Saturday, November 5, 2016

Diary of William Howard Russell: June 9, 1861

A thunder-storm, which lasted all the morning and afternoon till three o'clock. When it cleared I drove, in company with Mr. Burnside and his friends, to dinner with Mr. Duncan Kenner, who lives some ten or twelve miles above Houmas. He is one of the sporting men of the South, well known on the Charleston race-course, and keeps a large stable of racehorses and brood mares, under the management of an Englishman. The jocks were negro lads; and when we arrived, about half a dozen of them were giving the colts a run in the paddock. The calveless legs and hollow thighs of the negro adapt him admirably for the pigskin; and these little fellows sat their horses so well, one might have thought, till the turn in the course displayed their black faces and grinning mouths, he was looking at a set of John Scott's young gentlemen out training.

The Carolinians are true sportsmen, and in the South the Charleston races create almost as much sensation as our Derby at home. One of the guests at Mr. Kenner's knew all about the winners of Epsom Oaks, and Ascot, and took delight in showing his knowledge of the “Racing Calendar.”

It is observable, however, that the Creoles do not exhibit any great enthusiasm for horse-racing, but that they apply themselves rather to cultivate their plantations and to domestic duties; and it is even remarkable that they do not stand prominently forward in the State Legislature, or aspire to high political influence and position, although their numbers and wealth would fairly entitle them to both. The population of small settlers, scarcely removed from pauperism, along the river banks, is courted by men who obtain larger political influence than the great land-owners, as the latter consider it beneath them to have recourse to the arts of the demagogue.

SOURCE: William Howard Russell, My Diary North and South, p. 286-7

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