The story of Neptune Small is so full of tender pathos, so replete
with the history of those memorable days, now fast passing away, and bears
so directly upon the bravery, the chivalry, the devotion to the just cause
of a family whose record, whether to the halls of Congress or upon the
field of battle, in civic or military stations, stands forth peerless and
without a model or shadow in the annals of Glynn county or any other, that
it is told for the entertainment of TIMES readers.
"Well, genl'mens, I ise [sic] b'longs to de King fambly since my
longest 'membrance. I use to sorter had to look after Mas'
Butler, Mas' Mallory, Mas' Lord, Mas' Floyd, an' de balance.
Well, on day on St. Simon's Mas' Butler be tooken sick, and 'fore a
doctor could come he was dead. Well, missus she grebe and grebe and
follow him; I tink de same year de Janneray afore de war. Well, it
most brake up de family, cos dey was all lovin' peoples. Well, when
we heard "Fo't Sumpta' surrender, all my young masters say we must go; dey
don't take advantage of 15 colored peoples to keep out de war. Well,
I went wid mas' Lord, cos when he was a boy he wus mostly wid me.
At fust it wus nothin' but w'en we went to 'Furginny de truble commence.
You kno' I use ter cook fur him and kinder take care of him, cos I wus
leetle de oldest. Well, any of you genl'men wot ben in de march from
de vally to the place call 'Fredricksburg,' mus' kno' wot a time it wer'
wen about 25 mile off we could hear de cannon an' see de town aburnin',
dat is de lite on de sky. De army marches on tell we cum to whar
Mas' Lordy say was 'Mary Hite.' Jus' under de hill I make a fire
to cook supper. W'en supper was reddy I go to call Mas' Lord.
He be talkin' to some big officers, an' I wate tell he git thro', and I
say 'Supper reddy, young master." He cum an' eat he supper, but
don't talk like mos' de times; w'en he thro' he look in de fire a long
time. I ben busy washin' de dishes w'en all a sudden he say: 'Neptune,
a big fite to-morrow mornin'; good mens will eat deir las' supper to-nite.'
It makes me feel kinder lon' some to hyar Mas' Lord talk so, cos he
always ben so happy-hearted. Well, de nex' day I see de canon gwine
by, an' de solders marching by, an' de gen'rals ridin' by, an' I know'd
trouble wus comin'. Jus' afore 12 o'clock I hyar de canon commence
to shoot, den I hyar de muskets begin, den I see de wounded mens goin'
ba'k, and den -- but, gentl'mens, war broke loose on dat day; all day it
gwine on, and I keep sayin', Mas' Lord can't cum, cos de big
gen'rals is keepin' him to carry orders. Nite cum, but no Mas'
Lord. I stir up de fire to keep he supper warm, but no Mas'
Lord. I still hyar de canon an' de muskets, an I say to myself,
'dey ain't thro' yet. Well, after it git good dark I lef' de supper
by de fire to go look fur Mas. Lord. I met a' officer on a
hoss. I ask him if he see Mas' Lord. He say not since 2
'clock. I makes no answer, but my heart cum up in my thro't, an' I
know'd den he mus' be hurt. I gone towards de' Confed'rate line,
wher' dey ben fiten all day, an' I as de oficer could I go out an' find my
young master. I don't know he [unreadable] say: "Who is yer
young master, is. Mas Lord King. De oficer say 'I spect
you'll fine him out dere, but look out fur de Yankee picket. I crawl
down de hill; ded' mens was ev'ry wher', but none look like Mas' Lord.
At las' it wus very dark. Den I cum to a' officer layin on he face.
Som'body had pull of he rite boot and lef' de lef', cos it wus so blody.
I hyar som'body say, 'wat' yer doin' dar?' I say, 'lookin' fur me
young master.' He say, 'dat is him.' I say to myself, 'no, dat
ain't my young master,' and I gone furder down de line. Wen' I git
nearly a quarter mile, I say to myself, 'I kno' how I can tel if dat is
Mas' Lord.' I see my old missus run her han' thro' his hair wen
he bin a boy, and she used to say, 'My boy, you have such beauterful
hair,' and I used to feel it myself, cos it wus so nice an' curly. I
crawl back, an' I put my han' in he hair, but de blod was clot, and de
hair didn't feel like Mas' Lord's; but I turn he head over w'ere de
blod was not so t'ick. I turn he face up so he could look in old
Neptune's face, an' I say, 'my young master -- Mas' Lord, dis
is old Neptune; supper is ready; I ben waiting fur you -- is you
hurt bad?' But he never answer his old nigger -- he, he, he.
Gen'mens, wate on old Neptune a little w'ile -- I can't talk now.
Genl'mens--he, he, Lord have mercy--he was ded! I take him up in my
arm. De shells bust an' de bullets rattle, but I ain't afraid dem.
Mas' Lord, my young master, dey can't hurt him; and Old Neptune
don't care. De nex' day some offercers put him in a pine box to go
to Richmon'. I say well, when I git to Richmon' dats something else.
When I git dere I got de best coffin dey had, and we cum to Savannah and
burry him dere. Since den he brothers and sisters bring him to St.
Simon's at de old Frederica church and burry him w'ere he people am restin.'
Sometime old Neptune. He hair is white an' rumatiz is got
him, but in de spring time I goes an' see dat no cows eat de flowers of'n
his grave, an' keep de grass from growin' too clos'. Well, genl'mens,
I could tell about the Atlanta campane, but I can't tell too much now.
Som'how old Neptune's eyes ain't strong like dey used to be, an',
an', water cum in dem so easy w'en I talk 'bout old St. Simon's an' my
young masters in de good ole days afore de war cum, dat tooken so many
good boys away. Good day genl'mens -- good day; Neptune will
tell you some mo' sometime.
The write, some months
before he heard the above story from Neptune, in company with a
gentleman who had for years been anxious to visit the Wesley oak at
Frederica, chanced to reach there late one afternoon. While pointing
out to him many historic reminisences [sic] of the past century, our
attention was attracted to an old gray-haired negro tenderly brushing from
a tomb the leaves and rubbish accumulated there. Darkness was
gathering. The old negro looked for a moment toward the sinking sun
and then turning silently away, passed through the rustic churchyard gate,
and was soon lost in the gathering twilight.
[Unreadable] a few months
ago I heard faithful old Neptune's story. A short time after
in company with a near relative of the King family, [unreadable]
the old cemetery and read the inscription placed by loving hands upon the
headstone of brave and gallant "Lord King."
I remembered the past
incident, the gray-haired negro, the fresh-kept grave; and as we silently
left the sacred resting place of the dead, the rain began to fall and upon
reaching the bank of the river waiting for the steamer, I could but think:
"But the river--still and weary with the ceaseless raindrops falling on
its brown and sluggish waters, with a sound as of a woman weeping low in
some dark chamber; while the woods, all dark and silent, shrouded in their
mists of vapor, stands like ghosts upon the margin, silent ghosts with
eyes reproachful, like the ghosts of evil actions, like the ghosts of
???ends neglected--is a spirit haunted water through the land of vain