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.

The young teachers appears to have been Gertrude Everett Allen, born in Massachusetts 31 August 1847; she died in Charleston, South Carolina, on 10 June 1865. Her record at says that she died of a fever. She was 17 years old. []
“Eye and Ear Notes: The Dead Teacher,” by “Uncle James” [James Redpath] (from The Youth’s Companion, August 3, 1865; p. 122)

I told you that the black children of Charleston are proud of the name of Yankee. They love Yankees, and look on them as the people whom God has sent to make them free. But above all other classes of Yankees, they love those who have come from the North to teach them to read and write. All this spring they brought us, every morning, bouquets of beautiful flowers as tokens of their gratitude.

A short time since one of our teachers died suddenly, after a brief Southern fever. She was a beautiful and good young lady, from West Newton, in Massachusetts. As soon as it was known that she was sick, the scholars of her class called daily to ask after her and to show their affection by gifts of flowers. One of them, a girl as black as any one could be, used to entreat the people that she might see her teacher before she died.

Early one Saturday morning, the young teacher died. In the hot climate of the South a corpse must be buried at once. So it was made known that she would be buried in the afternoon. There were large numbers of carriages and saddle-horses at the door; the Major General who commanded the district was there; the colonel who commanded the part of the city in which the young lady had lived was there—(he was a brother of Mrs. Stowe and Henry Ward Beecher;) the colonel who commands that gallant regiment that you all have heard of—the 54th Mass.—was there; many Northern citizens, and all the Northern teachers were also there; and after the clergymen had finished the services, it was an imposing cortege that followed the dead teacher to her grave. No greater honors, in a worldly sense, could have been paid to any young girl than were paid to this Northern maiden. But to my mind, the most touching, most honorable tribute was the crowd of colored girls that followed the carriages and the horsemen—some of them without bonnets, all of them shoeless, most of them poorly clad,—running, out of breath, sadly, sadly, to see where their teacher was to be laid.

We reached the burial-ground, which is near that district of Charleston whose buildings the fire, and shot, and shell, have ruined or wholly swept away. The General and the colonels, and all the other mourners, passed in; but I staid behind to see that the truest mourners of all should be admitted without hindrance; for the wicked prejudices of the whites of this State deprive the blacks of every privilege that they dare to deny. After I had passed them into the grounds, they ran and plucked flowers, and then ranged themselves on the further side of the grave. That part of the burial-ground had never been used, and it had been planted with corn, which was growing on it. It was already taller than a child’s height. The earth was thrown up on the side where the children were. I never saw any picture more exquisitely beautiful, and tender, and sad. Under the corn, some standing, others sitting on the fresh, red clay, peeping through the stalks, whose broad, green leaves overshadowed all of them, their dusky, eager faces alive with emotion; behind them the ruins of a Heaven-cursed city, whose crimes to these children and their race the Lord had punished by sending utter desolation into her marts of commerce; on one side a Northern General who now ruled the haughty people who had disdained the North in their days of pride and arrogance; on the other side, the mourners, all friends of the colored race; and, resting in her coffin, with her hands crossed in death, the grave waiting for her, was the young martyr who had given her fresh life to raise up the fallen people whom our armies and our God had freed.

Slowly the coffin was lowered. A black boy, who sat on the clay at the edge of the corn, suddenly threw a bouquet of flowers into the open grave. Another child, and another, and another, and another, followed his example. It was not dust to dust, but beautiful to beautiful. We left her there, with the flowers resting lightly on her coffin, and the earnest, grateful children mourning her whom they loved so tenderly, and had lost so soon.

On Monday I went up to her school to tell the children that their young teacher was dead. The building was hung heavily with mourning, by the direction of the superintendent of the schools. As soon as the children were assembled in one room,—there were nearly three hundred of them,—I tried to tell them about their loss, and what lessons it should teach them. But my words were few and broken. For no sooner had I said, she is dead, than her class wept bitterly, and their shrieks and sobs were soon heard in the streets. They would not be comforted. The black girl that had so often tried to see her wept until she swooned, and after she recovered she begged that she might be allowed to sleep in the class-room of her dead teacher. There was nothing more done that day. No one, either children or teachers, had a heart for any thing but grief. So the school was dismissed in tears.

On that same afternoon, as the sun was setting, the young martyr’s scholars met together in the burial-ground, and kneeling around her grave, they covered the red mound with the fairest flowers that they could gather in the city. And one of them—the same black girl who swooned with grief—in her fanciful Southern nature, avows that as she looks at the draped desk where her beloved teacher used to sit, she sometimes sees her fair spirit seated at it. Surely, if God permits it, no purer joy could Miss Allen know than to hover around the children for whose sake she risked and lost her young life, and who loved her and cherished her memory with so true, and touching, and tender a devotion.

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