Showing posts with label Sugar Cane. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sugar Cane. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Captain Charles Wright Wills: November 29, 1864

Ten miles south of Sevastopol, 
November 29, 1864. 

All day in an awful pine forest, hardly broken by fence or clearing. I never saw such a lonesome place. Not a bird, not a sign of animal life, but the shrill notes of the tree frog. Not a twig of undergrowth, and no vegetable life but just grass and pitch pine. The country is very level and a sand bed. The pine trees are so thick on the ground that in some places we passed to-day the sight was walled in by pine trunks within 600 yards for nearly the whole circle. Just at dusk we passed a small farm, where I saw growing, for the first time, the West India sugar cane. One of the boys killed the prettiest snake I ever saw. It was red, yellow and black. Our hospital steward put it in liquor. We made about 11 miles to-day. 

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 328

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Anti-Slavery Meeting in Andover, published August 8, 1835

MR. EDITOR — I regret that the former account I was sent of your labors of our excellent brothers Thompson and Phelps, was so meager a statement of their untiring efforts among us.  Circumstances, however, obliged me to compress into a small space, what was worthy of being given at much greater length; and for the benefit of those who have not the privilege of listening to the discussion of a question of so much importance to every American citizen as that of slavery, a fuller sketch of the remaining meetings shall be given.  As my remarks will be confined for the most part to the speeches of Mr. Thompson, it must not be supposed that I can give anything like an adequate idea of the cogency of his arguments or of the power of his eloquence.  To eulogize him as an orator would be idle.  It would be like daubing paint upon a finished portrait, which would only soil it instead of adding to its beauty. Those who would form any just conception of Mr. Thompson as a public speaker and a christian philanthropist, must both see and hear him, and those who have once listened to him, are well aware that even an analysis of a speech of his , so closely joined in all its parts, so replete with profound thought, and so profusely embellished with rhetorical flowers of every hue and ever ordour, cannot be embodied in a single brief paragraph.  I shall therefore not attempt to give his own expressions, but merely a general description of his discourse.

On Sunday evening, July 12th, Mr. Thompson addressed a crowded audience, from Ezekiel xxviii. 14, 15, 16 – “Thou art the anointed the cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so : thou wast upon the holy mountain of God: thou hast walked up and down in the midst of these stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.”

Mr. Thompson remarked that though this was a passage of inimitable beauty, it was one of tremendous and awful import. While it drew the picture of the wealth and grandeur of ancient Tyre, it contained the prediction of its downfall. Mr. Thompson then proceeded to portray in matchless colors the prosperity and glory of the renowned city, whose “builders had perfected her beauty, whose borders were in the midst of the sea, whose mariners were the men of Sidon, and who was a merchant to the people of many islands.” Her fir trees were brought from Hermon, her oaks from Bashan, her cedars from Lebanon, her blue and purple and fine linen from Egypt, her wheat and oil and honey from Judea, her spices and gold and precious stones from Arabia, her silver from Tarsus, her emeralds and coral and agate from Syria, her warriors from Persia, and her slaves from Greece. Her palaces were radiant with jewels, and many kings were filled with the multitude of the riches of her merchandise. But iniquity was found in her. She had kept back the hire of the laborer by fraud. By the multitude of her riches she was filled with violence. She made merchandise of the bodies and souls of men, therefore she should be cast down. Many nations should come up against her and destroy her walls and break down her towers. All this had been literally fulfilled.

Mr. Thompson then applied his subject to America. Your country, said he, is peculiarly an anointed cherub. Heaven smiled upon the self-denying enterprise of your praying, pilgrim fathers, and in two centuries a great nation has risen into being — a nation whose territories stretches from the Canadas to the Gulf of Mexico, and from the Atlantic to the Rocky Mountains — a nation whose prowess by land and by sea is unsurpassed by any people that have a name — a nation whose markets are filled with the luxuries of every clime, and whose merchandise is diffused over the world. The keels of your vessels cut all waters. Your ships lie along the docks of every port of Europe, and are anchored under the walls of China. The deer and the buffalo fall before the aim of your hunters, and the eagle is stricken down from his eyry. Your hardy tars visit the ice-bound coasts of the North, and transfix the monsters of the polar seas. Your coasts are thronged with populous and extended cities, and in the interior may be seen the spires of your churches towering above the beautiful villages that surround them. Above every other nation under heaven, yours is distinguished for its christian enterprise. You can give the Bible to every family within the limits of your own territory, and pledge it to the world. Your missionaries are in all quarters of the globe, and your seventeen thousand clergy are preaching salvation, in the midst of your own population. Other nations of Christendom behold with complacency the good effected by your charitable societies, and would be proud to emulate you. No nation has ever been so peculiarly blessed. You are placed upon the holy mountain of God, and walk up and down in the midst of the stones of fire, but you have sinned. Ye make merchandise of the bodies and souls of men. Ye have torn the African from his quiet home, and subjected him to interminable, bondage in a land of strangers. Violence is in the midst of you, and the oppressor walks abroad unpunished. One-sixth part of your whole population are doomed to perpetual slavery. The cotton tree blooms, and the cane field wanes, because the black man tills the soil. The sails of your vessels whiten the ocean, their holds filled with sugar, and their decks burdened with cotton, because the black man smarts under the driver's lash, while the scorching rays of a tropical sun fall blistering upon his skin. He labors and faints, and another riots on the fruits of his unrequited toils. He is bought and sold as the brute, and has nothing that he can call his own. Is he a husband? the next hour may separate him forever from the object of his affections. Is he a father? the child of his hopes may the next moment be torn from his bleeding bosom, and carried he knows not whither, but at best, to a state of servitude more intolerable than death. He looks back upon the past, and remembers his many stripes and tears. He looks forward, and no gleam of hope breaks in upon his sorrow-stricken bosom. Despair rankles in his heart and withers all his energies, and he longs to find rest in the grave. But his dark mind is uninformed of his immortal nature, and when he dies he dies without the consolations of religion, for in christian America there is no Bible for the slave. Your country being thus guilty, it behoves every citizen of your republic to consider lest the fate of Tyre be yours.

Mr. Thompson closed by expressing his determination to labor in behalf of those in bonds, till the last tear was wiped from the eye of the slave, and the last fetter broken from his heel; and then, continued he, then let a western breeze bear me back to the land of my birth, or let me find a spot to lay my bones in the midst of a grateful people, and a people FREE indeed.

Never did the writer of this article listen to such eloquence; and never before did he witness an audience hanging with such profound attention upon the lips of a speaker. But those who take the trouble to read this article, must not suppose that what I have here stated is given in Mr. Thompson's own words. Perhaps I may have made use of some of his expressions, but my object has been to give a general view of this surpassingly excellent address of our beloved brother.

On Monday evening, Mr. Thompson gave a lecture on St. Domingo. It being preliminary to subsequent lectures, it was mostly statistics from the time of the discovery of the island, down to the year 1789. Mr. Thompson remarked that he had a two-fold object in view in giving an account of St. Domingo. First, to show the capacity of the African race for governing themselves; and, second, to show that immediate emancipation was safe, as illustrated by its effects on that island. St. Domingo, he said, was remarkable for being the place where Columbus was betrayed — for its being the first of the West India Islands to which negro slaves were carried from the coast of Africa — for the cruel treatment of the first settlers in the Island to the aborigines — for the triumph of the liberated slaves over the French, and those of the islanders who joined them — for being the birth place of the noble minded, the gifted, the honored, but afterwards, betrayed Toussaint L’Ouverture, who was born a slave, and a great part of his life labored as a slave, yet as soon as his chains were broken off, he rose at once to a man — to a general to a commander-in-chief, and finally to the Governor of a prosperous and happy Republic.

At the close of the exercises, Mr. Thompson informed the audience, that on the next evening they would be addressed by Wm. Lloyd Garrison, Editor of the Liberator, — the much despised and villified Wm. Lloyd Garrison was to address the citizens of Andover on the subject of slavery.

Tuesday evening arrived, and with it arrived Wm. Lloyd Garrison, Editor of the Liberator. The house was crowded by many, who, we doubt not, came from mere curiosity, to see the man who had been held up to the world as the “enemy of all righteousness — the “disturber of the public peace — the “libeller of his country” — the “outlawed fanatic”—the reckless incendiary, who was propagating his seditious sentiments from one end of the land to the other, and yet in this free country, suffered to live notwithstanding.

After prayer and singing, brother Garrison arose, and said, he stood before them as the one who had been represented to the public as the propagator of discord, and the enemy of his country — that almost every opprobrious epithet had been attached to his name; but since one term of reproval had been spared him — since his enemies had never called him a slaveholder, he would forgive them all the rest, and thank them for their magnanimity. He spoke for some time on the supercilious inquiry so often iterated and reiterated by our opponents; Why don't you go to the South? He remarked, that the very individuals who made this inquiry, and were denouncing us as fanatics, well knew that death would be the lot of him who should broach such sentiments at the South, and should the advocates of abolition throw away their lives by recklessly throwing themselves into the hands of those who were thirsting for their blood, then indeed, might these haughty querists smile over their mangled bodies, and with justice pronounce them fanatics. He touched upon several other important points which I must pass over in silence. His manner was mild, his address dignified and dispassionate, and many who never saw him before, and whose opinions, or rather prejudices were formed from the false reports of his enemies, and confirmed by not reading his paper, were compelled, in spite of themselves, to form an idea entirely the reverse of what they had previously entertained of him. His address did much towards removing the prejudice that many had against him, and proved an excellent catholicon to the stomachs of those who are much given to squeamishness, whenever they hear the name of Garrison mentioned.

On Wednesday evening, Mr. Thompson was to have continued his remarks on St. Domingo, but a heavy rain prevented most of the audience from coming together, and by the request of those present, the address was deferred until the next evening, and the time spent in familiar conversation. An interesting discussion took place, and lasted about an hour and a half. Many important questions were canvassed, to the entire satisfaction, we believe, of all who listened to them.

On Thursday evening, Mr. Thompson resumed his account of St. Domingo. Commencing with the year 1790, he showed that the beginning of what are termed “the horrid scenes of St. Domingo,” was in consequence of a decree passed by the National Convention, granting to the free people of color the enjoyment of the same political privileges as the whites, and again in 1791, another decree was passed, couched in still stronger language, declaring that all the free people of color in the French islands were entitled to all the privileges of citizenship. When this decree reached Cape Francais, it excited the whites to great hostility against the free people of color. The parties were arrayed in arms against each other, and blood and conflagration followed. The Convention, in order to prevent the threatening evils, immediately rescinded the decree. By this act, the free blacks were again deprived of their rights, which so enraged them, that they commenced fresh hostilities upon the whites, and the Convention was obliged to re-enact the former decree, giving to them the same rights as white citizens. A civil war continued to rage in the island until 1793, when, in order to extinguish it, and at the same time repel the British, who were then hovering round the coasts, it was suggested that the slaves should be armed in defence of the island. Accordingly in 1793, proclamation was made, promising “to give freedom to all the slaves who would range themselves under the banners of the Republic.” This scheme produced the desired effect. The English were driven from the Island, the civil commotions were suppressed, and peace and order were restored. After this, the liberated slaves were industrious and happy, and continued to work on the same plantations as before, and this state of things continued until 1802, when Buonaparte sent out a military force to restore slavery in the Island. Having enjoyed the blessings of freedom for nine years, the blacks resolved to die rather than again be subjected to bondage. They rose in the strength of free men, and with Toussaint L’Ouverture at their head they encountered their enemies. Many of them, however, were taken by the French, and miserably perished. Some were burnt to death, some were nailed to the masts of ships, some were sown up in sacks, poignarded, and then thrown into the sea as food for sharks, some were confined in the holds of vessels, and suffocated with the fumes of brimstone, and many were torn in pieces by the blood hounds, which the French employed to harass and hunt them in the forests and fastnesses of the mountains. At length the scene changed. The putrifying carcases of the unburied slain poisoned the atmosphere, and produced sickness in the French army. In this state of helplessness they were besieged by the black army, their provisions were cut off, a famine raged among them so that they were compelled at last to subsist upon the flesh of the blood hounds, that they had exported from Cuba as auxiliaries in conquering the islanders. The French army being nearly exterminated, a miserable remnant put to sea, and left the Island to the quiet possession of their conquerors. Mr. Thompson concluded with the following summary: First, the revolution in St. Domingo originated between the whites and the free people of color, previous to any act of emancipation. Second, the slaves after their emancipation remained peaceful, contented, industrious, and happy, until Buonaparte made the attempt to restore slavery in the Island. Third, the history of St. Domingo proves the capacity of the black man for the enjoyment of liberty, his ability of self-government, and improvement, and the safety of immediate emancipation. Friday evening, Mr. Thompson closed his account of St. Domingo, by giving a brief statement of its present condition. He showed by documents published in the West Indies, that its population was rapidly multiplying, its exports annually increasing, and the inhabitants of the Island improving much faster than could be reasonably expected.

After the address, opportunity was given for any individuals to propose questions. A gentleman slaveholder commenced. He made several unimportant inquiries, and along with them, abused Mr. Thompson, by calling him a foreign incendiary. Mr. Thompson answered in his usual christian calmness and dignity, not rendering reviling for reviling. The discusion continued to a late hour, and when it closed the audience gave evidence of being well satisfied with the answers given, and some who attended that evening for the first time, subscribed their names to the Constitution. Thus closed Mr. Thompson's labors with us for the present, and he left town on Saturday, July 18th. Mr. Phelps remained and addressed us on Sabbath evening, but the small space left to me, will not admit of my giving any account of it. As to the good accomplished by the labors of Messrs. Thompson and Phelps, some further account may be given hereafter. At present, I will only say, that upwards of 200 have joined the Anti-Slavery Society since they came among us.

Yours, in behalf of the A. S. Society at Andover,

R. REED, Cor. Secretary.

SOURCES: Isaac Knapp, Publisher, Letters and Addresses by G. Thompson [on American Negro Slavery] During His Mission in the United States, From Oct. 1st, 1834, to Nov. 27, 1835, p. 77-83; “Anti-Slavery Meetings at Andover,” The Liberator, Boston, Massachusetts, Saturday, August 8, 1835, p. 1.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Diary of 1st Sergeant John L. Ransom: December 5, 1864

Guard said that orders were not to talk with any of the prisoners, and above all not to let us get hold of any newspapers. No citizens are allowed to come near us. That shows which way the wind blows. Half a dozen got away from here last night, and guards more strict to-day, with an increased force. Going to be moved, it is said, in a few days. Why don't they run us right into the ocean? That wouldn't do though, our gunboats are there. Well, keep us then, that is punishment enough. Do what you are a mind to. You dare not starve us now, for we would break away. In fact, although under guard, we are masters of the situation. Can see an old darky with an ox hitched to a cart with harness on, the cart loaded with sugar cane. This is quite a sugar country, it is said. On the road here saw the famous palmetto tree in groves. Live-oaks are scattered all over, and are a funny affair. Simon and pecan trees also abound here We are pretty well south now, spending the winter. But few die now; no more than would naturally die in any camp with the same numbers. It is said that some men get away every night, and it is probably so.

SOURCE: John L. Ransom, Andersonville Diary, p. 132

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Diary of William Howard Russell: June 6, 1861

My chattel Joe, “adscriptus mihi domino awoke me to a bath of Mississippi water with huge lumps of ice in it, to which he recommended a mint-julep as an adjunct. It was not here that I was first exposed to an ordeal of mint-julep, for in the early morning a stranger in a Southern planter's house may expect the offer of a glassful of brandy, sugar, and peppermint beneath an island of ice — an obligatory panacea for all the evils of climate. After it has been disposed of, Pompey may come up again with glass number two: “Massa say fever very bad this morning —much dew.” It is possible that the degenerate Anglo-Saxon stomach has not the fine tone and temper of that of an Hibernian friend of mine, who considered the finest thing to counteract the effects of a little excess was a tumbler of hot whiskey and water the moment the sufferer opened his eyes in the morning. Therefore, the kindly offering may be rejected. But on one occasion before breakfast the negro brought up mint-julep number three, the acceptance of which he enforced by the emphatic declaration, “Massa says, sir, you had better take this, because it'll be the last he make before breakfast.”

Breakfast is served: there is on the table a profusion of dishes — grilled fowl, prawns, eggs and ham, fish from New Orleans, potted salmon from England, preserved meats from France, claret, iced water, coffee and tea, varieties of hominy, mush, and African vegetable preparations. Then come the newspapers, which are perused eagerly with ejaculations, “Do you hear what they are doing now — infernal villains! that Lincoln must be mad!” and the like. At one o'clock, in spite of the sun, I rode out with Mr. Lee, along the road by the Mississippi, to Mr. Burnside's plantation, called Orange Grove, from a few trees which still remain in front of the overseer's house. We visited an old negro, called “Boatswain,” who lives with his old wife in a wooden hut close by the margin of the Mississippi. His business is to go to Donaldsonville for letters, or meat, or ice for the house — a tough row for the withered old man. He is an African born, and he just remembers being carried on board ship and taken to some big city before he came upon the plantation.

“Do you remember nothing of the country you came from, Boatswain?” “Yes, sir. Jist remember trees and sweet things my mother gave me, and much hot sand I put my feet in, and big leaves that we play with — all us little children — and plenty to eat, and big birds and shells.” “Would you like to go back, Boatswain?” “What for, sir? no one know old Boatswain there. My old missus Sally inside.” “Are you quite happy, Boatswain?” “I'm getting very old, massa. Massa Burnside very good to Boatswain, but who care for such dam old nigger? Golla Mighty gave me fourteen children, but he took them all away again from Sally and me. No budy care much for dam old nigger like me.”

Further on Mr. Seal salutes us from the veranda of his house, but we are bound for overseer Gibbs, who meets us, mounted, by the roadside — a man grim in beard and eye, and silent withal, with a big whip in his hand and a large knife stuck in his belt. He leads us through a magnificent area of cane and maize, the latter towering far above our heads; but I was most anxious to see the forest primeval which borders the clear land at the back of the estate, and spreads away over alligator-haunted swamps into distant bayous. It was not, however, possible to gratify one's Curiosity very extensively beyond the borders of the cleared land, for rising round the roots of the cypress, swamp-pine, and live-oak, there was a barrier of undergrowth and bush twined round the cane-brake which stands some sixteen feet high, so stiff that the united force of man and horse could not make way against the rigid fibres; and indeed, as Mr. Gibbs told us, “When the niggers take to the cane-brake they can beat man or dog, and nothing beats them but snakes and starvation.”

He pointed out some sheds around which were broken bottles where the last Irish gang had been working, under one “John Loghlin,” of Donaldsonville, a great contractor, who, he says, made plenty of money out of his countrymen, whose bones are lying up and down the Mississippi. “They duer work like fire,” he said. “Loghlin does not give them half the rations we give our negroes, but he can always manage them with whiskey; and when he wants them to do a job he gives them plenty of forty-rod,’ and they have their fight out — reglar free fight, I can tell you, while it lasts. Next morning they will sign anything and go anywhere with him.”

On the Orange Grove Plantation, although the crops were so fine, the negroes unquestionably seemed less comfortable than those in the quarters of Houmas, separated from them by a mere nominal division. Then, again, there were more children with fair complexions to be seen peeping out of the huts; some of these were attributed to the former overseer, one Johnson by name, but Mr. Gibbs, as if to vindicate his memory, told me confidentially he had paid a large sum of money to the former proprietor of the estate for one of his children, and had carried it away with him when he left. “You could not expect him, you know,” said Gibbs, “to buy them all at the prices that were then going in ’56. All the children on the estate,” added he, “are healthy, and I can show my lot against Seal's over there, though I hear tell he had a great show of them out to you yesterday.”

The bank of the river below the large plantation was occupied by a set of small Creole planters, whose poor houses were close together, indicating very limited farms, which had been subdivided from time to time, according to the French fashion; so that the owners have at last approached pauperism; but they are tenacious of their rights, and will not yield to the tempting price offered by the large planters. They cling to the soil without enterprise and without care. The Spanish settlers along the river are open to the same reproach, and prefer their own ease to the extension of their race in other lands, or to the aggrandizement of their posterity; and an Epicurean would aver, they were truer philosophers than the restless creatures who wear out their lives in toil and labor to found empires for the future.

It is among these men that, at times, slavery assumes its harshest aspect, and that the negroes are exposed to the severest labor; but it is also true that the slaves have closer relations with the families of their owners, and live in more intimate connection with them than they do under the strict police of the large plantations. These people sometimes get forty bushels of corn to the acre, and a hogshead and a half of sugar. We saw their children going to school, whilst the heads of the houses sat in the veranda smoking, and their mothers were busy with household duties; and the signs of life, the voices of women and children, and the activity visible on the little farms, contrasted not unpleasantly with the desert-like stillness of the larger settlements. Rode back in a thunder-storm.

At dinner in the evening Mr. Burnside entertained a number of planters in the neighborhood, — M. Bringier, M. Coulon (French Creoles), Mr. Duncan Kenner, a medical gentleman named Cotmann,. and others; the last - named gentleman is an Unionist, and does not hesitate to defend his opinions; but he has, during a visit to Russia, formed high ideas of the necessity and virtues of an absolute and centralized government.

SOURCE: William Howard Russell, My Diary North and South, p. 276-9

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Diary of William Howard Russell: June 5, 1861

The smart negro who waited on me this morning spoke English, I asked him if he knew how to read and write. — “We must not do that, sir.” “Where were you born?” — “I were raised on the plantation, Massa, but I have been to New Orleans;” and then he added, with an air of pride, “I s'pose, sir, Massa Burnside not take less than 1500 dollars for me.” Down-stairs to breakfast, the luxuries of which are fish, prawns, and red meat which has been sent for to Donaldsonville by boat rowed by an old negro. Breakfast over, I walked down to the yard, where the horses were waiting, and proceeded to visit the saccharine principality. Mr. Seal, the overseer of this portion of the estate, was my guide, if not philosopher and friend. Our road lay through a lane formed by a cart track, between fields of Indian corn just beginning to flower — as it is called technically, to “tassel — and sugar-cane. There were stalks of the former twelve or fifteen feet in height, with three or four ears each, round which the pea twined in leafy masses. The maize affords food to the negro, and the husks are eaten by the horses and mules, which also fatten on the peas in rolling time.

The wealth of the land is inexhaustible: all the soil requires is an alternation of maize and cane; and the latter, when cut in the stalk, called “ratoons,” at the end of the year, produces a fresh crop, yielding excellent sugar. The cane is grown from stalks which are laid in pits during the winter till the ground has been ploughed, when 'each piece of cane is laid longitudinally on the ridge and covered with earth, and from each joint of the stalk springs forth a separate sprout when the crop begins to grow. At present the sugar-cane is waiting for its full development, but the negro labor around its' stem has ceased. It is planted in long continuous furrows, and although the palm-like tops have not yet united in a uniform arch over the six feet which separates row from row, the stalks are higher than a man. The plantation is pierced with wagon roads, for the purpose of conveying the cane to the sugar-mills, and these again are intersected by and run parallel with drains and ditches, portions of the great system of irrigation and drainage, in connection with a canal to carry off the surplus water to a bayou. The extent of these works may be estimated by the fact that there are thirty miles of road and twenty miles of open deep drainage through the estate, and that the main canal is fifteen feet wide, and at present four feet deep; but in the midst of this waste of plenty and wealth, where are the human beings who produce both? One must go far to discover them; they are buried in sugar and in maize, or hidden in negro quarters. In truth, there is no trace of them, over all this expanse of land, unless one knows where to seek; no “ploughboy whistles o'er the lea;” no rustic stands to do his own work; but the gang is moved off in silence from point to point, like a corps d’armée of some despotic emperor manoeuvring in the battle-field.

Admitting everything that can be said, I am the more persuaded from what I see, that the real foundation of slavery in the Southern States lies in the power of obtaining labor at will at a rate which cannot be controlled by any combination of the laborers. Granting the heat and the malaria, it is not for a moment to be argued that planters could not find white men to do their work if they would pay them for the risk. A negro, it is true, bears heat well, and can toil under the blazing sun of Louisiana, in the stifling air between the thick-set sugar-canes; but the Irishman who is employed in the stokehole of a steamer is exposed to a higher temperature and physical exertion even more arduous. The Irish laborer can, however, set a value on his work; the African slave can only determine the amount of work to be got from him by the exhaustion of his powers. Again, the indigo planter in India, out from morn till night amidst his ryots, or the sportsman toiling under the midday sun through swamp and jungle, proves that the white man can endure the utmost power of the hottest sun in the world as well as the native. More than that, the white man seems to be exempt from the inflammatory disease, pneumonia, and attacks of the mucous membrane and respiratory organs to which the blacks are subject; and if the statistics of negro mortality were rigidly examined, I doubt that they would exhibit as large a proportion of mortality and sickness as would be found amongst gangs of white men under similar circumstances. But the slave is subjected to rigid control; he is deprived of stimulating drinks in which the free white laborer would indulge; and he is obliged to support life upon an antiphlogistic diet, which gives him, however, sufficient strength to execute his daily task.

It is in the supposed cheapness of slave labor and its profitable adaptation in the production of Southern crops, that the whole gist and essence of the question really lie. The planter can get from the labor of a slave for whom he has paid £200, a sum of money which will enable him to use up that slave in comparatively a few years of his life, whilst he would have to pay to the white laborer a sum that would be a great apparent diminution of his profits, for the same amount of work. It is calculated that each field-hand, as an able-bodied negro is called, yields seven hogsheads of sugar a year, which, at the rate of fourpence a pound, at an average of a hogshead an acre, would produce to the planter £140 for every slave. This is wonderful interest on the planter's money; but he sometimes gets two hogsheads an acre, and even as many as three hogsheads have been produced in good years on the best lands; in other words, two and a quarter tons of sugar and refuse stuff, called “bagasse,” have been obtained from an acre of cane. Not one planter of the many I have asked has ever given an estimate of the annual cost of a slave's maintenance; the idea of calculating it never comes into their heads.

Much depends upon the period at which frost sets in; and if the planters can escape till January without any cold to nip the juices and the cane, their crop is increased in value each day; but it is not till October they can begin to send cane to the mill, in average seasons; and if the frost does not come till December, they may count upon the fair average of a hogshead of 1200 pounds of sugar to every acre.

The labor of ditching, trenching, cleaning the waste lands, and hewing down the forests, is generally done by Irish laborers, who travel about the country under contractors, or are engaged by resident gangsmen for the task. Mr. Seal lamented the high prices of this work; but then, as he said, It was much better to have Irish to do it, who cost nothing to the planter, if they died, than to use up good field-hands in such severe employment.” There is a wonderful mine of truth in this observation. Heaven knows how many poor Hibernians have been consumed and buried in these Louisianian swamps, leaving their earnings to the dramshop-keeper and the contractor, and the results of their toil to the planter. This estate derives its name from an Indian tribe called Houmas; and when Mr. Burnside purchased it for £300,000, he received in the first year £63,000 as the clear value of the crops on his investment.

The first place I visited with the overseer was a new sugarhouse, which negro carpenters and masons were engaged in erecting. It would have been amusing, had not the subject been so grave, to hear the overseer's praises of the intelligence and skill of these workmen, and his boast that they did all the work of skilled laborers on the estate, and then to listen to him, in a few minutes, expatiating on the utter helplessness and ignorance of the black race, their incapacity to do any good, or even to take care of themselves.

There are four sugar-houses on this portion of Mr. Burnside's estate, consisting of grinding-mills, boiling-houses, and crystallizing sheds.

The sugar-house is the capital of the negro quarters, and to each of them is attached an enclosure, in which there is a double row of single-storied wooden cottages, divided into two or four rooms. An avenue of trees runs down the centre of the negro street, and behind each hut are rude poultry-hutches, which, with geese and turkeys, and a few pigs, form the perquisites of the slaves, and the sole source from which they derive their acquaintance with currency. Their terms are strictly cash. An old negro brought up some ducks to Mr. Burnside last night, and offered the lot of six for three dollars. “Very well, Louis; if you come to-morrow, I'll pay you.” “No, massa; me want de money now.” “But won't you give me credit, Louis? Don't you think I'll pay the three dollars?” “Oh, pay some day, massa, sure enough. Massa good to pay de tree dollar; but this nigger want money now to buy food and things for him leetle family. They will trust massa at Donaldsville, but they won't trust this nigger.” I was told that a thrifty negro will sometimes make ten or twelve pounds a year from his corn and poultry; but he can have no inducement to hoard; for whatever is his, as well as himself, belongs to his master.

Mr. Seal conducted me to a kind of forcing-house, where the young negroes are kept in charge of certain old crones too old for work, whilst their parents are away in the cane and Indian corn. A host of children of both sexes were seated in the veranda of a large wooden shed, or playing around it, very happily and noisily. I was glad to see the boys and girls of nine, ten, and eleven years of age were at this season, at all events, exempted from the cruel fate which befalls poor children of their age in the mining and manufacturing districts of England. At the sight of the overseer, the little ones came forward in tumultuous glee, babbling out, “Massa Seal,” and evidently pleased to see him.

As a jolly agriculturist looks at his yearlings or young beeves, the kindly overseer, lolling in his saddle, pointed with his whip to the glistening fat ribs and corpulent paunches of his woolly-headed flock. “There's not a plantation in the State,” quoth he, “can show such a lot of young niggers. The way to get them right is not to work the mothers too hard when they are near their time; to give them plenty to eat, and not to send them to the fields too soon.” He told me the increase was about five per cent, per annum. The children were quite sufficiently clad, ran about round us, patted the horses, felt our legs, tried to climb up on the stirrup, and twinkled their black and ochrey eyes at Massa Seal. Some were exceedingly fair; and Mr. Seal, observing that my eye followed these, murmured something about the overseers before Mr. Burnside's time being rather a bad lot. He talked about their color and complexion quite openly; nor did it seem to strike him that there was any particular turpitude in the white man who had left his offspring as slaves on the plantation.

A tall, well-built lad of some nine or ten years stood by me, looking curiously into my face, “What is your name?” said I. “George,” he replied. “Do you know how to read or write?” He evidently did not understand the question. “Do you go to church or chapel?” A dubious shake of the head. “Did you ever hear of our Saviour?” At this point Mr. Seal interposed, and said, “I think we had better go on, as the sun is getting hot,” and so we rode gently through the little ones; and when we had got some distance he said, rather apologetically, “We don't think it right to put these things into their heads so young, it only disturbs their minds, and leads them astray.”

Now, in this one quarter there were no less than eighty children, some twelve and some even fourteen years of age. No education — no God — their whole life — food and play, to strengthen their muscles and fit them for the work of a slave. “And when they die?” “Well,” said Mr. Seal, “they are buried in that field there by their own people, and some of them have a sort of prayers over them, I believe.” The overseer, it is certain, had no fastidious notions about slavery; it was to him the right thing in the right place, and his summum bonum was a high price for sugar, a good crop, and a healthy plantation. Nay, I am sure I would not wrong him if I said he could see no impropriety in running a good cargo of regular black slaves, who might clear the great back wood and swampy undergrowth, which was now exhausting the energies of his field-hands, in the absence of Irish navvies.

Each negro gets five pounds of pork a week, and as much Indian corn bread as he can eat, with a portion of molasses, and occasionally they have fish for breakfast. All the carpenters’ and smiths’ work, the erection of sheds, repairing of carts and ploughs, and the baking of bricks for the farm buildings, are done on the estate by the slaves. The machinery comes from the manufacturing cities of the North; but great efforts are made to procure it from New Orleans, where factories have been already established. On the borders of the forest the negroes are allowed to plant corn for their own use, and sometimes they have an overplus, which they sell to their masters. Except when there is any harvest pressure on their hands, they have from noon on Saturday till dawn on Monday morning to do as they please, but they must not stir off the plantation on the road, unless with special permit, which is rarely granted.

There is an hospital on the estate, and even shrewd Mr. Seal did not perceive the conclusion that was to be drawn from his testimony to its excellent arrangements. “Once a nigger gets in there, he'd like to live there for the rest of his life.” But are they not the happiest, most contented people in the world — at any rate, when they are in hospital? I declare that to me the more orderly, methodical, and perfect the arrangements for economizing slave labor — regulating slaves — are, the more hateful and odious does slavery become. I would much rather be the animated human chattel of a Turk, Egyptian, Spaniard, or French Creole, than the laboring beast of a Yankee or of a New England capitalist.

When I returned back to the house I found my friends enjoying a quiet siesta, and the rest of the afternoon was devoted to idleness, not at all disagreeable with a thermometer worthy of Agra. Even the mocking-birds were roasted into silence, and the bird which answers to our rook or crow sat on the under branches of the trees, gaping for air with his bill wide open. It must be hot indeed when the mocking-bird loses his activity. There, is one, with its nest in a rose-bush trailed along the veranda under my window, which now sits over its young ones with outspread wings, as if to protect them from being baked; and it is so courageous and affectionate, that when I approach quite close, it merely turns round its head, dilates its beautiful dark eye, and opens its beak, within which the tiny sharp tongue is saying, I am sure, “Don't for goodness' sake disturb me, for if you force me to leave, the children will be burned to death.”

SOURCE: William Howard Russell, My Diary North and South, p. 270-6

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Diary of Sergeant George G. Smith: April 20, 1863

Arrived at Opalousas. This was the third capitol the rebels had made for this state since the rebellion. We expected to catch some of their honorable bodies, the members of the Legislature, but they were too wary. The saying, “A stag oft hunted grows wild,” was true in this case. The authorities surrendered without opposition. Opalousas ordinarily contains about 6,000 inhabitants, and is situated in one of the richest farming sections of the state. Watered by the Teche and Atchaffalaya Bayous which divide and subdivide forming a network of bayous which are navigable for steamboats a considerable portion of the year, which while they irrigate and fertilize the land, afford at once a cheap and easy means for the conveyance of the rich products to the sea and to the markets of the world. Cotton and sugar cane ordinarily are the staple products, but this year it was planted mostly with corn to feed the armies. Colonel Holcomb ordered me to turn my gun and equipments over to the quartermaster and act as lieutenant of Company E.

SOURCE: Abstracted from George G. Smith, Leaves from a Soldier's Diary, p. 48-9

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

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Diary of Sarah Morgan: Sunday, November 9, 1862

I hardly know how these last days have passed. I have an indistinct recollection of rides in cane-wagons to the most distant field, coming back perched on the top of the cane singing, “Dye my petticoats,” to the great amusement of the General who followed on horseback. Anna and Miriam, comfortably reposing in corners, were too busy to join in, as their whole time and attention were entirely devoted to the consumption of cane. It was only by singing rough impromptus on Mr. Harold and Captain Bradford that I roused them from their task long enough to join in a chorus of “Forty Thousand Chinese.” I would not have changed my perch, four mules, and black driver, for Queen Victoria's coach and six.

And to think old Abe wants to deprive us of all that fun! No more cotton, sugar-cane, or rice! No more old black aunties or uncles! No more rides in mule teams, no more songs in the cane-field, no more steaming kettles, no more black faces and shining teeth around the furnace fires! If Lincoln could spend the grinding season on a plantation, he would recall his proclamation. As it is, he has only proved himself a fool, without injuring us. Why, last evening I took old Wilson's place at the bagasse shoot, and kept the rollers free from cane until I had thrown down enough to fill several carts, and had my hands as black as his. What cruelty to slaves! And black Frank thinks me cruel, too, when he meets me with a patronizing grin, and shows me the nicest vats of candy, and peels cane for me. Oh! very cruel! And so does Jules, when he wipes the handle of his paddle on his apron, to give “Mamselle” a chance to skim the kettles and learn how to work! Yes! and so do all the rest who meet us with a courtesy and “Howd’y, young Missus!” Last night we girls sat on the wood just in front of the furnace — rather Miriam and Anna did, while I sat in their laps — and with some twenty of all ages crowded around, we sang away to their great amusement. Poor oppressed devils! Why did you not chunk us with the burning logs instead of looking happy, and laughing like fools? Really, some good old Abolitionist is needed here, to tell them how miserable they are. Can't Mass' Abe spare a few to enlighten his brethren?

SOURCE: Sarah Morgan Dawson, A Confederate Girl's Diary, p. 277-8

Monday, January 11, 2016

Diary of Sarah Morgan: November 4, 1862

O what a glorious time we had yesterday! First, there were those two gentlemen to be entertained all day, which was rather a stretch, I confess, so I stole away for a while. Then I got the sweetest letter from Miss Trenholm, enclosing Jimmy's photograph, and she praised him so that I was in a damp state of happiness and flew around showing my picture to everybody, Mr. Bradford included, who pronounced him a noble boy, and admired him to my satisfaction. Then came a letter from Lilly, saying mother had decided to remain in Clinton, and wanted us to join her there. O my prophetic soul! My heart went below zero! Then Colonel Allen sent to Port Hudson for the band to serenade us, and raised my spirits in anticipation of the treat. While performing my toilet in the evening, Waller Fowler arrived, on his way to Vicksburg, bringing a letter to Miriam from Major Drum! Heaven only knows how it got here! Such a dear, kind letter, dated 6th of August, only! Affairs were very different then, and he said that Lavinia's distress about us was such that he must try to send her nearer to us. And such an unexpected piece of news! Oh, my heart fails me! I cannot fancy Lavinia a mother.

Slowly I dressed myself, and still more slowly I combed Anna. I could think of nothing else until I heard Miriam and Mr. Bradford call us to take a walk, when we hurried down to them. A race down to the railroad, a merry talk standing on the track mingled with shouts of laughter in which I tried to drown fears for Lavinia, made the early sunset clouds pass away sooner than usual, to us, and moonlight warned us to return. Mrs. Worley passed us in her buggy, coming to stay all night; and halfway a servant met us, saying two soldiers had come to call on us. Once there, I was surprised to find that one was Frank Enders, the one I least expected to see. The other was a Mr. Harold. I need not describe him, beyond this slight indication of his style. Before half an hour was over, he remarked to Anna that I was a very handsome girl, and addressed me as — Miss Sally! That is sufficient.

Then Will Carter came in, and joined our circle. His first aside was, “If you only knew how much I liked you last night, you would never be cruel to me again. Why, I thought you the greatest girl in the world! Please let's part friends to-night again!” I would not promise, for I knew I would tease him yet; and at supper, when I insisted on his taking a glass of milk, his face turned so red that Mrs. Carter pinched my arm blue, and refused to help me to preserves because I was making Will mad! But Waller helped me, and I drank my own milk to Mr. Carter's health with my sweetest smile. “Confound that milkman! I wish he had cut his throat before I stumbled over him,” he exclaimed after tea. But I had more amusing game than to make him angry then; I wanted to laugh to get rid of the phantom that pursued me, Lavinia.

The evening passed off very pleasantly; I think there were some eighteen of us in the parlor. About ten the General went to the sugar-house (he commenced grinding yesterday) and whispered to me to bring the young people down presently. Mr. Bradford and I succeeded in moving them, and we three girls retired to change our pretty dresses for plain ones, and get shawls and nuages, for our warm week had suddenly passed away, and it was quite cold out. Some of the gentlemen remarked that very few young ladies would have the courage to change pretty evening dresses for calico, after appearing to such advantage. Many would prefer wearing such dresses, however inappropriate, to the sugar-mill. With his droll gravity, Gibbes answered, “Oh, our girls don't want to be stuck up!”

There was quite a string of us as we straggled out in the beautiful moonlight, with only Mrs. Badger as an escort. Mr. Enders and I had a gay walk of it, and when we all met at the furnace, we stopped and warmed ourselves, and had a laugh before going in. Inside, it was lighted up with Confederate gas, in other words, pine torches, which shed a delightful light, neither too much nor too little, over the different rooms. We tried each by turns. The row of bubbling kettles with the dusky negroes bending over in the steam, and lightly turning their paddles in the foamy syrup, the whole under the influence of torchlight, was very interesting; but then, Mr. Enders and I found a place more pleasant still. It was in the first purgery, standing at the mouth of the shoot through which the liquid sugar runs into the car; and taking the place of the car as soon as it was run off to the coolers, each armed with a paddle, scraped the colon up and had our own fun while eating. Then running along the little railroad to where the others stood in the second room over the vats, and racing back again all together to eat sugarcane and cut up generally around our first pine torch, we had really a gay time.

Presently “Puss wants a corner” was suggested, and all flew up to the second staging, under the cane-carrier and by the engine. Such racing for corners! Such scuffles among the gentlemen! Such confusion among the girls when, springing forward for a place, we would find it already occupied! All dignity was discarded. We laughed and ran as loud and fast as any children, and the General enjoyed our fun as much as we, and encouraged us in our pranks. Waller surpassed himself, Mr. Bradford carried all by storm, Mr. Enders looked like a schoolboy on a frolic, Mr. Carter looked sullen and tried lazily not to mar the sport completely, while Mr. Harold looked timidly foolish and half afraid of our wild sport. Mrs. Badger laughed, the General roared, Anna flew around like a balloon, Miriam fairly danced around with fun and frolic, while I laughed so that it was an exertion to change corners. Then forfeits followed, with the usual absurd formalities in which Mr. Bradford sentenced himself unconsciously to ride a barrel, Miriam to make him a love speech going home, Mr. Enders to kiss my hand, and I to make him (Mr. Enders) a declaration, which I instantly did, in French, whereby I suffered no inconvenience, as Miriam alone comprehended. Then came more sugar-cane and talk in the purgery, and we were horrified when Mrs. Badger announced that it was twelve o'clock, and gave orders to retire.

O the pleasant walk home! Then, of course, followed a last good-night on the balcony, while the two young men mounted their horses and Frank Enders vowed to slip off every time he had a chance and come out to see us. Then there was a grand proposition for a ride to Port Hudson on horseback, and in order to secure a pledge that we would pass by General Beale's headquarters, Mr. Enders wrapped my nuage around his throat, declaring that I would be obliged to stop there for it, though, if prevented, he would certainly be obliged to bring it back himself. This morning, however, the married ladies made so much difficulty about who should go, and how, that we were forced to abandon it, much as we would have enjoyed it.

I am afraid to say how late it was when we got to bed. I know it was almost ten when we left the breakfast-table this morning, so I suppose it must have been quite late before we retired. To Colonel Allen's, as well as to our own great disappointment, the band could not come on account of sickness.

SOURCE: Sarah Morgan Dawson, A Confederate Girl's Diary, p. 270-5