A RECORD OF JOURNEYS
LOUISIANA, TEXAS, THE INDIAN TERRITORY, MISSOURI, ARKANSAS,
MISSISSIPPI, ALABAMA, GEORGIA, FLORIDA, SOUTH CAROLINA,
NORTH CAROLINA, KENTUCKY, TENNESSEE, VIRGINIA,
WEST VIRGINIA, AND MARYLAND.
PROFUSELY ILLUSTRATED FROM ORIGINAL SKETCHES
BY J WELLS CHAMPNEY.
AMERICAN PUBLISHING COMPANY,
ON THE OCLAWAHA FLORIDA.
THIS book is the record of an extensive tour of observation through the States of the South and South-west during the whole of 1873, and the Spring and Summer of 1874.
The journey was undertaken at the instance of the publishers of Scribner’s Monthly, who desired to present to the public, through the medium of their popular periodical, an account of the material resources, and the present social and political condition, of the people in the Southern States. The author and the artists associated with him in the preparation of the work, traveled more than twenty-five thousand miles; visited nearly every city and town of importance in the South; talked with men of all classes, parties and colors; carefully investigated manufacturing enterprises and sites; studied the course of politics in each State since the advent of reconstruction; explored rivers, and penetrated into mountain regions heretofore rarely visited by Northern men. They were everywhere kindly and generously received by the Southern people; and they have endeavored, by pen and pencil, to give the reading public a truthful picture of life in a section which has, since the close of a devastating war, been overwhelmed by a variety of misfortunes, but upon which the dawn of a better day is breaking.
The fifteen ex-slave States cover an area of more than 880,000 square miles, and are inhabited by fourteen millions of people. The aim of the author has been to tell the truth
as exactly and completely as possible in the time and space allotted him, concerning the characteristics of this region and its inhabitants.
The popular favor accorded in this country and Great Britain to the fifteen illustrated articles descriptive of the South which have appeared in Scribner’s Monthly, has led to the preparation of the present volume. Much of the material which has appeared in Scribner will be found in its pages; the whole has, however, been re-written, re-arranged, and, with numerous additions, is now simultaneously offered to the English-speaking public on both sides of the Atlantic.
To the talent and skill of Mr. J. WELLS CHAMPNEY, the artist who accompanied the author during the greater part of the journey, the public is indebted for more than four hundred of the superb sketches of Southern life, character, and scenery which illustrate this volume. The other artists who have contributed have done their work faithfully and well.
NEW YORK, November, 1874.
- PREFACE . . . . . 1
- DEDICATION . . . . . 3
- I. LOUISIANA, PAST AND PRESENT . . . . . 17
- II. THE FRENCH QUARTER OF NEW ORLEANS–THE REVOLUTION AND ITS EFFECTS . . . . . 28
- III. THE CARNIVAL–THE FRENCH MARKETS . . . . . 38
- IV. THE COTTON TRADE–THE NEW ORLEANS LEVÉES . . . . . 50
- V. THE CANALS AND THE LAKE–THE AMERICAN QUARTER . . . . . 59
- VI. ON THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER–THE LEVÉE SYSTEM–RAILROADS–THE FORT ST. PHILIP CANAL . . . . . 67
- VII. THE INDUSTRIES OF LOUISIANA–A SUGAR PLANTATION–THE TECHE COUNTRY . . . . . 78
- VIII. THE POLITICAL SITUATION IN LOUISIANA . . . . . 89
- IX. “HO! FOR TEXAS”–GALVESTON . . . . . 99
- X. A VISIT TO HOUSTON . . . . . 110
- XI. PICTURES FROM PRISON AND FIELD . . . . . 117
- XII. AUSTIN, THE TEXAN CAPITAL–POLITICS–SCHOOLS . . . . . 127
- XIII. THE TRUTH ABOUT TEXAS–THE JOURNEY BY STAGE TO SAN ANTONIO . . . . . 137
- XIV. AMONG THE OLD SPANISH MISSIONS . . . . . 147
- XV. THE PEARL OF THE SOUTH–WEST . . . . . 157
- XVI. THE PLAINS–THE CATTLE TRADE . . . . . 167
- XVII. DENISON–TEXAN CHARACTERISTICS . . . . . 175
- XVIII. THE NEW ROUTE TO THE GULF . . . . . 186
- XIX. THE “INDIAN TERRITORY” . . . . . 197
- XX. RAILROAD PIONEERING–INDIAN TYPES AND CHARACTER . . . . . 204
- XXI. MISSOURI–ST. LOUIS, PAST AND PRESENT . . . . . 215
- XXII. ST. LOUIS GERMANS AND AMERICANS–SPECULATIVE PHILOSOPHY–EDUCATION . . . . . 222
- XXIII. COMMERCE OF ST. LOUIS–THE NEW BRIDGE OVER THE MISSISSIPPI . . . . . 230
- XXIV. THE MINERAL WEALTH OF MISSOURI . . . . . 237
- XXV. TRADE IN ST. LOUIS–THE PRESS–KANSAS CITY–ALONG THE MISSISSIPPI–THE CAPITAL . . . . . 246
- XXVI. DOWN THE MISSISSIPPI FROM ST. LOUIS . . . . . 257
- XXVII. MEMPHIS, THE CHIEF CITY OF TENNESSEE–ITS TRADE AND CHARACTER . . . . . 264
- XXVIII. THE “SUPPLY” SYSTEM IN THE COTTON COUNTRY, AND ITS RESULTS–NEGRO LABOR–PRESENT PLANS OF WORKING COTTON PLANTATIONS–THE BLACK MAN IN THE MISSISSIPPI VALLEY . . . . . 270
- XXIX. ARKANSAS–ITS RESOURCES–ITS PEOPLE–ITS POLITICS–TAXATION–THE HOT SPRINGS . . . . . 278
- XXX. VICKSBURG AND NATCHEZ, MISSISSIPPI–SOCIETY AND POLITICS—-A LOUISIANA PARISH JURY . . . . . 287
- XXXI. LIFE ON COTTON PLANTATIONS . . . . . 297
- XXXII. MISSISSIPPI–ITS TOWNS–FINANCES–SCHOOLS–PLANTATION DIFFICULTIES . . . . . 311
- XXXIII. MOBILE, THE CHIEF CITY OF ALABAMA . . . . . 319
- XXXIV. THE RESOURCES OF ALABAMA–VISITS TO MONTGOMERY AND SELMA . . . . . 328
- XXXV. NORTHERN ALABAMA–THE TENNESSEE VALLEY–TRAITS OF CHARACTER–EDUCATION . . . . . 339
- XXXVI. THE SAND-HILL REGION–AIKEN–AUGUSTA . . . . . 344
- XXXVII. ATLANTA–GEORGIA POLITICS–THE FAILURE OF RECONSTRUCTION . . . . . 350
- XXXVIII. SAVANNAH, THE FOREST CITY–THE RAILWAY SYSTEM OF GEORGIA–MATERIAL PROGRESS OF THE STATE . . . . . 358
- XXXIX. GEORGIAN AGRICULTURE–“CRACKERS”–COLUMBUS–MACON–SOCIETY–ATHENS–THE COAST . . . . . 371
- XL. THE JOURNEY TO FLORIDA–THE PENINSULA’S HISTORY–JACKSONVILLE . . . . . 377
- XLI. UP THE ST. JOHN’S RIVER–TOCOI–ST. AUGUSTINE . . . . . 383
- XLII. ST. AUGUSTINE, FLORIDA–FORT MARION . . . . . 390
- XLIII. THE CLIMATE OF FLORIDA–A JOURNEY TO PALATKA . . . . . 398
- XLIV. ORANGE CULTURE IN FLORIDA–FERTILITY OF THE PENINSULA . . . . . 402
- XLV. UP THE OCLAWAHA TO SILVER SPRING . . . . . 408
- XLVI. THE UPPER ST. JOHN’S–INDIAN RIVER–KEY WEST–POLITICS–THE NEW CONSTITUTION . . . . . 416
- XLVII. SOUTH CAROLINA–PORT ROYAL–THE SEA ISLANDS-THE REVOLUTION . . . . . 422
- XLVIII. ON A RICE PLANTATION IN SOUTH CAROLINA . . . . . 429
- XLIX. CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA . . . . . 438
- L. THE VENICE OF AMERICA-CHARLESTON’S POLITICS–A LOVELY LOWLAND CITY–IMMIGRATION . . . . . 444
- LI. THE SPOLIATION OF SOUTH CAROLINA . . . . . 454
- LII. THE NEGROES IN ABSOLUTE POWER . . . . . 460
- LIII. THE LOWLANDS OF NORTH CAROLINA . . . . . 466
- LIV. AMONG THE SOUTHERN MOUNTAINS–JOURNEY FROM EASTERN TENNESSEE TO WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA . . . . . 474
- LV. ACROSS THE “SMOKY” TO WAYNESVILLE–THE MASTER CHAIN OF THE ALLEGHANIES. . . . . . 480
- LVI. THE “SUGAR FORK” AND DRY FALLS–WHITESIDE MOUNTAIN . . . . . 490
- LVII. ASHEVILLE–THE FRENCH BROAD VALLEY–THE ASCENT OF MOUNT MITCHELL . . . . . 503
- LVIII. THE SOUTH CAROLINA MOUNTAINS–CASCADES AND PEAKS OF NORTHERN GEORGIA. . . . . . 515
- LIX. CHATTANOOGA, THE GATEWAY OF THE SOUTH . . . . . 527
- LX. LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN–THE BATTLES AROUND CHATTANOOGA–KNOXVILLE–EASTERN TENNESSEE . . . . . 536
- LXI. A VISIT TO LYNCHBURG IN VIRGINIA . . . . . 552
- LXII. IN SOUTH-WESTERN VIRGINIA–THE PEAKS OF OTTER–THE MINERAL SPRINGS . . . . . 561
- LXIII. AMONG THE MOUNTAINS–FROM BRISTOL TO LYNCHBURG . . . . . 569
- LXIV. PETERSBURG–A NEGRO REVIVAL MEETING . . . . . 579
- LXV. THE DISMAL SWAMP–NORFOLK–THE COAST . . . . . 588
- LXVI. THE EDUCATION OF NEGROES–THE AMERICAN MISSIONARY ASSOCIATION–THE PEABODY FUND–THE CIVIL RIGHTS BILL . . . . . 596
- LXVII. THE HAMPTON NORMAL INSTITUTE–GENERAL ARMSTRONG’S WORK–FISK UNIVERSITY–BEREA AND OTHER COLLEGES . . . . . 603
- LXVIII. NEGRO SONGS AND SINGERS . . . . . 609
- LXIX. A PEEP AT THE PAST OF VIRGINIA–JAMESTOWN–WILLIAMSBURG–YORKTOWN . . . . . 621
- LXX. RICHMOND–ITS TRADE AND CHARACTER . . . . . 626
- LXXI. THE PARTITION OF VIRGINIA–RECONSTRUCTION AND POLITICS IN WEST AND EAST VIRGINIA . . . . . 639
- LXXII. FROM RICHMOND TO CHARLOTTESVILLE . . . . . 647
- LXXIII. FROM CHARLOTTESVILLE TO STAUNTON, VIRGINIA–THE SHENANDOAH VALLEY–LEXINGTON–THE GRAVES OF GENERAL LEE AND “STONEWALL” JACKSON–FROM GOSHEN TO “WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS.” . . . . . 656
- LXXIV. GREENBRIER WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS–FROM THE “WHITE SULPHUR” TO KANAWHA VALLEY–THE MINERAL SPRINGS REGION . . . . . 670
- LXXV. THE KANAWHA VALLEY–MINERAL WEALTH OF WESTERN VIRGINIA . . . . . 681
- LXXVI. DOWN THE OHIO RIVER–LOUISVILLE . . . . . 693
- LXXVII. A VISIT TO THE MAMMOTH CAVE . . . . . 699
- LXXVIII. THE TRADE OF LOUISVILLE . . . . . 707
- LXXIX. FRANKFORT–THE BLUE GRASS REGION–ALEXANDER’S FARM–LEXINGTON . . . . . 713
- LXXX. POLITICS IN KENTUCKY–MINERAL RESOURCES OF THE STATE . . . . . 721
- LXXXI. NASHVILLE AND MIDDLE TENNESSEE . . . . . 726
- LXXXII. A GLANCE AT MARYLAND’S. HISTORY–HER EXTENT AND RESOURCES . . . . . 733
- LXXXIII. THE BALTIMORE AND OHIO RAILROAD . . . . . 741
- LXXXIV. THE TRADE OF BALTIMORE–ITS RAPID AND ASTONISHING GROWTH . . . . . 748
- LXXXV. BALTIMORE AND ITS INSTITUTIONS . . . . . 757
- LXXXVI. SOUTHERN CHARACTERISTICS–STATE PRIDE–THE INFLUENCE OF RAILROADS–POOR WHITES–THEIR HABITS . . . . . 771
- LXXXVII. THE CARRYING OF WEAPONS–MORAL CHARACTER OF THE NEGROES . . . . . 777
- LXXXVIII. DIALECT–FORMS OF EXPRESSION–DIET . . . . . 784
- LXXXIX. IMMIGRATION–THE NEED OF CAPITAL–DIVISION OF THE NEGRO VOTE–THE SOUTHERN LADIES . . . . . 792
- XC. RAMBLES IN VIRGINIA–FREDERICKSBURG–ALEXANDRIA–MOUNT VERNON–ARLINGTON . . . . . 795
- Scene on the Oclawaha River, Florida–Frontispiece
- General Map of the Southern States . . . . . 15
- Bienville, the Founder of New Orleans . . . . . 17
- The Cathedral St. Louis–New Orleans . . . . . 18
- “A blind beggar hears the rustling of her gown, and stretches out his trembling hand for alms,” . . . . . 19
- “A black girl looks wonderingly into the holy-water font” . . . . . 19
- The Archbishop’s Palace, New Orleans . . . . . 20
- “Some aged private dwellings, rapidly decaying,” . . . . . 25
- A brace of old Spanish Governors.-From portraits owned by Hon. Charles Gayarré, of New Orleans . . . . . 26
- “And where to-day stands a fine Equestrian Statue of the Great General” . . . . . 27
- “A lazy negro, recumbent in a cart” . . . . . 29
- “The negro nurses stroll on the sidewalks, chattering in quaint French to the little children” . . . . . 30
- “The interior garden, with its curious shrine” . . . . . 31
- “The new Ursuline Convent, New Orleans . . . . . 32
- “And while they chatter like monkeys, even about politics, they gesticulate violently” . . . . . 35
- “The old French and Spanish cemeteries present long streets of cemented walls” . . . . . 36
- The St. Louis Hotel, New Orleans . . . . . 37
- The Carnival-“White and black join in its masquerading.” . . . . . 38
- “The coming of Rex, most puissant King of Carnival” . . . . . 40
- “The Boeuf-Gras-the fat ox-is led in the procession” . . . . . 41
- “When Rex and his train enter the queer old streets, the balconies are crowded with spectators” . . . . . 42
- “The joyous, grotesque maskers appear upon the ball-room floor” . . . . . 43
- “Many bright eyes are in vain endeavoring to pierce the disguise” . . . . . 45
- “The French market at sunrise on Sunday morning” . . . . . 46
- “Passing under long, hanging rows of bananas and pine-apples” . . . . . 47
- “One sees delicious types in these markets” . . . . . 48
- “In a long passage, between two of the market buildings, sits a silent Louisiana Indian woman” . . . . . 49
- “Stout colored women, with cackling hens dangling from their brawny hands” . . . . . 49
- “These boats, closely ranged in long rows by the levée” . . . . . 50
- “Whenever there is a lull in the work, they sink down on the cotton bales” . . . . . 52
- “Not far from the levée there is a police court, where they especially delight to lounge” . . . . . 52
- “The cotton thieves” . . . . . 55
- “There is the old apple and cake woman” . . . . . 55
- “The Sicilian fruit-seller” . . . . . 56
- “At high water, the juvenile population perches on the beams of the wharves, and enjoys a little quiet fishing” . . . . . 57
- “The polite but consequential negro policeman,” . . . . . 57
- The St. Charles Hotel, New Orleans . . . . . 59
- The New Basin . . . . . 60
- The old Spanish Fort . . . . . 60
- The University of Louisiana, New Orleans . . . . . 61
- The Theatres of New Orleans . . . . . 61
- Christ Church, New Orleans . . . . . 62
- The Canal street Fountain, New Orleans . . . . . 62
- The Charity Hospital, New Orleans . . . . . 63
- The old Maison de Santé, New Orleans . . . . . 63
- The United States Marine Hospital, New Orleans . . . . . 64
- Trinity Church, New Orleans . . . . . 64
- St. Paul’s Church, New Orleans . . . . . 64
- First Presbyterian Church, New Orleans . . . . . 65
- The Catholic Churches of New Orleans-St. Joseph’s, St. Patrick’s Jesuit Church and School . . . . . 65
- The Custom-House, New Orleans . . . . . 66
- The United States Branch Mint, New Orleans . . . . . 66
- “Sometimes the boat stops at a coaling station” . . . . . 68
- “The Wasp” . . . . . 69
- “Some tract of hopelessly irreclaimable, grotesque water wilderness.” (From a painting by Julio.) . . . . . 70
- The monument on the Chalmette battle-field . . . . . 72
- Light-house, South-west Pass . . . . . 74
- “Pilot Town,” South-west Pass . . . . . 75
- “A Nickel for Daddy” . . . . . 77
- “A cheery Chinaman” . . . . . 82
- Sugar-cane Plantation-“The cane is cut down at its perfection” . . . . . 83
- “The beautiful ‘City Park,'” New Orleans . . . . . 87
- Map showing the Distribution of the Colored Population of the United States. (From the U. S. Census Reports) . . . . . 88
- Map of the Gulf States and Arkansas . . . . . 89
- The Supreme Court, New Orleans . . . . . 92
- The United States Barracks, New Orleans . . . . . 93
- Mechanics’ Institute, New Orleans . . . . . 95
- Going to Texas . . . . . 99
- “It is only a few steps from an oleander grove to the surf.” . . . . . 102
- “The mule-carts unloading schooners anchored lightly in the shallow waves” . . . . . 103
- “Galveston has many huge cotton-presses” . . . . . 104
- The Custom-House, Galveston . . . . . 105
- “Primitive enough is this Texan jail” . . . . . 106
- The Catholic Cathedral, Galveston . . . . . 107
- “Watch the negro fisherman as he throws his line horizonward” . . . . . 108
- “The cotton-train is already a familiar spectacle on all the great trunk lines” . . . . . 110
- “There are some notable nooks and bluffs along the bayou” . . . . . 112
- “The Head-quarters of the Masonic Lodges of the State” . . . . . 113
- “The railroad depots are everywhere crowded with negroes, immigrants, tourists and speculators” . . . . . 113
- The New Market, Houston . . . . . 114
- “The ragged urchin with his saucy face” . . . . . 114
- “The negro on his dray, racing good-humoredly with his fellows” . . . . . 115
- “The auctioneer’s young man” . . . . . 116
- Sam Houston . . . . . 117
- View on the Trinity River . . . . . 118
- “We frequently passed large gangs of the convicts chopping logs in the forest by the roadside” . . . . . 119
- “Satanta had seated himself on a pile of oakum” . . . . . 121
- “As the train passes, the negroes gather in groups to gaze at it until it disappears in the distance” . . . . . 123
- The State Capitol, Austin . . . . . 127
- The State Insane Asylum, Austin . . . . . 128
- The Texas Military Institute, Austin . . . . . 128
- The Governor’s Mansion, Austin . . . . . 129
- The Alamo Monument, Austin . . . . . 131
- The Land Office of Texas, Austin . . . . . 133
- “The emigrant wagon is a familiar sight there” . . . . . 135
- Sunning themselves–“A group of Mexicans, lounging by a wall” . . . . . 140
- “We encounter wagons drawn by oxen” . . . . . 141
- “Here and there we pass a hunter’s camp” . . . . . 143
- “We pass groups of stone houses” . . . . . 146
- “The vast pile of ruins known as the San José Mission” . . . . . 147
- The old Concepcion Mission, near San Antonio, Texas . . . . . 151
- An old window in the San José Mission . . . . . 155
- “An umbrella and candlestick graced the christening font” . . . . . 155
- “The comfortable country-house so long occupied by Victor Considerant” . . . . . 156
- The San Antonio River–“Its blueish current flows in a narrow but picturesque channel” . . . . . 157
- The source of the San Antonio River . . . . . 157
- San Pedro Springs–“The Germans have established their beer gardens” . . . . . 158
- “Every few rods there is a waterscape in miniature” . . . . . 158
- “The river passes under bridges, by arbors and bath-houses” . . . . . 159
- The Ursuline Convent, San Antonio . . . . . 159
- St. Mary’s Church, San Antonio . . . . . 160
- A Mexican Hovel . . . . . 161
- The Military Plaza, San Antonio . . . . . 161
- “The Mexicans slowly saw and carve the great stones” . . . . . 162
- “The elder women wash clothes by the brookside” . . . . . 163
- Mexican types in San Antonio . . . . . 164
- “The remnant of the old Fort of the Alamo” . . . . . 165
- “The horsemen from the plains” . . . . . 167
- “The candy and fruit merchants lazily wave their fly-brushes” . . . . . 168
- A Mexican beggar . . . . . 168
- “The citizens gather at San Antonio, and discuss measures of vengeance” . . . . . 170
- A Texan Cattle-Drover . . . . . 171
- Military Head-quarters, San Antonio . . . . . 172
- Negro Soldiers of the San Antonio Garrison . . . . . 173
- Scene in a Gambling House–“Playing Keno,” Denison, Texas . . . . . 175
- “Men, drunk and sober, danced to rude music”. . . . . . 176
- “Red Hall” . . . . . 178
- The Public Square in Sherman, Texas . . . . . 180
- “With swine that trotted hither and yon” . . . . . 181
- Bridge over the Red River–(Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway) . . . . . 182
- The New Route to the Gulf . . . . . 186
- “The Pet Conductor” . . . . . 188
- “Charlie” . . . . . 188
- Our Special Train . . . . . 189
- “A stock-train from Sedalia was receiving a squealing and bellowing freight” . . . . . 190
- “The old Hospital,” Fort Scott . . . . . 191
- Bridge over the Marmiton River, near Fort Scott . . . . . 192
- A Street in Parsons, Kansas . . . . . 193
- A Kansas Herdsman . . . . . 193
- A Kansas Farm-yard . . . . . 194
- “The Little Grave, with the slain horses lying upon it” . . . . . 195
- “The stone house which the graceless Kaw has turned into a stable for his pony” . . . . . 195
- “The warrior galloping across the fields” . . . . . 196
- Monument erected to the memory of Brevet-Major E. A. Ogden, near Fort Riley, Kansas . . . . . 196
- An Indian Territorial Mansion . . . . . 197
- A Creek Indian . . . . . 199
- Bridge across the North Fork of the Canadian River, Indian Territory (M. K. and T. Railway) . . . . . 199
- An Adopted Citizen . . . . . 200
- An Indian Stock-Drover . . . . . 201
- “The ball-players are fine specimens of men” . . . . . 202
- A Gentleman from the Arkansas Border . . . . . 203
- Limestone Gap, Indian Territory . . . . . 204
- “Coming in the twilight to a region where great mounds reared their whale-backed heights” . . . . . 205
- A “Terminus” Rough . . . . . 206
- “We came to the bank of the Grand River, on a hill beyond which was the Post of Fort Gibson” . . . . . 206
- A Negro Boy at the Ferry . . . . . 208
- “We found the ferries obstructed by masses of floating ice” . . . . . 209
- “They wore a prim, Shakerish costume” . . . . . 210
- A Trader among the Indians . . . . . 210
- “The Asbury Manual Labor School,” in the Creek domain . . . . . 211
- The Toll-Bridge at Limestone Gap, Indian Territory . . . . . 213
- “Looking down on the St. Louis of to-day, from the high roof of the Insurance temple” . . . . . 215
- “Where now stands the great stone Cathedral” . . . . . 216
- The old Chouteau Mansion (as it was) . . . . . 217
- The St. Louis Life Insurance Company’s Building . . . . . 218
- “In those days the houses were nearly all built of hewn logs” . . . . . 218
- “The crows awaiting transportation across the stream has always been of the most cosmopolitan and motley character” . . . . . 220
- The Court-House, St. Louis . . . . . 222
- Thomas H. Benton (for thirty years United States Senator from Missouri) . . . . . 223
- William T. Harris, editor of the St. Louis “Journal of Speculative Philosophy” . . . . . 226
- The High School, St. Louis . . . . . 228
- Washington University, St. Louis . . . . . 229
- The new Post-Office and Custom-House in construction at St. Louis . . . . . 230
- The new Bridge over the Mississippi at St. Louis . . . . . 233
- View of the Caisson of the East Abutment of the St. Louis Bridge, as it appeared during construction . . . . . 234
- The building of the East Pier of the St. Louis Bridge . . . . . 235
- In the “Cut” at Iron Mountain, Missouri . . . . . 237
- At the Vulcan Iron Works, Carondelet . . . . . 238
- The Furnace, Iron Mountain, Missouri . . . . . 241
- The Summit of Pilot Knob, Iron County, Missouri . . . . . 243
- The “Tracks,” Pilot Knob, Missouri . . . . . 244
- Map of Missouri . . . . . 245
- View in Shaw’s Garden, St. Louis . . . . . 246
- Statue to Thomas H. Benton, in Lafayette Park. . . . . . 247
- The “Four Courts” Building, St. Louis . . . . . 248
- The Gratiot Street Prison, St. Louis . . . . . 248
- First Presbyterian Church, St. Louis . . . . . 249
- Christ Church, St. Louis . . . . . 250
- The Missouri Capitol, at Jefferson City . . . . . 254
- “The Cheery Minstrel” . . . . . 255
- The Steamer “Great Republic” a Mississippi River Boat . . . . . 257
- “Down the steep banks would come kaleidoscopic processions of negroes and flour barrels” . . . . . 258
- The Levée at Cairo, Illinois . . . . . 259
- An Inundated Town on the Mississippi’s bank . . . . . 260
- The Pilot-House of the “Great Republic” . . . . . 261
- A Crevasse in the Mississippi River’s Banks . . . . . 262
- View in the City Park at Memphis, Tennessee . . . . . 264
- The Carnival at Memphis, Tennessee–“The gorgeous pageants of the mysterious Memphi” . . . . . 268
- A Steamboat Torch-Basket . . . . . 277
- View on the Arkansas River at Little Rock . . . . . 279
- The Arkansas State Capitol, Little Rock . . . . . 281
- The Hot Springs, Arkansas . . . . . 286
- Vicksburg, Mississippi . . . . . 287
- The National Cemetery at Vicksburg, Mississippi . . . . . 288
- The Gamblers’ Graves, Vicksburg, Mississippi. . . . . . 289
- Colonel Vick, of Vicksburg, Mississippi, Planter . . . . . 289
- Natchez-under-the-Hill, Mississippi . . . . . 291
- View in Brown’s Garden, Natchez, Mississippi . . . . . 292
- Avenue in Brown’s Garden, Natchez, Mississippi . . . . . 293
- A Mississippi River Steamer arriving at Natchez in the night . . . . . 294
- “Sah?” . . . . . 296
- A Cotton Wagon-Train . . . . . 302
- A Cotton-Steamer . . . . . 304
- Scene on a Cotton Plantation . . . . . 307
- Baton Rouge, Louisiana . . . . . 309
- The Red River Raft as it Was . . . . . 310
- Map showing the Cotton Region of the United States. (From the U. S. Census Reports.) . . . . . 312
- Map of South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Alabama . . . . . 313
- The Mississippi State Capitol at Jackson . . . . . 313
- “At the proper seasons, one sees in the long main street of the town, lines of emigrant wagons,” . . . . . 314
- “The negroes migrate to Louisiana and Texas in search of paying labor” . . . . . 318
- On the Bay Road near Mobile, Alabama . . . . . 319
- “Mobile Bay lay spread out before me” . . . . . 320
- “A negro woman fished silently in a little pool” . . . . . 321
- The Custom-House, Mobile, Alabama . . . . . 322
- Bank of Mobile and Odd Fellows’ Hall, Mobile, Alabama . . . . . 323
- The Marine and City Hospitals, Mobile, Ala . . . . . 324
- Trinity Church, Mobile, Alabama . . . . . 324
- In the City Park, Mobile–“Ebony nurse-maids flirt with their lovers” . . . . . 325
- In the City Park, Mobile–“Squirrels frolic with the children” . . . . . 326
- Barton Academy, Mobile, Alabama . . . . . 326
- Christ Church, Mobile, Alabama . . . . . 327
- The Alabama State Capitol, at Montgomery . . . . . 332
- The Market-Place at Montgomery, Alabama . . . . . 334
- The Cotton-Plant . . . . . 343
- A Street Scene in Augusta, Georgia . . . . . 344
- A Bell-Tower in Augusta, Georgia . . . . . 347
- A Confederate Soldier’s Grave, at Augusta, Ga. . . . . . 348
- Sunset over Atlanta, Georgia . . . . . 350
- The State-House, Atlanta, Georgia . . . . . 353
- An Up-Country Cotton-Press . . . . . 357
- View on the Savannah River, near Savannah, Georgia . . . . . 358
- General Oglethorpe, the Founder of Savannah . . . . . 359
- The Pulaski Monument in Savannah, Georgia. . . . . . 360
- A Spanish Dagger-Tree, Savannah . . . . . 361
- “Looking down from the bluff,” Savannah . . . . . 362
- “The huge black ships swallowed bale after bale” . . . . . 363
- An old Stairway on the Levée at Savannah . . . . . 364
- The Custom-House at Savannah . . . . . 365
- View in Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah . . . . . 365
- The Independent Presbyterian Church, Savannah . . . . . 366
- View in Forsyth Park, Savannah . . . . . 367
- “Forsyth park contains a massive fountain” . . . . . 368
- A Savannah Sergeant of Police . . . . . 369
- General Sherman’s Head-quarters, Savannah . . . . . 370
- A pair of Georgia “Crackers” . . . . . 372
- The Eagle and Phoenix Cotton-Mills, Columbus, Georgia . . . . . 373
- The old Fort on Tybee Island, Georgia . . . . . 375
- Happiness . . . . . 376
- Moonlight over Jacksonville, Florida . . . . . 377
- Jacksonville, on the St. John’s River, Florida . . . . . 381
- Residence of Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe, at Mandarin, Florida . . . . . 383
- Green Cove Springs, on the St. John’s River, Fla. . . . . . 384
- On the Road to St. Augustine, Florida . . . . . 386
- A Street in St. Augustine, Florida . . . . . 387
- St. Augustine, Florida–“An ancient gateway” . . . . . 388
- The Remains of a Citadel at Matanzas Inlet . . . . . 391
- View of Fort Marion, St. Augustine, Florida . . . . . 392
- Light-house on Anastasia Island, near St. Augustine, Florida . . . . . 393
- View of the Entrance to Fort Marion, St. Augustine, Florida . . . . . 394
- “The old sergeant in charge” . . . . . 395
- The Cathedral, St. Augustine, Florida . . . . . 396
- The Banana–“At Palatka, we first found the banana in profusion” . . . . . 400
- “Just across the river from Palatka lies the beautiful orange grove owned by Colonel Hart” . . . . . 402
- Entrance to Colonel Hart’s orange grove, opposite Palatka . . . . . 404
- The Guardian Angel . . . . . 407
- A Peep into a Forest on the Oclawaha . . . . . 409
- We would brush past the trees and vines” . . . . . 410
- The “Marion” at Silver Spring . . . . . 412
- Shooting at Alligators . . . . . 414
- View on the upper St. John’s River, Florida . . . . . 416
- Sunrise at Enterprise, St. John’s River, Florida. . . . . . 419
- A Country Cart . . . . . 421
- View of a Rice-field in South Carolina . . . . . 429
- Negro Cabins on a Rice Plantation . . . . . 431
- “The women were dressed in gay colors” . . . . . 432
- “With forty or fifty pounds of rice-stalks on their heads” . . . . . 432
- A Pair of Mule-Boots . . . . . 434
- A “Trunk-Minder” . . . . . 434
- Unloading the Rice-Barges . . . . . 435
- “At the winnowing-machine” . . . . . 436
- “Aunt Bransom”–A venerable ex-slave on a South Carolina Rice Plantation . . . . . 437
- View from Fort Sumter, in Charleston Harbor . . . . . 438
- The old Charleston Post-Office . . . . . 440
- Houses on the Battery, Charleston . . . . . 441
- A Charleston Mansion . . . . . 442
- The Spire of St. Philip’s Church, Charleston . . . . . 443
- The Orphan House, Charleston . . . . . 444
- The Battery, Charleston . . . . . 445
- The Grave of John C. Calhoun, Charleston . . . . . 446
- The Ruins of St. Finbar Cathedral, Charleston. . . . . . 447
- “The highways leading out of the city are all richly embowered in loveliest foliage” . . . . . 449
- Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston . . . . . 450
- Garden in Mount Pleasant, opposite Charleston . . . . . 452
- Peeping Through . . . . . 453
- A Future Politician . . . . . 459
- The State-House at Columbia, South Carolina . . . . . 460
- Sketches of South Carolina State Officers and Legislators under the Moses Administration . . . . . 462
- Iron Palmetto in the State-House Yard at Columbia . . . . . 465
- A Wayside Sketch . . . . . 473
- “The Small Boy” . . . . . 474
- “The Judge” . . . . . 476
- The Judge shows the Artist’s Sketch-Book . . . . . 479
- “The family sang line by line” . . . . . 481
- A Mountain Farmer . . . . . 482
- “We caught a glimpse of the symmetrical Catalouche mountain” . . . . . 483
- The Cañon of the Catalouche as seen from “Bennett’s . . . . . 484
- Mount Pisgah, Western North Carolina . . . . . 486
- The Carpenter–A Study from Waynesville Life . . . . . 487
- View on Pigeon River, near Waynesville . . . . . 488
- The Dry Fall of the Sugar Fork, Blue Ridge, North Carolina . . . . . 490
- View near Webster, North Carolina . . . . . 492
- Lower Sugar Fork Fall, Blue Ridge, North Carolina . . . . . 495
- The Devil’s Court-House, Whiteside Mountain. . . . . . 499
- Jonas sees the Abyss . . . . . 501
- Asheville, North Carolina, from “Beaucatcher Knob” . . . . . 504
- View near Warm Springs, on the French Broad River . . . . . 506
- Lover’s Leap, French Broad River, Western North Carolina . . . . . 508
- View on the Swannanoa River, near Asheville, Western North Carolina . . . . . 509
- First Peep at Patton’s . . . . . 510
- The “Mountain House,” on the way to Mount Mitchell’s Summit . . . . . 511
- View of Mount Mitchell . . . . . 512
- The Judge climbing Mitchell’s High Peak . . . . . 513
- Signal-Station and “Mitchell’s Grave,” Summit of the Black Mountains . . . . . 514
- The Lookers-on at the Greenville Fair . . . . . 516
- Table Mountain, South Carolina . . . . . 518
- “Let us address de Almighty wid pra’r” . . . . . 520
- Mount Yonah, as seen from Clarksville, Georgia . . . . . 521
- The “Grand Chasm,” Tugaloo River, Northern Georgia . . . . . 522
- Toccoa Falls, Northern Georgia . . . . . 524
- A Mail-Carrier . . . . . 526
- Mission Ridge, near Chattanooga, Tennessee . . . . . 527
- Lookout Mountain, near Chattanooga, Tennessee . . . . . 529
- The Mineral Region in the vicinity of Chattanooga . . . . . 531
- Map showing Grades of Illiteracy in the United States. (From the U. S. Census Reports.) . . . . . 532
- Map of Middle Atlantic States, southern section, and North Carolina . . . . . 533
- The Rockwood Iron-Furnaces, Eastern Tennessee . . . . . 533
- The “John Ross House,” near Chattanooga. Residence of one of the old Cherokee Landholders . . . . . 534
- Catching a “Tarpin” . . . . . 535
- View from Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga . . . . . 536
- Umbrella Rock, on Lookout Mountain . . . . . 537
- Looking from “Lookout Cave” . . . . . 538
- “Rock City,” Lookout Mountain . . . . . 539
- View from Wood’s Redoubt, Chattanooga . . . . . 540
- On the Tennessee River, near Chattanooga . . . . . 542
- The “Suck,” on the Tennessee River . . . . . 543
- A Negro Cabin on the bank of the Tennessee . . . . . 544
- Knoxville, Tennessee . . . . . 546
- The East Tennessee University, Knoxville . . . . . 548
- At the ætna Coal Mines . . . . . 550
- “Down in a Coal Mine” . . . . . 551
- The old Market at Lynchburg . . . . . 552
- The James River, at Lynchburg, Virginia . . . . . 553
- A Side Street in Lynchburg, Virginia . . . . . 555
- Scene in a Lynchburg Tobacco Factory . . . . . 557
- “Down the steep hills every day come the country wagons” . . . . . 558
- Summoning Buyers to a Tobacco Sale . . . . . 560
- Evening on the James River–“The soft light which gently rested upon the lovely stream” . . . . . 561
- In the Gap of the Peaks of Otter, Virginia . . . . . 562
- The Summit of the Peak of Otter, Virginia . . . . . 564
- Blue Ridge Springs, South-western Virginia . . . . . 566
- Bristol, South-western Virginia . . . . . 569
- White Top Mountain, seen from Glade Springs . . . . . 570
- Making Salt, at Saltville, Virginia . . . . . 571
- Wayside Types–A Sketch from the Artist’s Virginia Sketch-Book . . . . . 573
- Wytheville, Virginia . . . . . 574
- Max Meadows, Virginia . . . . . 575
- The Roanoke Valley, Virginia . . . . . 576
- View near Salem, Virginia . . . . . 577
- View on the James River below Lynchburg . . . . . 578
- Appomattox Court-House–“It lies silently half-hidden in its groves and gardens” . . . . . 579
- “The hackmen who shriek in your ear as you arrive at the depot” . . . . . 581
- “The ‘Crater,’ the chasm created by the explosion of the mine which the Pennsylvanians sprung underneath Lee’s fortifications” . . . . . 582
- “The old cemetery, and ruined, ivy-mantled Blandford Church” . . . . . 583
- “Seen from a distance, Petersburg presents the appearance of a lovely forest pierced here and there by church spires and towers” . . . . . 585
- A Queer Cavalier . . . . . 587
- City Point, Virginia . . . . . 588
- A Peep into the Great Dismal Swamp . . . . . 589
- A Glimpse of Norfolk, Virginia . . . . . 591
- Map of the Virginia Peninsula . . . . . 593
- Hampton Roads . . . . . 594
- The Ruins of the old Church at Jamestown, Virginia . . . . . 621
- Statue of Lord Botetourt at Williamsburg, Virginia . . . . . 622
- The old Colonial Powder Magazine at Williamsburg, Virginia . . . . . 623
- The old Church of Bruton Parish–Williamsburg, Virginia . . . . . 624
- Cornwallis’s Cave, near Yorktown, Virginia . . . . . 624
- View of Richmond, Virginia, from the Manchester side of the James River . . . . . 626
- Libby Prison, Richmond, Virginia . . . . . 627
- Capitol Square, with a view of the Washington Monument, Richmond, Virginia . . . . . 628
- St. John’s Church, Richmond, Virginia . . . . . 629
- View on the James River, Richmond, Virginia. . . . . . 630
- Monument to the Confederate Dead, Richmond, Virginia . . . . . 631
- The Gallego Flouring-Mill, Richmond, Virginia . . . . . 631
- Scene on a Tobacco Plantation–Burning a Plant Patch . . . . . 632
- Tobacco Culture–Stringing the Primings . . . . . 633
- A Tobacco Barn in Virginia . . . . . 633
- The Old Method of Getting Tobacco to Market. . . . . . 634
- Getting a Tobacco Hogshead Ready for Market. . . . . . 635
- Scene on a Tobacco Plantation–Finding Tobacco Worms . . . . . 636
- The Tredegar Iron Works, Richmond, Virginia . . . . . 637
- A Water-melon Wagon . . . . . 646
- A Marl-bed on the Line of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad . . . . . 647
- Earthworks on the Chickahominy, near Richmond, Virginia . . . . . 648
- Scene at a Virginia “Corn-Shed” . . . . . 649
- Gordonsville, Virginia–“The negroes, who swarm day and night like bees about the trains” . . . . . 650
- The Tomb of Thomas Jefferson, at Monticello, near Charlottesville, Virginia . . . . . 651
- Monticello–The Old Home of Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of American Independence . . . . . 652
- The University of Virginia, at Charlottesville . . . . . 653
- A Water-melon Feast . . . . . 655
- Piedmont, from the Blue Ridge . . . . . 656
- View of Staunton, Virginia . . . . . 657
- Winchester, Virginia . . . . . 658
- Buffalo Gap and the Iron-Furnace . . . . . 659
- Elizabeth Iron-Furnace, Virginia . . . . . 660
- The Alum Spring, Rockbridge Alum Springs, Virginia . . . . . 661
- The Military Institute, Lexington, Virginia . . . . . 661
- Washington and Lee College, Lexington, Va. . . . . . 662
- Portrait of General Thomas J. Jackson, known as “Stonewall Jackson.” (From an engraving owned by M. Knoedler & Co., N. Y.) . . . . . 663
- General Robert Edward Lee, born January 19, 1801; died October 11, 1870 . . . . . 664
- The Great Natural Arch, Clifton Forge, Jackson’s River . . . . . 665
- Beaver Dam Falls . . . . . 665
- Falling Springs Falls, Virginia . . . . . 666
- Griffith’s Knob, and Cow Pasture River . . . . . 667
- Clay Cut, Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad . . . . . 668
- “Mac, the Pusher” . . . . . 668
- Jerry’s Run . . . . . 669
- Scene on the Greenbrier River in Western Virginia . . . . . 670
- The Hotel and Lawn at Greenbrier White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia . . . . . 671
- The Eastern Portal of Second Creek Tunnel, Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad . . . . . 672
- A Mountain Ride in a Stage-Coach . . . . . 673
- Anvil Rock, Greenbrier River . . . . . 675
- A West Virginia “Countryman” . . . . . 675
- A Freighters’ Camp, West Virginia . . . . . 676
- “The rude cabin built beneath the shadow of a huge rock” . . . . . 677
- “The rustic mill built of logs” . . . . . 678
- The Junction of Greenbrier and New Rivers . . . . . 678
- Descending the New River Rapids . . . . . 679
- A hard road for artists to travel . . . . . 680
- The “Hawk’s Nest,” from Boulder Point . . . . . 681
- Great Kanawha Falls . . . . . 682
- Miller’s Ferry, seen from the Hawk’s Nest . . . . . 682
- Richmond Falls, New River . . . . . 683
- Big Dowdy Falls, near New River . . . . . 684
- Whitcomb’s Bowlder . . . . . 685
- The Inclined Plane at Cannelton . . . . . 686
- Fern Spring Branch, a West Virginia Mountain Stream . . . . . 687
- Charleston, the West Virginia Capital . . . . . 688
- The Hale House, Charleston . . . . . 688
- Rafts of Saw-Logs on a West Virginia River . . . . . 689
- The Snow Hill Salt Works, on the Kanawha River . . . . . 690
- Indian Mound, near St. Albans . . . . . 690
- View of Huntington and the Ohio River . . . . . 691
- The result of climbing a sapling–An Artist in a Fix . . . . . 692
- The Levée at Louisville, Kentucky . . . . . 693
- A familiar scene in a Louisville Street . . . . . 695
- A Waiter at the Galt House, Louisville, Kentucky . . . . . 696
- Scene in the Louisville Exposition . . . . . 697
- Mammoth Cave, Kentucky–The Boat Ride on Echo River . . . . . 699
- The Entrance to Mammoth Cave (Looking Out). . . . . . 700
- Mammoth Cave–In “the Devil’s Arm-Chair” . . . . . 702
- The Mammoth Cave–“The Fat Man’s Misery”. . . . . . 703
- Mammoth Cave–“The Subterranean Album”. . . . . . 704
- A Country Blacksmith Shop . . . . . 706
- The Court-House, Louisville . . . . . 707
- The Cathedral, Louisville . . . . . 708
- The Post-Office, Louisville . . . . . 708
- The City Hall, Louisville . . . . . 709
- George D. Prentice. (From a Painting in the Louisville Public Library) . . . . . 710
- The Colored Normal School, Louisville . . . . . 710
- Louisville, Kentucky, on the Ohio River, from the New Albany Heights . . . . . 711
- Chimney Rock, Kentucky . . . . . 712
- Frankfort, on the Kentucky River . . . . . 713
- The Ascent to Frankfort Cemetery, Kentucky . . . . . 714
- The Monument to Daniel Boone in the Cemetery at Frankfort, Kentucky . . . . . 715
- View on the Kentucky River, near Frankfort . . . . . 719
- Asteroid Kicks Up . . . . . 717
- A Souvenir of Kentucky . . . . . 719
- A little Adventure by the Wayside . . . . . 720
- “Steady” . . . . . 725
- The Tennessee State Capitol, at Nashville . . . . . 726
- View from the State Capitol, Nashville, Tennessee . . . . . 727
- Tomb of Ex-President Polk, Nashville, Tennessee . . . . . 728
- The Hermitage–General Andrew Jackson’s old homestead, near Nashville, Tennessee . . . . . 729
- Young Tennesseans . . . . . 730
- The old home of Gen. Andrew Jackson, near Nashville . . . . . 731
- Tomb of Andrew Jackson, at the “Hermitage,” near Nashville . . . . . 732
- View from Federal Hill, Baltimore, Maryland, looking across the Basin . . . . . 733
- The Oldest House in Baltimore . . . . . 735
- Fort McHenry, Baltimore Harbor . . . . . 738
- Jones’s Falls, Baltimore . . . . . 740
- Exchange Place, Baltimore, Maryland . . . . . 741
- The Masonic Temple, Baltimore, Maryland . . . . . 742
- The Shot-Tower, Baltimore, Maryland . . . . . 742
- Scene on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal . . . . . 743
- The Blind Asylum, Baltimore, Maryland . . . . . 745
- The Eastern High School, Baltimore, Maryland . . . . . 746
- View of a Lake in Druid Hill Park, Baltimore . . . . . 747
- Maryland Institute, Baltimore . . . . . 748
- Woodberry, near Druid Hill Park . . . . . 749
- The new City Hall, Baltimore, Maryland . . . . . 750
- Lafayette Square, Baltimore, Maryland . . . . . 750
- The City Jail, Baltimore, Maryland . . . . . 752
- The Peabody Institute, Baltimore, Maryland . . . . . 753
- First Presbyterian Church, Baltimore . . . . . 754
- A Tunnel through the Alleghanies . . . . . 756
- Mount Vernon Square, with a view of the Washington Monument, Baltimore, Maryland . . . . . 758
- The Battle Monument, seen from Barnum’s Hotel, Baltimore . . . . . 759
- The Battle Monument, Baltimore, Maryland . . . . . 760
- The Cathedral, Baltimore, Maryland . . . . . 760
- The Wildey Monument, Baltimore, Maryland . . . . . 761
- Entrance to Druid Hill Park, Baltimore, Maryland . . . . . 761
- Scene on the Canal, near Harper’s Ferry . . . . . 762
- The Bridge at Harper’s Ferry . . . . . 763
- View of the Railroad and River, from the Mountains at Harper’s Ferry . . . . . 764
- Jefferson’s Rock, Harper’s Ferry . . . . . 769
- Cumberland Narrows and Mountains . . . . . 767
- Cumberland Viaduct, Maryland . . . . . 768
- Harper’s Ferry, Maryland . . . . . 769
- Old John Cupid, a Williamsburg Herb Doctor . . . . . 770
- Southern Types–Come to Market . . . . . 771
- Southern Types–A Southern Plough Team . . . . . 772
- Southern Types–Negro Boys Shelling Peas . . . . . 773
- Southern Types–A “likely Girl” with her Baby . . . . . 775
- Southern Types–Catching his Breakfast . . . . . 776
- Southern Types–Negro Shoeblacks . . . . . 777
- Southern Types–A Little Unpleasantness . . . . . 779
- Southern Types–“Going to Church” . . . . . 780
- Southern Types–A Negro Constable . . . . . 781
- Southern Types–The Wolf and the Lamb in Politics . . . . . 784
- Southern Types–Two Veterans discussing the Political Situation . . . . . 787
- The Potomac and Washington, seen from Arlington . . . . . 800
- Homeward Bound . . . . . 801
THE GREAT SOUTH.
LOUISIANA PAST AND PRESENT.
Bienville, the Founder of New Orleans.
LOUISIANA to-day is Paradise Lost. In twenty years it may be Paradise Regained. It has unlimited, magnificent possibilities. Upon its bayou-penetrated soil, on its rich uplands and its vast prairies, a gigantic struggle is in progress. It is the battle of race with race, of the picturesque and unjust civilization of the past with the prosaic and leveling civilization of the present. For a century and a-half it was coveted by all nations; sought by those great colonizers of America,–the French, the English, the Spaniards. It has been in turn the plaything of monarchs and the bait of adventurers. Its history and tradition are leagued with all that was romantic in Europe and on the Western continent in the eighteenth century. From its immense limits outsprang the noble sisterhood of South-western States, whose inexhaustible domain affords an ample refuge for the poor of all the world.
A little more than half a century ago the frontier of Louisiana, with the Spanish internal provinces, extended nineteen hundred miles. The territory
boasted a sea-coast line of five hundred miles on the Pacific Ocean; drew a boundary line seventeen hundred miles along the edge of the British-American dominions; thence followed the Mississippi by a comparative course for fourteen hundred miles; fronted the Mexican Gulf for seven hundred miles, and embraced within its limits nearly one million five hundred thousand square miles. Texas was a fragment broken from it. California, Kansas, the Indian Territory, Missouri, and Mississippi, were made from it, and still there was an Empire to spare, watered by five of the finest rivers of the world. Indiana, Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska were born of it.
From French Bienville to America Claiborne the territorial administrations were dramatic, diplomatic, bathed in the atmosphere of conspiracy. Superstition cast a weird veil of mystery over the great rivers, and Indian legend peopled every nook and cranny of the section with fantastic creations of untutored fancy. The humble roof of the log cabin on the banks of the Mississippi covered all the grace and elegance of French society of Louis the Fourteenth’s time. Jesuit and Cavalier carried European thought to the Indians.
Frenchman and Spaniard, Canadian and Yankee, intrigued and planned on Louisiana soil with an energy and fierceness displayed nowhere else in our early history. What wonder, after this cosmopolitan record, that even the fragment of Louisiana which has retained the name–this remnant embracing but a thirtieth of the area of the original province–yet still covering more than forty thousand square miles of prairie, alluvial, and sea marsh–what wonder that it is so richly varied, so charming, so unique?
Six o’clock, on Saturday evening, in the good old city of New Orleans. From the tower of the Cathedral St. Louis the tremulous harmony of bells drifts lightly on the cool spring breeze, and hovers like a benediction over the antique buildings, the blossoms and hedges in the square, and the broad and swiftly-flowing river. The bells are calling all in the parish to offer masses for the repose of the soul of the Cathedral’s founder, Don Andre Almonaster, once upon a time “perpetual regidor” of New Orleans. Every Saturday eve, for three-quarters of a century, the solemn music from the Cathedral belfry has brought the good Andre to mind; and the mellow notes, as we hear them, seem to call up visions of the quaint past.
The Cathedral St. Louis–New Orleans.
Now the sunlight mingles with the breeze bewitchingly; the old square, the gray and red buildings with massive walls and encircling balconies, the great door of the new Cathedral, all are lighted up. See! a black-robed woman, with downcast eyes, passes silently over the holy threshold; a blind beggar, with a parti-colored handkerchief wound about his weather-beaten head, hears the rustling of her gown, and stretches out his trembling hand for alms;
a black girl looks wonderingly into the holy-water font; the market-women hush their chatter as they near the portal; a mulatto fruit-seller is lounging in the shade of an ancient arch, beneath the old Spanish Council House. This is not an American scene, and one almost persuades himself that he is in Europe, although ten minutes of rapid walking will bring him to streets and squares as generically American as any in Boston, Chicago, or St. Louis.
The Archbishop’s Palace–New Orleans.
Yonder is the archbishop’s palace: enter the street at one side of it, and you seem in a foreign land; in the avenue at the other you catch a glimpse of the rush and hurry of American traffic of to-day along the levée; you see the sharp-featured “river-hand,” hear his uncouth parlance, and recognize him for your countryman; you see huge piles of cotton bales; you hear the monotonous whistle of the gigantic white steamers arriving and departing; and the irrepressible negro slouches sullenly by with his hands in his pockets, and his cheeks distended with tobacco.
You must know much of the past of New Orleans and Louisiana to thoroughly understand their present. New England sprang from the Puritan mould; Louisiana from the French and Spanish civilizations of the eighteenth century. The one stands erect, vibrating with life and activity, austere and ambitious, upon its rocky shores; the other lies prone, its rich vitality dormant and passive, luxurious and unambitious, on the glorious shores of the tropic Gulf. The former was Anglo-Saxon and simple even to Spartan plainness at its outset; the latter was Franco-Spanish, subtle in the graces of the elder societies, self-indulgent and romantic at its beginning. And New Orleans was no more and no less the opposite of Boston in 1773 than a century later. It was a hardy rose which dared to blush, in the New England even of Governor Winthrop’s time,
before June had dowered the land with beauty; it was an o’er modest Choctaw rose in the Louisiana of De Soto’s epoch which did not shower its petals on the fragrant turf in February.
In Louisiana summer lingers long after the rude winter of the North has done its work of devastation; the sleeping passion of the climate only wakes now and then into the anger of lightning or the terrible tears of the thunder-storm; there are no chronic March horrors of deadly wind or transpiercing cold; the sun is kind; the days are radiant….
On the 14th of September, 1712, Louis the Magnificent granted to Anthony Crozat, a merchant prince, the Rothschild of the day, the exclusive privilege, for fifteen years, of trading in all the indefinitely bounded territory claimed by France as Louisiana.
Crozat obtained with his charter the additional privilege of sending a ship once a year for negroes to Africa, and of owning and working all the mines that might be discovered in the colony, provided that one-fourth of their proceeds should be reserved for the king. One ship-load of slaves to every two ship-loads of independent colonists was the proportion established for emigration to Louisiana more than a century and a half ago. Slavery was well begun. …
Let us look at the New Orleans of the period between 1723 and 1730. Imagine a low-lying swamp, overgrown with a dense ragged forest, cut up into a thousand miniature islands by ruts and pools filled with stagnant water. Fancy a small cleared space along the superb river channel, a space often inundated, but partially reclaimed from the circumambient swamp, and divided into a host of small correct squares, each exactly like its neighbor, and so ditched within and without as to render wandering after nightfall perilous.
The ditch which ran along the four sides of every square in the city was filled with a composite of black mud and refuse, which, under a burning sun, sent forth a deadly odor. Around the city was a palisade and a gigantic moat; tall grasses grew up to the doors of the houses, and the hoarse chant of myriads of frogs mingled with the vesper songs of the colonists. Away where the waters of the Mississippi and of Lake Pontchartrain had formed a high ridge of land, was the “Leper’s Bluff;” and among the reeds from the city thitherward always lurked a host of criminals.
The negro, fresh from the African coast, then strode defiantly along the low shores by the stream; he had not learned the crouching, abject gait which a century of slavery afterwards gave him. He was punished if he rebelled; but he kept his dignity. In the humble dwellings which occupied the squares there were noble manners and graces; all the traditions and each finesse of the time had not been forgotten in the voyage from France: and airy gentlemen
and stately dames promenaded in this queer, swamp-surrounded, river-endangered fortress, with Parisian grace and ease.
There were few churches, and the colonists gathered about great wooden crosses in the open air for the ceremonials of their religion There were twice as many negroes as white people in the city. Domestic animals were so scarce that he who injured or fatally wounded a horse or a cow was punished with death. Ursuline nuns and Jesuit fathers glided about the streets upon their scared missions. The principal avenues within the fortified enclosure were named after princes of the royal blood–Maine, Condé, Conti, Toulouse, and Bourbon; Chartres street took its name from that of the son of the regent of Orleans, and an avenue was named in honor of Governor Bienville.
Along the river, for many miles beyond the city, marquises and other noble representatives of aristocratic French families had established plantations, and lived luxurious lives of self-indulgence, without especially contributing to the wealth of the colony. Jews were banished from the bounds of Louisiana. Sundays and holidays were strictly observed, and negroes found working on Sunday were confiscated. No worship save the Catholic was allowed; white subjects were forbidden to marry or to live in concubinage with slaves, and masters were not allowed to force their slaves into any marriage against their will; the children of a negro slave-husband and a negro free-wife were all free; if the mother was a slave and the husband was free, the children shared the condition of the mother.
Slaves were forbidden to gather in crowds, by day or night, under any pretext, and if found assembled, were punished by the whip, or branded with the mark of the flower-de-luce, or executed. The slaves all wore marks or badges, and were not permitted to sell produce of any kind without the written consent of their masters. The protection and security of slaves in old age was well provided for; Christian negroes were permitted burial in consecrated ground. The slave who produced a bruise, or the “shedding of blood in the face,” on the person of his master, or any of the family to which he appertained, by striking them, was condemned to death; and the runaway slave, when caught, after the first offence, had his ears cut off, and was branded; after the second, was hamstrung and again branded; after the third, was condemned to death. Slaves who had been set free were still bound to show the profoundest respect to their “former masters, their widows and children,” under pain of severe penalties. Slave husbands and wives were not permitted to be seized and sold separately when belonging to the same master; and whenever slaves were appointed tutors to their masters’ children, they “were held and regarded as being thereby set free to all intents and purposes.”
The Choctaws and Chickasaws, neighbors to the colonists, were waging destructive war against each other; hurricanes regularly destroyed all the engineering works erected by the French Government at the mouths of the Mississippi; and expeditions against the Natchez and the Chickasaws, arrivals of ships from France with loads of troops, provisions, and wives for the colonists, the building of levées along the river front near New Orleans, and the
occasional deposition from and re-instatement in office of Bienville, were the chief events in those crude days of the beginning. …
New Orleans from 1792 to 1797? Its civilization has changed; it is fitted into the iron groove of Spanish domination, and has become bigoted, narrow, and hostile to innovation. …
The priests and friars are half-mad with despair because the mixed population pays so very little attention to its salvation from eternal damnation, and because the roystering officers and soldiers of the regiment of Louisiana admit that they have not been to mass for three years. The French hover about the few taverns and coffee-houses permitted in the city, and mutter rebellion against the Spaniard, whom they have always disliked. The Spanish and French schools are in perpetual collision; so are the manners, customs, diets, and languages of the respective nations. The Ursuline convent has refused to admit Spanish women who desire to become nuns, unless they learn the French language; and the ruling Governor, Baron Carondelet, has such small faith in the loyalty of the colonists that he has had the fortifications constructed with a view not only to protecting himself against attacks from without, but from within.
The city has suddenly taken on a wonderful aspect of barrack-yard and camp. On the side fronting the Mississippi are two small forts commanding the road and the river. On their strong and solid brick-coated parapets, Spanish sentinels are languidly pacing; and cannon look out ominously over the walls. Between these two forts, and so arranged as to cross its fires with them, fronting on the main street of the town, is a great battery commanding the river. Then there are forts at each of the salient angles of the long square forming the city, and a third a little beyond them–all armed with eight guns each. From one of these tiny forts to another, noisy dragoons are always clattering; officers are parading to and fro; government officials block the way; and the whole town looks like a Spanish garrison gradually growing, by some mysterious process of transformation, into a French city.
THE FRENCH QUARTER OF NEW ORLEANS–THE REVOLUTION AND ITS EFFECTS.
LET me show you some pictures from the New Orleans of to-day. The nightmare of civil war has passed away, leaving the memory of visions which it is not my province–certainly not my wish–to renew. The Crescent City has grown so that Claiborne and Jackson could no longer recognize it. It was gaining immensely in wealth and population until the social and political revolutions following the war came with their terrible, crushing weight, and the work of re-establishing the commerce of the State has gone on under conditions most disheartening and depressing; though trial seems to have brought out a reserve of energy of which its possessors had never suspected themselves capable.
Step off from Canal street, that avenue of compromises which separates the French and the American quarters, some bright February morning, and you will at once find yourself in a foreign atmosphere. A walk into the French section enchants you; the characteristics of an American city vanish; this might be Toulouse, or Bordeaux, or Marseilles! The houses are all of stone or brick, stuccoed or painted; the windows of each story descend to the floors, opening, like doors, upon airy, pretty balconies, protected by iron railings; quaint dormer windows peer from the great roofs; the street doors are massive, and large enough to admit carriages into the stone-paved court-yards, from which stairways communicate with the upper apartments.
Sometimes, through a portal opened by a slender, dark-haired, bright-eyed Creole girl in black, you catch a glimpse of a garden, delicious with daintiest blossoms, purple and red and white gleaming from vines clambering along a gray wall; rose-bushes, with the grass about them strewn with petals; bosquets, green and symmetrical; luxuriant hedges, arbors, and refuges, trimmed by skillful hands; banks of verbenas; bewitching profusion of peach and apple blossoms; the dark green of the magnolia; in a quiet corner, the rich glow of the orange in its nest among the thick leaves of its parent tree; the palmetto, the catalpa;–a mass of bloom which laps the senses in slumbrous delight. Suddenly the door closes, and your paradise is lost, while Eve remains inside the gate!
From the balconies hang, idly flapping in the breeze, little painted tin placards, announcing “Furnished apartments to rent!” Alas! in too many of the old mansions you are ushered by a gray-faced woman clad in deepest black, with little children clinging jealously to her skirts, and you instinctively
note by her manners and her speech that she did not rent rooms before the war. You pity her, and think of the multitudes of these gray-faced women; of the numbers of these silent, almost desolate houses.
Now and then, too, a knock at the porter’s lodge will bring to your view a bustling Creole dame, fat and fifty, redolent of garlic and new wine, and robust in voice as in person. How cheerily she retails her misfortunes, as if they were blessings! “An invalid husband–voyez-vous ça! Auguste a Confederate, of course–and is yet; but the pauvre garçon is unable to work, and we are very poor!” All this merrily, and in high key, while the young negress–the housemaid–stands lazily listening to her mistress’s French, nervously polishing with her huge lips the handle of the broom she holds in her broad, corded hands.
Business here, as in foreign cities, has usurped only half the domain; the shopkeepers live over their shops, and communicate to their commerce somewhat of the aroma of home. The dainty salon, where the ladies’ hairdresser holds sway, has its doorway enlivened by the baby; the grocer and his wife, the milliner and his daughter, are behind the counters in their respective shops. Here you pass a little café, with the awning drawn down, and, peering in, can distinguish half-a-dozen bald, rotund old boys drinking their evening absinthe, and playing picquet and vingt-et-un, exactly as in France.
“A lazy negro, recumbent in a cart.”
Here, perhaps, is a touch of Americanism: a lazy negro, recumbent in a cart, with his eyes languidly closed, and one dirty foot sprawled on the sidewalk. No! even he responds to your question in French, which he speaks poorly though fluently French signs abound; there is a warehouse for wines and brandies from the heart of Southern France; here is a funeral notice, printed in deepest black: “The friends of Jean Baptiste,” etc., “are respectfully invited to be present at the funeral, which will take place at precisely four o’clock, on the –.” The notice is on black-edged note-paper, nailed to a post. Here pass a group of French negroes, the buxom girls dressed with a certain grace, and with gayly-colored handkerchiefs wound about an unpardonable luxuriance of wool. Their cavaliers are clothed mainly in antiquated garments rapidly approaching the level of rags; and their patois resounds for half-a-dozen blocks.
Turning into a side street leading off from Royal, or Chartres, or Bourgogne, or Dauphin, or Rampart streets, you come upon an odd little shop, where the cobbler sits at his work in the shadow of a grand old Spanish arch; or upon a nest of curly-headed negro babies ensconced on a tailor’s bench at the window of a fine ancient mansion; or you look into a narrow room, glass-fronted, and see a long and well-spread table, surrounded by twenty Frenchmen and Frenchwomen, all talking at once over their eleven o’clock breakfast.
Or you may enter aristocratic restaurants, where the immaculate floors are only surpassed in cleanliness by the spotless linen of the tables; where a
solemn dignity, as befits the refined pleasure of dinner, prevails, and where the waiter gives you the names of the dishes in both languages, and bestows on you a napkin large enough to serve you as a shroud, if this strange melange of French and Southern cookery should give you a fatal indigestion. The French families of position usually dine at four, as the theatre begins promptly at seven, both on Sundays and week days. There is the play-bill, in French, of course; and there are the typical Creole ladies, stopping for a moment to glance at it as they wend their way shopward. For it is the shopping hour; from eleven to two the streets of the old quarter are alive with elegantly, yet soberly attired ladies, always in couples, as French etiquette exacts that the unmarried lady shall never promenade without her maid or her mother.
One sees beautiful faces on the Rue Royale (Royal street), and in the balconies and lodges of the Opera House; sometimes, too, in the cool of the evening, there are fascinating little groups of the daughters of Creoles on the balconies, gayly chatting while the veil of the twilight is torn away, and the glory of the Southern moonlight is showered over the quiet streets.
The Creole ladies are not, as a rule, so highly educated as the gracious daughters of the “American quarter;” but they have an indefinable grace, a savoir in dress, and a piquant and alluring charm in person and conversation, which makes them universal favorites in society.
One of the chiefest of their attractions is the staccato and queerly-colored English, really French in idea and accent, which many of them speak. At the Saturday matinées, in the opera or comedy season at the French Theatre, you will see hundreds of the ladies of “the quarter;” and rarely can a finer grouping of lovely brunettes be found; nowhere a more tastefully-dressed and elegantly-mannered assembly.
“The negro nurses stroll on the sidewalks, chattering in quaint French to the little children.”
The quiet which has reigned in the old French section since the war ended is, perhaps, abnormal; but it would be difficult to find village streets more tranquil than are the main avenues of this foreign quarter after nine at night. The long, splendid stretches of Rampart and Esplanade streets, with their rows of trees planted in the centre of the driveways,–the whitewashed trunks giving a fine effect of green and white,–are peaceful; the negro-nurses stroll on the sidewalks, chattering in quaint French to the little children of their former masters–now their “employers.”
There is no attempt on the part of the French or Spanish families to inaugurate style and fashion in the city; quiet home society, match-making and marrying of
daughters, games and dinner parties, church, shopping, and calls in simple and unaffected manner, content them.
The majority of the people in the whole quarter seem to have a total disregard of the outside world, and when one hears them discussing the distracted condition of local politics, one can almost fancy them gossiping on matters entirely foreign to them, instead of on those vitally connected with their lives and property. They live very much among themselves. French by nature and training, they get but a faint reflection of the excitements in these United States. It is also astonishing to see how little the ordinary American citizen of New Orleans knows of his French neighbors; how ill he appreciates them. It is hard for him to talk five minutes about them without saying, “Well, we have a non-progressive element here; it will not be converted.” Having said which, he will perhaps paint in glowing colors the virtues and excellences of his French neighbors, though he cannot forgive them for taking so little interest in public affairs.
“The interior garden, with its curious shrine.”
Here we are again at the Archbishop’s Palace, once the home of the Ursuline nuns, who now have, further down the river, a splendid new convent and school, surrounded by beautiful gardens. This ancient edifice was completed by the French Government in 1733, and is the oldest in Louisiana. Its Tuscan composite architecture, its porter’s lodge, and its interior garden with its curious shrine, make it well worth preserving, even when the tide of progress shall have reached this nook on Condé street. The Ursuline nuns occupied this site for nearly a century, and it was abandoned by them only because they were tempted, by the great rise in real estate in that vicinity, to sell. The new convent is richly endowed, and is one of the best seminaries in the South.
Many of the owners of property in the vicinity of the Archbishop’s Palace have removed to France, since the war,–doing nothing for the benefit of the metropolis which gave them their fortunes. The rent of these solidly-constructed old houses once brought them a sum which, when translated from dollars into francs, was colossal, and which the Parisian tradesmen tucked away into their strong boxes. Now they get almost nothing; the houses are mainly vacant. With the downfall of slavery, and the advent of reconstruction, came such radical changes in Louisiana politics and society that those belonging to the ancien régime who could flee, fled; and a prominent historian and gentleman
of most honorable Creole descent told me that, among his immense acquaintance, he did not know a single person who would not leave the State if means were at hand.
The grooves in which society in Louisiana and New Orleans had run before
The New Ursuline Convent–New Orleans.
the late struggle were so broken that even a residence in the State was distasteful to him and the society he represented; since the late war, he said, 500 years seemed to have passed over the common-wealth. The Italy of Augustus was not more dissimilar to the Italy of to-day than is the Louisiana of to-day to the Louisiana before the war. There was no longer the spirit to maintain the grand, unbounded hospitality once so characteristic of the South. Formerly, the guest would have been presented to planters who would have entertained him for days, in royal style, and who would have sent him forward in their own carriages, commended to the hospitality of their neighbors. Now these same planters were living upon corn and pork. “Most of these people,” said the gentleman, “have vanished from their homes; and I actually know ladies of culture and refinement, whose incomes were gigantic before the war, who are ‘washing’ for their daily bread. The misery, the despair, in hundreds of cases, are beyond belief.”
“Many lovely plantations,” said he, “are entirely deserted; the negroes will not remain upon them, but flock into the cities, or work on land which they have purchased for themselves.” He would not believe that the free negro did as much work for himself as he formerly did for his master. He considered the labor system at the present time terribly onerous for planters. The negroes were only profitable as field hands when they worked on shares, the planters furnishing them land, tools, horses, mules, and advancing them food. He said that he would not himself hire a negro even at small wages; he did not believe it would be profitable. The discouragement of the natives of Louisiana, he believed, arose in large degree from the difficulty of obtaining capital with which to begin anew. He knew instances where only $10,000 or $20,000 were needed for the improvement of water power, or of lands which would net hundreds of thousands. He had himself written repeatedly, urging people at the North to invest, but they would not, and alleged that they should not alter their determination so long as the present political condition prevailed.
He added, with great emphasis, that he did not think the people of the North would believe a statement which should give a faithful transcript of the present condition of affairs in Louisiana. The natives of the State could hardly
realize it themselves; and it was not to be expected that strangers, of differing habits of life and thought, should do it. He did not blame the negro for his present incapacity, as he considered the black man an inferior being, peculiarly unfitted by ages of special training for what he was now called upon to undertake. The negro was, he thought, by nature, kindly, generous, courteous, susceptible of civilization only to a certain degree; devoid of moral consciousness, and usually, of course, ignorant. Not one out of a hundred, the whole State through, could write his name; and there had been fifty-five in one single Legislature who could neither read nor write. There was, according to him, scarcely a single man of color in the last Legislature who was competent in any large degree.
The Louisiana white people were in such terror of the negro government that they would rather accept any other despotism. A military dictator would be far preferable to them; they would go anywhere to escape the ignominy to which they were at present subjected. The crisis was demoralizing every one. Nobody worked with a will; every one was in debt. There was not a single piece of property in the city of New Orleans in which he would at present invest, although one could now buy for $5,000 or $10,000 property originally worth $50,000. He said it would not pay to purchase, the taxes were so enormous. The majority of the great plantations had been deserted on account of the excessive taxation. Only those familiar with the real causes of the despair could imagine how deep it was.
Benefit by immigration, he maintained, was impossible under the present régime. New-comers mingled in the distracted politics in such a manner as to neglect the development of the country. Thousands of the citizens were fleeing to Texas (and I could vouch for the correctness of that assertion). He said that the mass of immigrants became easily discouraged and broken down, because they began by working harder than the climate would permit.
In some instances, Germans on coming into the State had been ordered by organizations both of white and colored native workmen not to labor so much daily, as they were setting a dangerous example! Still, he believed that almost any white man would do as much work as three negroes. He hardly thought that in fifty years there would be any negroes in Louisiana. The race was rapidly diminishing. Planters who had owned three or four hundred slaves before the war, had kept a record of their movements, and found that more than half of them had died of want and neglect. The negroes did not know how to care for themselves. The women now on the same plantations where they had been owned as slaves gave birth to only one child where they had previously borne three. They would not bear children as of old; the negro population was rapidly decreasing. Gardening, he said, had proved an unprofitable experiment, because of the thievish propensities of the negro. All the potatoes, turnips, and cabbages consumed by the white people of New Orleans came from the West.
Such was the testimony of one who, although by no means unfair or bitterly partisan, perhaps allowed his discouragement to color all his views. He frankly
accepted the results of the war, so far as the abolition of slavery and the consequent ruin of his own and thousands of other fortunes were concerned; he has, indeed, borne with all the evils which have arisen out of reconstruction, without murmuring until now, when he and thousands of his fellows are pushed to the wall. He is the representative of a very large class; the discouragement is no dream. It is written on the faces of the citizens; you may read and realize it there.
Ah! these faces, these faces;–expressing deeper pain, profounder discontent than were caused by the iron fate of the few years of the war! One sees them everywhere; on the street, at the theatre, in the salon, in the cars; and pauses for a moment, struck with the expression of entire despair–of complete helplessness, which has possessed their features. Sometimes the owners of the faces are one-armed and otherwise crippled; sometimes they bear no wounds or marks of wounds, and are in the prime and fullness of life; but the look is there still. Now and then it is controlled by a noble will, the pain of which it tells having been trampled under the feet of a great energy; but it is always there. The struggle is over, peace has been declared, but a generation has been doomed. The past has given to the future the dower of the present; there seems only a dead level of uninspiring struggle for those going out, and but small hope for those coming in. That is what the faces say; that is the burden of their sadness.
These are not of the loud-mouthed and bitter opponents of everything tending to reconsolidate the Union; these are not they who will tell you that some day the South will be united once more, and will rise in strength and strike a blow for freedom; but they are the payers of the price. The look is on the faces of the men who wore the swords of generals who led in disastrous measures; on the faces of women who have lost husbands, children, lovers, fortunes, homes, and comfort for evermore. The look is on the faces of the strong fighters, thinkers, and controllers of the Southern mind and heart; and here in Louisiana it will not brighten, because the wearers know that the great evils of disorganized labor, impoverished society, scattered families, race legislation, retributive tyranny and terrorism, with the power, like Nemesis of old, to wither and blast, leave no hope for this generation. Heaven have mercy on them! Their fate is too utterly inevitable not to command the strongest sympathy.
Of course, in the French quarter, there are multitudes of negroes who speak both French and English in the quaintest, most outlandish fashion; eliding whole syllables which seem necessary to sense, and breaking into extravagant exclamations on the slightest pretext. The French of the negroes is very much like that of young children; spoken far from plainly, but with a pretty grace which accords poorly with the exteriors of the speakers. The negro women, young and old, wander about the streets bareheaded and barearmed; now tugging their mistresses’ children, now carrying huge baskets on their heads, and walking under their heavy burdens with the gravity of queens. Now and then one sees a mulatto girl hardly less fair than the brown maid he saw
at Sorrento, or in the vine-covered cottage at the little mountain town near Rome; now a giant matron, black as the tempest, and with features as pronounced in savagery as any of her Congo ancestors.
But the negroes, taken as a whole, seem somewhat shuffling and disorganized; and apart from the statuesque old house and body servants, who appear to have caught some dignity from their masters, they are by no means inviting. They gather in groups at the street corners just at nightfall, and while they chatter like monkeys, even about politics, they gesticulate violently. They live without much work, for their wants are few; and two days’ labor in a week, added to the fat roosters and turkeys that will walk into their clutches, keeps them in bed and board. They find ample amusement in the “heat o’ the sun,” the passers-by, and tobacco. There are families of color noticeable for
“And while they chatter like monkeys, even about politics, they gesticulate violently.”
intelligence and accomplishments, but, as a rule, the negro of the French quarter is thick-headed, light-hearted, improvident, and not too conscientious.
Perhaps one of the most patent proofs of the poverty now so bitterly felt among the hitherto well-to-do families in New Orleans was apparent in the suspension of the opera in the winter of 1873. Heretofore the Crescent City has rejoiced in brilliant seasons, both the French and Americans uniting in subscriptions sufficient to bring to them artists of unrivaled talent and culture. But opera entailed too heavy an expense, when the people who usually supported it were prostrate under the hands of plunderers, and a comedy company from the Paris theatres took its place upon the lyric stage. The French Opera House is a handsomely arranged building of modern construction, at the corner of Bourbon and Toulouse streets. The interior is elegantly decorated, and now during the season of six months the salle is nightly visited by hundreds of the subscribers, who take tickets for the whole season, and by the city’s floating population. Between each act of the pieces all the men in the theatre rise, stalk
out, puff cigarettes, and sip iced raspberry-water and absinthe in the cafés, returning in a long procession just as the curtain rises again; while the ladies receive the visits of friends in the loges or in the private boxes, which they often occupy four evenings in the week. The New Orleans public, both French and American, possesses excellent theatrical taste, and is severely critical, especially in opera. It is difficult to find a Creole family of any pretensions in which music is not cultivated in large degree.
People in the French quarter very generally speak both prevailing languages, while the majority of the American residents do not affect the French. The Gallic children all speak English, and in the street-plays of the boys, as in their conversation, French and English idioms are strangely mingled. American boys call birds, fishes and animals by corrupted French names, handed down through seventy years of perversion, and a dreadful threat on the part of Young America is, that he will “mallerroo” you, which seems to hint that our old French friend malheureux, “unhappy,” has, with other words, undergone corruption. When an American boy wishes his comrade to make his kite fly higher, he says, poussez! just as the French boy does, and so on ad infinitum.
Any stranger who remains in the French quarter over Sunday will be amazed at the great number of funeral processions. It would seem, indeed, as if death came uniformly near the end of the week in order that people might be laid away on the Sabbath. The cemeteries, old and new, rich and poor, are scattered throughout the city, and most of them present an extremely beautiful appearance–the white tombs nestling among the dark-green foliage.
It would be difficult to dig a grave of the ordinary depth in the “Louisiana lowlands” without coming to water;
“The old French and Spanish cemeteries present long streets of cemented walls.”
and, consequently, burials in sealed tombs above ground are universal. The old French and Spanish cemeteries present long streets of cemented walls, with apertures into which once were thrust the noble and good of the land, as if they were put into ovens to be baked; and one may still read queer inscriptions, dated away back in the middle of the eighteenth century. Great numbers of the monuments both in the old and new cemeteries are very imposing; and, one sees every day, as in all Catholic communities, long processions of mourning relatives carrying flowers to place on the spot where their loved and lost are entombed; or catches a glimpse of some black-robed figure sitting motionless before a tomb. The St. Louis Cemetery is
fine, and many dead are even better housed in it than they were in life. The St. Patrick, Cypress Grove, Firemen’s, Odd Fellows, and Jewish cemeteries, in the American quarter, are filled with richly-wrought tombs, and traversed by fine, tree-planted avenues.
The St. Louis Hotel is one of the most imposing monuments of the French quarter, as well as one of the finest hotels in the United States. It was originally built to combine a city exchange, hotel, bank, ball-rooms, and private stores. The rotunda, metamorphosed into a dining-hall, is one of the most beautiful in this country, and the great inner
The St. Louis Hotel–New Orleans.
circle of the dome is richly frescoed with allegorical scenes and busts of eminent Americans, from the pencils of Canova and Pinoli. The immense ball-room is also superbly decorated. The St. Louis Hotel was very nearly destroyed by fire in 1840, but in less than two years was restored to its original splendor. On the eastern and western sides of Jackson Square are the Pontalba buildings, large and not especially handsome brick structures, erected by the Countess Pontalba, many years ago. Chartres street, and all the avenues contributing to it, are thoroughly French in character; cafés, wholesale stores, pharmacies, shops for articles of luxury, all bear evidence of Gallic taste.
Every street in the old city has its legend, either humorous or tragical; and each building which confesses to an hundred years has memories of foreign domination hovering about it. The elder families speak with bated breath and touching pride of their “ancestor who came with Bienville,” or with such and such Spanish Governors; and many a name among those of the Creoles has descended untarnished to its present possessors through centuries of valor and adventurous achievement.
THE CARNIVAL–THE FRENCH MARKETS.
CARNIVAL keeps it hold upon the people along the Gulf shore, despite the troubles, vexations, and sacrifices to which they have been forced to submit since the social revolution began. White and black join in its
The Carnival–“White and Black join in its masquerading.”
masquerading, and the Crescent City rivals Naples in the beauty and richness of its displays. Galveston has caught the infection, and every year the King of the Carnival adds a city to the domain loyal to him. The saturnalia practiced
before the entry into Lent are the least bit practical, because Americans find it impossible to lay aside business utterly even on Mardi-Gras. The device of the advertiser pokes its ugly face into the very heart of the masquerade, and brings base reality, whose hideous features, outlined under his domino, put a host of sweet illusions to flight.
The Carnival in New Orleans was organized in 1827, when a number of young Creole gentlemen, who had recently returned from Paris, formed a street-procession of maskers. It did not create a profound sensation–was considered the work of mad wags; and the festival languished until 1837, when there was a fine parade, which was succeeded by another still finer in 1839. From two o’clock in the afternoon until sunset of Shrove Tuesday, drum and fife, valve and trumpet, rang in the streets, and hundreds of maskers cut furious antics, and made day hideous. Thereafter, from 1840 to 1852, Mardi-Gras festival had varying popularity–such of the townspeople as had the money to spend now and then organizing a very fantastic and richly-dressed rout of mummers. At the old Orleans Theatre, balls of princely splendor were given; Europeans even came to join in the New World’s Carnival, and wrote home enthusiastic accounts of it. In 1857 the “Mistick Krewe of Comus,” a private organization of New Orleans gentlemen, made their début, and gave to the festivities a lustre which, thanks to their continued efforts, has never since quitted it. In 1857 the “Krewe” appeared in the guise of supernatural and mythological characters, and flooded the town with gods and demons, winding up the occasion with a grand ball at the Gaiety Theatre; previous to which they appeared in tableaux representing the “Tartarus” of the ancients, and Milton’s “Paradise Lost.” In 1858 this brilliant coterie of maskers renewed the enchantments of Mardi-Gras, by exhibiting the gods and goddesses of high Olympus and of the fretful sea, and again gave a series of brilliant tableaux. In 1859 they pictured the revels of the four great English holidays, May Day, Midsummer Eve, Christmas and Twelfth Night. In 1860 they illustrated American history in a series of superb groups of living statues mounted on moving pedestals. In 1861 they delighted the public with “Scenes from Life”–Childhood, Youth, Manhood and Old Age; and the ball at the Varieties Theatre was preceded by a series of grandiose tableaux which exceeded all former efforts. Then came the war; maskers threw aside their masks; but, in 1866, after the agony of the long struggle, Comus once more assembled his forces, and the transformations which Milton attributed to the sly spirit himself were the subject of the display. The wondering gazers were shown how Comus,
“Deep-skilled in all his mother’s witcheries,
By sly enticement gives his baneful cup,
With many murmurs mixed, whose pleasing poison
The visage quite transforms of him that drinks,
And the inglorious likeness of a beast
In 1867 Comus became Epicurean, and blossomed into a walking bill of fare, the maskers representing everything in the various courses and entrées of a
gourmand’s dinner, from oysters and sherry to the omelette brûlée, the Kirsch and Curaçoa. A long and stately array of bottles, dishes of meats and vegetables, and desserts, moved through the streets, awakening saturnalian laughter wherever it passed. In 1868 the Krewe presented a procession and tableaux from “Lalla Rookh;” in 1869, the “Five Senses;” and in 1870, the “History of Louisaina;” when old Father Mississippi himself, De Soto and his fellow-discoverers, the soldiers, adventurers, cavaliers, Jesuits, French, Spanish, and American Governors, were all paraded before the amazed populace. In 1871, King Comus and his train presented picturesque groupings from Spenser’s “Faery Queene;” in 1872, from Homer’s “Tale of Troy;” and in 1873 detailed the “Darwinian Development of the Species” from earliest beginnings to the gorilla, and thence to man. The Krewe of Comus has always paid the expenses of these displays itself, and has issued invitations only to as many people as could be accommodated within the walls of the theatre to witness the tableaux. It is composed of one hundred members, who are severally sworn to conceal their identity from all outsiders, and who have thus far succeeded admirably in accomplishing this object. The designs for their masks are made in New Orleans, and the costumes are manufactured from them in Paris yearly. In 1870 appeared the “Twelfth-Night Revelers”–who yearly celebrate the beautiful anniversary of the visit of the wise men of the East to the manger of the Infant Saviour. In 1870 the pageants of this organization were inaugurated by
“The coming of Rex, most puissant King of Carnival.” [Page 41.]
“The Lord of Misrule and his Knights;” in 1871, “Mother Goose’s Tea Party” was given; in 1872, a group of creations of artists and poets and visionaries, from lean Don Quixote to fat Falstaff, followed; and in 1873 the birds were represented, in a host of fantastic and varied tableaux.
Another feature has been added to the festivities, one which promises in time to be most attractive of all. It is the coming of Rex, most puissant King of
“The Boeuf-Gras–the fat ox–is led in the procession.” [Page 42.]
Carnival. This amiable dignitary, depicted as a venerable man, with snow-white hair and beard, but still robust and warrior-like, made his first appearance on the Mississippi shores in 1872, and issued his proclamations through newspapers and upon placards, commanding all civil and military authorities to show subservience to him during his stay in “our good city of New Orleans.” Therefore, yearly, when the date of the recurrence of Mardi-Gras has been fixed, the mystic King issues his proclamation, and is announced as having arrived at New York, or whatever other port seemeth good. At once thereafter, and daily, the papers teem with reports of his progress through the country, interspersed with anecdotes of his heroic career, which is supposed to have lasted for many centuries. The court report is usually conceived somewhat in the style of the following paragraph, supposed to be an anecdote told at the “palace” by an “old gray-headed sentinel:”
“Another incident, illustrating the King’s courageous presence of mind, was related by the veteran. While sojourning at Auch (this was several centuries ago), a wing of the palace took fire, the whole staircase was in flames, and in the highest story was a feeble old woman, apparently cut off from any means of escape. His Majesty offered two thousand francs to any one who would save
her from destruction, but no one presented himself. The King did not stop to deliberate; he wrapped his robes closely about him, called for a wet cloth –which he threw aside–then rushed to his carriage, and drove rapidly to the theatre, where he passed the evening listening to the singing of ‘If ever I cease to love.'”
This is published seriously in the journals, next to the news and editorial paragraphs; and yearly, at one o’clock on the appointed day, the King, accompanied by Warwick, Earl-Marshal
“When Rex and his train enter the queer old streets, the balconies are crowded with spectators.” [Page 43.]
of the Empire, and by the Lord High Admiral, who is always depicted as suffering untold pangs from gout, arrives on Canal street, surrounded by troops of horse and foot, fantastically dressed, and followed by hundreds of maskers. Sometimes he comes up the river in a beautiful barge and lands amid thunderous salutes from the shipping at the wharves. This parade, which is gradually becoming one of the important features of the Carnival, is continued through all the principal streets of the city. The Boeuf-Gras–the fat ox–is led in the procession.
The animal is gayly decorated with flowers and garlands. Mounted on pedestals extemporized from cotton-floats are dozens of allegorical groups, and the masks, although not so rich and costly as those of Comus and his crew, are quite as varied and mirth-provoking. The costumes of the King and his suite are gorgeous; and the troops of the United States, disguised as privates of Arabian artillery and as Egyptian spahis, do escort-duty to his Majesty. Rumor hath it, even, that on one occasion, the ladies of New Orleans presented a flag to an officer of the troops of “King Rex” (sic), little suspecting that it was thereafter to grace the Federal barracks. Thus the Carnival has its pleasant waggeries and surprises.
Froissart thought the English amused themselves sadly; and indeed, comparing the Carnival in Louisiana with the Carnival in reckless Italy, one might say that the Americans masquerade grimly. There is but little of that wild luxuriance of fun in the streets of New Orleans which has made Italian cities so famous; people go to their sports with an air of pride, but not of all-pervading enjoyment. In the French quarter, when Rex and his train enter the queer old streets, there are shoutings, chaffings, and dancings, the children chant little couplets on Mardi-Gras; and the balconies are crowded with spectators. But the negroes make a somewhat sorry show in the masking: their every-day garb is more picturesque.
Carnival culminates at night, after Rex and the “day procession” have retired.
“The joyous, grotesque maskers appear upon the ball-room floor.” [Page 44.]
Thousands of people assemble in dense lines along the streets included in the published route of march; Canal street is brilliant with illumination, and swarms of persons occupy every porch, balcony, house-top, pedestal, carriage and mule-car. Then comes the train of Comus, and torch-bearers, disguised in outré masks, light up the way. After the round through the great city is completed, the reflection of the torch-light on the sky dies away, and the Krewe betake themselves to the Varieties Theatre, and present tableaux before the ball opens.
This theatre, during the hour or two preceding the Mardi-Gras ball, offers one of the loveliest sights in Christendom. From floor to ceiling, the parquet, dress-circle and galleries are one mass of dazzling toilets, none but ladies being given seats. White robes, delicate faces, dark, flashing eyes, luxuriant folds of glossy hair, tiny, faultlessly-gloved hands,–such is the vision that one sees through his opera-glass.
Delicious music swells softly on the perfumed air; the tableaux wax and wane like kaleidoscopic effects, when suddenly the curtain rises, and the joyous, grotesque maskers appear upon the ball-room floor. They dance; gradually ladies and their cavaliers leave all parts of the galleries, and come to join them; and then,
“No sleep till morn, when youth and pleasure meet,
To chase the glowing hours with flying feet.”
Meantime, the King of the Carnival holds a levée and dancing party at another place; all the theatres and public halls are delivered up to the votaries of Terpsichore; and the fearless, who are willing to usher in Lent with sleepless eyes, stroll home in the glare of the splendid Southern sunrise, yearly vowing that each Mardi-Gras has surpassed its predecessor.
Business in New Orleans is not only entirely suspended on Shrove Tuesday (Mardi-Gras), but the Carnival authorities have absolute control of the city. They direct the police; they arrest the mayor, and he delivers to them the keys, while the chief functionaries of the city government declare their allegiance to “Rex;” addresses are delivered, and the processions move. The theatres are thrown open to the public, and woe betide the unhappy manager who dares refuse the order of the King to this effect. On one occasion a well-known actor arrived in the city during the festivities to fulfill an engagement, but as the managers of the theatre at which he was to act had refused to honor the King’s command for free admission to all, the actor was at once arrested, taken to the “den” of the Earl-Marshal, and there kept a close prisoner until a messenger arrived to say that the recalcitrant manager had at last “acknowledged the corn.” The violet is the royal flower; the imperial banner is of green and purple, with a white crown in the centre; and the anthem of the mystic monarch is, “If ever I cease to love.” The accumulation of costumes and armor, all of which are historically accurate, is about to result in the establishment of a valuable museum.
The artist’s pencil has reproduced in these pages one of the many comical incidents which enliven the Carnival tide, and calls his life sketch “Beauty and
“Many bright eyes are in vain endeavoring to pierce the disguise.”
the Beast.” From the gallery of the Varieties Theatre, many bright eyes are in vain endeavoring to pierce the disguise under which a fashionable member of the Comus Krewe parades before their gaze.
From early morning until nightfall the same quaint, distorted street-cries which one hears in foreign cities ring through the streets of New Orleans; and in the French quarter they are mirth-provoking, under their guise of Creole patois. The Sicilian fruit-sellers also make their mellifluous dialect heard loudly; and the streets always resound to the high-pitched voice of some negro who is rehearsing his griefs or joys in the most theatrical manner. Negro-beggars encumber the steps of various banks and public edifices, sitting for hours together with open, outstretched hands, almost too lazy to close them over the few coins the passers-by bestow. A multitude of youthful darkies, who have no visible aim in existence but to sport in the sun, abound in the American quarter, apparently well fed and happy. The mass of the negroes are recklessly
“The French market at sunrise on Sunday morning.”
improvident, living, as in all cities, crowded together in ill-built and badly-ventilated cabins, the ready victims for almost any fell disease.
Next to the river traffic, the New Orleans markets are more picturesque than anything else appertaining to the city. They lie near the levée, and, as markets, are indeed clean, commodious, and always well stocked. But they have another and an especial charm to the traveler from the North, or to him who has never seen their great counterparts in Europe. The French market at sunrise on Sunday morning is the perfection of vivacious traffic. In gazing upon the scene, one can readily imagine himself in some city beyond the seas. From the stone houses, balconied, and fanciful in roof and window, come hosts of plump and pretty young negresses, chatting in their droll patois with monsieur the fish-dealer, before his wooden bench, or with the rotund and ever-laughing madame who sells little piles of potatoes, arranged on a shelf like cannon balls at an arsenal, or chaffering with the fruit-merchant, while passing under long, hanging rows of odorous bananas and pineapples, and beside heaps of oranges, whose color contrasts prettily with the swart or tawny faces of the purchasers.
During the morning hours of each day, the markets are veritable bee-hives of industry; ladies and servants flutter in and out of the long passages in endless throngs; but in the afternoon the stalls are nearly all deserted. One sees delicious
types in these markets; he may wander for months in New Orleans without meeting them elsewhere. There is the rich savage face in which the struggle of Congo with French or Spanish blood is still going on; there is the old French market-woman, with her irrepressible form, her rosy cheeks, and the bandanna
“Passing under long, hanging rows ot bananas and pine-apples.” [Page 46.]
wound about her head, just as one may find her to this day at the Halles Centrales in Paris; there is the negress of the time of D’Artaguette, renewed in some of her grandchildren; there is the plaintive-looking Sicilian woman, who has been bullied all the morning by rough negroes and rougher white men as she sold oranges; and there is her dark, ferocious-looking husband, who handles his cigarette as if he were strangling an enemy.
In a long passage, between two of the market buildings, where hundreds of people pass hourly, sits a silent Louisiana Indian woman, with a sack of gumbo spread out before her, and with eyes downcast, as if expecting harsh words rather than purchasers.
Entering the clothes market, one finds lively Gallic versions of the Hebrew female tending shops where all articles are labeled at such extraordinarily low rates that the person who manufactured them must have given them away; quavering old men, clad in rusty black, who sell shoe-strings and cheap cravats, but who have hardly vitality enough to keep the flies off from themselves, not to speak of waiting on customers; villainous French landsharks, who have eyes as sharp for the earnings of the fresh-water sailor as ever had a Gotham
shanghai merchant for those of a salt-water tar; mouldy old dames, who look daggers at you if you venture to insist that any article in their stock is not of finest fabric and quality; and hoarse-voiced, debauched Creole men, who almost cling to you in the energy of their pleading for purchases. Sometimes, too, a beautiful black-robed girl leans over a counter, displaying her superbly-moulded arms, as she adjusts her knitting-work. And from each and every one of the markets the noise rises in such thousand currents of patois, of French, of English, of good-natured and guttural negro accent, that one cannot help wondering how it is that buyer and seller ever come to any understanding at all.
Then there are the flowers! Such marvelous bargains as one can have in bouquets! Delicate jessamines, modest knots of white roses, glorious orange blossoms, camelias, red roses, tender pansies, exquisite verbenas, the luscious and perfect virgin’s bower, and the magnolia in its season;–all these are to be had in the markets for a trivial sum. Sometimes, when a Havana or a Sicilian vessel is discharging her cargo, fruit boxes are broken open; and then it is a treat to see swarms of African children hovering about the tempting piles, from which even the sight of stout cudgels will not frighten them.
In the winter months the markets are crowded with strangers before six o’clock every morning. Jaunty maids from New England stroll in the passages,
“One sees delicious types in these markets.” [Page 47.]
“In a long passage, between two of the market buildings, sits a silent Louisiana Indian woman.” [Page 47.]
escorted by pale and querulous invalid fathers, or by spruce young men, who swelter in their thick garments, made to be worn in higher latitudes. While New York or Boston ladies sip coffee in a market-stall, groups of dreamy-eyed negro girls surround them and curiously scan the details of their toilets. Black urchins grin confidingly and solicit alms as the blond Northerner saunters by. Perchance the Bostonian may hear a silvery voice, whose owner’s face is buried in the depths of a sun-bonnet, exclaim–“There goes a regular Yankee!”
Sailors, too, from the ships anchored in the river, promenade the long passage-ways; the accents of twenty languages are heard; and the childlike, comical French of the negroes rings out above the clamor.
“Stout colored women, with cackling hens dangling from their brawny hands.”
Wagons from the country clatter over the stones; the drivers sing cheerful melodies, interspersed with shouts of caution to pedestrians as they guide their restive horses through the crowds. Stout colored women, with cackling hens dangling from their brawny hands, gravely parade the long aisles; the fish-monger utters an apparently incomprehensible yell, yet brings crowds around him; on his clean block lies the pompano, the prince of Southern waters, which an enthusiastic admirer once described as “a just fish made perfect,” or a “translated shad.”
Towards noon the clamor ceases, the bustle of traffic is over, and the market-men and women betake themselves to the old cathedral, in whose shadowed aisles they kneel for momentary worship.
THE COTTON TRADE–THE NEW ORLEANS LEVEES.
COTTON furnishes to New Orleans much of its activity and the sinews of its trade. It stamps a town, which would otherwise resemble some decayed but still luxurious European centre, with a commercial aspect. Americans
“These boats, closely ranged in long rows by the levée.” [Page 52.]
and Frenchmen are alike interested in the growth of the crop throughout all the great section drained by the Mississippi and its tributaries. They rush eagerly to the Exchange to read the statements of sales, and rates, and bales on hand; and both are intensely excited when there is a large arrival from some unexpected quarter, or when the telegraph informs them that some packet has sunk, with hundreds of bales on board, while toiling along the currents of the Arkansas or Red rivers.
In the American quarter, during certain hours of the day, cotton is the only subject spoken of; the pavements of all the principal avenues in the vicinity of the Exchange are crowded with smartly-dressed gentlemen, who eagerly discuss crops and values, and who have a perfect mania for preparing and comparing the estimates at the basis of all speculations in the favorite staple; with young Englishmen, whose mouths are filled with the slang of the Liverpool market;
and with the skippers of steamers from all parts of the West and South-west, each worshiping at the shrine of the same god.
From high noon until dark the planter, the factor, the speculator, flit feverishly to and from the portals of the Exchange, and nothing can be heard above the excited hum of their conversation except the sharp voice of the clerk reading the latest telegrams.
New Orleans receives the greater portion of the crop of Louisiana and Mississippi, of North Alabama, of Tennessee, of Arkansas, and Florida. The gross receipts of cotton there amount to about thirty-three and one-third per cent. of the entire production of the country. Despite the abnormal condition of government and society there, the natural tendency is towards a rapid and continuous increase of cotton production in the Gulf States.
But the honor of receiving the Texas crop, doubled, as it soon will be, as the result of increased immigration, favoring climate, and cheap land, will be sharply disputed by Galveston, one of the most ambitious and promising of the Gulf capitals; and the good burghers of New Orleans must look to a speedy completion of their new railways if they wish to cope successfully with the wily and self-reliant Texan.
Judging from the progress of cotton-growing in the past, it will be tremendous in future. In 1824-’25 the cotton crop of the United States was 569,249 bales; in 1830-’31, it ran up to 1,038,000 bales; during ’37-’38 it reached as high as 1,800,000 bales; and eleven years later was 2,700,000 bales. In 1859-’60 the country’s cotton crop was 4,669,770 bales; in 1860-’61 it dropped to 3,656,000 bales. Then came the war. In the days of slave labor, planters did not make more than a fraction of their present per cent. They themselves attended very little to their crops, leaving nearly everything to the overseers. Cotton raising is now far more popular in the Gulf States than it was before the war, although it has still certain distressing drawbacks, arising from the incomplete organization of labor. The year after the close of the war, 2,193,000 bales were produced, showing that the planters went to work in earnest to retrieve their fallen fortunes. From that time forward labor became better organized, and the production went bravely on. In 1866-’67 it amounted to 1,951,000 bales, of which New Orleans received 780,000; in 1867-’68 to 2,431,000 bales, giving New Orleans 668,000; in 1868-’69 to 2,260,000, 841,000 of which were delivered at New Orleans; in 1869-’70 to 3,114,000, and New Orleans received 1,207,000; in 1870-’71 to 4,347,000, giving the Crescent City 1,548,000; and in 1871-’72 to 2,974,000, more than one-third of which passed through New Orleans. The necessity of a rapid multiplication of railroad and steamboat lines is shown by the fact that more than 150,000 bales of the crop of 1870-’71 remained in the country, at the close of that season, on account of a lack of transportation facilities. From 1866 to 1872, inclusive, the port of New Orleans received 6,114,000 bales, or fully one-third of the entire production of the United States. The receipts from the Red River region alone at New Orleans for 1871-’72, by steamer, were
197,386 bales; for 1870-’71 they amounted to 284,313 bales; and the Ouachita River sent to the metropolis 89,084 bales in 1871-’72, and 151,358 in 1870-’71.
“Whenever there is a lull in the work they sink down on the cotton bales.”
Knowing these statistics, one can hardly wonder at the vast masses of bales on the levée at the landings of the steamers, nor at the numbers of the boats which daily arrive, their sides piled high with cotton. About these boats, closely ranged in long rows by the levée, and seeming like river monsters which have crawled from the ooze to take a little sun, the negroes swarm in crowds, chatting in the broken, colored English characteristic of the river-hand. They are clad in garments which hang in rags from their tawny or coal black limbs. Their huge, naked chests rival in perfection of form the works of Praxiteles and his fellows.
“Not far from the levée, there is a police court, where they especially delight to lounge.”
Their arms are almost constantly bent to the task of removing cotton bales, and carrying boxes, barrels, bundles of every conceivable shape and size; but whenever there is a lull in the work they sink down on the cotton bales, clinging to them like lizards to a sunny wall, and croon to themselves, or crack rough and good-natured jokes with one another. Not far from the levée there is a police court, where they especially delight to lounge.
In 1871-’72 (the commercial year extends from September to September) the
value of the cotton received at New Orleans was $94,430,000; in 1870-’71 it was $101,000,000; and in 1869-’70 even $120,000,000. The difference in the value of the crops during that period was very great. In 1869-’70 cotton sold for nearly $100 per bale, and in 1870-’71 it had depreciated to an average of $65 per bale. Until the facilities for speedy transportation have been greatly increased, a glut of the market, produced by a successful conduct of the year’s labor on the majority of the plantations, will continue to bring prices down.
The whole character of the cotton trade has been gradually changing since the war. Previous to that epoch a large portion of the business was done directly by planters through their merchants; but now that the plantations are mainly worked on shares by the freedmen, the matter has come into the hands of country traders, who give credits to the laborers during the planting seasons, and take their pay in the products of the crop, in harvest time. These speculators then follow to market the cotton which they have thus accumulated in small lots, and look attentively after it until it has been delivered to some responsible pruchaser, and they have pocketed the proceeds.
They often pay the planter and his coöperating freedmen a much higher price for cotton than the market quotations seem to warrant; but they always manage to retain a profit, rarely allowing a freedman to find that his season’s toil has done more than square his accounts with the acute trader who has meantime supplied him and his family with provisions, clothing, and such articles of luxury as the negro’s mind and body crave. Shortly after the war there was trouble between planters and factors; and it is not probable that much, if any, business will hereafter be transacted by the latter directly with the planter, though upon the arrival of the crop in New Orleans the cotton factor becomes the chief authority. Business is largely done between buyer and seller on the basis of a confidence which seems to the casual observer rather reckless, but which custom has made perfectly safe.
The Cotton Exchange of New Orleans sprang into existence in 1870, and merchants and planters were alike surprised that they had not thought its advantages necessary before. It now has three hundred members, and expends thirty thousand dollars annually in procuring the latest commercial intelligence, and maintaining a suite of rooms where the buyer and seller may meet, and which shall be a central bureau of news. The first president of the Exchange was the well-known E. H. Summers, of Hilliard, Summers & Co., of New Orleans; the second and present one is Mr. John Phelps, one of the principal merchants of the city.*
*The writer takes this occasion to acknowledge his indebtedness to Secretary Hester of the Cotton Exchange of New Orleans, and to Mr. Parker of the Picayune, for many interesting details in this connection; to Hon. Charles Gayarré for access to historical portraits; and to Collector Casey and his able deputy, Mr. Champlin, for reference to official statistics.
The boards of the Exchange are carefully and thoroughly edited, and are always surrounded by a throng of speculators, as well as by the more staid and important of the local merchants. During the busy season, the labor at the Exchange, and in the establishments of all the prominent merchants and factors, is almost incessant.
In the months between January and May, when the season is at its height, clerks and patrons work literally night and day; so that when the most exhausting period of the year arrives, finding themselves thoroughly overworked, they leave the sweltering lowlands, and fly to the North for rest and cool refuge. New Orleans is accused of a lack of energy, but her cotton merchants are more energetic than the mass of Northern traders and speculators, working, as they do, with feverish impulse early and late. One well-known cotton factor, whose transactions amount to nearly $12,000,000 yearly, gets to his desk, during the season, long before daylight,–and that, in the climate of the Gulf States, comes wonderfully early.
The railroad development of the South since the war has metamorphosed the whole cotton trade of New Orleans. Cotton which once arrived in market in May now reaches the factor during the preceding December or January. The Jackson and Mobile roads did much to effect this great change, and when rail communication with Texas is secured, it will bring with it another marked difference in the same direction.
The sugar interest once left the most money in New Orleans; now cotton is the main stay. It is estimated that each bale which passes through the market leaves about seven dollars and fifty cents. Most of the business with England is done by cable, and the telegraph bills of many prominent firms are enormous. The Board of Arbitration and Board of Appeals of the Exchange make all decisions, and have power to expel any unruly member.
The Louisiana capitalists have given some attention to the manufacture of cotton, and the factories which have already been established are clearing from eighteen to twenty-five per cent. per annum. There are two of these factories in New Orleans, each of which consumes about one thousand bales yearly; a third is located at Beauregard, and a fourth in the penitentiary at Baton Rouge. The consumption by all the Southern cotton mills, during the three years closing with 1872 amounted to two hundred and ninety-one thousand bales, and is increasing at a rapid rate. Each new railway connection enlarges the city’s claims as a cotton mart. The Jackson Railroad, during the commercial year 1871-’72, brought into it forty thousand bales, thus adding about four million dollars to the trade.
When the levées are crowded with the busy negroes, unloading cotton from the steamboats, the apparent confusion is enough to turn a stranger’s head; yet the order is perfect. Each of the steamers has its special stall, into which it swings with grace and precision, to the music of a tolling bell and an occasional hoarse scream from the whistle; and the instant the cables are made fast and the gangways swung down, the “roustabouts” are on board, and busily wheeling the variously branded bales to the spaces allotted them on the wharves.
The negroes who man the boats running up and down the Mississippi are not at all concerned in the discharging of cargoes, being relieved from that duty by the regular wharfmen. There is a rush upon the pile of bales fifty-feet high on the capacious lower deck of a Greenville and Vicksburg, a Red River, or a Ouachita packet, and the monument to the industry of a dozen planters
vanishes as if by magic. Myriads of little flags, each ornamented with different devices, flutter from various points along the wharves; and as the blacks wheel the cotton past the “tally-man” standing near the steamer’s gangways, he notes the mark on each bale, and in a loud voice calls out to him who is wheeling it the name of the sign on the flag under which it is to rest until sold and removed. While the bales remain on the levées, the cotton thieves now and then steal a pound or two of the precious staple.
“The cotton thieves.”
This army of “roustabouts” is an ebony-breasted, tough-fisted, bullet-headed, toiling, awkward mass; but it does wonders at work. It is generally good-humored, even when it grumbles; is prodigal of rude, cheerful talk and raillery; has no secrets or jealousies; is helpful, sympathetic, and familiar. It leaps to its work with a kind of concentrated effort, and, as soon as the task is done, relapses into its favorite condition of slouch.
Neither the sharp voices of the skippers, nor the harsh orders of the masters of the
“There is the old apple and cake woman.” [Page 56.]
gangs, nor the cheery and mirth-provoking responses of the help, mingled with the sibilations of escaping steam, the ringing of countless bells, and the moving and rumbling of drays, carts and steam-cars can drown or smother the jocund notes of the negro’s song. His arms and limbs and head keep time to the harmony, as he trundles the heavy bale along the planks.
When he pauses from his work, you may see his
dusky wife or daughter, in a long, closely-fitting, trim calico gown, and a starched gingham sun-bonnet, giving him his dinner from a large tin pail; or you may find him patronizing one of the grimy old dames, each of whom looks wicked enough to be a Voudou Queen, who are always seated at quiet corners with a basket of coarse but well-prepared food. Small merchants thrive along the levée. There is the old apple and cake woman, black and fifty, blundering about the wharf’s edge; there is the antiquated and moss-grown old man who cowers all day beside a little cart filled with cans of ice-cream; there is the Sicilian fruit-seller, almost as dark visaged as a negro; there is the coffee and sausage man, toward whom, many a time daily, black and toil-worn hands are eagerly outstretched; and bordering on Canal street, all along the walks leading from the wharf, are little booths filled with negroes in the supreme stages of shabbiness, who feast on chicken and mysterious compounds of vegetables, and drink alarming draughts of “whiskey at five cents a glass.” The sailor on the Mississippi is much like his white brother of more stormy seas, who drinks up his wages, gets penitent, confesses his poverty, and begs again for work.
“The Sicilian fruit-seller.”
At high water, the juvenile population of New Orleans perches on the beams of the wharves, and enjoys a little quiet fishing. For two or three miles down the river, from the foot of Canal street, the levées are encumbered with goods of every conceivable description. Then the landings cease, and, almost level with the bank on which you walk, flows the grand, impetuous stream which has sometimes swept all before it on the lowlands where the fair Louisiana capital lies, and transformed the whole section between Lake Pontchartrain and the present channel into an eddying sea.
Up the river, commerce of the heavy and substantial order has monopolized the space, and you may note in a morning the arrival of a hundred thousand bushels of grain, on a single one of the capacious tow-boats of the Mississippi Valley Transportation Company. Merchants even boast that the port can supply, to outgoing ships, that quantity daily from the West; and that the lack of transportation facilities often causes an accumulation of three hundred thousand bushels in the New Orleans storehouses. Up and down the levées run the branch lines of the Jackson, the Louisiana and Texas, and the New Orleans, Mobile and
Texas railways, and teams drive recklessly on the same tracks on which incoming trains are drawn by rapidly moving locomotives. The freight depots, the reception sheds and the warehouses are crammed with jostling, sweating, shouting, black and white humanity; and, in the huge granite Custom-House, even politics has to give way,
“At high water, the juvenile population perches on the beams of the wharves, and enjoys a little quiet fishing.” [Page 56.]
from time to time, before the torrents of business. At night a great silence falls on the levée. Only the footsteps of the watchmen, or of the polite, but consequential negro policeman, are heard on the well-worn planks. Now and then an eye of fire, the lamp of an incoming steamer, peers out of the obscurity shrouding the river, or glides athwart the moonlight, and three hoarse screams announce an arrival. Along the shore, a hundred lights twinkle in the water, and turn the commonest surroundings into enchantment. There is little sign of life from any of the steamers at the docks, though here and there a drunken river-hand blunders along the wharves singing some dialect catch; but with early sun-peep comes once more the roar, the rush, the rattle!
“The polite, but consequential negro policeman.”
The coastwise trade is one of the important elements of the commerce of New Orleans. Of the total tonnage entered and cleared from that port during the fiscal year 1871-’72, fifty-four per cent., or 1,226,000 tons, belonged to this trade, representing something like $125,000,000; while the foreign trade was only $109,000,000 for the same period. During the commercial year ending September 30, 1872, two thousand five hundred and nine steamboats, comprising a tonnage of 3,500,000 tons burthen, arrived at the port. The value of the principal articles brought in by these boats was $160,000,000, the up-river cargoes amounting to about $90,000,000. It is, therefore, fair to estimate the net value of this commerce at nearly $400,000,000 per annum.
Now let us take the actual figures of the commerce of the Gulf for one year: that from September, 1871, to September, 1872.
|Exports from New Orleans||90,800,000|
|Imports to New Orleans||18,700,000|
This, exclusive of the Darien and Central American trade, now so rapidly increasing, makes a grand total of more than five hundred millions of dollars.*
* The collection district, of which New Orleans is the chief port, embraces all the shores, inlets, and waters within the State of Louisiana east of the Atchafalaya, not including the waters of the Teche, of the Ohio river, or the several rivers and creeks emptying into it, or of the Mississippi or any of its tributaries except those within the State of Mississippi. The district extends on the coast from the western boundary of Mississippi, on Lake Borgne, to the Atchafalaya; and the ports of delivery, to which merchandise can be shipped under transportation bond, are as follows: Bayou St. John and Lake Port, in Louisiana; Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga and Knoxville, in Tennessee; Hickman and Louisville, in Kentucky; Tuscumbia, in Alabama; Cincinnati, in Ohio; Madison, New Albany and Evansville, in Indiana; Cairo, Alton, Quincy, Peoria and Galena, in Illinois; Dubuque, Burlington and Keokuk, in Iowa; Hannibal and St. Louis, in Missouri, and Leavenworth, in Kansas. The shipment of merchandise, under transportation bond, has increased steadily from $1,736,981 in 1866 to $5,502,427 in 1872; the value of merchandise imported, from $10,878,365 to $20,006,363; and domestic exports, from $89,002,141 to $95,970,592, in the same period. The total value of the merchandise imported during those years is $102,305,014; the total of domestic exports amounted to $608,871,013, and the whole amount of revenue collected, to $35,140,906.
The receipts from customs at New Orleans for 1872 were very much diminished by the large shipments of goods in bond to the interior cities of Memphis, Nashville, Louisville, Cincinnati, Cairo, St. Louis, Chicago, etc., the duties on which were collected at those ports respectively. From 1866 to 1872 inclusive, the movement of the port included 2,852 foreign vessels, with a tonnage of 1,547,747 tons, and 1,773 American ships, with a tonnage of 1,100,492. The revenue receipts at New Orleans have been largely diminished by the removal of the duties on coffee–the importations of that article during the seven years following 1866 amounting to 155,953,213 pounds, valued at $16,511,602. The magnitude of the trade of the port may also be well illustrated by showing the importations of sugar and railroad iron for the same time. Of the former article there were imported 263,918,978 pounds, worth $14,531,960, and of the latter 480,043 tons, valued at $15,299,642.
It will be seen that the imports are small in quantity as compared with the exports when the cotton is counted in–the imports amounting to only about one-seventh of the exports; but this ratio will be much reduced in time, as New Orleans becomes a more economical port. Five steamship lines now make the city their point of departure. Three of these, the Liverpool Southern, the Mississippi and Dominion, and the State Line Steamship Company, communicate directly with Liverpool, while other lines are projected.
ON THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER–THE LEVÉE SYSTEM–RAILROADS. THE FORT ST. PHILIP CANAL.
THE banks of the Mississippi, within the State of Louisiana, are lovely, the richness of the foliage and the luxuriance of the vegetation redeeming them from the charge of monotony which might otherwise be urged. Here and there a town, as in the case of Plaquemine, has been compelled to recede before the encroachments of the river.
The people of the State have shown rare pertinacity in maintaining the levée system. Like the Dutch in Holland, they doggedly assert their right to the lowlands in which they live, always braving inundation. They have built, and endeavor to maintain in repair, more than 1,500 miles, or 51,000,000 cubic feet of levées within the State limits. Their State engineer corps is always at work along the banks of the Mississippi, above and below Red River, on the Red River itself, on the Lafourche, the Atchafalaya, the Black and Ouachita, and on numerous important bayous.
The work of levée building has been pressed forward even when the Commonwealth has been prostrated by a hundred evils. Detailed surveys are constantly necessary to insure the State against inundation. The cost value of the present system is estimated at about $17,000,000, and it is asserted that the future expenditure of a similar sum will be necessary to complete and perfect it.
Ten years before the war, when Louisiana was in her most prosperous condition, she possessed 1,200 miles of levées, and the police juries of the several parishes compelled a strict maintenance of them by “inspectors of sections.” Of course, during the war, millions of cubic feet of levées were destroyed by neglect, and for military purposes; and that the State, in her impoverished condition, should have been able to rebuild the old, and add new levées in so short a time, speaks volumes for her energy and industry,–qualities which find a thorough representative in General Jeff Thompson, the present State Engineer.
The Louisiana people claim that the general government should now take the building of levées along the Mississippi into its own hands, and their reasoning to prove it is ingenious. They say, for instance, that the tonnage of the great river amounts during a given year to 1,694,000 tons. They then claim that the transit of steamboats gives, by causing waves, an annual blow, equal to the whole tonnage of the commerce of the river, against each portion or point of the levées, or the banks on which the levées are erected; and that this blow is delivered at the average rate of about six miles an hour, a force equal to
15,000,000 tons;–a force expended by the commerce of the whole Mississippi basin upon each lineal foot in the 755 miles of Louisiana levées upon the river! On these grounds they object to paying all the expenses of levée building in their own State; and they are supported by able scientists.
“Sometimes the boat stops at a coaling station.”
The United States certainly is the only power in America which can ever control the Mississippi, and prevent occasional terrible overflows; and it is its bounden duty to do it.
By day and night, the journey down river in the State of Louisiana is alike beautiful, impressive, exhilarating. But when a moonless night settles down upon the stream, and you float away into an apparent ocean on the back of the white Leviathan whose throbbing sides, seem so tireless, the effect is solemnly grand.
Sometimes the boat stops at a coaling station, and tons of coal are laboriously transferred from barges to the steamer. An army of negroes shovel the glistening nuggets into rude hand-barrows, which another army, formed into a procession, carries to the furnaces.
I went down from Vicksburg on one of the larger and finer of the steamers; and the journey was a perpetual succession of novel episodes. At one point, when I supposed we were comfortably holding our way in the channel, a torch-light flared up, and showed us nearing a scraggy bank. The thin, long prow of the boat ran upon the land. Gangways were lowered; planks were run out from the boat’s side to the bank; forty negroes sprang from some mysterious recess below, and huddled before the capstan.
The shower of harmless sparks from the torches cast momentary red gleams over the rude but kindly black faces. A sharp-voiced white man, whom I learned afterwards to call the “Wasp,” because he always flew nervously about stinging the sprawling negroes into activity, thrust himself among the laborers. Twenty stings from his voice, and the dusky forms plunged into the darkness beyond the gangways. Then other torches were placed upon the bank–lighting up long wood-piles.
The Wasp flitted restlessly from shore to deck, from deck to shore, while the negroes attacked the piles, and, each taking half a dozen sticks, hurried to the deck with them. Presently there was an endless procession of black forms from the landing to the boat and back through the flickering light, to the tune of loud adjurations from the Wasp. Now and then the chain of laborers broke into a rude chant, beginning with a prolonged shout, such as
“Oh! I los’ my money dar!”
and followed by a gurgling laugh, as if the singers were amused at the sound of their own voices. When any of the darkies stumbled or lagged, the Wasp,
generally kind and well-disposed towards the negroes, despite his rough ways, broke into appeal, threat, and entreaty, crying out raspingly and with, oaths, “You, Reuben!” “You, Black Hawk!” “Come on thar, you Washington! ain’t you going to hear me!” Now and then he would run among the negroes, urging them into such activity that a whole pile would vanish as if swallowed by an earthquake. In two hours and a-half sixty cords of wood were transferred from the bank to the boat, and the Wasp, calling the palpitating wood-carriers around him, thus addressed them: “Now, you boys, listen. You, Black Hawk, do you hear? you and these three, first watch! You, Reuben, and these three, second watch!” etc. Then the torches were dipped in the river, and the great white boat once more wheeled around into the channel.
On the shores we could dimly discern huge trees half fallen into the stream, and stumps and roots and vines peeping up from the dark waters. We could hear the tug-boats groaning and sighing as they dragged along heavily laden barges; and once the light of a conflagration miles away cast a strange, dim light over the current. Now and then the boat, whirling around, made for the bank, and the light of our torches disclosed a ragged negro holding a mail-bag.
Up the swinging gangway clambered one of our deck hands; the mails were exchanged; the lights went out once more.
So on, and ever on, a cool breeze blowing from the perfumed banks. Now we could see the lights from some little settlement near a bayou emptying into
“Some tract of hopelessly irreclaimable, grotesque water wilderness.”
the stream; now, the eye of some steamer, and hear the songs of the deck-hands as she passed us. Now we moved cautiously, taking soundings, as we entered some inlet or detour of the river; and now paused near some great swamp land–some tract of hopelessly irreclaimable, grotesque water wilderness, where abound all kinds of noisesome reptiles, birds and insects.
One should see such a swamp in October, when the Indian summer haze floats and shimmers lazily above the brownish-gray of the water; when a delicious magic in the atmosphere transforms the masses of trees and the tangled vines and creepers into semblances of ruined walls and tapestries. But at any season you see towering white cypresses, shooting their ghostly trunks far above the surrounding trees; or, half rotten at their bases, fallen into the water; the palmettoes growing in little clumps along the borders of treacherous knolls, where the earth seemed firm, but where you could not hope with safety to rest your feet; the long festoons of dead Spanish moss hanging from the high boughs of the red cypress, which refuses to nourish the pretty parasite; and the great cypress knees, now white, now brown, looming up through the warm haze, and peeping from nooks where the water is transparent, seeming like veins in a quarry riven by lightning strokes.
Vista after vista of cypress-bordered avenues, with long lapses of water filling them, and little islands of mud and slime, thinly coated with a deceptive foliage, stretch before your vision; a yellowish ray, flashing across the surface of the water, shows you where an alligator had shot forward to salute his friend or
attack his enemy; and a strange mass hanging from some remotest bough, if narrowly inspected, proves an eagle’s nest, fashioned with a proper care for defense.
You see the white crane standing at some tree root, sullenly contemplating the yielding mass of decaying logs and falling vines; and the owl now and then cries from a high perch. The quaint grossbeak, the ugly heron, the dirty-black buzzard, the hideous water-goose, with his featherless body and satiric head, start up from their nooks as you enter; the water moccasin slides warily into the slime; and if you see a sudden movement in the centre of a leaden-colored mass, with a flash or two of white in it, you will do well to beware, for half a dozen alligators may show themselves at home there. You may come upon some monarch-tree, prostrate and decayed within from end to end. Entering it, and tapping carefully as you proceed to frighten away lurking snakes, you will find that you can walk through without stooping, even though you are of generous height.
As far as the eye can reach you will see hundreds of ruined trees, great stretches of water, forbidding avenues which seem to lead to the bottomless pit, vistas as endless as hasheesh visions; and the cries of strange birds, and the bellowings of the alligator, will be the only sounds from life. You will be glad to steal back to the pure sunlight and the open lowland, to the river and the odors of many flowers–to the ripple of the sad-colored current, and the cheery songs of the boatmen.
Some evening, just as sunset is upon the green land and the broad stream, you stand high up in the pilot-house, as you float into a channel between low-lying islands, clad even to the water’s edge with delicate shrubs whose forms are minutely reflected in the water. You may almost believe yourself removed out of the sphere of worldly care, and sailing to some haven of profoundest peace.
So restfully will the tender glory of the rose and amethyst of the sunset come to you; so softly will the perfume of the jessamines salute your senses; so gently will avenue after avenue of verdurous banks, laved by tranquil waters and extending beyond the reach of your vision, open before you; so quietly will the wave take from the horizon the benison of the sun’s dying fires; so artfully will the perfect purple–the final promise of a future dawn–peep up from the islets’ rims ere it disappears, that you will be charmed into the same serene content which nature around you manifests. From some distant village is borne on the breeze the music of an evening bell; from some plantation-grounds, or a grove of lofty trees, comes the burden of a negro hymn, or a jolly song of love and adventure.
Down below, the firemen labor at the seven great furnaces, and throw into them cords on cords of wood, tons on tons of coal; the negroes on the watch scrub the decks, or trundle cotton bales from one side of the boat to the other, or they lie listlessly by the low rails of the prow, blinking and shuffling and laughing with their own rude grace. Above, the magic perfume from the thickets filled with blossoms is always drifting, and the long lines of green islets bathed by the giant stream, pass by in rapid panorama.
You come to a plantation landing where some restive steers are to be taken aboard, and notice the surprising manner in which those playful creatures toss about the negroes who wish to lead them on, until one or two agile fellows, catching the beasts by the tails, and as many more holding their horns, manage to make them walk the narrowest planks.
Or you come to some landing where a smart-looking young negro man comes on board with a quadroon wife; and you notice a hurried look of surprise on some of the old men’s faces as the couple are shown a state-room, or as they promenade unconcernedly.
Or a group of chattering French planters, with ruddy complexions and coal black eyes and hair, arrive, and the village priest, a fat, stalwart old boy in a white choker and a shovel hat, accompanies them; or perhaps a lean, gray-haired man, with a strongly marked dialect and a certain contemptuous way of talking of modern things, tells you that he remembers the first steamboat but three that ever ran upon the Mississippi river, and hints that “times were better then than now. That was a right smart o’ years ago.
Within fifty or sixty miles of the river’s mouths, the banks become too low for cultivation; you leave the great sugar plantations behind, and the river broadens, until, on reaching the “Head of the Passes,” it separates into several streams, one of which in turn divides again a few miles from its separation from the main river. Beginning at the north and east, these passes, as they are called, are named respectively “Pass à l’Outre,” “North-east Pass,” the “South Pass,” and “South-west Pass.” Across the mouths of these passes bars of mud are formed, deposited by the river, which there meeting the salt and consequently heavier water of the gulf, runs over the top of it, and, being partially checked, the mud is strained through the salt water, and sinks at once to the bottom.
This separation of the fresh from the salt water is maintained in a remarkable degree. When the river is high, the river water runs far out to sea, and has been seen at fifteen miles from the passes, with as sharply defined a line between them as that between oil and water. This is also true with reference to the upper and lower strata. Sometimes, when a steamer is running through a dense pea-soup colored water on top, the paddle-wheels will displace it sufficiently to enable one to see clear gulf water rushing up to fill the displacement. The flood tide runs up underneath the river water for a long distance, and, at extra-ordinary high tides, is distinctly visible as far as New Orleans, one hundred and ten miles above.*
Need for Railroads
One of the most pressing needs of Louisiana is an increase of railway lines. The New Orleans, Mobile and Texas road has done much for the commerce of the State, and is, undoubtedly, one of the best constructed lines in the country. It drains extensive sections of Mississippi and Alabama toward New Orleans. The extension of this route to Houston in Texas, and the building of a branch from Vermilionville to Shreveport, will do much for the development of the commonwealth. The trade between New Orleans and Shreveport, which is really immense, was much restricted for many years by the difficulty of navigating the Red river, whose tortuous water-ways have latterly been considerably improved. The projected “Louisiana Central” railroad, located along the route of the Red river for about 200 miles, passing through Alexandria and Natchitoches, will make Shreveport within twelve hours of New Orleans. The journey formerly occupied three or four days. Morgan’s “Louisiana and Texas” railroad extends from New Orleans to Brashear City on Berwick’s Bay, where it communicates with a fleet of first-class iron steamers running to Texas ports. The branch of this road from Brashear City to Vermilionville, graded years ago, might now be completed to advantage.
The New Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern railroad gives a valuable connection with the North, via Jackson, in Mississippi. A recent enterprise is the New Orleans and North-eastern road, which is to cross Lake Pontchartrain on a trestle-work, supported on piles, and opening up a delightful location for suburban residences beyond the lake, is to push on into the iron and coal regions of Alabama. The Illinois Central Railroad Company has built a line from Jackson, Tennessee, to the south bank of the Ohio river, opposite Cairo, Illinois, bringing New Orleans as near to Chicago by rail as it is to New York, and creating an important adjunct to the system for transportation from the Northwest to the gulf and the ocean. Railroad routes along the banks of the Mississippi would give new life to such towns as Baton Rouge, the old capital of Louisiana, 129 miles from New Orleans, and Natchez in Mississippi. Baton Rouge now has no communication with New Orleans save by steamer. It is a lovely town, built on gently sloping banks crowned with picturesque houses, the ruined Gothic State Capitol, a substantial Penitentiary, and the Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb. It is one of the healthiest towns in the State, and with proper facilities for speedy communication with other towns, might be the seat
of a flourishing trade. Routes parallel with the river would be speedily built if New Orleans had better outlets and more tonnage. Knowing this, the enterprising inhabitants of that city are anxious for the Fort St. Philip canal, which shall render the tedious and risky navigation of the passes at the Mississippi’s mouth unnecessary.
The project of the Fort St. Philip canal is not entirely due to the sagacity of this generation. Forty years ago the Legislature of Louisiana, at the suggestion of a distinguished engineer, memorialized Congress on the subject of a canal to connect the Mississippi river with the Gulf, leaving the stream a few miles below Fort St. Philip and entering the Gulf about four miles south of the island “Le Breton.” Numerous commercial conventions have endorsed it since that time. It would give, by means of a system of locks, a channel which would never be subject to the evils now disfiguring the passes at the river’s mouth, and would communicate directly with deep water. The estimated cost of the work is about eight millions of dollars. It is a national commercial necessity, and should be undertaken by the Government at once. New Orleans would more than quadruple her transportation facilities by means of this canal, not only with regard to Liverpool, Bremen, Hamburg, Rotterdam, Antwerp, Southampton, Havre, and Glasgow, but to New York and Philadelphia. Havana, Lima, and Aspinwal
THE INDUSTRIES OF LOUISIANA–A SUGAR PLANTATION. THE TECHE COUNTRY.
THE main industries of Louisiana at the present time are the growth of cotton, the production of sugar, rice, and wheat,–agriculture in general,–and cattle raising. The culture of the soil certainly offers inducements of the most astonishing character, and the immigrant who purchases a small tract–five to ten acres–of land can, during the first year of possession, make it support himself and his numerous family, and can also raise cotton enough on it to return the purchase money.
Vergennes, in his memoir on La Louisiane, printed early in this century, says: “I will again repeat what I have already many times said–that Louisiana is, without doubt, by reason of the softness of her climate and the beauty of her situation, the finest country in the universe. Every European plant, and nearly all those of America, can be successfully cultivated there.” This was the verdict of one who had made a careful survey of the great province then known as Louisiana, and especially the tract now comprised in the lowlands. Rice, an important article of food, can be raised on grounds which are too low and moist for any other species of valuable vegetables, and in the Mississippi basin, rice, sugar and corn can be cultivated in close proximity. The fertility of the sugar lands is proverbial; and Louisiana is prodigal of fruit of all kinds. With but little attention orange and fig-trees prosper and bear splendid crops; apples and peaches are produced in abundance; and grape-bearing lands are to be found in all sections of the State. Sugar, cotton, rice and tobacco might all be readily cultivated on the same farm in many sections.
The cultivation of rice, introduced into Louisiana by Bienville, at the time of the founding of New Orleans, may be profitably pursued in all the “parishes,” i. e., counties, on the river and Gulf coasts, and on the high pine lands of the northern part of the State. The rice raised on the irrigated lands below New Orleans, and in the immediate proximity of the Gulf, is known as “lowland rice;” that raised elsewhere as “upland.”
The quality of the staple is constantly improving by cultivation. In 1860 the rice crop of Louisiana amounted to 6,500,000 pounds. There is no good reason why it should not now be 60,000,000. Barley and buckwheat flourish admirably in the State, and the attention given to the cultivation of wheat since the close of the war has accorded singularly gratifying results. The average yield in the hill portion of the State is fully equal to that of the Northern States, –about twelve bushels to the acre–and in the Red River Valley, where the
planters were compelled to devote much of their old cotton land to the production of wheat, for the sake of getting the wherewithal to live, the yield was twenty bushels to the acre.
The wheat yearly gains largely in weight, size and color. It is said that wherever the cavalry of the United States camped in Louisiana during the war, immense grain fields sprang up from the seed scattered where horses were fed. In the swamps of Assumption parish wheat and rye have been known to yield forty bushels to the acre. The wheat may be planted in September, October, or November, and reaped late in April or early in May. Indian corn does not yield well, rarely giving over fifteen bushels to the acre. Marsh, Hungarian herbs, and prairie grasses grow in abundance and make excellent hay. Pasturage is perennial, and in the Attakapas the grazing regions are superb. Cotton may be cultivated throughout the entire arable portion of the State.
The cultivation of the sugar-cane in Louisiana merits especial mention. One of the most remunerative of industries under the slave system, it has been for some time languishing because of the disorganization of labor, and because also of the division of large plantations into small farms. For a whole year before the sugar crop is ready for the market, a constant outlay is required, and the small planters succeed but poorly, while the larger ones have been ruined by the war, and have allowed their sugar-houses to decay, and their splendid machinery to rust in ditches.
In 1751, two ships transporting soldiers to Louisiana, stopped at Hispaniola, and the Jesuits on that island sent some sugar-canes and some negroes, used to their cultivation, to the brothers of their order in the new colony. The Jesuits at New Orleans undertook the culture of the crop, but did not succeed; and it was only in 1795 that the seeds became thoroughly naturalized in Louisiana.
Up to 1816 the cultivation of the cane was confined to the lower parishes, but it is now raised with reasonable success in many other portions of the State. From 1828 to 1833, the sugar production in the commonwealth was about 280,000 hogsheads. The following table will show the amount of the crops of each year from 1834 to 1873 inclusive:
The ribbon cane planted in Louisiana was brought from Java, in a ship which touched at Charleston. It was hardy, and was at once adopted in all sections of
the State. But it is thought that it has deteriorated very much, and an association recently sent a gentleman to the islands of the Pacific Ocean and to India to search for a fresh supply. He secured some ten thousand cuttings, which were so long in transit as to be nearly all destroyed, and parties in the sugar interest are now anxious that a government vessel should be sent out to obtain a new supply.
There were, at the time of my visit to Louisiana, 1,224 sugar-houses in operation in the State, 907 of which possessed steam power. The number of large plantations is everywhere decreasing, while small farms take their place.
The coöperative system, as practiced in Martinique and other colonies, has been adopted to some extent in the State. It separates the production of cane from the manufacture of sugar, the small planters taking their cane to the sugar-houses to be worked through on shares. This is much better than the old system, which made the raising of sugar by free labor so expensive as to be almost impossible. The coöperative system will, perhaps, prevail very largely ere long, many extensive planters giving it their sanction. In 1871, there was enough labor and capital expended on the crop to have brought it up to a quarter of a million hogsheads.
The accumulated losses of the last three years have made the trade so dubious that dozens of the largest planters in the State cannot secure a cent of advances. Plantations are deserted; owners are completely discouraged. The present sugar production of this most fertile of cane-growing lands is only two per cent. of the whole production of the world. The consumption of sugars in the United States for the calendar year 1871 was 663,000 tons, of which eighty-five per cent. was foreign. The whole number of acres now devoted to the cultivation of sugar in Louisiana is estimated at 148,840, producing to the acre about 49,000 pounds of cane, or 1,500 pounds of raw sugar. To every thousand pounds of sugar there is also a yield of 666 pounds of molasses.
All the land comprised in the section known as the “Delta proper of the Mississippi River,” embracing eighteen parishes and an area of 12,000 square miles, is peculiarly adapted to the cultivation of sugar-cane, as well as of cotton, corn, rice, tobacco, indigo, oranges, lemons and figs. More than half of the population of the State is settled upon this delta; and in 1860, one hundred and fifty thousand slaves were held in that section, and the total estimate of taxable property there, including the slaves, amounted to $271,017,667, more than half of the State’s entire valuation. It is not wonderful that stagnation has fallen upon this once prosperous region, since, reckoning the slaves at the average $1,000 apiece, by their liberation alone $150,000,000 of the above valuation at once vanished into thin air.*
*The census of 1870 gives Louisiana 732,731 population, of whom 364,210 were blacks. The population of New Orleans in 1870 was nearly 200,000.
For fifty or sixty miles below New Orleans, the narrow strip which protects the Mississippi channel on either side from the gulf is crowded with plantations. The soil there is all of recent alluvial formation, and is, consequently, extremely
prolific. This section may, without the least exaggeration, be called “of the best land in the world.” The rivers and bayous furnish fish and oysters of finest flavor; the earth brings forth fruit and vegetables in tropical abundance; all the conditions of life are easy; and, in addition, there is the profitable culture of sugar and rice.
The negroes themselves are making money rapidly in this section, and show much skill in managing their affairs. In many cases they were aided in purchasing their lands by their old masters, and generally go to them for advice as to speculation and conduct in crop raising. The same negro who will bitterly oppose his old master politically, will implicitly follow his advice in matters of labor and investment in which he is personally concerned.
At every turn, and on every available spot along the shore, as one drifts slowly down the lower Mississippi, one is charmed to note the picturesque grouping of sugar-houses and “quarters,” the mansions surrounded by splendid groves, and the rich fields stretching miles away towards a dark belt of timber.
Each plantation has its group of white buildings, gleaming in the sun; each its long vistas of avenues, bordered with orange-trees; for the orange and the sugar-cane are friendly neighbors. When the steamer swings around at the wharf of such a lordly plantation as that of the “Woodlands” of Bradish Johnson, or that of Effingham Lawrence, the negroes come trooping out, men and women dancing, somersaulting, and shouting; and, if perchance there is music on the steamer, no power can restrain the merry antics of the African.
The “Magnolia” plantation of Mr. Lawrence is a fair type of the larger and better class; it lies low down to the river’s level, and seems to court inundation. Stepping from the wharf, across a green lawn, the sugar-house first greets the eye, an immense solid building, crammed with costly machinery. Not far from it are the neat, white cottages occupied by the laborers; there is the kitchen where the field-hands come to their meals; there are the sheds where the carts are housed, and the cane is brought to be crushed; and, ranging in front of a cane-field containing many hundreds of acres, is a great orange orchard, the branches of whose odorous trees bear literally golden fruit; for, with but little care, they yield their owner an annual income of $25,000.
The massive oaks and graceful magnolias surrounding the planter’s mansion give grateful shade; roses and all the rarer blossoms perfume the air; the river current hums a gentle monotone, which, mingled with the music of the myriad insect life, and vaguely heard on the lawn and in the cool corridors of the house, seems lamenting past grandeur and prophesying of future greatness. For it was a grand and lordly life, that of the owner of a sugar plantation; filled with culture, pleasure, and the refinements of living;–but now!
Afield, in Mr. Lawrence’s plantation, and in some others, one may see the steam-plough at work, ripping up the rich soil. Great stationary engines pull it rapidly from end to end of the tracts; and the darkies, mounted on the swiftly-rolling machine, skillfully guide its sharp blades and force them into the furrows. Ere long, doubtless, steam-ploughs will be generally introduced on Louisiana sugar estates. Four of these stationary engines, built at Leeds, England, and
supplied with water brought from the river in mule carts, suffice to do the work upon the ample plantation of Mr. Lawrence.
As to the details of plantation work, the negroes, evidently, do not attend to them with quite the thoroughness exacted under the rigid discipline of slavery. Evidences of neglect, in considerable variety, offer themselves to the critical eye. Entering the sugar-house, the amiable planter will present you to a venerable, mahogany-looking individual in garments stained with saccharine juices, and with a little tone of pride in his voice will tell you that “this is Nelson, overseer of this place, who has been here, man and boy, forty years, and who knows more about the process of sugar-making than any one else on the plantation.”
“A cheery Chinaman.”
Nelson will, therefore, conduct you into the outer shed, and, while showing you the huge rollers under which the canes, when carted in from the fields in November or December, are crushed, will impress upon you the danger of early winter frosts which may baffle every hope of profit, will explain to you how difficult and how full of risks is the culture of the juicy reed, which must be nursed through twelve or thirteen weary months, and may leave but a meagre result. He will take you across the delightfully-shaded way into one of the fields, passing on the walk a cheery Chinaman wearing a smile which is seven times childlike and bland, and point you to the stalks of the cane left at the last harvest to lie all winter in the furrows and furnish young sprouts for the spring. These shapely and rich-colored stalks have joints every few inches along their whole length, from which spring out the new buds of promise. When the spring ploughing begins, these stalks are laid along the beds of the drills, and each shoot, as it makes its appearance, is carefully watched and cultured that it may produce a new cane, a great portion of the crop being thus reserved, each year, for seed.
The complaisant overseer will give you a profusion of details as to how the cane, if safe from the accidents of the seasons, is cut down at its perfection and brought to the sugar-house; how all hands, black and white, join, for many days, in “hauling” it from the fields, and then keep the mill going for a week night and day; how there is high wassail and good cheer in the intervals of the work, and every nerve is strained to the utmost for the completion of the task. He will show you the great crushers which bring the sweetness out of the fresh canes as they are carried forward upon an endless series of rollers, and will then point out the furnace into which the refuse is thrown to be burned, thus furnishing the motive power for crushing the stalks and for all the minor and subordinate mechanical details in the processes of the manufacture. The baggasse, as this refuse is called, usually furnishes steam enough for this purpose, and leaves nothing but a kind of coke in the ash-pit of the furnace; no coal being used except in the refining mill’s furnace.
Out from the crushed arteries of the cane wells a thick, impure liquid, which demands immediate attention to preserve it from spoiling; and then the clarifying process is begun and continued, by the aid of hundreds of ingenious mechanisms, whose names even you will not remember when Nelson takes you into the refinery.
You enter a set of huge chambers, the floors of which are sticky with sugar, and watch the juice passing through various processes. There are the great open trays, traversed by copper and iron steam-pipes; there are the filter-pans filled with bone dust, from which the liquid trickles down. Now it wanders through separators, and then through bone dust again, onward toward granulation in the vacuum pans, and then into coolers, where the sugar is kept in a half
“Here and there we pass a hunter’s camp.”
“We encounter wagons drawn by oxen.”
“The emigrant wagon is a familiar sight there.” [Page 136.]
“Men drunk and sober danced to rude music.” [Page 177.]
A street in Parsons, Kansas.
A Kansas Herdsman.
A Kansas Farm-yard.
“We found the ferries obstructed by masses of floating ice.” [Page 208.]
The new Bridge over the Mississippi at St. Louis.
In December the Mississippi, at St. Louis, is sometimes closed by ice, and before the great bridge was built, hundreds of teams crossed upon the natural bridge to and from the Illinois shore. The breaking up is sudden–dozens of boats and cargoes being swept away and annihilated. Then come the stories of romantic and hair-breadth escapes; the population along the banks becoming wild with excitement over the pending fate of some unfortunate family swept out into the ice-filled current. Steamboat owners even hardly dare look in a newspaper.
In 1872 there were over five hundred and fifty disasters on the Mississippi river and her tributaries–by few of which, however, was there any loss of life, although the annual destruction of property is enormous, occurring in almost every conceivable manner. But the record of these disasters is not without its grim humor. One can hardly repress a smile at the announcement, in the terse, expressive language of the river, that “Phil. Sheridan broke loose at St. Louis,” or that “Hyena broke her engine,” “Lake Erie ran through herself,” “Mud Hen blew up at Bellevue,” “Enterprise broke a wrist at Cairo,” “Andy Johnson blew out a joint near Alton,” “Wild Cat sunk a barge at Rising Sun,” “Humming Bird smashed a shaft,” “St. Francis broke her doctor,” “Daniel Boone was crowded on shore by ice,” or “John Kilgour, trying to land at Evansville, broke nine arms.” The river-men have not been satisfied to confer upon their beloved craft the names of heroes and saints. They rake up all fantastic cognomens which the romance of the centuries or the slang of the period can afford, bestowing
MAP OF MISSOUR
TRADE IN ST. LOUIS–THE PRESS–KANSAS CITY–ALONG THE MISSISSIPPI–THE CAPITAL.
FROM Carondelet we may return cityward by another route, climbing the hill which leads to Grand avenue, and wandering up a country road to a vineyard, and a “garden-close” among beautiful shrubbery. The hills around are covered with vineyards, or rich fields of corn and other cereals. Returning to Grand avenue, you may drive through the new “Tower Grove” park, with its
View in Shaw’s Garden–St. Louis.
pretty arbors, rustic houses, and clumps of trees; past Lafayette park, much like one of the great squares in the West End of London, and, rattling through street after street, lined with elegant houses, descend at last toward the banks of the river and the business section of the town.
Although the suburbs of St. Louis are not remarkable, there are many attractive parks and parklets near at hand. The superb botanical garden known as “Shaw’s,” adjoining the “Tower Grove” park, is the especial pride of Missouri. The Forest park, containing fourteen hundred acres, clothed in delicious foliage, dotted with elms, oak, ash and sycamores, festooned with grape-vines,
DOWN THE MISSISSIPPI FROM ST. LOUIS.
“O, starboard side!”
“Nudder one down dar!”
THE roustabouts were loading sacks of corn from one of the immense elevators at East St. Louis into the recesses of that mammoth steamboat, the “Great Republic,” and singing at their toil. Very lustily had they worked, these grimy and uncouth men and boys, clad in soiled and ragged garments, from early morning, and it was full midnight as we stood listening to their song. In their voices, and in the characteristic wail with which each refrain ended, there was a kind of grim passion, not unmixed with religious fervor. The singers’ tones seemed to sink into a lament, as if in despair at faulty expression.
The Steamer “Great Republic,” a Mississippi River Boat.
But the music kept them steadily at their work,–tugging at the coarse, heavy sacks, while the rain poured down in torrents. The “torch-baskets” sent forth their cheery light and crackle, and the heat-lightning, so terrible in Missouri, now and then disclosed to those of us still awake the slumbering city, with
its myriad lights, and its sloping hills packed with dark, smoke-discolored houses, beyond the river.
Toward morning, the great steamer turned swiftly round, the very spray from the boiling water seeming crowded with oaths, as the officers drove the negroes to their several tasks; and the “Great Republic” glided slowly, and with scarcely a perceptible motion, down the stream. The blinking lights of the ferries behind us faded into distance. We passed tug-boats fuming and growling like monsters, drawing after them mysterious trains of barges; and finally entered upon the solitude which one finds so impressive upon the Mississippi.
“Down the steep banks would come kaleidoscopic processions of negroes and flour barrels.” [Page 259.]
A journey of 1,200 miles by water was before us. We were sailing from the treacherous, transition weather of Missourian March to meet loveliest summer robed in green, and garlanded with fairest blooms. The thought was inspiring. Eight days of this restful sailing on the gently-throbbing current, and we should see the lowlands, the Cherokee rose, the jessamine, the orange-tree. Wakeful and pacing the deck, across which blew a chill breeze, with my Ulster close about me, I pondered upon my journey and the journey’s end.
The “Great Republic” is the largest steamer on the Mississippi river,–literally a floating palace. The luxuriantly furnished cabin is almost as long and quite as ample as the promenade hall in the Hombourg Kursaal, and has accommodations for 200 guests. Standing on the upper deck or in the pilot-house, one fancies the graceful structure to be at rest, even when going at full speed. This is the very luxury of travel. An army of servants come and go. As in an ocean voyage, breakfast, dinner and tea succeed each other so quickly that one regrets the rapid flight of the hours. In the evening there is the blaze of the chandeliers, the opened piano, a colored band grouped around it and playing tasteful music while the youths and maidens dance. If the weather is warm, there are trips about the moonlit wilderness of decks–and flirtations.
The two-score negro “roustabouts” on the boat were sources of infinite amusement to the passengers. At the small landings the “Great Republic” would lower her gang-planks, and down the steep banks would come kaleidoscopic processions of negroes and fluor barrels. The pilots, perched in their cosy cage, twisted the wheel, and told us strange stories. Romantic enough were their accounts of the adventures of steamers in war time,–how they ran the gauntlet here, and were seized there; and how, now and then, Confederate shells came crashing uncomfortably near the pilots themselves. The pilots on the Western rivers have an association, with head-quarters at St. Louis, and branches at Louisville, Pittsburg, and Cincinnati. Each of the seventy-four members, on his trip, makes a report of changes in the channel, or obstructions, which is forwarded from point to point to all the others. They are men of great energy, of quaint, dry humor, and fond of spinning yarns. The genial “Mark Twain” served his apprenticeship as pilot, and one of his old companions and tutors, now on the “Great Republic,” gave us reminiscences of the humorist. One sees, on a journey down the Mississippi, where Mark found many of his queerest and seemingly impossible types.
Our first night on the river was so extremely dark that the captain made fast to a shelving bank, and the “Great Republic” laid by till early dawn. Then
The Levée at Cairo, Illinois.
we sailed down past the fertile bottom lands of Missouri and Illinois, past Grand Tower, with its furnaces and crowded villages, past the great cypress swamps and the wooded lands, until we came to Cairo, in Illinois, at the junction of the Ohio and Mississippi. One broad lake spread a placid sheet above the flat
country at the Ohio’s mouth. The “Great Eastern” might have swung round in front of the Illinois Central tracks at Cairo. Stopping but to load more bags of corn and hogsheads of bacon, with hundreds of clamorous fowls, we turned, and once more entered the giant river, which was then beginning to show a determination to overflow all proper bounds, and invade the lands upon its banks.
An Inundated Town on the Mississippi’s Bank.
When the rains have swollen its tributary rivers to more than their ordinary volume, the Mississippi is grand, terrible, treacherous. Always subtle and serpent-like in its mode of stealing upon its prey, it swallows up acres at one fell swoop; on one side sweeping them away from their frail hold on the main land, while, on the other, it covers plantations with slime, and broken tree trunks and boughs, forcing the frightened inhabitants into the second story of their cabins, and driving the cattle and swine upon high knolls to starve, or perhaps finally to drown. It pierces the puny levées which have cost the States bordering upon it such immense sums, and goes bubbling and roaring through the crevasses, distracting the planters, and sending dismay to millions of people in a single night. It promises a fall on one day; on another it rises so suddenly that the adventurous woodmen along the border have scarcely time to flee. It makes a lake of the fertile country between the two great rivers; it carries off hundreds of woodpiles, which lonely and patient labor has heaped, in the hope that a passing steamer will buy them up, and thus reward a season’s work. Out of each small town on its western bank set too carelessly by the water’s edge, it makes a pigmy Venice, or floats it off altogether. As the huge steamer glided along on the mighty current, we could see families perched in the second stories of their houses, gazing grimly out upon the approaching ruin. At one point a man was sculling from house to barn-yard with food for his stock. The log barn was a dreary pile in the midst of the flood. The swine and cows stood shivering on a pine knoll, disconsolately burrowing and browsing. Hailed by some flustered pater-familias or plantation master bound to the nearest town for supplies, we took him to his destination. As we got below the Arkansas and White rivers, the gigantic volume of water had so far overrun its natural boundaries that we seemed at sea, instead of upon an inland river. The cottonwoods and cypresses stood up amid
the water wilderness like ghosts. Gazing into the long avenues of the sombre forests, we could see only the same level, all-enveloping flood. In the open country the cabins seemed ready to sail away, though their masters were usually smoking with much equanimity, and awaiting a “fall.”
While we are gossiping of the river, let us consider its peculiarities and the danger of its inundations more fully. Below the mouth of the Missouri, the great river takes a wholly different appearance and character from those of the lovely stream which stretches from Lake Pepin down; and some of the old pilots say that section of it below St. Louis should have been called the “Missouri” rather than the Mississippi. The Missouri, they claim, gives to the Father of Waters most of the characteristics which dominate it until it has been reinforced
The Pilot-House of the “Great Republic.” [Page 259.]
by the Ohio, the Arkansas, the White and the Red. The river is forever making land on one side, and tearing it away on the other, the bends in its course not permitting the current to wash both banks with equal force. The farmer on the alluvial bottoms sees with dismay his corn-field diminish year by year, acres slipping into the dark current; yet the ease with which corn, cotton and sugar are raised in their respective localities along its banks is such that they willingly run the risk. The pilots complain bitterly of the constant changes in the channel, which it requires the eyes of Argus almost to detect. They say that the current might be made to bear more upon the rocky shores, thus avoiding disastrous losses of land and many “crevasses,” as the gaps made in the levées by the
encroaching water are called. The stream is so crooked that a twenty miles sail by water is sometimes necessary where the distance across the promontory, round which the steamer must go, is not more than a mile. Sometimes the current, tired of the detour, itself brushes away the promontory, and the astonished pilots see a totally new course opened before them.
The occasional inundations of the alluvial lands are so little understood, and the general course of the Mississippi is comprehended by so few, that a little idea of its progress downward to the Delta country may prove interesting.
At the junction of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers properly begins what is known as the Lower Mississippi, although the name is not usually applied to the stream until it has crossed the grand “rocky chain” or bed extending across its channel between St. Louis and Cairo. All below this “chain,” in the Mississippi valley, is alluvium, through which the river meanders from one bluff to another –the bluffs being from forty to one hundred miles apart. Touching these bluffs at Commerce, Missouri, on the west bank, it courses across the valley, passing the vast prairies of Lower Illinois, known as “Egypt,” on the east, meets the Ohio at Cairo, then strikes the bluffs again at Columbus, on the eastern or Kentucky shore. It skirts these bluffs as far as Memphis, having on its west the broad earthquake lands of Missouri and Arkansas. It then once more crosses its valley to meet the waters of the White and Arkansas rivers, and skirts the bluffs at Helena in Arkansas, flanking and hemming in the St. Francis with her swamps and “sunk lands.” Reinforced by the White and Arkansas, it again crosses its valley to meet the Yazoo near Vicksburg, creating the immense Yazoo reservoir on the east bank, extending from the vicinity of Memphis to Vicksburg, and the valleys and swamps of the Macon and Tensas, on the west side. These latter have no terminus save the Gulf of Mexico, as the river does not approach the western bluffs after leaving Helena. From Vicksburg to Baton Rouge the river hugs the eastern bluffs, and from Baton Rouge to the mouth is the pure “delta country,” for a distance of more than 200 miles.
A Crevasse in the Mississippi River’s Banks.
All of this valley below the rocky chain crossing the river channel lies lower than the high water line of this powerful current, and the efforts of men to stay an inundation seem very puerile. The valley is divided into several natural districts, one embracing the lands from the chain to the vicinity of Helena, where the St. Francis debouches; another from Helena nearly to Vicksburg on the east bank, for the Yazoo valley; a third comprises the country from the Arkansas to the Red river, known as the Macon and Tensas valley; a fourth runs from the Red river to the Gulf, on the west side; and a fifth from Baton Rouge to the Gulf on the east side.
Some of these districts have been imperfectly levéed; others have never been protected at all, and the general opinion is that when high water does come the fact that there are a few levées increases the danger of a complete inundation, as the stream, finding itself restrained, breaks the barriers which attempt to control its current. Under the slave system, the planters on the lowlands were able to guard against ruin by water by elaborate preparation and vigilance, which they cannot summon now; and it is believed that nothing but the execution of a grand national work by the General Government will ever secure to the delta that immunity from ruin so desirable for people already savagely stripped by war and political knavery.
Yet the inundations do not come with alarming frequency. In 1867 the lowlands were overflowed and distress ensued; and in this year, 1874, the confusion, distress, and trepidation have been terrible to witness. Starvation has stood at thousands of doors, and only the hands of the Government and charity have saved hundreds from miserable deaths. Below Memphis, and in a wide belt of country round about, along the bottom lands in the State of Mississippi, and throughout the Louisiana lowlands, there has been immense damage. In an hour the planter is doomed to see a thousand acres, which have been carefully prepared for planting cotton, covered with water two or three feet deep. The country round about becomes a swamp–the roads are rivers, the lakes are seas.
As the Mississippi valley, south and north, will in future be one of the most populous sections of the American Union, and as the great network of rivers which penetrate to the Rocky Mountains, and the mighty cañons of the Mauvaises Terres are so well adapted for commercial highways; as a score of States and Territories border on the Mississippi alone, why should not the National Government at once undertake the control and care of the stream and its tributaries?
MEMPHIS, THE CHIEF CITY OF TENNESSEE–ITS TRADE AND CHARACTER.
PASSING Columbus and Hickman,–two thriving towns on the Kentucky shore,–and the ruins of the fortifications on “Island Number Ten,” an island rapidly sinking in Mississippi’s insidious embrace, past Fort Pillow, now rounding bends which took us miles out of our way, and now venturing through “cut-offs,” made by the sudden action of the resistless flood, we skirted along the vast desolate Arkansas shore, reached the third Chickasaw bluff on the Tennessee side, and saw before us the city of Memphis.
Memphis is the chief city of Western Tennessee, and, indeed, of the whole State. It has been well and widely known ever since the five thousand acre
View in the City Park at Memphis, Tennessee.
tract on the fourth Chickasaw bluff, on which the town now stands, came into the possession of Judge Overton, Major Winchester, and General Andrew Jackson, the original proprietors. From the river, Memphis presents quite an imposing appearance, stately piles of buildings running along the bluff, at whose foot stretches a levée, similar to those of all the other river towns. Opposite to it, on the west bank of the Mississippi, is the level line of the Arkansas bottom, whose lowlands are often submerged; and from a ferry station at Hopefield a railroad leads to Little Rock, the Arkansas capital. The streets of Memphis are broad, regular, and lined with handsome buildings; there is but one drawback to their perfection, and that is a wooden pavement, so badly put down, and so poorly cared for, that a ride over it in an omnibus is almost unendurable. In the centre of the town is an exquisite little park, filled with delicate foliage, where a bust of Andrew Jackson frowns upon the tame squirrels frisking around it, or climbing on the visitor’s shoulders
and exploring his pockets for chestnuts. Since the terrible visitation of yellow fever in 1873, the City Government has made most extraordinary efforts to secure perfect drainage and cleanliness in the streets; and Memphis certainly compares favorably in this respect with any of its riparian sisters, Northern or Southern. On the avenues leading from the river toward the open country there are many lovely residences surrounded by cool and inviting lawns; the churches and school buildings are handsome and numerous, and there is an air of activity and thrift which I was not prepared to find manifested after the severe experiences through which the city has passed. Several good newspapers–the Avalanche, the Appeal, the Ledger, and the Register, do much to enliven Memphis and the highly prosperous county of Shelby, in which it stands; and the carnival in winter, and the cotton trade until midsummer, make excitement the rule. Those who fancied Memphis “dead” after the yellow fever’s ghastly visitation are wrong; the number of business houses in the city has increased ten per cent. since that terrible event, the number of physicians, curious to note, decreasing in exactly the same proportion. The wholesale trade has been growing enormously, and the influx of population has been so very considerable, that Memphis claims to-day about 65,000 inhabitants. Great injustice has been done the city in former times by the false statement extensively published that, after Valparaiso and Prague, Memphis had the highest death-rate in the world. The cemetery on the Chickasaw bluff, besides receiving the dead of the city itself, serves as the burial place for the dead of all the migratory multitudes who toil up and down the currents of the half-dozen giant streams which bring trade and people to Memphis. It is quite probable, whatever appearances may indicate, that the death-rate of Memphis is no higher than that of any city in the central valley of the Mississippi. The city itself occupies a tract of three square miles. Opposite it is the centre of a district, one hundred miles square, east of the White and St. Francis rivers and west of the Mississippi, which has been for ages enriched by the alluvial deposits brought down by the mighty river. It is said that in this area there are 5,000,000 acres, each one of which is capable of producing annually a bale of cotton. This plain, says a local writer, “was the rich granary of the city of the mound-builders, once occupying, as suggested by the great mounds on the city’s southern confines, the heights on which Memphis stands.” North of the city lies the famous Big Creek section, the home of many opulent cotton-planters before the war, but now but little cultivated, and with many of its fine lands deserted.
Memphis is very near the centre of the cotton belt, and has an enormous supply trade with Arkansas, Mississippi, Western Tennessee, and Northern Alabama. The export trade of inland ports like Memphis, Macon, and Augusta has become so great that the railroads have accorded them very low rates. Much of the cotton once sent to New Orleans is now shipped directly across the country to Norfolk. The railroad system of Memphis is already very important–as follows: The Memphis and Charleston road extends to Stevenson in North Alabama, and connects with routes to Norfolk and the sea, as well as with those
running northward. It is at present under a lease to the Southern Railway Security Company, but it is expected that the control of the line will in time return to the stockholders. Next in importance is the Louisville and Nashville and Great Southern railroad, sometimes called the Memphis and Ohio. This line extends to Paris, Tennessee, connecting thence to Louisville, Kentucky, and with the Memphis and Clarkville and Louisville and Nashville roads. The Mississippi and Tennessee road extends from Memphis to Grenada, a smart town in the former State, and runs through an excellent cotton-raising, although thinly settled country, for one hundred miles, connecting by the Mississippi Central with New Orleans. The road to Little Rock gives connection with the network in which Texas is tangled; and the Memphis and Paducah, only partially completed, will give almost an air-line to Chicago. The Memphis and Selma road is also begun. But the project considered of most importance by the citizens of Memphis is the contemplated road from Kansas City to Memphis, which would render the latter independent of and in direct competition with St. Louis.
The cotton trade of Memphis represents from $35,000,000 to $40,000,000, annually. Its growth has been extraordinary. In 1860-61 Memphis received nearly 400,000 bales. She then had also an extensive tobacco trade, which the war took from her, and which has never been returned. After the war, production was so crippled that there was but a gradual return to the old figures in the cotton trade, as shown by the appended table:
|1873-74 up to April||398,637|
The cotton received at Memphis comes mainly from Western Tennessee, Northern and Central Alabama, the same sections of Mississippi, and Arkansas, as far south as Chicot. The south-eastern portion of Missouri also furnishes some cotton to Memphis. The market is made up of buyers from New England and the Northern spinning element generally, and from Liverpool, Manchester, and the continental ports. Nearly one-third of the receipts, it is said, are now taken by foreign shippers. Of course most of those purchases go to Europe via Norfolk, New York, or Boston, but one German buyer this season shipped forty thousand bales via New Orleans and the Gulf. The character of the cotton is such as to make it specially sought after by all classes of spinners. As a cottonport Memphis is independent of New Orleans, and this independence has been recently achieved. Of the entire crop brought into Memphis in 1860-61 there were 184,366 bales sent to the Louisiana metropolis: whereas in 1872-73 scarcely 25,000 bales were sent there for market. The prices are so nearly up to those of New Orleans as not to leave a margin. The Louisville and Nashville road takes a great deal of cotton northward, and the various packet lines to St. Louis, to Cairo, to Cincinnati, Evansville, and Cannelton, carry many hundreds of bales.
There are so many lines that Memphis is never blockaded. As a single item of commerce, that of cotton is enormous, amounting, at an average estimate, to something like $28,000,000. It is calculated that the whole commerce of Memphis foots up $62,000,000 yearly. Thousands on thousands of barrels of flour, pork, bales of hay, sacks of oats, barrels of corn-meal, are brought in on the Mississippi river and thence dispersed. Besides handling one-eighth of the entire cotton crop of the United States, Memphis has thus far kept in food as well as in courage a very large portion of the half-discouraged planters of the South; her merchants having made great efforts to accommodate themselves to the new order of things. So changed are all the conditions under which planters labor, and so evident is it that the character of planting or farming must change a good deal, that the merchants themselves are beginning to doubt the real beneficence of the supply system.
Memphis now has a prosperous Cotton Exchange, and has had an excellent Chamber of Commerce for many years. Shelby county is rich. Its people were wont to grumble about taxes, but have at last become wiser, and it was even expected, at the date of my visit, that the Mayor, a Republican, would succeed in collecting $700,000 of “back taxes.” Party lines are not especially regarded in city politics, there being a general happy determination to take the best man. The negroes have great numbers of societies, masonic, benevolent, and strictly religious; and one often sees in a dusky procession, neatly clad, the “Sons” or “Daughters of Zion,” or the “Independent Pole Bearers,” or the “Sons of Ham,” or the “Social Benevolent Society.”
Memphis has a banking capital of $2,000,000, which for six months of the year is ample, but during the cotton season is by no means enough. Her schools are excellent, both for white and black, and there is a State Female College in the neighborhood. There are numerous excellent Catholic schools, to which, as elsewhere in the South, those Protestant parents who do not yet look with favor on the free system send their children. For about a year the number of pupils in the public schools has been increasing at the rate of two hundred monthly. One-fourth of the children in the free schools are colored, and one of the school-houses for the blacks contains seven hundred pupils.
In the busy season there are seven steamers a week from St. Louis to Memphis, and there are three which extend their trips to Vicksburg–a voyage of nine hundred miles. The Memphis and St. Louis Packet Company brings down about one hundred and fifty thousand tons of freight yearly, and carries up stream perhaps forty thousand bales of cotton in the same period. The gigantic elevator at Memphis, built on the sloping bluff so that next the water it is of the height of an ordinary three-story house, showed only its top floor, so high ran the Mississippi, at the time of my visit. From Memphis, steamboats run up the Arkansas and the White rivers, threading their way to the interior of Arkansas. There is a line to Napoleon, Arkansas, two hundred miles below; one to the plantations on the St. Francis river, and one direct to Cincinnati. The lack of confidence between merchants and planter sometimes causes a diminution
in amount of supplies forwarded; but the dull seasons are brief.*
*The writer desires to express his obligations to Mr. J. S. Toof, Secretary Memphis Cotton Exchange, and to Messrs. Brower and Thompson of the Avalanche, for many interesting facts concerning the city’s growth.
The manufactures of Memphis are not numerous; there are some oil-mills, a few foundries, and steam saw-mills for cutting up the superb cypresses from the brakes in the western district of Arkansas.
The yellow fever came to Memphis in 1855 and again in 1867, each time having been brought by steamer from below. In 1867 it was quite severe in its ravages, but was confined to the section of the city where it first appeared. In August of 1873 it came again, and nothing stayed its course. Two boats arrived during the month of August, the “George C. Wolf,” from Shreveport, and the tow-boat “Bee,” from New Orleans, each with a sick man on board. These men
The Carnival at Memphis, Tennessee–“The gorgeous pageants of the mysterious Memphi.” [Page 269.]
were put off at the upper levée, where there is a coal-fleet, and in front of what is known as “Happy Hollow,” not far from the remains of the Government navy-yard which Memphis once boasted. It is a low, marshy place, which the genius of Dickens would have delighted to picture, filled with shanties and flat-boats, with old hulks drifted up during high water and then adopted by wretched ‘long
shoremen as their habitations. One of the two men died before he could be taken to hospital; the other shortly after reaching it, and the physicians hinted that they thought the disease the yellow fever. For three weeks it was kept in “Happy Hollow,” then it moved northward through the navy-yard, and suddenly several deaths on Promenade street, one of the principal avenues, were announced.
The authorities then went at their work, but it was too late, except to cleanse and disinfect the city. The deaths grew daily more numerous; funerals blocked the way; the stampede began. Tens of thousands of people fled; other thousands, not daring to sleep in the plague-smitten town, left Memphis nightly, to return in the day. From September until November hardly ten thousand people slept in town over night. The streets were almost deserted save by the funeral trains. Heroism of the noblest kind was freely shown. Catholic and Protestant clergymen and physicians ran untold risks, and men and women freely laid down their lives in charitable service. Twenty-five hundred persons died in the period between August and November. The thriving city had become a charnel house. But one day there came a frost, and though suffering too severely to be wild in their rejoicings, the people knew that the plague itself was doomed. They assembled and adopted an effective sanitary code, appointed a fine board of health, and cleansed the town. Memphis to-day is in far less danger of a repetition of the dreadful scenes of last year than are Vicksburg or New Orleans or half-a-dozen other Southern cities. Half-a-million dollars contributed by other States were expended in the burial of the dead and the needed medical attendance during the reign of the plague.
This terrible visitation did not, however, prevent Memphis from holding her annual carnival, and repeating, in the streets so lately filled with funerals, the gorgeous pageants of the mysterious Memphi–such as the Egyptians gazed on two thousand years before Christ was born,–the pretty theatres being filled with glitter of costumes and the echoes of delicious music. The carnival is now so firmly rooted in the affections of the citizens of Memphis that nothing can unsettle it.
THE “SUPPLY” SYSTEM IN THE COTTON COUNTRY, AND ITS RESULTS–NEGRO LABOR–PRESENT PLANS OF WORKING COTTON PLANTATIONS–THE BLACK MAN IN THE MISSISSIPPI VALLEY.
AT Memphis I heard much concerning the miseries and revelations of both capitalists and laborers in the cotton country. It is easy to see that the old planters are in trouble under the new order of things. They are not willing to become farmers. “These people will never,” said to me a gentleman familiar with the whole cotton-planting interest, “grow their own supplies until they are compelled to.” They choose to depend upon the West for the coarse food supplied to negro laborers, and seem totally unconscious of the fact that they can never secure white immigration, so much desired, until they raise the status of the laboring man. White labor has proved a failure in a great many sections of the South, because the laborers who come to make trial are not properly met. They are offered strong inducements–can purchase good lands on almost unlimited credit, and are kindly received–but they find all the conditions of labor so repulsive that they become disheartened; and give up the experiment. The negro along the Mississippi works better than ever before since freedom came to him, because he is obliged to toil or starve, and because, being the main stay of the planters, they accord to him very favorable conditions. Self-interest is teaching the planters a good deal, and in the cotton-growing regions of Northern Alabama and Mississippi, as well as generally throughout the older cotton States, a diversity of crops will in time force itself upon them as a measure of protection.
It is noticed that cotton culture is gradually moving from the Atlantic seaboard to newer and more productive lands. The States west of the Mississippi, and bordering on that stream, are receiving immense colonies of negroes fleeing from the temporarily exhausted sections of Alabama, and the lands which they have left will soon come under the influence of fertilizers, and corn and rice and wheat will be raised. In consequence of the gradual change in the location of the planting interest, buyers from the North in such markets as Memphis hear from time to time that less cotton is planted than heretofore, and are led to figure on higher prices; but they find that new lands are constantly opened up, and that the yield on them is surprising. It is the belief of many acute observers living at important points along the Mississippi river that the ultimate home of the black man is to be west of that stream, on the rich bottom lands where the white man has never been known to labor, and where it would be perilous to his health
to settle. In the fall and winter of each year the migration to Arkansas and Louisiana is alarming to the white planters left behind. In Western Tennessee the exodus has not been severely felt as yet, but it will doubtless come. The two hundred thousand negroes in that rich and flourishing region are reasonably content. They do not, in the various counties, enter so much into politics as they did immediately after the war. They show there, as, indeed, almost everywhere in the Mississippi valley, a tendency to get into communities by themselves, and seem to have no desire to force their way into the company of the white man.
There must, and will be, a radical change in the conduct of the rising generation of planters. The younger men are, I think, convinced that it is a mistake to depend on Western and Northern markets for the articles of daily consumption, and for nearly everything which goes to make life tolerable. But the elders, grounded by a lifetime of habit in the methods which served them well under a slave régime, but which are ruinous now-a-days, will never change their course. They will continue to bewail the unfortunate fate to which they think themselves condemned–or will rest in the assurance that they can do very well in the present chaotic condition of things, provided Providence does not allow their crops to fail. They cannot be brought to see that their only safety lies in making cotton their surplus crop; that they must absolutely dig their sustenance, as well as their riches, out of the ground.
Before the war, a planter who owned a plantation of two thousand acres, and two hundred negroes upon it, would, when he came to make his January settlement with his merchant in town, invest whatever there was to his credit in more land and more negroes. Now the more land he buys the worse he is off, because he finds it very hard to get it worked up to the old standard, and unless he does, he can ill afford to buy supplies from the outer world at the heavy prices charged for them–or if he can do that, he can accomplish little else. As most of his capital was taken from him by the series of events which liberated his slaves, he has been compelled, since the war, to undertake his planting operations on borrowed capital, or, in other words, has relied on a merchant or middle-man to furnish food and clothing for his laborers, and all the means necessary to get his crop, baled and weighed, to the market. The failure of his crop would, of course, cover him with liabilities; but such has been his fatal persistence in this false system that he has been able to struggle through, as in Alabama, three successive crop failures.
The merchant, somewhat reconciled to the anomalous condition of affairs by the large profits he can make on coarse goods brought long distances, has himself pushed endurance and courage to an extreme point, and when he dare give credit no longer, hosts of planters are often placed in the most painful and embarrassing positions. So they gather up the wrecks of their fortunes, pack their Lares and Penates in an emigrant wagon or car, and doggedly work their way to Texas.
The appalling failure of crops in certain sections has not, however, lessened the cotton production of the region supplied from Memphis. In the aggregate
it is greater than ever before, and I was informed that its increase would be even more than it is if so many planters did not “overcrop”–that is, plant more than they can cultivate. Those who plant a little land, and care for it thoroughly, usually make some money, even although they depend upon far-off markets for their sustenance, and are completely at the mercy of the merchants. It is believed that the crop failures will induce planters, in the sections which have suffered, to make an effort to grow their own supplies, and until that effort has been successful, there can be no real prosperity among them. Even when fortune smiles, and they make a good crop, but little is left after a settlement with the merchant. Life is somewhat barren and unattractive to the man who, after a laborious season spent in cultivating one staple, finds that, after all, he has only made a living out of it. He has done nothing to make his surroundings agreeable and comfortable; his buildings are unsightly and rickety, and there are very few stores in his cellar, if indeed he has any cellar at all.
The region which finds its market and gets its supplies in Memphis, Vicksburg, and Natchez, is probably as fair a sample of the cotton-producing portion of the South as any other, and I found in it all the ills and all the advantages complained of or claimed elsewhere. Imagine a farming country which depends absolutely for its food on the West and North-west; where every barrel of flour which the farmer buys, the bacon which he seems to prefer to the beef and mutton which he might raise on his own lands, the clothes on his back, the shoes on his feet, the very vegetables which the poorest laborer in the Northern agricultural regions grows in his door-yard–everything, in fact,–has been brought hundreds of miles by steamer or by rail, and has passed through the hands of the shipper, the carrier, the wharfmen, the reshipper (if the planter live in a remote section), and the local merchant!
Imagine a people possessed of superior facilities, who might live, as the vulgar saying has it, on the fat of the land, who are yet so dependent that a worm crawling over a few cotton leaves, or the rise of one or two streams, may reduce them to misery and indebtedness from which it will take years to recover! Men who consider themselves poorly paid and badly treated in Northern farming and manufacturing regions live better and have more than do the overseers of huge plantations in this cotton country. If you enter into conversation with people who fare thus poorly, they will tell you that, if they raise vegetables, the “niggers” will steal them; that if times were not so hard, and seasons were not so disastrous, the supply system would work very well; that they cannot organize their labor so as to secure a basis on which to calculate safely; and will finally end by declaring that the South is ruined forever.
These are the opinions of the elders mainly. Younger men, who see the necessity of change and new organization, believe that they must in future cultivate other crops besides cotton; that they must do away with supply-merchants, and try at least to raise what is needed for sustenance. There are, of course, sections where the planter finds it cheapest to obtain his corn and flour from St. Louis; but these are small items. There are a hundred things which he requires, and which are grown as well South as North. Until the South has got capital
enough together to localize manufactures, the same thing must be said of all manufactured articles; but why should a needless expenditure be encouraged by the very people whom it injures and endangers?
There are many plans of working large plantations now in vogue, and sometimes the various systems are all in operation on the same tract. The plan of “shares” prevails extensively, the planter taking out the expenses of the crop, and, when it is sold, dividing the net proceeds with the negroes who have produced it. In some cases in the vicinity of Natchez, land is leased to the freedmen on condition that they shall pay so many bales of cotton for the use of so many acres, furnishing their own supplies. Other planters lease the land in the same way, and agree to furnish the supplies also. Still others depend entirely upon the wages system, but of course have to furnish supplies at the outset, deducting the cost from the wages paid hands after the crop is raised. Sometimes the plantation is leased to “squads,” as they are called, and the “squad leader” negotiates the advances, giving “liens” on the squad’s share of the crop and on the mules and horses they may own. This plan has worked very well and is looked upon favorably.
Under the slave régime, the negroes working a large plantation were all quartered at night in a kind of central group of huts, known as the “quarters;” but it has been found an excellent idea to divide up the hundred or five hundred laborers among a number of these little villages, each located on the section of the plantation which they have leased. By this process, commonly known as “segregation of quarters,” many desirable results have been accomplished; the negro has been encouraged to devote some attention to his home, and been hindered from the vices engendered by excessive crowding. On some plantations one may find a dozen squads, each working on a different plan, the planters, or land owners, hoping in this way to find out which system will be most advantageous to themselves and most binding on the negro.
Clairmont, a plantation of three thousand acres, of which one thousand are now cultivated, on the Louisiana side of the Mississippi river, opposite to Natchez, is cut up into lots of one hundred acres each, and on each division are ten laborers who have leased the land in various ways. It was amusing, by the way, to note the calculation that one negro made when negotiating for one of these tracts. He was to be allowed one-half, but was vociferous for one-tenth. As ten is more than two, he supposed a tenth to be more than a half. On this Clairmont, in 1860, the owner raised 1,000 bales of cotton and 8,000 bushels of corn; now he raises about 500 bales, and hardly any corn.
Still, the conduct of the laborers is encouraging. The little villages springing up here and there on the broad acres have a tendency to localize the negroes, who have heretofore been very much inclined to rove about, and each man is allowed to have half an acre of ground for his garden. The supplies spoken of as furnished the negroes are of the rudest description–pork, meal and molasses–all brought hundreds, nay, thousands of miles, when every one of the laborers could, with a little care, grow enough to feed himself and his family.
But the negro throughout the cotton belt takes little thought for the morrow. He works lazily, although, in some places, pretty steadily. In others he takes a day here and there out of the week in such a manner as to render him almost useless. The planter always feels that the negro is irresponsible and must be taken care of. If he settles on a small tract of land of his own, as so many thousand do now-a-days, he becomes almost a cumberer of the ground, caring for nothing save to get a living, and raising only a bale of cotton or so wherewith to get “supplies.” For the rest he can fish and hunt. He does n’t care to become a scientific farmer. Thrift has no charms for him. He has never been educated to care for himself; how should he suddenly leap forth, a new man, into the changed order of things?
Nevertheless, some of the planters along the river near Natchez said, “Give the negro his due. The merchant will ordinarily stand a better chance of collecting all his advance from fifty small black planters than from fifty whites of the same class, when the crop is successful.” But if the negro’s crop fails, he feels very loth to pay up, although he may have the means. He seems to think the debt has become outlawed. In success he is generally certain to pay his “store account,” which is varied, and comprehends a history of his progress during the year.
The shrewd Hebrew, who has entered into the commerce of the South in such a manner as almost to preclude Gentile competition, understands the freedman very well, and manages him in trade. The negro likes to be treated with consideration when he visits the “store,” and he finds something refreshing and friendly in the profuse European manner and enthusiastic lingo of Messrs. Moses and Abraham. The Hebrew merchants have large establishments in all the planting districts. In Mississippi and in some other sections they have made more than 100 per cent. retail profit, and excuse themselves for it by saying that as they do not always get their money, they must make up for bad debts. They are obliged to watch both white and black planters who procure advances from them, to make sure that they produce a crop. If the merchant sees that there is likely to be but half a crop, he sometimes notifies the planters that they must thereafter draw only half the amount agreed upon at the outset. In short, in some sections the Hebrew is the taskmaster, arbiter and guardian of the planters’ destinies.
Some of the elder planters are liberal in their ideas, and would welcome a complete change in the labor system, but they do not believe one possible. One of the best known and influential in the valley told me that he and his neighbors in the magnificent Yazoo country, where the superb fertility of the soil gives encouragement even to the rudest labors, had tried every expedient to bring new labor into their section, but could not succeed. His laborers were now practically his tenants; but he had to supply them and to watch over them, very much as he did before the war. He was willing to admit that the negro was better adapted to the work than any white man who might come there; but thought the younger generation of negroes was growing up idle and shiftless, fond of whiskey and carousing, and that the race was diminishing in fibre and strength. Those who
had been slaves were industrious, and conducted themselves as well as they knew how; but the others, both men and women, seemed to think that liberty meant license, and acted accordingly. They were wasteful, and there was but little chance of making them a frugal and foresighted farming people. Whenever they could secure a little money the ground in front of their cabins would be strewn with sardine boxes and whiskey bottles.
The planters in the lowlands of Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana have been particularly troubled to get and keep serviceable plantation labor; and are now importing large numbers from Alabama. In truth, the hundreds who flock in from the older cotton States were starving at home. On a plantation in Concordia parish, in Louisiana, opposite Natchez, there are many of these Alabama negroes. One planter went into the interior of that State, and engaged a hundred and twenty-five to follow him. They did not succeed in leaving without meeting with remonstrances from the colored politicians, but were glad to flee from an empty cupboard.
Densely ignorant as these negroes are, they are yet capable of fine development. They have sound sense, and some idea of manners, seem well-inclined toward their employers, and appear to appreciate their own defects. On many of these plantations on the lowlands the negroes do not vote; on some they are even hired with the distinct understanding that they shall not, unless they wish to be discharged. But sooner or later the politicians reach them, and they become political victims.
I took a ride one morning in this same Concordia parish for the purpose of conversing with the planters, and getting testimony as to the actual condition of the laborers. Concordia was once the garden spot of Louisiana; its aspect was European; the fine roads were bordered with delicious hedges of Cherokee rose; grand trees, moss-hung and fantastic in foliage, grew along the green banks of a lovely lake; every few miles a picturesque grouping of coarsely thatched roofs marked negro “quarters,” and near by gleamed the roof of some planter’s mansion. In this parish there was no law and but little order–save such as the inhabitants chose to maintain. The negroes whom I met on the road were nearly all armed, most of them carrying a rifle over their shoulders, or balanced on the backs of the mules they were riding. Affrays among the negroes are very common throughout that region; but, unless the provocation has been very great, they rarely kill a white man.
In a trip of perhaps ten miles I passed through several once prosperous plantations, and made special inquiries as to their present condition. Upon one where six hundred bales of cotton were annually produced under slave culture, the average annual yield is now but two hundred and fifty; on another the yearly average had fallen from one thousand to three hundred bales; and on two others which together gave the market fifteen hundred bales every year, now barely six hundred are raised. The planters in this section thought that cotton production had fallen off fully two-thirds. The number of negroes at work on each of these plantations was generally much less than before the war. Then a bale to the acre was realized, now about one bale to three acres is the average.
Much of this land is “leased” to the negro at the rate of a bale of cotton weighing four hundred and thirty pounds for each six acres.
The planters there raise a little corn, but are mainly supplied from the West. The inundation was upon them at the epoch of my visit, and they were in momentary expectation of seeing all their year’s hopes destroyed. The infamous robberies, also, to which they had been subjected by the Legislature, and the overwhelming taxation, had left them bitterly discouraged. One plantation which I visited, having sixteen hundred acres of cleared land in it, and standing in one of the most fertile sections of the State, was originally valued at one hundred dollars per acre; now it could not be sold for ten dollars. In Madison parish recently a plantation of six hundred improved acres, which originally cost thirty thousand dollars, was offered to a neighboring planter for seven hundred dollars.
The “wages” accorded the negro, when he works on the wages system, amount to fifteen or sixteen dollars monthly. But few ever save any money; and this remark will, I think, apply to the majority of the negroes engaged in agriculture throughout the cotton region of the Mississippi valley. Still there are praiseworthy exceptions to this general rule. Enormous prices are placed upon everything, because of the cost of transportation. The grangers have accomplished some good in the cotton States by buying for cash and selling for cash, the object being to keep supplies as near the wholesale price as possible, and have already become a formidable organization there, having scores of societies, small and large, in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and Mississippi.
While there is no doubt that an active, moneyed, and earnest immigration would do much toward building up the southern portion of the Mississippi valley, it is evident that so long as the negro remains in his present ignorance, and both he and the planter rely on other States for their sustenance, and on Providence never to send them rainy days, inundations, or caterpillars, the development of the section will be subject to too serious drawbacks to allow of any considerable progress. All the expedients, the tenant systems, and years of accidental success will not take the place of thorough and diversified culture, and intelligent, contented labor resulting from fair wages for fair work. Nothing but the education of the negro up to the point of ambition, foresight, and a desire to acquire a competence lawfully and laboriously, will ever thoroughly develop the Lower Mississippi valley. As the negro is certainly to inhabit it for many years at least, if not forever, how shall he learn the much-needed lesson?
On the other hand, the whites need to be converted to a sense of the dignity of labor, to learn to treat the laboring man with proper consideration, to create in him an intelligent ambition by giving him education. Something besides an introduction to political liberties and responsibilities is needed to make the negro a moral and worthy citizen. He is struggling slowly and not very surely out of a lax and barbarously immoral condition. The weight of nearly two centuries of slavery is upon his back. He needs more help and counsel. An old master will tell you that he can discover who of his employés has been a slave, “for the slave,” he says, “cannot look you in the eye without flinching.”
Neither can the ex-slave be very moral, if indeed moral at all. It is hard for him to bear the yoke of the family relation. Although conscious that he is a freeman, and can leave his employer in the lurch if he chooses, he is, here and there, almost content to slip back into the old devil-may-care dependence of slavery. The responsibilities of freedom are almost too much for him. He has entered upon a battle-field armed with poor and cumbersome weapons, weighed down with ignorance and “previous condition;” and I venture to say that no one feels the difficulty and bitterness of his position more keenly than he does himself.
Unable as he is to aid in his own upbuilding, it is to be considered whether there is not really more room now for educational enterprises, and for a general diffusion of intelligence among his race, by Northern and Western men and women, than there was immediately after the war. Might it not be wise to appoint commissioners to investigate thoroughly the labor question in the South, and to make a final effort to remedy its evils by every proper means? Events have shown that the National Government must undertake the improvement and the control of the Mississippi river; why ought it not to devote some little attention to the removal of the obstacles to immigration into the most fertile sections of the Mississippi valley?
VICKSBURG AND NATCHEZ, MISSISSIPPI–SOCIETY AND POLITICS. A LOUISIANA PARISH JURY.
THE journey along the Mississippi river from Napoleon, on the Arkansas shore, to Vicksburg, the largest town in the State of Mississippi, discloses naught save vast and gloomy stretches of forest and flat, of swamp and inlet, of broad current and green island, until Columbia, a pretty town on the Arkansas side, is passed. Below Columbia the banks of the river are lined with cotton plantations for more than 150 miles.
Vicksburg, the tried and troubled hill-city, her crumbling bluffs still filled with historic memorials of one of the most desperate sieges and defences of modern times, rises in quite imposing fashion from the Mississippi’s banks in a
loop in the river, made by a long delta, which at high water is nearly submerged. The bluffs run back some distance to an elevated plateau. In the upper streets are many handsome residences. The Court-House has climbed to the summit of a fine series of terraces; here and there a pretty church serves as a land-mark; and the remains of the old fort from which “Whistling Dick,” a famous Confederate
gun, was wont to sing defiance to the Federals, are still visible on a lofty eminence. From the grass-grown ramparts one can see “Grant’s Cut-off” in the distance; overlook the principal avenue–Washington street, well-lined with spacious shops and stores, and unhappily filled at all hours with lounging negroes; can see the broad current sweeping round the tongue of land on which the towns of De Soto and Delta stand, and the ferries plying to the landings of the railroad which cuts across North Louisiana to Shreveport; can see the almost perpendicular streets scaling the bluff from the water-side, and, down by the river, masses of elevators and warehouses, whence the white, stately packets come and go. There is evidence of growth; neat houses are scattered on hill and in valley in every direction; yet the visitor will find that money is scarce, credit is poor, and that every tradesman is badly discouraged.
The river is so intricate in its turnings that one is at first puzzled on seeing a steamboat passing, to know whether it is ascending or descending; at the end of the “loop,” near the mouth of the Yazoo river, and at the point where Sherman made his entrance from the “Valley of Death,” is the largest national cemetery
The National Cemetery at Vicksburg, Mississippi.
in the country, in whose grassy plats repose the mortal remains of sixteen thousand soldiers. The view from the slopes of the cemetery, reached by many a detour through dusty cuts in the hills, is too flat to be grandiose, but ample enough to be inspiring. The wooded point; the cross-current setting around it; the wide sweep away toward the bend, are all charming. The old Scotch gardener and sexton told me that twelve thousand of the graves were marked “unknown.” The original design contemplated the planting of the cemetery with tree-bordered avenues intended to resemble the aisles and nave of a cathedral. This was impracticable; but oaks have been planted throughout the ground, and the graves were covered with lovely blossoms. The section of Vicksburg between the cemetery and the town is not unlike the park of the Buttes Chaumont in Paris. Grapes grow wild in the adjacent valleys, and might readily be cultivated on the hill-sides. A simple marble shaft in the cemetery is destined to commemorate the spot where Grant held his famous interview with Pemberton.
Vicksburg has acquired a not altogether enviable notoriety as a town where shooting at sight is a popular method of vengence, and, shortly before my second visit there, three murders were committed by men who deemed it manly to take the law into their own hands. There is still rather too much of this
barbarism remaining in Mississippi, and it has not always the excuse of intoxication to palliate it. The Vicksburg methods seems not to be the duel, but cold-blooded murder. The laws of the duello are pretty thoroughly expunged in
The Gamblers’ Graves–Vicksburg, Mississippi.
Mississippi, although I was not a little amused to learn from Governor Ames that the ultra-Democratic people in those counties of the State bordering on Louisiana refused in any manner to aid the authorities in securing duelists who steal out from New Orleans to fight on Mississippi soil, on the ground that the “d–d Yankees want to do away with dueling so as to make their own heads safe.” Mississippi is a sparsely settled State, and in some of the counties life is yet as rough as on the South-western frontier. But that open and deliberate murder should be encouraged in a city of fifteen thousand inhabitants, where there is good society, and where church and school flourish, is monstrous!
Vicksburg was once the scene of a terrible popular vengeance. A number of gamblers persisted in remaining in the town against the wishes of the citizens,
Colonel Vick, of Vicksburg, Mississippi, Planter.
and having shown fight and killed one or two townsmen, they were themselves lynched, and buried among the bluffs. The town gets its name from one of the oldest and most highly respected families in Mississippi,–the Vicks,–whose family mansion stands on a handsome eminence in the town of to-day. Colonel Vick, the present representative of the family, is a specimen of the noble-looking men grown in the Mississippi valley,–six feet four in stature, erect and stately, with the charming courtesy of the old school. The picture which our artist has given of him does justice only to the fine, manly face; it cannot reproduce the form and the manner. Mississippi raises noble men, and they were wonderful soldiers, showing pluck, persistence, and grip. Nineteen lines of steam-packets ply between New Orleans and Vicksburg, and from Vicksburg up the Yazoo river. The scene in the elevators at the river-side, as in Memphis,
is in the highest degree animated. Thousands of bales and barrels roll and tumble down the gangways which communicate with the boats, and the shouting is terrific. The railroad from Vicksburg to Jackson, the Mississippian capital, runs through the scene of some of the heaviest fighting of the war, crossing the Big Black river, and passing Edwards and other flourishing towns, set down between charming forests and rich cotton-fields.
Sailing on through the submerged country from Vicksburg was sorrowful work; every one was depressed with imminent disaster. We passed into the great bend, or lake, where, on Hurricane Island, lie the plantations formerly owned by the Davis Brothers,–famous for their wealth. The broad acres once known as the property of Jefferson Davis are now in the hands of his ex-slave, who, by the way, is said to be a miracle of thrift and intelligence.
Negroes were toiling in the mud at some of the landings, building ineffectual dams, around which the current of the great river, sooner or later, remorselessly ran. The white men, splashing along the overflowed roads on horseback, looked grimly courageous, and gave their orders in a cool, collected manner. The whole land seemed one treacherous morass; the outlook was very discouraging.
We passed several rude villages on the eastern bank, which had been built by colonies of negroes, who had fled as the floods came upon them. These blacks gain a precarious livelihood by cutting wood and growing chickens for passing steamers; they depend on the captains of the boats for their supplies of cornmeal, molasses, pork and whiskey, and are sometimes reduced almost to starvation when their natural recklessness and improvidence have resulted in empty larders.
At one of these primitive settlements, known as “Waterproof” (it was by no means proof against the water, however), there were once two negro preachers who were extravagantly fond of whiskey. As each desired to maintain in the eyes of the other a reputation for strictest temperance, some secrecy in procuring the supplies of the coveted article was necessary, and each made the clerk of the “Great Republic” his confidant. Whenever the boat stopped at “Waterproof,” the preachers were promptly on hand, each one obtaining of the clerk a private interview, and imploring him to bring, on the return trip, a good keg of whiskey, carefully enveloped, so that “dat udder nigger” should not know what it was. When the clerk complied, he received at the hands of the grateful preachers thank-offerings of chickens and fat ducklings, and whenever he mischievously threatened to expose the reverend sinners, he would hear the frightened words:
“Fo’ de Lord, you’s gwine to ruin me!”
When the river destroys the land upon which the negroes have built a town, and tumbles their cabins and their little church into the current, they retire to the higher lands, a few miles back, or seek a new water-side location. They cultivate but little corn, and give much of their time to merry-makings, “meetings,” mule races, and long journeys from one settlement to another. As we passed a little village where there were, perhaps, a hundred negroes, comfortably
installed in weather-proof cabins, a passenger on the “Great Republic,” who was a planter of the old régime, indulged in the following monologue:
“Thar’s what they call free niggers. Thar’s a change from a few years ago, sir. Them poor things thar are just idlin’ away their time, I reckon; and you notice, they’re mighty ragged and destitute lookin.’ Thar’s a d–d nigger a-ridin’ a mule, as comfortable like as ye please. Not much like the old times, when they were all working quiet-like in the fields. Sundays yo’d seen ’em in their clean white clothes, singin’ and shoutin’ or may be doin’ a bit of fishin’, and at night, when the plantation bell rung, agoin’ peaceful as lambs to quarters. Now it’s all frolic. I reckon they ‘ll starve. What kin they do alone, sir?”
“I hain’t nothin’ agin a free nigger,” said a tall native of Mississippi bound for Texas, “but I don’t want him to say a word to me. The world’s big enough for us both, I reckon. We ain’t made to live together under this new style o’ things. Free niggers and me could n’t agree.” And the two spat sympathetically.
The negroes in the valley cheered the “Great Republic” as she passed; the swart mothers, fondling their babes, looked up and waved their hands, and some of the men doffed their hats, unconsciously retaining the respectful manner which they had been forced to observe under the stern domination of slavery.
The western bank of the river below Vicksburg, even to the Gulf of Mexico, is within the bounds of Louisiana. The eastern bank, to a point nearly opposite
the Red river, is in Mississippi. The characteristics of the river-side populations in both States are much the same. The negroes in many of the counties are largely in the majority, and hold responsible offices. One of the prominent citizens of Natchez, who was in former days a man of large wealth, owning several hundred negroes, was sitting on his verandah one day, when a negro with a book under his arm approached, and with the dignity befitting a state official, said to the Caucasian:
View in Brown’s Garden–Natchez, Mississippi. [Page 293.]
“I’s de century-man, sah!”
He was the officer appointed to take the census for the county. He could not read well, and his chirography was painful, but he showed diligence and determination.
Grand Gulf, in Mississippi, is a pretty town, lying on romantic hills, whose bases are bathed by the great stream. A railway extends from Grand Gulf to Port Gibson, eight miles distant, and a thriving trade is done with the interior. The hills overhanging the river were advantageous positions for the Confederates in war time, and the Federal fleet of gun-boats shelled the town and its battery-crowned heights in 1862. Below Grand Gulf there are no towns of importance on either side of the river until Natchez, one of the loveliest of Southern towns, and without exception the most beautiful in Mississippi, is reached.
Natchez, like Vicksburg, lies on a line of bluffs which rear their bold heads from the water in an imposing manner. He who sees only Natchez-under-the-Hill from a steamboat’s deck gets an impression of a few prosaic houses huddled together not far from a wharf-boat, a road leading up a steep and high hill, and here and there masses of foliage. Let him wander ashore, and scale the cliff, and he will find himself in a quiet, unostentatious, beautifully shaded town, from which, so oppressive at first is the calm, he almost fancies
“Life and thought are gone away;”
but he finds cheeriest of people,–cheery, too, under heavy misfortunes,–and homes rich in refinement and half buried under the lustrous and voluptuous blossoms which the wonderful climate favors. Natchez has an impressive cathedral, a fine court-house, a handsome Masonic temple, and hosts of pretty houses. You walk beneath the shade of the China-tree and the water oak, the cedar and the laurimunda. Nowhere is there glare of sun on the pavement; nothing more clamorous than the galloping of a horse stirs the blood of the nine thousand inhabitants.
There were, before the war, great numbers of planters’ residences in the suburbs,–beautiful houses, with colonnades and verandahs, with rich drawing and dining-rooms, furnished in heavy antique style, and gardens modeled after the
finest in Europe. Many of these homes have been destroyed. We visited one or two whose owners have been fortunate enough to keep them. The lawns and gardens are luxurious. The Mississippian wealth of roses is inconceivable to him who has not visited such gardens as Brown’s, in Natchez-under-the-Hill, and that of Mr. Shields, in the suburbs of the upper town. I remember no palace garden in Europe which impressed me so powerfully with the sense of richness and exquisite profusion of costly and delicate blooms as Brown’s, at Natchez, which a wealthy Scotchman cultivated for a quarter of a century, and handed down to his family, with injunctions to maintain its splendor.
From the bluff above this indescribably charming spot one can overlook the plain of Concordia, in Louisiana, on the west side the broad, tranquil river, and catch the gleam of the lake among the mammoth trees.
There are still many wealthy families in Natchez, independent of the war and its abasements. Here and there a French name and tradition remind one that the town is of French origin, that D’Iberville founded it in 1700, and that Bienville once had a trading-post there among the Natchez Indians. There that tribe, fire-worshipers and noble savages, passed an innocent and Arcadian existence, keeping ever alight on their altars a fire in honor of the sun. But the white man came; the fire on the altars went out; the Indian was swept away. Gayarre, who has written well concerning these Southern Indian tribes, says the Natchez were the Athenians of Louisiana, as the Choctaws were the Boeotians. A hundred years after the Natchez had first seen the French, Fort Rosalie, on the bluff,–its site is still pointed out to the stranger,–was evacuated by the Spaniards, that the flag of the United States might be raised over it, and since 1803 Natchez has been an incorporated American city. It has no manufactures now; its trade depends entirely on cotton. No railroad reaches it, but a narrow-gauge, called the Natchez, Jackson, and Columbus road, has been begun. The adjoining counties furnish from five to twenty thousand bales of cotton annually, which are shipped to New Orleans for sale.
Natchez was out of debt when it was given over to the Republican party, but has acquired quite a heavy indebtedness since. The negroes came into power there in 1867. The present Sheriff, the County Treasurer and Assessor, the majority of the magistrates, and all
Avenue in Brown’s Garden–Natchez, Mississippi.
the officers managing county affairs, except one, are negroes. The Board of Aldermen has three negroes in it. There is the usual complaint among the Conservatives that money has been dishonestly and foolishly expended; but the government of the city seemed, on the whole, very satisfactory. About a thousand children are at school in the public schools, and four hundred of them,–the colored pupils,–have a handsome new school-
house, called the “Union,” built expressly for them. Natchez had an excellent system of public schools before the war, and the “Natchez Institute,” the original free-school, is still kept up. The Catholic institutions are numerous and thriving. A good many of the negroes, as in Louisiana, are Catholics.
One-half of the population of Natchez is black, and seems to live on terms of amity with the white half. White and black children play together in the streets, and one sometimes feels like asking “Why, if that be so, should
A Mississippi River Steamer arriving at Natchez in the Night.
they not go to school together?” But the people of Mississippi, like the people throughout the South, will not hear of mixed schools. The negroes are vociferously prominent as hackmen, wharfmen, and public servants generally; but they do not like to leave the town and settle down to hard work on the worn-out hills at the back of the city.
On the bluffs, some three miles from the town, is a national cemetery, beautifully planned and decorated, and between it and Natchez stands the dilapidated United States Marine Hospital, and the grass-grown ramparts of Fort McPherson mark the site of a beautiful mansion which was razed for military purposes. When its owner, a rich Frenchman, was offered compensation by the army officer superintending the work, he gruffly refused it, saying that he had enough still left to buy the United States Government.
The taxes in Natchez and vicinity are very oppressive, amounting to nearly six per cent. The State and county tax touches four per cent., and is based on full two-thirds the valuation. The railroad movement has, however, done something to increase these burdens.
Many of the Natchez planters own plantations on the Louisiana side of the river, but, of course, have no political influence there, and are dependent on the negroes for the local legislation necessary to secure them in their rights, and for measures to prevent inundation. I attended a session of a parish jury in Vidalia, opposite Natchez, and was surprised to find it almost entirely composed of blacks. The white planters with whom I conversed grumbled bitterly over their hard fate, and recounted thrilling stories of the exploits of carpet-baggers in their vicinity. From the tone of their conversation, it was easy to see that they believed these carpet-baggers had misled the negroes, who would otherwise have been well enough disposed.
The jury, whose office corresponds, so far as I could learn, very much to that of our county commissioners in the Northern States, comprised men of various grades of intelligence. One or two of the negroes were well dressed, and quiet and gentlemanly in their manners; the others were slouching, unkempt, suspicious in their demeanor, and evidently unfit for any public duty. The planters addressed them familiarly, stating their needs, and making hearty appeals to the common sense of the most intelligent of the number. As the inundation was rapidly invading all the neighboring lands, the negroes recognized the necessity of action.
At Vidalia I also met one of the prominent negro members of the Louisiana Legislature, Mr. David Young, a coal black man. When I first saw him he was addressing a row of his fellow-citizens, who were seated upon a fence in that nerveless, unexpectant attitude so characteristic of the lowland negro. As an election was about to occur in Vidalia, he was endeavoring to impress on the colored voters the necessity of electing reform officers, and indulged in some general remarks on the importance of a purification of Louisiana politics. Brandishing his ballots, he warned the listeners to vote for honest representatives; whereupon one ragged negro said sullenly:
“I’s done gwine to vote to suit myself. Dave Young nor no udder man ain’t gwine to tell me nothin’ ’bout my vote.”
Mr. Young then proceeded to explain to them that Northern sentiment was beginning to rebel against the misrule at the South, and that the colored voters throughout the State must be “wise in time.” The listeners shook their heads suspiciously, although evidently impressed with what they had heard. As we drew near, and entered into conversation, Mr. Young turned his attention to us, and expressed himself desirous of a fair government in the State for both whites and blacks. While he gave his views, in plain but well chosen language, I noticed that the other negroes listened intently, making whispered comments on his remarks. They were far from friendly toward Young, as he was a candidate for re-election to the Legislature against a white man who had a notoriously evil reputation as a carpet-bagger, yet who had obtained the firm support of a majority of the negroes in the parish.
“We do not object,” said one planter to me, as we left Vidalia, “to the presence of the negro in the parish jury, we complain because nine out of ten who sit upon the jury are ignorant and have no property at all, and yet are permitted to judge of. what is best for the interests of property-holders. We are often compelled to submit questions of vital importance to the judgment of irresponsible and suspicious fellows, who, because they are opposed to us politically, seem to think it their bounden duty to do nothing for our material well-being. But such men as Dave Young do some good. They are teaching the negroes a little prudence and moderation. I would rather have a nigger like David, than a white man like–” (mentioning the wicked carpet-bagger).
LIFE ON COTTON PLANTATIONS.
DURING my stay in Natchez, one of the many gentlemen interested in cotton-planting on the west or Louisiana side of the river, invited me to accompany him on a tour of inspection. The rapidly-rising river threatened to inundate the lands on which hundreds of negroes had been expending weeks of patient care, and the planter felt it his duty to take a horseback ride over the trio of plantations under his charge; so we crossed the Mississippi, and rode twelve miles into the interior of Louisiana.
On the road, which led along the lovely banks of Lake Concordia, the planter chatted of some of the vexations by which he is daily beset, and spoke rather hopelessly of the labor problem. The condition of society, too, he thought very bad, and that it was an actual hindrance to the development of the section.
“Are the negroes,” I asked him, “aggressive and insolent toward the white people?”
But as the planter was about to answer this question, we approached a ferryboat, or barge, in which we were to cross an arm of the lake to the island on which my friend’s plantations were situated. An old negro man, much the worse for liquor, was preparing to monopolize the boat with his mule-team, but held back the mules, and touched his hat with drunken courtesy as we came up.
“Stand aside, uncle,” said the planter firmly, but very politely; “we wish to cross at once, and there is not room for us all.”
“Yas, sah; yas, Colonel,” said the old man. “I’s willin’ to wait on you gemmen, ’cause you is gemmen; but ef yer was no count folks, I’d go for yer. Ride in, Colonel.”
When we were some distance from shore, the planter said:
“That old man made way for us simply out of deference to our social position. The negroes are courteous enough to us; it has been their habit so long that they cannot forget it. But they will kill our deer and steal our poultry and bacon, and we have no redress.”
After an hour or two of journeying over rough roads, we came to one of the plantations. A host of negroes were busily filling a breach in a dyke which the treacherous water might sweep away if rains came to swell the already ominous floods of the Mississippi. A pack of hounds came yelping to meet the planter; and the black women in the cabin courtesied obsequiously.
We crossed the field, bordered by noble cypresses and oaks, stopping now and then to watch the negroes as they carefully prepared the ground which an inundation might, in less than a day, reduce to a hopeless wilderness
of mud. Entering the house of the overseer, we found that functionary smoking his pipe and reposing after a long ride over the plantation. He was a rough, hearty, good-natured man, accustomed to living alone and faring rudely. I asked him what he thought of the negro as a free laborer.
“He works well, mostly, sir. These yer Alabama niggers that’s workin’ on our plantations now do well on wages. They make some little improvements around their cabins, but mighty little, sir. Ef politics would only let ’em alone, they ‘d get along well enough, I reckon.”
“Do the negroes on this plantation vote?”
“I reckon not (laughing). I don’t want my niggers to have anything to do with politics. They can’t vote as long as they stay with us, and these Alabama boys don’t take no interest in the elections here.”
“What do they receive as monthly wages?”
“From ten to sixteen dollars. It costs us about fifteen dollars per head to bring ’em from Alabama. These niggers likes wages better than shares. We keep a store here, and, Saturday nights, most of the money they have earned comes back to us in trade. They’re fond o’ whiskey and good things to eat.”
“What is the routine of your work on a large plantation like this, and those adjoining it, throughout the year?”
“Wal, sir, I reckon that’s a long story. We don’t have much spare time, and mighty little amusement. Wal, sir, the first thing we do, sir, we begin early in January, a few weeks after the old crop is all gathered in, to repair fences and clean out all the ditches, sir. Then we pull down the old stalks, and start the ploughs to throw quadruple furrows in the fields. Then we throw out the ‘middles.'”
“What are they?”
“Wal, sir, we throw out soil at the sides so as to leave a slope bed of fresh ground to plant on, and loose earth to cover it with. If the spring freshet breaks on to this yer prepared earth, we’ve got to begin over again, and that makes the season very late.
“Planting begins about the last of March, or very early in April. Piles of cotton seed are laid along some ways apart on the field, and then the niggers sow. it along the beds, a ton of seed to eight acres. Then it is ‘barred off’–covered up, that means.
“Ez soon as the cotton stalks begin to peep up, ‘scraping’ begins. The hands weed every row carefully, and don’t leave any weakly plants. That, and looking after the caterpillars, keeps ’em busy till July. Caterpillars ain’t the only danger we have to fight against. Thar’s a hundred others. Cotton’s a ticklish plant to raise. You ‘ve got to watch it mighty close, and then the worms and the weather will sometimes ruin the crop.
“Between July and September we keep the hands busy, getting out baskets, and setting things in order; then we pile in new help, and for the rest of the season, employ three times as many hands as thar’s in the fields now. Up to Christmas it ‘s picking and ginning, and it ‘s right lively, you can be sure.”
From the overseer’s conversation I learned that cotton-picking is done quite as thoroughly under the system of free labor as in the days when slave-driving was permissible; but that the “niggers” require constant watching. On many plantations where the yield is abundant, it is difficult to concentrate labor enough at the proper time to get the cotton into the gin-house the same year that it is planted. I have seen cotton-fields still white with their creamy fleeces late in December, because the negroes were either too lazy or too busily engaged in their annual merry-makings to gather the harvest. But on the large lowland plantations along the Mississippi, the crop is usually gathered early, and the picking is very thorough. I could not discover that there was any system of “forced labor” now in use, and I thought the overseer’s statement, that a “good field-hand now-a-days would pick 250 pounds of cotton daily,” was excellent testimony in favor of free labor. He added, however, that on many plantations the average hands would not pick more than 100 pounds per day.
The laborers were coming in from the field in a long picturesque procession. As it was spring-time many of them had been ploughing, and were mounted upon the backs of the stout mules which had been their companions all day. Some of the men were singing rude songs, others were shouting boisterously and scuffling as they went their way along the broad pathway bordered by giant cypresses and noble oaks. The boys tumbling and wriggling in the grass perpetually exploded into guffaws of contagious laughter. Many of the men were tall and finely formed. They had an intelligent look, and were evidently not so degraded as those born on the Louisiana lowlands. The overseer sat on the veranda of his house, now and then calling out a sharp command or a caution, the negroes looking up obsequiously and touching their hats as they heard his voice. When the mules were stabled the men came lounging back to the cabins, where the women were preparing their homely supper, and an hour afterward we heard the tinkle of banjos, the pattering of feet and uproarious laughter. The interiors of the negro cabins were of the rudest description. The wretched huts in which the workmen live seem to them quite comfortable, however. I saw no one who appeared discontented with his surroundings. Few of these laborers could read at all. Even those who had some knowledge of the alphabet did not seem to be improving it.
Late in the evening, as the planter, with his heavy cloak thrown about his shoulders, was reposing from the fatigues of a wearisome ride over the broad acres, a delegation of field-hands came to see him, all to ask favors of “de Cunnel,”–to get him to write a few letters, or to bring some tiny parcel from the town on his next visit to the plantation. The men came huddling in, bowing awkwardly, and stood with their caps in their hands as near the door as possible, as if ready to run on the slightest provocation. If I looked at them steadily they burst into uneasy laughter and moved away, while the black women in the door-way and on the porch re-echoed the merriment. Meantime the planter listened to one after another of the delegation. Charles, a black boy, six feet tall, and with sinews strong as steel, stepped forward to the flickering light given by the candles and the burning logs in the fire-place.
“Cunnel, I wish you read me dat letter, please, sah.”
The “Cunnel” read it, Charles meantime standing erect, with his great arms folded across his mighty chest and the massive column of his throat throbbing with scornful emotion. There was a strange, baffled expression in his face; a look of contempt for his own helplessness which was painful.
The letter was common-place enough, reproaching Charles for having left Alabama before liquidating the pressing claims of certain swarthy creditors. Having, after some trouble, deciphered the letter’s meaning, the Colonel said, gently but coldly:
“Stand aside, Charles. Andy, who is the likeliest negro from Alabama now on the plantation?”
No answer for a minute. Andy stepped forward into the light, looking first into the fire-place, then at the deer’s horns over the mantel, then at the shining revolver on the rough wooden table, while his immense lips worked nervously, as if endeavoring to draw in inspiration from the air.
“Did you hear me, Andy?”
“Cunnel, I’s a studyin’, sah.”
After having studied some time, Andy darted out without a word, and presently returned with three hulking black giants, who huddled together in the same helpless way that the first arrivals did. They held their shapeless felt hats in their enormous hands, glancing from them into the faces of the white men; then exchanging significant looks with each other, burst into the regulation laugh.
“Did the colored politicians try to keep you from leaving Alabama to come here with me, boys?” inquired the Colonel.
Intense surprise on the part of the negroes.
“No, sah; reckon not, sah.”
“Did you vote in Alabama?”
“Yas, Cunnel; yas, sah, always voted, sah.”
“Can you do better here than in Alabama?”
After mature reflection, the trio responded in the affirmative.
“Would you care to vote here?”
Hesitatingly, “No, sah;” whereupon the three negroes were dismissed into the darkness.
The Alabama papers at the beginning of the current year reported that the colored laborers were leaving that State in troops of thousands. They were nearly all en route for the cotton plantations of Mississippi, and on the Louisiana bank of the Father of Waters. Central Alabama appeared at that time to be undergoing rapid depopulation for the benefit of the richer lands along the Mississippi bottom. It was estimated in the spring of 1874 that Alabama had already lost from $700,000 to $1,000,000 in her labor element alone. How long the influx of the freedmen into Mississippi and Louisiana from the South Atlantic States and from Alabama will continue is uncertain. In 1873 Georgia lost fully 20,000 of her able-bodied colored laborers, and gained but little in white immigration to balance it.
The women and children on the cotton plantations near the Mississippi river do not work in the fields as much as they used. Rude as are their surroundings in the little cabins which they now call their own, they are beginning to take an interest in their homes, and the children spend some time each year at school. The laborers on the plantations in Louisiana have sometimes been paid as high as thirty dollars per month, and furnished with a cabin, food, and a plot of ground for a garden; but this is exceptional.
While supper was being prepared the master of the plantation apologized for what he modestly called the homely fare which, he said, was all that he could set before us.
“We are so far from town here,” he said, “that we can offer you only plantation fare--rough meat and eggs, with bacon, a loaf of baker’s bread, and some bottles of claret which I brought from Vidalia.”
I ventured to suggest that on the plantation he had every facility for a superb garden, and to wonder that the overseers did not employ some of the negroes to cultivate a plot of ground that its fruits might appear on the table.
“Oh, oh,” laughed the overseer. “Make a garden here; reckon it would have to have a mighty high wall; the niggers would steal everything in it as fast as it was ripe.”
But I suggested that if each of the negroes had a small garden, which he seemed to have ample time after hours to cultivate, he would not desire to steal.
The Colonel smiled gravely, and the overseer shook his head incredulously, adding:
“These is good niggers, but stealing is as natural as eating to them;” and, with this remark, we were ushered into the supper-room, where two black servant girls ran nimbly about, bringing in plain but substantial fare, which our hard riding made thoroughly palatable.
There was no white lady on the plantation. The overseer and his two assistants were busy from dawn till dark, and when night threw its shadows over the great cypress-bordered aisles of the forest and the wide expanse of the fields, they dismissed the negroes about the store and the stables and retired to rest. But on the occasion of our visit we saw unusual activity. A violent storm arose while we were at supper, and the overseers mounted their horses and rode off in different directions to inspect the levées. Troops of negroes were dispatched in skiffs along the lake with hundreds of sacks, which they were instructed to fill with sand and place at weak points on the levées. All night they fought the slowly but steadily-rising waters, while my companion and I slept on a mattress on the floor of the overseer’s room, undisturbed by anything save the sighing of the winds through the noble trees surrounding the house, and the clatter of rain upon the shingles.
With early morning back came the Colonel, pale and worn with a night of battle with the steadily-rising water, and, as he laid aside his heavy cloak, placed his revolver on the table, and sat down with a weary sigh, he said it was hardly worth while to try to be a successful cotton-planter now-a-days; things human and things divine seemed to conspire to make it impossible to succeed. I
thought of his sigh and of his helpless look a day or two afterward, when I was told that one thousand acres of his plantation had been flooded and badly injured by the offensive policy of a neighbor planter, who had cut the Colonel’s levées to save his own.
With daylight also, although the rain was steadily falling, the plantation blossomed into activity. The overseers had arisen long before the dim streaks of the dawn were seen on the lowland horizon; had galloped over many a broad acre, but returned gloomily, announcing that the land was too wet to work that day. The negroes slouchingly disposed themselves about the store and the overseer’s “mansion,” keeping at a respectful distance from the kitchen, where sat the overseer himself, surrounded by his dogs. Nothing more dispiriting could be imagined than the atmosphere of this lowland plantation over which imminent disaster seemed breaking. From right and left came stories of trouble and affliction. Here and there a planter had made a good crop and had laid
A Cotton Wagon-Train.
aside a little money, but the evidences of material prosperity were painfully few. The overseers, while doggedly persistent in working the plantations up to their full capacity, still seemed to have a grim sense of a fate which over-hung the whole locality, and which would not permit consecutive years of prosperity and plenty.
There is still much on one of these remote and isolated plantations to recall the romance which surrounded them during the days of slavery. The tall and stalwart women, with their luxuriant wool carefully wrapped in gayly-colored handkerchiefs; the picturesque and tattered children, who have not the slightest particle of education, and who have not been reached even since the era of reconstruction, by the influences of schools and teachers; the groups of venerable darkeys, with their gray slouch hats and impossible garments, who chatter for hours together on the sunny side of some out-buildings, and the merry-makings at night, all recall a period which, the planter will tell you, with a mournful look, comprised the halcyon days of Louisiana.
The thing which struck me as most astonishing here, in the cotton-lands, as on the rice plantations of South Carolina, was the absolute subjection of the negro. Those with whom I talked would not directly express any idea. They gave a shuffling and grimacing assent to whatever was suggested; or, if they dissented, would beg to be excused from differing verbally, and seemed to be much distressed at being required to express their opinions openly. Of course, having the most absolute political liberty, because in that section they were so largely in the majority, numerically, that no intimidation could have been practiced, it seemed astonishing that they should be willing to forego the right to vote, and to willingly isolate themselves from their fellows. I could not discover that any of the negroes were making a definite progress, either manifested by a subscription to some newspaper or by a tendency to discussion; and, while the planter gave me the fullest and freest account of the social status of the negroes employed by him, he failed to mention any sign of a definite and intellectual growth. The only really encouraging sign in their social life was the tendency to create for themselves homes, and now and then to cultivate the land about them.
The rain continued to fall in torrents as we rode across the island along the muddy roads, under the great arches of the cypress-trees, on our return to Natchez. Here and there a few negroes were desperately striving afield, endeavoring to effect something in spite of the storm; but the planter shook his head gravely, and said that all agricultural operations must now be two months later than usual. The lack of concerted operations among the planters against the inroads of the floods, and the disastrous consequences of an incompetent labor system, were, to his thinking, effectual drawbacks to much material progress for a long time. In a previous chapter I have shown how the production of Concordia parish has fallen off since slavery was abolished; and he could not give any encouragement to my hope that this wretched state of affairs would soon be changed.
At last we reached the arm of the lake where we expected to find our sable ferry-man, but the rain had washed the waters into quite a fury, and we could see neither ferry-man nor barge. Half-an-hour’s hallooing at last brought the old man from his cabin on the opposite side, and another half hour brought him, dripping wet, with the gray wool of his beard glistening with rain-drops, to the shore on which we stood. He complained bitterly of his poverty, yet I was surprised to learn that each time the Colonel visited his plantation he paid this venerable boatman a dollar for his ride across the lake. Although I diligently endeavored to enter into conversation with the aged black man, he steadily avoided any reference to political topics, and assumed a look of blank amazement when I appealed to him for a direct opinion. But he was always civil, courteous to a degree not discoverable among people in his rank of life in the North. His character swayed and bent before any aggression, but did not break; it was as stubborn as elastic.
In the forest through which ran the road leading to the Colonel’s plantation, we met a brown man mounted on a stout horse, and loaded down with a
small armory of fire-arms, in addition to which he carried a long knife and a hatchet, evidently intended for dissecting some deer.
“Ha!” said the Colonel pleasantly, yet with a touch of annoyance in his voice, “so you are going poaching on my land again? There will soon be no deer left.”
“Yas, Cunnel,” said the fellow, impudently shifting his long rifle from his right to his left shoulder. “I reckon ef I see any deer I’s gwine to go for ’em, sho;” then, putting spurs to his steed, he galloped off.
There was no redress, and the Colonel was compelled to submit anew to the plundering of his preserves.
Driving homeward with my artist companion, the Colonel having left us to return to his fight with the levées, we were struck with the picturesque clusters of negro cabins by the wayside. Nowhere else in the agricultural regions of the South had we perceived such a tendency to an artistic grouping of buildings. Along the road, which was now so covered with water that we could hardly pick our way, a few uproarious negroes, with whiskey bottles protruding from their pockets, were picking their dubious way. As we approached they saluted us, touching their hats with sudden dignity. Everywhere in this lowland region we found the negro courteous more from habit than from desire. Even when he fell into the sullen silence which marks his supremest dissent, he was deferential and polite to a degree which made that silence all the more exasperating. I have never in my life seen a more gracious and civil personage than the weather-stained and tattered old negro who stood on a shelving bank by the lake-side, and carefully pointed out to us the best spots in the submerged road, as we drove through the little village of which he was an inhabitant.
The local river packets, which depend mainly upon the commerce of the cotton plantations between Vicksburg and New Orleans, are the only means which the planters possess of communication with the outer world. The arrivals of the “Robert E. Lee,” or of the “Natchez,” at the plantation landings, always furnish picturesque and interesting scenes. We had occasion to journey from Natchez to Vicksburg, departing from the former town late at night. The negro hackman who was to transport us from the upper town to Natchez-under-the-Hill for the moderate sum of three dollars, bade us remain quietly in our rooms until “de Lee whistled.” So, toward midnight, hearing the three hoarse yells from the colossal steam-pipes of the Robert E. Lee, we
were hurried down to the great wharf-boat, where we found a motley crowd of negro men and women, of sickly, ague-stricken, poor whites, and smartly-dressed planters, whose immaculate linen and rich garments betrayed but little of the poverty and anxiety now afflicting the whole section.
Presently, out of the gloom which shrouded the great river, a giant shape seemed slowly approaching, and while we were endeavoring to discover what it might be, flaring pine torches sent forth an intense light which disclosed the great packet, with her forward deck crowded with negro roustabouts, whose faces shone as the flame was reflected upon them. The tall pipes sent out sparks and smoke, and the river-monster, which seemed stealthily drawing near to us to devour us, winked its fiery eyes and sleepily drew up at the wharf, where, with infinite trouble, it was made fast with many stout ropes, while the mates screamed and cursed as only Mississippi boatmen can.
The cabin of one of these steamers presents quite a different aspect from those of the Northern packets which come from St. Louis and Cincinnati. The bar is a conspicuous object as one enters, and around it cluster eager groups busily discussing the latest phase of the Kellogg usurpation, or, in such times of depression and disaster as during my visit, lamenting their fate with a philosophic air doubtless somewhat enhanced by the soothing nature of the liquids imbibed.
As the traveler goes to register his name and purchase his ticket, the obliging clerk hands him the latest file of the New Orleans papers, of which hundreds of copies are given away at all the ports where the packets stop. No planter along the line thinks of buying a newspaper, but depends on the clerk of the steamer, who willingly furnishes him the news of the day.
About the card-tables men are busily absorbed in the intricacies of “poker” and “seven-up,” and the talk is of cotton and of corn, of the rise and fall of the river, and reminiscences of adventures in forest and on stream during the “waw.” On the “Robert E. Lee” I found a number of prominent young cotton-planters, all of whom were complaining of the effects of the inundation. Many of these planters were educated gentlemen, familiar with life at the North, and with the best society. None of them were especially bitter or partisan in their views; their material interests seemed to command their immediate attention, and they, as others throughout the cotton country of the South, complained of the seeming impossibility of reorganizing labor upon a fair and proper basis. All were unanimous in their testimony as to the superiority of free over slave labor, but all asserted that it was attended with so many drawbacks and vexations that they feared it would end in the promotion of much distress, and in the ruin of hundreds of planters. They, however, were by no means confronted with the worst aspects of the labor question, since labor was flowing to them, and not receding from them, as from the planters in Central Alabama, and in certain portions of Mississippi.
Mr. Robert Somers, in his excellent observations on the labor question, as viewed in Alabama, made during a journey throughout the Southern States in 1870-71, hits upon some truths with regard to the relations of the planter and freedman, in the following manner:
“What the planters are disposed to complain of is, that while they have lost their slaves, they have not got free laborers in any sense common either in the Northern States or in Europe. One cannot but think that the New England manufacturer and the Old England farmer must be equally astonished at a recital of the relations of land, capital and labor, as they exist on the cotton plantations of the Southern States. The wages of the negroes, if such a term can be applied to a mode of remuneration so unusual and anomalous, consist, as I have often indicated, of one-half the crop of corn and cotton, the only crops in reality produced.
“The negro on the semi-communistic basis thus established finds his own rations; but, as these are supplied to him by the planter or the planter’s notes of credit on the merchants, and as much more sometimes as he thinks he needs by the merchants on his own credit, from the 1st of January onward throughout the year, in anticipation of crops which are not marketable until the end of December, he can lose nothing by the failures or deficient outcome of the crops, and is always sure of his subsistence. As a permanent economic relation, this would be startling anywhere betwixt any classes of men brought together in the business of life. Applied to agriculture, in any other part of the world, it would be deemed outrageously absurd, but this is only a part of the ‘privileges’ (a much more accurate term than ‘wages’) of the negro field-hand. In addition to half the crops, he has a free cottage of the kind he seems to like, and the windows of which he or his wife persistently nail up; he has abundance of wood from the planter’s estate for fuel, and for building his corn-cribs and other out-houses, with teams to draw it from the forest. He is allowed to keep hogs and milch cows and young cattle, which roam and feed with the same right of pasture as the hogs and cattle of the planter, free of all charge. Though entitled to one-half the crops, he is not required to contribute any portion of the seed, nor is he called upon to pay any part of the taxes on the plantation. The only direct tax on the negroes is a poll tax.” Mr. Somers declares that he found this tax “everywhere in arrear, and, in some places, in a helpless chaos of non-payment. Yet,” he adds, “while thus freed from the burden of taxation, the negro has, up to this period of reconstruction, enjoyed the monopoly of representation, and has had all legislative and executive power moulded to his will by Governors, Senators and Deputies, who have been either his tools, or of whom he himself has been the dupe. For five years,” he concludes, “the negroes have been kings, lords and commoners, and something more, in the Southern States.”
“But to come back,” continues Mr. Somers, “to the economic condition of the plantations, the negro field-hand, with his right of half-crop and privileges as described, who works with ordinary diligence, looking only to his own pocket, and gets his crops forward and gathered in due time, is at liberty to go to other plantations and pick cotton, in doing which he may make from two to two and a-half dollars a day. For every piece of work outside the crop that he does even on his own plantation, he must be paid a dollar a day. While the land owner is busy keeping account betwixt himself and his negro hands, ginning their cotton
for them, doing all the marketing of produce and supplies, of which they have the lion’s share, and has hardly a day he can call his own, the hands may be earning a dollar a day from him for work which is quite as much theirs as his. Yet the negroes, with all their superabounding privilege on the cotton-field, make little of it. A ploughman or a herd in the Old World would not exchange his lot for theirs, as it stands and as it appears in all external circumstances.”
I have quoted these excellent remarks, as they afford a glimpse into some of the causes of the discouragement which prevails among large numbers of cotton-planters.
Nothing can be more beautiful than the appearance of a cotton-field, extending over many hundreds of acres, when the snowy globes of wool are ready for
Scene on a Cotton Plantation.
picking, and the swart laborers, with sacks suspended from their shoulders, wander between the rows of plants, culling the fleeces. The cotton-plant is beautiful from the moment when the minute leaflets appear above the moist earth until the time when it is gathered in. In June, when it is in bloom and when the blossoms change their color day by day, a cotton plantation looks like an immense flower garden. In the morning the blooms of upland cotton are often of a pale straw color; at noon of a pure white; in the afternoon perhaps faint pink, and the next morning perfect pink. It is noticed, however, that the blossom of the sea-island cotton always remains a pale yellow. When the flowers fall away, and the young bolls begin to grow, the careful negroes watch for the insidious approach of the cotton-worms, terrible enemies to plantation prosperity. There are many kinds of these worms; they multiply with astonishing
rapidity, and sometimes cut off the entire crop of whole districts. Their presence cannot be accounted for, although elaborate investigations into the cause of their appearance have been undertaken ever since 1800, when they first appeared in the South. There is a popular belief that they come at intervals of three years in the same districts, and that their greatest ravages occur after intervals of twenty-one years. Their appetites are exclusively confined to cotton, of which they devour both the long and the short staples greedily.
The planters build fires in the fields when they perceive that the insects are about to visit their crops, hoping to attract and destroy the moths which are the parents of the worms; but in many cases this proves insufficient. When the cotton-worm appears early in the season there are usually three broods. If the fires are built exactly at the time of the appearance of the first moths, then their speedy destruction, preventing the appearance of the second and third broods, aids in limiting the ravages; but the remedies are rarely undertaken in time. The ally of this vicious destroyer of the planter’s fondest hopes is the boll-worm moth, a tawny creature who in the summer and autumn evenings hovers over the cotton-blooms and deposits a single egg in each flower. In three or four days this egg is hatched, and out of it comes a worm who voraciously eats his way into the centre of the boll, and then, ere it falls to the ground, seeks another, in which he in like manner buries himself. In Central Alabama, in 1873, we were told that plantations were so devastated by worms that they seemed as if lightning had passed over them and scathed them. The bolls were, in many cases, cut down for entire acres as completely as if the reaper’s sickle had been thrust into them.
During picking season in the States of North and South Carolina, Georgia, Northern Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi, the southern half of Arkansas and the eastern half of Texas, plantation life is busy and merry. If the planter has made a good crop, he calls in multitudes of negroes from the surrounding country to help him pick. These laborers sometimes wander from plantation to plantation, like the hop-pickers in the West; but where labor is not scarce, an extra force for a few days is all that is required.
By the middle of October the season is at its height. Each person is expected to pick two or three hundred pounds of cotton daily, and as fast as the fleeces are picked they are carried either in wagons or in baskets, on the heads of negroes, to the gin-house. There, if the cotton is damp, it is dried in the sun, and then the fibre is separated from the seed, to which it is quite firmly attached.
Nothing can be simpler or more effective than the machinery of the ordinary Whitney cotton-gin. Its main cylinder, upon which is set a series of circular saws, is brought into contact with a mass of cotton separated from the cylinder by steel bars or gratings. The teeth of the saws, playing between these bars, catch the cotton and draw it through, leaving the seeds behind. Underneath the saws a set of stiff brushes, revolving on another cylinder moving in an opposite direction, brushes off from the saw-teeth the lint which was taken from the seed, and a revolving fan, producing a rapid current of air, throws the light lint to a
convenient distance from the gin. The ginning of sea-island cotton is practiced in South Carolina and Georgia, and requires the use of two fluted rollers, commonly made of wood, but sometimes of vulcanized rubber or steel, placed parallel in a frame which keeps them almost in contact. These rollers revolve in opposite directions, and draw the cotton between them, while the seeds, owing to the lack of space, do not pass through.
Horse power is ordinarily used on small plantations in ginning cotton, while the great planters employ steam. But now a host of enterprising individuals have set up gin-houses in neighborhoods central to many plantations, and to them flock the many whites and blacks who cultivate one or two acres in cotton. The gins in these houses are usually run by steam, and many a man has made a small fortune in two or three years since the war by preparing the cotton brought to him from the country round about. Fires are frequent in these gin-houses,
Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
and sometimes the freedmen revenge themselves upon their ex-masters by sending their expensive machinery heavenward in a blaze. Such malice as this, however, is not common, although there are some instances of planters who have lost many thousands of dollars by the torch of the incendiary.
After the cotton leaves the gin it passes to the press, where it is packed into bales. On small plantations these presses are worked by hand or by horse power, while on the great and finer ones hydraulic presses are common. On well-ordered lands the picking is, of course, over before Christmas, and the planters and laborers alike give themselves up to the jollity of holidays; but, as I have already mentioned, the sight of acres of unpicked cotton in January and February in some parts of the South is not at all uncommon. It is the most effectual proof of the complete disorganization of the labor system.
One of the peculiar vexations which the planter suffers is the constant stealing of cotton by the negroes during picking time. They manage to abstract it in petty quantities; and after having accumulated a little stock, they take it, if
they live in the vicinity of a city, to what is known as a “dead fall house,” where a clever “fence,” or receiver of stolen goods, buys unquestioningly whatever they bring. If they live in some remote section, they boldly carry the cotton to the local merchant, who receives it in barter, very likely before the eyes of the planter from whom it was stolen, and who knows that he has no practical redress. Most of the negroes on the plantations have not the strong sense of honor which should lead them to consider their employers’ interests as their own, and many of the merchants encourage them in their thievish propensities.
Sixty-five miles below Natchez the Red river empties into the Mississippi. The recent improvements made by the General Government upon this river,
The Red River Raft as it Was.
under the direction of the Board of Engineers, in the removal of the raft of drift-wood, have given it new commercial possibilities. The raft, which was thirty miles long, had, for many years, rendered navigation north of Shreveport impossible. The sketch, which the kindness of one of the engineers who had been employed in the removal of obstructions placed at the disposal of our artist, will serve to show what the Red river raft was. The river runs through one of the finest cotton regions in the country, and, in its ample and fertile valley, immense quantities of cotton and sugar, grain and tobacco will, in future, be produced. Not only Louisiana, but Arkansas and Texas, have been directly benefited by the improvement of the stream.
MISSISSIPPI–ITS TOWNS–FINANCES–SCHOOLS. PLANTATION DIFFICULTIES.
MISSISSIPPI and Alabama together form a mighty domain; many an empire has been founded upon a less extent of territory than either contains. Both States have suffered a good deal from evils incident to reconstruction; both, I believe, are destined to a recuperation soon to come, and to a wealth and position such as neither, in the palmy days of slavery, dreamed of. Alabama, with her million of inhabitants, and Mississippi, with her nine hundred thousand, seem, to an European or Northern visitor, almost uninhabited. In each State there is still an immense tract of native forest. The railway lines, almost as numerous in Mississippi as in Alabama, run for scores of miles through woods and uncleared or unreclaimed lands. The slave-holders naturally sought out the best land to mass their negroes upon, and now the freedmen are settled there, rudely trying to work out the problem of self-government, a problem extremely difficult for the wisest community to solve, and, of course, utterly beyond the scope of a horde of newly emancipated negroes. There has been a marvelous widening and heightening of sentiment in each State, and something of national feeling is now manifested in both. A little money and consequent independence would enable the capable people to do a great deal, despite the encumbrance of the incapables. Mississippi has no minerals from which to predict a future growth; but her splendid soil grows cotton superbly, and Indian corn, tobacco, hemp, flax, silk, as well as all kinds of grains and grasses. At one end of the State the apple flourishes; at the other, one may luxuriate in orange groves and under the shade of the fig-tree. The sixty counties in Mississippi contain farms and plantations whose cash value, in 1870, was nearly $100,000,000. The rivers run south-west, to pay tribute to the mighty stream from which the State takes its name–save a few in the eastern section, which flow into the Alabama rivers, and thence reach the Gulf of Mexico. Property has fallen ruinously in both Alabama and Mississippi; the former boasted, in 1860, a valuation in real estate and personal property, of nearly $450,000,000; in 1870, $155,000,000. Mississippi, at the outbreak of the war, had a valuation of $509,472,912; and in 1870, $154,535,527. The cotton production of Mississippi fell from 1,202,507 bales in 1860, to 564,938 bales in 1870; and the wealthy planter vanished before the storm of revolution.
Corinth, in Mississippi, with its memories of terrible battles, is at the junction of the Memphis and Charleston railroad with the Mobile and Ohio. There Beauregard once sat haughtily entrenched until Halleck’s persistence in assault
MAP SHOWING THE COTTON REGION OF THE UNITED STATES.
Scattered over the fifty-five thousand square miles which make up the State of Mississippi, there are but half-a-dozen towns of considerable size. It can readily support on its thirty-five millions of acres a dozen millions of people. Vicksburg, Natchez, Jackson, and Columbus are the principal towns; the rest are villages, into which the trade created by the surrounding country has crowded.
The Mississippi State Capitol at Jackson.
All the good lands are very accessible; railroads run in every direction through the State. The Vicksburg and Meridian route runs from Meridian through Jackson to the Mississippi river; the New Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern gives the capital easy communication with New Orleans and via the Mississippi Central, which runs from Jackson to Grenada, and from Grenada through Holly Springs and Oxford to the Tennessee line, sends a current of Northern trade and travel through the State. Columbus, Mississippi, is an enterprising town on the Tombigbee river, in the centre of a rich planting region, and depends mainly for its support upon the shipment of cotton to Mobile. Vicksburg and Natchez have already been described in their relations to the Mississippi river and the
country which contributes to their trade; it remains, therefore, to give some idea of Jackson, the capital of Mississippi.
First of all, Jackson is very pretty–a quiet, unambitious village of five or six thousand inhabitants, on the banks of the Pearl river, a charming stream, which makes its erratic way through lovely forests and thickets, and whose current is strewn with the drift-wood torn from them. At Jackson one begins to feel the ripeness and perfection of the far South; he is only twelve hours from New Orleans, and sees in the gardens the same lustrous magnificence of blossom which so charmed his eye in the Louisiana metropolis. The evenings are wonderfully beautiful, silent, impressive. Reaching Jackson from Vicksburg at dark, I strolled along the half-mile of street between the hotel and the business centre of the town; there was no stir–no sound; one might as well have been in a wood. At last, encountering a mule-car, whose only occupant was the negro driver, I returned in it to the hotel, where I found that every one but the watchful clerk had retired.
The State Capitol, a solid and not unhandsome building, the Penitentiary, the Insane Asylum, the Land Office, a fine Governor’s residence, and the Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb and Blind, compose Jackson’s public buildings, all well built and commodious. At the proper seasons, one sees in the long main street of the town, lines of emigrant wagons, filled with hard-featured men and women bound for Texas or “Arkansaw.” These Ishmaels are not looked upon with any especial love by the inhabitants who intend to remain in their native State, and are often the subjects of much satire, which they bear good-humoredly. Hebrew names appeared to predominate on the signs; the Jews monopolize most of the trade; negroes lounge everywhere, and there are large numbers of smartly
“At the proper seasons, one sees in the long main street of the town, lines of emigrant wagons.”
dressed mulattoes, or sometimes full blacks, who flit here and there with that conscious air which distinguishes the freedman. I wish here to avow, however, that those of the negroes in office, with whom I came in contact in Mississippi
impressed me much more powerfully as worthy, intelligent, and likely to progress, than many whom I saw elsewhere in the South. There are some who are exceedingly capable, and none of those immediately attached to the Government at Jackson are incapable. In the Legislature there are now and then negroes who are ignorant; but of late both branches have been freer from this curse than have those of Louisiana or South Carolina.
A visit to the Capitol showed me that the negroes, who form considerably more than half the population of Mississippi, had certainly secured a fair share of the offices. Colored men act as officials or assistants in the offices of the Auditor, the Secretary of State, the Public Library, the Commissioner of Emigration, and the Superintendent of Public Instruction. The Secretary of State, who has some negro blood in his veins, is the natural son of a well-known Mississippian of the old régime, formerly engaged in the politics of his State; and the Speaker of the House of Representatives at the last session was a black man. The blacks who went and came from the Governor’s office seemed very intelligent, and some of them entered into general conversation in an interesting manner.
The present Governor, ex-United States Senator Adelbert Ames, was four years Military Governor of Mississippi, and knows the temper of both whites and blacks in the State very well. To his military régime succeeded the Government of Mr. Alcorn, now United States Senator from Mississippi, and when Mr. Alcorn was sent to the Senate, Lieutenant-Governor Powers took his place. Alcorn, returning from the Senate last year, contested the Governor’s chair with Ames, but, not succeeding in a re-election, returned to Washington. At the outset of Governor Ames’ civil administration, which began recently, he affirmed his determination to redeem the Republican party in that section from the charge of corruption, and the Legislature has taken measures to second his laudable resolve.
Mississippi’s State debt is but little–some three millions; she was fortunate enough not to have any credit in the markets of the world when reconstruction began, and therefore escaped a good many financial dangers. Her repudiation of her honest indebtedness, years ago, did her infinite harm, and it would be wise to take up that debt, and pay it in future. Part of the money at present owed by the State is due the schools. The State tax is not large; it is the city and county taxation which is oppressive, but that is mainly because of the straitened circumstances of the people.
The vicious system of issuing State warrants has been for some time pursued, but a bill was passed at the last legislative session, funding all these warrants; which had the effect of bringing them up at once from sixty to eighty cents. A new law also requires that all taxes be paid in greenbacks. The State paper has, at times since reconstruction, been sold on the street in Jackson at forty per cent. below par. The return to a cash basis will, it is estimated, save twenty-five per cent. in the cost of government alone. A general movement in favor of “retrenchment and reform” on the part of the dominant party is manifest, the natural result of which will be the restoration of the State’s credit. Governor Ames is firm in his measures, and is not surrounded, to judge from a brief look at them, with men who are inclined to misuse their opportunities.
The State Superintendent of Education informed me that there are about 75,000 children now in attendance upon the State schools, fully 50,000 of whom are colored. He believed that there was at the time of my visit $1,000,000 worth of school property owned in the State, which proved a great advance since the war. In counties mainly Democratic in sentiment, there is formidable opposition to anything like a public school system, but in those where Republican or negro officials dominate, schools are readily kept open and fully attended. The Superintendent said that he had in only one case endeavored to insist upon mixed schools, and that was in a county where the white teachers had refused to teach negro scholars. He had found it necessary to inform those teachers that, in that case, they must not attempt to keep the black children from the white schools, since he was determined that they should receive instruction.
The school fund is quite large; there are normal schools at Holly Springs and Tougaloo; and the blacks have founded a university named after Ex-Governor and Senator Alcorn. It occupies the site of the old Oakland College near Rodney, on the Mississippi river, and receives an annual appropriation of $50,000.
A successful university has also been in operation in Tougaloo for several years. First-class teachers for the public schools are very much needed. Large numbers of very good private schools are maintained in the State by those citizens who still disbelieve in free public tuition.
The University of Mississippi,*
* Both this and Alcorn University have agricultural departments.
at Oxford, an old and well managed institution, exclusively patronized by whites, receives, as does Alcorn University, an annual subsidy of $50,000 from the State, and its average attendance is fully equal to that before the war. It has been properly fostered and nourished by the Republican Government, and the motley adventurers in South Carolina might learn a lesson in justice and impartiality from the party in power in Mississippi.
As soon as the funds devoted by the State to educational purposes are paid in greenbacks, or, in other words, when the evil system of “warrants” is thoroughly extinct, Mississippi will make sterling progress in education, and, in proportion, will grow in thrift, wealth and importance.
Jackson has two flourishing newspapers, The Pilot being the Republican, and The Clarion the Democratic organ. Socially, the town has always been one of high rank in the South, although some of the rougher Mississippian element has at times been manifest in that section. The residence once occupied by Mr. Yerger, who killed the military Mayor of Jackson, shortly after the close of the war, because that Mayor had insisted upon the collection of certain taxes, is still pointed out to visitors. There are many charming drives in the town; a little beyond it, the roads are rough and the country is wild. A garrison is maintained at Jackson, and now and then the intervention of United States authority is necessary to quell disturbances in interior districts.
The State has made efforts to secure immigration, but, like many other Southern commonwealths, finds it impossible to compete with the North-west,
and becomes discouraged in presence of the objections made by white laborers to settling within its boundaries. The south-western portion presents really fine inducements for the cultivation of cotton, corn, tobacco, sugar-cane, peaches, pears, apples, and grapes. In several of these south-western counties the yield of sugar has been one thousand pounds to the acre. The average yield of cotton is a bale to the acre. Fruit culture could be made a paying specialty throughout that part of the State.
The rich stores of pine, pecan, hickory, oak, walnut, elm, ash, and cypress timber form also an element of future wealth. Those lands fronting upon the Gulf of Mexico offer, in orange orchards and the miraculous oyster-beds along the shores, rare prizes for the emigrants who will go and take them. The counties a little remote from the coast are rich in a luxuriant growth of pine, and there too, the culture of sugar and the grape has already been successful.
The stock-grazier, also, can find his paradise there; and there the ample water power of the Pearl, the Wolf, the Pascagoula, the Escalaufa, the Leaf and the Chickasawha rivers can turn the largest mills. The average price of lands in the State, accepting the testimony of the Government immigration agent, is five dollars per acre.
Life and property are probably as safe at present as in any other State in the South. The reputation of Southern Mississippi has not heretofore been of the best in respect to law and order; but the State seems to be now entering upon an epoch of peace and confirmed decency. Mississippi has, undoubtedly, suffered immensely, in a material point of view, since the close of the war, but is now on the road to an upbuilding, and would spring into astonishing growth if the vexed labor question could only be settled in some manner.
An immigration to the Mississippi sea-board, where there is so much magnificent timber, would be peculiarly advantageous to young men possessed of small capital. Pascagoula river and its tributaries give a water line thirteen hundred miles in extent through a dense timber region. Millions of feet of good lumber are now shipped from this section. The improvement of the harbor and the deepening of the channel at Pascagoula, and the elevation of that place and of Bay St. Louis into ports of entry, would greatly increase the trade of Mississippi in that direction.
The people of the State have also long desired the connection of the Gulf coast with the central interior, by a railway line, and will demand it soon. Until it is accomplished Mississippi will, perforce, pour streams of commerce into Mobile and New Orleans, while her own grand harbors remain unimproved and empty. Meantime, the completion of the network gradually covering the State goes on; and the Memphis and Selma, the Mobile and North-western, the Vicksburg and Memphis, the Vicksburg and Nashville, the Prentice and Bogue Phalia, and the Natchez, Jackson and Columbus roads are projected, and, in some cases, the routes have been partially graded.
The Vicksburg and Nashville road has no very powerful reason for existence, as its projected line is intersected at equidistant intervals by three rich and
powerful lines in successful operation; and there has been a good deal of opposition to the surrendering to that road of the trust funds known as the three per cents., and the agricultural land scrip, amounting in all to some $320,000.
Along the line of rail from Jackson to New Orleans there is much growth of substantial character. Mr. H. E. McComb, of Wilmington, Delaware, has built up a flourishing town not far from the Louisiana line, and named it McComb City. But the country is still mainly in a wild state, and one cannot help feeling, while
“The negroes migrate to Louisiana and Texas in search of paying labor.”
borne along in the palace-car through forests and tangled thickets, that he is gradually leaving the civilized world behind. He imagining each village which he sees, like an island in the ocean of foliage, to be the last, and experiences a profound astonishment when he comes upon the cultivated and European surroundings of New Orleans. Northward, along the railway lines, it is much the same.
All one day we traversed the line from Jackson to Memphis, coming to but two towns of any mentionable size in the whole distance. The others were merely groupings of a few unpainted houses built against the hill-sides, among the trees, and on the open plains.
Plantation life is much the same in all sections of the State, although the methods of culture and the amount of results may differ. The white man and the negro are alike indifferent to a safe and steady provision for the future by growing their own supplies.
The planters are nearly all poor, and very much in need of ready money, for which they have to pay exorbitant rates of interest. At the end of a year of pretty hard work,–for the cotton planter by no means rests upon a bed of roses,–both whites and blacks find themselves little better off than when they began, and feel sore and discouraged. The negroes migrate to Louisiana and Texas in search of paying labor, while the planters complain very generally of the scarcity of help.