Pages 3 through 58.
The story is based on discoveries made by a teacher we respectfully call Teach.
Teach had a great-grandmother that was born in 1841 and died in 1959, at the age of 118. When the Civil War started she was 20 years old. She survived the war and remained near her birth place in West Tennessee, her entire life. Another member of his family served as a valet to General Green, who rode with General Nathan Bedford Forrest. The secrets held in trust by his family is what stirred in his heart a desire, to hunt for the missing 1864 Military Investigation.
Teach had several reasons for sharing with us his discoveries.
First, he wanted to teach us to look beyond the skin. Not the skin but the person is what he wanted us to see.
Second, some of the students had no desire to read or write, and he wanted to change that.
The year is 1997.
Our class of ninth graders attending a private school not far from Fort Pillow, Tennessee, knew that in 1974 during a presentation designating Fort Pillow State Park a National Historic Landmark Paul C. Swartz, representing the Secretary of the Interior and the Director of the National Park Service, declared that the massacre at “Ft. Pillow must stand always as a shameful reminder of how close we are to the cruelest and most despicable barbarism.” The lesson it teaches us, he said, is “deep, ominous and everlasting.”
Immediately, in reaction to what was said by Swartz, the Sons and Daughters of the Confederacy used their power and influence to change what the Park presented as history. The anger and resentment at what they did, we kept to ourselves.
The documents Teach shared with us ripped from our hearts the scars, and with truth, turned our hearts from hate to love.
His story is written so you can see what moved us to look beyond the skin.
In a school room not far from the bloody Massacre at Fort Pillow our teacher had the courage to tell us the truth. I can see him now standing before us. His appearance is warm and inviting, his eyes soft and gentle, his voice like music moving us up and down in waves of emotion.
“What is stronger, love or fear?”
The question took us by surprise. Sasha’s tone of voice was strong and firm: “Love! Love is stronger.” “Is love what gives bullies their power?” Teach asked, “Or is it fear?”
This starts a heated argument about what is stronger, love, or fear?
As was his custom, Teach patiently listened to our arguments. Then, at the appropriate moment, he said:
“The POWER of FEAR is what keeps YOU from reaching your full potential.”
The sharpness and power of his words, cuts us deep.
“Fear has nothing to do with it,” Thomas angrily replied. “I wish that was true,” Teach said. “Fear is used to control people. And YOU are among those being controlled.”
Our looks of shock and disbelief cried out; prove it. “You don’t believe it? I’ll prove it,” Teach said. "For proof, there is the role Society plays and the role YOU play.”
“First let’s talk about the role Society plays, then, WE WILL talk about YOU, and the role YOU play.”
“To understand the role Society has on your ability to succeed takes us back to 1857 when the United States Supreme Court ruled that people enslaved were property.”
Teach walked to his desk, picked up a document and held it up.
“This is a copy of the opinion of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Roger Brooke Taney. As a work assignment you have to read Taney’s opinion and then give a written and oral report. I do not want you to write a summary of what he said, nor do I want you to write an argument, for or against Taney’s opinion. What I want to know is how his judicial opinion made you feel. What emotions did it stir in your heart? Do not worry about your spelling. In your own words, be as descriptive as you can. Your honesty and lack of fear in explaining how you feel, is what you will be graded on. The assignment is a serious one. If you do as instructed, it will open your heart and let you see what’s inside.”
Teach read the document: “YOU are ‘beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior’ that YOU have ‘no rights which the white man’ is ‘bound to respect.’ YOU are ‘justly and lawfully’ reduced to slavery for YOUR benefit. YOU are ‘bought and sold, and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic, whenever a profit’ can ‘be made by it.”
Teach looked up from the document and just stood there looking at us. “Who are the slaves Taney is referring to?” To us it seemed as if Teach was asking a stupid question. We all know who the slaves were.
“Do you think it was just us? That only we were slaves?”
We felt the emotion in his voice and the fire in his eyes, and didn’t know what to say.
Pointing to the document, Teach said: “Here, and here, and here! Repeatedly Taney identifies as slaves ‘Blacks, Indians and mulattoes.’ Slaves were property, and it did not matter what color you were.”
Teach placed the document back on the table and held up another.
“George Fitzhugh, a sociologist and contemporary of Taney, wrote: ‘Slavery, black or white, is right and necessary . . . Nature has made the weak in mind and body for slaves . . . The Declaration of Independence is exuberantly false . . . Life and liberty are not unalienable. Men are not born entitled to equal rights! It would be far nearer the truth to say that some are born with saddles on their backs and others booted and spurred to ride them; and the riding does them good. They need the reins, the bit, and the spur.’” Teach lowered the document, looked us in the eye, and asked: “With this mentality, do you think they treated white slaves differently? What do you think, George?”
George’s family is one of the oldest in the County. They are rich, and are proud that they are white. What George said came as a shock for it was the opposite from what we expected.
“My grandfather told me, ‘White slaves were treated worse.’”
George didn’t want to explain, but Teach, in his kind probing way, convinced George to do so.
“When I close my eyes,” George said, “I can see my grandfather’s face, hear the tone of his voice and feel his words. Grandfather said his father was born in 1855 and died in 1918. By law he was a slave, but by birth, a white man. According to grandfather I could pass as his twin. I asked grandfather, ‘How could someone like me, be a slave?’”
“Grandfather gave a deep sigh. His eyebrows raised and his eyes went blank. He was in deep thought. His eyes blinked, turned soft and gentle, as did his voice.”
“’Your great-grandfather,’ he said, ‘was one-fourth slave.’ Seeing that I didn’t understand, grandfather took me in his arms, and in a choked voice whispered in my ear, ‘his father raped his own daughter.’ His head was against my shoulder and he was sobbing. Even now I can feel his cool wet tears on my left cheek. He didn’t have to explain anything more. But he did. ‘When you beat people,’ grandfather said, ‘your mind gets perverted, twisted, and bent so far out of shape that you no longer act like a normal human being. The daughter he raped gave birth to a son. In his twisted demented mind, he believed that if he treated this son worse than any other slave, no one would suspect he was the father. Your great-grandfather’s half-brothers were not fooled. They hated their father. When they had the opportunity, they joined a Tennessee militia that was loyal to the Union and freed their brother, his mother, and the rest of the slaves. You heard,’ grandfather said, ‘that in the Civil War families in the South were ripped apart, now you know why.’”
Teach interrupted, “Did your great-uncles ride with Major Bradford?”
“Thank you George.”
Later, George and I talked. From what he told me, I made a chart.
1997 George is 15.
1995 George is 12.
1983 George is born.
1947 George´s father is born.
1906 George´s grandfather is born.
1865 Civil War ends.
1864 Fort Pillow is attacked.
1855 George´s great-grandfather is born a slave.
George´s great-grandfather´s mother was 3-quarters white. She was the daughter of the man that raped her. Though born white, her son was listed as one quarter black, and for this reason was a slave. So that everyone would know that this white boy was a slave, his father took a hot branding iron, like you use for cattle, and branded him.
At first, it made me feel good to hear that George’s family had been slaves, but this quickly changed when I looked at the white students. They were angry.
Teach, sensitive to how his white students felt, said to them: “Your reactions are similar to how white people reacted back in 1857. At first, there was disbelief. But this quickly changed. They could see the handwriting on the wall. If they didn’t stop slavery, they would all be enslaved. Four years later a War was fought. The North won the War but not the ideology responsible for the war. That’s why, in the North and the South, Society turned to new ways to enslave you.”
There was a reaction to the word “enslave.” “We are not slaves,” echoed through the room. “Painful to think about,” Teach said, “but it’s easy to prove. Out of your seats and form three lines,” he said.
“PJ, Nathan, Rebecka, Jane, Isaac, David, Lucy, George, Walker, Elvis, Ray and Michelle, stand here in line one.”
“Rosa, Tate, Lindsey, Annie, Joe Green, James, Thomas, Williams, Johnson, Mary, Sasha and Anderson, stand here in line two.”
“Manuel, Laura, Jose, Flores (Flowers), Carmen and Carolina, stand here in line three.”
As we stood looking at each other we could see that Teach had lined us up according to our ancestral origins. In line one there are 12 white Americans. In line two 12 black Americans. And in line three 6 Hispanic Americans.
“From line one; I want PJ, Nathan, Rebecka, Jane, Isaac, David, Lucy and George to step forward.”
“From line two, Rosa, Tate, Lindsey, Annie and Joe Green step forward.”
“From line three, Manual and Laura step forward.”
“Take a good look. There are thirty of you, yet, according to statistics, only the fifteen that stepped forward will graduate from High School.”
It was embarrassing as we stood looking at each other. It was clear that more whites would graduate than blacks and more blacks than Hispanics.
“Of the fifteen High School graduates, how many do you think will graduate from a trade school or University?”
Defiantly we answered: “all of us.”
“Not according to statistics,” Teach said.
“From line one, PJ and Nathan step forward, from line two, Rosa.”
Teach just stood there. Tired of waiting, the students in line three called out, “what about us?” "According to statistics, only 6 percent of Hispanics graduate. I guess we could cut one of you in half and send that to a trade school or University.”
Manuel and Laura stood there looking at each other. When suddenly, as if in a panic, Manuel said: “Not me,” as he mimicked being cut in half.
Our laughter eased the tension.
Teach finally said: “Please, return to your seats.” Teach stood there, waiting for us to settle down. “Out of 30 students, why will only 3 graduate from a trade school or University?”
Sasha, known for her intelligence and good looks, spoke up. “People say it's our fault. We are not smart enough.”
James, the class clown, in a silly voice said: “I'm smart.”
“Yes, James, you are smart. You have a brain just like everyone else. You also have a quick mind and strength. If you had the opportunity, you could be a pilot.”
“Sasha, your inquisitive mind, compassion, and thirst for knowledge could lead you to making new discoveries in medicine and science.”
“Amazing and exciting things await you,” Teach said, “if only you had the opportunity.”
“You will not get the opportunity. Do you know why?” Thomas angrily answered, “It's a lack of money. They have the money and we don't.” Others agreed.
“No! Money has nothing to do with it. Society makes you feel inferior, so you play the part. It’s the easy way out.” “You are NOT INFERIOR and you know it.”
It was one of those occasions when his heart reached out and touched ours. We heard, “You are not inferior,” but felt and thought, “We are not inferior.” Our brain held the thought, for in our hearts we felt the pleasure. “We are not inferior.”
Teach was speaking, his mouth was moving. We heard his tender tones, but not his words. Our minds wouldn’t let his words penetrate. Finally, the word “Inferior!” penetrated. What did Teach mean by that?
In a warm, pleading voice, Teach repeated the words: “Society forces you into a mold that is inferior, and you are helping them. During the days of slavery, Society had to use FORCE to put you into this inferior mold, but today YOU put yourself into the mold.
“Remember, we started this discussion when I said that the POWER of FEAR is what keeps YOU from reaching your full potential. Fear controls you. To prove it, I said there is the part Society plays, and the part you play.”
To illustrate his point, Teach went to the cloak room and returned with an oversized, sloppy jacket. Slowly, Teach pushed his left arm into the sleeve, then his right arm. Then he started walking and talking like a thug on the street.
Teach stopped, then stood there looking at us.
In a strong dramatic voice, he asked: “To dress and act like this, what does it say about you? What image does it create? Is it an image of dignity and self-respect? Or is it an image that tells everyone you are inferior?” Teach removed the jacket and held it up. “Here is the mold. I put myself into the mold. No one forced me. I did it myself. Why?”
“Peer Pressure,” said Sasha. Others agreed.
“What about fear? Does fear play a part?”
We knew it did, but wouldn’t say it. “Do you fear being different? What about being called Whitey or Nerd? Fear forces you into a mold that degrades you? Do you like being degraded?”
Our puzzled looks said, “NO!”
“You are the only one that can control the fear within you. No one else can do it for you. It is your battle.”
“Not far from here, at Fort Pillow, our ancestors proved that within us there is a power that can conquer fear. Do you know what it is?”
No one was willing to answer.
“I know you heard about what happened up on the bluffs at Fort Pillow. They have a Museum there. Have you seen it?”
A sharp cutting voice filled the room with an angry, “No!”
“What about you, James?” James hung his head, “No.”
“Do you mean that none of you have been there? Why?”
Sasha, in a soft tender voice admitted, “We are afraid.”
“What about you Tate?”
In a hard angry tone Tate answered: “Nothing there but lies, hate, and GLORY for the ones that butchered our folks.”
“Do you know why they were tortured, and butchered?”
None of us knew.
“Historians say the people at Fort Pillow were thieves, rapists and drunks. They deserved being killed. Who do you think started the lies? Who initiated them, and why? General Forrest, the person responsible for the murder of the innocent men, women and children at Fort Pillow, is the one that initiated the lies. Do you think this was the first time Forrest called slaves thieves, rapists and drunks?”
“No!” Thomas answered.
“Thomas, you are right. Before the War Forrest, along with his brothers and uncles, hunted, bred and sold slaves. Their slave pens in Memphis, Tennessee, and Jackson and Vicksburg, Mississippi, were the largest in the South.”
“Years before the War Forrest used these lies to justify his brutality against the slaves. Then, later, during the War, he used the same lies to justify his murder of black and white southerners. After the War, he used the same lies to justify the Klan’s criminal activities. It is now more than 130 years later. Do you think the Klan and those who support them have changed their opinion? Do they now admit they were wrong? No! They haven’t changed, have they? Do you want to destroy their Lies?”
Our looks said we were eager for that.
“Let’s destroy them,” Teach said, as he walked to the cabinet and opened one of its drawers. Reaching inside, Teach removed old drawings, maps, and documents and carried them to the table in the front of the room. Carefully he laid them down.
“Thomas and James, come up here.”
Teach pulled from his stack of documents, a large map.
“Thomas, you take this end of the map and James, you take the other end.” They walked the map over to the information board. Then, while Thomas and James held the map in place, Teach used thumbtacks to attach it.
Teach thanked Thomas and James for helping, then told them: “Please return to your seats.” They hurried to their seats.
Teach walked to his desk, rolled out his chair and moved it to the table and sat down. Slowly and carefully he opened the dog-eared documents.
Our minds were attentive and our hearts astir, as we watched him.
Cupping his hands over the documents, he suddenly swung his hands up and out. It was as if he was holding a bird in his hands, and suddenly released it.
“A love stronger than the fear of death is what BURSTS from these documents,” he said.
We felt a surge of emotion.
“Love is what brought people to Fort Pillow. And it is love that united them. Blacks and whites, and coloreds of all shades were working together for the honorable and noble purpose of establishing an Educational Center. General Forrest, with a heart filled with hate and loathing, was determined to crush the love and the educational opportunities love was creating at Fort Pillow. These two forces, love and hate, are the real story behind what happened at Fort Pillow.”
We knew the hate, but this love, this was new and exciting.
“To appreciate the love, and the hate that was determined to destroy it, we have to go back to the year 1856.” Teach said. “The place is Toledo, Ohio.”
“The Board of Education in Toledo, Ohio, decided that the old notions and practices of their educational system had to change. A new system had to be organized and then introduced to the people in a way that would move them to accept the changes willingly and eagerly. The man hired to accomplish this task was John Eaton Jr., a Dartmouth College graduate. His success and recognition for what he accomplished was reflected in the salary they paid him. Do you know how much money Eaton received as Superintendent in 1859? Today it is the coaches that get the big money, but not in 1859. The two teachers paid the highest salary were the music teacher and foreign language teacher. The music teacher received $400 dollars and the foreign language teacher received $450 dollars. How much do you think Superintendent Eaton received?”
Several of us guessed, but none of us were close.
We were amazed.
“What does this tell you about Eaton?”
Thomas answered: “An outstanding organizer is what I think.”
Sasha added: “He must have been considerate and kind for no one wants to cooperate with a know it all.”
“Eaton was indeed that, and much more. During the Civil War Eaton volunteered to serve with the 27th Ohio Infantry. Eaton’s reputation and success as a Superintendent of Education was why General Grant appointed him to the position of Superintendent of Contrabands.” *
[*Contraband is property confiscated during war. Slave owners claimed that the ones freeing the slaves were thieves and that for this reason, their property should be returned. International law did not agree. The law was clear, confiscated property during war does not need to be returned. The ones freeing the slaves were not thieves. To free the slaves, and then protect them as contraband was their legal right.]
“The purpose behind the appointment of Eaton as Superintendent of Contrabands was for him to do in the Contraband Camps what he had accomplished in Toledo, Ohio. In a short time, Eaton turned the Contraband Camps into self-supporting Educational Centers. They were model communities for slaves of all colors. After the War, these Educational Centers were to spring up throughout the South. Thus, in a powerful way, the question of what to do with the slaves and the poor southerners escaping the effects of slavery would be answered.”
“What does this have to do with the lies about what happened at Fort Pillow,” asked Flores.
“Good question, but first, let me tell you a little more about Eaton. Historians buried Eaton, just like they buried the truth about Fort Pillow. Do you know why?”
Thomas answered, “To educate slaves was a crime punished by death.”
From the back of the classroom someone shouted, “Is that why they burn schools?”
“Yes! Even today it is a threat. We know how they dress, don’t we?”
We looked at each other, and nodded in agreement.
“Turning Contraband Camps into self-supporting Educational Centers explains only a small part of their hatred. Eaton had the courage to do what no one else dared to do. He had photographers take pictures of the slaves, and Journalist to record the description Doctors gave in their reports of the wounds they found on the bodies of the slaves.”
I was sitting close to Sasha. Tears were slowly moving down her face. “To take pictures when someone is in pain and suffering sounds horrible,” she said.
In a comforting voice, Teach answered: “It was a wise, necessary, and a good thing Eaton was doing.”
Picking up an old tattered book, Teach said, “This book, American Slavery As It Is: Testimony Of A Thousand Witnesses was published in 1839. The witnesses were slaves. They described who abused them and why. Some were branded. Others had their ears cut, like what is done to identify pigs. The testimony of the slaves, describing the horrible crimes committed against them should have turned people in the South against slavery. But it didn’t. Do you know why?”
Thomas, not waiting to be called on, said: “They didn't care.”
“No! That's not the reason. In the South there was no Public Education. Therefore, if you were white, it’s not likely you could read.”
“What about those who could read, shouldn't they have told others?” asked Thomas.
“Perhaps they would have,” Teach said, “if the book hadn’t been banned. You must keep in mind that in the South there was no Freedom of the Press or Freedom of Speech. But there was hate, fueled by plantation owners who said that the North was publishing 'Lies' and 'Propaganda.’ Their honor, they argued, had been violated. Therefore, to stop the lying propaganda they circulated death warrants. These were posters with the picture of the editor they wanted killed.”
Teach pulled out an old tattered piece of paper from the file. “Here is a picture of Lloyd William Garrison. The Georgia Legislature placed a five-thousand-dollar bounty on his head.”
Teach removed from his file an old book dated 1859. “This book contains eye-witness testimony of what was happening in the South, it’s called, The New Reign of Terror. The New Reign of Terror proves that the Freedoms people fought for in the Revolution of 1776 no longer existed in the South. They say what comes around, goes around. This is a historical truth when it comes to slavery. Like gangrene, the brutality plantation owners used to control slaves quickly turned to their using brutality to control their children, and then the community.”
Teach reached for a document. Pulled it out and said: “On August 27, 1856, Abraham Lincoln gave a speech in Kalamazoo, Michigan, that graphically described how one slaveholder can corrupt an entire community.”
Searching through his documents Teach finds a picture and then holds it up. It is a large picture. “Come up and get a good Look,” Teach said.
Only a few of us got up to get a good look.
From where Sasha sat she could see the picture and was visibly shaken.
Teach described the picture.
“The man is a slave. The disfiguring scars run from the top of his shoulders down to the small of his back. Huge calloused cords of flesh crisscross up and down his back. Surgeons described the cuts and raised ribbons of flesh as being as wide as two fingers and as high as a little finger.”
“Please, return to your seats,” Teach said. We returned to our seats.
“Close your eyes. Can you see the picture? With the power of your mind turn the black man into a white man. It is a white man that has been beaten. It is his flesh that has been ripped apart. Open your eyes. Do you feel the same compassion and pain for the white man that you felt for the black man?”
“I was holding the whip,” James said.
“That's the wrong picture,” Teach bitterly answered.
“You should have the same feelings of compassion for both men. Do you know why?”
“No sir,” James answered.
Picking up the book The New Reign of Terror, Teach turned a few pages, and then stopped. “James Power, a young 23-year-old man from Wexford, Ireland, a stone cutter by trade, was hired by the State of South Carolina to work on the State House. He was stripped and beaten, just like you see in this picture. Why? What crime did he commit? His crime was the innocent words he spoke to a fellow worker. He meant no malice, it was just an observation. ‘Slavery,’ he said, ‘caused a white laborer in the South to be looked upon as an inferior and degraded man.’ You heard the saying, ‘Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.’ That’s not true. Words can hurt you and James found that out the hard way. Someone reported what James had said, and he was arrested. To teach James the difference between a slave and a man, he was kept in jail and fed like a slave. Though never formally charged, crowds gathered, hollering: 'Brand him!' 'Burn him' 'Spike him to death!' The police had James dragged from the prison and pulled through muddy puddles of the street. Among those looking on and laughing was South Carolina’s Speaker of the House, James Simons. Pistols were pointed at James head and sticks were swung at his face. He was stripped and ordered whipped. Thirty-nine lashes with the whip. His flesh was ripped apart and blood flowed with every stroke. Shouldn't we have compassion,” Teach said, “for white people that suffered like James did?”
Sasha was the first to react. “We have hearts. We can feel his pain, his shame, and his humiliation.”
Teach pulled from his file of documents a picture of the State Capital in Columbia, South Carolina. “James Power cuts the stone for the first sixty-six feet of South Carolina’s State House. When he finished, instead of paying him, they falsely accused him, stripped him of his dignity and physically degraded him with starvation, beatings and insulting words.”
Teach, while holding the picture so that everyone can see it, explained: “This picture of the South Carolina State House represents the perversity in what one thinks they are and what they really are."
“On November 27, 1854, South Carolina Governor John L. Manning recommended that the General Assembly accept Major John Rudolph Niernsee’s design of a new State Capitol in the Roman Corinthian style, in granite and marble. It would have 64 granite capitals. In beauty and design, it would be greater than anything in France or Italy.”
Teach selected another document from his file.
“This is a biography of John Rudolph Niernsee. Niernsee was born in Vienna, Austria in 1814 and educated in architecture and engineering at the University of Prague. He immigrated to the United States and was employed by the Baltimore Railroad as a surveyor in the South. Niernsee left the railroad to join the architecture firm of Benjamin Latrobe. He married Emily Braedenburgh of Baltimore and settled in the City. In 1848 Niernsee formed a partnership with James Crawford Nielson. Their architecture firm produced several significant Baltimore residences, churches, and businesses, including the Thomas-Jencks House and the Walters’ homes on Mt. Vernon Place, the Grace and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church and the Morris Building. Niernsee, one of the most important architects of nineteenth century buildings, had designs that dominated the area surrounding the Washington Monument. His most famous structures are now owned by the Walters Art Museum. He was working on the Smithsonian Building in Washington, D.C., when hired to design South Carolina’s State House. Niernsee moved his family to Columbia in 1856. By 1860 the structure had risen nearly sixty-six feet above the foot of the foundation. The reason I’m telling you this,” Teach said, “is two-fold. First, it helps confirm that James Power was working on the project. And, second, it proves that a noble building is no sign that the ones responsible for it are noble. Do you see the contrast, and the hypocrisy?”
Teach waited for us to answer.
James was the first to speak up. “They want us to think that a noble building means they are noble.”
George was the next to speak. “James Power was someone they knew, someone whose talents were making their dreams come true, yet, here they are laughing at his being stripped, dragged through muddy puddles, and whipped. How can they claim to be a noble race when they take delight in hearing their people, hollering: 'Brand him!' 'Burn him!' 'Spike him to death!'”
Others spoke up, saying similar things. They saw the hypocrisy.
Teach was pleased. We understood, and he was happy about that.
Teach went to one of the cabinets, opened it and pulled out what looked like a manuscript. We were right, it was a manuscript. Teach walked back to the front of his desk, turned, and held it up for all of us to see.
“This is a book I am writing. I call it The Secret behind the Mystery. In the book you will learn more about James Power. Being a recent arrival from Ireland, James Power did not know what he was getting himself into when he accepted a work contract in South Carolina. But Eaton, he knew full well the risk he was taking. To crush slavery Eaton knew he had to expose the ones responsible for the brutality. That's why he had slaves photographed, had Doctors describe their wounds, and journalists to record what had been done to them, and by whom. With this evidence the ugly truth of what plantation owners had done to the slaves would, like wild fire, spread throughout the world. Jefferson Davis would be no exception. He, too, would be exposed.”
Teach held up a document.
“This document is a report from Colonel Eaton to General Thomas, Adjutant General of the United States Army. Eaton wrote he had evidence that proves Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America, kept as his mistress the daughter of his brother, Joe Davis.”
From the back of the room James yelled: “And they say we are animals!”
Instantly, as if in unison, we left our desks.
Crowding around Teach, we took a good look at the document. Teach had pictures of Jefferson Davis's Plantation, his slave quarters, and his slaves.
“There is more if you want to hear it.”
We hurried back to our seats.
“After the war General Grant appointed Eaton the United States Commissioner of Education. He served as Commissioner for some 16 years. It's an injustice that few are taught anything about him. They should. Eaton is the one that prevented Congress from eliminating the Bureau of Education. NOW, do you know why we had to talk about Eaton?”
Not sure what to say, we waited for Teach to continue.
Teach got up and moved to the map attached to the information board. “Everyone come up here. I want you to get a good look at the location they chose for the Fort Pillow Educational Center.”
Teach pointed to locations on the map and explained how vast and beautiful the area was.
“A sand bar extending from the west shore of the Mississippi River forced the river into what was called the neck of the bottle. It was a very narrow, deep, and swift area. The rushing water ran along the face of a bluff that rose upwards 250 feet. From the air the bluff looks like a giant thumb pushing its way up out of the ground. The ravine behind the bluff is where the colonial homes and businesses once stood. The area was so large that it could easily engulf an average county seat town. Evidence of the Educational Center, towns and beautiful valleys were destroyed by the damming of spring fed rivers that flow through the area. It's just as well you did not go to the Museum. They call the Museum an Interpretive Center. It's an appropriate name for something that twists and distorts the truth. Instead of showing you where the towns, waterfront docks and the Educational Center once stood, the Interpretive Center shows you a small isolated area, called the fort. The truth is there was nothing small about the area. It was huge.”
Teach returned to the table, sat down and waited for us to return to our seats.
After we settled down, Teach pulled from his pile of documents a local newspaper clipping. “In September of 1908 thirty acres of land in one huge mass caved into the Mississippi. The river had been very low. As a result, the current, like a knife, sliced under the bluff causing it to crash into the Mississippi. The rending and groaning of its crash was heard for miles.”
Teach looked at us. Then in a soft tender voice, asked: “Why do people, who know better, make no mention of the Educational Center at Fort Pillow? For example, there is the Librarian at the Nashville Public Library. When asked about the contraband camp at Fort Pillow, she became defensive. What she said and how she said it, made it clear that a raw nerve had been touched. Something else that was unusual was the court records. If it had occurred in one or two places, it wouldn´t have stood out. But in town after town, there were missing pages. It was clear evidence that someone deliberately removed the pages. If it were not for their arrogance and boastful pride no one would know who did it. The Sons of the Confederacy in one of their speeches, boastfully said, they destroyed the evidence.”
Teach removed from his pile of documents, a folder and held it up. His voice quivered with excitement: “They didn't get everything.”
We felt his excitement.
As he held up the documents, Teach said: “Here is proof that a Contraband Camp existed at Fort Pillow. In 1863 and 1864 people that fled to these Educational Centers were fed and given clothes to wear. Doctors examined them; then made a written report. Pictures were taken, and when convenient, a journalist interviewed them. What is your name? Where were you born? Who owned you? Who abused you? Why? Where is your family? What happened to them? What is your trade? What skills do you have? If able to work, they received a job and were paid a fair wage. Their streets had signs, and their houses numbers. It was a group effort. Working together they built houses, not log cabins. Logs were split, shingles were made, and suddenly they had a beautiful modern home, better than what most southerners had. The land around each home was large enough for each family to plant a garden. How would you feel if you were given a home with land large enough to plant gardens, flowers, and fruit trees?”
Sasha gave a heartfelt answer explaining how she felt. Other students likewise spoke up.
It made me feel good to hear what they were saying.
Teach continued: “In addition to building their own home, they built schools, commissaries, hospitals and offices. Hope is a powerful force, and it was moving them to do wonderful things. Not all slaves were black. Many were mulattoes and white. Yet, here they were working together for the common good of the community. To keep their homes and village clean they organized garbage pickup. They had pride in what they had accomplished, and wanted to keep things clean. After witnessing for themselves their achievements, people were moved to write: 'It is 'the most thoroughly systematized, cleanest, & most healthy . . . independent community . . . I have seen.’ Who do you think paid for this, the Government?”
“If they didn't,” Thomas said, “they should have.”
What Thomas said sounded good until Teach asked him: “Is your personal dignity excited by what others give you, or by what you accomplish?”
Michelle, a shy, small girl, spoke up. “When I was little I made my own dolls. They are my favorites.”
The expression “when I was little” made us laugh. It was not in ridicule. It was just funny, because Michelle still is little. It made Teach laugh too.
After we calmed down, Teach explained: “The Government promised to help, but never did. Refusing to wait for the Government to do what it promised, Eaton wrote to his friends in the North. He asked for clothing, seeds, stock and tools. The slaves were skilled workers. Among them were cooks, seamstresses, laundresses, teamsters, blacksmiths and carpenters. What they needed were the tools and materials to work with. Though donations were welcome, Eaton said, the slaves would pay for the materials from their future earnings. Within the guidelines of his appointment Eaton had the legal right to take abandoned and confiscated land and use them for large scale cooperative farming.
"From the harvest of 1863, cooperative farming paid their debts and was giving them profits of $4,000 to $5,000 dollars a month. Due to their own industriousness, the slaves were becoming wealthy.
"To help new arrivals escaping slavery, they created a welfare system. It was their own money that created the system, and they were proud of it.
“News of these self-sufficient communities spread quickly. Slaves from as far away as Georgia heard what was happening, and fled their masters. Heading north now meant fleeing to the Educational Centers in Corinth, Mississippi and in West Tennessee. The Educational Centers in the South, not the North, was their hope.
“Slave owners destroyed families. Eaton strengthened them.”
Teach pulled out another document. “Frederick Douglas and Fedric Francis wrote that ‘a slave possessing nothing, and rarely hoping to possess anything, except wife and children, has all his affections concentrated upon them.' The brutality made the slave cling close to his family. Men never, if possible, allow their wives to carry the young ones, but are always delighted to have them in their arms . . . Often, when torn from them, the intensity of his suffering causes him to pine away and die.”
Teach had to stop reading. His voice was choked with emotion, and he couldn’t continue.
After regaining his composure, Teach explained: “When I was a baby, my father left us. I never knew the love of a father, and it still hurts.”
We felt his pain, for we too wanted our fathers to love us with the same intensity that fathers, held as slaves, loved their children.
Teach regained control of his voice, and continued.
“Slave owners complained, saying that thieves raided their plantations. What they fail to tell is that the raiders were looking for their wife and children. To the slave owner they were thieves stealing property, but to the wife and children of the slave, their husband was their savior.
“To provide teachers for the slaves, Eaton wrote to his friends in the North. The teachers that responded were those who for years had been saying that the only difference between the slaves and the rest of Society was their lack of education and opportunity. Therefore, with zeal and enthusiasm they headed south.”
Teach picked up a document. Then asked: “how long did it take you to learn how to read and write?”
Realizing he wasn’t going to get an answer, Teach asked: “Do you know anyone who graduated from High School and does not know how to read?”
“My brother,” answered Sasha. We laughed. We knew Sasha’s brother. He had a good job, but couldn’t read or write.
Our laughing eased the tension. This moved others to mention ones they knew.
James was the last one to speak up. He said, “Tiny, is the best football player in the State. I know he can’t read.”
“Do you know,” Teach asked, “how long it took slaves to learn how to read?”
“In 1863, whether young or old, male or female, it took about three weeks.
“Do you know why they learned so quickly?”
We didn’t, so we waited for Teach to tell us.
Teach reached for another document.
Reading from the document, Teach said: “'You . . . find them every hour of daylight, at their books . . . we cannot enter a cabin, or tent, but that we see from one to three with books.’”
Teach laid the document down. His eyes and voice conveyed to us a feeling that was deep and intense. “In the evenings, do you watch TV, play sports, or study?"
Rarely do we study, and Teach knew it.
Teach picked up another document. “‘It's late at night. The fire in the fireplace is about to go out. With book in hand, a young boy is seen moving to where the pine chips are still giving some light. He opens his book, and continues to read.’ They kept their books with them and whenever possible, they studied.”
Teach looked at us and said: “Their eagerness to learn quickly turned into a love. Do you love reading? They did.”
Turning back to the document, Teach read: “‘From out of their own money, each Company of colored soldiers paid to have a teacher travel with them.’”
Teach laid the document down and picked up another.
“Women likewise were eager to learn. This report states: ‘Within just a few months more than 1,000 women had learned to read.’”
“Do you know why they took learning to read, so seriously?”
Without waiting for an answer, Teach said, “It meant life to them.”
“Thomas,” Teach said, “How would you feel if your boss told you that he was going to pay you 20 dollars more per day? In addition to this, if, by the end of the month you reach the quota he has set for you, he will give you a bonus of a 1,000 dollars. To prove you can trust him, he writes it down in a book.
“In your excitement, you work harder than you have ever worked. At the end of the day your body aches. Though tired and exhausted, you lay awake calcu-lating how much you have earned. Finally, while thinking about what you are going to buy, you fall asleep.
“You worked every day for thirty days. At 20 dollars a day, that is an extra 600 dollars. You reached your quota, and that is another 1,000 dollars. It is payday. Each week you received your normal pay, but today HOW MUCH will you receive?”
Thomas answered, “My normal pay, plus 1600 dollars.”
“Instead of giving you 1600 dollars, your boss gives you $160. Are you happy? Will this satisfy you?”
“I'd grab the man and demand my money.”
“If Thomas grabbed the man, or in any other way attacked him, what will happen?”
From the back of the room, James hollered, “The police will throw him in jail.”
“What about the note,” someone yelled. “Wouldn’t that prove that Thomas was cheated?” Spontaneously, others in the class said: “The paper.” “That’s what he needs.” “That’ll show……. .”
Teach, agreed. “What’s on the paper will prove what Thomas should be paid.
“The police are called. When they arrive, they look at the book and ask: ‘Thomas, is this your signature?’ “Yes Sir!” ‘And you say your boss owes you 1600 dollars.’ “Yes Sir!” ‘That’s not what’s in the book.’ The police show Thomas the book: ‘Five dollars a day and a ten-dollar bonus. Isn’t that what he paid you?’
“Thomas saw his boss write out the letters. But because he didn’t know how to read, it cost Thomas a lot of money.
“How many times do you think this has to happen before it dawns on Thomas that he has to learn how to read?
“Does this help you understand why the desire to read quickly turned into a love?”
Teach picked up another document. “Due to their own industriousness, the slaves were making thou-sands of dollars. Listen to this 1863 report. In the 100 acres they had for vegetables, they planted 29,000 sets of sweet potatoes, 10,000 sets of tomatoes, 10,000 cabbages, 1,000 hills of cucumbers, 20 acres of sweet corn, 6 acres of onion sets, 6 acres of beets, cress, radishes and lettuce, 5 acres of Irish potatoes, 5 acres of beans and 3 plus acres of peas.’ For a cash crop, they planted 400 acres of cotton.”
Teach laid the document down, and looked at us.
“What they achieved must have given them a sense of belonging, and hope. Can you see their happiness? Can you feel their excitement, their hope?”
We were emotionally charged. We saw their happiness. We felt their excitement, their hope.
Teach allowed us to enjoy the moment. Then told us: “What they had accomplished needed to be protected. And they were ready for that too. Eaton, with the help of General Dodge, equipped a thousand men of African descent, with guns and artillery pieces. He also established a long line of outposts to guard the area.
“The records of the Educational Center at Fort Pillow were destroyed, but not the records at Corinth, Mississippi. Researcher Cam Walker found the records and from these we get an idea of what the Educational Center being built at Fort Pillow was like.
“In many respects Fort Pillow was superior to Corinth. The location was better, as was the history of the area. But, before telling you more about Fort Pillow, something horrible with the worst of consequences occurred in Corinth.
“In December of 1863, when comfortable and warm in their new homes, with nothing but joy and happiness to look forward to, General William T. Sherman orders their evacuation and the burning of their town. It is a cold, cruel, and heartless order.”
“Had Sherman gone mad?” Teach shouted.
“Thirty-six hours! In thirty-six hours they were to be loaded onto trains and shipped like cargo to Memphis. That some of them would freeze to death did not concern General Sherman. Nor did it concern General Sherman that it was their homes and their community, paid by the hard work of their own hands.”
In a choked voice, Teach said: “I can feel their tears, the ache in their hearts, the disappointment, the hopelessness, and the anger. In Memphis there were no schools, no homes, only old useless tents. With the loss of hope, and filled with despair, there was nothing left but the slums of Memphis.”
Sasha had tears running down her cheeks. Others, too, had tears in their eyes. But the boys had hard bitter looks.
Teach, in a pleading voice, asked: “Why did General Sherman order the burning of the town? Why? What reason did he have for burning their homes?”
Teach got up, walked to a cabinet and opened a drawer. We watched as he carefully pulled out a set of documents. When he held them up for us to see, a cold eerie feeling came over us. It was The EYE at the top of a Pyramid that gave us this eerie feeling.
“These set of documents,” Teach said, “identify a Secret Society that was manipulating Generals in the North and the South. Where did General Sherman get his orders to remove civilians from their homes, and then burn their homes? It wasn't from General Grant. There are those who say that General Sherman was a member of the same Secret Society that General Nathan Bedford Forrest belonged to. Whether General Sherman was a member of the Secret Society or not does not concern me. What does concern me is what he did. No one can refute that. It was Sherman that ordered the abandonment of Corinth, and it was Sherman that ordered the burning of the town, thereby, opening up a corridor for General Forrest to enter West Tennessee.
“First, Sherman opens a corridor for Forrest to enter West Tennessee. Then he sends home on furlough the hardened soldiers that had pushed the Confederate Army out of West Tennessee. With the Calvary out of the way, Sherman, against the objections of the commanding officer at Fort Pillow, orders that the military post at Fort Pillow be abandon.
“Every post between Corinth, Mississippi, and Paducah, Kentucky, were under manned. Confident that there was no one to oppose him, Forrest took his Calvary north into West Tennessee and Southwest Kentucky.
“Did Sherman’s ruthless burning of the Educational Center at Corinth, Mississippi, crush the spirit of the slaves? No! Hope remained in what was happening at Fort Pillow, Tennessee.
“Without General Sherman’s knowledge a Volunteer Cavalry of southerners that had been operating as a Home Guard freeing slaves, moved its headquarters to Fort Pillow.”
“George,” Teach said: “your great-uncles rode in this cavalry. They were a disciplined, organized group of southerners and slaves that had bonded, conquering their prejudices.
“The men elected Attorney William F. Bradford to serve as their Colonel and his brother Theodoric F. Bradford Jr., also an Attorney, to serve as their Captain.
“In an attempt to discredit Bradford, there is a claim that he was demoted from Colonel to Major. This is not true. Bradford was a Colonel of his Home Guards. Authorities convinced him to enlist his Calvary into the Union Army. Because he did not have enough men to fill a regiment, he had to accept a commission in the U.S. Calvary as a Major. When he filled the regiment, he would once again be a Colonel.
“When Major Bradford heard that General Sherman had ordered the troops at Fort Pillow to abandon the post, he acted quickly. He knew the lay of the land, recognized its strategic importance, and the need to protect the Educational Center.
“The Bradford’s were born in Bedford County. Their mother was Lucy Green Martin and their father Senator Theodorick F. Bradford Sr. Between 1821 and 1833 their father served four terms in the Tennessee State Senate. He was a Colonel in the State Militia, an Editor and publisher of the Shelbyville Herald, a Manufacturer, Banker and an Attorney. As Senator, he chaired committees responsible for building the road systems in Tennessee. Court records also prove that he was a generous man, and that he used his money to support the building of schools for women. Sam Houston was Governor when Bradford served as Senator. Imagine the impact Houston and men like Davey Crockett and James Bowie had on the boys. William F. Bradford was 12 years old when his father died and his brother Theodoric Jr. was 19.”
Teach paused, looked around the room, and then asked: “With this historic background, why does our educational system fail to teach us the truth about William F. Bradford and his brother Theodoric Jr.? Instead of the truth, all we get in text books is that the Bradford’s were odious dirty thieves that deserved to be killed. Where does that description come from?”
In unison, we said: “Forrest.”
“It’s amazing when you think about it,” Teach said. “On the one hand we have men like the Bradford’s, and on the other hand the word of one of the most despised, vile, and despicable humans that ever lived. And, yet, who do most historians and scholars honor, Bradford or Forrest?”
We knew the answer to that question.
“The Educational Center being built at Fort Pillow, Tennessee, was a better place than Corinth, Mississippi.
“There are three basic reasons why Fort Pillow was a better place, than Corinth, Mississippi.
“One: The landowners of Fort Pillow were powerful influential families in the North. General Sherman could not order the Educational Center at Fort Pillow to be burned like he did at Corinth, Mississippi.”
Teach removed a handwritten document from his file.
“This document,” Teach explained, “was written by Howard Hunt, a surveyor of West Tennessee. Howard’s grandfather, Memucan Hunt had entered into a partnership with Thomas Polk, James Galloway and Jesse Benton, the father of Colonel Thomas Hart Benton, to send a surveyor into Indian Territory. Land grants were divided into 5,000 acre sections. The surveyor for the partnership surveyed 140,000 acres. At the time of the survey, the land belonged to the Indians. Believing it was their Divine Right to take the land, the Indians were forced to leave. With the Indians gone, surveyors returned to locate the land warrants and legally register them. To locate and register their land warrants, Howard’s Uncle, Doctor Thomas Hunt, formed a partnership with Samuel Dickens. Howard was hired as their surveyor and in March of 1820 he was sent into West Tennessee.”
Reaching into his file Teach pulled out a map.
“Come up here, I want you to get a good look at this map.”
“On the West is the Mighty Mississippi, to the North Coal Creek and to the South, Randolph. This, and the surrounding land, Jesse Benton purchased for his family. As time passed portions of the land were sold off, but not the best pieces, they were kept for the family.
“Captain Stephen Childress married Jesse Benton’s sister and started a plantation on the south side of the Hatiche River near Randolph, Tennessee. On the north side of the Hatiche River, near Coal Creek, the Benton’s owned a plantation. In 1864 Edward Benton was out to prove that you can free the slaves, pay them a good wage, and still make a profit. The children and grandchildren of the Childress’s and the Benton’s were strong anti-slavery men and women. Jesse’s son, Thomas Hart Benton served 5 terms as a United States Senator. His granddaughter, Jesse Benton married explorer John C. Fremont. In 1864 Fremont carried the rank of General and was a Presidential candidate for the Republican Party. Fremont and his wife were vehemently opposed to slavery. With members of the Childress and Benton families at Fort Pillow, it was impossible for General Sherman to destroy the Educational Center being built there.”
“George,” Teach said, “you will like this fact. The Childress rode with Major Bradford. While up here,” Teach said, “let me show you the location of the Educational Center being built at Fort Pillow.”
Teach pulled from his file a map that clearly marked the location of the Educational Center.
We were amazed. It was a beautiful place.
After getting a good look, Teach asked us to return to our seats. Eager to hear what was next, we quickly settled down.
“Why is Fort Pillow a better place?” Teach asked.
Thomas answered, “Sherman didn’t dare burn it down.” Teach said: “That’s one reason why Fort Pillow was a better place.”
“The second reason why Fort Pillow was a better place is because it was safer, and easy to protect.”
“The Chickasaw Indians knew that the Fort Pillow bluff´s (originally called the Chickasaw Bluffs) was the only place on the Mississippi River where the river was pinched into a narrow passage. Here the currents forced the boats to the edge of the bluffs. From the bluffs above, the Indians were close enough to rain down arrows and stop the traffic flowing down the river and traffic moving up the river. In 1723 in a fight against the French the Indians used the location to block travel on the Mississippi. Historians report that the blockade literally cut New France in two, putting a halt to all trade and communication between Canada and Louisiana. In 1753 the location was used to defeat two French Commanders that tried to run the blockade. In the attack Boussdet and de la Morliere were killed. Later, explorers and fur traders used the area as a supply depot. They built a small fort and called it Fort Prudhomme. If you were to visit the area today, you can find Prudhomme Drive. The drive is south of the bluffs and runs north up into the hills.
“The Confederate Army did more than anyone else to make the area safe and easy to protect. In 1861 General Gideon J. Pillow turned the bluffs into a fortress designed to hold 200 artillery pieces and 20,000 men.
“To the rear, an outer embankment encircled the Fort for some seven and a half miles. At a point where Coal Creek and the Hatchie River is only a mile apart two light batteries of artillery were to be entrenched and two companies of Cavalry encamped.
“Can you imagine,” Teach said, “the effect this had on the area? The waterfront shops and businesses must have experienced a sudden boom. The town nestled among the hills of the bluffs likewise would have experienced a sudden expansion.
“In the spring of 1862 Brigadier-General John B. Villipique constructed a shorter line of defense. He cleared an open field that extended out from the fort for a mile. At the outer limits of the mile, he piled the trees he had cut, crosswise, forming a barrier encircling the Fort, that could not be breached by horses. To attack the Fort from the rear one would have to leave their horse, climb over the barrier and then cross an area a mile wide, where artillery fire from the Fort and gunboats can fire on you.
“To ensure delivery of supplies, General Villepique constructed a 30-foot wide military road. From the waterfront docks, the road winds its way up between two bluffs, and then splits. The north branch leads up to a summit, crosses the summit and then moves to another summit and ends there. Immediately in front of the summits are ravines 15 to 20 feet deep. Out beyond the ravines, there are open fields, and across the fields lower ridges. The east branch of the road passed through the town, and then turned south following a spring fed creek. Before reaching the Hatchie River the road turns east. At Bradford’s landing a flat-boat waits to carry men and wagons across the Hatchie River. The road continues southeast until it reaches Mason’s Depot for the Mobile and Ohio railroad.
“In June of 1862 Confederate gunboats at Fort Pillow ran out of coal. This forced General Villepique to quickly abandon Fort Pillow, leaving behind camp equipment, commissary stores and artillery pieces.”
Teach returned to the table and sat down. “It’s amazing,” Teach said, “when you compare documents. General Pillow’s and General Villepique’s description of the fortifications at Fort Pillow is remarkably different from the description General Forrest gave.”
Holding up his manuscript, The Secret behind the Mystery, Teach explained: “The book I am writing describes what really happened when Forrest attacked Fort Pillow. I’ve written it so ones your age can read it. Do you know why?” We didn’t know.
Teach waited for an answer.
“I’ll tell you why,” Teach said.
“Do you think the historians and professors who wrote books defending General Forrest will admit they were wrong? Not likely, is it? It takes a humble person to admit they are wrong. Who today does that? You catch them lying and what do they do? They shout and holler. Attack, attack, attack, is what they do. Do you know why? They do not want you to think. When you examine the facts and think about them the truth is clear and simple to see. But who can think when someone is hollering at you? Since it is not likely teachers and educators will admit they are wrong, who do you think should defend the truth?”
This was a difficult question for us to answer. I thought “we should,” but didn’t say it.
Teach stood waiting for us to answer. When it became clear that no one was going to say anything, Teach said: “The documents in the book and the picture they paint will give the reader power. Now, I asked myself, who should I give this power to? Should I give it to people who will bury the truth or to people who will defend the truth? Remembering my own youth, I thought of YOU.”
“When I was your age, how I felt was strong. It gave me courage, moving me to act when I saw an injustice. Are YOU like that?” Teach asked.
The entire class answered: “YES!”
We were fired with excitement.
“Your answer,” Teach said, “explains why I want to place this power in your hands.”
Teach waited until we were quiet, and then asked: “With courage, will you defend the truth?”
Again we hollered, “YES!”
Teach, with a smile on his face, stood soaking in, with pleasure, the feelings of the moment. Finally, Teach said: “Calm down, I have more to tell you.”
“Fort Pillow’s natural beauty and spring fed streams is the third reason why Fort Pillow was a better place. Explorer Louis Jolliet described the area as full of spring fed creeks and rivers; filled with trout, catfish, drum and perch of enormous size. Bear, panther, buffalo, elk, and deer freely roamed the area. He also mentioned the discovery of pit coal. Cold creek in 1864 was called Coal Creek."
“As a side note,” Teach said, “I want to share a few mysteries that emerged in the life of Jolliet when he traveled to the Bluffs, now known as Fort Pillow.”
“At the age of 11 Jolliet entered the college of the Jesuits in Quebec, Canada. Nine years later, in the census of 1666 he was listed as a cleric. It is here that a mystery begins. Bishop Laval gave Jolliet money to travel to France. When he returned, he had enough money to buy large stocks of goods for fur-trading. Then, in the autumn of 1668 to the summer of 1670 he disappeared. Whatever his mission, it involved a letter he delivered in December of 1672 to Jacques Marquette from Claude Dablon, the superior of the Jesuits in New France. With Marquette’s help as interpreter, Jolliet spent the next year at the Saint-Ignace mission interrogating the Indians about the Mississippi and the peoples along its banks. In 1673 Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette headed for the Mississippi. They found the river and followed it downriver to the bluffs later known as Fort Pillow. No longer understanding the languages of the Indians and fearing an encounter with Spain, who controlled the lower regions of the Mississippi, they turned around and headed north. Jolliet spent a year at Sainte-Marie falls making copies of his log-book and the map he had drawn. He said he left copies with the Jesuits, but these it is claimed were lost during a fire. With his personal papers, his log and his map, Jolliet headed back to Quebec. In what he claims to have been the capsizing of his canoe, everything is lost, including two Frenchmen and two Illinois slaves that went down the Mississippi with him.
“It is believed by some that Jolliet represented the economic and political arms of a secret order of Jesuits and that Marquette represented the religious arm, and that the disappearance of witnesses and records were more than an unfortunate happening. The fire and so-called miraculous survival of Jolliet would be a perfect cover if you wanted to hide from the authorities what you were doing. Perhaps, someone will eventually do the research and write a book to uncover the secret activities of the Jesuits.”
“Enough about that,” Teach said.
“Let’s review the three reasons why Fort Pillow was a better place for an Educational Center than Corinth, Mississippi. Who can tell me the first reason?”
James answered: “General Sherman didn’t dare order it destroyed.”
“Who can tell me the second reason?”
Thomas answered: “It was safer and easily defended.”
“Who can tell me the third reason?”
Sasha answered: “Its natural beauty made it a better place.”
Teach praised us. He was happy we understood.
It was more than our being able to understand that pleased him. It was our hearts, he said. This is what gave him pleasure for it proved to him that we really cared.
Teach, then spent time urging us to never lose our sense of justice and the courage it takes to speak up in defense of the truth.
Listening to Teach talk about these things forged a bond of love that has remained with me for more than 10 years now.
It was time for lunch. During lunch, all we could talk about was the documents Teach had shown us. Our school was a private school where Teach could spend as much time as he wanted on any given subject. For this reason, we were eager to get back to his class.
When we returned, Teach showed us a list of his research sites. He explained that famous people donated their private libraries to Universities. The Universities catalog the books, but do not read them. Many, he said, showed signs of having never been read. Not knowing the treasures, they contained, some Universities sold them as old worthless books. Others locked them up in storage. If you did not know what was in them, how could you ask to see them? With a smile on his face, Teach said: “Their neglect was my gain.”
“The people working at the National Archives in Washington D.C. and the U.S. Military History Insti-ute in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, are to be commended as are those at the Tennessee State Library and Archives in Nashville, Tennessee. The University of Florida in Gainesville Florida has a large collection of books. Many are now in storage. If you know what to look for, you can ask for them. I also visited and examined the local court records in Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois and Arkansas. And several times I was up among the hills and bluffs of Fort Pillow.”
Teach gave us a copy of the field trips and research sites he visited.
When I received my copy, I asked: “How long did it take you to do the research?”
Teach answered: “Some 15 years. Though, with the passing of each year, I continue to find documents, adding new pieces to the puzzle.”
Thomas spoke up: “What started you on the quest?”
“A great-grandmother,” Teach said, “that lived to be 118. She was born in 1841 and died in 1959. She was a household slave and proud of it. Another member of the family served as a valet to General Green. General Green served in the Confederate Calvary under the command of General Nathan Bedford Forrest. There are those who publicly say that General Forrest is not the First Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, but privately, in literature produced by the Klan they say he is. Judge Green´s plantation is located on the south side of the Hatchie River in Tipton County. Lauderdale is on the north side of the river. If you leave Judge Green´s plantation, cross the Hatchie and head northwest into Lauderdale County for about 5 miles, you come to a dead end. Blocking your path is the mighty Mississippi River. Here among the valleys and natural springs stood the town of Fort Pillow, waterfront docks, country homes, a fort and an Educational Center. What this great-grandmother and family kept as a secret had the ring of truth, was uncorrupted by politics, and came from eyewitness. Could it be proved? Wanting the answer to that question is what started me on what you call; a quest.”
“Locating documents is the first step, and then comes the difficult part.”
“The documents have to be lined up in chronological order. The process is similar to what happens when you line up the tumblers of a lock. If the tumblers line up correctly, the lock opens. In like manner, when documents are lined up correctly a door opens and you see the truth. The process is also like putting a puzzle together. The right pieces have to be found and attached. The difficult pieces of the puzzle took years to find, but when found and attached to other pieces, a picture emerged. An artist uses paint to describe not only a picture, but more importantly the emotions and passions that surge deep within. In a similar way documents can paint a picture and reveal emotions. Like hate and its weaknesses, and love and its strengths.”
We wanted Teach to tell us more but he was reluctant. In reflecting back on the occasion I am convinced that Teach recognized that our wounded hearts were open, and we were eager for the truth, so he yielded.
“Before telling you what is in the book,” Teach said.
“You need to understand the Characters.”