Ten Years
on a Georgia Plantation




In 1866, Frances Butler Leigh returned to Georgia to help her father reclaim his family plantations on the Georgia coast, and she continued to manage them for ten years--a woman struggling to survive in a man's world. Mrs. Leigh viewed her former slaves with mingled affection and exasperation and believed they were inferior as well as unprepared for full citizenship--opinions doubly interesting for having been written by a Yankee. The sadness of defeat, resentment toward military occupation and uncertain adjustment to a new economic, political and social system are all seen in this passionate description of Reconstruction Georgia.


THE year after the war between the North and the South, I went to the South with my father to look after our property in Georgia and see what could be done with it.

The whole country had of course undergone a complete revolution. The changes that a four years' war must bring about in any country would alone have been enough to give a different aspect to everything; but at the South, besides the changes brought about by the war, our slaves had been freed; the white population was conquered, ruined, and disheartened, unable for the moment to see anything but ruin before as well as behind, too wedded to the fancied prosperity of the old system to believe in any possible success under the new. And even had the people desired to begin at once to rebuild their fortunes, it would have been in most cases impossible, for in many families the young men had perished in the war, and the old men, if not too old for the labour and effort it required to set the machinery of peace going again, were beggared, and had not even money enough to buy food for themselves and their families, let alone their negroes, to whom they now had to pay wages as well as feed them.

Besides this, the South was still treated as a conquered country. The white people were disfranchised, the local government in the hands of either military men or Northern adventurers, the latter of whom, with no desire to promote either the good of the country or people, but only to advance their own private ends, encouraged the negroes in all their foolish and extravagant ideas of freedom, set them against their old masters, filled their minds with false hopes, and pandered to their worst passions, in order to secure for themselves some political office which they hoped to obtain through the negro vote.

Into this state of things we came from the North, and I was often asked at the time, and have been since, to write some account of my own personal experience of the condition of the South immediately after the war, and during the following five years. But I never felt inclined to do so until now, when, in reading over a quantity of old letters written at the time, I find so much in them that is interesting, illustrative of the times and people, that I have determined to copy some of my accounts and descriptions, which may interest some persons now, and my children hereafter. Soon everything will be so changed, and the old traits of the negro slave have so entirely vanished, as to make stories about them sound like tales of a lost race; and also because even now, so little is really known of the state of things politically at the South.

The accounts which have been written from time to time have been written either by travellers, who with every desire to get at the truth, could but see things superficially, or by persons whose feelings were too strong either on one side or the other to be perfectly just in their representations. I copy my impressions of things as they struck me then, although in many cases later events proved how false these impressions were, and how often mistaken I was in the opinions I formed. Indeed, we very often found ourselves taking entirely opposite views of things from day to day, which will explain apparent inconsistencies and contradictions in my statements; but the new and unsettled condition of everything could not fail to produce this result, as well as the excited state we were all in.

Ten Years on a Georgia Plantation
347 pgs.

Ten Years on a Georgia Plantation
347 pgs.

Ten Years on a Georgia Plantation

Ten Years on a Georgia Plantation

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