Tombee: Portrait of a Cotton Planter

Overview

Tombee was an unlucky slave owner and cotton planter on St. Helena Island, South Carolina. His real name was Thomas B. Chaplin, and we know him because of his plantation journal, kept between 1845 and 1858.

The fascination of this journal is enhanced by notes that Chaplin added periodically after 1865, bringing the lives of his characters up-to-date. Not unnaturally, he compared his poverty after the Civil War with antebellum opulence, ...

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Overview

Tombee was an unlucky slave owner and cotton planter on St. Helena Island, South Carolina. His real name was Thomas B. Chaplin, and we know him because of his plantation journal, kept between 1845 and 1858.

The fascination of this journal is enhanced by notes that Chaplin added periodically after 1865, bringing the lives of his characters up-to-date. Not unnaturally, he compared his poverty after the Civil War with antebellum opulence, lamenting the one, deploring the other.

Theodore Rosengarten has made accessible the last years of an American aristocracy. Besides containing a history of the Carolina Sea Islands during the second golden age of cotton, the book is a study of the dull horror of plantation slavery.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Rosengarten, recipient of a National Book Award for All God's Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw, offers an excellent study that captures the life and times of a Southern slaveholder. Thomas B. Chaplin (182290), heir to a fortune in land and slaves, was 22 when he became master of the 376-acre Tombee Plantation on St. Helena Island, S.C. There, with a wife and four children, he lived extravagantly, managed poorly and sank deeper into debt and opium addiction, ultimately losing everything when federal troops arrived in 1861. Rosengarten's book, in two parts, opens with a well-researched biography of Chaplin, who was always cash-poor and struggling to keep up appearances while battling a much-hated stepfather for his mother's wealth. The second half, edited with the assistance of Susan W. Walker, is the daily journal kept by Chaplin for 15 years to make sense of his life of ``loss and disappointment.'' Through the story of this planter and his family, the author illuminates innumerable aspects of the planter's way of life on the eve of the Civil War. (July 18)
Library Journal
Here are two books in one. The first runs about 300 pages and is a biography of Chaplin, owner of the Tombee Plantation on South Carolina's St. Helena Island. The second runs over 400-odd pages and is Chaplin's diary from 1845 to 1866. Together they portray not simply an antebellum planter; they richly depict daily life on a sea island plantation. They show intimate aspects of family and social life, sickness and death, slavery, civil war, and defeat. The replete style of Rosengarten's prize-winning All God's Dangers: the life of Nate Shaw (1974) and his thorough editing and annotation done with the assistance of Walker make this volume an essential purchase for collections on Southern or social history. Highly recommended. Thomas J. Davis, History Dept., Howard Univ., Washington, D.C.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688116095
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/1/1992
  • Edition description: Firt Quill Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 750

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