Showing posts with label Treatment of Slaves. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Treatment of Slaves. Show all posts

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Dr. Seth Rogers to his daughter Dolly, February 3, 1863

February 3, 1863.

At break of day we were at Beaufort and my sick and wounded were being carefully conveyed to the “Contraband Hospital” for better care than our camp hospital affords. I left eight there and it seemed like leaving my children among strangers. But this was only a feeling, not a fact. It was very pleasant to have the black soldiers served first when wounded. Colonel [Rishworth] Rich and the other officers and soldiers, must wait the convenience of our freedmen. I should quite enjoy living in some one of our Northern cities a few months with the 1st S. C. Vols. I fancy there would be a conquering of prejudices somewhat satisfactory to your humble servant. Justice is an admirable machine when in good running order and with honest engineers to keep it going. 

The Colonel took his official report in one hand and a captured instrument of slave torture in the other, to Gen. Saxton and left them for an early inspection. I was too busy to breakfast there with the Colonel. At ten o'clock we were disembarking opposite our camp and the home troops were receiving us with wild cheers of joy. All sorts of false rumors had been reported concerning us. 

We had been cut up and cut down, hung and cut to pieces, and various other rebel morsels of information had been circulated. I trust that you have not been tormented by such rumors. Perhaps it is best for me to take this occasion to say that the rebel reports are not always so reliable as their personal sympathizers could wish. Believe nothing short of official reports and my letters. 

SOURCE: Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Volume 43, October, 1909—June, 1910: February 1910. p. 356-7

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Diary of 5th Sergeant Osborn H. Oldroyd: May 31, 1863

We were aroused by the bugle call, and in a few minutes on the march again. Halted at noon on a large plantation. This is a capital place to stop, for the negroes are quite busy baking corn-bread and sweet potatoes for us. We have had a grand dinner at the expense of a rich planter now serving in the southern army. Some of the negroes wanted to come with us, but we persuaded them to remain, telling them they would see hard times if they followed us. They showed indications of good treatment, and I presume their master is one of the few who treat their slaves like human beings.

I must say—whether right or wrong-plantation life has had a sort of fascination for me ever since I came south, especially when I visit one like that where we took dinner to-day, and some, also, I visited in Tennessee. I know I should treat my slaves well, and, while giving them a good living, I should buy, but never sell.

We left at three o'clock P. M., and just as the boys were ordered to take with them some of the mules working in the field, where there was a large crop being cultivated, to be used, when gathered, for the maintenance of our enemies. As our boys, accordingly, were unhitching the mules, some “dutchy” in an officer's uniform rode up, yelling, “mens! you left dem schackasses alone!” I doubt whether he had authority to give such an order, but whether he had or not he was not obeyed. When we marched off with our corn-bread and “schackasses,” some of the darkies insisted on following. We passed through some rebel works at Haines' Bluffs, which were built to protect the approach to Vicksburg by way of the Yazoo river. Sherman had taken them on the nineteenth instant, when our boats came up the river and delivered rations.

May has now passed, with all its hardships and privations to the army of the west—the absence of camp comforts; open fields for dwelling places; the bare ground for beds; cartridge boxes for pillows, and all the other tribulations of an active campaign. Enduring these troubles, we have given our country willing service. We have passed through some hard-fought battles, where many of our comrades fell, now suffering in hospitals or sleeping, perhaps, in unmarked graves. Well they did their part, and much do we miss them. Their noble deeds shall still incite our emulation, that their proud record may not be sullied by any act of ours.

Camped at dark, tired, dirty and ragged-having had no chance to draw clothes for two months.

SOURCE: Osborn Hamiline Oldroyd, A Soldier's Story of the Siege of Vicksburg, p. 39-40

Friday, March 9, 2018

Samuel Gridley Howe to Dr. Henry Ingersoll Bowditch, February 3, 1846

South Boston, Feb. 3d, 1846.
Dr. Bowditch,

My Dear Sir:— My duties at home will prevent my joining you at eleven o'clock. I should regret this very much if I thought that my presence could be of any service, because it seems to me that now is the time when the tide of affairs may be “taken at the flood,” and great results produced.

A league of those who in the South and West as well as in the North firmly believe servile labour to be as impolitic as it is wicked, may in a few years change the whole aspect of things in this country. I should not despair even of seeing the day when, high and noble interests being at stake, the truly great and noble spirits of the land would start forward to take the lead; men who will not now enter into the political strife when such paltry watchwords are inscribed upon the party banners. Under such men I should delight humbly to serve; and to forward such measures as they would propose, I should willingly “spend and be spent.”

I will, in my narrow sphere, advocate any measure except such as tend directly to cut us off from the parent stock, for it seems to me that would diminish our usefulness and the slave's hope. If the slaveholder listens to us, his brethren and friends, with so much impatience, how would he hear us if we were aliens and enemies?

I carefully cultivate my few social relations with slaveholders, because I find I can do so, and yet say to them undisguisedly that slavery is the great mistake, as well as the great sin of the age. Now, do what they may, they cannot prevent such words from a friend making some impression upon their hearts, which are as hard as millstones to denunciations from an enemy.

It is not enmity and force, but love and reason, that are to be used in the coming strife.

Very truly yours,
S. G. Howe.

SOURCE: Laura E. Richards, Editor, Letters and Journals of Samuel Gridley Howe, Volume 2, p. 238-9

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Diary of William Howard Russell: April 27, 1861

Mrs. Trescot, it seems, spent part of her night in attendance on a young gentleman of color, who was introduced into the world in a state of servitude by his poor chattel of a mother. Such kindly acts as these are more common than we may suppose; and it would be unfair to put a strict or unfair construction on the motives of slave owners in paying such attention to their property. Indeed, as Mrs. Trescot says, “When people talk of my having so many slaves, I always tell them it is the slaves who own me. Morning, noon, and night, I'm obliged to look after them, to doctor them, and attend to them in every way.” Property has its duties, you see, madam, as well as its rights.

The planter's house is quite new, and was built by himself; the principal material being wood, and most of the work being done by his own negroes. Such work as window-sashes and panellings, however, was executed in Charleston. A pretty garden runs at the back, and from the windows there are wide stretches of cotton-fields visible, and glimpses of the river to be seen.

After breakfast our little party repaired to the river side, and sat under the shade of some noble trees waiting for the boat which was to bear us to the fishing grounds. The wind blew up stream, running with the tide, and we strained our eyes in vain for the boat. The river is here nearly a mile across, — a noble estuary rather, — with low banks lined with forests, into which the axe has made deep forays and clearings for cotton-fields.

It would have astonished a stray English traveller, if, penetrating the shade, he heard in such an out-of-the-way place familiar names and things spoken of by the three lazy persons who were stretched out — cigar in mouth — on the ant-haunted trunks which lay prostrate by the seashore. Mr. Trescot spent some time in London as attaché to the United States Legation, was a club man, and had a large circle of acquaintance among the young men about town, of whom he remembered many anecdotes and peculiarities, and little adventures. Since that time he was Under-Secretary of State in Mr. Buchanan's administration, and went out with Secession. He is the author of a very agreeable book on a dry subject, “The History of American Diplomacy,” which is curious enough as an unconscious exposition of the anti-British jealousies, and even antipathies, which have animated American statesmen since they were created. In fact, much of American diplomacy means hostility to England, and the skilful employment of the anti-British sentiment at their disposal in their own country and elsewhere. Now he was talking pleasantly of people he had met — many of them mutual friends.”Here is the boat at last!” I had been sweeping the broad river with my glass occasionally, and at length detected a speck on its broad surface moving down towards us, with a white dot marking the foam at its bows. Spite of wind and tideway, it came rapidly, and soon approached us, pulled by six powerful negroes, attired in red-flannel jackets and white straw hats with broad ribbons. The craft itself — a kind of monster canoe, some forty-five feet long, narrow, wall-sided, with high bow and raised stern — lay deep in the water, for there were extra negroes for the fishing, servants, baskets of provisions, water buckets, stone jars of less innocent drinking, and abaft there was a knot of great strong planters, — Elliots all — cousins, uncles, and brothers. A friendly hail as they swept up along-side, — an exchange of salutations.

“Well, Trescot, have you got plenty of Crabs?"

A groan burst forth at his insouciant reply. He had been charged to find bait, and he had told the negroes to do so, and the negroes had not done so. The fishermen looked grievously at each other, and fiercely at Trescot, who assumed an air of recklessness, and threw doubts on the existence of fish in the river, and resorted to similar miserable subterfuges; indeed, it was subsequently discovered that he was an utter infidel in regard to the delights of piscicapture.

“Now, all aboard! Over, you fellows, and take these gentlemen in!" The negroes were over in a moment, waist deep, and, each taking one on his back, deposited us dry in the boat. I only mention this to record the fact, that I was much impressed by a practical demonstration from my bearer respecting the strong odor of the skin of a heated African. I have been wedged up in a column of infantry on a hot day, and have marched to leeward of Ghoorkhas in India, but the overpowering pungent smell of the negro exceeds everything of the kind I have been unfortunate enough to experience.

The vessel was soon moving again, against a ripple, caused by the wind, which blew dead against us; and, notwithstanding the praises bestowed on the boat, it was easy to perceive [t]hat the labor of pulling such a dead-log-like thing through the water told severely on the rowers, who had already come some twelve miles, I think. Nevertheless, they were told to sing, and they began accordingly one of those wild Baptist chants about the Jordan in which they delight, — not destitute of music, but utterly unlike what is called an Ethiopian melody.

The banks of the river on both sides are low; on the left covered with wood, through which, here and there, at intervals, one could see a planter's or overseer's cottage. The course of this great combination of salt and fresh water sometimes changes, so that houses are swept away and plantations submerged; but the land is much valued nevertheless, on account of the fineness of the cotton grown among the islands. “Cotton at twelve cents a pound, and we don't fear the world.”

As the boat was going to the fishing ground, which lay towards the mouth of the river at Hilton Head, our friends talked politics and sporting combined, — the first of the usual character, the second quite new.

I heard much of the mighty devil-fish which frequents these waters. One of our party, Mr. Elliot, sen., a tall, knotty, gnarled sort of man, with a mellow eye and a hearty voice, was a famous hand at the sport, and had had some hair-breadth escapes in pursuit of it. The fish is described as of enormous size and strength, a monster ray, which possesses formidable antennae-like horns, and a pair of huge fins, or flappers, one of which rises above the water as the creature moves below the surface. The hunters, as they may be called, go out in parties, — three or four boats, or more, with good store of sharp harpoons and tow-lines, and lances. When they perceive the creature, one boat takes the lead, and moves down towards it, the others following, each with a, harpooner standing in the bow. The devil-fish sometimes is wary, and dives, when it sees a boat, taking such a long spell below that it is never seen again. At other times, however, it backs, and lets the boat come so near as to allow of the harpooner striking it, or it dives for a short way and comes up near the boats again. The moment the harpoon is fixed, the line is paid out by the rush of the creature, which is made with tremendous force, and all the boats at once hurry up, so that one after another they are made fast to that in which the lucky sportsman is seated. At length, when the line is run out, checked from time to time as much as can be done with safety, the crew take their oars and follow the course of the ray, which swims so fast, however, that it keeps the line taut, and drags the whole flotilla seawards. It depends on its size and strength to determine how soon it rises to the surface; by degrees the line is warped in and hove short till the boats are brought near, and when the ray comes up it is attacked with a shower of lances and harpoons, and dragged off into shoal water to die.

On one occasion, our Nimrod told us, he was standing in the bows of the boat, harpoon in hand, when a devil-fish came up close to him; he threw the harpoon, struck it, but at the same time the boat ran against the creature with a shock which threw him right forward on its back, and in an instant it caught him in its horrid arms and plunged down with him to the depths. Imagine the horror of the moment! Imagine the joy of the terrified drowning, dying man, when, for some inscrutable reason, the devil-fish relaxed its grip, and enabled him to strike for the surface, where he was dragged into the boat more dead than alive by his terror-smitten companions, — the only man who ever got out of the embraces of the thing alive. “Tom is so tough that even a devil-fish could make nothing out of him.”

At last we came to our fishing ground. There was a substitute found for the favorite crab, and it was fondly hoped our toils might be rewarded with success. And these were toils, for the water is deep and the lines heavy. But to alleviate them, some hampers were produced from the stern, and wonderful pies from Mrs. Trescot's hands, and from those of fair ladies up the river whom we shall never see, were spread out, and bottles which represented distant cellars in friendly nooks far away. “No drum here! Up anchor, and pull away a few miles lower down.” Trescot shook his head, and again asserted his disbelief in fishing, or rather in catching, and indeed made a sort of pretence at arguing that it was wiser to remain quiet and talk philosophical politics; but, as judge of appeal, I gave it against him, and the negroes bent to their oars, and we went thumping through the spray, till, rounding a point of land, we saw pitched on the sandy shore ahead of us, on the right bank, a tent, and close by two boats. “There is a party at it!” A fire was burning on the beach, and as we came near, Tom and Jack and Harry were successfully identified. “There's no take on, or they would not be on shore. This is very unfortunate.”

All the regret of my friends was on my account, so to ease their minds I assured them I did not mind the disappointment much. “Hallo Dick! Caught any drum?” “A few this morning; bad sport now, and will be till tide turns again.” I was introduced to all the party from a distance, and presently I saw one of them raising from a boat something in look and shape and color like a sack of flour, which he gave to a negro, who proceeded to carry it towards us in a little skiff. “Thank you, Charley. I just want to let Mr. Russell see a drum-fish.” And a very odd fish it was, — a thick lumpish form, about four and a half feet long, with enormous head and scales, and teeth like the grinders of a ruminant animal, acting on a great pad of bone in the roof of the mouth, — a very unlovely thing, swollen with roe, which is the great delicacy.

“No chance till the tide turned,” — but that would be too late for our return, and so unwillingly we were compelled to steer towards home, hearing now and then the singular noise like the tap on a large unbraced drum, from which the fish takes its name. At first, when I heard it, I was inclined to think it was made by some one in the boat, so near and close did it sound; but soon it came from all sides of us, and evidently from the depths of the water beneath us, — not a sharp rat-tat-tap, but a full muffled blow with a heavy thud on the sheepskin. Mr. Trescot told me that on a still evening by the river side the effect sometimes is most curious, — the rolling and pattering is audible at a great distance. Our friends were in excellent humor with everything and everybody, except the Yankees, though they had caught no fish, and kept the negroes at singing and rowing till at nightfall we landed at the island, and so to bed after supper and a little conversation, in which Mrs. Trescot again explained how easily she could maintain a battalion on the island by her simple commissariat, already adapted to the niggers, and that it would therefore be very easy for the South to feed an army, if the people were friendly

SOURCE: William Howard Russell, My Diary North and South, p. 141-6