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	                     93
                         A Visit to the Islands.

[newspaper clipping continued: first column]
rushes, the deserted mansion of a fugitive planter and
a group of negroes of both sexes, sitting beneath the
shade of a fine live-oak these are what we discover
upon debarkation.  The latter flock down to welcome
our crew who, after they have secured the boat, are
incontinently dismissed with directions to be at the
spot at a set hour on the morrow.  That effected, we
stroll ashore and make observations.
   The deserted mansion is one of a universal pattern
in this region; built of wood, on a brick foundation,
an ample decayed piazza surrounding it, its habit-
able rooms reached by a broad flight of wooden steps
in front and rear, many of the steps of which have
disappeared.  About it, in all the pomp of Summer
luxuriance, grew live-oaks, myrtles, laurels, syca-
mores, vines, orange, and fig-trees.  Of the latter
there are two varieties, one bearing fruit now ripe
and luscious, that of the other only becoming so in
Autumn.  Everything is as idle, as sunny, as beau-
tiful as can be; in rambling through the abandoned
garden and woody environs you find yourself invol-
untarily thinking of Tennyson s  Sleeping Beauty, 
and  Lotus-Eaters,  and Thomson s  Castle of
Indolence,  and that most romantic of all cantos,
the concluding one of the Second Book of Spencer s
 Faerie Queene. 
   Peeping through an uncasemented window of the
lower story, I see a few agricultural implements of
the rudest character, among them a sickle.  The use
of such is rather the rule than the exception in the
South: when you suggested newer and better, you
were always told that the negroes would spoil or destroy
them.  Natural enough to do your work slovenly,
and as little of it as possible, when you are robbed
of the proceeds.
  His house had belonged to a South Carolinian of
no particularly ardent Secession proclivities; with
his two sons he had simply gone with the stream.
Just before the Rebellion one of the latter had
brought home a young wife; now all were away,
fugitives on the main land.  The negroes spoke
favorably of  old massa,  but  allowed  that the
young ones were  hard  with them.
   Five minutes  walk brought us to their quarters,
a row of huts with little gardens between them,
forming a rustic lane.  All around, the fields were
high with maize and wild flowers, while overhead
the leaves of the live-oaks and magnolias rustled
deliciously.  Under the shade of one of the former
we presently partook of dinner, prepared for us by
an elderly negress, mother to our boat companion.
 (I may add, incidentally, that she knew how to
charge for it afterward.)  We ate our really excel-
lent meal in state, surrounded by a joyous concourse
of negroes, old and young, one of whom compli-
mented my companion with the assurance that his
skin was  as white as any hog as ever she seed. 
   Another, a wrinkled, dwarfish mulatto, of 80, cer-
tainly not more than five feet high, with the veins
in his yellow face and throat as perceptible as those
in an anatomical preparation, had a story.  Born at
New-Providence, he had narrowly missed emanci-
pation, coming with his master to the Carolinas to
remain a slave until our advent,  Forty years ago
he had been to New-York, and now spoke of locali-
ties by me unrecognizable.
   It was between 3 and 4 in the afternoon when we
embarked again, in a smaller boat, rowed by the
husband of the preparer of our dinner, and within
an hour of sunset when we quitted it, after a long
pull through an immense bed of rushes, with here
and there a narrow stream unimpeded by them.  We
passed a lonely house or two on the shore, deserted,
[unclear word] that we had left behind, finally landing at the

[newspaper clipping continued: second column]
ex-plantation of the Rev. Mr. Fuller, now lapsed
(in conjunction with the entire island) into the pos-
session of our common uncle Samuel.
   This is quite a settlement.  Mr. Fuller seems to
have devoted separate buildings to accommodations
ordinarily comprised beneath one roof, as a library,
etc., which, in conjunction with those occupied by
his family, the slave-quarters, and outbuildings, are
extensive enough to deserve (in the South) the name
of a village.  The late pastor preached occasionally
at Beaufort, but wealth and sickness absolved him
from any onerous performance of his sacred duties.
He appears not to have neglected the secular one of
 licking his niggers,  for one of them told me how
the reverend gentleman had, with his own pious
hands, tied my informant to a tree in front of his
house, and there administered to him a severe flog-
ging.  This negro   by the way, a remarkably shrewd
and intelligent fellow   actually betrayed two Seces-
sionists into our hands, in retaliation of former ill-
usage by them.
   The house whilom occupied by the reverend
flagellant now accommodates a Government agent,
a good-natured, good-looking, and intelligent gentle-
man   and  Yankee,  from Massachusetts.  It is Mr.
Ruggles s business to superintend the work on va-
rious cotton plantations, to issue necessary supplies
of food, etc., to the negroes employed thereon.  In
comparative isolation (there are other United States
employees on the island, and three or four ladies,
charitably engaged in teaching the children), he has
lived here for the last two or three months.  From
this gentleman we received hospitality for the night.
  Next morning (Captain Trowbridge having busi-
ness that took him elsewhere), I accompanied Mr.
Ruggles in one of his two weekly visits to platations
on the adjoining islands.
   Our path lay through fields of green cotton and
corn, beside tall hedges and thick woods as heavy
and rich as those ornamenting the park of some
English nobleman; I can think of no more apposite
illustration.  Both men and women were working
in the cotton fields, and I learnt that the latter prove
the more valuable hands.  Soon arriving at a creek,
from which the salt water had ebbed with the tide,
leaving it a mere bed of mud, fringed on the further
side by a tract of rushes, we dismounted from the 
vehicle in which we had hitherto journeyed and pre-
pared to be propelled across, in the most rudimentary
of canoes or  dug-outs,  by two negroes.
   And not across merely.  We were pushed at least
a quarter of mile inland after this fashion, the men
wading mid-leg deep to effect it.  Our progress dis-
turbed tens of thousands of small crabs, here de-
nominated fiddlers, who scuttled in alarm up the
muddy banks, taking refuge in the rushes.  Larger
specimens of the species are not wanting on these
coasts and in the bayous and rivers; the negroes
catch and disable them from pinching by a disposi-
tion of their claws at once ingenious and simple.
   On shore again.  Fifteen minutes  walk by shel-
tering hedges and thick woods and we have crossed
Palawana Island, to embark in another  dug-out, 
this time on a creek filled with water, and broad
enough to have afforded a pleasant country residence
for any alligator of quiet tastes, though we had not
the luck to see one.  There are plenty here, some-
times.  Up it we are paddled for a mile to another
island.
   It is very hot, now.   The sun sits high in his
meridian tower,  and scarcely a breath of air exists
to ripple the water or stir the leaves on the bank
below which lie the trunks and strange-looking
fibrous roots of dead palmettos, very old but unrot-
Page
Title:Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries, Volume Twenty: page one hundred and three
Description:Newspaper clipping describing a trip across Palawala Island.
Date:1862-07-12
Subject:African Americans; Books and reading; Civil War; Fuller, Reverend; Gunn, Thomas Butler; Ruggles; Slaveholders; Slavery; Slaves; St. Helena Island (S.C.); Trowbridge, Charles; Women
Coverage (City/State):Beaufort, South Carolina
Scan Date:2010-09-10

 

Volume
Title:Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries, Volume Twenty
Description:Includes Gunn's descriptions of his experiences as a war correspondent for ""The New York Tribune"" at Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, especially Hilton Head, Port Royal, St. Augustine, Key West, and the end of his experiences with the Army of the Potomac during the Peninsular Campaign when he had to leave camp due to illness.
Subject:African Americans; Boardinghouses; Bohemians; Civil War; Diseases; Gunn, Thomas Butler; Journalism; Marches (U.S. Army); Medical care (U.S. Army); Military; Military camp life; Peninsular Campaign (Va.); Travel; Women
Coverage (City/State):New York, New York; Port Royal, South Carolina; Hilton Head, South Carolina; Key West, Florida; St. Augustine, Florida; Virginia
Note:Thomas Butler Gunn was born February 15, 1826, in Banbury, England, and came to New York in 1849. During the Civil War he worked as a correspondent for the New York Tribune and the New York Evening Post. He returned to England in 1863, and died in Birmingham in April 1903. The collection includes twenty-one volumes of his diaries, including newspaper clippings, letters, photographs, sketches, and various other items inserted by Gunn. Diary entries date from July 7, 1849, to April 7, 1863, and include his experiences with the New York publishing and literary world, his descriptions of boarding houses, his travels throughout the United States, and his experiences traveling with the Federal army as a Civil War correspondent.
Publisher:Missouri History Museum
Rights:Copyright 2010 Missouri History Museum.
Source:Page images, transcriptions, and metadata of the Thomas Butler Gunn diaries have been provided by the Missouri History Museum.