Sunday, July 17, 2016

Diary of Laura M. Towne: April 24, 1862

St. Helena's Island, Pope's Plantation.
April 24, 1862.
Mr. Pierce's Head Quarters—

Family — Mrs. Johnson and her sister; Miss Donelson; Miss Susan Walker; Miss Winsor; Miss Laura Towne; Rina, Rebecca, Susannah, Lucy, Jane, Harry, Joe, Dagus, and others, being outside and inside members of the household.

Miss Donelson goes home only because she is not so situated that she can work.

The question of to-day is how to dispose of the clothing to the poor people. They are willing to buy generally, but the supply is too small to admit of selling all they want. . . .

They say, “Gov'ment is fighting for us and we will work for Gov'ment. We don't ask money; we only ask clothes and salt and sweetins.” They express the greatest love for the Yankees.

We ladies are borrowed, to go talk to the negroes, from one plantation to another, and we do good, great good. If I only had time to tell all they say to me! Or how they come thronging here for clothes and go away “too satisfied — too thank,” one woman said, at receiving some few things — generally, too, second-hand — some of it miserable. Too thankful, indeed, if you will only let them buy. We go again to-morrow upon a visit of cheering to the poor, anxious people who have lived on promises and are starving for clothes and food while patiently “working for Gov'ment.”

The cotton agents promised last year and now are just paying for the cotton picked on their promise, one dollar in four — the rest in orders on their stores, where they sell molasses at fifteen cents a pint and soap and salt in proportion. The negroes take it hard that they must work at cotton again this year, especially as it must be to the neglect of their corn, upon which they have the sense to feel that their next winter's food depends....

Rupert Sargent Holland, Editor, Letters and Diary of Laura M. Towne: Written from the Sea Islands of South Carolina 1862-1864, p. 15-7

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