Read My Brother's Keeper My America 1 Online

Authors: Mary Pope Osborne

Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Fiction, #General, #United States, #Diaries, #Historical, #Military & Wars, #Civil War Period (1850-1877), #United States - History - Civil War; 1861-1865 - Campaigns, #Gettysburg (Pa.); Battle Of; 1863, #Gettysburg; Battle Of; Gettysburg; Pa.; 1863

My Brother's Keeper My America 1

BOOK: My Brother's Keeper My America 1
10.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
My Brother's Keeper: Virginia's Diary (Dear America)

Mary Pope Osborne

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania 1863

June 20, 1863

Here begins the writing of Virginia B. Dickens, sister of Jedidiah Dickens who has trusted her with the keeping of his journal, as he has gone to help our Uncle Jack hide his horses from Confederate raiders who roam the countryside.

I, Virginia B. Dickens, am sitting on top of Cemetery Hill in the town of Gettysburg, in the State of Pennsylvania.

Songbirds. Gravestones. Blue sky. Green grass.



I do not know what else to say.

I have been sitting here on Cemetery Hill for half an hour.

Jed told me that I am to write what I hear and what I see. He told me to write what I truly feel and truly think. Above all, Jed said, be honest.

Well, to be honest, I don't think I have heard or seen anything worth writing about.

All I hear are birds singing the same songs over and over.

All 1 see are old tombstones. One of them has my mother's name on it.

What do I truly feel?

Right now I truly feel a little angry at Jed and Pa for going to Uncle Jack's without me.

Pa said he did not want to put me in harm's


way. So I am to stay at Reverend McCully's for a few days, until Pa and Jed get back.

For goodness sakes, Pa! I am nine years old now! I do everything with you and Jed!

And what do I truly think?

What I truly think is this: I do not know how to keep this journal. Everything I have written so far is angry or foolish.

So good-bye for now.

Late at ni^ht

The McCullys are all asleep.

I am writing by candlelight in the attic room I share with Jane Ellen.

Jane Ellen is Reverend McCully's younger sister from Philadelphia. She is eighteen years old, the same as Jed. She has moved here only recently. After our summer recess,


she will be the new school mistress at my school.

What do I truly feel right now?

To be honest, I feel a little angry at Jane Ellen.

Before she went to sleep, Jane Ellen asked me all sorts of questions about Jed.

1 told her Jed loves to read and write. I told her he writes every day. While he is away, he wants me to write for him.

Jane Ellen said she also loves to read and write. Then she said I had a wonderful brother. She thought he was quite handsome, too.

If 1 was honest, I'd have to say I did not like hearing Jane Ellen praise Jed this way. She has only met him once -- the day he brought me here. How could she know how wonderful he is?


June 21, 1863

I am sitting on top of Cemetery Hill.

I feel a bit guilty for not offering to help Mrs. McCully this morning.

When I left her house, she asked where I was going. I told her I had to go write in Jed's journal. She just nodded and told me to come back for the noon meal.

Mrs. McCully is too busy to pay much attention to my comings and goings. With three-year-old twins, a new baby, and Reverend McCully away in Philadelphia, she has more than enough to think about.

I know I should offer to help her. But Jane Ellen is there to do that. My job is to write in Jed's journal while he is away.

"Be my eyes and my ears in Gettysburg," he told me.

That is the biggest job I have ever had.






So, what do my eyes see for you right now, Jed? They see a wheat field, an apple orchard, and a cornfield. They see riders on horseback coming down Emmitsburg Road.

What do I feel?

If I was honest, Jed, I would have to say I feel sad. Sad because those riders are not you and Pa.

June 22, 1863

We heard frightening news this morning.

An old friend of Reverend McCully's came to visit. His name is Mr. Hoke. He works for a newspaper in Washington, D.C. He has come to Gettysburg to write a story about the Confederate army.

Mr. Hoke said thousands of Rebels are riding through Pennsylvania. They are coming very close to Gettsyburg!






Pa and Jed had better hurry back before all those Rebels get between them and home.

June 23, 1863

On the way to the store this morning, Mrs. McCully and I saw a number of Negro people hurrying down Baltimore Street. They all carried big bundles on their backs. The person leading the way was Becky Lee, the nice lady who helps Mrs. McCully with her wash.

Mrs. McCully shouted to Becky Lee, asking where she was going.

Becky Lee said the Rebs were coming! She said she was going to hide her children in the woods near Culp's Hill.

Mrs. McCully told her to come stay with us.

But Becky Lee said no house in Gettysburg was safe. She said the Rebs will search all the


houses for Negroes and drag them south to be slaves.

Mrs. McCully opened her handbag and gave Becky Lee all her money. She told Becky Lee she would pray for her and her children.

What a terrible thing for people to be slaves. God created all people equal. But slavery treats some people like animals. Why, Becky Lee has to hide her children just like Uncle Jack has to hide his horses!

Mrs. McCully says if the Union wins the war, President Lincoln's wish will come true -- there will be no more slavery in any states.

But she says the Union is not doing well. The Confederates have won many battles. If they win a big battle in Pennsylvania, she thinks they might win the whole war!



My friends Sally and Betsy are leaving town, too. Their families are taking the last train out of Gettysburg in the morning. They will stay in York until the Rebels have come and gone.

Many people are leaving town. But Mrs. McCully said that we will not leave. She fears that if we leave, the Rebs might rob the house. The Rebs only rob empty houses, she says.

Then what about


empty house? Mine and Jed's and Pa's? It is sitting all by itself across town, with no one at all to guard it.

Uncle Jack's horses are important. But so is Pa's violin. And Mother's gold locket and pearl-handled hairbrush. What if the Rebs steal Jed's books? His plays by William Shakespeare, and

The Death of King Arthur?


Mr. Hoke came to dinner again today. He said that right now the Rebs are spreading over the countryside just outside town!

He said it is now dangerous for ordinary citizens to travel to and from Gettysburg.

When I told Mr. Hoke about Pa and Jed, he said they should stay at Uncle Jack's until all the Confederates have left this area.

"Oh, yes! Jed should stay right where he is," Jane Ellen said with a look of great concern.

What I would like to know is: Why should Jane Ellen care so much about Jed's safety? Goodness, she hardly knows him.

I imagine Pa must feel bad about leaving me here. He said the Rebs would never come near Gettysburg. He said he was leaving me in the safest place in the world -- a sleepy little farm town, not big enough to attract a fly.


How strange that I am the one in harm's way, while Pa and Jed are safe at Uncle Jack's farm. What do I truly feel? Maybe I truly feel just a tiny bit scared.

Late afternoon

I am sitting on Cemetery Hill, near my mother's grave.

There is something I keep wondering. If my mother had lived, would she be on the side of the Rebels now?

My mother was born in Virginia. She loved the state of Virginia. Why, right before she died, she told Pa to name me Virginia!

After my mother died, Pa lost touch with her family. But he once told me she had two younger brothers. What if they come to Gettysburg to fight our Union soldiers?

Jed says this war has torn apart many


families. He says President Lincoln is the only-one who can make us one nation again.

June 25, 1863

1 cannot stop thinking about my mother.

Pa says my mother was a beautiful Southern belle.

Pa always says this in a humble, shy way. It is as if he cannot figure why a beautiful Southern belle would leave Virginia and move to the North with him.

But that's easy to figure. Pa has bright crinkly eyes and music in his heart. Whenever he plays his violin, everyone feels happy. Why, anyone would follow Pa when he plays his violin!

I like to picture my mother in a flouncy pale dress, dancing barefoot to Pa's music. I can almost hear her tinkling laughter and see her dark curls.


I think she will always be young and beautiful in Pa's mind. Whenever he speaks about her, he sounds like he's telling a fairy tale.

If 1 told the Rebs such things about my mother, would they go away and leave our house alone?

Late evening

I saved our treasures!

I went to our house before nightfall. I lit a candle and put Jed's books in a satchel, along with Pa's violin and my mother's pearl-handled hairbrush.

1 confess 1 am now wearing her gold locket. Pa would never let me wear it before. But surely it is better for me to wear my mother's locket than have it stolen by the Rebs.

Mrs. McCully praised my mission. She said


Pa and Jed would be proud of me. Then she hid the satchel in the cellar.

All evening Jane Ellen kept asking, "Where is our army?" She wonders if President Lincoln himself even knows where our army is. If he does, why is he letting the Confederates ride around our countryside, doing as they please?

I told Jane Ellen that President Lincoln is Jed's greatest hero in all the world. I told her that she mustn't speak ill of Mr. Lincoln when she is in my brother's presence.

Do you know what she did then?

She threw her hands across her heart and wailed, "I know. I love him, I love him desperately."

Why, Jane Ellen! Did you mean President Lincoln? Or my brother Jed?


The Rebels rode through Gettysburg this very day! At about two o'clock, we heard their yells. We heard whistles and drums.

When we peeked outside, what a sight we


A Rebel band was playing in the Center Square! Hundreds of Confederates were passing by our house!

I could not look away, even when Jane Ellen urged me to close the shutters.

First the Rebs came on horses. Then they passed on foot. Some waved red flags. But they made a pitiful sight in their dirty, gray uniforms.

A man with his feet wrapped in rags called out howdy to me. Another asked how many Yankee soldiers were in town.

I shouted it was none of his business.

The Reb laughed a wild laugh. He told me


they were going to whip the Yankees no matter how many there were! Then he fired his pistol in the air and whooped.

Jane Ellen slammed the shutters closed.

BOOK: My Brother's Keeper My America 1
10.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

To Bed a King by Carol Lynne
Dead By Midnight by Hart, Carolyn
The Reluctant Tuscan by Phil Doran
On a Clear Day by Walter Dean Myers
Her Last Scream by Kerley, J. A.
The Spoiler by Annalena McAfee