For nearly three weeks, the guerrillas had full and free range in the vicinity of the leased plantations. One after another of the lessees were driven to seek refuge at Natchez, and their work was entirely suspended. The only plantations undisturbed were those within a mile or two of Vidalia.
I tipped my hand to him, and raised it $100, at the same time giving Mose the office not to raise, as I thought it was all the fellow would stand. They both called; we showed down, and Mose had won the money. He made a reach for it, when Vidalia made a grab, but Mose was too quick for him. Then the young one jumped up and said to Mose, "You are a Jew and I'm a Jew, and you shan't have my money."
Already twenty-five hundred people had received rations from Troy, on Black River, and he had towed out a great many cattle, but a very great quantity remained and were in dire need. The water was now eighteen inches higher than in 1874, and there was no land between Vidalia and the hills of Catahoula. At two o'clock the 'Susie' reached Troy, sixty-five miles above the mouth of Black River.
Poor old Mose did not live long enough to visit Vidalia so the young one could make his word good for he went up to Chicago, and soon after died. I beat a man at poker out of $1,200 on the steamer Wild Wagoner. After he quit playing he asked me where I would get off. I told at the mouth of Red River. When I left the boat I saw my friend had concluded to stop at the same place.
There was a military post at Vidalia, opposite Natchez, which afforded protection to the plantations in which General Thomas's family and friends were interested. Another was promised at Waterproof, twenty miles above, with a stockade midway between the two places. There was to be a force of cavalry to make a daily journey over the road between Vidalia and Waterproof.
After the fight the cabin looked as if we had been fighting a half-dozen Newfoundland dogs from the amount of blood and black hair that was on the floor. The young one told Mose if he ever came to Vidalia he would lick him, so we supposed from that remark that he did not feel satisfied with the result.
On the following day we returned to Natchez. Everywhere on the road from Vidalia to the farthest point of our journey, we found the plantations running to waste. The negroes had been sent to Texas or West Louisiana for safety, or were remaining quietly in their quarters. Some had left their masters, and were gone to the camps of the National army at Vicksburg and Natchez.
At some forgotten time in the past, cut-offs were made above Vidalia, Louisiana; at island 92; at island 84; and at Hale's Point. These shortened the river, in the aggregate, seventy-seven miles. Since my own day on the Mississippi, cut-offs have been made at Hurricane Island; at island 100; at Napoleon, Arkansas; at Walnut Bend; and at Council Bend.
As new refugees were daily coming in, the officers found it necessary to organize a new camp over the river, in the rear of Vidalia, Louisiana, on the Ralston plantation. As a few hundred were gathered there we went over and found them exceedingly destitute. There were twenty families, mostly of those recently enlisted as soldiers. Some of them were almost ready to desert.
Those whom we had hired from other localities scattered in various directions. Some went to the Contraband Home at Davis's Bend, others to the negro quarters at Natchez, others to plantations near Vidalia, and a few returned to their former homes. Our "family" of a hundred and sixty persons was thus broken up.