Part 5 out of 5
Pere Antoine made a shallow grave in his garden, and heaped the fresh
brown mould over his idol.
In the genial spring evenings the priest was seen sitting by the mound,
his finger closed in the unread prayer-book.
The summer broke on that sunny land; and in the cool morning twilight,
and after nightfall, Antoine lingered by the grave. He could never be
with it enough.
One morning he observed a delicate stem, with two curiously shaped
emerald leaves, springing up from the centre of the mound. At first he
merely noticed it casually; but at length the plant grew so tall, and
was so strangely unlike anything he had ever seen before, that he
examined it with care.
How straight and graceful and exquisite it was! When it swung to and fro
with the summer wind, in the twilight, it seemed to Antoine as if little
Anglice were standing there in the garden!
The days stole by, and Antoine tended the fragile shoot, wondering what
sort of blossom it would unfold, white, or scarlet, or golden. One
Sunday, a stranger, with a bronzed, weather-beaten face like a sailor's,
leaned over the garden-rail, and said to him,--
"What a fine young date-palm you have there, Sir!"
"_Mon Dieu!_" cried Pere Antoine, "and is it a palm?"
"Yes, indeed," returned the man. "I had no idea the tree would flourish
in this climate."
"_Mon Dieu!_" was all the priest could say.
If Pere Antoine loved the tree before, he worshipped it now. He watered
it, and nurtured it, and could have clasped it in his arms. Here were
Emile and Anglice and the child, all in one!
The years flew by, and the date-palm and the priest grew together,--only
one became vigorous and the other feeble. Pere Antoine had long passed
the meridian of life. The tree was in its youth. It no longer stood in
an isolated garden; for homely brick and wooden houses had clustered
about Antoine's cottage. They looked down scowling on the humble
thatched roof. The city was edging up, trying to crowd him off his land.
But he clung to it, and wouldn't sell. Speculators piled gold on his
door-step, and he laughed at them. Sometimes he was hungry, but he
laughed none the less.
"Get thee behind me, Satan!" said the old priest's smile.
Pere Antoine was very old now, scarcely able to walk; but he could sit
under the pliant, caressing leaves of his tree, and there he sat until
the grimmest of speculators came to him. But even in death Pere Antoine
was faithful to his trust. The owner of that land loses it, if he harms
And there it stands in the narrow, dingy street, a beautiful, dreamy
stranger, an exquisite foreign lady whose grace is a joy to the eye, the
incense of whose breath makes the air enamored. A precious boon is she
to the wretched city; and when loyal men again walk those streets, may
the hand wither that touches her ungently!
"Because it grew from the heart of little Anglice," said Miss Badeau,
* * * * *
"SOLID OPERATIONS IN VIRGINIA":
OR, 'T IS EIGHTY YEARS SINCE.
I have never had many personal interviews with Princes. Setting aside a
few with different Excellencies of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, I
never had but one such interview, which prolonged itself far enough to
deserve a place in these memoirs of our time. This was with a President
of the then United States,--with him who was, I fear, the Last of the
Virginians. At least, I know no one on the line of promotion just now
who seems to me likely to succeed him.
"Have ye travelled in Virginia, Mr. Larkin?" said the President to me.
I said I had not, but that I hoped to see the Valley of Virginia before
I went home. That is the name given, in those regions, to the district
west of the Blue Ridge. The President listened, but expressed himself
dissatisfied with my plan.
"Ah, Sah!" he said, "ye sh'd see Jeems River. Every American sh'd see
Jeems River. Ye'll not see the appearance of a large population,
to which ye're used in Massachusetts,--the--customs,--the
--arrangements,--the habits--of--our--laboring people--are
such--that--that--their residences--are--are--more distant--from the
highway than with you;--but--but--ye'll be greatly interested in
seeing Jeems River. We've not the cities to show that ye have in
Massachusetts,--but--there are great historical associations with Jeems
I bowed assent,--and when the President spoke again with some
depreciation of their productions, I made up my mouth to say, in courtly
"Man is the nobler growth your realms supply,"
when I recollected that that remark was too literally true to be
complimentary to a State which made its chief business the growing of
men and women for a distant market. So I did what it is always wise to
do,--I said nothing. And the President, warming with his theme, said,--
"Yes, Sah, ye sh'd see Jeems River. There, at Jeemst'n, America first
gave a home to the European,--and hard by, at Yorkt'n, the tie with
Europe was sundered. There ye may see Williamsburg,--and our oldest
college. There ye may see the birthplaces of four Presidents,--and there
the capital of Virginia!"
With such, and other temptations, did he direct me on my journey.
I have been thinking how little the poor man foresaw that the time would
come when in the valley of "Jeems River" the traveller would see the
grave of the only President of the United States who ever in his old age
turned rebel to the country which had honored him. How little he foresaw
that other campaigns were impending, which would give more historical
interest to the valley than even Cornwallis's marchings and
countermarchings! how little he dreamed of Monitors and Merrimacks in
fierce _melee_ before his own little Hampton! how little, while he sowed
the wind that winter, he looked forward to the whirlwind-reaping,--of
which, indeed, he lived to hear only the first fierce sigh!
This valley of "Jeems River," and the three other valleys which radiate
like the four fingers of an open hand, and send their waters down into
the great conduit of Chesapeake Bay, which is the palm to these four
fingers, are in this very month of April, when I write, to become the
great battle-field of the continent. How strangely history repeats
itself, that, after eighty-one years, we should be looking out on
the map the Rapid Ann and the Chickahominy, and Williamsburg
and Fredericksburg, just as our fathers did in 1781,--that the
grandchildren of the men who marched under Lafayette from Baltimore to
Richmond, by the forced march which saved that infant capital from the
enemy, should be marching now, with a more Fabian tread, to save the
same Richmond from worse enemies! Does the Comte de Paris trace the
footprints of the young Marquis-General, who afterwards, among other
things, made his grandfather King? How strange it all is! While I wait
to know where Fabius is hidden, and where those army-corps of hundreds
of thousands are, which seem to have sunk into the ground at Warrenton
the other day, you and I, Reader, will familiarize ourselves with the
geography a little, by brushing the dust off those old campaigns.
They began by mere predatory excursions, which occupied, for a few weeks
at a time, the English forces which could be detached from New York. "We
march up and down the country," said Cornwallis, not overmuch
pleased, "stealing tobacco." As early as 1779, on the 8th of May, the
Raisonnable, sixty-four, five smaller ships of the English navy, and a
number of privateers acting as convoy to a cloud of transports, entered
the Capes of the Chesapeake. The Raisonnable drew too much water to go
farther than Hampton Roads: they probably did not know the channel
as well as the Merrimack's pilots do. But the rest of them went up
Elizabeth River, as one Pawnee did afterwards,--and there, at Gosport,
found the State's navy-yard, as the Pawnee found a nation's. There was
a vessel of war, unfinished, of twenty-eight guns, and many smaller
vessels,--and they burned them all. How exactly it begins as the history
of another war begins! Different branches of this expedition destroyed
one hundred and thirty-seven vessels, and tobacco beyond account,--and
they were all snugly back in New York in twenty-four days after they
It is the second campaign which is the most picturesque, varied, and
exciting of the campaigns of the American Revolution,--and which was
fought on ground which will have been made sacred by another campaign,
perhaps even before these words meet the reader's eye. The men engaged
in it were men who have left their mark. Cornwallis and Baron Steuben
share with each other the honor of inventing the present light-infantry
tactics of the world. Cornwallis. in Carolina, had seen the necessity of
divesting his troops of their impediments. Steuben had been doing the
same with the American line, ever since he began his instructions on the
29th of March, 1778. The discipline thus invented was carried back to
Europe by English and by French officers; and when the wars of the
French Revolution began, the rapid movement of the new light infantry
approved itself to military men of all the great warring nations, and
the old tactics of the heavy infantry of the last century died away in
face of the American improvement. Besides Cornwallis, and for a time
under him, here figured the traitor Arnold. Against them, besides
Steuben, were Wayne and Lafayette,--the last in his maiden campaign, in
which, indeed, he earned his military reputation, "never but once,"
says Tarleton, his enemy "committing himself during a very difficult
campaign." In the beginning, General Phillips, the same who had been
captured at Saratoga, had the chief command of the English army.
Lafayette notes grimly that General Phillips had commanded at Minden the
battery by which the Marquis de Lafayette, his father, was killed. He
makes this memorandum in mentioning the fact that one of his cannon-shot
passed through the room in which Phillips was dying in Petersburg. Such
were the prominent actors in the campaign. It is not till within a few
years that the full key to it has been given in the publication of some
additional letters of Lord Cornwall. Until that time, a part of his
movements were always shrouded in mystery.
In October, 1780, the English General Leslie entered Chesapeake Bay
again, and established himself for a while at Portsmouth, opposite
Norfolk. But Colonel Ferguson, with whom Leslie was to cooperate,
had been defeated at King's Mountain, and when Leslie learned of the
consequent change in Cornwallis's plans, he returned to New York on the
24th of November. His departure was regarded as a victory by General
Muhlenberg, and the Virginia militia, who were called out to meet him.
They had scarcely been disbanded, however, when a second expedition,
which had been intrusted to the traitor Arnold, arrived from New York in
James River. Baron Steuben, the Prussian officer, who had "brought the
foreign arts from far," was at this time in command, but with really
little or no army. Steuben was, at the best, an irritable person, and
his descriptions of the Virginia militia are probably tinged by his
indignation at constant failure. General Nelson, who was the Governor of
the State, behaved with spirit, but neither he nor Steuben could make
the militia stand against Arnold. They could not create a corps
of cavalry among the Virginia Cavaliers, and Arnold's expedition,
therefore, marched twenty-five miles and back without so much as a
shot being fired at them. He established himself at Portsmouth, where
Muhlenberg watched him, and he there waited a reinforcement.
Just at this juncture a little gleam of hope shot across the darkened
landscape, in the arrival of three French vessel's of war at the mouth
of James River. The American officers all hated Arnold with such
thorough hatred that they tried to persuade the French officers to shut
up Elizabeth River by sea, while they attacked him at Portsmouth from
the land; but the Frenchmen declined cooperation, and Steuben was always
left to boast of what he might have done. As he had but eight rounds
of ammunition a man for troops who had but just now failed him so
lamentably, we can scarcely suppose that Arnold was in much danger.
Washington, meanwhile, had persuaded the French Admiral, at Newport,
to send his whole fleet to act against Portsmouth; and by land he sent
Lafayette, with twelve hundred light infantry, to take command in
Virginia. Lafayette left Peekskill, feigned an attack upon Staten
Island in passing, marched rapidly by Philadelphia to the head of the
Chesapeake,--they all call it the "head of Elk,"--crowded his men on
such boats as he found there, and, like General Butler after him, went
down to Annapolis. At Annapolis, with some of his officers, he took
a little vessel, in which he ran down to Williamsburg to confer with
Steuben. He then crossed the James River, and reached the camp of
Muhlenberg near Suffolk on the 19th of March. The reader has only to
imagine General Burnside shutting up Norfolk on the south and west just
now, to conceive of Lafayette's position, as he supposed it to be, when,
on the 20th, he was told that the French fleet had arrived within the
Capes. But, alas! on the 23d, it proved that this was not the French
fleet, but the English, which had so far injured the French fleet in an
action that they had returned to Newport; so that it was Arbuthnot, and
not Destouches, whose fleet had arrived at Hampton Roads. Under their
protection the English General Phillips relieved Arnold with two
thousand more men; and it is at this moment that the active campaign of
1781 may be said to begin.
General Phillips immediately took command of the English army, for which
he had sufficient force of light transports, and proceeded up James
River. He landed first at Burrel's Ferry, opposite Williamsburg, into
which city, till lately the capital of the State, he marched unmolested.
His different marauding parties had entire success in their operations;
and it is to be observed that his command of the navigation was an
essential element of that success. "There is no fighting here," wrote
Lafayette, "unless you have a naval superiority, or an army mounted on
race-horses." Under almost all circumstances a corps embarked on boats
could be pushed along these rivers faster than an enemy marching on the
land. This remark, constantly verified then, will be much more important
in the campaign now pending, in which these streams will, of course,
be navigated by steam. It must be remembered, also, that the State of
Virginia was at this time the storehouse from which General Greene's
army in Carolina was supplied. To destroy the stores collected here,
and thus directly to break down the American army in the South, was Sir
Henry Clinton's object in sending out General Phillips. To protect these
stores and the lines of communication with the Southern army was the
object of the American generals. Had these designs been left unchanged,
however, I should not now be writing this history. Indeed, the whole
history of the United States would have had another beginning, and the
valley of the James River would have had as little critical interest,
in the close of the American Revolution, as have the valleys of the
Connecticut and the Penobscot. The important change came, when Lord
Cornwallis, at Wilmington, North Carolina, took the responsibility of
the dashing, but fatal plan by which he crossed North Carolina with his
own army, joined Phillips's army in Virginia, and with this large force,
with no considerable enemy opposed, was in a position to go anywhere or
to do anything unmolested. Cornwallis was an admirable officer, quite
the ablest the English employed in America. He was young, spirited, and
successful,--and, which was of much more importance in England, he had
plenty of friends at Court. He conceived the great insubordination,
therefore, of this great movement, which must compromise Sir Henry
Clinton's plans, although Sir Henry was his commander. He wrote to
the Secretary for the Colonies in London, and to General Phillips in
Virginia, that he was satisfied that a "serious attempt" on that State,
or "solid operations in Virginia," made the proper plan. So he abandoned
Carolina, to which he had been sent, to General Greene; and with the
idea that Sir Henry Clinton, his superior in command, ought to quit New
York and establish himself in Virginia, without waiting that officer's
views, he marched thither himself in such wise as to compel him to come.
In that movement the great game was really lost. And it is to that act
of insubordination, that, until this eventful April, 1862, the valley of
James River has owed its historical interest.
He wrote from North Carolina, directing General Phillips to join him in
Petersburg, Virginia; and thither Phillips called in his different corps
who were "stealing tobacco," and there he himself arrived, in a dying
condition, on the 9th of May. "I procured a post-chaise to convey him,"
says Arnold, his second in command. The town is familiar to travellers,
as being the end of the first railroad-link south of Richmond. They
still show the old house in which poor Phillips lay sick, while
Lafayette, from the other side of the river, cannonaded the town with
his light field-pieces. One of his balls entered the house, killed an
old negro-woman who was reviling the American troops, and passed through
the room where Phillips lay. "Will they not let me die in peace?" he
asked. Arnold was also in danger, one of the balls passing near him;
and, by his orders, Phillips and all the household were removed into the
cellar. General Phillips was afterwards taken to another house, where he
died on the 13th. It is in his memoranda of this affair at Petersburg
that Lafayette records the fact that his father died at Minden from one
of the shots of Phillips's batteries.
We left Lafayette at Williamsburg, which, my readers will remember, is
on the neck of land of which Fort Monroe forms the southeast corner: it
is about twenty-six miles northwest of that post, and ten miles west
of Yorktown. If they do not remember this, they had better learn it
now,--for, on this second of April, the appearances are that they will
need to know it before long. If any one of them does not care to look at
a map, he may take my figure which called Chesapeake Bay the palm of the
hand,--to which the James, York, Rappahannock, and Potomac Rivers are
the four fingers. Lay down on the page your right hand, upon its back,
with the fingers slightly apart. The thumb is a meridian which points
north. The forefinger is the Potomac as far as Washington. The middle
finger is the Rappahannock,--with Fredericksburg about the first joint.
The ring-finger is York River, with Williamsburg and Yorktown just above
and below the knuckle line. The little finger is the James River, as far
as Richmond. Fort Monroe is at the parting of the last two fingers. We
left Lafayette at Williamsburg, disappointed at the failure to entrap
Arnold. He returned at once to Annapolis by water, and transported his
troops back to the head of Chesapeake Bay,--expecting to return to New
York, now that his mission had failed. But Washington had learned,
meanwhile, that General Phillips had been sent from New York to
reinforce Arnold,--and so Lafayette met orders at the head of the
Chesapeake to return, take command in Virginia, and foil the English as
he might. Wayne, in Pennsylvania, was to join him with eight hundred of
the mutinous Pennsylvania line. Were they the grandfathers of the men
who deserted before Bull's Run? They retrieved themselves at James
Island afterwards,--as the Bull's Run Pennsylvanians did at Newbern the
other day. "How Lafayette or Wayne can march without money or credit,"
wrote Washington to Laurens, "is more than I can tell," But he did his
part, which was to command,--and they did theirs, which was to obey.
Lafayette did his part thus. His troops, twelve hundred light infantry,
the best soldiers in the world, he said at the end of the summer, had
left Peekskill for a short expedition only. They had no supplies for a
summer campaign, and seemed likely to desert him. Lafayette issued a
spirited order of the day, in which he took the tone of Henry V. before
the Battle of Agincourt, and offered a pass back to the North River to
any man who did not dare share with him the perils of the summer against
a superior force. He also hanged one deserter whom he caught after this
order, and pardoned another who was less to blame. By such varied means
he so far "encouraged the rest" that he wholly stopped desertion. He
crossed the Susquehanna on the 13th of April, was in Baltimore on the
18th, and it was here that the ladies gave him the ball where he said,
"My soldiers have no shirts." He borrowed two thousand guineas on his
own personal security, promising to pay at the end of two years, when
the French law would make him master of his estates. He bought
material with the money, made the Baltimore belles, who were not then
Secessionists, make the shirts, and started on his forced march again,
with his troops clothed and partly shod, on the 20th. He passed the
hills where Washington stands, unconscious of the city that was to be
there, and of the Long Bridge which shakes under McClellan's columns.
He halted to buy shoes in Alexandria, which he reached in two days. He
pressed on to Fredericksburg, and was at Richmond on the 29th. So that a
light column can march in nine days from Baltimore to Richmond, though
there be no railroad in working order.
This was the first march "Forward to Richmond" in history. For the
moment, it saved the city and its magazines from General Phillips, who
had reached Manchester, on the opposite side of James River. Phillips
retired down the river, hoping to decoy Lafayette after him, on that
neck of land, now, as then, a point so critical, between the James and
York Rivers,--and then to return by his vessels on the first change of
wind, get in Lafayette's rear, and shut him up there. But it was another
general who was to be shut up on that neck. Phillips was called south to
Petersburg, where, as we have seen, he died. "Will they not let me die
Cornwallis arrived at Petersburg with his Southern troops, including
Tarleton's horse, on the 20th of May. He then had nearly six thousand
men under his orders. Lafayette had about thirty-two hundred, of whom
only a few were cavalry, a volunteer body of Baltimore young gentlemen
being the most of them. The Virginia gentry had hesitated about giving
up their fine blood-horses to mount cavalry on. But Tarleton had
no hesitation in stealing them for his troopers, nor Simcoe, his
fellow-partisan, for his,--so that Cornwallis had the invaluable aid of
two bodies of cavalry thus admirably mounted, against an enemy almost
destitute. Both armies marched without tents, with the very lightest
baggage. It purely a light-infantry campaign, excepting the dashing
raids of Tarleton and Simcoe.
Lafayette felt his inferiority of force,--and as soon as Cornwallis
joined, crossed back over James River at Osborn's (say the bottom of
the little-finger nail on our extempore map). Cornwallis crossed at
Westover, also marked now on the maps as Ruffin's, some twenty miles
lower down the river. Lafayette felt the necessity of meeting Wayne, who
was supposed to be coming from Pennsylvania; he therefore retraced
his march of a few weeks before, followed by Cornwallis with his
infantry;--the cavalry had been on more distant service. Cornwallis
would have crushed Lafayette, if he had overtaken him; but Lafayette
knew this as well as we do,--marched nearly up to Fredericksburg
again,--protected it till its stores were removed,--and then, after
five days' march more, westward, met Wayne with his eight hundred
Pennsylvanians at Raccoon Ford (head of the middle finger on the
hand-map). The reader has, in just such way, marched a knight across the
chess-board to escort back a necessary pawn, to make desperate fight
against some Cornwallis of a castle. Cornwallis passed through Hanover
Court-House to Chesterfield Court-House, "stealing tobacco," in the
whole to the amount of two thousand hogsheads,--then, satisfying himself
that he could not prevent the junction of the knight and pawn, and that
Hunter's iron-works, at Fredericksburg, which he had threatened, were
not of so much import as the stores in the western part of the country,
he turned south and west again, and awaited Lafayette's movements,
threatening Albemarle County, just west of where we are beginning to get
acquainted with Gordonsville,--a place then uncreated. Cornwallis was
all along unwilling to engage in extensive operations till he should
hear from Sir Henry Clinton, whom he knew he had insulted and offended.
His detachments of horse had been sent, meanwhile, up the line of James
River above Richmond. Tarleton penetrated as far as Charlottesville,
marching seventy miles in twenty-four hours, hoping to take the
Legislature by surprise. The story is, that he would have succeeded, but
for his eagerness to get his breakfast on the last day. He had waited
long for it,--and finally asked, in some heat, where it was. Dr. Walker,
whose guest he had made himself, replied, that Tarleton's soldiers had
already taken two of the breakfasts which had been prepared for him that
morning, and suggested a guard for the security of the third.
While the third breakfast was being cooked, the legislators escaped.
Jefferson was among them. Tarleton took seven, however, who told him
that the country was tired of the war,--and that, if no treaty for a
loan were made with France that summer, Congress would negotiate with
England before winter. They were eighty-one years in advance of their
time! Tarleton returned down the Rivanna River to its junction with the
James, where he assisted Simcoe in driving out Baron Steuben, who with a
few militia was trying to protect some arms there. Poor Steuben had but
few to protect, nothing to protect them with, and lost them all. At this
point the cavalry rejoined the main army under Cornwallis.
In all these movements of both parties, the character of the "laboring
people," of which, as I have said, President Tyler spoke to me, was
illustrated. These people swarmed to Cornwallis with information, with
horses and supplies. They did not swell the ranks of the Virginia
militia. "He took away thirty thousand of our slaves," says Mr.
Jefferson. "Many of your negroes joined the enemy," says Lafayette
to Washington; "the news did not trouble me much, for that sort of
interests touch me very little." This is in the letter where he tells
the General how his agent, Lund Washington, had been disgracefully
treating with the invaders. This disposition of the "laboring people,"
away from the high-roads, indeed, as Mr. Tyler said, explains the
difference between Southern and Northern Revolutionary campaigns. The
English forces never marched a day's march inland in the Northern
States, excepting the three marches of two days or three, when they
came to Bennington, to Saratoga, and to Trenton,--three memorable
stopping-places. But in a country where the "laboring people" did not
bear arms, they went to and fro, for months, as they chose. The Southern
militia was small in numbers, and not trustworthy. The troops whom
Lafayette relied upon, "the best troops in the world, far superior, in
equal numbers, to the English," were his two thousand Northern men of
the Continental line. Lord Cornwallis reunited all his forces at Elk
Island, about forty miles above Richmond on James River. His own
head-quarters were at "Jefferson's Plantation." He proposed another
blow, on the stores collected in Old Albemarle Court-House, behind the
mountains; and on the 9th of June he ordered Tarleton to march thither
at daybreak, but recalled the order. He seems to have preferred waiting
till he could attack "the Marquis," as they all called Lafayette, to
advantage, to risking any considerable division in the mountains. And
as he lay, the road by which he supposed Lafayette must come down from
Raccoon Ford to protect Albemarle would expose him to a flank attack
as he passed the head of Byrd's River. It was at this time, that, in a
despatch which was intercepted, he wrote, "The boy cannot escape
me." Lafayette tells the story with great gusto. "The boy" found a
mountain-road which crossed farther west than that which he was expected
to march upon. It had been long disused, but he pressed through it,--and
at Burwell's Ordinary, in a neighborhood where our troops will find
villages with the promising names of Union Town and Everettsville, he
formed, on the 12th and 13th, in a strong position between Cornwallis
and the coveted magazines. Cornwallis affected to suppose that the
stores had been withdrawn; but, as he had given up Fredericksburg
that he might destroy these very stores, Lafayette had good reason to
congratulate himself that he had foiled him in the two special objects
of the campaign, and had reduced him to the business which he did not
like, of "stealing tobacco." For whatever reason, Cornwallis did not
press his enterprise. With a force so formidable and a leader so
enterprising before him, he did not care to entangle himself in the
passes of the Blue Ridge. We shall know from General Banks's column, by
the time this paper is printed, what are the facilities they afford for
cover to an enemy. Leaving the Albemarle stores, therefore, and the road
to Greene behind the mountains, he retraced his steps down the valley
of the James River, and, passing Richmond, descended as low as
Williamsburg, the point from which we have been tracing Lafayette's
Lafayette followed him with delight, not to say amazement. "The enemy is
so obliging as to withdraw before us," he writes,--and probably, to the
end of his life, he did not fully understand why Lord Cornwallis did so.
Their forces were numerically about equal, each commanding now rather
more than five thousand men. But of Lafayette's only fifty were cavalry,
a very important arm in that campaign, while Cornwallis had now eight
hundred men mounted on the blood horses of Virginia. It was not true, as
Lafayette thought possible, that the English exaggerated his force. It
appears from Tarleton's memoirs that they estimated it very precisely.
But we now know from Cornwallis's letters, that he had promised Clinton
to be at Williamsburg on the 26th of June, ready for any operations
he might then and there propose. He hoped that Clinton would largely
reinforce him, so that his favorite scheme of "solid operations in
Virginia" might be carried on. At all events, he had promised to have
his army at Williamsburg to join any force which Clinton might send to
him. To make this imagined junction, which never took place, he began
his retreat. Lafayette again offered him battle; but Cornwallis did
not accept the opportunity, and on the 25th of June he arrived at
Williamsburg. Lafayette was always one day's march behind him, and
encamped at last at Tyre's Plantation, one day beyond Williamsburg,
which may become famous again in a few days. Colonel Butler, of
Pennsylvania, with his riflemen, attacked Colonel Simcoe, of the English
corps of refugees, at the Fords of the Chickahominy, about six miles
west of Williamsburg. We shall be hearing of these fords again.
At Williamsburg poor Cornwallis met his fate. He had, perhaps, been
dreading the arrival of his despatches from Clinton, through all the
month he had been in Virginia. At last they came. Clinton was sorry he
was there, expressed his regret that Cornwallis did not favor his plan
for marching on Philadelphia, gave him _carte blanche_ for Baltimore or
Delaware,--but, instead of reinforcing him, asked for two thousand men,
if he could spare them. The letter is, on the whole, a manly letter,
from a superior to an inferior, who had social rank higher than himself,
and more of the confidence of their Government. It gives Cornwallis
great latitude; but it does not "abandon New York and bring our whole
force into Virginia," which was Cornwallis's pet plan.
His Lordship behaved ill,--and, in a pet, threw away the British empire
in America. He sulked, to speak simply. He took the sullen policy
of literal obedience to orders, though he knew he should "break his
owners." He marched at once, crossed James River at Jamestown, where
Lafayette attacked his rear,--and, if his Lordship had been in
fighting humor, would have got well beaten for his pains,--withdrew to
Portsmouth, and put on vessels the two thousand men asked for by Sir
Henry. Just then new despatches came from Clinton, who had received
later news, and who was always trying to humor this spoiled child. He
told him to keep all his men in Virginia, where he would take command
himself as soon as the hot season was over. The "solid operations" were
to begin. Very unstable they proved, even in the beginning!
Clinton ordered him to take post at Old Point Comfort,--where Fort
Monroe is. But the engineer officers reported that they could not
protect the fleet there against the French; and, to the delight of
Lafayette and of all good angels, Cornwallis selected Yorktown for his
summer position. Our neighborhood to it at Fort Monroe has made the
position again familiar.
When Lafayette heard that the troops had sailed up the
Chesapeake,--instead of to New York, which he had very correctly
supposed to be their destination,--he thought Cornwallis was going to
strike at Baltimore, and that he must "cut across" to Fredericksburg.
That way he marched with his light infantry. His amazement hardly
concealed itself when he found the enemy stopped at Yorktown. Back he
came to Williamsburg, and wrote to Washington,--"If a fleet should
arrive at this moment, our affairs will take a very fortunate turn."
This was on the 6th of August. On the 1st of September he could
write,--"From the bottom of my heart, my dear General, I felicitate you
on the arrival of the French fleet.... Thanks to you, my dear General,
I am in a charming situation, and I find myself at the head of a superb
corps." The Marquis of St. Simon joined him with three thousand French
infantry from the fleet,--and at Williamsburg they effectually kept
Cornwallis from escape by land, as the French fleet did by sea.
The only proposal which Cornwallis made to save his corps after this was
carefully considered, and, it is said, at one time determined on; but it
was finally rejected, in expectation of relief from Clinton. Just now
that we are beginning "solid operations in Virginia," and may have
occasion to move a hundred thousand men, more or less, up the long neck
of land between York and James Rivers, the passage is an interesting
one. Washington had not yet arrived. The English plan was to attack and
beat Lafayette and St. Simon before Washington joined them. The English
columns were to move from Yorktown so as to attack Williamsburg before
daybreak. "That time was deemed eligible," says Tarleton, "because the
ground near and in Williamsburg is cut by several ravines, and because
the British column, in advancing in the long and straight road through
the town, would not be so much exposed to the enemy's cannon under cover
of the night as during the day." Let the reader remember these defiles,
as he traces the march of another column from Fort Monroe through
Yorktown to Williamsburg, with some General Magruder falling back
before it, watching his chances to strike. Cornwallis gave up the plan,
however, and waited for the help from Clinton, which never came. On the
15th of September Washington and Rochambeau joined Lafayette; on the
18th of October Cornwallis capitulated, and for eighty years the
Virginian campaigns were over.
There is not one subdivision of them but is touched by the movements of
to-day. Everything is changed, indeed, except Virginia. But Raccoon Ford
and Bottom's Bridge are where they were then. The division which marches
on Gordonsville may send a party down the "Marquis's Road," as the
people still call the wood-road which Lafayette opened; and all the
battles of the next month,[A] in short, will be fought on the ground
familiar to the soldiers of eighty years ago.
[Footnote A: By "the next month" the writer meant May. It will be
observed that his article was finally prepared for the press on the
second of April. It has not since been changed. The references to
Williamsburg, the Chickahominy, and the "neck between the rivers" are
not "prophecies after the fact."]
SUNTHIN' IN THE PASTORAL LINE.
_To the Editors of the_ ATLANTIC MONTHLY.
Jaalam, 17th May, 1862.
Gentlemen,--At the special request of Mr. Biglow, I intended to inclose,
together with his own contribution, (into which, at my suggestion,
he has thrown a little more of pastoral sentiment than usual,) some
passages from my sermon on the day of the National Fast, from the text,
"Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them," _Heb_. xiii. 3.
But I have not leisure sufficient at present for the copying of them,
even were I altogether satisfied with the production as it stands. I
should prefer, I confess, to contribute the entire discourse to the
pages of your respectable miscellany, if it should be found acceptable
upon perusal, especially as I find the difficulty of selection of
greater magnitude than I had anticipated. What passes without challenge
in the fervour of oral delivery cannot always stand the colder criticism
of the closet. I am not so great an enemy of Eloquence as my friend Mr.
Biglow would appear to be from some passages in his contribution for
the current month. I would not, indeed, hastily suspect him of covertly
glancing at myself in his somewhat caustick animadversions, albeit some
of the phrases he girds at are not entire strangers to my lips. I am a
more hearty admirer of the Puritans than seems now to be the fashion,
and believe, that, if they Hebraized a little too much in their speech,
they showed remarkable practical sagacity as statesmen and founders. But
such phenomena as Puritanism are the results rather of great religious
than merely social convulsions, and do not long survive them. So soon as
an earnest conviction has cooled into a phrase, its work is over, and
the best that can be done with it is to bury it. _Ite, missa est_. I
am inclined to agree with Mr. Biglow that we cannot settle the great
political questions which are now presenting themselves to the nation by
the opinions of Jeremiah or Ezekiel as to the wants and duties of the
Jews in their time, nor do I believe that an entire community with their
feelings and views would be practicable or even agreeable at the present
day. At the same time I could wish that their habit of subordinating
the actual to the moral, the flesh to the spirit, and this world to the
other were more common. They had found out, at least, the great military
secret that soul weighs more than body.--But I am suddenly called to a
sick-bed in the household of a valued parishioner.
With esteem and respect. Your ob't serv't HOMER WILBUR.
Once git a smell o' musk into a draw
An' it clings hold like precerdents in law:
Your gran'ma'am put it there,--when, goodness knows,--
To jes' this-worldify her Sunday-clo'es;
But the old chist wun't sarve her gran'son's wife,
(For, 'thout new funnitoor, wut good in life?)
An' so ole clawfoot, from the precinks dread
O' the spare-chamber, slinks into the shed,
Where, dim with dust, it fust or last subsides
To holdin' seeds an' fifty things besides;
But better days stick fast in heart an' husk,
An' all you keep in't gits a scent o' musk.
Jes' so with poets: wut they've airly read
Gits kind o' worked into their heart an' head,
So's 't they can't seem to write but jest on sheers
With furrin countries or played-out ideers,
Nor hev a feelin', ef it doosn't smack
O' wut some critter chose to feel 'way back:
This makes 'em talk o' daisies, larks, an' things,
Ez though we 'd nothin' here that blows an' sings,--
(Why, I'd give more for one live bobolink
Than a square mile o' larks in printer's ink,)--
This makes 'em think our fust o' May is May,
Which 't ain't, for all the almanicks can say.
O little city-gals, don't never go it
Blind on the word o' noospaper or poet!
They 're apt to puff, an' May-day seldom looks
Up in the country ez it doos in books;
They 're no more like than hornets'-nests an' hives,
Or printed sarmons be to holy lives.
I, with my trouses perched on cow-hide boots,
Tuggin' my foundered feet out by the roots,
Hev seen ye come to fling on April's hearse
Your muslin nosegays from the milliner's,
Puzzlin' to find dry ground your queen to choose,
An' dance your throats sore in morocker shoes:
I've seen ye an' felt proud, thet, come wut would,
Our Pilgrim stock wuz pithed with hardihood.
Pleasure doos make us Yankees kind o' winch,
Ez though 't wuz sunthin' paid for by the inch;
But yit we du contrive to worry thru,
Ef Dooty tells us thet the thing's to du,
An' kerry a hollerday, ef we set out,
Ez stiddily ez though 't wuz a redoubt.
I, country-born an' bred, know where to find
Some blooms thet make the season suit the mind,
An' seem to metch the doubtin' bluebird's notes,--
Half-vent'rin' liverworts in furry coats,
Bloodroots, whose rolled-up leaves ef you oncurl,
Each on 'em's cradle to a baby-pearl,--
But these are jes' Spring's pickets; sure ez sin,
The rebble frosts 'll try to drive 'em in;
For half our May's so awfully like Mayn't,
'T would rile a Shaker or an evrige saint;
Though I own up I like our back'ard springs
Thet kind o' haggle with their greens an' things,
An' when you 'most give up, without more words
Toss the fields full o' blossoms, leaves, an' birds:
Thet's Northun natur', slow an' apt to doubt,
But when it _doos_ git stirred, ther's no gin-out!
Fust come the blackbirds clatt'rin' in tall trees,
An' settlin' things in windy Congresses,--
Queer politicians, though, for I'll be skinned,
Ef all on 'em don't head aginst the wind.
'Fore long the trees begin to show belief,--
The maple crimsons to a coral-reef,
Then saffern swarms swing off from all the willers
So plump they look like yaller caterpillars,
Then gray hossches'nuts leetle hands unfold
Softer 'n a baby's be at three days old:
This is the robin's almanick; he knows
Thet arter this ther' 's only blossom-snows;
So, choosin' out a handy crotch an' spouse,
He goes to plast'rin' his adobe house.
Then seems to come a hitch,--things lag behind,
Till some fine mornin' Spring makes up her mind,
An' ez, when snow-swelled rivers cresh their dams
Heaped-up with ice thet dovetails in an' jams,
A leak comes spirtin' thru some pin-hole cleft,
Grows stronger, fercer, tears out right an' left,
Then all the waters bow themselves an' come,
Suddin, in one gret slope o' shedderin' foam,
Jes' so our Spring gits everythin' in tune
An' gives one leap from April into June:
Then all comes crowdin' in; afore you think,
The oak-buds mist the side-hill woods with pink,
The catbird in the laylock-bush is loud,
The orchards turn to heaps o' rosy cloud,
In ellum-shrouds the flashin' hangbird clings
An' for the summer vy'ge his hammock slings,
All down the loose-walled lanes in archin' bowers
The barb'ry droops its strings o' golden flowers,
Whose shrinkin' hearts the school-gals love to try
With pins,--they 'll worry yourn so, boys, bimeby!
But I don't love your cat'logue style,--do you?--
Ez ef to sell all Natur' by vendoo;
One word with blood in 't's twice ez good ez two:
'Nuff sed, June's bridesman, poet o' the year,
Gladness on wings, the bobolink, is here;
Half-hid in tip-top apple-blooms he swings,
Or climbs aginst the breeze with quiverin' wings,
Or, givin' way to 't in a mock despair,
Runs down, a brook o' laughter, thru the air.
I ollus feel the sap start in my veins
In spring, with curus heats an' prickly pains,
Thet drive me, when I git a chance, to walk
Off by myself to hev a privit talk
With a queer critter thet can't seem to 'gree
Along o' me like most folks,--Mister Me.
Ther' 's times when I'm unsoshle ez a stone,
An' sort o' suffocate to be alone,--
I'm crowded jes' to think thet folks are nigh,
An' can't bear nothin' closer than the sky;
Now the wind's full ez shifty in the mind
Ez wut it is ou'-doors, ef I ain't blind,
An' sometimes, in the fairest sou'west weather,
My innard vane pints east for weeks together,
My natur' gits all goose-flesh, an' my sins
Come drizzlin' on my conscience sharp ez pins:
Wal, et sech times I jes' slip out o' sight
An' take it out in a fair stan'-up fight
With the one cuss I can't lay on the shelf,
The crook'dest stick in all the heap,--Myself.
'T wuz so las' Sabbath arter meetin'-time:
Findin' my feelins wouldn't noways rhyme
With nobody's, but off the hendle flew
An' took things from an east-wind pint o' view,
I started off to lose me in the hills
Where the pines be, up back o' 'Siah's Mills:
Pines, ef you're blue, are the best friends I know,
They mope an' sigh an' sheer your feelins so,--
They hesh the ground beneath so, tu, I swan,
You half-forgit you 'we gut a body on.
Ther's a small school'us' there where four roads meet,
The door-steps hollered out by little feet,
An' side-posts carved with names whose owners grew
To gret men, some on 'em, an' deacons, tu;
'T ain't used no longer, coz the town hez gut
A high-school, where they teach the Lord knows wut:
Three-story larnin' 's pop'lar now; I guess
We thriv' ez wal on jes' two stories less,
For it strikes me ther' 's sech a thing ez sinnin'
By overloadin' children's underpitmin':
Wal, here it wuz I larned my A B C,
An' it's a kind o' favorite spot with me.
We 're curus critters: Now ain't jes' the minute
Thet ever fits us easy while we 're in it;
Long ez 't wuz futur', 't would be perfect bliss,--
Soon ez it's past, _thet_ time's wuth ten o' this;
An' yit there ain't a man thet need be told
Thet Now's the only bird lays eggs o' gold.
A knee-high lad, I used to plot an' plan
An' think 't wuz life's cap-sheaf to be a man;
Now, gittin' gray, there's nothin' I enjoy
Like dreamin' back along into a boy:
So the ole school'us' is a place I choose
Afore all others, ef I want to muse;
I set down where I used to set, an' git
My boyhood back, an' better things with it,--
Faith, Hope, an' sunthin', ef it isn't Cherrity,
It's want o' guile, an' thet's ez gret a rerrity.
Now, 'fore I knowed, thet Sabbath arternoon
Thet I sot out to tramp myself in tune,
I found me in the school'us' on my seat,
Drummin' the march to No-wheres with my feet.
Thinkin' o' nothin', I've heerd ole folks say,
Is a hard kind o' dooty in its way:
It's thinkin' everythin' you ever knew,
Or ever hearn, to make your feelins blue.
I sot there tryin' thet on for a spell:
I thought o' the Rebellion, then o' Hell,
Which some folks tell ye now is jest a metterfor
(A the'ry, p'raps, it wun't _feel_ none the better for);
I thought o' Reconstruction, wut we 'd win
Patchin' our patent self-blow-up agin;
I thought ef tins 'ere milkin' o' the wits,
So much, a month, warn't givin' Natur' fits,--
Ef folks warn't druv, findin' their own milk fail,
To work the cow thet hez an iron tail,
An' ef idees 'thout ripenin' in the pan
Would send up cream to humor ary man:
From this to thet I let my worryin' creep,
Till finally I must ha' fell asleep.
Our lives in sleep are some like streams thet glide
'Twixt flesh an' sperrit boundin' on each side,
Where both shores' shadders kind o' mix an' mingle
In sunthin' thet ain't jes' like either single;
An' when you cast off' moorins from To-day,
An' down towards To-morrer drift away,
The imiges thet tengle on the stream
Make a new upside-down'ard world o' dream:
Sometimes they seem like sunrise-streaks an' warnins
O' wut 'll be in Heaven on Sabbath-mornins,
An', mixed right in ez ef jest out o' spite,
Sunthin' thet says your supper ain't gone right.
I'm gret on dreams, an' often, when I wake,
I've lived so much it makes my mem'ry ache,
An' can't skurce take a cat-nap in my cheer
'Thout hevin' 'em, some good, some bad, all queer.
Now I wuz settin' where I 'd ben, it seemed,
An' ain't sure yit whether I r'ally dreamed,
Nor, ef I did, how long I might ha' slep',
When I hearn some un stompin' up the step,
An' lookin' round, ef two an' two make four,
I see a Pilgrim Father in the door.
He wore a steeple-hat, tall boots, an' spurs
With rowels to 'em big ez ches'nut-burrs,
An' his gret sword behind him sloped away
Long 'z a man's speech thet dunno wut to say.--
"Ef your name's Biglow, an' your given-name
Hosee," sez he, "it's arter you I came;
I'm your gret-gran'ther multiplied by three."--
"My _wut_?" sez I.--"Your gret-gret-gret," sez he:
"You wouldn't ha' never ben here but for me.
Two hunderd an' three year ago this May
The ship I come in sailed up Boston Bay;
I 'd ben a cunnle in our Civil War,--
But wut on airth hev _you_ gut up one for?
I'm told you write in public prints: ef true,
It's nateral you should know a thing or two."--
"Thet air's an argymunt I can't endorse,--
'T would prove, coz you wear spurs, you kep' a horse:
For brains," sez I, "wutever you may think,
Ain't boun' to cash the draft o' pen-an'-ink,--
Though mos' folks write ez ef they hoped jes' quickenin'
The churn would argoo skim-milk into thickenin';
But skim-milk ain't a thing to change its view
O' usefleness, no more 'n a smoky flue.
But du pray tell me, 'fore we furder go,
How in all Natur' did you come to know
'Bout our affairs," sez I, "in Kingdom-Come?"--
"Wal, I worked round at sperrit-rappin' some,
In hopes o' larnin' wut wuz goin' on,"
Sez he, "but mejums lie so like all-split
Thet I concluded it wuz best to quit.
But, come now, ef you wun't confess to knowin',
You 've some conjecturs how the thing's a-goin'."--
"Gran'ther," sez I, "a vane warn't never known
Nor asked to hev a jedgment of its own;
An' yit, ef 't ain't gut rusty in the jints,
It 'a safe to trust its say on certin pints:
It knows the wind's opinions to a T,
An' the wind settles wut the weather 'll be-"--
"I never thought a scion of our stock
Could grow the wood to make a weathercock;
When I wuz younger 'n you, skurce more 'n a shaver,
No airthly wind," sez he, "could make me waver!"
(Ez he said this, he clinched his jaw an' forehead,
Hitchin' his belt to bring his sword-hilt forrard.)--
"Jes' so it wuz with me," sez I, "I swow,
When _I_ wuz younger 'n wut you see me now,--
Nothin', from Adam's fall to Huldy's bonnet,
Thet I warn't full-cocked with my jedgement on it;
But now I'm gittin' on in life, I find
It's a sight harder to make up my mind,--
Nor I don't often try tu, when events
Will du it for me free of all expense.
The moral question's ollus plain enough,--
It's jes' the human-natur' side thet's tough;
Wut's best to think mayn't puzzle me nor you,--.
The pinch comes in decidin' wut to _du_;
Ef you _read_ History, all runs smooth ez grease,
Coz there the men ain't nothin more 'n idees,--
But come to _make_ it, ez we must to-day,
Th' idees hev arms an' legs an' stop the way:
It's easy fixin' things in facts an' figgers,--
They can't resist, nor warn't brought up with niggers;
But come to try your the'ry on,--why, then
Your facts an' figgers change to ign'ant men
Actin' ez ugly"----"Smite 'em hip an' thigh!"
Sez gran'ther, "an' let every man-child die!
Oh for three weeks o' Crommle an' the Lord!
O Israel, to your tents an' grind the sword!"--
"Thet kind o' thing worked wal in ole Judee,
But yon forgit how long It's ben A.D.;
You think thet's ellerkence,--I call it shoddy,
A thing," sez I, "wun't cover sonl nor body;
I like the plain all-wool o' common-sense,
Thet warms ye now, an' will a twelvemonth hence.
_You_ took to follerin' where the Prophets beckoned,
An', fust you knowed on, back come Charles the Second;
Now wut I want's to hev all _we_ gain stick,
An' not to start Millennium too quick;
We hain't to punish only, but to keep,
An' the cure's gut to go a cent'ry deep."--
"Wal, milk-an'-water ain't a good cement,"
Sez he, "an' so you 'll find it in th' event;
Ef reshness venters sunthin', shilly-shally
Loses ez often wut's ten times the vally.
Thet exe of ourn, when Charles's neck gut split,
Opened a gap thet ain't bridged over yit:
Slav'ry's your Charles, the Lord hez gin the exe,"--
"Our Charles," sez I, "hez gut eight million necks.
The hardest question ain't the black man's right,--
The trouble is to'mancipate the white;
One's chained in body an' can be sot free,--
The other's chained in soul to an idee:
It's a long job, but we shall worry thru it;
Ef bag'nets fail, the spellin'-book must do it."--
"Hosee," sez he, "I think you 're goin' to fail:
The rettlesnake ain't dangerous in the tail;
This 'ere rebellion's nothin' but the rettle,--
You 'll stomp on thet an' think you 've won the bettle;
It's Slavery thet's the fangs an' thinkin' head,
An' ef you want selvation, cresh it dead,--
An' crash it suddin, or you 'll larn by waitin'
Thet Chance wun't stop to listen to debatin'!"--
"God's truth!" sez I,--"an' ef _I_ held the club,
An' knowed jes' where to strike,--but there's the rub!"--
"Strike soon," sez he, "or you 'll be deadly ailin',--
Folks thet's afeared to fail are sure o' failin';
God hates your sneakin' creturs thet believe
He 'II settle things they run away an' leave!"
He brought his foot down fercely, ez he spoke,
An' give me sech a startle thet I woke.