revolution of public feeling on the subject.
At first everybody was extremely hostile to such a movement, and the soldiers particularly.
But three or four circumstances combined to make a rapid change in the public sentiment.
In the first place, by an act of the Confederate Congress, approved February 17th, 1864, there were some thirty thousand or forty thousand slaves drafted into the army as cooks, teamsters, trainsmen and the like, and the soldiers found that they not only got along very well with Cuffee
, but that he saved them no end of work and trouble, was handy, amiable, liked the service well enough, and was not without a spirit of adventure.
Some of the negro teamsters did a little amateur fighting now and then, and they showed themselves very skilful in plundering a battle-field.
Slavery, too, was on its last legs as October rolled by. The enemy had possession of more than half the Confederate
territory, and wherever they marched they set the negroes free.
Slaves had lost their market value even in Richmond
, where, when sugar was selling at from eight dollars and a half to eleven dollars and eighty-seven cents per pound, coffee at twelve dollars, tea at forty-two dollars, bicarbonate of soda at five dollars and thirty-seven cents, flour at three hundred and fifty dollars, and a china dinner and tea set brought two thousand four hundred and fifty dollars at auction, good, likely negroes brought only from four thousand five hundred dollars to six thousand dollars. (Richmond Sentinel
, October 28th, 1864.) This, in gold rates, and estimating flour at six dollars per barrel, would make negroes only seventy-five dollars to one hundred dollars apiece, or about one-tenth their price at the beginning of the war. People saw from this heavy discount that slavery was doomed, and a good many patriotic planters were quite willing to sell their slaves to the Confederate Government, and take their chances in Confederate States
bonds in preference to negroes.
Another thing was that of the Confederate Congress that met at Richmond
for the last time in the second week of November, 1864-(it adjourned sine die
on the 17th of March, 1865)-more than half the members represented constituencies in which slavery was practically rubbed out by the war process.
and Representatives of Missouri
, and parts of Georgia
, and Mississippi
, knew that their constituents' slaves were gone, and they had no particular reason for wishing to save the slaves of other sections yet uninvaded by the enemy.
Still, although the question began to be debated actively, and the army showed itself in favor of the movement, there was no concerted serious attempt to concentrate public opinion in regard to it