Falling like dew upon a thought produces
That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think.
AND THEIR DESCENDANTS,
AND TO THE MEMORY OF THE DEPARTED,
AND THE LIVING OF THEIR DESCENDANTS, OF THAT
VIGOROUS AND OTHERWISE REMARKABLE CLASS OF MEN,
(OF WHOM SPECIAL MENTION IS MADE HEREIN)
WHO FIGURED IN THE EARLIER DAYS
OF THE HISTORY OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI.
I have no apologies to make for publishing this little work. It is offered to the public upon its merits, and by that standard it will be judged. It is fragmentary history; very many of the incidents related being literally true, while all of them rest upon a foundation of truth, receiving only such exageration of finish in their statement as accorded with the taste of the writer, and as was needed to make them, in his judgment, the more acceptable to the public.
A portion of the sketches have been published in the Vicksburg Evening Post. The writer thinks the more interesting of the series are yet to meet the eye of the public in these pages. Those published in the Post have been revised and he trusts are thereby improved. The favorable reception these met with as they were published leads the writer to hope that the whole will be favorably received. Besides those published in the Post, two of the sketches were published in the Vicksburg Directory, in a notice of the city of Vicksburg prepared by the writer. These have been seen by but few of the reading public.
Some persons in the South affect to be desirous of forgetting the past. This sentiment, if more than an affectation, is a morbid one and unworthy of those who hold it. It is at least unphilosophical. The past is always pregnant of the future and, as it is right or wrong, deserving to be followed or avoided; it can only be judged of and its precedents acted upon as they are discovered in the light of recorded history. In shunning this light we are only at a disadvantage. There is surely nothing in the past history of the South to be ashamed of, while there is
6much to excite a just pride. Our young people owe it to themselves and their illustrious ancestors — for such history truly makes them — to acquaint themselves with its history in all its details. If there be anything of which the South may be ashamed, it is the fact that her young people, as a rule, are not readers of books, especially of those books which relate to the history of our own country, and standard works generally. They need to be informed concerning the past disputes between the North and South, that they may be able to "convince the gainsayers," and put to silence the defamers of the South.
And besides, by such reading, they encourage home literature. Our resources are as great in this line as in any other, but they are only very partially developed because of the want of patronage and encouragement. This is a "reproach" which can and should be thrown off by both writer and reader.
The South needs a literature higher than the daily and weekly newspaper, excellent and useful as these are; yes, higher even than the monthly magazine, with its mercilessly compressed treatises on scientific and other subjects. She needs the book; not in costly form, but so gotten up as to be within the reach of the masses; books which give expression to her own thoughts on all topics, and with that elaborateness and freedom of discussion which their elucidation requires. I cannot better close this introduction than by quoting the following passage from Buckle's History of Civilization: "There should be a certain ratio between those who are inclined to think and those who are inclined to act. If we are all authors our material interests will suffer; if we are all men of business our mental pleasures will be abridged. In the first case we should be famished philosophers; in the other case we would be wealthy fools." Again, he says: "The intellectual march of society should be analagous to its physical march."
Chapter I. — Early Days in Mississippi.
It is only the few who are competent to write about a whole State, while it may be done by the many, when the observations to be made are restricted to limited districts of a State, and to certain communities. In fact the histories of these great States, to be a true reflect of the life and manners of the people which is after all the most interesting part of history, must be thus written. It is in this latter sense that I write this sketch, and so the reader must not be misled by the above caption, but allow me to lead him into a circumscribed fraction of the great State; one, however, which had its interesting features, and one which, as a sample, will compared favorably with the whole.
I came to Mississippi from my native State, Kentucky, two years before I had attained the legal standard of manhood, in the fall of 1836, taking up my residence in the little town of Rodney, in Jefferson county, where I had relatives of such standing as gave me all of the social advantages which the community could confer. Though this town is but little known to history, it is yet one of the oldest settlements in Mississippi, the county in which it is situated having been one of the first counties settled up after the whites had located at Natchez. Petit Gouffre, as it was first called by the French, afterwards Petty Gulf by the English, and lastly Rodney, as now called, was known as early as 1773. Claiborne, in his history of Mississippi, quotes from the diary of Capt. Phelp's, (kept in 1773) a wanderer and adventurer of that day. His language, in speaking of the point is: "There is a firm rock on the east side of the Mississippi for a mile. The land near the
8river is high and very broken; very small plantations have been opened."
At the date of my arrival, the town had an active and profitable mercantile business, and had been so favored for years before. The planters of the county were generally rich and prosperous; so much so that a number of them had balances in the hands of their commission merchants in New Orleans, while others were opening new plantations in the swamps along the low land river courses. Sometimes a three or five years business would be so profitable to a sober and prudent merchant as to enable him to retire — sell out to his clerks and go to planting, or to New Orleans to engage in larger operations. I knew of my own knowledge of one house in which, in the course of twevle or fifteen years, fortunes were made by three different sets of partners.
The society of the town was good and to an extent cultivated, as was the case in the country. The physicians and lawyers of the town were men of respectable attainments, and the merchants were intelligent. A happy influence upon the town and the country generally, was exerted by the proximity of Oakland College, (only four miles distant) a flourishing institution of learning under the patronage of and control of the Synod of Mississippi, founded in 1829, through the influence and energy of its longtime venerable President, Rev Jeremiah Chamberlain, and through the liberality of its life-long friend, David Hunt, a wealthy planter of the neighborhood. Oakland College is the Alma Mater of many of the living as well as departed leading citizens of the State.
The population of Rodney was six to eight hundred, and it was full of gay and sprightly young men, drawn from all sections of the Union, but chiefly from the old slave States, and not a few of them were fortune hunters, matrimonially speaking. Many of the young ladies of the county were really, or reputed to be rich, and their hands were eagerly sought in marriage by these enterprising young men of good looks, good manners, etc. The supply of these gay gallants
9was quite equal to the demand. The young men of the town were frequent visitors to the hospitable homes of the planters in the country, and life was pretty much a round of gaieties.
There was but a single hotel in the town, at the time, and nearly all of the young men boarded there. The fare was pretty rough, and often too scarce. The boarders would crowd around the door at the hour of meals, and not unfrequently the first man in would be pushed forward so violently as to floor him, but he would dive under the table and rise with a chair in his hand ready to take his seat. Others, as they were pressed forward after reaching the table, would gather in their hands such articles of food as they would take a fancy to, and would be ready for work as soon as they could call a halt. Spreeing was no uncommon thing amongst these wild youngsters. I remember an occasion when a lot of them were on a spree at the dinner table. Amongst them was a sprightly curly headed young lawyer from Maryland, a sort of masher amongst the girls, who could exhort to a perfection that would shame a professional. He had imbibed quite freely, and was persuaded by the boys to give an exhortation. He rose and opened in the most approved fashion, and shocking as it was to some of us, it was yet so perfect a performance that to keep from hearty laughing was well nigh impossible, and to heighten the ludicrousness of the scene, the fellow was so effected himself, in his maudlin condition, with his mock eloquence, that he forgot he was playing a part, and wept bitter and genuine tears over the lost sinners he was exhorting!
I remember another amusing scene which occurred in the streets immediately in front of the old hotel. A traveling circus had dropped from the roll of its "dramatis personne," at the town, a queer little nondescript of a man, who played clown when the real clown was drunk or sick, who was known as Billy Button, so-called I believe, on account of some part he played in the circus. He was one of those curious creatures who could amuse you with his
10nothings, but who could never excite in your mind any interest in him. Billy had undertaken the new role of bar-tender at the hotel. He was quick and sprightly and amused the patrons of the bar. At this time the town was afflicted, as it had been for many months, with a boisterous drunken fellow named Dick B —, who, though an arrant coward, boasted loud and long of his manhood, and his readiness to give "satisfaction" on the field of honor, or elsewhere, to any aggrieved party. He was a nuisance that everybody wanted to see abated.
One day Dick was very annoying, and the boys determined to try his courage. They took Billy Button into their confidence and made him a party to the scheme. A sham duel was arranged for with Billy and Dick as the principals. Dick was invited in to drink. He said something whilst drinking which Billy took exceptions to, as had been arranged. High words followed and ended by Dick's inviting Billy to settle the matter after the manner of gentlemen. Billy promptly accepted, the fight to come off immediately, in front of the hotel, with pistols, at ten paces. The seconds were chosen and the pistols procured and loaded with powder, and the party proceeded to the front. The distance was measured and the principals were ordered to take position. Billy stepped forward promptly and stood upon the line, pistol in hand. Dick was nervously looking about, and at length, in reply to his second, who had told him to take his position, said, "hold on, can't this thing be settled in a friendly way." "No, no." shouted Billy, the seconds, and the by-standers. Dick's second got behind him, pushed him up to the mark and leaned against him as a brace. The word was given and both fired — Dick with his head tucked down. Billy fell to the ground with a thud as Dick's pistol went off. Dick dropped his pistol and started at a killing pace for the swamp, followed by the mob shouting "murder" at every jump. They caught him, brought him back and led him into Billy's room. That warrior was writhing in the agonies of a mortal
11wound, his shirt all bloody with the reddest of red ink! Dick implored them to send for all of the Doctors. An opportunity was given him to escape. He embraced it; jumped the town and was cured for life of his boasting propensity.
The ball-room in this old hotel was its most attractive feature to the belles and beaux of the town and country; some of whom, under other than their real names, have at a later period, figured in works of fiction. The music on these festive occasions, for a number of years, came from the cunning bow of Peter Warren, a slave, who was as renowned in his limited field, for the sweet music he discoursed, as Ole Bull was in his larger field. Peter was the body servant of a physician of the village who had turned planter. Every plantation of any magnitude in those days had its negro fiddler. Peter would accompany his master on his trips to the plantation and on the pleasure trips of the family in the summer time.
The merry laugh of old General Thomas Hinds, whose courage at the battle of New Orleans was so conspicuous as to win for him the distinction of being termed by General Jackson, "the terror of one army and the admiration of the other," was often heard in the streets of this little town, as in his free and easy way he joked with the people, with whom he was a great favorite. The General was a considerable planter and a man of great influence. His personal popularity was so great in the county as to give him any office he sought. The General was not an intellectual man, but was a man of sound judgment, and his courage, evinced privately, as well as on the field of battle, was of the highest order.
A comparatively young man, a lawyer, residing at Fayette, the county site, Charles Clarke, who in later life distinguished himself, first as a Colonel in the Mexican war, and then as a General in the war between the States, and as Governor of the State, after becoming disabled as a soldier, was also a familiar face in the busy little town. His subsequent career only fulfilled the promise of his early
12manhood, and met the expectations of his numerous friends. He was a native of Ohio, I think, and died a few years ago while filling the office of Judge or Chancellor of one of the river Districts.
One of the novelties, to me, of my new home, was the frequent sight in the streets of small bands of Indians, belonging to the Choctaw tribe. I had never before seen these children of the forest, of whom I had heard such blood-curdling and hair-lifting stories in my boyhood days from the old hunters and Indian fighters of Kentucky. I was born and reared near Harrods Station, (now Harrodsburg) the first station of the whites in the State, and the scene of many a bloody conflict with the savages.
These strolling bands were generally under the charge of an old Indian known as Captain Chubby, from whom it is altogether probable one of the streams crossed by the Vicksburg & Meridian Railroad takes its name. Old Chubby was a great favorite with the young men of the town. He was fond of whisky and they often plied him with it, and when under its influence he was quite pugnacious. The boys, in playing tricks on him were careful to keep out of his reach. Many a night's lodging was given the old fellow about the stores after the fun of the evening was over.
These Indians came in towards the river from their settlements in the eastern part of the State to hunt, and some of them to pick cotton, but the old lords of the forest scorned the latter base employment, and had a great repugnance to association with negroes.
The virgin soil of the hills about Rodney, like the whole range of hills bordering the eastern shore of the Mississippi, from near the mouth of the Yazoo to the Homochitto, was wonderfully productive of anything adapted to the climate. They grew cotton to perfection, but they were mercilessly wasted by the unskillful mode of cultivation of that day. The
13topography of this region has been a puzzle to scientists. They cannot account for its billowy character. It looks like an ocean violently agitated by a storm. It only needs the movement to make it a perfect likeness. Geologists have examined it, and find that under the top soil, and a succeding bed of clay, lies what they call the Loess formation, a deposit largely composed of shells and bones, but whether subaquous or subaerial, they have not determined. This rich lower strata is doubtless penetrated by the roots of the trees, and accounts for the magnificent forests that covered the hills, remains of which are yet to be seen. The glossiness and dark green color of the leaves of the trees and other vegetation, indicate great fertility of soil drawn from some source.
As I have already said, these hills grew cotton luxuriantly, and the early planters soon enriched themselves by its cultivation. At an early date Dr. Nutt, a highly successful planter of the neighborhood introduced the Mexican cotton seed and grew from it a very superior cotton, in staple. It shortened in length somewhat in adapting itself to the latitude, until it reached a point where it stood still. The product of this naturalized Mexican seed, came to be known as the "Petit Gulf seed, and was finally adopted in the whole of the then cotton planting region of Mississippi and Louisiana. When the Mexican seed was first planted it produced a long, sharp boll, and the lint was hard to pick, but as acclimation came on it lost some of these characteristics and was easy to pick. It is one of the pec ulirities of this great staple that the length of the fibre is indicated by the length of the boll. Another peculiarity consists in the difficulty of hybridizing the different varieties. It cannot be accomplished by mixing the seed. The most efficient agent in this work is the bee, in carrying the pollen from one variety to the other, and thereby fertilizing the blooms. It is known that the wind can transport but little of the pollen, because the pollen lies in the bottom of the cup-like flower, which is perpendicular,
14and closes up entirely on the evening of the first day of its existence, and remains closed until it drops off.
The public room of the old hotel, so frequently alluded to, in the absence of anything like a town hall, was often used as a place for public meetings. It was thus used on the occasion of a visit to the town in the summer of 1837, of that man of mark in the earlier history of the State,
He was then a candidate, I think, for Governor, or possibly for the United States Senate. At any rate he made a speech in the hotel on this occasion, and the expected speech had drawn quite a crowd to the town, particularly of the old planters. He stood on the floor of the room, and in his plain, unvarnished and logical way discoursed of State and National politics. His logic was as ponderous as his body, and a blow from it never failed to "hurt." He was indeed, after his peculiar style, one of the intellectual giants of the State. He was eminently good natured, and told a story with marked effect. His "bride of Itawamba" story, a creation of his fancy, with possibly a little foundation of fact, manufactured at the expense of another sledge-hammer logician in the northern part of the State — old Joe Matthews, as he was familiarly called — was one of those side-splitting stories which I regret it is not in my power to reproduce.
While McNutt was speaking, two old planters, one a Whig and the other a Democrat, who were "in liquor," got into a dispute about something said by the speaker, and came to blows. McNutt stopped, quietly folded his hands on the top of his stomach, and looked on, laughing heartily at the old fellows. A merchant of the town got betweem them and the old fellows were too tight to see that he was not the adversary; and they pounded him well. When he got away from them the fight ended, they, each, thinking that he had vanquished and run off the
15other! At the conclusion of this interruption, McNutt took up the thread of his discourse where he had dropped it and went on us though nothing had happened.
16Looking at the gymnast and understanding his modes, doesn't harden our own muscles. To have this done we must betake ourselves to the trapeze.
The institution of slavery had wrought its natural effect upon the characters of these planters. Accustomed to implicit and unquestioning obedience, they could illy brook contradiction and opposition from their equals. Indeed, they were slow to regard any as their equals except those of their own class. They naturally preferred, in their dealings, foreigners who had been trained to obsequiousness of manner, to their own countrymen, who would assert themselves. I speak of these things as being natural, because they were the necessary consequences of the institution of slavery. Wherever slavery has existed these have followed as effects, upon the dominant race. It was true of those under its influence in the South, come from what quarter of the globe they might. Macauley, the historian, attributed to the institution in ancient times the development of some of the finest traits in human character, as well as these less admirable ones of which I have spoken. And I think those who are sufficiently conversant with the effects of the institution upon Southern character, to form an intelligent opinion, will concur in his judgment.
It is a great victory over one's self to be able to enquire into and discuss those questions touching the facts of history, and the influences which mould men's minds and develop and determine their characters, dispassionately and without prejudice. This is impossible to the period of partisan history. It is only possible, perhaps, to that remote period which cannot be reached even by the shadow of former prejudice, and when the philosophy of history may be studied "without partiality," and its teachings recorded "without hypocrisy."
Chapter II. — Steamboats and Steamboatmen on the Lower Mississippi in Early Days.
When civilization and science, in their march of conquest against the forces of nature, under the influence of the new motor, steam, had reached the waters of "the great inland sea" of the West and South, the settlements of the white man, "like angels visits, were few and far between." Transportation till then, on the river, had been by flatboat and keelboat, a tedious and dangerous mode of travel down stream, and up stream, on the Mississippi, almost an impossibility. But when the day of steamboats came the movement was more rapid; the wilderness soon began to "blossom," and towns and cities arose, as if by magic, under their influence; the effect being like that of railroads in the last three decades.
The lower Mississippi, with its cotton and sugar cultivation, attracted the attention of the early steamboat venturers, though of the first venturers, none were confined exclusively to the lower trade, as at the present day; the boats then running being chiefly owned and controlled at Pittsburg, Cincinnati and Louisville, and were run to and from those points.
Possibly the earliest venture in the way of a local packet was that of the steamer Mississippi, a seagoing vessel, brought out from New York to New Orleans as early as 1820, to run between the latter point and Natchez. She was put into the trade, but in her build and equipments she was poorly adapted to river navigation, so poorly that she occupied a week's time in making the trip from one point to the other.
No serious attempt at a regular packet business was made, however, until some fifteen or twenty
18years later; the through boats doing all of the business both in freight and passengers. These through boats were often commanded by men of marked individuality, great force of character and courage, though as a rule, they were men without cultivation or early education. Such men were best adapted to the business, as it was a wild and hazardous life in those days, they having to deal often with desperate characters, both on board of their boats and on shore. One of these striking characters was Capt. John W. Russell, who ran the river in command of different boats for a number of years. He was a man of stalwart build and great strength, and marvelous stories were told of his lifting power; too marvelous to tell in a work that eschews extravagance. But a short story of his daring and determination may be told. On one of his trips up from New Orleans, he took on board his boat, at Baton Rouge, a number of Methodist preachers from a Conference at that place, just adjourned, who were on the return to their homes. Upon reaching Natchez, where the boat was detained several hours, one of the unsophisticated younger preachers of the party, having a considerable sum of money on his person, — maybe as agent of some one of their societies, as preachers rarely travel with large sums of money of their own, or for that matter stay at home with the like — went ashore alone, and in strolling about "Under the Hill," was induced by curiosity or some other innocent influence to enter, without his knowledge, a den of gamblers and others loose characters, where he remained but a few minutes, but long enough to be dispossessed, in a skillfull way and without violence, of his money. After leaving he missed his money and went to the boat and reported the fact to the Captain. Russell went immediately to the house, which was situated on the bank of the river, and resting in part on piling driven into the river, demanded the money of the inmates, which they denied having taken. He persisted in his demand and told them that if the money was not returned within an hour he would pull their
19house into the river. The hour expired and no money came. He then hitched on to the undergearing of the house, and commenced backing his boat. As soon as the cracking of the timbers was heard the gamblers called to him, shaking the money in their hands. He eased up, and they went aboard and delivered up all of the money!
Steamboat racing, not against time, but against each other, was a common practice in those days, a challenge, when the speed of the boats was anywhere near equal, being rarely declined. The sport was very exciting and dangerous, serious accidents resulting sometimes. I have been in these races and have seen the men passengers, and sometimes the lady passengers, too, get perfectly reckless under the excitement, the men often assisting to "fire up." The laws of Congress are so stringent now, under the influence of this former recklessness, that the danger is greatly lessened when a race occurs in these later times.
From the best information I can get, the Sultana, commanded by Capt. Tufts, was the first regular weekly packet between New Orleans and Vicksburg. The second Sultana was commanded by Capt. Pease, a son-in-law of Tufts', who afterwards, when Captain of the Concordia, lost his life in an explosion of that boat. The second Sultana was built for him by Abijah Fisk, of New Orleans, a rich man, with whom Pease was a great favorite. Good and useful poor men often found valuable friends in the rich of those days.
Capt. Abram Auter, now living in Vicksburg, 81 years of age, with an eye still as bright as an eagle's, and physically able to command and pilot boats, which he frequently does, was in the field in the times of Tuft and Pease as a steamboat commander. He built, in 1842, and ran the Mazeppa, as a New Orleans and Vicksburg packet. Capt. A. commanded the first boat that ever ran above Yazoo City — the Bully Woodsman, an appropriate name for those days. He ran this boat as high up as
20Chocchuma, on the Yalobusha, twenty-five miles above its mouth, the point at which land sales were made, known as the Jackson purchase from the Indians. Capt. A. would carry up land buyers and settlers and bring out Indians who chose to remove to the reservations in Arkansas. The old Captain says that when he goes up those streams now he only meets the grandchildren of the men he transported and first knew. The Captain is a fine specimen of the stalwart and brave men of that day.
Capt. St. Clair Thomasson was a noted steamboat captain in early days in the New Orleans and Vicksburg trade. He brought out the Concordia in 1843; was a novice in the business, but revolutionized it in some respects. He introduced the highliving style of these packets, and made red fish and oysters a legal tender for shipments of cotton. The writer has had many rich dinners off of Capt. T.'s currency. After running the Concordia a few seasons, he built and ran the Magnolia, a magnificent boat, well appointed in all respects. It was the fashionable boat of the day, was a great favorite with the ladies and bridal parties. The fashionable crowd to be seen aboard of her nearly every trip would rival those to be seen at the best watering places. Music and dancing, card playing and flirting would fill up the joyous hours aboard of her.
The Captain was a Frenchman, very polite and attentive when in good humor, but my, how he could storm and swear when out of humor! It was as good as a play to see him in such moods.
On one of his trips, the Magnolia, full of cotton and passengers, got aground at a landing just above Grand Gulf, on the Louisiana shore, and was detained a number of hours. The Captain was in a great stew. His face was ablaze with anger at the delay and annoyance. He was ashore giving directions in a tone and with epithets that showed his anger. The passengers had assembled on the forward upper deck watching the operation, and amongst them was a knot of Vicksburg gentlemen,
21all of whom, except one, a prominent lawyer, knew of the Captain's high temper. This lawyer was pursuaded by the others to go ashore and make some suggestions to the Captain about how he should proceed in his attempt at getting off. He went, and with difficulty got the attention of the Captain. It was his habit to notice nobody under such circumstances.
The lawyer made his suggestions in that modest and becoming manner peculiar to the profession. Thomasson took a step back and ran his eye rapidly from the head to the feet of the lawyer, then danced around him, violently gesticulating as he did so, and hissed out between his clinched teeth, with a violent quiver of his whole body — "d—n it, have I been running a boat for these ten years to be told by a lawyer how to manage it." An explosion of loud laughter on the upper deck gave notice to the lawyer that he had been sold, whereupon he returned to the boat in disorder, receiving the hearty congratulations of the crowd!
Capt. T.'s tastes were French, and he always had French dishes on his table. To one not accustomed to some of them, the other end of the table from them was the only safe place to be. One day in a trip I was making to New Orleans I happened to get a seat in the vicinity of one of these dishes. I started out boldly on the bill-of-fare, but I soon found I was sickening, and had to leave the table. In my disappointment, if not rage, I went to Charley Giles, the first clerk, himself a character, and made my complaints. Yes, he said, "its them d—n French ducks, and I have to eat them every day!"
I was on board the Magnolia with my wife in 1850 or '51, going to New Orleans to hear Jenny Lind sing, when the Magnolia collided with the Autocrat and sunk her, no lives being lost as I remember, but there was great distress amongst the rescued passengers, to whom Capt. T. was very kind. It was on this trip that I first met the late Col. Nicholas D. Coleman, (who was on board with his three daughters) at
22one time a member of Congress from Kentucky, afterwards Post Master at Vicksburg under General Jackson's administration, and then, or subsequently, President of the Vicksburg, Shreveport and Texas Railroad. He was also conspicuous for his kindness to the sufferers.
The collision occurred at night. One of the victims, who lost a trunk and valuable jewels on the Autocrat, was a Spanish nobleman, a Count, who had been to Mexico looking after some large estates he had in the Republic. He was returning by way of New Orleans and the Mississippi river to New York, and thence to Europe. He was an invalid, was very feeble, and his languid look, together with the misfortune of losing his valuables, excited much sympathy amongst the passengers on the Magnolia, and the news of who the interesting and aristocratic looking young stranger and invalid was soon spread to the ladies' cabin, to which he was taken to rest on a sofa until a berth could be prepared for him. He was taken with a violent fit of coughing after being stretched upon the sofa and soon began to spit blood.
The commisseration of the ladies was greatly excited of course, and they showed the invalid those little attentions which are so grateful under such circumstances. One of the young ladies, in the absence of anything else suitable, was kind enough to give him her handkerchief to use. It was painful to see the blood on this delicate mouchoir, which bore the name of the young lady. The stranger was registered as Count Caravalo, Southern Spain. The Count and the young lady showing him this delicate attention took quite a fancy to each other. His health improved before reaching the city, and speaking English with fluency, he made himself quite agreeable.
After this young lady returned to Vicksburg, the Count, upon resuming his journey homeward, stopped off of the boat on which he was journeying up the river, at Vicksburg, to pay his respects to
23her. He was soon made acquainted with the beaux and belles of the city and for some days. was the happy recipient of their attentions.
The Mexican war had closed but a short time before this, and a number of its veteran volunteers were citizens of Vicksburg. One of these veterans happening by accident to meet the Count one day discovered in him the person of a barber who had frequently shaved him at the captured city of Monteray, Mexico! What a commotion at the denoument! The young men footed up their losses in clothes and money lent to the distinguished visitor, and the young ladies their losses in affections! The Count skipped the town, leaving behind him the cosmetics with which his countenance was "sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought" and consumption, and the dyes out of which he manufactured the rich blood which came from his lungs! And leaving behind also numbers of billet doux from young ladies anxious to become Countesses.
Capt. Thomasson spent the latter part of his life chiefly at Niagara Falls. He died a few years since much lamented and pleasantly remembered by a host of friends.
Captain Chas. J. Brenham of the steamer Ambassador, a boat built for him, I think, by his Vicksburg friends, was also in those days a leading character on the river. He was a bon vivant, and quite popular with the better class at Vicksburg and along the river, but his manners were not suited to the mass of the patrons of the packets. He was sprightly and convivial in his tastes. He quit the river in a few years and went to California, where he grew rich in the banking business and died.
Capt. John W. Cannon was one of the early birds in the lower trade, and a very successful one; though he made his first money and reputation in the Red river trade. He built and commanded the Quitman before the war; saved her by running her into upper Red river after the fall of New Orleans, and after the war brought her out again into her old
24trade. But his fame as a steamboat owner and commander is chiefly associated with the great Robert E. Lee, which he built. He built other fine boats than the two R. E. Lee's. The Belle Lee was one of his enterprises. The writer happened to be on this boat, or the Pargoud, (another one of Cannon's ventures) he does not remember which, in a trip up in the bends, in 1875, when he (Cannon) contracted the cold which terminated in pneumonia, (and against which the writer warned him) and with the effects of which his wonderful constitution battled for several years, but to which it finally succumbed. He told the writer on that trip that he (the writer) gave him, at Grand Gulf, long years ago, the first shipment of cotton he received upon coming into the Vicksburg trade.
Capt. James M. White, a protege and relative of Cannon, grew from boyhood to manhood, and past middle age, in the New Orleans, Vicksburg and Bends trade. He was perhaps the most universally popular Captain ever in the trade; was wonderfully fortunate against accidents, though he never declined a challenge for a race, and was successful in making money for others.
The following beautiful tribute to his memory, on the occasion of his death, written by Will S. Hays, of Louisville, is worthy of reproduction:
I'm heading for the shore,
I'll ring the bell; for I must land
This boat, forevermore.
I do — where angels stand?
Well, hold her jackstaff hard on that,
For there I'm going to land.
So ghastly grim and pale,
I'll toll the bell — I must go in,
I never passed a hail.
There! that will do — no more,
The lines are fast and angels wait
To welcome me, ashore.
Up yonder through that gate,
I'll not come back — you ring the bell
And back her out — don't wait.
And found my landing place —
I'll take my soul and anchor that
Fast to the Throne of Grace."
Though last, but far from being least, in this list of worthies is the tough old Commodore,
Captain Leathers has been a successful steamboatman financially, and singularly fortunate in the matter of accidents. His boat has always been considered a safe one to travel on, and his freighting business has always been conducted on the square, and most satisfactorily to shippers. Of late years, owing to his pronounced views on the subject of river improvement, in antagonism to the plans of the River Commission, he has made a good many
26enemies. He has his convictions and fearlessly expresses them whether he makes friends or enemies in doing so. Cowden's apothegm — "if the outflow be equal to the inflow, there can be no overflow," finds in the Captain a warm advocate, and he has made many offers to demonstrate the correctness of his and Cowden's outlet theory. The Captain calls this theory the common sense of practical men as against the nonsense of science; and he insists that common sense can save the valley while science (so-called) will ruin it. Captain Leathers and Cowden are not without a following in their views, and government might do better in testing the value of these views, than in some of the failures resulting from a test of experiments suggested by her scientific engineers. There are many Confederates who will die dissatisfied because Joseph E. Johnston was not allowed to test to the end his plan with regard to the Georgia campaign; and the same may be said of some of the adherents of Leathers' and Cowden's plans, with regard to Mississippi river improvement.
It is not out of place to mention, in this connection, as a part of the river history of that day, the fact that in 1840 ships came up the Mississippi river to Natchez, Grand Gulf, and Vicksburg, at which points they were ladened with cotton for Liverpool. Compresses had been erected to prepare the cotton for shipment. These ships so high up the Mississippi, were a great novelty, and the business done through them was a new departure from the methods of the day, but it ended with the experiment of that year.
The experiment grew partly out of an effort to establish direct trade with Europe, a popular idea and not a bad one, if it could have been sustained with capital and active, practical, and wideminded business men; but these essentials were lacking, and it was therefore, short lived. Under the impulse of this idea, the Legislature of Mississippi, at the session of 1839, in an act of incorporation, chartered the Port Gibson and Grand Gulf Shipping Company, and the
27Mississippi Importing Company, naming as Commissioners of the first, merchants of the two towns named, and of the last, politicians and planters. The companies were organized, and did some business, I think, but they had a short life.
The banks of the State had that year, and the year previous, as a measure of relief to the planters in their crippled condition, and to establish a credit for themselves abroad, made advances of their non-specie paying notes, on pledges of cotton to be shipped through them to Europe, and it was partly to convey this cotton abroad that the ships spoken of were brought up the river; and besides, this shipping of cotton abroad, through the Banks, was falling in with the new idea of direct trade.
Much might be said about leading steamboatmen of a later date, but my object is to put on record some of the facts touching the leading men and boats of an early period, relegating the task of sketching the later period to some future historian. Of course, in the limited space given to this sketch, nothing like complete justice can be done to the theme.
Chapter III. — Amateur Theatricals — A Copiah County Story.
Forty-three years ago I was a Deputy Marshal under Major Anderson Miller, of Vicksburg, who was Marshal of the Southern District of Mississippi by appointment of President Harrison, with my headquarters at Port Gibson, Claiborne county, which county, with four others, constituted the field of my official labors.
I was passing through the now historic county of Copiah one warm day in the Summer of 1841, in prosecution of my official business, and stopping at one of the hospitable homes of that county in the neighborhood of Gallatin, the county seat, where I was always welcome, and where pretty girls were to be met often, and for whom I had a predeliction, I was made acquainted with the fact that an amateur theatrical club of the town was to "perform" that evening. This was an important event with both the people of the small town and the rural population, and there was no little stir in anticipation of the fun. It required no persuasion to induce me to join in it.
It is not germain to the text, but before proceeding to elucidate it, I must beg the reader to bear with me while I give an idea of that portion of the State at that comparatively early date, and while I say something further concerning the duties of my office, etc.; and I do this because I wish to give some historic value to these sketches, even while I seek, by "a little nonsense now and then," in a mild and modest way, to meet a common taste in the average mortal for the ridiculous, and the funny side of human nature and society. I have always felt grateful to those who had the ability to make me laugh; and
29believing it to be "more blessed to give than to receive," I have ever cherished a desire for the same ability in myself. But we sometimes covet gifts for which we have no talent or adaptability.
The earliest settlers of Copiah county were chiefly from Georgia, North and South Carolina, and they were soon followed by Virginia settlers, seeking to mend their fortunes. Some of all these settlers came with property, while others came with a little money and slaves. Land was cheap and much of it was very productive and in a very few years there were numerous well-to-do farmers, or planters, as they were called, in the county. On the rich creek bottoms west of the little town of Gallatin the larger planters had located and had opened up large plantations at the period of which I am writing, and they formed an interesting and intelligent community. The little town had its bank and several mercantile establishments and numerous lawyers and doctors, and had been for some years, quite a thriving place; but the hard times of the few previous years came on — broke the bank and the merchants, and involved many of the planters. Foreign creditors almost invariably brought suit in the Federal Court, and the process for my part of the District was served by me. Besides the serving and executing of the writs of capias and fieri facias, I had to summons jurors for the Federal Court. It was a very laborious position, making it necessary that I should keep two or three horses for the service. My experience as a deputy Circuit Court clerk, noticed in another sketch, gave me an early insight into the nature of my duties.
As before stated I was on one of these official trips when the mentioned opportunity of seeing some of the young "talent" of the county "hold as 'twere, the mirror up to nature," presented itself. The little improvised theatre was literally jammed with townspeople and people from the country, leaving as the only unoccupied space, a little clearing near where the foot-lights should have been. I was a little late, and as I approached the spot, I heard a great raking
30noise, and at intervals a loud cry of "glorious." The building was an old weather-boarded structure, and when I came up to it I found near the entrance, Bill P., a wild, good-natured, sprightly young fellow of the town, vigorously raking a fence rail down the weather-boarding, assisted by two boys with rails, and ever and anon yelling "glorious" at the top of his voice. He desisted long enough to answer my query, "has it begun?" "O, yes," he said, with perspiration streaming down his face; "Go in; its glorious," and then returned to his work. I passed in, finding the house crowded as before stated, got a good standing position, and then took in the situation. The curtain was up and the play was on. The amateurs were stiffly passing and repassing each other, each one "speaking his speech," not "trippingly," but slowly, with, constant tending towards the scene behind which the prompter stood.
Not long after I had taken my stand, uncle Billy B., a common carrier of the town, with a four-horse wagon and team plying between the town and the river, a lover of John Barleycorn, staggered in, and observing the little clearing at the front before spoken of, made for it, and after swinging corners with some of the ladies on his line of march, finally reached it, seated himself on the floor, with his knees up, and after a hurried look at the "characters" bowed his head on his arms and knees for a nap. The little boys thought he was a part of the show, like the drunken clown at the circus. Uncle Billy was soon snoring and served as a base-viol to the extemporized orchestra. It was very hot, and the perspiration and other fluids were flowing freely from the person of Uncle Billy, irrigating much of the barren space around him. After awhile he got into that indescribable condition which lies between waking and sleeping, and commenced an audible muttering, with an occasional mild emphasised oath, attracting more attention than the players, whereat they were no little discomfited. He had "blasphemed" until the star of the evening and hero of the play, in
31busk in and toga, B. K., a young lawyer of the town, could bear it no longer. He administered a rebuke to "the gentleman in front," and the gentleman in front jawed back with a "go to — ." The star "shook his raiment" at this last blasphemy, retired to the rear, and had the curtain rung down; all of which brought the house down, and Bill P., who, resting from his labors for a time was looking on at the play, rushed out for his rail screaming "glorious! glorious!" as he went.
Uncle Billy's friends remonstrated with him; he promised to be quiet, and the curtain went up again, revealing the hero of the play and a sick young lady actress made out of a goslin voice boy of the town, whom the hero was persuading to take a dose of physic. The urgent persuasion and persistent refusal had gone on for some minutes when Uncle Billy commenced muttering again in a low tone, forgetting his promise to be quiet, and at length when the hero was appealing to his affianced with all the ardor of a lover to take the pill, Uncle Billy, imagining the persuasion was being addressed to him, called out, without lifting his head, in a pretty loud tone, "take it yourself d—n you; I don't like you anyhow!" Another uproar followed and Bill P. screamed "glorious!" and plied his rail vigorously.
The friends of Uncle Billy after a little pursuasion induced him to go with them to "see a man," and the players continued to "cleave the general ear with horrid speech." In the next act a young man named McDonald was to appear. He had been a resident of the town a few years before, but had gone to Texas to live, and only a short time previous to this occasion had been reported as dead, and the report from certain circumstances was fully credited. His return to the town only a few evenings before this performance was a great surprise to his friends. The news of his death had reached the neighborhood of the town with all of its attendant circumstances, and was believed, but the news of his return had not reached the country. McDonald had some histrionic
32ability, and upon the failure of another party to meet his engagement, he was hurrieldy substituted without a change of name in the programme.
As before stated, the audience was largely composed of the best country people, and amongst these was Col. T., a wealthy planter, and his family, immigrants from Virginia. He was one of the most prominent and respected citizens of the county, intelligent and brave, very excitable, a great laugher and lover of fun, and with all was very fleshy. He had hugely enjoyed the funny things occurring during the evening. He occupied a seat near the center of the audience, and he led in all of the laughing. He had a keen sense of the ridiculous and indulged freely in witty remarks to his near neighbors.
The play had progressed to the point where it became necessary for McDonald the substitute to appear. He slowly emerged from behind the scenes with a ghost-like tread but without disguise (he had been well known to the whole house) and began to speak his part in a perfectly natural tone. Suddenly a stillness fell upon the country part of the audience, followed by an expression of painful surprise and startled glances from one to another. It was observed that the color had suddenly departed from Col. T.'s face and he was leaning forward and looking intently at the apparition, when he suddenly sprang to his feet and with hands uplifted, exclaimed, "Great God, ain't that McDonald?" A citizen of the town rushed forward and was able to get the Colonel's ear, but not his eye, which was rivited to the ghostly object, and explained things, when the Colonel settled back into his seat, glanced round at the audience which was shaking with suppressed laughter, when he, suddenly coming to a sense of the ridiculousness of the affair, broke forth with "the greatest effort of his life" at laughing — the whole audience, the actors and the ghost joining in. Bill P. sprang for the door, screaming "glorious" at every leap; got his boys and his rails and began his last great rake down. The Colonel's great roar of laughter repeatedly rose high
33above the surrounding din, and it was quite evident that his exclamation was to be the close of the performance. The curtain dropped, the audience rose and departed, the Colonel insisting, as he went off, that he was right, for, he said, "it was McDonald."
The merry crowd laughed and screamed as they went, the Colonel joining in, his own wild and ringing laugh rising high above the general din and roar, while my friend Bill P. plied his rail with unwonted vigor, screaming "glorious" at every rattling rake he gave the old weatherboarding, and as I rose the hill on the road leading out of the town the last thing I heard was his cry of "glorious."
I think the late Gov. Brown was present at this performance, and possibly Col. C. E. Hooker — then but a lad — his father's plantation being in the neighborhood. I know the Hon. Wiley P. Harris, then a young law student, was present, for he greatly aided me, through his keen sense of the ridiculous, in preparing, a few days thereafter, a sketch of the ludicrous affair for the New Orleans Picayune, which was published, and was afterwards copied into one of the New York weeklies with elaborate illustrations. I have not seen a copy of the story from that day to this. The foregoing restatement of it is wholly from memory.
Chapter IV. — My First Experience With Yellow Fever, Forty-one Years Ago.
It has been my lot to pass through as many as six epidemics of yellow fever, viz: in the years 1843, '53, '55, '67, '72 and '78, and at as many as four different points in the South, to-wit: Rodney, Port Gibson, and Vicksburg in Mississippi, and New Orleans, La. In this sketch I propose to give my experience at Rodney in 1843, where I had the disease myself.
I will, however, by way of introduction, first make some general remarks upon some researches I have made, and upon my own observations. Many writers have speculated and theorized upon this dreaded scourge, and many facts have been stated in support of the different theories, and yet there are very few settled convictions, generally received opinions, concerning it. What is yellow fever? is a question which has never yet had a satisfactory pathological answer, an answer susceptible of scientific demonstration. Perhaps the best answer yet given is that of Dr. Holt, President of the Board of Health of Louisiana, when he calls it "a mystery in nature, one of the hidden ways of God." And yet scientifically, that is no answer at all. In another place he says: "Yellow fever is due to a specific poison, the existence of which is known only as manifested in man. Intangible, imponderable, unrecognizable to any of the senses; we have no positive knowledge of the essential nature of this poison." And as to its origin, he satirizes as follows: "According to the testimony of all investigators and travelers in the West Indies, Mexico and South America, there is no spot where yellow fever originates. It is invariably brought from some other place. Therefore yellow
35fever never originates, but is always brought from somewhere else."
There is a popular belief that originally it came from Africa, where, undoubtedly, it always exists, and yet strange as it may seem, there is evidence on record that its first known appearance in the Western Hemisphere was in New England (that land from which so many bad things have come!) amongst the aborigines. In Copeland's Medical Directory, article on yellow fever, it is stated that in 1620, when the English settlers arrived in New England they ascertained that yellow fever had prevailed two years before amongst the Indians, carrying off great numbers of them, with all of the symptoms attending the disease, even naming "black vomit." (Webster's Collection of Authorities.) Again, it is mentioned that the same disease with precisely the same characteristics, prevailed in the Mohegan tribe of New York in 1756, while in "Reynold's System of Medicine," it is stated that the first outbreak of yellow fever in the West Indies occurred in 1647 — twenty-nine years later than in New England; and as this attack amongst the Indians occurred two years before the settlers arrived or had imported "the man and brother" from Africa, the African origin theory is exploded. Reynolds says it first appeared in New York City in 1868; the last appearance there 1822; in Philadelphia first, 1695, last, 1805. It occurred in South Amboy, New Jersey, in September, 1811; first appearance in Charleston, 1732; in Mobile 1705; in New Orleans 1769.
The differences of opinion are wide and numerous in many things about the disease. Dr. John Hastings, U. S. Navy, said in a lecture in Philadelphia in March, 1846 "I have never seen a single instance where there was the least cause to suppose that the fever originated on board ship." Dr. Holt, on the contrary, speaks of it as an "established fact that ships once infected and after that subjected to repeated cleansings, going into northern waters and even changing the crew, years afterward coming
36again into tropical regions, have developed the disease on the high seas, without having touched at a tropical port." Again, Dr. Hastings says: "Nor are previous attacks of long standing any immunity to the disease." The experience of a multitude of witnesses is against this assertion, as well as the judgment of most physicians. If there be an established fact about the disease, I think it is that of immunity from a second attack. Possibly there may be in one person in a thousand so great susceptibility to the disease as admits of a second attack, just as there is so great insusceptibility in one in a thousand as never to take the disease though repeatedly exposed to it. As for instance, touching the latter, it is reported in the books that "Dr. Firth, of Philadelphia, tried by every means of exposure to contract the disease, but failed, going so far as to take black vomit and inoculate himself with it, and the serum and saliva of patients, and yet had no symptoms of it." But these possible or real exceptions prove nothing as to the rule.
This immunity from a second attack is so much questioned that I am tempted to give the experience of my own family in 1878, in the fever at Vicksburg. It may set some disturbed mind at rest, and it is a remarkable experience — a test that should settle the question if anything will. I had the fever in 1843, two other members of the family had it in 1855, one in 1865, and two others in 1867, leaving but a single member liable in 1878. Besides this liable member, the household consisted at that time of other liable members — a son-in-law and four children. All of the liable members had it in 1878, and none of those who had previously had it. It was the sixth epidemic I had passed through, the fourth for the three first named, and the third for the two last, without any of us having been attacked the second time. Three of the number were absent during the first half of the epidemic of 1878, being in a healthy, unaffected atmosphere, and returned at the period of intensest activity of the disease, nursed
37patients with the rest of us, and remained perfectly healthy till the close, as did the others of us who had had the fever.
In the month of August, 1843, this little town, situated on the Mississippi river, for the first time was visited by this dreadful malady. It was without physicians of experience in the disease, but they treated it, nevertheless, with such success as usually attends its treatment, some sufferers dying and others getting well in defiance of skill and good nursing, or grossest neglect and empiricism, just as has always been the case wherever the disease has prevailed. And this is not intended as a reflection upon the medical profession, but as a simple statement of a fact which has fallen within the experience of all candid observers. They die often under the most favorable circumstances, and they get well often under the worst.
At this little town I had a friend who had nursed me most carefully a few years before through a severe spell of sickness. I felt very grateful to him, and after the fever had gotten well under way at Rodney, I wrote him to let me know it if he were attacked, and I would go down and nurse him. I was then living at Grand Gulf, twenty miles above Rodney. I got no answer to my letter, and early in September, I boarded a boat one day and went down, fearing from his silence that he was sick. I arrived early in the forenoon of the day I left, and immediately sought my friend, whom I found in bed with the fever on him, he having been attacked but a very few hours before my arrival, and had not as yet seen a physican. I hurried off to get one, and he was soon under treatment.
This friend of mine had organized the band of faithful nurses of the town, and was himself constantly on duty. As long as he kept up and cheered the sick with his assuring presence, and encouraged the well by his fearless bearing, all went well, and all felt hopeful, and manifested a willingness to stick
38by the stricken ones, but when it was learned that John McGinly was down, the fact seemed to paralize the whole town and a panic was the result; causing many of the well ones to take to flight, a few of them shamelessly abandoning sick friends. They went into the country where they were kindly received and hospitably entertained by the planters. A few of them having imbibed the poison, were taken down, but unlike the history of the disease in later years it did not spread on plantations.
This first day of my stay at Rodney during the prevalence of the yellow fever, (I had several years before resided there) was my first and last experience in a panic. I had it badly myself, I must confess, but I never entertained the idea of abandoning my friend. It is an exceedingly unpleasant sensation, and circumstances conspired to heighten it in my case. The thought of the sick of the town being abandoned to their fate, was enough of itself to produce the greatest possible gloom in my mind, but as the night came on, a drizzling rain set in, and extreme darkness shrouded the street. Just across the street from where I was nursing my sick friend was the undertaker's shop, and his saw and hammer were going all night. In the rear of the old tavern where we were, some hundred yards distant, resided two sisters of the lower class of people, who were down with the fever, and who had to trust to chance attentions. They occupied the same bed. About midnight my attention was arrested by a feeble cry for help coming from that direction. One of the sisters had crawled to the door of their lowly tenement, and I heard her in the silence of the night cry out in feeble tone, "my poor sister is dead, will somebody come!" Some of my readers have had that sensation called "crawling of the flesh," and they will understand what I mean when I say my flesh crawled at this mournful cry. Some kindly soul after a long delay, and when the cries had grown too feeble to be heard, went to her relief.
I was up all night with my friend, administering
39his medicine and walking from side to side of the bed endeavoring to keep the cover on him. His fever had risen very high, he was very restless and bordering on delirium. Had my experience then been what it has been since, I should have trembled for both myself and friend. I have since then nursed those delirium cases when it required all the strength of four able-bodied men to control them. My friend had a powerful frame and in delirium I would have been as a child in his hands. I was all alone with him. Fortunately he only wandered a little in his mind; did not get wild.
Nursing in this disease is very laborious, owing to the restlessness of the patient and the importance of keeping up perspiration until the fever subsides, and this depends much upon being kept well under cover. Two nurses are constantly needed as there are frequent calls from the bedside to other duties, and the nursing does not end with the subsidence of the fever. The exhaustion that follows the fever, when the patient will tell you he is entirely free from pain and feels that he is well, is a very critical period. I remember to have seen a patient entirely pulseless in this stage. He was saved by administering brandy to him by the teaspoonful at intervals, and strange to say, he had the strength to sign his will when in this condition. I have fed a patient in this stage all night on milk toddy, the total quantity of which would make half a dozen well men drunk for a time, with, apparently, little effect upon the patient.
My friend's condition continued to alternate between hope and deep anxiety until the sixth day, he getting from me such nursing as I could give in my half asleep state most of the time, when to my great joy two friends of mine residing in the neighboring town of Port Gibson, who had heard of my romantic adventure, as they called it, arrived, and as they said, to look after me. One of them, Dr. Todd, who afterwards moved to California, (as did my friend McGinley) and the other my dear friend Jas.
40W. Coleman, who lost his life in the late war. Neither of them had ever had the fever. The relief I felt at their timely arrival I cannot express. The Dr. we persuaded to return after spending two days with us, while my friend Coleman remained to assist me with McGinley, whom he had known and appreciated, and to nurse me should I be taken.
We continued to care for our friend until the fever left him, on the ninth day, and he was convalescing. On the night of that clay I had laid down in the room, to be called when wanted. About the middle of the night my friend asked for water, and as I returned to my bed after I had given it to him I felt a sensation in the region of the spine something like what I suppose would be the sensation from a stroke by a venomous reptile. I covered up but soon found a fever on me. I called to my friend Coleman, and Dr. Picket of the town, asleep in an adjoining room, who came to me, and in ten minutes time they had me in a mustard bath, (we kept hot water ready all the time looking to the contingency of my being attacked) and in less than half an hour I was crazy. They took care of me, but how, I do not know. With the morning the phrenzy fortunately passed off, and I remained conscious throughout the remaining time of my illness. My friend was up in a few days and assisted, as he had strength, in nursing me.
The pain in my head and back was excruciating. The luxury and value of ice in the disease were unknown at that day. The most I remember of the kind Doctor's treatment, and other things, is the merciless cupping he gave me in the region of the spine, and Coleman's equally merciless laugh when I would spring from one side of the bed to the other at the stroke of the cupping instrument. I also recollect that I never knew before that a blanket weighed as much as a ton! Coleman, dear fellow! was quite a wit, and would often rally me, when in a dispondent mood, by his railery, and when that failed he would dance a jig for me.
They nursed me through until I was able to go
41into the country. My old friend Col. Tom Dobyns sent his carriage for me, and I remained at his beautiful and hospitable home on the banks of Cole's Creek, (making myself half sick every day with the good things his kind lady would provide,) until I had strength enough to return to my own home. Coleman was not attacked. His cheerfulness and courage in the midst of the danger, seemed to render him proof against the disease. But had he, or for that matter any other man, been there my first day, in the panic, I would not have answered for the strength of his nerves. I think that day opened my pores wide enough and unsettled my nerves sufficiently to admit all the forms of disease known to the medical fraternity. I recovered very slowly from the effects of the disease; my normal strength did not return for six months, and the yellowness in my eyes did not leave in all that time.
While in the management of this mystery of nature, as Dr. Holt calls it, I have but little faith in systems, yet I am satisfied that the practice of later years is better than when I was treated, looking to a speedy recovery and the avoidance of subsequent ill effects. The depletion resulting from blood letting and other, practices of that day was pernicious. The later practice of conserving the strength, as far as possible, is better.
Though this is a gloomy and uncongenial subject to write upon, yet I may, at some subsequent time, give my experience in other and later years, in this manifestation of "the hidden ways of God."
The fever at Rodney ran its accustomed course till frost, or until the subjects were exhausted, with a no greater percentage of deaths to the number attacked than usually occurs in a visitation of yellow fever. It is only now and then that one living there at that period is to be found now. Dr. W. G. Williams, one of the then physicians of the town, who was attacked by the disease, is still living, and resides in the neighborhood. Doubtless many of those who
42fled to the country would have been attacked had they remained. Perhaps they saved their lives by running; it is certain they saved their friends the great labor of nursing them had they remained and been attacked.
Chapter V. — A Mississippi Duel, Fought Forty Years Ago — One of the Parties to Which as a Principal, Subsequently Acquired Fame as a Military Hero and as Governor of a Great State.
The little village of Grand Gulf, on the Mississippi side of the great river, with a population of about one hundred and fifty souls, and a business of small proportions, has run down to its present dimensions (under sundry adverse influences, but chiefly from caving into the river) from having been, at the time of the occurrence about to be related, a thriving town of about twelve hundred souls, with a business of sufficient magnitude to well sustain its population. It was at that period a larger cotton market than Vicksburg was, and boasted of one firm that bought largely for shipment to foreign ports. The beginning of its shrinkage dates back about thirty-five years, and at the commencement of the war, twenty-three years ago, it had lost half of its population, with a similar loss of business; still it then maintained several large and prosperous business firms. It was the scene of two conflicts between the Federal fleet and the Confederate batteries planted on the lofty hills in the rear of the town; the first between a portion of Farragut's advance fleet, after the fall of New Orleans, and a battery of artillery commanded by Capt. James A. Hoskins, of the Confederate army, in which the latter inflicted considerable damage upon the former, but was finally compelled to fall back. The Federal officer in command, in retaliation for Capt. Hoskins' audacity, afterwards bombarded and burned the little town, without giving notice to the inhabitants — a cruel act, to say the least of it. The second conflict was
44between the fleet co-operating with Grant when he crossed over to the Mississippi side at Bruinsburg, to make his successful attack upon Vicksburg from the rear, and a battalion of artillery under the command of Col. Wade, of Bowen's Division of Missourians. Nothing serious resulted from this conflict other than the killing of the gallant Wade. The battalion fell back on Vicksburg with the retreating army. But
45him at Coffee's Point, over the river, within an hour. Marsteller promptly responded with the assurance that he should be accommodated. They separated, each to get a friend and surgeon, and means of crossing the river.
They soon found their friends and means of crossing, and in less time than an hour, ten or fifteen skiffs were being pulled to the opposite shore, filled with the principals and their friends, and numerous spectators. News of so exciting a scene in prospect, rapidly spreads over a little town, and people with curiosity about a scene as ugly even as a duel are easily found. Before proceeding with the immediate story, it will help it perhaps, in interest, to remark somewhat upon the personal history and peculiarities of the principals to the fight. Captain Allen, then but twenty-four years old, was a native of Virginia, and when but seventeen years of age, had left his home in Virginia, without the consent of his parents, to go South. Without any known special reason for it, he came off a boat on which he was traveling, at Grand Gulf, and in a few days was installed as school teacher in the immediate neighborhood of the town. He afterwards, upon the call of President Houston, of the Republic of Texas, in 1842, for volunteers, became an adventurer in that young Republic, and acted as Captain in a company doing frontier service. Tiring of this, he returned to Grand Gulf and opened a law office, having studied for that profession while teaching school. He afterwards became engaged to an eccentric and attractive young lady of the county whom he had married but a few days — not a week — before engaging in this affair. Allen was impetuous, impulsive, ambitious, proud, vain, and somewhat boastful, but generous, kind-hearted, and genuinely chivalrous. He was elected to the Legislature of the State for one term. He was industrious as a legislator, but was not a leading member, as his abilities were of a moderate order.
Less is known by the writer of his antagonist, Dr. Marsteller. He was a young bachelor of thirty
46years or a few more, had resided in the town a year or two, was a man of refinement and education, a well-bred physician, but modest and rather taciturn, and, unlike Allen, was not much of a society man. He was a native of the District of Columbia, and had highly respected relatives residing at Port Gibson, a neighboring town to Grand Gulf and the county seat. Allen's habits were good for one of his temperament, convivial tastes and rather reckless mode of life. Marsteller had been led by his morbid sensitiveness, as was believed, into intemperance, but it was the intemperance of a gentleman.
When the fighting ground was reached — a grove of cottonwood and cypress, immediately on the bank of the river — Allen was greatly excited. He stripped himself to the skin as low as the waist; was very vociferous, and confident of killing his antagonist, and his countenance bore a marked expression of ferocity. Marsteller said nothing, and was perfectly calm as he awaited the settlement of the preliminaries. He had only taken off his coat and loosened his shirt collar.
A few of us spectators busied ourselves at an attempt at reconciliation, but our efforts availed nothing towards a settlement. Marsteller, as the challenged party, had the choice of weapons and the naming of distance. He had procured a pair of heavy pistols — not duelling — which he chose, to be filled with buckshot, and named the distance at ten feet — not paces. Under the apprehension that he meant paces when he said feet, he was inquired of about it, but he repeated ten feet. Allen won the position and the word. It was about midday. The pistols were loaded, the distance was measured, and they took position north and south — Allen north. Knowing the nature of the loads of the pistols, there was a general movement on the part of everybody present to get out of range by moving off at right angels to the fighters, leaving the second who gave the word, alone in his danger. As the writer was not the special
47friend of either party he very appropriately got up on the top of a fence near by!
As they stood in position Allen held his pistol perpendicularly down, while Marsteller held his almost perpendicularly up. After the second had called out "gentlemen, are you ready," intending to follow immediately with the words fire — one — two — three, Allen cried out "stop," and told the second to state again how the word was to be given — thought to have been a ruse on the part of the Captain to disconcert the Doctor, but the Doctor gently lowered his pistol when Allen called out "stop," and when Allen said "go ahead" the Doctor again elevated his pistol and quietly waited for the word.
As they stood at this moment, in the deep shadow of the tall cottonwoods, in ten feet of each other, Allen with his ferocious look, his high cheek bones, smooth face, closely-cut hair, slender, but tall, half nude form, with pistol down, and Marsteller in his shirt sleeves, with collar of the period, open, with his reddish whiskers and slightly bald head, rotund and rather heavy figure, with pistol up, calm and self-possessed, they made a picture not likely to be seen oftener than once in a lifetime.
The second called out distinctly but with trembling voice: "Gentlemen are you ready? fire! one two, three." They fired, both of them so nearly together at the word "one" that it seemed to the bystanders to be but a single loud report. A great volume of smoke completely enveloped them, and we all looked on in profound silence till it rose and disclosed the two figures standing and looking savagely at each other, and each with apparent astonishment that his adversary was not prone upon the earth, and we, the spectators, equally surprised. Immediately, Marsteller began to sink slowly to the ground, and Allen turned away bloody and limping in the direction of my perch. I reached him as he sat down upon a log near by, and shall not soon forget the mingled anguish and anger of his face as he replied to my question about his wound. A single ball had passed throught both
48thighs high up. A single ball had struck Marsteller in the hip and he laid upon the ground where he had stood.
Allen's friends conveyed him to his skiff as soon as possible, and thence to his home, ho himself being the bearer of the first intelligence of the fight to his wife. Marsteller as soon as he had recovered somewhat from his first prostration, demanded another fire, and upon being told that Allen had been carried off badly wounded, insisted that he should be called back, saying "I am not satisfied." He crossed the river to his room, probed the wound with his own instrument, and himself, unaided, extracted the ball and never went to bed for the wound. It would be impossible for a man to show more nerve than he did throughout the whole affair.
A peace was patched up by their feinds, but came near being broken on several occasions by Marsteller's lingering desire for another "shot." Allen did not shrink from another encounter, but friends would interpose and calm them down.
Capt. Allen's wife died in 1850, and he afterwards engaged in sugar planting near Baton Rouge, La., and served a term in the Louisiana Legislature before the war. His war history is of public record and may be briefly stated. He commanded a regiment at Shiloh, where he was badly wounded. After recovery he rejoined his regiment and again led it, as a Brigadier-General, in the desperate assault upon the Federal lines at Baton Rouge, (Major-General John C. Breckenridge commanding,) where he was desperately wounded and disabled for the war. I traveled with him a whole day subsequently, from Mobile, as he was on his way to cross over to Louisiana after his nomination for Governor. Though on crutches at that time, he was wonderfully cheerful and hopeful, his sanguine temperament sustaining him through every adversity.
He was elected Governor of Louisiana without opposition, and the world knows with what assiduity he labored in his office for the relief of his poor
49and distressed fellow citizens. At the surrender he determined to expatriate himself, and went to Mexico. After wandering about for some time he finally settled down at the City of Mexico, and undertook the publication of a newspaper, and while thus engaged his shattered frame and tortured mind yielded to the demands of the "grim monster." His mortal remains were brought by his grateful countrymen to New Orleans, where they rest beneath a public monument which he well deserved.
Strange that on his way to Mexico he met his mortal enemy, Dr. Marsteller, but like brave men they each forgave the past and parted for the last time on earth as friends.
Chapter VI. — A Deputy Marshal's Experience in Two Lessons.
In another sketch I have told how and when I became a Deputy Marshal of the Southern District of Mississippi. What I said then was incidental to something else I was writing about. In this sketch I propose to relate my experience on two occasions in discharging my official duties.
In the Spring of 1841 an execution issued by the clerk of the U. S. Court at Jackson, was placed in my hands by an attorney of Port Gibson. Miss., with notice from Major Miller, the Marshal in Chief, of an indemnifying bond having been filed in the case, and I was directed to levy the execution according to the instructions of the attorney. The execution was issued upon a judgment obtained by a citizen of South Carolina against a planter of Copiah county, Miss., involving several thousand dollars. The attorney directed me to levy upon some ten or more slaves which he said the defendant had fraudulently disposed of to his father-in-law, which slaves he said were then in the possession of the latter, but the attorney could not describe them by name or otherwise. This last named fact rendered the job to be performed a very difficult one, especially so as the father-in-law had slaves of his own, and both sets were working on his place. However, I could but try, bearing in mind that a wrong levy would not only defeat its object, but render the Marshal liable for damages. So that I was prepared, with this knowledge, to proceed cautiously.
Getting a trusted and prudent friend, J. A. G., to go along and assist me, we started on our journey,
51reaching the field of operations early on the following day. Owing to the circumstances of the case I entertained but little hope of making a successful and proper levy, and this hope was lessened, if possible, when I got immediately upon the ground. From a hill top near the house of the defendant I saw quite a force at work in a field not far from the residence of the father-in-law; so large as to convince me that the two sets of hands were working together. But for the element of luck (as we call it) in all sorts of business, very many of the ventures of life would prove to be failures. Luck is a poor dependence, but a very valuable adjunct when we are favored with it. And as luck would have it on this occasion, as I slowly approached the hands at work, and when near them had galloped into their midst, with loud calls for every one of Mr. —'s hands to come out to me, as I had a summons for them, I saw a woman drop her hoe and run off to hide. I followed her, and dismounting, ordered her in a peremptory tone, to point out every one of Mr. —'s hands in the field. She was so frightened that she instantly obeyed; and I started them off to the house, assuming I had made no mistake, and I hadn't. I called to my assistant, who took them in charge, and I turned to survey the field, when I saw
52upon the old man than anything I had said, or could have said. He calmed down and said: "I suppose you have to do it." And just here let me recommend this plan to all officers having process to serve on angry men. Exhibiting your legal authority and command to do what you are doing, as an officer, takes away any resentment they may feel towards you as a man. I tried this plan on several occasions and always found it effective, safest and easiest.
With the "intente cordial" established between us we proceeded to the son-in-laws house, where the negroes were in charge of my assistant. It was a pretty thickly settled neighborhood of whites, and the news of the seizure getting out, several of the neighbors assembled at the house. I was somewhat apprehensive of an attempt at rescue. I therefore procured a wagon and team as soon as possible, and putting the negroes into the wagon, started them off in charge of my assistant with instructions to get across the county line as soon as possible, (there being reasons for me to fear, besides attempt at rescue, interference by the Sheriff of the county,) while I remained to remonstrate with the crowd if necessary, and with the understanding that I was to return by another route, my other business requiring it.
I remained with the little crowd about an hour, to see if I could discover any evil purpose on their part, and my mind becoming disabused of the suspicion, but more apprehensive from something said, of intrusion by the county officials, I determined to return by the road taken by my assistant and hurry up the party till the county line had been passed. I rode off briskly and got in sight of them some five miles from the line, but about a mile behind them. They were on a long, level, open pine woods ridge. My assistant frequently looked back to see if he was being pursued, and seeing a horseman coming towards him at a full gallop, he put spurs to his own horse and the wagon team, and we had a race of it! I gained on him but slowly, and was led to
53reflect upon the difficulty of overtaking a man ahead of you who is going as fast as you are.
But I pursued and called out vigorously to my friend to stop, my calls seeming rather, however, to be but spurs to his heels and an "On Stanley, On!" to his ears. The wagon rattled and the wheels bounced over the pine roots, and our horses hoofs clattered over the hard, dry ground! On my assistant sped, his luxurient growth of flaming red beard parting nicely in the middle and streaming in the wind, while he encouraged his steed, ever and anon with the words "push for the line, for as Tam O'Shanter said to his Mag —
A running stream, (county line) they dare na cross."
The line at length was reached and the pace was slackened. When I came up and the facts were realized, the woods rang again and again with laughter, in which the darkies joined most heartily. We reached the Claiborne county jail late at night and the "property in man" was safely housed.
And this was a complete success.
A few weeks after this signal success in my calling, I received an execution against a party and his surety in a forthcoming bond, residing in Pike county, Mississippi, near the Louisiana line. I received with it a letter of instructions from the plaintiffs, (merchants in New Orleans) and also a letter of introduction from them to a Mr. R., a confidential friend of theirs, living in the neighborhood of the plaintiff and surety. Armed with my writ and this letter, and flushed with the triumph of my late adventure, I started off on my journey of some seventy-five miles full of confidence. A two days ride landed me at the door of the gentleman to whom I had the letter of introduction; my first night out having been spent at the hospitable home of my friend Judge A., in Franklin county, where there were
54girls! and where I was teaed and toasted, and preserved, and caked, and sung for, until
The confidential friend of the plaintiff I found to be plausible and polite, and a rattling talker — just the man to tell me how to do it. He knew all about his neighbors and their property, and had special knowledge about the defendant and surety in the execution. He imparted his information in the low, confidential tone of a veteran diplomat, though there might not be another person within a mile of us. Every proposition he laid down was indisputable, and he emphasised it with a smile and a lifting of the eyebrows. His first step in the matter in hand was to send for a young Frenchman whom he had in his employment, who was instructed to go with me and obey my orders. The next step taken was to give me a letter of introduction to old man A., the security in the forthcoming bond, in which I was commended to the old man's best attentions.
Perhaps I had better, before going further, explain about the forthcoming bond business. Under a statute of the State, enacted as a relief measure when the hard times set in a few years previous, a defendant in an execution could, after a levy on his property by the Sheriff, give a bond with security, for the forthcoming to the Sheriff at the next succeeding term of the Court of the property so levied on; and it was the practice of the Federal Courts to conform to the statutes of the State, when not inconsistant with the laws and constitution of the United States. I think the question of conflict was raised under this law, under the provision of the constitution touching the impairment of contracts, and was decided negatively. At any rate the Federal Court did conform to this law. It was the rule under this law when a bond had been forfeited for the Sheriff to seek first to find the property of the principal named in the bond, and in case of not
55funding it, or in case of its insufficiency in the opinion of the Sheriff, and that of other property of the principal, to satisfy the judgment, then to proceed to levy upon the property of the surety, the bond, by its terms, operating as a judgment against the surety. The execution then in my hands was on one of these forfeited forthcoming bonds, and as the surety in this case, old man A., before named, was interested in my finding the principal's property, I went first to him for information and advice. I found him to be exceedingly fair, open and above board. "Yes, my young friend," he said, "Johnny was right in telling you I was a gentleman and an honest man. You see that ‘nigger’ out there! she is liable for that debt, and you must have her if we can't find Mc.'s," (the principal's.) The old man offered to go along and show us the way to Mc.'s. We started off and after getting in sight of the premises the old man said: "I will wait here till you ketch um." I was a little nervous about the matter, as the defendant had only a few days before resisted the Sheriff of the county, for which offence a warrant was out against him, and he was supposed to be in the woods not far from home. But we proceeded — the Frenchman and I — and after getting, unobserved, as we thought, within a hundred yards of the house, with no obstructions between us and it, and remembering the luck attending my dash in the previous case, and thinking, as I had a Frenchman with me, that a "coup de main" was the appropriate thing, I gave the word to charge, and we dashed up in gallant style. I told the Frenchman to watch the out-houses while I went to the main one. We dismounted, and I hurriedly went to the door and knocked. "Who's that," in a firm female voice, was the answer to my knock. "Come and see," I replied. The door opened, and a stalwart old lady planted herself in it with a defiant look, and said: "What do you want." "I want to levy an execution on your husband's negroes, Madame," I said, at the same time exhibiting the writ. "No negroes here," was the short and gruff reply. "I wish to go in and
56search your house for them, Madame." "You can't do it," (with an emphatic shake of her forefinger,) came in reply. Without saying it, but recognizing the fact that her size protected her! I moved by the right flank in the direction of the smoke-house, and while looking around it I saw a young girl jump the fence and start for a field near by, running like a deer. I pursued her as she ran and called at the top of her voice to "John" to "run." John, a stout white boy, heard her, and hastily unhitched his horse from the plow, mounted and started off at a killing pace. I called to him to stop, or I would shoot. "Shoot, and be d — d," he replied, as he leaped a low rail fence with the trace chains flying high in the air. I halted — but John didn't — and returned to the house, finding no negroes in the field. The old lady was still holding her "castle," and not wishing to engage in actual hostilities with her on the "right of search," like the perfidious English, in our second war with them, the Frenchman and I retired in order, with "no property found" endorsed on the execution in pencil.
We found the old man patiently waiting for us, and I reported the melancholy facts to him. "Never mind," the old fellow said, "we'll ketch um to-night." We returned to his home, the Frenchman leaving us, and after an early supper he said, "we'll get um now by going to the road leading from his house across the line." "They'll run um to-night." "All right." I replied, and we set off for the ambuscade. Reaching it about dark, we hitched some distance from the path and took position. We had not been on the watch half an hour before the old man was fast asleep and snoring furiously. I felt like court-martailing and shooting him on the spot! But I only remonstrated with him. An hour later we heard — didn't see — "a solitary horseman." I cocked my pistol and planted myself in the road. On came the game right into the trap. And lo! it was a woman, and none other than the old man's wife, going to see a sick woman who had sent for her! I began
57now to smell a whole litter of mice. But I made the old man keep awake until near 12 o'clock, when we gave up the still hunt, returned to his house and went to bed, the entry of "no property found" on the writ remaining a true "return."
Immediately after our early breakfast next morning I said to the old man: "Well, sir, having failed yesterday and last night to find the property of the principal, it is now my duty to levy upon that negro of yours." "Why, bless your soul, young man," he replied, "the old woman run that nigger across the line last night while we was gone!" And I searched and could not find the property. "Well, sir," I said, indignantly, I wish you to go with me to see Mr. R. I have been badly treated; I thought I was dealing with a gentleman. I want an explanation." I was very indignant. "Oh, yes, I'll go with you," and off we started, I in no talking mood, but the old man full of talk, he informing me, amongst other things, that he and the principal in the case had promised to pay Johnny fifty dollars "to keep you fellers off," adding, "Jonny's doin' well; both sides payin' him."
We reached Johnny's and I recited with much indignation the story of my wrongs and how I had been treated by "this gentleman." The more serious and "wrought up" I got the more he laughed, when I, disgusted and mad, as well as outdone, gave a stiff bow to the two and started for the gate where my horse was hitched. Just as I reached the gate, about seventy-five yards distant, old man A. with a hand to each side of his mouth, sung out, "I say young man, when you come down into these parts agin don't you let the old wimin fool you so bad." If he had only added "farewell brother Crafford!" I think I should have fainted with rage.
I reached the home of my friend, the Judge, in time for supper, and did my best to drown my
58mortification in the good things of his table, and the smiles and music of the fair young ladies.
And this was a failure without a single redeeming feature, save the good cheer of the Judge's table, — "to memory dear" — and the smiles of the young ladies — "a joy forever."
Chapter VII. — The Memphis Convention of 1845, Presided over by the Great Calhoun.
The Commercial Convention, as it was called, held at Memphis, in May, 1845, was one of the earliest conventions of the country outside of politics, classing with those so common of late years which pertain to the business interests of the country in its multifarious forms. The call for it was, I think, first issued at Memphis, then a young but growing and ambitious city, and though it perhaps extended to the country at large, was understood to apply specially to the Southern and Western States.
The call was made, as I remember, in the Fall of 1844. The subject was fully discussed in the papers, and it was known for some time before the period for the assembling of the Convention that the great statesman, John C. Calhoun, had consented to preside over its deliberations. Delegates were appointed by corporate and other bodies in all of the South-Western States, and when the day arrived the attendance was quite large. It had been previously understood that the main questions for discussion and to be acted on, were, the improvement of the navigation of the Mississippi river and its tributaries, and the opening of railroad communication between the Mississippi river and the South Atlantic seaboard.
Mr. Calhoun, though then well advanced in life, had never before been in that rapidly growing section of his county know as the Southwest, whose institutions were so largely pervaded by his own political views. Hence he determined, instead of going by the nearest route directly to Memphis, to make a tour of the South, going from Charleston to New Orleans and thence up the river to Memphis;
60and the people along the line of his route of travel, at the important points, determined to make his trip a continuous ovation. He reached New Orleans a week or more before the time of the meeting of the Convention, where the demonstrations in honor of the distinguished guest were on a scale in keeping with the importance of the great Southern emporium and the fame of the great statesman being entertained. He left the city in time to reach Memphis on the morning of the day appointed for the meeting, and with ample time for the promised haltings by the way.
Although then quite a young man, I had been appointed by the Mayor and Aldermen of the then active little business city of Grand Gulf, Miss., a delegate to the Convention, and that I might be sure not to miss going up on the same boat with Mr. Calhoun, I went by packet, in advance of his boat, to the more important point of Vicksburg, where the up-river boats never failed to land, and where I knew Mr. Calhoun was to have a public reception. The steamer bearing the great Southerner arrived on time, amid the booming of cannon and other demonstrations, about sundown. The reception was at the Prentiss House, where there was a spread of choicest viands provided and presided over by the ladies of the city. The reception speech was made by Mr. Jefferson Davis, then a rising young politician of the Calhoun school, residing on his plantation near the city. The speech was highly eulogistic of the guest, so much so, I thought, as to be a little unpalatable to him, but was delivered with the grace and dignity peculiar to the speaker. Mr. Calhoun was not happy in his reply. He seemed embarrassed and hesitated in his speech, and, in fact, apologised for his want of adaptability to such an occasion, and said that without a subject involving some question or principle of moment, he was unable to entertain an audience. After an hour or two thus spent (including the good things prepared by the ladies) he returned with his friends
61to the boat, and I followed them, taking passage for Memphis.
The boat was well filled with passengers from New Orleans and from other points along the river. Some of the names I remember, but not many; amongst them, Mr. DeBow, a young South Carolinian, Prof. Forshey, of Natchez, and Judge Bodley and others, of Vicksburg, all delegates to the Convention. I was the youngest man of the delegates aboard the steamer, and like the modest young man of that age, felt not a little embarrassed at being one of so distinguished a company! Yet I was not overcome by it. I was introduced to Mr. Calhoun early in the evening and found him very gracious and so like common mortals in his manner and bearing that I soon felt at ease.
As the evening wore on, the delegates from Natchez and Vicksburg, to show the importance of the points they represented, exhibited to Mr. Calhoun maps which had been prepared for the occasion, with reference to the proposed railroad from the Atlantic to the Mississippi, and showing the routes of travel west by dirt roads leading toward Texas. I stood in the group listening to these gentlemen as they pleaded eloquently the advantages of their routes, feeling like "the poor boy at a frolic," because I had no map to exhibit. I felt called upon in the emergency to do something to relieve my embarrassment and bring forward in a favorable light the point I represented. So I procured from the clerk of the boat a sheet of foolscap, and went off by myself to a table, where I drew an outline map of several States, including South Carolina and Mississippi; wrote Charleston on the Atlantic, and Grand Gulf on the Mississippi in large capitals, and drew an air line railroad from the one point to the other, but made no dirt road to Texas; I then wrote Natchez and Vicksburg in very small letters, one above and the other below my town, on the river. Armed with my map, I returned to the group and said to Mr. Calhoun that I wished to show him my map; that, in
62my excessive modesty, I had been hesitating about doing it, but I hoped he, and those gentlemen who had been showing theirs, would pardon me. I placed it in his hands; he opened it, saw at a glance my little joke, and laughed heartily, I said: "You see, Mr. Calhoun, the importance of the point I represent, and how unimportant are the points represented by these gentlemen, and please notice, sir, that we have no road to Texas. Our people don't run off to Texas, sir! Mr. Calhoun continued to laugh, and I gave the gentlemen from Natchez and Vicksburg a look of triumph, tinged with a little scorn! They smiled gently at the "sarcasm," and Professor Forshey, after recovering from his embarrassment, said: "Yes, Mr. Calhoun, please observe that the gentleman's town is the mean point between Natchez and Vicksburg;" — at which I smiled, but gently.
Now in this age, such conduct on the part of a young man in the presence of his seniors would be called cheeky; but in that age young men were all so modest that they could not be impudent! "Cheek" is a word that has come in to use with the present generation.
We all, young and old, found Mr. Calhoun so agreeable and companionable that we were constantly around him, listening to his interesting talk. There was nothing of "the eagle of my tribe" in his bearing. Yet he was not undignified, and his conversation was mainly of a serious character. He talked in a low and unimpassioned tone and seemed to be deficient in voice, in conversation, but not so in speaking. I remember some remarks he made on the cultivation of the voice, and remember his saying Mr. Clay's greatest charm lay in his wonderful voice. He entertained a group of us for two hours one day in explaining his principles of government as set forth in one of his works, that, I think, in which he presents his views on the dual system of government for the North and South. It was a rare treat. I could not have believed it to be within the power of any man to so completely absorb the attention in a simple
63conversation on so dry a subject. I have not heard its like since and do not expect ever again to hear it. It is stated in his biography that he was a great favorite with the young men at Washington City, where most of his life was spent, and I can well see how it was so. He could draw very near to a young man, not to overwhelm him with his greatness, but to give him words of encouragement and sympathy.
We hove in sight of Memphis at sunrise on a beautiful morning in May. A fleet of steamboats had come down the river a short distance, as an escort to our boat, with colors flying and drums beating, and filled with the reception committee and their guests, ladies and gentlemen, while the shore was lined for miles with interested spectators. Cannon was booming, and a band was playing "Hail to the Chief." It was a proud day for the grand old man. I stood near him and watched him as he looked upon the scene. His emotion was quite visible, and he gave a feeling expression of his gratitude for the reception. The Presidency would hardly have been more gratifying to him. And the scene was inspiring enough to make any man wish to be great. We landed and Mr. Calhoun was immediately escorted to the point for the meeting of the Convention.
The Convention was called to order by Governor Jones, of Tennessee, and Mr. Calhoun was elected President by acclamation. A great crowd was in attendance and the desire to hear the great Carolinian was intense. He was escorted to the chair amid deafening applause, and at the opening of his speech so pitched his voice that he was heard distinctly all over the large assembly room. The contrast between his talking and speaking tone was striking. He had so carefully cultivated his naturally poor voice as to make his utterance clear, full, and distinct in speaking, and while not at all musical, it yet fell pleasantly on the ear. I cannot remember much of his address. It had reference chiefly to the awakened spirit of enterprise growing out of the use of steam and the building of railroads (a business then in its infancy) and
64the power of the general government in reference to the improvement of our National highways of travel and commerce. It was well known to the members of the Convention that he had opposed Mr. Clay's National system of "Internal Improvements," under his strict construction views of the Constitution, and great anxiety was therefore felt as to his views on river improvement, the promotion of which by the general government was one of the objects had in view by the Covention. When he reached this topic the interest in his speech was intense. He met it with candor; alluded to his opposition to the scheme of Mr. Clay, but said that under the growth of the country and the increase of river commerce brought about by the use of steam, the Mississippi river was justly entitled to be regarded as a "Great Inland Sea," and that its navigation could therefore be constitutionally improved by the general government. This declaration since become a proverb in the mouths of the people, broke the spell of anxiety and a great shout of satisfaction went up from the assembled multitude. It was the "supreme moment" of the Convention, and much relief was felt at the utterance of the great thought.
An adjournment was moved at the close of the speech. In the afternoon the body met again and settled down to regular business, after the election of other necessary officers. When the President came to the naming of the committee on resolutions, under a resolution of the Convention, to my great surprise and "confusion of face" he called my name in connection with other distinguished gentlemen! My modesty in the matter of the map had not been lost upon him! It had fixed me in his mind, and it is one of the few instances on record where modesty has received its due reward.
I found myself in committee with some of the most distinguished men of the country; amongst them Col. Gadsden of South Carolina, John Bell of Tennessee, Gov. Yell of Arkansas, Col. Bingaman and Judge Bodly of Mississippi, etc., etc. We had
65some interesting discussions in committee, in one of which my modesty overcame me to the extent of my starting to rise, when Judge Bodley kindly and gently drew me back and whispered to me that I had better let the old men fight it out. I subsided promptly. But suppose I had been one of the cheeky young men of this generation? Wouldn't I have let my light shine?
The report of the Committee drawn up by Col. Gadsden and signed by me — and others, was an able document, if I do say it myself. It is one of the proudest feats of my life, and I shall always revere the memory of Col. Gadsden for the able manner in which he did our work! The exhausting work of a committee room is very trying to many constitutions. As I survived it I conclude that I am one of the "fittest."
It is probable that the Memphis Convention gave an impetus to railroad building and river improvement which has been of immense benefit to the country. It was certainly an imposing Convention in the weight of character of many of its members, and it may be fairly concluded that it was through its influence the Memphis and Charleston railroad was built. We are apt to look upon such representative bodies as mere theorizing assemblages wanting in practicality. This is a mistaken view of their value. We do not, it is true, often see the fruits of their labors immediately following them, but when they are called to meet and devise plans for carrying out some real need of the country, sooner or later, "their works do follow them."
Chapter VIII. — Shocco Jones in Mississippi.
The successful cultivation of cotton and the profitableness of the pursuit, in Mississippi and Louisiana, in the years from 1834 to 1838, had led to so much speculation in wild lands, and such a rapid advance in them, that anybody with a little money had only to buy a tract of land, put a few negroes on it, and deaden the timber, to grow rich — on paper. The sales were all on a credit; but the banks discounted paper freely and every man was ready to endorse every other man's paper.
The country was apparently so prosperous and everybody was growing rich so fast, that every little town had its bank, and the bigger ones had two or more. Vicksburg had several of these "institutions," and Natchez, the oldest town in the State, had two, the Agricultural Bank and Planters' Bank, old banks, which had existed for a number of years and had been very successful. The celebrated Union Bank was chartered in 1838, and was in operation the following year. The "boom" in every branch of business was immense, and everything was aglow with speculation.
It was just anterior to this period that General Jackson, as President of the United States, had his successful fight with the old United States Bank. The withdrawal of the public deposits from this bank had so deranged the finances of the country as to bring on a great financial crisis, which involved the Southern State banks in the ruin that followed.
It was at the height of the distress and anxiety growing out of this state of things, in the Fall of 1839, that that wonderful genius and Prince of Humbuggers, Shocco Jones, of North Carolina, burst upon the vision of the distressed Mississippians. He came
67unheralded, arriving in Jackson, the Capital of the State, by stage from Columbus, at which latter point he had created quite a flutter in the little coterie of bank officials and directors who controled the fiscal institution of the city on the banks of the Tombigbee; making a soft place in the circle of its officers for an impecunious relative who dwelt in their midst, by sheer force of his unrivaled genius and unparalleled impudence, and strange to say only for the sake of a love of fun which was all-devouring with him and which he indulged alone for his personal gratification, for he never divulged to any one of his boon companions, attracted by his captivating manners, that fun was his prime, and in fact, his only object. In his intense love of it he was unwilling to share it with others. He was a veritable hoarder of fun. Imperturbable impudence, a gracious nanner, bright intelligence, and the business air of a monied man without solicitude for the future, made up his stock in trade, and were the tools with which he forged his fun. The gullible trait in human character was the field of his operations, and he had unbounded confidence in its resources, in its capacity to yield him an abundant harvest of fun under his skillful cultivation. A crisis in public affairs, a period of anxiety when everybody was on the qui vive for strange and startling things, was his fit occasion. His advent in Mississippi was opportune, and his knowledge of human nature and the condition of affairs told him so.
So soon after reaching Jackson as he made himself as presentable as becomes a man of affairs and a man of means, he got directions to the office of Dr. Wm. M. Gwin who was then U. S. Marshal for the District of Mississippi, and proceeded thither, carrying under his arm a large bundle of papers carefully wrapped up, tied with red tape, and having on it seals done in red wax.
Arriving at the Marshal's office, he introduced himself as a confidential agent of the United States Treasury Department, and informed the Marshal
68that he had authority from the Secretary of the Treasury to enquire into the condition of the Southern banks in which Government funds had been deposited. This information was imparted in the quiet tone and with the mysterious air of one charged with valuable State secrets; the agent meantime, carelessly turning about and thrumming upon the ominous looking package bound in red tape. The high functionary of the Marshal's office took in the situation promptly, and tendered his services to the agent. Dr. Gwin was himself a man of affairs and a man of parts, and he had a high place in the confidence of the Government.
The agent scanned the office of the Marshal in search of a strong box wherein to deposit his valuable papers, and seeing none, enquired of the Marshal if he knew of one. Certainly he did. The Receiver at the Land Office had the finest one in the State. They went thither; the agent was introduced to the Receiver; the safe was carefully inspected by the agent, and the package locked up. Then the Receiver was taken into confidence and had the high State secret imparted to him. And it is said he had an armed watchman on duty all night over the safe containing the package."
Before separating, Shocco said he desired to consult them about a legal adviser; that besides the need of one in the affairs of Government, he thought it not unlikely he would need one to examine land titles, as the cashier of the Cape Fear Bank of North Carolina had requested him, as he passed through on his way from Washington, to invest a large surplus of gold which the bank held, in Mississippi land mortgages, on one to three years; that the sum was great enough to meet the wants of many persons, and he would likely have to pass upon a number of titles. He had heard of a Mr. Prentiss, of Vicksburg. as being a very superior lawyer and desired to know if he would be a proper person for so important a trusts. The Marshal and Receiver agreed that he could do no better than to employ that distinguished gentleman,
69and the Marshal was requested to invite him to Jackson, by letter, which he did.
The great lawyer, promptly obeying the summons, repaired to the Capital and was presented to the great fiscal agent. A single look at each other and they were as firmly knit together as were Jonathan and David. "As face answereth to face in water," genius answers to genius when meeting. Until this meeting the agent had not been seen to smile. The weight of great cares was upon him, and his bearing and expression were altogether such as became the occasion. But a magician was before him now with the rod of a Moses. One stroke — a single flash of wit from the great lawyer — and the flinty face of the financier broke into smiles, and a flash went back. The grave Marshal and Receiver heard explosion after explosion as the rockets of wit flashed thick and fast, and the Treasury agent rose higher and higher in their estimation. What! a wit, a poet, a philosopher and an orator, as well as an astute sober-minded business man! What an acquisition to the State! He must be held. And they went off, the lawyer on the agent's arm, with his eloquent hobble — there was nothing about him that was not eloquent — the Marshal and Receiver following.
Who that having seen and heard the great orator in his convivial moods, at the bar, on the hustings, or the platform, would part with the memory? Heathen sages and philosophers would have worshipped him as the god of eloquence. Having once seen it, who can forget that wonderful face, with its varied expression, running the whole gamut of the passions, from that gentle love which "worketh no ill to its neighbor," to a hissing scorn and look as fatal to the adversary as that of the fabled basalisk's.
The boon and genial companions soon reached the point of intimacy which drops the formalities of social intercourse, and "Prent and Shoc" became the terms in which their reciprocal endearment was expressed. Prentiss for once had met his match, in
70some points — in all points he was matchless. A trip to Vicksburg was arranged for; the package with the dynamite load, which was to blow up the banks, was withdrawn from the Receiver's strong box, and they started off to storm Vicksburg, the stronghold of speculators in lands and negroes, and shaky banks. The news of the contemplated visit by the Treasury agent and money lender had preceded them. The bank officers were shaking in their shoes, and the speculators were busy perfecting their titles.
It must be remembered that at this early day the telegraph was not in operation, and there were no fast mails. A man of Shocco's genius could have his game played to the end before evidence that he was a fraud could be furnished, and so anxious was everybody to believe that relief to the distressed was at hand, and so busy were the bank officers with their financial entanglements and getting ready for the expected examination by the so-called agent, that nobody thought to ask for his authority. His native shrewdness told him as much, and besides he knew that he was equal to any such emergency as a demand for his authority should it be made. The town was all agog with the news of the arrival of the great financier accompanied by their distinguished townsman, who they knew had been closeted with him long enough to detect the imposter if such he was. As soon as he became separated from his attorney, after having been freely introduced, he assumed his most rigid business air and called at the banks, carrying the red tape package under his arm. His visits were expected and were prepared for, and most of the Directors were in attendance. He was introduced and treated with marked courtesy. The financial crisis in which the country was involved soon became the topic of conversation. He hadn't a doubt but that it would pass away speedily under the skillful management of the great man then Secretary of the U. S. Treasury, who combined in his person the financial skill of a Hamilton and a
71Morris, adding that the President had given the highest evidence of his fitness for his exalted position in calling this eminent citizen to his council board; that the mantle of the retiring President would certainly fall upon the shoulders of the great Secretary. From that topic he passed on to the resources of the great State of Mississippi; how that her soil surppassed the fertile valley of the Nile in the days when the sons of Jacob went down to Egypt for corn, and saying further that he had been besieged by his monied friends in his native State, as he passed through it, to make investments for them in Mississippi real estate securities. And all of this with the seriousness and knit brow of a veteran financier.
Meantime, a messenger had been dispatched to a favorite resort on Main street with orders for a liberal lunch to be set, and another was sent for the genial and witty Maj. C., and other vivacious and convivial friends. Adjournment to the lunch room was proposed, and was assented to by the agent without reluctance or surprise, and as though it belonged to his business mission. Before leaving he took the cashier aside, whispered a few words to him, and after making, in pencil, in few cabalistic marks on the valuable package tied up with red tape, and a duplicate of the same in his memorandum book, with the name of the bank added, placed it in the hands of the cashier, and then informed the gentlemen that he was at their service.
Arrived at the lunch room, it was observed that the business cloud which had overshadowed the countenance of the agent began to pass away and was followed by a sunny smile that betokened hilarity and appreciation of life's enjoyments. He apparently partook freely of the tempting viands, but it was observed by a few persons that he had left more than he partook of; that he never refused to "fill" his glass at the call, but he only "sipped." The merriment ran high. Maj. C. was at his best, and his sallies of wit drew from the distinguished guest
72shot after shot of the most telling reparte and appropriate anecdote.
At the height of the fun the great lawyer came limping in, and the lunch room rang again and again with applause, for help was needed. The Major's fund of wit, and that of others of no mean quality, was becoming exhausted, while that of Shocco had only been whetted up to an easy-going point: no strain, no spurring. The great lawyer threw off one of his telling impromptus, aimed at the agent, who caught it, and sent it back with a new and glittering point, which drew forth a round of applause as it struck. The floor was then given to the two champions. The hilarious crowd that surrounded them, now considerably augmented, had naught to do but hurrah, applaud and laugh. Shakespeare and Byron and Scott, were freely quoted in illustration of the happier things said by the champions. Round after round of applause was given. One enthusiastic business man was heard to say, "we must capture him. With such a lawyer and such a financier Vicksburg's fame will cover the continent."
But the end came, and with it the struggle for the honor of privately entertaining the guest. Major C. won it. The baggage was sent up and the agent made his affable bow to the hostess. He was soon surrounded by the children, whose eyes and ears he as soon captured, for he knew all the stories they had heard, and many more, of a highly marvelous character. They followed him over the house and never seemed to tire of him. The day following the lunch, he appeared upon the streets wearing his gravest business aspect, but courteously bowing to all, and as applicants for loans would approach him with their papers he would quietly say "take your papers to Mr. Prentiss, there is money enough for all," and tradition says that a leading family in the city gave him a great banquet next day, where wine flowed freely, and many title deeds were spread out. At night, he, on invitation, met some leading gentlemen in a social game, but got in late, after the game
73had been made up. Looking on for a while, he said to his leading friend: "Get up; give me your hand; you don't understand the game." He soon passed over a handsome sum to his friend as his winnings and pocketed enough for expenses. He then visited a cock-pit, walked in and up to the master of ceremonies, who held a high bred game cock in his hands, saying, with an authoritative composure, "give me that bird, I will teach you how to tie on a gaff." He did it and the bird won.
In a day or two Shocco informed his attorney of his purpose to visit Natchez by the first packet going South; that he should stop off a day or two at Grand Gulf and Port Gibson to look after his banking matters; that he hoped he would push the examination of the numerous titles then in his hands, and requested him to follow him by the next packet, as he should need his services at Natchez. Withdrawing the red tape parcel from the bank, he proceeded to the boat, accompanied by numerous friends and admirers, to see him off. On the boat he was the "cynosure of all eyes," and was overwhelmed with attentions by the numerous planters on board going to New Orleans. He bore himself with becoming business dignity and social unreserve. He was at home with them, and entertained them with high talk on finance and many interesting anecdotes, for which latter mental exercise the planters had a high relish.
At Grand Gulf and Port Gibson he created a great sensation in business and banking circles. An old friend of the writer was cashier of the Bank of Port Gibson. The old gentleman, in his white roundabout and gold rimmed spectacles had occasion to wipe off much perspiration from his noble brow with his red bandana at Shocco's pointed interrogatories, and it was said that Shocco was the first man he ever met with whom he failed to differ. The agent returned to the river after having exhorted the banks to set their houses in order, saying he should return in a week to make a final examination.
The next packet came along. The agent was at the landing and as the boat rounded to, the great lawyer emerged from the social hall, followed by boon companions. When Shocco was spied, the welkin rang again with three cheers for the great deliverer. The scene on board, as the boat wended her way to Natchez, is past describing. The gentle reader must draw his own picture as best he can by the light of what has been said already in that line. Shocco went to the barkeeper, after greeting the party, and in his lordliest way ordered that functionary to let the little lame man (meaning Prentiss) have anything he called for, adding, "I will make it all right!" Arrived at Natchez, the banks were visited immediately by the prompt Treasury agent and the great lawyer was taken charge of by his friends — the friends of his earliest Southern days. Natchez, at that day, was the seat of wealth and refinement and high aristocratic tendencies. It was the oldest city in the State, and had two banks, which were presided over by some of her wealthiest resident planters, and transacted a very large business. Shocco was not wanting in the needed resources of mind in meeting these magnates and notables. In their presence he rose to sublimest heights and discoursed eloquently of the noted citizen then at the head of the Treasury Department. The details of what tradition has handed down as having been said and done by him would weary the reader.
The red tape package with the broad seal was duly deposited in bank, and the day after his arrival a dray backed up to the door of the bank, having on it boxes of specie, marked "S. Jones, U. S. T. Agent, care of the bank." The boxes were deposited in the vault of the bank.
Numerous interviews of a private and confidential character were held with the bank officers, by the agent, and the attorney was besieged by parties with papers — in want of accommodations. A great dinner party was given the two distinguished visitors by one of the citizens. But Shocco had an almanac,
75and a good memory besides, and these told him that his time was nearly up. It was nearing the time when somebody might be receiving an answer to a letter which may have been mailed to Washington. A return to Vicksburg to finish up business there, and then a return to Natchez, was determined on. The first boat up conveyed the two great men to Vicksburg, the specie having been left and the red tape package withdrawn and carried off. Arrived at Vicksburg, hurried business interviews followed the next day, and much high merriment the following night. Late in the next forenoon, the revellers of the night before called at his lodgings, but Shocco was gone! and the country was sold! The red tape package was found on the table in his room. The seals were broken — contents, old newspapers! The news flew to Natchez. The specie boxes were opened — contents, scrap iron!
Chapter IX. — A Trip to the West.
In the summer of 1843 I made a trip to the West to purchase provisions for a house I was connected with at Grand Gulf. That was before the festive "drummer" was abroad in the land, and when a merchant had to go for his goods or order them by letter. Provisions were very low then as was every, thing else, including cotton, of which latter article, it took a good style to bring five cents per pound, and strange to say, in those days of low prices and strict economy, when the spinning jenney was run and clothing was made at home, and when corn and hogs were abundant, many planters who were heels over head in debt, prospered, paid out, and in eight or ten years were again rich. I personally knew of cases of indebtedness which were utterly hopeless that so turned out. Under the organized labor system of that day this country had wonderful recuperative capacities and grew rich with cotton, for a time, as low as five cents. Under the present disorganized system, the country keeps poor with cotton at an average of ten cents per pound.
Under the pressure of the economies of the age, and the small profits which sharp competition has occasioned, and the precision and constancy with which the machinery of the combined productive systems of the country move, the loose methods and half-work habits of our laboring class, will eventually drive the South to the wall of poverty, converting her, in spite of her wonderful resources, into the great lazer house of the Republic. There may be individuals who by their great skill may live and prosper on half-work, but no whole people, whose modes of life and whose wants belong to the civilization of this age, can do it. The charms which southern
77demagogues or real statesmen, and northern fanatics or real philanthropists, have seen in the face of education, will never exorcise the demon Want Neither does religion with all of its beneficent effects bring a panacea for poverty or release from the curse, "in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread." No, nothing but labor, systematic and persistent, can redeem the South from the curse of poverty, and lift her again to the prosperous heights to which she once attained, but from which she has fallen.
But my trip to the West: I went by steamboat to Evansville, Indiana, then a small but busy little city, and thence to the old French town of Vincennes, (at least French in its early settlement, in colonial days,) by stage, and at that point I again took the stage for Terre Haute; this trip to Terre Haute proved to be an eventful one as will be seen further on. It occupied two days as I remember; on the second day about noon, when about 20 miles from our point of destination, we observed
78restive, the driver with difficulty holding them to the place at which we had stopped, and it would have been death to us if they had gotten in the woods near by, as the trees were being prostrated all around us. The storm grew in violence, great whirling gusts of wind following each other in quick succession like waves of the sea in a storm. In one of these whirls the driver was lifted from his box and hurled into the creek, the fall breaking one of his legs, and fortunately for the passengers, at the same moment the body of the coach was wrenched from the running gear, and after waltzing in the air for a time, fell to the ground.
Before we had time to think, another whirl struck it and tumbled it over on the ground; and this followed by another and another with the same result. And then it "rested," like Noah's Ark on the mountain of Ararat. When the rolling ceased we found ourselves a mangled and tangled mass of humanity, with torn clothing and bloody faces, but no limbs broken. The foot of one of the passengers was stuck into my shirt bossom and one of my feet was caught in his coat pocket. In my great desire to see our danger, I was put out of the window of our ark at the "raven" was from the window of Noah's Ark. The frightful scene continued. Limbs of trees and fence rails were still flying in the air. Seeing a stump near by, and fearing I would be blown away, "I took the stump" for the first and last time in my political life; lay flat upon the ground and embraced it; but I spoke not. The horses ran off into the woods, two or three of them were killed, and things were smashed up generally. We picked ourselves up, packed the driver to the roofless dwelling near by and procured from the frightened owner conveyance; and after washing off the blood and getting our clothes mended up, went on our way, thankful for our escape; leaving the driver to the tender care of the kind countryman and his family.
I was telling this "o'er true tale" one day, a short time after the terrible cyclone that struck Beauregard,
79to a little knot of friends on the street, just to show them that I knew what a hurricane was, and after getting through with my story, and as I was inwardly congratulating myself with my importance, and the "happy" way in which I had told the story, one of the listeners, an incorigible joker, asked me if it wasn't my hand that got "caught" in that other fellow's pocket instead of my foot! The mean wretch! to make me the laughing stock of the company instead of its admiration, as the hero of a wonderful story well told.
After a night spent at Terre Haute, I took a steamer bound up the Wabash for Lafayette, passing along in view of that wonderfully beautiful country called the Weaw plains. The ripening grain as it waved in the light breeze blowing over the broad fields, and the herds of cattle grazing on the rich pasturage, was a sight to be remembered. After reaching Lafayette, I made my purchases, and my recollection is, that I bought bacon — shoulders, sides, and hams, at from two and a half or three cents to six, shipping by boat down the Wabash, then at a high stage of water, to Cairo, and shipping thence for my home.
Reader: As Mark Anthony said to his friends and countrymen at the funeral of the dead Caesar, "lend me your ears," not that I may "ruffle up your spirits" like Anthony, but that I may tell you a simple story of my boyhood days.
After winding up my business, I went on a visit to an uncle residing a short distance from the river below Lafayette. This uncle had moved from Kentucky to Indiana when I was a small boy. I would not trouble the reader with a mention of this visit, but for the connection of this uncle with the story of my boyhood days, which I feel inclined to tell, leaving the reader to guess the motive for telling it. There was nothing remarkable about me as a boy, and I beg the reader not to get excited in advance of my story. I certainly had a reputation for steadiness and amiability, for a favorite neice of my father's begged and got the loan of me for several
80weeks, with the vain hope that my example and influence would tame an incorigible boy of her's of about my age. At my first interview with the hopeful youth, I was politely invited into the back yard for a bout at "cutting jackets," an amusement which consists of two boys and two stout keen switches with which they larrup each other over the shoulders. I accommodated him. He did not give me another invitation. The second day after my arrival I came near getting the top of my head blown off by the accidental discharge of a shot gun in the hands of young hopeful; the shot gun being one of the "playthings" with which his judicious parents had provided him. The experiment failed, and I was glad to get back home alive.
I was not "a character" in any sense, could not have been the original of any sensational story from the best boy in Sunday school to a Peck's bad boy. And this reminds me of a little incident wholly independent of my story. A benevolent friend of mine bought and presented to a poor Sunday school scholar, a ticket to a circulating library. The scholar on presenting the ticket for the first time modestly asked the librarian, "is you got that book they calls Peck's bad boy?" The librarian had it and the good little scholar took it away. But I was a green and credulous boy. One day my father told me that if I would get into a basket sitting before us and lift myself up in it, he would give me a dollar. I tried it, and I have tried the same thing since I have been a man, that is I have tried to do a credit business without capital. "The boy is father to the man." But I am not doing business without capital in writing this little book. I have a large capital in interesting incidents. I am only concerned about a judicious use of it.
But the story I started to tell runs on this wise: This Uncle of whom I have spoken, had made up a trip with a six-horse team, for Louisville, carrying down produce from the neighborhood, to sell, and with orders to bring back goods for the merchants of
81the village near by. We lived about seventy-five miles from Louisville, and I was then about ten years of age. The greatest event of a boy's life in those days, in our part of the State, was a trip to the wonderful city of Louisville on the banks of the mighty Ohio, a stream so wide that a boy couldn't begin to throw a rock across it! And that meant a great way to a boy, who always measures other distances by the distance he can throw a rock.
I got my father's consent for me to make the trip with my Uncle. Everything was made ready and the envious boys of the neighborhood assembled to see me off. We got off on our journey, I in the wagon, with one and sixpence — as we called a twenty-five and a twelve and a half cent piece added together, in those days — ready cash in my pocket for spending money. It required about three days to make the journey.
The two nights we were on the road we camped out and I assisted in caring for the horses, in cooking, etc. We reached Louisville on the evening of the third day, and "put up" at a well known wagon yard in the outskirts of the city. After feeding, watering and currying the horses, we went from the stable-yard to the little tavern for our suppers and beds. Supper was not ready, and it being a pleasant evening, I stretched myself upon a bench under the shed in front of the tavern and was soon fast asleep. Boys but seldom have anything on their minds to keep them awake when they are tired and sleepy. Mine was free from all "cankering cares," and I was very tired with the day's travel and the evening's work. When I awoke I was being drawn from the inside of the box of a seventy-five feet well in the tavern yard, by a powerful man, who exclaimed as he drew me out, "what are you doing here?" My impression was, as he drew me out, that I was being violently taken from the inside of the wagon in which I had been sleeping on the journey.
It turned out when the explanation came to be made, that when supper was announced, my uncle
82came to me, shook me, and told me to come into supper, and getting up without really awaking, I deliberately, but unconsciously, walked to the well, got inside the box and sat down upon the projection on which the bucket rested, and caught hold, with both hands, of the chain attached to the windlass. My position was thus reported by the man who fortunately saw me in passing by the well with a lantern in his hand. Doubtless in my sleeping thought or dream, the wagon came into my mind, and having to pass the well to get to it, I mistook it for the wagon; or possibly I was seeking after truth, which the ancients tell us is to be found at the bottom of a well.
When I was taken into the sitting room of the tavern and my case was reported by the lucky finder of the somnambulist, I was the "observed of all observers" much to my annoyance, and the questionings and comments were very embarrassing to the shy boy that I was. But I survived it, ate my supper, went to bed, and was up early next morning eager to see the great city in its length and breadth.
I had heard much of that wonderful new thing in those days — the steamboat, and I had a consuming desire to see one. I started for the levee (as soon as I had gotten well into the city) where I was informed the monsters lay, buying as I went, at the first stand I came to, a section of ginger-cake! I proceeded, and had just turned a corner on the levee very near to one of the objects of my search — not more than fifty feet from me, and just as I turned the corner it blew off steam! Reader, did you ever hear the awful scream of one of those old time boats? If you did, you may be able to imagine the effect upon a country boy hearing it for the first time, and without ever having heard of it. My boyish fancy had pictured the scream of the panther, the yell of the wild Indian, and the roar of the lion, but such a Niagara of awful sounds as this, there was no preparation for. Did I run? Yes, and never stopped until
83I had gotten to the farther end of the next square above, where I anchored and allowed "distance to lend enchantment to the view." I had seen and heard enough of steamboats, I thought, for a lifetime, and I returned to my uncle who waited for me at a point on Main street.
If the reader should regard any of the little stories told in this sketch as being marvelous, and should his taste run in that line, possibly what is yet to be told may challenge his wonder and admiration all the more; but there are people who will not believe it notwithstanding it is the innocent and veracious story of a guileless youth.
After getting under way for our home, and when some five miles from the great city we had turned our backs upon, I began to reflect upon the melancholy fact that I had nothing to show for my money upon reaching home; the whole of the small sum having been spent for those necessaries with a boy, candy, etc., and all consumed. In the straight, I bethought me of the expedient of trying to find some money with which to lay in a supply of marbles, etc., at the next town. This indeed was a desperately poor chance but I tried it and succeeded! Without making the purpose known to my Uncle I got out of the wagon, and after walking behind it for a mile or more, I found lying in the road a bright silver quarter! Of course I used it as suggested and rejoiced to know that I had something to show on reaching home.
Now, this is a very little thing to put into a book, but it serves a purpose, small as it is. It shows that hope is always worth cherishing, and that trying in apparently hopeless cases is sometimes rewarded with success. Another thing, reader, suggested by this little incident, is the fact that hopeful people are nearly always cheerful, and that cheerful people are nearly always happy. With your cheerful and hopeful people, there is no ocean so wide as to be without a shore or a plank on which to reach that shore. They are the sunshine of social life, penetrating its
84nooks and corners and dark places with genial and life-giving rays. Though there may be another and better key, yet cheerfulness is one of the keys that will unlock the dungeons in which Giant Despair keeps his prisoners.
"Now a little before it was day, good Christian, as one half amazed, did break out in this passionate speech: What a fool, quoth he, am I, thus to lie in a stinking dungeon, when I may as well walk at liberty? I have a key in my bosom called Promise that will, I am persuaded open every lock in Doubting Castle. Then said Hopeful, that's good news, good brother, pluck it out of thy bosom and try."
Why have I written this sketch? Well, I'm puzzled for a reason myself. But as I am good natured enough to enjoy a joke at my own expense, we'll make the opportunity it gives to tell what Smith said about my storm story the provoking cause!
Chapter X. — Repudiation in Mississippi.
It will soon be half of a century since the State of Mississippi came under the ban of the financial world by reason of her repudiation of a certain bonded indebtedness created by her Legislature; and as I have written of other things which occurred about the game period, I have thought I might venture to say something upon this subject. The time has arrived perhaps when a discussion of the question may be undertaken with the hope of its being listened to and calmnly considered.
It is a little singular that Mississippi should have been the first State of the American Union to limit by Constitutional provision the power of the Legislature to pledge the faith of the State for a loan of money, and to be the first one of said States to repudiate what was regarded as a public debt. The people of Mississippi, who were almost wholly agriculturalists, had become alarmed at the example set by the Legislatures of other States in pledging the faith of their respective States, in furtherance of schemes of internal improvement, and for other purposes. To save their own State from a like extravagance, as they regarded it, and to check the spirit tending in that direction at home, they determined in Convention assembled, to limit the power of the Legislature by a Constitutional provision. This limitation is set forth in terms that are clear and explicit. The wisdom of this constitutional check upon the power of the Legislature will hardly be questioned by any one who respects the sovereign rights of the people, as understood under our form of government.
It is proper for me to premise what I may further
86say on this subject with the statement that my remarks are intended to apply to the repudiation of the Bonds delivered to the Union Bank, and by the Bank sold to Biddle & Co., of Philadelphia. And I would further state, that during the discussions of this question after it entered into the politics of the State, I uniformly voted with the Bond-payers. The discussion of the question when before the people called out the best talent of the State on both sides, in politics; the Whigs, as a rule, being opposed to repudiation, and the Democrats, as a rule, being in favor of it; each following, in this State question, the line of thought which had distinguished the two parties in National politics — the Whigs insisting upon a liberal construction of the Constitution, and the Democrats upon a strict one, and each thus following the traditions of his party. The appeal of the one was to the moral sense of the people while the other was to their legal sense. The Whigs or bond-payers, were constantly begging the question, and pleading the spirit of the Constitution, while the Democrats or repudiators, plead the letter and prescriptions of that instrument.
It was argued by the Bond-payers that a moral obligation to pay the bonds rested upon the States, because the money had been obtained upon them; had gone into the hands of the Bank, and from the Bank to the borrower. The question, "what is a moral obligation on the part of a State?" may well be asked just here. The presumption is that the moral sense of an organized State is embodied in its Constitution, and the laws made in pursuance thereof. Outside of these and independent of these, there is no moral sense that can bind the State as a State, or which it is right to impose upon the State, without her consent, that consent to be reached only in the mode by which her will is ascertained; that is by a Convention of the people acting in their sovereign capacity. If the State's moral sense upon loaning her credit was expressed in the provision of the Constitution touching the same, and if the Legislature
87violated that provision in authorizing the Governor to issue the bonds, then the State's moral sense was outraged, and — the State — and not any second or third party, was entitled to redress.
The constitutional provision in this matter was as binding upon the outside world as upon the State. A party taking any risk whatsoever under the law passed in violation of the Constitution, did it at his own peril and not at the peril of the State. And it does not help the case that the State's own agents were parties to the violation. The Constitution spoke the mind of the State and her agents could not bind her except according to the letter of the Constitution, and that letter was notice to all the world.
The State owes it to her dignity and relf-respect to protect and vindicate the inviolability of her Constitution, and she cannot impose a burden upon any innocent citizen to correct a wrong perpetrated by her agents, though thousands of her own citizens may have profited by that wrong. The citizen of a State knows no moral obligation in his relations to the State other than that imposed by the Constitution and constitutional laws. You cannot enforce a moral obligation which is not embodied in a law, and though we bond-payers had suceeded in carrying out the bond-paying policy, any tax-payer could have arrested the execution of a law levying a tax to pay the bonds, on the ground of the palpable and manifest violation of the Constitution perpetrated in the passage of the supplemental bill of the 15th of February, 1838, under which the bonds were issued. Even though the money received for these bonds had been used for State purposes (which it was not, not a dollar of it) the tax-payer could still have successfully resisted a tax levy to pay them, because it would have been a tax levied to pay bonds which neither the Legislature nor the agents of the State had any constitutional right to issue, or cause to be issued.
And what of the morality of taxing A. to pay for money which went alone into the pockets of B. C. and D. (as was the case with the proceeds of these
88bonds) when that money was obtained against A.'s consent, for he as a part of the body politic, consents to nothing which is in violation of the Constitution which he has framed. He spoke when the Constitution was framed; his protest is on record and antedates and forbids the wrong doing, and he gave the world notice. If the first act was a robbery shall it be atoned for by another? The first act was a double robbery, for it robbed the State of her good name and the people who were called innocent purchasers, of their money, and both against A.'s protest written in the Constitution of the State.
But what of these innocent holders (so-called) of these bonds? Are they in fact guilty or innocent holders? If they plead ignorance of the law and Constitution, the plea would furnish no excuse. "Ignorance of the law excuseth no man." The murderer is hanged though he be ignorant of the law. But who would presume that these holders were ignorant of the law and Constitution under which the bonds were issued? A most "violent presumption" it would be. Are they not rather to be regarded as particeps criminis in the wrong committed? What financier fails to scrutinize closely any bonds offered by an agent, as to the authority for their issuance, and as to his authority to dispose of them? This thing was not done in a corner, and Nicholas Biddle was not the man to act hurriedly or ignorantly.
It was argued that though the proceeds of these bonds did go into the hands of a comparatively few of the citizens of the State, yet, they finally reached the hands of the many through the disbursements of the few who received them, and that, therefore, the whole partook of the benefit. Flimsey as this argument was, as against a flagrant violation of the Constitution, it had but little foundation in fact. The indebtedness of the State was almost wholly foreign, and contempories of the period well remember that the disbursement of these millions did but little towards the relief of the pecuniary distress of the State.
89The negro-traders of other States, and New York merchants, got the great bulk of it.
Touching the constitutionality of the supplemental act under which these bonds were issued, no sane man can lay the provision of the Constitution under which the law could only be passed, and the act side by side, and say there is not a palpable violation of the Constitution in the act, and that the State bonds issued under it were not utterly void. The act of February 5th, 1838, was in strict conformity with the Constitution. That act did not authorize the issuance of the five millions dollars State bonds to be given for stock in the Bank, as was done. It was the supplemental act of the 15th February which authorized it, and which changed in many respects the original act, which had been submitted to the people and was acquiesced in by their Representatives in a succeeding Legislature, as required by the Constitution. But the supplemental act was never submitted to them.
It has been a common talk, grown into a proverb, that the repudiation of these bonds has cost the State more than they came to, in depreciated credit and high rate of interest, following upon the heels of repudiation. I am satisfied that this thing has been magnified to several times its natural size. It is an easy matter to get up a hue and cry about almost anything, and by repetition to fix it into a settled and current conviction. But there was no reason why the individual credit of the bond-payers should suffer so greatly, and it was individual credit only that was needed. The State had no public works to be affected by it, and there were precious few private and corporate enterprises to want assistance. Louisiana and Alabama with all their high-toned credit (if they have had it), are no better off to-day than Mississippi, as appears to the naked eye, unless it may be (according to the questionable maxim that "a public debt is a public blessing") in their huge pile of bonds issued under radical rule, and which were marketable because these virtuous States had
90never repudiated! Credit is a very convenient thing sometimes, and sometimes a very costly thing.
Possibly the want of a cheaper credit than she had, retarded the progress of Mississippi before the war, but a little consolation may be drawn from the fact that she had thereby the less to lose by the war. Since the war, it is positively certain she has profited greatly by her want of credit. Instead of groaning under a load of millions of bonded indebtedness like the other Southern States whose credit was not tarnished by repudiation, and which was available to the vultures of the reconstruction period, she is now comparatively free of that burden. But more than that, she has by repudiation vindicated her right to have her Constitution respected. If by the act of repudiation she lost her credit and character, she did by the same act save her Constitution, and build up a barrier in public opinion for all future time against its ruthless violation. This is worth something to her, and is a point in her history which will grow in lustre as time progresses and prejudice and feeling shall abate.
The Constitution of a self-governing people is their greatest treasure, and to guard its sanctions and guarantees against violation is their highest duty; and to have it respected by others they must repect it themselves, be the sacrifice what it may. If it stands in the way of any greater good than itself, then let the power that ordained it, change, alter, or amend it so as to include the greater good. Government is a mockery unless the fundamental law is respected, and a people can't be free who tamely submit to its violation even for honor's sake — so-called. The conscience of a people is lodged and expressed in their Constitution, and neither they themselves nor others may do violence to their conscience as thus expressed. In the matter of these bonds, the power of the Legislature and other officials, was limited by the terms of the Constitution, and the world had notice, for the Constitution was made public. Attorney-General Glenn in his argument
91before the Supreme Court well answered the question, Why did not your people speak out when they saw their Constitution being violated? when he said they did speak out in thunder tones, daily, hourly, yea, every moment, in their written and published Constitution.
But, though the Constitution was violated, yet, it is said, the smell of fire is on the State's garments — her skirts are not clear, so long as these bonds bearing the broad seal of the State and the signature of her Governor, may be flaunted before her eyes; that they are "the skeleton of her closet." which will forever grin upon her, and rattle its bones, lifeless though they be!
Well, there is but the single answer to this — The CONSTITUTION — and as long as it is firmly upheld, and held up, this "skeleton" will never be able to "grin" the State out of countenance, nor will the fire ever be able to "consume."
If the State, as a State, had put money in her exchequer by this means, or if the people of the State had put money in their poekets by the sale of the bonds of the State, their repudiation could not be defended, even though the Constitution had been violated by the issuance of the bonds. In that event the State would have been in honor bound to provide for their payment though it should have necessitated a change of the Constitution to effect it. But the proceeds of these bonds, as has been shown, and as is publicly known, inured to the benefit of a comparatively few of her people, while the State did not get a dollar of it.
I am not familiar enough with the history of the Planters Bank bonds to say anything about them. But it is generally agreed that their repudiation is indefensible. And I think it is altogether probable that their payment would have been provided for but for the wholesale abuse the State received on account of its course in repudiating the bonds issued to the Union Bank. This is no justification or excuse, but it serves to show that there is a good deal of the
92same sort of human nature in Mississippians that there is in mankind generally. An exhibition of resentment at the expense of justice is no new thing, and has been indulged often in the past by both States and individuals, and will continue to be indulged in, probably, till the end of time. We have in our own country an instance of rank injustice perpetrated upon the Southern cotton States by the United States Government, in the levy and collection of the cotton tax, amounting to some seventy millions of dollars, in express violation of the Constitution, as the Supreme Court of the U. S. has decided. And the Government continues to withhold this money from its rightful owners. There is no conceivable motive or incentive for this great injustice but resentment. The United States Government refuses to make restitution of this unconstitutionally, and therefore ill-gotten, gains. If the State of Mississippi was guilty of a steal, in repudiating the Planters Bank bonds, the United States Government is guilty of a greater steal in retaining the cotton tax money.
It would be no act of generosity on the part of the General government for Congress to pass the bill of last session making a large appropriation for educational purposes, so far as the cotton States would be concerned. It would only be a return to them in part of their own money, and that not to be used under their own plans, but under those devised and dictated by the general government.
I append hereto the provision of the Constitution referred to, together with some extracts from the argument of Attorney-General Glenn, also referred to:
The Constitution in the 9th Section of Article VII, provides as follows:
"No law shall ever be passed to raise a loan of money upon the credit of the State, or to pledge the faith of the State for the payment or redemption of any loan or debt, unless such law be proposed by the Senate or House of Representatives, and be agreed
to by a majority of each House, and entered or their journals, with the yeas and nays taken thereon, and be referred to the next succeeding Legislature and published for three months previous to the next regular election in three newspapers of this State, and unless a majority of each branch of the Legislature so elected after such publication shall agree to and pass such law, and in such case the yeas and nays shall be taken and entered upon the journals of each House."
The Attorney-General says:
"To show that the acts of the 5th and 15th of February are two distinct and irreconcilable laws, requires no argument. The best argument is to read the two laws. They are opposite in means, they are opposite in ends, they are opposite in details, they are at war from the captions to the close, so far as the State is concerned, and so far only have we anything to do with them. They have no legal identity. The fewest words make this plain.
"The first act proposed to loan the faith of the State, in order to furnish a capital for the Union Bank. The second act makes the State a stockholder in the bank for five millions of dollars. To secure this loan, the first requires ample security by mortgage on land and negroes. The second requires no security whatever. The first law requires the first profits of the bank to become capital and be applied to the payment of the capital and interest first due of the bonds. The second repeals this provision altogether. The first requires a cash payment of ten per cent. by each stockholder, and the second repeals it."
And thus he goes on, showing clearly and conclusively that the acts are not identical, and that therefore, the issuing of the bonds was unauthorized so far as the Constitution was concerned; the law authorizing it not having been passed according to the terms of the Constitution.
It may be asked why the writer if he voted with the bond-payers when the question was before the
94people of Mississippi, should now express the opinions he does. His answer is that he was not then fully informed on the question; and besides he was a Whig and thought that any measure supported by the Democrats generally, must be wrong! He did not become fully informed on the subject until he, many years ago, read the masterly argument of Attorney-General Glenn, on the question, before the Supreme Court of the State, to be found in Cushman's Mississippi Reports, 1852-'53, vol. 25. This argument modified, if it did not entirely change the opinion of many bond-payers, and the writer thinks it wholly unanswerable.
Chapter XI. — Hanging the Gamblers, and the Flat Boat War at Vicksburg.
This tragical incident — the hanging of the gamblers in the year 1835 — serves to illustrate the desperate character of Vicksburg's population, in the period of 1830 to 1840. The dreadful vice of gambling, encouraged by some of the most prominent people, had taken a deep hold upon the community, and these dens or "hells" as they were called, wherein the nefarious business was pursued, were numerous on every business thoroughfare of the city, conducted openly by day and night, and all day of Sundays. They were a shocking scandal and disgrace in the eyes of the better part of the people, but the gamblers and their patrons were so numerous, and were such reckless and desperate characters, that the better class stood in awe of them, much as they loathed and condemned the vice.
But submission in this case, like submission and intolerance in every case of outrage and wrong, only tended to stimulate the insolence of the offenders. The law was resorted to, but its "delay," together with the money of its violators, rendered it inoperative. The question — a grave one — of the right of any whole community, organized under the legal sanctions common to all civilized countries, to its life, when in peril, and to its preservation by taking the law into its own hands, began to move the people, and was decided in the affirmative.
Self-preservation is a law of God, a law of nature, and a law of man, and who shall say that a community, after exhausting all legal remedies, and failing of protection, from defects of law, or from its perversion to evil ends, by corruption or intimidation,
96may not resort to this higher law as a remedy? Under these named circumstances, good ends are always the aim. And though it may be an evil, may not a community, under an inexorable necessity, make a choice of evils? Every community which holds this right in reserve, has served notice upon evil doers, and notice often acts as an ounce of prevention, and saves a resort to the pound of cure.
The trouble with the gamblers at Vicksburg culminated to the unendurable point, on the 4th of July, 1835, when one of their number, uninvited, in his insolence, disturbed the festivities of the day as they were being conducted by Capt. Brungard's military company, in the Springfield portion of the city. His conduct was wholly that of a ruffian and blackguard, under the influence of strong drink. He was put under guard, but was released in the evening, when he made threats of dire vengeance. When the company returned to the Court House, he was there, heavily armed, prepared to execute his threats. He was seized, disarmed, and carried to the outskirts of the town, where he was whipped, and a coat of tar and feathers applied, and was ordered to leave immediately, which he did, and has never been heard of since.
Soon it was seen that there was great firment amongst the gamblers. They were loud in their denunciations and threats of revenge, for the treatment received by their comrade. At night a public meeting of citizens, largely attended, was held at the Court House. Resolutions were adopted ordering all gamblers to leave town in six hours, under penalty of being roughly handled, and notices to that effect were posted by 9 o'clock next morning.
At 9 o'clock the following morning, (Monday) the military and citizens to the number of four hundred, well armed, assembled on Main street, when committees were appointed to visit every gambling house, which was done, and all the furniture and implements used by the gamblers, were collected in the streets and burned. One of the houses was found
97to be fortified and barricaded, and armed men were in it. It was immediately surrounded by the angered citizens, when the door was broken in, and a gun was fired from within, whose contents, a load of buckshot, entered the breast of Dr. Bodley, a prominent and highly esteemed citizen, killing him almost instantly. Some dozen or more other shots were fired, from within and without, but without effect, when the beseigers made a rush, and getting inside, captured and bound the inmates. Two escaped from the house, but were soon overtaken and brought back. All of the inmates, five in number, were then pinioned, and led out to execution in the eastern portion of the city, where a gallows had been speedily erected, and where they were as speedily launched into eternity.
Thus ended the short but long growing war with the gamblers, and the city "had rest" from the fraternity for a period of not less than a quarter of a century. The names of the hung men, though of record, are not here given. It is enough to charge the memory and these pages with the sickening event. Some of them may have borne honored names, and it is certain all of them had fathers and mothers who may have been as virtuous as yours or mine, reader. And rather than blazon their names to the world, let us remember that innocent tears were shed for them, and let us rather ourselves drop a tear over their wrecked lives, remembering that they were once as innocent as that natural depravity in which we are all involved, will allow.
At that day, the flatboatman was an important factor in the business of the place as well as its social status. The later comers to our city will be surprised to learn that in those earlier times it was no uncommon thing to see in the Winter months as many as four or five hundred "broad horns" as the flatboats were called, tied up at our landing. They averaged about four men to the boat, giving a
98transient population of some fifteen hundred to two thousand souls, of this class alone. These flatboats were in active competition with the regular dealers in the city, and no good feeling at the time existed between them.
In the Winter of 1838, when McGinty was Mayor, and Schofney was Chief of Police, this hostility came near culminating in a bloody war between the flatboatmen and citizens. The City Council had levied a tax of $1 per month on all flatboats, which was promptly paid. Subsequently the tax, or wharfage, was raised to $2 00 per day, which was also promptly paid. But this heavy tax failed to run the flatboats off, and at a later meeting of the Council an ordinance was adopted raising the tax to $50 00 per day. At this the flatboatmen rebelled and determined upon resistance by force, if necessary, if enforcement of collection were attempted before adjudication in court could be had. To this end they armed themselves with the one or more rifles or shotguns on each boat, and with heavy bludgeons cut from a boat load of hickory hoop-poles lying at the landing. There were four hundred boats at the landing, and in two hours time the sum of $2,000 was raised to test the matter in court. But before the proceedings could be instituted the day for enforcement of the new ordinance arrived, when two companies of military, in full uniform, with muskets and fixed bayonets, and a piece of ordnance in front — perhaps the four pounder piece with which Captain Miller "brought to" the suspected boat twenty years afterwards — the whole preceded by the Mayor and Chief of Police, took up the line of march for the levee. A breastwork of cotton bales had been made opposite the wharfboat owned by Hall and Eddie, who were in the rebellion and who had a cannon loaded for the expected conflict. The flatboatmen assembled at the landing with their clubs — the guns being near at hand — mingled freely and fearlessly with the soldiers, and it is said, spiked their cannon. After much quarreling and threatening,
99and some feeble attempts at casting off the lines of some boats, disgust at the situation suddenly seized the citizens and soldiers, and they "marched up the hill again," concluding it was best to let the courts decide the question. Finally the Circuit Court decided against the city, and my informant, an intelligent gentleman who was an active party on the side of the resisters, says, taxed Guion and Prentiss, the owners of the landing, and for whose benefit the suits were instituted, with the costs. The distinguised lawyer, Joseph Holt, who in later years acquired a national reputation, was attorney for the flatboatmen. And thus ended what at one time threatened to be a bloody conflict. The story is related more to illustrate the character of the times and of the people, than for any intrinsic merit in it.
Chapter XII. — The Great Prentiss, and Other Giants of the Mississippi Bar Forty Years Ago.
The litigation in Mississippi which followed the great financial crash of 1837-40, the ending of the "flush times" of the period preceding that date, served to bring out and develop to its utmost limits all of the legal talent of the State. The dockets of the Courts were crowded with suits great and small, involving titles to lands and negroes, and all the intricacies of the law. The Circuit Court Clerks (both State and Federal) and their deputies, and the Marshals and Sheriffs and their deputies, were busy night and day, issuing and serving process. Both legal and fraudulent tranfers of property were being made, and hundreds of negroes were being "run" to Texas, that paradise of insolvent debtors in those days.
It was my fortune at this period to be a deputy Clerk in the Circuit Court of Claiborne county, Miss., at Port Gibson, the county seat, and amongst my other duties was that of "minutes" reader in the Courtroom; and I was custodian of the books and papers of the Court-room. These duties required my constant presence in Court on the trial of "causes;" and I had thereby abundant opportunity to see and hear the "array" of legal talent present, for several terms. Besides a home bar which claimed some of the best talent of the State; Ellet, Wilson, Coleman, Maury, Thrasher, Chaplin, et als., we would have present frequently, Montgomery, Boyd, McMurran and Thatcher, of Natchez; and Prentiss, Foote, Guion, Yerger and Tompkins, of Vicksburg; some of them with a national reputation, and all of them with more than local repute.
Litigated cases were very numerous owing to the financial troubles of the day, and though Court would
101hold for four weeks, the docket was never cleared. Unmindful of the maxim that "delay is dangerous," the defence would invariably plead to the declaration of the plaintiff, but "after that the judgment" would come, and then resort would be had to writs of supersedeas and certiorari, etc., and after the passage by the Legislature of the State, in 1843, of what was known as the Briscoe bill, the writ of quo warranto would be invoked in the bank cases, of which there were many. As the old farmers were nearly all in Court, and as the first named of these writs was first resorted to for his clients by a sprightly young lawyer of the Port Gibson Bar, named Baldwin, the writ came to be known by those old fellows, in the difficulty they had in remembering it, as "the Baldwin thing," while the last named one was called by them "the Curanter." They often asked me when the Curanter would be out.
The writ of "quo warranto," was a formidable weapon against the banks. Although a common law remedy, a special sanction was given to it by the passage of the Briscoe bill above alluded to. The passage of the bill was violently opposed in the Legislature, but the country needed it and it passed. It is a striking coincidence that at a period of great financial distress in England, as far back as 1693, a man named Briscoe, a lobby member of the House of Commons, caused a proposal, as follows, to be brought before the House: "Proposals for supplying their Majesties with money on easy terms, exempting the nobility and gentry, etc., from taxes, enlarging their yearly estates, and enriching all the subjects of the Kingdom, by a National Land Bank." (Macaulay's History of England). Though different in plan it yet had the same purpose as our Mississippi measure — the relief of the people who were being pressed by their creditors. This is about as good a case of history repeating itself as we ever see.
Although nearly every one of the lawyers I have named was a veteran at the bar, and like the old
102Roman, "wore the dust of the forum on his yet none of them shone with the lustre of
It was gold dust that covered his garments. I have read almost everything that has been written about this great genius — great even in his vices, and since so many eloquent pens have essayed to portray him, it looks like presumption in me to undertake it. Possibly as a child may sometimes utter a profound truth, or ask a question which a sage cannot answer, it may be my lot in my humble way to say something of this unique man, this "masterpiece" of creature wisdom and intelligence, which has not occurred to his gifted eulogists, and thus contribute something further in elucidation of his wonderful parts. As an advocate at the bar or a political speaker, he was such a master of all the arts that move men's minds and hearts — so perfect in all the parts of speech — so to speak — that it could not be said of him, as of most speakers, that he had a forte. And it is unjust too to use the word art in connection with his efforts, for no speaker could be less artificial. Indeed it was his perfect naturalness and earnestness that so captivated the listener. His comparisons were often ludicrous and striking beyond comparison. An instance in which he displayed this power occurs to me. A bank case in which he was counsel for defendant was being argued before the Circuit Court of Claiborne county. The bank attorney had filed a replication to his plea in abatement, and had made his oral argument. He was an impassioned speaker, and ranted a little on this occasion, coming up to the points of the plea in a dashing style, but going off on some collateral issue, to the neglect of his main points. The Courtroom was crowded with spectators, as it always was when Prentiss was expected to speak. As Prentiss rose to reply, it was plain to see by the twinkle of his eye and the merry smile playing upon his features, that there was mischief in him, and that it would "out." He started off in a jocular tone: "May it
103please the Court. Doubtless your Honor, as well as these bystanders, have been highly amused as well as entertained at the "cavortings" of my learned friend, the counsel for the plaintiff. It has been well nigh impossible for me to keep up with the gentleman as be dashed over the course of his argument, charging up to the barrier which my plea interposed to his unrighteous claim with the gallantry of a crusader with lance in poise, only to wheel about and gallop off on some issue not made, or to attack at some apparently more vulnerable point. Indeed, the gentleman reminded me of a three-year-old colt of the masculine gender shut up in a ten-acre staked and ridered lot, anxious to be freed from restraint. You have seen him come with the speed of the wind to a panel of the fence, with the apparent purpose of leaping it with a single bound, only to throw out his fore feet and stop with a wild snort, and then tear off around the lot with head and tail up, and neighing vigorously as he ran!" My language is intended rather to give an idea of what he said than to quote him; that would be a perilous undertaking for my pen, and then the wild gestures and animated tone suited to the picture cannot be portrayed on paper. With the close of the sentence came a great roar of laughter, which the Court did not attempt to suppress. Judge Coulter was on the bench. By the way, he (Prentiss) once had an altercation with the Judge, at a Bar where they were opposing counsel in a cause. He had ridiculed and made sport of the Judge until his Irish blood could stand it no longer. He gave Prentiss a single blow which sent him under a bench near by. The difficulty was stopped and everybody expected Prentiss to challenge him; but he did not, and upon being asked why he did not, replied, "the challenge would be accepted to fight with fists if I sent it, and have no desire to be struck again with a coulter!"
I have given in the foregoing but a sample of the many humorous illustrations he gave in the course of his effort, showing his perfect mastery of this
104weapon of speech. But he no more excelled in that than in any other line. The sparks of wit, sarcasm, happy illustration, and humor, would fly out even as he struck his heavy blows of sledge-hammer logic.
General Foote, as he was then known, but afterwards U. S. Senator and Governor of the State, was frequently at this Court. He was a man of marvelous fluency, very bitter and personal in his speech, but no match for Prentiss at the Bar, on the political rostrum, or on the field of honor, as was proved in a contest they had there. Yet he was a man of high order of intellect and courage. He had read largely of literature, and retained much he had read — perhaps more of that than of law, for his standing as a lawyer was not high. He was cool, self-possessed, and courteous in his bearing and language; even his invective discourse being invested with a dignity and courtliness which took some of its sharpness from it.
Foote was familar with the poets and indulged freely in poetic quotations. On one occasion at the Claiborne Bar, in defending a criminal in a change of venue case from Warren county, he had introduced the wife of the prisoner as a witness, and the somewhat unnatural spectacle of a mother testifying against her own daughter was witnessed. Foote, while feeling the necessity of her testimony, was yet doubtful of its effect upon the jury. In dwelling upon her testimony, he quoted the familiar lines from Moore:
And shield thee and save thee, or perish there too."
The opposing counsel, assisting the District Attorney, and with whom the management of the case, on the part of the State, mainly rested, Col. Pat. Tompkins, who was subsequently a Whig member of Congress (1848-9,) was no mean antagonist. Besides being a sharp lawyer, he was a great story-teller, and was therefore popular with juries. He and Foote were on the best of terms, and they indulged in much badinage and other humor at each other's
105expense; Tompkins generally getting the advantage, but he was less apt in quoting poetry, for in replying to Foote on the testimony of the wife, he said it was fortunate for the connsel that he did not go a little farther in his quotation, when he would have encountered these words:
One of the curiosities of the Port Gibson bar, was old Judge S. He was always old; nobody ever remembered him as ever having been young. His education was quite limited, but he had read the "ancients" to some extent and was quite proud of his acquirements in that line, quoting them frequently with great solemnity. He was "mighty" in the law, and from his thorough knowledge of it was not a little feared by the other attorneys. He had a lugubrious countenance and always wore spectacles — large glasses and heavy frames — and was stoop shouldered, had long arms and large hands; took enormeous chews of tobacco which he stowed away in his right jaw balancing the chew with his left hand under his coat-tail, his fingers lifting it up and out.
He wore a derisive and belittling smile throughout the trial whenever opposed by one of the younger limbs of the law. On one occasion a client asked him to go with him to a Magistrate's court, where he (the client) was being sued, to defend him. He went with him to the door of the justice's office, looked in, and seeing that a young lawyer was managing the case on the other side, he turned away, saying to his client in a solemn tone as he went off, you have no use for a lawyer!"
But to return to the great lawyer and orator. I
106have recently read Judge Shields' "Life and Times of S. S. Prentiss," a work which does justice to the subject as far as any pen can do it, and is highly creditable to the author as a literary production. Judge Shields has a large and sympathetic audience, embracing a large share of the reading public and all of the Bar (particularly of the younger members) of the South, under whose social and political institutions his subject's marvelous powers ripened to maturity; besides a large class of readers in the North, and in New England where Prentiss was born and where he received his early training. Both sections are proud of him, and the author had no prejudices to overcome or encounter in treating his subject. The universal popularity of Mr. Prentiss made the task of the biographer a comparatively easy one, standing for the writer instead of a reputation of his own. Had the style of the writer been as poor as the work of the artist who got up the portrait of the subject, such was the desire to learn the facts of Prentiss' life, the traits of his character, and to get glimpses of his real self as caught in his more or less accurately reported speeches, that the literary merit of the work became a secondary consideration.
Though the task was thus made easy of execution it is not carelessly performed. On the contrary much care is evinced and a high degree of taste displayed. The performance is altogether a creditable one to Southern authorship. The fact that the author had been the pupil and warm personal friend of his subject was as much an embarrassment as an advantage. Loyalty to affection not unfrequently obscures the judgment and may too readily move the hand to draw the mantle of charity over most glaring defects.
I often heard Mr. Prentiss at the bar and on the political rostrum. I heard some of his finest orations and have read all of those which have been published. I believe the enthusiasm he excited in the minds and hearts of those who heard him has survived longer than that aroused by any speaker of
107modern times. I can truthfully say that even now while I am penning these lines I am under the magic spell of his oratory, so vivid is the recollection of his weird supernatural eloquence of speech and manner. These pleasing recollections of the exalted pleasure in listening to him make it, as it were, a sacrilege to speak of his faults. It is painful to think, much more to speak of them, and I can well sympathise with the biographer at his shunning to declare the whole unpalatable truth.
I don't believe that a loftier soul'd man ever breathed. The noblest thoughts of all the great men that history tells us of, were those which clung closest to his memory and found readiest utterance in his speech. I know it is not orthodox to say that his vices were not a part of his nature, but his thoughts were so pure and his sentiments so elevated, that it is hard to believe these vices were born within, but that they were the rather an external force to whose power he yielded. The bitterness of his invective and irony were but the expression of his lofty scorn and contempt for things base and mean; and who can read those beautiful letters to his mother and sisters, which are the breathings of the tender spirit of a loving woman rather than the utterances of a man addicted to gross vices, and not feel that the spirit which dictated them was a pure one.
I have thought that in those transporting moments when the golden words were dropping from his lips, when with head erect and his shoulders working like the wings of a bird in flight, he was as happy as mortal can well be; that in such moments the beautiful images which his fancy had created were entrancing his soul and lifting him far above and beyond his earthly surroundings, "as far as the stars of heaven are above the clods of the valley," as I once heard him say. And such was his magnetic power that he drew his audience up with him, making them partakers of his own felicity.
In conclusion, I cannot resist the temptation of the opportunity to give an incident illustrative of
108his influence over an audience; one not given in the biography. It was on the occasion of his great speech at Rodney, Miss., in the Clay and Polk canvass of 1844, briefly alluded to in the biography. At the beginning of his speech the audience, a large one, composed of both ladies and men, was much scattered on the hill-side, but within sound of his voice. As he warmed up in his masterly discussion of the political topics of the day and the issues of the canvass, the audience began to move in the direction of the stand. I was myself a good way off, but moved up with others, insensibly (so absorbed was I in his great thoughts,) until within a few feet of the speaker, and stood entranced, with the rest of the crowd, then hanging about the stand — as I have seen bees about the mouth of a hive eager for every drop of the distilled nectar — shouting and weeping by turns; and when at the close, I gradually began to realize my individuality, I turned in the fullness of my heart to say something to whomsoever might be nearest me, when I found right at my side a devout and pious Methodist lady, the wife of a leading Democrat of the town, whose first utterance, as my eyes met hers, then streaming with tears, was, with uplifted hands, "Oh that he were a preacher."
In this canvass the opprobrious epithet, "Locofoco," was frequently applied to the Democrats by Whig orators and writers. Prentiss had used it very freely at Natchez in a speech a few days before, in which he undertook to prove that the Devil was a "Locofoco" and that the Democrats were his legitimate offspring! The Democrats were greatly offended at this, particularly the good old Methodist and Baptist Democrats. Some of Prentiss' whig friends urged him to "explain" and soften down the matter, and if necessary to apologize, attributing his language to unwonted excitement and heat of debate. He undertook the task with a bad grace and got so mad in its performance that he turned it into a justification instead of an apology, making the apology worse than the offense!
One of the striking features of this occasion was
109that of the erect figure of an inveterate old whig, Major M., of Vicksburg, standing erect on the side of the platform throughout the delivery of the long speech, and a greater part of the time in tears. He stood with his gold-headed cane in his hand as motionless as one of the wax figures in Madam Tussaud's celebrated exhibition in London, looking like a frozen statue beginning to melt under the hot logic of the speaker.
But the highest point of excitement was raached, when the speaker, holding in one hand a Democratic document on the slavery question, for circulation in the South, and another on the slavery question for the North, of very different tone and tenor, both of which he had just read, and was commenting upon in a torrent of fierce denunciation, and frothing at the mouth like an enraged bull, when as he brought them together, calling them "the acid and the alkali vanishing into frothy nothingness," he suddenly fainted, and fell to the floor of the platform before his friends could reach him. This was a painful moment to the entranced listeners. Restoratives soon brought him to, and as he came limping to the front again, and choking as his words sought utterance, shaking his head with its long locks, and looking the lion that he was, a great shout of encouragement went up from the excited crowd. I think, I can quote his opening sentence slowly uttered, after the applause subsided: "Fellow citizens, my failing health admonishes me, that I should cease these efforts, but (with great emphasis) I feel that a new vein of love for my country is bursting from my heart every day, and reaching out to save it, as I contemplate the maddened efforts of this reckless party to destroy with wicked hands, the grand fabric of civil and religious liberty reared by our fathers." It is needless to say how this burst of eloquence was received, and how, throughout the remainder of the speech he was often interrupted with deafening applause.
Chapter XIII. — The Southern Pacific Railroad.
The Commercial Convention held in May, 1845, at Memphis, Tenn., which is made the subject of a previous sketch by the writer, had a very marked influence upon the Southern mind. It is certain that it led to the building of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, and the projecting of other similar enterprises, and of one in particular of much greater magnitude than the first named, to-wit: The Southern Pacific Railroad, chartered by the State of Texas, about the year 1850, making a magnificent grant of land to the corporation, together with a loan of U. S. bonds, out of the indemnity bonds appropriated by Congress and paid over by the Government when the union of the two Republics was consummated by the admission of Texas as one of the States of the Federal Union; the named grants being available, however, only as the road progressed, and as the work was passed upon and received by the State officials.
It will thus be seen that the project of railroad communication between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans was an original Southern idea, or enterprise — the connecting lines east and west of Texas having been provided for by other charters — and but for the occurrence of the war, doubtless the Southern route to California would have been completed in a few years, and possibly the middle and Northern routes, though thought of, would never have been undertaken.
This great enterprise took a deep hold upon the South, and upon its first organization the stock was subscribed for with great avidity, some parties selling valuable property that they might purchase stock at par, and others investing in it all of their
111cash capital. I think the Hon. T. Butler King, of Georgia, father of Congressman King, of Louisiana, was its first President. The great boom in stock, however, did not occur until about the time that the late Geo. S. Yerger, of Mississippi, was elected President. He had been a successful and prominent lawyer of high character for business integrity, and of known aversion to speculative schemes. The high character of Mr. Yerger induced parties to subscribe for the stock, who, while attracted by the enterprise, were yet dubious of its success from bad management or dishonest dealings.
Mr. Yerger, though eminent in his profession, was wholly without fitness for this position, as he had no knowledge of railroading and was not a man of that practical business experience which the position required. He was too good a man for the place; too liable to be imposed upon by tricksters, and, as I remember, before his first year's term expired, he resigned. The enterprise had been puffed by the press of the South extravagantly, and, as was believed, at great cost to the company. This opinion, together with some transactions of a suspicious character in connection with the road, led to distrust on the part of some stockholders, who abandoned it, leading to further unfavorable comments in the public prints and in private circles.
Dr. Jeptha Fowlkes, of Memphis, Tenn., a man of brains, and brass too, as some thought, was Mr. Yerger's successor. He was a man of great energy and industry, abundant in mental resources, but deficient in those pecuniary resources which business men so much value and respect. And his hope was boundless. His was one of those human breasts in which it was true that "hope springs eternal." He never fell to rise no more. A vanishing scheme always had a successor rising and rolling on in majesty, and though it might to others appear to be only a cloud big with disaster, to him it always had a silver lining and was fraught with blessings. He was a brilliant and magnetic talker, but be failed
112to impart his own enthusiasm to monied men. To the impecunious, like himself, he was an inspired prophet, and they would involuntarily feel for the money with which his glowing imagination would fill their pockets.
In those days the enterprising men of the country were nearly all poor, yet these enterprising poor men were the originators of almost every scheme that promised good to the country. Still, monied men invariably called them impracticable visionaries and enthusiasts, and they would take up the schemes of those visionaries, after they had been demonstrated, without even a stray thought of the poor devils whose brains conceived them. And they had precious little care for the feelings of the "poor devils" too. I greatly enjoyed a report which one of these enterprising strapped individuals gave me in New Orleans one day, of an interview he had with the President of one of the city banks.
My friend had a scheme in which there was "millions." He called on the President, was shown into his private office; was received politely and asked to be seated. "What can I do for you?" said the President. My friend after turning several ways in his chair and shifting his left leg from the bottom of his right one to the top of it, commenced unfolding his tale, demonstrating it by frequent references to his carefully prepared figures, the President listening with great patience and apparent interest to the end, his absorbed attention encouraging my friend to unfold his tale to the utmost extremity. When it was apparent that he had finished, the President drew down his gold-rimmed spectacles from his "noble brow," and after carefully adjusting them to his eyes looked straight at my friend and said: "Well sir, how much money have you got to invest in this scheme?" With a half spring from his seat, he deprecatingly replied, "Oh! sir, I have no capital." "Yes, yes," said the old man, "I notice that all of you fellows who are so d — d enterprising never have any money!" My friend skipped out!
113Not long after Dr. Fowlkes was made President, he paid a visit to New Orleans where there lived a number of shareholders in the company, and where I resided at the time, in the Fall of 1859. I had not known him before this visit; was introduced by a friend who recommended me as a suitable person for the New Orleans agency for the company, and I received the appointment from the Doctor. I was soon immersed in its business, which the Doctor made very lively. One of the Doctor's strong points with the public, and by which he kept up a lively interest in the enterprise, was the certainty, as he put it, of aid from the general Government under a bill to be presented at the approaching session of Congress. The bill was introduced and pressed with great vigor, the Doctor carrying all the while, at Washington and elsewhere, a hatful of stock, which he would transfer according to emergencies, saying "there's enough for all; go in and work for the bill." Good headway was made that session, and when the session of 1860 came on, he had, by his indomitable perseverance, worked up such an interest in the bill as to get it up early in the session, and in spite of the political excitement prevailing, kept it so constantly before Congress, that both Houses finally passed it, and the very day of its engrossment, and when it was to go to the President for his signature,
The affairs of the road grew from bad to worse, until its creditors began to sue and get judgments, and finally, in the Spring of 1862, it was advertised to be sold by the Sheriff of Harrison county, at
114Marshall, Texas, the domicil of the company, on a given day. The directors appealed to me as agent to save the road by getting some stockholder to buy it in. I succeeded in getting a New Orleans stockholder to advance a sufficient sum to effect the purpose, and I went to Marshall to attend the sale. Coming up the river from New Orleans by boat I crossed over to Louisiana, traveling by stage from Monroe, to which point I had gone by rail from a point twenty miles from Vicksburg, to Shreveport, with a company of gay young people, three men and two young ladies. The time occupied in the trip was two nights and a day. The conveyance was a fraud in point of comfort, and the bumps we got in driving over the innumerable roots in the long stretches of piney woods road were too numerous to mention. I have a legal friend who has a law book in his library entitled "Bump on Fraudulent Conveyances." Whenever I go into his office and this book meets my eyes, I instinctively turn from it in horror, because it reminds me of this trip. The first night out we fairly triumphed over our discomfort by telling stories, much hearty laughter, and by singing the war songs of the day, with which the young ladies were familiar, and in which they heartily joined. We had as passenger a young Captain from Shreveport, named Levy, I think, who was on furlough returning to his home, a gay, bright fellow, and a young Lieutenant (whose name I regret having forgotten) from Northern Texas or Western Arkansas, also a sprightly talker and good relator of anecdotes. He was in the surrender at Fort Donelson and had been taken with others of his command to a Northern prison, from which he had lately, by some good stroke of fortune escaped, as I remember. He told us a good story of
115volunteers he enlisted in the Southern army, neither knowing anything of the causes of the war, nor caring for its consequences to himself or anybody else. He was in the surrender with the Lieutenant, and with him in prison. It so chanced that the prison was not very distant from the boy's native home. John's family, by some other means than of his own contriving, heard of his imprisonment, and an elder brother was sent to look after him. John was summoned to the office of the prison to see his brother. He walked in barefoot, coatless, with one "gallus" to his "britchers," and with a weather-beaten slouched wool hat on his head, and wearing a dogged don't care expression of countenance. His brother immediately fell upon his neck and wept sorely. As the sobbing abated, with choking utterance he said, "John, oh John! why did you shoot at the old flag!" John impatiently pushed him off and jerked out the words, "d—n the old flag who keers for it?" Not a tear was shed by John. His breast was a stranger to all tender emotions. The brother "put shoes on his feet" and otherwise arrayed him in costly apparel, part of which, together with all of the good books he brought, John swapped off for candy, apples and ginger-cakes!
I spent the night of the day on which I left Shreveport for Marshall with a farmer on the roadside, at the request of the Lieutenant, that I might inform the farmer that his son was well and safe in the prison the Lieutenant had left. The son had not been heard of since the investment of Fort Donelson. The old man received the news I bore to him with great fortitude, simply remarking that he "wouldn't have missed it for twenty-five dollars!" I suppose he meant in Confederate currency. My good news did not relieve me of payment of the usual fare on decamping next morning.
I reached Marshall safely, and two days thereafter the road was sold. I became the purchaser in my own name, as under the opinion of the road's attorney, the late Governor Murrah, of Texas, the
116purchase in the name of the stockholder would be void, under the decision of the Courts. The title to the road and all its grants and franchises passed to me as sole owner. I appointed a Board of Directors, and the second day after, I reconveyed the property to them for the benefit of the stockholders and those who should become such. It will thus be seen that for the space of twenty-four hours I was a great railway king! For this valuable service I received a small balance due me on old account, and a vote of thanks! Sic transit gloria mundi.
I asked a lawyer one day, not a great while since, if I could not have this transfer set aside by the courts, and get my property back! "Oh yes," said he, "no trouble about that. All you have to do is to prove that you were non compus mentis when you made it, and judging the past by the present, I don't think you would have any difficulty about that!" Did you ever?
I received my pay in the bonds of the Government paid over to the company by the State, which, with others put into my hands by the company for sale, I afterwards sold to parties (chiefly at Natchez, Miss.) for Confederate money, who had less faith in the Confederate cause than I had, and who proved to be wiser than I was, though payment of the bonds at maturity was refused, I have been told; on what grounds I have forgotten, but subsequently they were paid with interest. I was at one time offered by a capitalist at Natchez a very heavy mortgage on the finest plantation in the neighborhood of Vicksburg for a few of these bonds. I was not wise in refusing the offer.
The work on the road was pushed forward after the sale to a point which secured the State loan of U. S. bonds and the issuing of patents for lands. The road was kept up during the war, mainly through Confederate Government patronage. At the close of the war I resumed my agency in New Orleans, and as agent I purchased iron enough to rebuild the road from Shreveport to the State line, the same piece of
117road having been leased to our road by the V. S. and T. road, during the war. Before the close of 1865, new complications arose, the road became involved in debt again, and in about a year after was sold and fell into the hands of capitalists who cleaned out the old stockholders. I was a sufferer for a considerable sum as stockholder, and on account for past services. I was left out in the cold and have never since been taken in! "The stars in their courses fought against Sisera." Mayhap some of the shoemakers and other craftsmen, would have "stuck to their lasts" and had a smaller harvest of barren regrets, if before going into this new thing they had read the following lines by the author of Lucile:
May hope to achieve it before life be done;
But he who seeks all things wherever he goes,
Only reaps from the hopes which around him be sows
A harvest of barren regrets. And the worm
That crawls on in the dust to the definite term
Of its creeping existence, and sees nothing more
Than the path it pursues till the creeping be o'er,
In its limited vision, is happier far
Than half-sage, whose course, fixed by no friendly star
Is by each star distracted in turn, and who knows
Each will still be as distant wherever he goes."
Chapter XIV. — The Yellow Fever of 1853.
In May, 1853, the whole country was startled by the unexpected appearance and spread of this scourge of the tropics in the city of New Orleans. It was a new experience with the disease, as it was the first time in its history that its ravages had begun in a Spring month, and having begun so early, it was certain that its continuance might be counted on for a period of six months. At least that it would be unsafe to return to or go into a place where it had prevailed before one or more frosts had occurred. I know there exists a theory that the disease is limited to a period of ninety days, regardless of frost, but it is a theory which, however much it may be sustained by the apparent subsidence of the disease at the end of the period, is yet not credited to the extent of inducing the unacclimated to take the risk of returning before frost; and besides its early appearance in New Orleans, it was pronounced by the physicians of the city to be of a most malignant type, so much so that some were inclined to regard it as being mixed with some other deadly form of disease.
This was at a period before anything like a country quarantine was known, and before intercourse with infected points was inhibited by country towns. And there are always to be found persons who will take any risks sooner than be interrupted in their plans of business; their insensibility to danger arising however, generally, more from their ignorance than their courage or recklessness. And again, many of the country towns which have since been afflicted severely, had not been afflicted up to that time; this fact begetting a feeling of security
119that made them inapprehensive of danger. This feeling of security or exemption was felt by the community when
The occurrence of this single case, while it occasioned talk, did not create such excitement as it would now, the opinion that the disease would not spread, prevailing. But its stately steppings, as it crossed the street and slowly worked its way up town in the direction of the Court-house, were plainly visible, and the community became alarmed, which alarm was increased by the arrival of a family from New Orleans, and the reported sickness in it of a yellow female servant, with the disease. A number of families began immediately to prepare for leaving. The country people, in a noble hospitality, threw open their doors to receive the refugees. It was my good fortune to be invited by my now deceased friend, Col. John C. Humphreys, to take my family to his delightful plantation home, Glensade, a little less than two miles from town. I accepted the invitation with the understanding that I was to be permitted to go to town and help care for the sick. He also invited Judge Ellet, now of Memphis, to make Glensade the asylum of himself and family. We went, and that too without ‘standing on the order of our
120going.’ We numbered in the three families, as well as I remember, exclusive of servants, just nineteen. The house was commodious and delightful in every respect, and we were a truly happy family.
There are, happily, in the lives of all of us, days and months, and sometimes years, whose memory we love to cherish — those days that have about them only the freshness of Springtime and the perfume of the flowers that bloom in the early Summer time; days so precious to us that sooner than have them fade from memory or wither by the touch of time, we would fain water them with our tears. And such were the days of the three months spent in this happy home. Sorrow and death have invaded the three households since, but the survivors are permitted to look back through the shadows which have darkened their homes, and gaze with lingering eye upon the sunny spot.
Notwitstanding the hasty exodus of a number of families from the town, there remained a sufficient number, through obstinacy and from other causes, to make the few of us who knew anything about the disease feel extremely anxious and to tremble at the responsibility which lay upon us. I remember a meeting we three had one night, after many had been stricken, and the silent shake of the head I got from the others in response to my question, "what will we do if all these people are attacked and we alone are left to care for them?" We had organized the nursing as well as we could, mainly through the efforts and management of Mr. Joe Maganos, now of Vicksburg, and all helped with cheerfulness, but the nurses would wear out under the great labor of their work, and would themselves get sick. This went on until we had nearly reached the point of despair, when one morning to our great joy,
I am not sure of it, but I think this was the first year of the thorough organization of the Howard Association of New Orleans. The example set at New Orleans has been followed by other cities and while it has been the means of accomplishing much good it has not always been free of unworthy members, persons who allied themselves with it from unworthy motives; as destitute of that noble humanity out of which it sprung and from which it took its name as could be — characters whose conduct was such as to bring it into disrepute and sometimes contempt. This is perhaps unavoidable owing to the pressure of demands upon them in epidemic years. They have often employed and sent out as nurses, at infected points, very disreputable characters, and there were some such sent to Port Gibson in 1853. Still they were a help and certainly relieved to a great extent the painful anxiety felt.
Whenever a community is agitated about an impending or progressing calamity, the "lewd fellows of the baser sort" push themselves to the front, and unless they are dealt with by a strong hand, they will get in the lead. A great calamity is a great leveller, bringing to the surface the baseness that hides itself in dark places when tranquility prevails. Such seasons are the carnival of the Proletariat. I remember a laughable instance of the leveling effect of the epidemic at Port Gibson, as told by that beloved and eloquent pastor of the Presbyterian Church, Reverend Zebulon Butler. He was the center of a little knot of citizens one day while the fever prevailed, discussing the situation, and had just expressed an opinion about something, when one of those disreputable characters, appropriately standing on the outer edge of the little crowd, raised his voice and said, "Butler, I don't think so!" It was perhaps the first and last time in the ministerial life of this revered and respected Pastor, that he was addressed with such familiarity. He enjoyed telling this illustrative story very much. Speaking of this eminent minister, whose memory is so dear to his
122church and to the people of Port Gibson, reminds me of his great usefulness during the fever, and of his cheerfulness and courage throughout the trying and laborious ordeal to him. Happily for his people, he kept well all the time. I remember a funeral at which he officiated, one day. It was that of a poor unknown mechanic from the West, who had died. Three or four of us had assembled to put him in the rude coffin prepared and then place him in the dead cart. After we had fastened the lid down, the Doctor recited some appropriate passages of scripture and with his hands resting upon the posts of two bedsteads, between which he stood, and with an expression of countenance as rapt as we imagine the Prophet's was when he went up in a chariot of fire, poured forth from his eloquent lips a discourse as grand as any that ever heralded a monarch to the skies. It would be a vain thing for me to attempt a reproduction of what he said. Those who remember him in his most impassioned and exalted moods can imagine what I saw and heard.
I continued to pass back and forth from town to Glensade, carrying out articles needed by the inmates and the too often sad news of the sickening and dying of friends. There was not that apprehension felt then that there has been in later epidemics, of the disease being transmitted through clothing and other articles. Of a cool day, when I had worn a thick coat to town, I would find a thin one perhaps, at the gate, to be exchanged for the thick one — the latter to be left out to air for some hours. While some cases occurred in the country from causes which may or may not be explainable, it is yet true that there was far less danger of the disease being carried about then than at later periods of its prevalence. An instance of its assuming an epidemic form on a plantation is worth relating. A convalescent patient had gone from town to Lacache, eight miles east of town, the plantation of the Messrs. Cobun, batchelors, uncles of Col. Humphreys, to recuperate. Both of the Messrs. Cobun became infected with the disease by contact
123with this patient, and both of them died. I made several visits to the place myself. Afterwards it broke out amongst the negroes, and about one hundred of them were mildly attacked but without a single case proving fatal. It is my recollection that but few negroes were attacked in town, and before that year they were considered as being as little liable to an attack as native whites of New Orleans were.
In a previous sketch I have remarked upon the surprises at the recoveries and deaths in the disease — upon the apparent non-dependence upon circumstances, condition, treatment, etc. My memory gives me a striking case in illustration of this at Port Gibson. A printer of the town, a very hard drinker, was attacked. He had had mania-a-potu several times and everybody said he would die. His surroundings were altogether unpropitious and it was said he had black vomit. He recovered. Perhaps it was not the right type of the disease to cary him off!
In the same sketch immunity from a second attack of the disease is remarked upon with a good degree of particularity. A case in point occurs to me in this epidemic, which is well remembered by me. A German Jew, who had two brothers in business at Port Gibson, arrived at the place while the fever was raging, and after his two brothers had been attacked. He passed through the season untouched by the disease; the altogether probable secret of which was, that twenty-five years previously he had the fever at Charleston, and though he soon thereafter returned to and remained in Germany until within a few weeks before his arrival at Port Gibson, he had not yet worn out his exemption.
A remarkable case of failure to contract the disease when the conviction was firmly fixed in the mind of the party that he would have it, was that of a lawyer of the town, Mr. M., whose brother, a great favorite of the people, had died. He had nursed his brother faithfully with me, and I could not discover a single sign of fear about him, yet as I
124have stated, the conviction that he would have it and die, was firmly fixed in his mind. As an evidence of this conviction he called me into his brother's store one day and told me in all seriousness that he wanted me to take his measure for a coffin; that he knew he would be sick and would die, and that he wanted me to be certain to get a coffin long enough for him. (He was about six feet five.) He stretched himself out on the counter and I carefully took his measure. But he was not attacked, and lived to serve through the war with distinction as a Captain of artillery, and died at last at the hands of an assassin.
Judge Ellet was a candidate for election to the State Senate at this time, and I attended some of his speaking appointments in the country with him, to encourage the people to continue their donations of supplies to the sufferers in town. These appeals were responded to with cheerfulness and outside relief, except through the Howards in New Orleans, was not called for. I hope if we should ever have another visitation of this plague, that outside help may not be called for. It is not probable with our present stringent quarantine regulations, that we shall ever have another wide-spead epidemic, and I think the State, when it shall again occur, should take care of herself. The noble charity of the whole country in 1878 will long be remembered with gratitude by the people of this State, and especially by the afflicted portions of it, but I am pursuaded, from my observation, that it created much demoralization and begot a feeling of dependence upon others, which is not consistent with self-respect and the cultivation of a self-helpful spirit. And yet it is hard to see what would have become of us in 1878 but for this help. Let us pray that there will never again be occasion for it.
One day in the latter part of September, a citizen standing some twenty feet from a gentleman on horseback who had stopped in the street for a
125moment to speak to a friend, as he was passing hurriedly through the town, reported that the gentleman on horseback had stated to his friend that Mrs. Reid, a citizen of the place, had arrived at Grand Gulf that morning on a steamboat, from a visit abroad, on her way home to Port Gibson, and that she had the small-pox. The report of this new horror soon spread over town, creating much excitement, and a public meeting was held in the street, in which the friend whose measure I had taken for a coffin was conspicuous, which resolved to forbid Mrs. Reid's return to the town, and to forcibly prevent it if necessary. I was in town myself and on my way to Grand Gulf to look after some sick relatives there, the fever having broken out there soon after its appearance at Port Gibson — and I was deputed to inform Mrs. Reid of the resolve of the meeting. I started off and when within about two miles of Grand Gulf I saw an open carriage approaching me and seated in it a stout healthy looking lady. As it came near I saw that the occupant was the veritable lady with the small-pox. After taking the precaution to get to the windward of the carriage, I halted, and called to the driver to stop. She gave me a gracious bow and a smile which revealed the dimples in her rosy cheeks, but I could see no pimples. I laughingly told her of the report and proceedings of the meeting, at which she was much amused and told me to go to old man C. when I reached town, and inquire about the hearty breakfast she took at his house that morning after getting off the boat, if I believed anything of the report.
Soon after reaching town another and special runner, young D., from Port Gibson, came charging into town armed with the formal resolutions of the meeting, his horse in a foam, and he himself red with excitement and in a profuse perspiration. He had met the widow too and had come on to learn what it all meant. I proposed that we should seek old man C. We found him in a little crowd declaiming about the baseness of the people of Port Gibson, saying they
126were always trying to injure Grand Gulf. He had heard the report and was greatly excited about it. He went on to explain to the crowd, saying, "Mrs. Reid arrived that morning on the steamer Swamp Fox." "There," I said to young D., "that explains all," and we turned away to laugh, while the old man continued to heap epithets upon the innocent town and her badly fooled people. We returned to Port Gibson and found the excitement allayed. The gentleman on horseback had said to his friend that Mrs. Reid had arrived that morning on the Swamp Fox, but the gentleman standing near by had understood him to say Mrs. R. had the small-pox, and the man spoken to had himself gone to the country and knew nothing of the excitement. Moral: First be certain you have heard aright, before undertaking to report what you have heard.
One of the annoying things about yellow fever is the frequent change of type — presenting new features which require new, or a modification of old remedies — though the general characteristics may remain unchanged. And this cannot be a mere fancy of the physicians. To so charge them would be to impugn their veracity. In 1853 cold applications were sparingly used by the physicians generally at this place, but in 1855 a case was begun and proceeded with up to the subsidence of the fever, with the ice-bag at the back of the neck. In 1853 the first step was to unload the stomach of its contents, generally by the speediest emetic — salt and mustard were much used to effect this — and then to take steps to promote perspiration. One of the physicians at Grand Gulf, (Dr. McAllister) had good success by pouring cold and sometimes warm water, according to the constitutional peculiarities of the patient, on the back of the neck. But there is no known specific in the disease, and, as before said, they die and get well under all modes of treatment, and under all circumstances.
After the first good killing frost, the town inmates of Glensade returned to their homes, with
127grateful recollections of the unstinted and cheerful hospitality they had enjoyed at the hands of the congenial inmates of that delightful country seat, which is yet in the family, the property of a son of Col. H. The mortality had been very considerable in town, and the community had to mourn the loss of some of its most valuable citizens. Business, too, of course, had been greatly interrupted and disorganized, causing losses in trade which were seriously felt.
In 1855 the disease prevailed again at Port Gibson in epidemic form. I moved my family to a point in the country, but near enough for me to go in and out daily. At the close, and after two or three good frosts, and after well ventilating my residence, which had not been occupied in our absence, I brought my family back, and in less than a week's time two members of it were taken down, having genuine bomb proof cases, as subsequent exposure testifies. The same thing occurred with some other families, and with more melancholy results in some of them.
It is possible that in the foregoing sketch I may have confounded some of the incidents of 1855 with those of 1853. But I think not. My recollections of the first season seem to be more distinct than the last. "Yes, just like all old people," some envious wretch and slanderer will say — "can't remember anything unless it happened fifty or a hundred years ago!"
Chapter XV. — The Treatment of Slaves at this Period, Etc., Etc.
Slavery, like every other institution of civilized society, was liable to and had its abuses. To deny this, would not only falsify history, but it would be the setting up of a claim to a degree of perfection on the part of the Southern slave holder which never has been attained by man in any country or under any form of government. The slave holders of the South were drawn from all the civilized nations of the world, and had these been substituted, every decade, during the existence of slavery, by others, drawn from the same peoples, the same abuses would have been practiced and observed. It is not in the indiscriminate man in any country to do otherwise, under like circumstances, than just as the Southerner did. Cruel and vicious men are to be found everywhere and in all grades of society, from the highest to the lowest. To deny this is to deny what is palpable in history and patent to daily observation; and they will continue to abound until the millenial day shall transform them into "new creatures." Enthusiasts and fanatics may deceive themselves and others until they have turned the world upside down with their vagaries, yet human nature in its native qualities — in its natural depravity, will remain essentially and practically the same, here, there, and everywhere. This is not an unproved hypothesis; it is a demonstrated fact.
Slavery in Mississippi, at the period of which I am writing, say from 1836 to 1850, was as mild in its form as was consistent with the efficiency of the slave and the welfare and safety of the two races. The slave was property, and as such could not be invested
129by law with all the rights of freemen, without working the destruction of the property. The existence of slavery depended upon the narrowed sphere of the slave's civil rights. Had the sphere been widened to a consistency with our free institutions, such widening would have virtually destroyed the institution. The policy pursued by the slave States was consistent with the fact of slavery, and it was an inexorable necessity that the policy should be mantained. Otherwise the institution was not worth maintaining, or consistent with public safety. This reasoning does not touch the right or wrong of slavery, but applies to its control as it existed. The moral question involved disturbs the conscience of the South but little, beyond the individual's conduct toward his slave. The South neither created nor destroyed the institution, and she may well leave the "pangs" of consciene to those who are responsible for the acts.
The writer knows of his own knowledge, that cruelties and grievous wrongs were perpetrated upon slaves by their owners; such wrongs as were shocking to the sensibilities of the whole community, but these were exceptions to the rule. He knows also of more cases of leniency and lax discipline, much to the injury of the slaves themselves and to the interests of neighbors. Indeed this was often true to such an extent that the slaves became utterly worthless. Interest and humanity combined, in a great majority of eases, to make owners just and kind to their slaves. The employment of overseers was a necessity on large plantations and in cases where an owner had more than one place. The world thinks these overseers were all brutal, but that is a great mistake. Some of them were kinder than the masters. The position gave the opportunity for the greatest brutalities, and they were sometimes practiced. It was a bad system, and there was a growing sentiment against it, some planters holding to the view that only as many slaves should be owned as could have the constant personal supervision of the owner. Corporal punishment was as much a necessity on the
130plantations as it is in schools and in the family. The vicious and idle could be controlled in no other way. This mode of discipline was necessary in many cases in order to the getting of work out of them — to their performance of reasonable tasks. It was sometimes excessive, no doubt, and sometimes unjustly administered, as in the case of children in all countries. Yet it was a necessity. Those best acquainted with the negro in freedom, know that work is not a passion or favorite amusement with most of them. They have a quicker ear for a call to preach than for a call to work!
Very many slaves were taught the mechanic arts and many of them are now pursuing trades taught them in slavery.
These three brothers were born in the county of Antrim in the north of Ireland, that portion of Ireland which has furnished many distinguished men to the South, and many of whose descendants have been men of mark in all the Southern States. These brothers were men of great force of character, and though not liberally educated, had improved their minds by much reading and more thinking. They have passed away, but they have a sister residing in Philadelphia, who is as remarkable for energy as the brothers were.
The writer had large dealings with these brothers in the days of their activity, and knows that
131while they were strict and exacting with their slaves, they were yet kind in their treatment; feeding and clothing them well; and they were not unmindful of their proper enjoyment; the suppers and music at their Christmas balls costing sometimes as much as $600. Tom Weldon was a very passionate man, as well as powerful and brave. Sometimes he would strike the negroes with his fist, and if they showed fight, it was his boast that he always gave them a white man's chance, and fought fairly with them to the end. He had a fine mind, and but for his profanity was an eloquent talker. He equipped a company for the war at Natchez — the Weldon rebels — but was employed, himself, chiefly in the secret service of the Confederate Government. George, the oldest of the three brothers, was very loquacious, and a great reader. William was a milder mannered man than the others, and very intelligent. I make special mention of these brothers because of their connection with so many of the public works of the State, because of their ownership of so many slave mechanics, and lastly, because they were such striking specimens of the men of great force of character of which the State was so full.
Slaves had the protection of law in Mississippi, as the following decisions of the Supreme Court, in cases taken up, will show.
I quote from George's Digest under the head of Criminal Law.
"263. The killing of a slave may be murder, manslaughter, or justifiable, according to the circumstances."
"263. When a slave is killed by his master or overseer, in inflicting chastisement on him, if done in a cruel and unusual manner, the rules of the common law upon the subject of homocide, will regulate and define the nature and character of the offence. Kelly & Little, case 3, S. & M., 518."
"266. On the trial of a white man for killing a slave, it is not competent to prove that the slave was generally impudent and insolent to white persons,
when the proof shows that he was not so to the defendant at the time of the killing: Jolly's cape. 13, S. & M., 222."
"511. Murder may be committed by killing a slave as well as a freeman. The ancient laws of Rome, giving power over the life of a slave were never in force here. Jones' case. W. 83."
"513. By the statutes of this State, the master may be indicted for inflicting cruel or unusual punishment on his own slave. Scott's case. 2. G. 473."
In Mississippi, up to 1850, there was no provision by statute for punishing a slave men for committing the crime above all crimes upon a white female; going to show that the crime was unknown or unanticipated up to that date. Freedom has made it necessary to add this offence to the Criminal Code. But the law is rarely invoked. Its "delay" is not tolerated. It would be well for those who are fond of writing and talking of the horrors of slavery, to supplement their tales of woe with some account of the horrors of freedom, as exhibited in the commission of this crime.
Does the frequent commission of this horrible crime by the free negro encourage the hope of his moral elevation under freedom? Shall it be said that education will eliminate this and other evil tendencies from his nature? I have shown in another work prepared, but yet to be published, from what Buckle, the philosopher, calls "the anatomy of nations" — statistics — that this is a mere figment of the brain of educational enthusiasts, even when applied to the white race. And can it be said that the negro race will be made better by education, when the white race is not? To make good negroes more than an education is required. An education does not necessarily make the negro wise, or a good citizen, even. It is by no means the all, which is claimed for it. Intelligence and goodness are not synonimous terms. Neither is the one evolved from the other. This is not arguing against education. It is only arguing against the mistakes about it — against
133expecting more from it than it can give. There is in it, in a moral sense, no more inherent good than bad. And I challenge a denial of this proposition by any candid and intelligent observer of men.
The truth is, goodness, and fitness for life's duties, for good citizenship, is a home product, a hearthstone growth. The best school for its promotion is at the mother's knee and the father's side. And this is of God's ordering. This is the training school of the Bible. Children were educated in Bible times, but there is nothing said in the Bible about education making them good, while much is said, directly, and indirectly, about their being made good at home — in the family.
The negro is credited with a thirst for the blessings and glories of civilization, whatever these may be. As a civilized being he is confessedly on a low plane. He is but little above the base of the mountain. His desire is to mount to the summit "on eagle's wings." His Northern friends sought to send him up in the balloon of the ballot, but the indications at the present, are, that they will refuse to furnish any longer the gas needed to keep the balloon inflated. He has other balloons — the balloon of religion, of politics, of education, but he will find after all that he must, like the white man, climb the mountain step by step; and if he should not have an occasional slip back, he will be wiser and luckier than the white man. Like Jordan, it is a hard and slow road to travel, for any race but little removed from the barbaric state.
He and his anxious friends will profit by studying the lessons of history on this subject. Buckle, in his History of Civilization, says: "All civilization must have for its antecedent the accumulation of wealth," and he proves by innumerable references and citations that it is historically true that of the ancient civilizations, the first nations which rose from the barbaric to the civilized state were those whose climate and soil were favorable to the accumulation of wealth; and that amongst modern nations, the
134most civilized are those whose wealth has been most largely accumulated.
Now as a lesson to the negro and his anxious friends, all of this means Work, and that is just what the negro is trying to avoid, by substituting politics, religion, and education (all good in their place) for it; all of them being as poor substitutes for work as the various decoctions resorted to by the Confederates during the war were for coffee. These substitutes had their own proper uses, but they were not coffee.
That religion even, alone, will not elevate the morals of an ignorant and semi-civilized people, take the following testimony as to the social condition of the Greenlanders, from the Moravian — the organ of the devoted and self-sacrificing Missionaries of that church — after one hundred and fifty years of missionary work amongst them: "If we cast a glance at the state of our Greenlanders when our mission was begun — now one hundred and fifty years ago — and compare it with their condition at the present time, we cannot fail to be struck with the sad social detioration which has taken place."
Amongst the named causes of this detioration is "the circumstance that our Missionaries have from the first neglected to make the Christian Greenlanders independent of foreign assistance."
Those who know anything about the negro know that the exceptionally few real workers amongst them are almost invariably good citizens — self-respecting and respected by others; and the promise of civilization is to them and their children after them. It is they that will climb the ladder soonest. I have an old friend amongst them. I respect him and always lift my hat to him, and give him my hand. At our last meeting I enquired:
"How goes it Stewart?"
"All right, sir," he replied:
"The finest corn crop you ever saw, sir? and my little place is all paid for."
In the Spring and Summer he works on his little place, and in the Winter he drays about town. I
135always feel that the country is safe so far as Stewart is concerned. I know nothing of his politics and doubt if be has any.
Apropos of this subject, I lately visited, in company with Judge Cabiniss, of Clinton, Miss., the
Miss Dickey reports that fifteen thousand dollars have been raised and expended upon the work, by her own individual effort and prayers, in which latter means she has the faith of a Muhler. The arrangements about the building indicate a wise expenditure of the money, and everything furnishes proof of fine administrative ability on the part of the lady. Neatness, order and economy prevail in every department.
Miss Dickey began her plan for the school in 1873, while a teacher in the public colored school at
136Clinton, and without a dollar in hand. She has struck, in the writer's opinion, the key note of the successful education of the negro. It must begin with the future mothers of the race. The present generation will profit but little by the education it receives in the ordinary public school. And there is more hope of the females of the race than of the males, when trained morally and industrially, in such institutions as this. It will be in their power, and more in their line, to get up a healthy home influence. It would be wise in our Legislature to make liberal appropriations to all female schools founded and conducted upon the plan of this Seminary — though the appropriation should be taken from the male Academies in doing it.
Were I a woman, I would rather to-day be a Miss Dickey than a Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe, with all the latter's fame. The one is repairing the ruin wrought in part by the other; not in an attempt to restore what was destroyed, but in an attempt by the one to prepare the colored race for the freedom which was in part unwisely precipitated by the other. Freedom in all of its privileges without preparation for its enjoyment and right use, is a curse to any people. Because to the untutored in its use, it means license and not liberty. Its blessings are our inheritance because our ancestors were educated to its restrictions as well as to its privileges, and even they had well nigh overstepped the line of prudence in its bestowment on us.
I approach this subject with reluctance, as I shall be compelled in treating it, to say something which it is not pleasant to say. It is high time that the matter should be publicly and freely discussed, and I propose to notice it in this Chapter, which is an appropriate place for its notice.
Miscegenation by the laws of the State is a high
137crime, with a heavy penalty affixed for its commission. The law says:
"The marriage of a white person and a negro or mulatto, or person who shall have one-fourth or more of negro blood, shall be unlawful, and such marriage shall be incestuous and void."
And the penalty for the crime is imprisonment in the Penitentiary for a term not exceeding ten years. And it is especially provided that the law can not be evaded by solemnizing the marriage in another State.
But few instances of public and formal violations of this law have occurred in the State, and probably the parties to such few violations have all left the State; but secret and practical violations have been shamefully frequent. The object of the law, and the policy of the State, is, to prevent amalgamation, a mixing of the races; and this law and policy may be as effectually violated by illicit sexual intercourse as by lawful intercourse, could it be made lawful. We see around us daily the evidences of this. The guilty parties are doing that which the law would prevent, the penalty for the commission of which it fixes at imprisonment in the Penitentiary for the maximum term of ten years. The offense against public sentiment and the policy of the State is just as great as if the parties had been pronounced "man and wife," by any minister or magistrate.
To the glory of white womanhood in the South, be it said, this shame attaches almost exclusively to men. The colored women who occupy this relation are far less to blame than the white men who are co-partners with them in the crime. The women feel it to be a glory to them, while the men know it to be degradation to them. The crime on the part of the men is a monstrous one when it is considered in all of its relations and bearings. It is a crime against the State, against the colored race, into whose minds it should be the wish and effort of every decent man to inculcate principles of virtue, against their mothers and sisters in setting them an evil
138example, and in bringing them to shame and mortification for no fault of their own; and lastly against their own bodies.
This crime on the part of the white males of the South, is promotive of miscegenation, and if it grows and is persisted in by white men the natural tendency is to its practice amongst white women. Nature and natures Author, have fixed in all races a certain ratio between the sexes. This is a law of nature which cannot be broken without a penalty attaching. If this natural ratio be disturbed, either in the white or black race, or both, the inevitable consequence, unpalatable as the thought may be, is miscegenation, and all human law will be powerless to prevent it. Of course there are millions of our Southern women who would suffer martyrdom before they would forget their honorable birth or forfeit their self-respect, but we have a lower class where the cancer might begin, and in after generations eat upwards. It is a grave matter for the State to consider, if we are to escape the mongrelism which curses some of our neighboring Republics. I protest against this dire and threatened evil in the name of that illustrious line of ancestors from which the living white people of the South are sprung; I protest in the name of our pure and virtuous women; in the name of the mothers and sisters of this fair Southland. And I say let the curse and mark of Cain fall and rest upon the heads of those "lewd fellows" who would bring disgrace upon their country and shame upon our fair women.
Miscegenation is the hope and prophecy of some of the South's worst enemies, as I will show by quotations from speeches and writings, in a work to follow this; and shall it be said that the South furnishes in the conduct of some of her white men the proof to sustain this hope, and prophecy? The sin and crime here complained of existed in the days of slavery, as is well known, which is not to be denied, concealed or paliated, but since it has increased in the days of freedom, it is not to be charged as a crime
139peculiar to slavery. While the personal guilt attaching to the crime was as great then as now, the consequences, to society and the State are more serious now than then, because freedom having brought the races nearer to a state of equality, the turpitude of the offence is lessened in public estimation, though the evil effects of it are not removed or even lessened by freedom. Mongrelism is none the less objectionable because it is the product of races equal in personal and political rights. Aside from the fact that public reprobation follows the commission of the offence, eminent Ethnologists proclaim it a crime against the perpetuity of the human family.
Squier, an authority on the question, says:
"Nature perpetuates no human hybrids — as for instance, a permanent race of mulattoes." — (Library of Universal Knowledge, vol. 9).
Doctor J. C. Nott affirms:
"That mulattoes are the shortest-lived of any class of the human family," and supports the assertion with the following remarks:
"Almost fifty years of residence among the white and black races, spread in nearly equal proportions through South Carolina and Alabama, and twenty-five years of nearly incessant professional intercourse with both, have satisfied me of the absolute truth of the deduction." — (Nott & Gliddon, Types of Mankind, page 373)
In accounting for the exceptional longevity and prolificness of mulattoes in Mobile, New Orleans, and Pensacola, the same author says:
"In the Atlantic States the population is Teutonic and Celtic, whereas, in our Gulf cities there exists a preponderance of the blood of French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and other dark skinned races"
He holds that these latter belong to types of the human family genealogically distinct from the white skinned people north of Florida. He holds that these dark skinned races were chiefly of "Iberian origin," saying:
"Bodischon, in his curious work on Algeria,
140maintains that this Iberian or Bosque population, although, of course, not negro, is really an African and probably a Berber family, which migrated across the Straights of Gibralter some two thousand years before the Christian era; and we might therefore regard them as what Dr. Morton calls a proximate race." — (Ibid, page 374.)
He argues on page 397 that when proximate species of mankind are bred together they produce prolific off-spring; but "when on the other hand, species the most widely separated, such as the Anglo Saxon with the Negro, are crossed, a different result has come." — (Ibid, 397.)
Again on page 379 he argues that the product of the cross between the Anglo Saxon and Negro die off before the dark stain can be washed out by amalgamation."
I conclude with the following quotations on pages 405 and 407:
"If these remarks be true in basis, it is evident theoretically that the superior races ought to be kept free from all adulterations, otherwise the world will retrograde instead of advancing in civilization." "That through the operations of the law of Hybridity alone, the human family might possibly become exterminated by a thorough amalgamation of all the various types of manhood."
Now, from all the foregoing considerations, is it not clear that this practice, whether openly or secretly indulged in, and without even the insufficient plea or excuse of animal necessity to justify it, deserves the stamp of legislative reprobation to the extent of taking away the civil rights of the man guilty of it, and thus make the crime infamous?
Chapter XVI. — The Past Prophetic of the Future.
The chief glory of every nation, whether civilized or savage, since the world began, has been its achievements in arms. This has ever been the royal road to greatness with both nations and individuals, and, it is a short road, the goal often being reached in an hour or a single day, whilst other roads are usually long, arduous, and toilsome. And it may be said truthfully that the chief end man, with the everlasting God out of view, is his own glory. It may be said also that we are all more or less hero worshippers. The greatest poet of ancient or modern times, truly interpreted the heart of man when he put into the mouth of one of his characters the words: "It is held that valor is the chiefest virtue, and most dignifies the possessor." Another great poet has said, "To overcome in battle and subdue Nations, and bring home spoils with infinite manslaughter, shall be held the highest pitch of human glory." We all yield our tribute of praise to the man of physical courage. Our admiration for the man of moral courage is a sentiment, but for the man of physical courage it is a passion, and under this instinct, as it were, in canvassing the claims of a nation or people to our admiration, we first naturally inquire how it has borne itself in those hours of supreme peril which sooner or later come to every people; and we judge too, after assuring investigation, that if this chiefest virtue has characterized it in every trial, it has other capacities and virtues to win the esteem of mankind, and that if it has a glorious past, for any reason, that glorious past is prophetic of a glorious future. What we call greatness in a people, is an irrepressible quality until,
142under the fiat of the Almighty, that people's mission has been fulfilled. Circumstances may repress the manifestations of that greatness in one direction, but as sure as it is a possession it will manifest itself in another.
These introductory remarks lead me to the direct purpose of this chapter.
The heroic element in Southern character as illustrated first in our Revolutionary war, and afterwards in our second war with Great Britain; in our Indian wars, and in the war with Mexico, did not find its highest development until the occurrence of the war between the States; a period too, in which the martial spirit had not been cultivated as it had been in the earlier days of the Republic, when wars were more frequent though less sanguinary. The art of war was scarcely any better understood at this later period than in earlier times, but the vast improvement in arms rendered liability to casualties far greater. Hence the qualities of steady courage and unflinching nerve were all essential. However inadequate and ancient the arms of our Confederate soldiers were at the inception of the war, they well knew that their adversaries were provided with the most approved modern weapons; and hence still further, the need for courage of the highest order. That the Confederate soldier was possessed of such courage by endowment, is evidenced by his steadiness under fire before he had acquired it by experience and training. Only a very small minority of the native young men of the South of which the Confederate army was mainly composed, had had any experience in military drill. A few of those from the cities had received some training at semimilitary schools, though nearly all of them were more or less familiar with the use of fire arms.
The spirit displayed by these young soldiers was an inheritance from as fine a stock, in all the qualities that go to make up a true personal manhood, as was ever known. They were mainly the descendants of the very flower of the chivalry of Europe; of men
143and women who had braved every danger in the defence of their religious scruples and political liberties, who, animated by this spirit, had quitted their pleasant homes in the most highly civilized portions of Europe to dwell in the wilderness solitudes of the New World, exposed to all the hardships of a frontier life and the dangers of proximity to the savages that roamed those solitudes.
The blood of the English cavaliers of Maryland and Virginia, of the Scotch Irish of North and South Carolina, of the Hugenots of South Carolina, and of a mixture of all in Georgia, flowed in their veins, though they may have gone forth from other States than those named of the old original thirteen. Their fathers had spread out westward and southwestward, forming new States, and some had crossed the Ohio, helping to build up those vigorous populations of the Western States which furnished to the Federal army so many valiant troops. And independent of whatever may be claimed on behalf of their descent, they had been bred under the influences of an institution, which, with its admitted evils, was calculated to foster the martial spirit and give force of character. The historian, Macaulay, speaking of the effects of the domination of one race over another, upon the character of the dominant one, says: "The Spartan smiting and spurning the wretched Helot, moves our disgust. But the same Spartan, calmly dressing his hair, and uttering his comic jests, on what he well knows to be his last day, in the pass of Thermopylae is not to be contemplated without admiration."
Again, in speaking of the English colonists in Ireland, (during the seige of Londondery,) who had long held the natives under bondage, he says: "It is impossible to deny that the English colonists have had, with too many of the faults, all of the noblest virtues of a sovereign caste. The faults have, as was natural, been most offensively exhibited in times of prosperity and security, the virtues have
144been most resplendent in times of distress and peril."
Persons who were intimately acquainted with the people of the South before the war could not have failed to observe the number of strong-minded and strong-willed men amongst them; many of them men who were scarcely known outside of their own counties — not politicians, or professional men, but simply planters. And many of them having but little education and commencing life in the humble calling of overseer. But there was a large educated class of planters of similar characteristics, men whose opportunities and advantages had been good. Perhaps the newer Southern States were more remarkable for these two classes than the older ones. There must be a certain native energy to make a successful adventurer, and to a great extent these marked men were adventurers without fortunes or characters, and very many of them, indeed nearly all of them, were emigrants from the older slave States. Such Northern and Western men as came South and identified themselves with the planting interests, developed, in many instances, similar characteristics, as did also the Scotch and Irish emigrants.
But the effect of the "peculiar institution" in forming character, in so far as it may be claimed to have formed it, was not confined to the planting class. It was felt in the towns and cities, and amongst all classes, though not to the same extent as in the country. There was but a limited field for the display of energy in the towns. There was an absence of those great corporations and manufacturing establishments which have attracted and developed the business talent of so many men in the North and West. The highest development in the towns was in the direction of the professions, notably of the legal profession, and from that to politics, in both the lower and higher walks of that calling.
The candid man looking at the energy and courage displayed by the Southern soldiers during our
145four years war, against such fearful odds of numbers and resources, and at the prominent and potential part played by Southern Statesmen in the councils of the nation, will deny the existence in the Southern States of a superior race of men. Is their race run? Is their vitality exhausted? Are they capable of yet greater achievements? Will they rise superior to their depressing environments, to newer, higher, and perhaps better heights, vindicating the past, and blessing the future? Can the once prostrate giant now risen to his knees, rise yet more — to his full stature, with the now inert black mountain pressing as a dead weight on his shoulders — that mountain which was once a foundation broad and elastic from which he rose to great and prosperous heights?
Will the Phoenix rise from the ashes of the past yet instinct with life, with her wings pressed upon and weighted down by that which was once her bouy and support?
These are the questions which the present, the rising, and future generations, must answer. It is the part of those who lived and those who are still living, in memory, in part, in the past, to point the actors of the present day to the achievements of the past as an augury of the future. And thus the historian who was himself an actor in the past, if true to his work, becomes the Prophet of his people.
It is a well matured opinion with many that the people of the Confederacy were greater than their leaders. The people responded with alacrity to the calls of duty and of patriotism, but the leaders, if we are to credit some of our writers, either from incapacity and want of foresight, or from indolence and dilatoriness, failed of needed preparation to make this alacrity of the people available. Our young men were accustomed to the use of fire arms, and they were fine horsemen, but when they reached the points of rendevous there were no arms or horses for many of them, and the commissiarat if not empty was but poorly furnished. There was no occasion
146for anxiety touching the question of food supply for people at home or in the army. The labor at home was abundant to this end. The movement of our public functionaries was of that dignified stateliness and precision that pertains to matured states fully equipped in all their parts, when the call was for the activity, and, if need be, irregularity of revolution — for revolution it was in effect, when secession on the one hand and coercion on the other, had been decided on, and the methods on the part of the seceders should have been revolutionary in character. Nothing was or was to be gained by strictly constitutional and legal methods. The peril was great and the people being committed to the step, were prepared for any extraordinary measures leading to success.
A veteran Statesman of the House of Commons, England, during the discussion in Parliament, growing out of the revolution of 1668, silenced the sticklers for constitutional and legal methods, by saying: "A man in a revolution resolving to do nothing which is not strictly according to established form, resembles the man who has lost himself in a wilderness, and who stands crying ‘where is the king's highway?’ I will walk no where but on the king's highway. In a wilderness a man should take the track which will carry him home. In a revolution we must have recourse to the highest law, the safety of the State."
Our Confederate leaders, blinded by the constitutional right of secession, as claimed, moved forward under the inspiration of the feeble cry to be "let alone," instead of the slogan cry, "We must conquer a peace." These leaders, under the inspiration of the latter cry, would have been equal to the emergency — would have, at least, developed their active practical capacity more fully than they did under the more sentimental policy pursued, whether the result would have been different or not. And in speaking of leaders I do not mean the leaders of our armies only; I mean the leaders of
147public opinion; our public men generally who were in authority at the time of secession and the beginning of hostilities. "Great men are not always wise. — [Job.
The point that I would make, is, that the mistaken policy pursued at the inception of our troubles lessened the chances of, if it did not prevent, our success. Prompt preparation and a bold dash to conquer our independence would have led to our speedy recognition abroad; and that would have assured a settlement upon terms honorable and satisfactory, looking to a return to the Union, or our complete independence. And it is no mere assumption to say that under a less feeble policy the Confederacy would have been recognized in Europe. It is well known that it required all of the diplomatic skill of Mr. Seward and his able assistants and agents sent abroad, to prevent it as it was. That the Confederacy had powerful friends abroad, no one questions, and it only required what is indicated to have turned the scale in her favor. If called upon for an epitaph to be inscribed upon the tomb of the Confederacy, I would write,
Without undertaking to question God's providential dealings with Nations, and the exercise of his omnipotent power in pulling down and setting up at his pleasure, yet, looking at this struggle of the South in a human and finite aspect, and considering it in the light of my reading and reflection, I shall ever believe that had that preparation for the event been made which prudence and wisdom dictated, and had our leaders of public opinion at its inception been as great as the people for whom they were acting, the South would have conquered her independence or taken her place again in the Union with every constitutional right she claimed, acknowledged and guaranteed; and such I believe will be the verdict of mankind when all the facts shall come to be known.
An excuse for allusion to the cause of our failure
148if needed, may be found in the importance of keeping our people from underestimating their own abilities; of reminding them that the reproach is not theirs; that though our leaders erred in the beginning of the struggle, and though its end was so disastrous, yet the genius and valor that made it glorious in its progress, still lives in its survivors and their descendants; that the rich ancestral blood which made them capable of such high achievements, is grown all the richer by reason of the later baptism; and that though the path of war is closed, the path of PEACE, with its many fields is open to them, wherein their high qualities may yet find a higher development.
I would not have my Southern reader to conclude, that in commending a diligent cultivation of the arts of peace, and a striving after that excellence whose attainment therein is assured by reason of the high mental endowment of our people, that I would have them cease to cherish and cultivate the martial spirit. Their country and the world may yet need their valor in overcoming some hydra headed despotism and usurpation, that may lift itself up and threaten the liberties of the people; yea to destroy, as was once said by that great tribune of the people, Henry Clay, our form of government "the fairest fabric of human government that ever rose to animate the hopes of civilized man."
There are greater horrors than the horrors of war, and though life is so precious, it were a small sacrifice to give it up, that the freedom of our posterity, multiplied into thousands may be secured; and the duty to make this sacrifice, when necessary, is an inheritance from those who died to secure our liberty. With our inherited blessing of liberty has come down to us, also, the inheritance of self-sacrifice.
Great things are to be expected of a people devoted to principle. There is nothing in the annals of our great war which more challenges admiration than the fidelity of the soldiers on both sides, no matter where born, to the flags of their respective governments.
149There is nothing to compare with it in the history of civil wars. There were occasional desertions to the enemy from one side to the other, of obscure soldiers, but no instance of betrayal by an officer of rank, or the defection and desertion of a command, either great or small. This is a conspicuous fact that lifts our common country far above the civilized nations of ancient or modern times, and deserves to be regarded by both parties to the quarrel as a mark of the sincere conviction of each to the righteousness of his cause.
Whatsoever else may be said of the conduct of the war on either side, both, it may be said, can claim the proud distinction of being free from the stain of treachery. Disappointment at results, in certain instances, may have led to suspicions that found expression, but none of these suspicions had real foundation in fact, and there is not so much as a hint at them in any of our histories of the war.
The history of our revolutionary struggle has its dark pages of shame and reproach, in this line, and there are names connected with it which will be execrated till the end of time. And when we look into the histories of the civil wars of Europe, and especially of those of our boasted ancestors, we are amazed at the frequency of desertions, betrayals, etc., in high places, by civil functionaries, military chieftains, and at times, by whole commands.
It is well to commemorate the virtues and heroic deeds of our great men in civil and military life, in our late war, in monuments of marble and brass, but it would be better to commemorate the fidelity to principle of our whole people as illustrated in our great civil war, in one nobler monument — a monument upon which every child of the nation to the remotest generation, may look and say. "This is commemorative of the fidelity of my ancestors."
It is becoming in us to cherish a recollection of all that is noble in our ancestors, even though their failures or successes may have entailed individual misfortunes and suffering upon us. In our selfishness
150we limit our views to our individual selves, forgetting that a blessing to untold millions may be bound up in that which may be a curse to us. And let us remember as a great author has said, that; "a people which takes no pride in the acheivements of remote ancestors, will never acheive anything worthy to be remembered with pride by remote descendants."
A young Southerner of brilliant parts who has acquired a national reputation as an author, has, on several occasions, when delivering lectures to young men in our colleges, besought them to cultivate a cosmopolitan taste and feeling as opposed to what he regards as the provincialism of the South; whereby there should be a merging of thought and fame, a diffusion of sympathy and regard covering the whole country, and perhaps "the rest of mankind," in the breadth of its unselfishness, and arguing further that this sympathy would beget sympathy, and that by this broadening of views we should gain rather than loose.
This is a philosophy, which, whether born of pure patriotism or a desire to promote selfish ends, is unsound in principle when applied to other than an inferior race of people — a people without a history worth remembering or capacities worth cultivating. Besides it is against the order of Providence. Those nations and those peoples which have most profoundly impressed the world and survived longest its changes, have been unique and provincial in character. The Roman Empire declined with her absorbing and cosmopolitan policy. The Jewish Nation, composed of a "peculiar people," was the light of the ancient world until it sinned away its day. Scotland has always been pre-eminently provincial, and though for centuries a part of the United Kingdom, yet shines by her own and not a borrowed light, standing out in her proud individuality and provincialism. When Dr. Johnson said: "Every Scotchman prefers Scotland to the truth," he was simply exaggerating that provincial sentiment which
151has made the Scotch the great people they are. New England has always been intensely provincial, and who can fail to see her strong hand in shaping the destinies of this great Republic. As long as the mountains rise one above the other, as long as one star shall differ from another in glory, just so long will the nations of the earth continue to differ the one from the other, according to its light, its "peculiar" gifts, and its very provincialism; and just so long will its light shine as it shall be cherished by itself.
Let the North continue to shine by her own light, and let no hand be raised to strike a star from her firmament; and so I say let the South shine. I for one refuse to merge the fame of our illustrious Lee in that of any Northern Hero; and let the collossal figure of the immortal Jackson stand alone, wrapt in the solitude of its own originality!
Old Blue Light's going to pray;
Strangle the fool that dares to scoff!
Attention! it's his way!
Appealing from his native sod
In forma pauperis to God —
"Lay bare Thine arm, stretch forth thy rod,
Amen!" That's Stonewall's way."
I believe that the South in her conservatism is set for the defence of that constitutional liberty which was bequeathed to us by the fathers of the Republic and the ever living truths of that Christianity which is built upon the foundation of the Prophets and Apostles, and as such that her grand mission is to be worked out in the light of her own individual history, her own traditions, and her own illustrious statesmen and heroes.
Let the South evolve from her own consciousness whatever of reform or progress may be needed to give her a respectable position and put her in line with the advancing civilization of the age; building upon her own foundations, holding fast to her independence of thought, and re-kindling her fires, the
152rather, at her own smouldering embers; for in them yet lives the germ of the best thought, religiously and politically, that the new world has produced. But the South should remember that any permanent and reliable improvement of a people must spring directly from the people themselves and not from leaders and rulers. When Spain was governed by that enlightened, progressive and liberal monarch, Charles the III, the people sat in darkness, and when the light of his wisdom was extinguished by death, ‘gross darkness covered the people.’ When England was governed by that ignorant, cruel, and selfish monarch, George III, the people were the light of the realm, and when death overtook him, the light became all the more resplendent; and the South should further heed the words of that great philosopher of History Buckle, wherein he says: "Calamities may be inflicted by others; but no people can be degraded except by their own acts."
Chapter XVII. — The California Fever.
Mississippi, in the past half century, has never failed to furnish her quota for any wild adventure or desperate enterprise set on foot by the restless and daring spirits of our own and other countries. She has responded to all calls, whether coining from the Lone Star Republic of Texas in her successful effort at throwing off the yoke of Mexican rule, or from the oppressed patriots of Cuba and Nicaragua in the days of ill-fated filibustering expeditions. Hence it is not surprising that when the gold discoveries in California were first made known, she should have furnished a goodly share of the first gold-hunters that flocked to the Pacific coasts. There was hardly a calling amongst her citizens which had not its representatives in these adventures. The Farmer left his plow in the furrow and his family to the care of relatives; the Lawyer left his clients to his partner; the Doctor his patients to other manslayers; the Shoemaker, Carpenter, and Tailor dropped the implements of their trades on their work-benches, and the Merchants and Clerks threw the yark-stick and pen to their fellows at the other counter and the other desk; and away they all went, fast as steamboat and stage coach, and railroad could carry them.
A few of them sailed around Cape Horn, but mostly they went by the Nicaragua route or the Isthmus of Darien, taking steamers on the other side; and perhaps a few went by way of the Plains — the overland route. No matter by what route, only that they might reach the "diggins," and find a pick, and a spade, and a pan. They all had the "fever" and gold was the only cure. As they sailed, or staged, or pulled at the oars of the perouge up the
154Chagres river of Nicaragua, or tramped through the chapparel, gold, in dust, in twenty dollar pieces, in bars and bricks, was their thought by day; their dream by night. One left a mortgage on his home which if he did not lift would lift him; another had perhaps spent his own and his wife's patrimony in sowing a crop of wild oats which he should have sowed before marrying, if sow he must; and now in the sober second thought he would "retrieve;" another had always been poor but longed to be rich that he might move in the circle of the rich and have others to take his place, and to be himself envied in his turn; another had left a "girl behind," at whose feet he would empty a bag of glittering gold when he returned to claim the hand and heart so freely pledged.
Well, they all got there; sailed into the golden horn, and went ashore. What a running to and fro; what wonderful tales they heard of this and that rich "find." What heaps of gold-dust and gold coin on this and that counter; what alluring drinking saloons; what elegant gambling dens; what happy looking miners as they would come in and throw down their bags of "dust." Surely we have nothing to do but "go," if we would "do likewise;" and they went. The mines are reached, and now, no more "castle building," but work, work, dig, dig, wash, wash, if anything is to "pan out." But it won't pan; at least in quantities above expenses. Weeks and perhaps months of hard work are done, and still there is nothing to show towards lifting that mortgage; towards retrieving that spent fortune; towards buying the carriage in which the wife and children were to drive; towards making that girl happy, and the envy of all girldom!
They begin to look at their delicate hands; at the blisters, at their worn-out shoes, and torn coats, and seatless pants; and then they begin, like the prodigal son, to ponder; to think of their former employments; and they said "I will arise and go to" — San Francisco.
And they went. I had a cousin amongst them; a proud, dressy man, who had no stomach for work, and who had been for the most of his life a child of fortune, but like the prodigal, had "spent all." He sought employment — anything to pay expenses, for his exchequer was running low. After many applications and as many failures, he at last found a man who offered to employ him as a wagoner, to drive a six-horse team! He accepted; any port in such a storm of poverty as he felt to be approaching. He filled the position with credit to himself and satisfaction to his employer. He became an accomplished whip-poper, and finally reached the top of the profession!
I had another cousin who, together with a friend of mine, a fellow clerk, after failing at other things, rented a spot of ground not very far from Sacramento City and planted a garden, expecting to make a fortune off of vegetables — those wonderful vegetables of California of which we hear so much and believe so little. They toiled faithfully in their patch, keeping it very clean, and spent their evenings in figuring up the prospective profits. One morning after an evening thus spent, they rose early and proceeded to the patch, hoes in hand, when to their horror, not a turnip top, not a raddish top, not a cabbage leaf, not a potatoe vine, in fact not a top of anything was waving in the breeze or glistening in the sun! "The earth was without (vegetable) form and void" of any green and living thing — except the two gardeners! The gopher had invaded the premises, had tunneled the garden, had pulled down the vegetables, and then pulled in the hole! Not a trace was left, nor a "funeral note" was heard.
Another member of this party had a store in Sacremento City. He had not "spent all," but had saved enough to buy a small stock of goods, and was the hope of the party. His store was near the river. He locked it up one quiet moonlight night and retired to his room. That night one of those mountain rises of the Sacremento river came tearing and surging
156down the stream, overflowed the town, invaded the store of the merchant, and when he arrived next morning, "all was lost save honor!" — a poor capital in a new country, two thousand miles from home.
My friend R. P. W., of Vicksburg, was an early bird in California. Most of the worms he caught got away from him. He tells a story of a young lawyer whom he lifted, by his influence, from the gutters of San Francisco to the position of waiter at the hotel where he (W.) boarded. As a knight of the white apron the lawyer was a success; indeed was an ornament to his new profession; but like the sow he returned again, in the course of time, to his "wollowing in the mire." W. took him in hand again and told him that one of two things he must do: either go home to his mother or drown himself. He chose the former, W. furnishing him the means; he returned to his home, prospered in his profession and died in good circumstances.
The California stories of the wonderful fecundity of soil and climate in that distant land, current since its earliest settlement, have largely taxed the credulity of our people, accustomed though they be to wonders in the natural world. Some of our returned gold-hunters have laid us under many obligations for these veracious stories; and they apply not alone to vegetable growths, but to other remarkable things which have been witnessed there.
For instance, my friend G. H. T., of Vicksburg, who, in the halcyon days of his youth sought fortune and the "bubble reputation" in the golden fields of California, has, thanks to his tenacious memory, treasured up some recollections which, as a historian I desire for the benefit of posterity, to put on record.
When in the mountains of California in search of gold, in the region of the growth of those monarchs of the forest, the Redwood, my friend said, on one occasion sixteen couples danced a cotillion on the a stump of one of these felled trees. Not far from this tree was another immense one still standing, but decayed away until there was but an
157outer rim left. Into this hollow tree one of the party drove his horse and buggy. An incredulous listener, a sturdy old batchelor, when this was being told, enquired how the horse and buggy were turned round to be driven out. The answer was they were not turned round at all, but were driven out at a knothole on the other side of the tree.
Returning to San Francisco after some months spent in the mountains, he encountered a large party who had just dined off of the half of a large watermellon, so large that a rip-saw would not go through it, making it necessary that it should be sawed, on opening it, on both sides. He and his friends were invited to help themselves, to the other half. They did so, and after finishing it, the rind was used in ferrying the party across an unfordable stream near by.
This party as they journeyed, encountered a happy family in the shape of a prairie dog, an owl, and a rattle snake, all living in the same hole. They also passed in their journey a garden from which the house-wife was gathering into the market basket on her arm, beets and turnips, which weighed from fifty to eighty pounds each.
After reaching San Francisco, my friend took a situation in a wholesale crockery house. His first duty was to receive a large consignment of wares just arrived by ship, the freight bill against which amounted to near ten thousand dollars. The merchant's account at bank was overdrawn and he was greatly perplexed about the payment of the bill. My friend's suggestivness relieved the embarrassment. He sought and got permission from the Captain of the vessel to open some boxes of French tumblers belonging to the consignment, to retail on the wharf. In a short time he retailed enough of them to pay the freight bill, and the merchant was happy.
The old batchelor, before referred to, (he was a Hibernian by descent) on hearing my friend tell this story one day, said, excitedly, "I would not tell such a lie as that even if it was true!" There was no
158disposition on his part to question the correctness of my friend's statement. It was only a peculiar way in which he sought to express his astonishment.
What a privilege it is to live in so great a country, to be part and parcel of such marvels in nature, and to be contemporary with so much genius and inventive talent in all the arts and sciences which contribute so largely to man's comfort and enjoyment! Vive la Americano!