A Philosophical Darkey
An elderly darkey, with a very philosophical and retrospective cast of countenance, was squatting upon his bundle on the hurricane deck of one of the Western river steamers, toasting his shins against the chimney, and apparently plunged in a state of profound meditation. His dress and appearance indicated familiarity with camp life, and it being soon after the siege and capture of Fort Donelson, I was inclined to disturb his reveries, and on interrogation found that he had been with the Union forces at that place, when I questioned further. His philosophy was so much in the Falstaffian vein that I will give his views in his own words as near as my memory will serve me:
Were you in the fight?
I had a little taste of it, sa.
Stood your ground, did you?
No, sa, I runs.
Run at the first fire, did you?
Yes, sa, an’ would hab run soonar had I know’d it was comin’.
Why, that wasn’t very creditable to your courage.
Dat isn’t in my line, sa—cookin’s my profession.
Well, but have you no regard for your reputation?
Reputation! nuffin to me de side ob life.”
Do you consider your self worth more than other people’s? It’s worth more to me, sa.
Then you must value it very highly?
Yes, sa. I does; dan all dis world; more dan a million dollars, sa; for what would dat be wuth to a man wid be bref out of him? Self-preserbashun am de fust law wid me, sa.
But why should you act upon a different rule from other men?
Cause, sa, different men sets different value on derselves; my life is not in de market.
But if you lost it, you would have the satisfaction of knowing that you died for your country.
What satisfaction would dat be to me, when der power of feelin’ was gone?
Then patriotism and honor are nothing to you?
Nuffin,’ whatever, sa—I regard dem as among the varieties.
If our soldiers were like you, traitors might have broken up the Government without resistance.”
Yes, sa; der would hab been no help for it. I wouldn’t put my life in de scales ginst any guberment dat ever existed, for no guberment could replace de loss to me. Spect, dough dat de guberment’s safe, if da all like me.
Do you think that any of your company would have missed you if you had been killed?
May be not, sa; a dead white man ain’t much to dese sogers, let alone a dead nigga; but I’d a missed myself, and dat was de pint wid me.
It is safe to say that the darkey corpse of that African will never darken the field of carnage.