Civil War Louisiana (CWLA)

Civil War Louisiana (CWLA)
CWLA seeks to provide an online resource of any and all material of the Civil War relating to Louisiana with a special interest in the war in Acadiana in southwest Louisiana.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Louisiana's Plantations in Early 1864

From the New York Times, March 29, 1864:

NEW-ORLEANS, Tuesday, March 8, 1864.

Correspondence of the New-York Times.


Nearly all the desirable plantations on both sides the Mississippi, as high up as Baton Rouge, are under cultivation; so are those on the Lafourche, and west as far as Brashear City. Probably more than half of all are in the hands of new men, many of them from the North, who have begun the cultivation this year. Three new firms in New-Orleans, BROTT & DAVIS, GRAHAM, HODGES, & Co., and WEED, WITTERS & Co., are carrying on many, and are partners in many more They furnish supplies, &c., and divide with the proprietors the profits in some way agreed upon. To show how business has revived here, a partner in one of the firms told me their weekly profits were now four thousand dollars.

There have been many delays and difficulties in getting to work, growing out of the scarcity of mules and negroes. Mules have advanced, so as to touch $250 each for good plantation animals and are scarce at that; while last year they could be had for less than $100. As it requires from 60 to 75 mules to cultivate an estate of 1,000 acres, this change becomes important. My estimates are that it will cost this year to cultivate each 100 acres, (including cost of mules,) about five thousand dollars -- deducting the mules, &c. for each 100 acres, about three thousand. Here after this estimate may be reduced to two thousand, depending upon prices of labor and supplies.

Say outlay for labor....................$3,000

Say outlay for mules, &c............... 2,000 -- $5,000

Return, say 50 bales cotton, at 25c......$5,000

Or 50 bales cotton, at 50c................10,000

Many persons expect to get a bale of cotton to the acre. I have estimated it half a bale to the acre. Last year was a very favorable cotton year and everything went well. But in this pan of Louisiana this cannot be relied upon. I find[???] the richer sugar lands there is danger of overgrowth, which is non-productive; that rust is possible, which spoils the plant; that in case of a rainy season the bolls do not open, and that worse than all, the caterpillar may devour the whole crop in twenty-four hours. In other words, Lower Louisiana is not most favorable for cotton. Still much cotton was formerly raised here, and especially in the Teche country, west of this, and I think much will be raised this year, but I would not put it higher than half a bale to the acre.

The sugar crop of the State is not rated over 50,000 hogsheads in the last year, (and there is no probability of its reaching so high a figure this, against, say 400,000 hogsheads in the best of days. Very little new cane was put in last year, but little seed cane was saved for this year, and of the old stubble I think a great deal will have been destroyed by the severe frosts. Whatever sugars are produced will therefore bring higher prices. As to the value of these sugar lands, it is evident they must every year grow less, as the old cane "runs out," and no new cane is saved for renewals. I have no idea that they would now sell for more than one quarter their extreme prices. Whenever the settling day comes there must be a slaughtering of the innocents, who having spent their substance in riotous living are heavily mortgaged. The longer this settling is postponed the worse for the individual, the State, and the nation. Most of the propertis must change hands, and the sooner the better.

The best cotton region is further north upon the Teche, the Red River and the Mississippi, To-day I came upon a crowd of plantation negroes, who told me they had just been brought down on a gunboat from Waterproof (above Natchez,) and that the guerrillas were burning and destroying about there. From the various reports I judge that cultivators in that part are not having a "good time," and that but little cotton can be had from them. It is to be hoped that by another Spring the prospects will be safer.

The "chivalric" Gov. ALLEN (I am told and believe,) has given orders to burn right and left, upon the advance of our forces, and it is difficult to see whence large amounts of cotton are to be derived in the coming year.

Labor here is not at all adequate even this year to the demand. Many of the best men have enlisted in the army; many have wandered away, and thousands have died; so that at the present time brokers are getting from five to fifteen dollars for each good hand. There is no great danger therefore that our Irish citizens at the North will be driven out by the negro. I regret the fact. There is little doubt that the old owners will have to give it up, as the negroes are not willing to work for them, while they work well for the new men. The old owners will, in some cases, try it this year to their own satisfaction and to that of the negroes, and will then disappear. Let them go -- they have had their day, and a long and luxurious one it has been.

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Coppens' Zouave Battalion

Coppens' Zouave Battalion
Lt. Colonel George Coppens (seated) and brother, Captain Marie Alfred Coppens.Image sold at auction on Cowan Auctions, for $14,375