From Port Royal.


PORT ROYAL, S. C. Dec. 28, 1861.

This department of the army of the Union presents just now a specimen of agricultural industry rather than of military pomp. Since my last letter, no army movements of importance have taken place, affairs in that direction remaining in statu quo. The plantation affairs are lively and interesting, and to them I propose to devote the principal part of this brief letter. It is estimated that at least $2,000,000 worth of cotton has been secured and taken care of already, and the negroes are every day busily employed in picking, balling and shipping more. On the different islands gangs of ten, twenty-five, fifty or a hundred collecting the cotton in baskets or bags, which they carry in one hand, or slung from the shoulders. They empty the cotton into other receptacles where it is weighed, and each picker is credited at the rate of one cent per pound for his work. Thus the account is kept with the negroes. The cotton from each plantation is marked with the initials of the owner of the estate, and the fact noted in the account; so that if it can ever be shown that the property belonged to a loyal man, the exact amount of damages may be ascertained. Perhaps the idea of loyalty may cause the reader to smile incredulously, but it will be conceded at any rate that the precaution taken is a prudent one, and generous, if more than just. The negroes manifest the greatest zeal in collecting all the cotton they can find. However dull of understanding many of them may be, every one can see the pecuniary reason for getting cotton for the "Yankee." Many times they have led small parties to distant plantations, securing boat loads of the article, and returned in triumph, demonstrating their exultation by extravagant gestures, songs, shouts of "hi, yi," and rapid successive elevations of heels.

Let me say here, that we have almost always found the negroes truthful in the statements they have made to us, and consequently we have sometimes relied on their guidance in making quite extended explorations of the country. Their first stories of the evacuation of Hilton Head by the rebels, and the state of society since; the burning of a large part of Charleston, and the progress of the fire, and the location of stored cotton, have almost uniformly proved true, although the facts were sometimes mystified in the darkey mind. The cotton in possession of the federal authorities is of the best quality and harvested in admirable condition. Its value in New York is about seventy-five cents per pound. Speaking of the negroes reminds me of one thing that I feel called upon to protest again. They assume the ownership of whatever poultry and small live stock they can pick up along the borders of our lines and sell them to the soldiers at exorbitant prices. Four or five dollars for a turkey, and twenty or twenty five cents a pound for pigs, are prices which I think our soldiers should not be allowed to pay. Of course I do not mean that every darkey is given carte blanche as a sutler, but soldiers out of camp are at liberty to buy where and at what prices they please. It seems to me that some method should be employed to remedy the system of mercantile transactions so that the "innocent contraband" should not be allowed to fleece the soldiers. As I write, "old Joe" comes along with a squealing pig under one arm, reminding me of a little incident that occurred a few days since. "Old Joe" is a grave, solemn looking fellow, probably about eighty years of age, bald headed, with only a sprinkling of gray wool under his hat crown. Bent with old age and hard labor, he looks the very impersonation of Bourcicault's ancient darkey in the Peyton family, in the "Octoroon." On the occasion referred to, he approached the tent of a young volunteer officer. Pulling off his dilapidated hat, he gave a respectful tug to his side-tuft of wool, and wished to know if "Massa Yankee had seen his spectacles." The said spectacles were, as gathered from his grieving story, steel-mounted, and had hardly left their position upon his nose, or even his eyes during the doings of many years. His expressions of sorrow at their untimely loss were many and sincere, and he evidently suspected some of the "Yankee sojer mas'rs" had been playing a trick upon him in purloining the apparatus. The officer was unable to help him, and being a sly bit of a wag, directed him to Gen. Sherman, who happened to be at a little distance. The General, on being appied to, saw the joke instantly, and could hardly help enjoying it.