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South Carolina – African-Americans – Disease and Owner Apathy


Also see: African-Americans - 1525-1865 Main Page



Written by Michael Trinkley of the Chicora Foundation

There were epidemics of measles, dysentery, and cholera at Gowrie in 1848, 1850, 1852, 1853, and 1854. In addition, there were the chronic killers – malaria and pleurisy. One white overseer at Gowrie complained to Manigault that because water was "oozeing" out of the ground around the slaves' houses, "I can't begin to get the ground dry under the houses."

Likewise, after a May 1854 flood, Manigault's son Louis complained,
Everything is nasty & dirty about the [slave] settlement .... we have no more time now for this year to white wash & all now remain dirty & dingy until next year .... everything is covered with the freshest sediment & the fields 'Stink'!"
Because of these conditions, mortality on Gowrie approached 50 percent. On the day after Christmas in 1854, Louis Manigault wrote to his father,
As Lord Raglan would say to the Duke of Newcastle, so Can I to You, viz.: that "it is now my painful duty to return You a list of the dead," and here they are in the order in which they died. – Hester, Flora, Cain, George, Sam, Eve, Cuffy, Will, Amos, Ellen, Rebecca, – Eleven from Cholera, and two Children viz.: Francis and Jane not from Cholera. – In all Thirteen names no longer on the Plantation Books.
It is telling to note Louis' attitude toward the newly dead. He does not mourn the loss of the slaves' lives, but rather the reduction in the plantation's labor force – and thus its value.

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