Farming Despite Marauding Yankees
“When it was evident in 1865 that Sherman would march on Goldsborough, I thought that he would lead his army northward from that town. It seemed best therefore to buy a farm in Wake [county] so as to have something to fall back on if the Edgecombe [county] places should be devastated. It was a mistake but not a costly one.
Sherman came to Raleigh instead of marching north from Goldsborough but my place was eighteen miles from Raleigh and too much out of the way to be ravaged.
My mules and corn and fodder were taken but there was no wanton destruction.
After peace was declared, I told the Negroes that they might cultivate the crops already planted and we would leave it to the agent in charge of the Freedman’s Bureau to divide the crops. I further agreed that I would at my expense transport them and their household property back to Edgecombe. This satisfied them but when the Government officer (called by them the Bureau) made his award, he placed an undue estimate on the share to which the land was entitled. He gave me double what was usual and I at once reduced this allowance to one-third of the corn and one-fourth of the cotton.
I told my Negroes early in the war that if the North succeeded, freedom would be brought to them. They would gain nothing by running off, on the contrary would incur danger and trouble. I doubt whether this was needed as other slaves than mine continued quietly at work. But it is a remarkable evidence of their docility and of their previous kind treatment that when the cotton factory at Rocky Mount was burned by Northern cavalry from New Bern, they loaded the wagons with meat under supervision of my overseer, Mr. Norris, hauled the load three or four miles into the piney woods, and remained quiet while the Federals passed by.
Not one showed a disposition to join the soldiers. After the war at least half of my hands continued to work as freely hired or as tenants.
Some thought that it looked more like freedom to leave “Old Marster” and work for somebody else but nearly all continued on the Tar River farms.”
(Memories of an Old time Tarheel, Kemp Plummer Battle, UNC Press, 1945, pp. 129-130)
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