The war for his family had been about states rights, not slavery. Nelson & Cora.
June 30, 2013
A VG Serial: Nelson & Cora
Alberdeen, Kentucky, 1866
George waited until Nelson’s face wasn’t quite so red.
“Nelson, you don’t know her, do you?” George asked.
“I just met her. Last night was the first time I’ve ever laid eyes on her,” Nelson said.
“I understand that you are mad at that Ross fellow. I understand why you would be, talking to you like that. But, this isn’t over that girl, is it?” George asked.
“What else would it be over, George? Did you see how he treated her? As if talking to me was enough to send her straight to hell,” Nelson said.
“That’s what he thinks,” George said.
“Why would he think that? I don’t know him. Why would he think that of me?” Nelson asked.
“He knows Father. He certainly knows Father,” George said as he ushered Nelson from the courthouse.
“What do you mean?” Nelson asked.
“I don’t know how much Father tells you about things. I only know what I do because I have to handle the legal proceedings for the plantation. And, don’t think you are sparing me anything by letting me go on about having a private practice some day.
Father will never allow me to handle any other cases but his. Unfortunately, I will have enough of those cases to last for the rest of my life,” George said.
“Father only talks to me about the workings of the plantation. The legal side? I care nothing about that. Father does not talk with me about that at all,” Nelson said as they walked outside.
“Well, he should. And, you should care. People look to you as the next line for the
McGinnis Plantation and all that goes along with that,” George said.
“What are you talking about?” Nelson asked. He sat down on the bench outside of the courthouse and stretched out his legs.
“Father should be the one to tell you, but he will not. He only tells me what I must know in order to handle the cases. I don’t want to know anymore than I do. And, I wish that I didn’t know that,” George said and sat down next to his brother.
George told Nelson about the meetings for the Confederacy, the raids, the cases being brought against their father. George told him about the sharecroppers their father refused to pay.
When George got to the stories about the slaves who escaped and returned, Nelson stopped him.
“George, how can these things be true? What about Mattie? Father loves Mattie. She lives in our home. She has raised us. She is a part of our family,” Nelson said.
“I only know what Father has told me. I know he cares for Mattie. I know he protects Mattie from Mother. But, he admitted that when some of the slaves escaped that he
sent some men to capture them and return them to the plantation. He did admit that,”
“So, the Ross man hates me because of Father?” Nelson asked. “I was just a boy when those things happened.”
“That isn’t all of it,” George said. “When the slaves were returned, Father said one of them had tried to escape several times on the way back to the plantation. Father said the men who brought him back beat him. Father said that they must have beat him unconscious because he never did wake up. He died shortly after he was returned to the plantation,” George said.
Nelson had never heard this. He was silent. George thought maybe Nelson hadn’t heard him. He started to repeat himself.
“That is horrible,” Nelson said.
“There’s more. Father brought charges against the men,” George continued.
“For killing the boy?” Nelson asked.
“That is what Father says. But, Nelson, I read the papers. That’s not what the charges say,” George said.
He didn’t want to continue, but he knew Nelson had a right to know.
“The charges say that Father was seeking restitution for damaged and lost property,”
George said. He didn’t know how much Nelson understood of legal terms. He hoped that Nelson would figure it out. George didn’t want to explain it.
They sat together in silence for a while. Nelson looked at the ground. George watched the people walking in and out of the courthouse.
“Father brought charges against those men because they returned damaged property?
Father sued them because he couldn’t use the slave anymore?” Nelson asked.
“That’s how the papers read. Father refuses to answer my questions. He tells me to keep my nose out of it,” George said.
“And Mattie?” How does she figure into it?” Nelson asked.
“Mattie is loyal to Father, dotes on us, and loves Gert. What else is there?” George asked.
“How can she stay if those things are true?” Nelson asked.
“Maybe that’s not the man she knows. Maybe she knows Father as we do. As we did,”
George said. “I don’t know.”
Nelson sat for a long time staring down at the ground. Things were happening too fast now. He thought back to bits of conversations he overheard when he was at market with their father. He remembered pieces of paper that had been tucked into drawers and hearing whispers when there were visitors.
He had grown up with it. But now, what if these things were true? What if his father was who George said he was? Or worse, what if his father was the man Thomas Ross said he was?
What if sweet Cora thought the same of him? Nelson felt sick.
Slavery, Nelson understood it. He had been born with it, grew up with it, and then, it was gone. Mr. Lincoln saw to it that the Union had rights over the states, and that Mr.
Lincoln’s preserved Union was more powerful than the states. Nelson knew that. He knew that for his family the war was about states’ rights. Nelson also knew that for others, for people like the Ross family, it was about ending slavery.
Nelson wondered if he should have questioned his father more. But, why would he?
Randall McGinnis was his father, not his brother, not his friend. Why would he question the man who raised him?
Cora’s image kept coming to his mind. He wanted to talk to her about what Thomas had said, about what George told him. He wanted to ask her if she believed those stories. He prayed that she wouldn’t believe those things to be true about him. He wanted a chance to prove himself. Nelson wanted to look into her fiery eyes and see
her face and tell her that he was not the man her brother said he was. And, he wasn’t the same as his father.
Chapters of the serial are published on Sunday.
You can learn more about Nelson & Cora on Amazon.