"What make you such a fighter?" I am asked from time to time. In my lineage, both my maternal and paternal foreparents were Indians. Usually I respond to this question by saying, "That's the Indian in me."
A Prefactory Comment
My grandfather who was born into slavery told me this story when I was in my early teens. He said that this story had been told to him by his mother Rosalyn, a fourth generation slave from their lineage to be born in America following the capture of her great-great-great grandparents, Baatsi and Ashanti who had been kidnapped in Africa around the time of the Revolutionary War and enslaved in America.
Like animals Baatsi and Ashanti, leaving their two small children behind, had been kidnapped and herded onto a packed slave trader's
ship named Liverpool along with about two hundred other kidnapped Africans. After many days and weeks of sailing the Middle Passage and crossing the Atlantic Ocean they anchored in Charleston, South Carolina where they were auctioned off and sold as slaves to the highest bidders. They were sold to different slaveowners and would never see each other again. Two years later Ashanti gave birth to twins, Andrew and Isabella. Andrew was sold when he was two year old to a new slave owner and his mother and sister would never see him again.
Shortly after the death of her mother Isabella and her Indian Lover, as she called him, a Muskogean Indian named Hitchitaw who was also a slave, joined sixteen other slaves from three plantations and escaped from Georgia to Spanish Florida where Choctaws and Seminole were giving refuge to runaway slaves.
The episode that follows is one of many that occurred during the one and three-quarter centuries journey that began with the time Baasti and Ashanti were kidnapped in Africa and enslaved in America and ended with the death of Grandpa Benjamin as recalled and reported by Grandpa Benjamin's grandson in the book,
"Grandpa Benjamin." This episode is presented verbatim.
"Soon after their escape posters asking for help in capturing them were posted in Georgia, Florida and Alabama. One poster described Isabella as a young Negro woman who had scars on her back and a gash on the right side of her buttock occasioned by the whip and a Choctaw Indian who had the leter "S" branded on the left side of his face and lower left forearm. At the bottom of the poster was a warning: "The Indian may be violent!" A reward was offered to anyone returning these slaves to their slave masters.
A few weeks after they arrived in Florida a posse numbering twenty white slave catchers from Georgia and Alabama came to Florida with the intention of capturing runaway slaves there and returning them to their slave masters or selling them to other slave owners. Isabella and the other runaway slaves with her resisted the slave catchers as they put up a "hellava" fight. Isabella's Indian Lover Hitchitaw overpowered one of the slave catchers, took his gun and killed him, one other slave catcher and a horse before he was killed. During that bloody confrontation four other slaves and three slave catchers were killed. Eight of these runaway slaves, including Isabella and the two other females in the group, were captured by surviving slave catchers and brought to Mason City, Alabama where they were penned up in a barn in Daulphinville Island. Isabella remained there for two weeks before she was sold to Peter Blount who took her to his planation in another County in Alabama. A few months later Isabell's slave master learned that she was pregnant. She had been impregnated by her Indian Lover, as she affectionately called him. In 1798 at the age of twenty she gave birth to a girl who was named Betty by her slave master. Although Isabella called her daughter Betty in the presence of her slave owner and other white people she never called her by that name at other times. She named her daughter Dehgewanum, after her Indian Lover's mother. The name means "The Two-descending Voices."(pp.21-22).
Sixty-five years later Grandpa Benjamin was born. He is the man who has had and continues to have the greatest impact on my life.
This book is filled with stories like this one. Reading this book you will likely be compelled to say what I said after listening to my Gandfather tell me stories about my ancestors. I said: "I was speechless, unable to respond to his question. While he was talking I had been all ears, eyes and soul. His words and the expressions on his face were riveting and soul-wrenching. I was so overwhelmed by the awesome things that he had said that I had to wait before I could respond to his question... ." (p.26).
You can order your copy of "Grandpa Benjamin" by Uriah J. Fields On-Line from either: www.amazon.com, www.bn.com or www.publishamerica.com
Copyright 2007 by Uriah J. Fields