Lucy Chase to Hannah Stevenson, Dec. 9, [1863?]



My dear Miss Stevenson,

I despair of time in which to write as fully as I wish to do; so I will satisfy myself by giving a few items only. Upon Craney Island, we "cared for," (very indifferently and superficially, of course) two thousand negroes. Eighteen hundred we found there; and from three to five hundred came, at different times, later. "We clothed them; helped them patch their rags; caused them to make bed-ticks for themselves; tried to teach them cleanliness; made both slates and pencils for them from slate tiles (not knowing that you would give us slates for the asking). Taught some—yes, many, to read and write, working ourselves twelve hours a day. Lived upon the Isd four months, counting the weeks we spent there in July, (at which time, in the absence of the Surgeon, we acted as Superintendents in every department of labor). The people then upon the Isd were refugees from Suffolk, driven into Norfolk by the withdrawal of our troops from S. We staid with them until the Island was depopulated, by command of Gen. Naglee, on account of its having been declared by him outside the lines. Negro troops were, later, stationed upon it.

When we left the Isd in May, we followed the fifteen hundred who had gone from it upon the main-land. Six or eight hundred went upon farms. Upon two only of twenty farms were there teachers, and Dr. Brown convinced us of the importance of going from farm to farm to look after the general welfare of the laborers. With cart and driver following us in Gov Wise's carriage we went with clothing books and slates, gathered all together, gave garments to the needy, and taught all, forming classes, and encouraging all to help themselves between our visits. Many of them really learned to read after learning on our first visit the Alphabet. So far as possible— with the constant breaking down of our confiscated carriages, and rumored nearness of guerillas, their actual presence, also, on the farms, and change of lines putting some farms beyond reach—we made this work of prime importance. Then, as on the Isd and as now, keeping track of newcomers, and giving them needful aid, helping them to their friends, if they could be found, caring for their sick, always giving them an immediate and powerful dose of Letters.

For three months, in addition to our other labors, we taught daily in Mr. Coan's large school of four hundred. After his health gave way, my sister took charge of the school, for two or three weeks, and left it, only to assist us in opening our own, which, in a few days, will be under the care of six teachers, really representing your Ass—. About one hundred scholars we now have. The number is constantly increasing. Five hours daily our school is in session. Each scholar constantly at work under some Teacher. I forgot to mention that for three months (while working on the farms) my sister and I lived on a Farm in Portsmouth, where we had seventy negroes under our care, teaching all who could come to school, and giving instruction to the farm negroes in the neighborhood.

Several hundred have been taught directly by us. I suppose more than two thousand clothed. Our work is never done. We dont know what leisure is. Papers come, and we don't open them. Books are something we used to enjoy. All this, not because we are really industrious, but because it chances that our early arrival here made it necessary for us to work in a multitude of ways; and our work is of all times and seasons.

Most of the teachers here, are teachers only, and are wholly justified in doing what I acknowledge we are not justified in doing, viz, taking a portion of the day for ourselves . . . I did not tell you, in its place, that, at the Jail Yard, where we gradually gathered bunks, stoves are absolute necessaries for the refugees. We have been in the habit of patching, and teaching patching, causing boys, in some instances, to patch their clothing on their backs. The Friends (Orthodox in N.Y. and Orthodox and Hicksite in Phila) have sent to us far the larger part of our clothing. Surprisingly excellent it has been, all new, stout as heart (or body) could wish. The only people who seem to know what to send—shirts and chemises of very substantial cotton—Dresses, firm as the best home-spun—All things wanted, and all things right. Worcester Freedmen's

Soc six or eight barrels. 6 or 8 Boxbury boxes 3
Boston
N. Y. friends box & bar (15 or 20 I imagine)
Phil " both soc 15 perhaps
Boston several
Salem 1
Lynn 1
Freedmens Relief N.Y. several

I think I must have distributed at least sixty or seventy boxes and barrels of clothing, and must have clothed two Thousand people or more. When I came here, a year ago, the Orthodox fr'ds of Phil had spent six thousand dollars for clothing, and had made seven thousand garments. A few weeks ago, the Hicksites in Phil, had then just bought three thousand dollars worth of material, and money was constantly flowing in. I ought to state N Y frds Phil frds & Boston Ed. Com have sent me two thousand books, some slates & c.

Oh I have almost lost my breath in writing.

Yrs. truly
L. C.
Norfolk Saturday 9th Dec

 

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