PECULIARITIES OF PLANTATION LABOR.
Resuming Operation.—Difficulties in the Way.—A New Method of Healing the Sick.—A Thief Discovered by his Ignorance of Arithmetic.—How Cotton is Planted.—The Uses of Cotton-Seed.—A Novel Sleeping-Room.—Constructing a Tunnel.—Vigilance of a Negro Sentinel.
On the 24th of March a small post was established at Waterproof, and on the following day we recommenced our enterprise at the plantation. We were much crippled, as nearly all our mules were gone, and the work of replacing them could not be done in a day. The market at Natchez was not supplied with mules, and we were forced to depend upon the region around us. Three days after the establishment of the post we were able to start a half-dozen plows, and within two weeks we had our original force in the field. The negroes that had left during the raid, returned to us. Under the superintendence of our overseer the work was rapidly pushed. Richmond was back again on our smaller plantation, whence he had fled during the disturbances, and was displaying an energy worthy of the highest admiration.
Our gangs were out in full force. There was the trash-gang clearing the ground for the plows, and the plow-gang busy at its appropriate work. The corn-gang, with two ox-teams, was gathering corn at the rate of a hundred bushels daily, and the fence-gang was patting the fences in order. The shelling-gang (composed of the oldest men and women) was husking and shelling corn, and putting it in sacks for market. The gardener, the stock-tenders, the dairy-maids, nurserymaids, hog-minders, and stable-keepers were all in their places, and we began to forget our recent troubles in the apparent prospect of success.
One difficulty of the new system presented itself. Several of the negroes began to feign sickness, and cheat the overseer whenever it could be done with impunity. It is a part of the overseer’s duty to go through the quarters every morning, examine such as claim to be sick, determine whether their sickness be real or pretended, and make the appropriate prescriptions. Under the old system the pretenders were treated to a liberal application of the lash, which generally drove away all fancied ills. Sometimes, one who was really unwell, was most unmercifully flogged by the overseer, and death not unfrequently ensued from this cause.
As there was now no fear of the lash, some of the lazily-inclined negroes would feign sickness, and thus be excused from the field. The trouble was not general, but sufficiently prevalent to be annoying. We saw that some course must be devised to overcome this evil, and keep in the field all who were really able to be there.
We procured some printed tickets, which the overseer was to issue at the close of each day. There were three colors—red, yellow, and white. The first were for a full day’s work, the second for a half day, and the last for a quarter day. On the face of each was the following:—