General Sid - Cover

General Sid

Copyright© 2021 by Lazlo Zalezac

Chapter 8

There was a minor roar of drunken laughter from where the freed slaves were celebrating their new found freedom. They had been shocked when Sid had delivered watered wine and beer for them to drink as part of their festivities. Barson was seated next to Sid drinking a mug of watered wine.

Curious, Barson said, “It sounds like they are barely watering the wine. From my experience, that is a sure recipe for disaster.”

“They needed it,” Sid answered while nudging a log in the fire so that it would burn more evenly. He looked up at the sky missing the moon of earth. At least the stars were bright.

“What do you mean?”

“Nothing tells a man that he’s free, like the chance to make an ass out of himself,” Sid answered. It would be a painful lesson, particularly when they would get up in the morning with headaches.

Barson laughed his agreement, shook his head, and said, “That’s so true.”

A scream shattered the low the murmur of drunken sounds. It was the kind of sound made by a man being forced to do something he didn’t want.

Sid shook his head and said, “The retribution has begun.”

“Aren’t you going to stop it?”

“Nope,” Sid answered, feeling sick to his stomach.

From his readings, he knew that the slave rebellions in Haiti were bloody violent uprisings. He was sure that no one would be killed although a few of the overseers may wish they had been.

Olaf, looking upset, stepped over to the fire and pointed over to the area where the free men were partying.

He said, “They’re doing things to the overseers.”

“I’m sure they are,” Sid said.

“Aren’t you going to stop it?”

“Nope,” Sid answered. He looked at the two young men and said, “If anyone is to stop it, it needs to be the men and women who were freed today. If we do it, then just how free are they? In two days we will be gone, and they will be left to rule themselves.”

“I suppose you’re right,” Olaf said with a frown. He didn’t want to think about what was happening a hundred paces away. He threw a small stick into the fire and said, “I don’t like it.”

“Neither do I,” Sid said.

He stood and started pacing while thinking about what was going on in the temporary camp of the freed people. As horrible as the actions taking place were, Sid could understand why they were occurring. It was human nature to want to punish those who had stripped them of every human dignity.

He paused his pacing and said, “It would be wrong to think that things of similar horror haven’t happened to each and every one of the former slaves. I’m sure the women have been raped. It wouldn’t surprise me if a few of the men haven’t been raped as well.”

Olaf stared at the fire without saying a word. Barson shook his head and said, “Aren’t we supposed to be the good guys?”

“We are the good guys,” Sid said. He walked over to where he had a cup of watered wine and picked it up. After taking a sip, he said, “We are fighting slavery and trying to rebuild communities. I think part of rebuilding a community is allowing past injustices to be resolved, so that they don’t eat the community away from inside. I’ll admit that what is going on over there isn’t the solution that I would like, but my hope is that the injustices will be resolved as quickly as possible.”

“Expedience?” Barson asked.

“Perhaps,” Sid admitted. He took his seat and stared at the fire. Another scream sounded from the area. He sighed and said, “It will be hard to sleep tonight.”

“Should have set up camp further away,” Olaf commented. It was hard for him to remain down for long. He grinned after a moment and said, “I guess this is what we are supposed to do. Learn from experience.”

Barson looked over at the other young man and said, “You seem to be enjoying this adventure.”

“You bet. I’m seeing new sights and meeting new people. Seeing all them folks freed today made me feel real good,” Olaf said gesturing towards the celebration. He said, “I was really furious when we went into that town the other day and saw all those folks who had been killed. Freeing these people makes me feel better about myself. I’m doing something good.”

Nodding his head in agreement, Barson said, “What I saw in town was disgusting. I’d have to say that raping a murderer seems a minor punishment compared to the crime.”

“Most of those slaves were probably taken in a raid like what occurred in that town. They watched their mothers, fathers, and children get killed. Afterwards, they were abused, beaten, raped, and treated like animals. I’m sure that the overseers are in for a rough time, but it will pale in comparison to what those men and women suffered,” Sid said. The reminder of what they had seen the other day was important. Olaf had made an important point about learning from experience. In the future they would have to camp further from where the freed men and women were celebrating.

Listening to the noise of the freed men and women celebrating kept Sid from sleeping. It wasn’t that the noise was loud, but the occasional sounds of men being abused bothered him. It was the middle of the night when he gave up trying to sleep and went to check the guards. Walking around the periphery of the camp, he stopped at each guard position pleased to find that all were awake and alert. By the time he had finished with checking every guard post, the sounds of celebration had died down to be replaced by the low murmur of men and women telling their individual tales of woe.

He walked over to the camp set up by the freed slaves to see what was going on. Before reaching them, he paused to listen to the conversation around the fire. One of the men said, “I remember the first few days after I was taken. I feel asleep every night shaking and crying like that bastard over there. I don’t feel sorry for him. He knows that his hell is only going to last thirty-five years. I had to accept that my hell was never going to end.”

“You had given up hope?” asked one of the women surprised by the admission.

“I didn’t give up anything. It was beaten out of me,” the man snarled. He had the scars on his back to prove his claim. His comment was greeted with lots of knowing nods and supporting statements from others around the fire.

“What do you think of that Sid Jones fellow?”

“I don’t know.”

“He seems like an honest fellow to me.”

“Yeah, too honest. I was sure that he was going to be over here telling us to stop what we were doing, but he left us alone.”

“It wasn’t his place to tell us what to do. He said that we were free and he’s treated us that way.”

“I don’t know about the rest of you, but tonight is the last time I’m getting drunk like this. Tomorrow, I’m going to find me a good house, and tend the fields. I want to get back to the simple life that I used to have. All I want is to be left alone!”

Sid grinned at the last statement. He couldn’t tell who was saying what, but it was more important to know that they had calmed down a little and were beginning to think about how to rebuild their lives. Part of that was taking responsibility for their actions.

“That fellow over there won’t be worth anything tomorrow. I never was after a reaming like that,” said a man. He shivered at the memories of the things that had been done to him.

“Shit, I got raped every night, and was expected to work the next day. He’ll work or I’ll whip his ass,” said a woman with a barely constrained fury.

“Claire, I don’t want to become like them.”

“Right. I don’t want to be like the thing I’ve hated so much.”

“I know what you mean,” another man said. He sighed and said, “We’re going to have to set up a local militia. Anyone that tries to make me a slave again is going to die.”

“Here, here!”

“Do you think there is an inn, here? I’d like to get back to running an inn.”

“I’m sure there is.”

Sid slipped away and returned to camp feeling much better about things. There would be further abuses of the indentured servants, but he suspected that they wouldn’t be nearly as bad. They might hate the overseers, but their desire to have a normal life burned brighter than the desire for revenge.

It was early when Sid woke. He stepped out of his tent hoping to have an uninterrupted trip to the latrine. Instead, he found a scout waiting for him. The man looked like he had traveled through the night. Pausing, Sid asked, “What are you doing here?”

“I came to give a report of what we’ve observed,” the scout answered.

“Okay. Talk,” Sid said glancing over at the latrine and wishing he had a chance to relieve his bladder.

“We’ve been following the slavers like you ordered. It’s not pretty.”

“What do you mean?”

“They are marching at a quick pace during the day, and abusing the prisoners at night. Anyone who falls behind is killed. You can follow them by the bodies they are leaving behind.”

“How many people are involved?” Sid asked thinking about the conversations he had overheard the previous night.

“There are at least a thousand captives. They are being watched by about seventy men.”

“How are so few men controlling that many people?” Sid asked. He would have expected closer to a hundred men.

“They have the captives tied together by a rope around their necks in strings of fifty. There are less than two hands of space between them. If one person falls, it chokes the others in the line. Each of them has their arms tied together behind their back and hobbles on their feet. Anyone who moves slow gets the whip.”

“How many people are watching each string of captives?” Sid asked.

“Two and, sometimes, three. The strings with the stronger individuals have three men watching them at all times. They use the whip almost continuously.”

Nodding, Sid asked, “What about scouts?”

“A handful of men are riding ahead at any given time. They don’t post guards at night, other than to watch the captives. The further away they get from here, the sloppier their operation gets. It is as though they know that the locals will support them if they need it. In fact, the locals are having their slaves bury the bodies they are leaving behind.”

“How far ahead of us are they?”

“Five days at a standard march. There’s no way to catch up to them and the area is getting more difficult for our scouts,” the scout answered. He shifted and said, “I told the other two scouts to watch for another day and then to return here.”

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