The Poetry of Elsie Strawn Armstrong

Transcribed and Donated by Leslie Howard Strawn

Brookfield, May 10, 1864

Mrs. Potts

Dear Friend, I received the paper in good time and thought I would acknowledge it immediately, but have been busy, piecing quilts and tying comforts and our folks have been so busy they could not read it all to me sooner. I was truly pleased on receiving the paper, it seemed to say you had not forgotten me. I very often think of you while wearing the caps you made me and using the handkerchiefs you so kindly hemmed me, and the pleasant hours I spent with you.

I staid at Williams’ three weeks and pieced her eight covers, tied three in comforts, and quilted one and then she sent me home in style. William came home on the 16th of February, and she had a daughter on the 20th, and on the 24th he left for Chicago, and then he wrote me a very complimentary, pretty letter, thanking me for my visit to his wife, and said she appreciated it so much.

There is much good reading on the paper. The sermon on the Web is very good with the exception of that foolish, spiteful nickname “Copperhead” the Abolitionists gave the Democrats, like silly spiteful children. When they have no argument they take to calling names, that way their spite to vent; but among common, decent people nicknames and bywords are considered too mean to be indulged in. In Mr. Adams’ letter to his friend I think there are some inconsistencies. He wants a strong Republican government. Geography says, “In a republic the chief magistrate or president is chosen by the people.” Democratic rule, with very little exception, and no country ever improved or prospered to equal it, till the Abolitionists got the power to make war. And how is he to prevent the “damning doctrine of state rights’ if he has a Republican government when the people are the sovereigns?

Our president Lincoln admitted three territories into the Union with “State rights” the first thing he did; and was ever a monarch more promptly obeyed than President Lincoln? Mr. Adams seem to think that God is about to make a display of the Negroes as of ancient Israel, but hopes a few of the whites will be saved for the benefit of the Negro. He seems to forget that the Israelites were sent to destroy the children of Canaan or to take them for bondman and maid. “And they shall be an inheritance to you and your seed forever. We are of Japheth family of gentiles.” Mr. Adam’s ideas are the same as the man I met at William’s. I will give you the conversation in rhyme.

One of the those fanatics,

I heard him tell his friend,

Till the Negroes all were free

This war will never end.

Both the North and South

Are just entering the Red Sea,

And when the Negroes get across,

Drowned the whites will be.

With only a few exceptions

Of the smartest and the best,

Preserved for meanest servitude

But the Negroes then possessed.

Then this continent will flourish

And be the whole world’s admiration,

The greatest and the richest

Of every other nation.

And they’ll build the greatest city

That ever yet was known,

Surpassing every other

Since first the world began.

I said, this man’s insane

On that subject, lost his reason;

If all that could be done for them

“Twould last but a short season.

I said, why, you must tend to them

And get them all red breeches,

To strut and feel their consequence,

But the unfaithful wretches,

They strutted off and left him

And took with them their plunder,

New muskets and bright bayonets,

A Negro trick, now wonder.

In less than six short months

Would pass the glory of their breeches,

In less than seven years

Would pass the glory of their riches.

For farms are on the retrograde

Unless they are well cared,

With rails and gates and stakes

Frequently repaired.

And houses in the city

As well as on plantations,

If in Negroes hands would be

Soon in dilapidation.

For the Negro is no use

But in the far distant South,

Where he needs but little clothing

And enough to fill his mouth.

A Dutchman or in Irishman

Will do more work in a day,

Than a Negro will in three,

It is a common say.

To let alone the Negro

We ought all to agree,

And stop this sore contention,

For it’s very bad, you see.

In August, 1863, at my nephew’s in Lacon, I met a Methodist preacher who asked me if I was not rejoicing at the idea of the Negroes being free. After a few words, I told him to read his Bible. He said he did read his Bible, I told him he would read from Genesis to Revelations of master and servant through every generation. I gave him some of my ideas in rhyme.

When this war commenced,

We thought it was to save the Union,

But now the war is changed

All for Abolition.

They never would have gone

If they had not been deceived,

Murdered for Abolition,

My heart is doubly grieved.

When Noah left the ark,

He with him all did bring,

For God commanded Noah

To take every living thing.

Shem, Ham and Japheth

Were the names of Noah’s sons,

But Japheth had the promise

More than both the other ones.

Japheth shall be enlarged

And in Shem’s tents shall dwell,

Canaan shall be his servant,

And that, the Book doth tell.

Ham, for misdemeanor

On his seed was left a curse,

And the meddling abolitionists

Have made it ten times worse.

And I will multiply thee

As the stars of heaven,

So vast will be thy seed

The numbers can’t be given.

Three hundred and eighteen servants

In Abraham’s house were born,

And how many more he had

From the Book we cannot learn.

But it speaks of all those

That with his money he had bought,

Not how many he from Haran

To Canaan with him brought.

But the Book says he was rich

In servants and in cattle,

And yet about the servants,

Abolitionists will prattle.

God changed his name to Abraham

And told him in his seed,

All nations of the earth

Should be blessed indeed.

So Abraham was the first man

That had the promise of our Savior,

Notwithstanding all his servants,

God granted him that favor.

And Abraham greatly prospered

In cattle and in servants,

The father of the faithful,

He served the Lord so fervent.

To the Jews a law was given,

And thus the Book hath said,

Take of the heathen round about you

For bondman and for maid.

They shall be an inheritance

To you and your seed, forever,

So this is not the time

For abolition, now or ever.

You may just as well expect

To make the sun rise in the West

As to free all the servants

When you have done your best.

Canaan, the son of Ham,

On him the curse doth rest,

He shall be Japheth’s servant,

And Japheth shall be blessed.

A servant of servants

To his brethren he shall be,

Can you reverse the sentence

Or alter God’s decree?

Beware you do not trample

Upon the law of God,

For fear that he may scourge you

With His iron rod.

From these three sons of Noah

The earth was overspread,

The three nations of the earth,

And that the Book hath said.

We have been dwelling in Shem’s tents

More than three hundred years,

We have been pressing back the red men,

The Indians, plain and clear.

The children now of Shem

Are committing depredation,

To follow your example

And help destroy the Nation.

God commanded Abraham,

To leave the land of Haran,

Take his servants and his cattle

And go away to Canaan.

To leave his native land,

His parents and his kin,

And go away to Canaan,

Where he had never been.

“Take with thee thy wife and substances

Thy silver and thy gold”

But not a word about the servants’ kin

God to Abraham told.

But he said, “I will go with thee

And guide thee in the way,

In blessing I will bless thee

And with thee I will stay”

You now have those nations

In an unlawful riot,

Oh! If God would speak

And say, “Peace, be quiet.”

I would lay aside my pen

And strive to be thankful,

And wipe my poor old eyes,

For they are very painful.

The preacher seemed anxious to hear from me again, so I wrote the following:

Again about the servants,

It’s no consequence to me

If the African’s a bondman,

Or if he may be free.

But in your loving kindness

Behold then what you do,

You are destroying of the servants

And injuring their masters, too.

They were contented and were happy,

And constantly clothed and fed,

Their families will cared for,

No troubles in their head.

They felt themselves at home

And were acquainted all around,

And in the merry dance

Of an evening lightly bound.

Working then in cotton fields

At their leisure through the day,

And at night were fresh and keen

To fiddle, dance and play.

No people half so happy,

So cheerful and so gay,

In Autumn constant meeting

To sing and laugh and play.

No people half so faithfully

Obeyed that one command,

To multiply, be fruitful,

To replenish Dixie land.

Some chose to go to meeting,

To sing and join in prayer,

As free to go to meeting

As to dance they were.

Where the masters held prayer meeting

The servants did so too,

To imitate their masters

The servants tried to do.

But now their comfort’s over,

Their times of jollification,

For they are scattered and dispersed

Through the most part of our nation.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Poor old Father Abraham!

They have got him in a snap,

The Abolitionists have fettered him,

And caught him in a trap.

Notwithstanding his remonstrance,

He said, “I have no right,”

But still they kept a teasing him

Almost both day and night.

He said, “I have no power

And I have no inclination,”

But still they kept on urging him

To make his proclamation.

He said, “’Twill do no good,

It can be of no use,

Like the Pope’s bull against the comet

Neither good nor harm produce.”

But it has produced much evil,

As we with horror see the fruits,

Of the riots and the butchery

Caused by the heathen brutes.

Must our little orphan girls,

A sacrifice be made

To heathen, brutal lust,

By war an orphan made?

Whose fathers bled and died

To set the heathen free,

That’s the use he makes,

The wretch, of liberty.

Must they be let loose among us,

I ask, with awful fear,

Will not God, or nature,

Prevent their ravage here?

So near the orang outang,

But one small link between,

Must they be running loose

And near our children seen?

O, start them to the South,

With a quick and hurried step,

Where they may by their master

Be in some order kept.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I always thought the lowest

And the meanest thing in nature,

Was to meddle and to gabble

With the business of our neighbor.

But the wise man he has told us,

Every fool will still be meddling,

And this crew’s been traveling round,

Abolitionism peddling.

And stealing of the Negroes

And running them away,

Regardless of God’s law

Or the law of our day.

He that stealeth a man,

That man shall surely die,

Oh! Yes, wicked thieves,

To God begin to cry.

When you see the awful murder,

The devastation of our nation,

Without a bitter sore repentance,

You can’t expectation.

Oh! Mr. Lincoln,

Recall your proclamation,

Before it is too late

For you to expect salvation.

And save us from the terror,

And save us from the horror,

And save us from the butchery

Of the coming morrow.

Your oath doth surely bind you

To the population,

And why have you forsaken us,

To exalt the heathen nation?

You have taken from us our money

And taken from us our treasure,

To exalt the heathen

It seems to be your pleasure.

Consider for a moment,

Will you take the children’s bread,

And cast it to the heathen dogs

That always were well fed?

The lowest, meanest heathen

The earth did ere produce,

Compelled to clothe and feed them,

What can be your excuse?

I fear, Mr. Lincoln,

The step you have taken,

You greatly do expose

Your own old bony bacon.

More than then thousand souls

To see your head off, on a block,

Would rejoice, because ‘twould save

Millions of better stock.

Consider where you stand,

You poor, old perjured wretch,

If you don’t change your course

I fear you, hemp will stretch.

Why will you not agree

To some negotiation,

Why will you risk your neck

To exterminate the nation?

We beg you would come back

To the laws and constitution,

And we would all rejoice

To grant you absolution.

Notwithstanding all the murder

You have caused to be done,

We would hope God would forgive you

Through the merits of His Son.

Then the children of the South

Would gladly soon come in,

Because in self defense

Much trouble they have seen.

If they could be protected

By the laws and Constitution,

They soon would hoist the stars and stripes,

The emblem of the Union.

If a man shall beat his servant

With a rod, his man or maid,

Till he died under his hand,

He shall be punished, the Book hat said.

But if he shall continue

A day or two and die,

He is free, he is his money,

His own property.

In the Gospel we have rules

To govern this connection,

And to read them carefully

You should have not objection.

The servant is commanded

His master to obey,

Not as an eye-servant, but as

In God’s sight from day to day.

Servants obey your masters

And strive to please them well,

Not answering again,

But mind what they you tell.

They must not be purloining,

Taking what’s not their own,

Servants must not steal,

And that to them is known.

Master, forbear to threaten,

Forgive, as you would be forgiven,

Knowing you yourselves

Have a Master that is in Heaven.

Whatsoever good thing

Man doeth, we may see,

God will recompense him

If he be beholden or free.

Saint Paul declares himself

An Apostle of our Savior,

When he was teaching all men

The rules of good behavior.

He said “As many servants

As are under the yoke,

Should count their masters worthy

Of all honor,” thus he spoke.

Masters render to your servants

That which is just and equal.

To all their wants and needs;

And so ends the sequel.

This trifling, lying Tribune

Is doing all it can,

To make this war continue

While there is a living man.

Encouraging the South

And making them believe,

The North is so divided,

Great help from there they’ll receive.

They know they are a lying

When they print such poison stuff,

To get up an insurrection,

They’ve tried it long enough.

The patience of the Democrats

Enrages them the more,

But now they fret and fume

Worse than they did before.

Like vicious, spiteful children,

When they have no argument,

Then they take to calling names,

That way their spite to vent.

And since this latest call

For more volunteers,

Not a “Union League” steps out

To say that I am here.

But the Democrats are going

From this neighborhood around,

But not the first abolitionist

That will go is to be found.

Now most part of our arms

Are Democrat men,

As brave and daring soldiers

As every yet have been.

Although they were deceived

And decoyed into the field,

But since they’ve taken up arms

Resolved they’ll never yield.

But faithful at their post

While life and limb endure,

Until this war is ended

And terms of peace are sure.

Our very nearest neighbor

A good Democratic man,

Although he hates the policy,

Shuns Negroes when he can.

Says, “I have made up my mind

That I will volunteer,

For if the draft should take me

I’d be ashamed to appear.”

He is trying to get ready

He’s a considerate man,

For the comfort of his family

He’s doing what he can.

His interesting family,

Good wife and children too,

To leave those dear helpless ones

‘Tis hard for him to do.

But he’s hauling off his corn

And getting up the wood,

He’s not got three hundred dollars,

The price of poor man’s blood.

Oh! The new unheard of policy

In this free and equal land,

The rich and poor were drafted,

Must go or lend a hand.

But these new politicians

Have not money quite enough,

The money and the Negro

For them are just the stuff.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Back to LaSalle County Illinois History and Genealogy

Back to Illinois Genealogy Trails