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Letters from Port Royal - Written at the Time of the Civil War (1862-1868)
Author: Various
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The schooner Horace for New York, with the rest of our cotton and the first of the negroes', is loaded. The negroes' crops did not turn out very well, as a general rule; want of manure and careless working being the principal causes; the caterpillar did a great deal of damage. They seem somewhat discouraged at the prospect of having to wait so long for their money; but the advance paid them on shipping the cotton (a dollar a pound of ginned cotton) will be a great help to those who have done well.

It is an excellent thing for the property here that Mr. H.[183] is here to keep it in repair. He is a regular trump, the best man down here. I feel more contented at leaving the place with him than with any one here.

If I could have a place down here all to myself, and have what help I wanted, I think I should stay another year and try the experiment on a little different plan. But, as Mr. Folsom said one day, when we agreed that it would be pleasant to stay and hard to leave, "But, after all, one must remember that one has an immortal soul."

FROM H. W.

Jan. 11. Mr. Soule, coming from R.'s, tells us that a salute fired the day before was for Stanton's arrival, come to confer with Sherman.

The next paragraph suggests that the Secretary of War had come for something besides a conference with Sherman; at any rate, he took speedy action in one important direction.

FROM H. W.

Jan. 18. We stopped at Miss Towne's new school-house to see them all in it, and found to our pleasure that General Howard was addressing the children. General Saxton, too, was there, in his new major-general's straps. I was very glad to see General Howard, who has superseded General Foster here. He has a very nice face indeed, and his one arm seemed to make quite an impression on the children. Stanton has been investigating the conscription business, and Foster's removal is the result, apparently, while Saxton has been promoted.

The next letters, Mr. Philbrick's last from Port Royal, contain various pieces of Sea Island news, chiefly in connection with his plans for the next year and his difficulties with his laborers.

FROM E. S. P.

Jan. 9. I started for Coffin's Point, meeting a long procession of the people on the way to church. More than half the number were in sulkies or some sort of go-carts, with all sorts of animals pulling them, mostly quadrupeds that had once been horses,—and some might still bear that name. I had to stop and shake hands every few rods, of course. I have spent most of the day at Fripp Point, with Mr. York. Mr. G. had not been able to collect the rent of corn-land there, to be paid in corn, most of the men refusing to pay. He had withheld enough from their pay to cover the amount of corn due. I took over the money due, with the pay-roll and corn-list. After a long talk on the part of Pompey and John Major and others, which I listened to patiently, most of them still refused to bring their corn. But I felt pretty sure that when some began they would all do it, and so opened the door of the corn-house and told the willing ones to bring in their corn. Jack came first, then Katy, Louisa, and Moll. Pretty soon John Major came along with a cart-load, and all the rest followed but Pompey. Then I began to pay off the women for ginning and preparing their cotton. All went smoothly except that Celia wanted her "yellow-cotton-money"[184] "by himself," and as I couldn't tell exactly how much the "yellow-cotton-money" was, I had to take her money all back and tell her to go over and see Mr. G. After paying the others, however, Celia came up and concluded to take her dues. They all took their money excepting Pompey, who stoutly refused, and I came off without paying him. Then came the talk about next year. I introduced Mr. York as having leased the plantation for the year, which fact was received with less dissatisfaction than I expected; but when it came to talk about prices, which I left for Mr. York to settle, they all demanded a dollar a task, evidently having been preparing their minds for this for some time back. Then followed the usual amount of reasoning on my part, enlarging upon the future uncertainty of prices of cotton, etc., but we made little or no impression on them. They had evidently been listening to an amount of talk about the wealth I had acquired at their expense, and felt aggrieved that they were not making money as fast as those who planted their own cotton, on Frogmore and other places. I told them that the proceeds of last year's crop had all been expended by me in carrying on this year's work, but they wouldn't believe it. John Major said he knew very well they had been jamming the bills into that big iron cage (meaning my safe at R.'s) for six months, and there must be enough in it now to bust it! It had been raining for the last half-hour pretty steadily, and we finally withdrew, the choir of hands hanging about me, singing out "A dollar a task!" "A dollar a task!" as we went off.

Jan. 15. I went out and introduced Mr. Jackson on Tuesday morning to the Pine Grove people, who expressed very little surprise or feeling of any kind, but met him with the same cry which had greeted me and Mr. York at the Point about a dollar a task. I left him with them and rode over to Cherry Hill with old Mr. Waters. The Cherry Hill people received us very well. Tony had a long list of grievances to relate, for Mr. Folsom had had him in jail for a fortnight for refusing to bring out his cotton, raised for me, which he kept in his own house. I listened quietly, and then told Tony I couldn't go behind the decision of the court, but if he had any other matters in dispute with Mr. Folsom he had better come up to the house in the evening and we would talk them over together; but he never came, probably from a sense of guilty conscience.

Primus and Mike and several other negroes were there [in Beaufort], buying horses from officers and men in Sherman's army, titles very uncertain, for they mostly belong to the quartermaster. I advised them not to buy a horse till the ownership was certified by an officer, but they were too much in a hurry for that and hooked on to the first quadruped they could find offered for sale. The fact is that thousands of horses are attached to this army which are picked up by the privates in their march through Georgia, and which these privates pretend to own, and sell without authority, pocketing their money as fast as they please. Some of them are very good horses, and some are not. The town was crowded with the army, on a general leave to ramble about, and new troops continually arrive. One entire corps marched over Port Royal Ferry yesterday, and two more army corps are said to be following. Some twenty steamers arrive daily at Beaufort direct from Savannah, bringing the troops and wagons, artillery and animals. So you can imagine what a confusion appears in the streets as they disembark and march out to camp. The greater part of the whole army seems to be coming around this way and marching over the Ferry towards Pocotaligo. Secretary Stanton is said to have arrived from Savannah at Beaufort last evening. It seems that Primus and the other negroes were about to get their new horses over the Ferry, when the provost marshal sent down a guard to seize men and animals, and marched them all off to the guard-house for the night. The horses will probably be taken away from them and the men allowed to pursue their way this morning, with more sense and less money than they came with. I don't pity them much, for they were fairly warned, and their eagerness to own horses, for which they pay from $200 to $300 each, is perfectly absurd.[185]

Later. An interesting scene has just taken place. May's Comba knocked at the door and asked me to come out in the entry a minute. Thinking there might be some domestic trouble, though she looked smiling, I went out and found about twenty women (representative women) about the door. Comba disappeared in the mass with a giggle, and old Grace spoke up, about as follows: "I'se come to you, sir"—pause—"I'se been working fer owner three years, and made with my chillun two bales cotton last year, two more this year. I'se a flat-footed pusson and don't know much, but I knows those two bales cotton fetch 'nough money, and I don't see what I'se got for 'em. When I take my leetle bit money and go to store, buy cloth, find it so dear, dear Jesus!—the money all gone and leave chillun naked. Some people go out yonder and plant cotton for theyself. Now they get big pile of money for they cotton, and leave we people 'way back. That's what I'se lookin' on, Marsa. Then when I come here for buy 'lasses, when Massa Charlie sell he sell good 'lasses, then when Mister W. sell he stick water in 'em, water enough. Molasses turn thin, but he charge big price for 'em. Now I'se done working for such 'greement. I'se done, sir." Whereupon chorus of women join in like a flock of blackbirds all talking at once. After a while I got a chance to say about as follows: "If any one wants to work on this plantation I will give them so and so (naming terms), but if any one don't like my wages, they may go and find better, but they can't use my land to plant their corn and 'tater on. That's my rule." Chorus interrupts with discordant shouts: "I stay right here, sir—I will work this land for myself, sir—I will sell the cotton," etc., etc. Amaritta and Petra stood silent all this time, and finally Amaritta quietly asked me to repeat my terms, which I did. She repeated them after me word for word, but said nothing more, only nodded and grunted a sort of assent. The chorus became wilder and more noisy, and I walked off into the house. Presently Demus came to the door and said Amaritta wanted to see me by heself. So I went to the door, and Amaritta called Tilly, Petra, and one or two others. Thus said Amaritta: "I'se work for you dis lass year, sir, what I was able. I been sick, you know, wi' small-pox and didn't get much strength all summer, but I don't mind much what them people say, sir, they'se got no manners. Now you say you'll give so and so (carefully repeating my terms). Well, sir, I'se come to say I'se 'gree for work. I 'speck to work, sir. I want to lay my bones in dat air bush (pointing to cemetery), and don't want to go nowhar else; that's what I wanted to say, sir." Then the other two or three women chimed in with smiling faces and said the same in fewer words, and so I bid them good-morning. I told them, too, that if some of those people who made so much noise didn't look out, they would get turned off the place, just as Venus and her gang got turned off last year. The fact is, they are trying to play brag, as such people often will; but they will all go to work in a few days, I feel sure.

Jan. 17. Mr. Folsom went over to Port Royal Island with Mr. G. on Sunday, taking their own horses, and rode over Sherman's pontoons at Port Royal Ferry, without a challenge, and then up the mainland as far as Pocotaligo Bridge, around which the 17th Army Corps is encamped, in full possession of the railroad. Mr. G. called here an hour ago on his way back, and told some of his experiences. He says they were taken for "Secesh" by our own troops, all the way, just as we all are in Beaufort, for the officers themselves seem to be hardly aware that we are all Yankees, taking us for the old residents of the island, made loyal by our experiences.

Every one wonders what brought Secretary Stanton here. He seems to have done something, at any rate, viz., hauled General Foster over the coals severely for his negro conscription last summer, promoted General Saxton to a brevet major-general, with enlarged powers; and, report says, put General Howard in place of General Foster. The newspapers will tell you all I know, and more, too, without doubt. Mr. Tomlinson, who was about disgusted with things here as he found them when he came back from the North, and had concluded to go to Philadelphia to take some position offered him there by the Philadelphia committee, now thinks he will remain here,—for which I am very glad. Very few men could be so useful as he in this place; for though he has a weak spot on the question of negro character, he has a vast deal of good sense in detail, and is perfectly unimpeachable in his stern regard for justice, never allowing himself to be used in any way for the furthering of the designs of interested parties. No one who has not spent some time under martial law knows how hard it is and how rare for men in office to follow such a course, unswerved by either flattery or ambition.

Jan. 22. General Saxton came over to the St. Helena church last Sunday, and set all the Edisto people into a stew by telling how he was going to send the black troops there to defend the islands, and how they might all go back to their "old homes," etc., forgetting that they were not natives of Edisto, but only refugees when there, and that they were now more comfortably settled here than they were there in 1862. The Georgia refugees are coming along by hundreds and thousands, and he "wanted to make room for them," etc. Of course the Edisto people all say the General has ordered them to pack up and he will carry them back, etc. So, many refuse to work, but pack up and sit still, waiting for the General to come along and tote them across the sound! The Georgia negroes are a superior-looking set to those of these islands. Many are taken in outbuildings, etc., and have given a good start to labor by giving the impression that if the old residents don't work, somebody else will. They have gone to work for Mr. York at Fripp Point, and here for Mr. H., and all along the road generally. George Wells has got over a hundred Georgians on Morgan Island doing well, and I guess the rebs won't trouble him, they are too busy.

Mr. Tomlinson is to take the place on General Saxton's staff formerly held by Captain Hooper, but without military rank. C. F. Williams is to take Mr. Tomlinson's place here.

We hear by your letter the list of the passengers lost on the Melville. All our worst fears are confirmed, and you were right in supposing that it was our acquaintances who were lost. This miserable steamer I once talked of coming on, by her previous trip, but gave it up when I found her character.

FROM W. C. G.

Jan. 23. I think I suggested in a previous letter the possibility of my staying here. Sherman's operations have opened a wider sphere for negro work and thrown a great number of refugees into our hands. And his approaching campaign will have a similar effect. General Saxton has been appointed "Inspector General," with control of all negro affairs from Key West to Charleston and thirty miles inland. The first thing proposed is to recolonize Edisto and the other deserted Sea Islands with the refugees, and men are wanted to assist in their settlement. I have been offered a situation of this kind, or rather the General has simply asked a few of us to stay, and Mr. Tomlinson, Folsom, and myself will all remain for the present at least. I know nothing more than this, but I look forward to a rough life, something like our first year here. I shall probably go to Edisto in a day or two. There will be no danger from attack, etc., as a regiment is to be stationed there. The island is described by all as the finest and healthiest of all the Sea Islands.

If there is any movement afoot in Boston for the assistance of the negro refugees that Sherman's operations throw into our hands, it can be of the greatest benefit. The efforts three years ago were made chiefly for persons left in their own homes, and with their own clothing and property, besides their share of the plunder from their masters' houses. And in many cases too much was given. But now hundreds and thousands are coming in, shivering, hungry, so lean and bony and sickly that one wonders to what race they belong. Old men of seventy and children of seven years have kept pace with Sherman's advance, some of them for two months and over, from the interior of Georgia; of course little or nothing could be brought but the clothing on their backs and the young children in arms. Since their arrival in comparatively comfortable quarters, great sickness has prevailed, and numbers and numbers have died. The Government gives them rations, and has tried to give out clothing. But if clothes, cooking utensils, etc., can be sent by Northern friends, nowhere can generosity be better extended.

Savannah, Feb. 16. As you see, my destination has been changed. General Saxton needed a kind of colonization office here, and I am sent as an assistant. How long this will continue my headquarters I don't know. I am writing in a very large and fine house formerly occupied by Habersham, rebel. It is full of fine furniture. Our office, too, is one of the City Bank buildings. The prices are regal, too—$15 per week for board, e. g.

Mar. 7. The work at the office continues the same in kind, and the stream of waiters increases. We hope to send quite a company off to some of the more distant islands before long, but are terribly embarrassed for want of transportation. First, no steamer! then no coal! And when one can be had, the other can't. General Saxton is still, as ever previously, left to get round on one leg. His work is of course always inferior in importance to the needs of the military service, so there is never an absence of reason for refusing him what he wants. "Bricks!—without straw," has so far been the usual fortune. Soon a gentleman is going out towards the Ogeechee to report numbers and condition there. It seems to be a Central Asia, from the population that swarms in for rations. Compared with those who apply, few are allowed them. No one who can show a finger to pick with and reports an oyster to pick, is allowed to come on the Government for support.

Here follows the last letter from G., written three months later, not long before he came away.

FROM W. C. G.

Savannah, June 9. Our business has slacked greatly, and is now mainly kept up by recent refugees from the up-country. We have stopped more than half the rations, and almost every family within a dozen miles has been represented at the office and been furnished with the proper papers. But slavery still exists in the interior and is spending its last moments in the old abominations of whipping and punishing. Of course it is nearly dead,—the people know they are free and the masters have to own it,—but the ruling passion is strong in death.

W. C. G. left the South in June; H. W. and C. P. W. had gone several months before him. The letters written at intervals during the next two years are mostly addressed to the latter by F. H. and T. E. R. They report the gradually changing conditions and increasing difficulties of plantation superintendence.

R. SOULE, JR., TO C. P. W.

Coffin's Point, April 29. Mr. H. is getting on pretty smoothly, though he has occasionally to take a dose of what Mr. York calls "Plantation Bitters," in the shape of complaints, faithlessness, and general rascality on the part of the "poor negroes."

E. S. P. TO W. C. G. (IN SAVANNAH)

Boston, May 1. You will see by the papers all about the fall in prices. The Liverpool cotton men had lost twelve millions sterling upon the depreciation of their cotton in store before they heard of the fall of Richmond and Lee's surrender. There is a terrible panic there, and some of the best firms are failing. After things have come to an equilibrium, and the manufacturers begin to buy cotton for spinning, there will be a demand for ours, but it may take several months, for they haven't got to the bottom of the trouble yet.

The affairs at St. Helena seem to be progressing quietly. The chances are that all the cotton we raise this year will cost nearly if not quite as much as we shall get for it. I advanced a dollar a pound on the negroes' cotton, you know, and it has cost me about twenty-five cents a pound more to gin it, etc., etc., while I am offered less than a dollar. Query: how much commission shall I get for doing the business?

T. E. R. TO C. P. W.

St. Helena, May 6. The Coffin's Pointites had a gay old blow-out over at church, owing to Mr. Williams' telling them that they must pay Mr. Philbrick for pasturing their horses. They called Mr. P. a thief, robber, liar, and everything else that was bad.

The death of Lincoln was an awful blow to the negroes here. One would say, "Uncle Sam is dead, isn't he?" Another, "The Government is dead, isn't it? You have got to go North and Secesh come back, haven't you? We going to be slaves again?" They could not comprehend the matter at all—how Lincoln could die and the Government still live. It made them very quiet for a few days.

Secesh are coming back quite freely nowadays and looking about as much as they please: Old Ben and young Ben Chaplin, several of the Pritchards, and Captain Williams, that owned a plantation on Ladies Island.

The negroes begin to clamor about the final payment for their cotton, and we have to tell them that the probabilities are that there will not be any more. Then they think we have cheated them, and so the world goes in South Carolina. Rather a thankless task.

F. H. TO C. P. W.

Coffin's, May 21. The honesty of this people and their disinterested benevolence are as apparent as ever. Please don't exaggerate these valuable qualities, either in the papers, to the Educational Commission, or in your private conversation; because it is better that those who are interested in the welfare of these people should not be deceived into the notion that they are so nearly perfect as to need no further expenditure of benevolent effort. Of course, we know the great danger of your wreathing your account of them in roses and laurel. One's enthusiasm is so excited in their behalf by a few years' residence here, that his veracity is in great danger of being swamped in his ideality, and his judgment lost in his admiration. So pardon my warning to you.

The McTureous lands have recently been sold, and about every family upon this place has got its five or ten acres. I tell them they had better move or build houses upon their lots and be independent of "we, us, and co." But the idea seems to meet with little favor. A good many of them are expecting these lands to be offered to them the coming year, now that the war is about over, Dr. Brisbane, General Saxton, and others assuring them that such was Mr. Philbrick's promise when he bought them. I think there would be some important advantages to white proprietors as well as black laborers, if they had some ten acres of land of their own,—at least enough to raise their own provisions upon, and to keep their own hogs and horses upon. Such an arrangement would rid us of many annoyances, and help define the rights of each party.

"G.'s article," referred to in the next letter, was entitled "The Freedmen at Port Royal," and appeared in the North American Review for July, 1865.

R. SOULE, JR., TO C. P. W.

Coffin's Point, Sept. 10. G.'s article is well written and interesting. He was evidently disposed to report as favorably as possible for the negroes, while at the same time he seems to have suspected that the reader would be a good deal impressed by the darker shades of his sketch, and the conclusion of the whole is: There is ground for hope, but the case is a pretty desperate one. A conclusion to which, I confess, my own observation and studies lead me, whichever way I turn.

The furor among the negroes here just now is to have a Union Store, and they are contributing their funds for this purpose. They propose to put up a building for the store near Smallwood's Bakery (at the corner where village road branches from main road), and to make Mr. Smallwood President of their Corporation! This project will probably have one good effect in the end, namely, to open their eyes to see some things which nobody can make them see now.

F. H. TO C. P. W.

Coffin's Point, Sept. 18. Cotton is opening well now, but we have rather unfavorable weather for picking and drying. The caterpillars have finally run over a good deal of ground, doing some damage, hard to tell how much.

R. thinks he don't care to try the experiment of cotton-raising again—the risks and vexations are so great. I find that feeling quite general here this year among planters. William Alden says it is his last year. I doubt whether he pays expenses this season. His cotton is late, and now the caterpillars are destroying it.

F. H. TO C. P. W.

Sept. 24. Much of my time has been occupied of late in service on Plantation Commission. The most important case is still on trial,—that of the stealing of twelve hundred pounds of seed cotton from Mr. De Golyer. There is a "cloud of witnesses"—a very dark one—and it is hard, as yet, to discern in it any glimmering of truth.

T. E. R. TO C. P. W.

St. Helena Island, Sept. 25. With the dry weather of July and the wet weather now, with the worm, we shall lose a third sure of our crop, if not more.

The negroes on the island are very quiet—all absorbed in a scheme of establishing a "St. Helena Protective Union Store," J. Smallwood, President. They have got the frame out and on the ground. I have a great deal of curiosity to see the working of the thing, for they never did succeed in the North among intelligent white people. If they can read and write, or keep a Union Store, I think they ought to have the right of suffrage.

Nearly all the Secesh are back in Beaufort, confidently expecting that they will get their land back in season to plant next year.

All the Georgians will go back this fall, but all the people Fuller[186] took with him (excuse me, I should say went with him) will return here in a few weeks. Fuller hasn't any cotton this year, only corn and potatoes. When he returned from here he told them the people down here were very poor and in miserable condition; nevertheless, they seem willing to come down and share the misery of freedom to staying up there with Fuller in comfort. At the time he was here, 17th of June, he never had said a word to the people with him that they were free, and did not until they made a plan among themselves to go up to him in a body and make him tell them. Then Fuller took the old driver one side and told him he wanted him and all the people to stay with him and plant another year, and wanted him to use his influence to persuade the people to stay. So next morning he called them all up and had them stand on his right hand, and as he called their names he wanted those who were willing to stay with him another year to step over to his left hand. So he commenced with Old Gib, the driver (January's father). He turned right round and walked towards the negro quarters. Fuller says, "Why, Gib, you will stay, won't you?" "No, Sir." Then he went through the whole list, and every one marched straight home and none to his left hand, much to his disgust.

The next extract reports E. S. P.'s final decision as to the price for which he should offer land to the negroes.

E. S. P. TO W. C. G.[187]

Boston, Oct. 5. C. F. Williams has gone down to finish surveying my land, and will cut up and sell for me to the negroes about as much land as they have been in the habit of using,—good, arable land, at $5 per acre, where they are not already provided.

R. S., JR., TO C. P. W.

Coffin's Point, Oct. 9. I have no reason to complain of my people for any extraordinary delinquencies, for they have worked as well as we shall probably ever be able to get these negroes to work; but I have frequently had occasion to be vexed at their slow, shiftless habits and at their general stupidity. It is a very great trial to any Northern man to have to deal with such a set of people, and I am satisfied that if Northerners emigrate to the South and undertake agriculture or anything else here, they will be compelled to import white laborers. In the first place, they will not have the patience to get along with the negroes, even if there were enough of these freedmen to do all the work. But, in the second place, there will not be one quarter enough of them to supply the demand there will be for laborers when the uncleared land at the South is brought under cultivation. The old slaveholders could never get hands enough, and yet they cultivated only about one tenth of the land that is fit for cotton.

It need hardly be said that this prophecy has not yet been fulfilled.

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

Boston, Oct. 15. I have had a letter from Charleston written by a lawyer on behalf of Captain John Fripp and his three daughters! The writer says but little about his legal rights, but appeals to my "sense of justice and generosity," to see if some compromise can't be made. He doesn't say exactly what he wants, but intimates that both parties could profit by such an arrangement and save the vexations of a law suit. I don't see exactly what he has got to give, except his old title, which he probably values a good deal higher than I do. I wrote him telling him I was hampered in acts of "generosity" by the fact that the present title was not in me alone, but that about a dozen other gentlemen were interested, and asked him to make us a definite proposition. You may see by the papers that General Howard is sent by the President to see if he can reconcile the claims of the negroes on Edisto and other islands with those of the former owners who clamor to be reinstated in their position. I guess General Howard will have a tough job. I don't envy him.

Nov. 21. There is a large number of old planters who are offering their lands at very low rates, and so many tempting chances are offered to Northern men. The tide of emigration southward doesn't yet set very strong, however. I think the great drawback is the feeling that the South is still intolerant of Yankees. The rabble and the young men are still clinging to the hope that they are going to have their own way about managing the nigger, somehow or other, as soon as they get rid of the United States forces, and they know very well that Yankees who come among them will not agree with them about the best way of "making him work," for they won't believe that he will ever work till he is made to. Now, to tell the truth, I don't believe myself that the present generation of negroes will work as they were formerly obliged to, and therefore the race will not produce so much cotton in this generation as they did five years ago. The change is too great a one to be made in a day. It will take many years to make an economical and thrifty man out of a freedman, and about as long to make a sensible and just employer out of a former slaveholder. It is not at all likely that the Southern community will tax itself to educate the negro yet for a good while, and I have my doubts whether the system of education thus far carried on through the benevolence of Northern and English communities can be kept up much longer. It is a laudable and a noble work, but I fear it can't be sustained after the novelty is over. There seems to be a lethargy creeping over our community on this subject, which is very hard to shake off. The feeling is somewhat general that the negro must make the most of his chances and pick up his a, b, c's as he can. Moreover, there is a mass of ignorance in the South under white skins, which is likely to give us more immediate trouble, politically, than the ignorance of the negro, for that latter is not as yet armed with the suffrage. Of course there is not much enthusiasm about sending teachers South to teach the poor whites, so the negro suffers from the magnitude of the undertaking, from his remoteness from view, and the general disposition among mankind to let everybody hoe their own weeds so long as they don't shade one's own garden.

I hear that General Howard went to Edisto with the view of reconciling the squatter negroes with the claims of the former owners, as requested by the President, but that the task was rather difficult, as you may imagine; and though the former owners had promised to "absorb" the labor, and provide for the negroes' wants, etc., they found the negroes had ideas which they were not quite prepared for, and, in short, got so disgusted with the prospect of getting the said negroes to work for them under the new order of things that they did not seem so anxious to "absorb" them as before, and as General Howard did not feel like driving off the negroes to put the old owners in possession, he left things pretty much as he found them,[188] except that the old owners, who went there confidently expecting to have all their own way, went off with a flea in the ear. I have nothing more from the Charleston lawyer, but Mr. Tomlinson reports that Charleston lawyers told him they didn't see how to get around our tax-titles, though they would doubtless carry them into court as soon as they have courts, and give the lawyers plenty of work.[189]

Dr. Clarence Fripp began to practice medicine on St. Helena, living with John Major, but afterwards got a contract surgeon's berth from General Saxton, and is now in the Village, next door to his old house, now occupied by Miss Towne! He made a professional visit at Coffin's Point and dined with them!

A picture of Clarence Fripp on his return to St. Helena, and a glimpse of his situation from his own point of view, are given in a letter to the New York Nation from Dennett, a special correspondent (see page 320). Dennett writes that, among the Northern soldiers and traders in the hotel at Hilton Head, there was also "a person who had the easily distinguishable appearance and manners of a South Carolinian. This gentleman, a person of some fifty odd years old, dressed tolerably well in a suit of grey clothes, with a large display of crumpled linen at the collar and cuffs of his coat, sat before the stove smoking, and talking very freely about his present poverty and his plans for the future." After explaining that he had left St. Helena when Dupont forced an entrance, leaving his plate and furniture behind, and that his plantation had been sold, Dr. Fripp set forth the situation in which he now found himself. "Some Massachusetts man had bought it, and he didn't know when he'd get it back.... Up in Greenville he soon spent all his money to support his family, but if he'd had money he couldn't have saved his property. How was he to come back inside the Yankee lines and pay the tax? The Commissioners knew very well it couldn't be done; the sale was a perfectly unfair thing." In coming back now to Beaufort, he said "he hoped to be able to pick up a little medical practice; but if his profession failed him, he supposed his son and himself could put up a cabin somewhere in the vicinity, and get fish and oysters enough to live on." He even talked of circulating a handbill at Greenville asking for money for his needs, and Dennett adds: "This gentleman, it is currently reported, has made several visits to the plantation which he formerly owned, and the negroes living there have collected for his use nearly a hundred dollars."[190]

T. E. R. TO C. P. W.

St. Helena, Dec. 10. Your letter has been a reminder of my duty, but cotton ginning is my only excuse. It has proved much more of a bore this year than usual, for it is nothing but tief, tief, all the time. We do not get more than one fifth[191] of the weight of seed cotton after it is ginned, and the probabilities are that they steal the balance; but we are perfectly helpless, for we cannot prove it against any of them. I have had about a bale of cotton stolen at the "Oaks" since I put it in the cotton-house. I can assure you there is nothing to be made this year.

We had a call from Dennett (correspondent of Nation) on his Southern tour, a few weeks ago. He said he was disappointed in not getting better reports of the negroes here on these islands, for he had been looking forward to this place, feeling sure he should find something good to offset the many evil reports he had heard of them all the way down through the country. He thinks Mr. Soule and Mr. H. very much demoralized on the negro question.[192]

General Gillmore was removed for being unfriendly to Freedmen's Bureau, and General Sickles is now in command. He told Saxton[193] to let him know what was wanted and he should have it, so things are moving on very smoothly now. Tomlinson[194] has been on a trip through South Carolina to see what the condition of the people was and at what points he could establish schools. They have them started in nearly all the principal points. He says the whites do not know that they have been whipped yet, and many of the negroes don't know they are free.

Mrs. Bryant has opened a pay school [at T. B. Fripp's], older scholars paying one dollar per month and young ones fifty cents. She has about sixty scholars. Alden has opened a store on the place.

The negroes' Union Store is raised and covered, but I guess will never be stocked.[195]

R. S., JR., TO C. P. W.

Coffin's Point, Dec. 17. I suppose you have heard that our plantation operations here this year have been a failure. Nobody has raised more than half a crop. The drought in the early part of the summer and the caterpillar in August and September contrived to diminish the yield. Most of the planters, however, thinking that two bad seasons will not come in succession, are making vigorous preparations for next year in the way of gathering marsh-grass and mud. I have about concluded to sell or to lease Mulberry Hill, and if I succeed in doing either I shall probably go home about the first of February.

There is a universal feeling of dissatisfaction, not to say disgust, with our colored brethren here at the present time, on account of the extraordinary development of some of their well-known characteristics. They are stealing cotton at a fearful rate. Captain Kellum of Dathaw lost a whole bale a few nights since, and to-day Mr. Williams, who has just come down from R.'s, tells us that the cotton-house has been broken into and one packed bale cut open and about one hundred pounds taken out of it and carried off! This bale belonged to Mr. York. We none of us feel secure against these depredations.

Two of the thieves at Coffin's Point were caught with ginned cotton in their houses, Peter Brown and William White. Before Mr. Towne could apprehend them they escaped to the main. Another, Jonas Green, had cotton-seed hid away in his corn-house. He was caught, and a Plantation Commission sentenced him to two months' imprisonment. This is the first fruit of making land-owners of the negroes. While they raise cotton of their own and no restraint is put upon them in making sale of what they bring to market, it is impossible to ferret out their robberies in most cases. Such rascality on the part of the negroes is more discouraging than caterpillars and drought.

F. H. TO C. P. W.

Coffin's, Dec. 26. I expect my sojourn at Coffin's Point is nearly closed. The attractions of the place or the people are not sufficient to keep me here another year. The climate is bad enough, the general "shiftlessness" of the people is disgusting enough; but when I see that the disposition to steal the crop is very general, that the people have done and can do it with impunity, I am discouraged about cotton-raising here. I believe they have not taken any of ours since it has been packed, but large quantities of it before. And as they all raised cotton on McTureous[196] for themselves, they could mix and secrete it very successfully.

Mr. Soule has this moment learned that his cotton-house has been entered and cotton stolen, but to what extent has not been determined.

I think Mr. Soule will be glad to get away from this "Sodom." He is too good a man to be worn out by the barbarians of this latitude.

R. S., JR., TO C. P. W.

Coffin's Point, Dec. 31. How well Grant appears in everything he writes as well as in everything he does! In the Weekly Advertiser just received by me, I find his report of his recent Southern tour,[197] and, if I mistake not, he intimates pretty clearly that General Saxton has not managed his Department judiciously.

Mr. Philbrick has made an effort to sell the most of the plantations. As yet, however, no purchaser has appeared, and he has now about concluded to dispose of them as follows: to lease Fuller Place to N., R., and W. (the new firm who have purchased the stock on hand in store), and Cherry Hill[198] to Mr. Waters, to intrust the management of Homestead to the latter gentleman, and that of Coffin's Point to Mr. H. for account of E. S. P., and to let Mr. Williams sell the whole of Corner[199] and Fripp Point to negroes. I have leased Mulberry Hill to Mr. Waters.

Negroes continue to steal cotton, and we continue to be helpless against their depredations.



1866—1867—1868

Mr. Philbrick's sales to the negroes—Persistent discouragement with the negroes—H. W.'s visit to Coffin's Point in 1868—Tribute of the negroes to Mr. Philbrick.

E. S. P. TO W. C. G. [IN EUROPE]

Boston, Jan. 12, 1866. The Freedmen's Aid Societies have all consolidated, and lately have united with the big Orthodox society for helping refugees, the latter class being no longer so needy except that the poor whites need education as much as the blacks, and I have made up my mind that we can't help the blacks much except by helping poor whites at the same time. The combination enlarges the begging field immensely, and by putting white and black schools under the same control will give negro schools a sort of footing which they wouldn't otherwise have, after our troops get scarce. The old feeling has already blossomed out and borne fruit in Louisiana, where all the freedmen's schools have just been extinguished or snuffed out at a single pinch, except in New Orleans city, one lady teacher being shot through the head.

A sweeping order has mustered out over a hundred generals of the Volunteer Army, General Saxton among the rest. I don't know who takes his place in the Freedmen's Bureau. This institution will probably be continued by Congress with enlarged powers, but it is but a drop in the bucket, after all.

C. F. Williams is busy sharing out land. He sells the whole of Fripp Point in small lots to the negroes of both places, and some others from outside. The whole place measures only four hundred and sixty acres, bought for seven hundred and fifty, and the Captain John Fripp place is only four hundred and sixty instead of one thousand for which I bought it! By the way, the old man is dead, leaving his three daughters in poverty, to earn their living as they best may. Julian Coffin has visited Mr. Soule, etc., asking leave to go into his old room, to take some of his father's old books, and left after a few hours, since which none of us have heard anything further of them.

There seems to be less law than ever there. I am about making representations at Washington to see if I can't get some improvement.

I lost about $2800 on the negro cotton ginned in New York, and paid over about $2500 on account of the cotton which they ginned there! I also lost some $2000 on cotton taken from Mr. —— in Beaufort, he turning out a knave. Our crop of 1864 paid our Company a profit of about $19,000. I shall just about pay expenses on the crop of 1865, not much more, I think. The caterpillar and the drought didn't leave much cotton.

T. E. R. TO C. P. W.

Feb. 3, 1866. I am a gentleman of leisure and, like most every one else here, am living on the interest of what I have lost. I am no longer a member of the noted firm of N., R., and W. We dissolved January 1, and N. and W. continue the business at the old stand. I decided that there was not salt enough for three certainly. There is no money here to speak of, and what there is will go to Beaufort where there is liquor sold or given away. I have also given up cotton-planting; it is not a very lucrative business when it brings only sixty-six cents.

I made arrangements with Mr. Pope to still occupy this half of the house free of rent until August, if I wished, and was calculating on having a rich time seeing a native plant cotton with these island negroes, but alas, my hopes are all blighted, for every blessed soul but one man and his wife has moved away and will not work for him; so he has decided not to move here until after we are gone. He has sent one man here who was an old servant and has been with him all the time, and he is very industrious, works from morn until night; it is quite refreshing to see him. Pope was the only one of the natives who bid off places at auction[200] that came to time in paying up; so the places were put up again and bought by Northern men.

The present planters are in a dubious frame of mind these days over the prospect for another year, for it is very hard to bring wages down, and one cannot get his money back at the present price of cotton, so most of them will work on shares;[201] but that is a sure way of running a place all out, for the people will not manure it sufficiently to keep it up. Mr. Eustis is always good-natured, and is about the only man here who is not utterly demoralized on the negro question.

F. H. TO C. P. W.

Coffin's Point, Feb. 16, 1866. Really the people have met with a great change of late, since I have sent away Anthony Bail. They love and respect me hugely, which I hope will last another whole week.

Dr. Oliver and Captain Ward, who have bought "Pine Grove," have taken the usual disgust for the people. They have got it bad; say they would not have bought here had they imagined half of the reality. They have some friends who would have bought Coffin's Point if they could have made a favorable report of the people. But they tell them not to think of buying to use the labor that is now here. I say the same when I say anything about it, though I have no friends who think of buying here.

T. E. R. TO C. P. W.

May 21, 1867. I don't suppose we shall be able to make any new additions to your collection of negro songs.[202] They sing but very little nowadays to what they used to. Do you remember those good old days when the Methodists used to sing up in that cotton-house at Fuller's? Wasn't it good? They never sing any of them at the church, and very few in their praise-meeting.

Crops on the island are looking worse than I ever saw them at this season before.

We are all American citizens now, and there has been an effort to form a Republican party, but it has not succeeded very well yet. They are too suspicious to be led by the whites, and there is not sense enough in themselves to go ahead.

The last extract in the series is from a letter written by H. W. exactly one year later, when she made a trip to Port Royal, staying with Miss Towne and Miss Murray at St. Helena Village. The tardy tribute of the negroes to Mr. Philbrick makes the story complete.

FROM H. W.

Thursday, May 21, 1868. When I inquired at breakfast if I could have Jacob's horse for the day, I found that, as he was in use for the crop, Miss Towne had already had her horse put singly into their rockaway for school, and Miss Murray's into the chaise for my use. So when they started for school, I followed along in company as far as the end of the Village road, where Mr. N. now has a store, and, turning on to the more familiar road, soon found myself crossing the creek over Mr. Philbrick's bridge,—one of the very few in decent repair,—and on my way to Captain John Fripp Homestead. The entire absence of gates, and as a consequence of pigs, or vice versa, made my drive an easy one, and I did not have to get out once. It had seemed hot early, but light clouds and a fresh breeze kept it cool all day. I turned up the familiar avenue to Folsom's, after passing through one field in which the houses are still, though more scattered. The avenue was clean and trim, and the house corresponded,—a new piazza and steps all freshly painted, fresh paint inside, and paper on the walls made everything look uncommonly spruce. The schoolroom is now the parlor, and my sofa and cushion grace it still!

Mr. Alden met me very cordially at the foot of the steps, and I went in to see the other occupants, Mr. and Mrs. Waters and their son. I had a pleasant call and talk, and then, refusing their earnest invitation to spend the day, as Coffin's Point was my one object, I pursued my lonely way. Trees cut down, and houses moved and built in the middle of the field, with the absence of fences, gates, and pigs, were the most noticeable changes, and I drove along, meeting no one, until I came to the pine woods on the right opposite old Frank's ground, just before you turn into the Pine Grove field. The woods were all thinned out, logs lying in every direction. Hoeing the corn planted there were two women I thought I recognized, and, walking the horse, I leaned forward to see who was the man further on. Then I stopped and asked him whose the land was he was working, when he began an account of how "it used to be McTureous and Mr. Thomas Coffin buy 'em,"[203] which I cut short with—"Yes, I know that, but is it your own now? What is your name?" "My name Able, ma'am; dis lan' mine, yes, ma'am"—and then—"Oh! my Lord! Der Miss Hayiut, an' me no know um!" and he dropped his hoe and came scrambling and running to the road. Sarah and Elsie, whom I had just passed, and Martha further on, came out at his call, grinning and pleased, and then he and Martha began directly upon what I had done for Rose,[204] their gratitude, and willingness that I should keep her forever. Then they talked of how hard the last year or two had been, and there were many reiterations of "Ebery word Mass' Charlie and Mr. Philbrick tell we come true." "Tell 'em tousan howdy over for we—long too much for shum. We fin' 'em out now."

A few steps more brought me into the Pine Grove field, and I turned towards the house, followed by half a dozen small children, only one of whom I knew or knew me,—little Abigail. Towards the house whom should I come upon but Flora and her Sarah, a great girl. She was pleased as could be, but told me I should find no one at the Grove. Old Monah was dead, and all the old people had bought land and lived at the Point. They were working for Mr. Ward, glad enough to earn a little ready money for food. I went on to see Mrs. Vaughn, and as she had not come up from school, walked down to the praise-house, seeing no one I knew but old Binah.

School had dispersed, so I walked back to the house, and dined there, and then for Coffin's Point. Once inside the line—for the gate is not—I met the familiar breeze of the Big Pasture, but its altered face. The houses are back as far as the creek on one side and the woods on the other,—two or three quite large and with piazzas,—the praise-house near the corner of the wood. I was a long time passing through it, for they all dropped their hoes and came down to shake hands. I got Uncle George to follow along with hammer and nails to mend the chaise, as the floor was so broken I could not put my feet on it, and the bag of oats had dropped through on the way. I had tied the halter to the dasher and wound it round the bag, so there was no loss. The dilapidation was a pleasing reminiscence of old times, and George was pleased enough to earn a quarter by patching it up. Then I drove on to the house, where are only a Mr. and Mrs. Sinclair left in charge. Mrs. S. was very polite, and asked me up into our old parlor, which did not look as pleasant as in the old time. Garibaldi was out at pasture, so I could not have the ride I coveted while my horse was eating his dinner. As I had never been into the schoolhouse since it was finished, I borrowed the key and walked down to it. As I pulled the rope to hear the sound of the unused bell, Robert came in, quiet as ever, but greatly pleased, and asking many questions about Mass' Charlie and Mr. and Mrs. Soule. I found the people were coming up to be paid, so I went back to the yard and stood there as they came up to the schoolroom door, across which was the old school table, with Primus behind it, and Mr. Sinclair, looking over his list. Then I walked on the beach, and Robert put my horse in and I drove off.

Mike had followed me up the road, loud in his regrets for the "good ole times when Mass' Charlie and de fust gang white people been here." "Mr. Philbrick de fustest man in de worl'. General Bennett[205] couldn't—couldn't—fetch de fust feathers round his heart!" whatever that may be.



CONCLUSION

When the end of this record is reached, undoubtedly the feeling uppermost in the mind of the reader is one of disappointment. At first blush one is ready to believe that the members of the little colony, in proving the free negro capable of raising cotton to good advantage, had still more completely proved him unfit for freedom. Yet the more one reflects on the story, the more plainly one sees that the discouraging state of things described in the later letters was merely the inevitable result of Emancipation, and would have been the same had any other race been concerned, whatever its characteristics. The ferment of Freedom worked slowly in the negroes, but it worked mightily, and the very sign of its working was, as a matter of course, unreasonableness, insubordination, untrustworthiness. This result might have been foreseen, and probably was foreseen. It was not a pleasant thing to contemplate, nor is it pleasant to read of, but it proved nothing as to the powers and possibilities of the negro people. It is not probable that any of the "missionaries," however discouraged, came to think that the black man was too stupid or too dishonest to become a self-respecting member of society. Nor does it appear that W. C. G. was justified in fearing that their efforts were worse than wasted, inasmuch as the negro might have acquired manhood more rapidly if left to himself from the start. They had established two facts, the very foundation-stones of the new order in the South; that the freedman would work, and that, as an employee, he was less expensive than the slave. Their reward was not in any one's gratitude, but in their own knowledge that they had served their unfortunate fellow-beings as far as, at the moment, was possible. And it must not be forgotten that some stayed on, putting their energies where there was no question, even, of waste or of ingratitude. There is no telling the service done for the Sea Islands by the education that has been given to it these forty years, or indeed by the mere presence of the women who have devoted their lives to this service.

Looking at the letters as a whole, perhaps the reader finds that the chief impression they have made upon him is that of profound respect for the negro wisdom shown by the writers. Keenly as they felt the past suffering and the present helplessness of the freedmen, they had the supreme common-sense to see that these wrongs could not be righted by any method so simple as that of giving. They saw that what was needed was, not special favor, but even-handed justice. Education, indeed, they would give outright; otherwise they would make the negro as rapidly as possible a part of the economic world, a laborer among other laborers. All that has happened since has only gone to prove how right they were.



FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 1: Later "The New England Freedmen's Aid Society."]

[Footnote 2: The name Port Royal, in ante-bellum days used only of the island on which Beaufort is situated and of the entrance to the Beaufort River, was given by the United States Government to the military post and the harbor at Hilton Head, and to the post-office there. Hence the Sea Island district came to be referred to in the North as "Port Royal."]

[Footnote 3: Collector Barney of the Port of New York.]

[Footnote 4: Edward L. Pierce (see Introduction).]

[Footnote 5: Richard Soule, Jr.]

[Footnote 6: Edward W. Hooper, afterwards for many years Treasurer of Harvard College.]

[Footnote 7: G. is W. C. G. of these letters.]

[Footnote 8: John M. Forbes, who had hired a house at Beaufort for a few months.]

[Footnote 9: Rev. Mansfield French had already spent some weeks at Port Royal.]

[Footnote 10: Thrown up by the island planters after the outbreak of the war.]

[Footnote 11: Thomas A. Coffin's large plantation at the eastern end of St. Helena Island.]

[Footnote 12: F. A. Eustis of Milton, who was part owner of the plantation in question.]

[Footnote 13: Mr. Philbrick had gone down to Hilton Head again to see about his luggage.]

[Footnote 14: See page v.]

[Footnote 15: Pine Grove and Fripp Point.]

[Footnote 16: The drivers, negroes holding a position next below the white overseers, were found by the Northerners still keeping the keys and trying to exert their authority.]

[Footnote 17: For clothing their masters had been in the habit of giving them material for two suits a year; a pair of blankets every few years made up the sum of gratuities.]

[Footnote 18: Mrs. Philbrick.]

[Footnote 19: Miss Laura E. Towne of Philadelphia. She never returned to live in the North. The school she started in 1862 is still in existence, under the name of the Penn Normal, Industrial, and Agricultural School.]

[Footnote 20: Known as the Smith Plantation.]

[Footnote 21: The ferry to Ladies Island, across which ran the road to St. Helena Island and Mr. Philbrick's plantations.]

[Footnote 22: The plantation "praise-house," as the negroes' church was called, was often merely "a rather larger and nicer negro hut than the others. Here the master was an exemplary old Baptist Christian, who has left his house full of religious magazines and papers, and built his people quite a nice little house,—the best on this part of the Island."

(Letter of W. C. G., April 22, 1862.)]

[Footnote 23: Pine Grove was in this respect an exception among the Sea Island plantations.]

[Footnote 24: See p. 33.]

[Footnote 25: Mrs. Philbrick.]

[Footnote 26: "The true 'shout' takes place on Sundays or on 'praise'-nights through the week, and either in the praise-house or some cabin in which a regular religious meeting has been held. Very likely more than half the population of the plantation is gathered together. Let it be the evening, and a light-wood fire burns red before the door to the house and on the hearth.... The benches are pushed back to the wall when the formal meeting is over, and old and young, men and women, sprucely-dressed young men, grotesquely half-clad field-hands—the women generally with gay handkerchiefs twisted about their heads and with short skirts—boys with tattered shirts and men's trousers, young girls barefooted, all stand up in the middle of the floor, and when the 'sperichil' is struck up, begin first walking and by-and-by shuffling round, one after the other, in a ring. The foot is hardly taken from the floor, and the progression is mainly due to a jerking, hitching motion, which agitates the entire shouter, and soon brings out streams of perspiration. Sometimes they dance silently, sometimes as they shuffle they sing the chorus of the spiritual, and sometimes the song itself is also sung by the dancers. But more frequently a band, composed of some of the best singers and of tired shouters, stand at the side of the room to 'base' the others, singing the body of the song and clapping their hands together or on the knees. Song and dance are alike extremely energetic, and often, when the shout lasts into the middle of the night, the monotonous thud, thud of the feet prevents sleep within half a mile of the praise-house." (New York Nation, May 30, 1867.)]

[Footnote 27: Miss Lucy McKim, in a letter to the Boston Journal of Music, November 8, 1862.]

[Footnote 28: This old woman Mr. Philbrick had found "keeping guard over her late master's household goods—i. e., selling them."]

[Footnote 29: A few weeks earlier than this, one of the drivers told Mr. Philbrick that Washington Fripp had just been shot near Charleston for refusing to enlist.]

[Footnote 30: A "title" was a negro surname of whatever derivation.]

[Footnote 31: The following description of Limus and his subsequent doings is copied from a letter of W. C. G.'s (June 12, 1863), which was printed by the Educational Commission in one of a series of leaflets containing extracts from Port Royal letters:

"He is a black Yankee. Without a drop of white blood in him, he has the energy and 'cuteness and big eye for his own advantage of a born New Englander. He is not very moral or scrupulous, and the church-members will tell you 'not yet,' with a smile, if you ask whether he belongs to them. But he leads them all in enterprise, and his ambition and consequent prosperity make his example a very useful one on the plantation. Half the men on the island fenced in gardens last autumn, behind their houses, in which they now raise vegetables for themselves and the Hilton Head markets. Limus in his half-acre has quite a little farmyard besides. With poultry-houses, pig-pens, and corn-houses, the array is very imposing. He has even a stable, for he made out some title to a horse, which was allowed; and then he begged a pair of wheels and makes a cart for his work; and not to leave the luxuries behind, he next rigs up a kind of sulky and bows to the white men from his carriage. As he keeps his table in corresponding style,—for he buys more sugar ... than any other two families,—of course the establishment is rather expensive. So, to provide the means, he has three permanent irons in the fire—his cotton, his Hilton Head express, and his seine. Before the fishing season commenced, a pack of dogs for deer-hunting took the place of the net. While other families 'carry' from three to six or seven acres of cotton, Limus says he must have fourteen. To help his wife and daughters keep this in good order, he went over to the rendezvous for refugees, and imported a family to the plantation, the men of which he hired at $8 a month.... With a large boat which he owns, he usually makes weekly trips to Hilton Head, twenty miles distant, carrying passengers, produce and fish. These last he takes in an immense seine,—an abandoned chattel,—for the use of which he pays Government by furnishing General Hunter and staff with the finer specimens, and then has ten to twenty bushels for sale. Apparently he is either dissatisfied with this arrangement or means to extend his operations, for he asks me to bring him another seine for which I am to pay $70. I presume his savings since 'the guns fired at Bay Point'—which is the native record of the capture of the island—amount to four or five hundred dollars. He is all ready to buy land, and I expect to see him in ten years a tolerably rich man. Limus has, it is true, but few equals on the islands, and yet there are many who follow not far behind him."]

[Footnote 32: Major-General David Hunter, who on March 31 had taken command of the newly created Department of the South, consisting of the states of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.]

[Footnote 33: Dr. Wakefield was physician for that end of St. Helena Island.]

[Footnote 34: On Cockspur Island, Georgia.]

[Footnote 35: As the quarter-acre "task," which was all that the planters had required of their slaves each day, had occupied about four or five hours only, it will be seen that the slaves on the Sea Islands had not been overworked, though they had been underfed. Like the "task," the "private patches" were also an institution retained, at E. L. Pierce's suggestion, from slavery times, with the difference that their size was very much increased—often from a fraction of an acre to ten times that amount.]

[Footnote 36: By the rebels.]

[Footnote 37: He had already had sent down from the North a quantity of articles to sell to the negroes.]

[Footnote 38: Brigadier-General Isaac I. Stevens, then at Beaufort, commanding the Second Division.]

[Footnote 39: The "Brick Church" was a Baptist Church which had always been used by both blacks and whites. Less than a mile away stood the "White Church," Episcopalian,—closed since the flight of the planters.]

[Footnote 40: Issued May 9, and on May 19, nullified by President Lincoln.]

[Footnote 41: South Carolina corn is white flint corn.]

[Footnote 42: The cotton-agent who had been at Coffin's Point.]

[Footnote 43: The Government not only had made no definite promise of payment, but it was of course unable to bring to bear on the negroes any compulsion of any sort. They worked or not, as they liked, and when they liked.]

[Footnote 44: The old system of labor—the system in force in slavery times—had been the "gang system," the laborers working all together, so that no one had continuous responsibility for any one piece of land.]

[Footnote 45: For Coffin's Point.]

[Footnote 46: As a result of Lincoln's proclamation of May 19 (see p. 50 n.), the regiment, all but one company, was disbanded in August.]

[Footnote 47: This burying-place was "an unfenced quarter of an acre of perfectly wild, tangled woodland in the midst of the cotton-field, halfway between here [the 'white house'] and the quarters. Nothing ever marks the graves, but the place is entirely devoted to them."

(From a letter of H. W.'s, June 5, '62.)]

[Footnote 48: Saxton's first general order, announcing his arrival, is dated June 28.]

[Footnote 49: E. L. Pierce had changed his headquarters from "Pope's."]

[Footnote 50: From the first the anti-slavery Northerners at Port Royal had had no hesitation in telling their employees that they were freemen. Indeed, they had no choice but to do so, the tadpoles on these islands, as Mr. Philbrick said, having "virtually shed their tails in course of nature already."]

[Footnote 51: Pierce's second report to Secretary Chase on the Sea Islands, dated June 2, 1862.]

[Footnote 52: "We have to spend more than half our time," writes Mr. Philbrick in September, "getting our limited supplies."]

[Footnote 53: Richard Soule, Jr., was General Superintendent of St. Helena and Ladies Islands, and was living at Edgar Fripp's plantation.]

[Footnote 54: The first of many references to the frequent lack of sympathy shown by army officers.]

[Footnote 55: That is, the account had been taken before he came South.]

[Footnote 56: See page 37.]

[Footnote 57: The term "Hunting Island" was applied to several of the outside islands collectively.]

[Footnote 58: Thomas Astor Coffin, of Coffin's Point.]

[Footnote 59: The chief "hindrance" was, of course, the late date at which work on the cotton crop had been started; the land should have been prepared in February, and the planting begun at the end of March.]

[Footnote 60: The preliminary proclamation of emancipation, dated September 22, 1862.]

[Footnote 61: It will be seen that this excellent idea was not adopted by the authorities.]

[Footnote 62: Edward W. Hooper served on Saxton's staff, with the rank of Captain.]

[Footnote 63: He came with authority to raise negro troops.]

[Footnote 64: See p. 58.]

[Footnote 65: As Saxton's agent to collect and ship the cotton crop. See p. 99.]

[Footnote 66: The superintendents of the Second Division of the Sea Islands.]

[Footnote 67: The negroes had broken the cotton-gins by way of putting their slavery more completely behind them.]

[Footnote 68: Again the cotton-agent.]

[Footnote 69: Evidently the offer of a captaincy.]

[Footnote 70: Of Prince Rivers, who became color-sergeant and provost-sergeant in the First South Carolina Volunteers, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, its colonel, writes: "There is not a white officer in this regiment who has more administrative ability, or more absolute authority over the men; they do not love him, but his mere presence has controlling power over them. He writes well enough to prepare for me a daily report of his duties in the camp; if his education reached a higher point, I see no reason why he should not command the Army of the Potomac. He is jet-black, or rather, I should say, wine-black; his complexion, like that of others of my darkest men, having a sort of rich, clear depth, without a trace of sootiness, and to my eye very handsome. His features are tolerably regular, and full of command, and his figure superior to that of any of our white officers, being six feet high, perfectly proportioned, and of apparently inexhaustible strength and activity. His gait is like a panther's; I never saw such a tread. No anti-slavery novel has described a man of such marked ability. He makes Toussaint perfectly intelligible; and if there should ever be a black monarchy in South Carolina, he will be its king." (Army Life in a Black Regiment, pp. 57, 58.)]

[Footnote 71: "These heaps are, lucus a non, called holes." C. P. W.]

[Footnote 72: The First South Carolina Volunteers (colored), Thomas Wentworth Higginson, colonel.]

[Footnote 73: Usually referred to as the "Hunter Regiment."]

[Footnote 74: A town very near the extreme southern point of the Georgia coast.]

[Footnote 75: After Mitchel's death, Brannan again acted as head of the Department, till General Hunter's return in January, 1863.]

[Footnote 76: To the Dr. Jenkins plantation.]

[Footnote 77: Stone or seed-cotton is unginned cotton.]

[Footnote 78: Of course on almost all the plantations no taxes had been paid, so that the Government was at liberty to sell them at auction.]

[Footnote 79: That is, of drawing their own rations.]

[Footnote 80: General Hunter did not actually arrive until January. See note 1, [now Footnote 75] p. 108.]

[Footnote 81: The $200,000 (mentioned on page 110) received by the Government for the crop of 1861.]

[Footnote 82: Saxton.]

[Footnote 83: This plan of operations was adopted by General Saxton.]

[Footnote 84: Dr. LeBaron Russell, of the Committee on Teachers of the Educational Commission.]

[Footnote 85: Taking the plantations as a whole, the Government lost in 1862 the whole $200,000 which it had cleared from the planters' big cotton crop of 1861.]

[Footnote 86: On Port Royal Island "whole fields of corn, fifty acres in extent, have been stripped of every ear before hard enough to be stored."]

[Footnote 87: Henry W. Halleck, since July 11 General-in-Chief of the Army, with headquarters at Washington.]

[Footnote 88: Another young Harvard graduate, cousin of H. W., come to teach the two Fripp schools.]

[Footnote 89: Mr. Philbrick had changed his residence to the Oaks.]

[Footnote 90: An institution situated in Beaufort, managed by the New York Commission.]

[Footnote 91: Of Corporal Sutton Colonel Higginson says: "If not in all respects the ablest, he was the wisest man in our ranks. As large, as powerful, and as black as our good-looking Color-sergeant, but more heavily built and with less personal beauty, he had a more massive brain and a far more meditative and systematic intellect. Not yet grounded even in the spelling-book, his modes of thought were nevertheless strong, lucid, and accurate; and he yearned and pined for intellectual companionship beyond all ignorant men whom I have ever met. I believe that he would have talked all day and all night, for days together, to any officer who could instruct him, until his companion, at least, fell asleep exhausted. His comprehension of the whole problem of slavery was more thorough and far-reaching than that of any Abolitionist, so far as its social and military aspects went; in that direction I could teach him nothing, and he taught me much. But it was his methods of thought which always impressed me chiefly; superficial brilliancy he left to others, and grasped at the solid truth." (Army Life in a Black Regiment, p. 62.)]

[Footnote 92: Mr. Philbrick describes the feast: "I walked about for a half hour watching the carving, which was done mostly with axes, and the eager pressing of the hungry crowds about the rough board tables, by which each ox was surrounded. The meat didn't look very inviting."]

[Footnote 93: Miss Forten was of partly negro blood. H. W. says of her elsewhere: "She has one of the sweetest voices I ever heard. The negroes all knew the instant they saw her what she was, but she has been treated by them with universal respect. She is an educated lady."]

[Footnote 94: When General Hunter, bent on raising his negro troops, asked the Secretary of War for 50,000 muskets, "with authority to arm such loyal men as I find in the country, whenever, in my opinion, they can be used advantageously against the enemy," he added: "It is important that I should be able to know and distinguish these men at once, and for this purpose I respectfully request that 50,000 pairs of scarlet pantaloons may be sent me; and this is all the clothing I shall require for these people." (Hunter to Stanton, April 3, 1862.) Of the privates of the First S. C. V., when clothed in these trousers, Colonel Higginson writes: "Their coloring suited me, all but the legs, which were clad in a lively scarlet, as intolerable to my eyes as if I had been a turkey." (Army Life in a Black Regiment, p. 7.)]

[Footnote 95: On the Georgia coast.]

[Footnote 96: See p. 60.]

[Footnote 97: Mr. Philbrick was staying at Coffin's for a few days.]

[Footnote 98: The agreement made on April 8, between Mr. Philbrick and fourteen gentlemen, all but one of Boston, provided that Mr. Philbrick, in whose name the land should be bought and who should have complete responsibility for managing it, should, after paying the subscribers six per cent. interest, receive one fourth of the net profits. Mr. Philbrick was to be liable for losses and without the right to call for further contribution; on the other hand, no subscription was to be withdrawn unless he ceased to superintend the enterprise. On his closing the business, the net proceeds were to be divided pro rata.]

[Footnote 99: Joe having gone back to his trade of carpenter, the domestic force now included a boy and a girl (daughter of Abel and sister of Hester), marvelously ignorant, even for a Sea Island field-hand. Uncle Sam, Robert's father, was acting as cook.]

[Footnote 100: A boy lately added to the corps of house-servants at Coffin's Point.]

[Footnote 101: From unwillingness to see the land owned by any one but negroes.]

[Footnote 102: A detachment from the Eighteenth Army Corps, under Major-General John G. Foster, had come to help in the operations against Charleston.]

[Footnote 103: The new postmaster for Beaufort.]

[Footnote 104: A cousin in the 24th Massachusetts, which had come to Land's End as part of the "North Carolina army."]

[Footnote 105: For lumber up the St. Mary's River, which separates Georgia from Florida.]

[Footnote 106: See p. 162.]

[Footnote 107: The history of the Department had been defined as "a military picnic."]

[Footnote 108: A paper published at Beaufort.]

[Footnote 109: Haunt of the drum-fish.]

[Footnote 110: The War Department ordered the sales to go forward, leaving the restrictions to be arranged by Hunter, Saxton, and the Commissioners in charge. See p. 165.]

[Footnote 111: Brigadier-General Edward E. Potter, Foster's Chief of Staff.]

[Footnote 112: That is, hoed over again and new furrows made for the next crop.]

[Footnote 113: Brigadier-General Thomas G. Stevenson, originally colonel of the Twenty-Fourth Massachusetts, was arrested by General Hunter and soon after released.]

[Footnote 114: The immediate cause of this trouble was a disagreement about the extent of Hunter's authority over Foster and his command while they were in the Department of the South, but the underlying difficulty was that Foster and his officers distrusted Hunter as an anti-slavery zealot.

Finding that the operations against Charleston could not go forward immediately, Foster returned to North Carolina within a few days after his arrival in the Department of the South. His troops remained, so restive under Hunter's command that Foster's whole staff was presently sent back to North Carolina for alleged insubordination.]

[Footnote 115: This report turned out to be a mistake.]

[Footnote 116: That is, the revenue from the cotton on certain plantations was used for these purposes. A plantation thus devoted to the educational needs of the people was called a School Farm.]

[Footnote 117: To capture Jacksonville, on the St. John's River, Florida.]

[Footnote 118: Of the Second South Carolina Volunteers (colored).]

[Footnote 119: The bracket is used for unimportant dates which are out of their chronological place.]

[Footnote 120: See p. 147.]

[Footnote 121: Two of the thirteen were merely leased.]

[Footnote 122: H. W., commenting more mildly, says (Mar. 18): "He certainly has not a clear idea of what the superintendents and teachers are doing, and unfortunately classes them as in opposition to himself,—as preferring the agricultural to the military department. This I do not think is the case, but they most of them feel his want of wisdom in dealing with the subject, which has made his own especial object as well as theirs harder to accomplish."]

[Footnote 123: A short-lived newspaper published in the Department.]

[Footnote 124: H. W. describes another service that was broken up by this fear of the draft: "[May 2.] At church yesterday a squad of soldiers with their officer came from Land's End to the service, when a general stampede took place among the men, and women too, jumping from the windows and one man even from the gallery into the midst of the congregation."]

[Footnote 125: The boy.]

[Footnote 126: Captain J. E. Bryant, of the Eighth Maine.]

[Footnote 127: The Second South Carolina Volunteers (colored).]

[Footnote 128: Of the Kingfisher, the blockader.]

[Footnote 129: To be examined, adjudged not "able-bodied," and given exemption-papers.]

[Footnote 130: Second South Carolina Volunteers.]

[Footnote 131: A noticeable thing about the children of slaves was that they had no games.]

[Footnote 132: In the words of the order the command of the Department was taken from Hunter and given to Gillmore "temporarily."]

[Footnote 133: Rhodes' History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850, vol. iv, p. 332.]

[Footnote 134: Colonel Higginson had been sent up the South Edisto River, to cut the railroad at Jacksonboro.]

[Footnote 135: Whither the wounded had been brought.]

[Footnote 136: Edward N. Hallowell and Garth Wilkinson James, Major and Adjutant of the Fifty-Fourth.]

[Footnote 137: For the North.]

[Footnote 138: A few weeks later (July 15) General Saxton authorized the general superintendents to appoint plantation commissions, or courts for the administration of justice. The people eligible for these commissions were Government plantation superintendents and Mr. Philbrick's six plantation superintendents, and they were instructed "that in cases where immediate arrest is in their opinion necessary, the plantation superintendents, and the persons above named, are hereby authorized themselves to make arrests of civilians upon the plantations. But they must exercise this power with great discretion, and will be held responsible for any abuse of it."]

[Footnote 139: Colonel W. W. H. Davis was in command of the post at Beaufort during Saxton's temporary absence.]

[Footnote 140: R. Soule, Jr., now one of Mr. Philbrick's superintendents, who, upon the departure of the Philbricks, had come to live at Coffin's Point.]

[Footnote 141: The rebel masters had told their slaves that the Yankees intended to sell them "South,"—that is, to Cuba or the Gulf.]

[Footnote 142: See note, p. 201.]

[Footnote 143: On board the Kingfisher.]

[Footnote 144: A Pennsylvanian, General Superintendent for St. Helena and Ladies Islands, since Richard Soule had resigned that position.]

[Footnote 145: That is, gathered.]

[Footnote 146: Admiral Dupont's flag-ship.]

[Footnote 147: The Fifty-Fifth Massachusetts Volunteers (colored), which was in camp at Port Royal.]

[Footnote 148: Meaning, of course, plantations belonging to the Government.]

[Footnote 149: The "Mary Jenkins" place.]

[Footnote 150: Two hundred and sixty-five thousand pounds was "about as much as there was raised in the whole Department" in 1862.]

[Footnote 151: See p. 230.]

[Footnote 152: A letter dated December 28, 1863, inclosing $100 for the relief of families of freedmen. The letter gives figures that prove the success of the free labor experiment on Mr. Philbrick's plantations, and concludes as follows: "I mention these things to show how easy it is to render the negroes a self-supporting and wealth-producing class with proper management; and I, at the same time, fully appreciate the duty imposed upon us as a nation to extend the arm of charity where the unsettled state of the country renders industry impossible until time is given to recognize and force to protect it. We are more fortunately situated than the people of the Mississippi valley, and have got the start of them."]

[Footnote 153: A letter dated January 25, 1864, and printed in the Providence Journal on February 6.]

[Footnote 154: Land on the Sea Islands is now worth $15 an acre,—$20 if it is near a road.]

[Footnote 155: F. J. W. was in Boston at the time.]

[Footnote 156: William Birney, Brigadier-General and Commander of the Post at Beaufort during one of Saxton's absences, had, on March 30, issued an order to the effect that in all cases the negroes were to be left in possession of the land they claimed as theirs.]

[Footnote 157: An ambulance.]

[Footnote 158: Cf. E. S. P.'s letter of February 22, p. 251.]

[Footnote 159: Early in April the steamer City of New York, carrying sixty-one bales of Mr. Philbrick's cotton, was wrecked in Queenstown harbor. The cotton was insured for $1.50 a pound, but would have brought more in the market.]

[Footnote 160: See p. 219. The idea was by no means new. Frederick Law Olmstead had devoted a great deal of space to proving the truth of it, and indeed had quoted many planters who admitted that, as a system of labor, slavery was expensive.]

[Footnote 161: (Dated April 26, in the Independent.) On St. Helena to-day it is always possible to hire men for common work at fifty cents per day.]

[Footnote 162: Dated May 2.]

[Footnote 163: The National Union Convention which met on June 7.]

[Footnote 164: The hero of the Planter episode; see p. 46.]

[Footnote 165: See p. 145.]

[Footnote 166: One of many minor raids, very likely up the Combahee River.]

[Footnote 167: As General commanding the Department of the South.]

[Footnote 168: Husband of Fanny Kemble.]

[Footnote 169: Compare J. A. S. on p. 265.]

[Footnote 170: Evidently G.'s suggestion was practically for the plan Mr. Philbrick did in fact adopt finally, that of selling some of his land to negroes and some to white men. The price at which he sold to the negroes was determined by the ideas here expressed.]

[Footnote 171: A mulatto, educated in the North, who had gone to help at Port Royal.]

[Footnote 172: Colonel Milton S. Littlefield, Twenty-First United States Colored Troops.]

[Footnote 173: Foster's order was dated August 16.]

[Footnote 174: "The First South," as the First South Carolina Volunteers was always called by the negroes, had in the spring been enrolled among the United States Colored Troops as the Thirty-Third Regiment.]

[Footnote 175: See p. 187.]

[Footnote 176: Both in the Fifty-Fifth Massachusetts Volunteers (colored).]

[Footnote 177: The battle of Honey Hill (near Grahamville), fought November 30.]

[Footnote 178: Of the Fifty-Fifth Massachusetts.]

[Footnote 179: F. H. was to take charge of Coffin's Point on C. P. W.'s leaving permanently for home a few weeks later. In connection with Mr. Philbrick's words about him and in preparation for his own letters, it is worth while to record something he had written in the autumn:

Oct. 7. St. Helena. I am slowly recovering from my three weeks' sickness,—more buoyant and hopeful than ever before. I seem to have a new birth, with new aspirations, and new views—particularly in regard to life and its duties and prospects among the freed people of South Carolina.

If God is not in it, then I am laboring under hallucination.]

[Footnote 180: The crop of 1864 had cost Mr. Philbrick about $1.00 a pound, and he thought it quite possible that the crop of 1865 might not fetch more than that in the market. It will be seen that his fears were more than justified.]

[Footnote 181: General Oliver O. Howard.]

[Footnote 182: The only thoroughfare by land from Beaufort to Charleston. At Port Royal Ferry it crosses the Coosaw.]

[Footnote 183: F. H.]

[Footnote 184: "Yellow cotton" was cotton which for any reason had been stained in the pod.]

[Footnote 185: Concerning this horse-buying fever Mr. Philbrick has elsewhere an amusing anecdote:

[Jan. 8.] The latest case of destitution I have heard of was the case of old Robert at the Oaks, cow-minder,—you remember him. He and old Scylla applied to Mr. Tomlinson for rations, pleading utter poverty. It turned out next day that Robert and Scylla's husband were in treaty for Mr. Fairfield's horse, at the rate of $350! They didn't allege inability to pay the price, but thought they would look around and see if they couldn't get one cheaper. I daresay it will end by their buying it.]

[Footnote 186: Fuller, of Fuller Place, who had succeeded in keeping with him on a plantation elsewhere the negroes he had induced to accompany him when the war broke out.]

[Footnote 187: In Europe.]

[Footnote 188: By President Johnson's instructions.]

[Footnote 189: The original owners of the Sea Island plantations were subsequently reimbursed by Congress for their loss (minors receiving again their actual land); but inasmuch as the sums paid them did not include the value of their slaves, they considered the payment inadequate.]

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