Northern abolitionists embarked on their Port Royal Experiment to determine if “the freedman would work without the incentive of the lash.” At Fripp Plantation the new masters in 1862 resorted to withholding bacon from freedmen who would not work the fields, finding that “they have not done a third the usual work this year.” The black man was also utilized as a substitute for reluctant Northern soldiers.
Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission "Unsurpassed Valor, Courage and Devotion to Liberty" www.ncwbts150.com "The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial"
New Masters From the North
“Sunday, May 11 -- [Captain] Hazard Stevens cam over with despatches from General [David] Hunter ordering all the agents to send him in the morning all able-bodied black men between the ages of 18 and 45, capable of bearing arms, on the plantations. There was no explanation whatsoever for the reasons for the demand, or what was to be done with them, and nothing but our confidence in General Hunter’s friendliness to the race gave us a shadow of comfort. But that would avail little to the Negroes, who would lose the confidence they are beginning to feel in [Northern] white men.
Companies of soldiers were to be sent from Beaufort in the night and distributed to the different plantations to prevent the Negroes from taking to the woods . . . [to escape military conscription].
Mr. G. [spoke to freedman Joe] telling him that General Hunter had work at Hilton Head for a great many black men . . . [and the orders] must be obeyed and he must march; he had to go at once to his house for his cap, say good-bye to his wife and come to us to leave his will, for he said he never expected to come back.
We made as light of the whole thing as we could, but did not dare say anything . . . which might make [the Negroes] feel afterward as if we had deceived them, for the thing they dread is being made to fight, and we knew that there had been men about trying to recruit for Hunter’s pet idea, a regiment of blacks.
If we can have blacks to garrison the forts and save our soldiers through the hot weather, every one will be thankful. But I don’t believe you could make soldiers of these men at all – they are afraid, and they know it.
Letter from W.C.C., May 27 – plantation Negroes, at least – will never make soldiers in one generation. Five white men could put a regiment to flight; but they may be very useful in preventing sickness and death among our troops by relieving them of part of their work . .”
(Letters From Port Royal, Elizabeth Ware Pearson, editor, W.B. Clarke Company, 1906, excerpts, pp. 38-43)