We wished to plant about fifty acres of corn on the larger plantation. There was a triangular patch in one corner that we estimated to contain thirty acres. The foreman of the plow-gang, who had lived twenty years on the place, thought there were about sixty acres. He was surprised when we found, by actual measurement, that the patch contained twenty-eight acres. Another spot, which he thought contained twenty acres, measured less than ten. Doubtless the man’s judgment had been rarely called for, and its exercise, to any extent, was decidedly a new sensation.
Any thing to which the negroes were unaccustomed became the subject of amusing calculations. The “hog-minder” could estimate with considerable accuracy the weight of a hog, either live or dressed. When I asked him how much he supposed his own weight to be, he was entirely lost. On my demanding an answer, he thought it might be three hundred pounds. A hundred and sixty would not have been far from the real figure.
Incorrect judgment is just as prevalent among ignorant whites as among negroes, though with the latter there is generally a tendency to overestimate. Where negroes make wrong estimates, in three cases out of four they will be found excessive. With whites the variation will be diminutive as often as excessive. In judging of numbers of men, a column of troops, for example, both races are liable to exaggerate, the negro generally going beyond the pale-face. Fifty mounted men may ride past a plantation. The white inhabitants will tell you a hundred soldiers have gone by, while the negroes will think there were two or three hundred.
I was often surprised at the ability of the negroes to tell the names of the steamboats plying on the river. None of the negroes could read, but many of them would designate the different boats with great accuracy. They recognized the steamers as they would recognize the various trees of the forest. When a new boat made its appearance they inquired its name, and forgot it very rarely.
On one occasion a steamer came in sight, on her way up the river. Before she was near enough for me to make out the name on her side, one of the negroes declared it was the Laurel Hill. His statement proved correct. It was worthy of note that the boat had not passed that point for nearly a year previous to that day.
THE END OF THE EXPERIMENT.
The Nature of our “Protection.”—Trade
Following the Flag.—A
Fortunate Journey.—Our Last Visit.—Inhumanity of the
Guerrillas.—Driving Negroes into Captivity.—Killing an
Overseer.—Our Final Departure.—Plantations Elsewhere.