War of the Rebellion: Serial 053 Page 0376 KY., SW. VA., TENN., MISS., N. ALA., AND N. GA.

Search Civil War Official Records


run the furrow to plant the seed, then plant their corn, relying on subsequent time to break up the ground between the furrows of cotton and exterminate the weeds.

The necessity of withdrawing the troops from Louisiana to augment the forces operating against Vicksburg, left the line of plantations, some sixty in all, without adequate protection when the rebels made the attack on Milliken's Bend (where they were signally defeated), and made raids on the plantations, scattering and driving off the negroes and stock. This occurred at the time when it was important to cultivate the crops. Some time elapsed before the hands could be collected and they induced to recommence work. The consequence was fully one-half of the crops were not worked at all, and in other cases, when some work was done, the weeds and plants had to grow up together, the ill weeds overtopping the cotton one-fourth to a third of the crop. Still, under all these disadvantages, not one of the lessees will lose money, but all derive a profit.

I know that they are satisfied with the experiment; all desire to re-lease for another year. The negro lessees, of whom there are some fifteen, will make from four and five bales up to, in one case one hundred and fifty, and it is a fact that the cotton they have raised for themselves, owing to better cultivation, is of a higher grade than that of the white lessees. Some of the negroes have cultivated by themselves and families, whilst others have employed their fellow freedmen. The freedmen have all worked for wages according to a scale fixed upon by the board of commissioners, and at a higher rate, I understand, than was adopted in the Department of the Gulf. They have been well and more abundantly fed than they were when held in slavery. Schools have been established upon the plantations, and the lessees have felt it a duty, by every proper means, to elevate this unfortunate race. As a general rule they greatly prefer working with Northern men, whom they regard as their friends, to working with Southerners, even their former owners, and I hazard nothing in saying that the net proceeds on a crop by a Northerner who has paid his hands wages will exceed that of a Southerner who has cultivated by slaves, the number of acres being the same in both cases. Those employed have thus been of no expense to the Government, but have supported themselves and families. They are perfectly contented, and look forward with hope to a future elevation of character. The experiment adopted, hastily and from necessity, with many misgivings, I now regard as a complete success.

The number of bales of cotton raised on these plantations will not much, if any, fall short of 8,000 bales, giving to the Government some $150,000 revenue. The lessees will also pay to the quartermaster's department for mules, utensils, &c., furnished or found on the places, some $100,000. The charge in lieu of rent is $2 a bale, making $16,000.

The Government's share on some few plantations abandoned by the lessees may sell for $150,000. I desire this money, or as much as may be necessary set aside as a fund necessary to pay the expenses of this year, and the year commencing January 1, 1864.

I purpose to continue the same system for the next year, but of necessity on a much more enlarged scale, as our forces now cover and protect a much larger extent of country on the Mississippi River. The parish of Concordia, La., alone will throw on our hands