Natchez suffered less from the war than most other places of its size along the Mississippi. The Rebels never erected fortifications in or around Natchez, having relied upon Vicksburg and Port Hudson for their protection. When Admiral Farragut ascended the river, in 1862, after the fall of New Orleans, he promised that Natchez should not be disturbed, so long as the people offered no molestation to our gun-boats or army transports. This neutrality was carefully observed, except on one occasion. A party which landed from the gun-boat Essex was fired upon by a militia company that desired to distinguish itself. Natchez was shelled for two hours, in retaliation for this outrage. From that time until our troops occupied the city there was no disturbance.
When we arrived at Natchez, we found several Northern men already there, whose business was similar to our own. Some had secured plantations, and were preparing to take possession. Others were watching the situation and surveying the ground before making their selections. We found that the best plantations in the vicinity had been taken by the friends of Adjutant-General Thomas, and were gone past our securing. At Vidalia, Louisiana, directly opposite Natchez, were two fine plantations, “Arnuldia” and “Whitehall,” which had been thus appropriated. Others in their vicinity had been taken in one way or another, and were out of our reach. Some of the lessees declared they had been forced to promise a division with certain parties in authority before obtaining possession, while others maintained a discreet silence on the subject. Many plantations owned by widows and semi-loyal persons, would not be placed in the market as “abandoned property.” There were many whose status had not been decided, so that they were practically out of the market. In consequence of these various drawbacks, the number of desirable locations that were open for selection was not large.
One of the leasing agents gave us a letter to a young widow who resided in the city, and owned a large plantation in Louisiana, fifteen miles from Natchez. We lost no time in calling upon the lady.
Other parties had already seen her with a view to leasing her plantation. Though she had promised the lease to one of these visitors, she had no objections to treating with ourselves, provided she could make a more advantageous contract.
In a few days we repeated our visit. Our rival had urged his reasons for consideration, and was evidently in favor. He had claimed to be a Secessionist, and assured her he could obtain a safeguard from the Rebel authorities. The lady finally consented to close a contract with him, and placed us in the position of discarded suitors. We thought of issuing a new edition of “The Rejected Addresses.”
A JOURNEY OUTSIDE THE LINES.
Passing the Pickets.—Cold Weather in the South.—Effect of Climate upon the Constitution.—Surrounded and Captured.—Prevarication and Explanation.—Among the Natives.—The Game for the Confederacy.—Courtesy of the Planters.—Condition of the Plantations.—The Return.