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CONVERSATION WITH A SOUTH CAROLINIAN. 291
free, and waiting for luck to come to 'em." But he assured me that the most of his people were at work, and doing well.
From the miserable little ferry-boat we were landed on the other side in the midst of a drenching rain. To reach the cars there was a steep muddy bank to climb. The baggage was brought up in wagons and pitched down into mud several inches deep, where passengers had to stand in the pouring shower and see to getting their checks.
On the road to Tuscumbia I made the acquaintance of a young South Carolinian, whose character enlisted my sympathy, and whose candid conversation offers some points worth heeding.
" I think it was in the decrees of God Almighty that slavery was to be abolished in this way; and I don't murmur.
We have lost our property, and we have been subjugated, but we brought it all on ourselves. Nobody that has n't experienced it knows anything about our suffering. We are discouraged : we have nothing left to begin new with. I never did a day's work in my life, and don't know how to begin. You see me in these coarse old clothes ; well, I never wore coarse clothes in my life before the war."
Speaking of the negroes: “We can't feel towards them as you do ; I suppose we ought to, but 't is n't possible for us. They've always been our owned servants, and we've been used to having them mind us without a word of objection, and we can't bear anything else from them now. we're to be pitied sooner than blamed, for it's somethirig we can't help. I was always kind to my slaves. I never whipped but two boys in my life, and one of them I whipped three
If that's wrong,
“When he was a free man ?”
“ Yes; for I tell you that makes no difference in our feeling towards them. I sent a boy across the country for some goods. He came back with half the goods he ought to have got for the money. I may as well be frank, - it was a gallon of whiskey. There were five gentlemen at the house, and I wanted the whiskey for them. I told Bob he stole it. Afterwards he came into the room and stood by the door, - a big, strong fellow, twenty-three years old. I said, Bob, what do you want?' He said, I want satisfaction about the whiskey.' He told me afterwards, he meant that he was n't satisfied I should think he had stolen it, and wanted to come to a good understanding about it. But I thought he wanted satisfaction gentlemen's fashion. I rushed for my gun. I'd have shot him dead on the spot if my friends had n't held me. They said I'd best not kill him, but that he ought to be whipped. I sent to the stable for a trace, and gave him a hundred and thirty with it, hard as I could lay on. I confess I did whip him unmercifully.”
“ Did he make no resistance ?”
“Oh, he knew better than that; my friends stood by to see me through. I was wrong, I know, but I was in a passion. That 's the way we treat our servants, and shall treat them, until we can get used to the new order of things, — if we ever
“ In the mean while, according to your own showing, it would seem that some restraint is necessary for you, and some protection for the negroes. On the whole, the Freedmen's Bureau is a good thing, is n't it ? ”
He smiled : “May be it is; yes, if the nigger is to be free, I reckon it is; but it 's a mighty bitter thing for us."
Then, speaking of secession : "I had never thought much about politics, though I believed our State was right when she went out. But when the bells were ringing, and everybody was rejoicing that she had seceded, a solemn feeling came over me, like I had never had in my life, and I could n't help feeling there was something wrong. I went through the war; there were thousands like me. In our hearts we thought more of the Stars and Stripes than we did of the old rag we were fighting under.”
He was going to Mississippi to look after some property left there before the war. But what he wished to do was to go North : "only I know I would n't be tolerated, - I know a man could n't succeed in business there, who was pointed out as a Rebel”
THE CORINTHIAN STYLE.
The same wish, qualified by the same apprehension, was frequently expressed to me by the better class of young Southern men; and I always took pains to convince them that they would be welcomed and encouraged by all enlightened communities in the Northern States.
It was a dismal night in the cars. The weather changed, and it grew suddenly very cold. Now the stove was red hot ; and now the fire was out, with both car-doors wide open at some stopring-place.
At two in the morning we reached Corinth. A driver put me into his hack, and drove about town, through the freezing mud, to find me a lodging. The hotels were full. The boarding-houses were full, — all but one, in which, with a fellow-traveller, I was fortunate enough at last to find a room with two beds.
It was a large, lofty room, the door fifteen feet high from the floor, the walls eighteen feet. It had been an elegant apartment once; but now the windows were broken, the plastering and stucco-work disfigured, the laths smashed in places, there were bullet-holes through the walls, and large apertures in the wainscots. The walls were covered with de- vices, showing that Federal soldiers had been at home there ; such as a shield, admirably executed, bearing the motto: "The Union, it must be preserved"; "Heaven Bless our Native Land”; “ God of Battles, speed the Right"; and so forth.
The beds were tumbled, some travellers having just got out of them to take the train. A black woman came in to make them. The lady of the house also came in, — a fashionably bred Southern woman, who had been reduced, by the fortunes of the Rebellion, from the condition of a helpless mistress of many servants, to that of a boarding-house keeper.
I asked for a single room, which I was somewhat curtly told I could n't have. I then asked for more bedclothes, - for the weather continued to grow cold, and the walls of the room nffered little protection against it. She said, “ I reckon you 're mighty particular!” I replied that she was quite correct in
her reckoning, and insisted on the additional clothing. A last I got it, very fortunately; for my room-mate, who did not make the same demand, nearly froze in the other bed before daylight.
In the morning a black man came in and made a fire. Then, before I was up, a black girl came in to bring a towel, and to break the ice in the wash-basin. That the water might not freeze again before I could use it, (for the fire, as some one has said, “ could n't get a purchase on the cold,") I requested her to place the basin on the hearth ; also to shut the door; for
every person who passed in or out left all doors wide, afford. ing a free
passage from my bed to the street. “ You ’re cold-natered, an't ye?” said the girl, to whose experience my modest requests appeared unprecedented.
Afterwards I went out to breakfast in a room that showed no chimney, and no place for a stove. The outer door was open much of the time, and when it was shut the wind came in through a great round hole cut for the accommodation of cats and dogs. This, be it understood, was a fashionable Southern residence; and this had always been the diningroom, in winter the same as in summer, though no fire had ever been built in it. The evening before, the lady had said
“ The Yankees are the cause that we have no better accommodations to offer you,” and I had cheerfully forgiven her. But the Yankees were not the cause of our breakfasting in such a bleak apartment.
Everybody at table was pinched and blue. The lady, white and delicate, sat wrapped in shawls. She was very bitter against the Yankees, until I smilingly informed her that her remarks were particularly interesting to me, as I was a Yankee myself.
“ From what State are you, Sir?” “ From Massachusetts." “Oh!” — with a shudder, — “they ’re bad Yankees!”
“Bad . enough, Heaven knows," I pleasantly replied ; “ though, in truth, Madam, I have seen almost as bad people in other parts of the world."
WASTEFUL HABITS OF SLAVERY.
The lady's husband changed the conversation by offering me a piece of venison which he had killed the day before. Deer were plenty in that region. As in Tennessee and Alabama, game of all kinds - deer, foxes, wild turkeys, wolves, — had increased greatly in Mississippi during the war; the inhabitants having had something more formidable to hunt, or been hunted themselves.
Mr. M— owned two abandoned plantations: this was his town residence. He left it just before the battle of Shiloh, and it was occupied either by the Rebels or Yankees till the end of the war.
He was originally opposed to the secessionleaders, but he afterwards went into the war, and lost everything, while they kept out of it and made money.
The bullet-holes in the house were made by the Rebels firing at the Federals when they attacked the town.
The family consisted of three persons, – Mr. M-, his wife, and their little boy. Notwithstanding their poverty, they kept four black servants to wait upon them. They were paying a man fifteen dollars a month, a cook-woman the same, another woman six, and a girl six : total, forty-two dollars. It was mainly to obtain money to pay and feed these people that they had been compelled to take in lodgers. The possibility of getting along with fewer servants seemed never to have occurred to them. Before the war they used to keep seven or eight. It was the old wasteful habit of slavery: masters were accustomed to have many servants about them, and each servant must have two or three to help him.
The freedmen, I was told, were behaving very well. But the citizens were bitterly hostile to the negro garrison which then occupied Corinth. A respectable white man had recently been killed by a colored soldier, and the excitement occasioned by the circumstance was intense. It was called " a cold-blooded murder.” Visiting head-quarters, I took pains to ascertain the facts in the case. They are in brief as follows:
The said respectable citizen was drunk. Going down the street, he staggered against a colored orderly. Cursing him, he said, “Why don't you get out of the way when you see a