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The Vault at PfaffsAn Archive of Art and Literature by the Bohemians of Antebellum New York
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Text for Page 097 [07-07-1862]

              87
                          A Negro School.

[newspaper clipping continued: first column]
interest; but all are, in Southern phrase, �likely�
children, and well-behaved.
  Behind them, at least four forms were occupied by
[unclear word] men, young fellows for the most part, with an
occasional old one.  Of the latter, one had a face
that might have beseemed an African bishop of the
[unclear word] of St. Augustine.  The juniors were all black�
generally very black � quiet, serious, and attentive.
On the opposite benches sat the women, young,
with but one exception, that of a wrinkled negress
of at least three score, with her head bound up in a
[unclear word] handkerchief, and her hands resting on a staff
or crutch.  Probably she came hither influenced by
devotion or curiosity.  With partially closed eyes
she sat looking at the younger women, whose heavy,
but not unintelligent features, were sometimes in-
tent on the pictures in their well-thumbed
spelling-books, sometimes raised in observation of
those around them.  At least three rows of boys and
an equal number of girls on either side of the teach-
er�s desk completed the number of scholars � less
than usual � in attendance.
   To this teacher�s desk there soon ascended Mr.
McMath, a gentleman admirably qualified for his
present position, one, too, who has evidently won
more than the esteem of his pupils.  He began the
exercises by giving out, line by line, and verse by
verse, a hymn, repeated after him, and then sung
by the pupils.  This was followed by a brief ad-
dress, another hymn, and the Lord�s prayer; when
the active business of teaching commenced, to be
continued until noon, when school broke up for the
day.
   As I sat in the humble room, with its doors and
windows open, the bright morning and God�s sun-
light without, listening to the soft mellow voices
and imperfect accentuation of the words of the
simple hymns; as I beheld the dark faces elevated
in humble faith in the wisdom and good intentions
of their instructors, or poring over their books, I
felt that it was good to be there � that not for
nothing had the hated �Yankee� set his foot upon
the soil of South Carolina.  It will be hard to efface
its traces, or to make a slave of any of the pupils of
this Sunday school.  By and by they will get to
reading such axioms as �Do unto others as thou
wouldst be done unto,� and making personal appli-
cations of the same.  And then what�s to become of
the Constitution and property in �niggers?�
   Mr. McMath�s assistants were all volunteers from
the ranks.  I thought one who used a black board
and chalk, marking up simple sentences and
then catechizing his scholars as to the letters, spell-
ing, and words, got along best of all, though others
did well with their books.  With the natural except-
tion of the younger children, all the pupils exhib-
ited an earnest desire to learn, and as much pro-
ficiency as would have been displayed by average
whites.  The women, I thought, manifested par-
ticular attention; among the young men there were
some heavy lumpish faces, sorely perplexed by the
hardness of the stones which must be broken in
making a path to knowledge, but none among the
women.  I left the school-house with unalloyed
gratification, and in the afternoon went to see the
negro regiment, the 1st South Carolina Volunteers.
   Its headquarters are a mile to the right of Gen.
Hunter�s, but one of the muddy creeks common to
the country renders a detour of twice the distance
inland necessary to reach the locality.  Passing out
of the extensive wall of stockades encircling Uncle
Sam�s possessions on this island, and through two or
three neglected corn and cotton-fields, skirted by
tall trees or deep woods, I came upon a pretty lane

[newspaper clipping continued: second column]
or avenue with quite a village of negro-huts on
either side of it.  This was the Drayton plantation;
a short time brought me to the house in which I
write.
   It is an old-fashioned wooden one, two stories in
hight, dilapidated (like most Southern country
houses), and standing upon an open foundation of
brick, with two tall, formal chimneys, apparently
growing through it, and porches in front and rear,
the former looking seaward.  Like the house of the
Reeve in Chaucer, it is all �yshadowed with greene
trees,� the cedar, the cottonwood, the live-oak, fig,
mulberry, and magnolia, all emerging from the sand
or light soil accruing from vegetable decomposition.
Owned one by the Rebel Gen. Drayton, it now
affords quarters for the officers of the first negro
regiment raised in South Carolina, the ex-slaves
being encamped in front.
   The occasion was rather a special one, Commodore
Dupont and staff being present.  Gen. Hunter and
Gov. Saxton (whose headquarters are now at Beau-
fort) had also been expected, but did not appear;
possibly the arrival of a mail from the North, and
responsibilities there from, detained them.  A battal-
ion drill, a sermon by the Rev. Mr. Gubby, after
that singing by the men � such was the afternoon�s
programme.
    The drill began at 5 � p.m., in an open space to
the left of the house, bordering a little grove of live
oaks and other trees, whose branches reach the thick
undergrowth beneath and create a shade even in
the noontide, sheltering the solitary tomb of �James
Stoney, who died at his late residence, on Hilton
Head Island, on the 10th of February, 1827, aged
54.�  the embryo regiment, somewhat less than
500 in number, was drawn up in line, facing the
evening shadows, and put through the manual of
arms by an aid of Gen. Hunter�s, temporarily its
head in the absence of Col. McKinzie, who recently
returned to his native state of Illinois in charge of
Major Wright, wounded at the fight on James
Island.  And this is what the negro regiment looked
like:
   A row of strong, sturdy negroes, averaging from
21 to 30 years in age, and 5 feet 8 inches in hight,
clad in a decent military uniform of dark blue, wear-
ing felt hats, and armed with rifles of Belgian manu-
facture, and bayonets, the which they handled as
promptly and dexterously in obedience to the word of
command as one could wish to see � as well as any
equal number of white men, not especially selected,
could have done.  As observable at the Sunday-
School, I noticed a look of honest endeavor in their
black faces indicative of an earnest desire to learn,
their docility of character rendering them apt pupils.
I was told by their officers, and the drill bore wit-
ness, that their proficiency was remarkable.  When
the regiment was marched by flank off the parade
ground, until it arrived in front of headquarters and
there formed by divisions in a double row, I thought
its steel gleamed as brightly, its ranks stood as
steady as many a one I had seen in New-York ar-
mories, duly puffed of newspapers.  Also, that
Toussaint L�Overture was a negro.
   All these men have been slaves � slaves who have
abandoned or been abandoned by their masters.
Talk to them, and you shall hear their stories, some
suggesstive enough.  That intelligent looking ser-
geant (who can read and write) was house-servant,
coachman, and chatted to Mr. Stewart of Beaufort,
one of the 560 furnished by that charming little
summering-place to create the Rebel forts Beaure-
gard and Walker.  His master carried him off, up               
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