In 1865, Youth’s Companion printed a series of articles by abolitionist James Redpath, who contributed several pieces from 1865 to 1867. In “Eye and Ear Notes,” he offered readers of the Companion descriptions of Southern incidents before and just after the War: everything from a slave auction to a patriotic May-day celebration. The pieces are surprisingly gritty and often have a raw power.
[Scraps for Youth] “Eye and Ear Notes: A Note of Introduction,” by “Uncle James” [James Redpath] (from The Youth’s Companion, February 16, 1865; p. 26)

Now, I’ll wager you a quart of peanuts apiece, boys, (and let you pay for them with your own money, too,) that you don’t know what my title means. You have heard of music notes, bank notes, foot notes, notes of hand, short hand notes, and what nots; but you probably never heard of the phrase “Eye Notes” and “Ear Notes.” It isn’t to be found in Webster’s Dictionary. What is it?

Well, it is a phrase I’ve made up to suit the kind of stories that the Youth’s Companion asks me to write for you. And, by the way, the title is the only thing I’ll write for you that is “made up,” as you call any story that is invented; for whatever I shall tell you I shall have seen with my own eyes or heard with my own ears. So, when I tell you what I have heard, that will be an Ear Note, and when I relate what I have seen, that will be an Eye Note.

I have travelled a good deal up and down the world, and have not got through with it, either. I am on my way to the wars in South Carolina now. Before you read this line I shall probably be within sound and range of the cannon balls and the musketry of the rebels down there. All my life long I have kept my eyes and ears wide open. Out West when they see a man who notices every thing and tries to find out about every thing, they say that he keeps his eyes skinned and his ears buttoned back. That’s what I’ve always tried to do. I have written about many things I have seen, in newspapers and in books; but I think I have still a large store which may interest you.

Sometimes I will tell you about what I saw or heard a few years ago; at other times I will tell you what I may have heard or seen only a few hours before I write about it.

I heard a hundred cannon shots fired at twelve o’clock to-day in the New York City Square Park. It was in honor of the adoption of an Amendment to the Constitution of the nation, which abolishes negro slavery, and makes our beloved country in fact, as well as in name, “the land of the free.”

None of my young readers know what a frightful wickedness this negro slavery was. I have seen and hear of things done down South that would have made your young flesh creep in horror. I have seen mothers with their little babes in their arms sold to the highest bidder at public auction—just as we sell old chairs and carpets. And young girls, too.

You have all heard of Montgomery, in Alabama, where the rebels made their Constitution, and where Jeff. Davis lived when Fort Sumter was fired on? I was there about ten years ago. What do you suppose were the first things that attracted my notice there? They were three big posters about auction sales. The first was headed, in glaring, big letters-

“Negroes at Auction.”

The second was also headed, in large, staring capitals:

“Negroes at Auction.”

A[n]d the third was as long, and broad, and showy as the others, and it had on it:

“Negroes for Sale.”

These were about three different sales of human beings, with hearts just as kind and tender as yours or mine. Do you think, boys, that God would bless us when we suffered such wrongs to be? No, He would not; for He loves the homely negro, or the poor child that begs from door to door, just as much as He loves us. So, God has punished the South for its wickedness in enslaving the negro, and He has punished the North for allowing it, by this terrible civil war.

Well, I went up to one of the main streets, near the office of a newspaper, and saw a crowd of people gathered around an auctioneer who was standing on a buggy. He was selling a man! I have forgotten how much was bid (I think it was about $1,300) as I came up. It was the last bid.

“Going—going—gone!” he said, just as I got near him.

The auctioneer turned round as coolly as if he had just sold a horse, and said,

“The next lot that I shall offer you, gentlemen, is a mule with a buggy and harness!”

This was done in the open street and in the light of day! Do you remember how Christ rebuked the Pharisees for being careful to observe the unimportant rules of the Mosaic Code while they neglected the three things needful—justice, mercy, righteousness? I thought of Him when I lived in Montgomery. Here they allowed God’s children to be sold like swine or furniture, and defended it as right; yet they pretended, like the Pharisees, to be very religious, and so careful of observing the Sabbath that they fined anybody thirteen dollars who sold a cigar on the day of rest!

New York, Feb. 14th.

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