Camp-Fire and Cotton-Field eBook

Thomas W. Knox
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 377 pages of information about Camp-Fire and Cotton-Field.

While I was in Natchez, a resident of that city called my attention to one of the “sad results of this horrid, Yankee war.”

“Do you see that young man crossing the street toward ——­’s store?”

I looked in the direction indicated, and observed a person whom I supposed to be twenty-five years of age, and whose face bore the marks of dissipation.  I signified, by a single word, that I saw the individual in question.

“His is a sad case,” my Southern friend remarked.

“Whisky, isn’t it?”

“Oh, no, I don’t mean that.  He does drink some, I know, but what I mean is this:  His father died about five years ago.  He left his son nothing but fourteen or fifteen niggers.  They were all smart, young hands, and he has been able to hire them out, so as to bring a yearly income of two thousand dollars.  This has supported him very comfortably.  This income stopped a year ago.  The niggers have all run away, and that young man is now penniless, and without any means of support.  It is one of the results of your infernal Abolition war.”

I assented that it was a very hard case, and ought to be brought before Congress at the earliest moment.  That a promising young man should be deprived of the means of support in consequence of this Abolition war, is unfortunate—­for the man.

CHAPTER XXXV.

OUR FREE-LABOR ENTERPRISE IN PROGRESS.

The Negroes at Work.—­Difficulties in the Way.—­A Public Meeting.—­A Speech.—­A Negro’s Idea of Freedom.—­A Difficult Question to Determine.—­Influence of Northern and Southern Men Contrasted.—­An Increase of Numbers.—­“Ginning” Cotton.—­In the Lint-Room.—­Mills and Machinery of a Plantation.—­A Profitable Enterprise.

On each of the plantations the negroes were at work in the cotton-field.  I rode from one to the other, as circumstances made it necessary, and observed the progress that was made.  I could easily perceive they had been accustomed to performing their labor under fear of the lash.  Some of them took advantage of the opportunity for carelessness and loitering under the new arrangement.  I could not be in the field at all times, to give them my personal supervision.  Even if I were constantly present, there was now no lash to be feared.  I saw that an explanation of the new state of affairs would be an advantage to all concerned.  On the first Sunday of my stay on the plantation, I called all the negroes together, in order to give them an understanding of their position.

I made a speech that I adapted as nearly as possible to the comprehension of my hearers.  My audience was attentive throughout.  I made no allusions to Homer, Dante, or Milton; I did not quote from Gibbon or Macaulay, and I neglected to call their attention to the spectacle they were presenting to the crowned heads of Europe.  I explained to them the change the war had made in their condition, and the way in which it had been effected.  I told them that all cruel modes of punishment had been abolished.  The negroes were free, but they must understand that freedom did not imply idleness.  I read to them the regulations established by the commissioners, and explained each point as clearly as I was able.  After I had concluded, I offered to answer any questions they might ask.

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Camp-Fire and Cotton-Field from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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