Mrs. A. T. Goodwin’s Letter to the Provost Marshal, 1866

You ask why I raised my hand to that boy, why
I gave him some raps over the head, you ask
why I took my small riding whip to his shoulders
his head, why, you ask, when he would not cut logs
at the wood pile. You ask why I took him by the hand &
gave him some raps, when not one stick did he cut from twelve
to four. I told his mother, my milker washer, I told her
in plain words he must do better. I told her all this without
any improvement. She was insolent, which is why my son
struck her. He only struck her when she ran from her cabin
to pluck up the boy while I was giving him some raps
over the head & shoulders with just my small riding
whip. Understand, Sir, this boy had not cut more than
two scant handfuls of wood for my cookstove, but all
the family were engaged to me: his mother, the boy
to bring my horses to water, to cut wood, only yesterday
he said I shall not cut a stick of wood. I shall not touch it. So these
are the negroes we’ve raised, never abused a single one, always
had the kindest feelings, the kindest, so long as their conduct
were tolerable, so long as I did not have to stand
by my wood pile, smelling the wood pile, the smell of the sap
intolerable from twelve to four, the heave & snap of the clear
sap inside the logs, never holding still, so that I had rather stand
in the house, my hands sifting flour across a board, so that
in truth I had much rather be still, holding nothing but
my riding whip, dark & folded up small.