I rode down to Dr. Jenkins' with Mr. G., but found all the "white folks" gone to Hilton Head. I visited the cotton-house, where about a dozen of the people were ginning cotton. They had just packed two bales of it, which I ripped open to inspect, and found, as I had feared, that it wasn't half cleaned. I left a note for Mr. Bryant telling him I didn't want to send the cotton off so and told his driver. Mr. B. was not acquainted with the way the staple is usually prepared for market, concerning which I had taken pains to inform myself before leaving home, and the negroes had taken the chance to shirk. I started off to take the tour of Ladies Island and see their cotton. I visited about a dozen cotton-houses during the day along the east side of the island, and rode on to Cuthbert's Point to sleep with Joe Reed and Mr. Hull. I found them delightfully situated in a small house on Beaufort River surrounded by a superb grove of live-oaks, clear of brush and nicely kept. It is the finest situation that I have found in the State, but the greater part of the plantations on Ladies Island are miserably poor, being the property of small proprietors who had not sufficient capital to make planting profitable. The soil is poor and the negroes for the most part have not sufficient food on hand for the coming year. The cotton crop is proportionally small and poor. No ginning apparatus being found there, I shall have it all taken to Beaufort for the steam-gins.
Leaving Cuthbert's Point this morning, I rode with Mr. Hull to the superintendents' meeting at the Episcopal Church, about eighteen miles, and back here to sleep. We have matured a plan of operations for the employment of the negroes next year, at these meetings, and it is to be presented to General Saxton for his approval this week.
I have made some further inquiries of Dr. Brisbane, one of the tax-commissioners, about the sale of lands, which is to take place on the first of February next. He tells me it is to be a free sale and that the Government warrants the title, subject, however, to redemption by such proprietors as can prove themselves loyal within one year. I think it highly important that the welfare of these negroes should not be intrusted to speculators, and have written to Dr. Russell to see if Boston people can't be interested, individually or collectively, in buying these lands and employing the laborers. I am ready to go into it as far as I am able alone, and have offered my time in Boston to carry out any plan they think best. If I can't get any cooperation, I mean to buy some of the estates alone, if they don't go very high, and carry them on by means of such agents as I can get. I can find several first-rate men among the superintendents here who would work for me and do well, but I don't think I should care to stay here next summer, for sanitary reasons if nothing more. My experience here will enable me to act to good advantage in carrying on any such undertaking, and I hope to be of use in a permanent way to these people with whom I have been thrown in contact this year. I have given [to Dr. Russell] an exact statement, in dollars and cents, of the expenses and products of my three plantations this year, showing a profit to the Government of about $2000, besides providing a year's supply of food to a population of four hundred and fifty blacks, "big and little." This island is very much more favorably placed than Ladies, Port Royal, or Hilton Head Islands, which are all much exposed to the depredations of the Union soldiers. I find on the north end of Ladies Island the pickets are changed every little while, and have killed nearly all the negroes' poultry. The people don't dare to leave their houses, and take all their hens into their houses every night. They shoot their pigs and in one case have shot two working mules! All these things are duly reported to General Saxton, but it does no good. Two regiments have come to encamp at Land's End on St. Helena, and Mr. Hammond says they have burnt up a mile of his fences, and burn the new rails just split out in the woods; they burn the heaps of pine leaves raked up for manure and take possession of all his cotton and corn houses. It is certainly of no use to try to carry on any planting near these fellows. They would steal all the crops if any grew near them, and if the whole military establishment is to be transferred to this side the harbour, it is of little use to try to do much on that end of the island. Coffin's Point is, however, remote from all these disturbances, and I hope it will remain so. I am anxious to continue this free-labor experiment through a term of years and under circumstances more favorable than those under which we have this year been placed. I do not see how I can do much good in any other way.
The next letter is the first from H. W. on her return to Port Royal after spending the summer at home.
FROM H. W.
Coffin's Point, Dec. 14. As we drew near the Fripp Point place at last, the people began to gather on the shore to watch us, and when the boat stopped the people were all on the banks, pressing forward, and Sammy rushed into the water and took me ashore in his arms. Then they got my trunks in the same manner, and such a shaking of hands! "So glad for see you! Glad for see you come back." Boys were sent off at once to catch the mules to take me over, while I went into 'Siah's house to wait, and had some hominy and chicken, as I was very hungry. Everything was as neat as a pin here—the children were kept out of the house while I was eating, and then the hominy and chicken were mixed and passed round among the women when I had finished. Mr. Philbrick's sulky happened to be over there to be mended, and as it was finished I drove off in it, Sammy, Peter, and Tony on the mule-cart with all my traps, and Chester following me. The children all asked about school at once, and as I was waiting I drew words for them to spell in the sand to see how much they remembered.
FROM C. P. W.
Dec. 14. I am glad H. came, for Mr. Philbrick has decided that he cannot attend to his plantations and his cotton-agency at the same time, and needs some one to take his place here. He thinks of buying the place in the spring, when the lands are sold (Feb. 1), and I have agreed to work it for him part of the time. So that, as some one must take Mr. Philbrick's place, and as the people had better have me than a stranger, and as I had better become acquainted with them at once, if I am to have charge of them in the spring, I have decided to take the places off his hands, stay here with H., and let my own plantations go to as good a person as I can find. H. is most welcome and much needed here; I am thankful to have her here, if only for the children's sakes. The only difficulty is that she may be devoured on her first visit to Pine Grove.
FROM H. W.
Dec. 16. Had the children sent for to school. They brought eggs, and were pleased enough to begin school again.
Dec. 18. Told the children yesterday that I wanted them to bring me some corn "shucks," as they call them, which are all left on the stalks in the fields. Mr. Philbrick thought I could get enough to stuff a bed with. I thought so too when the children all appeared with sheets and bags full on their heads, some containing two or three bushels!
Dec. 20. C. managed to get the piano downstairs this morning before he went off. I went with him in the double sulky as far as the cotton-house and then made an expedition to the quarters, where I shook hands with every man and woman to be seen, inspected every new baby (there have been a dozen born since I went away), visited Bacchus in his school, was kindly greeted, though the people hardly knew me and I don't know their names at all, was told that I looked "more hearty" than when I went away, and returned with two dozen eggs and the morning school at my heels.
Two dozen eggs at fifty cents a dozen was no mean proof of affection!
Dec. 21. We started for church. C. rode his largest horse and preceded or followed me in the double sulky, an unpainted box with a seat in it, of Mr. Philbrick's manufacture and quite "tasty" for these parts, on a single pair of wheels; and though it is on springs the exercise is not slight which one gets in driving over these sandy, uneven roads.
FROM E. S. P.
Sunday evg. Dec. 21. The cotton on this island is nearly all ginned. I have not been able to start the steam-gins in Beaufort yet—am waiting for authority to use the steam, which comes from the condensing boiler under the control of General Brannan's quartermaster. I asked General Saxton about it the other day, but he said he didn't know as they would let him have it. The General feels very blue about his position here, and I don't wonder. He declares he will not stay if he is not sustained, and says that General Halleck sympathizes with Brannan and don't mean to let him be removed.
Wednesday evg. I looked over the Coffin people's cotton Monday and found it was not yet clean enough to pack, so refused to weigh it, and set the women at work picking over the whole of it again. Each woman keeps her own pile—the same that she and her husband raised.
I find rumors here that General Saxton and staff are to be relieved. General Saxton believes in his being relieved, but no mail has come yet to confirm it.
I want to keep R., G., C. P. W. and Bryant on plantations which I may buy, and they are all anxious to stay.
FROM H. W.
Dec. 22. Joe doubled up and went off into convulsions when C. mentioned to me at table that he had been to call on Mrs. Jenkins (Wil'by) and did not find her at home! I gave Joe a piece of gingerbread for her the other day, and he informed me this morning that she found it very "palatiable"! He inquired how my "palate was satisfy" with some oysters he fried for me the other day.
Christmas. C. took me in his double sulky to see the Pine Grove people, driving first to the quarters here, where I went into Bacchus' school and distributed toys. I had also armed myself with a hundred cents and several pounds of candy. At Pine Grove the people crowded about to shake hands, and as I went through the street, stopping at every house, they were pleased as possible that I remembered their names. They were very eager to know if I was not going to teach school, the children all rushing home to wash face and hands and dress themselves in their best, after the old fashion, when I told them I wanted to have them go to the praise-house. Flora followed me about, as usual. I saw York for the first time. He is a very fine-looking specimen of a thorough black, large, manly, courteous, and straightforward.
Once more in the old praise-house, I heard the children spell, and then distributed toys among them, with candy to the babies and grown people! and gave to each of the girls who have been married since I left a Bible with her name in it. All seemed honestly glad to see me there—there was no mistaking their shining faces. I was there two hours and then went to Fripp Point, where I gave candy to all the grown people and children, and a toy to each child. I do not know all names and faces anywhere except at Pine Grove.
Dec. 26. I was in the midst of school when Joe announced two strangers on horseback. They were the Quartermaster and Adjutant of the 1st S. C. V., come for a dozen cattle to be roasted on New Year's Day at General Saxton's grand celebration. C. and the officers went off to select the cattle. They had a very long tramp of it and did not get back till some time after dark. They are very pleasant and gentlemanly and give a charming impression of their intercourse with Colonel Higginson, and of his with the regiment. They had no "taps" Christmas Eve or night, and the men kept their "shout" up all night. One of the Captains heard a negro praying most fervently, contrasting their "lasty Christymas and thisty Christymas," greatly to the advantage of that in the "Yankee Camp" with "too much for eat."
FROM E. S. P.
Dec. 26. The preparation of the cotton for ginning goes on very slowly. I am out of all patience with some of the superintendents. They are slower than the negroes. I don't believe in putting Reverends in places where prompt business men are required. Some of them don't get through morning prayers and get about their business till nearly noon, and then depend entirely upon their black drivers for their information in regard to plantation matters. I saw Captain Hooper for a few minutes last evening and he relieved my mind about General Saxton's removal. It seems it was all a false report got up for a sensation by the Herald.
FROM H. W.
Dec. 28. I was in the midst of school when it was announced that Mr. G. was coming. The children's eyes glistened and they audibly expressed their delight, but kept their seats very well till he was fairly in the room and had shaken hands with one or two near him; then their impatience could resist no longer and they crowded about him with great delight, tumbling over the benches in their eagerness to shake hands with him. It was a very pretty sight.
Mr. Philbrick has been entertaining us with an account of his week's experience, which ended at church to-day in a funny way. A couple came forward to be married after church, as often happens, when Sarah from this place got up and remarked that was her husband! Whereupon Mr. Philbrick was called in from the yard and promised to investigate and report. Jack said he had nothing against Sarah, but he did not live on the plantation now, and wanted a wife at Hilton Head.
General Saxton was at church to-day to invite the people to camp Thursday, telling them that they need not be afraid to go, as no one would be kept there against their will. They are afraid of a trap, as they were at the Fourth of July Celebration, but I hope a good many will have the sense to go.
Mr. Philbrick and C. are having an amiable comparison of relative plantation work and which has raised the most cotton. The cotton raised on these places and C.'s and R.'s is more than half of that raised on all the islands.
The Pine Grove house has been broken into and the furniture we left there carried off. The way in which those people have degenerated and these improved since we moved here is a proof of how necessary it is that they should have the care and oversight of white people in this transition state. When we lived there, that plantation was the best behaved and this the worst; now the reverse is the case. The Point Plantation has not been affected so much any way, as they never had a "white house" and have the same excellent driver.
Finding that Maria, the old nurse, and some babies were sick, I made a pilgrimage to the quarters, visited the invalids and also Bacchus' school, and told the people I hoped they would go to the Celebration at camp. As I went through the long street, women were washing outside their doors, sitting on their doorsteps sewing or tending babies, while the smaller children were rolling in the dirt. In one of the cabins I accidentally encountered Sarah, the deserted wife, and coming out found Grace, Jack's mother, holding forth in her dignified way upon the subject, condemning her son, quietly but earnestly. She turned to Sarah as she came out and, gesticulating with her hands respectively, said, "I take Becca in dis han' and carry her to punishment, an' Sarah in dis right han' and carry her to Christ." She is a "fine figure of a woman"—I wish I could have drawn her as she stood. She did more work than any one on the plantation on cotton this year. Her husband was coachman and was taken off by the overseer the day after the "gun was fire at Hilton Head."
Minda gave me an amusing account of a conversation she heard between Mr. Cockloft, the overseer, and his niece, Miss "Arnie," about the prospect of the Yankees coming here, she telling him, when he was expressing his gratification at the very large crop raised last year, that he did not talk sense,—he was just raising it for the Yankees. And when they had to run off, in the midst of all the crying and dismay, she could not resist telling him she was glad of it, to prove her right. Minda said that she knew more than her uncle because she had been to school, and had "high edicate." They sent Henry to the other end of the island to see if the forts were really taken, and he came back and told them that they had better be off, for all the Yankee ships were "going in procession up to Beaufort, solemn as a funeral."
Dec. 30. My occupation was interrupted by the arrival of William Hall, bag and baggage. You can think of us as a household of three pursuing our several occupations, of which more hereafter.
Celebration of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation—The land-sales of 1863, Mr. Philbrick's purchase of plantations—"Shop"—Visit to Camp—Arrest of General Stevenson—Difficulties with army officers—More drafting by Hunter—Encouraging signs among the negroes—"The black draft"—The siege of Charleston—Assault on Fort Wagner—Care of the wounded—Depredations of the soldiers on the plantations—Interest in the former owners of plantations—The "Plantation Commission" an informal civil court—Negro speech and negro ways—Attacks on Mr. Philbrick as a "speculator"—Discouraging signs among the negroes—Plans of the Government for selling land to the negroes—The cotton crop of 1863—The black draft again.
The first letter of 1863 gives an account of the ceremonies with which the Sea Islands celebrated the Emancipation Proclamation. The place was the Smith Plantation, on Port Royal Island, where the First South Carolina had its camp.
FROM H. W.
Jan. 1, 1863. We started [from R.'s] at ten o'clock with four oarsmen, under a cloudless sky, which remained undimmed through the day. The men sang and we sang, as we wound our way through the marsh-bound creek, reaching the Smith Plantation just as the Flora was landing her first load from the Ferry. We followed the crowd up to the grove of live-oaks with their moss trimmings, which did not look so dreary under a winter's sun, but very summer-like and beautiful. The regiment, which had been drawn up at the wharf to receive the guests from Beaufort, escorted them to the platform in the middle of the grove, where we found it—the regiment—in a circle round the stand, where they remained quiet and orderly as possible through the whole proceedings, which lasted about three hours. Guests, white and colored, were admitted within the line, and as ladies we were shown seats on the platform. The general arrived in his carriage with the Mission House ladies.
It is simply impossible to give you any adequate idea of the next three hours. Picture the scene to yourself if you can,—I will tell you all the facts,—but if I could transcribe every word that was uttered, still nothing could convey to you any conception of the solemnity and interest of the occasion. Mr. Judd, General Superintendent of the Island, was master of ceremonies, and first introduced Mr. Fowler, the Chaplain, who made a prayer,—then he announced that the President's Proclamation would be read, and General Saxton's also, by a gentleman who would be introduced by Colonel Higginson. And he rose amid perfect silence, his clear rich voice falling most deliciously on the ear as he began to speak. He said that the Proclamation would be read "by a South Carolinian to South Carolinians"—a man who many years before had carried the same glad tidings to his own slaves now brought them to them, and with a few most pertinent words introduced Dr. Brisbane, one of the tax-commissioners here now, who read both proclamations extremely well. They cheered most heartily at the President's name, and at the close gave nine with a will for General "Saxby," as they call him. Mr. Zachos then read an ode he had written for the occasion, which was sung by the white people (printed copies being distributed, he did not line it as is the fashion in these parts)—to "Scots wha hae." I forgot to mention that there was a band on the platform which discoursed excellent music from time to time. At this stage of the proceedings Mr. French rose and, in a short address, presented to Colonel Higginson from friends in New York a beautiful silk flag, on which was embroidered the name of the regiment and "The Year of Jubilee has come!"
Just as Colonel Higginson had taken the flag and was opening his lips to answer (his face while Mr. French was speaking was a beautiful sight), a single woman's voice below us near the corner of the platform began singing "My Country, 'tis of thee." It was very sweet and low—gradually other voices about her joined in and it began to spread up to the platform, till Colonel Higginson turned and said, "Leave it to them," when the negroes sang it to the end. He stood with the flag in one hand looking down at them, and when the song ceased, his own words flowed as musically, saying that he could give no answer so appropriate and touching as had just been made. In all the singing he had heard from them, that song he had never heard before—they never could have truly sung "my country" till that day. He talked in the most charming manner for over half an hour, keeping every one's attention, the negroes' upturned faces as interested as any, if not quite as comprehending. Then he called Sergeant Rivers and delivered the flag to his keeping, with the most solemn words, telling him that his life was chained to it and he must die to defend it. Prince Rivers looked him in the eye while he spoke, and when he ended with a "Do you understand?" which must have thrilled through every one, answered most earnestly, "Yas, Sar." The Colonel then, with the same solemnity, gave into the charge of Corporal Robert Sutton a bunting flag of the same size; then stepping back stood with folded arms and bare head while the two men spoke in turn to their countrymen. Rivers is a very smart fellow, has been North and is heart and soul in the regiment and against the "Seceshky." He spoke well; but Sutton with his plain common sense and simpler language spoke better. He made telling points; told them there was not one in that crowd but had sister, brother, or some relation among the rebels still; that all was not done because they were so happily off, that they should not be content till all their people were as well off, if they died in helping them; and when he ended with an appeal to them to above all follow after their Great Captain, Jesus, who never was defeated, there were many moist eyes in the crowd.
General Saxton then said a few words, regretting that his flag had not arrived as he intended, and introduced Mrs. Gage, who spoke to them of her visit to St. Croix and how the negroes on that island had freed themselves, and telling them that her own sons were in the army; she might any day hear of their death, but that she was willing they should die in the cause and she hoped they were ready to die too. Quartermaster Bingham led the regiment in singing "Marching Along." Mr. Judd had written a hymn which he and a few friends sang. Judge Stickney spoke. The whole regiment then sang "John Brown," and was dismissed in a few words from the Colonel to the tables for the twelve roasted oxen, hard bread, and molasses and water, except one company and certain corporals whom he mentioned, who came to the foot of the steps to escort the colors.
Lieutenant Duhurst was waiting to escort us to dinner at his mess-table. We walked into the old fort, part of the walls of which are still standing, made of oyster-shells and cement, very hard still. It was built, say the authorities, in 1562, half a century before the Pilgrims landed.
Miss Forten had a letter from Whittier enclosing a song he had written for the Jubilee and which they have been teaching the children to sing at church next Sunday.
After dinner we went up to the camp, and a very nice-looking place it was. The tents only hold five, so that there were a great many of them, making the camp look very large. The officers' tents are in a row opposite the ends of the streets, but with only a narrow street between. The Adjutant took us into his, which is a double one with two apartments like the Colonel's, as his wife is coming out to live there and teach the first sergeants to read, write, and keep their accounts. As dress-parade was to come off at once, we stayed to see that. Only the commissioned officers are white; the uniform of the privates is the same as any others, except that the pantaloons are red, faces and hands black! The parade was excellent,—they went through the manual, including, "load in nine times." There were eighteen men absent without leave, a circumstance not to be wondered at, as they had kept no guard all day, and a negro thinks to go and see his family the height of happiness. Colonel Higginson said, "Think of a camp where there is no swearing, drinking, or card-playing among the men,—where the evenings are spent praying and singing psalms, and it is the first sound you hear in the morning!" He is a strong anti-tobacconist, but he lets the men have all they can get, and helps them get it.
We started just after sunset, and at the same time with the band, who were rowed up to Beaufort as we went across the river. They played "Sweet Home," and the music sounded delightfully, but made Mr. Williams exclaim, "Now that's too bad, when a fellow is going to an old South Carolina whitewashed house, with a broken table and chair in it!" Nevertheless, he was very merry, and we had a fine row. The sunset was perfectly clear, the sky retained its brightness for a long time, and the moon was so bright that it did not grow dark. Our delay made us against tide for the second hour, so the negroes turned out of the main creek into the narrow creeks among the grass, which at high tide are deep enough, though very narrow. Our oars were often in the "mash" on one side, but the men knew their way and brought us safely through. They grew very much excited as they rowed and sung, shouting with all their might, and singing song after song the whole way home. The singing while they row always sounds differently from [that] at any other time to me, though they always sing the same, religious songs.
In the following letter Mr. Philbrick begins by defending himself against the charge of rashness in proposing to buy land of which the legal title was so insecure as to make it a most unsafe investment, and the geographical situation such as to make it unfit for habitation by Northerners. The point of view of his critic is amusingly different from that of the good people who subsequently accused him of buying with the expectation of making large profits.
FROM E. S. P.
Jan. 2. As to the title, the right of redemption expires at the end of two years in all cases, and fifteen per cent. interest must be paid by the redeemer before he can take possession. Now I never thought of paying more for these lands than the net value of two good crops, and don't undertake it for the sake of making money at all, but for the sake of carrying out to a more satisfactory issue the present short-lived and unfairly judged experiment of free labor, and for the sake of keeping the people out of the hands of bad men. You will of course admit that such an enterprise is worthy of my assistance and worthy of the time of such men as are now engaged in it. The health of every white man who has lived on the seaward side of St. Helena, from Coffin's Point to Land's End, has been perfectly good, and that is where I intend to buy, if at all, including perhaps the places under R.'s charge which he wishes to retain, and those of Captain John Fripp and Thomas B. Fripp, which could easily be managed by a person living on Cherry Hill or Mulberry Hill, directly adjoining them on the south.
We had a flare-up with Ranty about the furniture left in the big house [at Pine Grove]. The people broke in on Christmas and took out what we left there, appropriating it to their private uses. I found Frank had the side-board in his new house (the old carriage-house). I told him to give it up and asked where the rest was. Mily had taken the desk, for safe-keeping, and offered to deliver it when wanted, but the bedsteads are not reported. Ranty had locked up the large dining-table in the pease-house. I blew him up for not reporting such things instanter, and hired June to sleep in the big house nights and be responsible for its safe-keeping. Otherwise the doors and windows would soon disappear.
The future of our country looks darker than ever. I can't see much prospect of an improvement in the conduct of the war, so long as the mass of our people do not see in slavery the great cause of all the trouble. Neither do I believe that the war will terminate slavery unless the blacks will voluntarily take a part in it. The 1st Regiment is at length filled here, by means of a great deal of coaxing and the abandonment of St. Simon's Island, taking all the men for recruits. They have made two raids upon the Florida coast, where they met with little resistance and accomplished but little. If they can once gain a footing on the mainland and add to their numbers as they advance, they could easily carry all before them. Any other race of men under the sun would do it, but I doubt yet whether there is the requisite amount of pluck in them to fall into such a scheme even when we are ready to lead them. I feel as if this winter were the turning-point of the whole question.
FROM W. C. G.
Captain Oliver's, Jan. 4. Mr. Philbrick has very generously offered to assist three or four of us poorer superintendents in buying plantations. If we do not buy, the occupation of most of us is probably gone. Government will probably retain possession of many plantations from the lack of purchasers,—but they will be the poorer ones and those where the people will be subject to such influences that our purposes will meet with little success. For such plantations superintendents may be needed, but, besides doing little good, their own position I think will be very unpleasant. Nor do I think it unmanly to withdraw from such plantations. The irregular wayward life which the people on such places would probably lead undoubtedly will help to develop their self-reliance, but our style of development—that of regular, persistent industry—is so wholly different, that I doubt the wisdom of attempting to yoke the two styles together. In one point experience confirms what theory would suggest,—that their own increasing comfort or misery will be a far stronger agent in the development of these people than any amount of outside human effort.
I think I shall accept Mr. Philbrick's offer. I wish to stay down here, and I see no satisfactory way of so doing, except by this arrangement. It may turn out disastrously,—so be it; the Government will probably refund the purchase-money in case the lands return to the Confederate States either by capture or compromise. But with success, I doubt if I should realize the amount of my present salary and support. If the lands sell at a nominal price, however, they are worth that risk. To stay in the work is my object.
I am having a pretty hard time at present. The people are very wayward,—now they work and then they stop,—and some stop before they begin. Several men have been acting badly, too; I actually knocked a man down the other day,—and think I did right,—for the first time in my life. It very much hurts one's popularity to be often severe,—and one's reputation with higher authorities also, I fear. My places have the disadvantage—to me—of being very near headquarters, and my people have learned through a very unwise act—the removal of a superintendent on the complaint of the negroes—the benefit of appealing from me. I have always been sustained—otherwise I should probably have resigned; but it very much weakens my authority, and, as I said, probably my reputation. But the worst is that it discourages and dulls one for the work.
FROM H. W.
Jan. 7. I went into Ellen's house to see her sick children. It was her children who were so sick last summer, and Nancy died. They had swollen throats and I promised red flannel—then went all through the quarters talking and giving to all the old women some of our ration coffee and sugar. The women went on talking, Louisa winding up with an attempt to solve the to them great mystery—"Miss Hayiat, you not married? when you going to be married? What, and you so smairt?" C. says they are constantly asking him the same question. "Oh, Mass' Charlie," said a woman to him the other day, "if I was as pretty a woman as you are a man I should be so glad!" I find I shall have to give up going to the quarters if they insist upon giving me so many eggs—I had two dozen and a half given to-day—I can't use them up so fast! I found C. in colloquy with a man who came down to see if he could not move here so as to be under him. "But how do you know you shall like me?" said C., "and get along with me?" "See it in your countenance, sar, first time I eber see you!" Nat talked some time (he was a sort of Major Domo here and kept the keys) about the necessity of some white people's staying here, and of the people's confidence in Mr. Philbrick and C. They are very desirous that Mr. Philbrick should buy. "You see, sar; you won't have no trouble 'bout cotton dis year—Mr. Philbrick pay more money than any other man—de people know now you here to see justice. People all work cotton dis year. I don't care if you neber go 'way—like you much."
Jan. 8. General Saxton said he was here on the Coast Survey seven years ago, cut that gap through the trees for his triangles, which caused us so much speculation last spring, and landing at the Point one day dined here with Mr. Coffin.
Jan. 12. Just as we were going to sit down to lunch, Tim came running up with a line from C. for his revolver, which I sent. Tim said two of the men were fighting, so Mr. Philbrick took his pistol and went to see what was the row, and soon came back to say that a former husband of the woman who had been married the day before at church had turned up, and C. had ordered him off the place. It is a complicated story and I do not know its merits and demerits. I wish C. would write it out as a specimen of that part of his business. It is equal to Indian Cutchery.
Jan 16. Woke to find it very blowy and cold. The changes seem to be as great here as in New England, of their kind. It is funny to see how the people feel the cold. I got no milk, because they could not milk in such weather, and it was so warm the day before that all we had soured. The children wore sheets over their shoulders and handkerchiefs on their heads to school.
Jan 17. Went to the quarters to see the people, who wondered to see me out such a cold day! Found those who were out of doors on the sunny side of the street against the houses to keep warm.
This afternoon I had to sew up a bad cut in Hester's arm. She sat all through school without a word to me, and then I could not close the wound with sticking-plaster, so there was no alternative. She behaved like a Spartan—her black skin made it easier for me, but not for her, I fancy. So much for my first attempt at surgery. It was an ugly job.
FROM E. S. P. TO C. P. W.
The Oaks, Jan. 21. I got a letter from Mr. Forbes, who says he can raise $12,000 for land, etc., to put in my hands, with the understanding that when I get tired of managing the thing I shall close up and divide what shall be left. So I shall certainly buy that end of the island, provided the lands are sold, which in Boston they feel very sure they will not be, and provided nobody else bids over one dollar an acre or so.
FROM H. W.
Jan. 21. C. was gone all day tramping over the Pine Grove plantation to see and map out the land so as to allot it for corn and cotton to the people for this year's crop,—Flora's York for guide, who was much amused at his maps. He brought me home as a present from Susan half a dozen delicious sausages and a piece of fresh pork, which is very nice here, as the pigs run wild and feed on the potatoes left in the field, and other roots. Having had to wait for my washing for over a week, as Judy went first to Beaufort to see "him niece," a man grown, who was sick and died, and then was too sick herself, I hunted up some one else and had our washing done. Housekeeping with such young things to look after as Robert and Rose only is not an easy or thoroughly satisfactory proceeding, with so much else to see to in this great house.
Jan. 22. Sam sent word that buckra and white lady were coming. I went to the door. There stood Miss R., Mrs. Clark, and Mr. De la Croix, and coming up the path were the rest of their party, Mrs. Bundy, Mrs. Williams, Mr. R., and, still on the beach, Mr. Williams and Dr. Bundy shooting. I flew down to Uncle Sam to give him potatoes, white and sweet, and rice and hominy, telling him to have the tea-kettle boiling so that I could give them a cup of coffee. We had eaten our last loaf of bread that morning, so I mixed some griddle-cakes, and Robert, who enjoyed the fun of so many people, set the table and did very nicely, Rose running up and down stairs with the hot flap-jacks. I don't wonder that country-people eat "griddles" so much,—they are so much easier and more quickly prepared than anything else. But nothing is done quickly in this region, and all this was a work of time, during which I entertained my guests and they entertained themselves in the "shop," and they became great purchasers. Then the boatmen who had brought them came up for sugar and tobacco, and Mr. De la Croix opened the new box for me, and they were very much amused to see me diving into the depths of the sugar-barrel and handling the tobacco at "eight cents a plug!" They were very merry and jolly and seemed to enjoy themselves,—certainly Mrs. Bundy did at our piano, and we in hearing her. Robert and Rose could not put the things on the table—they were fixed, as soon as they entered the room, with delight. It was funny work getting together dishes enough, but I made out. My table was full and my guests hungry, though they protested they only came for a call and did not want any luncheon. We got up from table about three, I got Dr. Bundy to take the stitches from Hester's arm and dress it, and then they said they must be off,—they had stayed too long already. And so it proved, for the tide had gone out and the boat was high and dry on an oyster-bank! They did not seem much distressed, and all betook themselves to a walk towards the quarters, which they visited in a body, to the delight of the people. I was informed, "Miss Hayut, buckra-man on hos-bahck," and Mr. Thorpe appeared on business with C.; as it never rains but it pours, two officers from our blockading vessel now landed, to see the pickets they were told were here. They did not stay long, and then I went to find Dr. Bundy and see what time they would get off. I found they could not get away till seven, so began to make preparations for tea. I knew my table would not be large enough, and was quietly taking all the books and papers off the big round one in the corner, when the ladies discovered what I was about; they rose in a body and protested they would not have any tea. But the gentlemen equally protested I should do just as I chose, and set them to work if I would, so they wheeled out the table and Mr. De la Croix went with me to the milk-closet to take down the shelves, which were the leaves. The table is a monstrous great round one, solid mahogany, and with its leaves in made my table-cloth look like a towel on the grass, so we took to the bare boards. We sat down twelve to a repetition of the lunch, with the addition of Susan's pork and sausages, as our boys had had no dinner. I could not persuade any of them to stay all night, though I showed them that I had bed accommodations for four, and sofas for more, to say nothing of a floor! There was a little moon and they all got home safely—we had a suspicion we might see them about midnight!
Jan. 23. In the midst of all the fun and frolic yesterday there came a sudden pause, when Mrs. Williams drew down the corners of her mouth and remarked, "And this is a band of Missionaries!"
I had the room in the basement cleaned to-day by Samson's Betty. She is the woman whose old husband turned up and gave C. so much trouble. This thing is happening a good deal now, and must. A man who was sold six years ago to Georgia came up from St. Simon's with the troops not long ago to find his wife here married again. He gave her leave to do so, however, when he was sold off, so had nothing to say. To go back to Betty. I gave her as careful directions as I could and left her to her own devices. When I went to her once I found her in the middle of the room with two great tubs of water, her skirts all tied up to her knees, the floor swimming in water which she was flinging about with a handful of shucks i. e., corn-husks! It would be easier to keep house in a small country house at home and do my own work (minus the washing) and live better than we do here. However, I am very philosophical, and ignore dirt and irregularity.
Jan. 24. I had promised to go to the quarters and rode down, C. walking by my side to take down the amount of cotton and corn land each hand wished to work this year. He stood with his back against a fence, the "gang" collected in front of him, book in hand, taking down the number of tasks each agreed to work, talking to them about the crop, laughing with them and at them. A not less unique picture certainly was his sister riding his little horse, whose back her large shawl nearly covered behind, in her ordinary dress and hoops, stopping at door after door to look at this sick baby, talk to that old woman; give a comb out of one pocket and put an egg into another; dismount to show Amaritta how to make yeast and raise bread, examine some sore throats, go to Louisa's house and repeat the yeast operation there, then remount and proceed through the street in the same style, only that now the flour and warm water are brought to the door and she stirs on horseback! Sunday is the "Quarter meeting-day"—over a hundred are to be baptized and they want some bread to carry, as they will have to stay all day. I ride back through the overseer's yard, stop at her door to speak to Judy, then have a talk with Abel, who wants to know how I find Rose, says he knows character is better than all the riches of this world, and that he was taught and teaches his children not to lay hand on anything that does not belong to them. I took her partly because I knew it was a good family. Demus attends me, and I ride home followed by half a dozen little boys who are coming up to school and run races by my side. The wind has turned east, and a thick fog is driving in visible clouds over the dreary cotton-fields, raw, chilly, and disagreeable enough. I come out of school wondering what I am going to have for dinner and what for Sunday, knowing that Uncle Sam, whose daughter Katrine is "going in the water," will probably be away all day and that the R.'s are coming to spend Sunday. You know there was trouble last summer about the superintendents who were not Baptists remaining to the Communion Service—there has been more since, and the negro elders have become so excited about it that they will not allow them to stay, so the R.'s did not wish to go to church, and planned when we were there at New Year's to come down here to spend that Sunday. They told me when they were here Thursday that they were coming, so I ought to have been ready, but except my three loaves of bread I had made no preparation, and was expecting them momentarily. The Fates were propitious, however, for Minda sent me a piece of fresh pork, and a note from Mr. Philbrick said he would send us a piece of fresh beef for our rations Sunday. I had just time to wash my hands when my guests arrived. That is a process, by the way, which I have to go through with, at the least, twice in an hour—sometimes oftener than that in fifteen minutes—with sand-soap and brush!
There was a great church-going from this place, as fourteen people were to be baptized, and Sam when he was rigged was a sight, with his beaver over his head-hankercher. Carts were in requisition to bring home the wet clothes—Louisa told C. that she couldn't wear hoops into the water and should be so cold she should wear eight coats (they drop the petti-) and she couldn't bring them all home. It was foggy and chilly, though the sun came out at noon when the proceedings must have been at their height, as the tide was high then. There were one hundred and forty-nine dipped on this occasion.
The next two letters are largely occupied with the beginnings of the new working year.
C. P. W. TO E. S. P.
Jan. 25. I went down to this nigger-house yesterday morning, called the people up and told them what they were going to get on their cotton besides the pay for picking already paid, and then, after talking over plantation matters a little, got their acres for next year. They seemed "well satisfy" with the additional payment, fully appreciated the pay according to crop and according to acre combined, and started on this year's work with "good encourage." I suppose Mr. Forbes and you are two bricks, serving as the beginning of a good foundation for these people's prosperity.
FROM W. C. G.
Captain Oliver Fripp's, Jan. 26. We are very busy now on the plantations. A new system of labor to inaugurate,—lands to allot,—grumbling to pacify and idleness to check,—my hands—with nine plantations—are perfectly overrunning. The worst of it is that my people are in pretty bad disposition,—the new system has been received with joy and thankfulness in most parts of the island,—here with suspicion, grumbling, and aversion. How far it is the fault of their past and present superintendents, I cannot tell,—it has been known as a hard district ever since we came here,—but it must be our failing in some degree. I devoutly hope that by the middle of February it will be over as far as I am concerned. It is a little remarkable that while the Abolitionists and negroes' friends up North are striving so hard to have the sale postponed, we superintendents, without exception that I have heard, are very desirous to have it effected. This "superintendence" is a most unsatisfactory system,—temporary and unprogressive in every element. Of course, nothing else could well have been tried this last year, and perhaps the time has not yet come to abandon it. But we all think it has. I am satisfied that the sooner the people are thrown upon themselves, the speedier will be their salvation. Let all the natural laws of labor, wages, competition, etc., come into play,—and the sooner will habits of responsibility, industry, self-dependence, and manliness be developed. Very little, very little, should be given them: now, in the first moments of freedom, is the time to influence their notion of it. To receive has been their natural condition. They are constantly comparing the time when they used to obtain shoes, dresses, coats, flannels, food, etc., from their masters, with the present when little or nothing is given them. I think it would be most unwise and injurious to give them lands,—negro allotments; they should be made to buy before they can feel themselves possessors of a rod. There are some who are now able to buy their houses and two or three acres of land,—by the end of the year their number will probably be greatly increased. These will be the more intelligent, the more industrious and persistent. But give them land, and a house,—and the ease of gaining as good a livelihood as they have been accustomed to would keep many contented with the smallest exertion. I pity some of them very much, for I see that nothing will rouse and maintain their energy but suffering.
In regard to the immediate sale,—even should speculators buy some plantations, I don't think the people would suffer much oppression during the years of their possession. It would be for their interest to continue or increase the wages which Government offers,—and probably many would let the places almost alone. Should oppression occur, the negroes will probably have an opportunity to move,—such cases would be closely watched and loudly reported,—and the people would be all the more dependent on their own exertions. I should think the great injury would come at the end of the war, or whenever the speculators sell the lands: then, instead of selling at low prices and in small lots or of consulting the people's interest in any way, they will simply realize the greatest advantage for themselves. Other places, however, will be bought by friends and by the Government,—on the whole, great good would result to the people. Moreover, the work will then have very much more value as a test of their capacity and ambition,—as an experiment in American emancipation.
I feel that outside of directly spiritual labor, this emancipation work is the noblest and holiest in the country.
FROM H. W.
Jan. 27. Both schools were very satisfactory. If any one could have looked in, without the children's seeing them, they would have thought we presented quite an ordinary school-like appearance. I have a blackboard with numerals and figures and the second line of the Multiplication Table written on it, all of which the oldest school know tolerably, but they make sorry work trying to copy the figures on their slates. I let them use them every day now, however, for they must learn, by gradually growing familiar with the use of a pencil, not to use it like a hoe. There are furrows in the slates made by their digging in which you might plant benny-seed, if not cotton!
Jan. 29. Am trying to teach the children how to tell time on the dial-plate of an old English clock, "Presented by Sir Isaac Coffin, Bart.," as its face informs you—one of the many valuable things demolished.
Jan. 31. Started directly after breakfast to spend the day and night with H. We broke down, as usual, had to stop and be tinkered up, so that William was late for the ferry, and when we got to the Oaks avenue I got out with my bag and basket and let him go on. I trusted to fate to find some one to carry my traps for me the mile up to the house. The drive was lovely, and I found some people waiting by the roadside for Mr. Soule, to get passes to go to Beaufort. A boy readily took my things for me without promise of any payment. On the walk I found he was one of the Edisto refugees who are quartered at the village and supplied with rations by Government, but he had left home with only two pieces of hardtack in his pocket and without breakfast. "Think we'll go back to Edisto, Missy?" he asked most earnestly, hoping that a stranger would give him some hope that he should see his home again. He was a nice boy; as a general thing the Edisto people are a better class of blacks, more intelligent and cultivated, so to speak, but those brought from there were then refugees from many other places.
Mr. Philbrick brought word that the North Carolina army had arrived at Hilton Head, and we were excited to know who of our friends had come.
Feb. 1. A message came back from Mr. Philbrick that General "Saxby" was coming to dinner. The General was decidedly blue about affairs here at present. He wants to stop the sale of lands very much, though, as he can control the sale so as to keep it out of the hands of speculators, I hope the sale will take place. You cannot understand how much we long to have the sale over. If it could only have taken place a month sooner it would have been all the better, as then the purchasers could have stocked their places by the time work began. As it is, the people have gone into the fields without the necessary number of cattle or mules, and with only their worn-out hoes; the Edisto people who are now being distributed onto the plantations have nothing. With the chance of giving up the control so soon, Government has not supplied all that is necessary and work bids fair to be as behindhand here as it was last year. Where the people have gone to work at all—at this end of the island—they have started with "good encourage," but at other places it has been impossible to get them to start any cotton, though they work corn. This is partly due to the fact that this end of the island is removed from the demoralizing effects of the camps, and partly, too, to the confidence the people have in the superintendents here, who have mostly been with them steadily now for nearly a year. It seems to us on the spot as if things could not go on another year as they are now, and we long for February eleventh and things to be settled. The auctioneer is at Washington trying, not to have the sale postponed, but to have lands set apart and given the blacks beforehand, and we dread lest any day we should hear that it has been delayed. Some of the blacks mean to buy—we don't wish them to till the war is over, as our tenure here is too uncertain for them to sink their money.
C. on horseback, I in the double sulky started homeward, reaching home—and we agreed that it was certainly homelike—by half past six. Rose came up from her house acknowledging that though she wanted to see me she could have waited till to-morrow, but her mother made her come!
FROM C. P. W.
Feb. 2. The sale is a week from Wednesday. General Saxton (proclaim it not from the house-top) says he shall take the liberty to use the Cotton Fund to outbid any troublesome speculators. Glory Hallelujah!
FROM H. W.
Feb. 4. Cold as ever again—can do nothing but try to keep warm. Have a good fire in the school-room, and quite a full school—those who stay away for the cold being jeered at as not wishing to learn by the others. I think they have done well for a year with the amount of teaching they have had.
Feb. 7. Found C. was going to Pine Grove, so thought I would go too, as I have not been to see them since Christmas. I went round to see the people who were at home; many of them had gone into the field, where C. went to deal out the land to them. Then I followed him in the sulky to bring him home, but when I reached the field, Flora, who came running out to see me, crying out, "my ole missus!" informed me that "Mass' Charlie have much long jawing, people in confusion." Mr. S., it seemed, had disturbed them about the land-sale, and York vowed if anybody but Mr. Philbrick or C. had the place he would pack up and go to New York with his family. Went home alone, forced to leave C. to walk. Found some of his old people waiting for him—they are very much attached to him and he to them—it is hard for him to give them up. One man met him at church last Sunday, took off his hat, rolled up his eyes, and remarked pathetically, "I goes to sleep and dreams of you, Boss!"
Feb. 8. Dr. Russell sends me word that after March 1st my salary will be $20 instead of $25.
We all went up to church this morning for the chance of finding John L. there. We go to church to see our friends, and generally manage to get there just as service is over. If it were any good to the people we could bear it, but they get stones, not bread, I am sorry to say. We did not find any friends from the Twenty-Fourth.
I shall hope to send you Colonel Higginson's report of his expedition with the Black Regiment, which was a great success. Oh, if the formation of the regiment last spring had only been differently managed! we should have had a brigade by this time. January, who I wrote you was taken from here one night as a deserter, and who was found up his chimney, almost frightened to death at going back, he was so badly treated before, came for a day or two since he got back from the expedition and told C. he would not take a thousand dollars to leave now, he had such a good time.
On February 10, the very eve of the eagerly awaited day set for the land-sale, H. W. writes: "The cart went up for rations, so I sent some sausages for H. and got some cake at night, with a note saying the sale was stopped." True to his extreme record as friend of the negro, General Hunter had been the means of postponing the sales, in the hope, as has been said, of eventually turning most of the plantations into negro holdings, by gift or the next thing to it. More will be heard of all this shortly.
FROM C. P. W.
Feb. 14. It is supposed that the postponement of the land-sales till the allotment of lands is made will be for a year at least. I expect to find the people, though they are all members, will become profane immediately. They are depending on a chance to buy or hire land.
W. C. G. writes the next letter after having had a talk with a friend in the Twenty-Fourth Massachusetts.
FROM W. C. G.
Feb. 17. He seemed very well, more contented than most of the soldiers and talking more rationally and humanely than four fifths of those with whom I have conversed. The troops will probably be here a month or two at least, before any attempt is made in any direction. The commanding generals have quarreled, and one has gone North; the troops are insufficient, the enemy on the alert and strongly defended. The history of the Department so far might read: the forts were taken, one thousand-odd children were taught to read, and one negro regiment was formed. Hunter seems to be a narrow, self-willed man—to me—who don't know much about his affairs. At first the soldiers were allowed to go wherever they pleased; consequently they poured over our end of the island, confusion coming with them. They cheated, they plundered, they threatened lives, they stole boats, poultry, hogs, money, and other property, they paid for dinners with worthless Richmond money, taking good bills in exchange. They behaved like marauders in an enemy's country, and disgraced the name of man, American, or soldier. The houses of one whole plantation they burnt to the ground in the night. For three whole days and far into the night I did nothing but chase soldiers and ride about to protect the people. The consequence of it all is that the soldiers are now tied up in camp pretty firmly.
The sales have been postponed to my and many persons' great disappointment. And yet it does seem absurd, in view of the increasing uncertainties of the moment here, to sell land. But I am so heartily sick and weary of this system! What I shall do if the lands are not sold within a month or two, I don't know.
FROM H. W.
Feb. 19. You will see by this copy of the Free South the outrages that have been committed by the troops who were landed at Land's End, but it can give you but little idea of the outrages that have been committed or the mischief done. Besides the actual loss to the people,—and in many cases it has been their all,—the loss of confidence in Yankees is an incalculable injury. The scenes some of the superintendents have had to go through with are beyond description. Sumner had a pistol put at his breast for trying to stop the soldiers and protect the negroes, and Mr. Hammond, when he went with General Saxton to tell Hunter of what had been done under his very eyes on his own plantations, burst into tears. It is disgusting that any Massachusetts regiment should be mixed up with such savage treatment, and that the Twenty-Fourth should be is shameful in the extreme.
Feb. 20. To-day all the people were on the Bay "drawing seine" when I came out of morning school, and as that is a process I have wished to see I ran down to the beach myself between whiles. Here was a droll enough scene indeed. They had made one "drawing" and were just casting the seine again as I walked along for half a mile towards the drum-hole. The shell-banks, which are exposed at low tide, were fringed with small children with baskets and bags which they were filling with oysters and conchs. Rose followed me as guide and protector, jabbering away in her outlandish fashion to my great entertainment, and was very much afraid that the oyster-shells, over which she walked with impunity with bare feet, would cut up my heavy leather boots. I could go out to the very edge of one of these curious shell-banks, and the seine was drawn up almost at my feet. The net was laid on a boat which was hauled out into the water by the men, who were up to their waists, then dropped along its full length, which is very great, and gradually hauled in shore again with two or three bushels of fish in it, and any number of crabs, which the children pick up very carefully and fling ashore. There were about thirty men, and you would have thought from the noise and talking that it was a great fire in the country, with no head to the engine companies and every man giving orders. They were good-natured as possible, but sometimes their gibberish sounds as if they were scolding. The boys, with their pantaloons, or what answer for sich, rolled up to their knees, were hauling at the rope or picking up the crabs and making them catch hold of each other till they had a long string of them. Another mode of proceeding with them—for a crab-bite is a pretty serious thing—is to hold an oyster-shell out, which they grab, and then with a quick shake the claw is broken off, and they are harmless. A large bass having been taken in the haul I witnessed, it was laid at my feet for my acceptance, and then, the girls following, most of the boys staying to see the third drawing, I wended my way back to school.
Feb. 21. Such steady shop that C. could not get off very early and sold a barrel of flour before he departed. Shop is a great nuisance, but I don't know what the people would do without it and don't see how it can be given up for a long time. They can't get things as cheap anywhere else, but they cannot understand that it is of no advantage to us. When I told them yesterday they must not hurry me, for I had to put everything down so as to keep a correct account to send to the Quartermaster and people who sent the things, they were quite surprised, and when in explaining the state of the case to them I remarked that I was not even paid for the trouble, Binah said she would not take the trouble then; and they can't understand that any one should.
Other comments on this laborious shop-keeping are: [Feb. 23]. What with sugar and dry goods upstairs, and flour, pork, and salt down, it's busy, not to say nasty work. [Apr. 9.] Mr. P.'s molasses fell short about $5.00 on the barrel! Yet you can't convince the people he is not making heaps of money, and I, too, for the matter of that. [June 6.] A stranger the other day asked me for a looking-glass that he might see how his new hat looked, and then informed me that I ought to keep lemonade for my friends! But such things are rare, and so ludicrous that one doesn't mind.
FROM H. W.
Feb. 22. I heard Uncle Sam read the first three chapters of Genesis, which he translated into his own lingo as he went along, calling the subtile serpent the most "amiable" of beasts, and ignoring gender, person, and number in an astonishing manner. He says "Lamb books of life," and calls the real old Southern aristocracy the gentiles! His vocabulary is an extensive one—I wish his knowledge of the art of cooking were as great!
Feb. 25. I was in full tide with my A B C's when I saw two mounted officers pass the window. They presently appeared at the door of the school-room, one of them with a General's stars, addressing me and asking about the school. But he did not introduce himself, and I was in profound ignorance as to who it might be. They came, apparently, to see the place, and while they walked on the beach I got up what lunch I could. The title had an immense effect upon Robert; when I told Sam I must have the water boiled to give the General some coffee, he opened his eyes as wide as the gate, and Rose, who came to ask for the key of the corn-room for him to feed the horses, was such a comical sight, as she stared with mouth and eyes and then dropped a curtsey in the middle of the room, that if any one had been here I think I should have disgraced myself and snickered! Unfortunately the dignitary did not see her.
Feb. 26. I had scarcely done breakfast when I was called upon to serve in the shop for half a dozen men from the blockading vessel off Otter Island, all negroes. They come every once in a while and buy large amounts of sugar and other little things. They evidently think their patronage of great advantage to us.
Five grown men have come in to swell the evening school. I can't do much for them, as they don't all know their letters, but they have books and I hope the children will help them on out of school.
Have I told you that the path to the beach has been bordered with flowers for several weeks, jonquils and narcissus, so far as I can make out, though unlike any I ever saw before? They are in great profusion, and there are a few snow-drops, very pretty, but a foot or more high, and losing their charm in the height and strength. The jasmine and hawthorn are just coming into blossom, and I see what looks like a peach-tree in full bloom in Sam's yard.
Feb. 27. C. came home before night, with the news that the sales had begun and that our fate would be decided by next week probably. He brought no other news of importance except that my unknown guest was probably a General Potter on Foster's staff. When I came out of school this morning I found Rose asleep on the rug in front of the parlor fire! She is quite a Topsy in some things, playing all sorts of tricks with her voice and actions, but I have never had reason to doubt her truth or honesty in the smallest particular, since the first, and I have been very watchful.
Feb. 28. Before I was up I heard a perfect babel of tongues, a magpie chattering, which, on looking out of the window, I found came from about twenty women at work in our new garden getting out the "jint-grass," swinging their great, heavy hoes above their heads. Dr. Dio Lewis should have seen their gymnastics and the physical development therefrom. It was a droll sight—red, blue, and bright yellow in their costume, and such a gabbling! Hindustanee is as intelligible as their talk among themselves. How C. astonished a man who was muttering away to himself the other day at the Oaks by laughing at him and telling him he understood Nigger as well as he!
Old Deborah walked from Cherry Hill this morning,—she has lately moved there from here,—and came into the early school, which greatly delighted her. She is Rose's grandmother, and heard her great-grandchild reading to me, yet she is a smart old body and carries on her own cotton this year. Her delight over Raphael's angels—we have Mr. Philbrick's photographs of them here—was really touching. "If a body have any consider, 'twould melt their hairt,"—and she tried to impress it upon Rose that she was a greatly privileged person to be able to see them every day.
In the next letter is described a visit to the camp of the "North Carolina army" at Land's End.
Sunday, March 1. We started off in time to reach church before the sermon was over, I in the sulky with my things to stay all night,—if it should prove practicable for me to go to camp, by staying at G.'s or the Oaks. H. got into my sulky and we drove off, the question to be decided after dinner. The road to-day was lined with the jasmine in full bloom running over everything. I was too late to see it last spring and as I had not been out of the house for a fortnight the change was very marked. Some trees are putting out fresh, green leaves, the peach and wild plum-trees are all in blossom. Our large field, too, had been "listed" since I passed through it last, and altogether things had a very spring-like look. After dinner it was decided to take the carriage and Northern horses, with Harry, and make our expedition to the camp in style, escorted by Mr. Sumner on horseback.
Behold us, then, starting about ten in the morning, Monday, March 2, driving for fifteen miles through the woods, a perfect spring day, till, as we reached our journey's end, we found the woods cut down and fields cleared for the camps over an immense space. Tents in every direction and masts beyond, looking very busy and thriving. Real war camps, not such as we see at Readville, for most of the regiments coming on such an expedition, from which they expected to return before this time, had only shelter tents, as few things as they could possibly get along with, and their worst clothes. There were men washing (with a bit of board in a half of a barrel with a horse-brush!), cutting wood, mending the road very much cut up with the army-wagons, sticking down trees in front of their tents, and in almost every camp we saw some men playing ball. Horses and wagons, rough stables, and the carpenters at work with plane and saw getting up comforts. The Twenty-Fourth was at Land's End indeed, so we passed through all the others before we came to it, each additional one causing a louder and more wondering exclamation from Harry at the sight of so many men, till the oxen, evidently waiting to be slaughtered, and of a size so vastly superior to those indigenous to these regions, quite dumbfounded him.
The Twenty-Fourth reached at last, we went at once to James's tent, where he greeted us very kindly, and inviting us in, went off for John. Glad as I was to see them at last, it only made me doubly sorry that they should have been so near us and unable to come down to the few home comforts we could have offered them; but they have both tried to get away in vain. We found the Twenty-Fourth was in a very excited state over General Stevenson's arrest; and speaking of his release and return to camp the day before, James said—"We gave him such a reception as the Twenty-Fourth can give." The whole North Carolina division were feeling very sore over the quarrel between Hunter and Foster which has so unjustly, as they feel, deprived them of going under Foster on this expedition, and over the general treatment of them and their officers which they have received ever since they came into this Department. This I heard from James first, but more at length and in detail from the surgeon afterwards. For as we drove home a gentleman passed us on horseback, and we presently saw him racing with Mr. Sumner, and then riding by his side. They soon turned. Mr. Sumner introduced to me S. A. Green. Mr. Sumner had never seen him before, but asked him to join us at lunch at Mr. G.'s, where we were to stop on our way.
G. was expecting us, and such a dinner as he spread before us! A little roasted pig, over which Mr. Sumner grew pathetic as he described its baby-like appearance before it was cooked, when Tamah, their invaluable cook, brought it in to show them—potatoes, rice, etc., and for dessert, trifle, cake, muffins, waffles of a most excellent variety, and I don't know what. But the spice of the dinner was a long and animated discussion over the cause of General Stevenson's arrest and other matters appertaining thereto. Dr. Green was present at the time Stevenson had his discussion with Major Barstow and is reported to have said that he would rather be defeated than gain a victory with the aid of black soldiers,—and says that he said no such thing. The question was asked as a leading one, and before General Stevenson replied, Major Barstow exclaimed, "You hear that declaration?" and went off and reported. Pretty small business, anyway, though the General and most of his officers apparently are not at all waked up to the question, and oppose the idea of negro soldiers very strongly. They seem to have been living for a year with their old prejudices quietly slumbering—without coming in contact with the subject and its practical working as we have here, and so are not prepared for the change of opinion which has been silently advancing here. We did not think a year ago that these people would make soldiers, though it might be a wise measure to organize them for garrison duty to save the lives of our men in a climate they could not bear well and where no fighting would be necessary. Now it is a matter of fact, not opinion, as Colonel Higginson's report shows, that they will fight in open warfare, and will succeed in a certain sort of expedition when white men would fail, thus being too valuable an aid in putting down the Rebellion for us to give way to the prejudices of the mass of the soldiers. But I do not think it strange those prejudices exist, and they can only be removed by degrees.
The sales are to go on—how glad I shall be when the whole thing is settled! Dr. Brisbane thinks he has proof that Mr. Coffin is in jail in Charleston for Union sentiments, so that he shall reserve his plantations for him. Mr. Philbrick may be able to lease them till the war is over, but if we take Charleston and if Mr. Coffin claims his own again, behold us! I don't know what the negroes would do, at first, if they thought Mr. Coffin was coming back to take possession of the lands—though they all acknowledge that when he was here there was no "confusion"—"that was all along de overseer." I suppose, if they were not taken by surprise and could understand matters, they would work for him as well as any one else; but a great deal would depend upon whom they had over them—they would not work under Cockloft again "first." They will be disappointed if Mr. Philbrick does not get this place.
FROM W. C. G.
March 1. The sale of lands, which was arrested by General Hunter's order, has recommenced by authority obtained from Washington. The generals commanding—Hunter and Saxton—are both interested in terms and regulations which will favor the negroes. I hear they are both added as, in some way, joint commissioners to those who have been acting in that capacity, with full powers to retain all lands in Government possession which may be wanted for military or educational purposes. What plan they may adopt is not yet known; but we have already been called on for a complete census of the population, with a view to a land allotment of some kind. I pray it may not be by gift. I used to dread the effects of immediate emancipation and think it was the duty of a Christian nation to ease the passage from slavery to freedom with all kinds of assistance; but I am nearly satisfied that the best thing our Government can do, for the good of these people themselves, is simply to offer and enforce their acceptance of the advantages of civil law and education. I should hope that for a time the relations of employer and employed might be also watched and determined by law,—but more than this, anything in the form of gifts and charity will, I'm pretty sure, only relieve momentary distress at the expense of their development in manliness and independence. Very few will take a responsibility which they can in any way avoid, and not one in a thousand will refuse charity if offered, even when there is no slightest need of it. At the same time, they perfectly understand the rights of property, almost superstitiously appreciate the advantages of education, and will eagerly seize any opportunity they may have of acquiring the one or the other. As to these island people I feel no doubt that at least three out of five of the present children will be able to read and write when men and women, and that of the present generation of grown people, half a plantation at least would own land in their own right before four years had past,—if they were permitted to buy. Then how much better to throw them on themselves, to leave them to their own ambition and intelligence, when they have so much of both. Their inveterate suspicion of white kindness, too, joined to their ignorance, so clog the wheels of any system of charity like this of superintendence that for this reason alone I think it should cease. But they only too thoroughly comprehend the idea of law,—and are therefore well able to understand and be grateful for beneficent law, which at once protects and leaves them to themselves. "Let us alone"—the cry of their masters—really belongs to them and is their wisest demand.
I am anxiously hoping to be freed from this place by the sales and to return to my old neighborhood, and there to be able to accomplish something. This is but a stand-still experience, compared to our wishes. The people advance in spite of it. I believe almost the only real good I've done was to partially protect these people for three days from the soldiers.
FROM H. W.
March 5. C. came home at night with the news that the First South Carolina Volunteers started on an expedition to-day which Colonel Higginson considers of very great importance, which will have very great results, or from which they will probably never return. Also that drafting has begun in Beaufort by Hunter's orders.
General Saxton has passed his word to the people here that they shall not be forced into the army—I don't see what is to be the upshot of it—they will lose all confidence in us. Anywhere but here! Saxton himself gave Colonel Montgomery leave to draft in Florida and Key West, but he had no need to—more recruits offered than he could bring away with him. I don't wish to find fault with my commanding general, but I have yet to be shown the first thing Hunter has done which I consider wise or fine. Saxton has had to go down more than once and persuade him not to execute his orders.
In the following letter the reference to Mrs. Wolcott and McClellan has to do with that visit to Boston of the deposed general which was made such a triumphal progress for him by the conservatives of the town. The reference to Hallowell, who had a commission in the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts, the first colored regiment raised by a state government, is interesting as further evidence of the prejudice against negro troops.
March 6. C. brought me last night a long letter from S. descriptive of Mrs. Wolcott's party, McClellan, the fashions, and Hallowell's feeling at the position in which he places himself in going into a negro regiment. I wish he could see Colonel Higginson and his, but a Northern black regiment will be a very different thing from a Southern one—the men will have the vices of civilization from which these are free. Colonel Higginson is an enthusiast, but I do not see that he exaggerates or states anything but facts.
Then follow specimens of the conversation of Robert and Rose, with which may be put here two others, really of later date.
"Miss Hayiut, that your home?" Robert asked me this morning, looking at some colored pictures of the Crystal Palace I found in a London News and nailed up in the entry yesterday! He's bound to go North with Mass' Charlie. If he expects to live in such a mansion I don't wonder he wishes to.
Saturday, March 7. If you could have seen Rose's astonishment this morning when she comprehended that the clock was not alive! I made her tell me what time it was, which she did successfully, and then, as she stood gazing at the minute-hand "move so fast," I said, "Yes, it is going all the time—it never stops." "No rest for eat?" she said with the utmost innocence; and when I told her it was not alive and did not need to eat, she was quite sure the pendulum must be if the hands were not.
[March 10.] Some instructions about cleaning up led me to ask Rose if she liked dirt, to which she replied, like a true Yankee, with the question, "Miss Hay't, you like um? You no like um, I no like um." A little while after, she got talking about "Maussa" and Cockloft; when I asked what she would do if she should see Mr. Coffin come here, she said, "I run," "dey bad." Oh, no, not bad, I guess. "Miss Hay't" (you have no idea how short it is, almost "Hat"), "you shum? [see 'em] Well, you do'no; I shum, I know."
[Nov. 1.] "I say praise for you, 'cause I mind you," said Rose to me in her affectionate way this morning. She tames slowly, as Mr. Soule and I thought when we came home from riding this morning and saw her waiting for us at the entrance of the path on the beach turning somersaults on the sand! Her hands would appear high in the air, when suddenly her heels would be in their place! Yesterday morning she said: "Miss Hayiut, you gwine let me go home to-day for wash?" Yes, Rose, if you are a good girl. "Yes, Ma'am, me gwine be good girl, my contans [conscience] say, 'Rose, you be good girl, not make Miss Hayiut talk.'"
To return to H. W.'s letter of March 7:
We drove up to church and heard the text read for the first time! H. was not there, so we went there to dinner again, probably for the last time, as we found the places are really to be sold to-morrow. Mr. Philbrick hopes to be through with collecting the cotton in a fortnight, and then they will be able to come down here, as he can go to Beaufort once a week for a night or two until it is all ginned and shipped, and then they will go home.
The next letters return to the all-absorbing matter of the land-sales. The opening paragraph refers to them and the way they were being managed, as well as to the old question of negro character and negro labor.
FROM C. P. W.
March 8. I should like to come home and make inquiries among my friends concerning Port Royal matters. I should like to take the part of an intelligent foreigner desiring to obtain information concerning this interesting experiment of free black labor. And when I had heard and written down their description of this enterprise, I should return to my friends here and read for their entertainment. How we should laugh; I must try it some day.
When the lands are finally sold, a great many entertaining questions will arise. Only the real estate will be sold; what is to be done with the cattle, the mules, the boats, the furniture, the carriages? How is the Government to be repaid for what it has spent on this year's crop? How are the reserved plantations to be worked by the Government?
The sale having taken place at last on March 9, the list with which C. P. W. begins his next letter is of plantations reserved from sale by the Government.
March 10. The Oaks, Oakland, where Mr. Hunn's Philadelphia Commission store is, Eddings Point, T. B. Fripp, my two McTureous places, the Hope Place, and a few others on the Sea Side road, about four at Land's End, etc., etc. Mr. Eustis and a Mr. Pritchard, living on Pritchard's Island, near Land's End, paid taxes before the sale. (Most of the places reserved were selected for the purpose of selling land to the negroes next year, after this crop is in.)
The General [Saxton] is afraid that some speculators may interfere with the plan for this year which has been started. He has made certain promises to the people in regard to this year's crop, and he feels that he ought to be able to impose some conditions on purchasers. Of course he could not impose conditions under which the lands should be sold, but he still may, as Military Governor, enforce justice toward the people.
FROM H. W.
March 10. C. and Mr. Philbrick stopped at the nigger-house to see and tell the people of the result of the sale. At Fripp Point, which he also bought, the people were as usual unmoved and apparently apathetic, but here they were somewhat more demonstrative, and slightly expressed their pleasure. All the places he most cared for Mr. Philbrick was able to bid off, and two of C.'s old places, which he wanted but did not expect to get. So much is settled; but there is a great deal besides that it will take a long time and a deal of trouble to arrange—we don't know yet how much goes with the plantations, or when possession will be given.
The confirmation of the report that Hunter is going to draft these people causes a great deal of feeling, as Saxton has publicly promised them that they shall not be forced to join the army. They seem to understand that Hunter is in authority and Saxton can't help himself, C. says, and so have no ill feeling towards the latter; but they will hide, if possible, and it is hard to feel that they have been so treated as to make them as suspicious of a Yankee's word as they have always been of a white man's. I think it right they should go if they are needed,—the war is of more importance even than the experiment of free labor,—but to have them lied to so! Why was Hunter ever sent back here?
FROM C. P. W.
March 14. Mr. Philbrick has bought in all thirteen plantations, at an expense of about $7000: three places for R., two for Wells, two for Hull on Ladies Island, six places within five miles of this place. I remain here, and shall probably assume Cherry Hill and Mulberry Hill, my old places; G. comes to Pine Grove, and takes that, the Point, and Captain John Fripp Homestead. The people are all starting well, we are in excellent spirits, and are in proper season for the crops; and "if God spare life," "if nothing strange happens," "if we live to see," we shall "see crop make, sir."
This drafting business is simply folly. Hunter is an ignorant, obstinate fool. General Saxton is very much opposed to the measure, especially after promising the men again and again that they would not be taken unless they were willing to go; but he says he has done all he can to dissuade Hunter without any effect, and if he should go further in the matter, either he or Hunter would have to go home, and he is not willing at this crisis to raise this additional difficulty. Hunter's order was published in the New South last Monday. For a full week before the negroes had been anxiously questioning us about this strange news that "they want to take we to make soldiers." Up to Monday I was able to tell them that I had heard such stories, but did not believe them; but Tuesday night, when I got home, I told them how matters stood, and they confessed that for a full week before hardly a man on the plantation under sixty years of age had slept in his bed. A strange white face drives them from the field into the woods like so many quails; they will not go to church, they will not go to the Ferry. Two Sundays ago I happened to ask one of the elders at church, to make talk merely, how soon the next Society meeting took place at Pine Grove. It was last Saturday evening. My question to Demus was reported at the meeting, they immediately became suspicious of some trap to catch them, they grew anxious, a cry arose that there were soldiers out on the plantation, the men left the praise-house, and the meeting, instead of continuing all night, broke up about midnight with some confusion. They were caught last year, they will not be caught again. They cannot understand how it is that the Government, for whom they have been working, and in whom they have learned to place confidence as a protection, should wish to interrupt their work here. It is a terrible discouragement to them, just as they are starting their first fair trial for themselves, to be forced, I do not say into the military service, for very few will be caught, but forced to abandon their crops, and skulk and hide and lead the life of hunted beasts during all this precious planting season. The women would be physically able to carry on for some time the men's share with their own, but they would be very much disheartened, and would need constant encouragement. Under this terrible uncertainty and fear, the work has begun to slacken. Even the head men on the plantations are losing courage. I make as light of the evil as I can, but I am always met by the remark: "We are a year older than we was last year, sir." Their trust in me is a little surprising. They converse in my presence about their dodging life, and I could easily take any ten of them I chose alone; or, with the aid of one other, I could take the whole plantation. "If we didn't trust to you, sir, we should have to leave the plantation entirely; you are the only person to protect we now, sir." It is hardly necessary to remark that their confidence is not misplaced. Help catch them? "I wouldn't do it first."
In accordance with Hunter's order, referred to above, Saxton issued a general order to superintendents, which bade them send to Captain Hooper a list of all able-bodied freedmen between eighteen and fifty on the plantations, and instructed them to urge the negroes to enlist by appealing to "their reason, sense of right, their love of liberty and their dread of returning to the rule of their late masters," adding: "The General Commanding expects to form a pretty correct judgment of the comparative efficiency of the different superintendents and the amount of influence for good they are capable of exerting over their people, by the proportion of the whole number subject to draft which they are able to bring in without the aid of physical force." Referring to this last sentence as a "mean insinuation," C. P. W. goes on:
For my people, I know there is about as much use in asking them to enlist as in requesting my horse, a very intelligent animal, to drink salt water. I hope they will draft, they may possibly enlist, the loafers at Hilton Head and Beaufort, and those whose proximity to camps, or general worthless character, prevents them from taking much interest in their crops. But these men, who have been paid up in full for last year's crop, and have seen that their crop, slim as it was, brought them a fair compensation, are bound to show a crop this year. Crop-raising is their business, their trade, and they intend to show what they can do at it this year for the Government, which protects them, for me, who "see them justice" (they have a vague idea that I reap a certain percentage from their crop—they say, "You will have a bigger crop of cotton than Mr. Philbrick, sir"—they also think that if I "overlook" four hundred hands, I ought to get more pay than a man who only sees to two hundred), and last, and principally, for themselves. They have not been learning cotton-raising, perforce, all these years for nothing. Now their enforced knowledge comes out in tending a crop of which they are to own a share, and the little tricks of the trade, which had to be watchfully enforced in the old time, are now skillfully produced, especially in the food crops, which are more evidently their own. I let them go ahead very much as they choose; I make regulations for the good of all, as in the matter of carts, oxen, etc., but the minutiae I do not meddle with, except as a matter of curiosity and acquirement of knowledge. They work well, some of them harder than in the old time; the lazy ones are stimulated to exertion for their own benefit, the energetic ones race like sixty.