Camp-Fire and Cotton-Field
Thomas W. Knox
Part 8 out of 8
from New York and New England, believing that Chicago was very near
the frontier. Those who start with no well-defined ideas of their
destination are generally disappointed. The war has given the public
a pretty accurate knowledge of the geography of the South, so that
the old mistakes of emigrants to California and Colorado are in
slight danger of repetition, but there is a possibility of too little
deliberation in setting out.
Before starting, the emigrant should obtain all accessible information
about the region he intends to visit. Geographies, gazetteers, census
returns, and works of a similar character will be of great advantage.
Much can be obtained from persons who traveled in the rebellious
States during the progress of the war. The leading papers
throughout the country are now publishing letters from their special
correspondents, relative to the state of affairs in the South. These
letters are of great value, and deserve a careful study.
Information from interested parties should be received with caution.
Those who have traveled in the far West know how difficult it is to
obtain correct statements relative to the prosperity or advantages
of any specified locality. Every man assures you that the town or the
county where he resides, or where he is interested, is the best and
the richest within a hundred miles. To an impartial observer, lying
appears to be the only personal accomplishment in a new country. I
presume those who wish to encourage Southern migration will be ready
to set forth all the advantages (but none of the disadvantages) of
their own localities.
Having fully determined where to go and what to do, having selected
his route of travel, and ascertained, as near as possible, what
will be needed on the journey, the emigrant will next consider his
financial policy. No general rule can be given. In most cases it is
better not to take a large amount of money at starting. To many this
advice will be superfluous. Bills of exchange are much safer to carry
than ready cash, and nearly as convenient for commercial transactions.
Beyond an amount double the estimated expenses of his journey, the
traveler will usually carry very little cash.
For the present, few persons should take their wives and children to
the interior South, and none should do so on their first visit. Many
houses have been burned or stripped of their furniture, provisions are
scarce and costly, and the general facilities for domestic happiness
are far from abundant. The conveniences for locomotion in that region
are very poor, and will continue so for a considerable time. A man can
"rough it" anywhere, but he can hardly expect his family to travel on
flat cars, or on steamboats that have neither cabins nor decks, and
subsist on the scanty and badly-cooked provisions that the Sunny South
affords. By all means, I would counsel any young man on his way to the
South not to elope with his neighbor's wife. In view of the condition
of the country beyond Mason and Dixon's line, an elopement would prove
his mistake of a lifetime.
I have already referred to the resources of Missouri. The State
possesses greater mineral wealth than any other State of the Union,
east of the Rocky Mountains. Her lead mines are extensive, easily
worked, very productive, and practically inexhaustible. The same may
be said of her iron mines. Pilot Knob and Iron Mountain are nearly
solid masses of ore, the latter being a thousand feet in height.
Copper mines have been opened and worked, and tin has been found in
several localities. The soil of the Northern portion of Missouri
can boast of a fertility equal to that of Kansas or Illinois. In the
Southern portion the country is more broken, but it contains large
areas of rich lands. The productions of Missouri are similar to those
of the Northern States in the same latitude. More hemp is raised in
Missouri than in any other State except Kentucky. Much of this article
was used during the Rebellion, in efforts to break up the numerous
guerrilla bands that infested the State. Tobacco is an important
product, and its culture is highly remunerative. At Hermann,
Booneville, and other points, the manufacture of wine from the Catawba
grape is extensively carried on. In location and resources, Missouri
is without a rival among the States that formerly maintained the
system of slave labor.
THE RESOURCES OF THE SOUTHERN STATES.
How the People have Lived.--An Agricultural Community.--Mineral
and other Wealth of Virginia.--Slave-Breeding in Former
Times.--The Auriferous Region of North Carolina.--Agricultural
Advantages.--Varieties of Soil in South Carolina.--Sea-Island
Cotton.--Georgia and her Railways.--Probable Decline of the Rice
Culture.--The Everglade State.--The Lower Mississippi Valley.--The Red
River.--Arkansas and its Advantages.--A Hint for Tragedians.--Mining
in Tennessee.--The Blue-Grass Region of Kentucky.--Texas and
its Attractions.--Difference between Southern and Western
Compared with the North, the Southern States have been strictly an
agricultural region. Their few manufactures were conducted on a small
scale, and could not compete with those of the colder latitudes. They
gave some attention to stock-raising in a few localities, but did not
attach to it any great importance. Cotton was the product which fed,
clothed, sheltered, and regaled the people. Even with the immense
profits they received from its culture, they did not appear to
understand the art of enjoyment. They generally lived on large and
comfortless tracts of land, and had very few cities away from
the sea-coast. They thought less of personal comfort than of the
acquisition of more land, mules, and negroes.
In the greatest portion of the South, the people lived poorer than
many Northern mechanics have lived in the past twenty years. The
property in slaves, to the extent of four hundred millions of dollars,
was their heaviest item of wealth, but they seemed unable to turn this
wealth to the greatest advantage. With the climate and soil in their
favor, they paid little attention to the cheaper luxuries of rational
living, but surrounded themselves with much that was expensive, though
utterly useless. On plantations where the owners resided, a visiter
would find the women adorned with diamonds and laces that cost
many thousand dollars, and feast his eyes upon parlor furniture and
ornaments of the most elaborate character. But the dinner-table would
present a repast far below that of a New England farmer or mechanic
in ordinary circumstances, and the sleeping-rooms would give evidence
that genuine comfort was a secondary consideration. Outside of New
Orleans and Charleston, where they are conducted by foreigners, the
South has no such market gardens, or such abundance and variety of
wholesome fruits and vegetables, as the more sterile North can boast
of everywhere. So of a thousand other marks of advancing civilization.
Virginia, "the mother of Presidents," is rich in minerals of the more
useful sort, and some of the precious metals. Her list of mineral
treasures includes gold, copper, iron, lead, plumbago, coal, and salt.
The gold mines are not available except to capitalists, and it is not
yet fully settled whether the yield is sufficient to warrant large
investments. The gold is extracted from an auriferous region,
extending from the Rappahannock to the Coosa River, in Alabama.
The coal-beds in the State are easy of access, and said to be
inexhaustible. The Kanawha salt-works are well known, and the
petroleum regions of West Virginia are attracting much attention.
Virginia presents many varieties of soil, and, with a better system of
cultivation, her productions can be greatly increased. (The same
may be said of all the Southern States, from the Atlantic to the Rio
Grande.) Her soil is favorable to all the products of the Northern
States. The wheat and corn of Virginia have a high reputation. In the
culture of tobacco she has always surpassed every other State of
the Union, and was also the first State in which it was practiced
by civilized man to any extent. Washington pronounced the central
counties of Virginia the finest agricultural district in the United
States, as he knew them. Daniel Webster declared, in a public speech
in the Shenandoah Valley, that he had seen no finer farming land in
his European travel than in that valley.
Until 1860, the people of Virginia paid considerable attention to the
raising of negroes for the Southern market. For some reason this trade
has greatly declined within the past five years, the stock becoming
unsalable, and its production being interrupted. I would advise
no person to contemplate moving to Virginia with a view to raising
negroes for sale. The business was formerly conducted by the "First
Families," and if it should be revived, they will doubtless claim an
North Carolina abounds in minerals, especially in gold, copper, iron,
and coal. The fields of the latter are very extensive. The gold
mines of North Carolina have been profitably worked for many years. A
correspondent of _The World_, in a recent letter from Charlotte, North
In these times of mining excitement it should he more widely known
that North Carolina is a competitor with California, Idaho, and
Nebraska. Gold is found in paying quantities in the State, and in the
northern parts of South Carolina and Georgia. For a hundred miles
west and southwest of Charlotte, all the streams contain more or less
gold-dust. Nuggets of a few ounces have been frequently found, and
there is one well-authenticated case of a solid nugget weighing
twenty-eight pounds, which was purchased from its ignorant owner for
three dollars, and afterward sold at the Mint. Report says a still
larger lump was found and cut up by the guard at one of the mines.
Both at Greensboro, Salisbury, and here, the most reliable residents
concur in pointing to certain farms where the owners procure large
sums of gold. One German is said to have taken more than a million
of dollars from his farm, and refuses to sell his land for any price.
Negroes are and have been accustomed to go out to the creeks and wash
on Saturdays, frequently bringing in two or three dollars' worth, and
not unfrequently negroes come to town with little nuggets of the pure
ore to trade.
The iron and copper mines were developed only to a limited extent
before the war. The necessities of the case led the Southern
authorities, however, after the outbreak, to turn their attention to
them, and considerable quantities of the ore were secured. This was
more especially true of iron.
North Carolina is adapted to all the agricultural products of both
North and South, with the exception of cane sugar. The marshes on the
coast make excellent rice plantations, and, when drained, are very
fertile in cotton. Much of the low, sandy section, extending sixty
miles from the coast, is covered with extensive forests of pitch-pine,
that furnish large quantities of lumber, tar, turpentine, and resin,
for export to Northern cities. When cleared and cultivated, this
region proves quite fertile, but Southern energy has thus far been
content to give it very little improvement. Much of the land in the
interior is very rich and productive. With the exception of Missouri,
North Carolina is foremost, since the close of the war, in
encouraging immigration. As soon as the first steps were taken
toward reconstruction, the "North Carolina Land Agency" was opened at
Raleigh, under the recommendation of the Governor of the State. This
agency is under the management of Messrs. Heck, Battle & Co., citizens
of Raleigh, and is now (August, 1865) establishing offices in the
Northern cities for the purpose of representing the advantages that
North Carolina possesses.
The auriferous region of North Carolina extends into South Carolina
and Georgia. In South Carolina the agricultural facilities are
extensive. According to Ruffin and Tuomey (the agricultural surveyors
of the State), there are six varieties of soil: 1. Tide swamp, devoted
to the culture of rice. 2. Inland swamp, devoted to rice, cotton,
corn, wheat, etc. 3. Salt marsh, devoted to long cotton. 4. Oak and
pine regions, devoted to long cotton, corn, and wheat. 5. Oak and
hickory regions, where cotton and corn flourish. 6. Pine barrens,
adapted to fruit and vegetables.
The famous "sea-island cotton" comes from the islands along the coast,
where large numbers of the freed negroes of South Carolina have been
recently located. South Carolina can produce, side by side, the corn,
wheat, and tobacco of the North, and the cotton, rice, and sugar-cane
of the South, though the latter article is not profitably cultivated.
Notwithstanding the prophecies of the South Carolinians to the
contrary, the free-labor scheme along the Atlantic coast has proved
successful. The following paragraph is from a letter written by a
prominent journalist at Savannah:--
The condition of the islands along this coast is now of the greatest
interest to the world at large, and to the people of the South in
particular. Upon careful inquiry, I find that there are over two
hundred thousand acres of land under cultivation by free labor. The
enterprises are mostly by Northern men, although there are natives
working their negroes under the new system, and negroes who are
working land on their own account. This is the third year of the
trial, and every year has been a success more and more complete. The
profits of some of the laborers amount to five hundred, and in some
cases five thousand dollars a year. The amount of money deposited in
bank by the negroes of these islands is a hundred and forty thousand
dollars. One joint, subscription to the seven-thirty loan amounted
to eighty thousand dollars. Notwithstanding the fact that the troops
which landed on the islands robbed, indiscriminately, the negroes of
their money, mules, and supplies, the negroes went back to work again.
General Saxton, who has chief charge of this enterprise, has his
head-quarters at Beaufort. If these facts, and the actual prosperity
of these islands could be generally known throughout the South, it
would do more to induce the whites to take hold of the freed-labor
system than all the general orders and arbitrary commands that General
Hatch has issued.
The resources of Georgia are similar to those of South Carolina, and
the climate differs but little from that of the latter State. The
rice-swamps are unhealthy, and the malaria which arises from them is
said to be fatal to whites. Many of the planters express a fear that
the abolition of slavery has ended the culture of rice. They argue
that the labor is so difficult and exhaustive, that the negroes will
never perform it excepting under the lash. Cruel modes of punishment
being forbidden, the planters look upon the rice-lands as valueless.
Time will show whether these fears are to be realized or not. If it
should really happen that the negroes refuse to labor where their
lives are of comparatively short duration, the country must consent to
restore slavery to its former status, or purchase its rice in foreign
countries. As rice is produced in India without slave labor, it is
possible that some plan may be invented for its cultivation here.
Georgia has a better system of railways than any other Southern State,
and she is fortunate in possessing several navigable rivers. The
people are not as hostile to Northerners as the inhabitants of South
Carolina, but they do not display the desire to encourage immigration
that is manifested in North Carolina. In the interior of Georgia,
at the time I am writing, there is much suffering on account of a
scarcity of food. Many cases of actual starvation are reported.
Florida has few attractions to settlers. It is said there is no spot
of land in the State three hundred feet above the sea-level. Men born
with fins and webbed feet might enjoy themselves in the lakes and
swamps, which form a considerable portion of Florida. Those whose
tastes are favorable to timber-cutting, can find a profitable
employment in preparing live-oak and other timbers for market. The
climate is very healthy, and has been found highly beneficial to
invalids. The vegetable productions of the State are of similar
character to those of Georgia, but their amount is not large.
In the Indian tongue, Alabama signifies "Here we rest." The traveler
who rests in the State of that name, finds an excellent agricultural
region. He finds that cotton is king with the Alabamians, and that the
State has fifteen hundred miles of navigable rivers and a good railway
system. He finds that Alabama suffered less by the visits of our
armies than either Georgia or South Carolina. The people extend him
the same welcome that he received in Georgia. They were too deeply
interested in the perpetuation of slavery to do otherwise than mourn
the failure to establish the Confederacy.
Elsewhere I have spoken of the region bordering the lower portion of
the Great River of the West, which includes Louisiana and Mississippi.
In the former State, sugar and cotton are the great products. In the
latter, cotton is the chief object of attention. It is quite probable
that the change from slavery to freedom may necessitate the division
of the large plantations into farms of suitable size for cultivation
by persons of moderate capital. If this should be done, there will
be a great demand for Northern immigrants, and the commerce of these
States will be largely increased.
Early in July, of the present year, after the dispersal of the
Rebel armies, a meeting was held at Shreveport, Louisiana, at which
resolutions were passed favoring the encouragement of Northern
migration to the Red River valley. The resolutions set forth, that the
pineries of that region would amply repay development, in view of
the large market for lumber along Red River and the Mississippi.
They further declared, that the cotton and sugar plantations of West
Louisiana offered great attractions, and were worthy the attention
of Northern men. The passage of these resolutions indicates a better
spirit than has been manifested by the inhabitants of other portions
of the Pelican State. Many of the people in the Red River region
profess to have been loyal to the United States throughout the days of
The Red River is most appropriately named. It flows through a region
where the soil has a reddish tinge, that is imparted to the water of
the river. The sugar produced there has the same peculiarity, and can
be readily distinguished from the sugar of other localities.
Arkansas is quite rich in minerals, though far less so than Missouri.
Gold abounds in some localities, and lead, iron, and zinc exist
in large quantities. The saltpeter caves along the White River can
furnish sufficient saltpeter for the entire Southwest. Along the
rivers the soil is fertile, but there are many sterile regions in the
interior. The agricultural products are similar to those of Missouri,
with the addition of cotton. With the exception of the wealthier
inhabitants, the people of Arkansas are desirous of stimulating
emigration. They suffered so greatly from the tyranny of the Rebel
leaders that they cheerfully accept the overthrow of slavery. Arkansas
possesses less advantages than most other Southern States, being far
behind her sisters in matters of education and internal improvement.
It is to be hoped that her people have discovered their mistake, and
will make earnest efforts to correct it at an early day.
A story is told of a party of strolling players that landed at a town
in Arkansas, and advertised a performance of "Hamlet." A delegation
waited upon the manager, and ordered him to "move on." The spokesman
of the delegation is reported to have said:
"That thar Shakspeare's play of yourn, stranger, may do for New York
or New Orleans, but we want you to understand that Shakspeare in
Arkansas is pretty ---- well played out."
Persons who wish to give attention to mining matters, will find
attractions in Tennessee, in the deposits of iron, copper, and
other ores. Coal is found in immense quantities among the Cumberland
Mountains, and lead exists in certain localities. Though Tennessee can
boast of considerable mineral wealth, her advantages are not equal to
those of Missouri or North Carolina. In agriculture she stands well,
though she has no soil of unusual fertility, except in the western
portion of the State. Cotton, corn, and tobacco are the great staples,
and considerable quantities of wheat are produced. Stock-raising has
received considerable attention. More mules were formerly raised in
Tennessee than in any other State of the Union. A large portion of the
State is admirably adapted to grazing.
Military operations in Tennessee, during the Rebellion, were very
extensive, and there was great destruction of property in consequence.
Large numbers of houses and other buildings were burned, and many
farms laid waste. It will require much time, capital, and energy to
obliterate the traces of war.
The inhabitants of Kentucky believe that their State cannot be
surpassed in fertility. They make the famous "Blue Grass Region,"
around Lexington, the subject of especial boast. The soil of this
section is very rich, and the grass has a peculiar bluish tinge, from
which its name is derived. One writer says the following of the Blue
View the country round from the heads of the Licking, the Ohio, the
Kentucky, Dick's, and down the Green River, and you have a hundred
miles square of the most extraordinary country on which the sun has
Farms in this region command the highest prices, and there are very
few owners who have any desire to sell their property. Nearly all the
soil of the State is adapted to cultivation. Its staple products are
the same as those of Missouri. It produces more flax and hemp than
any other State, and is second only to Virginia in the quality and
quantity of its tobacco. Its yield of corn is next to that of Ohio.
Like Tennessee, it has a large stock-raising interest, principally in
mules and hogs, for which there is always a ready market.
Kentucky suffered severely during the campaigns of the Rebel army in
that State, and from the various raids of John Morgan. A parody on
"My Maryland" was published in Louisville soon after one of Morgan's
visits, of which the first stanza was as follows:--
John Morgan's foot is on thy shore,
Kentucky! O Kentucky!
His hand is on thy stable door,
Kentucky! O Kentucky!
He'll take thy horse he spared before,
And ride him till his back is sore,
And leave him at some stranger's door,
Kentucky! O Kentucky!
Last, and greatest, of the lately rebellious States, is Texas. Every
variety of soil can be found there, from the richest alluvial deposits
along the river bottoms, down to the deserts in the northwestern part
of the State, where a wolf could not make an honest living. All the
grains of the Northern States can be produced. Cotton, tobacco,
and sugar-cane are raised in large quantities, and the agricultural
capabilities of Texas are very great. Being a new State, its system of
internal communications is not good. Texas has the reputation of being
the finest grazing region in the Southwest. Immense droves of horses,
cattle, and sheep cover its prairies, and form the wealth of many of
the inhabitants. Owing to the distance from market, these animals are
generally held at very low prices.
Shortly after its annexation to the United States, Texas became a
resort for outcasts from civilized society. In some parts of the
Union, the story goes that sheriffs, and their deputies dropped the
phrase "_non est inventus_" for one more expressive. Whenever they
discovered that parties for whom they held writs had decamped, they
returned the documents with the indorsement "G.T.T." (gone to Texas).
Some writer records that the State derived its name from the last
words of a couplet which runaway individuals were supposed to repeat
on their arrival:--
When every other land rejects us,
This is the land that freely takes us.
Since 1850, the character of the population of Texas has greatly
improved, though it does not yet bear favorable comparison to that
of Quaker villages, or of rural districts of Massachusetts or
Connecticut. There is a large German element in Texas, which displayed
devoted loyalty to the Union during the days of the Rebellion.
An unknown philosopher says the world is peopled by two great classes,
those who have money, and those who haven't--the latter being most
numerous. Migratory Americans are subject to the same distinction. Of
those who have emigrated to points further West during the last thirty
years, a very large majority were in a condition of impecuniosity.
Many persons emigrate on account of financial embarrassments, leaving
behind them debts of varied magnitude. In some cases, Territories and
States that desired to induce settlers to come within their limits,
have passed laws providing that no debt contracted elsewhere, previous
to emigration, could be collected by any legal process. To a man
laboring under difficulties of a pecuniary character, the new
Territories and States offer as safe a retreat as the Cities of Refuge
afforded to criminals in the days of the ancients.
Formerly, the West was the only field to which emigrants could direct
their steps. There was an abundance of land, and a great need of human
sinew to make it lucrative. When land could be occupied by a settler
and held under his pre-emption title, giving him opportunity to pay
for his possession from the products of his own industry and the
fertility of the soil, there was comparatively little need of capital.
The operations of speculators frequently tended to retard settlement
rather than to stimulate it, as they shut out large areas from
cultivation or occupation, in order to hold them for an advance. In
many of the Territories a dozen able-bodied men, accustomed to farm
labor and willing to toil, were considered a greater acquisition than
a speculator with twenty thousand dollars of hard cash. Labor was of
more importance than capital.
To a certain extent this is still the case. Laboring men are greatly
needed on the broad acres of the far-Western States. No one who has
not traveled in that region can appreciate the sacrifice made by
Minnesota, Iowa, and Kansas, when they sent their regiments of
stalwart men to the war. Every arm that carried a musket from those
States, was a certain integral portion of their wealth and prosperity.
The great cities of the seaboard could spare a thousand men with far
less loss than would accrue to any of the States I have mentioned, by
the subtraction of a hundred. There is now a great demand for men
to fill the vacancy caused by deaths in the field, and to occupy the
extensive areas that are still uncultivated. Emigrants without capital
will seek the West, where their stout arms will make them welcome and
secure them comfortable homes.
In the South the situation is different. For the present there is a
sufficiency of labor. Doubtless there will be a scarcity several years
hence, but there is no reason to fear it immediately. Capital
and direction are needed. The South is impoverished. Its money is
expended, and it has no present source of revenue. There is nothing
wherewith to purchase the necessary stock, supplies, and implements
for prosecuting agricultural enterprise. The planters are generally
helpless. Capital to supply the want must come from the rich North.
Direction is no less needed than capital. A majority of Southern men
declare the negroes will be worthless to them, now that slavery is
abolished. "We have," say they, "lived among these negroes all our
days. We know them in no other light than as slaves. We command them
to do what we wish, and we punish them as we see fit for disobedience.
We cannot manage them in any other way."
No doubt this is the declaration of their honest belief. A Northern
man can give them an answer appealing to their reason, if not to their
conviction. He can say, "You are accustomed to dealing with slaves,
and you doubtless tell the truth when declaring you cannot manage
the negroes under the new system. We are accustomed to dealing with
freemen, and do not know how to control slaves. The negroes being
free, our knowledge of freemen will enable us to manage them without
Every thing is favorable to the man of small or large capital,
who desires to emigrate to the South. In consideration of the
impoverishment of the people and their distrust of the freed negroes
as laborers, lands in the best districts can be purchased very
cheaply. Plantations can be bought, many of them with all the
buildings and fences still remaining, though somewhat out of repair,
at prices ranging from three to ten dollars an acre. A few hundred
dollars will do far more toward securing a home for the settler in
the South than in the West. Labor is abundant, and the laborers can be
easily controlled by Northern brains. The land is already broken, and
its capabilities are fully known. Capital, if judiciously invested and
under proper direction, whether in large or moderate amounts, will be
reasonably certain of an ample return.
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