Education or Economics? The Clash in Civil-War South Carolina
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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

Education or Economics? The Clash in Civil-War South Carolina

Even when I'm not aware of it, all my books are connected in some way.  Here's a snippet from Beyond All Price, in which Nellie Chase, the heroine of that book, learns of the arrival of a band of teachers known as the Gideonites. The date is March, 1862. By early April of that year, Laura Towne, the heroine of The Road to Frogmore, joined them.

“Colonel Reynolds and his staff will be moving onto these plantations in the next weeks to set up shop as cotton agents. Where necessary, they will organize work details to get the harvest picked. And they will take charge of shipping the cotton crop north to be used in our own United States cotton mills. Reynolds also has the authority to confiscate whatever he needs to get the job done. That means he well may appear here in Beaufort and take over some of the plantations we have been using for our own convenience. Once the crops are in, he is to organize the slaves to replant.”
       “Take over our plantations? That’s unfair.”
       “He can’t do that, can he?”
       “That’s not right.”
       Colonel Leasure shook his head. “That’s how important that cotton crop is to the financial stability of the United States government, gentlemen. I don’t think you want to challenge the methods by which it gets into our hands.”  
       “But how is that a change for the better, Daniel? Isn’t it just exchanging one slave driver for another?” Isabel was back on the attack.
       “I hope not, my dear. Lincoln’s intention, I believe, is to turn the slaves into independent farmers. But that will take training, as you yourself have pointed out. The cotton agents will act quickly to salvage the current crop. Then they can make plans, along with the Negro overseers, to turn the plantations into self-governing smaller farms. The slaves will be given their own land, and the agents will be there to guide them as they make the transition. It could be a good thing.”
       “I’ll wait to hear how it works out,” Isabel said doubtfully.
       “You may be more excited about the other new arrivals.”
       “And they are. . .?”
       “Teachers.”
       “Really?” Isabel and Nellie both leaned forward in anticipation. “Where from?”
       “As I understand it, there are two groups. Some of them are members of the Boston Educational Commission for Freedmen, and others are missionaries spon­sored by the American Missionary Society in New York. Nellie, you might remember a visit we had from a gentleman by the name of Edward L. Pierce back in January.”
       “Vaguely, Sir. Was he the one who kept talking about the need for humanitar­ian aid without ever defining what that might be?”
       “That’s the one, and we laughed about his innocence at the time. But he returned home and recruited some fifty-three men and women who are due here in early March. From what I’ve been able to learn, there are all sorts of folks in his group—clerks, doctors, divinity students, teachers, abolitionists. Their intention is to prepare the slaves for full independence and citizenship.”
       “Won’t their goals interfere with those of the cotton agents?” Doctor Ludington asked.
       “Perhaps. But both Reynolds and Pierce have been sent here by Secretary Chase and at Lincoln’s order. If all goes well, Reynolds’ people will concentrate on the immediate employment needs of the Negroes, and Pierce and his sincere little band will work on more long-range efforts to spread education among them.”
       “What if the two groups don’t co-operate with your proposed division of labor, Daniel?”
       “Then we do our best to stay out of the way.”

Nellie Chase left South Carolina in July, 1862, so she was not around to see whether or not the Gideonites were successful. If you are curious, however, The Road to Frogmore picks up the story of Laura Towne and the Gideonites and answers the question of what will happen if the two groups cannot co-operate.  I'll bring you an advance look at that issue tomorrow.