Whisky may have ruined many a man, but it saved us. Around that seductive jug those thirty guerrillas became oblivious to our escape. We have reason to be thankful that we disobeyed the rules of strict teetotalers by “keeping liquor in the house.”
I was well mounted, and could have easily kept out of the way of any ordinary chase. Colburn was only fairly mounted, and must have been run down had there been a vigorous and determined pursuit. As each was resolved to stand by the other, the capture of one would have doubtless been the capture of both.
[Illustration: “STRATEGY, MY BOY!”]
VISITED BY GUERRILLAS.
News of the Raid.—Returning to the Plantation.—Examples of Negro Cunning.—A Sudden Departure and a Fortunate Escape.—A Second Visit.—“Going Through,” in Guerrilla Parlance.—How it is Accomplished.—Courtesy to Guests.—A Holiday Costume.—Lessees Abandoning their Plantations.—Official Promises.
As soon as satisfied we were not followed we took a leisurely pace, and in due time reached Natchez. Four hours later we received the first bulletin from the plantation. About thirty guerrillas had been there, mainly for the purpose of despoiling the plantation next above ours. This they had accomplished by driving off all the mules. They had not stolen our mules, simply because they found as much cloth and other desirable property as they wished to take on that occasion. Besides, our neighbor’s mules made as large a drove as they could manage. They promised to come again, and we believed they would keep their word. We ascertained that my strategy with the whisky saved us from pursuit.
On the next day a messenger arrived, saying all was quiet at the plantation. On the second day, as every thing continued undisturbed, I concluded to return. Colburn had gone to Vicksburg, and left me to look after our affairs as I thought best. We had discussed the propriety of hiring a white overseer to stay on the plantation during our absence. The prospect of visits from guerrillas convinced us that we should not spend much of our time within their reach. We preferred paying some one to risk his life rather than to risk our own lives. The prospect of getting through the season without serious interruption had become very poor, but we desired to cling to the experiment a little longer. Once having undertaken it, we were determined not to give it up hastily.
I engaged a white man as overseer, and took him with me to the plantation. The negroes had been temporarily alarmed at the visit of the guerrillas, but, as they were not personally disturbed, their excitement was soon allayed. I found them anxiously waiting my return, and ready to recommence labor on the following day.