Theodore Upson, Brother Rises against Brother

After Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the U.S.A. in 1860, seven southern states, all committed to slavery, left the Union. On February 4, 1861, they formed the Confederate States of America with their own constitution and their own President, Jefferson Davis. Lincoln was not going to allow the South to form a separate country. Many northerners felt the South should be allowed to "depart in peace", but after the Confederate rebels attacked and took the Union military post Fort Sumter on April 13, 1861, the Civil War could not be avoided any longer. The following text shows how this event was seen and recorded by an Indiana farm boy. The boy's grammar was not always the best, and his spelling was even worse.

April, 1861
Father and I were husking out some corn. We could not finish before it wintered up. When William Cory came across the field (he had been down after the Mail) he was excited and said, "Jonathan the Rebs have fired upon and taken Fort Sumpter." Father got white and couldn't say a word.
William said, "The President will soon fix them. He has called for 75,000 men and is going to blocade their ports, and just as soon as those fellows find out that the North means business they will get down off thier high horse."
Father said little. We did not finish the corn and drove to the barn. Father left me to unload and put out the team and went to the house. After I had finished I went in to dinner. Mother said, "What is the matter with Father?" He had gone right upstairs. I told her what we had heard. She went to him. After a while they came down. Father looked ten years older. We sat down to the table. Grandma wanted to know what was the trouble. Father told her and she began to cry. "Oh my poor children in the South! Now they will suffer! God knows how they will suffer! I knew it would come! Jonathan I told you it would come!"
"They can come here and stay," said Father.
"No they will not do that. There is thier home. There they will stay. Oh to think that I should have lived to see the day when Brother should rise against Brother."
She and Mother were crying and I lit out for the barn. I do hate to see women cry.
We had another meeting at the school house last night; we are raising money to take care of the families of those who enlist. A good many gave money, others subscribed. The Hulper boys have enlisted and Steve Lampman and some others. I said I would go but they laughed at me and said they wanted men not boys for this job; that it would all be over soon; that those fellows down South are big bluffers and would rather talk than fight. I am not so sure about that. I know the Hale boys would fight with thier fists at any rate and I believe they would fight with guns too if needs be. I remember how Charlie would get on our Dick and ride on a galop across our south field cutting mullin heads with his wooden sword playing they were Indians or Mexicans (his Father was in the Mexican War), and he looked fine. To be sure there was no danger but I feel pretty certain he could fight. May be it won't be such a picnic as some say it will. There has been a fight down in Virginia at Big Bethel. Al Beechers Nephew was in it and wrote to his Uncle and he read the letter in his store. I could not make out which side whipped but from the papers I think the Rebels had the best of it. Mother had a letter from the Hales. Charlie and his Father are in thier army and Dayton wanted to go but was too young. I wonder if I were in our army and they should meet me would they shoot me. I suppose they would.

husk (out) corn: Maiskolben enthülsen
Rebs: rebels
fix sb. (sl.): sich an jm. rächen
light, lit, lit out:
leave quickly
subscribe: agree to give money for a certain purpose
mullin: Königskerze
Mexican War:Mexican-American War, 1846-1848
whip: win

Understanding the contents
1. What news does William Cory bring the boy's family?
2. How do the members of the Upson family react to the news?
3. What expectations do most people seem to have about the war, according to Upson?
4. What seems to disturb the writer most?

Analysing the text
5. a) Describe the point of view* in this text.
b) What effect does this point of view have on the presentation of historical facts?
6. The text is an excerpt from a diary. It is a personal record of facts and experiences kept daily or at frequent intervals, normally for private use.
a) Name some of the external events Upson records.
b) What internal responses of his own does he add?
c) What other characteristics of a diary can you name?
7. a) Find as many examples of non-standard English in this text as you can
b) Why do you think the editors chose not to correct the text before publishing Upson's diary?

Working with the language
8. Rewrite the following sentences and clauses without using the words printed in italics:
a) ". . . as soon as those fellows find out that the North means business ",
b) ". . . they will get down off their high horse." ,
c) "A good many
gave money ..." ,
d) "... those fellows down South are big bluffers ..." ,
e) ". . . they would fight with guns too if needs be" .
9. a) Explain the meaning and use of the word "pretty" in the last paragraph. Find at least three synonyms.
b) Form one sentence each using "pretty" as an adjective and as an adverb, and one using "prettily".
c) Namefurther more adverbs with two forms. Demonstrate the difference in meaning between the forms by using them in sentences.

Going beyond the text
10. Make up a table* of the most important events of the American Civil War. Consult a reference book.
11. Make up a diary entry about a public event that you think was important to you in some way.