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But my freedmen. Those not cap- price having been set on my head by tured Sunday morning had taken to the the enemy, I ran a far greater risk than ravines between Mt. Pleasant and Port any of them; if any of them wished to Hudson. Most of those carried away go away, they had only to step forward bad also managed to get back. I asked and get their wages and a release from the commanding general for permission their contracts. to bring them inside the Federal works. But two or three of the faithful freedHe would not even consider the request. men left me. Having procured fifty General Banks' Red River failure had condemned tents from the quartermasemboldened and let loose the rebels; ter, we pitched part of them in a deep Johnston, they said, was marching down ravine near the new works, and the through Mississippi, and would besiege balance in a similar ravine just outside Port Hudson within ten days; I must the old Confederate line, where they leave; he would order a steamboat to were effectually concealed from sight to transport the freedmen to New Orleans.
a person a few yards distant. Times were indeed gloomy, and the I had remaining but a few brokengeneral no doubt had the interests of down animals. Fortunately, many of the service at heart, but I was satisfied the freedmen about Port Hudson were that the reports of Johnston's move- in possession of a horse or a mule pick
ments were unfounded. At least, no ed up as worthless just after the siege, · rebel general would venture to burl his but now again become serviceable. The columns against the great earthworks provost marshal permitted me to use of Port Hudson, mounted, with so these unemployed animals for a stipumany guns, and defended by several lated sum per week, and many a faiththousand brave men.
ful charger, or artillery war-horse, harThree successive days I urged my nessed to an ignoble plough, afterwards case with every argument at my com- pricked up his ears and quickened his mand. I had invested almost a fortune gait at call of bugle or boom of cannon in this enterprise; the Government, in from the fort. Just nine days from the granting me permission to plant, and in terrible morning of the raid we ventured approving my contracts, had by implica- out into the fields to resume work. tion, at least, promised me its protec- The stockade-guard at Mt. Pleasant tion, when such protection did not having been discontinued, and the interfere with the service. These hun- cavalry pickets drawn in, I was obliged dred and fifty freedmen were also en- to abandon three hundred acres of titled to consideration. My efforts were young cotton.' It was the most promisin vain.
ing part of the crop. The hands had At last the general yielded so far as finished "scraping” it the day before to permit me to bring fifty of my hands the raid. To abandon it involved a inside the works at night, the remainder greater loss than mill, stock, and plantato be kept outside. I repaired imme- tion buildings together; there was no diately to the freedmen still hidden in help for it. Could we save the remainthe ravines, trembling with terror, and ing seven hundred acres ? utterly disheartened. Collecting them The freedmen were very shy, and near the spot where during the siege daily turned many a nervous glance to the great naval battery had thundered the deep woods bordering the fields. A against Port Hudson, I told them my point which they particularly dreaded plans : that I had established myself at came to be called “ Reb' Corner." One Port Hudson to make a crop of cotton, day there was artillery practice at the and intended to do it; the rebels doubt- fort, and the officer of the day having less congratulated themselves upon har- forgotten to inform me of the order, the ing broken up Mt. Pleasant, and might' hands were frightened out of their not return in a long time; I asked no senses by the bursting of huge shells one to go where I did not lead ; that a over their heads. On another occasion
a false alarm was raised by the com- lant cavalry seemed to insure protection manding general. The drums beat to against further molestation from the arms, bugles sounded, and the great enemy; but of what avail were picketguns on the earthworks opened a tre- lines against this terrible infection ? A mendous cannonade upon the woods at panic, I feared, would drive the freedthe left. As the cavalry and the bat- men from the plantations. For several teries of light artillery rushed out of days the success of my enterprise again the sally-port in the direction of the hung trembling in the balance. I was 'fields, the hands were sure the rebs were surprised to find, however, that the disabout to fall upon them, and broke for ease was neither so contagious nor so the fort in a general stampede. Our fatal as among the wbites. Separate camps were so situated in the ravines quarters were provided for the sick. that the shells flew harmlessly over But two of them died. them, and at night all our animals were The first day of July I picked the taken inside. With the exception of first cotton-flower. The plants, so tenthese, sometimes ludicrous, incidents, der and unpromising in May, had of there were no serious interruptions, and late grown with extraordinary rapidity. in the course of a few weeks we regain. The flower, purple when it opens, but ed our former sense of security.
soon changing to white, resembles the Scarcely a drop of rain fell from bloom of the morning-glory, and conMarch until nearly the end of May. trasts beautifully with the deep verdure The cotton-plant, when it has attained of the plants. In a little spot almost some size, does not require much mois- covered with the rusty fragments of ture, and is oftener injured by the ex- exploded shells, I noticed that the cessive rains than by the long droughts, flowers retained a deep-red color, just both of which so frequently occur in as in another instance I observed that the Gulf States. Copious showers fell the water-lilies grown over the sunken on the deserted plantations across the ruins of a rebel gunboat were scarlet river; the young and tender cotton- instead of white. The ground was plants on my fields seemed on the point nearly covered with thrifty cottonof perishing. At last the windows of plants that would have ornamented a heaven were opened, and rain fell almost lady's flower-garden. As I looked over every day for several weeks, with tropi- the broad fields, the leaves glistening in cal violence. As the season advanced the sunshine, and the purple and pearly the weather became excessively hot, but bells swaying in the wind, I certainly the nights, owing to the breezes from thought I had never before seen so the Gulf and the heavy dews, were cool beautiful a rural prospect. The afterand agreeable. However distressing the thought, also, that they ought soon to heat of midday, one could rise refreshed yield six hundred bales of cotton, in the morning. To this fact may no already worth five hundred dollars per doubt be attributed, in great part, the bale, did not sensibly diminish the good health which, with temperance pleasure afforded by the sight. and habits of regularity, may usually be After an appropriate celebration of enjoyed in the South,
the Fourth of July with the freedmen, I To my utter consternation the small- again left for New Orleans. But I had pox broke out among my hands in scarcely landed when a telegram from June. In a few days thirty of them my chief overscer inforined me that the were prostrate with the disease. We entire cavalry had been ordered away had survived the terrible raid upon Mt. from Port Hudson, the infantry withPleasant, but here were disaster and drawn from the old works to the new threatening death in a more dreadful fort on the bluff, and that during the form. The fiery drought of May and previous night the rebels had roamed the torrents of rain in June had done undisturbed over my plantations and comparatively little harm, and the vigi- committed many depredations. A sin
gle stroke of General Banks' pen, with river, was attacked by the Confederates, more absolute power than was in consequence of information transmitswayed by the god Terminus, had ted from below that he was aboard, instantly located my plantations far and the boat and passengers were saved beyond the Federal lines, and within by his heroic conduct, was he seriously the rule of Rebeldom.
molested. The freedmen, who had hitherto One day, General McNeill happening relied upon the protection afforded by to get separated from his main escort, the cavalry, were entirely disheartened an officer of his staff rode up to a house at this turn of events. After the dread- at the fork of the roads, and inquired ful experience of the raid at Mt. Pleas- of the lean, scrawny woman who apant, it would have been cruel to ask, peared at the door, vigorously plying and useless to expect, them to expose the “ dipping-stick,” whether she had themselves to the enemy. I was advised recently seen any cavalry. to arm them, and muskets were pro- “I don't know nothin' about calvided for the purpose. But aside from vary,” said she, “but if you're after the inability of undisciplined freedmen Capt'in Miller's critter company, they's to repel any serious attack, the musketjist done gone up that way.” and the hoe were incompatible. More- The zeal of an old "piney woods” over, most of the freedmen in my em- planter in pursuit of a fugitive slave led ployment had belonged to planters in him so close to the Federal works that the vicinity, and I naturally hesi- he was picked up by a scouting party. tated to adopt a plan that would inevi. He seemed struck with the appearance tably arouse the revengeful hostility of of the cotton-fields, and, turning to me, the latter. Nine or ten of the best and remarked, bravest of the freedmen were well “You croppin'? Eh ?” mounted, and under the lead of my " Yes." manager, who had shown himself to be
“I reckon, you don't understand niga bold and efficient man, acted as a picket-guard for the others while at “ Possibly.” work in the fields. After the first feel- " Them's some of my niggers you're ing of timidity had worn off, they workin'." scoured the country for some distance “Very likely." in the rear of the plantations, and gave "Well, here's a right smart chance us timely notice of danger. Falstaff's of a crop, but I'll be-dogoned if you ragged recruits could not have presented ever pick a pound of cotton. Why, you a more grotesque appearance than these see our folks is perfectly willin' you dusky scouts, awkwardly flourishing should make the crop, but they's jist their long muskets, but relying mainly waitin' to see you begin to gether it." upon the speed of their horses.
This, then, was another reason why I About this time General McNeill as- had recently been so little molested. sumed command at Port Hudson. The The first day of August we picked reputation he had acquired from the the first opened boll of cotton, just four summary disposal of guerillas in Mis- months after the seed had been planted. souri had preceded him. Had he fallen Before finishing the cultivation, or into the hands of the Confederates they “laying by” the crop, we went over would have treated him in an equally the fields four times with small ploughs summary manner, Yet, with a small and the hoe. After the process of mounted escort from one of the light- "scraping," the earth was thrown tobatteries, he boldly reconnoitred the ward the roots of the plants. The most country many miles in the rear of Port untiring industry was' required to keep Hudson ; and not until several weeks down the grass which, especially during afterward, when the steamboat Em- the hot and rainy months of June and press, on which he was ascending the July, grew with wonderful rapidity
When we cultivated the fields the last and thoroughly convinced that I could time, mules and hands were almost hid- not gather the crop without protection, den from sight by the thrifty plants. I repaired to the headquarters of the Some of them were so high that one on cavalry in New Orleans. Aside from horseback could not reach the topmost my own interests, which, of course, leaves, and, on a single one, I counted could not be urged, there were many one hundred and sixty bolls. The green reasons why a cavalry regiment should and swelling bolls began rapidly to be sent to Port Hudson. I used every burst, and their fleecy wbiteness, in argument in my power, but could get contrast with the purple blooms and no encouragement whatever, and rerich foliage, made the broad fields still turned in more perplexity than ever. more beautiful.
Cotton had already advanced to a Aside from the peculiar annoyances dollar and a half per pound; the and dangers to which we were exposed, unprotected fields were whitening for a the reader should not get the impres- splendid harvest that bade fair to be a sion that the management of one hun- very cup of Tantalus. dred and fifty freedmen just escaped At this time there happened to arrive from slavery was a matter of unalloyed at Port Hudson a company of indeenjoyment. Far from it. It required pendent loyal scouts, who had joined " the patience of Globe” (Job), as my General Banks' army during the first overseer constantly asserted, to get Opelousas campaign. Among them along with them. It was a matter of were Creoles, Cagians, the descendants the first importance to obtain their con- of the old Acadians, and a few mulat,fidence by just and honest treatment; toes. They belonged mainly in the and in no case to abuse it. Without Attakapas region of Louisiana. Many this nothing could be done.
a Federal soldier will recall the daring Our camp in the ravine near the new feats of this band of loyalists, to whom fort had meanwhile grown into quite a rebel bullets were not half so fatal durvillage, of which the manager's house, ing the war as rebel rage has been since a plantation-mill to grind corn for the its close. Here to-day and there toweekly rations, and an enormous stable, morrow, now making rendezvous in one were the conspicuous buildings. The of the dense swamps of the Teche or tents had gradually given place to the Cortableau, then falling, like lightcabins, around many of which the- .ning, upon some rebel detachment or freedmen cultivated little gardens, and dashing into a rebel town, watching made accommodation for the traditional every Confederate camp, learning every pigs and poultry. As regiments were movement, eluding all pursuit, their ordered away from Port Hudson they history would furnish some of the most secured many of the small buildings thrilling episodes of the war in Louisiwhich spring up like mushrooms in a Their connection with the army military camp; and on Saturday after- in 1864 was merely nominal, and the noons, when I gave them teams for the commanding general at Port Hudson, purpose, I several times saw quite a who was powerless to protect my interstreet of little houses perched bodily on ests, advised me to employ this wellthe wagons, moving slowly to our armed an i well-mounted company to quarters, like Birnam wood to Dunsi- guard my plantations. However sernane They called our little village viceable in keeping off guerillas, they Yanktown. General McNeill, restless could not bave resisted any considerable under the inactivity at Port Hudson, body of the enemy. There was the used in vain every effort to have his same objection as existed to arming my force increased so as to begin aggressive freedmen. But I did not abandon the operations. Suddenly and unexpectedly idea. he was relieved from command.
In a situation of terrible suspense, I Dismayed at the gloomy prospect, happened one day to be walking on the
levée at Baton Rouge, when I noticed a cotton picked, to be weighed in the large steamboat covered with colored field at midday, and again at uightfall, troops, whose fine cavalry equipments, so that extra care and labor could be especially their new Spencer carbines, compensated. Twice a day large planattracted my attention. To my inci- tation-wagons, filled to the top with dental question as to the destination of fleecy seed-cotton, conveyed their prehis regiment, Colonel Alexander replied cious loads to Yanktown, where it was that it was the Fourth Colored Cavalry, dried upon scaffolds, and, as there were for Port Hudson.
no gins at Port Hudson, was packed in I felt like embracing him.
bulk for shipment to New Orleans. A few hours afterward the men en- Not waiting for a large lot, I hurried camped on the little plateau between down to arrange for the selling of the Port Hudson and Yanktown. Seeing crop, and offered four bales at auction. no horses, I inquired when they were to It was the 3d of September-a day not arrive, and was struck speechless with soon to be forgotten by cotton-buyers astonishment to hear that the regiment in New Orleans, for on that day the not only had no borses, but that there price touched the very highest point. were none for them in the department. Never, before nor since, have I seen such
The situation was growing desperate. an excited crowd at the great cotton
Retiring to my tent to think over mart--such wild, feverish haste to buy. once more the problem which had so The bulls were in high carnival, jubi often elated me with hope, and sudden- lant, defiant. My small lot being new ly baffled with disappointment, my eyes cotton, and the first of the season, reach fell upon a special order of General ed the highest figure. It started at ono Banks, in the newspaper, to press into dollar and fifty cents per pound; "sixthe cavalry service the available horses ty," "seventy," “ eighty,” “ninety in the city of New Orleans. After a in quick succession—"ninety-one". few days' delay, which seemed as many "two" _“and a half”-_“I'm positiveweeks, the horses arrived, but notwith ly giving it away," shouted the auctionstanding my anxiety and disappoint- cer—"last call”—and down fell his ment, I could not help shedding tears hammer at one dollar ninety-two and a of laughter at the very sight of them. half cents pet pound, or over eight What but a passion for conic sections hundred dollars per bale. could have led the officer in charge to The Iberville landed me at Port Hudselect such miserable hacks! To mount son early the next morning. Riding men upon them seemed a mockery and out again over the magnificent fields, a a snare. Had the choice been left to slight calculation assured me that I the worst rebel sympathizers in New ought to make six hundred bales. Was Orleans, they would bave picked out for it not in fact already made ? Just after us just such sorry Rosinantes. True, the raid at Mt. Pleasant I would gladly the equine population of New Orleans have accepted ten thousand dollars for had already stood two or three similar the whole crop. Had any one now drafts, but on my next visit to the city offered me three hundred thousand I could see no diminution in the number dollars for the same it would have been of fine turnouts on the Shell Road. promptly refused. Why not? It seemHowever, the men were mounted, and ed good for half a million. a double force pushed out to the old Who has not studied one of those picket-line.
little charts made to represent the flucWith a light heart I once more rode tuations of gold during the war by over the splendid fields for so long a means of an irregular line drawn as an time practically deserted. The impa- artist, with a single dash across the soft tient freedmen were also ready, with blue atmosphere of a painting, may bags strapped over the shoulder, and outline the summits of lofty mountains ? huge baskets wherein each kept the That crooked line is a simple matter,