on leaving, the new-orleans slave pen, harryand i followed our new master through the streets, while eliza, crying and turning back,was forced along by freeman and his minions, until we found ourselves on board the steamboatrodolph, then lying at the levee. in the course of half an hour we were moving briskly upthe mississippi, bound for some point on red river. there were quite a number of slaveson board beside ourselves, just purchased in the new-orleans market. i remember a mr.kelsow, who was said to be a well known and extensive planter, had in charge a gang ofwomen. our master's name was william ford. he residedthen in the "great pine woods," in the parish of avoyelles, situated on the right bank ofred river, in the heart of louisiana. he is
now a baptist preacher. throughout the wholeparish of avoyelles, and especially along both shores of bayou boeuf, where he is moreintimately known, he is accounted by his fellow-citizens as a worthy minister of god. in many northernminds, perhaps, the idea of a man holding his brother man in servitude, and the trafficin human flesh, may seem altogether incompatible with their conceptions of a moral or religiouslife. from descriptions of such men as burch and freeman, and others hereinafter mentioned,they are led to despise and execrate the whole class of slaveholders, indiscriminately. buti was sometime his slave, and had an opportunity of learning well his character and disposition,and it is but simple justice to him when i say, in my opinion, there never was a morekind, noble, candid, christian man than william
ford. the influences and associations thathad always surrounded him, blinded him to the inherent wrong at the bottom of the systemof slavery. he never doubted the moral right of one man holding another in subjection.looking through the same medium with his fathers before him, he saw things in the same light.brought up under other circumstances and other influences, his notions would undoubtedlyhave been different. nevertheless, he was a model master, walking uprightly, accordingto the light of his understanding, and fortunate was the slave who came to his possession.were all men such as he, slavery would be deprived of more than half its bitterness.we were two days and three nights on board the steamboat rodolph, during which time nothingof particular interest occurred. i was now
known as platt, the name given me by burch,and by which i was designated through the whole period of my servitude. eliza was soldby the name of "dradey." she was so distinguished in the conveyance to ford, now on record inthe recorder's office in new-orleans. on our passage i was constantly reflectingon my situation, and consulting with myself on the best course to pursue in order to effectmy ultimate escape. sometimes, not only then, but afterwards, i was almost on the pointof disclosing fully to ford the facts of my history. i am inclined now to the opinionit would have resulted in my benefit. this course was often considered, but through fearof its miscarriage, never put into execution, until eventually my transfer and his pecuniaryembarrassments rendered it evidently unsafe.
afterwards, under other masters, unlike williamford, i knew well enough the slightest knowledge of my real character would consign me at onceto the remoter depths of slavery. i was too costly a chattel to be lost, and was wellaware that i would be taken farther on, into some by-place, over the texan border, perhaps,and sold; that i would be disposed of as the thief disposes of his stolen horse, if myright to freedom was even whispered. so i resolved to lock the secret closely in myheartâ€”never to utter one word or syllable as to who or what i was â€”trusting in providenceand my own shrewdness for deliverance. at length we left the steamboat rodolph ata place called alexandria, several hundred miles from new-orleans. it is a small townon the southern shore of red river. having
remained there over night, we entered themorning train of cars, and were soon at bayou lamourie, a still smaller place, distant eighteenmiles from alexandria. at that time it was the termination of the railroad. ford's plantationwas situated on the texas road, twelve miles from lamourie, in the great pine woods. thisdistance, it was announced to us, must be traveled on foot, there being public conveyancesno farther. accordingly we all set out in the company of ford. it was an excessivelyhot day. harry, eliza, and myself were yet weak, and the bottoms of our feet w were verytender from the effects of the small-pox. we proceeded slowly, ford telling us to takeour time and sit down and rest whenever we desiredâ€”a privilege that was taken advantageof quite frequently. after leaving, lamourie
and crossing two plantations, one belongingto mr. carnell, the other to a mr. flint, we reached the pine woods, a wilderness thatstretches to the sabine river. the whole country about red river is low andmarshy. the pine woods, as they are called, is comparatively upland, with frequent smallintervals, however, running through them. this upland is covered with numerous treesâ€”thewhite oak, the chincopin, resembling chestnut, but principally the yellow pine. they areof great size, running up sixty feet, and perfectly straight. the woods were full ofcattle, very shy and wild, dashing away in herds, with a loud snuff, at our approach.some of them were marked or branded, the rest appeared to be in their wild and untamed state.they are much smaller than northern breeds,
and the peculiarity about them that most attractedmy attention was their horns. they stand out from the sides of the head precisely straight,like two iron spikes. at noon we reached a cleared piece of groundcontaining three or four acres. upon it was a small, unpainted, wooden house, a corn crib,or, as we would say, a barn, and a log kitchen, standing about a rod from the house. it wasthe summer residence of mr. martin. rich planters, having large establishments on bayou boeuf,are accustomed to spend the warmer season in these woods. here they find clear waterand delightful shades. in fact, these retreats are to the planters of that section of thecountry what newport and saratoga are to the wealthier inhabitants of northern cities.we were sent around into the kitchen, and
supplied with sweet potatoes, corn-bread,and bacon, while master ford dined with martin in the house. there were several slaves aboutthe premises. martin came out and took a look at us, asking ford the price of each, if wewere green hands, and so forth, and making inquiries in relation to the slave marketgenerally. after a long rest we set forth again, followingthe texas road, which had the appearance of being very rarely traveled. for five mileswe passed through continuous woods without observing a single habitation. at length,just as the sun was sinking in the west, we entered another opening, containing some twelveor fifteen acres. in this opening stood a house much largerthan mr. martin's. it was two stories high,
with a piazza in front. in the rear of itwas also a log kitchen, poultry house, corncribs, and several negro cabins. near the house wasa peach orchard, and gardens of orange and pomegranate trees. the space was entirelysurrounded by woods, and covered with a carpet of rich, rank verdure. it was a quiet, lonely,pleasant place â€”literally a green spot in the wilderness. it was the residence of mymaster, william ford. as we approached, a yellow girlâ€”her namewas roseâ€”was standing on the piazza. going to the door, she called her mistress, whopresently came running out to meet her lord. she kissed him, and laughingly demanded ifhe had bought "those niggers." ford said he had, and told us to go round to sally's cabinand rest ourselves. turning the corner of
the house, we discovered sally washingâ€”hertwo baby children near her, rolling on the grass. they jumped up and toddled towardsus, looked at us a moment like a brace of rabbits, then ran back to their mother asif afraid of us. sally conducted us into the cabin, told usto lay down our bundles and be seated, for she was sure that we were tired. just thenjohn, the cook, a boy some sixteen years of age, and blacker than any crow, came runningin, looked steadily in our faces, then turning round, without saying as much as "how d'yedo," ran back to the kitchen, laughing loudly, as if our coming was a great joke indeed.much wearied with our walk, as soon as it was dark, harry and i wrapped our blanketsround us, and laid down upon the cabin floor.
my thoughts, as usual, wandered back to mywife and children. the consciousness of my real situation; the hopelessness of any effortto escape through the wide forests of avoyelles, pressed heavily upon me, yet my heart wasat home in saratoga. i was awakened early in the morning by thevoice of master ford, calling rose. she hastened into the house to dress the children, sallyto the field to milk the cows, while john was busy in the kitchen preparing breakfast.in the meantime harry and i were strolling about the yard, looking at our new quarters.just after breakfast a colored man, driving three yoke of oxen, attached to a wagon loadof lumber, drove into the opening. he was a slave of ford's, named walton, the husbandof rose. by the way, rose was a native of
washington, and had been brought from thencefive years before. she had never seen eliza, but she had heard of berry, and they knewthe same streets, and the same people, either personally, or by reputation. they becamefast friends immediately, and talked a great deal together of old times, and of friendsthey had left behind. ford was at that time a wealthy man. besideshis seat in the pine woods, he owned a large lumbering establishment on indian creek, fourmiles distant, and also, in his wife's right, an extensive plantation and many slaves onbayou boeuf. walton had come with his load of lumber fromthe mills on indian creek. ford directed us to return with him, saying he would followus as soon as possible. before leaving, mistress
ford called me into the storeroom, and handedme, as it is there termed, a tin bucket of molasses for harry and myself.eliza was still ringing her hands and deploring the loss of her children. ford tried as muchas possible to console herâ€”told her she need not work very hard; that she might remainwith rose, and assist the madam in the house affairs.riding with walton in the wagon, harry and i became quite well acquainted with him longbefore reaching indian creek. he was a "born thrall" of ford's, and spoke kindly and affectionatelyof him, as a child would speak of his own father. in answer to his inquiries from whencei came, i told him from washington. of that city, he had heard much from his wife, rose,and all the way plied me with many extravagant
and absurd questions.on reaching the mills at indian creek, we found two more of ford's slaves, sam and antony.sam, also, was a washingtonian, having been brought out in the same gang with rose. hehad worked on a farm near georgetown. antony was a blacksmith, from kentucky, who had beenin his present master's service about ten years. sam knew burch, and when informed thathe was the trader who had sent me on from washington, it was remarkable how well weagreed upon the subject of his superlative rascality. he had forwarded sam, also.on ford's arrival at the mill, we were employed in piling lumber, and chopping logs, whichoccupation we continued during the remainder of the summer.we usually spent our sabbaths at the opening,
on which days our master would gather allhis slaves about him, and read and expound the scriptures. he sought to inculcate inour minds feelings of kindness towards each other, of dependence upon godâ€” setting forththe rewards promised unto those who lead an upright and prayerful life. seated in thedoorway of his house, surrounded by his man-servants and his maid-servants, who looded earnestlyinto the good man's face, he spoke of the loving kindness of the creator, and of thelife that is to come. often did the voice of prayer ascend from his lips to heaven,the only sound that broke the solitude of the place.in the course of the summer sam became deeply convicted, his mind dwelling intensely onthe subject of religion. his mistress gave
him a bible, which he carried with him tohis work. whatever leisure time was allowed him, he spent in perusing it, though it wasonly with great difficulty that he could master any part of it. i often read to him, a favorwhich he well repaid me by many expressions of gratitude. sam's piety was frequently observedby white men who came to the mill, and the remark it most generally provoked was, thata man like ford, who allowed his slaves to have bibles, was "not fit to own a nigger."he, however, lost nothing by his kindness. it is a fact i have more than once observed,that those who treated their slaves most leniently, were rewarded by the greatest amount of labor.i know it from my own experience. it was a source of pleasure to surprise master fordwith a greater day's work than was required,
while, under subsequent masters, there wasno prompter to extra effort but the overseer's lash.it was the desire of ford's approving voice that suggested to me an idea that resultedto his profit. the lumber we were manufacturing was contracted to be delivered at lamourie.it had hitherto been transported by land, and was an important item of expense. indiancreek, upon which the mills were situated, was a narrow but deep stream emptying intobayou boeuf. in some places it was not more than twelve feet wide, and much obstructedwith trunks of trees. bayou boeuf was connected with bayou lamourie. i ascertained the distancefrom the mills to the point on the latter bayou, where our lumber was to be delivered,was but a few miles less by land than by water.
provided the creek could be made navigablefor rafts, it occurred to me that the expense of transportation would be materially diminished.adam taydem, a little white man who had been a soldier in florida, and had strolled intothat distant region, was foreman and superintendent of the mills. he scouted the idea; but ford,when i laid it before him, received it favorably, and permitted me to try the experiment.having removed the obstructions, i made up a narrow raft, consisting of twelve cribs.at this business i think i was quite skillful, not having forgotten my experience years beforeon the champlain canal. i labored hard, being extremely anxious to succeed, both from adesire to please my master, and to show adam taydem, that my scheme was not such a visionaryone as he incessantly pronounced it. one hand
could manage three cribs. i took charge ofthe forward three, and commenced poling down the creek. in due time we entered the firstbayou, and finally reached our destination in a shorter period of time than i had anticipated.the arrival of the raft at lamourie created a sensation, while mr. ford loaded me withcommendation. on all sides i heard ford's platt pronounced the "smartest nigger in thepine woods"â€”in fact i was the fulton of indian creek. i was not insensible to thepraise bestowed upon me, and enjoyed, especially, my triumph over taydem, whose half-maliciousridicule had stung my pride. from this time the entire control of bringing the lumberto lamourie was placed in my hands until the contract was fulfilled.indian creek, in its whole length, flows through
a magnificent forest. there dwells on itsshore a tribe of indians, a remnant of the chickasaws or chickopees, if i remember rightly.they live in simple huts, ten or twelve feet square, constructed of pine poles and coveredwith bark. they subsist principally on the flesh of the deer, the coon, and opossum,all of which are plenty in these woods. sometimes they exchange venison for a little corn andwhisky with the planters on the bayous. their usual dress is buckskin breeches and calicohunting shirts of fantastic colors, buttoned from belt to chin. they wear brass rings ontheir wrists, and in their ears and noses. the dress of the squaws is very similar. theyare fond of dogs and horsesâ€”owning many of the latter, of a small, tough breedâ€”andare skillful riders. their bridles, girths
and saddles were made of raw skins of animals;their stirrups of a certain kind of wood. mounted astride their ponies, men and women,i have seen them dash out into the woods at the utmost of their speed, following narrowwinding paths, and dodging trees, in a manner that eclipsed the most miraculous feats ofcivilized equestrianism. circling away in various directions, the forest echoing andre-echoing with their whoops, they would presently return at the same dashing, headlong speedwith which they started. their village was on indian creek, known as indian castle, buttheir range extended to the sabine river. occasionally a tribe from texas would comeover on a visit, and then there was indeed a carnival in the "great pine woods." chiefof the tribe was cascalla; second in rank,
john baltese, his son-in-law; with both ofwhom, as with many others of the tribe, i became acquainted during my frequent voyagesdown the creek with rafts. sam and myself would often visit them when the day's taskw as done. they were obedient to the chief; the word of cascalla was their law. they werea rude but harmless people, and enjoyed their wild mode of life. they had little fancy forthe open country, the cleared lands on the shores of the bayous, but preferred to hidethemselves within the shadows of the forest. they worshiped the great spirit, loved whisky,and were happy. on one occasion i was present at a dance,when a roving herd from texas had encamped in their village. the entire carcass of adeer was roasting before a large fire, which
threw its light a long distance among thetrees under which they were assembled. when they had formed in a ring, men and squawsalternately, a sort of indian fiddle set up an indescribable tune. it was a continuous,melancholy kind of wavy sound, with the slightest possible variation. at the first note, ifindeed there was more than one note in the whole tune, they circled around, trottingafter each other, and giving utterance to a guttural, sing-song noise, equally as nondescriptas the music of the fiddle. at the end of the third circuit, they would stop suddenly,whoop as if their lungs would crack, then break from the ring, forming in couples, manand squaw, each jumping backwards as far as possible from the other, then forwardsâ€”whichgraceful feat having been twice or thrice
accomplished, they would form in a ring, andgo trotting round again. the best dancer appeared to be considered the one who could whoop theloudest, jump the farthest, and utter the most excruciating noise. at intervals, oneor more would leave the dancing circle, and going to the fire, cut from the roasting carcassa slice of venison. in a hole, shaped like a mortar, cut in thetrunk of a fallen tree, they pounded corn with a wooden pestle, and of the meal madecake. alternately they danced and ate. thus were the visitors from texas entertained bythe dusky sons and daughters of the chicopees, and such is a description, as i saw it, ofan indian ball in the pine woods of avoyelles. in the autumn, i left the mills, and was employedat the opening. one day the mistress was urging
ford to procure a loom, in order that sallymight commence weaving cloth for the winter garments of the slaves. he could not imaginewhere one was to be found, when i suggested that the easiest way to get one would be tomake it, informing him at the same time, that i was a sort of "jack at all trades," andwould attempt it, with his permission. it was granted very readily, and i was allowedto go to a neighboring planter's to inspect one before commencing the undertaking. atlength it was finished and pronounced by sally to be perfect. she could easily weave hertask of fourteen yards, milk the cows, and have leisure time besides each day. it workedso well, i was continued in the employment of making looms, which were taken down tothe plantation on the bayou.
at this time one john m. tibeats, a capenter,came to the opening to do some work on master's house. i was directed to quit the looms andassist him. for two weeks i was in his company, planing and matching boards for ceiling, aplastered room being a rare thing in the parish of avoyelles.john m. tibeats was the opposite of ford in all respects. he was a small, crabbed, quick-tempered,spiteful man. he had no fixed residence that i ever heard of, but passed from one plantationto another, wherever he could find employment. he was without standing in the community,not esteemed by white men, nor even respected by slaves. he was ignorant, withal, and ofa revengeful disposition. he left the parish long before i did, and i know not whetherhe is at present alive or dead. certain it
is, it was a most unlucky day for me thatbrought us together. during my residence with master ford i had seen only the bright sideof slavery. his was no heavy hand crushing us to the earth. he pointed upwards, and withbenign and cheering words addressed us as his fellow-mortals, accountable, like himself,to the maker of us all. i think of him with affection, and had my family been with me,could have borne his gentle servitude, without murmuring, all my days. but clouds were gatheringin the horizon â€”forerunners of a pitiless storm that was soon to break over me. i wasdoomed to endure such bitter trials as the poor slave only knows, and to lead no morethe comparatively happy life which i had led in the "great pine woods."
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