The plantations were readily taken, the prospects being excellent for enormous profits if the scheme proved successful. The cost of producing cotton varies from three to eight cents a pound. The staple would find ready sale at fifty cents, and might possibly command a higher figure. The prospects of a large percentage on the investment were alluring in the extreme. The plantations, the negroes, the farming utensils, and the working stock were to require no outlay. All that was demanded before returns would be received, were the necessary expenditures for feeding and clothing the negroes until the crop was made and gathered. From five to thirty thousand dollars was the estimated yearly expense of a plantation of a thousand acres. If successful, the products for a year might be set down at two hundred thousand dollars; and should cotton appreciate, the return would be still greater.
COTTON-PLANTING IN 1863.
Leasing the Plantations.—Interference of the Rebels.—Raids.—Treatment of Prisoners.—The Attack upon Milliken’s Bend.—A Novel Breast-Work.—Murder o four Officers.—Profits of Cotton-Planting.—Dishonesty of Lessees.—Negroes Planting on their own Account.
It was late in the season before the plantations were leased and the work of planting commenced. The ground was hastily plowed and the seed as hastily sown. The work was prosecuted with the design of obtaining as much as possible in a single season. In their eagerness to accumulate fortunes, the lessees frequently planted more ground than they could care for, and allowed much of it to run to waste.
Of course, it could not be expected the Rebels would favor the enterprise. They had prophesied the negro would not work when free, and were determined to break up any effort to induce him to labor. They were not even willing to give him a fair trial. Late in June they visited the plantations at Milliken’s Bend and vicinity.
They stripped many of the plantations of all the mules and horses that could be found, frightened some of the negroes into seeking safety at the nearest military posts, and carried away others. Some of the lessees were captured; others, having timely warning, made good their escape. Of those captured, some were released on a regular parole not to take up arms against the “Confederacy.” Others were liberated on a promise to go North and remain there, after being allowed a reasonable time for settling their business. Others were carried into captivity and retained as prisoners of war until late in the summer. A Mr. Walker was taken to Brownsville, Texas, and there released, with the privilege of crossing to Matamoras, and sailing thence to New Orleans. It was six months from the time of his capture before he reached New Orleans on his return home.