Pretty much. What the U.S. lost in the Charleston attack was a lot of civilian shipping—which wasn't doing much shipping anyway, with the Royal Navy patrolling the Atlantic. What Charleston lost was that, plus peace of mind.
And the Royal Navy won proof that propellor-driven ships are the future. Can’t forget that part.
Pretty much. What the U.S. lost in the Charleston attack was a lot of civilian shipping—which wasn't doing much shipping anyway, with the Royal Navy patrolling the Atlantic. What Charleston lost was that, plus peace of mind.

Even if it wasn't being used that's still fortunes in assets lost.

And a more paranoid South will be even more demanding that Berrien pull troops from Canada to not only invade the Republic but to defend the South from raids by sea. After all if Charleston isn't safe for the slaveholders, where is?

Meanwhile the rest of the Union having a fit that the South is dragging them down.
Winter's Chill (2)
Once again, something I've written has turned out longer than I expected. Way longer. So long, in fact, that this is just the first half of it. Be patient. This is going to be a recap of some previous events, but from a different point of view.

Dearest Chrissie[1]:

Please forgive me. This letter will be short. Every minute I must stop and breathe on my fingers to warm them. The worst blizzard in years has hit Charleston. There’s a meter of snow on the grounds, and it’s still falling.

In your last letter you said you were a little jealous of me for going to this school. Trust me when I say you wouldn’t like all the girls here. As I write these words, Martha Pinckney is in the next room “whispering” filthy stories about her spying on slaves in the “altogether.” Bless her heart. I don’t believe a word she says. I pine for the company of your good soul.

No word from Stephen[2] since my last letter.

Much love,


--Letter from Elizabeth Miller to Christine Gadsden, January 28, 1838.

Dearest Chrissie:

Last night at supper Janice told us about a raid on a town called Columbia—not our Columbia, but a village in Mississippi by the same name. She said: “The limeys and crawfish came up the river in the night, set fire to shops and houses and shot down anyone who came out to try and fight them.” A teacher overheard her talking, so the Headmistress came and told us there was nothing to be afraid of, because the British can never get past our harbor forts. Then she made Janice wash her mouth out with soap for calling Louisianans ‘crawfish.’ She didn’t seem too angry about ‘limey.’ The Headmistress is a tyrant, but you would think she’d make allowances for the daughter of a railway engineer. Janice never learned any better at home, unlike some girls I could mention whose initials are MP.

Do you get much news of the war? Are there many of these raids? If we are in danger, I should like to know, and no one else will tell us. Livia Lamar said her cousin Marcella down in Georgia wrote to her and said some men are going to try and conquer Texas! I don’t know whether to credit this or not. Livia is no liar, unlike you know who.

The snow has stopped, for now. I hope it is not too much worse in the mountains. Still no word from Stephen.

Much love,


--Letter from Elizabeth Miller to Christine Gadsden, February 4, 1838.


Dearest Chrissie:

Finally some good news to report! This week I received a letter from Stephen. I don’t know if I can describe how it’s been since he joined the Dragoons. Every day that passes I don’t hear from him it is as though another brick were loaded onto my back, and when I get a letter all those bricks fall to the floor at once!

Anyway, he is alive and unharmed, and he says the Dragoons have taken a fort in Florida on the border. I wish I could feel more hopeful about it, but I still remember what happened to those brave boys last year.

It froze again last night. How the Yankees stand this weather day after day I shall never know. I slipped on the ice this morning and went right into a pile of filthy snow. Martha Pinckney, bless her heart, laughed and laughed. Mother says we must be friends with the Pinckneys, but if Martha can’t be bothered to pretend when we’re outside of her house, I see no reason why I should.

Will you remember my brother in your prayers? I have always been in awe of your devotion[3].

Much love,


--Letter from Elizabeth Miller to Christine Gadsden, February 18, 1838.


Dearest Chrissie:

Yesterday the Headmistress took us on an outing! We went to an exhibition (there’s a new word) at the Museum[4]. We saw portraits of the President and his advisors and generals[5]. Mr. S.F.B. Morse was the painter.[6] Seeing those faces put me in mind of when Father used to have his friends over. Mr. Morse, by his accent, was very much a Yankee, but he told us all that he saw nothing wrong with slavery and held only the highest regard for our President, which we could all see by the fine painting he did of him. If you ever get the chance to see Mr. Morse’s work, be sure to do it.

No snow or freezes this week, only dreadful cold rain. But even in this weather, it is good to see something outside of those brick walls and iron gates.

Much love,


--Letter from Elizabeth Miller to Christine Gadsden, March 4, 1838.


Dearest Chrissie:

I suppose you must have heard the dreadful news from the front, the same as I have. Poor General Jessup! (Is that how his name is spelled? I haven’t seen it written.) He and his men were so brave, trying to rescue all those poor souls from that ogre Morrison.

But what I can tell you about is the towering rage our Headmistress went into when she heard the tyrant Brougham was hiring Negro soldiers from Saint-Domingue! She cursed in four languages that I could recognize, and maybe more, and for once she didn’t care if we could hear her. She cursed Brougham and the Queen of England and the whole of “Albion perfide,” and when she was done with them she cursed the French Canadians and the Louisianans for fighting on their side. Did she give them hark from the tomb! “Ont-ils oublié 1804?” she kept saying.[7] I haven’t seen her in such a temper since the night the Brewster girls tried to climb over the wall.[8] Once she’d calmed down, she said, “It is henceforth permitted for young ladies in this school to refer to the people of Louisiana as ‘crawfish’ or, more properly, ‘écrevisses.’”

I hope we’ve seen the last of the winter freezes, because the first pale green buds are on the trees. No word from Stephen since my last letter. Some other girls here are in the same situation, like the Brewster girls that I mentioned. Their older brother Percy[9] is a captain in the Dragoons. We all tell ourselves that Army mail is slow, and we try not to worry.

Much love,


--Letter from Elizabeth Miller to Christine Gadsden, March 18, 1838.


Dearest Chrissie:

News comes all at once! A mail delivery from the Army came to town this week. Maggie and Jessie got a letter from Percy, and I got two letters from Stephen! And on my birthday! What a splendid present!

There was a deal of talk in all of them about life in a soldier’s camp—what they eat, how they sleep, who snores too loud. If I tried to copy it all down here, it wouldn’t fit in the envelope. But when the letters were written, the Dragoons had settled down to a siege. That means they’ve surrounded a town but can’t get inside it yet. The town is a place called Tallawaga. I looked it up on the school’s map, and it’s about a third of the way to Trafalgar.

Stephen says he has heard of these Saint-Domingue Negroes, and the soldiers call them “Black Hessians” (I won’t even repeat what the Headmistress calls them when she thinks we can’t hear) but he hasn’t seen hide nor hair them yet. I call that a relief. They may be the savage brutes the Headmistress says they are, but they did fight the French and win—and the Spaniards too, I hear.

Weather continues to warm up. I’m glad to hear Spartanburg is warm too. I hope the Dragoons will make it all the way to Trafalgar and set those boys free. I hope this war will be over after that and all our boys can come home.

Speaking of home, the Brewsters[10] have asked Mother, Julie, and me to spend the Easter weekend with them. Maggie and Jessie have another brother, Billy, who they say is very handsome if a bit older than me.

Much love,


P.S. Thank you for remembering my birthday. And please don’t be jealous that I’m making friends with the Brewster girls. You have a place in my heart that no other friend will ever take.

--Letter from Elizabeth Miller to Christine Gadsden, April 1, 1838.

Dearest Chrissie:

Terrible news from the front. I know your kinfolk are trying not to tell you too much about the war, but I have to tell you this. On the very day I wrote you that last letter, the Dragoons and Twiggs’ whole army down in Florida got ambushed. They were trying to cross a river called the Santa Fe, and there were Indians and heathens and Black Hessians and torpedoes in the road and I don’t know what all. No one knows for sure who lived and who died, but none of the Dragoons escaped.

I think Florida must be cursed. No happy news ever comes from down there. Whole armies go into those swamps and don’t come back.

The teachers are being very kind to us. Jessie forgot vouloir was an irregular verb and didn’t get smacked with a ruler. The Headmistress says we mustn’t get our hopes up, because Black Hessians wouldn’t leave white folks alive. (Martha says they’re cannibals, but you know how much I trust her.)

I don’t know what else to say right now. I can’t find words for everything I feel.

Much love,


P.S. I’m ashamed to write this to you, knowing you’ve suffered more than I have, but I feel I must write or burst.

P.P.S. Please say a prayer for Stephen and Percy tonight.

--Letter from Elizabeth Miller to Christine Gadsden, April 8, 1838.

Dearest Chrissie:

As I write this, it is Easter Sunday. I think of Papa and Sam and little baby Teddy and I try to remember the promise of the Resurrection. But it’s a new kind of pain for me not to know if someone I love is alive or not.

The Brewsters do set a good table. The roast lamb was a marvel, and I hope they’ll give Mother their recipe for baked asparagus with smoked oysters. But Maggie and Jessie and I were the only ones to have any appetite at all. Mrs. Brewster kept insisting that we eat, and we’ve been living on school food for so long. Young Billy was every bit as handsome as Maggie and Jessie said he was, but I fear I did not capture his attention. Not that either of us tried, with the mood at the table.

The Brewsters had one rule at dinner, and it was not to talk about the war. Instead they asked us all about how we were faring at school. This was also hard for Maggie and Jessie, because they do get in trouble at school sometimes.

All through Mrs. Brewster just sat there staring at the lamb. Finally she said, “I wonder what Percy is eating tonight.” Billy said, “Don’t worry, Mama. I’ll fight ‘em when I join the Army next year,” and she said, “Not you too!” Then she ran off. The silence in the room while we heard her going up the stairs!

There was tea after dinner. I haven’t had sugar in my tea so long the sweetness of it hurt my mouth a little.[11] As I said, Brewsters keep a good table.

Much love,


--Letter from Elizabeth Miller to Christine Gadsden, April 15, 1838.

Dearest Chrissie:
Spring is in fine form here in Charleston, with the wind off the harbor. I only wish I was in a mood to enjoy it. Schoolwork is getting harder, and there’s still no word from Stephen.

And no matter how hard they try, they can’t have kept secret from you the news about the filibuster—there’s a new word! And I would wager you also know that the President asked Congress to declare war on New Spain and Congress told him no.

Even the girls have started talking about it—the older ones, I mean. Maggie got in a row with Martha Pinckney just yesterday. Martha sounded like she was just repeating what we both heard her papa[12] say last Christmas; “Yankees don’t care about the South, they want to hold us back, they want to expand west to Astoria and conquer the north all the way to the Pole but leave us stuck here so they can outvote us in the Senate,” etc., etc. Why her mama and papa didn’t trade her in for a parrot I’ll never know. Maggie said, “Texas? Who cares for Texas? We don’t even know what’s become of our Percy, those boys in Trafalgar are still waiting to be hanged like common thieves, there could be a million of those Black Hessians across the border just waiting to run riot over the whole South—and they want to send the army even further away? Why?” This is the first time I’ve ever heard girls talking politics within these halls.

All I know is we’re all supposed to trust our President, but I don’t see how this ends the war, let alone wins it. I just want our menfolk back. Even the men away from the front aren’t safe. Poor Janice got word this week that her father was killed in that explosion up in Virginia, when a train car full of powder and #23 went off the tracks.

I hope next week the news will be better.

Much love,


--Letter from Elizabeth Miller to Christine Gadsden, April 22, 1838.

Dearest Chrissie:

There is some news, alas. This week the War Department sent the Brewster family a letter. They say they know for certain now that Percy was slain on April 1.

The Headmistress let them home for the funeral. Jessie is crushed. I think Maggie is too, but she has the look of a girl trying to be strong for the sake of a younger sister. Now I know what that looks like from the outside. Dearest Chrissie, would you say a prayer for Percy’s soul, and for Magnolia and Jessamine Brewster? You’ve never met either of them, but I know you and they would get on well.

Much love,

P.S. And a prayer for Stephen too. I know that’s a lot of praying. I’m sorry.
--Letter from Elizabeth Miller to Christine Gadsden, April 29, 1838.


Dearest Chrissie:

The school year is almost over. The Headmistress has given us some work over the summer. She wants us to find six pieces of writing and translate them into French so we don’t forget.

They say the railroad line to Columbia will be finished before the end of summer. I hope it will be finished in time for you to pay a visit.

Still no word from Stephen.

Much love,

--Letter from Elizabeth Miller to Christine Gadsden, May 20, 1838.

[1] Elizabeth’s friend Christine Gadsden, daughter of John Gadsden and Ann Margaret Edwards, currently orphaned and living with distant relatives in Spartanburg, S.C. (Elizabeth is at a boarding school, which makes it hard for her to write a journal and keep it private, but she writes to Chrissie every Sunday as schoolwork allows.)
[2] Stephen D. Miller Jr. is a lieutenant in the Charleston Light Dragoons.
[3] Chrissie’s OTL counterpart was the Rev. Christopher Philip Gadsden.
[4] The Charleston Museum, which (as IOTL) opened in 1824.
[5] Well, the generals that were in the Washington, D.C. area and had time to sit for a portrait.
[6] Unfortunately, Samuel Morse’s career has taken a somewhat different turn IOTL.
[7] Elizabeth is boarding at Madame Talvande’s French School for Young Ladies. Madame Talvande was a refugee from what is now Haiti.
[8] As IOTL, one of Madame Talvande’s students once snuck out at night and married a guy. That’s not a euphemism—the girl literally married him. Ever since then, she has been a woman of no chill. (IOTL they say her ghost still haunts the premises, looking for girls who are trying to sneak out after dark.)
[9] Percy James Brewster (born 1816).
[10] James Jr. and Phoebe Brewster.
[11] Without Louisiana or Florida, the U.S. produces a lot less domestic sugar, and keeps production alive by putting tariffs on imports (this is a tariff Southern planters have never raised any objections to). So even before the war, sugar was more expensive than IOTL.
[12] Henry Laurens Pinckney, editor of (IOTL and ITTL) the Charleston Mercury, which is basically a whole bunch of patent-medicine ads in a trenchcoat disguised as a newspaper.
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Say, whatever happened to Biloxi? Last we heard the RN was bombarding the city wasn't it?
Yes. That was around the first week of January. They finished bombarding it, captured a couple of U.S. Navy sloops in dock and damaged a half-finished lighthouse. Then they left.

They haven't been back, because Biloxi was an easy target, but not a rewarding one. In the 1820s it was supposed to have gotten its own canal links to the Mississippi and the Tombigbee, but these were among the first proposals to get nixed when the bubble burst. (Link one port to a canal and it takes off. Link every port to the canal system, and the law of diminishing returns sets in.)
What kind of reputation does Louisiana have with its non USA neighbors these days? I know they think of themselves as much a part of the Caribbean cultural region as the North American one, but how are the seen by the people of New Spain, British Florida, Haiti and the colonial islanders?

With New Orleans as a major port I'd expect hem to have developed some kind of reputation both from visitors and their own trade and presence in the region.
Winter's Chill (3)
What kind of reputation does Louisiana have with its non USA neighbors these days? I know they think of themselves as much a part of the Caribbean cultural region as the North American one, but how are the seen by the people of New Spain, British Florida, Haiti and the colonial islanders?

With New Orleans as a major port I'd expect hem to have developed some kind of reputation both from visitors and their own trade and presence in the region.
Now that is a complicated question. Each of those places, after all, has a different point of view (especially Haiti) depending on whether they're a colony or not and whether slavery has already been abolished there. Then there's the differences between the planters, the workers, and the small but growing middle class. Certainly the social structure of Louisiana (planters on top, slaves on the bottom) looks very familiar to everyone in the Caribbean. The little republic's political independence is generally thought of as a harmless legal fiction. It's also seen as a great place to learn what's going on in America—not just at the top, but at every level, or at least every part of the Mississippi draining basin—without the risks involved in entering an American port. (Every last ship that sails the Caribbean has its share of John Glasgows on board and wants to keep them, after all.)
New Orleans would like to be the gambling center of the Caribbean as it is for America, but that seems unlikely—Cuba is much closer, and even more full of gambling opportunities.

“Weather very hot. I’ve thought of just the thing to make the Tyrant happy. Stephen’s Courier clippings about the war! I’ll use Mr. Poe’s dispatches from Canada—the man has such a way with words. I doubt anyone else has translated them, so she’ll know it’s all my work.
“Dinner with the Chesnuts. Fresh strawberries for dessert. Still no word of Stephen.”

From the journal of Elizabeth Miller, June 11, 1838.


“Bacon and bean pizza with the Pinckneys. I must say, Martha is much better company when her parents are in the room. Then she must be on her best behavior. She can’t make nasty remarks about my family’s reduced circumstances, or tell us all how Wild Joe is coming to free all our slaves and ‘ravish us all in our beds’[1] or the Black Hessians are coming to carve us into joints and cook us and eat us and ‘ravish us with savage force’—in that order? Really, Martha?—or whisper filthy stories of Negro men that any fool can see are not true because so many slaves can fit into their masters’ cast-off trousers. Her younger brother Henry Jr.[2] is much more pleasant, and quite learned. I always enjoy his company.
“All the same, I wish we had spent the meal with the Brewsters. Mr. Pinckney went on and on about how the Dead Roses in Congress are turning against our President, how ‘Texas should have been ours,’ and how ‘the South is shedding all the blood in this war.’ From reading Mr. Poe, I could have told him our northern friends are fighting and dying too even if they haven’t lost whole armies.
“Still no word of Stephen.”

From the journal of Elizabeth Miller, June 14, 1838.


“Happy news from Chrissie! She writes to say that her foster father will be closing his shop for a few days in August and coming to Charleston for a visit.
“Hot and humid today. Went to Beatrice Butler’s 15th birthday party. Overheard her father speaking of a British cutter sighted off the coast—not a warship, but one of those little Hidden Trail ships from Florida.
“Still no word of Stephen.”

From the journal of Elizabeth Miller, June 26, 1838.


“Our Stephen is alive. Thank you, Lord.
“A British ship arrived in the harbor this morning from a place called Ragged Island under flag of truce. It carried mail from the Dragoons who got captured. The British have a camp there for prisoners.
“Stephen says he was charging the enemy when a torpedo in the trail killed his poor horse and gave him a scalp wound so bad he couldn’t fight because blood got in his eyes[3]. He says he was very ill for a few days after that. He says, ‘I’m in no danger of getting fat, but the food is enough to get by on and it’s a nice change from Army grub. The hard part is being polite to the guards. To a man, they are n_____s who were slaves not ten years ago before Mad Queen Lottie set them free. They’re not so fierce as the Black Hessians, but you can imagine their joy at getting to lord it over white men for a change.’ He says not to worry if I don’t hear from him for a while. ‘The warden is niggardly with pen and paper’—his little joke.
“Dinner with the Boykins. Ice cream for dessert. What a happy day!”

From the journal of Elizabeth Miller, July 2, 1838.


“Independence Day, 1838. Sixty-two years since we declared ourselves free. Pizza at the Hampton estate. Heard much railing against Mr. Poinsett for his testimony in front of Congress. Mr. Pinckney said, ‘Remember his father? Treason runs in that man’s blood!’ Grandmother whispered in my ear, ‘He’s a fine one to talk! Robert told me his father signed the same oath!’[4]
“Fireworks over the harbor much more spectacular than last year, when well-nigh all our powder went for the war. Perhaps this war will be over soon. It would be a relief to have it end, and have Stephen back safe and sound.
“But it doesn’t feel like we’re winning. This very day—if nothing’s changed—those men in Trafalgar are being hanged, and there seems to be no hope of avenging them. Worse, Stephen is now at the mercy of those hangmen. And nothing will give Maggie and Jessie their brother back.”

From the journal of Elizabeth Miller, July 4, 1838.


“Service today was very solemn. Many prayers said for our former President. Mother said, ‘I was as young as Julia when that man rose to prominence. It’s hard to imagine the nation without him.’
“You could almost draw a line through the congregation. Men and women with gray in their hair, even a little, looked truly sad. The younger men and women just looked mulish, like children pulled away from their play, as if someone were making them attend. I heard one fellow say ‘one less d____d Abolitionist’ but everyone shushed him. I hardly remember the man, but if we must hate everyone in the world who doesn’t approve of slavery, who does that leave?”

From the journal of Elizabeth Miller, July 15, 1838.

“Call me a fool! I was so sure there would be at least six stories by Poe in the clippings, but I can find only five.[5] I can’t believe I didn’t check until today! Surely the Tyrant won’t mind if one of them is by someone else?
“Dinner with the Bennetts. I didn’t think it polite to mention, but their butter has gone off and I think someone in their kitchen is defiling their soup.”

From the journal of Elizabeth Miller, July 16, 1838.

“Glory be to God, I wasn’t expecting to have my problem solved so soon! Today’s paper carries a story by that same Mr. Poe about the Battle of Lake Saint-Louis. It is a very long story, but I have the rest of the summer to translate it. Even the Tyrant won’t be able to find fault with me!
“Tonight Mother taught me to make pizza at home. We used ham and pickled eggs. Next time I shall be more careful with the pickled eggs. A little goes a long way. I do wish we could afford some help in the kitchen, but after last night at the Bennets’ I don’t mind so much that we do our own cooking.
“It’s been a week since we saw any rain.”

From the journal of Elizabeth Miller, July 17, 1838.

“Finally some rain. A chance to stay inside, finish Poe’s account and begin translating it. It’s good to read about a victory after so many disasters, but why does it have to be in Canada? Why couldn’t we have won in Florida or Louisiana? Or even Texas?
“They say Brougham is the most cunning, black-hearted devil walking the earth, and he and Queen Lottie both hate slavery. I wonder if they want the South in particular to lose this war, not just the United States. Do they know about the difference between North and South over there in London? Do they care?”

From the journal of Elizabeth Miller, July 18, 1838.


“Dreadful, shocking news in the evening paper. Black Hessians struck a clay quarry in the night down in Georgia. Hundreds of militia were massacred. White women were dragged from their beds.
“Very glad to be at the Brewsters’ for dinner, not the Pinckneys’. I don’t think I should be able to look Martha in the eye. The poor women weren’t eaten, but who cares? They were abused and murdered and left in the dirt for crows to peck at.
“I asked Mother to go and visit the Headmistress tomorrow and see how she was faring. The poor woman must be in a dreadful state with this news. Mother said this was a good idea, but I should do it myself instead, because I know her better. I tried to tell her I couldn’t do it because it would look as if I was trying to seek her favor. Mother said not to be silly. So tomorrow I go visit the dragon in her den.”

From the journal of Elizabeth Miller, July 20, 1838.

“Talk of the market this morning all of Attapulgus and the terrible raid. ‘How could those men have run away?’ ‘Half of them didn’t run—they were already dead!’ ‘But how could even one of them have run?’ ‘Hold your tongue, woman! You have no notion of what it means to be a soldier!’ ‘I know it means having a gun and knowing how to use it! What did those poor ladies have?’
“Some wanted the army pulled back to defend our borders. Others said that would let ‘the Mad Queen’ declare victory.
“Some said it was because Congress distracted the President and Mr. Poinsett. That makes no sense at all. Did the Black Hessians sneak over the border while the army and the militia were busy reading the paper?
“Someone—I think it was one of the Rhetts—said it must have been all ‘those jungle n_____s,’ that our good colored folk would never do such a thing. Someone else laughed and said ‘the Frenchies on Santo Domingo thought they had good colored folk too.’
“No putting it off any longer. Time to visit the Tyrant.”
“Strange to see a teacher outside her school. Not the Headmistress, not the Tyrant, just old Rose Talvande.[6] She seemed very pleased that I asked how she was faring.
“She got to talking about Saint-Domingue—the things she saw, stories she heard from others who fled. She spoke all in French, and not in the slow clear way we do in class, but very quickly when she wasn’t choking up. So a lot of what she said, I couldn’t understand.
“I won’t write down what I did understand.
“I couldn’t eat supper afterward—it was only cush, so no great waste. I shan’t sleep tonight.
“And after Madam Talvande was done talking, she asked me how my translations were going. She said, ‘I should be very disappointed if they were less than excellent.’ As if I didn’t already have reason enough to regret coming.”

From the journal of Elizabeth Miller, July 21, 1838.


“Tuna and greens pizza with our Chisolm cousins. Good and very filling. I’m glad the British don’t seem to think our fishermen are worth shooting at.
“The news from Florida is bad. How many times have I had to write those words? I’m so tired of them. There was a battle. Our men survived, but so did the Black Hessians. No revenge. No justice. No reason it couldn’t happen again somewhere else. It took days just to get the news over the border.
“I looked out on the harbor today. For the first time, it didn’t look friendly. They say the cutters from Florida are still watching our coasts at night, looking for runaway slaves. I’m not afraid of them taking Negroes away.
“I wish I’d never made that visit. Such horrors! Martha, you may be sixteen, but you are a child.”

From the journal of Elizabeth Miller, July 24, 1838.


“On Chalmers Street today I saw six Negro men laying fresh cobblestones. No less than fifteen white men were guarding them, muskets in hand. Everyone who passed by watched them with wary eyes as if they were about to attack. It was almost too hot to walk, let alone fight.
“I wonder why we even bother with slaves. They moved like snails crawling up a bush. Julia and I could’ve laid as many stones as they did in as much time. I’ve never seen their kind work so slow even in this heat.[7] And now we have to post a guard every time there’s more than two of them in one place?
“Dinner with the Ingrahams. Much talk of the state of our harbor defenses. The Ingrahams dined with the Aikens[8] yesterday. They say the Charleston-Columbia line won’t be finished until November, because the state wants the railroad to use smaller work gangs. But by then they say the line from Fredericksburg to Salem will be also be up and running. ‘Think of that, Lizzie! From here to Knoxville or Lexington[9] or Washington in just one day!’ Lately I can’t even think ahead to the end of summer.
“Grandmother was with us at dinner. She said, ‘If we need a whole squad of militiamen to guard six n_____s, how in blazes are they supposed to harvest the rice? Or the cotton, or the indigo?’ No one had an answer.”

From the journal of Elizabeth Miller, July 26, 1838.


“Have I said yet how much it makes me tired to be afraid all the time? To have grown men shoo me and Mother away from the market because slaves are bringing crates of vegetables as they do every week? What good is it to keep us safe if we can’t eat?
“One good thing about this journal is it helps me to remember things. Today I remembered the ship that got taken in the mutiny last February. When we heard what happened, we all thought nobody would ever see the captain or the crew again. But only one of them was killed. I know that’s still too many, but no one troubled the women.
“Not that I could say such things at the Keitts’. Dinner was beefsteak. Now I know what the Good Book means by ‘stalled ox and hatred therewith.’ Never saw people in such ugly moods. Everything was ‘d____d n_____s,’ ‘d____d limeys sneaking around our coasts in those little boats,’ ‘d____d Yankees, see how they like it when there’s no more clay coming north to clean their wool with,’ ‘d____d crawfish who’d sooner join forces with the n_____s than with us,’ ’d____d Congress won’t let our President succeed because he’s a Quid.’ Mother tried to find more pleasant things to talk about, but to no avail.
“Weather still miserably hot even at night. Wish we had ice cream.”

From the journal of Elizabeth Miller, July 28, 1838.


“Happiness! The Edwards family came this afternoon on the boat from Columbia, and Chrissie Gadsden was with them!
“We talked for hours. I told her everything that’s going on in Charleston, and she told me everything that’s going on in Spartanburg. So of course I did a lot more talking. I should write down everything she said, but it’s all about people I’ve never met and it’s disappearing from my head even now.
“It has been so long since we had guests in this house, instead of being guests. Mother got the Brewsters’ asparagus recipe. We had to use salt pork instead of oysters, but it was still very fine.
“Chrissie is already asleep in my bed. Must try to get to bed without waking her up.”

From the journal of Elizabeth Miller, August 4, 1838.

“So good to have Chrissie with me at church today. Very strange talk after church. Mr. Edwards was talking about the cotton mills up in Spartanburg, and he said the gins they use were made in Sumter by a William Ellison. Not only that, he said that this William Ellison was a Negro and was once a slave himself, but he saved up his money, bought his freedom, and now has slaves of his own working for him! Now that is remarkable!
“‘So you see,’ he said, ‘he doesn’t seem to have thought slavery was such an evil.’ Why are people always arguing with Abolitionists even when there aren’t any Abolitionists in the room?
“What almost made me laugh out loud was when he said that, he looked around expecting everybody to say ‘Hear, hear!’ and instead they all looked like they had stomachaches. I can’t count how times I’ve heard people hereabout say that Negroes are nothing but lazy simple creatures who need looking after because they can’t plan past the next meal. Lazy simple creatures couldn’t build a cotton gin, let alone run a factory. Creatures without foresight couldn’t save up their pennies that way.
“I introduced Chrissie to Maggie and Jessie today. They seemed to like her, I think. They’re very different from her. Imagine Chrissie trying to sneak out at night! But they’ve been much more subdued since the news of poor Percy.
“One more evening with her.”
“Thought it was thunder at first. Turned out to be cannon fire.
“From my window I can see something burning in the distance. I can’t tell what it is. It must be big.
“Mother said, ‘Don’t worry about it, darling. Go back to sleep.’ Did one of those poor women down in Attapulgus say the same thing to her daughter that night?
“God protect Chrissie. If she were in Spartanburg right now she’d be safe. God protect us all.”

From the journal of Elizabeth Miller, August 5, 1838.

“So it was only ships that burned. Empty ships at that. But if it wasn’t for all the forts, they would have burned the city down around us all last night.
“I never heard so many rumors as today. Black Hessians landing, north or south of the city—no one can say which. Heard a man say, ‘Now is the worst time. The rice harvest has begun. The fields are full of n_____s, they all have knives, and ain’t nobody keepin’ an eye on ‘em.[10]’
“Chrissie and the Edwards family are staying an extra day. The militia is patrolling the Santee to make sure it’s safe. There’s a 24-hour curfew on all Negroes in town, free or slave. Every white man who can hold a gun is in the militia, including some I wouldn’t trust with a dinner fork.
“Tired of rumors. Picked up a copy of the Courier. ‘RUMORS OF SLAVE REVOLTS.’ It’s been all day. If all the rumors were true we’d all be dead by now.”

From the journal of Elizabeth Miller, August 6, 1838.

“They say the canal is safe. Said goodbye to Chrissie.
“Saw Mr. Brewster and Billy in militia uniforms, getting ready to go on patrol. They had dress swords and muskets that looked like they were last used at Cowpens. Billy kept fumbling with his epaulettes, trying to make sure they were on straight. ‘Don’t you girls worry your pretty little heads about Black Hessians,’ said Mr. Brewster. ‘If they come around here, we’ll give ‘em such a whipping they’ll think they’re slaves again.’ As if we don’t all know what happened down in Georgia! They cut through the militia and didn’t even slow down! We need the real army to keep us safe.”

From the journal of Elizabeth Miller, August 7, 1838.

“No paper today. Nothing to buy in the market. Men running around with guns, women hiding in their homes, Negroes under curfew—everything’s come to a stop. We can’t go on like this.”
From the journal of Elizabeth Miller, August 8, 1838.

“The one good thing about this is that it gives me a chance to finish my translation and go over my work a second time. I caught some spelling mistakes and fixed them. The Headmistress won’t have anything to complain about.”
From the journal of Elizabeth Miller, August 9, 1838.


Daniel Webster’s observation that the South Carolina militia had thwarted ‘ten of the last two slave revolts’ was an exaggeration, but not by much. In the environment of panic that gripped the South in general in 1838, and South Carolina in particular after the raid on Charleston, there were a number of rumors of planned revolts, most of which turned out to be false.

Two that turned out to be genuine conspiracies were the ‘Gowrie conspiracy’ (sometimes called ‘Arney Savage’s Rebellion’) and the ‘Jehossee Island conspiracy.’ Both of these followed similar patterns—slaves would contact the Hidden Trail, arrange for the presence of boats on a given night, then escape en masse, head for the coast, board the boats and sail to Florida. They were more like prison escapes than rebellions—although the slaves were prepared to kill if necessary, there was no talk of overthrowing the established order, still less of turning South Carolina into a new Santo Domingo. What they wanted was, in a word, out.

This was probably due to the conditions on the rice plantations. They were brutal, but it was the brutality of neglect rather than sadism. The discrepancy between how the plantation owners saw themselves, and how their rule was experienced by those beneath them, was particularly marked here. Charles Manigault, who purchased the Gowrie plantation in 1832, prided himself on his paternalism. The Aiken family, who were having Johassee Island cleared for planting, alloted land to the slaves for personal use and had a particular interest in labor-saving devices. But nature—especially in the form of cholera, yellow fever, and malaria, all prevalent in the low-lying ground where rice was grown—was more cruel than any lash-wielding overseer. Manigault’s own meticulous records show that deaths exceeded births in eleven of the twelve years he owned Gowrie. In 1834 in particular, 40 percent of the population died in a cholera outbreak.[11] As one South Carolina planter said, “I would as soon stand fifteen meters from the best Kentucky rifleman and be shot at by the hour, as to spend a night on my plantation in summer.[12]” Small wonder if those who worked these swamps dreamed of escaping them rather than ruling them.

Arney Savage, a slave woman who had lost all her children to cholera[13] and had nothing left to lose, organized the escape of 86 slaves over the end of July and the beginning of August.

The escape happened the night of August 6-7. Gowrie was on an island only a little upriver from Savannah. Rather than risk approaching that fortified harbor, the escapees would flee east, then southeast to Daufuskie Island, where someone pretending to be a Hidden Trail contact had promised there would be a British ship waiting.

No one knows the name of the slave who made this claim. The militia kept him anonymous to protect him and his family from retaliation by the Gullah, but reported that his price for betraying the escapees was for himself and his family to be sold to an apple orchard in the hills of South Carolina, where their chances of survival would be much higher. History also does not record whether the militia kept its promise. Whatever the case, the slaves were apprehended by a militia patrol out of Switzerland Post[14].

The Johassee Island conspiracy is more mysterious by virtue of the fact that whoever organized it disappeared, never to be questioned by the South Carolina authorities or interviewed by a Florida newspaper. The only contact that any of the survivors had was a white man matching the description of Joseph M. Baldy.

The difference from the Gowrie escape was that the escapees did not intend to wait for a boat, but to steal their own. As a developing plantation, Johassee Island needed barges both to transport rice to and from Charleston and to assist in the moving of earth and timber. In addition to being carefully guarded by overseers, the barges were not intended to be seaworthy, but depending on the weather they could survive on the ocean for brief periods of time.

This escape was more successful. Two of the barges, with a total of 39 people on board, were apprehended the morning of August 9 off Seabrook Island by the revenue cutter Alexander McDougall under Captain Thomas O. Larkin. Larkin was able to avoid the British patrols and enter Charleston Harbor, but seeing the escapees and hearing their accounts moved him to tender his resignation to the Revenue Cutter Service after the war and go west, saying, “I will gladly serve my country, but I am done with serving slavery.”

Two of the barges were intercepted by small British craft out of Florida, which took their crew on board. The 17 people on the first barge included the mysterious white man, who disappeared shortly after the craft arrived at New Smyrna. (As there is no record of Baldy appearing anywhere else at this time, it may well have been him.) The fate of the fifth barge has become one of the world’s enduring unsolved mysteries…

Cadmus Hobson, South Carolina Before the Combines


“Two more weeks until school begins.
“Things are beginning to get back to normal. We had salt beef pizza with the Brewsters. Mr. Brewster has given up his rule against talking politics at the table. I saw him reading the Courier. Then he threw it to the floor and muttered, ‘Liberty we hold as dear as our wives and children—easy for him to say! His family is in Massachusetts!’
“The talk was all of what happened at the Akins place down the coast from here.‘How did they know to send those boats?’ ‘The Hidden Trail. Gullah up and down the coast from here to the border. Germans with wires couldn’t send news any faster.’ I swear Morrison must know what we all look like in our unmentionables.
“Billy stayed quiet. He barely ate, and it was good pizza.
“Afterward, the three of us were supposed to take a nap upstairs. Maggie had other plans. If you’re in the back of the girls’ closet, you can hear what goes on in the study, and Billy was up there talking with Mrs. Brewster.
“I didn’t catch the first part, but while he was out there in the field, he saw a couple of women being questioned by the militia. ‘They swore they didn’t know, they kept saying they didn’t know.’ He was in tears—kept stopping to blow his nose. ‘There was blood everywhere and they still wouldn’t stop the whipping.’
“What have we done?”

From the journal of Elizabeth Miller, August 14, 1838.

[1] Martha has an overactive imagination. Wild Joe would never do anything to a woman against her will. (And if you asked him, he’d tell you he can’t find time in his schedule for all the willing women.)
[2] Not OTL’s Henry Laurens Pinckney Jr., but somebody several years younger.
[3] Scalp wounds, of course, are famous for bleeding profusely. Lt. Miller doesn’t realize it, but this saved his life—with all that blood coming out, not enough manchineel poison got in.
[4] Joel Roberts Poinsett’s father was Dr. Elisha Poinsett, who signed an oath of allegiance to the British while they were occupying Charleston during the ARW, in order to keep his property. Henry Pinckney’s father Charles signed the same oath. Afterward, Dr. Poinsett moved to Boston and Charles paid a fine (12% of the value of his property) but was so thoroughly forgiven he ended up helping represent South Carolina in the Constitutional Convention. (If you’re still trying to figure out why Berrien would flout the Constitution so blatantly, remember that everything in his near-60 years of life has taught him that men of his standing are more likely to be killed in a duel than punished by society or the law.)
[5] Not that Poe only wrote five stories, but Stephen went off to join the Dragoons before he got any more.
[6] So this is another place where OTL’s historical evidence is a little contradictory. For the purposes of TTL, Rose Talvande is still the headmistress, and Ann Talvande (husband of Andrew) is preparing to succeed her.
[7] When she’s older, Elizabeth will look back on this and realize that they were trying not to scare the trigger-happy white men around them by making sudden movements while holding potentially lethal projectiles.
[8] As IOTL, William Aiken Sr. founded the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company. Unlike IOTL, the canal part got an earlier start and the train part got a later start, meaning the accident that killed him IOTL never took place.
[9] Lexington, Kentucky, noted for Transylvania University, the first university west of the Alleghenies. (For the record, the Louisville-Claysburgh line, which Lexington is on, isn’t quite finished yet.)
[10] An exaggeration, but the rice industry, more than almost any other aspect of the Southern slave economy, depended on the know-how of the slaves in question. Many of their ancestors had been stolen from rice-growing areas of Africa for this specific purpose. The slaves here had more autonomy than almost anywhere else in the South.
[11] As IOTL.
[12] Except for the use of the metric system, this is an OTL quote.
[13] As IOTL.
[14] TTL’s remains of a white settlement called Switzerland, which was mostly abandoned because it was a malarial swamp.
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In regards to the slaves on the Rice farms, where are more slaves gotten for the farms if Deaths exceed Births? Slaves sold from Plantations where the conditions are healthier for growth of the number of slaves? (I can't imagine that there is much attempt for additional slave trade from Africa or even the Caribbean.)
In regards to the slaves on the Rice farms, where are more slaves gotten for the farms if Deaths exceed Births? Slaves sold from Plantations where the conditions are healthier for growth of the number of slaves? (I can't imagine that there is much attempt for additional slave trade from Africa or even the Caribbean.)
Afraid so. Rice was profitable enough that they could do that. (Every time I think I've read the worst…)
As I thought, the South is fraying under the pressure of this war. This homefront I likely a prelude to the Troubles in the South with ever lurking paranoia.

I thought that was the case with the slave crew she saw. Those poor men, more so than usual anything could trigger them getting murdered and there's nothing they can do about it.

Still glad the girl's brother is alive. Too much probably to hope that the relative restraint of his captors might stir something in him. Though that lad at the end seems to have his conscience tormenting him over whatever horror he witnessed.

Good on those two barges who escaped; Baldi remains at large and I don't see him stopping any time soon. I am intrigued by the American captain who resigned to go West in guilt over returning those 39 to slavery. A future resident of Kyantine?

I never gave much thought to the Rice plantations. Cotton always seemed to get the attention on the subject of American slavery, with tobacco as an afterthought; though I knew there were also sugar plantations. August has arrived, time to prate for the next round of the union vs the Republic of Wellington vs America!

Cadmus Hobson, South Carolina Before the Combines

Odd how this title strikes an ominous note with me.

Great touch with her bringing up the different types of pizza they eat.

This war really feels likes its coming to climax here, the South is being worn down on the home front even in their first city, and the North is ever more distrustful of the POTUS.
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Winter's Chill (4)
One of former president John Quincy Adams’ last acts was to call before the House Committee on the Judiciary the Secretary of War himself, Joel Roberts Poinsett, on June 27. “I was made aware of the expedition on Friday, April 13 of this year,” Poinsett told the chairman. “I informed the President directly.” When asked by North Carolina Tertium Quid Jesse Atherton Bynum if he had recommended advising Tyler of the matter, Poinsett replied, “No. I assumed the President would do so of his own accord, and it would have been well outside the scope of my office even to make the suggestion.”

ADAMS: And yet you took it upon yourself, after this body voted not to declare war on Spain or its possessions, to inform the officers of the U.S. Army of this decision.
POINSETT: That is correct.
ADAMS: Were you aware that this body and General Scott had both sent similar communiqués?
POINSETT: I was not told as much. I suspected that they would, but it seemed to me the wiser course of action to risk redundancy rather than error.

Then Rep. Joseph L. Tillinghast of Rhode Island began asking questions:

TILLINGHAST: Going back to that Friday—after you gave the President this information, did he have any orders for you?
POINSETT: No. He thanked me, and I returned to my office.
TILLINGHAST: Were you aware of any orders he might have sent that day?
POINSETT: Not at the time, sir. But he acknowledged, in private conversation, that he had taken the liberty of sending such orders in anticipation of a formal declaration of war.
TILLINGHAST: Just to be clear—is it the President’s habit to send orders to armies in the field, or individual regiments within those armies?
POINSETT: Not at all. From the beginning, it has been his preference to leave the day-to-day governance of our nation’s war effort to myself, to Secretary Upshur, and to the generals and admirals.
TILLINGHAST: So this was the first time he had ever done such a thing?
POINSETT: That is correct.
TILLINGHAST: If I may, I wish to return to the moment when you informed him of the filibuster. Did the President seem particularly surprised by this information?
POINSETT: I would say interested rather than surprised. Certainly not shocked.
TILLINGHAST: Was there anything in his reaction to suggest that he already knew this, or perhaps was expecting to hear it?
POINSETT: I can’t say one way or the other. Nothing about his reaction struck me at the time as odd enough to be memorable, and some months have passed since then.
TILLINGHAST: Then he did not seem surprised?
POINSETT: Over the course of this war, I’ve had occasion to give him good news, bad news—and quite often mixed news, such as the outcome at Sinepuxent. I was the one who informed him when the Election burned, when Virginia was invaded, and when we took Fort-Wellington. When I told him of the filibuster, he was, I would say, if anything less animated than he has been on other such occasions.

The messengers who had delivered the messages spoke before the Committee the next week, but could only report that they had been sent directly from the President that Friday afternoon, as the orders themselves had been sealed. After this, the outbreak of yellow fever in the District of Columbia forced a hiatus in the deliberations of Congress…

When the Committee reconvened at the beginning of August, Calhoun requested that “in light of the news from Attapulgus,” they put their investigation on hold until “the security of our borders may be confirmed” and concentrate on the risk of slave revolt. “In our Southern states, there is not now a white woman who lives within a day’s march of the coast and sleeps sound in her bed,” he said. “There is not a white husband or father who can step outside his door to go about his work without entertaining dreadful thoughts of the horror he might come home to.” Webster denied this request:

The security of our borders and all within—especially those who cannot defend themselves—is of course our greatest concern. But it is rightly a matter for our army and navy, under the governance of their respective departments. The Committee have already questioned Mr. Poinsett to their satisfaction, and I do not anticipate further need to distract him from his duties. The particular business of the Judiciary Committee is to defend the liberty that we all hold as dear as our wives and our children, and to do so through restraint on power.

The Committee’s first order of business was of course to replace the late Adams as chairman. His replacement was Rep. John Pope of Kentucky, a man with a well-earned reputation for being a party of one[1]. As a senator, Pope had voted against declaring war on Britain in 1812, and was almost the only Kentuckian to support the First Bank. Pope had been at the meeting at Gadsby’s Tavern in ’16, and he and Henry Clay had been friends and sometimes allies—particularly over issues of supporting domestic manufacturing—but Clay had long since learned better than to take his support for granted. This point was driven home early in 1835, when Pope added his signature to the letter urging no further Congressional action against slavery.

But if there was any hope among either Berrien or the Tertium Quids that Pope’s support for slavery would translate into support for the man who tried to bring slavery to Florida and Texas, Pope disabused them of it in his opening statement. “Again and again, I hear my friends among the Quids say ‘On the one hand, Mr. Berrien has done thus-and-so, which is bad, but on the other hand, he has also done such-and-such, which is good.’ So perhaps it’s just as well that I am overseeing this matter.[2] I will suffer no trespass upon the prerogatives and responsibilities of this institution, among the greatest of which is the power to declare war.”

Among the first witnesses were General Zachary Taylor and Major[3] Henry Halleck, who had ridden as couriers in order to arrive as quickly as possible and minimize the time they spent away from the front. Despite this, Calhoun and other Quids continued to protest that they should not be taken away from the front at all, for any length of time. Neither officer commented on this protest. Instead, Taylor brought with him the orders he had received from the president, which were identical and explicit:

As of April 13, 1838, the United States of America is at war with the Viceroyalty of New Spain. By now a volunteer military force of 581 men should have already entered the territory of Texas via Arkansaw. You shall do the same, and shall further render all aid and assistance to this force in the task of securing Texas for the United States.

Halleck’s testimony was that Harney had received a similar missive…
Charles Cerniglia, The Road to the Troubles: The American South, 1800-1840

[1] Somebody IOTL would probably say “maverick.”
[2] John Pope lost an arm in an accident many years earlier.
[3] With the buildup of troops on the Louisiana front, promotions are coming fast.
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