James Henry Nelson

Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden

Person interviewed: James Henry Nelson

1103 Orange, Pine Bluff, Arkansas

Age: 82

Occupation: Gardener

"I member all about the war--why of cose. I saddled many a cavalry hoss.

I tell you how I know how old I am. Old master, Henry Stanley of Athens,

Alabama, moved to Palaski, Tennessee and left me with young mistress to

take care of things. One day we was drivin' up some stock and I said,

'Miss Nannie, how old is you?' And she said, 'I'm seventeen.' I was old

enough to have the knowledge she would know how old I was and I said,

'How old am I?' And she said, 'You is seven years old.' That was durin'

the war.

"I remember the soldiers comin' and stoppin' at our building--Yankees

and Southern soldiers, too. They fit all around our plantation.

"The Yankees taken me when I was a little fellow. About two years after

the war started, young Marse Henry went to war and took a colored man

with him but he ran away--he wouldn't stay with the Rebel army. So young

Marse Henry took me. I reckon I was bout ten. I know I was big enough to

saddle a cavalry hoss. We carried three horses--his hoss, my hoss and a

pack hoss. You know chillun them days, they made em do a man's work. I

studied bout my mother durin' the war, so they let me go home.

"One day I went to mill. They didn't low the chillun to lay around, and

while I was at the mill a Yankee soldier ridin' a white hoss captured me

and took me to Pulaski, Tennessee and then I was in the Yankee army. I

wasn't no size and I don't think he would a took me if it hadn't been

for the hoss.

"We come back to Athens and the Rebels captured the whole army. Colonel

Camp was in charge and General Forrest captured us and I was carried

south. We was marchin' along the line and a Rebel soldier said, 'Don't

you want to go home and stay with my wife?' And so I went there, to

Millville, Alabama. Then he bound me to a friend of his and I stayed

there till the war bout ended. I was getting along very well but a older

boy 'suaded me to run away to Decatur, Alabama.

"Oh I seen lots of the war. Bof sides was good to me. I've seen many a

scout. The captain would say 'By G----, close the ranks.' Captains is

right crabbed. I stayed back with the hosses.

"After the war I worked about for this one and that one. Some paid me

and some didn't.

"I can remember back to Breckenridge; and I can remember hearin' em say

'Hurrah for Buchanan!' I'm just tellin' you to show how fur back I can

remember. I used to have a book with a picture of Abraham Lincoln with

an axe on his shoulder and a picture of that log cabin, but somebody

stole my book.

"I worked for whoever would take me--I had no mother then. If I had had

parents to make me go to school, but I got along very well. The white

folks taught me not to have no bad talk. They's all dead now and if they

wasn't I'd be with them.

"I'm a natural born farmer--that's all I know. The big overflow drownded

me out and my wife died with pellagra in '87. She was a good woman and

nice to white folks. I'm just a bachin' here now. I did stay with my

daughter but she is mean to me, so I just picked up my rags and moved

into this room where I can live in peace. I'm a christian man, and I

can't live right with her. When colored folks is mean, they's meaner

than white folks.

"I'm gettin' along very well now. I been with white folks all my

day--and it's hard for me to get along with my folks.

"In one way the world is crueler than they used to be. They don't

appreciate things like they used to. They have no feelin's and don't

care nothin' bout the olden people.

"Well, good-bye, I'm proud of you."

James Hayes James Henry Stith facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail