Showing posts with label Slave Quarters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Slave Quarters. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Diary of Corporal David L. Day: May 9, 1862

A TRIP INTO THE COUNTRY. 

After nearly two months of scrubbing and cleaning, with new caps and pants, the 25th regiment stands in column of platoons on Pollock street, as tony a looking regiment as there is in the service. The colonel and staff with the band take the head of the column, and amid the cheers of hundreds of darkies, the march commences. Leaving the city we soon enter the woods, and after marching about three miles, come out to a cotton plantation. Here we make a short halt and look over the place. It looks rather run down, the house is old and out of repair, the negro quarters are built of logs, and look as though they were hardly habitable. But I presume everything on a plantation has to correspond. The gentlemanly proprietor, whoever he was, has left, taking with him the best of his servants, leaving here a few old ones to shift for themselves. 

A few miles further on, we came to another cotton plantation. This presented a better appearance, a neat cottage house, painted white with green blinds, good barns and surroundings. The negro quarters were comfortable looking houses, built of boards, with glass windows, and whitewashed. This gentleman with his servants had also gone up the country. About two miles further on, at a fork of the road, we found the 17th Massachusetts, Col. Amory, doing picket duty. Here a road branched to the right leading into the woods, which we took, following it about four miles, coming out at a small clearing, where was a little red house and log barn, with a few negro cabins. This is known as the Red house, and we relieve the 23d Massachusetts, which is doing picket duty. And this then is to be our home for a while. It certainly is retired and rural, not another house within four miles of us. The clearing is not over twelve or fifteen acres in extent, with a small creek running through it. Woods to the right of us, wools to the left of us, woods to the front of us, woods all around us. This surely must be the place for which Cowper sighed, when he wrote, 

“O! for a lodge in some vast wilderness.” 

After getting a little rested from the long march, we pitched our tents in a field a short distance from the house. The colonel and his family, with the band, pitched their camp in the large shady yard next to the house. The tents up, the picket guard is detailed an posted ; a part of them along the road we came up, and connecting with the 17th Massachusetts, a part along the road to the right, and connecting with the 27th Massachusetts stationed at Bachellor's creek, and the balance along the roads and horse paths leading into Dixie. The tents up, the pickets out, dress parade and supper over, I reckon the country must be safe for one night at least, and I will improve it by trying to get some sleep and rest, for it will be just my luck to be on the detail tomorrow. 

SOURCE: David L. Day, My Diary of Rambles with the 25th Mass. Volunteer Infantry, p. 55-6

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Richard French* to Howell Cobb, September 10, 1848

Mount Sterling, Ky., Septr. 10th 1848.

Dear Sir: As Kentucky is to go for General Taylor in November next, I feel anxious to know what Georgia and the other Southern States, particularly South Carolina and Florida, will do. I think you can decide for Georgia, and give the reason for the hope that is in you for the others. In my quarter of the Union, Kentucky excepted, prospects for Cass and Butler are good.

The slave question in Ky. has taken deeper hold and awakens more concern than usual. Many I think regard the crisis as at the door — but I fear, notwithstanding, the Whigs have their hearts so zealously set upon availability, that even that question will not controul them. How does Mr. Stephens prosper under his motion and vote to lay the compromise Bill on the Table? Knowing Members of Congress abhor long letters, I withhold much that I might say. Congratulating you upon your safe return home and tendering to you my ardent desire for your return to Congress, I remain as ever.
_______________

* Member of Congress from Kentucky, 1835-1837, 1843-1845, and 1847-1849.

SOURCE: Ulrich Bonnell Phillips, Editor, The Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1911, Volume 2: The Correspondence of Robert Toombs, Alexander H. Stephens, and Howell Cobb, p. 126

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Diary of 1st Sergeant John L. Ransom: December 15, 1864

Jocko's hut was not across the river as I supposed and wrote yesterday, but on the same side we were on. At about ten o'clock last night we went to his abiding place as directed and knocked. After a long time an old black head was stuck out of the window with a nightcap on. The owner of the head didn't know Jocko or anything about him; was short and crusty; said: “Go way from Dar” Kept talking to him and he scolding at being disturbed. Said he had rheumatics and couldn't get out to let us in. After a long time opened the door and we set down on the door step. Told him we were yankees and wanted help. Was the funniest darky we have met yet. Would give something for his picture as he was framed in his window in the moonlight talking to us, with the picturesque surroundings, and us yankees trying to win him over to aid us. Finally owned up that he was Jocko, but said he couldn't row us across the river. He was lame and could not walk, had no boat, and if he had the river was so swift he couldn't get us across, and if it wasn't swift, the rebels would catch him at it and hang him. Talked a long time and with much teasing. By degrees his scruples gave way, one at a time. Didn't know but he might row us across if he only had a boat, and finally didn't know but he could find a boat To get thus far into his good graces took at least three hours. Went looking around and found an old scow, fixed up some old cars, and we got in; before doing so however, he had warmed up enough to give us some boiled sweet potatoes and cold baked fish. Rowed us way down the river and landed us on the noted Miller plantation and a mile in rear of the negro houses. Jocko, after we forced our acquaintance on him with all kind of argument, proved to be a smart able bodied old negro, but awful afraid of being caught helping runaways. Would give something for his picture as he appeared to us looking out of his cabin window. Just an old fashioned, genuine negro, and so black that charcoal would make a white mark on him. Took us probably three miles from his hut, two miles of water and one of land, and then started back home after shaking us a dozen times by the hand, and “God blessing us.” Said “Ole Massa Miller's niggers all Union niggers,” and to go up to the huts in broad day light and they would help us. No whites at home on the plantation. We arrived where Jocko left us an hour or so before daylight, and lay down to sleep until light. I woke up after a while feeling wet, and found the tide had risen and we were surrounded with water; woke up the boys and scrambled out of that in a hurry, going through two feet of water in some places. The spot where we had laid down was a higher piece of ground than that adjoining. Got on to dry land and proceeded to get dry. At about ten o'clock Dave went up to the negro huts and made himself known, which was hard work. The negroes are all afraid that we are rebels and trying to get them into a scrape, but after we once get them thoroughly satisfied that we are genuine Yanks they are all right, and will do anything for us. The negroes have shown us the big house, there being no whites around, they having left to escape the coming Yankee army. We went up into the cupola and looked way off on the ocean, and saw our own noble gunboats. What would we give to be aboard of them? Their close proximity makes us discuss the feasibility of going down the river and out to them, but the negroes say there are chain boats across the river farther down, and picketed. Still it makes us anxious, our being so near, and we have decided to go down the river to night in a boat and see if we can't reach them It is now the middle of the afternoon and we lay off from the huts eighty rods, and the negroes are about to bring us some dinner. During the night we traveled over oyster beds by the acre, artificial ones, and they cut our feet. Negroes say there are two other runaways hid a mile off and they are going to bring them to our abiding place. Later, — Negroes have just fed us with corn bread and a kind of fish about the size of sardines, boiled by the kettle full, and they are nice. Fully as good as sardines. Think I know now where nearly all the imported sardines come from. Negroes catch them by the thousand, in nets, put them in kettles, and cook them a few minutes, when they are ready to eat. Scoop them out of the creeks The two other runaways are here with us. They are out of the 3d Ohio Cavalry. Have been out in the woods for two weeks. Escaped from Blackshear and traveled this far. I used to know one of them in Savannah. We do not take to them at all, as they are not of our kind. Shall separate to night, they going their way and we going ours. Have secured a dug-out boat to go down the Ogechee River with to-night. The negroes tell us of a Mr. Kimball, a white man, living up the country fifteen miles, who is a Union man and helps runaways, or any one of Union proclivities. He lays up the river, and our gunboats lay down the river. Both have wonderful charms for us, and shall decide before night which route to take. Are on rice plantation, and a valuable one. Before the “wall” there were over fifteen hundred negroes on this place. Cotton is also part of the production. Have decided to go down the river and try to reach our gunboats It's two very hazardous undertaking, and I have my doubts as to its successful termination.

SOURCE: John L. Ransom, Andersonville Diary, p. 141-3

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Diary of 1st Sergeant John L. Ransom: December 14, 1864

We are now three miles from yesterday's resting place, and near the Miller plantation. Soon as dark last night we went to the negro huts and found them expecting us. Had a jubilee. No whites near, but all away. The Buck boys passed near here before when out in the woods, and knew of many darkys who befriended them. Had a surfeit of food. Stayed at the huts until after midnight, and then a woman brought us to this place. Tonight we go to Jocko's hut, across the river. A darky will row us across the Little Ogechee to Jocco's hut, and then he will take us in tow. It is a rice country about here, with canals running every way. Negroes all tickled to death because Yankees coming. I am feeling better than yesterday, but difficult to travel. Tell the boys they had better leave me with the friendly blacks and go ahead to our lines, but they won't. Plenty to eat and milk to drink, which is just what I want. The whites now are all away from their homes and most of the negroes. Imagine we can hear the booming of cannon, but guess we are mistaken. Dave is very entertaining and good company. Don't get tired of him and his talk. Both of them are in rebel dress throughout, and can talk and act just like rebels. Know the commanders of different rebel regiments. They say that when out before they on different occasions mixed with the Southern army, without detection Said they didn't wonder the widow woman knew I was a Yankee. Ain't up to that kind of thing.

SOURCE: John L. Ransom, Andersonville Diary, p. 138-41

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Diary of 1st Sergeant John L. Ransom: November 25, 1864

This morning got up cold and stiff; not enough covering. Pushed off in the direction pointed out by the darkey of yesterday. Have come in the vicinity of negro shanties and laying in wait for some good benevolent colored brother. Most too many dogs yelping around to suit a runaway Yankee. Little nigs and the canines run together. If I can only attract their attention without scaring them to death, shall be all right. However, there is plenty of time, and won't rush things. Time is not valuable with me. Will go sure and careful. Don't appear to be any men folks around; more or less women of all shades of color. This is evidently a large plantation; has thirty or forty negro huts in three or four rows. They are all neat and clean to outward appearances. In the far distance and toward what I take to be the main road is the master's residence. Can just see a part of it. Has a cupola on top and is an ancient structure. Evidently a nice plantation. Lots of cactus grows wild all over, and is bad to tramp through. There is also worlds of palm leaves, such as five cent fans are made of. Hold on there, two or three negro men are coming from the direction of the big house to the huts. Don't look very inviting to trust your welfare with. Will still wait, McCawber like, for something to turn up. If they only knew the designs I have on them, they would turn pale. Shall be ravenous by night and go for them. I am near a spring of water, and lay down flat and drink. The “Astor House Mess” is moving around for a change; hope I won't make a mess of it. Lot of goats looking at me now, wondering, I suppose, what it is. Wonder if they butt? Shoo! going to rain, and if so I must sleep in one of those shanties. Negroes all washing up and getting ready to eat, with doors open No, thank you; dined yesterday. Am reminded of the song: “What shall we do, when the war breaks the country up, and scatters us poor darkys all around.” This getting away business is about the best investment I ever made. Just the friendliest fellow ever was. More than like a colored man, and will stick closer than a brother if they will only let me. Laugh when I think of the old darky of yesterday's experience, who liked me first rate only wanted me to go away. Have an eye on an isolated hut that looks friendly. shall approach it at dark. People at the hut are a woman and two or three children, and a jolly looking and acting negro man. Being obliged to lay low in the shade feel the cold, as it is rather damp and moist. Later.—Am in the hut and have eaten a good supper. shall sleep here to-night. The negro man goes early in the morning, together with all the male darky population, to work on fortifications at Fort McAllister. Says the whole country is wild at the news of approaching Yankee army. Negro man named “Sam” and woman “Sandy.” Two or three negroes living here in these huts are not trustworthy, and I must keep very quiet and not be seen. Children perfectly awe struck at the sight of a Yankee. Negroes very kind but afraid. Criminal to assist me. Am five miles from Doctortown. Plenty of "gubers" and yams. Tell them all about my imprisonment. Regard the Yankees as their friends. Half a dozen neighbors come in by invitation, shake hands with me, scrape the floor with their feet, and rejoice most to death at the good times coming. “Bress de Lord,” has been repeated hundreds of times in the two or three hours I have been here. Surely I have fallen among friends. All the visitors donate of their eatables, and although enough is before me to feed a dozen men, I give it a tussle. Thus ends the second day of my freedom, and it is glorious

SOURCE: John L. Ransom, Andersonville Diary, p. 123-4

Friday, January 6, 2017

Diary of 2nd Lieutenant John S. Morgan: Sunday, February 19, 1865

Pass Port Hudson in the night also Battan Rouge, all day passing through the richest contry I ever saw. fine plantations splendid houses & villages of negro houses in regular order with streets; land at Carrolton at 3. P. M. go off & look around but few troops here. Saw flowers in bloom, & oranges on trees. town all the way from here to New Orleans which place we land at at 4 P. M. Gnl Reports. we then cross & disimbark at Algiers at 4.30. any amount of Black troops, & our Brigade which is again disorganized. Hear that Genl Steele is removed. Genl Veach assigned the comd of a Div, raining when we land and 10. P. M. before our things get to camp. no wood & no fire. More than 200 sailing vessels lieing in river here and about 50 to 100 steamboats some 20 gunboats, no end to small craft. Some troops leave on a steam sailing vessel for 3d time wrecked and loss 15 men

SOURCE: “Diary of John S. Morgan, Company G, 33rd Iowa Infantry,” Annals of Iowa, 3rd Series, Vol. 13, No. 8, April 1923, p. 574

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Diary of William Howard Russell: June 3, 1861

At five o'clock this morning, having been awakened an hour earlier by a wonderful chorus of riotous mocking-birds, my old negro attendant brought in my bath of Mississippi water, which, Nile-like, casts down a strong deposit, and becomes as clear, if not so sweet, after standing. “Le seigneur vous attend;” and already I saw, outside my window, the Governor mounted on a stout cob, and a nice chestnut horse waiting, led by a slave. Early as it was, the sun felt excessively hot, and I envied the Governor his slouched hat as we rode through the fields, crisp with dew. In a few minutes our horses were traversing narrow alleys between the tall fields of maize, which rose far above our heads. This corn, as it is called, is the principal food of the negroes; and every planter lays down a sufficient quantity to afford him, on an average, a supply all the year round. Outside this spread vast fields, hedgeless, wall-less, and unfenced, where the green cane was just learning to wave its long shoots in the wind — a lake of bright green sugar-sprouts, along the margin of which, in the distance, rose an unbroken boundary of forest, two miles in depth, up to the swampy morass, all to be cleared and turned into arable land in process of time. From the river front to this forest, the fields of rich loam, unfathomable, and yielding from one to one and a half hogsheads of sugar per acre under cultivation, extend for a mile and a half in depth. In the midst of this expanse white dots were visible like Sowers seen on the early march in Indian fields, many a time and oft. Those are the gangs of hands at work — we will see what they are at presently. This little reminiscence of Indian life was further heightened by the negroes who ran beside us to whisk flies from the horses, and to open the gates in the plantation boundary. When the Indian corn is not good, peas are sowed, alternately, between the stalks, and are considered to be of much benefit; and when the cane is bad, corn is sowed with it, for the same object. Before we came up to the gangs we passed a cart on the road containing a large cask, a bucket full of molasses, a pail of hominy, or boiled Indian corn, and a quantity of tin pannikins. The cask contained water for the negroes, and the other vessels held the materials for their breakfast; in addition to which, they generally have each a dried fish. The food was ample, and looked wholesome; such as any laboring man would be well content with. Passing along through maize on one side, and cane at another, we arrived at last at a patch of ground where thirty-six men and women were hoeing.

Three gangs of negroes were at work: one gang of men, with twenty mules and ploughs, was engaged in running through the furrows between the canes, cutting up the weeds, and clearing away the grass, which is the enemy of the growing shoot. The mules are of a fine, large, good-tempered kind, and understand their work almost as well as the drivers, who are usually the more intelligent hands on the plantation. The overseer, a sharp-looking creole, on a lanky pony, whip in hand, superintended their labors, and, after a salutation to the Governor, to whom he made some remarks on the condition of the crops, rode off to another part of the farm. With the exception of crying to their mules, the negroes kept silence at their work.

Another gang consisted of forty men, who were hoeing out the grass in Indian corn. The third gang, of thirty-six women, were engaged in hoeing out cane. Their clothing seemed heavy for the climate; their shoes, ponderous and ill-made, had worn away the feet of their thick stockings, which hung in fringes over the upper leathers. Coarse straw hats and bright cotton handkerchiefs protected their heads from the sun. The silence which I have already alluded to, prevailed among these gangs also — not a sound could be heard but the blows of the hoe on the heavy clods. In the rear of each gang stood a black overseer, with a heavy-thonged whip over his shoulder. If “Alcíbíades” or  “Pompée” were called out, he came with outstretched hand to ask “How do you do,” and then returned to his labor; but the ladies were coy, and scarcely looked up from under their flapping chapeaux de paille at their visitors.

Those who are mothers leave their children in the charge of certain old women, unfit for anything else, and “suckers,” as they are called, are permitted to go home, at appointed periods in the day, to give the infants the breast. The overseers have power to give ten lashes; but heavier punishment ought to be reported to the Governor; however, it is not likely a good overseer would be checked, in any way, by his master. The anxieties attending the cultivation of sugar are great, and so much depends upon the judicious employment of labor, it is scarcely possible to exaggerate the importance of experience in directing it, and of power to insist on its application. When the frost comes, the cane is rendered worthless — one touch destroys the sugar. But if frost is the enemy of the white planter, the sun is scarcely the friend of the black man. The sun condemns him to slavery, because it is the heat which is the barrier to the white man's labor. The Governor told me that, in August, when the crops are close, thick-set, and high, and the vertical sun beats down on the laborers, nothing but a black skin and head covered with wool can enable a man to walk out in the open field and live.

We returned to the house in time for breakfast, for which our early cup of coffee and biscuit and the ride had been good preparation. Here was old France again. One might imagine a lord of the seventeenth century in his hall, but for the black faces of the servitors and the strange dishes of tropical origin. There was the old French abundance, the numerous dishes and efflorescence of napkins, and the long-necked bottles of Bordeaux, with a steady current of pleasant small talk. I saw some numbers of a paper called "La Misachibée? which was the primitive Indian name of the grand river, not improved by the addition of sibilant Anglo-Saxon syllables.

The Americans, not unmindful of the aid to which, at the end of the War of Independence, their efforts were merely auxiliary, delight, even in the North, to exalt France above her ancient rival: but, as if to show the innate dissimilarity of the two races, the French Creoles exhibit towards the New Englanders and the North an animosity, mingled with contempt, which argues badly for a future amalgamation or reunion. As the South Carolinians declare, they would rather return to their allegiance under the English monarchy, so the Louisianians, although they have no sentiment in common with the people of republican and imperial France, assert they would far sooner seek a connection with the old country than submit to the yoke of the Yankees.

After breakfast, the Governor drove out by the ever-silent levee for some miles, passing estate after estate, where grove nodded to grove, each alley saw its brother. One could form no idea, from the small limited frontage of these plantations, that the proprietors were men of many thousands a year, because the estates extend on an average for three or four miles back to the forest. The absence of human beings on the road was a feature which impressed one more and more. But for the tall chimneys of the factories and the sugar-houses, one might believe that these villas had been erected by some pleasure-loving people who had all fled from the river banks for fear of pestilence. The gangs of negroes at work were hidden in the deep corn, and their quarters were silent and deserted. We met but one planter, in his gig, until we arrived at the estate of Monsieur Potier, the Governor's brother-in-law. The proprietor was at home, and received us very kindly, though suffering from the effects of a recent domestic calamity. He is a grave, earnest man with a face like Jerome Bonaparte, and a most devout Catholic; and any man more unfit to live in any sort of community with New England Puritans one cannot well conceive; for equal intensity of purpose and sincerity of conviction on their part could only lead them to mortal strife. His house was like a French chateau erected under tropical influences, and he led us through a handsome garden laid out with hot-houses, conservatories, orange-trees, and date-palms, and ponds full of the magnificent Victoria Regia in flower. We visited his refining factories and mills, but the heat from the boilers, which seemed too much even for the all-but-naked negroes who were at work, did not tempt us to make a very long sojourn inside. The ebony faces and polished black backs of the slaves were streaming with perspiration as they toiled over boilers, vat, and centrifugal driers. The good refiner was not gaining much money at present, for sugar has been rapidly falling in New Orleans, and the 300,000 barrels produced annually in the South will fall short in the yield of profits, which on an average may be taken at £11 a hogshead, without counting the molasses for the planter. With a most perfect faith in States' Rights, he seemed to combine either indifference or ignorance in respect to the power and determination of the North to resist secession to the last. All the planters hereabouts have sowed an unusual quantity of Indian corn, to have food for the negroes if the war lasts, without any distress from inland or sea blockade. The absurdity of supposing that a blockade can injure them in the way of supply is a favorite theme to descant upon. They may find out, however, that it is no contemptible means of warfare.

At night, there are regular patrols and watchmen, who look after the levee and the negroes. A number of dogs are also loosed, but I am assured that the creatures do not tear the negroes; they are taught “merely” to catch and mumble them, to treat them as a well-broken retriever uses a wounded wild duck.

At six, A. M., Morse came to ask me if I should like a glass of absinthe, or anything stomachic. At breakfast was Doctor Laporte, formerly a member of the Legislative Assembly of France, who was exiled by Louis Napoleon ; in other words, he was ordered to give in his adhesion to the new régime, or to take a passport for abroad. He preferred the latter course, and now, true Frenchman, finding the Emperor has aggrandized France and added to her military reputation, he admires the man on whom but a few years ago he lavished the bitterest hate.

The carriage is ready, and the word farewell is spoken at last. M. Alfred Roman, my companion, has travelled in Europe, and learned philosophy; is not so orthodox as many of the gentlemen I have met who indulge in ingenious hypotheses to comfort the consciences of the anthropo-proprietors. The negro skull won't hold as many ounces of shot as the white man's. Potent proof that the white man has a right to sell and to own the creature! He is plantigrade, and curved as to the tibia! Cogent demonstration that he was made expressly to work for the arch-footed, straight-tibiaed Caucasian. He has a rete mucosum and a colored pigment! Surely he cannot have a soul of the same color as that of an Italian or a Spaniard, far less of a flaxen-haired Saxon! See these peculiarities in the frontal sinus — in sinciput or occiput! Can you doubt that the being with a head of that shape was made only to till, hoe, and dig for another race? Besides, the Bible says that he is a son of Ham, and prophecy must be carried out in the rice-swamps, sugar-canes, and maize-fields of the Southern Confederation. It is flat blasphemy to set yourself against it. Our Saviour sanctions slavery because he does not say a word against it, and it is very likely that St. Paul was a slave-owner. Had cotton and sugar been known, the apostle might have been a planter! Furthermore, the negro is civilized by being carried away from Africa and set to work, instead of idling in native inutility. What hope is there of Christianizing the African races, except by the agency of the apostles from New Orleans, Mobile, or Charleston, who sing the sweet songs of Zion with such vehemence, and clamor so fervently for baptism in the waters of the “Jawdam”?

If these high physical, metaphysical, moral and religious reasonings do not satisfy you, and you are bold enough to venture still to be unconvinced and to say so, then I advise you not to come within reach of a mass meeting of our citizens, who may be able to find a rope and a tree in the neighborhood.

As we jog along in an easy rolling carriage drawn by a pair of stout horses, a number of white people meet us coming from the Catholic chapel of the parish, where they had been attending the service for the repose of the soul of a lady much beloved in the neighborhood. The black people must be supposed to have very happy souls, or to be as utterly lost as Mr. Shandy's homunculus was under certain circumstances, for I have failed to find that any such services are ever considered necessary in their case, although they may have been very good — or, where the service would be most desirable — very bad Catholics. The dead, leaden uniformity of the scenery forced one to converse, in order to escape profound melancholy: the levee on the right hand, above which nothing was visible but the sky; on the left plantations with cypress fences, whitewashed and pointed wooden gates leading to the planters' houses, and rugged gardens surrounded with shrubs, through which could be seen the slave quarters. Men making eighty or ninety hogsheads of sugar in a year lived in most wretched tumble-down wooden houses not much larger than ox sheds.

As we drove on, the storm gathered overhead, and the rain fell in torrents — the Mississippi flowed lifelessly by — not a boat on its broad surface.

At last we reached Governor Manning's place, and went to the house of the overseer, a large heavy-eyed old man.

“This rain will do good to the corn,” said the overseer. “The niggers has had sceerce nothin' to do leetly, as they 'eve cleaned out the fields pretty well.”

At the ferry-house I was attended by one stout young slave, who was to row me over. Two flat-bottomed skiffs lay on the bank. The negro groped under the shed, and pulled out a piece of wood like a large spatula, some four feet long, and a small round pole a little longer. “What are those?” quoth I. “Dem's oars, Massa,” was my sable ferryman's brisk reply. “I'm very sure they are not; if they were spliced they might make an oar between them.” “Golly, and dat's the trute, Massa.” “Then go and get oars, will you?” While he was hunting about we entered the shed at the ferry for shelter from the rain. We found “a solitary woman sitting smoking a pipe by the ashes on the hearth, blear-eyed, low-browed and morose — young as she was. She never said a word nor moved as we came in, sat and smoked, and looked through her gummy eyes at chicked about the size of sparrows, and at a cat not larger than a rat which ran about on the dirty floor. A little girl, some four years of age, not overdressed — indeed, half-naked, “not to put too fine a point upon it” — crawled out from under the bed, where she had hid on our approach. As she seemed incapable of appreciating the use of a small piece of silver presented to her — having no precise ideas in coinage or toffy — her parent took the obolus in charge, with unmistakable decision; but still the lady would not stir a step to aid our guide, who now insisted on the “key ov de oar-house.” The little thing sidled off and hunted it out from the top of the bedstead, and when it was found, and the boat was ready, I was not sorry to quit the company of the silent woman in black. The boatman pushed his skiff, in shape a snuffer-dish, some ten feet long and a foot deep, into the water — there was a good deal of rain in it. I got in too, and the conscious waters immediately began vigorously spurting through the cotton wadding wherewith the craft was calked. Had we gone out into the stream we should have had a swim for it, and they do say that the Mississippi is the most dangerous river in the known world, for that healthful exercise. “Why! deuce take you” (I said at least that, in my wrath), “don't you see the boat is leaky?” “See it now for true, Massa. Nobody able to tell dat till Massa get in though.” Another skiff proved to be more stanch. I bade good-by to my friend Roman, and sat down in my boat, which was forced by the negro against the stream close to the bank, in order to get a good start across to the other side. The view from my lonely position was curious, but not at all picturesque. The world was bounded on both sides by a high bank, which constricted the broad river, just as if one were sailing down an open sewer of enormous length and breadth. Above the bank rose the tops of tall trees and the chimneys of sugarhouses, and that was all to be seen save the sky.

A quarter of an hour brought us to the levee on the other side. I ascended the bank, and across the road, directly in front appeared a carriage gateway and wickets of wood, painted white, in a line of park palings of the same material, which extended up and down the road far as the eye could see, and guarded wide-spread fields of maize and sugar-cane. An avenue lined with trees, with branches close set, drooping and overarching a walk paved with red brick, led to the house, the porch of which was visible at the extremity of the lawn, with clustering flowers, rose, jasmine, and Creepers, clinging to the pillars supporting the veranda. The view from the belvedere on the roof was one of the most striking of its kind in the world.

If an English agriculturist could see six thousand acres of the finest land in one field, unbroken by hedge or boundary, and covered with the most magnificent crops of tasselling Indian corn and sprouting sugar-cane, as level as a billiard-table, he would surely doubt his senses. But here is literally such a sight — six thousand acres, better tilled than the finest patch in all the Lothians, green as Meath pastures, which can be turned up for a hundred years to come without requiring manure, of depth practically unlimited, and yielding an average profit on what is sold off it of at least £20 an acre, at the old prices and usual yield of sugar. Rising up in the midst of the verdure are the white lines of the negro cottages and the plantation offices and sugarhouses, which look like large public edifices in the distance. My host was not ostentatiously proud in telling me that, in the year 1857, he had purchased this estate for £300,000 and an adjacent property, of 8000 acres, for £150,000, and that he had left Belfast in early youth, poor and unfriended, to seek his fortune, and indeed scarcely knowing what fortune meant, in the New World. In fact, he had invested in these purchases the geater part, but not all, of the profits arising from the business in New Orleans, which he inherited from his master; of which there still remained a solid nucleus in the shape of a great woollen magazine and country house. He is not yet fifty years of age, and his confidence in the great future of sugar induced him to embark this enormous fortune in an estate which the blockade has stricken with paralysis.

I cannot doubt, however, that he regrets he did not invest his money in a certain great estate in the North of Ireland, which he had nearly decided on buying; and, had he done so, he would now be in the position to which his unaffected good sense, modesty, kindliness, and benevolence, always adding the rental, entitle him. Six thousand acres on this one estate all covered with sugar-cane, and 16,000 acres more of Indian corn, to feed the slaves; — these were great possessions, but not less than 18,000 acres still remained, covered with brake and forest and swampy, to be reclaimed and turned into gold. As easy to persuade the owner of such wealth that slavery is indefensible as to have convinced the Norman baron that the Saxon churl who tilled his lands ought to be his equal.

I found Mr. Ward and a few merchants from New Orleans in possession of the bachelor's house. The service was performed by slaves, and the order and regularity of the attendants were worthy of a well-regulated English mansion. In Southern houses along the coast, as the Mississippi above New Orleans is termed, beef and mutton are rarely met with, and the more seldom the better. Fish, also, is scarce, but turkeys, geese, poultry, and preparations of pig, excellent vegetables, and wrine of the best quality, render the absence of the accustomed dishes little to be regretted.

The silence which struck me at Governor Roman's is not broken at Mr. Burnside's; and when the last thrill of the mocking-bird's song has died out through the grove, a stillness of Avernian profundity settles on hut, field, and river.

SOURCE: William Howard Russell, My Diary North and South, p. 261-9

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Diary of William Howard Russell: June 2, 1861

My good friend the Consul was up early to see me off; and we drove together to the steamer J. L. Cotten. The people were going to mass as we passed through the streets; and it was pitiable to see the children dressed out as Zouaves, with tin swords and all sorts of pseudo-military tomfoolery; streets crowded with military companies; bands playing on all sides.

Before we left the door a poor black sailor came up to entreat Mr. Mure's interference. He had been sent by Mr. Magee, the Consul at Mobile, by land to New Orleans, in the hope that Mr. Mure would be able to procure him a free passage to some British port. He had served in the Royal Navy, and had received a wound in the Russian war. The moment he arrived in New Orleans he had been seized by the police. On his stating that he was a free-born British subject, the authorities ordered him to be taken to Mr. Mure; he could not be allowed to go at liberty on account of his color; the laws of the State forbade such dangerous experiments on the feelings of the slave population; and if the Consul did not provide for him, he would be arrested and kept in prison, if no worse fate befell him. He was suffering from the effect of his wound, and was evidently in ill health. Mr. Mure gave him a letter to the Sailors' Hospital, and some relief out of his own pocket. The police came as far as the door with him, and remained outside to arrest him if the Consul did not afford him protection and provide for him, so that he should not be seen at large in the streets of the city. The other day a New Orleans privateer captured three northern brigs, on board which were ten free negroes. The captain handed them over to the Recorder, who applied to the Confederate States Marshal to take charge of them. The Marshal refused to receive them, whereupon the Recorder, as a magistrate and a good citizen, decided on keeping them in jail, as it would be a bad and dangerous policy to let them loose upon the community.

I cannot help feeling that the position taken by England in reference to the question of her colored subjects is humiliating and degrading. People who live in London may esteem this question a light matter; but it has not only been inconsistent with the national honor; it has so degraded us in the opinion of Americans themselves, that they are encouraged to indulge in an insolent tone and in violent acts towards us, which will some day leave Great Britain no alternative but an appeal to arms. Free colored persons are liable to seizure by the police, and to imprisonment, and may be sold into servitude under certain circumstances.

On arriving at the steamer, I found a considerable party of citizens assembled to see off their friends. Governor Roman's son apologized to me for his inability to accompany me up the river, as he was going to the drill of his company of volunteers. Several other gentlemen were in uniform; and when we had passed the houses of the city, I observed companies and troops of horse exercising on both sides of the banks. On board were Mr. Burnside, a very extensive proprietor, and Mr. Forstall, agent to Messrs. Baring, who claims descent from an Irish family near Rochestown, though he speaks our vernacular with difficulty, and is much more French than British. He is considered one of the ablest financiers and economists in the United States, and is certainly very ingenious, and well crammed with facts and figures.

The aspect of New Orleans from the river is marred by the very poor houses lining the quays on the levee. Wide streets open on long vistas bordered by the most paltry little domiciles; and the great conceptions of those who planned them, notwithstanding the prosperity of the city, have not been realised.

As we were now floating nine feet higher than the level of the streets, we could look down upon a sea of flat roofs, and low wooden houses, painted white, pierced by the domes and spires of churches and public buildings. Grass was growing in many of these streets. At the other side of the river there is a smaller city of shingle-roofed houses, with a background of low timber.

The steamer stopped continually at various points along the levee, discharging commissariat stores, parcels, and passengers; and after a time glided up into the open country, which spread beneath us for several miles at each side of the banks, with a continuous background of forest. All this part of the river is called the Coast, and the country adjacent is remarkable for its fertility. The sugar plantations are bounded by lines drawn at right angles to the banks of the river, and extending through the forest. The villas of the proprietors are thickly planted in the midst of the green fields, with the usual porticoes, pillars, verandas, and green blinds; and in the vicinity of each are rows of whitewashed huts, which are the slave quarters. These fields, level as a billiard table, are of the brightest green with crops of maize and sugar.

But few persons were visible; not a boat was to be seen; and in the course of sixty-two miles we met only two steamers. No shelving banks, no pebbly shoals, no rocky margins mark the course or diversify the outline of the Mississippi. The dead, uniform line of the levee compresses it at each side, and the turbid waters flow without let in a current of uniform breadth between the monotonous banks. The gables and summit of one house resemble those of another; and but for the enormous scale of river and banks, and the black faces of the few negroes visible, a passenger might think he was on board a Dutch “treckshuyt.” In fact, the Mississippi is a huge trench-like canal draining a continent.

At half past three P. M. the steamer ran alongside the levee at the right bank, and discharged me at “Cahabanooze,” in the Indian tongue, or “The ducks' sleeping-place,” together with an English merchant of New Orleans, M. La Ville Beaufevre, son-in-law of Governor Roman, and his wife. The Governor was waiting to receive us in the levee, and led the way through a gate in the paling which separated his ground from the roadside, towards the house, a substantial, square, two-storied mansion, with a veranda all round it, embosomed amid venerable trees, and surrounded by magnolias. By way of explaining the proximity of his house to the river, M. Roman told me that a considerable portion of the garden, in front had a short time ago been carried off by the Mississippi; nor is he at all sure the house itself will not share the same fate; I hope sincerely it may not. My quarters were in a detached house, complete in itself, containing four bedrooms, library, and sitting-room, close to the mansion, and surrounded, like it, by fine trees.

After we had sat for some time in the shade of the finest group, M. Roman, or, as he is called, the Governor — once a captain always a captain — asked me whether I would like to visit the slave quarters. I assented, and the Governor led the way to a high paling at the back of the house, inside which the scraping of fiddles was audible. As we passed the back of the mansion some young women flitted past in snow-white dresses, crinolines, pink sashes, and gaudily colored handkerchiefs on their heads, who were, the Governor told me, the domestic servants going off to a dance at the sugar-house; he lets his slaves dance every Sunday. The American planter, who are not Catholics, although they do not make the slaves work on Sunday except there is something to do, rarely grant them the indulgence of a dance, but a few permit them some hours of relaxation on each Saturday afternoon.

We entered, by a wicket-gate, a square enclosure, lined with negro huts, built of wood, something like those which came from Malta to the Crimea in the early part of the campaign. They are not furnished with windows — a wooden slide or grating admits all the air a negro desires. There is a partition dividing the hut into two departments, one of which is used as the sleeping-room, and contains a truckle bedstead and a mattress stuffed with cotton wool, or the hair-like fibres of dried Spanish moss. The wardrobes of the inmates hang from nails or pegs driven into the wall. The other room is furnished with a dresser, on which are arranged a few articles of crockery and kitchen utensils. Sometimes there is a table in addition to the plain wooden chairs, more or less dilapidated, constituting the furniture — a hearth, in connection with a brick chimney outside the cottage, in which, hot as the day may be, some embers are sure to be found burning. The ground round the huts was covered with litter and dust, heaps of old shoes, fragments of clothing and feathers, amidst which pigs and poultry were recreating. Curs of low degree scampered in and out of the shade, or around two huge dogs, chiens de garde, which are let loose at night to guard the precincts; belly deep, in a pool of stagnant water, thirty or forty mules were swinking in the sun and enjoying their day of rest.

The huts of the negroes engaged in the house are separated from those of the slaves devoted to field labor out of doors by a wooden paling. I looked into several of the houses, but somehow or other felt a repugnance, I dare say unjustifiable, to examine the penetralia, although invited — indeed, urged, to do so by the Governor. It was not that I expected to come upon anything dreadful, but I could not divest myself of some regard for the feelings of the poor creatures, slaves though they were, who stood by, shy, courtesying, and silent, as I broke in upon their family circle, felt their beds, and turned over their clothing. What right had I to do so?

Swarms of flies, tin cooking utensils attracting them by remnants of molasses, crockery, broken and old, on the dressers, more or less old clothes on the wall, these varied over and over again, were found in all the huts , not a sign of ornament or decoration was visible; not the most tawdry print, image of Virgin or Saviour; not a prayer-book or printed volume. The slaves are not encouraged, or indeed permitted to read, and some communities of slave-owners punish heavily those attempting to instruct them.

All the slaves seemed respectful to their master; dressed in their best, they courtesied, and came up to shake hands with him and with me. Among them were some very old men and women, the canker-worms of the estate, who were dozing away into eternity, mindful only of hominy, and pig, and molasses. Two negro fiddlers were working their bows with energy in front of one of the huts, and a crowd of little children were listening to the music, together with a few grown-up persons of color, some of them from the adjoining plantations. The children are generally dressed in a little sack of coarse calico, which answers all reasonable purposes, even if it be not very clean.

It might be an interesting subject of inquiry to the natural philosophers who follow crinology to determine why it is that the hair of the infant negro, or child, up to six or seven years of age, is generally a fine red russet, or even gamboge color, and gradually darkens into dull ebon. These little bodies were mostly large-stomached, well fed, and not less happy than free born-children, although much more valuable — for if once they get over juvenile dangers, and advance toward nine or ten years of age, they rise in value to £100 or more, even in times when the market is low and money is scarce.

The women were not very well-favored; one yellow girl, with fair hair and light eyes, whose child was quite white, excepted; the men were disguised in such strangely-cut clothes, their hats and shoes and coats so wonderfully made, that one could not tell what their figures were like. On all faces there was a gravity which must be the index to serene contentment and perfect comfort; for those who ought to know best declare they are the happiest race in the world.

It struck me more and more, however, as I examined the expression of the faces of the slaves, that deep dejection is the prevailing, if not universal, characteristic of the race. Here there were abundant evidences that they were well treated; they had good clothing of its kind, food, and a master who wittingly could do them no injustice, as he is, I am sure, incapable of it. Still, they all looked sad, and ever the old woman who boasted that she had held her old owner in her arms when he was an infant, did not smile cheerfully, as the nurse at home would have done, at the sight of her ancient charge.

The negroes rear domestic birds of all kinds, and sell eggs and poultry to their masters. The money is spent in purchasing tobacco, molasses, clothes, and flour; whiskey, their great delight, they must not have. Some seventy or eighty hands were quartered in this part of the estate.

Before leaving the enclosure I was taken to the hospital, which was in charge of an old negress. The naked rooms contained several flock beds on rough stands, and five patients, three of whom were women. They sat listlessly on the beds, looking out into space; no books to amuse them, no conversation — nothing but their own dull thoughts, if they had any. They were suffering from pneumonia and swellings of the glands of the neck; one man had fever. Their medical attendant visits them regularly, and each plantation has a practitioner, who is engaged by the term for his services. If the growth of sugar-cane, cotton, and corn, be the great end of man's mission on earth, and if all masters were like Governor Roman, slavery might be defended as a natural and innocuous institution. Sugar and cotton are, assuredly, two great agencies in this latter world. The older one got on well enough without them.

The scraping of the fiddles attracted us to the sugar-house, where the juice of the cane is expressed, boiled, granulated, and prepared for the refinery, a large brick building, with a factory-looking chimney. In a space of the floor unoccupied by machinery some fifteen women and as many men were assembled, and four couples were dancing a kind of Irish jig to the music of the negro musicians — a double shuffle in a thumping ecstasy, with loose elbows, pendulous paws, angulated knees, heads thrown back, and backs arched inwards — a glazed eye, intense solemnity of mien.

At this time of year there is no work done in the sugarhouse, but when the crushing and boiling are going on, the labor is intensely trying, and the hands work in gangs night and day; and, if the heat of the fires be superadded to the temperature in September, it may be conceded that nothing but “involuntary servitude” could go through the toil and suffering required to produce sugar.

In the afternoon the Governor's son came in from the company which he commands: his men are of the best families in the country — planters and the like. We sauntered about the gardens, diminished, as I have said, by a freak of the river. The French Creoles love gardens; the Anglo-Saxons hereabout do not much affect them, and cultivate their crops up to the very doorway.

It was curious to observe so far away from France so many traces of the life of the old seigneur — the early meals, in which supper took the place of dinner — frugal simplicity — and yet a refinement of manner, kindliness and courtesy not to be exceeded.

In the evening several officers of M. Alfred Roman's company and neighboring planters dropped in, and we sat out, in the twilight, under the trees in the veranda, illuminated by the flashing fireflies, and talking politics. I was struck by the profound silence which reigned all around us, except a low rushing sound, like that made by the wind blowing over cornfields, which came from the mighty river before us. Nothing else was audible but the sound of our own voices and the distant bark of a dog. After the steamer which bore us had passed on, I do not believe a single boat floated up or down the stream, and but one solitary planter, in his gig or buggy traversed the road, which lay between the garden palings and the bank of the great river.

Our friends were all Creoles — that is, natives of Louisiana — of French or Spanish descent. They are kinder and better masters, according to universal repute, than native Americans or Scotch; but the New England Yankee is reputed to be the severest of all slave owners. All these gentlemen to a man are resolute that England must get their cotton or perish. She will take it, therefore, by force; but as the South is determined never to let a Yankee vessel carry any of its produce, a question has been raised by Monsieur Baroche, who is at present looking around him in New Orleans, which causes some difficulty to the astute and statistical Mr. Forstall. The French economist has calculated that if the Yankee vessels be excluded from the carrying trade, the commercial marine of France and England together will be quite inadequate to carry Southern produce to Europe.

But Southern faith is indomitable. With their faithful negroes to raise their corn, sugar, and cotton, whilst their young men are at the wars; with France and England to pour gold into their lap with which to purchase all they need in the contest, they believe they can beat all the powers of the Northern world in arms. Illimitable fields, tilled by multitudinous negroes, open on their sight, and they behold the empires of Europe, with their manufactures, their industry, and their wealth, prostrate at the base of their throne, crying out, “Cotton! More cotton! That is all we ask!”

Mr. Forstall maintains the South can raise an enormous revenue by a small direct taxation; whilst the North, deprived of Southern resources, will refuse to pay taxes at all, and will accumulate enormous debts, inevitably leading to its financial ruin. He, like every Southern man I have as yet met, expresses unbounded confidence in Mr. Jefferson Davis. I am asked invariably, as the second question from a stranger, “Have you seen our President, sir? don't you think him a very able man?” This unanimity in the estimate of his character, and universal confidence in the head of the State, will prove of incalculable value in a civil war.

SOURCE: William Howard Russell, My Diary North and South, p. 252-60

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Fessenden Morse: January 31, 1865

Headquarters Second Mass. Inf'y,
RoBeRTSVille, S. C, January 31, 1865.

Since my last letter we have pushed farther into this miserable, rebellious State of South Carolina. We came very slowly, as we had to cut our way for the first ten miles through continuous rebel obstructions; but after that distance, the enemy evidently began to think it was no use trying to stop us, and the fallen trees became fewer and further apart. As we marched on from Purysburg, we gradually got out of the swamps and into rich plantations showing signs of the wealth of their old owners. Just think of single fields comprising at least one thousand acres. In the centre or in some part of each one of these great fields, would stand the universal cotton press and cotton gin. The planters' houses were rather better than the average through Georgia, but none of them were what we should call more than second or third class houses in the North; generally they stand half a mile or a mile back from the road, at the end of a perfectly straight, narrow avenue, in fact, nothing more than a cart path.

The most of them are surrounded by magnificent old live oaks and cypress trees, draped all over with the gray Spanish moss which gives to the deserted mansions a very sombre, funereal appearance. In rear of the houses are the rows of negro quarters, and the various outbuildings required on large plantations. So far, on this march, I have seen only one white male inhabitant and very few negroes. Every place is deserted; the valuables and most of the provisions are carried off; but I went into one house where there were rooms full of fine furniture, a fine piano, marble-topped tables, etc.; there was a valuable library in one room, of four or five thousand volumes. I saw a well bound copy of Motley's Dutch Republic, and a good set of Carlyle's works. This property is, of course, so much stuff strewn along the wayside. Unless there happens to be a halt near by, no one is allowed to leave the column to take anything; but stragglers, wagon-train men, and the various odds and ends that always accompany an army on the march, pick up whatever they want or think they want, and scatter about and destroy the rest, and by the time the last of a column five or six miles long gets by, the house is entirely gutted; in nine cases out of ten, before night all that is left to show where the rich, aristocratic, chivalrous, slave-holding South Carolinian lived, is a heap of smoldering ashes.

On principle, of course, such a system of loose destruction is all wrong and demoralizing; but, as I said before, it is never done openly by the soldiers, for every decent officer will take care that none of his men leave the ranks on a march. But there is no precedent which requires guards to be placed over abandoned property in an enemy's country. Sooner or later, of course, as we advanced and occupied all of the country, it would be taken, and I would rather see it burned than to have it seized and sent North by any of the sharks who follow in the rear of a conquering army. Pity for these inhabitants, I have none. In the first place, they are rebels, and I am almost prepared to agree with Sherman that a rebel has no rights, not even the right to live except by our permission.

They have rebelled against a Government they never once felt; they lived down here like so many lords and princes; each planter was at the head of a little aristocracy in which hardly a law touched him. This didn't content these people; they wanted “their rights,” and now they are getting them. After long deliberation, they plunged into a war in order to gratify their aristocratic aspirations for a Government of their own, and to indulge in their insane hatred for us Yankee mud-sills. The days of the rebellion are coming to an end very fast; even its lying press cannot keep up its courage much longer. For a year they have met with a series of reverses sufficient to break the spirit of the proudest nation, and this next spring will see a combination of movements which must destroy their only remaining bulwark, Lee's army, and then the bubble will burst; and I believe that we shall find that Jeff Davis and other leading Confederates will be abused and hated by men of their own section of country more than they will by the Northerners.

No, I might pity individual cases brought before me, but I believe that this terrible example is needed in this country, as a warning to those men in all time to come who may cherish rebellious thoughts; I believe it is necessary in order to show the strength of this Government and thoroughly to subdue these people. I would rather campaign it until I am fifty years old than to make any terms with rebels while they bear arms. We can conquer a peace, and it is our duty to do it.

This little, deserted town of Robertville we reached two days ago; our whole left wing is close by. We shall fill up again with supplies, and in about two days strike into the country. Barnwell, Branchville, Augusta, Columbia, and Charleston are all threatened. I hope the rebels know as little as we do which one is in the most immediate danger of a visit. Wheeler's cavalry is all around us, but as yet no infantry. A regiment of his command tried to stop our coming into this town. The Third Wisconsin, without firing a shot, charged them, broke them all to pieces, and lost only three men.

SOURCE: Charles Fessenden Morse, Letters Written During the Civil War, 1861-1865, p. 209

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Diary of William Howard Russell: May 30, 1861

Wrote in the heat of the day, enlivened by my neighbor, a wonderful mocking-bird, whose songs and imitations would make his fortune in any society capable of appreciating native-born genius. His restlessness, courage, activity, and talent, ought not to be confined to Mr. Mure's cage, but he seems contented and happy. I dined with Madame and M. Milten-berger, and drove out with them to visit the scene of our defeat in 1815, which lies at the distance of some miles down the river.

A dilapidated farm-house surrounded by trees and negro huts, marks the spot where Pakenham was buried, but his body was subsequently exhumed and sent home to England. Close to the point of the canal which constitutes a portion of the American defences, a negro guide came forth to conduct us round the place, but he knew as little as most guides of the incidents of the fight. The most remarkable testimony to the severity of the fire to which the British were exposed, is afforded by the trees in the neighborhood of the tomb. In one live-oak there are no less than eight round shot embedded; others contain two or three, and many are lopped, rent, and scarred by the flight of cannon-ball, The American lines extended nearly three miles, and were covered in the front by swamps, marshes, and water cuts, their batteries and the vessels in the river enfiladed the British as they advanced to the attack.

Among the prominent defenders of the cotton bales was a notorious pirate and murderer named Lafitte, who with his band was released from prison on condition that he enlisted in the defence, and did substantial service to his friends and deliverers.

Without knowing all the circumstances of the case, it would be rash now to condemn the officers who directed the assault; but so far as one could judge from the present condition of the ground, the position must have been very formidable, and should not have been assaulted till the enfilading fire was subdued, and a very heavy covering fire directed to silence the guns in front. The Americans are naturally very proud of their victory, which was gained at a most trifling loss to themselves, which they erroneously conceive to be a proof of their gallantry in resisting the assault. It is one of the events which have created a fixed idea in their minds that they are able to “whip the world.”

On returning from my visit I went to the club, where I had a long conversation with Dr. Rushton, who is strongly convinced of the impossibility of carrying on government, or conducting municipal affairs, until universal suffrage is put down. He gave many instances of the terrorism, violence, and assassinations which prevail during election times in New Orleans. M. Miltenberger, on the contrary, thinks matters are very well as they are, and declares all these stories are fanciful. Incendiarism rife again. All the club windows crowded with men looking at a tremendous fire, which burned down three or four stores and houses.

SOURCE: William Howard Russell, My Diary North and South, p. 242-3

Friday, May 27, 2016

Diary of Sir Arthur James Lyon Fremantle: Monday, May 11, 1863

General Hébert is a good-looking creole.* He was a West-Pointer, and served in the old army, but afterwards became a wealthy sugar-planter. He used to hold Magruder's position as commander-in-chief in Texas, but he has now been shelved at Munroe, where he expects to be taken prisoner any day; and, from the present gloomy aspect of affairs about here, it seems extremely probable that he will not be disappointed in his expectations. He is extremely down upon England for not recognising the South.

He gave me a passage down the river in a steamer, which was to try to take provisions to Harrisonburg; but, at the same time, he informed me that she might very probably be captured by a Yankee gunboat.

At 1 P.M. I embarked for Harrisonburg, which is distant from Munroe by water 150 miles, and by land 75 miles. It is fortified, and offers what was considered a weak obstruction to the passage of the gunboats up the river to Munroe.

The steamer was one of the curious American river boats, which rise to a tremendous height out of the water, like great wooden castles. She was steered from a box at the very top of all, and this particular one was propelled by one wheel at her stern.

The river is quite beautiful; it is from 200 to 300 yards broad, very deep and tortuous, and the large trees grow right down to the very edge of the water.

Our captain at starting expressed in very plain terms his extreme disgust at the expedition, and said he fully expected to run against a gunboat at any turn of the river.

Soon after leaving Munroe, we passed a large plantation. The negro quarters were larger than a great many Texan towns, and they held three hundred hands.

After we had proceeded about half an hour, we were stopped by a mounted orderly (called a courier), who from the bank roared out the pleasing information, “They're a-fighting at Harrisonburg.” The captain on hearing this turned quite green in the face, and remarked that he'd be “dogged” if he liked running into the jaws of a lion, and he proposed to turn back; but he was jeered at by my fellow-travellers, who were all either officers or soldiers, wishing to cross the Mississippi to rejoin their regiments in the different Confederate armies.

One pleasant fellow, more warlike than the rest, suggested that as we had some Enfields on board, we should make “a little bit of a fight,” or at least “make one butt at a gunboat.” I was relieved to find that these insane proposals were not received with any enthusiasm by the majority.

The plantations, as we went further down the river, looked very prosperous; but signs of preparations for immediate skedaddling were visible in most of them, and I fear they are all destined to be soon desolate and destroyed.

We came to a courier picket every sixteen miles. At one of them we got the information, “Gun-boats drove back,” at which there was great rejoicing, and the captain, recovering his spirits, became quite jocose, and volunteered to give me letters of introduction to a “particular friend of his about here, called Mr Farragut;” but the next news, “Still a-fightin’,” caused us to tie ourselves to a tree at 8 P.M., off a little village called Columbia, which is half-way between Munroe and Harrisonburg.

We then lit a large fire, round which all the passengers squatted on their heels in Texan fashion, each man whittling a piece of wood, and discussing the merits of the different Yankee prisons at New Orleans or Chicago. One of them, seeing me, called out, “I reckon, Kernel, if the Yankees catch you with us, they’ll say you're in d----d bad company;" which sally caused universal hilarity.
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* The descendants of the French colonists in Louisiana are called Creoles; most of them talk French, and I have often met Louisianian regiments talking that language.

General Hébert is the only man of education I met in the whole of my travels who spoke disagreeably about England in this respect. Most people say they think we are quite right to keep out of it as long as we can; but others think our Government is foolish to miss such a splendid chance of “smashing the Yankees,” with whom we must have a row sooner or later.

SOURCE: Sir Arthur James Lyon Fremantle, Three Months in the Southern States: April-June, 1863, p. 87-90

Friday, May 13, 2016

Diary of Sir Arthur James Lyon Fremantle: Saturday, May 9, 1863

Started again by stage for Munroe at 4.30 A.M. My companions were, the Mississippi planter, a mad dentist from New Orleans (called, by courtesy, doctor), an old man from Matagorda, buying slaves cheap in Louisiana, a wounded officer, and a wounded soldier.

The soldier was a very intelligent young Missourian, who told me (as others have) that, at the commencement of these troubles, both he and his family were strong Unionists. But the Lincolnites, by using coercion, had forced them to take one side or the other— and there are now no more bitter Secessionists than these people. This soldier (Mr Douglas) was on his way to rejoin Bragg's army. A Confederate soldier when wounded is not given his discharge, but is employed at such work as he is competent to perform. Mr Douglas was quite lame; but will be employed at mounted duties or at writing.

We passed several large and fertile plantations. The negro quarters formed little villages, and seemed comfortable: some of them held 150 or 200 hands. We afterwards drove through some beautiful pine forests, and were ferried across a beautiful shallow lake full of cypresses, but not the least like European cypress trees.

We met a number more planters driving their families, their slaves, and furniture, towards Texas — in fact, everything that they could save from the ruin that had befallen them on the approach of the Federal troops.

At 5 P.M. we reached a charming little town, called Mindon, where I met an English mechanic who deplored to me that he had been such a fool as to naturalise himself, as he was in hourly dread of the conscription.

I have at length become quite callous to many of the horrors of stage travelling. I no longer shrink at every random shower of tobacco-juice; nor do I shudder when good-naturedly offered a quid. I eat voraciously of the bacon that is provided for my sustenance, and I am invariably treated by my fellow travellers of all grades with the greatest consideration and kindness. Sometimes a man remarks that it is rather “mean” of England not to recognise the South; but I can always shut him up by saying, that a nation which deserves its independence should fight and earn it for itself — a sentiment which is invariably agreed to by all.

SOURCE: Sir Arthur James Lyon Fremantle, Three Months in the Southern States: April-June, 1863, p. 83-4

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Diary of William Howard Russell: April 28, 1861

The church is a long way off, only available by a boat and then a drive in a carriage. In the morning a child brings in my water and boots — an intelligent, curly-headed creature, dressed in a sort of sack, without any particular waist, barefooted. I imagined it was a boy till it told me it was a girl. I asked if she was going to church, which seemed to puzzle her exceedingly; but she told me finally she would hear prayers from “uncle” in one of the cottages. This use of the words “uncle” and “aunt” for old people is very general. Is it because they have no fathers and mothers? In the course of the day, the child, who was fourteen or fifteen years of age, asked me “whether I would not buy her. She could wash and sew very well, and she thought missus wouldn't want much for her.” The object she had in view leaked out at last. It was a desire to see the glories of Beaufort, of which she had heard from the fishermen; and she seemed quite wonderstruck when she was informed I did not live there, and had never seen it. She had never been outside the plantation in her life.

After breakfast we loitered about the grounds, strolling through the cotton-fields, which had as yet put forth no bloom or flower, and coming down others to the thick fringes of wood and sedge bordering the marshy banks of the island. The silence was profound, broken only by the husky mid-day crowing of the cocks in the negro quarters.

In the afternoon I took a short drive “to see a tree,” which was not very remarkable, and looked in at the negro quarters and the cotton-mill. The old negroes were mostly indoors, and came shambling out to the doors of their wooden cottages, making clumsy bows at our approach, but not expressing any interest or pleasure at the sight of their master and the strangers. They were shabbily clad; in tattered clothes, bad straw hats and felt bonnets, and broken shoes. The latter are expensive articles, and negroes cannot dig without them. Trescot sighed as he spoke of the increase of price since the troubles broke out.

The huts stand in a row, like a street, each detached, with a poultry-house of rude planks behind it. The mutilations which the poultry undergo for the sake of distinction are striking. Some are deprived of a claw, others have the wattles cut, and tails and wings suffer in all ways. No attempt at any drainage or any convenience existed near them, and the same remark applies to very good houses of white people in the south. Heaps of oyster shells, broken crockery, old shoes, rags, and feathers were found near each hut. The huts were all alike windowless, and the apertures, intended to be glazed some fine day, were generally filled up with a deal board. The roofs were shingle, and the whitewash which had once given the settlement an air of cleanliness, was now only to be traced by patches which had escaped the action of the rain. I observed that many of the doors were fastened by a padlock and chain outside. “Why is that?” “The owners have gone out, and honesty is not a virtue they have towards each other. They would find their things stolen if they did not lock their doors.” Mrs. Trescot, however, insisted on it that nothing could exceed the probity of the slaves in the house, except in regard to sweet things, sugar, and the like; but money and jewels were quite safe. It is obvious that some reason must exist for this regard to the distinctions twixt meum and tuum in the case of masters and mistresses, when it does not guide their conduct towards each other, and I think it might easily be found in the fact that the negroes could scarcely take money without detection. Jewels and jewelry would be of little value to them; they could not wear them, could not part with them. The system has made the white population a police against the black race, and the punishment is not only sure but grievous. Such things as they can steal from each other are not to be so readily traced.

One particularly dirty looking little hut was described to me as “the church.” It was about fifteen feet square, begrimed with dirt and smoke, and windowless. A few benches were placed across it, and “the preacher,” a slave from another plantation, was expected next week. These preachings are not encouraged in many plantations. They “do the niggers no good” — “they talk about things that are going on elsewhere, and get their minds unsettled,” and so on.

On our return to the house, I found that Mr. Edmund Rhett, one of the active and influential political family of that name, had called — a very intelligent and agreeable gentleman, but one of the most ultra and violent speakers against the Yankees I have yet heard. He declared there were few persons in South Carolina who would not sooner ask Great Britain to take back the State than submit to the triumph of the Yankees. “We are an agricultural people, pursuing our own system, and working out our own destiny, breeding up women and men with some other purpose than to make them vulgar, fanatical, cheating Yankees — hypocritical, if as women they pretend to real virtue; and lying, if as men they pretend to be honest. We have gentlemen and gentlewomen in your sense of it. We have a system which enables us to reap the fruits of the earth by a race which we save from barbarism in restoring them to their real place in the world as laborers, whilst we are enabled to cultivate the arts, the graces, and accomplishments of life, to develop science, to apply ourselves to the duties of government, and to understand the affairs of the country.”

This is a very common line of remark here. The Southerners also take pride to themselves, and not unjustly, for their wisdom in keeping in Congress those men who have proved themselves useful and capable. “We do not,” they say, “cast able men aside at the caprices of a mob, or in obedience to some low party intrigue, and hence we are sure of the best men, and are served by gentlemen conversant with public affairs, far superior in every way to the ignorant clowns who are sent to Congress by the North. Look at the fellows who are sent out by Lincoln to insult foreign courts by their presence.” I said that I understood Mr. Adams and Mr. Dayton were very respectable gentlemen, but I did not receive any sympathy; in fact, a neutral who attempts to moderate the violence of either side, is very like an ice between two hot plates. Mr. Rhett is also persuaded that the Lord Chancellor sits on a cotton bale. “You must recognize us, sir, before the end of October.” In the evening a distant thunder-storm attracted me to the garden, and I remained out watching the broad flashes and sheets of fire worthy of the tropics till it was bedtime.

SOURCE: William Howard Russell, My Diary North and South, p. 146-8

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Diary of 5th Sergeant Alexander G. Downing: Wednesday, January 18, 1865

The weather is very pleasant. We are still on duty guarding the main road to Beaufort. The trains have all gone in for supplies. All is quiet in front. This low-country, before the war, was planted to cotton, the planters living in town while their plantations were managed by overseers and worked by slaves brought down from the border states. We can see rows of the vacant negro huts on these large plantations, set upon blocks so as to keep the floors dry. The negroes are all gone, being employed in the armies of both sections.1
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1 When I think of the vacant plantations I saw all through the South, when I recall the hardships of the negroes, and the different modes of punishment Inflicted upon the slaves, all with the consent of the Southern people, then I can understand how they could be so cruel in their treatment of the Union prisoners of war. They put them in awful prison pens and starved them to death without a successful protest from the better class of the people of the South. The guards of these prisons had lived all their lives witnessing the cruel tortures of slaves; they had become hardened and thus had no mercy on an enemy when in their power. Many an Andersonvllle prisoner was shot down Just for getting too close to an imaginary dead-line when suffering from thirst and trying to get a drink of water.

Not all Southerners were so cruel, for I lived in the same house with an ex-Confederate soldier from Georgia, when in southern Florida during the winter of 1911 and know that he had some feeling. He had been guard at Andersonville for a short time, and told me that he would have taken water to them by the bucketful, for he could not bear to hear the poor fellows calling for water; but that he did not dare to do it. This man's name was McCain, and at the time I met him his home was at College Park, Atlanta, Ga. — A. G. D.

Source: Alexander G. Downing, Edited by Olynthus B., Clark, Downing’s Civil War Diary, p. 247

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Diary of William Howard Russell: April 23, 1861

A lovely morning grew into a hot day. After breakfast, I sat in the shade watching the vagaries of some little tortoises, or terrapins, in a vessel of water close at hand, or trying to follow the bee-like flight of the hummingbirds. Ah me! one wee brownie, with a purple head and red facings, managed to dash into a small grape or flower conservatory close at hand, and, innocent of the ways of the glassy wall, he or she — I am much puzzled as to the genders of humming-birds, and Mr. Gould, with his wonderful mastery of Greek prefixes and Latin terminations, has not aided me much — dashed up and down from pane to pane, seeking to perforate each with its bill, and carrying death and destruction among the big spiders and their cobweb-castles which for the time barred the way.

The humming-bird had as the Yankees say, a bad time of it, for its efforts to escape were incessant, and our host said tenderly, through his mustaches, “Pooty little thing, don't frighten it!” as if he was quite sure of getting off to Saxony by the next steamer. Encumbered by cobwebs and exhausted, now and then our little friend toppled down among the green shrubs, and lay panting like a living nugget of ore. Again he, she, or it took wing and resumed that mad career; but at last on some happy turn the bright head saw an opening through the door, and out wings, body, and legs dashed, and sought shelter in a creeper, where the little flutterer lay, all but dead, so inanimate, indeed, that I could have taken the lovely thing and put it in the hollow of my hand. What would poets of Greece and Rome have said of the hummingbird? What would Hafiz, or Waller, or Spenser have sung, had they but seen that offspring of the sun and flowers?

Later in the day, when the sun was a little less fierce, we walked out from the belt of trees round the house on the plantation itself. At this time of year there is nothing to recommend to the eye the great breadth of flat fields, surrounded by small canals, which look like the bottoms of dried-up ponds, for the green rice has barely succeeded in forcing its way above the level of the rich dark earth. The river bounds the estate, and when it rises after the rains, its waters, loaded with loam and fertilizing mud, are let in upon the lands through the small canals, which are provided with sluices and banks and floodgates to control and regulate the supply.

The negroes had but little to occupy them now. The children of both sexes, scantily clad, were fishing in the canals and stagnant waters, pulling out horrible-looking little catfish. They were so shy that they generally fled at our approach. The men and women were apathetic, neither seeking nor shunning us, and I found that their master knew nothing about them. It is only the servants engaged in household duties who are at all on familiar terms with their masters.

The bailiff or steward was not to be seen. One big slouching negro, who seemed to be a gangsman or something of the kind, followed us in our walk, and answered any questions we put to him very readily. It was a picture to see his face when one of our party, on returning to the house, gave him a larger sum of money than he had probably ever possessed before in a lump. “What will he do with it?” Buy sweet things, — sugar, tobacco, a penknife, and such things. “They have few luxuries, and all their wants are provided for.” Took a cursory glance at the negro quarters, which are not very enticing or cleanly. They are surrounded by high palings, and the entourage is alive with their poultry.

Very much I doubt whether Mr. Mitchell is satisfied the Southerners are right in their present course, but he and Mr. Petigru are lawyers, and do not take a popular view of the question. After dinner the conversation again turned on the resources and power of the South, and on the determination of the people never to go back into the Union. Then cropped out again the expression of regret for the rebellion of 1776, and the desire that if it came to the worst, England would receive back her erring children, or give them a prince under whom they could secure a monarchical form of government. There is no doubt about the earnestness with which these things are said.

As the “Nina” starts down the river on her return voyage from Georgetown to-night, and Charleston harbor may be blockaded at any time, thus compelling us to make a long detour by land, I resolve to leave by her, in spite of many invitations and pressure from neighboring planters. At midnight our carriage came round, and we started in a lovely moonlight to Georgetown, crossing the ferry after some delay, in consequence of the profound sleep of the boatmen in their cabins. One of them said to me, “Mus’n’t go too near de edge ob de boat, massa.” “Why not?” “Becas if massa fall ober, he not come up agin likely, — a bad ribber for drowned, massa.” He informed me it was full of alligators, which are always on the look-out for the planters’ and negroes’ dogs, and are hated and hunted accordingly.

The “Nina” was blowing the signal for departure, the only sound we heard all through the night, as we drove through the deserted streets of Georgetown, and soon after three o'clock, A. M., we were on board and in our berths.

SOURCE: William Howard Russell, My Diary North and South, p. 132-4