I was curious to know how much cotton could be got from a certain amount of seed. I ginned just five pounds of cotton and had thirteen pounds of seed left, being over a peck, for it weighs forty-four pounds to the bushel. The people were very much amused to see me gin so long, and wondered that I had the strength for it. You know they consider us rather effeminate in regard to strength, but I did not find it nearly so hard work as I supposed. It is not half as hard as mowing.
Dec. 13. Mr. Wells had his cotton about half ginned when there came a posse of men from the First South Carolina Regiment, without a white officer, to hunt after deserters on his plantation. They met the men they wanted and shot them all three in broad daylight; one is badly wounded and may not recover, but the others probably will. After shooting one man they were going away to leave him, and Mr. Wells went and took care of him and sent him to the hospital.
Dec. 17. The people were all at work ginning cotton, and the new mechanic Nero, whom we found at the White place, was putting the engine in order. This engine serves as a moral stimulus to keep the people at work at their hand-gins, for they want to gin all the cotton by hand, and I tell them if they don't get it done by the middle of January I shall gin it by steam. The result will probably be that there will be little left for the steam-engine to do. But it will do no harm to put it in order and then I can grind corn with it next summer. The weight of all my cotton is now 287,790 pounds in seed. The samples which I sent to Liverpool were appraised there as worth forty-eight to fifty pence, which, if exchange remains as high as at present, would make our crop worth $100,000 in Liverpool. This is as much as I had ever estimated I should realize from it.
FROM H. W.
Dec. 17. The cotton packing continues; twelve bales are already prepared for the market, stamped with the old Coffin trademark. The initiated know what it means, but I doubt if any one else would recognize the significance of the headless and footless box!
FROM E. S. P.
Dec. 27. The children came up about half-past two o'clock on Christmas afternoon [to see the tree], but being told not to come until sunset they hung around outside the gate till Mr. Hall was ready for them. About dusk they were all marshaled in by classes, and we all helped distribute the presents. The children seemed struck aghast with the brilliant sight, and when William Hall wished them all a Merry Christmas, they threw up their hands and shouted with all their might. It wasn't a cheer, but more like a yell, evidently in answer to his good wishes. The presents were taken with the usual apathy shown on such occasions, and as soon as they had time they began to compare them with each other and some to complain how they didn't get enough.
Yesterday morning we made our preparations for Hunting Island. It was a fine day, wind east, and rather warm. We had four negro oarsmen. Seven white folks made up the load, including Mr. Eustis. We landed on the Island just as G.'s boat did. After unloading our grub and firing off our guns to dry them and let the deer know that we were coming, we scattered about in various directions in search of game. I then went to see the ruins of the lighthouse in the middle of the point, a few rods from each beach. It was a brick structure and must have been over one hundred feet high in order to overlook the pine trees about it. There is nothing left now but a mass of brick and rubbish about forty feet high, covering an acre of ground. It was blown up by the rebels at the beginning of the war, and they did the work thoroughly. Great blocks of granite and plates of iron lay bedded in between the masses of brick-work, some of which are still coherent in masses, and several feet in thickness. It is the first real ruin I ever saw in this country. The keeper's house close by has been all torn to pieces by the negroes for rebuilding their own cabins and corn-houses.
The next extracts tell of more raids for soldiers, fresh despair, and renewed hope that they might at last be stopped.
FROM E. S. P.
Dec. 27. On getting up this morning the people were found all in a hubbub. The soldiers had been there in the night, some fifty strong, and had carried off not only Caesar, a deserter, Abel's son, but also old Miller, Tony, and Jonas and David, neither of whom had ever belonged to any of the regiments. Of course all the people were enraged, and justly, for they have been assured by General Saxton over and over again during several months past that they needn't be afraid of any more drafting, for it was all over. As soon as we had done breakfast I walked down to the quarters to see what facts I could gather. It seemed they [the soldiers] had come by rowboats to the village creek, thinking they had got to our creek, and landed at Fripp Point. There they found no deserters, for there were none, but took all the men they could find, viz.: Pompey's boy Isaac, Fortune's boy Jimmy, and Alick's boy January. They got old Dan to show them the way to Coffin's and came along the road, arriving just after praise-meeting; they set a guard all about the houses and shot at every man that tried to run away, catching the men named above and carrying them off. Tony and Jonas got away at Fripp Point, but they carried off the others. C. and I got into our little boat with Jim to help, and rowed around to the village in hopes to find the party still there, but they had gone, carrying Dr. Hunting's cook. So we rowed back and ate our dinner in disgust. This raid will break up my ginning on this end of the island and put it back at least two weeks, for the men are so scared that they won't dare to go to work, and the women can't do much without them.
FROM H. W.
Dec. 27. Mr. Philbrick has gone up to-night to see General Saxton, and Mr. Eustis says that if he can't (or won't) stop it, he shall write to Washington. It is the unauthorized work of the officers whose commissions perhaps depend upon their keeping full ranks.
FROM E. S. P.
Dec. 28. I rode off for Coosaw Fort on Ladies Island, where the pickets are. I found Captain Bryant at camp. He was very pleasant and told me that the descent upon Coffin's Point Saturday night was not made by his orders, but by one of Colonel Higginson's captains. The men were brought to him, however, and he discharged all who didn't want to enlist. So I came off content.
The holidays and the hunt for deserters have so broken up the labor that nothing of any consequence can be done now till after New Year's, when I hope the work will move on smoothly again.
[Jan. 1, 1864.] My errand to Beaufort on Tuesday was not very successful. I could find neither Colonel Higginson nor General Saxton. So I had to content myself with writing to the latter an account of how the soldiers had been behaving here. On getting back, I found the people more quiet than I had expected. The return of the men from camp had reassured them, and most of them have gone to work again.
The year closes with W. C. G.'s reflections on the progress of the "Port Royal Experiment."
FROM W. C. G.
Dec. 27. We are busy ginning and packing. Both men and women are hard at work, and till 3 o'clock P. M. the scene is almost one of Northern industry. There is more noise, less system and steadiness. Now and then two or three break out into a quarrel, in which they excel all other people I ever saw with their tongues,—tremendous noise, terrible gestures, the fiercest looks,—and perhaps by evening they are friends again. Meanwhile the others sit still at their work, listening to it as a matter in the common course of things,—and will tell how they love peace and quiet; it will be their own turn next! In all their faults,—passion, lying, stealing, etc.,—they are perfectly conscious of the sin; and the same ones whom it would be impossible to stop, except by force, in their tempests of rage, will when quiet talk as sensibly of their folly as any one could desire. They seem to have a very delicate conscience without the slightest principle. That this want of principle is not innate and not their own fault, I think is proved by their consciences remaining true. Their state of morals I should say is decidedly better than it was under slavery,—less of licentiousness, lying, and stealing,—and more general manliness and self-respect. But they are very far behind, in character as well as intelligence, and I suspect that most abolitionist views of their character are exaggerated in their favor. It increases the need and it does not decrease the interest of helping them, to think so. Many a talking abolitionist would be disgusted into indifference, and many a hearty hater of the talk would be surprised into interest and favor, if they lived here for six months. It's pretty hard sometimes to find your best men lying to you, or your most trusty people ungrateful and distrusting you,—and then again a light breaks out where you thought there was neither fuel nor fire. The most encouraging symptom is the clearly increasing influence which the best of the people are acquiring,—so that there certainly is a general improvement.
The land-sales of 1864, contradictory orders—Discontent among the negroes about wages—Small-pox on the plantations—The chattel sale—Labor contracts for the season—Newspaper attacks on Mr. Philbrick—The raid on Morgan Island—Mr. Philbrick's plans for the future—The black draft—Red tape—Approach of Sherman and the battle of Honey Hill.
FROM E. S. P.
Jan. 3. I don't know how low the thermometer would have stood out of doors here. R.'s was at 19 deg.. The one in our parlor was at 28 deg. some time after lighting the fire.
You will probably in due course of time see the tintypes of Rose and Demus. Old Judy and Minda got theirs taken some time since, but there has been no opportunity of sending them to you. As they went up all by themselves, the arrangement of their toilet was original; hence a display of jewelry rather more characteristic than tasteful.
The subject of the approaching land-sales now becomes the all-important topic.
Jan. 20. There was notice given for all the people to meet at St. Helena church on Sunday last to hear the President's new instructions about land-sales. These new orders were obtained, as nearly as I can learn, by Father French, who went to Washington at General Saxton's request to urge the matter. The plan defeats that of Dr. Brisbane, who meant to sell at auction. Now, as you will see by the papers, all the lands that were bid in by the United States are offered at private sale, to black or white, in lots of twenty or forty acres at a uniform price of $1.25 per acre, like Western public lands, with the privilege of preemption, but to those only who have resided on lands belonging to the Government for at least six months since the occupation of the island by our forces. So this gives all the superintendents and teachers a chance to buy as well as the negroes, but excludes all new-comers. I found Dr. Brisbane as much disturbed as it is possible to conceive.
Of course I stayed over with Mr. R. another night to attend the church. It was a fine morning, and we found a pretty large attendance, both black and white. Parson Phillips was there and opened the services. Mr. French followed, urging them to go ahead at once and locate their lots. General Saxton followed, saying but little, but urging them not to sleep till they had staked out their claims.
Father French begged leave to differ, for he wanted them to respect the Sabbath. Mr. Hunn followed, saying they had better do it to-day, for it was no worse to drive stakes Sunday than to keep thinking about it. He condoled them on the small pay they had been getting from Government and private speculators, saying, "What's thirty cents a day in these times for a man who has to maintain himself and his family?" (Great sensation among negroes, and a buzz, with mutterings of "that's so," etc.). Then a paymaster made a spread-eagle speech. Then Colonel Ellwell was called out by Mr. French. Then Judge Smith mounted the pulpit and explained to the negroes the meaning of preemption, how it was formed of two Latin words. Colonel Ellwell contrived to mystify the people a little as follows. After expatiating on the goodness of President Lincoln, he said he was so kind he had even offered pardon to the rebels, and perhaps we should see their old masters back here some day, with a whole county of scoundrels to swear they had always been loyal Union men, etc. The whole fandango lasted till nearly three o'clock, and then we had the usual amount of shaking of hands, etc., outside. I lost no time in finding Mr. Hunn and informing him that I had paid an average of over fifty cents a day through the whole season of working cotton. If he had been a younger man, I should have said, as I thought, that it was not a true kindness to these ignorant people to say anything tending to make them discontented with the rates of pay that had been established with a good deal of care by men who had been quite disinterested and well calculated to judge of such things. In fact, I might have told him, what I certainly believe, that a much higher rate of pay than they have been receiving would tend to diminish the amount of industry rather than to stimulate it, by rendering it too easy for them to supply their simple wants. I held my peace, however, and was content to hear him apologize, disclaiming any intention of referring to me in what he had said, etc., and admitting that my case was an exception, adding that he didn't suppose I should be allowed by Government to pay higher rates than those established by General Saxton! We were accompanied home from church by Mr. Eustis, and Mr. R. came as far as G.'s. They all met here Monday, in a pouring rain, to talk over the subject of wages for the coming year. It was concluded to pay in money entirely instead of in molasses and bacon, believing that the days of rationing in any form had passed, and that the negroes would be better pleased to handle all the money and spend it as they pleased. So we raise the pay of cotton hoeing from twenty-five cents to thirty-five cents per old task, and add five cents more, making it forty cents, besides the premium on the weight of crop, which remains as before, making the average wages about sixty or sixty-five cents for cotton work, which we think none too high for the present prices of dry goods, etc. Of course, the smart hands earn more than this in a day, for they do one and one-half times or twice as much per day as they used to, and these prices are based upon the old master's day's work or task. I have some men who gin fifty pounds a day and earn their dollar, while they never ginned more than thirty pounds for their master. I spent most of the day with G. on his plantations, talking with him and his people about the prospect of success with the new system. I haven't yet found a single man on any of my places who wants to risk buying land. They all say they had rather stay where they are and work for me. The more intelligent foresee many difficulties in owning land, such as having no access to marsh, or woodland, no capital for live-stock, plows, harness, carts, etc., and they don't like the idea of having to wait a whole year to get their reward for planting the cotton crop. The people seemed highly satisfied to work on and well pleased with the prospect of higher nominal wages to talk about, and slightly higher in reality, with the privilege of spending them as they wish.
Jan. 27. Last Friday I made an expedition to Eddings Point in our little boat. Arriving about one o'clock, and leaving the boat in charge of the boys, I walked up to Mr. Wells' house on the Mary Jenkins place, about one and one-quarter miles. I went down to the nigger-house to see the people. I found the people in a state of confusion about buying land. They had got the impression at church from the earnest way in which they were urged to buy, that they must buy land nolens volens, and wanted to have my consent to stay where they were and work for me as long as they pleased! Of course I laughed and told them they were welcome to stay as long as they wished and behaved well. They seemed "well satisfy" with this, and all in good humor.
I stayed at home Monday to see Mr. Hull, who came down with another big boat-load of cotton for our people to gin. They had finished ginning what he brought last week in two days. As soon as his boat came to the landing near Nab's house, the people made a rush for the cotton, the men carting it and the women carrying the bags on their heads and hiding it, so they might have some of it to gin. It was like rats scrambling for nuts.
Mr. B. has a letter from Secretary Chase, urging that a bale of free labor cotton be sent to the Sanitary Fair at New York, and I offered to present a bale for the purpose. It will be worth about five hundred dollars; but is not a very great contribution, considering that we have two hundred of them nearly.
I see that my letter to Alpheus Hardy is going the rounds, being copied in Providence Journal and New York Evening Post, with a few blunders as usual. Did you notice the expression "extend the arm of charity" was printed "area" instead of "arm," making a very absurd appearance? The Providence Journal put in an extra cipher, multiplying my figures by ten. In order to correct this blunder, which was a serious one, making the cotton cost ten times as much as I stated, I wrote to the editor, giving him some more information about my crop, for the benefit of the Providence cotton spinners.
FROM W. C. G.
Jan. 29. Outside of our plantations, the people for once are excited with good reason. In the most awkward, incomplete, bungling way the negroes are allowed to preempt twenty and forty acre tracts; so everybody is astir, trying to stake out claims and then to get their claims considered by the Commissioners. These gentlemen meanwhile are at loggerheads, the land is but half surveyed, and everything is delightfully confused and uncertain. Still it is the beginning of a great thing,—negroes become land-owners and the door is thrown open to Northern immigration. Years hence it will be a satisfaction to look back on these beginnings,—now it is very foggy ahead and very uncertain under foot.
FROM E. S. P.
Feb. 4. Sunday morning I met the whole female population on the road, coming to church. It was baptism day, and the women had all put on their best dresses, their summer muslins and turbans, making a fine show. On arriving at the Captain John Fripp gate, by the avenue, I found a knot of young men seated there, with one of their number reading to the rest from the Testament. I asked them why they didn't go to church with the women! They said they had heard that "soldiers had come to catch we," and "we were scary." Poor fellows, what a strange life of suspense they are leading! General Gillmore has ordered a complete census of the islands, black and white men included, for enrollment on the militia lists, and no white citizen is allowed to leave the Department until after it is found whether he is wanted for military service, i. e., after a draft.
Having got the cotton all shipped, Mr. Philbrick prepared to go home, but he was not to leave without receiving from his employees more than one expression of their growing consciousness of power.
FROM H. W.
Feb. 9. The women came up in a body to complain to Mr. Philbrick about their pay,—a thing which has never happened before and shows the influence of very injudicious outside talk, which has poisoned their minds against their truest friends. The best people were among them, and even old Grace chief spokeswoman. It is very hard, but not to be wondered at in the poor, ignorant creatures, when people who ought to know better are so injudicious,—to use the mildest term the most charitable interpretation of their conduct will allow. I don't see what is to be the end of it all, but at this rate they will soon be spoiled for any habits of industry.
Feb. 14. As we went to the back steps to see Mr. Philbrick off, we found the people collecting with eggs and peanuts for him to carry. He told them that he could not carry the eggs to Miss Helen, but would tell her. Then Grace begged his pardon for her bad behavior and complaining the other day, and, collecting all the eggs which he had refused, told C. they were for him, and sent them by Rose into the house. She, with the other women, had complained of C. to him, and I suppose she meant it as a peace offering.
E. S. P. TO W. C. G.
Boston, Feb. 22. I regretted that you were not present at the pow-wow after church on the 14th. Mr. Tomlinson talked very "straight" to Pompey and others about their having no right to live on my land without working for me at fair rates. He expressed his opinion very freely about the fairness of our prices and told them they must go and hunt up another home or work for us at these rates. I promised to sign a "pass," which you can do for me, promising to Pompey or any other man who works for us that as soon as he gets a piece of land of his own, gets a deed of it, and gets it fenced in, we will sell him a cow at cost, but I would not agree to allow their cows to run at large on the plantation, and Mr. Tomlinson said I was perfectly right. During the confab I overheard mutterings among the crowd such as "we shan't get anything," "it's no use," etc., serving to convince me that the whole subject would be quietly dropped unless stirred up by some such men as J. H. and F. J. W. again. Considering the prospect of high prices of molasses and bacon, etc., I think we may find it advisable to pay fifty cents all summer for what we had promised forty. But would do nothing about it till I have made my purchases of molasses, etc., and know just how the thing will stand.
An unexpected danger in the shape of an epidemic of small-pox made its appearance in the middle of the winter and lasted for two or three months.
FROM H. W.
[Jan. 29.] Mr. Philbrick vaccinated all the children here last year, and the few cases we have had have been among those grown persons who were vaccinated many years ago, and have all been very mild. It may run through the place, but it is not likely to be violent, and the quarters are too far off to expose us.
Feb. 26. Rose came up as usual, but had such hot fever that I sent her home to add one more to the sick list there, where all but one have "the Pox," taken from Hester. I expected Rose would not escape. Moreover, Uncle Sam now has it, so Robert may give out in a few weeks; but no one has been very ill, and no one yet has died here. It seems to be a milder form than that which appeared at the Oaks and at Mr. Eustis', where a number have died, or else they give them more air here, which is I believe the fact. I do not go to the quarters now at all. I can do no special good in going, and they send to me for what they want.
[March 21.] Monday morning just after breakfast Rose came into the parlor with a funny expression on her face and asked me if I had been into the kitchen. "Well, Aunt Betty got de Govement lump, for true; I shum yere and yere," pointing to her chin and cheek. So I went downstairs, and there was Betty on the floor, fairly in for the small-pox. I find the people call it "Govement lump," and those who have it "Union," those who don't "Secesh," while the fever which precedes the eruption goes by the very appropriate name of "Horse Cavalry!"
March 9. In the evening, a little after nine o'clock, the air was suddenly filled, as it seemed to me, with a strange wild, screaming wail. At first I thought it must be the mules; but it rose and fell again and again in such agony, as I thought, that Mr. Soule and William went out to investigate, while I opened the window to listen more distinctly. It seemed to come from Uncle Sam's house, and though now more subdued I thought it the sobbing of strong men, and that I could distinguish Titus' and Robert's voices. But the gentlemen soon came back, saying that there were evidently a good many people in Uncle Sam's house having a merry time. I said that was strange, for he was not well, and that it sounded so like distress to me that I should think, if I supposed him sick enough, or that they ever manifested grief so audibly, that he had suddenly died. Several times before I went to bed I thought I heard the same sound, though more subdued. As I went upstairs to bed there began, at first quite low, then swelling louder with many voices, the strains of one of their wild, sad songs. Once before when Uncle Sam was sick they have had their praise-meeting up there, for he is the Elder. But it was not praise-night, and as the hymn ceased and I could distinguish almost the words of a fervent prayer, I was quite sure that, as is their custom, they were sitting up and singing with the friends of the dead,—all of the plantation who were not watching with the sick in their own homes. And so it proved. The night was wild and stormy, but above the tempest I could hear, as I woke from time to time, the strangely "solemn, wildly sad strains" which were continued all the night through. At sunrise they ceased and separated; the air of their last hymn has been running in my head all day. Then came the stir in the house—Robert making fires—I knew his step—and then Betty at my bedside to ask about the breakfast. "And Bu' Sam dead too," was her quiet remark when her business was done. "I dunner if you yeardy de whoop when he gone."
This practice of sitting up all night with the dying, H. W. justly enough condemns as "heathenish:" "The houses cannot hold them all, of course, and they sit round out-of-doors in the street, the younger ones often falling asleep on the ground, and then they 'hab fever.'" But of course it was useless to expostulate with them; to their minds the omission of the watch would be a mark of the greatest disrespect.
The next two extracts furnish further comments on the mismanagement preliminary to the land-sales.
FROM W. C. G.
Feb. 22. Did you know we had long ceased to be philanthropists or even Gideonites? We are nothing now but speculators, and the righteous rail against us. A great crowd of our brethren have just come down to be present at the late sales. Mr. Philbrick and the purchasers of last spring paid about $1.00 or $1.25 per acre; now prices run from $5.00 to $27.00 per acre. There has been the most disgraceful squabbling among the tax-commissioners, General Saxton, Rev. Mr. French, and other authorities. The people are the victims. At first most of the lands were to be sold at auction in large lots; that brought in white settlers—and only a little was for negro sales. Then one commissioner sends up to Washington, gets orders for a Western preemption system, and with a grand hurrah the negroes were told to go and grab the lands. The other commissioners then throw all possible obstacles in the way till they can get dispatches up to Washington too, and the answer comes back,—Preemptions don't count, sell by auction.—And so!—This is a precious Department of ours.
March 14. The past two months have been full of unpleasant work,—the people were unsettled, discontented, and grumbling. I hope their growling is nearly over, and look for quieter times soon. The disputes among the tax-commissioners have been very unintelligible and prejudicial to them. On some places I understand that the negroes refuse to have anything to do with the new proprietors. On others they have agreed to work, and the year as a whole will probably witness much more industry than either of the last two.
At about this time an appraisal was at last made of the "chattel property" which had been found on the plantations, with a view to selling it at auction. Of course Mr. Philbrick and his superintendents, who had been using these things ever since they came into possession, desired, in most cases, to buy them. At the Fripp Point auction the negroes showed their ungracious, not to say ungrateful spirit, by bidding against W. C. G. and actually buying all the mules, oxen, and cows away from him. In looking forward to the auction at Coffin's Point; where the movables alone had been appraised as worth more than Mr. Philbrick had paid for the entire place, H. W. writes:
March 6. We were doubtful how far the behavior of the Fripp Point people might affect ours, though C. was quite confident there would be no trouble—and moreover expected a good many outsiders, as R. said Beaufort people had been inquiring all through the week when the sale was to take place here, with the significant remark, "Coffin's Point's the place!" and we knew if they did come things would be run up very high. So that it was impossible not to feel a most uncomfortable anxiety all day.
March 7. Monday morning the first thing I heard was Mike in excited tones calling to C. that the Fripp people were coming over "to buy everything out de gate"—that they would leave everything on top Massa Charlie, but that he must not let the stranger black people get anything.
Fortunately Mike's fears proved to be exaggerated, and Massa Charlie got practically everything that he wanted.
The next letter, from Mr. Philbrick to W. C. G., is concerned with several different matters. The last paragraph will serve to introduce a number of extracts all concerned with criticisms directed against Mr. Philbrick by Abolitionists and negroes.
E. S. P. TO W. C. G.
Boston, March 24. I hope no cases of merchandise will be opened without carefully comparing contents with the invoices, and if any errors are found they should be reported immediately. I am sorry to see that a considerable deficit was found in some of the stores, which I can only account for on the supposition of theft. I think sufficient care has not been taken to guard against theft from carts on road. The value of the property lost is not a matter of so much consequence as the demoralization to the thief and to others who are encouraged to similar practices by his example. I don't think the negroes one bit worse in this respect than the laboring classes of other countries, and not nearly so bad as the lower classes in all large cities. But we ought to be very careful how we expose them to temptations which they are not strong enough to resist, till such time as they acquire more self-respect than they are likely to in this generation.
I shall not be able to make any dividend to the shareholders this year. After paying my advances and settling with superintendents, there will not be any surplus over the needs of the current year.
Mr. F. J. W. has been quite talkative and rides his hobby to death, concerning the rights of the negro to have land for nothing, etc., etc., expatiating upon the tyranny of the newly forming landed aristocracy, the gigantic speculators who are grinding the negro down, etc., etc., ad libitum. He held forth on these topics at length at a meeting of the Educational Commission about two weeks ago, and succeeded in making Professor Child and some others believe that the whole labor of the Commission for two years past had been wasted or overthrown by the recent changing policy, which had ousted them out of their promised rights and cast them out upon the merciless open jaws to devour them alive, etc., etc.
E. S. P. TO W. C. G.
April 18. Just now it would seem as if the Sea Islands were to be abandoned to the negroes and wild hogs. I had heard some things of General Birney before which led me to regard him as having injudicious sympathies, and should not be surprised at any time to have him send you home as a "fraudulent coadjutor" of an unrighteous speculation, upon the representation of Pompey and John, if they should happen to gain an audience after dinner some day. Joking aside, however, I think it would be a good plan to get Colonel S. to retract some of his nonsense, and I have no doubt he will do it at your request, for he is one of the most good-natured and well-intentioned men in the world. He is very likely to have said what the negroes say he did, indiscreetly, of course, and without dreaming what effect it might have. If the people continue to refuse to receive their money, as I don't believe they will long, I would consult Mr. Tomlinson about it. I think he will sustain us in anything reasonable. I think if Mr. Tomlinson were to tell John or Pompey that they would not be allowed to take any of their cotton and would be severely punished if they attempted it, it would have a good effect. Any way I think the matter will blow over soon. It is not strange that the negroes should act like fools when they have such examples before them as we see nowadays.
FROM H. W.
April 18. At night came Mr. Soule from Beaufort with an account of the investigations going on there concerning the tax-commissioners before Judge Smith, an agent sent by the President for the purpose. Mr. Soule found that he had also been commissioned to look into the affairs of our "concern," as the Fripp Point men had sent a petition to the President to be relieved from Mr. Philbrick's oppression! Mr. Soule and Mr. Tomlinson both saw Judge Smith, and had some talk with him at the meeting, which was a public one, and he was invited to come down here, see Mr. Soule's books and investigate all the charges thoroughly. Whoever drew up the petition (of course it had been done by a white man, but who we could not tell, for his name as witness had been omitted in the copy given Judge Smith) had so overshot the mark that it was palpably absurd to all who knew the facts, and happily Mr. Soule had found Judge Smith to be a fair-minded, able, clear-sighted person, who could not have dust thrown in his eyes.
April 21. Sat waiting the arrival of Judge Smith, when about one o'clock Robert called to me that a carriage was coming. To my amazement, instead of the Judge alone or with only a friend, a great vehicle with four white horses and "sofas inside," as Rose said, dashed up to the front door with four gentlemen, Mr. Tomlinson and Mr. G. being on horseback besides. Of course I had to fly round about my dinner and get up tables large enough to seat thirteen people. By three dinner was ready and my guests at table—a very pleasant company: Judge Smith, a round, smooth-faced gentleman between fifty and sixty, active and wide-awake; Judge Cooley, the new tax-commissioner, a Westerner and also very pleasant. Judge Smith took Mr. Soule's statement before dinner, and afterwards Mr. G.'s, all simply facts and with no waste of words. C. was not questioned at all. Then Mr. G. went over to the Point for the men there, for, though the Judge was satisfied that Mr. Philbrick was not a scoundrel and all of us aiders and abetters of his iniquities, we knew the men there would never be satisfied with the statement from any of us or Mr. Tomlinson, who had been talking to them for two hours that morning. Poor things, they are much more sinned against than sinning. They came flocking over so closely upon Mr. G.'s heels as to get here nearly as soon as he did, and the session of the Court began by the examination of John Major before tea, the others crowding about the door and filling the piazza, quiet and orderly, but eager listeners. Not a single one of our people came up. John Major is a discontented, conceited fellow, who has never worked for Mr. Philbrick, though his wife and children have, and he headed the petition. It was splendid to see how quickly the Judge saw through him, when he has been only a week in the Department, and could hardly understand what he said; but he showed the man pretty plainly what he thought of him, telling him, when he said the Government could not find him out [know him] that it had found him out, that it had his name in Washington, and that if he thought Secesh times were so much better, the Government loved him so well it would let him go back to his old master! After tea came 'Siah and Pompey, two very different men,—intelligent, hard-working, and honest, the former particularly truthful and reliable, men whom we all respect,—and it was a fine sight to see these men, only two years out of slavery, respectfully but decidedly standing up for what they thought their rights in a room full of white people. 'Siah only said that he thought he ought to have fifty cents for what he is now paid forty for (about four hours work), but that he had given his word to Mr. Philbrick for this year and he would stand by it. He says he never signed the paper, or saw it, but that he answered the question the two officers asked him and told his name. Pompey afterwards stated that the two officers asked who owned the adjoining plantations and that one,—and that on being told that Mr. Philbrick had bought them all, said: "Then we need not go any further"—which looks like malice aforethought. The paper was, apparently, written at Hilton Head and there signed with the men's marks—if so, it is a forgery. Pompey's great difficulty seemed to have arisen from a misunderstanding of statements made by Mr. Philbrick, in which he considered that Mr. Philbrick took back his word, and so he had lost confidence in him and was ready to appeal to any one who promised to see him righted and relieved from his "confusion." He says, and all the men say so too, that Mr. Philbrick promised when he bought the land to sell it to them when the war was over for what he gave for it, and that when he was here last he told them he should ask them ten dollars an acre. This they all stand to, and cannot be convinced they have made a mistake, but have lost their faith because he has broken his word,—and outsiders have fanned the flame, telling them that if they did not work for Mr. Philbrick for what he chose to pay them,—and that he was paying them nothing,—he would turn them out of their homes, and more to the same effect. It was a most interesting occasion, and it was pleasant to feel that there was a man of so much sense in the Department. He tried to pacify the men, and then privately told Mr. Soule that he should advise Mr. Philbrick to pay the fifty cents.
The next day the gentlemen departed, Mr. Tomlinson going to the smaller Philbrick plantations to make the newly-ordered written contracts with the people. By the terms of a circular issued April 1 by General Saxton, each superintendent was ordered, before April 15, to make to his general superintendent and to sign a statement of the agreement existing between himself and his laborers. The general superintendent was then ordered to visit the plantation, explain the contract to the negroes, and affix to it the names of all who agreed to the terms of it; any laborer who objected to the terms was warned to leave his employer or stay with him at his own risk. H. W. records the reception given to Mr. Tomlinson by the Pine Grove people.
April 22. They were silenced, but not convinced, but agreed for this year. Mr. Tomlinson had trouble with the people at Mr. Folsom's and Mr. Harrison's both. He had meant to do the job here, but could not, as C. was away. C. did not expect any difficulty, and I suspect that he was right, for just after all had gone, two of our men, "Useless" Monday, the stuttering cow-minder, and Hacklis, the sulkiest-looking man on the place, came up and, with the brightest smiles and cheeriest manner, began to ask me so earnestly how I was, that I felt as if I were not honest if I did not mention that I had a slight headache. "Mebbe de confusion make you sick, sorry for dat. Not one our people come up yere. We bery sorry for dat,"—and much more of regret, and assertion that "so long as Mass' Charlie on de place dey satisfy." Old Monday wished to know if the milk satisfied me, and was very much delighted when I told him that if he had not sent some up the night before I should have had none for the gentlemen's breakfast, and kept exclaiming, "I glad for dat," as if he had wished to express his sympathy by deeds as well as words. Then Hacklis said, "Come, let's go," as if they had come up simply to assure me that our people would give no trouble. I was touched.
The end of the story was a month later.
FROM H. W.
May 27. Mr. Tomlinson came home last night with C. and Mr. Soule to spend the night and make the contract with the people, so C. sent word to them to assemble in the cotton-house yard before they went to their work, and he and Mr. Tomlinson went down before breakfast, so that they need not be interrupted in their work. They were gone so long that we began to fear some trouble—indeed C. said he expected some "jawing," and that it would be strange if this was the only place where there was none; but not a word was said—the people apparently are so ashamed of the conduct of the women when Mr. Philbrick was here and so indignant with the "Fripp People" that they are on their best behavior.
FROM W. C. G.
Early May. We have been having a funny time with our people lately. One of my plantations is decidedly ahead of all the others in intelligence and energy. They were so energetic about March 1 as to get a petition sent up to President Lincoln, praying for redress against their various oppressions. The matter was referred to some gentlemen coming down here to make other investigations, and two or three weeks ago they pretty thoroughly examined our affairs. I believe the result was pretty satisfactory. The originators of the movement were two dissatisfied men who have given me great trouble. There was much reason for some of their feeling, but very little for their complaints. As a result of the whole affair, however, I believe we all think it would be politic to increase our wages still more. At present we pay rather less than some, but our cheap stores far more than make up the difference. This, however, the people, instead of appreciating, only make the subject of more complaint.
When that was nicely settled, I made the discovery that both plantations had thought it proper to plant a great deal of corn among my cotton. I had given them corn-land for themselves, but they, in pursuance of a Secesh custom of planting a little corn between the cotton rows, had done so to an outrageous extent. And they in many cases refused to take it out. The truth is here,—that we are rather more in the power of the negroes than they in ours. I shall insist on every grain being out, but actually shall probably have to do it myself. Well—such disputes are almost the only excitement I have; better some, perhaps, though unpleasant, than none.
E. S. P. TO C. P. W.
Boston, May 3. As soon as I can get complete information from Liverpool about my claim on the insurance company, I shall settle with them and be ready to settle with yourself, G., and Folsom. Are you not ashamed to put in your own private pocket the proceeds of the hard labor of the poor abused negro? I think you cannot have read the Tribune and Independent lately, or you would not be so depraved.
The sarcastic allusion in this last letter to the Tribune and the Independent refers to two letters which had lately appeared in those papers respectively, the one signed "J. A. S.," the other anonymous. Both were from Beaufort, and both attacked Mr. Philbrick for a letter which he had recently written (February 24) to the New York Evening Post. This letter was the presentation which he had planned to make proving from his own experience that it was possible to raise cotton cheaper by free labor than had been possible by slave labor. In it Mr. Philbrick had also stated his belief that the land-sales would be an injury to the negro if they enabled him to buy at $1.25 an acre land which was already worth much more and would, after the war, rise still higher in value, for such purchases would be made largely as speculations, and would destroy all incentive to labor. The points of attack selected by the writers in the Independent and the Tribune were Mr. Philbrick's rate of wages,—why did he not pay his hands $2.50 a day?—his views on the land-sales, which, they said, showed his desire to make of the negroes an "agricultural peasantry," as dependent upon great landed proprietors as ever they had been in their days of slavery, and the course he had pursued relative to his own purchases in land. "His own statements of his intentions induced the almost universal belief that he desired to buy land for the purpose of testing the industrial capabilities of the negroes, and when they had justified his confidence in this respect, that he would sell them the lands in small allotments at the cost to himself." His actual performance now, on the other hand, was to put the price of his lands "further from their reach than before," fixing it "according to the increased value which their labor and proved capacity have given them." To these three accusations Mr. Philbrick made reply in two letters. First, as to the auction-sales, he agreed "that the good faith of the Government should have been kept in regard to the promised homesteads, however we may differ in opinion as to the expediency of making the promise at this time." Second, as to his scale of wages, he maintained that, on his plantations, "whenever the amount of work done in a day approaches the standard of a day's work in the North, the wages also approach the limit of Northern wages, under similar conditions." Third, as to his alleged promise to sell his land to negroes at cost, he said, "I am not aware that I have ever committed myself to any definite plans for disposing of this land; for I have not been able to digest or mature any plan satisfactory to myself."
There is nothing vital in these two letters of Mr. Philbrick's which is new to the reader of these pages. They are based on his firm belief that it was no kindness to the negro to make discriminations in his favor.
Mr. Philbrick's message to his superintendents about the increased pay demanded by 'Siah and Pompey, and his advice to W. C. G. in the matter of corn planted between the rows of cotton were as follows:
E. S. P. TO W. C. G.
Boston, May 18. I have already written expressing my assent to the rise of wages at any time when you shall all agree, and also write C. P. W. to-day that I should at any time assent to any change in the management, sustained by the unanimous approval of the corps upon the spot, without waiting to hear from me. You can avail yourself of the change to get rid of the corn in cotton-fields. I hope you will not pull it up yourself. I think such a step would lose more in dignity than you would gain in consistency of purpose. We must expect these people will take any undue advantage of us they think they can do with impunity, but I think such cases can be more readily reached through their pocket nerves than their moral sensibilities. Moreover, it is always better to do nothing in which we should not be sustained by the authorities, whose tender sympathies are not always judicious, as you know. I would not allow a hill of corn in the cotton-field, i. e., I would not pay the extra price till it is pulled up.
The next letter shows that the freedmen were waking up to their rights in more ways than one.
FROM W. C. G.
May 19. We had a queer scene here on Tuesday. It is probably the first time that the slaves—contrabands—freedmen—have asserted themselves our fellow-countrymen by claiming the right of voting. A meeting was called in Beaufort to elect delegates to the Baltimore convention. It was assumed that we could stand for the sovereign state of South Carolina, and so we sent her full complement of sixteen representatives, and furnished each with an alternate. There are hardly thirty-two decent men in the Department, it is commonly believed. A large half of the meeting consisted of blacks, and four black delegates were chosen, Robert Small among them; the others I believe were sergeants in the South Carolina regiment. At one time there was considerable excitement, and white paired off against black,—but on the whole both colors behaved very well.
The whole affair will be laughed at by the North, and it is hardly probable that the delegates will be received. I hope they will.
In this hope W. C. G. was to be disappointed. Not one of the delegates was received.
With a group of H. W.'s letters the story goes back to home life.
FROM H. W.
Sunday, May 8. I have been wanting to see a Baptism performed as it is here in the creek, and as there was to be one to-day C. arranged yesterday for us all to go up. We had a lovely drive, reaching the bridge by the church just as the Baptism began, and, sitting in the wagon where we could see and hear everything, we witnessed the whole ceremony and saw the vast crowd that had collected for the same purpose. As the last came up out of the water the people began to sing, and we moved with the crowd towards the church, which was presently filled, as many more people outside sitting about. We sat for about four hours, through all the services. The minister soon changed his clothes and came in, but in the meantime the people sung. Mr. Parker took occasion in his sermon to express very liberal views towards other denominations of Christians, and then invited "all members of sister churches to remain to the Communion service." There has been so much talk and trouble about this, and all who were not Baptists have been so vigorously excluded, that we were very glad to see the new minister take a different ground, and remained gladly. While the deacons were arranging the Table, those who chose went out, after which the elders went to the doors to call them back. "Member, member, what you keep de church waitin' for?" and again the church was filled, floor and gallery,—I never saw such a sight,—but the minister's earnestness and the general seriousness of the people made it unlike a spectacle, and a serious, most interesting occasion. Then there was a collection taken up in the elders' hats, the people making change while old Robert would attempt to persuade them to leave the whole bill! Then two couples were severally married, not both at once after Mr. Phillips' heathenish fashion, pronouncing them all husbands and wives!
May 16. I found that the Court was to meet here at nine o'clock. Mr. Soule asked me to be present, and I listened all day to the examination of the various witnesses. It was very interesting; but it was very sad to see how little dependence could be placed upon their word. Men and boys took the oath one after the other and then lied as if they had sworn to do so. Their ingenuity was wonderful, and we had to come to the conclusion that if those who we supposed spoke the truth had been on the other side they would have lied as badly as the others. It has now become very important to carry the case through and discover if possible who have perjured themselves, as they must learn how important it is for them to speak the truth. But little additional light was thrown by the labor of to-day, and they adjourned at night till Thursday, at Pine Grove.
May 19. The court sat at Pine Grove, but though the moral certainty was very great, it was almost impossible to convict on the evidence, because they lied so.
A man came in great excitement to tell us that the rebels had made a raid during the night onto Morgan Island and carried off all the people. F. and R. immediately took the sailboat and went over to the gunboat to let them know.
May 22. F. went to church to find out about the poor Morgan Island people, and heard from Mrs. Wells that eleven people, men and women, had been carried off by fifteen Secesh—three of Hamilton Fripp's sons were among them. They took all the clothes, money, and eatables they could find, and told the people that they were living well and earning forty cents a day while their old mistress was starving and had no one to work for her, and they thought it was time they went to take care of her. One man escaped after his hands were tied, and one woman refused to get into the boat, and they knocked her down and left her. They have frightened poor Mrs. Wells pretty effectually by saying they should like to carry Mr. Wells off on the points of their bayonets. "That man that pays them forty cents a day." A picket has been stationed there and another on Eddings Point.
May 27. My "seamster," Maria, has a little girl who she sent me word should be my little chambermaid, and she wished me to name her. Her youngest child, Noble, I did not know, he is such a great boy, and I remarked that he was bigger than Cicero was two years ago. "Too much, Missus, him lick Cicero now," and she explained that it was because he was a Yankee child, and then she and Rose enlarged upon the general superiority of the Yankee children, who could all "lick" all the Secesh children of twice their years! It was very funny, but I daresay there is some truth in it, as the women only work when they feel able to do so, and moreover they all have a greater variety of food.
The boys returned from the gunboats with full accounts from the officers of the disgraceful abandonment of the expedition and its complete failure, owing in the first place to the drunkenness of an officer and then to the failure of common sense. General Foster has arrived—I hope he will prove to be somebody; this poor Department seems doomed. General Birney seems to have shown as little sense in this matter as on the negro question.
May 31. To dine at Pine Grove, stopping on the way to see if I could find any of Pierce Butler's people among the St. Simonians who have settled on the deserted plantation of Hamilton Fripp. Found one woman who was nursery-maid at Mr. Hazard's, who she said was a cousin of "Butler's;" she remembered him well and his two daughters, also Mrs. Butler. "She was a very great lady—a very great lady, and a most beautiful lady—slender-like: she tell Mr. Butler if he give up the slavery, she would likes to live there, but she couldn't stan' that; but he wouldn't 'grees to that, so she goes 'way and she get a dewoce. Oh, but she could ride hos'!" She said that Mr. Butler was a very kind master to his servants indeed, "but sometimes he have bad overseer."
June 15. Rode through the quarters to tell the people myself that I was going home for a visit. "But you comin' back dough—arter we get use' to you you mustn't lef' we—and you sarvice to we when we sick too much." "Hi!" said old Betty, "you brudder an' sister been eat you like one oyshter!" "Dey tink you like one angel come down," said old Judy, "and they no ben see you so long time."
The long letter that comes next is perhaps the most interesting and convincing of all that Mr. Philbrick wrote.
E. S. P. TO W. C. G.
Boston, July 8. Your long letter has received due attention, but I do not yet feel as if it would be advisable to sell lands any sooner than I had always intended, viz., at the end of the war. I agree with you that the present system is unsatisfactory and annoying, tending to develop the evil as well as the good that is in the negro character. I had about concluded to propose next winter something like the following plan, but don't think it good policy to promise anything now for two reasons: first, such promises would be distorted and misrepresented by the negroes among themselves in the interim, so that when the time comes, nothing but dissatisfaction and growling would result; second, because something may turn up in the meantime to change my mind as to what is best. My rough plan is to sell to the people at cost all live-stock and implements we could spare,—nearly the whole,—for which they can doubtless pay cash next winter. Then divide the lands among them to be used as they see fit for the remainder of the war, they to pay either a certain share of the cotton they raise, say one half, or a certain amount of cotton, annually. (Don't like this last.) A small farm to be reserved on large plantations to be sold to or worked by some white settler, who can devote his time there and act as our agent to look after our rights, and if possible work a little cotton on his own account, experimenting and introducing improved methods of culture. It might be almost impossible for such a man to get labor, but there will be some negroes too dependent in their habits to want to wait a year for their pay and some old people and widows who would prefer wages paid monthly. This white man's farm is, however, not a necessary part of the plan, and if labor can't be got, of course it wouldn't succeed. Teachers and store-keepers to be kept on the ground at our expense, who will look after the houses they live in and do whatever else they can to keep things straight.
Another plan is to sell life-leases to the negroes, instead of the fee simple, disposing of the lands you propose to sell. This occurred to me as a means of avoiding the terrible and disastrous confusion which it will be next to impossible to avoid after a term of years, if the fee should be conveyed, when the purchasers die and sell or change land as they will to a certain extent in time. It is bad enough to trace a title and find out whether it is good for anything here in systematic New England, and difficult enough, too, to fix boundaries and maintain them against encroachments; but it makes my orderly bones ache to think of a time when, after some men now purchasing land shall die, leaving two or three sets of children, some born under wedlock and some not, some not their own but their wives' children, some even of questionable parentage, and some who were never heard of before, all claiming a slice of the deceased man's land, and of course all claiming the best. Suppose it was bounded by a "stake and stones" as of old here, minus the stones which are absent; suppose some of the claimants think best to set up a new stake where one has gone to decay, and suppose they are not over exact in placing it; or suppose, as is more than likely, their neighbor thinks the new stake encroaches on him and pulls it up entirely, stamping on the hole and putting it in according to his own ideas, etc., etc., ad infinitum. Now, as you must admit that all this is likely to occur, and worse too, would such a state of things tend to bring about a healthy and rapid development? Any one who has watched the minute subdivision of lands among the French peasantry knows that after a few generations a man has not land enough to live on or work economically, and hence a vast amount of time and energy is wasted in France for lack of organization;—that, too, where they have an administration of justice the most minute and exact to be found in the whole world, an organization of the judiciary which reaches to every man's case, however minute or inconspicuous. The life-lease system would avoid these troubles, but would be open to this objection, a serious one, too, viz., the negro ought to feel that in building up a home for himself, it shall be a home for his children, for he has too little of the feeling of responsibility for his offspring, which is one of the best stimulants to good order and civilization.
The future value of the lands is a question I don't think of much consequence, neither is the question of profit to the present holders to be considered, when conflicting with the future welfare of the community. If we only had clearness of vision, the wisdom to see what would really be best for the masses, I sincerely believe that it could readily be adopted without in any way prejudicing the present profits of the holders. You speak of the probability of having less cotton planted for us in case your plan is followed. I shouldn't consider that of any consequence whatever, except that, as a general thing, the amount of cotton planted will always be a pretty sure index of the state of industry of the people, and their industry will always be the best measure of their improvement. It might take them some time to find out that cotton was the best thing for them to work on, but present prices are fast teaching them this fact.
The objection noted above against a life-lease is a serious one, and perhaps sufficient to balance those future annoyances likely to grow out of selling the fee.
I do not agree with you in what you say of the unnatural dependence of these people. I don't see any people on the face of the earth of their rank in civilization who are so independent as they are.
I don't see the justice of the claim to the soil now made in their behalf by Mr. J. A. Saxton and others, and with which you seem to sympathize somewhat. The fact is that no race of men on God's earth ever acquired the right to the soil on which they stand without more vigorous exertions than these people have made. This is apparently the wise order of Providence as a means of discipline, or the misfortune of man, as a consequence of his failings, perhaps both; but I cannot see why these people should be excepted from the general rule. If they have acquired the necessary qualifications to be benefited by becoming landholders, then there is no reason for delay; but here is the very point of difference between us, whether they would be in the long run so benefited.
As to price, I never considered the question of profit to myself or those I represent as of consequence in fixing the price. It is no doubt an expression of this kind which gave rise to the general belief, claimed by some whites as well as blacks, that I would sell at cost, "was bound" to do so, etc. It did not occur to those who so believed that I could have any good or disinterested reasons for selling for more than cost. It may be difficult to fathom one's own motives in such cases, but I can say honestly that I do not believe in the success of a system of selling to any people any property whatever for less than its market value, with a view to confer a lasting benefit upon them. That is, I think the immediate ease which such a course would confer would beget idleness and unthrifty habits when compared with a system by which every man should be required to pay full price. No man or race of men ever truly appreciate freedom who do not fight for it, and no man appreciates property who does not work for it, on the same terms with those around him. I think they would be better off for paying ten dollars an acre for land, if the land is worth it, rather than one dollar, because they would use the land for which they had paid full price more economically, would be likely to get more out of it, and would be taught a feeling of independence more readily than by being made the recipients of charity.
In this case, however, we have a complication of circumstances entirely unique. We have a number of people who have bought land at a rate fixed by Government, and a certain amount of "discouragement" would ensue if our people were charged more per acre than their neighbors for similar land. They couldn't be expected to see the justice of such an arrangement, and it is difficult for us to explain why it should be so. This is a very strong argument for selling cheap, for we should avoid any course which we should not be able to easily prove just, when dealing with such a defenceless people. Of course there would be a grand howl among the so-called philanthropists at the mention of any plan on my part of selling at any rate above cost, witness the sensation produced by my letter to the Evening Post; but I don't care much for that, and ought not to care at all. We couldn't sell the land as you propose without calling forth a similar howl from this sickly sympathy, which would have me sell all the land and would accuse me of a tendency to aristocracy if I retained any lands to be disposed of otherwise. Of course the negroes wouldn't be satisfied either. I don't expect to satisfy them by any course which would be consistent with common sense. I think it possible that I may fall into such a plan as you suggest after I get down there next winter. In the meantime I don't want to make any promises.
The next three letters are full of the irritation engendered by unintelligent orders from official superiors.
FROM C. P. W.
July 17. Do people look with any interest toward this Department, either for military achievement or civil improvement? The former require better men—generals—than we are blessed with; the latter may come,—after the war.
Do people expect much of the negro of Port Royal? Let them expect. It is amusing to hear M. W. She understands all the peculiarities of affairs down here with wonderful quickness and penetration; I have learned to respect her judgment and opinion. To hear her rail at these people, and slip out sly hints about the conduct of the "friends of the freedman" is a treat.
Rose was sitting disconsolately on the wood-box the other evening; I began chaffing her about her melancholy looks. She did not say much, but presently she asked if I had heard from Miss Harriet again; I told her no, and she heaved a big sigh, and asked when she would come back. "Mass' Charlie, no one know how I miss Miss Hayyut. If my own mudder go Nort', I no miss her mo'." I asked her if she missed Miss Harriet more than I missed my "farmly," whom I hadn't seen for so many months. She couldn't tell. "Ebry man hab e own feelin'."
Aug. 17. The unexpected opportunity to send off my letter was the visit of one Lewis Keller, from the provost marshal's office at Hilton Head; he came down to make inquiries concerning deserters, able-bodied men, etc., etc. He also obtained a map of the island, with plantations marked thereon. The provost marshal, I am sorry to say, is conceited, opinionated, and wanting in common sense and discretion. He has ideas which, if founded on anything, rest on reports only, and very vague reports too. He thinks, or rather (as the notion, once in his head, must stick there) he is certain, that there is communication between the negroes who buy at our stores and the rebels; that there is a camp of deserters (black and white) on Hunting Island, and that these deserters are employed in carrying supplies to the main; that the proximity of our stores to the rebel country is a dangerous state of things, not only inciting the rebels to come over, but likely to supply them with all they want if they do come. Also he thinks that the negroes have no business to have guns. Also he does not see what they can want with all the stuff sent on the Kelley. Now the Kelley arrived just before the regulations which allowed plantation supplies to enter insurrectionary districts. The treasury agent at once offered to permit the Kelley's cargo to come on shore. The provost marshal, who by this time appeared to be very willing to "help us all he could," took the invoice to General Foster, and came back with permission to land all of some things, one half the dry goods, one third only of the grocery supplies, flour, bacon, etc. We shall probably have to sell the rest at Hilton Head. Very provoking. Some of the supplies were small enough as they were; what is left will be about a mouthful apiece all around; e. g., one hundred and eighty barrels of flour came; my share would be about thirty-five. I could have sold twenty-five whole barrels, and peddled out the rest in six weeks. My share of sixty barrels will be about twelve! The provost marshal could not see what the people wanted of so much provision. Yet he has at his office the census of all these plantations, besides a written statement prepared by Mr. Soule of the amount bought at these stores within the last six months and the lists of purchases over five dollars at a time (we have to keep these lists, as one condition of keeping store).
Besides restricting the quantity of goods, all the stores are to be closed except those at R.'s and Folsom's. I may sell what I have on hand, but not take in anything more. Ignorance, stupidity, and conceit.
E. S. P. TO C. P. W.
Boston, Aug. 24. The recent assumption of authority by the military officials seems to have extinguished the Treasury Department in Port Royal. It is a difficult case to reach, for this officious intermeddling bears the semblance of earnest and zealous watchfulness of the public interests. Any representations at Washington will avail nothing, so long as Colonel H. cherishes the idea, or pretends to, that it is not for the public welfare to have us sell bacon and 'lasses at Coffin's Point. Any permission from the Treasury Department which would appear to him as too lenient would only give him another chance to exercise his authority, which tickles his vanity and makes him appear a big man. A difference of opinion between him and myself would hardly be listened to at Washington, so long as it is upon a subject on which his superiors think him qualified to judge better than myself. Suppose the Secretary of the Treasury were to allow goods to be taken from Hilton Head without restriction, General Foster and Colonel H. would still think the rebels would get them, and, having the power in their own hands, would not be likely to allow us to avail ourselves of any such privileges. I should like to have the question asked him, "How the Coffin's Point people are to get supplies?" If we are forbidden to keep a store there, it certainly cannot be forbidden us to send a wagon-load of goods there for the supply of that plantation whenever needed, which will answer our purposes well enough. In order to avoid any trap-springing by parties who might think it a smart thing to tell Colonel H. we had not discontinued the store, it would be best to have a plain talk with him on the subject. We don't want to keep store, but supply the plantations, and need not keep any considerable stock on hand at these "exposed" points.
The next group of letters returns to the subject of negro recruitment. By this time various Northern States, in despair of finding enough men at home to make out the number of recruits required of them by the general Government, were getting hold of Southern negroes for the purpose, and their agents had appeared in the Department of the South, competing for freedmen with offers of large bounties. At the same time General Foster made up his mind that all able-bodied negroes who refused to volunteer, even under these conditions, should be forced into the service. If the conscription methods of the Government up to this time had not been brutal, certainly no one can deny that adjective to the present operations. Yet it will be seen that experience has tempered the indignation of the superintendents, though not their distress.
FROM C. P. W.
Aug. 9. Lieutenant-Colonel Rice, agent for Massachusetts, has come. After looking about a little, he does not think the prospect of getting recruits very brilliant, but his agents are at work in Beaufort streets, and may pick up a few men. He intends to send native scouts on to the main to beat up recruits; $35 a man is offered for all they will bring in. Colonel Rice intended to come down here to-day, but had to go and see General Foster and Colonel Littlefield, Superintendent of Recruiting. (He—Colonel L.—calls it recruiting to conscript all he can lay hands on.) There is to be, not a draft, but a wholesale conscription, enforced here. Lieutenant-Colonel Strong of the First South (Thirty-Third United States Colored Troops) enrolled all colored men last month. It is possible, if the men can be made to understand this, that a few can be induced to volunteer, but I hardly think that many will be secured, either by enlistment or draft. Colonel Rice comes down here this week. Mr. Soule (just returned from Beaufort) describes him as a pleasant man, simple in manner, with great good sense, shrewd enough, and of an inquiring turn. He has gone right to work, not bidding for men, but offering the whole bounty, etc., at once, and at the same time he is trying to find out all he can about things and people here. I long to "shum" and keep him over night.
FROM W. C. G.
Sept. 23. I'm glad to say that my plantations have at last contributed their share to the regiment. With two or three exceptions all my young men have gone,—twenty, more or less,—which has deprived me of at least half my stock of labor. They are carrying out the draft with excessive severity, not to say horrible cruelty. Last night three men were shot,—one killed, one wounded fatally, it is thought, and the other disappeared over the boat's side and has not been seen since,—shot as they were trying to escape the guard sent to capture all men who have not been exempted by the military surgeons. The draft here is a mere conscription,—every able-bodied man is compelled to serve,—and many not fit for military service are forced to work in the quartermaster's department.
Oct. 12. You ask more about the draft. The severity of the means employed to enforce it is certainly not to be justified, nor do the authorities attempt to do so,—after the act is done. The draft here is carried on by military, not civil, powers. We have no civil laws, courts, officers, etc. Consequently the only way in which public operations can be accomplished is by issuing a general order and instructing the provost marshals to see it carried into execution. The only agents to be employed are necessarily soldiers, and the only coercion is necessarily that of guns and arbitrary arrests. The state of society—as far as regards the draft and also many other things—is one in which most men conspire to escape the voice of the law; so that, when such unfortunate occurrences happen as the late shooting affair, there seems to be nothing for it but indignation and sorrow, and perhaps an examination into the circumstances to discover if they justified recourse to such extreme action: e. g., the shooting seems to have stopped further proceeding in the draft. If there were any civil power here, such things would be as unjust and horrible as they seem. As it is, each case has to be weighed by itself and may prove better than it seems. The Massachusetts recruiting agents, of course, have nothing to do with enforcing the draft. But their presence seems to have increased its activity and their bounty contributes to its success. Nearly all my men have gone voluntarily (i. e., felt they must go, and, for the bounty offered, concluded to go without violence), and all are constantly writing home letters expressive of great satisfaction.
The letter following from T. E. R. (one of Mr. Philbrick's superintendents, frequently referred to in these letters as "R."), gives a capital idea of the pleasures of living under military rule.
T. E. R. TO C. P. W. (AT HOME ON A VISIT)
St. Helena Island, Oct. 17. An order was issued just before or about the time you left to take away all the boats, to prevent intercourse with the rebels; so they attempted to enforce it, but, after the first day, boats all went out into the mash or up on dry land in the bush, and then alas for General Order or any other man. Several applications were sent to General Saxton in reference to the matter, and these he forwarded to Foster, and he let his dignity down easily by permitting all the boats taken to be returned and all not taken to be retained, on the presentation to the provost marshal of triplicate certificates describing the owner (age, height, color of eyes, hair, complexion, and occupation), describing boat (a pine dugout), certifying to the strict loyalty and good citizenship of the owner, signed by general superintendent, and approved by general commanding. Isn't that red tape to perfection? They never went to Coffin's to take the boats, nor did they ever go there to get soldiers—strange, when it is thought by many that there is nearly a regiment on that plantation. Perhaps they feared Coffin's Battery.
The next letter is from H. W., at the time of her return with C. P. W. to Port Royal.
FROM H. W.
Coffin's Point, Nov. 12. There had been so much delay and uncertainty over our arrival that Rose had gone home, but Rodwell stopped to tell her we had come as he went down with the cart, and she exclaimed, "Pray day come for me go see Miss Hayiut." In the morning she came early into my chamber, bright and eager. I knew Robert was black as the ace of spades, but they both of them did look blacker than anything I ever saw before, but it was good to see them.
The next group of extracts is again occupied with the everyday events of plantation life.
FROM W. C. G.
Nov. 12. As usual I managed to miss the last mail. Now that the W.'s and their party have returned, perhaps we may be assisted into greater punctuality. Fortunately for us they live farther from the human race by two and a half miles than ourselves, and can't reach it without passing within half a mile of our house. Politeness usually obliges them to come up and take our budget. We live on our friends in a great many ways here. Without attempting any system or intending to set a wrong world right, we realize all the best fruits of socialistic communities. If any one has anything good, he is expected to enjoy only a small piece himself; and most things that are done have a reference to our united, not to any individual interest. Our own geographical location is such that we are peculiarly fitted to receive the benefit of this interchange of good offices,—while we can hardly reciprocate as we ought to.
FROM C. P. W.
Nov. 19. Alden and I were put on Plantation Commission work as soon as we got here, had a session Wednesday and tried several cases. The untrustworthiness of these people is more apparent and troublesome than ever. I feel as if it would not be safe to allow them to gin the cotton—it seems certain that a great deal of it would be stolen. Their skill in lying, their great reticence, their habit of shielding one another (generally by silence), their invariable habit of taking a rod when you, after much persuasion, have been induced to grant an inch, their assumed innocence and ignorance of the simplest rules of meum and tuum, joined with amazing impudence in making claims,—these are the traits which try us continually in our dealings with them, and sometimes almost make us despair of their improvement—at least, in the present generation. It is certain that their freedom has been too easy for them,—they have not had a hard enough time of it. In many cases they have been "fair spoiled."
FROM H. W.
Nov. 27. Rose is a trump. She does all my cooking neater and better than I have ever had it done—makes bread and biscuit and puddings as well as I could myself, and until this morning, with our help, of course, has done the chamber-work too. With those three children I have got along as well as I could ask. I begin to appreciate what and how much they have learned the last two years.
[Dec. 11.] Over seventy children at Sunday School. I had a very nice time with them indeed, and was much struck with their progress in general intelligence. Their eager, intelligent faces and earnest attention and interest in all I said to them were a great contrast to anything they would have manifested two years ago. Indeed, I could not have talked to them, and they would not have understood me if I had, in anything like the same way that I did to-day.
Nov. 23. We saw Mrs. Vaughn, who seems to find life here very hard, and repeats the inevitable experience of all those who have ever had anything to do with the blacks previously, that these are the most degraded and barbarous of their race in the country.
We met C. Soule and Captain Crane, with their two servants, coming down to spend Thanksgiving. We had a right pleasant evening. Captain Crane played and sung, and we were very glad to hear the piano, and he to touch one.
FROM W. C. G.
Nov. 27. On Thanksgiving Day we gathered together all our friends,—all our "set," at least,—and sat down, twenty-six of us, together, to eat turkeys and pies. It was a rather formidable thing to attempt, with negro servants and St. Helena supplies, but we had quite a good time, and have done our duty in giving the party. It is probably the last time that we'll all meet together. Those who are to stay next year are all bemoaning their fate; together we have had a very courteous and friendly circle,—rather peculiarly so for such a rough kind of life and surroundings,—and the loss of so many as will go will probably rob the work here of much of its pleasantness.
War, in the person of the triumphant Sherman, was again drawing near, and the two young officers of the Fifty-Fifth had barely celebrated Thanksgiving with the people from home when they were summoned to take their part.
FROM H. W.
Nov. 28. C. brought word that all the troops had been sent to Savannah to meet Sherman, and that citizens were on guard at Beaufort.
Dec. 1. To-night comes C. from Beaufort with news of the Grahamville fight. It is said we have been twice repulsed, and the fight is not over.
Dec. 2. A cart came down from R.'s and brought a note from him to the effect that Captain Crane, who was with us such a short time ago, has been killed in the fight at Grahamville, but that C. Soule was unhurt.
Dec. 3. The rumors with regard to the expedition are various and contradictory, but the impression seems to be that we have been whipped, but hold on and have intrenched at Grahamville. Mr. and Mrs. Soule are cheerful and brave, but very anxious, and it makes our hearts sink to hear the guns as we do. Pray God we may succeed this time and Sherman may come through. It will be such a day as has not been seen in this Department since Dupont took the place.
Dec. 4. We have repulsed the enemy since we intrenched, and deserters say Sherman is coming.
Dec. 6. Captain Crane found that his company was left behind at Morris Island, but begged so to go, that Colonel Hartwell took him on his staff, sending a Captain Gordon, who had just come from the North, to take charge of his company. Colonel Hartwell was wounded and Captain Crane killed in one of the first charges, in which our troops were repulsed, so that Captain Crane's body was left in the hands of the enemy. To-night we hear that ten thousand troops have come from Fortress Monroe to reinforce us, and deserters tell of Sherman's advance and successes. You may imagine we are all on the qui vive, and anxious, for we hear all the firing.
Dec. 11. Savannah is in Sherman's hands and Pocotaligo in Foster's. We hope and trust this is no South Carolina rumor.
Dec. 15. To-night Mr. Soule brings word that Sherman breakfasted with Foster yesterday morning, on a boat that came to Beaufort to-day.
Just after Christmas Mr. Philbrick went back to Port Royal to see to shipping his cotton.
FROM E. S. P.
Dec. 28. Arrived this evening. No fellow passengers that I knew. Most of them were Sherman's officers who had left him at Atlanta for various reasons and now come to join him. Very pleasant men, with a degree of hearty good sense and whole-souled patriotism that was truly refreshing.
The Georgia refugees—Sherman's army at Beaufort—Discontent of the negroes about wages—W. C. G.'s work at Savannah for the refugees—Return home of most of the letter-writers—The death of Lincoln, its effect on the negroes—End of the war and return of the planters—Stealing of cotton by the negroes—Superintendents "demoralized on the negro question."
FROM E. S. P.
Jan. 1. Yesterday morning I had a talk with Mr. H. in the yard, where he is at work framing the school-house. I like him very much. He is a somewhat rare combination of a refined gentleman, without much education, but very well informed and wide awake, and a modest and quiet industry with the most practical common sense. He is truly interested in the negroes, without the least bit of sentimental or ill-advised sympathy. He is very glad to come here and take charge, and I think he is the best superintendent I have had here at all.
I saw some of the people who came about the house by chance during the day, and who seemed truly glad to see me. They have got quite over the land-fever, and say they prefer to work along as they have, wherein they begin to show sense. Rose is still the only cook and does very well, except that she sometimes bakes potatoes longer than she boils hams, etc., etc. I suspect H. helps her put things together somewhat. The Christmas tree was to have been last evening, but the rain prevented. C. P. W. has gone up to bring down Mr. Eustis and his two ladies to dine. The house being an elastic one, I suppose it can be made to hold several more people than at present, if they will only bring their own blankets. The old diet of sweet potatoes and hominy, ham, fresh pork, and waffles, holds its sway yet, with grunnuts in the evening, of course.
FROM H. W.
Jan. 2. At sunset we all adjourned to the cotton-house, where the tree was all ready to be lighted. It was a very pretty sight, and after we had let the children in I sent word that the grown people might come and see, if they liked. Then, before anything was cut down, the children sang a number of the songs I have taught them, standing in classes, the smallest in front, their little eager faces irresistibly comic. The older people soon filled up the building, making rather a crowd, and a less manageable one than the children alone; but they were pleased at the sight, and when the noise became overpowering, I could stop it for the time being by starting a song, which the children would instantly catch up. Then I let the children sing some of their own songs in genuine, shouting style, a sight too funny in the little things, but sad and disagreeable to me in the grown people, who make it a religious act. It is impossible to describe it—the children move round in a circle, backwards, or sideways, with their feet and arms keeping energetic time, and their whole bodies undergoing most extraordinary contortions, while they sing at the top of their voices the refrain to some song sung by an outsider. We laughed till we almost cried over the little bits of ones, but when the grown people wanted to "shout," I would not let them, and the occasion closed by their "drawing" candy from C. as they passed out. I daresay this sounds pleasant, and I know they all had a good time; but if you could have looked in, you would have thought it Bedlam let loose!
The "Georgia refugees" referred to in several of the subsequent letters were hundreds of negroes who had followed Sherman's army northward. "They are said," says C. P. W., "to be an excellent set of people, more intelligent than most here, and eager for work. They will get distributed onto the plantations before a great while."
Jan. 6. Miss Towne gave us quite an interesting account of the Georgia refugees that have been sent to the Village. The hardships they underwent to march with the army are fearful, and the children often gave out and were left by their mothers exhausted and dying by the roadside and in the fields. Some even put their children to death, they were such a drag upon them, till our soldiers, becoming furious at their barbarous cruelty, hung two women on the spot. In contrast to such selfishness, she told us of one woman who had twelve small children—she carried one and her husband another, and for fear she should lose the others she tied them all together by the hands and brought them all off safely, a march of hundreds of miles. The men have all been put to work in the quartermaster's department or have gone into the army, and the families are being distributed where they can find places for them.
FROM E. S. P.
Jan. 8. Miss Towne told some amusing stories of the Georgia refugees. Some of them, being very destitute, were bemoaning their condition, and wishing they had never left their old plantations, feeling rather abashed at the responsibility of taking care of themselves. The old Edisto people, who have been there a year or two, encourage them, saying, "Look 'o we," "We come here wi' noffin at all," "Now we have money for cotton and all the tater and hominy we can eat," etc. One woman said, "Bress the Lord, I have striven and got enough to give seven gowns to these poor folk." So it seems they do what they can for the new-comers. I guess these Edisto people, who have their own recent destitution fresh in mind, are more kind than the natives of St. Helena, who are rather inclined to be jealous of the new-comers, who make the labor market rather easier than before.
Jan. 6. Monday. I had a talk with the people, who came up to see me in a crowd in the forenoon. They seemed jolly, and had no complaints to make about the past, but wanted higher wages for the future. I talked with them very quietly for an hour, told them I would give higher wages if I felt sure the price of cotton a year hence would pay me as well as the past crop, and told them if they wanted to share this risk with me, I would give them a share of the cotton for their wages. They all objected to this except one or two of the men, who said they would like such an arrangement, but their families couldn't wait so long for their money. On the whole they preferred wages, and therein showed their sense, I think. I find that when my last cargo arrived in the Redwing, the people who had worked for me had their pockets full of money and bought what they wanted, but the men who had been cultivating cotton on their own hook looked on with envious eyes and empty pockets, creating a very general impression in favor of the wages system. Under this impression, I think they will fall to work gradually at similar wages to what I have been paying, but will probably lie idle a few weeks to think about it, in hopes I will offer more.
Tuesday morning. I heard that the schooner was at Fuller Place to take our cotton. We have been at it ever since till yesterday noon, when we put in the last we had, nearly filling her up. There was about half of it negro cotton, brought from one hundred and seventy-six different proprietors, for whom I act as agent in forwarding and selling it. I drove over to spend the night at Mr. Wells' house on Wednesday. He had gone to Morgan Island to receive and stow away some one hundred and fifty Georgia refugees, which were expected by a steamer from Beaufort. After he had waited for them all day, they arrived about sunset, and he spent half the night there in the rain, stowing them in houses and getting their baggage up from the steamer, which lay at anchor in the river discharging into small boats. They came from the shore counties near to Savannah, and brought a good deal of truck, beds, and blankets, and some rice and peas. Mr. Wells gave them rations for a week, and I suppose will continue to do so, for they can't get anything to eat till next harvest in any other way. The able-bodied have all been taken either by the rebels or our Government for fatigue duty and quartermaster service, so those who come here are all women, children, or cripples, such as we had before. They will doubtless be so glad of a home, however, that they will do a good deal of work. Of course it is not an economical class of labor, for it takes too much land to feed the non-workers to allow a great deal to be planted in cotton. In the morning I walked out with Mr. Wells and sold him both the plantations of which he has had charge for me, viz., the Jenkins place, where he lives, for $1600 or $10 per acre, and Morgan Island for $1200, or about $5 per acre, which is more than any one would have given a few weeks ago, when we couldn't get a negro to stay there for fear of the rebels. I daresay he may do very well with it now, but it is a vexatious thing to get rations to them in such an out-of-the-way place, and, after all, young Mr. Fripp may make them another visit some night and carry off some more negroes.
FROM C. P. W.
Jan. 8. Howard's corps came to Beaufort early last week, and carpenters and engineers have been busy putting the Shell Road to the Ferry in order and building a bridge across the Ferry. It looks as if a move were to be made towards Charleston or the interior soon. Beaufort presents a lively spectacle; the Western soldiers are rough, unkempt customers, whose hair, falling over their shoulders, suggests vows of abstinence from the shears till they shall have accomplished a great work. The first few days of their stay in Beaufort were marked by acts more amusing to the soldiers than to the owners of property "lying round loose." The first night was chilly, and three thousand feet of lumber furnished bonfires at which the soldiers of the "movable army" warmed themselves. Shopkeepers do a tremendous business, and their shops look "fair dry;" but they do not always get pay for their goods, but are requested to look on the battlefield for their money. The troops were paid off just before leaving Atlanta, and are "flush." Bread is very scarce. The troops fared very well on the march,—one continued Thanksgiving through the richest part of Georgia.