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Frederick Jackson papers

The Federal military occupation of the Beaufort area from 1861 to 1865 resulted in the "Port Royal Experiment," an attempt by Northern philanthropists, clergymen, and educators to aid the newly-liberated slaves. In March 1863, the government auctioned delinquent tax lands abandoned by South Carolinians who had fled the sea islands. Edward S. Philbrick, one of the Northern superintendents managing the freedmen, raised capital from Boston businessmen and bought one third of the property on St. Helena Island for little more than a dollar an acre.

Included in the Philbrick purchase was Pine Grove plantation, which had belonged to the heirs of William Fripp. In 1863 and 1864, William C. Gannett, later a prominent New England clergyman, ran Pine Grove under Philbrick's ownership. Then, in 1865, a young Bostonian named Frederick Jackson—nephew of the prominent abolitionist Francis Jackson—bought Pine Grove from Philbrick and tried his hand at growing sea island cotton. Over forty letters sent to Jackson's Beaufort address between April and July 1865 tell much about the situation in both Massachusetts and South Carolina at the close of the Civil War.

The women in Jackson's life—his sister Anna Louisa (pseudonym "Dorothy"), his sweetheart Harriet Pierce "Hattie" Allen, and others— supplied a running commentary on current events. "What good news we have received," wrote Eliza Dexter, "and then to have our joy turned into such deep sorrow; the whole country thrown into commotion by such an insignificant person as J. Wilkes Booth, he has performed his last tragedy; the last time he played at the Museum I went nearly every night, I think he is a fine actor, besides being very handsome....I pity his brother Edwin, it must have ruined his fame forever. This is one of the horrible results of war, I trust the day of peace is not far distant."

The theme continued in Hattie's letter of 7 May. "The period of mourning for President Lincoln, has not altogether expired, though some of the draperies are taken in. His portrait fills every window, and they even sell photos of Booth, at the street corner, for one cent. What a frightful retribution that man met with! Everyone seems to have firm reliance on Johnson, who seems to have nothing of a temporising policy about him. Did you see an account of the Christian Commission calling on Lee on the taking of Richmond, to show their respect for a great military leader? Isn't it disgraceful? In fact it seems the style now to pet Lee."

Six days later, she wrote to acknowledge a bouquet of roses Jackson had sent from South Carolina. "I have preserved them with great care to remember you by....I suppose your cotton is ready for picking from the looks of that, that come round the roses. It must be a very beautiful sight to see a whole field white with this downy cotton. How many hands do you employ on your plantation? Do you ever have any trouble from them? Are they willing to do as you direct and are they industrious, or lazy creatures? Who do you have down there with you now?...Are you not delighted to think Jeff Davis and cabinet are taken? I hope they will be dealt with pretty speedily and without much mercy. I think President Johnson is going to do very nicely. The day he made his speech I do not think he was intoxicated knowingly, I think he was drugged. I think so far he has done well. I do not believe he will be so lenient as Lincoln. He is of a sterner mould. Lee and Johnston got off entirely to[o] easily, they should have been court marshalled and hung. Do you believe our officers would have fared so well in their hands? I don't. I wish I was President for a while."

"I was awakened this morning at an early hour," wrote Anna Louisa on 14 May, "by a strong-lunged news boy who shouted beneath my window his morning hymn, while two more boys at stated distances joined in the chorus viz: `Sunday morning Herald—Capture of Jeff Davis.' Though wishful to sleep off the last week's fatigue I magnanimously forgave them in consideration of the burden of their song. It is perfectly glorious to see how things are coming out. I am perfectly dizzy with the way that the war is finishing up....There has been a great discussion amongst the abolitionists about keeping up the anti-slavery society. Mr. Garrison was about the only one in favor of having it closed as he thought the work of the society was over. But the majority decided to keep it up and Mr. G. has resigned the office of president."

On 15 May, Jackson heard from his father. "I intend to send by this, the Daily which contains copious extracts from English Journals on the assassination of Pres't Lincoln. They don't seem to imagine, (the dunderheads) how we are to get along now Lincoln is taken away, and hypocritical express great solicitude for our future National welfare, whereas so far as Gov't of this Country is concerned if twenty of our leading Gov't Officials were destroyed, the Gov't would go on all the same and substantially in the same direction....The news of Davis' capture reached us yesterday morning, and the circumstances attending it were a very appropriate finale of the war. The Rebel Capital in ruins, the armies smashed, and the proud, haughty, arrogant Chief of secessionists trying to make his escape in petticoats, and failing ingloriously—truly there is, as Napoleon said (and in his own case demonstrated) but a single step from the sublime to the ridiculous. And thus is Southern chivalry appropriately played out and the climax capped—for all time hereafter it will furnish a unique chapter in the History of human affairs, which let us hope will never be paralleled."

"There has been an infinite amount of fun over the capture of Jeff Davis in his wife's petticoats," Hattie wrote on the 21st, "he made one of his worst blunders in making himself ridiculous. And then Mrs. D.'s speech to the captors that `they had better not get the President angry, or he might hurt some of 'em.' There are all sorts of caricatures on the subject."

Hattie had personal memories of antebellum Charleston, and Jackson's mention of the city evoked nostalgia. "I should think you would wish to go to Charleston before it grows any warmer. Our house there was the most like a Northern house, had two piazzas, upper and lower, on the other two corners were one a kind of cottage, and a large square house, there were two close together, alike, one Mrs. Paine lived in, the other me. I hope you will go and send some flowers from the place."

After Jackson made the trip, he evidently reported the current state of that neighborhood, for Hattie wrote back, "House number one mentioned in the letter is our house....O how much I wish I could go to Charleston. I still hope some day I may. But to think that our house should now be occupied by a common watch maker, and has lost some of its beauty. The flowers are gone to shrubbery."

In the next letter, 11 June, came an account of her visit to New York. "I supposed I had written you all about President Lincoln's funeral procession in New York....The display at the time, of military was very fine. The seventh regiment (the regiment of N.Y.) were guard to the body. They formed a hollow square, the hearse which was very magnificent went in the center drawn by sixteen white horses covered with black, each horse led by a black man. After the military came every variety of Society. When the procession had reached the depot in tenth avenue and thirtieth St. the last of the procession was starting from the City Hall, the procession went up to forty second St., then marched through and down to the depot. It was New Yorkie. I am tired of processions of every kind and do not mean to see any more of my own free will. I was sorry he was not carried directly to Springfield Ill...."

On 9 July Anna Louisa reported the Fourth of July celebration in Boston: "Hattie & I went up to Chester Park in the evening...to see the fireworks. They were very good indeed. One especially which seemed to please the multitude was a figure of a man in skirts & boots hanging on a gallows supposed to represent Jeff Davis. By some contrivance the figure was made to kick spasmodically which was very funny."

Meanwhile, things were not going well for Jackson at Pine Grove. "Your father thought when I saw him," wrote one correspondent, "that you were getting discouraged and did not like the style out there. Persevere, my boy! Nothing in this world worth having can be done without hard work."

His father's letter of 12 June sketched the picture at greater length. "I saw Mrs. Stephenson a few days since and heard her talk from Boston to Swampscott and after we got there, about Pine Grove and other things. She says Philbrick promised the Negroes that he would sell them Land at the same price he paid for it when he concluded to sell, or at the expiration of last years operations—I am not certain which—and that they are much disappointed in now being deprived of that chance in consequence of his selling to you and others at a greatly increased price over that he paid. She says you pay 60 cts per Task and that good hands can do 2 tasks a day, though actually they do but one a day. My impression is that in all Tropical or semi-tropical climates, the inevitable tendency with all out door labourers, is to work slow, and to accomplish not much more than what is usually done in the North by half a days labour, and that this rate will hold with white, as well as black labourers. But suppose you get white labourers, can you keep them by any firm contract? And if you can, will you be able to get Negros to work kindly with them. I fear difficulties any way, but I should judge that labour might be obtained of Negros much lower than Mrs. Stephenson mentions....If the negro's are excluded by their Constitutions and restricted from voting, the State Laws and Courts will be wholly in the hands of the Secessionists, and they will very likely oust you Yankee purchasers and give the Plantations to the former owners, and all you could claim of the United States would be the price they sold at, and it would cost all it would come to, to get even that. At all events you are safer every way and the Country will be safer to give the Negro the Ballot....Depend upon it, the Negro must come in with the White and both with equal rights or we shall have no substantial peace, and that must be done before any State comes in, as after they are in, the power of the General Gov't ceases to have any influence on their State Laws, or in fixing the Status of the Negro."

Ten days later, Jackson's father sent additional advice: "I know of no help for such disappointments as you now experience but those old, sterling, common sense qualities, patience and perseverance. Don't worry, keep cool, and reason calmly with you[r] people, and show them that your interest is also their interest, for if they will not work and perform their contract fairly, they will find ere long they will be without friends and without a home. There will doubtless be some kind of government Military or Civil soon established, and from present indications I presume Civil govt will be the one. At any rate you are in and must make the best of it and take it patiently."

The next day, this was followed by a motivational lecture: "I conclude to give you a chapter of my early experience, in the hope that it may afford you some encouragement under your present trials. I presume all young Men of correct principles, and modest estimate of their own tact and inexperience in business do, when they commence on their own hook, feel the responsibility that then devolves upon them more or less anxiously according [to] their greater or less confidence in themselves, in encountering the trials of business and in their intercourse with others. What is wanted, is Brass, and a fearless disposition in meeting the world and its wiles. Now in this respect I was lamentably wanting, and of course was much troubled by my deficiencies in that respect, but I want to show you that patience and perseverance conquers at last, and that failures in first attempts are in no wise discouraging towards final success....I am sorry you are at odds with your people, for you are and must be more or less in their power, and you can only make matters worse by getting vexed with them. I am persuaded that Negros must be solely relied upon for labour at the South at present, and that the only way is to do the best you can with them. They can find so many ways to annoy and cheat, that there is no use in getting angry with them or showing it unless the case is so glaring, that they may be shamed by a few words plainly and decidedly spoken to them....There are substantially only Irish labourers at the North for such work as you want done, and as a general thing they are as cunning & unreliable almost as negro's."

This theme continued in a letter on the thirtieth—"But in the present state of your people would they tolerate any other help whatever on the Plantation. If their object is to get rid of you and calculate to squat on the Plantation with a view of ultimately getting it into their own hands they will make any other help you get so uncomfortable that they will not stay. What the object of your people may be I of course don't know....I contend it is all important to give the negro's the Ballot however ignorant they may be, because that will be the only chance to prevent the present disloyal whites from getting the control of the Southern States and keeping the control. There is no danger of the negros getting the upper hand and controlling the States; they cannot be Legislators at present nor untill they are sufficiently intelligent; and not then as a general thing for they are a minority. Now I apprehend the few present loyall whites and Northern settlers will be able to secure a large portion and eventually the entire Negro vote."

"I have talked with Philbrick and Mrs. Stephenson," he wrote on 7 July, "and have come to the conclusion, that all the Plantations in your neighborhood will have to be worked by the Negro's already located thereon, or given up to the Negro's. They were born and raised there, they will not go away, and they will not easily tolerate any large mixture of other laborers, white or black....Mrs. Stephenson says that Philbrick when he bo't the Plantations promised the negros, that when the war was over he would sell them land at a low price which they understood would be $1.25 per acre, and now instead of doing so he has sold to you at $12 per acre and now when they want the Land it is held at a price they cannot pay. Thus they conceive that faith has been broken with them, and they are disposed to make the present owners uncomfortable, perhaps with a view of getting the Land at their own price....On many of the Plantations on the Island she says the Negros have bot the entire Land, which increases the ill feelings of your Negro's as they are shut out of such a chance."

By 1866, Jackson had sold out and left. A letter published in Elizabeth Ware Pearson's Letters from Port Royal, dated 16 February 1866, reported that "Dr. Oliver and Captain Ward, who have bought `Pine Grove,' have taken the usual disgust for the people. They have got it bad; say they would not have bought here had they imagined half of the reality."

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