Eye and Ear Notes, by “Uncle James” [James Redpath]

In 1865, Youth’s Companion printed a series of articles by “Uncle James,” who travelled in the South in the late 1850s and again during the Civil War and in 1865. 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. There are some indelible images here: a woman trying to keep her husband from being murdered by putting the skirt of her dress over his head; children dancing under moss-draped trees during a May-day celebration or standing beside the grave of a beloved teacher in a field of corn; a rebel pointing out the hole his bullet made in the body of a Union sympathizer, in front of the new widow.

“Uncle James” was unidentified in the Companion—and elsewhere. However, Judy Albergotti Hines and John R. McKivigan have identified the author as abolitionist James Redpath, a journalist who documented the lives of slaves and wrote a biography of John Brown. (See Redpath’s The Roving Editor; or, Talks with Slaves in the Southern States, edited by John R. McKivigan [University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996].) For a few months during the War, Redpath was an army correspondent in the Western Department; afterward, he was connected with the schools for ex-slaves in Charleston, South Carolina. Redpath wrote under a variety of pen names (see McKivigan’s notes for Roving Editor); it was common for 19th-century writers for children to adopt “Uncle” or “Aunt” as part of a pen name: Susanna Newbould became “Aunt Sue” and William A. Fitch became “Uncle William” for the readers of Robert Merry’s Museum. James Redpath contributed a number of pieces on aspects of the War to the Companion from 1865 to 1867.

Many of the “Eye and Ear Notes” were printed in a section called “Scraps for Youth,” probably intended for the slightly older readers of the Companion.

A Note of Introduction” (February 16, 1865) Introduction; and a slave sale in Montgomery, Alabama.

Old Abe” (February 23, 1865) The fate of a slave too old to work, in pre-War New Orleans, Louisiana.

May-Day in Charleston, S. C.” (June 1, 1865) The Race Course in Charleston, South Carolina, where Union prisoners of war were confined by the Confederates.

May-Day in Charleston Again” (June 8, 1865) More about the Race Course prison; and a May-day celebration in 1865. May-day was a major celebration in 19th-century America.

The Dead Teacher” (August 8, 1865) The funeral of Gertrude Everett Allen, a teacher in the black schools in Charleston, South Carolina.

Jottings in My Army Diary” (August 17, 1865) Anecdotes of the War, near Nashville, Tennessee, including the author’s meeting with the nephew of John S. Mosby.

A Peep into Slave Life” (August 31, 1865) The stories of two female ex-slaves in Atlanta, Georgia.

Old ’Squire Magill” (September 21, 1865) The murder of a Union sympathizer in East Tennessee.

East Tennessee Stories” (October 5, 1865) Retribution against Union sympathizers in East Tennessee.

Bill Russell’s Story” (October 26, 1865) The murder of Samuel Russell, a Union sympathizer, in East Tennessee.

A Slave Sale” (December 14, 1865) An auction in Richmond, Virginia, in 1859.

The Slave Sale Again” (December 21, 1865) An auction in Richmond, Virginia, in 1859.

A Glimpse at Libby Prison” (December 28, 1865) An escape from the infamous prison.

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