Studies in the South



WE reach the East again at Columbus, Georgia, coming up from the Southwest, and even at Montgomery, Alabama, begin to feel that we are approaching a region very unlike the oue we are leaving behind us. There are more trains on the railroads, and they make better time, and many things indicate greater progress and prosperity. As I came into the State I met a man who introduced himself to me as a “ Georgia Yankee,” and I heard the phrase in various places. It is used to describe native Georgians who are making money in business, — “getting ahead,” as this man expressed it, with an unusual precision of pronunciation. He was a partner in a large jewelry firm in an important Northern city, and had often visited New York, Philadelphia, and other places in the North. He was strongly impressed by the fact that so many Northern men have wealth and business ability, who, from their want of intelligence, and their rudeness and vulgarity of speech and manners, would be supposed to belong to the class of “ low-down ” white people. He had been the means of making a considerable disturbance in the office of the Northern house, one day, during a recent business visit there. He was telling some Southern story to the two or three gentlemen at the desks, who all laughed heartily at its conclusion. But the head clerk or book-keeper, who was also present, remarked, “ You need n’t think you ’re going to stuff us with such stories as that, in this part of the country. That may do to tell down South, but up this way the people know too much to believe it; ” whereupon the Georgia man knocked him down. The spectators were startled by the suddenness of the commotion, but it was soon over. “ The fellow apologized handsomely; in fact, went all to pieces ; said he had no intention of giving offense, he did n’t think of my taking it so seriously, and so on ; and they all said I must not mind such things, it was only a joke, and much more to the same effect. It may be a good joke in the North to tell a man he lies, but I was not raised that way.”


After this I had another conversation on the same train. I asked the brakeman something about the country ahead of us, and when he answered that he did not know, but would find out for me, a lady on the next seat gave me the information I had sought; and when I thanked her for her courtesy, she went on to tell me many things about the country and the people, the war, and the old order of things and the new. She was married, just before the beginning of the war, to a young man who afterward became a colonel in the Confederate army. He was wounded at Kenesaw Mountain, and died a few months after the close of the war from the effects of this injury. His property had been chiefly in slaves. There had been some debts, no large ones, and she gave up the plantation and all the property which remained, and so paid them. There was nothing left. She had a little daughter, was in excellent health, and knew “ how to do a good many kinds of work ; ” having learned and practiced them in a mere romping, “ tom-boy ” spirit when she was a young girl. Taking her child with her, she went to one of the principal cities of Georgia, and called on the leading ladies of society there, asking for advice as to what pursuit or employment a young woman in her situation might honorably and without loss of womanly dignity engage in, as a means for her maintenance and the education of her daughter. They advised her to enter a millinery establishment and learn the business, as the first step. She did so, and had now a large store of her own in the same city. She gave her daughter a good education, and had recently had the satisfaction of marrying her to one of the chief merchants of the place.

I was afterward in her store, which she showed to me with due and reasonable pride. There were about a dozen young women at work in it, most of them in a pleasant, airy apartment in the rear of the salesroom. “ I employ none but girls who wish to learn the business thoroughly,” she said, “ and girls that intend to be ladies, and will behave themselves as such. I can recommend these girls for business and for good character, and when they leave me they generally go into business for themselves in some of the country towns.” I asked her if they were all of Southern birth; and she said they were, most of them being the children of old and prominent families, which were broken up by the war. There were also many such girls in the drygoods and other stores as saleswomen, of late. She thought it entirely right and commendable for a young woman to support herself by such employment, but regretted its necessity, which seemed to me a very reasonable view of the matter. She told me that when she reached the city which is now her home, long ago, at the beginning of her efforts to make a living for herself, she had just ten dollars in her pocket, all she possessed in the world. Now, she said, her daughter and son-in-law wished her to give up the store, and she had enough to make her comfortable and independent for the rest of her days ; but she preferred to work, for the greater pleasure of it, and for the chance which it gave her to help so many young girls.

She thought that the freedom of her early life had been of great benefit to her. Her father was a wealthy planter, and when she was not in school she was her own mistress. She employed her leisure in riding the wildest colts she could find, and in hunting, “ taking a negro boy along to tote the gun.” She did not think she ever killed many birds ; “ but then, neither did the young men who told such stories of their exploits.” Relatives and friends remonstrated, insisting that such recreations were not suitable for a young lady ; but her father and the family physician always agreed that she should not be interfered with, saying, “ She will be worth a dozen of your fine young ladies, who can’t get over a fence or off a horse without assistance.” She would have liked to join in fox-hunting on a good horse, but her father said it would not be safe ; she was too reckless. Her active out-ofdoor life in her youth bad given her great vitality and power of endurance.

She had a number of friends among the Northern people in the city, and said they were not very different from Southerners, “ when you get acquainted with them. But they are not so easy to get acquainted with as our people.” Northern people were rather restless. “ They don’t seetn so easy, or as if they were so happy, as our folks here.” She thought it a good thing for both whites and blacks that slavery was abolished, and that it was “ a pity the blacks were ever brought here, in the first place. Most of them will naturally be underlings, and it is not good to have the two races together.” In experience, ideas, and spirit this woman was a good representative of many of her sex in the South.


As we ran along through the pine forests in Georgia, one moruing, I was interested in the conversation of three or four gentlemen just across the aisle from where I sat. They were evidently old friends, but one of them had not seen the others, as it appeared, for a year or two. They were talking over “ old times ” in a merry, cordial mood, with reminiscences of the war, mingled with discussions of the prospects of cotton-planting and of the Cotton Exposition at Atlanta in the autumn, the sales of land in various places, the industrial condition and improvement of the negroes, etc. At a little way-station a group of Italian musicians came in, with harp, violin, and tambourine, and at once began to play. The music was rather loud, and drowned conversation. They gave us several melodies, the young people in the car keeping their feet in motion to the time of the music. Yankee Doodle was played, and then Dixie. When this piece was finished one of the gentlemen opposite exclaimed, “ Why, major ! Why don’t you throw up your hat and cheer ? I never knew you to listen to Dixie without making some fuss over it.” The major looked grave, and replied, “ Well, I’ve been thinking over all this nonsense a good deal for a year or two back, and I conclude that I’ve had enough of it. The war ’s over, an’ I ’m a-makin’ money now. If anybody wants to steam up on politics, on one side or the other, let ’em. I don’t care a damn who ’s in, nor who ’s out. No more Dixie in mine ! ” The others set up a shout of laughter, after which they each gave something to the small musician who came around with the tambourine.


I found one man, an editor, at Meridian, Mississippi, who seemed more " solid " than any one else I saw in the South; and I was somewhat inclined to think that he and a few others like him might constitute the whole of the “ solid South,’ of which I had heard so much. This gentleman was troubled by the “ vulgarity ” of Northerners, or of the Northern character. He said that if we would only send “ gentlemen ” to the South he would be glad to welcome them; but so many Northern men were low and sordid, and “ were never in a gentleman’s house in their lives,” and when they came to the South they made people think they were representative Northern men. I told him we could not well afford to send all our best people to the South, as we needed them at home. I admitted that we had not so many gentlemen, or really superior citizens, in the North as we should like to have, and that there are traits in the character of many Northerners which are not wholly admirable ; but suggested that my travels had given me the impression that in these matters the North and South were much alike. “ Are Southern men all, or generally, gentlemen of the highest character ? ” Then followed a long and rambling talk, interesting, but too diffuse to be reproduced here. This man was not a politician, nor was he in any way, I thought, a bad fellow. He had good intentions, and some excellent personal qualities. But he was young, and he cherished an absurd worship and regret for some features of the old regime in the South. He would not have slavery back ; but be was repelled by the harsh, practical, vulgar features of the advancing new order of things. He had studied “ Northern character ” (if, as he insisted, there is such a thing, as distinct from Southern character) only from a distance, and he saw only the lower or worse side of our society and civilization. Much that he said about Northern people was true, but was not the whole truth. He and a very few men like him — at least I could find very few— were doing the South ill service, as I suppose they had done for some years before. Every now and then he wrote something which “ fired the Northern heart ” beautifully. He uttered absurdities enough in two hours to supply material for anti-Southern speeches for a whole political campaign in the Northern States. I could not see that such men had any considerable influence in the South, at the time of my visit. Leading Southern men — democrats — everywhere warned me against them, and said they were fools. I found no elderly man among them. They were — those whom I saw — all of them impracticable, romantic young sentimentalists, and all of them were editors.

As I was leaving this gentleman, I said, “ I wish you would take hold and help us with the new order of things.

I am rather sorry for those who feel as you do.” “ Thank you,” said he, “but the sympathy of our conquerors is galling sometimes.” “Oh, no,” I laughingly replied, “ do not feel conquered. That seems a little absurd under the circumstances, and so long after the fight.” He was a rather engaging young fellow, but he somehow reminded me of a young Confederate officer whom I once met on a battle-field in Virginia, a few hours after a hard fight. Our forces had captured the enemy’s stores, and I was engaged with a detail of men opening boxes and packages, and taking account of the property, when this officer, a prisoner, who was helping the rebel surgeons in the care of their own wounded in a tent near by, came up, and said,

“ You have no right to meddle with these things, sir.” “ Why not, sir ? ” I asked. “ Because they are the property of the Confederate States of America, sir.” “ Then why don’t the Confederate States of America take care of their property ? ” I inquired. The old order of things in the South has gone the way of the other property of the Confederate States of America.


One of the worst features of the condition of things in the South I found in the character and methods of a large number of men, who were selling goods in the smaller towns and villages, and at the “ cross-roads ” and landings almost everywhere. They were mostly foreigners or Northern men, but in some parts of the country a few native Southerners were taking up the same kind of business, as good Southern citizens now and then confessed to me with shame. These merchants, or “ store-keepers,” were commonly as rapacious as pirates, wholly destitute of principle, conscience, and honesty. I do not mean that all the “small merchants” or dealers in country places in the South are of this character ; but the class is a very large one, and has its representatives in every State. These men are growing rich faster than any other class in the Southern States. They sell goods to the negroes and poor whites at two hundred or three hundred per cent, profit, and very often they simply take all that a man has. A large part of their business is conducted in the following way: A dealer of this class makes an agreement during the winter with a negro or white laborer to “ run ” him for the season. That is, the merchant furnishes the “ small planter ” with all his provisions and supplies of every kind for the spring, summer, and autumn, agricultural implements, and everything needed, on credit; all these things to be paid for out of the crop, when it is matured and gathered.

Each merchant may thus supply, or “ run,” a dozen, twenty, or fifty men. During the summer, and all the time the crop is growing, the dealer rides about the country and inspects each man’s fields, or sends some competent man to do it, so that he can estimate the probable product. An experienced judge can do this very accurately. When the cotton is ready to be picked, the merchant knows almost exactly how much has been produced by each man that he has “ run.” All along through the season he has of course entered on his books each article furnished to the planters ; and now he goes over his books, and sets down the price, the amount which the customer is to be required to pay for it; and the prices are so arranged that the aggregate charged for the season’s supplies will exactly take the planter’s whole crop. The laborer is thus left, at the end of the season, absolutely penniless.

There are often stormy scenes on “ settling-day.” Such a merchant will submit without resistance to the bitterest cursing a wronged, disappointed, and enraged negro can utter. Often there would be violence, but that the merchant is armed and his dupe is cowed. The end or result of it all is, usually, that the dealer makes the man a cheap, showy present, and arranges to “ run ” him again the next year. But sometimes, when a negro is concerned, the outcome is different. The merchant buys cotton. In many cases he has a gin of his own, or a cotton-press. This gives the wronged, helpless negro an opportunity for revenge. The gin or press is fired, some dark night; there is a deduction from the dealer’s profits for the year ; the negroes of the region exult among themselves ; and there is a new “ political outrage ” — or there was, when these were useful — for the newspapers and politicians.

In Norfolk, Virginia, I saw a company of country people bringing into the city the products of their farms, — dressed hogs, fowls, eggs, etc. There were perhaps a dozen or fifteen carts and wagons, several of them driven by women. All appeared to be simple, kindly, shy people, somewhat frightened by the noises and “ ways ” of the city. One woman had three or four fine fat hogs. Half a dozen hucksters came about her, asking prices and endeavoring to buy. One was a most repulsive-looking young man, who evidently thought to show himself a superior person by being insolent and abusive to these country people. He made an offer, in loud and boisterous tones, of a particular sum for the hogs; and when the woman hesitated, as if making some mental calculation, and evidently a little confused by his violence, he cursed her, telling her that she was a fool not to agree to his offer at once. Then he repeated the amount he had named over and over again ; and on her remaining silent, he insisted that she had thereby signified her consent to trade on his terms. This she denied, and then he poured out a flood of most foul and violent abuse, even threatening the woman with arrest and imprisonment for violating a contract, though he had done all the talking himself. The woman’s neighbors were evidently afraid of the fellow, but one of them ventured to remonstrate against such treatment of a woman, when the dealer ordered him to shut his mouth if he did not want a good kicking, and the man obeyed. I longed to knock the rascal down, but reflected that I was only an observer, and that, though knocking him down might make the affair more picturesque, it would not add to the real value of my report. This was one of the first things which I encountered at the beginning of my journey through the Southern States, and I afterward saw a great many similar occurrences. The poorer class of white people throughout the South are generally good and kind, with many lovable qualities, but they have so little power of self-assertion, or self-defeuse, that everybody is insolent to them. They are far more helpless and abject, usually, than the negroes. But they are so human, so domestic; and they are among the few people left, in this modern world of ours, to whom the old-fashioned virtue of humility still belongs. They have for me a pathetic interest, as representatives of a type which is rapidly becoming extinct in our country, and, I suppose, in most or all of the “ highly civilized ” countries of the world.


I heard much interesting talk among business men in Texas about their interest and plans regarding land and investments in Mexico. They often spoke of the old feeling of men of a certain type in Texas, in favor of the conquest of certain portions of Mexico. They said that all such ideas were out of date ; that, while some men would doubtless like to be camp followers of an invading army, the day of the sword had gone by, and money had now become the ruling force in national affairs and relations.

“ The world now belongs,” they said, “ not to the soldier, but to the far-seeing business man. Our money will buy anything we want in Mexico. There is some good land there, and we shall buy it. We shall develop the best portions of the country, and by and by we shall own and occupy it. We shall Americanize as much of Mexico as we want, constructing and operating railroads, working mines, establishing manufactures, supplying the markets, and introducing our improved methods of agriculture. There is no law or treaty against such an invasion as that, is there ? ”

“ But what about the rough and disorderly condition of society, and the insecurity of property in that country?” I asked.

“ Oh, that will soon settle itself,” was the reply. " The people steal because they are poor, and they are lazy because there is nothing to do. Whenever there is property there worth taking care of, it will be secure enough ; and the people who will not work will move on into the poorer regions of the country.”

Several gentlemen told me that they were disposing of some of their property in Texas, and were investing more and more of their means in Mexico. They said, “ The national debt is practically already paid off, and there will be no more bonds at a high rate of interest. Great industrial enterprises will now be the most profitable investments, and business knows nothing about boundary lines.”


I was strongly impressed by the general hardness and unsympathetic feeling of Northern men living in the South regarding the negroes. Native Southerners of character and position do not often appear to feel unkindly toward black men, though of course they often regard them contemptuously, and fail to treat them as they ought. But Northern men who had gone South since the war almost universally (those whom I saw) spoke of the negro with great harshness, — with a kind of cold hatred, and what I should call cruelty. I saw and heard so much of this, that would have before appeared incredible, that it gave me sometimes a kind of nightmare fear that residence in the South might transform the most philanthropic abolitionist into a tyrant of merciless severity. Some interesting questions are suggested here, but I have not time to discuss them.

Near Vicksburg I found a planter from Minnesota, who worked many negroes. I asked him about their quality as laborers, and he replied that they were almost worthless, “ unless you whip them well.” " How do you mean that you whip them?” I asked. “ Do you fight with them, and whip them because you are the best man, as white men fight in Minnesota?” “Oh, no,” said he contemptuously ; “go at them with a club, or a heavy whip-stock, knock them down, and beat them, as you would a mule.” “ But I thought the day for that was over, in this country. I should think they would leave you. Why do they not go away, — go to some other man, or out of this region ? ” “ Oh, well, they do go away to the woods for a day or two, sometimes. But what can they do ? Their families are here, and they don’t know where to go. Besides, I should n’t let ’em go, if I did n’t want to. The dogs would soon find ’em.” “ Then,” I said, “ 1 would kill you.” At this he laughed sneeringly, and replied, “Mebbe you would, but you ain’t a nigger. A nigger’s just in his place when he has a white man to drive him, an’ they always need knockin’ down occasionally.” He went on to say that he had found out that only the harsh slaveholders made money in the old times. “ An’ that’s the right way now ; work ’em to death, an’ git more. There’s plenty of ’em.” On my expressing my abhorrence, he said, “ You would n’t be here a year till you would say the same things. All Northern men talk just as you do when they first come down here. I did myself. My father was a red-hot abolitionist; but I tell you a nigger has no affection, no gratitude, no heart. Every one of ’em will steal. They understand nothing but a club.”

In Mississippi I found a republican official who hired prisoners from the authorities, and employed them in various kinds of labor. The convicts worked under guard, and occasionally some of them would try to escape. Most of them were negroes. When they ran away, the employer and his guards chased them with dogs, using a pack of hounds to follow by the scent. These will not attack the fugitive, but they are accompanied by a powerful and ferocious “ catch-dog,” that will tear a man in pieces in a few minutes, if the dying, hunted wretch is unable to ascend a tree before the terrible brute is upon him. Just before I was in that neighborhood a runaway negro convict had played a shrewd trick which enabled him to make good his escape, for that time at least. Hearing the hounds on his trail, he struck across the country for the railroad. When he reached it the dogs were in plain sight across the fields, and were rapidly gaining on him. Half a mile away he saw an express train approaching. He knew the dogs would follow the scent closely, so he ran to meet the train, which, but a moment after he had stepped from the track, ran over the dogs, killing them all.

I must do the people of that region the justice to say that, although many of them saw nothing shocking in the practice of hunting runaway negroes with dogs, their sympathies were all with the fugitive on this occasion. They were glad that he had outwitted his pursuers, and talked much about " the nigger that was too many for Captain Soand-So.” This “ captain ” is a Northern man, and I thought he felt some degree of shame when I expressed my disgust at what I had heard; but he insisted that my sentimental view of the matter was absurd. “ How else am I to catch the niggers, then ? ” he said. Some time afterward, in talking with a prominent democrat of Cuero, Texas, of this incident in Mississippi, when I remarked that I felt the more indignant because the fellow was a Northern man and a republican, my Texas acquaintance politely remonstrated, saying that my feeling seemed to him mere sentiment, “ surprising from a gentleman so intelligent as yourself ; ” and he added, “ How else was he to catch the nigger ? ” Some Northern ladies, in the region where it happened, told me of their inexpressible horror the first time they saw this man, with his dogs, chasing a negro. It was just at dawn, on a beautiful Sabbath morning. They could not at first believe what was told them about “ the hunt.”


It was in Mississippi, also, that I was told by a number of Northern men of an account sent to the Northern press during the “ Hayes campaign,” which located an atrocious political outrage at the place which I was then visiting. These persons seemed reputable, and they all affirmed that nothing of the kind had ever occurred there. T inquired regarding the author of the dispatch, and, learning that he was still living a few miles away, I went to see him. He laughed when I told him my errand, took a fresh chew of tobacco, and, crossing his feet on the top of the table before him, began talking of the affair in an easy, fluent, indifferent style, which seemed to indicate that he was glad to have somebody to talk with, and would as lief talk of that subject as any other. “ Then the dispatch was not really true?” I said. “Well,” he replied, “ it was true as to the spirit of the South generally at that time.” “ But why did you say that such and such things happened at a particular place, if they did not ? ” “ Well, now, you know, it would not be worth while to say, at such a time, that there was lots o’ devilish feeling in the South. But it rather wakes people up to tell them that something’s been done at a place that they’ve heard of.” “ Yet it was not true.” But he thought the use of a fable or parable was justifiable, under the circumstances, because it was the only way to give point or effectiveness to any account of the condition of the South at that time. “ All writers does pretty much the same thing,” he urged; “ they have to.” “ Oh, I hope not,” I said. “Well, now, if you lived down here a while, you ‘d find out we have to fight the devil with fire.” The Northern men who told me of this performance were earnest republicans, and they were specially indignant about the fabrication, because it alarmed some of their Northern friends who had been preparing to remove to that region, but were frightened from their purpose by this story.


I was not able to find any “ feeling against the North,” or against Northern people, in the regions which I visited; and, so far as that is concerned, I should have no fear or reluctance in going to any part of the South which I have seen, if for any reason I wished to emigrate to that portion of our country. But many people are going South with no adequate forethought, or knowledge of the country. There is a side of Southern character and life with which such persons are very likely to become acquainted. There are many men “ in business,” nearly everywhere in the South, who are of the same type as the author of the following fraternal utterance. I had heard of him as oue of the fiercest fighters against us through the whole war, and went to see him. When I announced myself as a “ Yankee invader ” he shook hands heartily, and replied, “ I’m a reconstructed rebel. We fought till the fight was all whipped out of us. I rather like the men that whipped us. Tell all your people to come down here. They ’re just as welcome as our best friends, and we ’ll cheat the eye-teeth out of ’em.”

In one of the principal Southern States, I saw a young man from the North, well educated and energetic, who had had this experience : A planter, who owned a large tract of unimproved land, decided to “go into sheep.” He said to this young man, “ I will furnish money, you furnish labor; we will go into partnership and raise sheep, and share the profits.” The young man agreed to this, and worked hard for a year and a half, clearing and fencing land, and putting the new plantation in order. Then the proprietor said that there had been a considerable loss on the sheep, but, as he felt a special interest in the young man, he would not require him to make good any part of the money loss, and he would allow him to work for him long enough to pay for the supplies which he had received from the plantation store during the time of the partnership. When I saw the young fellow he had been at work nearly a year, paying for these supplies. Of course he should have had wages from the first, and should have made a much more definite agreement regarding unfavorable contingencies ; but be “ did not think of such things,” because he “ was to share the profits.” The planter sold the sheep, and had a fine new plantation for cotton ; and he had had more than two years’ labor, which had cost him only the young man’s board and clothing. Many Southern men have a feverish desire to make money. They need it, and Northern immigrants who bring them opportunity are especially welcome.

There is, indeed, everywhere in the South, the strongest desire for immigration from the North, and there are real inducements for young people of invulnerable digestion, who are willing to work hard and live roughly, and who can resist the unfavorable influences arising from the changed conditions of life. But I saw many young men from the North who were not strong enough in moral equipment for life in “ a region where the poorest man can have a harem of his own, of any desired extent, and almost without cost.”


In some places in the South, when a “ political campaign ” is in progress, some of the rougher class of young men have a fashion of “ sending word ” to the opposition speakers that they “ cannot speak in this town.” Usually no attention is paid to such a menace, and nothing serious is apt to result from disregarding it, though the drinking habits of the people sometimes make it easy to have fights and “ personal difficulties ” at political meetings. There are many men in the South, too, who enjoy taking part in a “ disturbance ” at such times, though they would not begin one themselves, and who are always ready to shoot at anybody who is running away and cannot defend himself. A wild rush after somebody who is plainly unarmed, with miscellaneous pistol-firing and a clamorous accompaniment of shouts, oaths, and yells, is a delightful entertainment to many a Southern crowd. Such “affairs” are not usually so murderous in their results as a stranger would expect them to prove; but if a black man happens to be shot, it makes the occasion more interesting to the young fellows, — “ the hoys that took a hand in the racket,” — nearly every one of whom will affirm that he “ shot the damn nigger.”

Every year there is less of such savagery. Southern white men do not like to be shot at, when there is no good reason for it, any more than other people. I would have willingly undertaken, while there, or at any time since, to make a decided republican speech anywhere in the Southern States of this country ; and if I were about to do so, and thought there was a disposition on the part of anybody to interfere with or disturb the meeting, I should be as “ bitter and vindictive,” to use a politician’s phrase, as my conscience would permit. Courage would be far safer than timidity or mildness, under such circumstances, and folly readily leads to trouble everywhere in times of excitement. In passing twice through the entire South, and exploring many of the regions which are accounted the roughest and wildest, I did not see or hear a single altercation. I saw no shooting, except in the case which I have described, of a man’s firing his revolver so often from the platform of the car in which I was riding. In all the journey I did not carry a weapon of any kind ; nor did I, at any time, feel the slightest apprehension of danger or personal injury.


I met with much rough traveling, on account of excessive rains and floods. Once, in the Bayou Pierre country, in Mississippi, as I was crossing from one railroad to another, with a good team, and no load but the driver and myself and a small trunk, the road was so bad that we were obliged to walk most of the way ; and at last we came to a place where a land-slip from the side of a hill had carried the whole breadth of the roadway into the river. The driver said that he had never left a man in the woods; but I told him he had done his best, and must go back. He wished me to return with him, but I thought one passage over such a road enough for me. We put the trunk on a large log; the young fellow sorrowfully said good-by, and wished me luck in getting out; and I walked on through the woods two or three miles, to the nearest settlement. Three men went back with me, and we carried the trunk through. The whole population of the little hamlet, about a hundred persons, came out to meet me, and escorted me to my lodging place, as if I were another Livingstone returning from Central Africa. I rode many hundreds of miles on freight trains, and greatly enjoyed living with the train hands.

The greatest swindle I encountered in the South was the railway eatinghouse business. It was said to be everywhere under the control of a great corporation. Prices were extravagant, considering the quantity and quality of the food supplied. There appeared to be no effort, usually, to provide food that could be eaten. It was ill cooked, the tables and rooms were hideously dirty, and the men in charge were the most uncivil people I met in all my journey. When travelers would ask the waiters to pass some dish which was beyond reach, the answer was frequently, “It’s on the table ; git it, ef ye want it.”


One morning, near the completion of my journey in the South, I left a seaport town for a ride by rail of eighty or one hundred miles into the interior of the State. For most of this distance the railroad runs through a pine-woods region, which is but sparsely settled, and but a small portion of the land is cultivated. The car was full, and before we had fairly cleared the suburbs of the town from which we started general attention was attracted to one man among the passengers. I happened to be near him, but he spoke so loudly that everybody in the car was obliged to hear what he had to say. He at once began to ridicule whatever he saw along the road, — the soil, the houses of the people, their vehicles, clothing, and manners, — and kept up a sarcastic running comment upon such topics during most of the journey. He informed the company that he was “ from the North ; ” that he was the editor of a newspaper in a prominent New England city, which he mentioned; and that he had “ never been in the South before.” He went on to say that he was very glad that he had “ come South,” to see for himself what a miserable, God-forsaken country it was ; and in loud tones he denounced the Southern people, and everything Southern, as degraded beyond anything that he could ever have imagined, if he had not seen it all for himself. His, usual climax, or conclusion, repeated again and again, was, “ I wouldn’t give a cuss for the whole thing.” He was insolent even to men from whom he asked information regarding the country, and his manners were so rude and his talk so violent that most of the women near him sought places elsewhere.

He said that he should write a series of articles about the South for his paper, and that he should tell his readers “ fully about the whole thing.” He appeared to think that this short excursion through the pine woods gave him thorough knowledge of the condition and history of the entire South, and of the character of the Southern people, which he found much worse than he had ever suspected. I have never seen the complete exposition of Southern affairs which this gentleman assured us he should print for the enlightenment of the people of New England. It would probably have told me of some things which I had not observed in months of Southern travel. Everybody answered this man politely. No one contradicted him, or tried to argue with him. After he had talked for some time, the men about him evidently wished to avoid conversation with him ; but he still addressed them, now and then, as if he were giving orders to menials.


I had known before I went to the South that there are two sides to most things about which people dispute seriously, or fight each other. I see no reason why we should not now regard everything connected with our great civil war with the true historic temper. Of course this was not possible while we were fighting, nor for some time afterward. However wrong the South was in that contest, the mass of the Southern people must have sincerely believed theirs a good and righteous cause, or they could not have fought us as they did, or have made such sacrifices to continue the struggle. The soldiers of the Union crushed the wrong which the South upheld, but the men who have made themselves conspicuous within a very few years, by “ waving the bloody shirt,” were not distinguished for bravery during the war. Denunciations of the South, it has always seemed to me, come with ill grace from the politicians, whose sanguinary spirit has uniformly been exhibited in times of peace, and who, when there was a chance to fight, and to punish the South for the wickedness of secession, were careful to keep at a safe distance from the scene of conflict.

A few such men continued, however, until very recently, to exercise considerable influence in some portions of the North, by means of the pretense that the country was still in danger from “ rebel designs,” and that the results of the war were not yet secure. It is well to note that the state of things in the South has not greatly changed since these men were filling the air with the clamor of their warnings against the evils that would follow the “ withdrawal of the troops” from the Southern States. That seems far back in the past, because we have had so much to think of since then, but it was really only a little while ago. Of course the South is improving in most respects. Perhaps it has improved as rapidly as wc could have expected, if we had fully understood the difficulties which were, under the circumstances, inevitable after the war. But the evils which actually existed in the South during several years of political agitation and excitement in the North over accounts of rebel and Bourbon misbehavior exist there to-day, in proportions but slightly changed; and there is about as much need of “ troops ” in that portion of our country now as there was for some years before they were finally withdrawn. The politicians who were then denouncing traitors with such bitterness did not themselves scruple to imperil the interests of the country by endeavoring to create and perpetuate sectional hostilities and prejudices, for their own personal and partisan aggrandizement. These facts belong to the history of the time.

Of course there was bitter, hostile feeling on both sides, after the war. That could not have been otherwise.

I remember that at the time of General Wade Hampton’s injury, a few years ago, by an accident which rendered an amputation necessary, I was a guest at a breakfast party in one of our principal Northern cities, where a number of cultivated gentlemen and ladies were assembled, While we were still around the table the daily journal was brought in, and by and by some one read to the company the news of chief interest. One of the items was a report of General Hampton’s condition after the surgical operation had been performed, and it was announced that there was hope of his recovery. Upon this, our hostess expressed, with much emphasis, her regret that the surgeons did not allow him to bleed to death, while he was under their hands. There were some clergymen present, but nobody expressed a different sentiment, until I exclaimed that such a deed would have been horrible in the extreme ; and then no one appeared to share my feeling, while the lady’s view found vehement advocacy. Let us suppose the circumstances to have been reversed, and the same conversation to have occurred in a Southern city regarding some prominent Northern republican politician, who had suffered a similar misfortune. A thousand platforms would have rung with the indignant recital of the story, and it would have had a perceptible effect in a presidential campaign.

It was common, during the struggle, and afterward, to talk of the peculiar horrors and atrocities of civil, fratricidal war. I have given this subject much attention, and I believe that history has not preserved the record of any other great war in which there were so few excesses or barbarities of any kind on either side. I believe that the commanders and the soldiery on both sides were restrained and controlled, in very great measure, throughout the contest, by the reflection that it was a war between brethren. Both parties to the conflict were saddened and solemnized by thoughts of our common history, by memories of the toils and sacrifices that North and South had endured together in the endeavor to lay deep and strong the foundations of a mighty nation ; and there was never a great war with so little of vile, malignant passion, of mere devilish hatred or savage cruelty,—so little for anybody to be ashamed of at the end of the fight. The valor of the soldiers on both sides is a national inheritance of which we and our children may well be forever proud.


I found that the South had its stories, as well as the North, regarding severities to prisoners, and I remembered that when I once asked an officer of our army, who had been on duty at the camp near Chicago, where rebel prisoners were confined, regarding the treatment of Southern soldiers there, he laughed, and replied, “ Well, you would n’t expect we ‘d pet ’em much, would you ? ” A Massachusetts officer of the highest character said to me, just after the close of the war, “ We are going to hang Captain Wirz, because the poor devil has no friends who can do him any good. The probability is that he simply did his duty, as a soldier should.” Another New England officer, who for some time had charge of a large portion of the Union prisoners at Andersonville, under Wirz’s authority, has often said in my hearing that he saw nothing bad about the rebel officer as to his personal qualities, and that he appeared to him to be kind-hearted, and to feel deep sadness on account of the terrible suffering of the prisoners in his keeping. I asked several men, in different parts of the South, who occupied important positions in various departments of the Confederate government, what the South had to say regarding the charges of cruelty to Union prisoners. They uniformly replied that it was true that Northern men starved in their prisons, but affirmed that the prisoners had always the same rations as Southern soldiers in the field. “ Our men could live on such fare, but yours could not ; they could not eat it. The climate, confinement, and homesickness caused the terrible mortality. We could not prevent it. During the last year and a half of the war we could not take care of our own men. They came near starving, too, sometimes.” A friend of mine, who was an officer in General Sherman’s command during the famous march to the sea, and who burned many fine houses, said that while most of his men engaged in the work of destruction with a grim quietness of manner, and some spoke of it as “sickening business,” there were some who liked to break up costly furniture, and to “ smash everything ” before the houses were fired; and a young farmer in the West told me, a few years after the war, that he and a comrade were accustomed to open the piano-fortes and dance on the keys, with their heavy army shoes, while “ some of the other boys ” beat the clocks and mirrors to pieces with the butts of their guns.

I do not speak of these things to revive the accusations or bitter feelings of the past, but to illustrate the view that, while war necessarily involves much that is terrible and cruel, neither party in our great struggle had real reason, probably, for charging the other with special or disgraceful barbarism, or atrocious and unnecessary cruelty, and that in such matters there may have been little difference between them. We should be able, already, to write of the war, and everything connected with it, without heat or bitterness, and without partiality or unfairness.