Life on a Plantation; the Civil War in Charleston

An authentic interview between Grapevine Dispatches and Mrs. De Sausssure (1837-1915).

Nancy Bostick (1837-1915) was one of twelve children born to a prominent plantation owner in Hampton County, South Carolina. She was educated at home by private tutors and took music lessons in Charleston, where she met Henry William De Saussure. They married in 1859 and settled in Robertville, South Carolina, a central location from which Dr. De Saussure found it easier to visit patients.

During the Civil War, Dr. De Saussure served the Confederacy as a surgeon, first with the Charleston Light Dragoons, and later along the South Carolina coast. While her husband was away, Nancy and her young daughter lived at Nancy’s father’s plantation, which was close enough to her husband’s camp to enable her to visit him relatively frequently. When General Sherman’s army swept through South Carolina, Nancy fled their home, which was destroyed by fire. After the Civil War, Nancy Saussure taught at Vassar College.

Nancy Bostick De Saussure wrote Old Plantation Days: Being Recollections of the Days Before the Civil War (1909) in the form of a letter to her granddaughter, Dorothy.

What you are about to read is an “authentic” interview between Grapevine Dispatches and Mrs. De Saussure. The answers Mrs. De Saussure [pronounced DES-suh-sore] provides are historically-accurate, taken from her journal, diaries or letters. The questions are contemporary, but chosen and phrased in a manner as if Mrs. De Saussure were interviewed by a 21st century reporter.

No attempt has been made to contemporize the language of Mrs. De Sausssure. For example, she often used the term ‘negroes’. Though certain terms, idioms and phrases are no longer used, or perhaps acceptable today, we feel it is important to hear Mrs. De Saussure in her context, which includes her original language.

This is a fascinating interview. In it, you will learn things like:

  • What life was like for slaves on a real plantation during the Civil War?
  • How were slaves cared for medically?
  • Was there a master-slave attachment?
  • Were de Saussure’s slaves treated well?
  • What was it like to personally observe the firing upon Ft. Sumter?
  • How did Charlestonians feel about the war?
  • What kind of destruction and ruin did Charlestonians experience?
  • And many more interesting questions answered by a personal witness who was just 24 years old in 1861.

Imagine a reporter from Grapevine Dispatches sitting down with Mrs. De Saussure in 1909, on a large shaded porch, in Charleston of course; sipping ice tea . . . . asking questions we’d all love the answers to.

In 1861 the De Saussure’s lived in Robertville, SC; a little northwest of Beaufort.

This interview will cover these topics:

  • The Old South vs The New South
  • The de Saussure Family
  • The Slaves and the Plantation
    • The Master/Slave Attachment
    • Health and Medical Care
    • Typical Day/Life on the Plantation
    • Education for the de Saussure Children
    • The Social-life Around the Plantation Community
  • Life and Times in Charleston during the Civil War (1861-1865)
    • Early in the War
    • The Firing on Sumter, April 1861
    • Post-Sumter Days
    • The Capture of Port Royal, November 1861
    • Late-War Reminscences, Charleston-area
    • The Effect of War: Ruin and Destruction
    • Sherman’s march through the Carolinas
    • The War Comes to an End

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