Chapter 110 Summary
In 1860 the news around Tom’s blacksmith shop echoes more and more the prospect of war. All of the Southern white men are complaining about the new president, Abraham Lincoln, because he wants to free the slaves. No one can believe that freedom might actually be achieved in their lifetime. The slaves all seem to know that if the dreaded “Yankees” win the pending war, perhaps freedom for slaves will be assured. Still, they have hope.
It isn’t long before Master Murray is talking with his dinner guests about South Carolina seceding from the union. Now they know there is going to be a war, but none can believe that white men will fight about the ownership of black men. The slaves on the Murray plantation aren’t sure whether to be happy about the news or scared about the prospect of war.
Master Murray, as well as all of the other white people who visit, become more and more secretive in their conversation. They begin spelling words so that the slaves can’t understand and often become silent when their servants enter the room. Finally, Matilda gets so fed up with not hearing any news that she takes a risk, feigning loyalty, while serving the Murrays their dessert one night: “We be’s mighty scared o’ dem Yankees, and we sho’ hopes you gwine take care of us if ‘n dey’s trouble.” The Murrays nod in approval and vow their protection. Still, the Confederacy is formed and a president, Jefferson Davis, is named. Even though upstanding plantation owners such as the Murrays and the Holts disagree with the secession, the fighting begins anyway.
One morning, Tom notices a slew of white men riding on horseback at top speed, one after another. They shake their fists at the slaves on the Murray plantation and go riding past. Tom, determined to find out the reason behind the taunts of these men, rides into town to hear what the white men, clustered around the telegraph office, are saying: Confederate President Jefferson Davis abolishes the slave trade, and shots are fired at Fort Sumpter. General Robert E. Lee is no longer a general in the United States Army. Instead, Lee has offered to lead the Army of Virginia for the Confederacy. In 1861, then, the war truly begins. White men in the South are lining up to fight in the Civil War.