Studies in the South



EVERY year on Decoration Day thousands of people gather to see the graves of Union soldiers at Pittsburg Landing strewn with flowers, and hear an address by some distinguished orator. The oration is always patriotic in a high, fraternal sense, and is thus conciliatory and practical. It is always listened to with the closest attention by multitudes of the natives of the surrounding country; and the captain told me that he had often seen “ rebels and Union men ” shedding tears together, under the inspiration of patriotic appeals and memories.

There can be no doubt, I think, that in the hands of suitable men these national cemeteries are centres of patriotic and national influence, and are useful in various ways as means of education for the people around them. They should be properly managed and liberally maintained. It is to be regretted that the government owns so small a piece of ground at Pittsburg Landing; only ten acres, I believe. It would be well if, in all such cases, the government had possession of some territory outside of the cemetery, so as to be able to keep its approaches and walls free from all offensive surroundings, from the close proximity of disagreeable manufactures, and everything of a repulsive character. The time may come when the lack of any ground, or rights, outside of the walls of these cemeteries will be a serious inconvenience to the government, and to its officers having charge of these places, wherever they may be situated, whether in the South or the North.

The old Shiloh church in the woods on the battle-field was demolished soon after the battle, and all its timbers, it is said, were cut up and carried away as relics of the historic spot. The lumber for a new building was on the ground when I was there, and the building has since been erected. Near this site we found remnants of blue army clothing under the leaves and surface soil, and I was told that such remains were still visible on various parts of the field. The graves of rebel soldiers are everywhere, and as many of them were very shallow, the bones had long been above ground. I saw these at different places in the woods. It is probable that, except when the skulls are visible, the people of the neighborhood suppose these bones to be those of horses. If they knew them to be human bones, they would be likely to re-inter them. In many places the shallow, circular trench made for drainage around a Sibley tent is still to be traced, and mounds of earth, covered with a luxurious growth of briers and shrubs, mark the places of the ghastly heaps which in time of a battle are always formed near the tables of the surgeons. There is a country store near the Landing, and one or two residences besides Captain Doolittle’s. That is all. There is no town. At the river side there is no building whatever. Freight landed from the boats on the Tennessee is left on the bank, to lie on the ground till its owner comes and takes it away. There is no wharf, or platform, or structure of any kind at the Landing. When the bank washes away, the steamboat runs out its bridge at another place. Very little land has been cleared in the immediate vicinity, and few changes have been made in the appearance of the adjacent forest since the time of the great battle.

In politics the county in which the battle-field is situated was republican by a considerable majority, but the fact seemed to me a little unnatural for some reason, as the country and the people looked so thoroughly Southern. Most of the men whom I saw in that region were democrats, but I met a few republicans. All were simple, primitive people, and none of them appeared to have any knowledge of matters connected with national politics, or interest in them. I could discover no sign of hostile feeling against the government, or against the people of the North.


Between Corinth and the battle-field we drove over miles of the old “ army corduroy,” which some of my readers doubtless helped to make. In some places it has been covered up in later times ; in others it is entirely worn out, but much of it is still there. When I asked for my bill at the hotel in Corinth, and informed the landlord that I was going away in a few hours, he invited me to a seat in the circle around the fire, and requested me to tell the company how I liked the country. We had a very free talk about the South, and the tendencies of the time as I had observed them during my journey. One gentleman asked me what I had seen that Northern people would dislike. “ Are not our people friendly enough where you have been, and kind?”

“ Oh, yes,” I said ; “ I have usually found them kind. Northern people visiting this region would not accuse you of any sectional hostility, I think.”

“Well, what is the matter with us? Tell us how things really look to a Northern man. We know our ways are too easy and slipshod for you, but is that all ? ”

“ We should not like to live where there are so many ' shooting affairs,’ ” said I. “ I am told that there have been three murders here in two years, and that nobody has been punished. One man was shot down in the street in broad daylight. Perhaps some of these gentlemen saw it done.” One man said he heard the shots, and several said it was all true. Some one remarked that we “ would n’t mind it so much after getting used to it.”

“ No,” said I, “ Northern people, or the best of them, will never ‘get used ’ to anything of the kind. We would rather live on an iceberg, or make a new New England under the Arctic Circle, than live in the richest country in the world, where men do not respect the laws. All this practice of shooting and killing is to us vulgar and disgusting and savage, and it will keep Northern men and Northern capital out of any region that tolerates it.”

“ Well, what would you do ? ”

“ Execute the laws, strictly and impartially, and at whatever cost. Now, gentlemen,” I added, “ I did not come here to lecture people, but you asked for this.”

“ Oh, certainly, certainly,” several of them replied : “ that’s all right. I reckon what you say is about the fact, too.”


There were many mishaps on the railroads in consequence of excessive rains and freshets during the winter which I spent in travel in the South, and bridges were carried away, and trains wrecked in many places, just before my arrival or a little after I had passed. But I was fortunate, and had no experience of accident except in one instance, when the train ran off the track at one o’clock in the morning, and we had to wait till daylight. Afterward I heard the negro porter on the train describing the occurrence to some gentlemen who got on farther up the road. They asked him where it happened; and he replied, “ Somewhar in de woods ’way down in de Alabam’.” When I returned to my place in the car, after going forward to see the engine where it lay helpless in the mud and water, groaning and quivering like a noble living creature in distress, I thought the prospect rather dreary ; but it proved one of the most interesting nights of my journey. When it was announced that we could not go on till daylight, the passengers began to talk. A negro came in, and was recognized by two gentlemen as having in his childhood belonged to some one whom they knew, and they bade him sit down and give an account of himself for the long time that had passed since their last meeting. They were all evidently glad to see each other, and the conversation that ensued evinced reciprocal regard and respect. One gentleman was a merchant from. Nashville ; the other I understood to be a physician, from Mississippi. Both showed good manners, wide information, and much interest in public affairs. They appeared to be business men of high character, energetic and practical. They were democrats ; the negro was a republican.

They soon launched broadly into a discussion of the whole question of the character, capabilities, and interests of the negro race in this country, and of the various problems growing out of the relations between the negroes and the white people. There was the utmost courtesy on both sides, but I was astonished at the ability and the boldness of the negro. He seemed to know and remember every political blunder and fault of the party in power in Alabama since its first organization after the war, and every instance of injustice done to the people of his race. Several times the gentlemen thought him in error regarding matters of fact, but he took a ponderous memorandum book out of his pocket, filled with newspaper cuttings, notes, and references, and showed in each case that he knew what he was talking about. For more than two hours there was such an exhibition of argument, wit, apt reply, and incisive repartee as I have rarely heard anywhere. There was great fairness and entire good humor all around. The two white men were evidently delighted with the ability shown by their antagonist, and when he was too strong for them they " owned up ” heartily. He was nearly always too strong for them, He had evidently given most of the points discussed far more attention than they. I have scarcely ever heard his readiness of reply equaled. Both his opponents together were no match for him. As they concluded, he said, “ Gentlemen, we give you notice that we intend to have our rights, all that the law gives us, and that we are going to fight for them — not with our hands, but with our months and our brains — till we obtain them. Sooner or later we shall have them, and you might as well understand it first as last.”

Both gentlemen said, “ That’s right. We don’t blame you. We like your spirit. Of course we would do the same in your place.” Then one added, and the other expressed hearty assent and approval, “ But I’ll be damned if I’ll ever sit down to the table with a nigger.” The negro laughed, and taunted them with the far more intimate relations which white men frequently form with negro girls. All this talk was open and public. There were no ladies in the car, and the men gathered around to hear. The negro’s account of the condition of his own race was very depressing, and he plainly felt that the chief obstacles in the way of their advancement were to be found, not in the opposition or injustice of the white people, but in the low qualities and tendencies of the negroes. He did not seem to be hopeful, but was full of spirit, and was plainly resolved to make a gallant fight for the improvement of his people, whatever the odds against him. In the course of the talk he described his efforts to put down vice and disorder among the colored people in the town where he lived. He had on a certain occasion organized and supervised a picnic for his own people, and when some vicious colored girls had intruded upon the company, he had forcibly expelled them from the grounds. They made a charge of assault and battery against him, and the affair cost him many hundreds of dollars. He confessed that he had violated the law in kicking and striking those disorderly women, but he had done so in protecting his own wife and daughters from insult and violence.

He thought that disorderly and licentious white men incited the baser class of the negroes to invade and disturb his picnic, and that even the good white people did not give him any sympathy or moral support in his efforts to maintain order and suppress vice among the colored people. Said he, “ Gentlemen, you do not care if we are degraded and worthless; but it’s bad for you, too, if the negro is a brute.” His comprehension of the subtle bonds that unite men in their moral destiny, and make the strong and fortunate in some ways dependent on the fate of the lowly, would have delighted the heart of Carlyle, He said, “ There are three hundred and sixty-two lewd colored girls in my town. It’s a shame and a curse for us. Do you think it’s nothin’ for you ?

This negro seemed a born leader of men. He was fully alive to the faults and weaknesses of the negro character, and appeared to be less hopeful regarding the future of his race in this country than were his white antagonists ; but he loves struggle and conflict, and will, no doubt, contend bravely to the end for what he regards as the rights of his people. I had some talk afterward with his friendly opponents. They spoke of him in terms of admiration, and said that he had the reputation of being one of the best public speakers in the State, and they had no doubt it was deserved. Then they added that if a hotel, theatre, or church, or any place of entertainment, amusement, or public resort in the South, should be conducted on the plan of really making no distinction on account of color or race, no white person of good character would attend it, or support it in any way whatever. This is doubtless true at present, in the main, at least.


On most of the railroads in the South the negroes were expected and told to take a particular car in each train, and they usually did so ; but the rule did not appear to be strictly enforced. (Indeed, I could not see that anything was done strictly in the South.) Well-dressed negroes sometimes traveled in the same car with “first-class” white people, ladies and gentlemen ; and there were usually some white people, poor whites or working folk, in the negro car. In Norfolk, Virginia, the colored people were directed to a particular gallery or part of the house at all lectures or public entertainments, but I do not think they had been, of late, forcibly prevented from taking seats in the body of the house. In Richmond, Virginia, at the time of my visit to that city, two young colored men bought tickets for a public lecture, and attempted to enter the main audience room. The usher very courteously suggested that they would find seats in the gallery. They objected, and asked, “ Do you forbid us to go into the best part of the hall ? ” “ Not at all, gentlemen,” he replied ; “ on the contrary, I call every one present to witness that I do not forbid you to go there. At the same time, I think you would better go into the gallery.” Just then the manager of the lecture course came in, and the usher appealed to him. He smiled, and passed the negroes into the principal auditorium, and they took seats at one side and in the rear, where there would be nobody near them.

If there had been a crowd, the manager would not have authorized them to go in ; and if the negroes had insisted on seating themselves among the white people, everybody in that part of the hall would have left it. Similar conditions and feelings appeared to prevail everywhere in the South in regard to these matters. There was a universal disposition on the part of the white people to avoid difficulty and conflict with the colored people respecting their civil rights, and the negroes were, in general, not disposed to contend for them. But a few colored men are inclined to insist upon enjoying whatever rightly belongs to them under the law, because they believe that any concessions on the part of the black people, or surrender of their legal rights, would invite and produce new injuries and oppressions. It is likely that some degree of irritation will often result from the attitude of the two races regarding this matter of the civil rights of the negroes.


I rode out on horseback, over the mountains from Huntsville, Alabama, a dozen miles or more to see a cotton mill. At one point I saw, near the road, a negro digging a post-hole, while two tall white men directed his operations. I had been told that the negro required supervision, and had thought that something might be said in favor of the theory, but this seemed to be a somewhat extreme application of it. A little farther on a young negro, perhaps twenty years old, crossed the road just in advance of me, with books and slate under his arm, evidently on his way to school. I called to him, and asked him two or three questions designed to educe whatever knowledge he might possess on points of interest to me. He answered briefly, and then added, “ But I hain’t got much time fer to stan'.” I was astounded, and could scarcely believe that I had heard aright. Everybody that I had seen in the South before had seemed to have unlimited time “ fer to stan’,” and this fellow’s utterance had an explosive and revolutionary sound. If I should hear of anything noticeable being done in that region, I should suspect this boy of having a hand in it. As I rode away, and looked at his energetic movement across the fields, it occurred to me that if I should ever write a book about the destiny of the colored race in this country I should like to dedicate it to the negro who “hain’t got much time fer to stan'.”

In various parts of the South I found a few negroes who own and cultivate large farms, employing many laborers of their own race. Men of this class are rarely hopeful about their people ; they say they “know too much about them to expect any great things.” They always employ an overseer, paying him more than the other hands receive. The negroes “ will do no good,” all such men say, without somebody to oversee them and keep them at work. The overseer is responsible for the amount and character of the work accomplished, and if there is any failure, something is deducted from his pay. The employer either furnishes all supplies for the maintenance of his hands during the season, keeping an account and charging them with whatever they obtain (or “ take up,” as the phrase is), or he authorizes a merchant in the town to supply them, becoming responsible to the extent of the wages of his men. Then, as I learned everywhere, the laborers try to obtain credit for “ all that is coming to them,” and a little more. I looked at many of the account books kept by these farmers. the records of their dealings with their workmen. Many of the charges were for things which were absurd and extravagant for the negroes to buy, — costly articles of dress for the women and luxuries for the table. I often asked such employers why they did not give their hands some advice about economy, and the use of their best judgment regarding the selection of things most necessary and useful for them when expending their money; but they always said it would do no good. " Humph ! Dey hain’t got no judgments.” I was in a country store one morning, when a negro woman came in and asked for a dollar’s worth of sugar. The merchant dipped out brown sugar, but the woman objected, and wanted white. The man remonstrated with her for her extravagance, saying that he could not himself afford to use such things as she bought. She was greatly offended, and retorted that such things might " do fuh free niggahs an’ low-down white folks. I ’lows my money jes’ as good’s Cunnel Gahshom’s money.” The merchant remarked that she would probably never come to his store again.

The negro farmers said that their hands nearly always “ tuck up” their wages faster than they earned them, and they often added such observations as these. “ A nigger will buy anything. You could sell any man on my place a steamboat, or an elephant, or a circus band wagon, — anything in the world,— if he had the money.” One man, who had a family, and was working for ten dollars per month, “took up ” three dollars and eighty cents in a month for whisky. Such extravagance and lack of judgment as to what a laborer’s family needs or can afford to buy are very general among the negro laborers.


One of these energetic, prosperous negro farmers told me of his experience with the “ Ku-Klux.” (The negroes all use this as one word, in the plural. Their spelling should be “ KuKluks,” the singular “ Ku-Kluk.” They say “ Ku-Kluker,” — one who KuKluks, and the verb is “ Ku-Kluk, KuKlukin’, Ku-Kluk’d.”) He said it was started “ to make people behave theirselves till they could git some courts, jestices, an’ sheriffs, an’ sich things, an’ to make bad men git up ’n’ git. But bad men soon got into it, an’ they begun to play the very debble, an’ then the dimicrats had to put it down.” “ Did the democrats put it down here ? ” I asked.

“ ’Course,” said he ; “ the’ was nobody else to put anything down. General Blank, an’ Judge So-an’-So, an’ all them people said it had to be stopped.”

“ Well, did they ever visit you ? ”

“ Sartin,” said he. I was keepin’ a saloon then, right hyar in the aidge o’ town, an’ one o’ the boys done tole me the Ku-Kluks was a comin’ to see me. An’ I done tole him that if they tried to take anything from me, like they had done some folks, somebody was gwine to git hurt. An’ sezee, ' Yer can’t shoot a Ku-Kluk, ’cause yo’ don’ know wharbouts dey is. Dey’s all wrop up, so wide, like ghostses, an’ dey’s ’bout ’leben feet high, an’ yer can’t shoot ’em no mo’ ’n de debble.’ An’ I said, ‘ I’s all ready, an’ I ’ll shoot ’em plumb in two in de middle, an’ I ’ll bet yah fo’ dollahs an’a half somebody ’ll git hurt.’

“ Sho’ ’nuff, de nex’ night dey comes in, jes’ afo’ I’s gwine to shet up. Dey was wrop up, an’ had veils on, an’ bairds o’ cotton an’ hemp, an’ all kines o’ circus foolin’s on ; but I knowed ’em every one. De shot-gun was right dar, whe’ dey could all seeah [see her], an’ when I sot out de glass I says, ‘Good-evenin’, Mas’r Wittaker. How you do, Mas’r Lowdens? Fo’ de Lawd, Mas’r Tom Gipsons, how is you ? ’ Yo’ see I knowed ’em, an’ dey knowed ’at I knowed ’em; an dey took off deir fixin’s an’ laughed, an’ said I was sharper ’n de debble. Wen dey went out, one man he come back, an’ he said I need n’t be afraid, — de Ku-Kluks wouldn’t bother me; an’ I said, den I would n’t bother them. Afterwards dey Ku-Kluk’d one o’ my men.”

“ What did they do to him?” I asked.

“ Dey done tuck his bed-close an’ cut holes in ’em to put on deir hosses, an’ shootin’ ’roun’, an’ skeerin’ him like de debble. An’ I went an’ tole some o’ ’em ef ’a was any mo’ sech cuttin’s up ’roun’ hyar, some fool Ku-Kluk was gwine to git the top ov ’is head blowed off, ’e was ! ”

In Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and other States, I was told that one great factor in the suppression of the “ Ku-Klux outrages ” was the deadly effect of the fire of the negroes, with rifle and shot-gun, from their cabins, whenever they were attacked in their homes. It was said that no sympathy was ever expressed when a white man lost his life in such an assault.


A little later in our conversation, I was surprised to hear an allusion to something that had happened about the time this negro killed a man. “ Why, did you ever kill a man ? ” “I did, shoah,” said he. “A white man?” “ Shoah.” “ Well, how was it? ” “ Dey was two on ’em, brothers, an’ dey’d ben to town, an’ was feelin’ mighty big; an’ comin' ’long hyar, dey seed my boy a plowin’ in de fiel’. An’ dey stop, an’ want to fight, an’ try to run over my boy ; an’ my boy, he run ’bout a mile, down hyar whar I was workin.' An’ he run ’roun’ my team, an’ I said, Le’ ’s have peace, an’ ’at I wanted my boy to be at work. But dey said dey was a gwine to whip de daylights outen ’im. An’ dey both went at ’im, an’ I hit one in de head an’ knock ’im stiff ; an’ he stretch out an’ shake, like a beef critter. An’ my boy, he knocked de udder one down, an’ I was gwine to kick ’im, an’ he hold up his han’s an’ say, ‘ Peace, peace.’ An’ I say, ‘ Damn you, why did n’t you say peace when I said peace, a while ago ? Now there’s your brother over thar ; he ’s dead, or a gwine to die.’

“ Well, dey ’rested me, an’ I was in jail three days, an’ it was time o’ court, an’ all de bes’ men in de county say dey would go outer my bon’. But de judge say he will try it now ; an dey said I was clar. An’ de judge say on de bench dat a man what would n’t fight for his own son ort n't be ’lowed to live. An’ de oder brother, he said he would kill me yit, an’ de judge said I should be ready for ’im ; an’ I sent ’im word he’d better be heeled, for if he ever lif’ his han’ at me I was a gwine to shoot to kill.”

This man said, “ De niggahs might all have nice little fahms o’ deir own, ef dey had n’t so much wuthlessness ; but de most uv ’em won’t do no good. Dey likes to git in debt for mo’ ’an dey’s wuth, an’ den dey lights out, an’ whar’s yo’ niggah ?” I asked him why he was a republican. “ Well, dey made me a man I was a chattel ; I was no mo’ an’ dis mule ; an’ dey made me a man.” “ Do you like all that the republicans have done since the war ? ” I asked. “ Do’ know what dey’s done ; don’ care what dey ’s done.” “ Well,” I said, “ I see there are some negro democrats; what is the reason of that ? ” “ Yes, it’s gittin’ to be the interest of a good many niggahs to be dimicrats, but I stan’s by my principles.” He did not intend a pun.


I found in one of the principal Alabama towns a young negro editor of decided ability, a democrat, who takes the ground that the only way for the negro to secure the advancement of his race is to ally himself with the true leaders of the South ; that a party in the South with its leaders in the North is an anomalous and unnatural arrangement, which must lead, as experience has shown, to endless folly and blundering. He said that the republicans mean well, but that they are too far away to understand the negro or what he needs ; that the republican party of the South will go to pieces, and that it is best that it should. He appeared to be a hardworking fellow, and his paper had a good circulation. He was principal of a large colored school, and in that field was certainly doing excellent work, whatever we may think of his political teaching.


In some parts of the South I found many people, even among the more intelligent classes, who believed that the negro race was rapidly decreasing in numbers, that it would “ eventually run out,” and that “ the remnant of them ” would, in time, leave the country. This appeared to me surprising, judging from what was going on all about them. I met a lawyer in Alabama, who set forth this theory of the speedy decline and extinction of the colored race with great force and fluency. When he had finished, I asked him what he thought of the probable fortunes of the white people who do not like to work ; and he thought that they, too, would leave the country. I did not learn what he thought would be the number of inhabitants to each square mile in Alabama after all the negroes had “ run out,” and all the white people who do not like manual labor had left the State ; but it is safe to say that the population would not be excessively dense. None of these people had heard of the revelations of the last census regarding the increase of the negroes, and they regarded the information as astounding and incredible.


One might soon fill volumes with the stories of the war and of the state of things just after its close, which are told everywhere among the common people of the South. In every place which I visited, the inhabitants said that there had been much improvement in the “ state of society ” in the last eight or ten years, and this is probably true. The assurance gives encouragement regarding the future, but it also inspires the reflection that before the improvement was made the region could not have been a very desirable place of restdence. It was common to hear people say, “ Things has been a great deal better sence Jack Belden an’ Con Peters was killed.” Then would follow a story of repeated murders and murderous assaults on the part of these men, of crime persisted in for many years, until the whole region was in terror of these desperadoes. At last, on some dark night, a company of men ride up to the house of one of these outlaws, and summon him to “ come out.” Then there is pleading and resistance on the part of his wife, and some hesitation on the part of the outlaw himself. But it was said — and this seemed to me curious and strange—that the taunt of cowardice is almost always effectual, and the fellow soon resolves to face his besiegers. He selects his best weapons, puts a double charge in a shot-gun, removes his family to the safest part of the room, opens the door, and is at once riddled with balls from a score of guns, which had been carefully aimed so as to cover every part of the doorway, and had been steadily held in that position since before the first summons to the man within. I could not learn whether, in such cases, a man feels the roused instinct of fight, or whether he opens the door because he knows that the end has come, and merely accepts the inevitable.

In some instances, after a story of this kind, people would add, “ There’s two or three other men hyar that ’ll be killed before long, I reckon, an’ then this country will be very peaceable.” This may be an effective method of improving the moral character of a community, but I should prefer a residence somewhere else, as long as missionary work of this kind appears to be necessary.


In a country neighborhood in Mississippi, I was told of an old man who had killed many men ; who had usually, indeed, killed anybody who happened seriously to displease him. His favorite weapon was the rifle, his inseparable companion. At last a man came back to that region, all the way from Texas, with the avowed object of killing this old man, and so avenging a relative who had been one of his many victims. One day, as the old man walked along a path through the woods, his pursuer fired at him from behind a tree. The aim was true, and the victim fell to the ground, shot through the body, but he was not dead. After some time, the man who had shot him put his head out from behind the tree to learn what had been the effect of his bullet. At that moment a rifle ball crashed through his brain. A little later, a neighbor came along the path, and found the Texan quite dead ; but the old man, though plainly fatally wounded, was still alive and conscious, but unable to do more than raise himself on one elbow. After he had succeeded in attaining this position, he said, “ Could yer roll that durned cuss over hyar, so ’s I kin hev a look at him ? ” This was done, and he gazed at the lifeless body with a contemptuous kind of interest. “ Bill Fosdick allus was a fool. I knowed he could n’t keep his head behind that tree. I knowed he ’d look out arter a while, and then I knowed I’d fetch him. He was allus a durned fool.” Then the neighbor took off his coat, and adjusted it under the old fellow’s head, and in a few minutes more two dead bodies lay side by side in the woodland path.


When you wish to call at the residence of a neighbor in Mississippi, you do not go to the door and knock, or ring the bell, as is usual in most places in the North. That would not be a safe or comfortable undertaking. You proceed, usually on horseback, to the “yard fence ” in front of the house, and shout, “ Halloo ! ” You are answered at once by a chorus of dogs, which come leaping down the yard toward you like wild beasts hungry for their prey. As you contemplate their enormous size, their number, and their evident ferocity, you congratulate yourself on being on horseback. About the time when you begin to wonder whether you will long be safe even in that position, the man of the house comes to the door, and calls out, “ Good - morning ! Won’t ye ’light?” You mentally answer, “ Not just yet;” and your host walks down the path toward you, making remarks about the weather or some such familiar topic as he comes along. When he reaches the gate he says, imperatively, “ Well, ’light! ” As the dogs are by this time slowly retiring, looking disappointed, but resigned (as if saying to themselves, “Better luck some time; we shall eat him yet ”), you alight, and you were not expected to do so at any earlier stage of the proceedings.

The host now says, “ Come in ! ” and you walk slowly up the path together, conversing as you go. Having arrived at the porch, or “gallery,” as it is called in the Southwest, he says again, “ Come in ! ” But you do not go in. It would be ill-bred to enter at once. So you linger on the gallery, still conversing for a minute or two, and your friend repeats, imperatively this time, “ Well, come in ! ” and then you go in. “ In the old times,” as the Southern phrase is, to have gone at once to a planter’s door, without calling from the outside of the yard, and receiving an invitation from within the house, would have been regarded as evidence of unlawful or hostile intentions, especially in the evening, and would have exposed the visitor to the chance of a greeting from a shotgun. At present the dogs are usually, I suppose, the chief source of danger.


In Copiah County, Mississippi, I was shown the place where a man was not hanged, who, nevertheless, seems to have come very near experiencing that fate. He was a noted horse-thief, and was at last captured by a company of indignant farmers, who had found some of their own horses tied up in the woods, and had remained in ambush near by until the thief came back to dispose of his booty. The whole country-side was soon informed of the arrest, and the men assembled with rifles and shot-guns to see the prisoner, and to decide or learn what was to be done with him. It was determined, after due deliberation, that he should be hanged, then and there. A rope was accordingly procured; one end was fastened to a convenient limb, and the other made into a noose, which was adjusted around the prisoner’s neck. He was mounted upon a mule, and a man was selected who was to act as executioner by leading the animal away from the tree, thus leaving the culprit dangling in the air. Apparently his last moment had come, and he had too much good sense to ask for his life.

But his captors were nearly all religious men, members of the Christian churches of the neighborhood ; and at this juncture one of the leaders suggested that, as it was a very solemn thing to send a human soul into eternity, especially if in an unprepared condition, as was most likely the case in this instance, he thought they ought to engage in prayer before hanging the man. To this all assented, and the man who had proposed devotional exercises was appointed to " lead in prayer.” He did so, and mode a most feeling and fervent plea for divine mercy for the sinner who was just about to appear in the presence of the Most High, with all his crimes upon his head. The company was deeply impressed ; many were even moved to tears. But the prayer came to an end, the tear-bedewed eyes were dried, and “ the exercises of the occasion ” were about to be completed according to the programme, when the man who had held the mule by the bridle declared that he did not feel willing to discharge the duty which had been assigned to him. “ Somebody else do it; I don’t want to have nothin’ to do with hangin’ him,” said he ; and his feeling was found to be the unanimous sentiment of the whole party. The result was that the prisoner was delivered to the sheriff, and was soon afterward tried by due course of law in the proper court, and sentenced to a long term in the penitentiary. I think he should have been ever afterward an earnest believer in the efficacy of prayer.

It was suggested by some persons who were not present at the time that the motion for a prayer was intended as a means of rescuing the prisoner from the fate so evidently impending ; but after the story was told to me, I dined at his own house with the man who made the prayer. We talked very freely, and I came to the conclusion that, on the occasion described, his course had been simple and natural, and that he had not foreseen its effect, either upon his own feelings or upon those of his neighbors.

In Kemper County, Mississippi, I talked with several persons about “ the Chisholm tragedy.” One was a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church South. All said nearly the same things. So much has been printed about this affair that I do not think it necessary for me, at this late date, to say anything about it. Everybody expressed great regret that “ the girl,” was killed. “ She was a mighty brave girl,” “ She had pluck, I tell you,” were common expressions. The minister said, “ Both men [Judge Chisholm and his antagonist, Gully] was designin’ men.” This term, “ a designing man,” means in that region a treacherous man, a plotter, one who will deliberately plan the murder of an opponent; and this was what the people there said of both these men. " It’s wrong to do such things,” the minister said, “ and it was a pity it happened ; but it has been a benefit to this part of the country that both of ’em was killed. There would n't have ever been any peace with ’em. Both of ’em was designin’ men.” There was evidently a kind of “blood-madness” in parts of the South for some time after the war, — a rage for killing. Of course it did not affect everybody, but it was an important psychological phenomenon, marked and frequent enough to affect Southern society, and to exert some influence on national life and thought.


In the Southwest, the people still talk with indignation of the measure exempting from military duty in the service of the Confederacy all owners of large numbers of slaves. “ The people said then that this was the rich man’s war, and the poor man’s fight.” As soon as its adoption became known to the rank and file, they began to desert by hundreds and thousands. I explored a region of " the Great Pine Woods,” in Southern Mississippi, which was held, so the people said, during the last year of the war, by large bodies of deserters from the Confederate army, who kept their arms and equipments, maintained their military organization, and successfully defied the officers and forces sent to arrest and return them to service in the field. I was shown a tree on which several deserters were hanged because they persisted in their refusal to return to the army, and declared that they preferred death to any further experience of a soldier’s life. Many of these were, so their neighbors say, taken at their word, and swung up at once. One man, who was about to be hanged on this tree, asked for water, as he stood with the rope around his neck, and just as the order was about to be given to hoist him away. The water was brought him in a gourd, and then he begged that, as his last privilege, his hands, which were pinioned behind him, might be loosed, and that he might thus be able to drink once more holding the cup in his own hands. His request was granted ; but as he drank he suddenly clutched at the noose, threw it from his shoulders, and bounded away through the woods “ like a good fellow,” as my informant expressed it, effecting his escape.

There is no end to the stories of the war, and of the first five or six years after its close, which are told everywhere in the South, but, there must be an end to my writing of them. There is a rich field here for writers who will not invent their narratives, but will truthfully record what they hear ; valuing the simple facts for their own sake, and not as a basis or skeleton for stupid love stories. A vast amount of rich material for history and for the illustration of history will soon perish and be lost forever, unless somebody has the patience to live and talk with the common people of the South, and transcribe their accounts of what they have seen and known. The impartial study of the war, and of the conditions and activities of the decade after its close, from the point of view and experience of the “ poor whites ” of the South and of the black people, would open great stores of interesting and valuable information, which can never be made accessible in any other way. Our national history for that time can never be truthfully or adequately written without it. The classes mentioned are inarticulate, as they have always been. None of their number will ever make any record of what they saw and thought and felt during those pregnant years ; but if the story could be written out for them, while that is still possible, it would be worth far more than the special pleading of the leader who has been “ the head of many a felon plot, but never yet the arm,” and whom the common people of the South obeyed, but never trusted.