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An Account of the Whippings, Rapes, and Violences that Preceded the Civil War in America

«Bushwhackers» and their depredations

The Memoirs Of Dolly Morton (Chapter XIX)


Jean de Villiot, The Memoirs Of Dolly Morton : The Story of A Woman’s Part in The Struggle to Free The Slaves, An Account of the Whippings, Rapes, and Violences that Preceded the Civil War in America, With Curious Anthropological Observations on the Radical Diversities In the Conformation of the Female Bottom and the Way Different Women endure Chastisement, Ed. Charles Carrington, London, Paris, 1899.

The country is occupied by the Federals; the slaves demoralized; Randolph instructs me to join him at Richmond; «bushwhackers» and their depredations.

A fortnight passed, and a very wretched time it was in every way. I missed my lover; the slaves on the plantation were very insubordinate, and I was troubled at the idea of again having to live with Randolph.

I had written to tell Randolph that the soldiers had left Woodlands and asking him when he intended to return. He had answered saying that he had not made up his mind what to do, whether to come back or to send for me, but he would let me know in due course. Meanwhile, I was to see that the affairs on the plantation were carried on as usual.

I was so vexed at this letter that I sat down and cried. It was very easy for him, amusing himself in Richmond, to tell me to see to his affairs; but things had got into such an utterly disorganized state that it was quite impossible for me to keep order. I was only a girl, not twenty-two years of age. All work on the plantation had come to an end; the whole country for miles around was occupied by the Federal troops; the slaves, knowing that their freedom was at hand, would hardly do anything, and the overseers, under the circumstances, no longer dared to enforce the discipline by their usual methods. Many of the fieldhands had run away, and no attempt to capture them could be made, others had openly joined the Negro regiments which were being raised by the United States authorities. The majority of the housewomen, too, had become utterly demoralized, and several of them had gone off; only a few, among whom were Dinah and Rosa, had remained faithful.

After a few more days, I wrote again to Randolph, telling him that things were getting worse and that I was afraid to remain any longer by myself at Woodlands. This time I received a letter saying that, since things at that moment were in such a bad state in Virginia, it was no use trying to keep the plantation going any longer. I was to tell the overseers that Randolph would continue to pay them their salaries if they would remain on the estate and do the best they could for him. He had taken a furnished house, and I was to go to him as soon as possible. The house at Woodlands was to be shut up and left in charge of Dinah and the other women who had remained. I was glad to get at last some definitive instructions, for the strain on me had been almost more than I could bear, and I had got into a very nervous state.

Sending for the faithful Dinah, I told her that I was going to join her master in Richmond and that I intended to start in three days’ time. I also informed her that she was to take charge of the house, and I gave her instructions about the shutting-up. Then I wrote to Randolph, telling him when to expect me.

Next day I saw the overseers and gave them their employer’s message. The men said they would remain on the plantation and do the best they could to prevent things from going to ruin. But they added that there was no chance of getting the slaves to do much work as long as the Federal troops were in the neighborhood.

I spent the following day packing my trunks and settling affairs with Dinah and the other women. They were all sorry that I was about to leave them, though delighted at the idea of being left alone in the house to do as they pleased.

The only way for me to get to Richmond, which was thirty-two miles distant, was by driving. I intended to start at four o’clock in the afternoon, in order to escape the heat of the day. All the horses still were in the stables,- and some of the grooms had remained, one of them being an old and faithful Negro coachman named Jim, who had taught me to ride and in whom I had perfect confidence. I sent for him and told him that I wanted him to drive me to Richmond and that he was to have the pair-horse buggy ready at four o’clock.

«Very well, Missis,» he said. «I’ll put you through all right, if I kin. But don’t you take no money or joolery along with you, ’cos de road nowdays is ’fested wid dem low-down cusses of ’bushwhackers’; an’ if we was to come across any of dem, dey would most sholy rob you.»

It had never struck me that there would be any danger in the drive to Richmond, but, now that Jim had mentioned the «bushwhackers,» I remembered that I had heard several stories of the lawless doings of these men. «Bushwhackers,» I must tell you, were low white loafers who, while pretending to act as guerillas against the Federal troops, were in reality highwaymen who robbed and sometimes murdered defenseless people, whether they were Northerners or Southerners. Bands of these ruffians infested the Southern States during the war.

I sent Jim away, but I decided that I would take his advice. Going upstairs, I opened my trunks, and, taking out all my jewelry, I locked the articles in a safe which had been built in the wall of Randolph’s bedroom.

The rest of the day wore slowly away. I was restless and nervous. I could not eat my dinner, and I went to bed early.

View online : Robbed, kidnapped and the awful consequences (Chapter XX)

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