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Life on a Plantation: an Interview with N.B. de Saussure

Life on a Plantation: an Interview with N.B. de Saussure

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Published by Kraig McNutt
An "interview" with the wife of a plantation owner based on actual diary excerpts.
An "interview" with the wife of a plantation owner based on actual diary excerpts.

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Kraig McNutt on Jun 20, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The Center for the Study of the American Civil War | Director, Kraig W. McNutt
Kraig W. McNutt, 2007Originally published on The Civil War Gazette web site: http://bit.ly/eGx8KO
interview between
the Civil War Gazette
and Mrs. De Sausssure (1837-1915).Nancy Bostick 
(1837-1915) was one of twelvechildren born to a prominent plantation owner inHampton County, South Carolina. She was educatedat home by private tutors and took music lessons inCharleston, where she met Henry William DeSaussure. They married in 1859 and settled inRobertville, South Carolina, a central location fromwhich Dr. De Saussure found it easier to visit patients.During the
Civil War
, Dr. De Saussure served theConfederacy as a surgeon, first with the CharlestonLight Dragoons, and later along the South Carolinacoast. While her husband was away, Nancy and her
young daughter lived at Nancy’s father’s plantation,which was close enough to her husband’s camp toenable her to visit him relatively frequently. When General Sherman’s army swe
pt throughSouth Carolina, Nancy fled their home, which was destroyed by fire. After the Civil War,Nancy Saussure taught at Vassar College.Nancy Bostick De Saussure wrote
Old Plantation Days: Being Recollections of the DaysBefore the Civil War 
(1909) in the form of a letter to her granddaughter, Dorothy.
What you are about to read is an “authentic” interview between The Civil War Gazette and
Mrs. De Saussure. The answers
Mrs. De Saussure
] providesarehistorically-accurate,taken from her journal, diaries or letters. The questions arecontemporary, but chosen and phrased in a manner as if Mrs. De Saussure wereinterviewed by a 21st century reporter.No attempt has been made to
the language of Mrs. De Sausssure. For example,
she often used the term ‘negroes’. Though certain terms, idioms and phrases are no longer
used, or perhaps acceptable today, we feel it is important to hear Mrs. De Saussure in hercontext, which includes her original language.This is a fascinating interview. In it, you will learn things like:What life was like for slaves on a real plantation during the Civil War?How were slaves cared for medically?
The Center for the Study of the American Civil War | Director, Kraig W. McNutt
Was there a master-slave attachment?
Were de Saussure’s slaves treated well?
 What was it like to personally observe the firing upon Ft. Sumter?How did Charlestonians feel about the war?What kind of destruction and ruin did Charlestonians experience?And many more interesting questions answered by a personal witness who was just 24 years old in 1861.Imagine a reporter from
sitting down with Mrs. De Saussure in1909, on a large shaded porch, in Charleston of course; sipping ice tea . . . . asking questions
we’d all love the answers to.
In 1861 the De Saussure’s lived in
;a little northwest of  
This interview will cover these topics:
 The Old South vs The New SouthThe de Saussure FamilyThe Slaves and the PlantationThe Master/Slave Attachment Health and Medical CareTypical Day/Life on the PlantationEducation for the de Saussure ChildrenThe Social-life Around the Plantation CommunityLife and Times in Charleston during the Civil War (1861-1865)Early in the WarThe Firing on Sumter, April 1861Post-Sumter DaysThe Capture of Port Royal, November 1861Late-War Reminscences, Charleston-areaThe Effect of War: Ruin and Destruction
Sherman’s march through the Carolinas
 The War Comes to an End
The Center for the Study of the American Civil War | Director, Kraig W. McNutt
The Old South versus The New South
Mrs. De Saussure
, how do you see the South now,forty years since the Civil War?
The South as I knew it has disappeared; the New South has risen from its ashes, filled with the energetic spirit of a new age.
So those days were . . . ?
. . . the happy plantation days, the recollection of which causes my heart to throb againwith youthful pleasure, and near them are the days, the dreadful days, of war and fire and  famine.
The de Saussure Family
We’ve heard your great 
-grandmother was a special woman. Tell us about her.
My great-
 grandmother’s eldest son, at nineteen, was a captain in the Revolutionary 
War, and she was left alone, a widow on her plantation. When the British made a raid on her home, carrying off everything, she remained undaunted, and, mounting a horse, rode in hot haste to where the army was stationed, and asked to see the general in command. Her  persistence gained admittance. She stated her case and the condition in which the Britishsoldiers had left her home, and pleaded her cause with so much eloquence that the general ordered the spoils returned to her. Dearest child, in the intrepid spirit of this ancestor you will  find the keynote to the brave spirit of the women of the South.
 And would you tell us about your mother? She ran a plantation, right?
Mother was a woman of remarkable sweetness of disposition and intelligence, and had  great executive ability, which latter quality was dispensable in the mistress of a largehousehold of children and servants. She gave unceasing care and attention to her children,and personally supervised every detail of their education. Besides these duties, the negroes of the plantation, their food and clothing, care of their infants and the sick, all came under her control.
Who w
as your grandfather (father’s side)?
Henry William De Saussure, who was a descendant of the Huguenot family of that name,and a grandson of Chancellor Henry William De Saussure.
Your father was a spiritual man, was he not?
His devotion to Christ was unusual, and I never knew him to doubt for an instant that hehimself was a child of God. Having a most affectionate disposition, he loved his wife and children intensely, and lived in and for them.
Part Two: Interview with N.B. de Saussure

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