Harper's Weekly
Unsigned Article
New York: Harper & Brothers, 21 December 1861

"Work's Over."

  We give the above title to the series of "contraband" sketches which are reproduced on page 801. Our special artist at Hilton Head—the author of these sketches—thus writes us concerning them:

  "We have made use of the contraband in so many different employments, that I find it necessary to send you a series of sketches to illustrate his value. Upon our landing at Hilton Head a lack of good oarsmen was found seriously to deter our rapid progress in landing. Soon the negroes flocked in, and I assure you that I have seen few better oarsmen. Captain Fuller at once manned his little Whitehall boat with them, dressing them in man-of-war style, which is exceedingly picturesque. Again, in landing, the slope of the shore being very gradual, it was found necessary to have someone to back off the passengers; at once the contrabands filled the need. They are invaluable as foragers, bringing in the different fruits, game, &c.

  "Aunt Chloe is a brisk sample of ebony, who is the general head-cracker of the settlement, the terror of all juvenile darkeys and admiration of the elder.

  "The extensive earth-works that have been thrown up, and which their hands have done well their share of work, are almost monuments of the willing work of a paid negro.

  "Uncle Sam, a fine specimen of the African race, is the overseer of General Drayton's plantation, and one of the best-natured boys that we have. He is the general forager for the mess, and is never back in woods without an abundant return."

  Of the real condition of the slaves, a correspondent of the Times says: "The efforts of the masters to carry off the slaves have been in nearly every case abortive. No love for masters, no fear of their cruelty, no apprehension of the Yankees has been sufficient to alarm the blacks. They all look upon us as friends; and where they do not come within our lines, say that all that restrains them is the dislike of leaving their families and the 'tings'—their little property. They have a cat-like clinging to their old quarters, and do not generally manifest any desire to quit them. When they have fled in large numbers, it has always been toward our lines, but so far as I can learn it has been because of the efforts of their masters to take them off. This they resist, but they manifest no particularly vindictive spirit. They complain of bad treatment, but I cannot learn that they display any desire to revenge themselves. They chuckle, indeed, with infinite glee over Southern disasters; they tell of the lies they told their former owners, of their pretenses to love them, of their forced obedience; they believe in the power of the Unionists to overthrow the Southern rule; they are willing to act as guides or scouts (occasionally) to work; to give all information; and the more intelligent they are the readier to aid us. But unless provoked by the foolish attempts of the rebels to carry them off, I doubt whether they will attempt any injury to the persons of the whites. The plundering indeed presages evil, but if the rebels set the example by firing their own cotton-houses, they need not be surprised to find it imitated. If they persist in their attempts at forcibly retaining the slaves and in firing at them, the worst consequences are likely to follow."

  Some writers from Port Royal have stated that the negroes will not work, but that when work is offered them they fly to the woods. This is indignantly denied by other writers, and by several officers of the expedition, who state that the contrabands work willingly and ably. It would not be surprising if poor Sambo, after a dozen generations of slavery, should want to celebrate his emancipation by a brief holiday.