negro everywhere has made, excellent material for the army. Easily subordinate, prompt, reliable, and keenly alert when on duty (as their shooting at me will evince), they completely gave the lie to the Rebel assertion that the negro would prove worthless under arms.
On one point only were they inclined to be mutinous. Their home ties were very strong, and their affection for their wives and children could not be overcome at once. It appeared that when this regiment was organized it was expected to remain at Milliken’s Bend, where the families of nearly all the men were gathered. The order transferring them to Waterproof was unlooked for, and the men made some complaint. This was soon silenced, but after the regiment had been there three or four weeks, a half-dozen of the men went out of the lines one night, and started to walk to Milliken’s Bend. They were brought back, and, after several days in the guardhouse, returned to duty. Others followed their example in attempting to go home, and for a while the camp was in a disturbed condition. Desertions were of daily occurrence.
It was difficult to make them understand they were doing wrong. The army regulations and the intricacies of military law were unknown to them. They had never studied any of General Halleck’s translations from the French, and, had they done so, I doubt if they would have been much enlightened. None of them knew what “desertion” meant, nor the duties of a soldier to adhere to his flag at all times. All intended to return to the post after making a brief visit to their families. Most of them would request their comrades to notify their captains that they would only be absent a short time. Two, who succeeded in eluding pursuit, made their appearance one morning as if nothing had happened, and assured their officers that others would shortly be back again. Gradually they came to understand the wickedness of desertion, or absence without leave, but this comprehension of their obligations was not easily acquired.
A captain, commanding a company at Waterproof, told me an amusing story of a soldier “handing in his resignation.” As the captain was sitting in front of his quarters, one of his men approached him, carrying his musket and all his accoutrements. Without a word the man laid his entire outfit upon the ground, in front of the captain, and then turned to walk away.
“Come back here,” said the officer; “what do you mean by this?”
“I’se tired of staying here, and I’se going home,” was the negro’s answer, and he again attempted to move off.
“Come back here and pick these things up,” and the captain spoke in a tone that convinced the negro he would do well to obey.
The negro told his story. He was weary of the war; he had been four weeks a soldier; he wanted to see his family, and had concluded to go home. If the captain desired it, he, would come back in a little while, but he was going home then, “_any how_.”
The officer possessed an amiable disposition, and explained to the soldier the nature of military discipline. The latter was soon convinced he had done wrong, and returned without a murmur to his duty. Does any soldier, who reads this, imagine himself tendering his resignation in the above manner with any prospect of its acceptance?
When the first regiment of colored volunteers was organized in Kansas, it was mainly composed of negroes who had escaped from slavery in Missouri. They were easily disciplined save upon a single point, and on this they were very obstinate. Many of the negroes in Missouri, as in other parts of the South, wear their hair, or wool, in little knots or braids. They refused to submit to a close shearing, and threatened to return to their masters rather than comply with the regulation. Some actually left the camp and went home. The officers finally carried their point by inducing some free negroes in Leavenworth, whose heads were adorned with the “fighting cut,” to visit the camp and tell the obstinate ones that long locks were a badge of servitude.
The negroes on our plantation, as well as elsewhere, had a strong desire to go to Waterproof to see the soldiers. Every Sunday they were permitted to go there to attend church, the service being conducted by one of their own color. They greatly regretted that the soldiers did not parade on that day, as they missed their opportunities for witnessing military drills. To the negroes from plantations in the hands of disloyal owners, the military posts were a great attraction, and they would suffer all privations rather than return home. Some of them declared they would not go outside the lines under any consideration. We needed more assistance on our plantation, but it was next to impossible to induce negroes to go there after they found shelter at the military posts. Dread of danger and fondness for their new life were their reasons for remaining inside the lines. A portion were entirely idle, but there were many who adopted various modes of earning their subsistence.
At Natchez, Vicksburg, and other points, dealers in fruit, coffee, lemonade, and similar articles, could be found in abundance. There were dozens of places where washing was taken in, though it was not always well done. Wood-sawing, house-cleaning, or any other kind of work requiring strength, always found some one ready to perform it. Many of those who found employment supported themselves, while those who could not or would not find it, lived at the expense of Government. The latter class was greatly in the majority.
I have elsewhere inserted the instructions which are printed in every “Plantation Record,” for the guidance of overseers in the olden time. “Never trust a negro,” is the maxim given by the writer of those instructions. I was frequently cautioned not to believe any statements made by negroes. They were charged with being habitual liars, and entitled to no credence whatever. Mrs. B. constantly assured me the negroes were great liars, and I must not believe them. This assurance would be generally given when I cited them in support of any thing she did not desire to approve. _Per contra_, she had no hesitation in referring to the negroes to support any of her statements which their testimony would strengthen. This was not altogether feminine weakness, as I knew several instances in which white persons of the sterner sex made reference to the testimony of slaves. The majority of Southern men refuse to believe them on all occasions; but there are many who refer to them if their statements are advantageous, yet declare them utterly unworthy of credence when the case is reversed.
I have met many negroes who could tell falsehoods much easier than they could tell the truth. I have met others who saw no material difference between truth and its opposite; and I have met many whose statements could be fully relied upon. During his whole life, from the very nature of the circumstances which, surround him, the slave is trained in deception. If he did not learn to lie it would be exceedingly strange. It is my belief that the negroes are as truthful as could be expected from their education. White persons, under similar experience and training, would not be good examples for the young to imitate. The negroes tell many lies, but all negroes are not liars. Many white persons tell the truth, but I have met, in the course of my life, several men, of the Caucasian race, who never told the truth unless by accident.
I found in the plantation negroes a proneness to exaggeration, in cases where their fears or desires were concerned. One day, a negro from the back country came riding rapidly to our plantation, declaring that the woods, a mile distant, were “full of Rebels,” and asking where the Yankee soldiers were. I questioned him for some time. When his fears were quieted, I ascertained that he had seen three mounted men, an hour before, but did not know what they were, or whether armed or not.
When I took the plantations, Mrs. B. told me there were twenty bales of cotton already picked; the negroes had told her so. When I surveyed the place on the first day of my occupation, the negroes called my attention to the picked cotton, of which they thought there were twenty or twenty-five bales. With my little experience in cotton, I felt certain there would be not more than seven bales of that lot. When it was passed through the gin and pressed, there were but five bales.
We wished to plant about fifty acres of corn on the larger plantation. There was a triangular patch in one corner that we estimated to contain thirty acres. The foreman of the plow-gang, who had lived twenty years on the place, thought there were about sixty acres. He was surprised when we found, by actual measurement, that the patch contained twenty-eight acres. Another spot, which he thought contained twenty acres, measured less than ten. Doubtless the man’s judgment had been rarely called for, and its exercise, to any extent, was decidedly a new sensation.
Any thing to which the negroes were unaccustomed became the subject of amusing calculations. The “hog-minder” could estimate with considerable accuracy the weight of a hog, either live or dressed. When I asked him how much he supposed his own weight to be, he was entirely lost. On my demanding an answer, he thought it might be three hundred pounds. A hundred and sixty would not have been far from the real figure.
Incorrect judgment is just as prevalent among ignorant whites as among negroes, though with the latter there is generally a tendency to overestimate. Where negroes make wrong estimates, in three cases out of four they will be found excessive. With whites the variation will be diminutive as often as excessive. In judging of numbers of men, a column of troops, for example, both races are liable to exaggerate, the negro generally going beyond the pale-face. Fifty mounted men may ride past a plantation. The white inhabitants will tell you a hundred soldiers have gone by, while the negroes will think there were two or three hundred.
I was often surprised at the ability of the negroes to tell the names of the steamboats plying on the river. None of the negroes could read, but many of them would designate the different boats with great accuracy. They recognized the steamers as they would recognize the various trees of the forest. When a new boat made its appearance they inquired its name, and forgot it very rarely.
On one occasion a steamer came in sight, on her way up the river. Before she was near enough for me to make out the name on her side, one of the negroes declared it was the _Laurel Hill_. His statement proved correct. It was worthy of note that the boat had not passed that point for nearly a year previous to that day.
THE END OF THE EXPERIMENT.
The Nature of our “Protection.”–Trade Following the Flag.–A Fortunate Journey.–Our Last Visit.–Inhumanity of the Guerrillas.–Driving Negroes into Captivity.–Killing an Overseer.–Our Final Departure.–Plantations Elsewhere.
We did not look upon the post at Waterproof as a sure protection. There was no cavalry to make the promised patrol between Waterproof and the post next below it, or to hunt down any guerrillas that might come near. A few of the soldiers were mounted on mules and horses taken from the vicinity, but they were not effective for rapid movements. It was understood, and semi-officially announced, that the post was established for the protection of Government plantations. The commandant assured me he had no orders to that effect. He was placed there to defend the post, and nothing else. We were welcome to any protection his presence afforded, but he could not go outside the limits of the town to make any effort in our behalf.
There was a store at Waterproof which was doing a business of two thousand dollars daily. Every day the wives, brothers, or sisters of men known to belong to the marauding bands in the vicinity, would come to the town and make any purchases they pleased, frequently paying for them in money which the guerrillas had stolen. A gentleman, who was an intimate friend of General Thomas, was one of the proprietors of this store, and a son of that officer was currently reported to hold an interest in it. After a time the ownership was transferred to a single cotton speculator, but the trading went on without hinderance. This speculator told me the guerrilla leader had sent him a verbal promise that the post should not be disturbed or menaced so long as the store remained there. Similar scenes were enacted at nearly all the posts established for the “protection” of leased plantations. Trading stores were in full operation, and the amount of goods that reached the Rebels and their friends was enormous.
I have little doubt that this course served to prolong the resistance to our arms along the Mississippi River. If we had stopped all commercial intercourse with the inhabitants, we should have removed the inducement for Rebel troops to remain in our vicinity. As matters were managed, they kept close to our lines at all the military posts between Cairo and Baton Rouge, sometimes remaining respectfully quiet, and at others making occasional raids within a thousand yards of our pickets.
The absence of cavalry, and there being no prospect that any would arrive, led us to believe that we could not long remain unmolested. We were “in for it,” however, and continued to plow and plant, trusting to good fortune in getting safely through. Our misfortune came at last, and brought our free-labor enterprise to an untimely end.
As I stated in the previous chapter, Colburn and myself made daily visits to the plantation, remaining there for dinner, and returning to Waterproof in the afternoon. On Monday, May 2d, we made our usual visit, and returned to the post. A steamer touched there, on its way to Natchez, just after our return, and we accepted the invitation of her captain to go to that place. Our journey to Natchez was purely from impulse, and without any real or ostensible business to call us away. It proved, personally, a very fortunate journey.
On Tuesday evening, a neighbor of ours reached Natchez, bringing news that the guerrillas had visited our plantation on that day. I hastened to Waterproof by the first boat, and found our worst fears were realized.
Thirty guerrillas had surrounded our house at the hour we were ordinarily at dinner. They called our names, and commanded us to come out and be shot. The house was empty, and as there was no compliance with the request, a half-dozen of the party, pistols in hand, searched the building, swearing they would kill us on the spot. Had we been there, I have no doubt the threat would have been carried out.
Failing to find us, they turned their attention to other matters. They caught our overseer as he was attempting to escape toward Waterproof. He was tied upon his horse, and guarded until the party was ready to move. The teams were plowing in the field at the time the robbers made their appearance. Some of the negroes unloosed the mules from the plows, mounted them, and fled to Waterproof. Others, who were slow in their movements, were captured with the animals. Such of the negroes as were not captured at once, fled to the woods or concealed themselves about the buildings.
Many of the negroes on the plantation were personally known to some of the guerrillas. In most cases these negroes were not disturbed. Others were gathered in front of the house, where they were drawn up in line and securely tied. Some of them were compelled to mount the captured mules and ride between their captors.
Several children were thrown upon the mules, or taken by the guerrillas on their own horses, where they were firmly held. No attention was paid to the cries of the children or the pleadings of their mothers. Some of the latter followed their children, as the guerrillas had, doubtless, expected. In others, the maternal instinct was less than the dread of captivity. Among those taken was an infant, little more than eight months old.
Delaying but a few moments, the captors and the captives moved away. Nineteen of our negroes were carried off, of whom ten were children under eleven years of age. Of the nineteen, five managed to make their escape within a few miles, and returned home during the night. One woman, sixty-five years old, who had not for a long time been able to do any work, was among those driven off. She fell exhausted before walking three miles, and was beaten by the guerrillas until she lay senseless by the roadside. It was not for several hours that she recovered sufficiently to return to the plantation and tell the story of barbarity.
From a plantation adjoining ours, thirty negroes were carried away at the same time. Of these, a half-dozen escaped and returned. The balance, joined to the party from our own plantation, formed a mournful procession. I heard of them at many points, from residents of the vicinity. These persons would not admit that the guerrillas were treating the negroes cruelly. Those who escaped had a frightful story to tell. They had been beaten most barbarously with whips, sticks, and frequently with the butts of pistols; two or three were left senseless by the roadside, and one old man had been shot, because he was too much exhausted to go further. I learned, a few days later, that the captured negroes were taken to Winnsboro; a small town in the interior, and there sold to a party of Texas traders.
From our plantation the guerrillas stole twenty-four mules at the time of their visit, and an equal number from our neighbors. These were sold to the same party of traders that purchased the negroes, and there was evidently as little compunction at speculating in the one “property” as in the other.
Our overseer, Mr. Owen, had been bound upon his horse and taken away. This I learned from the negroes remaining on the plantation. I made diligent inquiries of parties who arrived from the direction taken by the guerrillas, to ascertain, if possible, where he had been carried. One person assured me, positively, that he saw Mr. Owen, a prisoner, twenty miles away. Mrs.
Owen and five children were living at Waterproof, and, of course, were much alarmed on hearing of his capture.
It was on Thursday, two days after the raid, that I visited the plantation. Our lower plantation had not been disturbed, but many of the negroes were gone, and all work was suspended. It was of no use to attempt to prosecute the planting enterprise, and we immediately prepared to abandon the locality. The remaining negroes were set at work to shell the corn already gathered. As fast as shelled, it was taken to Waterproof for shipment to market. The plows were left rusting in the furrows, where they were standing at the moment the guerrillas appeared. The heaps of cotton-seed and the implements used by the planting-gang remained in _statu quo_. The cotton we planted was growing finely. To leave four hundred acres thus growing, and giving promise of a fine harvest, was to throw away much labor, but there was no alternative.
On Saturday, four days after the raid, the corporal of a scouting party came to our plantation and said the body of a white man had been found in the woods a short distance away. I rode with him to the spot he designated. The mystery concerning the fate of our overseer was cleared up. The man was murdered within a thousand yards of the house.
From the main road leading past our plantation, a path diverged into the forest. This path was taken by some of the guerrillas in their retreat. Following it two hundred yards, and then turning a short distance to the left, I found a small cypress-tree, not more than thirty feet high. One limb of this tree drooped as it left the trunk, and then turned upward. The lowest part of the bend of this limb was not much higher than a tall man’s head.
It was just such a tree, and just such a limb, as a party bent on murder would select for hanging their victim. I thought, and still think, that the guerrillas turned aside with the design of using the rope as the instrument of death. Under this tree lay the remains of our overseer. The body was fast decomposing. A flock of buzzards was gathered around, and was driven away with difficulty. They had already begun their work, so that recognition under different circumstances would not have been easy. The skull was detached from the body, and lay with the face uppermost. A portion of the scalp adhered to it, on which a gray lock was visible. A bit of gray beard was clinging to the chin.
In the centre of the forehead there was a perforation, evidently made by a pistol-bullet. Death must have been instantaneous, the pistol doing the work which the murderers doubtless intended to accomplish by other means. The body had been stripped of all clothing, save a single under-garment. Within a dozen yards lay a pair of old shoes, and close by their side a tattered and misshapen hat. The shoes and hat were not those which our overseer had worn, but were evidently discarded by the guerrillas when they appropriated the apparel of their victim. I caused a grave to be dug, and the remains placed in a rude coffin and buried. If a head-stone had been obtainable, I would have given the locality a permanent designation. The particulars of the murder we were never able to ascertain.
Three days later we abandoned the plantation. We paid the negroes for the work they had done, and discharged them from further service. Those that lived on the plantation previous to our going there, generally remained, as the guerrillas had assured them they would be unmolested if they cultivated no cotton. A few of them went to Natchez, to live near their “missus.” Those whom we had hired from other localities scattered in various directions. Some went to the Contraband Home at Davis’s Bend, others to the negro quarters at Natchez, others to plantations near Vidalia, and a few returned to their former homes. Our “family” of a hundred and sixty persons was thus broken up.
We removed the widow and children of our overseer to Natchez, and purchased for them the stock and goodwill of a boarding-house keeper. We sent a note to the leader of the guerrilla band that manifested such a desire to “go through” us, and informed him that we could be found in St. Louis or New York. Before the end of May we passed Vicksburg on our Journey Due North.
Most of the plantations in the vicinity of Natchez, Vicksburg, and Milliken’s Bend were given up. Probably a dozen lessees were killed, and the same number carried to Texas. Near Vicksburg, the chivalric guerrillas captured two lessees, and tortured them most barbarously before putting them to death. They cut off the ears of one man, and broke his nose by a blow from a club. Thus mutilated, he was compelled to walk three or four miles. When he fell, fainting from loss of blood, he was tied to a tree, and the privilege of shooting him was sold at auction. They required his companion to witness these brutalities. Whenever he turned away his eyes, his captors pressed the point of a saber into his cheek. Finally, they compelled him to take a spade and dig his own grave. When it was finished, they stripped him of his clothing, and shot him as he stood by the brink of the newly-opened trench.
Blanchard and Robinson, two lessees near Natchez, both of them residents of Boston, were murdered with nearly the same fiendishness as exhibited in the preceding case. Their fate was for some time unknown. It was at length ascertained from a negro who was captured at the same time, but managed to escape. That “slavery makes barbarians” would seem to be well established by the conduct of these residents of Louisiana.
In the vicinity of Baton Rouge and New Orleans there were but few guerrillas, and the plantations generally escaped undisturbed. In all localities the “army-worm” made its appearance in July and August, and swept away almost the entire crop. Many plantations that were expected to yield a thousand bales did not yield a hundred, and some of them made less than ten. The appearance of this destructive worm was very sudden. On some plantations, where the cotton was growing finely and without a trace of blight, the fields, three days later, appeared as if swept by fire. There was consequently but little cotton made during the season.
The possibility of producing the great staples of the South by free labor was fully established. Beyond this there was little accomplished.
My four months of cotton-planting was an experience I shall never regret, though I have no desire to renew it under similar circumstances. Agriculture is generally considered a peaceful pursuit. To the best of my recollection I found it quite the reverse.
For the benefit of those who desire to know the process of cotton culture, from the planting season to the picking season, I give the following extract from an article written by Colonel T. B. Thorpe, of Louisiana, several years ago. After describing the process of preparing the ground and planting the seed, Colonel Thorpe says:–
If the weather be favorable, the young plant is discovered making its way through in six or ten days, and “the scraping” of the crop, as it is termed, now begins. A light plow is again called into requisition, which is run along the drill, throwing the _earth away from the plant;_ then come the laborers with their hoes, who dexterously cut away the superabundant shoots and the intruding weeds, and leave a single cotton-plant in little hills, generally two feet apart.
Of all the labors of the field, the dexterity displayed by the negroes in “scraping cotton” is most calculated to call forth the admiration of the novice spectator. The hoe is a rude instrument, however well made and handled; the young cotton-plant is as delicate as vegetation can be, and springs up in lines of solid masses, composed of hundreds of plants. The field-hand, however, will single one delicate shoot from the surrounding multitude, and with his rude hoe he will trim away the remainder with all the boldness of touch of a master, leaving the incipient stalk unharmed and alone in its glory; and at nightfall you can look along the extending rows, and find the plants correct in line, and of the required distance of separation from each other.
The planter, who can look over his field in early spring, and find his cotton “cleanly scraped” and his “stand” good, is fortunate; still, the vicissitudes attending the cultivation of the crop have only commenced. Many rows, from the operations of the “cut-worm,” and from multitudinous causes unknown, have to be replanted, and an unusually late frost may destroy all his labors, and compel him to commence again. But, if no untoward accident occurs, in two weeks after the “scraping,” another hoeing takes place, at which time the plow throws the furrow _on to the roots_ of the now strengthening plant, and the increasing heat of the sun also justifying the sinking of the roots deeper in the earth. The pleasant month of May is now drawing to a close, and vegetation of all kinds is struggling for precedence in the fields. Grasses and weeds of every variety, with vines and wild flowers, luxuriate in the newly-turned sod, and seem to be determined to choke out of existence the useful and still delicately-grown cotton.
It is a season of unusual industry on the cotton plantations, and woe to the planter who is outstripped in his labors, and finds himself “overtaken by the grass.” The plow tears up the surplus vegetation, and the hoe tops it off in its luxuriance. The race is a hard one, but industry conquers; and when the third working-over of the crop takes place, the cotton-plant, so much cherished and favored, begins to overtop its rivals in the fields–begins to cast _a chilling shade of superiority_ over its now intimidated groundlings, and commences to reign supreme.
Through the month of July, the crop is wrought over for the last time; the plant, heretofore of slow growth, now makes rapid advances toward perfection. The plow and hoe are still in requisition. The “water furrows” between the cotton-rows are deepened, leaving the cotton growing as it were upon a slight ridge; this accomplished, the crop is prepared for the “rainy season,” should it ensue, and so far advanced that it is, under any circumstances, beyond the control of art. Nature must now have its sway.
The “cotton bloom,” under the matured sun of July, begins to make its appearance. The announcement of the “first blossom” of the neighborhood is a matter of general interest; it is the unfailing sign of the approach of the busy season of fall; it is the evidence that soon the labor of man will, under a kind Providence, receive its reward.
It should perhaps here be remarked, that the color of cotton in its perfection is precisely that of the blossom–a beautiful light, but warm cream-color. In buying cotton cloth, the “bleached” and “unbleached” are perceptibly different qualities to the most casual observer; but the dark hues and harsh look of the “unbleached domestic” comes from the handling of the artisan and the soot of machinery. If cotton, pure as it looks in the field, could be wrought into fabrics, they would have a brilliancy and beauty never yet accorded to any other material in its natural or artificial state. There cannot be a doubt but that, in the robes of the ancient royal Mexicans and Peruvians, this brilliant and natural gloss of cotton was preserved, and hence the surpassing value it possessed in the eyes of cavaliers accustomed to the fabrics of the splendid court of Ferdinand and Isabella.
The cotton-blossom is exceedingly delicate in its organization. It is, if in perfection, as we have stated, of a beautiful cream-color. It unfolds in the night, remains in its glory through the morn–at meridian it has begun to decay. The day following its birth it has changed to a deep red, and ere the sun goes down, its petals have fallen to the earth, leaving inclosed in the capacious calyx a scarcely perceptible germ. This germ, in its incipient and early stages, is called “a form;” in its more perfected state, “a boll.”
The cotton-plant, like the orange, has often on one stalk every possible growth; and often, on the same limb, may sometimes be seen the first-opened blossom, and the bolls, from their first development as “forms,” through every size, until they have burst open and scattered their rich contents to the ripening winds.
The appearance of a well-cultivated cotton-field, if it has escaped the ravages of insects and the destruction of the elements, is of singular beauty. Although it may be a mile in extent, still it is as carefully wrought as is the mold of the limited garden of the coldest climate. The cotton-leaf is of a delicate green, large and luxuriant; the stalk indicates rapid growth, yet it has a healthy and firm look. Viewed from a distance, the perfecting plant has a warm and glowing expression. The size of the cotton-plant depends upon the accident of climate and soil. The cotton of Tennessee bears very little resemblance to the luxuriant growth of Alabama and Georgia; but even in those favored States the cotton-plant is not everywhere the same, for in the rich bottom-lands it grows to a commanding size, while in the more barren regions it is an humble shrub. In the rich alluvium of the Mississippi the cotton will tower beyond the reach of the tallest “picker,” and a single plant will contain hundreds of perfect “bolls;” in the neighboring “piney-woods” it lifts its humble head scarcely above the knee, and is proportionably meager in its produce of fruit.
The growing cotton is particularly liable to accidents, and suffers immensely in “wet seasons” from the “rust” and “rot.” The first named affects the leaves, giving them a brown and deadened tinge, and frequently causes them to crumble away. The “rot” attacks the “boll.”
It commences by a black spot on the rind, which, increasing, seems to produce fermentation and decay. Worms find their way to the roots; the caterpillar eats into the “boll” and destroys the staple. It would be almost impossible to enumerate all the evils the cotton-plant is heir to, all of which, however, sink into nothingness compared with the scourge of the “army-worm.”
The moth that indicates the advent of the army-worm has a Quaker-like simplicity in its light, chocolate-colored body and wings, and, from its harmless appearance, would never be taken for the destroyer of vast fields of luxuriant and useful vegetation.
The little, and, at first, scarcely to be perceived caterpillars that follow the appearance of these moths, can absolutely be seen to grow and swell beneath your eyes as they crawl from leaf to leaf. Day by day you can see the vegetation of vast fields becoming thinner and thinner, while the worm, constantly increasing in size, assumes at last an unctuous appearance most disgusting to behold. Arrived at maturity, a few hours only are necessary for these modern locusts to eat up all living vegetation that comes in their way. Leaving the localities of their birth, they will move from place to place, spreading a desolation as consuming as fire in their path.
All efforts to arrest their progress or annihilate them prove unavailing. They seem to spring out of the ground, and fall from the clouds; and the more they are tormented and destroyed, the more perceptible, seemingly, is their power. We once witnessed the invasion of the army-worm, as it attempted to pass from a desolated cotton-field to one untouched. Between these fields was a wide ditch, which had been deepened, to prove a barrier to the onward march of the worm. Down the perpendicular sides of the trench the caterpillars rolled in untold millions, until its bottom, for nearly a mile in extent, was a foot or two deep in a living mass of animal life. To an immense piece of unhewn timber was attached a yoke of oxen, and, as this heavy log was drawn through the ditch, it seemed absolutely to float on a crushed mass of vegetable corruption. The following day, under the heat of a tropical sun, the stench arising from this decaying mass was perceptible the country round, giving a strange and incomprehensible notion of the power and abundance of this destroyer of the cotton crop.
The change that has been effected by the result of the Rebellion, will not be confined to the social system alone. With the end of slavery there will be a destruction of many former applications of labor. Innovations have already been made, and their number will increase under the management of enterprising men.
In Louisiana several planters were using a “drill” for depositing the cotton-seed in the ground. The labor of planting is reduced more than one-half, and that of “scraping” is much diminished. The saving of seed is very great–the drill using about a tenth of the amount required under the old system.
One man is endeavoring to construct a machine that will pick cotton from the stalks, and is confident he will succeed. Should he do so, his patent will be of the greatest value. Owners of plantations have recently offered a present of ten thousand dollars to the first patentee of a successful machine of this character.
THE MISSISSIPPI AND ITS PECULIARITIES.
Length of the Great River, and the Area it Drains.–How Itasca Lake obtained its Name.–The Bends of the Mississippi.–Curious Effect upon Titles to Real Estate.–A Story of Napoleon.–A Steamboat Thirty-five Years under Water.–The Current and its Variations.–Navigating Cotton and Corn Fields.–Reminiscences of the Islands.
As railways are to the East, so are the rivers to the West. The Mississippi, with its tributaries, drains an immense region, traversed in all directions by steamboats. From the Gulf of Mexico one can travel, by water to the Rocky Mountains, or to the Alleghanies, at pleasure. It is estimated there are twenty thousand miles of navigable streams which find an outlet past the city of New Orleans. The Mississippi Valley contains nearly a million and a quarter square miles, and is one of the most fertile regions on the globe.
To a person born and reared in the East, the Mississippi presents many striking features. Above its junction with the Missouri, its water is clear and its banks are broken and picturesque. After it joins the Missouri the scene changes. The latter stream is of a chocolate hue, and its current is very rapid. All its characteristics are imparted to the combined stream. The Mississippi becomes a rapid, tortuous, seething torrent. It loses its blue, transparent water, and takes the complexion of the Missouri. Thus “it goes unvexed to the sea.”
There is a story concerning the origin of the name given to the source of the Mississippi, which I do not remember to have seen in print. A certain lake, which had long been considered the head of the Great River, was ascertained by an exploring party to have no claim to that honor. A new and smaller lake was discovered, in which the Mississippi took its rise. The explorers wished to give it an appropriate name. An old _voyageur_ suggested that they make a name, by coining a word.
“Will some of you learned ones tell me,” said he, “what is the Latin word for _true_?”
“_Veritas_,” was the response.
“Well, now, what is the Latin for _head_”
“_Caput_, of course.”
“Now,” suggested the _voyageur_, “write the two words together, by syllables.”
A strip of birch bark was the tablet on which “_ver-i-tas-ca-put_” was traced.
“Read it out,” was his next request.
The five syllables were read.
“Now, drop the first and last syllables, and you have a name for this lake.”
In the Indian vernacular, “Mississippi” is said to signify “Great Water.” “Missouri,” according to some authorities, is the Indian for “Mud River,” a most felicitous appellation. It should properly belong to the entire river from St. Louis to the Gulf, as that stream carries down many thousand tons of mud every year. During the many centuries that the Mississippi has been sweeping on its course, it has formed that long point of land known as the Delta, and shallowed the water in the Gulf of Mexico for more than two hundred miles.
Flowing from north to south, the river passes through all the varieties of climate. The furs from the Rocky Mountains and the cereals of Wisconsin and Minnesota are carried on its bosom to the great city which stands in the midst of orange groves and inhales the fragrance of the magnolia. From January to June the floods of its tributaries follow in regular succession, as the opening spring loosens the snows that line their banks.
The events of the war have made the Mississippi historic, and familiarized the public with some of its peculiarities. Its tortuosity is well known. The great bend opposite Vicksburg will be long remembered by thousands who have never seen it. This bend is eclipsed by many others. At “Terrapin Neck” the river flows twenty-one miles, and gains only three hundred yards. At “Raccourci Bend” was a peninsula twenty-eight miles around and only half a mile across. Several years ago a “cut-off” was made across this peninsula, for the purpose of shortening the course of the river. A small ditch was cut, and opened when the flood was highest.
An old steamboat-man once told me that he passed the upper end of this ditch just as the water was let in. Four hours later, as he passed the lower end, an immense torrent was rushing through the channel, and the tall trees were falling like stalks of grain before a sickle.
Within a week the new channel became the regular route for steamboats.
Similar “cut-offs” have been made at various points along the river, some of them by artificial aid, and others entirely by the action of the water. The channel of the Mississippi is the dividing line of the States between which it flows, and the action of the river often changes the location of real estate. There is sometimes a material difference in the laws of States that lie opposite each other. The transfer of property on account of a change in the channel occasionally makes serious work with titles.
I once heard of a case where the heirs to an estate lost their title, in consequence of the property being transferred from Mississippi to Louisiana, by reason of the course of the river being changed. In the former State they were heirs beyond dispute. In the latter their claim vanished into thin air.
Once, while passing up the Mississippi, above Cairo, a fellow-passenger called my attention to a fine plantation, situated on a peninsula in Missouri. The river, in its last flood, had broken across the neck of the peninsula. It was certain the next freshet would establish the channel in that locality, thus throwing the plantation into Illinois. Unless the negroes should be removed before this event they would become free.
“You see, sir,” said my informant, “that this great river is an Abolitionist.”
The alluvial soil through which the Mississippi runs easily yields to the action of the fierce current. The land worn away at one point is often deposited, in the form of a bar or tongue of land, in the concave of the next bend. The area thus added becomes the property of whoever owns the river front. Many a man has seen his plantation steadily falling into the Mississippi, year by year, while a plantation, a dozen miles below, would annually find its area increased. Real estate on the banks of the Mississippi, unless upon the bluffs, has no absolute certainty of permanence. In several places, the river now flows where there were fine plantations ten or twenty years ago.
Some of the towns along the Lower Mississippi are now, or soon will be, towns no more. At Waterproof, Louisiana, nearly the entire town-site, as originally laid out, has been washed away. In the four months I was in its vicinity, more than forty feet of its front disappeared. Eighteen hundred and seventy will probably find Waterproof at the bottom of the Mississippi. Napoleon, Arkansas, is following in the wake of Waterproof. If the distance between them were not so great, their sands might mingle. In view of the character Napoleon has long enjoyed, the friends of morality will hardly regret its loss.
The steamboat captains have a story that a quiet clergyman from New England landed at Napoleon, one morning, and made his way to the hotel. He found the proprietor superintending the efforts of a negro, who was sweeping the bar-room floor. Noticing several objects of a spherical form among the _debris_ of the bar-room, the stranger asked their character.
“Them round things? them’s _eyes_. The boys amused themselves a little last night. Reckon there’s ’bout a pint-cup full of eyes this mornin’. Sometimes we gets a quart or so, when business is good.”
Curious people were those natives of Arkansas, ten or twenty years ago. Schools were rare, and children grew up with little or no education. If there was a “barbarous civilization” anywhere in the United States, it was in Arkansas. In 1860, a man was hung at Napoleon for reading _The Tribune_. It is an open question whether the character of the paper or the man’s ability to read was the reason for inflicting the death penalty.
The current of the Mississippi causes islands to be destroyed in some localities and formed in others. A large object settling at the bottom of the stream creates an eddy, in which the floating sand is deposited. Under favorable circumstances an island will form in such an eddy, sometimes of considerable extent.
About the year 1820, a steamboat, laden with lead, was sunk in mid-channel several miles below St. Louis. An island formed over this steamer, and a growth of cotton-wood trees soon covered it. These trees grew to a goodly size, and were cut for fuel. The island was cleared, and for several successive years produced fine crops of corn. About 1855, there was a change in the channel of the river, and the island disappeared. After much search the location of the sunken steamer was ascertained. By means of a diving-bell, its cargo of lead, which had been lying thirty-five years under earth and under water, was brought to light. The entire cargo was raised, together with a portion of the engines. The lead was uninjured, but the engines were utterly worthless after their long burial.
The numerous bends of the Mississippi are of service in rendering the river navigable. If the channel were a straight line from Cairo to New Orleans, the current would be so strong that no boat could stem it. In several instances, where “cut-offs” have been made, the current at their outlets is so greatly increased that the opposite banks are washed away. New bends are thus formed that may, in time, be as large as those overcome. Distances have been shortened by “cut-offs,” but the Mississippi displays a decided unwillingness to have its length curtailed.
From St. Louis to the Red River the current of the Mississippi is about three miles an hour. It does not flow in a steady, unbroken volume. The surface is constantly ruffled by eddies and little whirlpools, caused by the inequalities of the bottom of the river, and the reflection of the current from the opposite banks. As one gazes upon the stream, it half appears as if heated by concealed fires, and ready to break into violent ebullition. The less the depth, the greater the disturbance of the current. So general is this rule, that the pilots judge of the amount of water by the appearance of the surface. Exceptions occur where the bottom, below the deep water, is particularly uneven.
From its source to the mouth of Red River, the Mississippi is fed by tributaries. Below that point, it throws off several streams that discharge no small portion of its waters into the Gulf of Mexico. These streams, or “bayous,” are narrow and tortuous, but generally deep, and navigable for ordinary steamboats. The “Atchafalaya” is the first, and enters the Gulf of Mexico at the bay of the same name. At one time it was feared the Mississippi might leave its present bed, and follow the course of this bayou. Steps were taken to prevent such an occurrence. Bayou Plaquemine, Bayou Sara, Bayou La Fourche, Bayou Goula, and Bayou Teche, are among the streams that drain the great river.
These bayous form a wonderful net-work of navigable waters, throughout Western Louisiana. If we have reason to be thankful that “great rivers run near large cities in all parts of the world,” the people of Louisiana should be especially grateful for the numerous natural canals in that State. These streams are as frequent and run in nearly as many directions as railways in Massachusetts.
During its lowest stages, the Mississippi is often forty feet “within its banks;” in other words, the surface is forty feet below the level of the land which borders the river. It rises with the freshets, and, when “bank full,” is level with the surrounding lowland.
It does not always stop at this point; sometimes it rises two, four, six, or even ten feet above its banks. The levees, erected at immense cost, are designed to prevent the overflowing of the country on such occasions. When the levees become broken from any cause, immense areas of country are covered with water. Plantations, swamps, forests, all are submerged. During the present year (1865) thousands of square miles have been flooded, hundreds of houses swept away, and large amounts of property destroyed.
During the freshet of ’63, General Grant opened the levee at Providence, Louisiana, in the hope of reaching Bayou Mason, and thence taking his boats to Red River. After the levee was cut an immense volume of water rushed through the break. Anywhere else it would have been a goodly-sized river, but it was of little moment by the side of the Mississippi. A steamboat was sent to explore the flooded region. I saw its captain soon after his return.
“I took my boat through the cut,” said he, “without any trouble. We drew nearly three feet, but there was plenty of water. We ran two miles over a cotton-field, and could see the stalks as our wheels tore them up. Then I struck the plank road, and found a good stage of water for four miles, which took me to the bayou. I followed this several miles, until I was stopped by fallen trees, when I turned about and came back. Coming back, I tried a cornfield, but found it wasn’t as good to steam in as the cotton-field.”
A farmer in the Eastern or Middle States would, doubtless, be much astonished at seeing a steamboat paddling at will in his fields and along his roads. A similar occurrence in Louisiana does not astonish the natives. Steamers have repeatedly passed over regions where corn or cotton had been growing six months before. At St. Louis, in 1844, small boats found no difficulty in running from East St. Louis to Caseyville, nine miles distant. In making these excursions they passed over many excellent farms, and stopped at houses whose owners had been driven to the upper rooms by the water.
Above Cairo, the islands in the Mississippi are designated by names generally received from the early settlers. From Cairo to New Orleans the islands are numbered, the one nearest the former point being “One,” and that nearest New Orleans “One Hundred and Thirty-one.” Island Number Ten is historic, being the first and the last island in the great river that the Rebels attempted to fortify. Island Number Twenty-eight was the scene of several attacks by guerrillas upon unarmed transports. Other islands have an equally dishonorable reputation. Fifty years ago several islands were noted as the resorts of robbers, who conducted an extensive and systematic business. Island Number Sixty-five (if I remember correctly) was the rendezvous of the notorious John A. Murrell and his gang of desperadoes.
STEAMBOATING ON THE MISSISSIPPI IN PEACE AND WAR.
Attempts to Obstruct the Great River.–Chains, Booms, and Batteries.–A Novelty in Piloting.–Travel in the Days Before the Rebellion.–Trials of Speed.–The Great Race.–Travel During the War.–Running a Rebel Battery on the Lower Mississippi.–Incidents of the Occasion.–Comments on the Situation.
No engineer has been able to dam the Mississippi, except by the easy process which John Phenix adopted on the Yuma River. General Pillow stretched a chain from Columbus, Kentucky, to the opposite shore, in order to prevent the passage of our gun-boats. The chain broke soon after being placed in position.
Near Forts Jackson and Philip, below New Orleans, the Rebels constructed a boom to oppose the progress of Farragut’s fleet. A large number of heavy anchors, with the strongest cables, were fixed in the river. For a time the boom answered the desired purpose. But the river rose, drift-wood accumulated, and the boom at length went the way of all things Confederate. Farragut passed the forts, and appeared before New Orleans; “Picayune Butler came to town,” and the great city of the South fell into the hands of the all-conquering Yankees.
Before steam power was applied to the propulsion of boats, the ascent of the Mississippi was very difficult.
From New Orleans to St. Louis, a boat consumed from two to four months’ time. Sails, oars, poles, and ropes attached to trees, were the various means of stemming the powerful current. Long after steamboats were introduced, many flat-boats, loaded with products of the Northern States, floated down the river to a market. At New Orleans, boats and cargoes were sold, and the boatmen made their way home on foot. Until twenty years ago, the boatmen of the Mississippi were almost a distinct race. At present they are nearly extinct.
In the navigation of the Mississippi and its tributaries, the pilot is the man of greatest importance. He is supposed to be thoroughly familiar with the channel of the river in all its windings, and to know the exact location of every snag or other obstruction. He can generally judge of the depth of water by the appearance of the surface, and he is acquainted with every headland, forest, house, or tree-top, that marks the horizon and tells him how to keep his course at night. Professional skill is only acquired by a long and careful training.
Shortly after the occupation of Little Rock by General Steele, a dozen soldiers passed the lines, without authority, and captured a steamboat eighteen miles below the city. Steam was raised, when the men discovered they had no pilot. One of their number hit upon a plan as novel as it was successful.
The Arkansas was very low, having only three feet of water in the channel. Twenty-five able-bodied negroes were taken from a neighboring plantation, stretched in a line across the river, and ordered to wade against the current. By keeping their steamer, which drew only twenty inches, directly behind the negro who sank the deepest, the soldiers took their prize to Little Rock without difficulty.
For ten years previous to the outbreak of the Rebellion, steamboating on the Mississippi was in the height of its glory. Where expense of construction and management were of secondary consideration, the steamboats on the great river could offer challenge to the world. It was the boast of their officers that the tables of the great passenger-boats were better supplied than those of the best hotels in the South. On many steamers, claret, at dinner, was free to all. Fruit and ices were distributed in the evening, as well as choice cups of coffee and tea. On one line of boats, the cold meats on the supper-table were from carefully selected pieces, cooked and cooled expressly for the cenatory meal. Bands of music enlivened the hours of day, and afforded opportunity for dancing in the evening. Spacious cabins, unbroken by machinery; guards of great width, where cigars and small-talk were enjoyed; well-furnished and well-lighted state-rooms, and tables loaded with all luxuries of the place and season, rendered these steamers attractive to the traveler. Passengers were social, and partook of the gayety around them. Men talked, drank, smoked, and sometimes gambled, according to their desires. The ladies practiced no frigid reserve toward each other, but established cordial relations in the first few hours of each journey.
Among the many fine and fast steamers on the Western waters, there was necessarily much competition in speed. Every new boat of the first class was obliged to give an example of her abilities soon after her appearance. Every owner of a steamboat contends that _his_ boat is the best afloat. I have rarely been on board a Mississippi steamer of any pretensions whose captain has not assured me, “She is the fastest thing afloat, sir. Nothing can pass her. We have beaten the–, and the–, and the–, in a fair race, sir.” To a stranger, seeking correct information, the multiplicity of these statements is perplexing.
In 1853 there was a race from New Orleans to Louisville, between the steamers _Eclipse_ and _A.L. Shotwell_, on which seventy thousand dollars were staked by the owners of the boats. An equal amount was invested in “private bets” among outside parties. The two boats were literally “stripped for the race.” They were loaded to the depth that would give them the greatest speed, and their arrangements for taking fuel were as complete as possible. Barges were filled with wood at stated points along the river, and dropped out to midstream as the steamers approached. They were taken alongside, and their loads of wood transferred without any stoppage of the engines of the boats.
At the end of the first twenty-four hours the _Eclipse_ and _Shotwell_ were side by side, three hundred and sixty miles from New Orleans. The race was understood to be won by the _Eclipse_, but was so close that the stakes were never paid.
In the palmy days of steamboating, the charges for way-travel were varied according to the locality. Below Memphis it was the rule to take no single fare less than five dollars, even if the passenger were going but a half-dozen miles. Along Red River the steamboat clerks graduated the fare according to the parish where the passenger came on board. The more fertile and wealthy the region, the higher was the price of passage. Travelers from the cotton country paid more than those from the tobacco country. Those from the sugar country paid more than any other class. With few exceptions, there was no “ticket” system. Passengers paid their fare at any hour of their journey that best suited them. Every man was considered honest until he gave proof to the contrary. There was an occasional Jeremy Diddler, but his operations were very limited.
When the Rebellion began, the old customs on the Mississippi were swept away. The most rigid “pay-on-entering” system was adopted, and the man who could evade it must be very shrewd. The wealth along the Great River melted into thin air. The _bonhommie_ of travel disappeared, and was succeeded by the most thorough selfishness in collective and individual bodies. Scrambles for the first choice of state-rooms, the first seat at table, and the first drink at the bar, became a part of the new _regime_. The ladies were little regarded in the hurly-burly of steamboat life. Men would take possession of ladies’ chairs at table, and pay no heed to remonstrances.
I have seen an officer in blue uniform place his muddy boots on the center-table in a cabin full of ladies, and proceed to light a cigar. The captain of the boat suggested that the officer’s conduct was in violation of the rules of propriety, and received the answer:
“I have fought to help open the Mississippi, and, by —-, I am going to enjoy it.”
The careless display of the butt of a revolver, while he gave this answer, left the pleasure-seeker master of the situation. I am sorry to say that occurrences of a similar character were very frequent in the past three years. With the end of the war it is to be hoped that the character of Mississippi travel will be improved.
In May, 1861, the Rebels blockaded the Mississippi at Memphis. In the same month the National forces established a blockade at Cairo. In July, ’63, the capture of Vicksburg and Port Hudson removed the last Rebel obstruction. The _Imperial_ was the first passenger boat to descend the river, after the reopening of navigation.
Up to within a few months of the close of the Rebellion, steamers plying on the river were in constant, danger of destruction by Rebel batteries. The Rebel Secretary of War ordered these batteries placed along the Mississippi, in the hope of stopping all travel by that route. His plan was unsuccessful. Equally so was the barbarous practice of burning passenger steamboats while in motion between landing-places. On transports fired upon by guerrillas (or Rebels), about a hundred persons were killed and as many wounded. A due proportion of these were women and children. On steamboats burned by Rebel incendiaries, probably a hundred and fifty lives were lost. This does not include the dead by the terrible disaster to the _Sultana_. It is supposed that this boat was blown up by a Rebel torpedo in her coal.
It was my fortune to be a passenger on the steamer _Von Phul_, which left New Orleans for St. Louis on the evening of December 7th, 1863. I had been for some time traveling up and down the Mississippi, and running the gauntlet between Rebel batteries on either shore. There was some risk attending my travels, but up to that time I escaped unharmed.
On the afternoon of the 8th, when the boat was about eight miles above Bayou Sara, I experienced a new sensation.
Seated at a table in the cabin, and busily engaged in writing, I heard a heavy crash over my head, almost instantly followed by another. My first thought was that the chimneys or some part of the pilot-house had fallen, and I half looked to see the roof of the cabin tumbling in. I saw the passengers running from the cabin, and heard some one shout:
“The guerrillas are firing on us.”
I collected my writing materials and sought my state-room, where I had left Mr. Colburn, my traveling companion, soundly asleep a few minutes before.
He was sitting on the edge of his berth, and wondering what all the row was about. The crash that startled me had awakened him. He thought the occurrence was of little moment, and assented to my suggestion, that we were just as safe there as anywhere else on the boat.
Gallantry prevented our remaining quiet. There were several ladies on board, and it behooved us to extend them what protection we could. We sought them, and “protected” them to the best of our united ability. Their place of refuge was between the cabin and the wheel-house, opposite the battery’s position. A sheet of wet paper would afford as much resistance to a paving-stone as the walls of a steamboat cabin to a six-pound shot. As we stood among the ladies, two shells passed through the side of the cabin, within a few inches of our heads.
The shots grew fewer in number, and some of them dropped in the river behind us. Just as we thought all alarm was over, we saw smoke issuing from the cabin gangway. Then, some one shouted, “_The boat is on fire_!”
Dropping a lady who evinced a disposition to faint, I entered the cabin. A half-dozen men were there before me, and seeking the locality of the fire. I was first to discover it.
A shell, in passing through a state-room, entered a pillow, and scattered the feathers through the cabin. A considerable quantity of these feathers fell upon a hot stove, and the smoke and odor of their burning caused the alarm.
The ladies concluded not to faint. Three minutes after the affair was over, they were as calm as ever.
The Rebels opened fire when we were abreast of their position, and did not cease until we were out of range. We were fifteen minutes within reach of their guns.
[Illustration: RUNNING BATTERIES ON THE VON PHUL.]
Our wheels seemed to turn very slowly. No one can express in words the anxiety with which we listened, after each shot, for the puffing of the engines. So long as the machinery was uninjured, there was no danger of our falling into Rebel hands. But with our engines disabled, our chances for capture would be very good.
As the last shot fell astern of the boat and sent up a column of spray, we looked about the cabin and saw that no one had been injured. A moment later came the announcement from the pilot-house:
“Captain Gorman is killed!”
I ascended to the hurricane deck, and thence to the pilot-house. The pilot, with his hat thrown aside and his hair streaming in the wind, stood at his post, carefully guiding the boat on her course. The body of the captain was lying at his feet. Another man lay dying, close by the opening in which the wheel revolved. The floor was covered with blood, splinters, glass, and the fragments of a shattered stove. One side of the little room was broken in, and the other side was perforated where the projectiles made their exit.
The first gun from the Rebels threw a shell which entered the side of the pilot-house, and struck the captain, who was sitting just behind the pilot. Death must have been instantaneous. A moment later, a “spherical-case shot” followed the shell. It exploded as it struck the wood-work, and a portion of the contents entered the side of the bar-keeper of the boat. In falling to the floor he fell against the wheel. The pilot, steering the boat with one hand, pulled the dying man from the wheel with the other, and placed him by the side of the dead captain.
Though, apparently, the pilot was as cool and undisturbed as ever, his face was whiter than usual. He said the most trying moment of all was soon after the first shots were fired. Wishing to “round the bend” as speedily as possible, he rang the bell as a signal to the engineer to check the speed of one of the wheels. The signal was not obeyed, the engineers having fled to places of safety. He rang the bell once more. He shouted down the speaking-tube, to enforce compliance with his order.
There was no answer. The engines were caring for themselves. The boat must be controlled by the rudder alone. With a dead man and a dying man at his feet, with the Rebel shot and shell every moment perforating the boat or falling near it, and with no help from those who should control the machinery, he felt that his position was a painful one.
We were out of danger. An hour later we found the gun-boat _Neosho_, at anchor, eight miles further up the stream. Thinking we might again be attacked, the commander of the _Neosho_ offered to convoy us to Red River. We accepted his offer. As soon as the _Neosho_ raised sufficient steam to enable her to move, we proceeded on our course.
Order was restored on the _Von Phul_. Most of the passengers gathered in little groups, and talked about the recent occurrence. I returned to my writing, and Colburn gave his attention to a book. With the gun-boat at our side, no one supposed there was danger of another attack.
A half-hour after starting under convoy of the gun-boat, the Rebels once more opened fire. They paid no attention to the _Neosho_, but threw all their projectiles at the _Von Phul_. The first shell passed through the cabin, wounding a person near me, and grazing a post against which Colburn and myself were resting our chairs. This shell was followed by others in quick succession, most of them passing through the cabin. One exploded under the portion of the cabin directly beneath my position. The explosion uplifted the boards with such force as to overturn my table and disturb the steadiness of my chair.
I dreaded splinters far more than I feared the pitiless iron. I left the cabin, through which the shells were pouring, and descended to the lower deck. It was no better there than above. We were increasing the distance between ourselves and the Rebels, and the shot began to strike lower down. Nearly every shot raked the lower deck.
A loose plank on which I stood was split for more than half its length, by a shot which struck my foot when its force was nearly spent. Though the skin was not abraded, and no bones were broken, I felt the effect of the blow for several weeks.
I lay down upon the deck. A moment after I had taken my horizontal position, two men who lay against me were mortally wounded by a shell. The right leg of one was completely severed below the knee. This shell was the last projectile that struck the forward portion of the boat.
With a handkerchief loosely tied and twisted with a stick, I endeavored to stop the flow of blood from the leg of the wounded man. I was partially successful, but the stoppage of blood could not save the man’s life. He died within the hour.
Forty-two shot and shell struck the boat. The escape-pipe was severed where it passed between two state-rooms, and filled the cabin with steam. The safe in the captain’s office was perforated as if it had been made of wood. A trunk was broken by a shell, and its contents were scattered upon the floor. Splinters had fallen in the cabin, and were spread thickly upon the carpet. Every person who escaped uninjured had his own list of incidents to narrate.
Out of about fifty persons on board the _Von Phul_ at the time of this occurrence, twelve were killed or wounded. One of the last projectiles that struck the boat, injured a boiler sufficiently to allow the escape of steam. In ten minutes our engines moved very feebly. We were forced to “tie up” to the eastern bank of the river. We were by this time out of range of the Rebel battery. The _Neosho_ had opened fire, and by the time we made fast to the bank, the Rebels were in retreat.
The _Neosho_ ceased firing and moved to our relief. Before she reached us, the steamer _Atlantic_ came in sight, descending the river. We hailed her, and she came alongside. Immediately on learning our condition, her captain offered to tow the _Von Phul_ to Red River, twenty miles distant. There we could lie, under protection of the gun-boats, and repair the damages to our machinery. We accepted his offer at once.
I can hardly imagine a situation of greater helplessness, than a place on board a Western passenger-steamer under the guns of a hostile battery. A battle-field is no comparison. On solid earth the principal danger is from projectiles. You can fight, or, under some circumstances, can run away. On a Mississippi transport, you are equally in danger of being shot. Added to this, you may be struck by splinters, scalded by steam, burned by fire, or drowned in the water. You cannot fight, you cannot run away, and you cannot find shelter. With no power for resistance or escape, the sense of danger and helplessness cannot be set aside.
A few weeks after the occurrence just narrated, the steamer _Brazil_, on her way from Vicksburg to Natchez, was fired upon by a Rebel battery near Rodney, Mississippi. The boat was struck a half-dozen times by shot and shell. More than a hundred rifle-bullets were thrown on board. Three persons were killed and as many wounded.
Among those killed on the _Brazil_, was a young woman who had engaged to take charge of a school for negro children at Natchez. The Rebel sympathizers at Natchez displayed much gratification at her death. On several occasions I heard some of the more pious among them declare that the hand of God directed the fatal missile. They prophesied violent or sudden deaths to all who came to the South on a similar mission.
The steamer _Black Hawk_ was fired upon by a Rebel battery at the mouth of Red River. The boat ran aground in range of the enemy’s guns. A shell set her pilot-house on fire, and several persons were killed in the cabin.
Strange to say, though aground and on fire under a Rebel battery, the _Black Hawk_ was saved. By great exertions on the part of officers and crew, the fire was extinguished after the pilot-house was burned away. A temporary steering apparatus was rigged, and the boat moved from the shoal where she had grounded. She was a full half hour within range of the Rebel guns.
THE ARMY CORRESPONDENT.
The Beginning and the End.–The Lake Erie Piracy.–A Rochester Story.–The First War Correspondent,–Napoleon’s Policy.–Waterloo and the Rothschilds.–Journalistic Enterprise in the Mexican War.–The Crimea and the East Indian Rebellion.–Experiences at the Beginning of Hostilities.–The Tender Mercies of the Insurgents.–In the Field.–Adventures in Missouri and Kentucky.–Correspondents in Captivity.–How Battle-Accounts were Written.–Professional Complaints.
Having lain aside my pen while engaged in planting cotton and entertaining guerrillas, I resumed it on coming North, after that experiment was finished. Setting aside my capture in New Hampshire, narrated in the first chapter, my adventures in the field commenced in Missouri in the earliest campaign. Singularly enough, they terminated on our Northern border. In the earlier days of the Rebellion, it was the jest of the correspondents, that they would, some time, find occasion to write war-letters from the Northern cities. The jest became a reality in the siege of Cincinnati. During that siege we wondered whether it would be possible to extend our labors to Detroit or Mackinaw.
In September, 1864, the famous “Lake Erie Piracy” occurred. I was in Cleveland when the news of the seizure of the _Philo Parsons_ was announced by telegraph, and at once proceeded to Detroit. The capture of the _Parsons_ was a very absurd movement on the part of the Rebels, who had taken refuge in Canada. The original design was, doubtless, the capture of the gun-boat _Michigan_, and the release of the prisoners on Johnson’s Island. The captors of the _Parsons_ had confederates in Sandusky, who endeavored to have the _Michigan_ in a half-disabled condition when the _Parsons_ arrived. This was not accomplished, and the scheme fell completely through. The two small steamers, the _Parsons_ and _Island Queen_, were abandoned after being in Rebel hands only a few hours.
The officers of the _Parsons_ told an interesting story of their seizure. Mr. Ashley, the clerk, said the boat left Detroit for Sandusky at her usual hour. She had a few passengers from Detroit, and received others at various landings. The last party that came on board brought an old trunk bound with ropes. The different parties did not recognize each other, not even when drinking at the bar. When near Kelly’s Island in Lake Erie, the various officers of the steamer were suddenly seized. The ropes on the trunk were cut, the lid flew open, and a quantity of revolvers and hatchets was brought to light.
The pirates declared they were acting in the interest of the “Confederacy.” They relieved Mr. Ashley of his pocket-book and contents, and appropriated the money they found in the safe. Those of the passengers who were not “in the ring,” were compelled to contribute to the representatives of the Rebel Government. This little affair was claimed to be “belligerent” throughout. At Kelly’s Island the passengers and crew were liberated on parole not to take up arms against the Confederacy until properly exchanged.
After cruising in front of Sandusky, and failing to receive signals which they expected, the pirates returned to Canada with their prize. One of their “belligerent” acts was to throw overboard the cargo of the _Parsons_, together with most of her furniture. At Sandwich, near Detroit, they left the boat, after taking ashore a piano and other articles. Her Majesty’s officer of customs took possession of this stolen property, on the ground that it was brought into Canada without the proper permits from the custom-house. It was subsequently recovered by its owners.
The St. Albans raid, which occurred a few months later, was a similar act of belligerency. It created more excitement than the Lake Erie piracy, but the questions involved were practically the same. That the Rebels had a right of asylum in Canada no one could deny, but there was a difference of opinion respecting the proper limits to those rights. The Rebels hoped to involve us in a controversy with England, that should result in the recognition of the Confederacy. This was frequently avowed by some of the indiscreet refugees.
After the capture of the _Parsons_ and the raid upon St. Albans, the Canadian authorities sent a strong force of militia to watch the frontier. A battalion of British regulars was stationed at Windsor, opposite Detroit, early in 1864, but was removed to the interior before the raids occurred. The authorities assigned as a reason for this removal, the desire to concentrate their forces at some central point. The real reason was the rapid desertion of their men, allured by the high pay and opportunity of active service in our army. In two months the battalion at Windsor was reduced fifteen per cent, by desertions alone.
Shortly after the St. Albans raid, a paper in Rochester announced a visit to that city by a cricket-club from Toronto. The paragraph was written somewhat obscurely, and jestingly spoke of the Toronto men as “raiders.” The paper reached New York, and so alarmed the authorities that troops were at once ordered to Rochester and other points on the frontier. The misapprehension was discovered in season to prevent the actual moving of the troops.
* * * * *
With the suppression of the Rebellion the mission of the war correspondent was ended. Let us all hope that his services will not again be required, in this country, at least, during the present century. The publication of the reports of battles, written on the field, and frequently during the heat of an engagement, was a marked feature of the late war. “Our Special Correspondent” is not, however, an invention belonging to this important era of our history.
His existence dates from the days of the Greeks and Romans. If Homer had witnessed the battles which he described, he would, doubtless, be recognized as the earliest war correspondent. Xenophon was the first regular correspondent of which we have any record. He achieved an enduring fame, which is a just tribute to the man and his profession.
During the Middle Ages, the Crusades afforded fine opportunities for the war correspondents to display their abilities. The prevailing ignorance of those times is shown in the absence of any reliable accounts of the Holy Wars, written by journalists on the field. There was no daily press, and the mail communications were very unreliable. Down to the nineteenth century, Xenophon had no formidable competitors for the honors which attached to his name.
The elder Napoleon always acted as his own “Special.” His bulletins, by rapid post to Paris, were generally the first tidings of his brilliant marches and victories. His example was thought worthy of imitation by several military officials during the late Rebellion. Rear-Admiral Porter essayed to excel Napoleon in sending early reports of battles for public perusal. “I have the honor to inform the Department,” is a formula with which most editors and printers became intimately acquainted. The admiral’s veracity was not as conspicuous as his eagerness to push his reports in print.
At Waterloo there was no regular correspondent of the London press. Several volunteer writers furnished accounts of the battle for publication, whose accuracy has been called in question. Wellington’s official dispatches were outstripped by the enterprise of a London banking-house. The Rothschilds knew the result of the battle eight hours before Wellington’s courier arrived.
Carrier pigeons were used to convey the intelligence. During the Rebellion, Wall Street speculators endeavored to imitate the policy of the Rothschilds, but were only partially successful.
In the war between Mexico and the United States, “Our Special” was actively, though not extensively, employed. On one occasion, _The Herald_ obtained its news in advance of the official dispatches to the Government. The magnetic telegraph was then unknown. Horse-flesh and steam were the only means of transmitting intelligence. If we except the New Orleans _Picayune, The Herald_ was the only paper represented in Mexico during the campaigns of Scott and Taylor.
During the conflict between France and England on the one hand, and Russia on the other, the journals of London and Paris sent their representatives to the Crimea. The London _Times,_ the foremost paper of Europe, gave Russell a reputation he will long retain. The “Thunderer’s” letters from the camp before Sebastopol became known throughout the civilized world. A few years later, the East Indian rebellion once more called the London specials to the field. In giving the history of the campaigns in India, _The Times_ and its representative overshadowed all the rest.
Just before the commencement of hostilities in the late Rebellion, the leading journals of New York were well represented in the South. Each day these papers gave their readers full details of all important events that transpired in the South. The correspondents that witnessed the firing of the Southern heart had many adventures. Some of them narrowly escaped with their lives.
At Richmond, a crowd visited the Spottswood House, with the avowed intention of hanging a _Herald_ correspondent, who managed to escape through a back door of the building. A representative of _The Tribune_ was summoned before the authorities at Charleston, on the charge of being a Federal spy. He was cleared of the charge, but advised to proceed North as early as possible. When he departed, Governor Pickens requested him, as a particular favor, to ascertain the name of _The Tribune_ correspondent, on arrival in New York, and inform him by letter. He promised to do so. On reaching the North, he kindly told Governor Pickens who _The Tribune_ correspondent was.
A _Times_ correspondent, passing through Harper’s Ferry, found himself in the hands of “the Chivalry,” who proposed to hang him on the general charge of being an Abolitionist. He was finally released without injury, but at one time the chances of his escape were small.
The New Orleans correspondent of _The Tribune_ came North on the last passenger-train from Richmond to Aquia Creek. One of _The Herald’s_ representatives was thrown into prison by Jeff. Davis, but released through the influence of Pope Walker, the Rebel Secretary of War. Another remained in the South until all regular communication was cut off. He reached the North in safety by the line of the “underground railway.”
When the Rebellion was fairly inaugurated, the various points of interest were at once visited by the correspondents of the press. Wherever our armies operated, the principal dailies of New York and other cities were represented. Washington was the center of gravity around which the Eastern correspondents revolved. As the army advanced into Virginia, every movement was carefully chronicled. The competition between the different journals was very great.
In the West the field was broader, and the competition, though active, was less bitter than along the Potomac. In the early days, St. Louis, Cairo, and Louisville were the principal Western points where correspondents were stationed. As our armies extended their operations, the journalists found their field of labor enlarged. St. Louis lost its importance when the Rebels were driven from Missouri. For a long time Cairo was the principal rendezvous of the journalists, but it became less noted as our armies pressed forward along the Mississippi.
Every war-correspondent has his story of experiences in the field. Gathering the details of a battle in the midst of its dangers; sharing the privations of the camp and the fatigues of the march; riding with scouts, and visiting the skirmishers on the extreme front; journeying to the rear through regions infested by the enemy’s cavalry, or running the gauntlet of Rebel batteries, his life was far from monotonous. Frequently the correspondents acted as volunteer aids to generals during engagements, and rendered important service. They often took the muskets of fallen soldiers and used them to advantage. On the water, as on land, they sustained their reputation, and proved that the hand which wielded the pen was able to wield the sword. They contributed their proportion of killed, wounded, and captured to the casualties of the war. Some of them accepted commissions in the army and navy.
During the campaign of General Lyon in Missouri, the journalists who accompanied that army were in the habit of riding outside the lines to find comfortable quarters for the night. Frequently they went two or three miles ahead of the entire column, in order to make sure of a good dinner before the soldiers could overtake them. One night two of them slept at a house three miles from the road which the army was following. The inmates of the mansion were unaware of the vicinity of armed “Yankees,” and entertained the strangers without question. Though a dozen Rebel scouts called at the house before daylight, the correspondents were undisturbed. After that occasion they were more cautious in their movements.
In Kentucky, during the advance of Kirby Smith upon Cincinnati, the correspondents of _The Gazette_ and _The Commercial_ were captured by the advance-guard of Rebel cavalry. Their baggage, money, and watches became the property of their captors. The correspondents were released, and obliged to walk about eighty miles in an August sun. A short time later, Mr. Shanks and Mr. Westfall, correspondents of _The Herald,_ were made acquainted with John Morgan, in one of the raids of that famous guerrilla. The acquaintance resulted in a thorough depletion of the wardrobes of the captured gentlemen.
In Virginia, Mr. Cadwallader and Mr. Fitzpatrick, of _The Herald_, and Mr. Crounse, of _The Times_, were captured by Mosby, and liberated after a brief detention and a complete relief of every thing portable and valuable, down to their vests and pantaloons. Even their dispatches were taken from them and forwarded to Richmond. A portion of these reports found their way into the Richmond papers. Stonewall Jackson and Stuart were also fortunate enough to capture some of the representatives of the Press. At one time there were five correspondents of _The Herald_ in the hands of the Rebels. One of them, Mr. Anderson, was held more than a year. He was kept for ten days in an iron dungeon, where no ray of light could penetrate.
I have elsewhere alluded to the capture of Messrs. Richardson and Browne, of _The Tribune_, and Mr. Colburn, of _The World_, in front of Vicksburg. The story of the captivity and perilous escape of these representatives of _The Tribune_ reveals a patience, a fortitude, a daring, and a fertility of resource not often excelled.
Some of the most graphic battle-accounts of the war were written very hastily. During the three days’ battle at Gettysburg, _The Herald_ published each morning the details of the fighting of the previous day, down to the setting of the sun. This was accomplished by having a correspondent with each corps, and one at head-quarters to forward the accounts to the nearest telegraph office. At Antietam, _The Tribune_ correspondent viewed the battle by day, and then hurried from the field, writing the most of his account on a railway train. From Fort Donelson the correspondents of _The World_ and _The Tribune_ went to Cairo, on a hospital boat crowded with wounded. Their accounts were written amid dead and suffering men, but when published they bore little evidence of their hasty preparation.
I once wrote a portion of a letter at the end of a medium-sized table. At the other end of the table a party of gamblers, with twenty or thirty spectators, were indulging in “Chuck-a-Luck.” I have known dispatches to be written on horseback, but they were very brief, and utterly illegible to any except the writer. Much of the press correspondence during the war was written in railway cars and on steamboats, and much on camp-chests, stumps, or other substitutes for tables. I have seen a half-dozen correspondents busily engaged with their letters at the same moment, each of them resting his port-folio on his knee, or standing upright, with no support whatever. On one occasion a fellow-journalist assured me that the broad chest of a slumbering _confrere_ made an excellent table, the undulations caused by the sleeper’s breathing being the only objectionable feature.
Sometimes a correspondent reached the end of a long ride so exhausted as to be unable to hold a pen for ten consecutive minutes. In such case a short-hand writer was employed, when accessible, to take down from rapid dictation the story of our victory or defeat.
Under all the disadvantages of time, place, and circumstances, of physical exhaustion and mental anxiety, it is greatly to the correspondents’ credit that they wrote so well. Battle-accounts were frequently published that would be no mean comparison to the studied pen-pictures of the famous writers of this or any other age. They were extensively copied by the press of England and the Continent, and received high praise for their vivid portrayal of the battle-field and its scenes. Apart from the graphic accounts of great battles, they furnished materials from which the historians will write the enduring records of the war. With files of the New York dailies at his side, an industrious writer could compile a history of the Rebellion, complete in all its details.
It was a general complaint of the correspondents that their profession was never officially recognized so as to give them an established position in the army. They received passes from head-quarters, and could generally go where they willed, but there were many officers who chose to throw petty but annoying restrictions around them. As they were generally situated throughout the army, they were, to some extent, dependent upon official courtesies. Of course, this dependence was injurious to free narration or criticism when any officer had conducted improperly.
If there is ever another occasion for the services of the war correspondent on our soil, it is to be hoped Congress will pass a law establishing a position for the journalists, fixing their status in the field, surrounding them with all necessary restrictions, and authorizing them to purchase supplies and forage from the proper departments. During the Crimean war, the correspondents of the French and English papers had a recognized position, where they were subject to the same rules, and entitled to the same privileges, as the officers they accompanied. When Sir George Brown, at Eupatoria, forbade any officer appearing in public with unshaven chin, he made no distinction in favor of the members of the Press.
Notwithstanding their fierce competition in serving the journals they represented, the correspondents with our army were generally on the most friendly terms with each other. Perhaps this was less the case in the East than in the West, where the rivalry was not so intense and continuous. In the armies in the Mississippi Valley, the representatives of competing journals frequently slept, ate, traveled, and smoked together, and not unfrequently drank from the same flask with equal relish. In the early days, “Room 45,” in the St. Charles Hotel at Cairo, was the resort of all the correspondents at that point. There they laid aside their professional jealousies, and passed their idle hours in efforts for mutual amusement. On some occasions the floor of the room would be covered, in the morning, with a confused mass of boots, hats, coats, and other articles of masculine wear, out of which the earliest riser would array himself in whatever suited his fancy, without the slightest regard to the owner. “Forty-five” was the neutral ground where the correspondents planned campaigns for all the armies of the Union, arranged the downfall of the Rebellion, expressed their views of military measures and military men, exulted over successes, mourned over defeats, and toasted in full glasses the flag that our soldiers upheld.
Since the close of the war, many of the correspondents have taken positions in the offices of the journals they represented in the field. Some have established papers of their own in the South, and a few have retired to other civil pursuits. Some are making professional tours of the Southern States and recording the status of the people lately in rebellion. _The Herald_ has sent several of its _attaches_ to the European capitals, and promises to chronicle in detail the next great war in the Old World.
THE PRESENT CONDITION OF THE SOUTH.
Scarcity of the Population,–Fertility of the Country.–Northern Men already in the South.–Kansas Emigrants Crossing Missouri.–Change of the Situation.–Present Disadvantages of Emigration.–Feeling of the People.–Property-Holders in Richmond.–The Sentiment in North Carolina.–South Carolina Chivalry.–The Effect of War.–Prospect of the Success of Free Labor.–Trade in the South.
The suppression of the Rebellion, and the restoration of peace throughout the entire South, have opened a large field for emigration. The white population of the Southern States, never as dense as that of the North, has been greatly diminished in consequence of the war. In many localities more than half the able-bodied male inhabitants have been swept away, and everywhere the loss of men is severely felt. The breaking up of the former system of labor in the cotton and sugar States will hinder the progress of agriculture for a considerable time, but there can be little doubt of its beneficial effect in the end. The desolation that was spread in the track of our armies will be apparent for many years. The South will ultimately recover from all her calamities, but she will need the energy and capital of the Northern States to assist her.
During the progress of the war, as our armies penetrated the fertile portions of the “Confederacy,” many of our soldiers cast longing eyes at the prospective wealth around them. “When the war is over we will come here to live, and show these people something they never dreamed of,” was a frequent remark. Men born and reared in the extreme North, were amazed at the luxuriance of Southern verdure, and wondered that the richness of the soil had not been turned to greater advantage. It is often said in New England that no man who has once visited the fertile West ever returns to make his residence in the Eastern States. Many who have explored the South, and obtained a knowledge of its resources, will be equally reluctant to dwell in the regions where their boyhood days were passed.
While the war was in progress many Northern men purchased plantations on the islands along the Southern coast, and announced their determination to remain there permanently. After the capture of New Orleans, business in that city passed into the hands of Northerners, much to the chagrin of the older inhabitants. When the disposition of our army and the topography of the country made the lower portion of Louisiana secure against Rebel raids, many plantations in that locality were purchased outright by Northern speculators. I have elsewhere shown how the cotton culture was extensively carried on by “Yankees,” and that failure was not due to their inability to conduct the details of the enterprise.
Ten years ago, emigration to Kansas was highly popular. Aid Societies were organized in various localities, and the Territory was rapidly filled. Political influences had much to do with this emigration from both North and South, and many implements carried by the emigrants were not altogether agricultural in their character. The soil of Kansas was known to be fertile, and its climate excellent. The Territory presented attractions to settlers, apart from political considerations. But in going thither the emigrants crossed a region equally fertile, and possessing superior advantages in its proximity to a market. No State in the Union could boast of greater possibilities than Missouri, yet few travelers in search of a home ventured to settle within her limits.
The reason was apparent. Missouri was a slave State, though bounded on three sides by free soil. Few Northern emigrants desired to settle in the midst of slavery. The distinction between the ruling and laboring classes was not as great as in the cotton States, but there was a distinction beyond dispute. Whatever his blood or complexion, the man who labored with his hands was on a level, or nearly so, with the slave. Thousands passed up the Missouri River, or crossed the northern portion of the State, to settle in the new Territory of Kansas. When political influences ceased, the result was still the same. The Hannibal and St. Joseph Railway threw its valuable lands into the market, but with little success.
With the suppression of the late Rebellion, and the abolition of slavery in Missouri, the situation is materially changed. From Illinois, Ohio, and Indiana, there is a large emigration to Missouri. I was recently informed that forty families from a single county in Ohio had sent a delegation to Missouri to look out suitable locations, either of wild land or of farms under cultivation. There is every prospect that the State will be rapidly filled with a population that believes in freedom and in the dignity of labor. She has an advantage over the other ex-slave States, in lying west of the populous regions of the North. Hitherto, emigration has generally followed the great isothermal lines, as can be readily seen when we study the population of the Western States. Northern Ohio is more New Englandish than Southern Ohio, and the parallel holds good in Northern and Southern Illinois. There will undoubtedly be a large emigration to Missouri in preference to the other Southern States, but our whole migratory element will not find accommodation in her limits. The entire South will be overrun by settlers from the North.
Long ago, _Punch_ gave advice to persons about to marry. It was all comprised in the single word, “DON’T.” Whoever is in haste to emigrate to the South, would do well to consider, for a time, this brief, but emphatic counsel. No one should think of leaving the Northern States, until he has fairly considered the advantages and disadvantages of the movement. If he departs with the expectation of finding every thing to his liking, he will be greatly disappointed at the result.
There will be many difficulties to overcome. The people now residing in the late rebellious States are generally impoverished. They have little money, and, in many cases, their stock and valuables of all kinds have been swept away. Their farms are often without fences, and their farming-tools worn out, disabled, or destroyed. Their system of labor is broken up. The negro is a slave no longer, and the transition from bondage to freedom will affect, for a time, the producing interests of the South.
Though the Rebellion is suppressed, the spirit of discontent still remains in many localities, and will retard the process of reconstruction. The teachings of slavery have made the men of the South bitterly hostile to those of the North. This hostility was carefully nurtured by the insurgent leaders during the Rebellion, and much of it still exists. In many sections of the South, efforts will be made to prevent immigration from the North, through a fear that the old inhabitants will lose their political rights.
At the time I am writing, the owners of property in Richmond are holding it at such high rates as to repel Northern purchasers. Letters from that city say, the residents have determined to sell no property to Northern men, when they can possibly avoid it. No encouragement is likely to be given to Northern farmers and artisans to migrate thither. A scheme for taking a large number of European emigrants directly from foreign ports to Richmond, and thence to scatter them throughout Virginia, is being considered by the Virginia politicians. The wealthy men in the Old Dominion, who were Secessionists for the sake of secession, and who gave every assistance to the Rebel cause, are opposed to the admission of Northern settlers. They may be unable to prevent it, but they will be none the less earnest in their efforts.
This feeling extends throughout a large portion of Virginia, and exists in the other States of the South. Its intensity varies in different localities, according to the extent of the slave population in the days before the war, and the influence that the Radical men of the South have exercised. While Virginia is unwilling to receive strangers, North Carolina is manifesting a desire to fill her territory with Northern capital and men. She is already endeavoring to encourage emigration, and has offered large quantities of land on liberal terms. In Newbern, Wilmington, and Raleigh, the Northern element is large. Newbern is “Yankeeized” as much as New Orleans. Wilmington bids fair to have intimate relations with New York and Boston. An agency has been established at Raleigh, under the sanction of the Governor of the State, to secure the immediate occupation of farming and mining lands, mills, manufactories, and all other kinds of real estate. Northern capital and sinew is already on its way to that region. The great majority of the North Carolinians approve the movement, but there are many persons in the State who equal the Virginians in their hostility to innovations.
In South Carolina, few beside the negroes will welcome the Northerner with open arms. The State that hatched the secession egg, and proclaimed herself at all times first and foremost for the perpetuation of slavery, will not exult at the change which circumstances have wrought. Her Barnwells, her McGraths, her Rhetts, and her Hamptons declared they would perish in the last ditch, rather than submit. Some of them have perished, but many still remain. Having been life-long opponents of Northern policy, Northern industry, and Northern enterprise, they will hardly change their opinions until taught by the logic of events.
Means of transportation are limited. On the railways the tracks are nearly worn out, and must be newly laid before they can be used with their old facility. Rolling stock is disabled or destroyed. Much of it must be wholly replaced, and that which now remains must undergo extensive repairs. Depots and machine-shops have been burned, and many bridges are bridges no longer. On the smaller rivers but few steamboats are running, and these are generally of a poor class. Wagons are far from abundant, and mules and horses are very scarce. The wants of the armies have been supplied with little regard to the inconvenience of the people.
Corn-mills, saw-mills, gins, and factories have fed the flames. Wherever our armies penetrated they spread devastation in their track. Many portions of the South were not visited by a hostile force, but they did not escape the effects of war. Southern Georgia and Florida suffered little from the presence of the Northern armies, but the scarcity of provisions and the destitution of the people are nearly as great in that region as elsewhere.
Until the present indignation at their defeat is passed away, many of the Southern people will not be inclined to give any countenance to the employment of freed negroes. They believe slavery is the proper condition for the negro, and declare that any system based on free labor will prove a failure. This feeling will not be general among the Southern people, and will doubtless be removed in time.
The transition from slavery to freedom will cause some irregularities on the part of the colored race. I do not apprehend serious trouble in controlling the negro, and believe his work will be fully available throughout the South. It is natural that he should desire a little holiday with his release from bondage. For a time many negroes will be idle, and so will many white men who have returned from the Rebel armies. According to present indications, the African race displays far more industry than the Caucasian throughout the Southern States. Letters from the South say the negroes are at work in some localities, but the whites are everywhere idle.
Those who go to the South for purposes of traffic may or may not be favored with large profits. All the products of the mechanic arts are very scarce in the interior, while in the larger towns trade is generally overdone. Large stocks of goods were taken to all places accessible by water as soon as the ports were opened. The supply exceeded the demand, and many dealers suffered heavy loss. From Richmond and other points considerable quantities of goods have been reshipped to New York, or sold for less than cost. Doubtless the trade with the South will ultimately be very large, but it cannot spring up in a day. Money is needed before speculation can be active. A year or two, at the least, will be needed to fill the Southern pocket.
So much for the dark side of the picture. Emigrants are apt to listen to favorable accounts of the region whither they are bound, while they close their ears to all stories of an unfavorable character. To insure a hearing of both sides of the question under discussion, I have given the discouraging arguments in advance of all others. Already those who desire to stimulate travel to the South, are relating wonderful stories of its fertility and its great advantages to settlers. No doubt they are telling much that is true, but they do not tell all the truth. Every one has heard the statement, circulated in Ireland many years since, that America abounded in roasted pigs that ran about the streets, carrying knives and forks in their mouths, and making vocal requests to be devoured. Notwithstanding the absurdity of the story, it is reported to have received credit.
The history of every emigration scheme abounds in narratives of a brilliant, though piscatorial, character. The interior portions of all the Western States are of wonderful fertility, and no inhabitant of that region has any hesitation in announcing the above fact. But not one in a hundred will state frankly his distance from market, and the value of wheat and corn at the points of their production. In too many cases the bright side of the story is sufficient for the listener.
I once traveled in a railway car where there were a dozen emigrants from the New England States, seeking a home in the West. An agent of a county in Iowa was endeavoring to call their attention to the great advantages which his region afforded. He told them of the fertility of the soil, the amount of corn and wheat that could be produced to the acre, the extent of labor needed for the production of a specified quantity of cereals, the abundance of timber, and the propinquity of fine streams, with many other brilliant and seductive stories. The emigrants listened in admiration of the Promised Land, and were on the point of consenting to follow the orator.
I ventured to ask the distance from those lands to a market where the products could be sold, and the probable cost of transportation.
The answer was an evasive one, but was sufficient to awaken the suspicions of the emigrants. My question destroyed the beautiful picture which the voluble agent had drawn.
Those who desire to seek their homes in the South will do well to remember that baked pigs are not likely to exist in abundance in the regions traversed by the National armies.
HOW DISADVANTAGES MAY BE OVERCOME.
Conciliating the People of the South.–Railway Travel and its Improvement.–Rebuilding Steamboats.–Replacing Working Stock.–The Condition of the Plantations.–Suggestions about Hasty Departures.–Obtaining Information.–The Attractions of Missouri.
The hinderances I have mentioned in the way of Southern emigration are of a temporary character. The opposition of the hostile portion of the Southern people can be overcome in time. When they see there is no possible hope for them to control the National policy, when they fully realize that slavery is ended, and ended forever, when they discover that the negro will work as a free man with advantage to his employer, they will become more amiable in disposition. Much of their present feeling arises from a hope of compelling a return to the old relation of master and slave. When this hope is completely destroyed, we shall have accomplished a great step toward reconstruction. A practical knowledge of Northern industry and enterprise will convince the people of the South, unless their hearts are thoroughly hardened, that some good can come out of Nazareth. They may never establish relations of great intimacy with their new neighbors, but their hostility will be diminished to insignificance.
Some of the advocates of the “last ditch” theory, who have sworn never to live in the United States, will, doubtless, depart to foreign lands, or follow the example of the Virginia gentleman who committed suicide on ascertaining the hopelessness of the Rebellion. Failing to do either of these things, they must finally acquiesce in the supremacy of National authority.
The Southern railways will be repaired, their rolling stock replaced, and the routes of travel restored to the old status. All cannot be done at once, as the destruction and damage have been very extensive, and many of the companies are utterly impoverished. From two to five years will elapse before passengers and freight can be transported with the same facility, in all directions, as before the war.
Under a more liberal policy new lines will be opened, and the various portions of the Southern States become accessible. During the war two railways were constructed under the auspices of the Rebel Government, that will prove of great advantage in coming years. These are the lines from Meridian, Mississippi, to Selma, Alabama, and from Danville, Virginia, to Greensborough, North Carolina. A glance at a railway map of the Southern States will show their importance.
On many of the smaller rivers boats are being improvised by adding wheels and motive power to ordinary scows. In a half-dozen years, at the furthest, we will, doubtless, see the rivers of the Southern States traversed by as many steamers as before the war. On the Mississippi and its tributaries the destruction of steamboat property was very great, but the loss is rapidly being made good. Since 1862 many fine boats have been constructed, some of them larger and more costly than any that existed during the most prosperous days before the Rebellion. On the Alabama and other rivers, efforts are being made to restore the steamboat fleets to their former magnitude.
Horses, mules, machinery, and farming implements must and will be supplied out of the abundance in the North. The want of mules will be severely felt for some years. No Yankee has yet been able to invent a machine that will create serviceable mules to order. We must wait for their production by the ordinary means, and it will be a considerable time before the supply is equal to the demand. Those who turn their attention to stock-raising, during the next ten or twenty years, can always be certain of finding a ready and remunerative market.
The Southern soil is as fertile as ever. Cotton, rice, corn, sugar, wheat, and tobacco can be produced in their former abundance. Along the Mississippi the levees must be restored, to protect the plantations from floods. This will be a work of considerable magnitude, and, without extraordinary effort, cannot be accomplished for several years. Everywhere fences must be rebuilt, and many buildings necessary in preparing products for market must be restored. Time, capital, energy, and patience will be needed to develop anew the resources of the South. Properly applied, they will be richly rewarded.
No person should be hasty in his departure, nor rush blindly to the promised land. Thousands went to California, in ’49 and ’50, with the impression that the gold mines lay within an hour’s walk of San Francisco. In ’59, many persons landed at Leavenworth, on their way to Pike’s Peak, under the belief that the auriferous mountain was only a day’s journey from their landing-place. Thousands have gone “West”