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SELECTED LETTERS OF SALMON P. CHASE

NEW ORLEANS, LA., April 13th, 1863.

DEAR SIR: In many of my letters I have criticized Gen. Banks and his policy severely and unfavorably. Of necessity, my opinions have been based somewhat on the opinions of others. I have never been intimate with him, or enjoyed his confidence, and hence perhaps have done him injustice, in not being able rightly to interpret his views and policy.
Probably you had better accept Mr. Plumly's estimate and opinion of Gen. Banks and his policy - rather than my own, for Mr. Plumly is on terms of intimacy with the General and is far better able to judge of the probability of the General's success, than I am.
Mr. Plumly will be very useful here and I hope you will cause him to remain. He possesses one great advantage, of which I am destitute a familiarity with the character of public men their history, motives and objects. The General seems to have great confidence in him and does not seem to exercise in his intercourse with him, the same reserve as with others.
Gen. Banks has crossed Bewick's [sic] Bay with a large force (probably not less than 20,000) and is now advancing up the Teche Bayou. I cannot tell whether there will be a fight, for our force is so strong that the enemy may think best to retreat.
I made a visit a few days ago to the plantation of Mr. May, forty miles above here on the River. Mr. M. is an enterprising young planter who adopted a thorough free labor system last year, and his success is all that could be wished. He has 130 men at work, one third of them white, and pays the same wages to white and black. He has planted 1200 acres of sugar, cotton and corn, and I have never seen a plantation better conducted, or laborers more industrious and contented. The neighboring planters feel much hostility to him for successfully introducing free labor (white and black) in opposition to all their life long prejudices. This is but another illustration of the feasibility of free labor, and proves that the only obstacle in the organization of such labor, is the prejudice against free negroes, which always exists among slave-holders.
About two hundred men of the 2nd. Reg't. native guards, landed (from Ship Island) at Pascagoula near Mobile and had a sharp fight in which they showed much courage and repulsed the enemy. It produced much excitement and exultation among colored people in the city, who had got to believe that if they enlisted they would not be allowed to take the field.
I have nothing further of sufficient consequence to communicate. It is known here Gen. Butler is not to return, and now that Gen. Banks knows himself to be permanently in command, perhaps he will be thorough.

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Annual Report of the American Historical Association; Volume II; Washington, Government Printing Office; 1903

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