Letters from Port Royal - Written at the Time of the Civil War (1862-1868)
Author: Various
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March 13. I had the sick people to visit, and C. was going over to the Kingfisher, our blockader, for coal-tar to plant corn with, so he went to the field and I was to make my professional calls for the Doctor, and meet him at the Creek at the nigger-house to take the row with him. Just as I came out of school, however, two officers of an Illinois regiment rode up to look about and see what they could see, and asked if they could have food for man and beast. So I left orders for some lunch, dressed, and started on my tour. I went through the quarters—not a man was to be seen. There lay the boat, and the women were coming in from their work, but said the men would not come till the officers had gone—they were afraid of being taken. C. had to beg the officers to go off the plantation, for he could not get his crew. Not a man sleeps at night in the houses, except those too old to be taken. They have made a camp somewhere and mean never to be caught. There is no question that they can hide; a slave here hid himself for two years on one of the little islands, though the whole district was after him; he finally came out himself.


March 14. On March 9th the estates were at last offered for sale. On our island two thirds were bidden in by the Government and I presume they will remain under the system of superintendence. The other third was bought by Mr. Philbrick and two or three sutlers. No agents of Southern owners and no dangerous speculators made their appearance, to my knowledge. Where any person evinced a desire to buy, the commissioners, by their bids, forced an offer of one dollar per acre and let the place go for that price. Several plantations, perhaps one in five or six, were bidden in for the special purpose of negro reservations; but in what way they will be offered to the people is undecided. Indeed, nothing is certain except that the sales have been made and titles given. I should have bought only two of my places in any case,—and that for the benefit of the people,—but it happened that both were among the number reserved. So I own none of the sacred soil.

In regard to your questions concerning the condition and capabilities of the blacks, I hardly feel like writing anything at length, my opinion, as far as it is made up, is so short and decided. Every one says that these island negroes are more ignorant and degraded than the great majority of the slaves, and I feel no doubt that, under conditions of peace, three years would find these people, with but very few exceptions, a self-respecting, self-supporting population. Almost everything about them, even to their distrust and occasional turbulence, has that in it which suggests to me the idea of capacity and power of development. Their principal vices,—dishonesty, indolence, unchastity, their dislike of responsibility, and unmanly willingness to be dependent on others for what their own effort might bring,—their want of forethought and inability to organize and combine operations for mutual benefit,—nearly all their mental and moral weaknesses can be traced naturally and directly to slavery,—while on the other hand, the fact that at my close view I cannot make them out to be characteristic traits confirms that opinion as to their origin. Industry is very certainly the rule; there is much idleness, but apply the spurs of which you think a white man worthy, and you are sure to obtain earnest and persistent exertion. Manliness and self-respect are sufficiently strong and common to excite an expectation of finding them. Instances of plan, contrivance, forethought are very numerous; you are constantly meeting "smart" fellows. Their eagerness and aptitude in learning to read surprises every one. Their memories are usually excellent, their power of observation pretty keen, and their general intelligence is in most striking contrast to the idea of chattel and wonderfully harmonizes with that of man. I am only stating the grounds on which I have hopes of their development, not trying to describe their characteristics or the course or limit of that development. The discussion whether they will ever be equal to the white race in anything seems to me to be entirely irrelevant to everything. The only question of importance is whether they can become a moral, self-supporting, and useful part of our population, and of this I cannot feel the slightest doubt. That they ever can leave the country I regard as impossible, that they ever ought to leave it, as ill-advised. That the period of transition will be one of great difficulty and considerable suffering is certain. The best heads and hearts in the country will find work in it. As I think now, I would recommend no gradual system of preparation and training. Strike the fetters off at a blow and let them jump, or lie down, as they please, in the first impulse of freedom, and let them at once see the natural effects of jumping and lying down. Then if the Government would simply provide or enforce education, and with few laws but very many eyes would watch over the new relations of laborer and employer, I should trust that in ten years America would again raise her head proudly among the nations. But all this supposes that we gain our end and have the work to do. Till the common head of the people understands and the common heart of the people feels that this is the work of the war, that Emancipation should be the means, and not only the best means but the holy end of the war,—I tremble, and fear neither our strength nor God's help will give us the victory.


March 20. C. amused himself and us by making two or three of my children who were waiting for school read to him upside down, which they did as readily as the right way.

Just a year to-night since Mr. Philbrick spent his first night in this house. He has been telling us about it: a file of soldiers were drawn up at the gate and refused him admittance till his credentials were examined; now he is lord of the manor. I reminded the children to-night that a year ago they did not know their letters; now they are reading Hillard's Second Reader for the second time.

The feat of reading upside down might seem to suggest that they were reading Hillard's Second Reader for the second time chiefly by the aid of memory!

The next letter, written by Mr. Philbrick to a Northern correspondent, was printed at the time on a broadside, for distribution.


Coffin's Point, March 20. Just a year ago to-night I entered this house for the first time. If our Northern croakers could only be made to realize as we do here the ease with which we have reduced a comparative degree of order out of the chaos we found, and see how ready this degraded and half-civilized race are to become an industrious and useful laboring class, there would not be so much gabble about the danger of immediate emancipation, or of a stampede of negro labor to the North.

We found them a herd of suspicious savages who regarded their change of condition with fear and trembling, looking at the cotton-field as a life-long scene of unrequited toil, and hailing with delight the prospect of "no more driver, no more cotton, no more lickin'." They had broken up the cotton-gins and hidden the iron-work, and nothing was more remote from their shallow pates than the idea of planting cotton for "white folks" again.

Now they have, without the least urging, prepared for planting some two hundred acres of cotton-land upon this plantation, having spread on it sixteen hundred ox-cart-loads of manure, and worked up every inch of the ground with their hoes. They have also planted one hundred and thirty acres of corn, and have begun ploughing to-day, banking up into ridges with the ploughs the cotton-land into which the manure had been first hoed. The ploughs run over twenty acres per day on this place. They were made at Groton, Mass., and astonish the negroes by their efficiency.

As a sample of the change of feeling in regard to working on cotton, I will relate how I got the cotton ginned on this and the various other plantations in this neighborhood. I walked through the negro quarters one day in December and told the people I would pay them three cents per pound of clean cotton if they would gin, assort, clean, and pack their cotton ready for market. They said in reply their gins were all broken up. I told them that was their own fault, and that, if they wanted other people to gin their cotton and get their seed away from the place, they would do so, and so get all the money and leave them no good seed to plant. "Dat' so, Massa," said they, and I passed along. The next time I came they had hunted up the broken pieces of twenty-five gins, and patched them up, and had ginned and packed all their cotton, in two weeks, wanting to know what I would have them do next, for they did not want to lie still and do nothing.

So you see there is some satisfaction in being among these people, although they are not exactly companions for us.


March 23. C. came home to-night, having resigned his position under the Government.

H. W.'s next letter, after describing a drive towards Land's End, narrates the events of her return trip as follows.

March 25. I opened the first gate myself, then met a man coming from his work, who took off his hat with rather a surprised look at seeing a lady alone, and an "Evening, Missus, how far you come from?" "From Coffin's Point, and am going back again—Mr. Charlie's sister." Whereupon another bow and a pleased grin as I go on. Soon I met another man coming out into the road with a piece of paper, which he asked me to read to him. I took the precaution to ask him his name before opening it, to be sure he had not another man's pass, and then read him an autograph pass from General Hunter for him to go to St. Helena and back to Hilton Head, to see his wife. He was a servant of Hunter's and afraid of some trick. He seemed satisfied, and thanked me. When I asked him where his wife lived and if he had seen her, he said, "Shum dere?" pointing to a woman hoeing, towards whom he made his way again. At the next gate I was cutting cherokee-roses before opening it, when a slight sound behind me attracted my attention to a boy on a mule who had come noiselessly up, so I got into the sulky again, and as he followed me along and I questioned him, found he was coming here to see his "aunty." In a few minutes a loud whistle attracted my attention and Sharper[125] announced Mass' Charlie, who came cantering up behind me. He had sent the boy with a note to me and exemption-papers for the old and feeble on his places, as he could not go home and had met the black soldiers out taking the men for the draft. With Sharper for attendant I drove on to Pine Grove, where I gave C.'s note to William and the papers to distribute on both the Fripp places while I went on to deliver those here. Heard one man say to William that he wished his old master was back,—he was at peace then. Poor fellows!

By the time I reached our quarters it was bright moonlight, and in that light I drove through the street, read the names on C.'s papers and the contents to the men named as they came out at Primus' knock. A little group gathered about to hear what I had to say as I explained to the men,—a sober, disturbed set, saying nothing, but receiving the explanation with a sad silence that went to my heart.


Coffin's Point, March 31. You see I write from my first home. In truth it seems like a home. Mrs. Philbrick and Miss W., Mr. Philbrick, and Mr. Hall are here, besides Mr. Folsom—of '62, Harvard—who is to be my future house-mate. A week ago, after settling up all business at Captain Oliver's, I resigned my place of Government Superintendent, and last Friday came down here. To-morrow we shall take up our quarters at the "Pine Grove." I am going to take charge of the two William Fripp places. The people are old friends. I used to teach school for them. I think I shall like the work here much better; the people are far better and the locality less exposed to outside influences. It is a much better opportunity for trying the experiment of free black labor. I manage the places, Mr. Philbrick supplies money to carry them on, and at the end of the year, after deducting all expenses, we share the profits, if any.

The draft is either taking or frightening off most of the men, but it should be made, I think.


April 3. Caesar came home on a furlough, and it was fun to see him in the street afterwards, surrounded by a great gang, talking away as eagerly as possible. I should like to have heard him, if I could have understood him; he had had a "firs' rate time" and he and January have been trying to get some of the men to go back with them, but they can't succeed any better than C. or Mr. Philbrick.

The next few letters are entirely occupied with incidents of the draft.

E. S. P. TO C. P. W. (IN BOSTON)

April 7. Nothing has been done yet about enforcing the draft on our island, but Captain Bryant[126] told me yesterday he should probably strike the last of this week, taking every point at once as near as may be. Colonel Montgomery's regiment[127] are given him for the purpose, with orders not to shoot except in self defense!


April 14. The soldiers had been there [at Fripp Point] in the night, but had only caught old Simon and Mike, a boy of about fifteen, though one of them had shot at Dan's Peter, about seventeen, and wounded him in the head slightly. They went in squads all over this end of the island except Pine Grove and here. They got sixty men in all, most of them old, a waste of Uncle Sam's money. Of course our people here are warned and all off again. The white officer said they took what men they could get without reference to the superintendents' lists.

April 15. Hamlet's wife, Betsey, came to buy salt, said her husband was carried off the other night and she left with ten children and a "heart most broke, shan't live long, no way, oh my Jesus!" My new cook's husband was shot (and killed) as he ran away when the Secesh tried to make him go with them—how are they to understand the difference? Captain Dutch[128] says he thinks that six or eight have gone onto the Main from this island; they openly say, some of them, that they wish the old times were back again.

April 23. The men at Fripp Point are said to have fired on the soldiers from their houses. They are very bitter that negroes should be sent against them. They would not mind white men, they say. R. has persuaded all his men to go up to Beaufort,[129] and only a few were retained. The rest have come back as happy as kings—no more bush for them! I wish all would do the same.

April 29. Mr. Philbrick went off to the wharf before breakfast, and as he was coming back met Phillis on her way to tell the men who were at work on it that the soldiers had come. As we sat down to lunch we could see the gleaming of the bayonets as they came through the first gate, and Primus sent up to say that he was taken and wanted Mr. Philbrick to come down. Mr. G. appeared from Pine Grove, where they had taken only two men, who will probably be let off. Soon William appeared, saying they had been at the Point, too, but had got no one. Mr. Philbrick rowed down to the [Fripp Point] quarters and presently returned with Captain Hoyt and Captain Thompson, who were very tired, to lunch. They all received him very crustily and coldly at first, but they were prejudiced against him and vexed at their want of success, and I think it did something towards removing ill feelings to see him. When they reached the nigger-house here, where the men [the soldiers], about fifty, had been waiting, they found they had tracked two men down through the marsh from Fripp Point and caught them just here, after shooting one. The people were in a wild state of confusion. The soldiers had been telling our people all sorts of stories—that they had orders to shoot because Mr. Philbrick had said in Beaufort that he had a battery here to defend his people, etc. They came flocking round him, all women of course, and all talking at once to try and get at the truth of things, and Mr. Philbrick had to quiet them before he could make out a word. Then Amaritta naturally stood forward as spokeswoman to get "satisfaction," and they were easily made to understand that the soldiers had been telling lies, and their confidence in Mr. Philbrick quieted them.

E. S. P. TO C. P. W.

Beaufort, May 1. We are led to admire more than ever the cool discrimination of the General commanding the Department. The other day some officer conceived the idea that the superintendents of St. Helena in general, and W. C. G. in particular, were opposing the draft, employing able-bodied men, etc.; also that shots had been fired at the black soldiers on his plantation. It was so represented to General Hunter, and he ordered on the spot that he should be arrested and sent out of the Department. Fortunately Captain Bryant, who was to have executed the order, was a man of sense and consulted Captain Hooper, who told him that General Saxton didn't want to spare Mr. G., and that as he had no written orders he had better hold on. The editor of the Free South has been amusing himself by throwing out owlish insinuations to the effect that speculators and others on St. Helena had better take heed of General Hunter's orders, for the prospective profits of a speedy fortune would hardly warrant the risk, etc., etc.

The next paragraph gives another version of the search for black recruits.

Captain Thompson came to Coffin's on Wednesday with about fifty men. They caught no one but Primus, who felt safe and didn't hide. If he had behaved himself he wouldn't have been taken, but got into a passion and talked so wild that he was taken out of punishment for his impudence, and then held on the ground that his influence must be against the draft, and as he was foreman, his power must be considerable! Captain Thompson pretended to have orders to shoot men running, and scoured the Fripp Point place through Lieutenant O. E. Bryant and some black soldiers. They met no young men except Sancho and Josh, whom they chased down into the marsh opposite Coffin nigger-house, and then shot Josh. He was taken with a bullet in his leg and a buckshot in his head, carried to the village, and placed under Dr. Bundy's care. Of course, Sancho was taken, too, and brought up to camp. He had an Enfield rifle with him, and admits that he fired it to "scare away the soldiers," after Josh was hit, but not before. The black soldiers all say he fired first, and no white man was present to see. I came up to lay the matter before the General, but he is not well. Captain Hooper has taken it in hand and promises to investigate it. The Major of the Second Regiment[130] was down here, but I couldn't see him. He may have given such orders to Thompson as he pretends. They seem to have got enraged because they couldn't find any men on those three plantations after having been quartered at the village for two weeks, and imputed their want of success to G. and myself. I shouldn't be surprised if I am ordered out of the Department at any moment.

Then comes the sequel.


May 17. Primus has come home. He deserted a week ago and has been all that time getting here. He says that he has not drilled but once since he was taken to camp, that he has been sick all the time, but that he has not been in the hospital. Of course, not being volunteers, there is a great deal of shamming, and they have to be very strict; in short, they pursue the old masters' system of believing they lie until it is proved they have spoken the truth,—a most elevating process! and he had a large blister put on the back of his neck and was kept in his tent. Finally Captain Hoyt took him to Colonel Montgomery and told him that he thought the man was really sick and not fit to be kept, but the Colonel was very short with him and said drill was the best cure for him. Then Primus ran away, and is now in his bed here. Mr. Philbrick has seen him and says it is impossible to tell whether he is sick or not, but he understands fully the consequences of desertion, and that Mr. Philbrick and C. cannot employ him again. Mr. Philbrick told him that he should not inform against him, but that if the officers asked him if he had come home he should have to tell them that he had. "I know dat, massa, but I won't stay dere." He understands that we are helpless. He says, and we have learned in other ways, that all who were drafted have been deserting. One day they brought in fourteen, and the next day twelve of them had gone, and the next the other two. They can't pretend to get them back again, and of course the demoralization must be great. It will be very bad for Primus now, if they do not take him, to live on here an outlaw, working his wife's cotton but not able to resume his plow or his old position in any way—yet if he is taken again he will never make a good soldier. The whole thing is wrong from the foundation, and should be given up, and all those who did not volunteer sent to their homes—if any are then left in the regiments. Yet I don't see how that could be done unless Hunter went off, and some other Major General repealed his orders.

To return to matters of plantation management.

C. P. W. had recently been sent home by Mr. Philbrick to buy and send a schooner-load of provisions, merchandise, etc., for the "store." He found himself "an object of regard and curiosity," "engaged out to dinner and tea to 'talk Port Royal' many days ahead." Apropos of the things he bought for Coffin's Point, he wrote:

C. P. W. TO E. S. P.

Boston, [April 27.] I received permission from the Secretary of the Treasury to ship the powder, shot, saddle, bridle, tar, pitch, and rope, but I had to consign these, with the hats, to General Saxton, from whom you will have to obtain an order for them. The tobacco, shoes, rice, and buggy are not contraband. They were going to stop the hats, on the ground that they were "adapted for military uniforms," and I had to get a "character" from one of my friends, a clerk in the Custom House, and then assure the crusty old Collector that the hats were not to be used for any illegal purpose, before he would let them pass.


Pine Grove, May 17. The schooner has but just come round to Coffin's, and the rain has prevented our plundering her with energy. But Friday I got up my molasses and gave some out yesterday. You ought to have seen the little ones dance as the mothers came home with their piggins full. We are going to give some molasses and bacon monthly for the present,—in lieu of an increase of wages. Most of the proprietors are offering rather better terms than the Government,—some in money, others in a larger share of the crop. We keep the Government scale of prices, but give them the "poke" and "sweet'ning," and I think have touched their sensibilities much more certainly thereby.

This same day Mr. and Mrs. Philbrick left Port Royal and went home. The next extracts are from two of H. W.'s letters, full of details about the home life and the wonderful ways of the "people."


June 10. As we drove up under the shade of a buttonwood-tree [at Fripp Point] we found a group of children under it, three or four boys and girls washing at wash-tubs, others sitting round taking care of younger children. They were just like children all over the world,[131] playing and teasing each other, but very good-naturedly, and as happy as you please. This weather the children wear nothing but a shift or shirt, and the other day Lewis and Cicero appeared in the yard entirely naked. Aunt Sally, from Eddings Point, amused us with her queer, wild talk a long time. The story is that she was made crazy by her master's whipping her daughter to death, and very sad it was to hear her talk, though it was funny. She knows any number of hymns and parts of the Bible, and jumbles scraps and lines from the one with Genesis and Revelation in the most extraordinary manner, talking about Mr. Adam and Madam Eve, who brought her and her race all their woe, whom she knows but will never forgive. She stands and reads everything out of her "heart-book," which she says tells her everything, looking all the time at her left hand, which she holds out like a book. Her epithets against her old master and the rebels were voluble and denunciatory in the extreme, and she left us with many warnings to remember "Det and de Jugment." I had sent for the "Widow Bedotte," to whom I presented some tobacco and who was very funny indeed. She is in her right mind and delights in making herself agreeable. I wish I could describe to you this extraordinary specimen of humanity—a short little old body with an intelligent face—all her wool carefully concealed by an enormous turban, from beneath each side of which hung four black strings, looking like an imitation frisette of false curls, her odd figure enveloped in shawl and cape, rubbing her hands nervously and sinking into the floor, as it seemed, as she curtseyed to us lower than I ever saw anybody go and get up again straight. And then her conversation and manner were as comical as her appearance.

Another characteristic of the "Widow Bedotte" H. W. describes elsewhere.

She prides herself upon her good manners, which she says she gets because she belongs to the church, which every now and then she joins again. She has just done so here, so is full of extra flourishes.

On June 12 Hunter was replaced by Brigadier-General Quincy A. Gillmore.[132] Here follow comments on Hunter's last acts before leaving, as well as on the impression made by his successor.


May 28. Mr. Williams brought word that Hunter has issued an order to all civilians to enter the army or leave the Department! Twenty days' notice. You need not be afraid of C.'s enlisting here; he wouldn't do it "first." I don't think many of the superintendents would now like to serve under Hunter. He imprisoned two of them upon the evidence of their people without inquiring into the matter, and ignored Saxton in the most insulting manner. Mr. Hammond was released by a court-martial with honor.

May 30. In the evening came a note from R. saying that there was no danger from the draft for the superintendents, but they would probably have to get exemption-papers.

June 20. C. came home after church Sunday with the information that General Gillmore had given out that he should carry out Hunter's orders, but that he took the liberty of believing a white man as well as a negro!

June 24. We hear but little about the new General. He is General Saxton's junior in rank, but a fine engineer, so it is supposed he was sent to conduct the siege of Charleston.

The siege of Charleston,—another attempt, "prompted more by sentiment than military sagacity," to capture "the city in which the secession had begun,"[133]—is the subject of the next dozen extracts. The expedition failed to justify the high hopes that accompanied it, yet one event in it has attained undying fame.

When, in the first week of July, all the troops left Hilton Head, Land's End, and Port Royal Island, the regiment followed with the keenest interest by the writers of these letters was the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts (colored), Colonel Robert G. Shaw.

July 10. It was strange to be waked this morning by the incessant, thundering roar of heavy guns. It was just at sunrise, and as I gradually woke to the full realization of what it must be—though as it mingled in my dreams, I was conscious that our masked batteries had opened at last—it was very exciting to feel my bed shake under me from such a cause. I could hear the people talking excitedly in the yard. About seven o'clock the heavy firing ceased, and we hoped that Morris Island was ours. C. went to the beach and reported a very heavy cloud of smoke resting in the direction of "Town."

The following extract is a good specimen of the groundless rumors, all with copious circumstantial evidence, that infested the islands.


July 11. About ten o'clock came Juno's daughter Fanny from "Pope's" to spend Sunday, bringing us the apparently reliable intelligence that "Town taken." It seemed too much to believe, but her story was this: her aunt, Juno's sister, and one of Dr. Whitredge's servants, is washing at Hilton Head and was there yesterday, when a vessel came from Charleston with the news and many people (prisoners, we infer), and the first who came ashore were Mass' Alonso and Mass' John, Whitredge, who said to her, "How d' ye!" She says that five boat-loads put off to the Yankees and gave themselves up. "Mass' John know too much to fight 'gainst de Yankee—him get college at de Nort'—him say him got no nigger—him no gwine fight." It is preposterous to write you all this. You will know everything with certainty before this reaches you.

July 12. The good news was most welcome from Vicksburg and Pennsylvania, and our attack on Morris Island was successful, if Town was not taken; but Colonel Higginson's attempt to reach the railroad was a failure,[134] and he was wounded, thought not, it is said, badly.

The successful attack on Morris Island on July 10 had resulted in the occupation of all the ground south of Fort Wagner. On July 18 was made the famous assault on the fort itself,—an assault hopeless from the start,—in which the attacking column was led by the Massachusetts negro regiment, its colonel at its head.

July 20. C. came back with the terrible accounts of the Charleston fight and the almost total destruction of the Fifty-Fourth. Beaufort[135] is in amaze at the spirit of "that little fellow, Colonel Shaw." Certainly it is one of the most splendid things ever known in the annals of warfare. I long to be doing, and not living so at our ease here. C. offered everything, and Mr. Eustis has been with Hallowell and James[136] all day. The greatest want is of physicians—there is no proper medical staff for the Department, and surgeons are scarce. Drs. Bundy and Wakefield were sent for yesterday. The officers are in the Fripp house, where the Forbeses were.

There has been very heavy firing again to-day. You see we hear it all, though sometimes very faintly.

July 24. William took farewell of his schools and came home, having received six dozen eggs as tokens of regret—an ovation at his departure.[137] He left them to go up to the sick and wounded to-morrow with contributions from the people. All vegetables, etc., are seized by the Provost and paid for, for the use of the sick, and there is some one on this side the ferry to receive the gifts. We send all we can, but it is unsatisfactory not to be on the spot.

July 25. William is just off for Beaufort. He will stay to watch to-night, if needed. But "no ladies" is the cry.

[Later.] William went to the hospital for the officers, of which Dr. Bundy has charge, where he was set to watch and administer to a very badly wounded captain of the Forty-Eighth New York, Paxton by name. He cannot live, and knows it, but bears his terrible wounds with the utmost fortitude. William was with him Saturday and Sunday, parts of the day, and G. and Wells divided the night between them. Everything seems to be well conducted, and the hospitals in good order. I suppose the Fulton, which is expected daily, will bring supplies and surgeons. Captain Hooper is invaluable—busy as possible, as he always is—I don't know what the Department would be without him. Yet he found time to write me a long note to tell me about the wounded, and that there was no doubt of Colonel Shaw's death.


Beaufort, July 26. Last night several of us passed in Beaufort at the hospitals. The wounded have been brought down and all the hospitals in Beaufort are full. Wednesday we heard at the superintendents' meeting that there was a great scarcity of fresh fruits and vegetables; so at the Thursday night praise I told the people about it, and yesterday came up with nearly two cartloads of provisions, most of it contributed by the people. Another gentleman had done the same and between us we supplied five hospitals. It is my first experience in such work. It's surprising to see how cheerful and jolly all the wounded are—all who have any strength. A wound means home and a vacation to many of them, and with few exceptions these men with holes in them lie on their beds like boys waiting for the word which gives them recess. To-night I shall try to go to one of the colored hospitals.

A boat is just in from Charleston. A cartel of exchange had been agreed upon, by which all the wounded on our side were to be exchanged for all the wounded upon the other, so that reference to negro soldiers is avoided. The negro soldiers appear to have received the same care as the white; on the other hand, some of the rebel officers told with much gusto how Colonel Shaw's body had been thrown into a common pit and those of two of his men tossed on top of him.


July 31. In at our open door walked Captain Hooper, and with him Captain Rand of the First Cavalry, now on General Saxton's staff. Captain Rand told us that our wounded who came down from Charleston had been miserably cared for—the rebels acknowledged that they could not take care of them. The surgeon said but one man had been properly operated upon, and his wound had been dressed by one of the navy surgeons, a prisoner. No men or officers of the Fifty-Fourth among them: they said the officers we should hear of by way of Richmond; the men, I suspect, are not. No one knows who are among the dead or living—only that Colonel Shaw is dead, and probably Cabot Russel. It is said to have been a very imposing sight, when, in the midst of heavy firing from every fort, battery, and gunboat on each side, the Cosmopolitan, with the rebel wounded on board, her hospital flag and flag of truce flying, steamed up toward the city. Instantly every gun ceased, and white flags appeared from each fort and ship till she had passed, met the rebel steamer (a very fine one, which had run the blockade in the morning!), exchanged her wounded cargo, and returned.

To give complete the story of the siege of Charleston as seen from St. Helena Island, some letters have been included in advance of their chronological place in the series. Therefore the next letter goes back to an earlier date.


July 3. We were all standing at the back door when a small crowd became visible at the first gate. We watched to discover what it meant, as it was an unmistakable "gang" drawing nearer. 'Siah's boy had come over from the Point to tell C. that some white soldiers were there from the village stealing corn, etc., after the manner of the soldiers in this region, but so far our plantations have been very free from such depredations C. had just told Tony that he did not feel well enough to go over, and that the men would be gone before he could get there—and turning to Mr. Soule he said that those Point men were just the men to catch white soldiers, if they could do it, and he should not be surprised if they did. The words were hardly out of his mouth before the "gang" appeared, so you may imagine we watched it with great curiosity as it drew near. On they came, a compact body of people, among whom we tried to discover some white faces. Presently the gleaming of muskets was distinctly visible, and as one of the men stepped forward and threw the gate wide open for the company to pass through, three white soldiers appeared in the front ranks. They were all perfectly quiet, not a word was said; and as C. ran down the steps to receive them and they came to a halt, the men brought the muskets to the ground and the women emptied their aprons of corn-shucks at his feet, waiting quietly for him to do what he thought right. I did not hear one loud or angry tone while I stood listening as C. heard their story and then questioned the soldiers. They were perfectly quiet, too,—young fellows from the One Hundred and Fourth Pennsylvania Volunteers, a new regiment,—and they evidently thought that C. was a person of authority or the blacks would not have marched them three miles to him. He took from them their dirks and pistols, and the musket which one of them had, and they made no resistance—nor did they say a word when he called to me for "three pair of hand-cuffs" (all he brought down), and asked the three men from the Point who had guns, if they would stay and guard them all night. It was rather a troublesome elephant and he did not quite know what to do with it now it was in his possession. It was a good chance to do something if he would be sustained, but General Saxton has not conferred any magisterial powers[138] on the superintendents yet, and if he undertook too much and was not sustained, it would be worse than nothing. At any rate, he would have to take them to the village in the morning, so he decided to do so that night, and went off with his prisoners and their guard, driving his light sulky, and carrying the light arms, one of the men taking the musket again. He did not use the hand-cuffs.

It was strange to see how very quiet and apparently unexcited the people were. After the first few minutes they came up to me to buy, and then all went off when C. did, as quickly as possible.

July 5. When two buckra were reported as approaching while we were at breakfast it turned out to be two men from the village picket with a note from the Lieutenant to C. I did not find out the sequel to the story the other night, but it seems that C. and William crossed the creek with the soldiers, only taking two men to row. The blacks certainly behaved extremely well, and Moll told the men they might have the corn, which of course they refused to take. And as they went into the boat a boy put in the watermelon they had taken, saying, "B'longs to you, sah," but the man sent it ashore. The coals were rather hot, I guess, and the men were heartily ashamed of themselves and thoroughly penitent. C. went with them to the mess-room and saw the sergeant, who expressed great regret and said it was the first time any of their men had been guilty of such acts. The Lieutenant was away, and as C. drew paper towards him to report the case in writing, they looked very blank and begged him not to report. After some consideration he concluded not to report them, as he could not see the Lieutenant and they had behaved so well about it, and told them he would not unless some further acts of the kind were perpetrated by their men. They were very grateful, but C. did not feel sure that the Lieutenant would not hear of it. And so he did, in some way; investigated the affair and sent the men to Beaufort to be punished by the Commander of the post, who is now not General Saxton but, as it happens, is their own Colonel,[139] who is not likely to be lenient towards them. The Lieutenant sent a note to this effect to C. this morning, and also wished to know what would repay the negroes for the damage done. (The soldiers had already promised to make it good to them, and were to have been paid off yesterday, but their pay was stopped in consequence of this very occurrence.) So the whole affair has ended very satisfactorily. I am sorry for the poor fellows, for they will probably suffer not so much for what they actually did themselves, but to serve as an example to all other offenders.

July 7. Mr. Wells was to come at nine o'clock to the wharf to take Mr. Soule[140] to Morgan Island, one of his plantations. Mr. Wells appeared at the door to say that he had a large sail-boat—it was only a half-hour's sail to the island, and would not I go too. So I put up a little lunch and C. had his horse saddled and down to the wharf we went, and were soon at our destination. The only white-house on the island now occupied is on quite a bluff looking directly out to sea, pleasantly shaded, with a fresh breeze all the time up the Sound, and is a very healthy situation. But the house is of the roughest description, without paint inside or out, very much like a New Hampshire farmhouse in the back-woods a quarter of a century ago, but not so large, clean, or thrifty-looking, by any means. Here we stopped to see an old man who was brought from Africa when he was over twenty, and remembers his life in his own country, from which he was sold by his brother to pay a debt. Mr. Soule said he was bright and talkative when he last saw him, but now he is very much broken; and after sitting a few minutes we went on to the driver's house, a great contrast in neatness, and the gentleman left me in a rocking-chair under the shade of the large Asia-berry tree in front of the house, while they went off with Bacchus, the foreman, to see the cotton-fields. Here I stayed for a couple of hours, I should think, talking with Elsie, Bacchus' wife, who was not in the field because she had a headache, and very neat and nice she looked in her calico gown. She has no children, but made up for the want as far as she could by the number of chickens and ducks she had round. By and bye she got up, and picking up a piece of brick, pounded it up with an axe, and began to clean a large knife, which I knew meant watermelon. And when the gentlemen came back, Bacchus brought out a small table and put a melon on it which was almost large enough for a tablecloth; then he produced plates, and Mr. Wells carved the huge monster, which we nearly devoured. The air and grace with which one of the men, who came up to clear off the table for Mr. Wells to pay the people, touched his hat with a bow and a scrape would not have misbecome a Commencement Dinner or Wedding Party.

The keen interest which these Northern interlopers took in everything that concerned the people into whose shoes they had stepped, and their constant sense of the strangeness and romance of their situation appear in the extracts that follow. Again the chronology of the letters has been somewhat disregarded.


July 14. G. came over here and spent the day. He told us that a man who belonged on his place came back with the troops on one of their late expeditions, and told him that his master, T. J. Fripp, was killed at Darien. He said he (Fripp) had been past here in a boat and came back with his hands all blistered from rowing; they had been hailed by the Kingfisher, but told some story of having come from here, and escaped. He said his master swore the Yankees were everywhere, and that there was a light in every window of Tom Coffin's house.

E. S. P. TO C. P. W.

Boston, Sept. 30. I heard the other day that Captain Boutelle of the Coast Survey, who used to enjoy the hospitality of the planters of St. Helena, Edisto, etc., was dining at Cambridge, Mass., with a classmate of T. A. C.'s. The host inquired what had become of the Captain's former friends, the South Carolina planters. "Oh, they are all scattered and their property ruined." "Well, what has become of my classmate, Thomas A. Coffin?" "Oh, he is gone with the rest, and his fine plantation is in the hands of that confounded Abolitionist, Philbrick."


July 10. William has been overhauling the old letters and papers in the garret and has come across many very interesting bits of information among them. They are mostly very old. Old plantation books of Mr. Eben Coffin, the first proprietor of the name of this estate, dated 1800, containing lists of the slaves of former generations, in which some of the oldest here now, like Uncle Sam, are mentioned as two years old; estimates for this house and the building in the yard, etc.

Aug. 5. C. has found a spike of papers in the old overseer house, on which he and Mr. Soule are now expending their eyesight. Letters from Mr. Coffin to Cockloft, etc. They have found out how much he was paid for the year—also some references to an exciting time on Frogmore where the overseer seems to have mismanaged—somebody was shot and there was a trial! We shall ask the negroes about it all.

Aug. 6. I entertained myself to-day reading over these same letters. It made me feel very queerly—they were mostly written during the summer of 1860, from Charleston and Newport. It seemed so short a time ago, and every thing and person spoken of about the plantation was so familiar. It seems that the overseer of Frogmore, Benjarola Chaplin, was a bad man, and, suspecting a boy and girl there of poisoning him, had them tried and sentenced to be hung without letting Mr. Coffin know anything about it. We find that the sentence was not executed,—for Peter and Katy are still living,—but don't know why they were pardoned, though apparently there was no proof of their guilt.

Sept. 22. This morning I had a call from Henry, Mr. Coffin's old cook, a very intelligent mulatto who wanted me to read some letters to him and then talked a little while about Mrs. Coffin, to whom he seems very much attached, and says he would serve her to the end of his days. He and his wife would like to go North to her, and he was very glad to hear from Captain Boutelle that she was safe there; he says she suffered so the last part of the time she was here, he could not bear to look at her. "The first Mrs. Coffin was a very nice lady, but she succeed her." He talks very well. He was much pleased that I offered to write to her for him sometime, and said he had not liked to ask any one to do so for fear they should not think it right to have anything to do with the old people—"but she's a Nort' lady, you know, Ma'am, a beautiful lady, I would serve her all my life."

Sept. 27. Have I told you of an interesting talk we had from one Pompey, who said that it was the poor whites in Beaufort who made the negroes "sensible" about the war? That if it had not been for them he should have believed his master and gone away with him, but that they let him into the secret.[141] He says that [the poor whites] wished to stay, but were driven off by the rich men, whom they hate, and are now in the ranks fighting the rich men's battles. He has heard several times from the Main, through his old fellow servants who have run off, and mentioned two or three of the old proprietors here who are now in jail for trying to escape, among them Dr. Clarence Fripp, of whom they all speak with great affection. He never wanted to go, but was carried off by his brothers, one of whom, Eddings, has since died.

Oct. 15. As soon after breakfast as Robert had finished his regular work we mounted two pair of stairs "to clear up the attic." Do you think you know what that means? You have not the least idea. So far as we can make out, this house was built in 1809, and I think Robert dragged out from under the eaves the original shavings. It was melancholy to see the spoiled and demolished furniture which would be of so much use to us now, bureaus without drawers, sofas with only the frames, and those all broken, pieces of washstands and bedsteads, etc.

It seems that such wonders were afterwards performed in renovating this broken furniture that the parlor became almost a parody of its ancient splendor.

The letters now return to chronological order.


July 18. The cotton-fields are quite full of yellow and pink blossoms. We rode through many cotton-fields, and a pretty sight they were, some good, some poor,—those belonging to the Government as a general thing showing marked inferiority to those of the "Concern."

C. has been in the field all day, and has come home with a strong feeling of how much the people in general have gained and improved in the last year. There are poor ones among them, of course,—some he says he should like to send off the place, another year; but the majority of the people are very much ashamed of them, and for some time have been very anxious he should go over the fields to see who "work for deir money and who shirk." To-night he has been distributing the pork and molasses and has refused the bonus to those who have not done their work properly, preferring to make the distinction here rather than in the pay, and most of the delinquents have appreciated the justice of the proceeding, only one or two making any fuss at all, and the others were very much ashamed of them. C. says he thinks that school has improved the children, too, their manners are improved, as have the grown people's,—less cringing and subservient, but more respectful and manly. Tim does not pull his forelock at every word he speaks, as he did last year, looking like a whipped dog, but looks you full in the face and speaks out as if he were not ashamed of himself, and is perfectly respectful withal.

The names of the people have often puzzled me as to what they were originally intended for, and in taking down the names of the children "Rode" puzzled me completely, until old Maria, in talking of her "crop" the other day, told me that one child was born in the road on the way from the field the day "gun fire at Bay Point, and I give him name o' Road"!

I don't think any of the heirs will find that these people are deteriorated when they redeem this property. I only hope young Mass' Julian, who is in Europe, will be glad to find them so far in training for free laborers and be grateful that they are not ruined, as some of the people are!


Aug. 3. The people say, all in good earnest, that the best of the [cotton] crop (including nine tenths of it) equals and excels the "Secesh own." There are a few lazy, who have allowed their crop to grow grassy, and some young ones, who need careful instruction or severe admonition from the elder ones. But the large majority are careful, faithful, honest, enthusiastic, and are doing much better for themselves than they would have for their "obershere." The people anxiously inquire for cotton sheets to pick in. They are hiring hands now to pick for them; some of them will be tight pushed to save all their crop.


Pine Grove, Aug. 22. We are all very busy, all day and every day. And it is well that it is so, for in this climate the only way to keep one's faculties from rust is to keep them constantly in use. It is encouraging, however, to find the good results of our labor so apparent. I think our people are improving very fast, and they are very contented and happy. (Next week don't be surprised, however, to find the thermometer lower.)

A great step has lately been taken. On the whole the people have been growing more lawless this year; to remedy the evil, civil law has just been introduced. The first Commission[142] was appointed a few days ago, and as I am one of its members, it gives occupation for another day or two days of a week. I hope it will be able to do much good; at all events it will be abundantly supplied with cases. This life is very narrowing,—we talk nothing but negro, we think nothing but negro; and yet it develops a man at almost every point. From house-carpenter to Chief Justice is a long way. And in one who uses the opportunity aright it develops patience and faith marvelously, but through many failures.


Aug. 15. Just as we got up from the dinner-table, a woman came running up for C. because the people were fighting. Poor thing! she was dreadfully frightened and had run the whole way with her baby in her arms and looked as if she had just stepped out of the river. I don't know what the trouble was—it was the tongues of the women, and they fired shells and tore each other's clothes in a most disgraceful way, much to the mortification of the better part of the community. Jealousy is the foundation of a great deal of trouble among them, and there is often too much foundation for it.

Aug. 31. Mr. Soule had planned to go to Beaufort and see the General, and C. wished especially to get permission to turn all the young men from outlaws into private citizens by employing them and paying them regularly, for he could not help their aiding their wives and being employed by each other, a species of evasion which was eminently calculated to give them high ideas of the power and value of the law in the hands of the present authorities—C. helpless, and they doing as they pleased! It looked like rain, however, and they gave it up for that day.

Sept. 1. We had breakfast very early, and Mr. Soule and C. went off, to discover as usual that our clock was about an hour fast! I thought I would go out and dine and see how Mr. G. was, as he had had a fever turn. So I mounted and started alone on my expedition, after carefully locking the house. It was cloudy and cool, but I found my beast beastly hard, so had to content myself with a walk. It was very pleasant, as I rode along, to see how brightly the people looked up to bow and speak. First old Richard in the overseer-yard, watching the arbors, as they are called—the frames where the cotton is spread out to dry; then men and women coming from the field with great sheets of cotton on their heads which made them almost unrecognizable, little Susie staggering under such a pile that I saw she never could get it onto her head again alone as she was, if I asked her to put it down and run back to open the gate for me, so after more than one trial I succeeded in opening it for myself. Then I took my sack off and rode in my white jacket, putting the sack round the pummel and fastening it there by the extra stirrup which, as the only saddle we had for a long time, was rigged onto it for Mr. Philbrick and still remains, a relic of our early, barbarous days. But in a canter I lost it off, and had to call a child to pick it up for me. Then Miller came along, going out to help his "old woman" pick cotton, and walked by my side talking of the fine crop, and that next year there would not be land enough for the people—"dey work better nor Secesh time—encouragement so good!" He was as bright and jolly as you ever saw any honest farmer when his crops were in fine condition, and as we came in sight of Phillis and Katy, his wife and daughter, and Amaritta in a task just behind them, the latter called out to him, "Hi! Hi! bru' Miller, where you go? my back mos' broke!" as if it were the pleasantest news in the world. He answered, "Oh, I go walk, I got people pick my cotton," with such a hearty ha! ha! as did me good to hear. Many of the men laugh just like little children—Abel does. Next came Nancy, Peg, and Doll, Demus' mother and sisters, and such a nice family—the bright, smiling faces they raised to me and the cheerful "Hahdy, Missus," was worth seeing and hearing, and when Nancy sent Peg running after me to open the gate I was "fighting" with, she looked so bright, strong, and handsome as she strode along so splendidly, her dress caught up at the waist and let down from the shoulders, that I wished I could daguerreotype her on the spot.

I found Mr. G. in a very decided chill on the sofa in front of the parlor fire. I stayed an hour or two, and then, the fever coming on quite severely and affecting his head a good deal, I rode home as fast as possible to signal for Dr. Westcott.[143] I could not get through the cotton-field, however, without being stopped two or three times by applications for "suthin" for this child's boils or that one's sore eyes, all of which I referred to the house, where I afterwards administered to the best of my knowledge—one of my constant occupations.

Mr. Soule and C. came back, with no news from Charleston, having found the General and his staff just starting on a visit to the scene of action, but C. had obtained permission to employ the men and made them very happy the next day by telling them so.

Sept. 5. I have been endeavoring to instill habits of cleanliness into Rose and in many ways have succeeded—she has regular days when she goes home to wash, changes her "linen" twice a week, takes a warm bath every Saturday, and keeps her head and feet in a condition to which they were strangers previously. I can see, too, that it has had a decided effect upon her sisters. One of the important items has been pocket-handkerchiefs, with which I provided her, and she has to keep them in her pocket. For two or three days lately she has forgotten this essential article, and I finally told her that if it was forgotten the next day I should have to send her home for it. I had forgotten all about it, till, the next morning when she came to pour the water into my tub for me, a most inordinate snuffling betrayed the absent wipe. "Rose, where's your pocket-handkerchief? have you forgotten it again?" No answer, but a hiding of the head under her arm like a duck, which often takes place when she is in fault. "Then, Rose, put the coffee on, sweep the parlor, and go home for it." This elicited, "me no gwine home," a pert rejoinder I could not understand, till on calling her to me I saw by her face how excessively green I had been. I reprimanded her with a sober face as she again repeated "me no gwine home," at the same time untwisting the handkerchief from about her waist, but when she had left the room I should have shaken the bed, if that had been my style of laughter. Robert is a great wag in his way, though we do not see so much of his fun, as, having been used to the house in "Secesh time," he is utterly undemonstrative before white people and is only gradually thawing into a little more communicativeness. But we overhear him sometimes talking with the others. A most entertaining but not quite so pleasant exhibition of it (and C. and I could not help laughing at Rose and Hester's good-natured, amusing account) was his riding after the two girls one day when he had been out for the horses, extolling himself and insisting that they should call him "Maussa" or he would ride them down, with his spurs on! Hester gave in, but Rose wouldn't—"him too mannish!"

There is a great deal of tyrannizing over each other. "Mind now, min', run quick or I knock you,"—or "kill you dead" it is as likely to be,—is an ordinary method of getting anything done, while "cursing," as they call calling names, etc., is one of the hardest things I have to contend with in school, they are so quick to interpret any look or act into an offense and resent it on the spot with word or blow.

Sept. 9. I had a long talk with some of my big girls who had been very noisy and fighting—they do "knock" each other most unmercifully, and I can't instill any better notions into them. "Anybody hurt you, you 'bleeged to knock 'em," is the universal response, and they have no idea of letting any difficulty be peaceably settled.

The definite reply which these people require to the ordinary salutation of Hahdy? or Huddy? into which it has degenerated here, is very amusing, and a corresponding inquiry is expected in return, to which they give the most minute answers. "Good morning, Hacklis (Hercules), how are you to-day?" "Stirring, tank you, Ma'am, how youself?" and if I had a headache I should no more think of saying "pretty well" than if I were being cross-questioned at the bar—the inquiry is so sincere and expects such a particular reply. "Dunno, Missus—tank de Lord for life," is a common rejoinder, as well as "Not so well, tank you, ma'am."

This is as good a place as any for some more examples of negro speech and negro ways. The sayings of Rose, in particular, were a constant source of interest and amusement. H. W. writes that she "tells me everything, in her simplicity, even to the fact that her father has silver money which he keeps buried, and that her mother sends her to the pen for milk before it comes up here!"

[May 16.] Rose commented, "You lub Miss Helen," and then in a few minutes, "Miss Helen lub you. All two (both). I love Miss Helen, too. Miss Helen one nice buckra. You more rough 'long er Miss Helen. Miss Helen so softle—when him touch me I no feel 'um—me feel you—you so strong." All this with inimitable gesture and expression and a "leetle" and "middling-sized-bear" voice that was inexpressibly droll.

[May 17.] As I sat down to write this morning, Rose came in to dust. "Miss Hy't, you gwine write Norf?" Yes, Rose. I told her that little Robert sent me the pictures and a letter from little Mary. It pleased her very much, and she said she wanted to see them. "Me lub Robert and Mary." Thinking I should like to get at some of her notions, I asked her, What do you mean by love, Rose? "Me dunno—brothers and sisters." Don't you love any one else, Rose? "Me dunno." Why, you said yesterday that you loved Miss Helen, and just now that you loved Robert and Mary. "Me lub dem." By this time the top of her head was in contact with the floor, when she suddenly raised herself to a kneeling posture and pointing up, said a moment after, "Me lub God," and in a few minutes, as if she were quoting, "An dem dat foller arter Christ." What do you mean by that, Rose? "Me dunno," and I found she had not the least idea. Presently she enumerated Mass' Charlie, Mass' Willyum, and Mister Philbrick in her category, and then went on with her dusting. By and by she said—"Miss Hyut, me no say your name." No, Rose. "Well, me lub you an' Miss Helen de morer."

Mr. Thorpe has a boy, Strappan, who is even more noted than my Rose, and who has given some remarkable answers to questions which Mr. Thorpe puts to him, and which he takes down verbatim. The only one I know is his definition of Love. "Arter you lub, you lub, you know, boss. You can't broke lub. Man can't broke lub. Lub stan', he ain't goin' broke. Man hab to be berry smart for broke lub. Lub is a ting stan' jus' like tar; arter he stick, he stick. He ain't goin' move. He can't move less dan you burn um. Hab to kill all two arter he lub, 'fo you broke lub."

[Aug. 15.] This morning Rose was sewing with me in my chamber, and, as she is very apt to, got talking about the time when they ran away from the "robbers" and the Yankees first came. It is always interesting, and I wish I could give you her language, though it would be little without her emphasis and expression. The first time she saw a Yankee—"Great dairdy!" she said, "So Yankee stan'?" I don't think she knew what sort of an animal to expect.

Sept. 15. When Rose came into my room this morning, she came up to my bed to ask how I was and express her contrition that she did not stay all night with me! "Me couldn't sleep, me think all night Miss Hayiut sick, me should stay long him—when I go bed, me say, 'Hester, Miss Hayiut sick, I oughter stay wid her;' Hester say, 'Come, go 'long me, take you shum,' but me wouldn't go den!" She is very trying sometimes, but full of character, as you see, and it is hard to know just how to deal with her. I am afraid of being too lenient to her and so spoiling her, or too stern, for fear I should spoil her, and so losing her affection, which ought to be the controlling influence. With all their subserviency, which I am happy to say is disappearing, they have little idea of obedience.

Sept. 17. This morning there was no milk, as in this benighted region if it rains they don't "pen cow" at night, and for the same reason Abel did not catch one in the field this morning that we might have a drop for breakfast!

[Oct. 19.] The doctor wanted some wormwood, and thinking I had heard the people speak of it, I asked Elsie. "Me dunno, me dunno nothing; me jis' born yestiddy!" she answered.

[Nov. 16.] Rose came to tell me this morning that there was no milk. Henry had dropped the bucket (from his head) and spilled it all. "See Henry here." Why, Henry, where did you spill the milk? I asked in dismay; but he looked blank till she interpreted for him—"Which side de milk churray?" (throw away). How, when, and where they do not use or know the meaning of. Which side, is whereWhat time, when—but they do not understand a sentence with how in it.

The next four extracts give a good idea of Mr. Philbrick's letters to his superintendents and of the far-sighted, honest thought which he put on his Port Royal undertaking. The first was written in the summer; the others appear in their proper place in order of time.

E. S. P. TO W. C. G.

Boston, July 28. If you can induce some old man who is a good judge, I would let him pick select cotton all through the season for seed, going over the whole field, or such parts of it as he finds the best cotton, culling the best pods from the best plants. In this way you can get seed enough to plant some acres next year, which would yield enough for the whole plantation another year and of a superior quality. This is the way the most intelligent planters got up their famous varieties of seed, and we ought to be able to use as much brains as they did. Perhaps you can get some refugee to do this, without giving offense to the mass, but he must be a good judge.

I hope you will not feel it your duty to enlist in the army, for I consider your position there a very useful one and difficult to replace. I don't mean useful merely to the people with whom you come in contact, but politically, upon the solution of the great social, political problem which we have got to solve, viz., the worthiness and capacity of the negro for immediate and unconditional emancipation. I intend to publish the results of this year's operations next winter and want to be able to show that we have raised cotton at a lower price per pound than the former proprietors did, counting the interest upon their capital invested in negroes as a part of their expenses, which is no more than just.

This point, as regards the raising of cotton by free labor, Mr. Philbrick did successfully make later, as will be seen (see page 265). Another inducement to Northern capital to come South was offered by him at this time in a letter which appeared in the Boston Daily Advertiser on July 20. It was entitled "A New Market for Manufactures," and tabulated the results of his operations in the "shop" during the fifteen months of its existence so far. Between March, 1862, and March, 1863, for instance, a population of four hundred and twelve had spent there $3047; during the months of May and June, 1863, a population of nine hundred and thirty-three had spent $3800; the articles bought had included a variety of dry goods, provisions, hardware, etc., almost all of which supplied needs entirely new to the blacks. The letter concluded: "It may readily be seen that a considerable demand may arise for the articles above-named and others of kindred nature, when a population of some millions shall be in a position to apply their earnings to the supply of their rapidly increasing wants. Should not the manufacturing interests of the North be awake to this?" This letter, written for the express purpose of bringing means of civilization to the blacks, was taken by many Northern friends of the negro as proof that its writer's motive was to exploit the black race for the benefit of the white. Of course, Mr. Philbrick knew perfectly well to what misconstruction he exposed himself when he told the public that there was profit to be made on the old plantations. The following letter was written in reply to a warning from C. P. W. on this very head.

E. S. P. TO C. P. W.

Boston, Sept. 24. I don't agree with you about avoiding publicity for our enterprise. I hold that the pecuniary success we are likely to meet with is the very best reason why the whole thing should be made public, for it is the only sort of success which can make our enterprise a permanent thing and take it off the hands of philanthropic benevolence, which, though well enough for a spurt, can never be relied on to civilize the four millions of darkies likely to be on our hands. If we succeed financially, it will prove that free labor is self-sustaining, and that the blacks are capable of becoming a useful laboring class immediately after leaving their masters' hands, and this fact is of vast importance. If we attempt to keep quiet, we shall incur with much more justice the accusation of being mere speculators than if we make the most of our success by bringing it before the public as a political experiment, of great influence upon our future social system, thus giving the public the full benefit of the experiment. The fact is just this. Negro labor has got to be employed, if at all, because it is profitable, and it has got to come into the market like everything else, subject to the supply and demand which may arise from all kinds of enterprises in which it chances to be employed. It is not likely that it can be protected on a large scale by the amount of disinterested philanthropy which happens to be present on the Sea Islands, but if it can be open to private enterprise, by an occupation of lands free from unnecessary restrictions and under a proper sense of the security of property, it can afford to lose some of the Methodism now bestowed upon it at Beaufort. We want first to prove that it is profitable, and then it will take care of itself.

E. S. P. TO W. C. G.

Sept. 24. Limus' seine was shipped in the schooner. I have not yet ordered any for 'Siah, for I thought it would be too late for him to use it this year, and he had better wait and see if Limus' seine was all right. Moreover, entre nous, I don't believe it will do him any good to spend his time a-fishing. It has a sort of excitement, like gold-digging, which unfits a man for steady, plodding industry, witness Limus. Now the present demand for fish will not be permanent. After the war the negroes will have to fall back upon field-labor for a living, and it will be better for them if in the meanwhile they do not acquire a distaste for steady labor and get vagrant habits. I would talk this over with 'Siah and ask him in serious mood if he really thinks best to spend so much money in fishing-gear, when he could buy land with it by and bye.

Here begins again the rambling narrative of plantation happenings.


Sept. 26. C. was very busy paying for cotton, and we found him on the piazza, sitting at a little table with the drawer full of money and the gang of women standing and sitting about at the foot of the steps, while he called them up one at a time. He paid old Nancy first, asking her how much she thought it was. "Me dunno, Massa, you knows." As much as ten dollars? "Oh yes! Massa, I tink you gib me more nor dat." Fifteen, perhaps? Five for you, Doll, and Peg, each? "Yes, Massa, I tink so." And it was pleasant to see the corners of her mouth go as he counted out $48—which she took in perfect quietness and with a sober face, a curtsey and "Tank'ee, Massa." Sinnet was more demonstrative than anybody, lifting up hands and eyes, and ending with "Tank de Lord; I mus' go praise." Amaritta drew for her gang $78—they have picked over three thousand pounds. C. paid out over $1000.

H. W. further reports that when C. told old Grace he had weighed altogether a bale for her, "Good God!" she cried, "me lib to raise bale o' cotton! Come along, Tim, less get some vittle."

The next letter is Mr. Tomlinson's reply to one from W. C. G., in which he had complained of negroes who refused to pay their "corn-tax,"—a rent in kind for their private patches of corn-land,—and had suggested their expulsion from the plantation as the best remedy.


Sept. 30. I have just read yours on the "corn question." I have told Government Superintendents, when the people refuse or neglect to bring their corn to the corn-house, not to interfere with them until it is all broken in;[145] then to tell them how much is expected from them, and give them a certain length of time to bring it in. If it is not done, get a "guard" from the "Jail," and go to their houses and take it. Of course the superintendent is to use a sound discretion in making his demand, making due allowance for failure of "crop," etc. Your plan is in my opinion open to serious objections as a matter of expediency. I have no doubt that there are people on your places whom you would be well rid of. If you can endure them patiently a little while longer, I think it will be to your advantage to do so. The Government is commencing at once the erection of a large number of houses, and after they are finished those turbulent and unruly people may be disposed of without the scandal and excitement which would otherwise accompany their removal. After this season is terminated, you can refuse any longer to employ such persons, and the Government having then provided homes for them, there will be no longer an excuse for boring you with them.

Mr. Philbrick's advice was as follows:

E. S. P. TO W. C. G.

I am not surprised at the prospect of some meanness about the corn-tax. The negroes would be a marvelous race if it were not so. If any difficulty is encountered in collecting the tax, I should take it out of their pay at $1.50 per bushel, which is about what it costs me to send corn there.


Oct. 13. Mr. G., who had just come from the Point, told me a very nice thing about the men there. It seems that a few weeks ago Mr. Tomlinson made an address to them at church about there being five church-members in jail for shooting cattle, and after he got through, 'Siah, the foreman and elder of the Fripp Point Plantation, rose and indorsed what he had said, adding that the thing had never happened on his place. That very week an ox was shot there, and Mr. G. has been unable to find out who did it, all the men protesting that they did not know. So to-day he called them all up and talked to them, and then spoke of the ox and asked them what they thought they ought to do. One man rose and proposed to pay for it—another seconded the motion, and they passed the resolution to do so by a vote of sixteen against two! Mr. G. was very much pleased, and gave notice that if the perpetrator of the deed would come to him and confess within four days he should be let off without paying the fine.

Oct. 20. Thomas seemed much better, but very weak, and asked me if I would not give him some liquor! I asked if he had ever been in the habit of drinking it, and he said yes, that he bought it by the pint at camp! He belongs to the First South Carolina Volunteers, Colonel Higginson's Regiment. It is dreadful to think of such means of civilization being introduced among these poor people. It made me heartsick.

While I was dressing for dinner C. came up to ask me if I had "any prejudice against color," as he had asked the steward of the Wabash[146] to dine, "a Boston boy who speaks English as well as you do." We found him a very bright, intelligent young fellow and very modest and unassuming withal—gave his name only as "Joseph" both to Mr. Soule and C. He had come foraging for the Admiral, and as C. found him waiting for the people to come from the field, he took him about with him and brought up at the house. He was on board the Mohegan when Port Royal was taken and had then just come from the coast of Africa where they had taken Gordon, the slave-pirate, on board the barque Ariel, and he gave us a most interesting account of the whole affair, as he went on board with the Captain when he ordered the hatches to be opened and the nine hundred blacks were discovered. C. says he overheard Amaritta say to him, "You free man? I t'o't so, when I see you walk wi' buckra," and old Grace, when he asked her if she had any eggs, answered, "No, Maus—my dear," her first impression being that as he walked "wid buckra" she must be respectful, and then remembering that she must not say "Maussa" to a black man. He is black as Robert, but with Saxon features. Speaking of Henry, he asked, "Is he short and stout and about my complexion?" Henry is almost white!

Oct. 22. Limus is full of amazement at the men of the Fifty-Fifth[147] and could not express his surprise at their walking up to their post-office kept by a black man, and opening their letters to read "just like white men!" They don't know what to make of educated blacks,—it upsets all their ideas on the relative position of the two races! I expected some remarks from Rose about our sable guest—she was not here, but the next day she began: "That stranger man eat up here? Which side him eat?" In the dining-room with us. "Him free man?" Yes, he was born in Boston. "Him read and write?" Yes, as well as I can. This made her open her eyes, and when I told her that in Boston there were schools for the black children to go to just like those for the white children, where they could learn the same things, she departed with a very quiet, "Yes, Ma'am."


Oct. 24. Nothing happens here now, so that even this delightful country, with its charming variety of scenery and its delicious climate, its bracing air, its sparkling streams, its richness of autumnal tints, the ever-varying play of light and shade upon the steep hillsides and through the green valleys often cease to charm. For myself, I may say that even the continual excitement incident to the task of weighing cotton, selling sugar, or counting rails, not to mention the no less important duty of seeing that my hat is not stolen from my head, or the shingles off my roof,—even these interesting and exciting occupations sometimes grow wearisome, and fail to afford that continued gratification and satisfaction to enjoy which is the object of a life in this Department. Although the statement seems absurd, I must nevertheless affirm, that it is more bother to take care of a plantation of one hundred and twenty working hands than it is to exercise that number in the "School of the Company;" and that the satisfaction derived from the faithfulness and honesty of perhaps thirty is hardly sufficient to atone for the anxiety and distrust with which one regards the remaining ninety, who lie by habit and steal on the least provocation, who take infinite pains to be lazy and shirk, who tell tales of others, of which themselves are the true subjects, and from whom all the artifices of the lawyer cannot draw a fair statement of fact, even when it is obviously for their own interest to tell the whole truth. "Wherefore he is called the everlasting Niggah."

I have had my grumble, and I feel better. What I have said "has truth in it, only distorted." I am not actually miserable, though one might draw that inference from these remarks. The fact is that, the novelty of this life having worn off after fifteen months of the "useful experience," the life, as was to be, and was expected, loses something of its satisfaction, and one is more open to the effect of the vexations and annoyances than when the interest was fresh and the work new and untried. It is not so much that one is annoyed by the work itself, but the imperfections of the system under which we are obliged to work grow more clear and are continually presented in various forms. The only satisfactory thing would be to reconstruct the system on the plantation, first, by turning off all the hands not wanted; second, by adopting a new system in regard to the privileges and compensation of the people. The privileges are, free houses, free land for provision crops, free use of wood, and, with certain restrictions, of the animals and implements. I should do away with these privileges, making them pay house-rent and land-rent, making them pay for their wood, if of certain qualities, and for the use of teams and implements—for their own work. Then I should increase their wages, with fixed prices for the various kinds of work. I should wish to be able to discharge any one whose work did not suit me, and remove him from the plantation. These reforms cannot possibly be instituted now, and can never be, probably, on this island. In the meantime, if the people were only honest and truthful, other matters would be of comparatively little account, but they are the most provoking set, in this respect, that you can easily conceive. They are almost incorrigible.


Oaks, Oct. 30. I have appointed you one of a "Commission" of three, to meet in the "Study" at R.'s place on Wednesday, November 4, at 10 A. M. The first case that will probably come before you will be that of the disputed ownership of a "boat," now in the possession of one "Limus," purveyor to General Gillmore, but which is claimed by "Barkis," who lives at Hilton Head. Both the parties have been to see me, and Barkis is not "willin'" to give up his claim.


Nov. 8. I found C. had two men locked up in separate rooms downstairs—there had been some trouble, and one, who was half drunk, had used a knife. One man he let go, the other is still shut up, and sent to see me this evening. It is dreadful to have such things happening, but it will do good for the people to find that there is some law over them.

Early in November Mr. Philbrick went down to Port Royal again to gin and export his cotton crop.


Coffin's Point, Nov. 10. Arrived here about 6. I found people in the field picking cotton at R.'s places, and found on nearly all my fields the cotton still green and blossoming, while on most of the Government plantations the grass had stopped its growth long ago and the crop was about over. I find old Frank (the wily) in confinement in the harness-room for some row among the people last Sunday, awaiting trial. Oh, the horses, how they do look! A few months among our Northern fixings make everything look so wretched down here.

There is a circular just issued by General Saxton, pointing out the plantations which are to be sold to the negroes, and advising them to stake out their claims and build cabins on them as preemptors, which will not attract many of my people, I think. The McTureous places, T. B. Fripp's, Hamilton Fripp's, and others are to be so sold, as soon as the necessary surveys are made. I doubt the policy of this sort of thing until the time shall have passed for the redemption of the land by the old owners, though none may ever appear to redeem. I am afraid some rows may arise from the difficulty of fixing and recording boundaries among a lot of negro squatters, should there be many such.

These plantations, about to be sold at auction to negro preemptors, were those which had been reserved for this purpose from the sale of March 9, 1863 (see p. 171). The order of the President (dated September 16), from which General Saxton got authority for his circular just mentioned, also provided for the sale at auction of about twenty plantations in lots not to exceed three hundred and twenty acres. This latter provision, which might possibly result in preventing many negroes from owning any land at present,—since the plantations reserved for them alone were not large enough for all,—presently brought about infinite trouble, through disagreement among the authorities.


Nov. 15. The people are quite disturbed about General Saxton's new order, which Mr. French and Judge Smith have been trying to explain to them at church;—in vain, apparently,—for some of the most ignorant of our people thought they should be obliged to buy land, and came to C. in distress at leaving the plantation. Others we hear are selecting their lots, but now comes General Gillmore's order to stop all sales; I am afraid these poor people, who hate all change and "confusion," will have their brains hopelessly confused.


Nov. 18. General Saxton has given orders that all work on the plantations[148] in preparation for next year's crop shall be stopped, for he expects to give them up either to the purchasers or the tax-commissioners very soon. The tax men are here, as amicably disposed towards each other as cat and dog, and as they are not remarkable for their efficiency in matters of business, I do not think it very likely that they will accomplish much this winter. They have two parties of surveyors at work, but they don't seem to be doing much but chop vines and sail about the creeks in boats.


Pine Grove. [Sept. 23.] I think you would be quite astonished at the refinement and homelikeness of our parlor. Bright table-cloths, a most elegant couch lately developed,—a comfortable old sofa, pictures all around, a fancy bookcase almost full of books,—a glass-topped secretary with an ample supply of pigeon-holes and writing arrangements,—papers lying around loose,—and a wood fire burning in the big chimney-place,—won't that do for philanthropists? One door opens into a large dining-room,—the windows upon a portico, looking out upon the creek winding among the green marsh grass, with broad water and islands in the distance. For contrast now and then a pig squalls vigorously under the house,—for it is getting cold now and the pigs eagerly seek the shelter of the "big house." It is in vain to try to keep them out, though I've had a fence built round the house.

Nov. 14. I shall have to take to contraband pants, I'm afraid, as I did last winter. The negroes can hardly hold me to be of gentle kind, when they see me doing their own work in their own clothes. I wish you would come down to see me, if it is only, by the sight of a white cravat and shining beaver, to convince them that I am a "boss" born. You shall have your fill of clearing up and improving, too; I need just such energy to make respectable my own premises. At present they are the pigs' playground, except on Sundays, when a lot of the plantation urchins are allowed very quietly to peep in at the windows and learn manners from white folks. At present a young fellow, who has lately waked up from a slouch into a man, is patiently leaning against the sill, waiting, I suppose, for his lesson.


Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26. We sat down to dinner—sixteen Massachusetts people, six ministers' sons. Mr. Folsom and William Allen, Miss R. and Mr. G. went home; all the rest spent the night, and no one on a sofa. We wondered what was the last [dinner-party] as large that had dined in this old house, but Robert says he never saw such a large party here—Mr. Coffin used to give his dinners in Charleston.


Nov. 26. We got to R.'s house, where he told us he had been helping Mr. Wells all day before in boating his cotton from Morgan Island to his home place.[149] There was about $3000 worth on the island, and he did not choose to expose the rebels to any further temptation in regard to it. It seems that Tuesday morning the cow-minder had gone out to the pen with his milk-pail and never returned. Search being made, the milk-pail and his jacket were found, and some new tracks of shoes on the beach, also traces of a bivouac breakfast and marks of a boat's keel on the Coosaw River beach. Nothing more is known than this. The presumption is that a scouting party had come over Coosaw River and bivouacked on the beach, hauling up their boat, and that, seeing this poor man in the morning, they gobbled him up and cleared out as they came. He was an Edisto man, of considerable intelligence, and it is hoped his information will not be so reliable as the rebels might wish. Mr. Wells immediately informed Captain Dutch and got Mr. R. to help him boat over his cotton. Captain Dutch sent a guard to patrol the island and sent his little schooner up opposite Morgan Island in Coosaw River as an outpost.

We had an immense rush at the store yesterday, four hundred and sixty odd dollars during the day here. R. and Wells have taken over fifteen hundred dollars in the three days after opening their goods. Amaritta bought over forty dollars' worth at once, and poor Juliana staggered off with a load on her head that she could hardly carry. The trunks go like smoke, so do the firkins and other domestic wares.

From H. W.

Dec. 1. Uncle Nat, who has carried the plantation keys for forty years, giving out all the allowance for people and creatures, and has done no field work for that length of time, has had an acre and a half of cotton this year, and has raised the largest proportion, six hundred pounds seed-cotton per acre, of any one on the place. He lives at Pine Grove with his wife, but plants here for old association's sake, and the other day, when C. made the last cotton payment, he gave Nat's money to his sister, Nancy. The next morning Nat was up here early and took his hat off to the ground to C. "Came to thank you for what you send me yesterday, Sar—much obliged to you, Sar (with another flourish and scrape). I well sat-is-fy, and jest as long as the Lord give me life and dese ole arms can do so (imitating the motion of hoeing), I work cotton for you, Sar!"


Dec. 5. Our cotton crop is about all in, though some people are still in the field gleaning. They glean very carefully now, and don't allow a single pod to escape them. I have about one hundred gins now in running order, and expect to have fifty more, all going in another week.


Dec. 10. I rode down to see the work. It was a busy scene—a whipper on each arbor with a child atop to fill the machine, which is used to lash the dirt out of the cotton before ginning and make it easier to gin; then the gins were all at work—the women were sorting—the men packing—potato-vines were being brought in to be weighed, carts and oxen carrying seed—altogether such a busy piece of work as one does not often see here.


Dec. 10. We were surprised by a green carryall coming down the road drawn by some army horses, hay-fed and round. The passengers were a Mr. Paige, a correspondent of the Tribune, and his friend, a Mr. Baldwin from Cleveland. I had met them in one of my trips between Hilton Head and Beaufort, and after answering several questions asked them to come and see me, but I didn't think they would take the pains. Mr. Paige asked questions enough to pump me dry while here, but I don't believe he will be much the wiser, for he asked some three or four times over. I took them down to the praise house in the evening and, Uncle Sam being ill of "fever and pain in head," I helped with the hymns and read a chapter from the Bible. Old Aaron and George prayed, Doll's Will told off a hymn from memory, and George repeated one, as I think, from his own brain, putting in all the couplets he could remember, and hunting over his brain for each one while they were singing the last. My visitors were very much interested, and were chiefly pleased with the earnestness and simplicity of their worship, remarking that they were fortunate in not being bothered with doctrine. I am afraid they didn't get much of an idea of our schools, for the only girl they asked to spell happened to be Caroline, whom they met in the street. She is only half-witted, you know, and didn't do her teachers much credit. I should like to see what Mr. Paige has to say about our doings in the Tribune. I asked him not to mention the name of this plantation, for I didn't want to call the attention of the Coffin family upon us any more than I could help. He asked me for the names of any superintendents and teachers here, but I told him they didn't care to be brought before the public.

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