The grandeur of the plantation system can best be seen and understood at Middleton Place in Charleston, SC. Even today, there are thousands of acres still attached to that plantation but it is now in a trust and the public is able to enjoy it and somewhat understand what antebellum life was like in the south among the very wealthy.
Several tours were available: a horse and wagon ride tour, a self-guided walking tour, a house tour, a stable yard tour, a garden tour, etc. We chose to walk the grounds, tour the house, and see the garden and stable yard. We had a Charleston Heritage Passport we had purchased the year before; it included the gardens and stable yard, so we had to purchase the house tour separately.
The walking tour brought us to the reflecting pool, first. It was breathtaking! A variety of flowering magnolias were perfectly spaced to give a splendid effect around the long, rectangular pool. We followed the sidewalk around the pool and missed a lot of the garden (we went back later), because we were anxious to see the house and stables.
Sheep were grazing on the enormous lawn in front of the house; as we approached the gate that would allow us to enter the lawn, I came across the most beautiful sight I have ever seen in the south, a magnificent ancient live oak tree with the Ashley River in the distance and tiered gardens nearby. I would have liked to put a swinging couch under the tree and swing on it and spend the rest of my life enjoying the view.
We went through the gate toward the house. The ruins of the north flanking house and the main house were still in a heap on the grounds where they had fallen after the Yankees burned them and an earthquake finished the job a short time later. The south flanking house is still standing; it, too, had been damaged but when Williams Middleton came home from the war he rebuilt it but couldn’t rebuild the rest without slave labor.
With the great wealth the family enjoyed, the sons went to England for the finest eduacation money could buy. A slave went along to take care of his needs and also to learn carpentry. He would be hired out when he returned if he was not needed to work on the plantation. Tasks done by the slaves, weaving, milling, coopering, pottery-making, and black smithing were demonstrated in the stables.