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In Their Own Words

June 23, 1867

Letter Described Reconstruction on Plantation

Frances Butler, daughter of coastal planter Pierce Butler, wrote a letter to a friend or relative only designated as “S” from her father’s plantation about the progress of Reconstruction. In only two months, her father would die, leaving his 29-year-old daughter as mistress of three plantations:

“We are, I am afraid, going to have terrible trouble by-and-by with the Negroes, and I see nothing but gloomy prospects for us ahead. The unlimited power that the war has put into the hands of the present government at Washington seems to have turned the heads of the party now in office, and they don’t know where to stop. The whole South is settled and quiet, and the people too ruined and crushed to do anything against the government, even if they felt so inclined, and all are returning to their former pursuits, trying to rebuilt their fortunes and thinking of nothing else.’

“Yet the treatment we receive from the government becomes more and more severe every day, the last act being to divide the whole South into five military districts, putting each under the command of a United States general, doing away with all civil courts and law. The true reason is the desire and intention of the government to control the elections of the South, which under the constitution of the country they could not legally do… . Meanwhile, in order to prepare the Negroes to vote properly, stump speakers from the North are going all though the South, holding political meetings for the Negroes. Do you wonder we are frightened? The one subject that Southerners discuss whenever they meet is, ‘What is to become of us?’

Source: Mills Lane (ed.) Georgia: History written by Those who lived It (Savannah: Beehive Press, 1995), pp. 211-212.