Slaveholding families in the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plains desired mastery over their lucrative cotton, sugar, and rice plantations, but the nineteenth-century disease environment of these areas challenged their dominance. Easily accessible summer retreats in the nearby pine forests provided the health and social benefits slaveholders desired while allowing them to stay close to agricultural operations. As such, these retreats functioned as remote loci of slaveholder power, enabling planters to avoid the drawbacks of plantation life while maximizing its benefits. This essay illuminates the symbiotic relationship between plantations and summer retreats, using a Georgia case study of Burke County and Richmond Bath, the retreat developed by planter James Whitehead in nearby Richmond County. Agriculturally productive but often unhealthy due to the combination of its swampy grounds and mosquito-borne illnesses, Burke County enticed with the lure of wealth but threatened disease and death. The sandy soil of Richmond Bath could grow no cotton, but being high, dry, and only fifteen miles away, it provided a ready means for Whitehead, his friends, and family members to maneuver around the hazards of their home environment while maintaining a close eye on plantation operations. Through a careful analysis of architecture, agriculture, topography, geology, and demographics, this essay reveals how planters used summer retreats to create distinctive landscapes of slavery.


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pp. 1-32
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