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Echoes From Sumter
THE guns that opened on Fort Sumter set the country all ablaze. In Kansas, where blood
had already been shed, the excitement reached an extraordinary pitch. Will desired to
enlist, but mother would not listen to the idea.
My brother had never forgotten the vow made in the post-trader's, and now with the
coming of war his opportunity seemed ripe and lawful; he could at least take up arms
against father's old-time enemies, and at the same time serve his country. This aspect of
the case was presented to mother in glowing colors, backed by most eloquent pleading;
but she remained obdurate.
"You are too young to enlist, Willie," she said. "They would not accept you, and if they
did, I could not endure it. I have only a little time to live; for my sake, then, wait till I am
no more before you enter the army."
This request was not to be disregarded, and Will promised that he would not enlist while
mother lived.
Kansas had long been the scene of bitter strife between the two parties, and though there
was a preponderance of the Free-Soil element when it was admitted to the Union in 1861,
we were fated to see some of the horrors of slavery. Suffering makes one wondrous kind;
mother had suffered so much herself that the misery of others ever vibrated a chord of
sympathy in her breast, and our house became a station on "the underground railway."
Many a fugitive slave did we shelter, many here received food and clothing, and, aided
by mother, a great number reached safe harbors.
One old man, named Uncle Tom, became so much attached to us that he refused to go on.
We kept him as help about the hotel. He was with us several months, and we children
grew very fond of him. Every evening when supper was over, he sat before the kitchen
fire and told a breathless audience strange stories of the days of slavery. And one
evening, never to be forgotten, Uncle Tom was sitting in his accustomed place,
surrounded by his juvenile listeners, when he suddenly sprang to his feet with a cry of
terror. Some men had entered the hotel sitting-room, and the sound of their voices drove
Uncle Tom to his own little room, and under the bed.
"Mrs. Cody," said the unwelcome visitors, "we understand that you are harboring our
runaway slaves. We propose to search the premises; and if we find our property, you
cannot object to our removing it."
Mother was sorely distressed for the unhappy Uncle Tom, but she knew objection would
be futile. She could only hope that the old colored man had made good his escape.
But no! Uncle Tom lay quaking under his bed, and there his brutal master found him. It is
not impossible that there were slaveholders kind and humane, but the bitter curse of