‘Don’t Grieve After Me’


On July 5, 1863, Louisa Campbell was preparing to leave her son John Campbell’s Mississippi plantation to go to Arkansas, near where her other sons were fighting. Her youngest son, Will, age 11, and granddaughter Lulu McKenny, 14, who would travel with her, asked to make their farewells to the people in the family’s slave quarters. The following passage is from Lulu’s memoir, A Confederate Girlhood, published 30 years later. —Thulani Davis

We were now in a great bustle over getting ready to leave. Mother’s new plan was to go direct to her sister at Little Rock. . . . On Sunday evening, before we were to make an early start the next morning, we asked Mother to let us go down to the quarters to bid the people there good-bye. It was raining, but Mother said we might go, and we skipped along, hand in hand, as happy as larks. The cabins were built on each side of a narrow bayou with bridges across it here and there. Every house had its own little plot of vegetables and gay flowers, and every household had its own flock of chickens, and usually a pig.

We went last of all to visit old Aunt Nellie, a very aged, blind woman. All the others followed us from house to house until, by the time we reached Aunt Nellie’s, there was a crowd. The old soul took my hand in hers and began to call down blessings on us, and to tell the tale of her long life with our family. Now and then she held my hand to her withered cheek, all wet with tears. I cried like a baby.

As the old woman grew more vociferous in her song of praise, the others at the door took it up, and before we left there was a regular camp meeting over us. I asked them to sing some of the old songs for the last time and, as Will and I trotted back to the Big House, we heard more and more faintly the strains of: “Sound, sound de trumpet, don’t you grieve after me; Oh, sound de silver trumpet, don’t you grieve after me; Oh, sound de trumpet, Gabriel, don’t you grieve after me; I don’t want you to grieve after me.”

Return to Thulani Davis’s “Confederates in My Attic: Black History Firsthand”