by Dr. Reve' M. Pete
John Whattel and James became friends as boys, during the days of slavery. The Matthews Family owned James’ family as slaves. However, the Matthews were not harsh toward their slaves. They treated them kindly. The kindness of the Matthews family toward their slaves also protected them from some of the harsh realities of slavery, such as families being separated at the auction block.
John Whattel and James were the same age. Although James had duties and work to do as a slave, the Matthews also viewed him as a suitable companion for John Whattel, who, if not properly “entertained” could be prone to getting into mischief. Because of their arranged companionship, the two boys grew up together on the Matthews Family plantation and played together like brothers.
John Whattel’s grandfather, Samuel Matthews, owned the Matthews plantation. It was a huge plantation and had an area where Samuel would fish. John Whattel was crazy about his grandfather –- sure that the “sun rose and set” in him. Samuel would take both John Whattel and James fishing. He also taught the boys to hunt.
As the rumblings of the conflict between the states over slavery grew, pressures began to mount on plantation owners to join in the fight against the abolition of the way of life that Southern landowners had grown to love. Although Samuel Matthews did not at all approve of cruelty toward slaves, he did believe in the right to own them and to maintain the life that was the way of the South. When war broke out, he enlisted as an officer in the Confederate Army and went to war to defend the Southern way of life.
Samuel Matthews was wounded in a battle in Jackson Mississippi that was of a type that would cause General Sherman to say, “War is Hell”. Although the wound was not fatal, with too few medical supplies and medical personnel, Samuel was unable to get adequate treatment for it. While making his way home to his family, Samuel Matthews died not far from his plantation. Confederate soldiers delivered his body, draped over a horse, back to the plantation for burial – in plain site of a horrified John Whattel.