After much delay and many bribes, the cotton would be released. New charges would appear, and before a sale could be effected the whole value of the cotton would be gone.
A person of my acquaintance was unfortunate enough to fall into the hands of the Philistines in the manner I have described above. At the end of the transaction he found himself a loser to the extent of three hundred dollars. He has since been endeavoring to ascertain the amount of traffic on a similar scale that would be needed to make him a millionaire. At last accounts he had not succeeded in solving the problem.
SOME FEATURES OF PLANTATION LIFE.
Mysteries of Mule-trading.—“What’s in a Name?”—Process of Stocking a Plantation.—An Enterprising White Man.—Stratagem of a Yankee.—Distributing Goods to the Negroes.—The Tastes of the African.—Ethiopian Eloquence.—A Colored Overseer.—Guerrillas Approaching.—Whisky vs. Guerrillas.—A Hint to Military Men.
On my return from New Orleans to the plantation, I found that Colburn had been pushing our business with a rapidity and skill that secured the admiration of everyone around us. He had increased our working force, and purchased a goodly number of mules. We had seventeen plows in operation, and two teams engaged in gathering corn, on the day before my arrival. The “trash-gang” was busy, and other working parties were occupied with their various duties. We were looking to a brilliant future, and echoed the wish of Jefferson Davis, to be “let alone.”
The enterprise of a lessee at that time, and in that locality, was illustrated by his ability to supply his plantation with mules. There were many who failed in the effort, but my associate was not of the number. There were but few mules in the Natchez market—not enough to meet a tenth of the demand. Nearly every plantation had been stripped of working animals by one army or the other. Before our arrival the Rebels plundered all men suspected of lukewarmness in the cause. When the National army obtained possession, it took nearly every thing the Rebels had left. All property believed to belong to the Rebel Government was passed into the hands of our quartermaster.
A planter, named Caleb Shields, had a large plantation near Natchez, which had not been disturbed by the Rebels. His mules were branded with the letters “C.S.,” the initials of their owner. As these letters happened to be the same that were used by the Confederate Government, Mr. Shields found his mules promptly seized and “confiscated.” Before he could explain the matter and obtain an order for their return, his animals were sent to Vicksburg and placed in the Government corral. If the gentleman had possessed other initials, it is possible (though not certain) he might have saved his stock.