a wide leather strap, cut holes into it, and then soaked it in a bucket of salt water. The purpose of the wet leather strap was to cause huge blisters to form. First, they beat you until your back is filled with blisters. Then they place bets to see who can use their whip to pop the most blisters. To prevent the ripped and torn flesh from putrefying, General Forrest had a slave rub salt water from the bucket into the wounds." "It sounds like it is what you do to salt pork," James said. "It is, it's the same method," admitted George. "Before the war General Forrest was the largest slave dealer in the South. He had slave pens in Vicksburg, Jackson and Memphis. They were the places the owners sent their slave to be punished, or to be bred."
George pauses, then states: "Unbeknown to us at the time General Forrest had spies at Fort Pillow. They told him about Charley's journal, and the pictures. Heard it caused a stir, a real panic that reached all the way to Richmond. With the evidence he had accumulated, no longer would they be able to deny the sadistic, perverted nature of slavery. Nor would the ones responsible in the North and the South be able to hide. Charley was going to expose them, ruin their reputation, and destroy their ideologies and theories."
James draws George's attention to a young woman who is walking toward Doctor Underwood and Edward Benton. "Is she one of the survivors?" he asked.
"Yes. She is Mrs. Ann Jane Ruffin. She is an amazing woman. For being loyal to the Union, her and her husband were forced out of Alabama. Tom, her husband, joined Bradford's Cavalry and she rode at his side, refusing to leave him.
"There were a large number of women and children at our Educational Center at Fort Pillow.” George paused and, in reflection, adds: “Until I found the secret, it puzzled me as to why Forrest was determined to kill our women and children. The first attempt was prevented by the quick thinking of Mrs. Ruffin. Through a hail of fire, she led the women and children to the safety of a barge. Our gunboat fired on the men chasing them, and then towed the barge out to an Island. Because the Island was close enough for Forrest’s sharp shooters to fire across the water, another attempt was made to kill the women and children as they rushed from the barge and ran through the woods for the safety of a house. Having failed in these attempts Forrest had his snipers shooting at the house throughout the entire fight. That evening if the gunboat had not rescued them and taken them up river, Forrest’s men would have crossed to the Island, and there would have taken their revenge out on the women and children.
"The next day, when the gunboat returned, Mrs. Ruffin went ashore to look for her husband. In the distance, while shots were being fired and new victims being killed, she was out among the dead, lifting and separating mutilated bodies, butchered in ways unimaginable, in a desperate search for her husband."
James interrupts, "Is she the one who identified the corpse of Lieutenant Akerstrom?" George answers, "She's the one. She went right up to the wall of the building where the body was nailed. The smell of burnt flesh was strong and the body a cinder, yet, thinking it might be her husband, she got up real close and examined the face."
George hears a commotion and a familiar voice. Turning toward the entrance of the Opera House he sees a tall rail of a man trying to push a chair with wheels into the Lobby. The weight and size of the man in the chair only adds to the confusion. "Stop gawking at the women and push," he yells.
The tall one," George said, "is John Nelson, the proprietor of Fort Pillow's hotel, and the loud one, is Jacob Thompson, his cook. General Forrest destroyed the hotel when he ordered the burning of the town. Nelson's uncle is the one who inspired Elijah Lovejoy to use his editorial skills to fight slavery. He didn't want to speak tonight, but Jacob convinced him to do so.
"Jacob would have to be an exceptional cook," James said, "to get me to speak, if I didn't want to."
George agrees, then explains: "Jacob was raised by Colonel Hardgrove. The Colonel hired one of the best Chefs in Europe to train Jacob. As Jacob's reputation and self-respect grew, he stopped cowering." "What do you mean?" James asked. "Haven't you noticed that blacks and coloreds rarely look you in the eye?" "Now that you mention it, Yes!" James answered. "It's irritating, and I don't like it." "It's a bad habit, and difficult for them to break," George said. "Why is that?" James asked. George answered, "If you were whipped, and told that it was justified because you refused to show respect, it's not long before you start believing it." "This cowering, by giving a slight bow of the head and eyes, is really an act of reverence," James said. "Yes! And it makes me mad; kills their spirit," George angrily replied. "Reminds me of the way the clergy expect us to cower in reverence to them," James said. "It's the same as far as I am concerned," George said, "and I refuse to do it."
"During one of Colonel Hardgrove's parties, Jacob, refused to cower before one of the Colonel's most important guests. To save face, the Colonel, in an angry outburst, ordered Jacob whipped. Jacob ran away. Before he could be caught he found refuge in the Camp of the Illinois U. S. 9th Cavalry. When the Colonel heard Jacob was at the camp, he sent men to look for Jacob, but they couldn't find him. Nelson, a friend of one of the Lieutenant's, devised a rather comical disguise for Jacob that saved his life. No one was able to recognize him.
"When President Lincoln proclaimed freedom for the slaves, Nelson hired Jacob as his cook. He did this, though warned that General Forrest would post a bounty on his head, ‘Dead or Alive.’"
"The strength of the bond between the two," James said, "is evident by the way Nelson lets Jacob boss him around."
Jacob's hand, head and neck, are wrapped in bandages. "What happened to him?" James asked. "When Jacob ran out of ammunition, he dropped his weapon and ran, seeking a place to hide. When they found him he raised his hands to show that he had no weapon, but they shot him anyway. The ball passed through his raised hand and hit his head. The soldier then took the breech of his gun and started beating Jacob over the head causing his skin to break and divide in several places, on his head and neck." "Why didn't he surrender?" James asked. "If they were taking prisoners, there would have been no need to run,” George replied. “I saw their flag, it was a black flag. 'No Prisoners!' Forrest was yelling. Forrest was angry, and would have killed all the prisoners, if it were not for the fact that his men were drunk, and greedy."
James interrupts, “Some claim that General Forrest tried to stop the killing." "It's true," George said, "he stopped the killing. But not the killing of the prisoners. His men were killing each other, and he had to stop it." James, with a look of shock, asked, "Why would they be killing each other?" George explains: "They had a rule, that whoever shot you had the right to whatever you were wearing, and whatever money you had. In an attempt to claim as many bodies as they could, they ran up to you, shot you in the legs to knock you down, then ran to gun someone else down. While they were gone, another ran up, and though you were already down, they too shot you. Later, when both returned, there was a fight to determine who had the rights to your clothing and money. The one that lost the argument, did so at the cost of his life." "Amazing!" "I hope you explain this during your speech," James said.
The music, signaling that the program is about to begin, starts to play. I better take my place," James said, and turns to enter the auditorium. George quickly turns and heads in the opposite direction. He wants to talk to Jacob and John Nelson. The watcher, expecting that George was going to enter the auditorium, follows the crowd.
The music stops and the narrator moves to front center stage. He waits until the audience grows quiet. Then in a clear, powerful voice, the narrator announces:
"Mrs. Mary E. Booth, wife and widow of Major Lionel F. Booth who fell at Fort Pillow, welcomes you to this evening's premiere."
The audience responds with a spontaneous and rousing applause. The narrator waits for silence, then continues: "The wife and children of our BRAVE colored soldiers, who died at Fort Pillow have been told that they do not qualify for the benefits and provisions made for the widows and orphans of white soldiers. In protest, Mrs. Booth told military authorities that she refuses to accept the death benefits she is entitled to as the wife a United States Major." The audience claps their approval, then grows quiet, waiting for the narrator to continue: "After speaking with the military authorities Mrs. Booth met with President Lincoln. Do you want to hear what the President has to say?" Someone in the audience, with an authoritative and strong voice, shouts, "YES!" The narrator holds up a piece of paper, and states: "Mrs. Booth received this from the President's own hand. Do you want me to read it?" This time the entire audience stands and responds with an electrifying, "YES!" With the letter held so everyone can see it, the narrator starts reading:
The audience goes wild with excitement. The narrator quiets the crowd: "After speaking with Senator Sumner, Mrs. Booth concluded that there were two obstacles to overcome." "What obstacles?" shouts someone from the back of the auditorium.
The narrator, in a clear sharp voice, answers: "Time is one obstacle; as you know, to get the government to act is a long drawn-out ordeal with no guarantees." The audience groans, knowing how true that is.
"The other obstacle is two-fold; the denial that there was a Massacre, and the lies claiming that the men who fell at Fort Pillow do not deserve the benefits and provisions of a soldier." The narrator pauses, waiting for just the right effect, then adds:
"Mrs. Booth and the City of Chicago believe that if we let these false charges go unchallenged people will harden their hearts against helping the children." "We will not let that happen, will we?" shouts the narrator." The audience answers with a loud, spontaneous, "NO!" Then in a slow, clear voice, the narrator announces:
"Mrs. Booth decided, that since the children need immediate help, we should unite the survivors and let them tell us what happened."
The narrator now turns, and welcomes unto the stage, the survivors. As they make their way to center stage, the narrator announces: "Jacob Thompson, the famous cook of Colonel Hardgrove; John Nelson, proprietor of the Hotel at Fort Pillow; Daniel Taylor, the Professor who was 'buried alive!'; Fort Pillow's Acting Assistant Surgeon, Doctor Chapman Underwood; Plantation owner Edward Benton; and Mrs. Ruffin, the witness that identified Lieutenant Akerstrom's charred body."
The audience knows that the Benton's and the Nelson's are among the most honorable and respected families in the nation, and are therefore shocked, when the announcer states: "General Forrest has published that the witnesses are ignorant and stupid outlaws who are both feeble and odious." The audience is outraged, and starts hooting and hollering. Though dressed in formal attire, these are the men and women from the plains and hills, cowboys and ranchers, farmers and merchants, trappers and river men, men from the army and navy, officers and enlisted men, with sons and daughters, wives and girlfriends.
Mrs. Johnson's home Upsala, is named in honor of Swedish writer Frederika Bremer and the University of Uppsala. The University of Uppsala was founded in Sweden in 1477. It is one of the oldest Universities that still exists. Today it is listed among the top 100 Universities in the World.
George is standing alone watching from the wings when his mind takes him back to the first time he met Mrs. Booth. It is early spring of 1864. Mrs. Booth, a member of the Women's American Anti-Slavery Society located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, invited Charley and George to join her in Germantown as the guest of Mrs. Johnson. The purpose of the meeting is to raise money, and whatever else is needed for the completion of the Educational Center being built at Fort Pillow.
The Johnson's have two houses, the Johnson House at the corner of Washington Lane that was used as a station on the Underground Railroad, and Upsala, located across from Cliveden.
Charley and George are in no hurry. It is a pleasant walk. The streets are paved and the homes among the finest, with large manicured lawns, gardens and orchards marking the way.
Though they have other guests, Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Booth are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Charley and George. The butler waiting outside is under strict orders that at first sight of Charley, he is to let Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Booth know. The butler sees Charley and George walking toward the house and rushes off to inform Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Booth. When the door is opened, Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Booth are there to greet Charley and George. After the customary greetings and introductions Mrs. Booth and Mrs. Johnson asks Charley to join them in the garden.
George enters the house, and walks over to take a close look at the staircase. It gracefully sweeps upwards, seemingly without any support; the facings are of marble and the mantels of delicate carved wood.
Mrs. Johnson, with Mrs. Booth and Charley following, takes a path that leads them to what looks like a root cellar. She pauses to look around, then opens the door, and they enter. The room is built into the side of a hill and has six cedar pillars the size of railroad ties; two on each side of the door, and one for each corner. The room is seven feet high and covered with cedar paneling. The shelves are filled with canned fruits, vegetables and meats. Cedar repels insects and spiders. In some ingenious way the air vents are able to reflect outside light into the room.
At the touch of a hidden lever, a section of the wall swings open. Charley and the women enter. The room has a table, lamp, chairs and a small bed. The shelves are lined with books. Once safely concealed inside the room Mrs. Booth pulls from her purse a small pocket-size book. Smiling in excitement, Mrs. Booth explains, as she hands the book to Charley.
Charley quickly opens the book, notes the name, and then starts turning the pages.
"Julia and her husband," Mrs. Booth said, "are at our Educational Center in Corinth, Mississippi, teaching the slaves how to read and write. One of the slaves gave her the book. He knew it was important, he said, because his Master kept it hidden. It contains the secret codes, initiation rites and oaths of the Society.
In a nervous and anxious tone, Mrs. Johnson adds: "He brags about their secrets and a Mystery that will usher in a glorious New World Order, free from the likes of us." "We better leave," Mrs. Booth said, "and let Charley read the diary." "Give me about twenty-minutes," Charley said, as Mrs. Booth and Mrs. Johnson leave.
Charley starts reading:
O! What excitement—the hidden secrets and mysteries will be mine fulfilling my most earnest prayers, my deepest desires—my Hunger!—my Craving!—finally to be gratified. My dear friend—my mentor—my instructor. In Washington we boarded the train to Baltimore.
My friend ascended the steps to a large fashionable house on Monument Square. He gave a slight push, and the door suddenly opened as if by some invisible, hidden device. Stepping inside, mysteriously the door closed. Barring further progress was another door, the top half had a glass pane, covered on the inside by a thick curtain.
My friend gave a sign signaling strict silence—immediately I obeyed—he then gave a peculiar tap on the glass, one, two and three times. Each tap was answered by someone watching from inside, yet, when the door flew open the space we entered was empty. We closed the door and ascended a flight of carpeted stairs. At the top of the stairs some sort of paneled object blocked our path. After an interchange of a series of knocks by my friend, the panel sprung open and we passed through. The panel closed, leaving us in thick darkness.
The cold steel of a blade pressing against my face and hand, and a sharp point against my chest, filled me with dread. A voice, deep and ominous, said, "Those who pass here must face both fire and steel." "We are willing to face both for Liberty," answered my friend. "Pass!—and it shall be," replied the voice.
In place of the blade, a hand grabbed my hand and started pulling me forward through a passage. All is dark, when suddenly a door opens without anyone having opened it. "Advance!" orders the voice.
Dazed and blinded by the sudden glare of light, I stumbled forward. "Click!" The sound of the door shutting behind me, startles me, and I turn expecting to find in my friend, comfort. He has disappeared, and I knew not when. Instinctively, I reached for the door. "It's locked."
"Alone!" the thought filled me with a feeling of gloom and despair. Resigning myself to the hopelessness of escaping through that door, I turned, thinking I might find another way out. The room appeared to be an elegant drawing-room fifty-feet long and thirty-feet wide. Six windows faced the street, covered by heavy curtains. The walls were covered with a rich wallpaper, decorated with simple gold rings at irregular intervals. From the ceiling hung an expensive gas lit chandelier, and extending out in a circle at its base, a large brilliant gold ring.
Across from the windows, pictures hung from the ceiling suspended by heavy cords and tassels—full life-size portraits of John Calhoun, Franklin Pierce, Jefferson Davis, and others, painted on canvass and stretched to fit handsome frames. Looking at their portraits excited me, for a Secret held by such powerful and distinguished men must indeed be Great!
After a careful examination of every thing in the room, I started to pace. "How long must I wait?" I thought. Gradually, my excitement turned to impatience, and finally to anger. "No secret is worth this agony," I said, and started looking to see if I could escape out of one of the windows. They were sealed, "I could break them," I thought, but then noticed it would be a sheer drop into an unknown void. Realizing my helplessness, a dread and fear took over.
While in this state of mind, a voice said: "Arise, and follow, if you wish the Secrets." I sprang up. The voice came from someone in the room, but I saw no one. Suddenly, the room was engulfed in darkness. Before I could react, someone on each side of me, in a strong gauntlet grasp, seized my hands. Another placed a blindfold over my eyes, then tore my clothing, bearing my chest. Thus bared, held and blinded, I was led from the room, not through the door, but through some kind of secret passage. There seemed to be no end to the long path and doors, which opened and closed. At length, we stopped. A signal was tapped on a door, and answered from within—followed by a military voice, cold and harsh, demanding; "Who comes here?" "One who is true to our cause," was the reply. "How is he known to be true?" "By the recommendation of a tried knight. The voice was not that of my friend, but of another, standing next to me. "Can he be trusted?" "Such is our belief," was the reply. "Should he fail, and betray us, what then?" "He will learn the penalty." "Advance."
A door or panel opened, and we moved forward a few steps, when suddenly the cold hard steel of a blade pressed against my face, and a sharp point inflicting pain pierced my breast.
A voice, solemn in its utterance, and slow and measured in tone, said: "Those who pass here must face fire and steel." "Are you willing to do so?" asked another. In the strongest voice I could muster, I answered: "YES!" I was again told to advance. Having gone but a few steps, I was stopped by the men holding my hands. "Kneel!" Came the order. I kneeled on what seemed to be a cushion, as it yielded to the pressure of my knees. My right hand was placed on something cold as ice, and my left hand, on an open book. While in this position, I was ordered to repeat, in a slow and distinct voice, a terrible, horrible and appalling oath.
"I do now denounce and disown any allegiance as due to any State or obedience to any of their laws, magistrates, or officers.
"I do further promise and declare full and complete allegiance to the new body to which I am now allied. It is the first and foremost in every thing, before the affection of a wife, mother or child, before political feeling, law of the land or the love of country, before religion or the feelings of parental or fraternal duty.
"I do further promise and declare to swear falsely and if on a jury, to never give a verdict against a brother.
"I do further promise and declare to keep secret and private all agents, and not to divulge, directly or indirectly, by word, writing, or circumstances whatever, but to execute all that should be purposed, given, charged or discovered necessary by the sacred order.
"I do further promise and declare that I will have no opinion or will of my own or any mental reservation whatsoever but will unhesitatingly obey each and every command that I may receive from my superiors.
"I do further promise and declare that I will, when opportunity presents, make and wage relentless war, secretly or openly, against all I am directed to exterminate from the face of the whole earth; and that I will spare neither age, sex, nor condition, and that I will hang, burn, waste, boil, flay, strangle, or bury them, alive.
"I do further promise and declare to rip up the stomachs and wombs of their women, and crush their infants' heads against the walls in order to annihilate them. That when the same can not be done openly, I will secretly use the poisonous cup, the strangulation cord, the steel of the poniard, or the leaden bullet, regardless of the honor, rank, dignity, or authority of the persons or whatever may be their condition in life, either publia or private, as I at any time may be directed to do by any agent or superior of the Brotherhood.
"In confirmation of which I hereby dedicate my life, soul, and all corporal powers, and with the dagger which I now receive I will subscribe my name written in blood in testimony thereof; should I prove false or weaken in my determination, may my brethren and fellow soldiers cut off my hands and feet and my throat from ear to ear, my belly opened and sulfur burned therein with all the punishment that can be inflicted upon me on earth; and in hell, may my soul be tortured by demons forever.
Are you willing to abide by this obligation?" Asked the cold, harsh, voice.
Dare I Refuse!
The pressure of the sharp point pressing against my chest and the horrible words of the oath vibrating through my brain caused within me such terror that all I could do was mumble a feeble, "yes." "Do You REMEMBER the PENALTY?" Demanded the voice. The question forced to my mind a picture of torture and pain, so frightening, that it left me speechless. Angry at my silence, the voice shouted, "Brother Knights! Recall to the mind of him who kneels here, the penalty of betrayal." Like thunder, the clash of a hundred swords and voices broke the silence, hissing, groaning and shouting: "DEATH!" "DEATH!!" "DEATH!!!"
My senses reeled as blood, hot and burning, rushed to my brain. It was not the fear of death that gave such terror—for I was willing to die for the cause—it was the dreadful oath and the unknown and unseen horrors that flashed in my mind; vivid pictures, frightful and terrifying. Though I had been longing, yes, craving, to know the sacred secrets, I would at this moment have given all I possessed, or ever hoped to gain, to safely withdraw from the "Circle" to which I was now by oath bound to eternity.
Slowly, the cold, harsh, voice repeated the penalty, and all it's horrors. "Are you ready to proceed?" I had no will, no power to refuse. My tongue had swollen, and I had not the energy to make it speak. I bowed my head in sign of a "yes."
The voice said, "It is well, Proceed!" "Show him all." Show him all," rang a hundred voices. While the sound was still ringing in my ears the blindfold was quickly removed. Before I could adjust to the sudden brightness of light, sharp points pierced my back and sides. Like a pincushion, I felt the prick of sharp points against my bare chest. Gradually the objects around me became visible. Amid what appeared to be a cloud of fire, stood armed men clothed in coats of mail, helmets sprouting red and white feathers, faces covered with visors, swords drawn, poised and ready to pierce my body. Movement or escape was impossible. Slowly, the light, by some invisible means, dimmed and I could see before me an altar, on which burned a blue flame. Gradually, my mind registered, with fright and horror.
I had been kneeling on a corpse, with my left hand resting on an open Bible and my right hand on his cold face.
At my fright and shock, the Knights, in unison, shouted, "DEATH!" Stunned, I looked up at the altar, and there beyond the altar, in the direction from which I had heard the cold, harsh, voice, stood a Knight with sword drawn pointing to the dead body upon whose breast and face I had sworn in oath.
Charley pushes away from the table visibly upset. Suddenly two short taps, a pause, then a knock; Mrs. Booth and Mrs. Johnson had returned. Charley, with diary in hand, angrily blurts out, "Is this some kind of morbid joke? Do you REALLY believe this trash?" "We were just as shocked and disgusted as you," Mrs. Booth answered.
In a strong voice, Mrs. Johnson spoke up, saying, "We have evidence confirming that the people in the Secret Society have lived up to their oath." "Don't you remember what happened to Francis McIntosh???" Charley had failed to make the connection, but now it strikes him like a ton of bricks, shocking him with the realization that what he had read is indeed true.
McIntosh is a friendly likeable man who is in love with the chambermaid aboard the steamboat Lady Jackson. He is a porter and cook on the steamboat Flora. The Lady Jackson is the first to arrive at Saint Louis, Missouri, but later that day the steamboat Flora arrives with McIntosh.
McIntosh quickly finished his work, took his bright-red porter's jacket, put it on, and walked off the boat to visit the chambermaid. Eager in his desire to see her, he hurries along the dock when suddenly two men, chasing a man, shout, "Stop that man." Not knowing who the men were or why they wanted him to stop the fleeing man, McIntosh continued on his way.
The two men chasing the man were officers in civilian clothes, deputy sheriff George Hammond and deputy constable William Mull. Angry at losing their man, they arrest McIntosh. It is a quick simple affair to falsely accuse a man—no attorney, no trial—just take him to the Justice of the Peace and accuse him. It is a racket. You are assessed a fine, imprisoned, and charged the cost to feed and house you. If you can not pay the bill, you are sold as a slave, which is the real purpose behind the racket.
Recognizing that there was a new victim, a small crowd gathered to laugh and joke about what awaited McIntosh. Alarmed, McIntosh asked how long they intended to keep him in jail. Their answer led McIntosh to make a desperate attempt to flee. Pulling a knife he lunged at Mull, striking him on the right side of the chest, then swirled and struck Hammond's chin and neck, cutting his jugular vein. Freed from restraint, McIntosh fled.
Shocked and stunned, the crowd was slow to give chase. Finally, someone yelled, "Stop him." McIntosh is stopped and jailed. Hammond, dazed by the attack, staggered about 60 feet, then dropped dead. As word circulated, Mrs. Hammond and her children ran to the body, screaming and crying. Within minutes a mob formed, demanding vengeance. The Sheriff, not wanting to endanger his life or that of his family, fled, taking with him the keys to the jail.
What next takes place is not the result of mob action, nor hysteria. A small group of men are seen whispering among themselves. Then methodically and purposely they administer their own form of justice. At their direction, the men remove the jail door. This is no easy task, for it takes them more than an hour. Finally, the door is removed and the men entered. McIntosh fights for his life, when suddenly a blow to the back of his head knocks him down. As if trained for the occasion, a man quickly reaches down and grabs McIntosh by his hair, while others grab his arms and legs. Kicking and squirming McIntosh is carried out to a cheering crowd. Down toward a huge locust tree they carry him.
With his back against the south side of the tree, they hold him in place while others take a log chain and wrap it around McIntosh, and the tree. McIntosh, while looking at the crowd, recognizes a friend. This small ray of hope quickly fades, as he watches men pile old planks and rail ties waste high around him. Shavings are now brought, and a hot brand, the kind used to brand horses and livestock. A watcher dressed in holiness gives the order, and in response the hot brand ignites the shavings.
At the start of the fire, McIntosh begs, "Shoot me!" "Please, somebody shoot me!" To put a quick end to McIntosh’s suffering, his friend would have shot, if it were not for the fact that the watcher had his men raise their rifles and face the crowd. With guns at their back and guns facing them, the crowd is forced to watch.
In the hopes that someone from the steamer would hear his cries, McIntosh repeatedly screams in a louder and louder voice, "Please, somebody shoot me!" When it becomes clear that no one is going to shoot him, McIntosh starts singing hymns, and prays. After a few minutes his features become disfigured by the flames, and he is silent. "He's out of his misery now," someone yells. In a clear and distinct voice, McIntosh replies, "No! No! I feel as much as any one of you. I hear you all. Shoot me! Shoot me!"
Twenty minutes of torture pass before the watcher picks up a stone and throws it. "Thud!" No sound. McIntosh is dead.
A few cheer, but the crowd is not cheering.
The watcher mistook the looks of loathing and disgust on the faces of the crowd. He thought the looks of loathing were for McIntosh. Like a proud peacock he stood before the crowd, for it never entered his mind that the loathing was for him. At his orders his men lower their guns, and the crowd disperses.
The watcher, having no feelings of shame or guilt, pays old man Louis 75 cents to keep the fire burning. By morning, McIntosh, the son of a white man, is nothing but a black cinder of a man. The watcher had an immediate corrupting influence on some of the young boys in town. For the next morning, at the sight of the charred body, they made it a contest to see whose stone could break the skull.
That afternoon, Elijah Lovejoy and his assistant visited the scene. "We stood and gazed for a moment or two upon the blackened and mutilated trunk—for that was all which remained —of McIntosh before us, and as we turned away in bitterness of heart, we prayed that we might not live."
So intense was Elijah's despair at what the people had done, that for weeks he continued to pray that he might die, for he reasoned, "What hope is there when people sink to such a degraded moral level?"
As editor, Elijah spared no words in condemning the mob. It was "savage barbarity," he wrote. "If you want forgiveness, you must cleanse your soul by exposing the men responsible." In response to Elijah's editorials, people ashamed at what had happened, gave Elijah the names of the small group of men who in whispers, organized the burning. Elijah not only obtained the names of those responsible, but also the words they spoke, "words," he wrote, that "made the blood curdle to hear."
In an attempt to force Elijah to reveal his sources, and to confiscate his evidence, Judge Luke Edward Lawless convened a Grand Jury Investigation. Judge Lawless argued that "the mob acted out of passion for what was both right and just" and that "if anyone is responsible for what happened, it is Elijah Lovejoy." As proof, Judge LawLess pulled out a copy of Elijah's Observer and read: "Slavery is a sin and ought to be abandoned." This irresponsible reporting, and use of the Press, the Judge said, is "a means of widespread mischief—a crime—and monstrous evil that must be punished. Your duty," he told the Jury, "is to consider what should be done about the Press. Since no law exists that I know of to punish the Press I hope during the next session of the Legislature that measures will be taken to punish them."
In response to the Judge's remarks, Elijah wrote: "We have a Judge proclaiming that words, and the newspaper men writing them, are a greater evil than the act of burning someone alive. I would rather be chained to the same tree as McIntosh and share his fate than accept the ideas of Judge Lawless." Elijah sent copies of the story to newspapers in Pennsylvania, New York and Illinois. They shared Elijah's disgust, and wrote, "The Judge's ideas strike at the very root of our liberties." "It is an outrage on all law, morality and decency."
Elijah continued his investigation into the burning of McIntosh and, in so doing, uncovers the existence of a Secret Society. During the inquisition it was the Jesuits who found pleasure in publicly burning people, therefore, Elijah was not surprised to learn that they were involved.
Convinced that he had sufficient proof, Elijah started identifying, by name, the people responsible for the burning of McIntosh. Among those he named, as responsible, was Reverend H. Chamberlain. Unbeknown to Elijah, it was like signing his own death warrant when he mentioned the Reverend's name.
The death threats, and the breaking into his office by someone looking for his records, forced Elijah to conclude that it would be safer for his family if he moved out of a Slave State and into a Free State, across the river in Alton, Illinois.The sudden news of Elijah's moving caused a panic among members of the Secret Society. They must find the evidence Elijah had against them, and destroy it, before he moves.
It was late, and the men they counted on were at home, therefore, out of desperation, they sent a drummer to roam the streets, yelling, "Help us destroy the Observer." The constant booming and yelling startled the people out of their beds and homes. Because people refused to help, it wasn't until midnight that they finally had enough men. City alderman, Bryan Mullanphy tried to get the police and city officials to stop this outrage, but they refused.
The watcher told the men to break into Elijah’s newspaper office, and carry his Press down to the Mississippi and throw it into the river. The men struggled with the Press, but it was to heavy to move. "Tip it over," someone shouted. They tipped it over, and taking what they thought were important parts, they rushed to the Mississippi and threw them into the river. Now that the crowd was gone, members of the Secret Society made a careful search for the evidence Elijah had gathered. They tore everything apart, but couldn't find the records they were looking for.
The next morning, Elijah salvaged what he could, and moved to Alton, Illinois. What the members of the Secret Society in Saint Louis, Missouri, failed to do, their brothers in Alton were determined to accomplish. The Press would be destroyed, and Elijah killed. Using a mob as a cover Dr. Beal, Dr. Jennings, Dr. Thomas Hope and James Rock, murdered Elijah. Proud of what they did, they publicly boasted about it, even went to arguing among themselves over whose shot killed him.
The Attorney General for the State of Illinois, Usher P. Linder, defended the murderers. This is indeed strange, for his sworn duty, as Attorney General, is to prosecute murderers, not defend them. Judge Lawless in Missouri and Attorney General Linder in Illinois presented arguments that were so identical, that one could not help but conclude that someone had authority over them, for it was as if they were reading from the same script.
Attorney General Linder begins his speech by accusing Elijah Lovejoy of being responsible for his own death.
"They talk of being friends to good order; lovers of law. Have they not taken the law into their own hands, and violated the laws of man and of God in depriving man of life? And for what? For a press? A printing press! A press brought here to teach the slave rebellion; to excite the slaves to war; to preach murder in the name of religion; to strike dismay in the hearts of people, and spread desolation over the face of the land. Society honors good order more than such a press, sets higher value upon the lives of its citizens than upon a thousand such presses. I might portray to you the scenes which would exist in our neighbor states from the influence of that press: The father aroused to see the last gasp of his dying child, as it lies in its cradle, weltering in its own blood; and the husband, awakened from his last sleep by the shrieks of his wife, as she is brained to the earth. I might paint to you a picture which would cause the devil to stare back with fright—and still fall short of the awful reality which would be caused by the doctrine which this press was intended to promote."
The Attorney General's claims were made without producing evidence to support them. Elijah's Press did not promote rebellion, war, nor murder. Nor did he urge those escaping from slavery to kill babies or women. Babies and women were being killed, but not by slaves. It was the high ranking members of the Secret Society that gave the orders. And it was their wealthy, prominent, slave owners—white men and women—that carried them out. They were the ones using the whip, the collars, the coffle chains, and the branding irons. They were the ones killing the babies and the women. Degraded by such practices, they now stooped to a new level of depravity; the burning of a man alive! As a ploy to divert attention away from themselves, the Secret Society found that it was to their advantage to accuse others of the crimes they committed, or were planning to commit.
Their attack on the Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Speech served two purposes. First, it served to keep from being published their sadistic, savage, and brutal nature. And second, it fed the fear of those who had become paranoid. For those passively or actively guilty of brutalizing the slave, had become paranoid, and were living in fear that if given the chance, the slave would do to them what they had done. It never occurred to them that the slave was more noble, civil and honorable, than they were. And that for this reason, the slave could never bring themselves to do what they had done.
News of Elijah Lovejoy's death, and the attack by Attorney General Linder on the Freedom of the Press and Freedom of speech, spread like wildfire. Editorials asked, "Who but a savage or cold-hearted murderer would now go to Alton?" Others wrote, "Meanness, infamy, and guilt are attached to every name." To demonstrate their outrage, people avoided the place; riverboats and steamers no longer stopped. As a result, real estate plunged from $25,000 to $2,000. And overnight, the city changed from being one of the largest in the Midwest, to one of the smallest.
After discussing what happened to McIntosh and Elijah Lovejoy, Mrs. Johnson said to Charley, "I am worried." "As a journalist, your life will be in great danger." In a solemn, but firm voice, Mrs. Booth adds: "The death of Elijah Lovejoy in 1837 marked the start of an all out attack on journalists and editors. Bounties amounting to thousands of dollars have been put on their heads."
Mrs. Booth reaches for the diary. Charley hands it to her and watches as she turns to a page. "Here are the enemies you will be up against," she says, and starts reading:
July 3, 1860 — Midnight.
What a crowd! What a congregation! The outside world would never believe that, in that dark room, there were to have been found men of all grades of society. But it is true; and the mighty machine, when it begins to move, will permeate through all strata's of official life. Cabinet members, high in office, were there; and so, also, the successful actors, who seek else-where the fame they failed to secure on the mimic stage—eminent Judges, who now, by their decisions, influence the destines of the nation; and editors, who wield a mightier weapon than the sword, and hold a lever that moves the world—Congressmen, who pretend to make laws; and roughs, who never fail to break them. All these were there, for I saw them. It was a strange union of opposing elements; but they all have their part to play in the drama of the "Coming Future!" and I, among them. Everyone of these men will yet be needed; for, in the great cause, all are equal, and they will each have their respective work to do. Had I not been told one-half of what is now known to me, it would have seemed a fallacy, an impossibility. But it is all true! Yes, terrible true!
Mrs. Booth looked up from reading the diary to tell Charley, "In a later entry, he boastfully claims that members of his Secret Brotherhood have been placed in all the different opposing Societies. "Do you think that includes our Anti-Slavery Society?" Charley asked. "Think about it," Mrs. Johnson said, "Haven't you been telling us, ever since the loss of your mother, that you believe that there are those who have betrayed us." "We don't know who they are," Mrs. Booth said, "but here's proof that they exist." Flipping the pages, Mrs. Booth turns to another entry, and hands the diary to Charley. Charley begins reading:
July 21, 1861 — Midnight.
A true Knight in the War Department has given the chief commands in the Federal Army and Navy to fellow Knights; as a consequence they give our Generals advance notice of their movements—when their troops could have won the day, they purposely order a retreat—delay movement—misdirect an order—thereby securing a triumph for the South.
Charley, with a look of astonishment and anger, blurts out, "There's only one man in Lincoln's War Department that has that kind of power." As he thinks about this, a light flashes in the circuits of his brain. "His wife! She is a member of our Society."
Mrs. Booth, in shock amazement, states, "I know who you are referring to, her husband hates Lincoln, calls him a monkey and other insulting names. I can easily see him as a member of this horrible Society; he is a very dangerous man."
"This evil must be stopped," Charley said, "and I'm willing to give my life in the attempt."
"Julia Lovejoy, a fellow journalist, is just as determined as you are," Mrs. Johnson said. "She married Elijah Lovejoy's nephew. So like you, she has a personal reason for exposing who is behind the Secret Society."
Mrs. Booth, in a tone that conveyed her deep concern and affection for Charley, tells him, "Julia wrote that she needs your help and that of your photographer, George. She says it's very important. She admits, she doesn't know all the details, but has obtained confidential information that April 12, 1864, marks the beginning of a new policy in the South, and that it has something to do with our Educational Center at Fort Pillow. She wants you to go there and see what you can find out. We are leaving in a few days to take a group of volunteers to Fort Pillow and thought that it would be good if you and George joined us."
"I'm willing to go," Charley said, "but why do you need George?"
"There are two reasons," Mrs. Booth said, "First, Fort Pillow is a site where southerners are bonding with the slaves. They've conquered their prejudices and we need George to document this amazing story. And, Second, we need George to take pictures of the slaves. We've published how they have been branded like cattle and marked like pigs, now we hear that they've invented machines to do the torturing. We need pictures. Pictures will convince the people more than anything we can say."
Charley is visibly upset, not mad, but troubled. George is like a brother to him, and he cannot bring himself to expose George to the danger that he knows awaits him at Fort Pillow. "I cannot expose George to the danger," Charley said. "You can talk to George, but if he decides to go, then, I'll not go. I'll have no part in putting George's life at risk." At that they leave the room.
Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Booth, expecting other guests, head for the house.
Charley turns and enters the garden. He is looking for Julia, and her friend Lydia. Both are bright, intelligent young ladies. Julia has a smile that can melt the hardest heart, and Lydia has eyes that sparkle with joy and happiness.
As Charley approaches, Julia runs up to him and gives him a hug. "Lydia," Julia said, "wants to know if George is here."
Looking at Lydia, with laughter in his eyes and voice, Charley says, "I here Miss Ames has been looking for George." "Charley!" Lydia exclaims in exasperation.
Taking Lydia’s and Julia’s hand, he urges them along. "We better find George before Miss Ames does," he laughs. To George's delight he sees Charley returning with the two young women. As they approach, Lydia reaches out and takes George's hand and whispers into his ear, making him laugh. "Ok! You two," Julia said, "let us in on the secret." To divert attention away from having to answer, George asks Julia a question that he knows will provoke a long and lengthy explanation.
"Julia, is it true that the early settlers of Germantown were the first to protest against slavery in America?" Julia lights up. She is eager to relate this historic moment in her family's life. Taking Charley by the hand Julia tells George, "Let's go where we can sit down."
As they move down the hall, Mrs. Johnson stops the two couples to introduce Mrs. Eaton, the wife of Colonel John Eaton, Jr.; Mrs. Reese, the wife of Captain Theodore Reese, Company F 3rd Michigan Cavalry; Miss Susan Anthony, sister of Major Daniel R. Anthony, 7th Kansas Cavalry; and Master Stonecutter, James Power.
After the introduction, Mrs. Johnson in a bubbly and enthusiastic voice, explains: "Mrs. Eaton and Mrs. Reese have recently returned from Fort Pillow, where an amazing bond has developed between Southerners and Slaves. I can hardly believe it. Southerners freeing the slaves and wanting to educate them!" "How exciting!" Lydia said. "They must tell us all about it." "Later dear, later," Mrs. Johnson exclaims, as she ushers her guest into another room.
Lydia and Julia, with George and Charley in hand, proceed to a room where the four of them can comfortably set together. A waiter, with a rare fruit drink Mrs. Johnson had imported for the occasion, approaches, offers them a glass, then takes one for himself and sets down in a chair over by the window.
As George sips his drink, he looks at the other guests. Blacks, coloreds, and whites, sitting and standing, talking and laughing. Julia, reading the look on George's face, asks, "Is this the first time you've seen blacks?" "No! Seeing them as guest talking and laughing together as equals always has this effect on me. I wish the whole world was this way." Lydia, holding George's hand, gives it a gentle squeeze, "I feel the same way."
"As to your question, George," Julia said, "it was indeed here in Germantown that the first protest against slavery occurred. It was an official petition dated April 18, 1688, signed by Garret Hendricks, Derick and Abraham up den Graeff, and Francis Pastorius." In a sad, troubled voice, Lydia said, "That was 175 years ago, and now we have the War." "It didn't have to be this way," Charley said in a sharp, disgusted and angry tone. With a serious and solemn look Charley turns to George and asks, "Do you remember the night that Philadelphia went crazy?" At the time, George was five years old and Charley was fifteen. Without waiting for George to answer, Charley states, "I remember, and I'll never forget."