Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Slaves Among the Fire-Eaters

Here is another article from the Youth's Companion, this one from December 18, 1863. It refers to the Capture of Port Royal by the Union in November 1861. I found this one especially interesting since I had just read and reviewed Firebrand of Liberty, Stephen Ash's fine book about a couple of regiments of African-American soldiers who had been raised in this area.

The "General Sherman" referred to is Brigadier General Thomas W. Sherman. 
Slave quarters at Port Royal, courtesy Library of Congress
From a Correspondent in South Carolina

   DEAR YOUNG FRIENDS - Port Royal is the general name for a collection of the "Sea Islands," viz.: Port Royal, Hilton Head, St. Helena, Ladies', Paris, Cossaw, and several smaller islands. The forts on Hilton Head Island which commanded the entrance to Port Royal harbor were held by the rebels until Nov. 7, 1861, when Commodore Dupont arranged his ships of war and bore down upon the forts in "single file." Each ship delivered a broadside, and then sailing round in a circle came up and delivered another, and so on until the forts gave up the contest. Our troops at once took possession of them under Gen. Sherman. 
   That night, Nov. 7th, was a memorable one. All along the sandy roads of these island could be seen the planters abandoning their houses; some still driven in their best carriages by colored coachmen; others hastening away in boats; all carrying with them whatever they could, and such of their slaves as could be induced or forced in their haste to go. All were fleeing from the "Yankees" they despised so much; nor did they stop until they found themselves safe on the mainland. They left their furniture, and cattle, and some of their poor horses, and most of their slaves.
   It must have been a dismal night for them, but it was a happy one for the negroes. The hope of freedom was strong in the hearts of the latter. Their masters had tried to make them believe that the "Yankees" were enemies, and would sell them in Cuba and treat them with cruelty. 
   We have often been told, you know, how much the slaves loved their masters, and how contented they were with their condition. Let us see now how they manifested that love.
   When their masters ran, the negroes were ordered and urged to go with them, but they had various excuses, when excuses would avail, for not going, and when excuses would not avail, they concealed themselves. 
   The planters on Hilton Head Island succeeded in taking their negroes with them, but in a short time the slaves all ran from their masters and came back again. 
   After the owner of the plantation on which I live ran away, he used to send his son (a doctor) and others to get away the slaves remaining here, but they, not loving their masters as much as was supposed, concealed themselves in the woods, determined not to be caught. 
      Notwithstanding all the efforts of the planters to prejudice them against the "Yankees" they greeted the Union soldiers with delight, knowing that they could not be worse off than they were in slavery.
   They could not find words to express their joy at the appearance of the teachers from the North. They flocked around them and gave them presents of eggs and "pea-nuts" (or "ground-nuts" as they call them), and such little things as they had. Such is the negroe's love of slavery.
   Yours, Truly
 (no further text)

General T.W. Sherman, courtesy Library of Congress

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