[Home] [Book] [Expand] [Collapse] [Help]

Clear Search Expand Search

    CHAPTER IV.   Table of Contents     CHAPTER VI.

Brown, Josephine
Biography of an American Bondman



"For now the ripened cane
Was ready for the knife,
And not a slave could be spared to aid
His mother or his wife."

In the cotton districts, the picking season is always the most severe for the bondman, for when they gather in the cotton, the slaves are worked from fifteen to twenty hours out of the twenty-four. The sugar-making season commences about the middle or last of October, and continues from four to ten weeks, according to the season and other circumstances; but more especially, the number of hands on the plantation, and the amount of sugar to be made. As soon as the cane is ready for harvesting, the grinding-mill is got in order, wood hauled, the boiling-house cleaned out, the kettles scoured, the coolers caulked, and the casks arranged to receive the sugar. Before the cane is gathered in, plants, or sprouts, as they are sometimes called, are secured for the next season. This is done by cutting cane and putting it in matelas ,--or mattressing it, as it is commonly denominated. The cane is cut and thrown out into different parcels in the field, in quantities sufficient of plant several acres, and so placed that the tops of one layer may completely cover and protect the stalks of another. When the required amount is thus obtained, the whole gang of slaves is employed in cutting

cane and taking it to the mill. The top is first cut from the cane, and then the stalks cut as close to the ground as possible, thrown into carts, or taken on the backs of mules to the grinding-house. As soon as it reaches the mill, it is twice passed between iron rollers, so that not a particle of juice is left in the stalk, the former passing into vats, or receivers, while the trash is thrown into carts, and conveyed from the mill and burned. After the juice is pressed from the cane, it is put into boilers, and transferred from one to another, until it reaches the last kettle, or teach, as it is termed. The sugar has then attained the granulating point, and is thus conveyed into the coolers, which hold between two and three hogsheads. It is then removed to the draining-houses, after remaining twenty-four hours in the coolers, and soon after is put into the hogsheads. Here it undergoes the process of draining for five or six days, and is then ready for the market. A second-rate sugar is always made, after the first-class is manufactured.

During the whole of this process, the driver is never seen without a short-handled whip in his hand. The lash of the negro-whip is from four to six feet in length, made of cowhide, and sometimes wire planted in with the leather. The handle of the whip, or the butt, is not unfrequently loaded or filled with lead.

Such is the process through which the sugar has to pass before it finds its way upon the tables of the people of the free States. William shrank back at the thought of his brothers dragging out their lives upon a cotton or sugar plantation.


    CHAPTER IV.   Table of Contents     CHAPTER VI.