A Sampler of Civil War Literature
»Blacks as Principal Characters

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Tippoo Saib

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Text from Harper’s Weekly

April 2, 1864, pages 214 (1-3)-215 (1-3)

All heroes are not héros de romans. Not all preux chevaliers would be attractive as cavaliers, and one admires many things that one does not care to appropriate.

Tippoo Saib was neither handsome, nor accomplished, nor gently bred. He was a middle-aged negro of Congo descent, and formed after the ultra type of his race, with misshapen skull, immense lips, close-curled wool, and skin as nearly as black as human skin was ever tinted. He was heavy both of motion and intellect, and entirely ignorant of almost every thing a man should know. But at the end of my story deny, if you dare, that he was a hero, a preux chevalier, a man to be admired and revered.

When North Carolina joined the rebellion and began to raise troops, Mr. John Fernald got himself transformed into Captain John Fernald. When, furthermore, he was requested to furnish one or more negroes to labor upon the fortifications of Roanoke Island, he magnificently replied, "Certainly," and went home to consider how it was to be done. For John Fernald, the needy heir of a spendthrift sire and grandsire, owned no lands save his heavily-mortgaged plantation of Mossmoor, no stock save the fine horse who was destined to bear his master to the wars, a few cows and pigs, Tippoo Saib, his wife Marcy, their child Scipio Africanus (Mr. Fernald had a fine taste in nomenclature), and Aphrodite, commonly called Frite, a girl upon whom devolved the house-labor while Marcy wrought with her husband in the fields, except in some great domestic emergency, when she was summoned to the assistance of Frite.

The household was a meagre one, and its affairs administered in a spirit of fretful economy, inculcated upon Frite by her master with oaths, by her mistress with peevish complaints as to its necessity.

Such scanty revenue as the farm still yielded was to be credited to Tippoo, who, with Marcy and the occasional help of hired service, both directed and executed all its operations.

This trusty auxiliary was not then to be lightly parted with, and yet he was the only chattel in Captain Fernald’s possession answering to the description of the contribution he was called upon to make; nor had he funds or available property of any kind for the purchase of a substitute. One course was left, and but one. Marcy and Scipio Africanus must be bartered for a laborer; and Frite, who was retained as being less valuable as a piece of merchandise, and more so as a household drudge, must be urged to redoubled exertions in her own province, as Tippoo in his, to make good her place.

The plan, once resolved on, was soon executed, and Marcy and her child were attached to a coffle of slaves traveling south.

And what did Tippoo feel or say at being thus a day bereft of wife and child, and such poor ties to home and love as a slave may know?

What he felt the God who made him only know. What he said was this:

"Mas’r, you loves lilly Missy?"

"Of course I do, Tip."

"An’ what way would you fix it to ‘pear de right ting, Mas’r, dat lilly Missy should be toted off where woudn’t nebber see her no more?"

"Oh well, Tip—I know, of course. But then you see, boy, it is different. You know such things are a matter of course. My child—why it is altogether another thing."

"Don’ see it, Mas’r," replied Tippoo, with a slow shake of his poor, bewildered head. "Scip he brack, I know, and lilly Missy she white as an egg; but den I’s brack myself, an’ don’ tink de wuss of my chile fer bein’ like his daddy. Don’ see it nohow, Mas’r."

He stood leaning on his hoe and looking gloomily at the ground, not sullen or vindictive, only sorrowfully seeking a solution to the terrible injustice of his lot, dimly felt.

Captain Fernald, confusedly switching the weeds and the flowers about him, found no reply to make; and after standing for a few moments, presenting a remarkable contrast by his nervous irritability of manner to the solemn calm of Tippoo’s mood, he muttered some incoherent words of vague consolation, and sauntered away.

Nothing more was ever said between them on the subject; but in the week intervening between that day and the one when the volunteer Captain joined his regiment he treated his silent slave with not only unwonted kindness, but in a certain apologetic and deprecatory manner, involuntary on his part, and unperceived by Tippoo’s dim and preoccupied mind, but yet not without its effect on each.

The Captain joined his regiment. Tippoo Saib toiled early and late at his thankless tasks. Frite groaned and drudged unaided. And poor, feeble Mrs. Fernald took to her bed, with a complication of nervous disorders and distresses.

Only bright little Alice remained untouched by sorrow or wrong, to illuminate with the sunshine of her three summers some portion of the gloom of that dreary household.

"How’s Mist’s?" asked Tippoo Saib, one evening, about a month after his master’s departure, as he entered the kitchen for his milking-pail.

"Wuss," responded Frite, sulkily; and after an embarrassed pause, added, "I’se comin’ out to help you milk, Tip, quick’s I put lilly Missy to bed."

"You don’t need to, Frite. I’d as good be doin’ as restin’," said Tippoo, heavily, as he went out.

But Aphrodite, who had her own purposes to further, soon followed him, and after a little preliminary complaint of the hardships she endured, said, suddenly:

"I’s gwine off, Tip."

"Off!" Whar’s you gwine, Frite?"

"W’y to de Norf, or somewhere ‘bout dere. You see, old Tip, Mist’s she getting’ wuss berry fas’, an’ to-night she tol’ me sen’ you for de doctor.

"Whar’s he?"

"Dere ain’t none short o’ Weston, an’ Mist’s said w’en you was dar you mout go tell her brudder’s folks how she sick and not spectin’ to get well no more."

"Hebbenly Marster! Am she dat bad, Frite?"

"I reckon she am," returned Aphrodite, Stoically; and immediately added, "So I’s gwine to cut an’ run ‘fore Mas’r Charles git here. I reckon he look sharp ‘nough arter us, Tip, wedder he sister lib or die. I knows whar der’s some cullud folks in de swamp waitin’ for to git Norf."

"Has you seen Pete?" asked Tip, referring to a brother of Frite’s, who disappeared from a neighboring plantation some weeks previously.

"Nebber you min’ ‘bout dat, ole man," retorted Frite, nodding her head shrewdly. "On’y if you’d like to git your freedom easy, you com’ ‘long o’ me to-night to de Big Swamp."

"But be you gwine to leave Mist’s an’ lilly Missy all ‘lone," asked Tippoo, incredulously, "an’ she so sick as you tell for?"

"She ain’t no sicker dan I be, o’ slavin’ here for noffin," returned Frite, angrily. "An’ to-night’s de las’ chance fer jinin’ dem folks. Dey spec’s to move ‘fore mornin’. I tole Pete I’s be dar ‘fore midnight."

"Be whar ‘fore midnight?"

"Whar I’s gwine to jine him," retorted Frite, dryly. "Ef you’s a min’ ter go ‘long, yer’ll find out all ‘bout it; an’ if you ain’t agwine, w’y ‘tain’t no matter."

"Wouldn’ it do to-morrer mornin’ arter I’s ben to sen’ de doctor to Mist’s?"

"Tell ye no, nigger, ‘twon’t. Dey’s gwine to start dis berry night arter moonrise, an’ I ain’t a gwine to gib ye no d’rections whar dey’s gwine neider. Pete didn’ want I should even say wot I has, but I worn’t agwine to cut ‘thout gibin you a chance fer to go ‘long too. So now say, ole Tip, right smart, wot’ll ye do?"

"Tank ye kin’ly, Frite," replied Tippoo, after a long pause, during which he softly smoothed and patted the head of Snowdrop, his favorite heifer. "Tank ye kin’ly, but I reckin I’ll stop."

"Den all I’s got to say is, de more fool you," responded Frite, venomously, as she lifted the full pail and turned toward the house.

"Stop a minute, honey. Don’ yer tink dat I’s ongrateful for de chance, nor yet dat I doesn’ keer for freedom. But dere ain’t no way to get to Weston an’ back fore mornin’, an’ dat you sez is too late. Den dere ain’t no house ‘tween here an’ dar, an’ dere ain’t never no one comes dis way, now Mas’r gone, and poor Mist’s mout die an’ lilly Missy too, ‘fore any one ‘d know on’t."

"Mas’r wa’n’t so tender o’ your ole woman and’ pickaninny," retorted the disappointed Frite.

The thrust was unexpected, and the great, loving, ignorant heart was unshielded by any philosophy, any hope, any faith that what seemed so wrong must yet be right. Tippoo abruptly hid his face in the white heifer’s neck, and great heaving sobs began to shake his brawny frame, and the hot tears rolled down wondering Snowdrop’s neck and mingled with the dust.

"I didn’ mean to make you feel so bad, Tip," said Frite, at last, in an awe-struck voice; "on’y I didn’ see w’y yer couldn’ do same as Mas’r jes’ done by you. Look arter yerself an’ nebber min’ what come to oder folks."

Tippoo stood up wiping his eyes on the sleeve of his coarse shirt, and looked at the girl with a patient smile as he replied,

‘Pears like, Frite, I’d ruther do de way dat I’d ha’ like Mas’r to ha’ done by me."

But do no think that Tippoo Saib, thus speaking, echoed mechanically, as so many of his white brethren do, that Golden Rule which is in all our mouths, and so few of our hearts. He had never heard of it—in fact, his religious education had progressed very little beyond that Mumbo Jumbo faith, in the odor of whose sanctity his ancestors had lived and died.

He did but speak out of the fullness of that child’s heart of his, whose dumb anguish shook the uncouth frame that held it, but found no other expression than the tears that had rolled down Snowdrop’s neck.

Frite lingered a moment or two, but not finding any better argument than those she had already used, and feeling also a little injured by Tip’s superiority, she finally went into the house and slammed the door violently, after which demonstration her mind relapsed into its former placidity.

Tippoo Saib went to his lonely cabin, cooked his scanty supper, and then slept as a man who labors fourteen hours out of twenty-four must sleep whatever may be his mental disquietude.

Early in the morning he went up to the house to receive his directions for Weston from his mistress, and not without curiosity as to Frite’s movements. The kitchen door stood open, and the autumn sunshine streamed merrily in, but, except the cat purring in the ashes, no creature was visible, nor any preparations for breakfast going on.

"She’s cut and lef’ pore Mist’s all ‘lone," soliloquized Tip; and his slow mind began a process of inquiry as to his own first duty in the case.

While he still stood pondering and scratching his wooly head the quick patter of small bare feet was heard along the passage, and in the open doorway stood a rosy little maid, her trailing night-dress deftly gathered in one hand, while the other "shed by the yellow hair" from her sweet but troubled face.

"Uncle Tip, go call Frite," began she, eagerly. "Baby wants her supper, and Frite all gone. Uncle Tip make Frite come dress baby, and get baby's supper."

"Poor lilly Missy!" was all Tip found to say, but his voice was tender as a woman’s.

Lilly Missy came forward and put her morsel of a hand into his black paw, and when he knelt upon one knee and placed her upon the other she threw both arms round his neck and nestled close to his broad breast.

"Uncle Tip’s good. Baby loves Uncle Tip; but baby wants her supper," remarked she, persistently.

"Lilly Missy go and get into her bed again, an’ Tip ’ll go an’ git her some nice warm milk from the mooly cow, will she?"

"And give milk to poor mamma, too; nice warm milk, for mamma all cold, and don’t want to talk to baby. Mamma don’t wake up at all, when baby tells she to wake up."

A sudden horror woke in Tip’s bewildered mind.

"Lilly Missy, show Tip where her mammy is, an’ he’ll ask if she wants some milk," suggested he; and Alice, sliding from his knee, seized his finger and led him on through the passage to the door of a large bedroom, where Mrs. Fernald had chosen to lie, after she was confined to her bed.

Standing at the door, with head reverently bared and breath suspended, Tip looked earnestly at the pale, pretty face turned toward him on the pillow. He needed not to approach. There is an unnamed sense, keener than sight, keener than touch, that unerringly warns living man of his neighborhood to death—a chill—a repugnance—a nervous desire to flee. Such it was that now crept through Tippoo’s blood, and turned the rich brown of his honest skin to a muddy yellow. Such it was that, laying its chill hand even upon the innocent heart of the child, made her cling closer to the side of her strange comrade, murmuring:

"Baby’s cold. Baby don’t want stay here."

Releasing himself from her grasp, Tippoo Saib stole on tip-toe across the room, and reverently drew the fair linen sheet over that face as white as cold; then drew down the blinds and left the room, closing the door behind him.

"Come, show ole Tip whar’s its little closes, an’ he’ll try to dress you. Den you’ll go ‘long wid him, milkin’ de cows, an’ den he’ll gib you some breaksus."

"And give mamma some nice warm milk, so she feel all well again, and talk to baby?" asked the little maid.

"Mammy don’ want for nothin’, lilly Missy, an’ de nex’ she eats an’ drinks will be better nor any thing we could gib her," said Tip, solemnly, with hazy visions of a very objective sort of Paradise flitting through his mind.

The child was satisfied with the vague assurance, and patted off to fetch her clothes. These, with much trouble and anxious effort to understand the probable intent of their construction, Tip finally adjusted, with some little aid from Alice herself, and then lifting her in one arm, and taking his pails upon the other, he went out to milk.

This process completed, they returned to the house, and Tip, discovering some bread in a cupboard, prepared bread and milk for a family of perhaps six hungry boys, and setting it before lilly Missy, who had forgotten all her troubles in a frolic with the cat, he bade her "eat it all up, like a blessed lamb," and she should have some more.

Then seating himself upon the door-step, with his elbows upon his knees, and his chin in the palms of his hands, Tippoo Saib unconsciously entered upon the crisis of his life.

Before him lay two courses. The one led to freedom—and remember that this word to a slave carries the same illimitable blessing that the word Heaven does to a freeman—the other to continued, nay, aggravated slavery, for Mr. Bennett, the brother of Mrs. Fernald, was well known as a hard master, and to him, should Captain Fernald never return from the war, Tip would become thrall.

Tip raised his head and looked steadfastly Northward, until in his dull eyes began to glow a fire, a manhood they never knew before. Then suddenly turning his head, he fixed them upon the little child, who, chattering gayly to the kitten as she fed her with the remnant of her breakfast, did not know that her own life hung in the balance, and that the untaught man whom the father had so bitterly wronged was its arbiter.

Tippoo knew the forest paths for miles about his home. He knew the course the party of fugitives would necessarily travel. He did not doubt that by arduous exertion he could overtake them, or failing in that, make his own way to the North and to Freedom. But he knew, too, that for weeks no visitor might seek the lonely plantation house, that the child was entirely incapable of providing her own subsistence even for a day, or of making her own way to those who might care for her. Slow visions of the bright-haired child moaning for food, pining from weary day to day, until, lying exhausted in the lonely night, she should wail her little life away, or perhaps wandering to the forest perish miserably there; visions of the dead woman, who had been a kind mistress to him and his, lying unburied in that darkened room, until she who had been so beautiful became a thing of nameless horror; visions even of poor Snowdrop and her mates calling vainly to him for help, and suffering miserably for its want, passed in slow procession through his unaccustomed mind, and burying his face in his broad hands, Tippoo made his decision, chose his course, and with a deep groan closed his mental eyes upon those alluring dreams of liberty and manhood that had for one brief moment seemed within his grasp.

Rising heavily he went and took the child in his arms.

"Will lilly Missy kiss Uncle Tip jes’ once?" asked he, humbly.

The white little arms closed about his neck in an instant, and the rose-bud mouth was pressed to his swarthy cheek in a merry shower of kisses.

"Baby love Uncle Tip ever so much. He very good," said she, as he replaced her on the floor, and with his large heart full of love and peace, the man who had freedom within his grasp elected slavery instead.

The only horse remaining on the place was lame, and it was on his own feet that Tippoo Saib traveled the twelve miles to Weston, carrying little Alice in his arms, besides a bundle containing some clothes for her and food should she need it on the road.

Reaching Mr. Bennett’s house in the middle of the afternoon, he asked for the master, and telling his simple story, delivered up his charge, and waited to hear what should be his own fate.

"Dead! Your mistress dead? It is very sudden. Sit here, boy, till I carry the child to her aunt," said Mr. Bennett.

"Baby won’t go. Baby like Uncle Tip, and stay with him," declared the little lady, quietly, but so resolutely that she could only be presented in the drawing-room in the arms of her uncouth nurse. Here, however, the affectionate caresses of her aunt, and the attractions of a kitten even prettier than the one she had left at home, soon overcame her shyness, and she at last consented that Tip should withdraw to the kitchen, where he vainly tried to eat the dainties set before him by the sable aunty there presiding.

The next day Mr. Bennett, accompanied by Tip, upon whose movements he kept a jealous eye, and two assistants and a clergyman, sought the lonely house; and after conferring upon his sister’s remains the rites of Christian sepulture, he took possession of such valuables as remained in the house, and closing the doors and windows, abandoned it to the desolation that already had laid its hand upon the whole scene.

A letter, informing Captain Fernald of his bereavement, returned, after many weeks, unopened to Weston, with the brief notice indorsed upon the back that Captain Fernald was severely wounded in the head, was perfectly unconscious, and could not probably survive many days. Under these circumstances Mr. Bennett considered himself justified in taking possession of such part of his niece’s inheritance as could be made available, and converting it either into cash or to his own use.

Tippoo was no favorite with his new master, nor did he find his life so comfortable as it had been under his former more independent circumstances. He did not complain in any manner, however, but the silent resolution to escape became more and more confirmed in his mind.

A suspicion of this determination in the mind of his master increased the disfavor he already entertained for his new chattel, and he resolved to forestall its execution by presenting him to Government, in compliance with a new requisition for laborers on the fortifications.

The transfer was accordingly made, and at the same time Mr. Bennett applied for and received a commission as captain of a volunteer company just raised in Weston, and already under marching orders.

Tip made no remark on being informed of his new destiny, but his dark face darkened with a gleam of satisfaction. Any change was to him a welcome one.

"Please, Mas’r, I’d like to say good-by to lilly Missy ‘fore I go."

"Nonsense, boy, what should she care for you? She’s something else to do, and I’ve no time to wait; follow me right along."

Tip patiently turned to do as he was ordered, but his mind went back to the morning when, sitting on the sunny door-step, he had given up his own cherished hope for the sake of that little child, and now he might not even hear her voce once more.

But of a sudden came the rush of little feet behind them, and a sweet voice crying, breathlessly, "I will, I will, I will see Uncle Tip again! Let me go, old Chrissy. I will speak to dear old Tip!"

Master and slave turned to see the cause of this tiny clamor. It was Alice, who, escaping from her nurse, came flying down the street, her golden curls streaming in the air, one little foot unshod, and her face all aglow with rebellious love and determination.

Tippoo stooped, and catching her in his arms, raised her to his breast, where she clung and kissed him as she had done once before in the sunny kitchen of the old home.

"Tank you, lilly Missy," said Tip, solemnly, as he set her down. "’Peared like Uncle Tip couldn’ ha’ gone ‘way widout dat. Hebbenly Mas’r bress you, lilly Missy; an’ ef you don’ nebber see Tip no more, yer’ll ‘member onst in a wile how he toted ye from de ole home down here, an’ how he’d ha’ ben glad to lay down his life, ef so be ‘twould ha’ done lilly Missy any good."

"I love Uncle Tip—Uncle Tip is good. Why is he sorry?" asked the child, with a perplexed cloud upon her sunny face.

"Good-by, lilly Missy." And Tippoo, with no word more, hurried after his master, who had walked on impatiently.

Roanoke Island was in possession of the Federal forces, and its rebel defenders had made a retreat more rapid than dignified to the main land.

In the camp of the conquerors all was exultation, mirth, and proud anticipation of future successes. In that of the vanquished reigned gloom, wrath, and the desire of vengeance. Plans for a counter-surprise, for a sudden dash, that should sweep away the invading force in one swift destruction, were loudly canvassed among the knot of officers, who had not lost heart and hope in the defeat of that dark night; but as a preliminary to any action it was necessary to learn accurately the position and force of the enemy; for of these particulars as many varying estimates were held as there were tongues to announce them.

A reconnaissance was obviously necessary, and of several volunteers for this delicate and dangerous service Captain Bennett and Lieutenant Fosdick were selected; and so soon as night again fell to conceal their movements they prepared to set about it. A light canoe was provided with muffled oars, the two officers seated themselves in the stern, and Tippoo Saib was elected to the onerous duty of oarsman, with a stern injunction from his former master to beware of any species of treachery, as himself should be its first victim.

To this intimation Tip meekly responded, "Yis, Mas’r," and noiselessly plying his oars, soon placed his little craft close under the lee of the island.

The night was intensely dark, with occasional showers of rain, and this circumstance, while favoring the movement of the spies in some respects, rendered them more difficult in others, especially as the most absolute silence, both of voice and motion, was necessary to avoid the observation of the sentinels, who would, of course, be posted at every point they might approach.

Finally, however, the Lieutenant was set ashore at the point of a long tongue of land, whose connection with the island was near enough to the camp fires to enable him to make a fair survey of its position without leaving the sheltering woods. Captain Bennett meantime was, according to previous agreement, to be rowed some distance farther north with a view of reconnoitering the fort, and the position and apparent numbers of the Federal forces in that quarter.

Arrived at a suitable point for landing, Bennett, with a whispered word, ordered Tip to guide the canoe inshore, and it soon grounded noiselessly upon the sandy beach.

After waiting a few moments to make sure that his approach was undiscovered, the Captain rose cautiously to his feet, and was in the act of stepping over the bows of the boat, when, with a sudden motion, a noose of small rope slipping over his head, settled down to his middle and was then drawn tight, effectually pinioning his arms to his side, while coil after coil of the same was rapidly passed about his lower limbs, his body, and one turn laid with grim pleasantry about his neck.

So sudden was the operation, and so perfectly taken by surprise was the Captain, that he was already securely bound before he succeeded in ejaculating,

"You scoundrel! what devil’s trick is this?"

"Sh’, Mas’r," returned Tip, with an effectation of great caution—"don’ ‘ee speak so loud; mabbe dem dam Yankee somewhar about, an’ oberhear us."

A tremendous oath expressed Captain Bennett’s appreciation of his slave’s pleasantry, but suddenly remembering that his only hope of escape lay in the patient and amicable temper of his captor, he succeeded in smothering his wrath, and saying, in a tone where forced friendliness and vehement passion struggled strangely for the mastery,

"Come, Tip, you don’t want to hurt me, you know. You wouldn’t give me up to these—Yankees. Think of my wife and children. Remember Alice—"

"An’ ‘member you, Mas’r, how you t’ought it couldn’ be she’d keer to bid ole Tip good-by, an’ how you alluz grudged de pooty creter saying a word to de pore nigger dat lubbed her so. ‘Tain’t dat, dough, Mas’r, dat’s fetched you here. I tinks you idees ‘bout de Yankees all wrong, an’ I’s gwine to gib you de chance to git ‘em straightened out. Spec’s you’ll come back a puffeck ‘postle o’ freedom, Mas’r. Now s’pose we go up an’ look at dis yur fort togedder, Mas’r? Spec’s de Yankees will show us de inside’s well’s de out, an’ dat’s more nor you bargained for, Mas’r."

So saying, Tip raised his captive in his arms and carried him ashore as easily as if he had been a child.

"Now, Mas’r," said he, placing him carefully on the beach, "you’s got you ch’ice. Will you be toted up yander like an armful o’ cornshucks, or will you walk?"

"How can I walk, you black scoundrel, with my legs tied?" sullenly demanded the captive.

"I’s gwine to loose ‘em some, ef yer’ll say yer’ll walk right ‘long straight widout a fuss."

"Untie them, then, you—"

"Now, Mas’r, dat ain’t mannerly no how. Spec’s I’d better tote ye," said Tip, in a tone of grave rebuke; and he was again about to raise the helpless form of his late master in his arms, when he, keenly alive to the ridicule of appearing before his enemies in such a position, hastened to make the required promise in more civil terms. Tippoo, signifying his satisfaction at the concession, proceeded immediately to loosen the bonds of his captive sufficiently to allow him to walk with some degree of ease, but not to run or to use his arms at all. Then inserting his brawny hand in the loose turn of the rope about the Captain’s neck, he called his attention to the fact that a slight movement would be sufficient to tighten it to a very unpleasant extent, and that such movement would be the result of any attempt of escape or resistance on his part.

This intimation the Captain received in sullen silence, but showed his appreciation of its intent by following, or rather preceding, his captor (who guided him by the rope about his neck much as he would have done a refractory steer) to the neighborhood of the earth-works dignified by the name of fort, where they encountered a sentinel, to whom Tip briefly told his story, and was ordered to proceed to head-quarters, where he was relieved of his charge, amidst the wonder and merriment of a goodly crowd of spectators.

Tip, on leaving the boat, had taken the precaution of shoving it off shore, to prevent the escape of Lieutenant Fosdick, and that officer was captured in the course of the next day, and soon after accompanied Captain Bennett and numerous other of his countrymen on a voyage Northward, and a prolonged residence in one of Uncle Samuel’s Marine Villas.

Tippoo Saib also traveled North, although not as a prisoner. For the first time in a life of forty years, and with a bewildering joy that no man who has never been a slave may appreciate, he now found himself free to move in whatever direction or to whatever distance he might find most to his own advantage, and his first impulse was to breathe the air of a free State.

For something more than a year he supported himself in Massachusetts by such labor as he could find to do; but as soon as the enlistment of colored troops was permitted by Government, Tippoo hastened to enroll himself among the first of the sable volunteers; nor among the hundreds of thousands of brave men who have fought beneath the Federal banners in this great war, has one soldier, black or white, given himself to the contest more ardently, more purely, more entirely than this poor untaught African.

His uniform courage and good conduct slowly won him such advancement as is at present possible to a man of his color, and on the tenth day of July, 1863, he followed his captain to the assault of Fort Wagner with the stripes of a sergeant upon his arm.

We all know who led that assault. A nation mourns, a nation glories, over the hero who there won himself a name that shall not be forgotten while his country holds a memory, a tongue, a pen; who, yet in brilliant youth, closed a career all glorious promise by its most glorious fulfillment; who lies where he fell, "buried with his niggers," more proudly, more honored than a prince or conqueror beneath an abbey’s marble dome.

But no nation mourns, no poet sings, no history, save this rude tale, will chronicle the closing scene of another life as brave, as devoted, as earnest, as beautiful to those who have eyes to read the hearts of men as that of his hero-leader.

Foremost in that wild charge, dauntless in the front of that dauntless band, rushed Tippoo Saib upon the enemy, and fighting as he fights who feels that freedom or slavery for him and his hangs upon the contest. He had with as many blows sent three of his opponents to their doom, when he caught the gleam of a sabre descending with desperate force upon the head of the Colonel, who stood beside him cheering on his men.

Quick as light Tippoo’s bayonet was interposed and caught the blow, delivered with such force as to shiver the blade close to the hilt. Changing the direction of the bayonet, Tip was about to plunge it into the breast of the disarmed officer, when, glancing up, he recognized with astonishment Captain Fernald, his former master.

It was but an instant that he hesitated, but who shall limit thought by time? In that instant the man remembered the wife of his youth, torn from his arms, sold to a slavery so barbarous that she had soon died under its severity: he remembered his merry boy, his one child, whom he had loved with all his loving heart, and of whose life or death not one echo had reached him in all these years; he remembered his own enslaved youth and manhood, and the bitter passions of his strong nature rose within him, and tightened with savage vigor the hand that still held uplifted the gleaming bayonet.

But before the blow fell, before the benumbed arm of Captain Fernald could be upraised in defense of the life that in one anguished pang resigned itself as lost, another memory shot athwart the vengeance of Tippoo’s mood.

It was the vision of a little maid, all aglow with loving energy, with golden curls flowing back as she ran, with white arms uplifted to his embrace, with rosy lips that asked no better than to press themselves upon his swarthy cheek.

The vision flashed and passed, but it had wrought its work. Dropping his arm with its deadly weapon, Tippoo hoarsely cried,

"Go ‘long, Mas’r, I won’t kill lilly Missy’s fader." With a wild shout he was bounding forward to seek another antagonist, when the white man with an oath drew the revolver from his belt, and with deliberate aim discharged its contents full into the generous heart that has so faithfully garnered and so well repaid the one love that had illumined his gloomy life.

The fierce battle-cry ended in a wild shriek upon the negro’s lips, and he fell forward upon his face dead, just as, a few paces from him, the noble life he had shielded a moment since was smitten down by the blow that gave a hero to deathless glory.

Tippoo Saib was one of the honored band that the fierce victors upon that bloody field laid down to their eternal rest in the same grave with their young champion, thinking thus to do dishonor to his remains, but in reality surrounding him with a guard of honor that, when the last trumpet shall sound revéillé, shall arise with him; the corruptible body exchanged for the incorruptible, the faithful and noble spirit giving form and color to its new tabernacle.

And in this glorious hope rest peacefully and well, brave Tippoo Saib, satisfied that if thy life was lowly and thy death unsung, not less hath the Eternal Judge knowledge of thy temptations and thy triumph, thy loving heart and earnest soul!

 

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