Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Book Review 361: A Black Woman's Civil War Memoirs


A BLACK  WOMAN’S CIVIL WAR MEMOIRS, by Susie King Taylor. 154 pages, illustrated. Markus Weiner paperback, $9.95

Susie King Taylor was a woman when she wrote these memoirs in 1902, but a girl during the Civil War – just 14 when the Yankee army occupied the Sea Islands and she crossed their lines.

She did a woman’s work, though. Officially a laundress, she was mostly a teacher and nurse for the soldiers of the First South Carolina Volunteers, the first formation of black soldiers raised by the Union. She married a sergeant, but we don’t learn much about him or, indeed, much of anything personal to her – not until the 1890s.

These brief remembrances, self-published as “My Life in Camp with the 33d United States Colored Troops Late 1st S.C Volunteers” read more like a diary and were intended to perpetuate the story of the service of the black soldiers, to whom she remained devoted all her life. (Which ended in 1912, one of many facts we might have wished the editors to have included, but they didn’t.)

It is not a specially good memoir but it is the only one we have from a black woman in the war. Nevertheless, we can learn a good deal from it.

There are occasional glimpses of the girl, as when the soldiers hold a big barbecue, which is good but not as good as it would have been “at home” in Savannah.

Susie Baker King Taylor was born a slave but apparently was free in 1862. We are not told how that came about.

We learn a little, but not much, about how she learned to read and write, an unusual accomplishment at the time. Because the soldiers – some escaped slaves, some free blacks; some volunteers, some pressed – wanted so much to learn to read, she was important in the camp.

The most interesting parts of the book are not her wartime experiences, but her “Thoughts on Present Conditions” and her account of a mission to her dying son in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 1898.

She had been living in Boston, where racial harmony was cherished by many, and she was shocked by what she found in the Jim Crow South. Her account is restrained but the anguish comes through.

She was not allowed to take her boy home to die, because he was too sick to sit up in the railroad car but was not allowed to hire a berth.

Her testament of faith that her country would eventually do the right thing was misplaced but makes for inspiring reading, if you’re into that sort of thing.






22 comments:

  1. Her testament of faith that her country would eventually do the right thing was misplaced ...

    What an empty, insulting, load of Harry's Bollocks.

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  2. Really. One of her big issues was voting for all citizens. Today we have a great national political party opposed to that.

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  3. Bollocks, pure leftist bollocks.

    If it isn't, I am sure you will be able to demonstrate how the requirement to have ID to vote has suppressed turnout anywhere

    You won't because you can't. But that's OK, reality doesn't matter to progressives.

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  4. I'll let te judges in N.C. say.

    Someone who really takes constitutional guarantees seriously would be as concerned about one person who should be able to vote being prevented as about one person who shouldn't getting by.

    But your question answers itself. Provide evidence of sham voting that voter id could prevent.

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  5. Harry, this is what you said: One of her big issues was voting for all citizens. Today we have a great national political party opposed to that.

    For which you provided precisely zero evidence, for the simple reason that there is no evidence.

    Which makes your accusation pure leftist bollocks.

    Provide evidence of sham voting that voter id could prevent.

    Okay.

    If you insist.

    After all, it isn't hard to find.

    You really should work on your Google skills.

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  6. I can't help but notice that, without Voter ID, the problem is virtually impossible to detect.

    Circular logic much?

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  7. It would have been more impressive if you had provided any, you know, evidence that it happens. Screeching by rightwing operatives doesn't count.

    Or, taking the high road, you could have provided quotes by rightwingers in which they deplore any incidents in which eligible voters are deterred or prevented from voting.

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  8. Harry, this is your charge: One of her big issues was voting for all citizens. Today we have a great national political party opposed to that.

    For which you have provided precisely zero evidence, because there isn't any.

    That you want to perpetuate a pervasive inability to detect that very thing for which you demand evidence is as perfect an example of circular logic as is possible to imagine.

    The high road here is for you to retract a baseless accusation. Which you won't do, because for progressive, the only thing that matters is the narrative.

    And to think you make fun of the religious.

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  9. You're trusting an O'Keefe report?

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  10. Why don't you try playing the ball instead of the man?

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  11. And, while you are at it, support your charge with actual evidence.

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  12. That is hilarious, coming from someone who cites Dr. Zoom.

    But it gets even funnier, because the sure sign of a bankrupt argument is resorting to ad hominem.

    And I can't help but notice you haven't yet summoned one shred of evidence to support your charge.

    Which is why it belongs in the Big Ol' Bag o' Harry's Bollocks.

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  13. If you want to patronize a professional liar, be my guest. I don't have to follow along, though.

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  14. Takes one to know one.

    Speaking of which: And I can't help but notice you haven't yet summoned one shred of evidence to support your charge.

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  15. 'you have provided precisely zero evidence, because there isn't any. '

    Well, there's this:

    http://www.thenation.com/article/63756-reasons-why-racism-is-still-alive-in-south-carolina/

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  16. I see that article was written yesterday, and the law was passed in 2010.

    Surely, by now there must be actual evidence showing how badly the law suppressed minority turnout.

    About which there isn't so much as a syllable in the article.

    Why is that?

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  17. Oh, so intent doesn't count now? Got it

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  18. By all means Harry, provide evidence.

    You know, the sort of thing that is almost never on display at Ranting the Odious.

    ReplyDelete