Those Five Orange Pips
By David J. Milner
(Note: This story was submitted by Bob Robinson, who includes these comments)
Herein the scholarly monograph Those Five Orange Pips by David J. Milner, guiding light of Greenville's Survivors of the Gloria Scott. The work, which appeared in the current April 1895 (it is always 1895) issue of their publication, The Gaslight Gazette, sheds much light on the adventure in question, and is of particular interest to those of us residing in South Carolina in that it also sheds much light on the factors leading to the War of Northern Aggression as well as on subsequent SC history.
This is one of the few cases in the Canon that I can read again and again and find new points for discussion. This time is no exception. There is a problem, however, in relating many of these points to non-Southerners, for few have any concept of life in the South at that time.
Some of the facts, as we know them, are:
Elias Openshaw moved from England to the United States "when he was a young man." and became a planter in Florida. This plantation, most likely, was in the northern portion of the state, perhaps near present-day Ocala. This area, today, is populated by cattle and horse farms¹. He reportedly did very well. What he grew, we do not know; perhaps cotton. Cotton was labour intensive, and unless it was a very small farm, slave labour was involved. To have "done very well" meant that it was a large operation. He would have been one of few Southerners to do well in agriculture, for most were poor dirt farmers who were barely able to eke out a living.
Remember that the South was rural and sparsely populated. The North, at this time, was becoming more and more industrialised and leaders of industry joined with the Federal Government in an expansion to the west. This required massive amounts of federal funds to build railroads and other infrastructure needed to bring goods to market. In order to raise the funds, the federal government levied a number of tariffs. (One of the earliest of these was known as "The Tariff of Abominations.") These tariffs did not impact the North, but wreaked economic havoc on the South, which paid upwards of seventy-five percent of the tariffs. Remember, the South had to import finished goods and the tariffs drove up their cost. They also feared that these countries would retaliate against their only export, cotton. The result is great if you're a northern industrialist, but it means starvation if you are a Southerner. Now, a few hotheads decided to invoke the State's Rights Doctrine and make Charleston, South Carolina a free port. This did not please the industrialists, who realised that their “welfare checks” would soon cease to arrive if the federal government permitted this to occur. Washington reneged on a promise to withdraw troops from several forts in the area, notably Sumter, which guarded Charleston Harbour. The fort was fired upon², and the rest is history.
After Secession, northern business interests demanded that the federal government take immediate action to restore matters more to their liking. Thus it was that Lincoln reluctantly invaded what had become a foreign nation. This was not a war within a nation, but a war between two. Like it or not, this war was fought over taxes - taxes that benefited only the North.
Elias Openshaw joined thousands of his countrymen and enlisted in the Army of the Confederacy in order to rid his country of the invader. During the duration of the war, their wives and daughters were in charge of the home front and performed their duties very well. Tracy J. Revels, Ph.D. (We’re proud to call her a Survivor of the Gloria Scott) recently wrote about this subject in her latest book, Grander in Her Daughters:
Florida's Women During the Civil War³.
Since Elias Openshaw was single, we have no idea who was in charge of his plantation. Perhaps an older manager or another man unfit for military duty was left in control.
¹ Thoroughbred horses and Black Angus beef cattle are raised here today.
² It is interesting to note that the only casualty was a mule.
³ Published 31 Dec 04 by University of South Carolina Press ISBN:1570035598.