Camp-Fire and Cotton-Field
Thomas W. Knox
Part 6 out of 8
effectual stop to any irregularities than by the most severe
punishments. The only way to keep a negro honest, is not to trust him.
This seems a harsh assertion; but it is, unfortunately, too true.
You will find that an hour devoted, every Sabbath morning, to their
moral and religious instruction, would prove a great aid to you in
bringing about a better state of things among the negroes. It has
been thoroughly tried, and with the most satisfactory results, in many
parts of the South. As a mere matter of interest it has proved to be
advisable--to say nothing of it as a point of duty. The effect upon
their general good behavior, their cleanliness, and good conduct on
the Sabbath, is such as alone to recommend it to both planter and
In conclusion:--Bear in mind that _a fine crop_ consists, first, in an
increase in the number, and a marked improvement in the condition and
value, of the negroes; second, an abundance of provision of all sorts
for man and beast, carefully saved and properly housed; third, both
summer and winter clothing made at home; also leather tanned, and
shoes and harness made, when practicable; fourth, an improvement in
the productive qualities of the land, and in the general condition of
the plantation; fifth, the team and stock generally, with the farming
implements and the buildings, in fine order at the close of the year;
and young hogs more than enough for next year's killing; _then_, as
heavy a crop of cotton, sugar, or rice as could possibly be made
under these circumstances, sent to market in good season, and of prime
quality. The time has passed when the overseer is valued solely upon
the number of bales of cotton, hogsheads of sugar, or tierces of rice
he has made, without reference to other qualifications.
In contrast with the instructions to overseers under the old
management, I present the proclamation of General Banks, regulating
the system of free labor in the Department of the Gulf. These
regulations were in force, in 1864, along the Mississippi, from Helena
to New Orleans. They were found admirably adapted to the necessities
of the case. With a few changes, they have been continued in operation
during the present year:--
HEAD-QUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE GULF, NEW ORLEANS, _February_ 3, 1864.
GENERAL ORDERS, NO. 23.
The following general regulations are published for the information
and government of all interested in the subject of compensated
plantation labor, public or private, during the present year, and in
continuation of the system established January 30, 1863:--
I. The enlistment of soldiers from plantations under cultivation in
this department having been suspended by order of the Government, will
not be resumed except upon direction of the same high authority.
II. The Provost-Marshal-General is instructed to provide for the
division of parishes into police and school districts, and to organize
from invalid soldiers a competent police for the preservation of
III. Provision will be made for the establishment of a sufficient
number of schools, one at least for each of the police and school
districts, for the instruction of colored children under twelve years
of age, which, when established, will be placed under the direction of
the Superintendent of Public Education.
IV. Soldiers will not be allowed to visit plantations without the
written consent of the commanding officer of the regiment or post to
which they are attached, and never with arms, except when on duty,
accompanied by an officer.
V. Plantation hands will not be allowed to pass from one place to
another, except under such regulations as may be established by the
provost-marshal of the parish.
VI. Flogging and other cruel or unusual punishments are interdicted.
VII. Planters will be required, as early as practicable after the
publication of these regulations, to make a roll of persons employed
upon their estates, and to transmit the same to the provost marshal of
the parish. In the employment of hands, the unity of families will be
secured as far as possible.
VIII. All questions between the employer and the employed, until other
tribunals are established, will be decided by the provost-marshal of
IX. Sick and disabled persons will be provided for upon the
plantations to which they belong, except such as may be received in
establishments provided for them by the Government, of which one will
be established at Algiers and one at Baton Rouge.
X. The unauthorized purchase of clothing, or other property, from
laborers, will be punished by fine and imprisonment. The sale of
whisky or other intoxicating drinks to them, or to other persons,
except under regulations established by the Provost-Marshal-General,
will be followed by the severest punishment.
XL The possession of arms, or concealed or dangerous weapons, without
authority, will be punished by fine and imprisonment.
XII. Laborers shall render to their employer, between daylight
and dark, _ten_ hours in summer, and _nine_ hours in winter, of
respectful, honest, faithful labor, and receive therefor, in addition
to just treatment, healthy rations, comfortable clothing, quarters,
fuel, medical attendance, and instruction for children, wages per
month as follows, payment of one-half of which, at least, shall be
reserved until the end of the year:--
For first-class hands..... $8.00 per month.
For second-class hands.... 6.00 " "
For third-class hands..... 5.00 " "
For fourth-class hands.... 3.00 " "
Engineers and foremen, when faithful in the discharge of their
duties, will be paid $2 per month extra. This schedule of wages may
be commuted, by consent of both parties, at the rate of one-fourteenth
part of the net proceeds of the crop, to be determined and paid at
the end of the year. Wages will be deducted in case of sickness,
and rations, also, when sickness is feigned. Indolence, insolence,
disobedience of orders, and crime will be suppressed by forfeiture of
pay, and such punishments as are provided for similar offenses by Army
Regulations. Sunday work will be avoided when practicable, but when
necessary will be considered as extra labor, and paid at the rates
XIII. Laborers will be permitted to choose their employers, but when
the agreement is made they will be held to their engagement for one
year, under the protection of the Government. In cases of attempted
imposition, by feigning sickness, or stubborn refusal of duty, they
will be turned over to the provost-marshal of the parish, for labor
upon the public works, without pay.
XIV. Laborers will be permitted to cultivate land on private account,
as herein specified, as follows:
First and second class hands, with families..... 1 acre each.
First and second class hands, without families.. 1/2 " "
Second and third class hands, with families..... 1/2 " "
Second and third class hands, without families.. 1/4 " "
To be increased for good conduct at the discretion of the employer.
The encouragement of independent industry will strengthen all the
advantages which capital derives from labor, and enable the laborer
to take care of himself and prepare for the time when he can render so
much labor for so much money, which is the great end to be attained.
No exemption will be made in this apportionment, except upon
imperative reasons; and it is desirable that for good conduct the
quantity be increased until faithful hands can be allowed to cultivate
extensive tracts, returning to the owner an equivalent of product for
rent of soil.
XV. To protect the laborer from possible imposition, no commutation
of his supplies will be allowed, except in clothing, which may be
commuted at the rate of $3 per month for first-class hands, and in
similar proportion for other classes. The crops will stand pledged,
wherever found, for the wages of labor.
XVI. It is advised, as far as practicable, that employers provide for
the current wants of their hands, by perquisites for extra labor,
or by appropriation of land for share cultivation; to discourage
monthly-payments so far as it can be done without discontent, and to
reserve till the full harvest the yearly wages.
XVII. A FREE-LABOR BANK will be established for the safe deposit of
all accumulations of wages and other savings; and in order to avoid a
possible wrong to depositors, by official defalcation, authority will
be asked to connect the bank with the Treasury of the United States in
XVIII. The transportation of negro families to other countries
will not be approved. All propositions for this privilege have been
declined, and application has been made to other departments for
surplus negro families for service in this department.
XIX. The last year's experience shows that the planter and the negro
comprehend the revolution. The overseer, having little interest
in capital, and less sympathy with labor, dislikes the trouble of
thinking, and discredits the notion that any thing new has occurred.
He is a relic of the past, and adheres to its customs. His stubborn
refusal to comprehend the condition of things, occasioned most of
the embarrassments of the past year. Where such incomprehension is
chronic, reduced wages, diminished rations, and the mild punishments
imposed by the army and navy, will do good.
XX. These regulations are based upon the assumption that labor is a
public duty, and idleness and vagrancy a crime. No civil or military
officer of the Government is exempt from the operation of this
universal rule. Every enlightened community has enforced it upon
all classes of people by the severest penalties. It is especially
necessary in agricultural pursuits. That portion of the people
identified with the cultivation of the soil, however changed in
condition by the revolution through which we are passing, is not
relieved from the necessity of toil, which is the condition of
existence with all the children of God. The revolution has altered its
tenure, but not its law. This universal law of labor will be enforced,
upon just terms, by the Government under whose protection the laborer
rests secure in his rights. Indolence, disorder, and crime will be
suppressed. Having exercised the highest right in the choice and place
of employment, he must be held to the fulfillment of his
engagements, until released therefrom by the Government. The several
provost-marshals are hereby invested with plenary powers upon
all matters connected with labor, subject to the approval of the
Provost-Marshal-General and the commanding officer of the department.
The most faithful and discreet officers will be selected for this
duty, and the largest force consistent with the public service
detailed for their assistance.
XXI. Employers, and especially overseers, are notified, that undue
influence used to move the marshal from his just balance between
the parties representing labor and capital, will result in immediate
change of officers, and thus defeat that regular and stable system
upon which the interests of all parties depend.
XXII. Successful industry is especially necessary at the present time,
when large public debts and onerous taxes are imposed to maintain and
protect the liberties of the people and the integrity of the Union.
All officers, civil or military, and all classes of citizens who
assist in extending the profits of labor, and increasing the product
of the soil upon which, in the end, all national prosperity and power
depends, will render to the Government a service as great as that
derived from the terrible sacrifices of battle. It is upon such
consideration only that the planter is entitled to favor. The
Government has accorded to him, in a period of anarchy, a release from
the disorders resulting mainly from insensate and mad resistance to
sensible reforms, which can never be rejected without revolution,
and the criminal surrender of his interests and power to crazy
politicians, who thought by metaphysical abstractions to circumvent
the laws of God. It has restored to him in improved, rather than
impaired condition, his due privileges, at a moment when, by his own
acts, the very soil was washed from beneath his feet.
XXIII. A more majestic and wise clemency human history does not
exhibit. The liberal and just conditions that attend it cannot be
disregarded. It protects labor by enforcing the performance of its
duty, and it will assist capital by compelling just contributions to
the demands of the Government. Those who profess allegiance to other
Governments will be required, as the condition of residence in this
State, to acquiesce, without reservation, in the demands presented by
Government as a basis of permanent peace. The non-cultivation of the
soil, without just reason, will be followed by temporary forfeiture to
those who will secure its improvement. Those who have exercised or
are entitled to the rights of citizens of the United States, will
be required to participate in the measures necessary for the
re-establishment of civil government. War can never cease except as
civil governments crush out contest, and secure the supremacy of moral
over physical power. The yellow harvest must wave over the crimson
field of blood, and the representatives of the people displace the
agents of purely military power.
XXIV. The amnesty offered for the past is conditioned upon an
unreserved loyalty for the future, and this condition will be enforced
with an iron hand. Whoever is indifferent or hostile, must choose
between the liberty which foreign lands afford, the poverty of the
Rebel States, and the innumerable and inappreciable blessings which
our Government confers upon its people.
May God preserve the Union of the States!
By order of Major-General Banks.
GEORGE B. DRAKE,
The two documents have little similarity. Both are appropriate to the
systems they are intended to regulate. It is interesting to compare
their merits at the present time. It will be doubly interesting to
make a similar comparison twenty years hence.
While I was in Natchez, a resident of that city called my attention to
one of the "sad results of this horrid, Yankee war."
"Do you see that young man crossing the street toward ----'s store?"
I looked in the direction indicated, and observed a person whom I
supposed to be twenty-five years of age, and whose face bore the
marks of dissipation. I signified, by a single word, that I saw the
individual in question.
"His is a sad case," my Southern friend remarked.
"Whisky, isn't it?"
"Oh, no, I don't mean that. He does drink some, I know, but what I
mean is this: His father died about five years ago. He left his son
nothing but fourteen or fifteen niggers. They were all smart, young
hands, and he has been able to hire them out, so as to bring a
yearly income of two thousand dollars. This has supported him very
comfortably. This income stopped a year ago. The niggers have all run
away, and that young man is now penniless, and without any means of
support. It is one of the results of your infernal Abolition war."
I assented that it was a very hard case, and ought to be brought
before Congress at the earliest moment. That a promising young man
should be deprived of the means of support in consequence of this
Abolition war, is unfortunate--for the man.
OUR FREE-LABOR ENTERPRISE IN PROGRESS.
The Negroes at Work.--Difficulties in the Way.--A Public Meeting.--A
Speech.--A Negro's Idea of Freedom.--A Difficult Question to
Determine.--Influence of Northern and Southern Men Contrasted.--An
Increase of Numbers.--"Ginning" Cotton.--In the Lint-Room.--Mills and
Machinery of a Plantation.--A Profitable Enterprise.
On each of the plantations the negroes were at work in the
cotton-field. I rode from one to the other, as circumstances made it
necessary, and observed the progress that was made. I could easily
perceive they had been accustomed to performing their labor under
fear of the lash. Some of them took advantage of the opportunity for
carelessness and loitering under the new arrangement. I could not be
in the field at all times, to give them my personal supervision. Even
if I were constantly present, there was now no lash to be feared.
I saw that an explanation of the new state of affairs would be an
advantage to all concerned. On the first Sunday of my stay on the
plantation, I called all the negroes together, in order to give them
an understanding of their position.
I made a speech that I adapted as nearly as possible to the
comprehension of my hearers. My audience was attentive throughout.
I made no allusions to Homer, Dante, or Milton; I did not quote from
Gibbon or Macaulay, and I neglected to call their attention to the
spectacle they were presenting to the crowned heads of Europe. I
explained to them the change the war had made in their condition,
and the way in which it had been effected. I told them that all cruel
modes of punishment had been abolished. The negroes were free, but
they must understand that freedom did not imply idleness. I read to
them the regulations established by the commissioners, and explained
each point as clearly as I was able. After I had concluded, I offered
to answer any questions they might ask.
There were many who could not understand why, if they were free, they
should be restricted from going where they pleased at all times. I
explained that it was necessary, for the successful management of the
plantation, that I should always be able to rely upon them. I asked
them to imagine my predicament if they should lose half their time, or
go away altogether, in the busiest part of the season. They "saw
the point" at once, and readily acknowledged the necessity of
I found no one who imagined that his freedom conferred the right of
idleness and vagrancy. All expected to labor in their new condition,
but they expected compensation for their labor, and did not look for
punishment. They expected, further, that their families would not
be separated, and that they could be allowed to acquire property for
themselves. I know there were many negroes in the South who expected
they would neither toil nor spin after being set free, but the belief
was by no means universal. The story of the negro at Vicksburg, who
expected his race to assemble in New York after the war, "and have
white men for niggers," is doubtless true, but it would find little
credence with the great majority of the freedmen of the South.
The schedule of wages, as established by the commissioners, was read
and explained. The negroes were to be furnished with house-rent,
rations, fuel, and medical attendance, free of charge. Able-bodied
males were to receive eight dollars a month. Other classes of laborers
would be paid according to the proportionate value of their services.
We were required to keep on hand a supply of clothing, shoes, and
other needed articles, which would be issued as required and
charged on account. All balances would be paid as soon as the first
installment of the cotton crop was sent to market.
This was generally satisfactory, though some of the negroes desired
weekly or monthly payments. One of them thought it would be better if
they could be paid at the end of each day, and suggested that silver
would be preferable to greenbacks or Confederate money. Most of them
thought the wages good enough, but this belief was not universal. One
man, seventy years old, who acted as assistant to the "hog-minder,"
thought he deserved twenty-five dollars per month, in addition to
his clothing and rations. Another, of the same age, who carried the
breakfast and dinner to the field, was of similar opinion. These were
almost the only exceptions. Those whose services were really valuable
acquiesced in the arrangement.
On our plantation there was an old negress named "Rose," who attended
the women during confinement. She was somewhat celebrated in her
profession, and received occasional calls to visit white ladies in the
neighborhood. After I had dismissed the negroes and sent them to their
quarters, I was called upon by Rose, to ascertain the rate at which
she would be paid. As she was regularly employed as one of the
house-servants, I allowed her the same wages that the other women
received. This was satisfactory, so far, but it was not entirely so.
She wished to understand the matter of perquisites.
"When I used to go out to 'tend upon white ladies," said Rose, "they
gave me ten dollars. Mistress always took half and let me keep the
"Well, hereafter, you may keep the ten dollars yourself."
After a pause, she spoke again:
"Didn't you say the black people are free?"
"White people are free, too, ain't they?"
"Then why shouldn't you pay me ten dollars every time I 'tend upon the
black folks on the plantation?"
The question was evidently designed as a "corner." I evaded it by
assuring Rose that though free, the negroes had not attained all the
privileges that pertained to the whites, and I should insist on her
professional services being free to all on the plantation.
The negroes were frequently desirous of imitating the customs of white
people in a manner that should evince their freedom. Especially did
they desire to have no distinction in the payment of money, on account
of the color of the recipient.
After this Sunday talk with the negroes, I found a material
improvement. Occasionally I overheard some of them explaining to
others their views upon various points. There were several who
manifested a natural indolence, and found it difficult to get over
their old habits. These received admonitions from their comrades, but
could not wholly forget the laziness which was their inheritance. With
these exceptions, there was no immediate cause for complaint.
During the earlier part of my stay in that region, I was surprised at
the readiness with which the negroes obeyed men from the North, and
believed they would fulfill their promises, while they looked with
distrust on all Southern white men. Many owners endeavored in vain to
induce their negroes to perform certain labor. The first request made
by a Northern man to the same effect would be instantly complied with.
The negroes explained that their masters had been in the habit of
making promises which they never kept, and cited numerous instances to
prove the truth of their assertion. It seemed to have been a custom in
that region to deceive the negroes in any practicable manner. To make
a promise to a negro, and fail to keep it, was no worse than to lure a
horse into a stable-yard, by offering him a choice feed of corn, which
would prove but a single mouthful. That the negroes had any human
rights was apparently rarely suspected by their owners and overseers.
The distrust which many of the negroes entertained for their former
masters enabled the lessees to gain, at once, the confidence of
their laborers. I regret to say that this confidence was abused in a
majority of cases.
I gave the negroes a larger ration of meat, meal, and potatoes than
had been previously issued. As soon as possible, I procured a quantity
of molasses, coffee, and tobacco. These articles had not been seen
on the plantation for many months, and were most gladly received. As
there was no market in that vicinity where surplus provisions could
be sold, I had no fear that the negroes would resort to stealing,
especially as their daily supply was amply sufficient for their
support. It was the complaint of many overseers and owners that
the negroes would steal provisions on frequent occasions. If they
committed any thefts during my time of management, they were made
so carefully that I never detected them. It is proper to say that I
followed the old custom of locking the store-houses at all times.
Very soon after commencing labor I found that our working force must
be increased. Accordingly, I employed some of the negroes who were
escaping from the interior of the State and making their way to
Natchez. As there were but few mules on the plantation, I was
particularly careful to employ those negroes who were riding, rather
than walking, from slavery. If I could not induce these mounted
travelers to stop with us, I generally persuaded them to sell their
saddle animals. Thus, hiring negroes and buying mules, I gradually put
the plantation in a presentable condition. While the cotton was being
picked the blacksmith was repairing the plows, the harness-maker
was fitting up the harnesses for the mules, and every thing was
progressing satisfactorily. The gin-house was cleaned and made ready
for the last work of preparing cotton for the market. Mr. Colburn
arrived from the North after I had been a planter of only ten days'
standing. He was enthusiastic at the prospect, and manifested an
energy that was the envy of his neighbors.
It required about three weeks to pick our cotton. Before it was all
gathered we commenced "ginning" the quantity on hand, in order to make
as little delay as possible in shipping our "crop" to market.
The process of ginning cotton is pretty to look upon, though not
agreeable to engage in. The seed-cotton (as the article is called
when it comes from the field) is fed in a sort of hopper, where it is
brought in contact with a series of small and very sharp saws. From
sixty to a hundred of these saws are set on a shaft, about half an
inch apart. The teeth of these saws tear the fiber from the seed, but
do not catch the seed itself. A brush which revolves against the saws
removes the fiber from them at every revolution. The position of the
gin is generally at the end of a large room, and into this room the
detached fiber is thrown from the revolving brush.
This apartment is technically known as the "lint-room," and presents
an interesting scene while the process of ginning is going on. The air
is full of the flying lint, and forcibly reminds a Northerner of a New
England snow-storm. The lint falls, like the snow-flakes, with most
wonderful lightness, but, unlike the snow-flakes, it does not melt.
When the cotton is picked late in the season, there is usually a dense
cloud of dust in the lint-room, which settles in and among the fiber.
The person who watches the lint-room has a position far from enviable.
His lungs become filled with dust, and, very often, the fine, floating
fiber is drawn into his nostrils. Two persons are generally permitted
to divide this labor. There were none of the men on our plantation who
craved it. Some of the mischievous boys would watch their opportunity
to steal into the lint-room, where they greatly enjoyed rolling upon
the soft cotton. Their amusement was only stopped by the use of a
The machinery of a cotton-gin is driven by steam or horse power;
generally the former. There is no water-power in the State of
Louisiana, but I believe some of the lakes and bayous might be turned
to advantage in the same way that the tide is used on the sea-coast.
All the larger plantations are provided with steam-engines, the
chimneys of which are usually carried to a height sufficient to remove
all danger from sparks. There is always a corn-mill, and frequently a
saw-mill attached to the gin, and driven by the same power. On
every plantation, one day in the week is set apart for grinding a
seven-days' supply of corn. This regulation is never varied, except
under the most extraordinary circumstances. There is a universal rule
in Louisiana, forbidding any person, white or black, smoking in the
inclosure where the gin-house stands. I was told there was a legal
enactment to this effect, that affixed heavy penalties to its
infringement. For the truth of this latter statement I cannot vouch.
With its own corn-mill, saw-mill, and smithery, each plantation is
almost independent of the neighborhood around it. The chief dependence
upon the outside world is for farming tools and the necessary
paraphernalia for the various branches of field-work. I knew one
plantation, a short distance from ours, whose owner had striven
hard to make it self-sustaining. He raised all the corn and all the
vegetables needed. He kept an immense drove of hogs, and cured his
own pork. Of cattle he had a goodly quantity, and his sheep numbered
nearly three hundred. Wool and cotton supplied the raw material for
clothing. Spinning-wheels and looms produced cloth in excess of what
was needed. Even the thread for making the clothing for the negroes
was spun on the plantation. Hats were made of the palmetto, which grew
there in abundance. Shoes were the only articles of personal wear not
of home production. Plows, hoes, and similar implements were purchased
in the market, but the plantation was provided with a very complete
repair-shop, and the workmen were famous for their skill.
The plantation, thus managed, yielded a handsome profit to its owner.
The value of each year's cotton crop, when delivered on the bank of
the river, was not less than forty thousand dollars. Including wages
of the overseer, and all outlays for repairs and purchase of such
articles as were not produced at home, the expenses would not exceed
five or six thousand dollars. Cotton-planting was very profitable
under almost any management, and especially so under a prudent and
economical owner. Being thus profitable with slave labor, it was
natural for the planters to think it could prosper under no other
system. "You can't raise cotton without niggers, and you must own the
niggers to raise it," was the declaration in all parts of the South.
WAR AND AGRICULTURE.
Official Favors.--Division of Labor.--Moral Suasion.--Corn-gathering
in the South.--An Alarm.--A Frightened Irishman.--The Rebels
Approaching.--An Attack on Waterproof.--Falstaff Redivivus.--His Feats
of Arms.--Departure for New Orleans.
Our cotton having been ginned and baled, we made preparations for
shipping it to market. These preparations included the procurement
of a permit from the Treasury agent at Natchez, a task of no small
magnitude. An application for the permit required, in addition to my
own signature, the names of two property-owning citizens, as security
for payment of the duties on the cotton. This application being placed
in the hands of the Treasury agent, I was requested to call in two
hours. I did so, and was then put off two hours longer. Thus I spent
two whole days in frequent visits to that official. His memory was
most defective, as I was obliged to introduce myself on each occasion,
and tell him the object of my call.
A gentleman who had free access to the agent at all times hinted that
he could secure early attention to my business on payment for
his trouble. Many persons asserted that they were obliged to pay
handsomely for official favors. I do not _know_ this to be true. I
never paid any thing to the Treasury agent at Natchez or elsewhere,
beyond the legitimate fees, and I never found any man who would give
me a written statement that he had done so. Nevertheless, I had much
circumstantial evidence to convince me that the Treasury officials
were guilty of dishonorable actions. The temptation was great, and,
with proper care, the chances of detection were small.
Armed with my permit, I returned to the plantation. Mr. Colburn, in
my absence, had organized our force, lately engaged in cotton-picking,
into suitable parties for gathering corn, of which we had some three
hundred acres standing in the field. In New England I fear that corn
which had remained ungathered until the middle of February, would be
of comparatively little value. In our case it was apparently as sound
as when first ripened.
Corn-gathering in the South differs materially from corn-gathering in
the North. The negroes go through the field breaking the ears from the
stalks without removing the husk. The ears are thrown into heaps at
convenient distances from each other, and in regular rows. A wagon is
driven between these rows, and the corn gathered for the crib. Still
unhusked, it is placed in the crib, to be removed when needed. It is
claimed that the husk thus remaining on the corn, protects it from
various insects, and from the effect of the weather.
Every body of laborers on a plantation is called a "gang." Thus we had
"the picking-gang," "the corn-gang," "the trash-gang," "the hoe-gang,"
"the planting-gang," "the plow-gang," and so on through the list. Each
gang goes to the field in charge of a head negro, known as the driver.
This driver is responsible for the work of his gang, and, under the
old _regime_, was empowered to enforce his orders with the whip, if
necessary. Under our new dispensation the whip was laid aside, and a
milder policy took its place. It was satisfactory with the adults; but
there were occasions when the smaller boys were materially benefited
by applications of hickory shrubs. Solomon's words about sparing the
rod are applicable to children of one race as well as to those of
another. We did not allow our drivers to make any bodily punishment in
the field, and I am happy to say they showed no desire to do so.
As I have before stated, our first organization was the picking-gang.
Then followed the gin-gang and the press-gang. Our gin-gang was
organized on principles of total abstinence, and, therefore, differed
materially from the gin-gangs of Northern cities. Our press-gang,
unlike the press-gangs of New York or Chicago, had nothing to do with
morning publications, and would have failed to comprehend us had we
ordered the preparation of a sensation leader, or a report of the last
great meeting at Union Square. Our press-gang devoted its time and
energies to putting our cotton into bales of the proper size and
The corn-gang, the trash-gang, and the plow-gang were successively
organized by Mr. Colburn. Of the first I have spoken. The duties of
the second were to gather the corn-stalks or cotton-stalks, as the
case might be, into proper heaps for burning. As all this debris came
under the generic name of "trash," the appellation of the gang is
readily understood. Our trash-gang did very well, except in a certain
instance, when it allowed the fire from the trash to run across a
field of dead grass, and destroy several hundred feet of fence. In
justice to the negroes, I should admit that the firing of the grass
was in obedience to our orders, and the destruction of the fence
partly due to a strong wind which suddenly sprang up. The trash-gang
is usually composed of the younger children and the older women.
The former gather and pile the stalks which the latter cut up. They
particularly enjoy firing the heaps of dry trash.
It was on Saturday, the 13th of February, that our press-gang
completed its labors. On the afternoon of that day, as we were hauling
our cotton to the landing, the garrison at Waterproof, two miles
distant, suddenly opened with its artillery upon a real or supposed
enemy. A gun-boat joined in the affair, and for half an hour the
cannonade was vigorous. We could see the flashes of the guns and the
dense smoke rising through the trees, but could discover nothing more.
When the firing ceased we were somewhat anxious to know the result.
Very soon a white man, an Irishman, who had been a short time in
the vicinity to purchase cotton, reached our place in a state of
exhaustion. He told a frightful story of the surprise and massacre
of the whole garrison, and was very certain no one but himself had
escaped. He had fortunately concealed himself under a very small
bridge while the fight was going on. He called attention to his
clothes, which were covered with mud, to prove the truth of his
For a short time the situation had an unpleasant appearance. While
we were deliberating upon the proper measures for safety, one of our
negroes, who was in Waterproof during the firing, came to us with
_his_ story. The fight had been on our side, some guerrillas having
chased one of our scouting parties to a point within range of our
guns. Our men shelled them with artillery, and this was the extent
of the battle. The story of the Irishman, in connection with the true
account of the affair, forcibly reminded me of the famous battle of
Piketon, Kentucky, in the first year of the war.
On the next day (Sunday) I rode to Waterproof, leaving Colburn on the
plantation. Just as I arrived within the lines, I ascertained that an
attack was expected. The most stringent orders had been issued against
allowing any person to pass out. Ten minutes later a scout arrived,
saying that a force of Rebels was advancing to attack the post. The
gun-boat commenced shelling the woods in the rear of Waterproof, and
the artillery on land joined in the work. The Rebels did not get near
enough to make any serious demonstration upon the town. The day passed
with a steady firing from the gun-boat, relieved by an occasional
interval of silence. Toward night the small garrison was re-enforced
by the arrival of a regiment from Natchez. On the following day a
portion of General Ellet's Marine Brigade reached Waterproof, and
removed all possibility of further attack.
In the garrison of Waterproof, at the commencement of this fight,
there was a certain officer who could have sat for the portrait
of Falstaff with very little stuffing, and without great change of
character. Early in the war he belonged to an Eastern regiment, but on
that occasion he had no commission, though this fact was not generally
known. Nearly as large as Hackett's Falstaff, he was as much a gascon
as the hero of the Merry Wives of Windsor. He differed from Falstaff
in possessing a goodly amount of bravery, but this bravery was
accompanied with an entire absence of judgment.
In the early part of the fight, and until he was too drunk to move,
this _preux chevalier_ dashed about Waterproof, mounted on a small
horse, which he urged to the top of his speed. In one hand he
flourished a cane, and in the other a revolver. He usually allowed the
reins to lie on his horse's neck, except when he wished to change his
direction. With his abdomen protruding over the pommel of the saddle,
his stirrups several inches too short, one boot-leg outside his
pantaloons and the other inside, a very large hat pressed nearly to
his eyes, and a face flushed with excitement and whisky, he was a
study John Leech would have prized. Frequent and copious draughts of
the cup which cheers and inebriates placed him _hors de combat_ before
the close of the day.
From the crest of the levee, he could at any time discover several
lines of battle approaching the town. Frequently he informed the
commandant that the Rebels were about to open upon us with a dozen
heavy batteries, which they were planting in position for a long
siege. If the enemy had been in the force that this man claimed, they
could not have numbered less than fifty thousand. When unhorsed for
the last time during the day, he insisted that I should listen to the
story of his exploits.
"I went," said he, "to the colonel, this morning, and told him, sir,
to give me ten men, and I would go out and feel the enemy's position.
He gave me the men, and I went. We found the enemy not less than a
thousand strong, sir, behind Mrs. Miller's gin-house. They were the
advance of the whole Rebel army, sir, and I saw they must be driven
back. We charged, and, after a desperate fight, drove them. They
opposed us, sir, every inch of the way for two miles; but we routed
them. We must have killed at least a hundred of them, sir, and wounded
as many more. They didn't hurt a man of us; but the bullets flew very
thick, sir--very. I myself killed twelve of them with my own hand,
sir. This is the way it was, sir. This revolver, you see, sir, has six
barrels. I emptied it once, sir; I reloaded; I emptied it again, sir.
Two times six are twelve, sir. I killed twelve of them with my own
hand. Let it be recorded.
"On my way back, sir, I set fire to the gin-house, so that it should
no more be a shelter for those infernal Rebels. You yourself, sir, saw
that building in flames, and can testify to the truth of my story."
In this strain the warrior gave the history of his moments of glory.
The portion I have written was true in some points. He found three
men (instead of a thousand), and pursued them a few hundred yards. He
discharged his revolver at very long range, but I could not learn
that his shots were returned. He fired the gin-house "to cover his
retreat," and gained the fortifications without loss. I do not know
his locality at the present time, but presume he remained, up to the
close of the war, where storms of shot and shell continually darkened
the air, and where lines of battle were seen on every side.
The siege being raised, I returned to the plantation. From Waterproof,
during the fight, I could see our buildings with perfect distinctness.
I had much fear that some Rebel scouting party might pay the
plantation a visit while the attack was going on. I found, on my
return, that Colburn had taken the matter very coolly, and prevented
the negroes becoming alarmed. He declared that he considered the
plantation as safe as Waterproof, and would not have exchanged places
with me during the fight. The negroes were perfectly quiet, and
making preparations for plowing. While the fight was in progress, my
associate was consulting with the drivers about the details of work
for the ensuing week, and giving his orders with the utmost _sang
froid_. In consideration of the uncertainty of battles in general, and
the possibility of a visit at any moment from a party of Rebel scouts,
my partner's conduct was worthy of the highest commendation.
Before leaving Waterproof I had arranged for a steamer to call for our
cotton, which was lying on the river bank. Waterproof lay at one side
of the neck of a peninsula, and our plantation was at the other side.
It was two miles across this peninsula, and sixteen miles around it,
so that I could start on horseback, and, by riding very leisurely,
reach the other side, long in advance of a steamboat. The steamer came
in due time. After putting our cotton on board, I bade Mr. Colburn
farewell, and left him to the cares and perplexities of a planter's
life. I was destined for New Orleans, to sell our cotton, and to
purchase many things needed for the prosecution of our enterprise.
On my way down the river, I found that steamboat traveling was not an
entirely safe amusement. The boat that preceded me was fired upon
near Morganzia, and narrowly escaped destruction. A shell indented her
steam-pipe, and passed among the machinery, without doing any damage.
Had the pipe been cut, the steam would have filled every part of the
I was not disturbed by artillery on the occasion of my journey, but
received a compliment from small-arms. On the morning after leaving
Natchez, I was awakened by a volley of musketry from the river-bank.
One of the bullets penetrated the thin walls of the cabin and entered
my state-room, within two inches of my head. I preserved the missile
as a souvenir of travel.
On the next day the Rebels brought a battery of artillery to the spot.
A steamer received its greeting, but escaped with a single passenger
A gentleman who was on this boat had a very narrow escape. He told me
that he was awakened by the first shot, which passed through the upper
works of the steamer. He was occupying the upper berth in a state-room
on the side next the locality of the Rebels. His first impulse was to
spring from his resting-place, and throw himself at full length upon
the floor. He had hardly done so, when a shell entered the state-room,
and traversed the berth in the exact position where my friend had been
Having narrowly escaped death, he concluded not to run a second risk.
He returned to St. Louis by way of New York. Wishing to visit New
Orleans some time later, he sailed from New York on the _Electric
Spark_, and enjoyed the luxury of a capture by the pirates of the
"Confederate" steamer _Florida_. After that occurrence, he concluded
there was little choice between the ocean and river routes.
IN THE COTTON MARKET.
New Orleans and its Peculiarities.--Its Loss by the Rebellion.--Cotton
Factors in New Orleans.--Old Things passed away.--The Northern
Barbarians a Race of Shopkeepers.--Pulsations of the Cotton Market.--A
Quarrel with a Lady.--Contending for a Principle.--Inharmony of the
"Regulations."--An Account of Sales.
The first impression that New Orleans gives a stranger is its
unlikeness to Northern cities. It is built on ground that slopes
downward from the Mississippi. As one leaves the river and walks
toward the center of the city, he finds himself descending. New
Orleans is a hundred miles from the mouth of the Mississippi and only
six miles from Lake Pontchartrain, which is an arm of the sea. The
river at the city is ten feet above Lake Pontchartrain, so that New
Orleans is washed by water from the Mississippi and drained into the
lake. The water in the gutters always runs from the river, no matter
what may be its height. The steamers at the foot of Canal Street
appear above the spectator, when he stands a mile or two from the
There is no earthy elevation of any kind, except of artificial
construction, in the vicinity of New Orleans. The level surface of
the streets renders the transportation of heavy bodies a work of the
utmost ease. The greatest amount of merchandise that can be loaded
upon four wheels rarely requires the efforts of more than two animals.
The street-cars, unlike those of Northern cities, are drawn by a
single mule to each car, and have no conductors. The cemeteries
are above ground, and resemble the pigeon-holes of a post-office,
magnified to a sufficient size for the reception of coffins. There is
not a cellar in the entire city of New Orleans.
Musquitos flourish during the entire winter. In the summer there are
two varieties of these insects. The night-musquito is similar to
the insect which disturbs our slumbers in Northern latitudes. The
day-musquito relieves his comrade at sunrise and remains on duty
till sunset. He has no song, but his bite is none the less severe. He
disappears at the approach of winter, but his tuneful brother remains.
Musquito nettings are a necessity all the year round.
The public walks of New Orleans are justly the pride of the
inhabitants. Canal Street is probably the prettiest street in America.
Along its center is a double row of shade-trees, a promenade, and the
tracks of the street railway. These shade-trees are inclosed so as to
form a series of small parks for the entire length of the street.
On each side of these parks is a carriage-way, as wide as the great
thoroughfare of New York. Canal Street is the fashionable promenade of
New Orleans. In the days of glory, before the Rebellion, it presented
a magnificent appearance.
Among the prettiest of the parks of New Orleans is Jackson Square,
containing a fine equestrian statue of General Jackson. The pedestal
of the statue is emblazoned with the words:
"THE UNION--IT MUST AND SHALL BE PRESERVED."
The French element in New Orleans is apparent on every side. The
auctioneers cry their wares in mingled French and English, and the
negroes and white laborers on the levee converse in a hybrid language.
In the French quarter, every thing is French. The signs on the shops
and the street corners, the conversation of the inhabitants and the
shouts of the boys who play on the sidewalks, are in the vernacular of
_La Belle France_. In Jackson Square, notices to warn visitors not to
disturb the shrubbery, are posted in two languages, the French
being first. On one poster I saw the sentence: "_Ne touche pas a les
fleurs_," followed by the literal translation into English: "Don't
touch to the flowers." I was happy to observe that the caution was
very generally heeded.
Before the war, New Orleans was a city of wonderful wealth. Situated
at the outlet of the great valley, its trade in cotton, sugar, and
other products of the West and South, was immense. Boats, which
had descended from all points along the navigable portion of the
Mississippi, discharged their cargoes upon its levee. Ships of all
nations were at the wharves, receiving the rich freight that the
steamers had brought down. The piles of merchandise that lay along
the levee were unequaled in any other city of the globe. Money was
abundant, and was lavishly scattered in all directions.
With the secession of the Gulf States, the opening of hostilities,
and the blockade of the Mississippi at its mouth and at Cairo, the
prosperity of New Orleans disappeared. The steamers ceased to bring
cotton and sugar to its wharves, and its levee presented a picture
of inactivity. Many of the wealthy found themselves in straitened
circumstances, and many of the poor suffered and died for want of
food. For a whole year, while the Rebel flag floated over the city,
the business of New Orleans was utterly suspended.
With the passage of the forts and the capture of New Orleans by
Admiral Farragut, the Rebel rule was ended. Very slowly the business
of the city revived, but in its revival it fell into the hands of
Northern men, who had accompanied our armies in their advance. The old
merchants found themselves crowded aside by the ubiquitous Yankees.
With the end of the war, the glory of the city will soon return, but
it will not return to its old channels. More than any other city of
the South, New Orleans will be controlled by men of Northern birth
and sentiments. The day of slave-auctions in the rotunda of the St.
Charles has passed away forever.
New Orleans has a class of men peculiar to the South, whose business
it is to sell cotton for the planters. These gentlemen are known
as "factors," and, in former times, were numerous and successful.
Whatever a planter needed, from a quire of paper to a steam-engine,
he ordered his factor to purchase and forward. The factor obeyed the
order and charged the amount to the planter, adding two and a half per
cent, for commission.
If the planter wanted money, he drew upon the factor, and that
individual honored the draft. At the end of the season, it often
occurred that the planter was largely in debt to the factor. But the
cotton crop, when gathered, being consigned to the factor, canceled
this indebtedness, and generally left a balance in the planter's
The factor charged a good commission for selling the cotton, and
sometimes required interest upon the money he advanced. In the happy
days before the war, the factor's business was highly lucrative. The
advances to the planters, before the maturity of the cotton crop,
often required a heavy capital, but the risk was not great. Nearly
every planter was considerably indebted to his factor before his
cotton went forward. In many cases the proceeds of the entire crop
would but little more than cover the advances which had been made.
In New Orleans nearly all cotton is sold "by sample." Certain men are
licensed to "sample" cotton, for which they charge a specified sum per
bale. A hole is cut in the covering of each bale, and from this hole
a handful of cotton is pulled. Every bale is thus "sampled," without
regard to the size of the lot. The samples are taken to the sales-room
of the commission house, where they are open to the inspection of
buyers. The quality of the cotton is carefully noted, the length of
the fiber or staple, the whiteness of the sample, and its freedom from
dust or fragments of cotton-stalks. Not one bale in twenty is ever
seen by the buyers until after its purchase. Frequently the buyers
transfer their cotton to other parties without once looking upon
it Sometimes cotton is sold at auction instead of being offered at
private sale, but the process of "sampling" is carried out in either
In '63 and '64, New Orleans could boast of more cotton factors than
cotton. The principal business was in the hands of merchants from
the North, who had established themselves in the city soon after its
occupation by the National forces. Nearly all cotton sent to market
was from plantations leased by Northern men, or from purchases made
of planters by Northern speculators. The patronage naturally fell
into the hands of the new possessors of the soil, and left the old
merchants to pine in solitude. The old cotton factors, most of them
Southern men, who could boast of ten or twenty years' experience, saw
their business pass into the hands of men whose arrival in New Orleans
was subsequent to that of General Butler. Nearly all the old factors
were Secessionists, who religiously believed no government could exist
unless founded on raw cotton and slavery. They continually asserted
that none but themselves could sell cotton to advantage, and wondered
why those who had that article to dispose of should employ men
unaccustomed to its sale. They were doomed to find themselves false
prophets. The new and enterprising merchants monopolized the cotton
traffic, and left the slavery-worshiping factors of the olden time to
mourn the loss of their occupation.
At the time I visited New Orleans, cotton was falling. It had been
ninety cents per pound. I could only obtain a small fraction above
seventy cents, and within a week the same quality sold for sixty.
Three months afterward, it readily brought a dollar and a quarter per
pound. The advices from New York were the springs by which the market
in New Orleans was controlled. A good demand in New York made a good
demand in New Orleans, and _vice versa_. The New York market was
governed by the Liverpool market, and that in turn by the demand at
Manchester. Thus the Old World and the New had a common interest in
the production of cotton. While one watched the demand, the other
closely observed the supply.
Some of the factors in New Orleans were fearful lest the attention
paid to cotton-culture in other parts of the world would prove
injurious to the South after the war should be ended. They had
abandoned their early belief that their cotton was king, and dreaded
the crash that was to announce the overthrow of all their hopes.
In their theory that cotton-culture was unprofitable, unless
prosecuted by slave labor, these men could only see a gloomy picture
for years to come. Not so the new occupants of the land. Believing
that slavery was not necessary to the production of sugar and cotton;
believing that the country could show far more prosperity under the
new system of labor than was ever seen under the old; and believing
that commerce would find new and enlarged channels with the return of
peace, they combated the secession heresies of the old residents, and
displayed their faith by their works. New Orleans was throwing off
its old habits and adopting the ideas and manners of Northern
Mrs. B., the owner of our plantation, was in New Orleans at the time
of my arrival. As she was to receive half the proceeds of the cotton
we had gathered, I waited upon her to tell the result of our labors.
The sale being made, I exhibited the account of sales to her agent,
and paid him the stipulated amount. So far all was well; but we were
destined to have a difference of opinion upon a subject touching the
rights of the negro.
Early in 1863 the Rebel authorities ordered the destruction of all
cotton liable to fall into the hands of the National forces. The order
was very generally carried out. In its execution, some four hundred
bales belonging to Mrs. B. were burned. The officer who superintended
the destruction, permitted the negroes on the plantation to fill their
beds with cotton, but not to save any in bales. When we were making
our shipment, Mr. Colburn proposed that those negroes who wished to
do so, could sell us their cotton, and fill their beds with moss or
husks. As we paid them a liberal price, they accepted our offer, and
we made up three bales from our purchase. We never imagined that Mrs.
B. would lay any claim to this lot, and did not include it in the
quantity for which we paid her half the proceeds.
After I had made the payment to her factor, I received a note from
the lady in reference to the three bales above mentioned. She said the
cotton in question was entirely her property; but, in consideration
of our careful attention to the matter, she would consent to our
retaining half its value. She admitted that she would have never
thought to bring it to market; but since we had collected and baled
it, she demanded it as her own. I "respectfully declined" to comply
with her request. I believed the negroes had a claim to what was saved
from the burning, and given to them by the Rebel authorities. Mrs.
B. was of the opinion that a slave could own nothing, and therefore
insisted that the cotton belonged to herself.
Very soon after sending my reply, I was visited by the lady's factor.
A warm, though courteous, discussion transpired. The factor was a
Secessionist, and a firm believer in the human and divine right
of slavery. He was a man of polished exterior, and was, doubtless,
considered a specimen of the true Southern gentleman. In our talk on
the subject in dispute, I told him the Rebels had allowed the
negroes to fill their beds with cotton, and it was this cotton we had
"The negroes had no right to sell it to you," said the factor;
"neither had you any right to purchase it."
"If it was given to them," I asked, "was it not theirs to sell?"
"Certainly not. The negroes own nothing, and can own nothing. Every
thing they have, the clothes they wear and the dishes they use,
belongs to their owners. When we 'give' any thing to a negro, we
merely allow it to remain in his custody, nothing more."
"But in this case," said I, "the gift was not made by the owner. The
cotton was to be destroyed by order of your Confederate Government.
That order took it from Mrs. B.'s possession. When the officer came to
burn the cotton, and gave a portion to the negroes to fill their beds,
he made no gift to Mrs. B."
"Certainly he did. The cotton became hers, when it was given to her
negroes. If you give any thing to one of my negroes, that article
becomes my property as much as if given to me."
"But how is it when a negro, by working nights or Saturdays, manages
to make something for himself?"
"That is just the same. Whatever he makes in that way belongs to his
master. Out of policy we allow him to keep it, but we manage to have
him expend it for his own good. The negro is the property of his
master, and can own nothing for himself."
"But in this case," I replied, "I have promised to pay the negroes for
the cotton. It would be unjust to them to fail to do so."
"You must not pay them any thing for it. Whatever you have promised
makes no difference. It is Mrs. B.'s property, not theirs. If you pay
them, you will violate all our customs, and establish a precedent very
bad for us and for yourself."
I assured the gentleman I should feel under obligation to deal justly
with the negroes, even at the expense of violating Southern precedent.
"You may not be aware," I remarked, "of the magnitude of the change in
the condition of the Southern negro during the two years just closed.
The difference of opinion between your people and ourselves is, no
doubt, an honest one. We shall be quite as persistent in pushing our
views at the present time as you have been in enforcing yours in the
past. We must try our theory, and wait for the result."
We separated most amiably, each hoping the other would eventually see
things in their true light. From present indications, the weight of
public opinion is on my side, and constantly growing stronger.
My sales having been made, and a quantity of plantation supplies
purchased, I was ready to return. It was with much difficulty that I
was able to procure permits from the Treasury agent at New Orleans to
enable me to ship my purchases. Before leaving Natchez, I procured all
the documents required by law. Natchez and New Orleans were not in the
same "district," and consequently there was much discord. For example,
the agent at Natchez gave me a certain document that I should exhibit
at New Orleans, and take with me on my return to Natchez. The agent
at New Orleans took possession of this document, and, on my
expostulating, said the agent at Natchez "had no right" to give me
instructions to retain it. He kept the paper, and I was left without
any defense against seizure of the goods I had in transit. They were
seized by a Government officer, but subsequently released. On my
arrival at Natchez, I narrated the occurrence to the Treasury agent at
that point. I was informed that the agent at New Orleans "could not"
take my papers from me, and I should not have allowed him to do so.
I was forcibly reminded of the case of the individual who was once
placed in the public stocks. On learning his offense, a lawyer told
him, "Why, Sir, they can't put you in the stocks for _that_."
"But they have."
"I tell you they can't do it."
"But, don't you see, they have."
"I tell you again they can't do any such thing."
In my own case, each Treasury agent declared the other "could not" do
the things which had been done. In consequence of the inharmony of
the "regulations," the most careful shipper would frequently find his
goods under seizure, from which they could generally be released
on payment of liberal fees and fines. I do not know there was any
collusion between the officials, but I could not rid myself of the
impression there was something rotten in Denmark. The invariable
result of these little quarrels was the plundering of the shippers.
The officials never suffered. Like the opposite sides of a pair of
shears, though cutting against each other, they only injured whatever
was between them.
Not a hundredth part of the official dishonesty at New Orleans and
other points along the Mississippi will ever be known. Enough has
been made public to condemn the whole system of permits and Treasury
restrictions. The Government took a wise course when it abolished,
soon after the suppression of the Rebellion, a large number of the
Treasury Agencies in the South. As they were managed during the last
two years of the war, these agencies proved little else than schools
of dishonesty. There may have been some honest men in those offices,
but they contrived to conceal their honesty.
To show the variety of charges which attach to a shipment of cotton,
I append the sellers' account for the three bales about which Mrs. B.
and myself had our little dispute. These bales were not sold with the
balance of our shipment. The cotton of which they were composed was of
very inferior quality.
_Account Sales of Three Bales of Cotton for Knox & Colburn._
By PARSLEY & WILLIAMS.
Mark, | 3 bales. || | || |
"K. C."| Weight, } 1,349 @..............|| $0 | 60 || $809 | 40
| 533--406--410 } || | || |
| Auctioneers' commission, 1 pr. ct.....|| 8 | 09 || |
| Sampling .............................|| | 30 || |
| Weighing .............................|| | 50 || |
| Watching..............................|| | 50 || |
| Tarpaulins ...........................|| | 50 || |
| Freight, $10 pr. bale ................|| 30 | 00 || |
| Insurance, $2.50 pr. bale ............|| 7 | 50 || |
| 4 c. pr. lb. (tax) on 1,349 lb .......|| 53 | 96 || |
| 1/2 c. " " " " ..........|| 6 | 74 || |
| Permit and stamps ....................|| | 65 || |
| Hospital fees, $5 pr. bale............|| 15 | 00 || |
| Factors' commission, 1 pr. ct.........|| 8 | 09 || |
| || -- | -- || 131 | 83
| || | || ---- | --
E.O.E. | Net proceeds......................|| | || $677 | 57
NEW ORLEANS, La., _February 22_, 1864.
It will be seen by the above that the charges form an important
portion of the proceeds of a sale. The heaviest items are for
Government and hospital taxes. The latter was levied before the war,
but the former is one of the fruits of the Rebellion. It is likely to
endure for a considerable time.
I knew several cases in which the sales of cotton did not cover the
charges, but left a small bill to be paid by the owner. Frequently,
cotton that had been innocently purchased and sent to market
was seized by Government officials, on account of some alleged
informality, and placed in the public warehouses. The owner could get
no hearing until he made liberal presents of a pecuniary character to
the proper authorities.
After much delay and many bribes, the cotton would be released. New
charges would appear, and before a sale could be effected the whole
value of the cotton would be gone.
A person of my acquaintance was unfortunate enough to fall into the
hands of the Philistines in the manner I have described above. At the
end of the transaction he found himself a loser to the extent of three
hundred dollars. He has since been endeavoring to ascertain the amount
of traffic on a similar scale that would be needed to make him a
millionaire. At last accounts he had not succeeded in solving the
SOME FEATURES OF PLANTATION LIFE.
Mysteries of Mule-trading.--"What's in a Name?"--Process of Stocking
a Plantation.--An Enterprising White Man.--Stratagem of a
Yankee.--Distributing Goods to the Negroes.--The Tastes of the
African.--Ethiopian Eloquence.--A Colored Overseer.--Guerrillas
Approaching.--Whisky _vs_. Guerrillas.--A Hint to Military Men.
On my return from New Orleans to the plantation, I found that Colburn
had been pushing our business with a rapidity and skill that secured
the admiration of everyone around us. He had increased our working
force, and purchased a goodly number of mules. We had seventeen plows
in operation, and two teams engaged in gathering corn, on the day
before my arrival. The "trash-gang" was busy, and other working
parties were occupied with their various duties. We were looking to a
brilliant future, and echoed the wish of Jefferson Davis, to be "let
The enterprise of a lessee at that time, and in that locality, was
illustrated by his ability to supply his plantation with mules. There
were many who failed in the effort, but my associate was not of the
number. There were but few mules in the Natchez market--not enough to
meet a tenth of the demand. Nearly every plantation had been stripped
of working animals by one army or the other. Before our arrival the
Rebels plundered all men suspected of lukewarmness in the cause. When
the National army obtained possession, it took nearly every thing
the Rebels had left. All property believed to belong to the Rebel
Government was passed into the hands of our quartermaster.
A planter, named Caleb Shields, had a large plantation near Natchez,
which had not been disturbed by the Rebels. His mules were branded
with the letters "C.S.," the initials of their owner. As these letters
happened to be the same that were used by the Confederate Government,
Mr. Shields found his mules promptly seized and "confiscated." Before
he could explain the matter and obtain an order for their return, his
animals were sent to Vicksburg and placed in the Government corral. If
the gentleman had possessed other initials, it is possible (though not
certain) he might have saved his stock.
Mules being very scarce, the lessees exercised their skill in
supplying themselves with those animals. On my first arrival at the
plantation, I took care to hire those negroes who were riding from the
interior, or, at all events, to purchase their animals. In one day I
obtained two horses and four mules. An order had been issued for the
confiscation of beasts of burden (or draught) brought inside the
lines by negroes. We obtained permission to purchase of these runaway
negroes whatever mules they would sell, provided we could make our
negotiations before they reached the military lines.
Immediately after my departure, Mr. Colburn stationed one of our men
on the road near our house, with orders to effect a trade with every
mounted negro on his way to Natchez. The plan was successful. From two
to a half-dozen mules were obtained daily. During the two weeks of my
absence nearly fifty mules were purchased, placing the plantation in
good order for active prosecution of our planting enterprise. At
the same time many lessees in our vicinity were unable to commence
operations, owing to their inability to obtain working stock.
The negroes discovered that the mule market was not well supplied, and
some of the more enterprising and dishonest sons of Ham endeavored
to profit by the situation. Frequently mules would be offered at
a suspiciously low price, with the explanation that the owner was
anxious to dispose of his property and return home. Some undertook
nocturnal expeditions, ten or twenty miles into the interior, where
they stole whatever mules they could find. A few of the lessees
suffered by the loss of stock, which was sold an hour after it was
stolen, and sometimes to the very party from whom it had been taken.
We took every care to avoid buying stolen property, but were sometimes
On one occasion I purchased a mule of a negro who lived at Waterproof.
The purchase was made an hour before sunset, and the animal was stolen
during the night. On the following morning, Colburn bought it again
of the same party with whom I had effected my trade. After this
occurrence, we adopted the plan of branding each mule as soon as it
came into our hands. All the lessees did the same thing, and partially
protected each other against fraud.
White men were the worst mule-thieves, and generally instructed the
negroes in their villainy. There were several men in Natchez who
reduced mule-stealing to a science, and were as thoroughly skilled
in it as Charley Bates or the Artful Dodger in the science of picking
pockets. One of them had four or five white men and a dozen negroes
employed in bringing stock to market. I think he retired to St. Louis,
before the end of May, with ten or twelve thousand dollars as the
result of three months' industry.
Some of the lessees resorted to questionable methods for supplying
their plantations with the means for plowing and planting. One of
them occupied a plantation owned by a man who refused to allow his own
stock to be used. He wished to be neutral until the war was ended.
This owner had more than sixty fine mules, that were running loose in
the field. One day the lessee told the owner that he had purchased
a lot of mules at Natchez, and would bring them out soon. On the
following night, while the owner slept, the lessee called some trusty
negroes to his aid, caught seventeen mules from the field, sheared and
branded them, and placed them in a yard by themselves. In the morning
he called the owner to look at the "purchase."
"You have bought an excellent lot," said the latter individual. "Where
were they from?"
"All from St. Louis." was the response. "They were brought down two
days ago. I don't know what to do about turning them out. Do you
think, if I put them with yours, there is any danger of their
straying, on account of being on a strange place?"
"None at all. I think there is no risk."
The lessee took the risk, and expressed much delight to find that the
new mules showed themselves at home on the plantation.
Several days later the owner of the plantation discovered the loss
of his mules, but never suspected what had become of them. Two weeks
afterward, the Rebels came and asked him to designate the property of
the lessee, that they might remove it. He complied by pointing out
the seventeen mules, which the Rebels drove away, leaving the balance
I landed at the plantation one Sunday evening, with the goods I had
purchased in New Orleans. I was met with the unwelcome information
that the small force at Waterproof, after committing many depredations
on the surrounding country, had been withdrawn, leaving us exposed
to the tender mercies of the indignant chivalry. We were liable to
be visited at any moment. We knew the Rebels would not handle us very
tenderly, in view of what they had suffered from our own men. A party
of guerrillas was reported seven miles distant on the day previous,
and there was nothing to hinder their coming as near as they chose.
Accordingly, we determined to distribute the goods among the negroes
as early as possible. On Monday morning we commenced. There was some
delay, but we succeeded in starting a very lively trade before seven
Shoes were in great demand, as the negroes had not been supplied with
these articles for nearly three years. A hundred pairs were speedily
issued, when the balance was laid aside for future consideration.
There were some of the negroes whose feet were too large for any
shoes we had purchased. It was a curious fact that these large-footed
negroes were not above the ordinary stature. I remember one in
particular who demanded "thirteens," but who did not stand more than
five feet and five inches in his invisible stockings.
After the shoes, came the material for clothing. For the men we had
purchased "gray denims" and "Kentucky jeans;" for the women, "blue
denims" and common calico. These articles were rapidly taken, and with
them the necessary quantity of thread, buttons, etc. A supply of huge
bandana kerchiefs for the head was eagerly called for. I had procured
as many of these articles as I thought necessary for the entire number
of negroes on the plantation; but found I had sadly miscalculated. The
kerchiefs were large and very gaudy, and the African taste was at once
captivated by them. Instead of being satisfied with one or two, every
negro desired from six to a dozen, and was much disappointed at the
refusal. The gaudy colors of most of the calicoes created a great
demand, while a few pieces of more subdued appearance were wholly
discarded. White cotton cloth, palm-leaf hats, knives and forks, tin
plates, pans and dishes, and other articles for use or wear, were
among the distributions of the day.
Under the slave-owner's rule, the negro was entitled to nothing
beyond his subsistence and coarse clothing. Out of a large-hearted
generosity the master gave him various articles, amounting, in the
course of a year, to a few dollars in value. These articles took
the name of "presents," and their reception was designed to inspire
feelings of gratitude in the breast of the slave.
Most of the negroes understood that the new arrangements made an end
of present-giving. They were to be paid for all their labor, and were
to pay for whatever they received. When the plan was first announced,
all were pleased with it; but when we came to the distribution of the
goods, many of the negroes changed their views. They urged that the
clothing, and every thing else we had purchased, should be issued as
"presents," and that they should be paid for their labor in addition.
Whatever little advantages the old system might have, they wished to
retain and ingraft upon their new life. To be compensated for labor
was a condition of freedom which they joyfully accepted. To receive
"presents" was an apparent advantage of slavery which they did not
wish to set aside.
The matter was fully explained, and I am confident all our auditors
understood it. Those that remained obstinate had an eye to their
personal interests. Those who had been sick, idle, absent, or
disabled, were desirous of liberal gifts, while the industrious were
generally in favor of the new system, or made no special opposition to
One negro, who had been in our employ two weeks, and whose whole labor
in that time was less than four days, thought he deserved a
hundred dollars' worth of presents, and compensation in money for
a fortnight's toil. All were inclined to value their services very
highly; but there were some whose moderation knew no bounds.
A difficulty arose on account of certain promises that had been
made to the negroes by the owner of the plantation, long before our
arrival. Mrs. B. had told them (according to their version) that the
proceeds of the cotton on the plantation should be distributed in the
form of presents, whenever a sale was effected. She did not inform us
of any such promise when we secured the lease of the plantation. If
she made any agreement to that effect, it was probably forgotten.
Those who claimed that this arrangement had been made desired liberal
presents in addition to payment for their labor. Our non-compliance
with this demand was acknowledged to be just, but it created
One who had been her mistress's favorite argued the question with an
earnestness that attracted my attention. Though past sixty years of
age, she was straight as an arrow, and her walk resembled that of a
tragedy queen. In her whole features she was unlike those around her,
except in her complexion, which was black as ink. There was a clear,
silvery tone to her voice, such as I have rarely observed in persons
of her race. In pressing her claim, she grew wonderfully eloquent, and
would have elicited the admiration of an educated audience. Had there
been a school in that vicinity for the development of histrionic
talent in the negro race, I would have given that woman a
recommendation to its halls.
During my absence, Mr. Colburn employed an overseer on our smaller
plantation, and placed him in full charge of the work. This overseer
was a mulatto, who had been fifteen years the manager of a large
plantation about seven miles distant from ours. In voice and manner he
was a white man, but his complexion and hair were those of the subject
race. There was nothing about the plantation which he could not master
in every point. Without being severe, he was able to accomplish all
that had been done under the old system. He imitated the customs of
the white man as much as possible, and it was his particular ambition
to rank above those of his own color. As an overseer he was fully
competent to take charge of any plantation in that locality. During
all my stay in the South, I did not meet a white overseer whom I
considered the professional equal of this negro.
"Richmond" was the name to which our new assistant answered. His
master had prevented his learning to read, but allowed him to acquire
sufficient knowledge of figures to record the weight of cotton in the
field. Richmond could mark upon the slate all round numbers between
one hundred and four hundred; beyond this he was never able to go. He
could neither add nor subtract, nor could he write a single letter of
the alphabet. He was able, however, to write his own name very badly,
having copied it from a pass written by his master. He had possessed
himself of a book, and, with the help of one of our negroes who
knew the alphabet, he was learning to read. His house was a model
of neatness. I regret to say that he was somewhat tyrannical when
superintending the affairs of his domicile.
As the day of our distribution of goods was a stormy one, Richmond was
called from the plantation to assist us. Under his assistance we were
progressing fairly, interrupted occasionally by various causes of
delay. Less than half the valuable articles were distributed, when our
watches told us it was noon. Just as we were discussing the propriety
of an adjournment for dinner, an announcement was made that banished
all thoughts of the mid-day meal.
One of our boys had been permitted to visit Waterproof during the
forenoon. He returned, somewhat breathless, and his first words
dropped like a shell among the assembled negroes:
"_The Rebels are in Waterproof_."
"How do you know?"
"I saw them there, and asked a lady what they were. She said they were
We told the negroes to go to their quarters. Richmond mounted his
horse and rode off toward the plantation of which he had charge. In
two minutes, there was not a negro in the yard, with the exception of
the house-servants. Our goods were lying exposed. We threw some of the
most valuable articles into an obscure closet.
At the first alarm we ordered our horses brought out. When the animals
appeared we desisted from our work.
"The Rebels are coming down the road," was the next bulletin from the
We sprang upon our horses and rode a hundred yards along the front of
our "quarter-lot," to a point where we could look up the road toward
Waterproof. There they were, sure enough, thirty or more mounted men,
advancing at a slow trot. They were about half a mile distant, and,
had we been well mounted, there was no doubt of our easy escape.
"Now comes the race," said Colburn. "Twenty miles to Natchez. A single
heat, with animals to go at will."
We turned our horses in the direction of Natchez.
"Stop," said I, as we reached the house again. "They did not see us,
and have not quickened their pace. Strategy, my boy, may assist us a
Throwing my bridle into Colburn's hand, I slid from my saddle and
bounded into the dwelling. It was the work of a moment to bring out
a jug and a glass tumbler, but I was delayed longer than I wished
in finding the key of our closet. The jug contained five gallons of
excellent whisky (so pronounced by my friends), and would have been a
valuable prize in any portion of the Confederacy.
Placing the jug and tumbler side by side on the veranda, in full view
from the road, I remounted, just as the Rebels reached the corner of
"We have pressing engagements in Natchez," said Colburn.
"So we have," I replied; "I had nearly forgotten them. Let us lose no
time in meeting them."
As we rode off, some of the foremost Rebels espied us and quickened
their pace. When they reached the house they naturally looked toward
it to ascertain if any person was there. They saw the jug, and were at
once attracted. One man rode past the house, but the balance stopped.
The minority of one was prudent, and returned after pursuing us less
than fifty yards. The whisky which the jug contained was quickly
absorbed. With only one tumbler it required some minutes to drain the
jug. These minutes were valuable.
Whisky may have ruined many a man, but it saved us. Around that
seductive jug those thirty guerrillas became oblivious to our escape.
We have reason to be thankful that we disobeyed the rules of strict
teetotalers by "keeping liquor in the house."
I was well mounted, and could have easily kept out of the way of any
ordinary chase. Colburn was only fairly mounted, and must have been
run down had there been a vigorous and determined pursuit. As each
was resolved to stand by the other, the capture of one would have
doubtless been the capture of both.
[Illustration: "STRATEGY, MY BOY!"]
VISITED BY GUERRILLAS.
News of the Raid.--Returning to the Plantation.--Examples of Negro
Cunning.--A Sudden Departure and a Fortunate Escape.--A Second
Visit.--"Going Through," in Guerrilla Parlance.--How it is
Accomplished.--Courtesy to Guests.--A Holiday Costume.--Lessees
Abandoning their Plantations.--Official Promises.
As soon as satisfied we were not followed we took a leisurely pace,
and in due time reached Natchez. Four hours later we received the
first bulletin from the plantation. About thirty guerrillas had been
there, mainly for the purpose of despoiling the plantation next above
ours. This they had accomplished by driving off all the mules. They
had not stolen _our_ mules, simply because they found as much cloth
and other desirable property as they wished to take on that occasion.
Besides, our neighbor's mules made as large a drove as they could
manage. They promised to come again, and we believed they would keep
their word. We ascertained that my strategy with the whisky saved us
On the next day a messenger arrived, saying all was quiet at the
plantation. On the second day, as every thing continued undisturbed,
I concluded to return. Colburn had gone to Vicksburg, and left me
to look after our affairs as I thought best. We had discussed the
propriety of hiring a white overseer to stay on the plantation during
our absence. The prospect of visits from guerrillas convinced us
that _we_ should not spend much of our time within their reach. We
preferred paying some one to risk his life rather than to risk our
own lives. The prospect of getting through the season without serious
interruption had become very poor, but we desired to cling to the
experiment a little longer. Once having undertaken it, we were
determined not to give it up hastily.
I engaged a white man as overseer, and took him with me to the
plantation. The negroes had been temporarily alarmed at the visit
of the guerrillas, but, as they were not personally disturbed, their
excitement was soon allayed. I found them anxiously waiting my return,
and ready to recommence labor on the following day.
The ravages of the guerrillas on that occasion were not extensive.
They carried off a few bolts of cloth and some smaller articles, after
drinking the whisky I had set out for their entertainment. The negroes
had carefully concealed the balance of the goods in places where a
white man would have much trouble in finding them. In the garden there
was a row of bee-hives, whose occupants manifested much dislike for
all white men, irrespective of their political sentiments. Two unused
hives were filled with the most valuable articles on our invoice, and
placed at the ends of this row. In a clump of weeds under the bench on
which the hives stood, the negroes secreted several rolls of cloth
and a quantity of shoes. More shoes and more cloth were concealed in
a hen-house, under a series of nests where several innocent hens were
"sitting." Crockery was placed among the rose-bushes and tomato-vines
in the garden; barrels of sugar were piled with empty barrels of
great age; and two barrels of molasses had been neatly buried in a
freshly-ploughed potato-field. Obscure corners in stables and sheds
were turned into hiding-places, and the cunning of the negro was well
evinced by the successful concealment of many bulky articles.
It was about two o'clock in the afternoon when I arrived at the
plantation. I immediately recommenced the issue of goods, which was
suspended so hastily three days before. From two o'clock until dark
the overseer and myself were busily engaged, and distributed about
two-thirds of our remaining stock. Night came. We suspended the
distribution and indulged in supper. After giving the overseer
directions for the morrow, I recollected an invitation to spend the
night at the house of a friend, three miles away, on the road to
I ordered my horse, and in a few moments the animal was ready, at the
door. I told the overseer where I was going, and bade him good-night.
"Where are you going, Mr. K----?" said the negro who had brought out
the horse, as he delivered the bridle into my hands.
"If any one calls to see me," said I, "you can say I have gone to
With that I touched a spur to my horse and darted off rapidly toward
my friend's house. A half-dozen negroes had gathered to assist in
saddling and holding the horse. As I sprang into the saddle I heard
one of them say:
"I don't see why Mr. K---- starts off to Natchez at this time of
Another negro explained the matter, but I did not hear the
explanation. If he gave a satisfactory reason, I think he did better
than I could have done.
Immediately after my departure the overseer went to bed. He had been
in bed about fifteen minutes when he heard a trampling of horses' feet
around the house. A moment later there was a loud call for the door to
be opened. Before the overseer could comply with the request, the door
was broken in. A dozen men crowded into the house, demanding that a
light be struck instantly. As the match gave its first flash of light,
one of the visitors said:
"Well, K----, we've got you this time."
"That," said another, "is no K----; that is Walter Owen, who used to
be overseer on Stewart's plantation."
"What are you doing here?" demanded another.
Mr. Owen, trembling in his night-clothes, replied that he had been
engaged to stay there as overseer.
"Where is K----, and where is Colburn?"
"Mr. Colburn hasn't been here since last Monday. Mr. K---- has gone to
"That's a ---- lie," said one of the guerrillas. "We know he came here
at two o'clock this afternoon, and was here at dark. He is somewhere
around this house."
In vain did Owen protest I was not there. Every room and every
closet in the house was searched. A pile of bagging in a garret was
overhauled, in the expectation that I was concealed within it. Even
the chimneys were not neglected, though I doubt if the smallest of
professional sweeps could pass through them. One of the guerrillas
opened a piano, to see if I had not taken refuge under its cover. They
looked into all possible and impossible nooks and corners, in the
hope of finding me somewhere. At last they gave up the search, and
contented themselves with promising to catch both Colburn and myself
"We want to go through those d--d Abolitionists, and we will do it,
too. They may dodge us for a while, but we will have them by-and-by."
Not being privileged to "go through" me as they had anticipated, the
gentlemanly guerrillas went through the overseer. They took his money,
his hat, his pantaloons, and his saddle. His horse was standing in
the stable, and they took that also. They found four of our mules, and
appropriated them to their own use. They frightened one of the negroes
into telling where certain articles were concealed, and were thus
enabled to carry off a goodly amount of plunder. They threatened Mr.
Owen with the severest punishment, if he remained any longer on the
plantation. They possessed themselves of a "protection" paper which
Mrs. B. had received from the commander at Natchez several months
before, and were half inclined to burn her buildings as a punishment
for having sought the favor of the Yankees. Their stay was of only an
From our plantation the robbers went to the one next above, where they
were more fortunate in finding the lessees at home. They surrounded
the house in the same manner they had surrounded ours, and then burst
open the doors. The lessees were plundered of every thing in the shape
of money, watches, and knives, and were forced to exchange hats
and coats with their captors. One of the guerrillas observed an
ivory-headed pencil, which he appropriated to his own use, with the
"They don't make these things back here in the woods. When they do, I
will send this one back."
These lessees were entertaining some friends on that evening, and
begged the guerrillas to show them some distinction.
"D--n your friends," said the guerrilla leader; "I suppose they are
"Yes, they are; we should claim friendship with nobody else."
"Then we want to see what they have, and go through them if it is
worth the while."
The strangers were unceremoniously searched. Their united
contributions to the guerrilla treasury were two watches, two
revolvers, three hundred dollars in money, and their hats and
overcoats. Their horses and saddles were also taken. In consideration
of their being guests of the house, these gentlemen were allowed to
retain their coats. They were presented with five dollars each, to pay
their expenses to Natchez. No such courtesy was shown to the lessees
of the plantation.
On the following morning, I was awakened at an early hour by the
arrival of a negro from our plantation, with news of the raid. A
little later, Mr. Owen made his appearance, wearing pantaloons and hat
that belonged to one of the negroes. The pantaloons were too small and
the hat too large; both had long before seen their best days. He was
riding a mule, on which was tied an old saddle, whose cohesive powers
were very doubtful. I listened to the story of the raid, and was
convinced another visit would be made very soon. I gave directions
for the overseer to gather all the remaining mules and take them to
Natchez for safety.
I stopped with my friend until nearly noon, and then accompanied
him to Natchez. On the next morning, I learned that the guerrillas
returned to our plantation while I was at my friend's house. They
carried away what they were unable to take on the previous night They
needed a wagon for purposes of transportation, and took one of ours,
and with it all the mules they could find. Our house was stripped of
every thing of any value, and I hoped the guerrillas would have no
occasion to make subsequent visits. Several of our mules were saved by
running them into the woods adjoining the plantation. These were taken
to Natchez, and, for a time, all work on the prospective cotton crop
came to an end.
For nearly three weeks, the guerrillas had full and free range in the
vicinity of the leased plantations. One after another of the lessees
were driven to seek refuge at Natchez, and their work was entirely
suspended. The only plantations undisturbed were those within a
mile or two of Vidalia. As the son of Adjutant-General Thomas was
interested in one of these plantations, and intimate friends of that
official were concerned in others, it was proper that they should
be well protected. The troops at Vidalia were kept constantly on the
look-out to prevent raids on these favored localities.
Nearly every day I heard of a fresh raid in our neighborhood,
though, after the first half-dozen visits, I could not learn that the
guerrillas carried away any thing, for the simple reason there was
nothing left to steal. Some of the negroes remained at home, while
others fled to the military posts for protection. The robbers showed
no disposition to maltreat the negroes, and repeatedly assured
them they should not be disturbed as long as they remained on the
plantations and planted nothing but corn. It was declared that cotton
should not be cultivated under any circumstances, and the negroes were
threatened with the severest punishment if they assisted in planting
PECULIARITIES OF PLANTATION LABOR.
Resuming Operation.--Difficulties in the Way.--A New Method of Healing
the Sick.--A Thief Discovered by his Ignorance of Arithmetic.--How
Cotton is Planted.--The Uses of Cotton-Seed.--A Novel
Sleeping-Room.--Constructing a Tunnel.--Vigilance of a Negro Sentinel.
On the 24th of March a small post was established at Waterproof, and
on the following day we recommenced our enterprise at the plantation.
We were much crippled, as nearly all our mules were gone, and the work
of replacing them could not be done in a day. The market at Natchez
was not supplied with mules, and we were forced to depend upon the
region around us. Three days after the establishment of the post we
were able to start a half-dozen plows, and within two weeks we had
our original force in the field. The negroes that had left during the
raid, returned to us. Under the superintendence of our overseer
the work was rapidly pushed. Richmond was back again on our smaller
plantation, whence he had fled during the disturbances, and was
displaying an energy worthy of the highest admiration.
Our gangs were out in full force. There was the trash-gang clearing
the ground for the plows, and the plow-gang busy at its appropriate
work. The corn-gang, with two ox-teams, was gathering corn at the rate
of a hundred bushels daily, and the fence-gang was patting the fences
in order. The shelling-gang (composed of the oldest men and women)
was husking and shelling corn, and putting it in sacks for market.
The gardener, the stock-tenders, the dairy-maids, nurserymaids,
hog-minders, and stable-keepers were all in their places, and we began
to forget our recent troubles in the apparent prospect of success.
One difficulty of the new system presented itself. Several of the
negroes began to feign sickness, and cheat the overseer whenever it
could be done with impunity. It is a part of the overseer's duty to go
through the quarters every morning, examine such as claim to be sick,
determine whether their sickness be real or pretended, and make the
appropriate prescriptions. Under the old system the pretenders were
treated to a liberal application of the lash, which generally drove
away all fancied ills. Sometimes, one who was really unwell, was
most unmercifully flogged by the overseer, and death not unfrequently
ensued from this cause.
As there was now no fear of the lash, some of the lazily-inclined
negroes would feign sickness, and thus be excused from the field. The
trouble was not general, but sufficiently prevalent to be annoying. We
saw that some course must be devised to overcome this evil, and keep
in the field all who were really able to be there.
We procured some printed tickets, which the overseer was to issue
at the close of each day. There were three colors--red, yellow, and
white. The first were for a full day's work, the second for a half
day, and the last for a quarter day. On the face of each was the
AQUASCO & MONONO
These tickets were given each day to such as deserved them. They were
collected every Saturday, and proper credit given for the amount of
labor performed during the week. The effect was magical. The day
after the adoption of our ticket system our number of sick was reduced
one-half, and we had no further trouble with pretended patients.
Colburn and myself, in our new character of "doctors," found our
practice greatly diminished in consequence of our innovations.
Occasionally it would happen that one who was not really able to work,
would go to the field through a fear of diminished wages.
One Saturday night, a negro whom we had suspected of thievish
propensities, presented eight full-day tickets as the representative
of his week's work.
"Did you earn all these this week?" I asked.
"Yes, sir," was the reply; "Mr. Owen gave them to me. I worked every
day, straight along."
"Can you tell me on which days he gave you each ticket?"
"Oh, yes. I knows every one of them," said the negro, his countenance
expressing full belief in his ability to locate each ticket.
As I held the tickets in my hand, the negro picked them out. "Mr. Owen
gave me this one Monday, this one Tuesday," and so on, toward the end
of the week. As he reached Friday, and saw three tickets remaining,
when there was only another day to be accounted for, his face suddenly
fell. I pretended not to notice his embarrassment.
"Which one did he give you to-day?"
There was a stammer, a hesitation, a slight attempt to explain, and
then the truth came out. He had stolen the extra tickets from two
fellow-laborers only a few minutes before, and had not reflected
upon the difficulties of the situation. I gave him some good advice,
required him to restore the stolen tickets, and promise he would not
steal any more. I think he kept the promise during the remainder of
his stay on the plantation, but am by no means certain.
Every day, when the weather was favorable, our work was pushed. Every
mule that could be found was put at once into service, and by the
15th of April we had upward of five hundred acres plowed and ready for
planting. We had planted about eighty acres of corn during the first
week of April, and arranged to commence planting cotton on Monday,
the 18th of the month. On the Saturday previous, the overseer on each
plantation organized his planting-gangs, and placed every thing in
readiness for active work.
The ground, when plowed for cotton, is thrown into a series of ridges
by a process technically known as "four-furrowing." Two furrows are
turned in one direction and two in another, thus making a ridge
four or five feet wide. Along the top of this ridge a "planter," or
"bull-tongue," is drawn by a single mule, making a channel two or
three inches in depth. A person carrying a bag of cotton seed follows
the planter and scatters the seed into the channel. A small harrow
follows, covering the seed, and the work of planting is complete.
A planting-gang consists of drivers for the planters, drivers for the
harrows, persons who scatter the seed, and attendants to supply
them with seed. The seed is drawn from the gin-house to the field
in ox-wagons, and distributed in convenient piles of ten or twenty
Cotton-seed has never been considered of any appreciable value, and
consequently the negroes are very wasteful in using it. In sowing it
in the field, they scatter at least twenty times as much as necessary,
and all advice to use less is unheeded. It is estimated that there are
forty bushels of seed to every bale of cotton produced. A plantation
that sends a thousand bales of cotton to market will thus have forty
thousand bushels of seed, for which there was formerly no sale.
With the most lavish use of the article, there was generally a surplus
at the end of the year. Cattle and sheep will eat cotton-seed, though
not in large quantities. Boiled cotton-seed is fed to hogs on all
plantations, but it is far behind corn in nutritious and fattening
qualities. Cotton-seed is packed around the roots of small trees,
where it is necessary to give them warmth or furnish a rich soil for
their growth. To some extent it is used as fuel for steam-engines, on
places where the machinery is run by steam. When the war deprived the
Southern cities of a supply of coal for their gasworks, many of them
found cotton seed a very good substitute. Oil can be extracted from it
in large quantities. For several years, the Cotton-Seed Oil Works of
Memphis carried on an extensive business. Notwithstanding the many
uses to which cotton-seed can be applied, its great abundance makes it
of little value.
The planting-gang which we started on that Monday morning, consisted
of five planters and an equal number of harrows, sowers, etc. Each
planter passed over about six acres daily, so that every day gave us
thirty acres of our prospective cotton crop. At the end of the week
we estimated we had about a hundred and seventy acres planted. On the
following week we increased the number of planters, but soon reduced
them, as we found we should overtake the plows earlier than we
desired. By the evening of Monday, May 2d, we had planted upward of
four hundred acres. A portion of it was pushing out of the ground, and
giving promise of rapid growth.
During this period the business was under the direct superintendence
of our overseers, Mr. Owen being responsible for the larger
plantation, and Richmond for the smaller. Every day they were visited
by Colburn or myself--sometimes by both of us--and received directions
for the general management, which they carried out in detail. Knowing
the habits of the guerrillas, we did not think it prudent to sleep in
our house at the plantation. Those individuals were liable to announce
their presence at any hour of the night, by quietly surrounding the
house and requesting its inmates to make their appearance.
When I spent the night at the plantation, I generally slept on a pile
of cotton-seed, in an out-building to which I had secretly conveyed a
pair of blankets and a flour-bag. This bag, filled with seed, served
as my pillow, and though my bed lacked the elasticity of a spring
mattress, it was really quite comfortable. My sleeping-place was at
the foot of a huge pile of seed, containing many hundred bushels. One
night I amused myself by making a tunnel into this pile in much the
same way as a squirrel digs into a hillside. With a minute's warning
I could have "hunted my hole," taking my blankets with me. By filling
the entrance with seed, I could have escaped any ordinary search of
the building. I never had occasion to use my tunnel.
Generally, however, we staid in Waterproof, leaving there early in the
morning, taking breakfast at the upper plantation, inspecting the work
on both plantations, and, after dinner, returning to Waterproof. We
could obtain a better dinner at the plantation than Waterproof was
able to furnish us. Strawberries held out until late in the season,
and we had, at all times, chickens, eggs, and milk in abundance.
Whenever we desired roast lamb, our purveyor caused a good selection
to be made from our flock. Fresh pork was much too abundant for our
tastes, and we astonished the negroes and all other natives of that
region, by our seemingly Jewish propensities. Pork and corn-bread
are the great staples of life in that hot climate, where one would
naturally look for lighter articles of food.
Once I was detained on the plantation till after dark. As I rode
toward Waterproof, expecting the negro sentinel to challenge and halt
me, I was suddenly brought to a stand by the whistling of a bullet
close to my ear, followed by several others at wider range.
"Who comes there?"
"A friend, with the countersign."
"If that's so, come in. We thought you was the Rebels."
As I reached the picket, the corporal of the guard explained that they
were on duty for the first time, and did not well understand their
business. I agreed with him fully on the latter point. To fire upon a
solitary horseman, advancing at a walk, and challenge him afterward,
was something that will appear ridiculous in the eyes of all soldiers.
The corporal and all his men promised to do better next time, and
begged me not to report them at head-quarters. When I reached the
center of the town, I found the garrison had been alarmed at the
picket firing, and was turning out to repel the enemy. On my assurance
that I was the "enemy," the order to fall into line of battle was
THE NEGROES AT A MILITARY POST.
The Soldiers at Waterproof.--The Black Man in Blue.--Mutiny and
Desertion.--Their Cause and Cure.--Tendering a Resignation.--No Desire
for a Barber.--Seeking Protection.--Falsehood and Truth.--Proneness to
The soldiers forming the garrison at Waterproof, at that time, were
from a regiment raised by Colonel Eaton, superintendent of contrabands
at Vicksburg. They were recruited in the vicinity of Vicksburg and
Milliken's Bend, especially for local defense. They made, as the
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