Friday, 1865 August 4, New Orleans, Louisiana: “Business has changed very much, not only changed hands, but the very mode of carrying it out is so different from what it used to be”

[Impressions of business conditions in postwar New Orleans and Norfolk, Virginia, and the employment of African-American ex-slaves.]

New Orleans, August 4, 1865

James W. Green Esq.
Rappahannock County, Virginia

Dear Sir:
I arrived here on 25 July on Steamship
“Star of the Union” from New York, and went to work next day
in Same office I was in prior to the War. I was enquiring
the other day about Charlie and learned that he was then
expected almost daily in Vicksburg so I presumed I shall soon
see him. New Orleans look very natural & there are many
more familiar faces to be met with on the streets than I
imagined. Business has changed very much, not only
changed hands, but the very mode of carrying it out is so
different from what it used to be. Trade is quite
brisk at this time in almost all its departments; Cotton is
Coming in very freely from the various points, and so long as it
lasts it will keep everything else moving—the growing Crop that
is very small, and the impression is that a Small Crop at
present rates pays as Well as a good large one used to. Planters
generally seem disposed to go to work with a will, and do
the best they can under existing circumstances—the freed labor
system is as yet somewhat problematical, but I think that
once the Negroes being to realize which end they stand upon, and
discover that they must work or starve that they will be very glad
to do at least as little as they possibly can, which might
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amount to something in the long run. I found
in Virginia that many believed it best for each Planter to hire
strange Negroes, for the reason that those previously owned were in
many cases indulged and allowed privileges altogether
incompatible with the new relation between Employer and Employed—
but which nevertheless they would still respect. I think
the idea good as a general rule.
I wrote you from Philadelphia
when I first arrived there, my stay however was very short,
from there I went to Norfolk [Virginia] and remained with a friend
[unintelligible] two miles outside Town, for about 5 Weeks, during all of
which time very much was absent from New Orleans on business
appertaining to the City Banks and did not Know anything
whatever of my whereabouts.
I trust you are all getting on
well at “the Shade” [Locust Shade] & have had a good Corn Season. When
you can make it convenient to write, I would be much
pleased to hear from you.
Please tell W. ?  Green that
when the Express Companies get to Working Well, I will
write & ask him to have that piece of silk I left in
his charge forwarded to this place, as many are very
anxious to see it. I could easily have brought
it on myself had I only known.
With Kindest regards to all at “the
Shade” [Locust Shade]—
I Remain Dear Sir
Yours very sincerely,
Walter F. Irvine [signed]
address Care of
T. H. & J. M. Allen
New Orleans

[Editor: James W. Green (1829?-?) of  Rappahannock County, Virginia; as a 35-year-old farmer in 1864 he received a Confederate exemption “as an Agriculturalist” for the counties of Campbell and Amherst; in January 1865 the Lynchburg provost marshal’s office (Confederate) granted him permission to visit Rappahannock; his father Col. Charles W. Green Sr. (1817?-1879) wrote to him in 1864 from “Locust Shade”—perhaps the family plantation/farm. (There is a Locust Shade Park near the Marine Corps Base Quantico, in Triangle, Prince William County, Virginia.) An April 1865 a New York Times article described the “Star of the Union” as a “magnificent steamer . . . on the route between New-York and New-Orleans . . . owned by E. A. Sorosa & Co. . . . 218 feet long, 34 feet beam, 18 feet 6 inches hold, and 1,202 tons . . . of white oak . . .  a vertical direct engine.” A Walter F. Irvine (1836-1906) is buried in Elmwood Cemetery, Norfolk, Virginia; the 1900 U. S. Census identifies him as a native of Ireland and a merchant residing on the city’s Bank Street; two of his daughters (Margaret and Charlotte) were Louisiana natives. T. H. & J. M. Allen Company, a New Orleans cotton firm, ca. 1858-1876.]

MSS 4694-A

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