Battle Fields of Louisiana
REVISITED A SECOND TIME,
LATE MAJOR 25th CONNECTICUT VOLUNTEERS.
THE FLOWER & MILLER CO., PRINTERS AND PUBLISHERS, 341 MAIN STREET.
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To my Regimental Comrades:—
In February and March, 1896, I visited the scenes of our campaign of 1863 for the first time in thirty-three years, and spent about three weeks in that delightful country. On my return I published an account of my visit in a little pamphlet for gratuitous distribution among my former comrades. I made a subsequent visit to that region in February and March, 1897, and my reminiscences of this visit were published in a series of contributions to The Connecticut Catholic in October and November, 1897, and I now have collected them, in pamphlet form, and these are also intended for like gratuitous distribution among my old and beloved and alas! rapidly disappearing fellow soldiers of the Old Twenty-fifth Regiment. It is plain recital, but I believe you all will be pleased to read it, and I wrote it, and now publish it, especially for you.
Your affectionate Comrade,
BATTLE FIELDS OF LOUISIANA
At 8:30 a. m., February the 24th, 1897, I started for Louisiana, to visit again the battle fields of the 25th regiment. At New Haven I found to my surprise and delight a son of one of my old comrades: his wife and daughter were going by the same train with me to New Orleans. My valued friend, Father DeBruycker of Willimantic, had already gone to New Orleans about two weeks before, and I anticipated a very delightful time in Louisiana in his company. Our train left the depot at Jersey City at 4:43 p. m. Next morning at 5:50 we were near the dividing line between Virginia and North Carolina.
I found among the early risers a young lawyer of Charlotte, N. C., Mr. T. H. Sprinkle, who gave me valuable information concerning the present condition of the country through which we were passing; also, Col. J. L. Black of Blacksburg, a prominent officer of the Confederate army, a graduate of West Point, and an ardent admirer of ex-Senator W. W. Eaton of Hartford, whose acquaintance he had formed in his Congressional service. Here at Blacksburg is the residence of Mr. Jones, formerly superintendent of the Connecticut Western R. R., a former resident of Hartford.
About six miles from Kings Mountain Station is the old Kings Mountain battle ground, which was an important position during the Revolutionary War. Col. Black showed me from the car windows at Salisbury, the birthplace of Gen. Andrew Jackson, a modest log cabin. Between Greenville and Atlanta I noticed that the numerous hill sides were thoroughly cultivated in terraces circling around the cone-shaped uplands.
The crop is principally cotton. Col. Black informed me that the cotton crop in North Carolina is more then double what it was before the war, and that already there are more then one hundred cotton mills in North Carolina. The mills are rapidly increasing in number, and spin a very fine strong thread, and they are annually increasing their capabilities. Soon they will be able to utilize the labor of the colored young girls and will be formidable rivals to the mills of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.
I met here on the train two young French priests one of whom had landed at New York only two days before. Both were bound for New Orleans, to give their services to missionary work among the negroes of the Gulf States. My total ignorance of the French language, and their limited knowledge of the English, deprived me of what otherwise would have been a profitable conversation for me, and possibly interesting to them.
At 4 p. m. we reached Atlanta. Around here the superstructure of the soil appears to be solid rock, from miles above to miles below the city. At this point we changed our watches and robbed praeteritum tempus of an hour. Our chase of Old Sol had left us far behind in his race, yet we had gained an hour over our friends at Hartford.
As we were leaving Atlanta, on the southern edge of the city’s suburbs, a stone of two inches or more in diameter, came crashing through one of the plate glass windows, filling the lap of a young lady who was sitting in the seat, with crashed glass, and alarming all the occupants of the car. Fortunately no harm was done. The stone was evidently thrown by some representative of the omnipresent and irrepressible American bad boy. This being the sole exciting incident of the trip, we passengers felt that we had been very fortunate. Next morning at 5 a. m. we were whirled along Biloxi, and soon afterwards we passed Pass Christian, both pretty rural watering places, and favorite summer resorts for the people of Mobile and New Orleans, Biloxi and Pass Christian will be remembered by the veterans of the 9th Conn., as this was the scene of their earlier engagements with the Confederates in 1862. At 7:45 a. m. our train arrived at New Orleans station, where Father DeBruycker was awaiting me. After breakfast we visited Capt. Wm. Wright (formerly of the 9th Conn.) at his office in the Custom House. He informed me with great pleasure, that he had a visit a few days previously from Hon. Alfred E. Burr and his brother, Franklin L. Burr, both of whom had spent a short time in New Orleans on their way to Hot Springs, Ark.
Our next visit was to Archbishop Janssens, who had as guest, the Papal Legate Archbishop Martinelli with whom I had a pleasant half hour’s conversation. He is a delightful gentleman with fascinating manners, speaks our language distinctly and correctly, although slowly and with evident care. He possesses the rare and happy faculty of putting people at once at ease, and dissipating the natural embarrassment usually attendant on an interview with high church dignitaries. He had been in New Orleans for a few days, and had evidently employed his eyes and ears to excellent purpose, and had a very good memory. I had the good fortune to see and hear him often before I returned home.
Like as at my visit of a year previous, I had arrived on the threshold of the Carnival—(Mardi Gras—or as pronounced here Mordy Grau) and desirable lodgings were difficult to obtain and very expensive. Three hours’ search resulted in my selecting a room on Royal street, No. 938, with a Creole family, consisting of the grandmother, the mother and five children ranging in age from nine to twenty-two. The street and building were typical of the old city, no space between the dwellings—the inevitable balcony or gallery in front and rear at every story, and in the rear yards the high brick party fence, and tall wood cisterns in every angle.
An inquiry at the office of the Packett Co., as to when the “Paul Tulane” would sail, brought answer that her sailing days were over, and that she lay at the bottom of the Mississippi, having been snagged in July, 1896. Capt. Campbell and the officers of the “Tulane” were now on the steamer “Whisper” which had sailed evening before, and would sail again from New Orleans on the coming Monday. I had allotted much of my expected pleasure on the association of the upriver trip with the “Tulane” and its officers, and I determined that my trip to Port Hudson would be deferred till Monday.
I went to the “Grunewaid” to dinner, meeting on the way Capt. James C. Britton of Hartford, who was officially in New Orleans in the service of the U. S. department of labor. The balance of the day was spent in strolling around and refamiliarizing myself with the streets and buildings. I stepped into Col. Amand Hawkins’ store in Canal street dealer in antiquities in which he is regarded as the best known authority in the country south of Washington) whose store is the most interesting and best arranged museum of historical curiosities in the South. The colonel gave me a pair of buttons from the uniform of Lt. Col. Chas. D. Dreaux, 1st La. Battalion, and the first Confederate officer killed in action during the war. (Killed July 5th, 1861, near Newport News.) Among the historical curiosities in his possession, Col. Hawkins showed me the silver medal that by vote of Congress in 1829, was struck off and ordered to be presented by Gen. Jackson, then President of the U. S. to the Indian Chief Oceola—the medal was buried with Oceola on Sullivan’s Island, and subsequently was pilfered from the grave by prowling resurrectionists, and in time fell into the hands of Col. Hawkins. I have ever since regretted that I neglected to take a full description of this most interesting relic. The colonel introduced me to Mr. Eustice, brother of Sen. Eustice of Louisiana. Mr. Eustice informed me that his family were from Connecticut. Archbishop Janssens will be met every day on the principal streets and never without one or more persons with him If he stops to speak to anyone, he is the centre of a group in a minute, everybody wants the pleasure of a grip of his hand, a word of greeting, at least a recognition, all of which the Archbishop is ever ready to give to prince or pauper with equal cheerfulness.
It is one of the charms of the New Orleans people, that the well to do, both men and women, have the art of speaking with and noticing their poorer acquaintances in public places, and on the street, without the faintest suggestion of lowering their dignity, while the poorer people never show the slightest evidence of presumption in reciprocating. Politeness is inborn with these people, and they have learned it as one learns a language. I was surprised to see none of the loafer class. You often pass groups of negroes or whites, especially on the levee, but while suggesting resting from work, and even idleness, they never suggested lounging or loafing. They will be good natured, chaffing, joking, or as the Irish people of forty years ago would have expressed it, “Mobbing one another,” but never annoying the passer-by.
The Catholic Winter School was to open on Sunday, Feb. 28, and this had brought to the city many Bishops and priests from other states, and during the continuance of the school, every church or chapel had three, four or even more masses at its altars every morning. St. Mary’s chapel adjoining the Archbishop’s residence on Chartre’s street, had often times three masses by three different Bishops at three different altars said simultaneously. The week day early masses were generally well attended by women, though a respectable attendance by men was never wanting.
Charters street is not as wide as Asylum street in Hartford. The residence of the Archbishop is one hundred feet or so back from the street, the intervening space being given up to a grassy lawn, dotted here and there with clumps of shrubbery and tenanted by a couple of graceful deer. This is hidden from the street, by a brick wall of eight feet in height; in the centre of its line is the lodging of the porter, an old French soldier who is the pink of military accuracy and dignified politeness.
The word in letters of eight or ten inches in length “Archeveque” on the surface of the pavement is sufficient to indicate the house and its occupant. The main residence, brick and stucco, two stories high, was formerly a convent of the Ursuline nuns, the building itself is evidently over one hundred years old, and shows little or no evidence of having been materially altered since its erection.
During the day I called on several old friends, among them Captain Wright of the Ninth Connecticut regiment, who presented me with a stout oaken cane made from one of the original timbers of Admiral Farragut’s famous war sloop Hartford. It is as hard as iron and almost as heavy. Colonel Hearsey was sitting as usual behind the editorial desk of the “States Democrat,” and he entertained me with an interesting account of his visit to Hartford many years ago.
I could not neglect looking into St. Patrick’s church, thereby recalling memories of Father Mullen, the bluff old pastor who was parish priest in 1863, and for several years previous, and who is remembered as a somewhat stubborn secessionist by almost every member of the Connecticut 9th.
As soon as General Butler took possession of New Orleans, with his army in April, 1862, it became the fad for every self-styled union resident to pay off his old scores against his personal enemies by going to General Butler, and entering complaints against them for some real or pretended act of disloyalty to the Union cause and it became customary also for some soldiers to make like charges against citizens who committed acts of contempt towards the Federal government, or its flag, or its defenders.
An Irish soldier had died and his comrades prepared for his burial in the Catholic cemetery without having taken the trouble to arrange with Father Mullen, who was in charge, and who had been tendered no evidence whatever that the man was entitled by ecclesiastical laws to Christian burial in consecrated ground. Father Mullen, forbade the opening of the grave in that place, until such proof should be furnished. The soldiers instead of regarding the rules of the church promptly lodged with General Butler a complaint of disloyal behavior against Father Mullen, who was peremptorily summoned to appear before the general. He at once reported and requested to know for what he had been summoned. “I am credibly informed,” said the general, “that you have refused to bury Union soldiers.” “Your information is wrong,” said Father Mullen; “I assure you that nothing would give me greater pleasure than to bury you all.” General Butler recognized the blunt honesty, though not the patriotism of the reply, but it is said that an understanding was soon reached, and no disagreement existed ever after between the two distinguished men. Father Mullen was succeeded in 1863 by Father Dynott, a Belgian, who wore a monstrous jet black beard. The visitor from the north will be surprised at the number of priests here who are full bearded. Among distinguished ecclesiastics here, I met the Bishop of a Southwestern diocese with a beard like a Persian.
The first sensation to a stranger in passing along the narrow streets is that of personal danger at the intersections. The gutters at the curb stones are from 14 to 18 inches deep, and the cast iron plate cross walks over them are seldom wide or entire, and are located generally with reckless indifference to continuity with the line of the sidewalk, and one instinctively looks carefully at the pavement just ahead when traveling over them after night fall.
I saw to-day a poor blind negro feeling his way along one of the narrow streets, and a poorly dressed Irish woman near by was carrying a bundle of sticks that had evidently been gathered from some building in process of repair. She laid her bundle aside, and taking the arm of the sightless old negro, conducted him in safety over the dangerous crossing, to the sidewalk on the other side, and returned to her burden. There was a grace and dignity in the way in which she performed this act of charitable politeness that was incomparable, and the old recipient’s thanks were rendered in a manner that Chesterfield himself might have envied. Such a sight in Hartford would have (most probably) provoked a grin of ridicule. Here, not even the street gamins, appeared to consider it so unusual as to even attract their notice.
On Sunday, Feb. 28, the opening of the Catholic Winter school occurred at the Cathedral. Through the thoughtful kindness of Archbishop Janssens, I was furnished with a ticket which gave me a seat in the middle aisle, within a few feet of the chancel rail. Early in the morning I had visited the vast building for the purpose of studying its architecture and decorations. The seats, and space in front, were well filled with worshippers of every condition in life, engaged in their silent devotions. Several groups of tourists, who had evidently come to the city for the carnival, were strolling through the church, most of them exhibiting a discreditable ignorance of common politeness and a total want of anything like reverence. They would pass on and stop as they pleased regardless of the convenience of the kneeling worshippers around them, and chatter their comments on every object of interest or curiosity, as freely as if they were at a country fair. They made no apologies for crowding through the kneeling throngs before the chancel and I saw more than one of these groups look at the worshippers with contemptuous sneers, then turn with a giggle and titer, and converse audibly to one another, on the manners and garb of individuals near by.
Can anyone explain how it is that so many who, in ordinary society deport themselves with propriety never seen to realize that a Catholic church or congregation, even during the most impressive service, is entitled to common respectful behavior from them.
The high mass began at 10:30 a. m., the long line of ecclesiastics, led by the Marine band from one of the French war vessels, then lying in the river, marched from the Archbishop’s residence, to the Cathedral, and up the very broad aisle to the altar. The marines, sailors and state militia stood all through the service in the broad aisle. Artillery boomed from a battery on the levee. The bells rang in the towers and the Cathedral was filled with music from band, organ and choir. The scenic effect of the grand altar with its hundreds of lights, its masses of flowers, the multitudes of ecclesiastics of every rank, from the childish altar boy to the Papal representative, who celebrated the mass, altogether made one grand picture, such as few people ever look upon, and no one can see without the deepest emotion, and when at the solemn moment of Consecration, the military simultaneously presented arms, the battery on the levee proclaimed it audibly for miles around, while within the walls, silently and almost breathlessly, knelt the gathering of many thousand worshippers. I felt how powerless is word or pen to properly describe the majesty or impressiveness of the scene.
Bishop Dunn, of Dallas, Texas, was the preacher, and among the people present were many of the civic dignitaries of the city and state, and several officers of the U. S. army and navy, and of the French war vessels that were lying in the stream. Archbishop Janssens addressed the people after mass. His manner and style are peculiarly his own and add greatly to his irresistible attractiveness.
I visited the Orphan Asylum for Colored girls, managed by a community of nuns, all colored ladies. My visiting hour would have been regarded as inconveniently unreasonable in society here. Father De Bruycker celebrated their morning mass on Monday, March 1, and I attended at 6:30 a. m. The chapel, clean as hands could make it, was filled with neatly arrayed colored girls, ranging in ages from 8 to 16. The Sisters were all well educated ladies.
When I was leaving the convent after mass, I found the front door locked, and the Lady Superior rang a bell, and soon a bright, handsome Sister hastened into the hall with the key. “This,” said the Lady Superior, introducing her, “is Sister St. Peter—we have given her that name because she carries the keys.” “Ah, Sister,” I replied, “your title is a misnomer.” “Why?” “Because you are letting me out. St. Peter employs his keys only to let good people in.” Aside from the care of the orphans, these Sisters have a very large day school for colored children.
The previous evening I had attended a reception given to the Papal Legate, by the alumni and students of the Jesuit college, at the College hall on Baronne street. In response to an address of welcome, by Judge Semmes, the Legate spoke in English and expressed his delight at the evidence that he saw everywhere of zealous interest and effort in the cause of Christian education. Among the guests were several American and French naval officers from the “Maine,” “Texas” and from the French war ships, and also several army officers from the barracks at Chalmette.
The carnival began early on Monday morning, March 1. Every man, woman and child in New Orleans feels obligated to participate in some way in this annual festivity. The youthful masqueraders display themselves, clothed in grotesque costumes long before daylight. The side walks are crowded early with pedestrians, and balconies are erected wherever there is room. Canal street looks like Pennsylvania avenue in Washington on Inaugural day. King Rex and Queen Regina, who are to rule the city from this time until midnight on Tuesday, will make their triumphal entry at noon, landing at head of Canal street.
I strolled to the river side. Everything that could float was utilized from the palatial steamer to the most diminutive skiff. The great father of waters is grimly rolling on and increasing his height day by day, and already the people are apprehensive as to his intentions concerning his final level. Its surface is yet far below the top of the natural bank, and many more feet must be surpassed before the danger line on the levee’s face will be reached, but the mighty stream never makes a speedy halt when once it has commenced to mount upwards. It will continue rising for many a week to come, this is sure. I went aboard the steamer “Whisper,” and on the upper deck found my friend, Capt. Campbell, formerly of the “Paul Tulane,” and saw here and there the familiar faces of his mates and clerks with whom I sailed a year ago. I received a warm greeting from everyone. The boat will start for Bayou Sara at 5 p.m. and I engaged my berth to the amazement of everybody, for they cannot comprehend that it is possible for any one to voluntarily leave New Orleans on the first day of the “Mardi Gras.” But I had seen the whole thing one year ago, and know it by heart. I secured a good seat on the upper deck and watched the arrival of the Royal fleet—the dingy fog covers the river, thickened with the smoke of many steamers. As the fleet appears, turning around the bend two miles below, a thousand steamer whistles break forth in hoarse roar, fierce screech and shrill pipe,--the concordant calliope and discordant multiplex going do their best or worst—nothing else on earth can equal the din—the war ships belch forth thundering salutes, gun succeeding gun with incredible rapidity—the yard and sides of the ship are manned—the levee is packed with columns of soldiery—foot and horse, and spectators of every condition and color in tens of thousands—a crowd such as can be seen no where but in New Orleans. Levee and side walk crowds, are thickly sprinkled with Mardi Gras badges, gilt, silver, brass and copper of various designs. One of the steamship companies had placed a beautiful ocean steamer at the service of the Papal Legate. Archbishop Janssens and visiting friends. I was honored with an invitation to be one of the party, but felt compelled to decline as I had made arrangements to leave for Bayou Sara in the afternoon.
Sitting on the upper deck watching the roustabouts load up, I was greatly amused at the methods resorted to in getting the mules to venture over the gang plank. The old soldiers who served in these regions during the war remember the many laughable incidents attendant on loading or unloading mules. It was then not unusual to see a score of negroes vainly endeavoring to persuade one mule to go aboard. Shouts, pushes, lashes and lifts were fruitless. The rigid hind legs, with a backward brace could resist easily a force that could have snapped an iron rod as big as the animal’s shank. Now, like everything else in Louisiana, old methods have given way to the march of education. A diminutive cowboy mounted on a diminutive white horse rode over the gang plank, and the mules in lines of two, four or six as the number might be, followed with as much docility as so many Sunday school children going to a picnic. I noticed that there didn’t seem to be much enthusiasm among the roustabouts towards getting employed for the trip and attributed it to the desire of remaining in the city and witnessing the festivities of the carnival; one of the boat clerks told me that the boys had struck for higher pay. Everything was quiet however. The mate lounged on the gang plank and the roustabouts lighted their pipes and gaily chatted together. The mate meant to have a crew. The crew meant to go anyway, but to get bigger pay if possible. Occasionally, one would speak to the mate, go back to his companions, and after a little it was evident that the unanimity of sentiment on their part was dissolved and soon one came aboard, then two or three followed in a very little time, bye and bye all; the lines were cast off and our “Whisper” headed up the river with one sole passenger, but with an unusually heavy freight.
Tuesday, March 2, on rising at 6 a. m., I found the river surface covered with thick brown fog, the boat was yet many miles below Donaldsonville, which we afterwards passed about 9 a. m. Here the Bayou Le Fourche forms an important outlet to the Gulf, running south through Assumption parish, and between Terra Bonne and La Fourche interior, emptying its waters into the Gulf of Mexico. A considerable part of Old Fort Barrow yet remains on the north side of the Bayou, and the draw bridge is yet standing and in constant use. Our boat soon reached a camp by the river side, that suggested former war days. Thirty or forty tents were occupying the land between the levee foot and river bank. This was Donovan’s and Daly’s levee camp, a colony of colored laborers who were repairing levees. Most of the men were at their work, but the women hastened from their tents to the landing and chattered garrulously with the roustabouts on board and flung jokes and chunks of wit back and forth. I paid less attention to what they said than to their movements. Many of them were wondrously graceful and moved with a dignified and stately step that a society belle might envy. Almost every little landing place is a picture in itself. “Orange Grove” has an unrivalled group of live oaks. Evan Hall is a beautiful village on the west side of the river. Although so far from the sea, flocks of seagulls are flying high over the river and the mate tells me that he has seen them as far north as Vicksburg. We pass, but make no stops at the Leper hospital, which is in charge of a community of nuns from New Orleans. Our boat is so slow that it is 7 p. m. before we reach “Plaquemine,” where the U. S. government is building locks and endeavoring to make navigation possible from the river, over into Grand lake and the “Atchalfalya,” just now, however, the water is too high, and the soil too friable and solvent and the grade from the surface of the Mississippi too quick to permit any progress to be made and very soon all work must cease, at least until June or July, when the flood shall have subsided. No chance of a familiar glance at Baton Rouge to-night. I return to my room and listen to the musical cadence of the engines, and find on awakening at 2:30 a. m. that we are just passing Baton Rouge—and at 4:30 a. m., we pass Prophets Island, and it is 6:30 a. m. before we reached Bayou Sara from which place I intended to drive down and over Thompson’s Creek and enter the old Mississippi stronghold by the same route, that our regiment entered it in May, 1863. The weather, however, looked unpropitious and I decided that I could not run the risk of a Louisiana road in a storm of rain, and so I decided to remain aboard and leave the boat at Port Hickey on the return trip. The fog was very thick and great drops were condensed so that it was almost like a shower on deck but it cleared away soon after 8 a. m. and this gave me a good opportunity to observe the encroachments that the rising waters were making in the banks which crumbled away before our eyes, great masses containing many cubic yards dropping with heavy slump into the swift and heavy current as it rolled along. Every here and there new levees had been built far away to the rear of the old ones—some of which were already near the rapidly approaching current—many of these new levees had left stately mansions, now abandoned, standing between them and the river, houses that within memory had stood many a rod back from the old levee. Wherever the stream directs its course if forces its way, and every new freshet of more than usual height leaves immense bays cut far inland, where but a few weeks before were fertile plantations of cane, cotton or rice. In future years these new channels will have been again abandoned by the river, the entrance above and exit below will have filled and closed and have left curved inland lakes miles in length, wide and deep as the original stream, by and by to be broken into again by the spring overflow of a neighboring bayou and forming an exit possibly into the Mississippi miles below or possibly into the Grand Lake which empties eighty miles west of New Orleans into the lower waters of the Atchafalaya. Nothing will more readily represent these changes in the water courses of Louisiana, than to watch the irregular courses of the stream on the panes of a car window, during a rain shower.
It is a study to watch the movements of the roustabouts, and to note with what shrewdness even in their hardest work and swiftest movements, they husband their strength, as they run ashore with a heavy bag of cotton seed or rice on their shoulders. They turn and run back to the boat, every joint loose, and they move to the right or left with a sinuosity of motion that does not detract in the slightest from their strength and they seem to slide rather than run on the gang plank, back to the deck where as they whirl along they receive another bag or box on their backs and trot back to the shore, without the faintest signs of weariness, although their bodies are exuding perspiration at every pore.
The gang plank is narrow, yet the returning roustabout will wind serpentinely through the shore bound laden procession like an eel, with never a collision, reminding one of an endless chain; no one shows any sign of being winded—a white man would die, or at least faint in his tracks, in attempting to do what these fellows accomplish with ease, and when all is done and the boat backs away from shore, they are spread out over the loading, apparently fresh and chaffing one another as cheerily as if they had no cares in life.
The negro is musical,—and music to him means more than sound, it is harmony and sweetness, seldom joyous, but always sweet. The moment he is aroused, he shakes sweetness of sound from every movement, and the burden of his song is love or nature. I have one piece of advice to give my Northern friends who do not know the negro. Do not try and hamper him by artificial rules—let him expand and grow just as he is.
Just before we reached the landing at Port Hickey, one of the negro waiter on the boat came to me and asked if I could give him a copy of the book of my trip a year ago. I was surprised and asked him if he had seen me the previous year. He said, “Oh, yes, I remember you and Father Quinn—and I heard Capt. Campbell read your book and I wanted one.” I had just two copies remaining, and I gave him one and at the same time gave him the customary tip, slightly inflated, and he refused it not. We landed at Port Hickey which is at the extreme lower end of Port Hudson Bluffs, grip sack in hand I mounted to the top, and there at a very primitive country store inquired if I could get accommodations for the coming night and also a carriage and horse to drive around the place. The clerk, who was a very fine looking young fellow, told me that he was sure that Mr. Slaughter would accommodate me, and offered to take me at once to his house, just up the bluffs. I went with him to a plantation mansion, built of brick with a spacious veranda and a beautiful combination of garden, lawn, and forest between the house and road. I sat on the porch, while the clerk hunted up Mr. Slaughter who soon appeared—and to whom I stated my situation—he called a negro boy, and just then Mrs. Slaughter and one of her daughters came in, and the ladies received me not as a stranger but as an honored guest. I was struck with the charming gracefulness of these people, which, however, is typical of the Louisiana people everywhere. The boy brought around the carriage and horses, and Mr. Slaughter, telling his wife we would be gone for a couple of hours, invited me to drive and I got into the carriage. A very few minutes drive brought me to the lover ravines where the Confederates had their batteries 34 years ago. It actually looked as if nature, anticipating the struggle of 1863, had especially provided for this event. The ravine and bluffs show the most perfect arrangement for defense that can be imagined, and the most perfect shelter for a garrison. The Federal troops so entrenched would never have been captured except by famine and in truth it was by famine largely that the garrison of the stronghold was finally subdued. We drove out of the ravines up onto the plain table land across which the Confederates had built their semicircular parapet that stood with its convex confronting us in 1863. A driveway now occupied the site of the old formidable defense and a sugar mill stands near the place where was once the old sally port and entrance. Cane is growing on the fields over which Federal and Confederate shot and shell were then flying. Bit by bit as we drive to the north, the sugar fields become familiar and as we drive we approach an immense ravine. I asked my friend to stop and look over to the east and north. I saw the very tree at which I had stationed Lieut. Converse of Windsor Locks, with a powerful spy glass on May 25th and 26th to watch the enemy on the main works fronting the open plain. I asked Slaughter if just before us was not where we opened the fight on their rifle pits as we closed in on May 24 and he said, yes, this is the very place and those rifle pits are to our right and left just ahead. We drove on and down the hill to the ravine ahead with the trickling brook at its bottom, where we stopped and looked back and the scene of 34 years ago is as distinct as if it had happened yesterday. The change I perceive is, that on the west, the road is changed a few rods to the east but the old road is there yet and I can plainly see in memory, the 24th Conn. deployed on both sides and Gen. Grover, his horse just shot under him quietly surveying the open ground in front while the shot from Confederate batteries, sweeping the ravines between his advanced position and the head out column.
We drove across the ravine and up to the high ground on the other side. The woods were partly standing on the west side of the road, where I remember the 25th was ordered to occupy on that Sunday afternoon when we opened the assault. We drove off towards our then right, through the thickets and fields as far as our horse and carriage could go. The scene is startlingly familiar, but the heat of the day of March 3, is too powerful to allow me to explore the way again afoot. I can see the whole road to the turn of the slope, down which we then advanced. We drove back into the village of Port Hudson. One of the first persons I saw was old Mr. Miller, my Confederate friend of a year before, who was sitting before his grocery store. He gave a genuine start and shout of surprise as he saw me.
My host, Mr. Wm. S. Slaughter, whose hospitalities I was then enjoying, had served with his brother Joseph in the garrison at Port Hudson during the siege in 1863. Their father owned the plantation that includes the lower half of Port Hudson, part of which lies in the parish of East Feliceana and part in that of East Baton Rouge, the two sons in common inherited this historic ground, and their beautiful residences are standing near one another on the lower bluffs facing the Mississippi river at Port Hickey—and in full sight of the new made land that stretches out to the west, from one and a half to two miles in front of the old formidable bluffs of Port Hudson, covering the bed of the deep Mississippi, and now overspread with forest and meadow, and fields of cotton and corn. Our old battle ground is now one vast cane and cotton field—with an immense sugar mill and cotton gin thereon. The newly made land is rapidly increasing on the Port Hudson side of the river, and it will be no surprise to me, to find in another year that the immense freshets of March, April, and May, ’97, will have reached out a quarter of a mile or more to the west, and fully as far southward. We went down under the bluffs and drank from the old spring that was on the river’s brink until the river inclined itself away from the heights. The roof of the old depot of the now extinct Port Hudson and Clinton R. R. is yet standing. The cattle have appropriated its ruined walls as a shelter from the heat. Beside it yet remains the track way of one of the heaviest Confederate guns—the grazing cows stray fearlessly to the edges of the clay cliffs and browse along their tops. The two young men who accompanied Father Quinn and I here one year ago, came down into the plain to meet me again and accompany us around. Mr. Slaughter and I went to his home for dinner. Mrs. Slaughter and her two daughters and niece were there and a dinner was spread that would have excited surprise and admiration in Paris itself. Such fish and eggs—Heublien’s was nowhere. Such fowl and ham—but it was Ash Wednesday, and I could not partake, but I could and did admire; and such charming people—we all sat out under the roof of the broad veranda until late, looking on at the shining surface of the broad and swiftly flowing Mississippi fifty feet below. My host showed me an immense scar on the corner of his dwelling house where a ball from one of our heavy batteries had grazed the house, and splintered off a strip of the brick wall two feet long, but only three inches think in its widest part. The brick walls were fairly pock-marked by the bullets from the fleet in the river; walking near the house I noticed a clump of reeds, and suddenly remembered my promise that I would bring home to Hartford some of these as canes for my old comrades. I requested a young man (Schraeder) who happened to be close by, to cut for me about one hundred and fifty of them and in less then half an hour he had them at the house, and next morning they were on their way by express to Hartford.
Sitting here on this broad veranda, and amidst these surroundings, seemed like dreamland. The moonbeams sparkled through the foliage of live oak, magnolia, pecan trees, shrubbery and evergreens. The hedges of Chereokee rose line the road, the air is fairly languorous with the heavy perfume of the yellow jasmine. My charming hostess entertains me with recollections of her visits many years ago, to her friends in Rhode Island.
I was charmed with the graceful ways of the young ladies. Their manner was that of people accustomed to a constant residence in places where the auxiliaries of opera, drama, public library, social gatherings, etc., were abundant. They all had enjoyed the advantages of the best of seminaries, in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, and the training of the excellent Sisters. Yet one would think that living in a neighborhood so secluded and quiet would necessarily enforce on the residents an air of rusticity. But a very short time in this latitude will satisfy everybody that the Southern lady has the aid not only of grace but also of nature. She grows up attractively; it is in the air and surroundings—these misses had been an hour or two before, with the mother engaged in household duties, and in this they were as graceful and attractive as when conversing here where I was giving to their father who sits with us, my reminiscences of 34 years ago, of my doings on this very spot, and when he was here, one of the garrison on his father’s estate.
Mr. Slaughter told me that soon after the war, an island began to appear, in mid stream, opposite the upper part of the bluffs, off the mouth of Thompson creek, the heavier portion being towards the east bank of the river, but the channel under the bluffs continued navigable until after the heavy freshet in the spring of 1880, when the channel was closed to navigation and the land has been accumulating ever since.
Mr. Slaughter and I had driven over in the afternoon to the National cemetery, which lies near the centre of where our army lay in 1863 during the siege, about half a mile east of where the Confederate outer defenses stood. The cemetery is enclosed by a neat brick wall, and at the entrance is the dwelling of the superintendent, a beautiful cottage, also of brick. The cemetery is kept in excellent order, but most of the graves are unidentified, which is no fault of the present superintendent and possibly no fault of his predecessors, since it was absolutely impossible to identify many of the bodies. I examined the records to see if I could find the names of any of the men of my own regiment, or in fact of any of the Connecticut regiments. I found only the name of Sergeant John Carroll of Co. E, 24 Conn., who was killed May 25, 1863, at the rifle pits, out of which the 24th regiment had driven the enemy the day before.
Next morning at 7:30 the little mail steamer Clion that plies between Bayou Sara and Baton Rouge stopped at the landing, and I took passage for Baton Rouge, arriving there at 10 a. m. While awaiting the arrival of the boat at Port Hickey, I watched the negroes loading a flat boat with cotton seed in bags at the warehouse half way up the bluffs; stout black fellows were running to a chute and tossing in the bags one after another. These were caught as they reached the ground, and were swung up on the boat and piled neatly and with a rapidity that was bewildering and with the regularity of machinery. The negroes sang at their work—as all the negroes do when at any occupation that calls for uniformity of movement—each song usually with a refrain like this:
”Oh, ho, Black Joe, don’t let dat yaller girl fool you.” It was noticeable that no one seemed to shirk, every one was busy. I had hardly reached the upper deck of the Clion when the clerk addressed me familiarly by name, and inquired if Father Quinn was with me. It seemed that he, the year before, had met us on the Paul Tulane, and like the rest, had been captivated by the irresistible sociability of the good father. The boat had a large number of passengers, and after eating an excellent breakfast on board, I sauntered out on the forward deck and chatted with the officers and passengers. The fog was thick until we reached Elder’s plantation, about six miles above Baton Rouge, and where the 25th had spent four or five days on our return from the first advance on Port Hudson in March, 1863. Right off here is where the burning frigate Mississippi exploded in the early morning of April 15, 1863, after her unsuccessful attempt to pass the batteries. We reached Baton Rouge at 10 a. m. and having but four hours to remain, utilized my time by calling on my old surviving acquaintance of war days, Mrs. Z. E. Hearcy, who is still an invalid, now confined to her bed, but cheerful as ever; then, a ride in the trolley car out to Magnolia cemetery and back by the road, thus having a view over the lake at the old Camp Grover and then a brief visit to the military school, at the old fort barracks, by the river side. A brief call on Col. Nicholson, who has been connected with the school for many years, and another on Major Boyd, who was temporarily in charge, and who was extremely pressing with an invitation for me to pass a few days as his guest, Major Boyd served for some time on the staff of Gen. Dick Taylor. He related to me Taylor’s account of the campaign in April, 1863 (in which Boyd did not participate, he then being with the Confederate army in Virginia). Boyd was pleased to meet a Federal officer, who had participated in that campaign. Taylor, he said, was the most anxious man in the Southern Confederacy, when on April 13th as he was disputing Banks’ advance at Bisland, a few miles below Franklin he learned that Grover’s division had landed by way of Grand lake, and held the road above him at Madame Porter’s plantation. He had every reason to believe that Grover would at once make a stand at the lower junction of the new road with the Bayou road, (only three or four miles above Franklin), or at the upper junction only a few miles further above; in either case, he would be hemmed in by armies in front and rear and escape would be next to impossible; on one hand were swamps reaching the gulf, and on the other, was a deep bayou. Skirmishers were sent up the road who checked our army’s march, so that it was evening before our brigade reached the Bayou road of Madame Porter’s. This I will make mention of later on when I shall describe my visit to the battlefield of Irish Bend.
Major Boyd informed me that I would find among the Southern people, little or no interest manifested in the localities of the battles and important events of the war of the Rebellion. The universal disposition being even among the surviving Confederate soldiers, to eradicate all remembrance of the war from their memories. I had noticed this sentiment on the occasion of my visit a year before to this neighborhood, and on reflection, I am satisfied that it is natural. Such places must have no attraction to those who must ever associate them with defeat, disaster and misery. There exists among the old home keeping Southerners a belief amounting in some cases to a conviction that the Northern people, are filled with dislike to, and distrust of every Southerner, especially every surviving Confederate. This belief does not obtain among those who have had the opportunity of travel, or frequent association with Northern people, but then only a comparative few of these people have traveled much outside of their own localities since the war, for they have not had the means. The war impoverished them, and after all, are we ourselves appreciative of all the historical relics and localities that are around us? How many native born residents of Hartford can be found today who are able to direct a visitor to the graves of Hooker and Stone—or to the historical Webb and Dean mansions in Wethersfield, the scene of the most important military council of the war of the Revolution—or to the hall where was held the famous “Hartford Convention” or to the spot where stood until a few weeks ago on Main street the house in which was born Com. James Ward, the first naval officer of the superior rank killed in the war of the Rebellion. Humanity is much the same everywhere.
The planters, and in fact all the people here, black and white are very industrious the land is largely under cultivation, and the work is prosecuted systematically; cotton and cane are the principal crops, although above Baton Rouge, it is close to the limit of the cane country, which is wholly within a radius of 150 miles from New Orleans. One positive indication of prosperity and progress at Baton Rouge was the improvement in the Catholic church edifice. That has undergone a complete transformation—the roof has been raised, Cathedral glass windows have been inserted, a graceful spire now surmounts the church tower and the brick walls have been encased in durable stucco, inside and out. The rector’s house, however, is just as it was in 1863—only 34 years older, and is surrounded by the same unpainted high board fence.
I returned by rail to New Orleans, arriving at 6:30 p. m., and on the following morning, March 5, I went to the Archbishop’s chapel and was present at three masses all proceeding at once. The Papal Legate, Archbishop Martinelli, celebrated at the main altar, Bishop Maerschetz at one of the side altars, and Chancellor Thebaud at another. Usually there are one or more masses in progress here every week morning from 6 to 8 a. m., and the chapel is filled with worshippers coming and going, chiefly working people, men, women and children, black and white. Nearly all of the people of this city observe the reverential custom of saluting as they are passing the churches, the men removing the hat, the women by a courtesy. A call at the Archbishop’s house about 10 a. m. disclosed, sitting in the upper hallway that opens to the outer gallery, the most distinguished gathering of ecclesiastics it had ever been my experience to meet socially, and also the most democratic group. Besides the Legate, were Archbishop Elder of Cincinnati, Bishops Byrne, Heslin, Dunn, Maerschetz, Dr. Rooker, of the University at Washington, and Father Chadwick of the U. S. Navy, besides several ecclesiastics of the household. My natural embarrassment at intruding into this assemblage was dissipated by the cordiality with which I was received by every one, and I was warmly invited to sit down and be one of the party, but I excused myself, and joined my friend, Father DeBruycker, in a walk around the city, visiting among other places of interest, the Confederate museum, where among other objects of interest, I saw the standard of St. Mary’s cannoneers which was captured by the 13th Conn. at Irish Bend, La., April 14th, 1863, and was kept among our trophies at the State arsenal at Hartford until 1887 when by resolution of the legislature, it was returned to the veterans of the old St. Mary’s organization at Franklin, and by them, placed in this museum.
During the day I had a call from the widow and daughter of one of the 25th Regiment, Jos. G. P. Summer of Co. A, who after the war, settled in New Orleans, and eventually died at Houston, Texas, in 1896. This was the first time the lady had ever met a comrade of her husband’s regiment.
On Saturday, March 6th, I set out for the Teche country, taking the ferry at the foot of Esplenade street. The crowds that had filled New Orleans during carnival week were returning to their homes, and the big railroad ferryboat was filled with passengers, and on reaching Algiers they made a mad rush for the cars. It was my luck to get a seat with a veteran Federal soldier, formerly of the U. S. Col. Vols. who at once recognized my M. O. L. L. U. S. button, and gave me a dose of garrulity that didn’t have a pause till we reached La Fourche crossing, near Thibodeaux. He gave me the history of his life, before, during and since the war, in which he had served on both sides, and struck at last to the side from which he now draws a pension. I was immensely relieved when he changed cars for Houma. Bayou Des Allemands, 30 miles or so west of New Orleans, spreads out just above the crossing into a lakelet, dotted with islands, which are occupied by tiny cottages, that give the place the look of a Lilliputian fairyland.
The water of the bayou and all the bayous are surface covered with the water hyacinth, a most beautiful aquatic plant that was unknown here a dozen years ago, and was introduced by a lady who brought home some specimens from their native habitation, and from these they have propagated in such profusion that they have literally filled the streams, and have become such an obstruction to navigation that the legislature has been compelled to enact stringent statutes providing for its extermination. The beautiful lily lies on the surface, its long tendrilled root hangs down two or more feet in the water, each terminated by a bulb and so closely massed that they in many places cover the bayou surface from shore to shore like a great flowered carpet, and give no indication to the unwary rambler on the bank that a step more to the right or left may plunge him into ten feet of water. This tough vegetable tangles the paddle wheels of the steamers, and effectually stops the smaller ones. The surface is sufficiently firm for the moccasin and smaller hydra, to wiggle along in the sunlight without sinking. I saw no moccasins as it was early in the season, but the hyacinths were there and a beautiful sight they were. La Fourche crossing and Bayou Boeuf looked no different from what they did a year ago. My trip was rendered very pleasant from La Fourche crossing, where my colored veteran left the train, by conversation with a Belgian priest, whose parish was up in the Teche country; there were also two young Dominican fathers—the Revs. Knapp and Gill, who were going to commence a mission next day at New Iberia. Rev. Knapp was an Englishman and Rev. Gill was of Irish decent born in Canada, where both priests now belong. They had been but a few weeks in Louisiana, yet they astonished me at the fullness of their knowledge of the country, with which they appeared thoroughly familiar. They knew its geography, its history, its climate, products, industries, manufactures, soil and its people, as well as if they had lived there all their lives. I now begin to understand St. Paul when he said that he had become all things to all men, that he might save all. These priests came here and learned, that they might be able to teach.
One peculiarity in the garb of the women impressed me. All over the state, the white women of the poorer class, wear habitually garments of black, with black short capes and black sun bonnets, and this habit gives an air or respectability to even the poorest people. You will see plenty of evidences of poverty, but seldom of untidiness, slackness or slovenliness that is so offensive to the eye. In the city and in the country it is the same; the character “lady” seems imprinted on every feminine form you meet. At noon our train rolled over the bridge that spans the mighty Atchafalaya, between old Berwick and Brashear, now called Morgan City. Inquiring of the railroad officials, I learned that the stream here ranges from one hundred and ten to one hundred and twenty feet in depth, and the soft muddy bottom made it essential that the piling should be over two hundred feet in length—that is, five and six piles should be driven, one spliced on the top of the next lower, and so on, until firm bottom is reached. On rolled our train, here and there in sight of the Teche Bayou through Patterson, now a flourishing village, and through Calumet and the battle field of Bislands plantation, where the massive live oaks shade the graves of so many of the boys of the blue and gray who fell on April 13th, 1863, and on to Franklin, which place I reached at 1:30 p. m. From the car window I espied my old friend, Mr. William J. Brady, the liveryman. I at once climbed into his omnibus and asked to be driven to O’Neil’s hotel—“The Emmet”—where everybody from the proprietor to the bootblack recognized me, welcomed me, and inquired for Father Quinn. The weather looked threatening, the clouds hung low and black, and the prospect of getting to Irish Bend was very poor. I ordered dinner, and requested Brady to come with a team at 4 p. m. if the rain held off. Sitting at the diningroom window, I looked down at the Bayou Teche, on whose bank were the boilers of the old “Queen of the West” that had been lying at the bottom of Grand Lake from April 14th, 1863, until November, 1895, when the government had caused them to be raised and removed, as they had become a serious obstacle to navigation, having sunk in the mud until they were below the surface at low water. Between three and four o’clock, Brady appeared with a buggy and I concluded to risk the weather and we started for Irish Bend. By the time we were passing Senator Caffery’s residence, it was evident there had been rain, the mud was soft and deep, and we progressed slowly. The spare timber that has skirted the road a year before, had all disappeared, and I looked in vain for the cut-off road by which General Dick Taylor had escaped with his army, while he with a detachment was making his desperate and successful attempt to hold Grover’s division from crossing through the woods that existed right here in 1863. I remarked to Brady that we must now be where the woods were then. Brady is a man not over thirty or thirty-three years old, and so I failed to discover the cut-off road. The mud, our slow progress, the closed carriage, and the gathering mist all confused me, but as we proceeded and found a broad cane field on my left, I announced to him that this was the field of Irish Bend, and my judgment was confirmed when a few rods further on our road turned abruptly to the north. A little ways above the angle was a store, I recognized as the same one where Colonel O’Neil and I stopped a year ago, and which was then kept by a young man from Georgia. We enquired for him and found that he had sold out but a few months before, and a stranger to the country was proprietor. A motley crowd of blacks and whites filled the inevitable piazza, and from them I asked the location of the old sugar mill in the opposite field. Imagine my consternation when I was told that no sugar mill ever existed there. In vain I asserted that I had been there the previous year and had seen its ruins. The crowd insisted that it must have been further up the road; not a man in the party had ever heard of any sugar mill there. A negro of sixty years of age came by on horseback, and I enquired of him. “He had always lived here; was born here, never no sugar mill here, but there had been one half a mile up the road, the old Bellevue mill.” I asked about the battle. “Oh! That was fought all around here.” Can it be, said I, that my senses are mocking me? I know this is the place, but anyway I will drive on to “Bellevue” and so our wearied horse dragged the carriage on through the deep Louisiana mud. A mile further on we reached what was called “Bellevue,” but this was on the east side of the road, and just beyond appeared through the trees the façade of a stately mansion. I enquired what place this was, and was answered that it was formerly “Madame Porter’s plantation.” “Is there a bridge here over the Bayou?” “No, there is one half a mile below,” I insisted that there had been a bridge in 1863 just north of this mansion, and one of the old negroes admitted that some of the piling of that old bridge was yet standing. Turning around I said to Brady, I have been right all the time; we fought that battle of Irish Bend a good mile and more below Madame Porter’s mansion. I remembered that we crossed the Bayou just before dusk on April 13th, 1863, having marched over from Hutchin’s landing on Grand Lake during the day, and we encamped in the field across the road opposite to Madame Porter’s and broke camp at daybreak April 14th, and the 25th Connecticut led the march down through the field, on the right of the road.
Our right wing deployed as skirmishers with Colonel Bissell at the head, and the left wing marching battalion front, and nearer the road. Brady now turned our wearied horse to the south, and when we reached the store we stopped and alighted. All Louisiana cannot change my opinion now—right here is where we changed front, forward on first company, and called in our skirmishers, and facing the west marched down to that tall green wall of trees, with its crooked rail fence backed by tangled evergreens at its base, where Dick Taylor’s Louisiana and Texas troops awaited us.
As we alighted from the carriage, a young man was coming out of the field, and Brady addressed him as Tom, and introduced him to me as Thomas B. Mattingly, son of the owner of the plantation. Tom had been here only a few years; he had heard that a battle had been fought somewhere around here, he never knew precisely where, and he said he would give a good deal to know the exact location. “Well Tom,” I said, “just come back into the field with me, and I will convince you that this is the very spot where one of the fiercest fights of the whole war was fought, in proportion to the men engaged.”
Thirty rods back from the road, just in the rear of the immense stables, a wide deep ditch commenced, extending to the west; on its south bank was a line of brick foundation, extending 50 to 60 feet. “Now, Tom,” said I, “that is the north foundation wall of the old sugar mill, that was used at the battle as a hospital. Go over the grounds south of this ditch and you will find it filled with ruins of the old sugar mill.” We went over, and the area of the old sugar mill was distinctly marked by the ruined and crumbling brick, covering a quadrangle of about 50x150 feet and interspersed here and there were old bolts, nuts, and bits of iron rods rusted almost to dust. A few rods to the southwest was the dried bed of an old sugar mill pond, which Tom said he had noticed, but had never before thought of, how or why it was there. I showed him the battle line occupied by our brigade, its right being about on this ditch, and its left crossing the road over to the Bayou, and I showed him just where the line was that in 1863 separated the woods from the cane field. Tom said he had often noticed in plowing while it was clear soil this side, east of the line I pointed, beyond it he had encountered so many stumps. Now it was evident to him that west of the line was forest land, long after the east was cultivated. “Well,” he said, “I wouldn’t have missed your being here to-day, for a great many dollars, for I always wanted to know the location of the battle you speak of, and no one here was ever able to tell me.” The fact is, that most of these people are new comers and the natives are all too young to know much about it, and anyway, the people don’t take much interest in matters like this, but, said he, “I now have the satisfaction of knowing that if any visitor comes here I can point out the place with certainty, and can give them my authority—a federal officer from Connecticut, who was in the battle, and the confirmatory evidence of the ruins of the old mill that I myself have seen.” It was dark when I left the field, I was glad that I had visited it, aside from the matter of sentiment, for I believe that this memorandum of mine may decide the question of its location many years hence, when it may have become a matter of importance. I know that very few of our Federal officers who were at that battle have revisited the place, and few of those who did have taken any pains to make it a matter of record.
It was 7:30 p. m. when we returned to Franklin. After supper, I found a parlor full of people, awaiting me. Colonel O’Neil and his wife and family, my friends of a year ago, Captain Van Schouler and his wife, with several others. Of course, everybody’s first enquiry was for Father Quinn, and regrets at his absence were numerous and sincere.
After a pleasant evening and a refreshing night’s sleep, I arose next morning (Sunday, March 7th) and found a genuine Louisiana rain storm in full force, which continued until late in the afternoon. After mass, I made a call on Father Bri and his niece and housekeeper, Miss Marie, both of whom were delighted to see their old acquaintance from Connecticut. I took dinner with Colonel O’Neil, and spent a pleasant hour at the house of his son-in-law, Judge Clark. I found on returning to the hotel an invitation from Mr. Brady and his wife to spend the evening with them. Upon reaching his house, I found a large party of young ladies and gentlemen, including three charming misses who had been my fellow travelers from New Orleans to Franklin the previous day, and who were sisters of Mrs. Brady. Her brother was also there, the present mayor of Franklin. Almost everyone of the party was an accomplished musician, and the ladies were all excellent singers. Throughout the state I had noticed the fact that a large proportion of the women I met were good musicians. It is a very poor residence indeed here that has not a piano, and there are very few young women, even of the very poor families, who have not spent some time as pupils in the convent schools. The family of Mayor Tarlton are grandchildren of the noted novelist, Madame De La Housse, whose works, written in French, are well known and popular throughout Louisiana.
On Monday, March 8, I spent the forenoon in strolling through the town, and calling upon some of my acquaintances. I found the proprietor of the store on the Bayou wharf, Captain De La Housse, who was a Confederate cavalryman and had participated in the battle of Irish Bend, which fact was enough to keep him and me in extended reminiscences, with a good sized audience. One of the youngsters present remarked that he hoped some day our country would get into war with some foreign power and that he would like to take part. Captain De La Housse said: “Well, boy I once felt and talked as you do, but I have gotten over it. I have seen lots of others who felt so then, but they feel as I do now, and you will feel the same way if you live long enough. I have seen all the war I want. It’s much pleasanter to see the major here in my store than it was to meet him and his comrades as we did thirty odd years ago, up above here three or four miles.” Every veteran of that Teche campaign that I met, and I met very many, spoke of it without any enthusiasm, but rather like men relating a wearing, toilsome and unpleasant experience. The field of Irish Bend is seldom revisited by any of its survivors. There are many living at Franklin, and who have always lived there, who could not probably point out the exact field to-day. They don’t care even to think of their old army experience, which gave them little glory, but neither profit nor pleasure.
A hurried visit to Captain Schouler and his wife, another Colonel O’Neil’s family, and to Father Bri, a hurried inspection of the immense sugar mill at Senator Caffery’s place on the northern edge of Franklin, where Colonel O’Neil and I received the very kindest attention from Mr. Forsythe, the superintendent, and 1:30 p. m. found me speeding northward for New Iberia with Father Bri as my seatmate as far as Jennerette, a growing place of about 2,000 inhabitants, and on the line of our march northward from Irish Bend thirty-four years ago, and near to the famous Sorel plantation. The sugar field continues to occupy the land on every side. The continuity of level surface begins to be broken. Here and there are ravines leading towards the smaller bayous, tributaries of the Teche. The hedges of Cherokee Rose and yellow jasmine stretch out longer and they are wider at the base and higher than nearer Franklin and the Gulf.
At 2:27 p. m. we reached New Iberia, which has spread out on every side and looks vastly different from the little hamlet at which our regiment halted for a night in April, 1863, when we were making forced marches to overtake General Dick Taylor. The village now extends across to the east side of the Teche, over which are convenient bridges. At the docks were large steamers, that looked strange in this narrow thread of a stream. The town tells of enterprise in every detail. New buildings are going up in every street. The Catholic church, as everywhere else in Louisiana, is the finest ecclesiastical edifice in the place. I stopped at the “Alma,” a sort of a connecting link in architecture between the colonial and modern style, standing back a hundred feet or so from the main street, and having its cool galleries projecting from every story, as soon as my grip was in my room, I set out and visited the office of the Enterprise, a weekly paper, edited by J. E. Lawton, who took great pleasure in giving me all possible information, especially on learning that I had formerly campaigned in this region. The industries in the neighborhood and produce are, in order of prominence, sugar, cotton, corn, rice and lumber—one of the largest lumber mills in the state being here—and also a large sash and blind factory, an extensive iron foundry, and a very large ice factory. St. Peter’s church, a comparatively new brick structure, would be regarded as a fine and fitting church edifice in any city—it is very spacious, built in modern style and tastefully fitted. Knowing that my Dominican fellow travelers of the previous Saturday were to give a mission here, I called at the parsonage, and found them with the pastor, Father Jouan, and his assistant, Father Trainer, and was made as welcome as if I had been known for years. Upon returning to my hotel I found awaiting me an old Confederate artillery captain, E. J. King. Editor Lawton had informed him that there was a Federal officer at the hotel who had been here during the war, and the old veteran came at once to see me. He had been caught at Fort De Russey on Red river, a short distance above the head of the Atchafalaya, in May, 1864, by the corps of General A. J. Smith. Orders had been sent to him to evacuate the place with his scanty command of two score men, but the messenger had been captured by the Federals, and so the old fellow fought it out for several hours, until our troops finally effected an entrance over the earthworks. A large part of the fort’s garrison were dead or wounded and the old captain himself had one eye destroyed. He said that when General Smith entered the fort, and saw how small the garrison was that had defended it so long, he led the old captain out before his men and publicly complimented him on his vigorous defense. This was the end of the old captain’s service. Most of his time before this had been spent on the gunboats in the Red river and the lakes. He had participated in the fight at Butte La Rose, a few miles from Barre’s Landing (where the Cortableau joins the Atchafalaya) a few days before the 25th regiment entered Opelousas.
Captain King confirmed what I believed from my personal observation, and from what had been told me by many residents the year before, that the social problem is bound to make trouble all over the South before many years. Just now, by a sort of tacit understanding between the two great political parties, the working negro is not encouraged to go to the polls, and the white voters usually fight it out alone. Money buys the ignorant black voter just as it does the ignorant white, and to just the same extent. When one of the parties prevails in any section, and there arises an opposition faction in the ranks, then the candidates enlist the negroes as partisans, the silver flies, work stops, and cutting and shooting commences, and when this begins, there are very few citizens who have the physical or moral courage to do as the late Archbishop Janssens did in the spring of 1896. He went right among the lawless crowd at Opelousas, who with guns proposed to shoot down the negroes who should approach the polls and denounced them to their faces as outlaws, and called openly on all good citizens to come out and protect these poor men in the exercise of their rights as voters and put down the violators of the law. The lighter skinned negroes, the better educated and ambitious, are feeling their way, and crowding to the front with considerable audacity, and this is perfectly natural with believers in political equality. Many will demand in a few years social equality, which is its logical concomitant, especially in localities where the blacks outnumber the whites three to one. Nothing but the highest wisdom on the part of legislators and wise citizens will prevent a race conflict within the coming twenty years, and this will surely result in the disfranchisement of the negroes, and when that will occur, the poor negroes’ last state will be worse than the first.
After dinner, the hotel guests sat in the cool gallery and I had fallen into a social chat with a Confederate veteran (Colonel D. A. Salles), who had served under Dick Taylor in these regions, and was well pleased at the opportunity of exchanging experiences with a former opponent when a trio of traveling minstrels entered the yard, followed by a crowd, and without further ceremony they commenced a performance. All three had excellent voices, the violinist was expert, the guitarist was very good, and their program was not bad. Their music was, as the music of the laboring negroes always is, harmonious and pleasing. The lads were athletes and contortionists, and their gyrations excelled in the grotesque.
One of them asked for a cigar, and having lighted it, began smoking. After a while he perpetrated a hideous grimace, and apparently swallowed the cigar, but kept on with his part in the singing. In a minute more he began puffing from his lips thick smoke like that of an old-fashioned wood burning locomotive, and this was followed by puffs of sparks, continued for at least a minute after which another grimace, and the cigar was up in his lips again, being smoked in the regular civilized fashion. The negro repeated this trick two or three times. I learned afterwards that the same trick is common with school children, who do it with a wad of cotton, which they wet on the outside, touch a spark to the dry inside, and pop the wad into their mouths, blowing showers of sparks until the inside is consumed.
I found the customary Southern well cooked meals and good service, here at the “Alma.” The multitude of commercial travelers here surprised me, but my chief surprise was the total absence of anything like gambling or drunkenness around the hotels. This was characteristic of all hotels where I have stopped in Western Louisiana.
At 2:20 p. m. I took the train for Opelousas, which place was the Capitol of the state in 1862 and ’63. The 25th Connecticut encamped here a few days in the latter part of April, 1863, at which time there was here a printing office and newspaper. The last issue was published before our entrance to the city. It was printed on the back of wall paper, and it gave us the earliest information of the result of the state election in Connecticut and the defeat of Governor Tom Seymour.
The railroad runs nearby, and in sight of the place where the 25th regiment caught so close on the rear of Dick Taylor’s column, that we had a spicy little duel across the bayou here, just before which, he had destroyed the bridge at Vermillionville, and we were detained from Friday, April 17th, to Sunday, April 19th, before we had rebuilt the bridge and resumed our march.
To my delight, I found my friend, Bishop Maerschetz, on the train, returning from New Orleans to his home in Indian Territory; he left the train at Carencro to remain for a few days near Lafayette. This place was the scene of a hot fight during General Banks’s second Red river expedition.
The face of the country has commenced to change, the forests are more extensive, and the ragged ravines are more numerous, wider and more broken, and the country is less populous.
At 4:30 p. m. we swept through the same open grounds south of the city where the 25th had encamped. I put up at the Larcombe house. The building, seventy years ago, was a planter’s mansion. The columns supporting the front portico were great oaken pillars. The ancient stairway leading up from the hall to the upper gallery had threads of oak, made from two inch plank, and were almost worn through with long usage.
My room door opened on to the upper gallery. The door itself was of battened oak plank, with an old-fashioned lock, the size of and more than the weight of a brick. My window fastener was a hook, made from half inch iron rod, fully two feet in length, with a hook that caught into a staple on the shutter. No burglar could enter the room without making noise enough to wake the town. The partitions of the room were of oaken plank, so old and seasoned that they had become excellent sounding boards, and I could hear the snoring of my neighbor guests as distinctly as if they had been my roommates. Everything was scrupulously clean, the table was excellently furnished, and the serving and attendance were all that could be wished.
I strolled up to the northern end of the town, to revisit the church of St. Landry, where Major Maher and I had once made a call on the pastors, two brothers Raymond, one of whom is still living at the St. James parish above New Orleans.
The church itself is just outside the northern edge of the city, in a spacious green field, the pastor’s residence is completely hidden in a dense grove near by, and a neat but old convent nestles in another grove across the road. The church building is of red brick, apparently sixty years old, the floor is of tiling, the galleries are very narrow and extend about half the length of the church; the same old altar piece, a picture of St. Landry hangs on the chancel wall. Before the altar a slab is inserted in the wall, to the memory of Father Gilbert Raymond, who died in 1886.
I found no one with whom I could converse expecting some lads and a couple of visitors to the church from the neighborhood, but they knew nothing of the time so far back as the war.
Here we are virtually outside the sugar region; the principal crop is cotton. The population is about 3,500 and while there are some beautiful dwellings, the place is far behind New Iberia or Franklin in progress. The hedges of Cherokee rose and yellow jasmine are as abundant here as anywhere in the state. The people are more numerously of the ancient ante-bellum stock. Almost every old resident is a Confederate veteran, and from them you are sure to receive hospitality and politeness. Knowing that General Frank Gardner, Confederate commander of Port Hudson, had resided in this neighborhood, I made inquiries about him, and learned that he had died in poverty a few years ago at St. Martinsville. He had eked out a scanty support as civil engineer and surveyor, and had appeared in civil life but little since the war. While one of the most famous and able of the Confederate officers, he never seemed to possess the tact necessary for party popularity. I remember having seen him with his entire staff as they were on their way from Port Hudson to New Orleans, prisoners of war, just after the surrendering, and I never before saw a collection of finer or more intelligent looking officers.
Wednesday, March 10, I arose early and rode to St. Landry’s church, and enjoyed a half hour’s interesting conversation with the parish priest, a Hollander, a dignified, pleasing gentleman.
My driver, Mr. St. Cyr, was an ex-Confederate, of French descent, and a most interesting conversationalist. He had lived here always, barring the time of his experience in the civil war, and like all Confederate veterans that I have met an admirer of General Grant. Mr. Larcombe, the hotel keeper, was like him in this respect.
The court house is a stately building in a pretty green in the center of the town; facing it is the post office, new, modern, and substantial. The streets are unpaved, and in rainy weather they become soft and batter like to a great depth, but they dry up rapidly.
I wonder if one incident connected with this place has clung to the memories of others as it has to mine? Our brigade encamped at the southern edge of the town, which, like all in this country, is compactly built, and the lines of dwellings end abruptly so that you leave a closely built street, and perhaps a mile or more will intervene between this place, and the next dwelling house on the road. Our camp field was then, just what it is to-day, an open, level field on the west side of the main road, with a grove half a mile or more farther to the west. We had filed in about 3 p. m. and formed camp, by right of companies to the rear into columns, stacked arms, broken ranks, and had done our marketing, soldier fashion; i. e., shot the nearest steer or two we saw, and had our dinner and usual dress parade, and rested early. Retreat sounded at sundown, and darkness soon gathered. All around was that hum of early evening conversation, that the veteran so well remembers, when suddenly arose the music of “Home, Sweet Home,” from the bugle of the nearest battery.
It was the first time since our campaign had commenced that we had heard a note of instrumental music other than the marches or calls, in line of daily duty and dress parades, and these had long ceased to be music to the ears of our foot sore and weary men. The bugler sat on a caisson a few yards away from our immediate group, and beginning with “Home, Sweet Home,” he poured out the sweet melodies so familiar to ears in Connecticut, “Love Not,” “Am I Not Fondly Thine Own?” and many others. Our heart strings were stirred at every note and involuntarily all conversation was hushed, every eye was closed, and our camp was one reverie, the bugler alone held our attention until tattoo sounded, and it is safe to say that mine were not the only eyes that were glistening with unbidden tears. The bugler’s note had annihilated distance and set us one and all for a brief hour at our own firesides, with mother, father, sisters, brothers, sweetheart, wife, all again present to sight and hearing. Ever since that time the memory of our brief encampment at Opelousas is inseparably associated with that exquisite yet simple poem of Campbell, “The Soldier’s Dream.”
It would have been pleasant to have taken a ten mile run over to the east, and seen the improvement at Barre’s Landing, now called Port Barre. This place is not sacred by reason of any battle or skirmish, but because here we made the longest halt of any on our march, and to the government and possibly to some individuals the most profitable. Here we gathered in immense quantities of sugar and cotton, which were sent by boat down the Bayou Cortableu into Grand Lake by Butte La Rose to Brashear, thence to be shipped by steamer or rail, to New York or New Orleans. It was my luck to be sent in May, 1863, on special service from this point to New Orleans, and I had for a traveling companion Governor Mouton, who was then a prisoner in the custody of the provost marshal. By chance I was highest in rank of any officer on the boat, and the governor was left for me to entertain, and I learned more of the state and its history and resources then than I had ever known before and I never can forget the old governor, who seemed to know his state and people so thoroughly.
At 1:20 a. m. my train left Opelousas for New Orleans, I noticed for the first time “Spanish Lake” some miles above New Iberia. This lake is eight or nine miles in circumference and has no visible outlet. The same kaleidoscopic view was on both sides of the track. The almost endless hedges of yellow jasmine and Cherokee rose—the universal fence by roadside and between plantations in the past generation, but now gradually giving way to the wire fence. The peach trees and magnolias were in full bloom. Our train whirled along through New Iberia at 1:30 p. m. with its fields of vegetables, yams and blossoming pear trees. At Franklin, I saw from the window my friends Brady, O’Neil and young De La Housse. We rush through the old Bisland battle ground at Calumet and on by Patterson to Morgan City, and the Brashear crossing, over the Atchafalaya. The old Fort Star at Berwick on the east side of the Atchafalaya still remains in as good condition as when our Union soldiers built it 33 years ago, and the old iron guns are yet there, peeping over its parapets towards the south, west and north. On the edge of the village stands a modest Catholic church, with an Academy of the Sacred Heart, under the guidance and patronage of that church which we, in our youth, were taught by our opponents was the relentless enemy to education, yet in our maturity we found to be education’s greatest patron. Midway between Brashear and Bayou Beouf is Bayou Ramos, on whose banks is now an immense saw mill, which is rapidly transforming the cypress swamp into productive sugar plantations. Bayou Boeuf village has become more beautiful, although not much larger than it was during the war. Around the depot everything is arranged with taste, and I contrasted it with our huddle of stone, brick, wood and iron that covers the damp, dark dungeon-like affair that we call a station in Hartford. The ponds and ditches beside the track are beautiful with solid looking surfaces of water-hyacinths, and I devoutly wished that Judge Adams had been able to secure them for the Hartford park pond that he has already made cosmopolitan with northern and semi-tropic vegetation.
Arrived at New Orleans at 6:20 p. m. and spent the evening at my room. In the morning, March 11, I attended mass at the chapel near the Archbishop’s and learned that the Rev. Father DeBruycker was up the river. I strolled out by myself, calling at the custom house, and then on Captain Campbell on board the “Whisper.” Afterwards I called on Mr. Morris Smith, an old citizen of Hartford, who for the past 50 years has been carrying on business at New Orleans, a branch of the firm of Smith, Bourn & Co., that was established in New Orleans by Mr. Smith’s father in 1816. On his office desk was a recent copy of the Hartford Daily Times, which he has always taken, and from its columns I learned the most recent news from Hartford. Mr. Smith took me to the Boston club, where I met several of the most prominent business men of New Orleans. I met on Canal street Father Whitney, a prominent clergyman of the Jesuit church of Barronne street; he is a member of the Whitney family of Boston. In my stroll, passing the Tulane University building, where the winter school was in session, I dropped in and listened for an hour to Henry Adams, who was some time ago rector of the Episcopal church at Wethersfield. I met here Mr. John Gibbons, brother of Cardinal Gibbons, a most excellent gentleman, and modest as a child, and a splendid specimen of the cultured and hospitable Irishman.
The “Maine” and “Texas” sailed from New Orleans this morning, as also did one of the French warships. The river was steadily rising, and the people are already apprehensive of an unusually high freshet this spring. Next morning, Friday, March 12, after mass at the chapel, I went to the French Market and took a street car to the corner of Poland and St. Claude streets, thence by steam railroad to Chalmette, the scene of General Jackson’s wonderful victory of 1815 over the British troops under General Packenham. An uncompleted monument marks the battle line, near which is the National cemetery. The railroad is primitiveness itself, and for roughness could compare fairly with a gravel siding on a Connecticut railroad in process of construction. It is the ideal of humanickness, and evidently has not had a shovelful of repair in 20 years, but as its rate of speed is something less than three miles an hour, and the train could be, and generally is, stopped inside of five feet, we had no fears of any accident, unless it might be from toppling over sideways, as we were generally leaning at an angle of from 15 to 20 degrees. At Chalmette is the principal cotton wharf elevator and cotton press of Louisiana, an immense shed alongside which were lying ships of all nations, among them the “Ramorehead,” an iron steamship built at, hailing from, and loading for Belfast, manned by Irish officers and crew. Officer Gilliland courteously took me all over the ship which is 6,000 tons burden.
From New Orleans to Chalmette the road is flanked by vegetable gardens, cultivated by thrifty Germans, who, even at this early season, have abundance ready for the New Orleans daily market. The soil here is practically inexhaustible and there is little danger of the country being overcrowded with people for centuries to come. It evidently will bear crops thick as the pile on velvet, and as I looked at the country, I felt an additional glow of gratitude to the soldiers of the Civil war whose patriotic valor saved it to our government. I had time on my return to make a call on my new-made friend, John T. Gibbons, at his store, corner of Poydras and South Peter streets. In the evening, with Rev. Father DeBruycker, I spent two hours with Archbishop Janssens and learned that he had been for years a fellow-student with my cousin, Rev. John H. McManus, at Louvain, Belgium. Father John died at Vicksburg in September, 1878, of yellow fever, after having nursed the people of his parish through the scourge, until worn out with his labor he expired almost the final victim.
Archbishop Janssens recalled to my memory the miraculous cure of the young lady whose name has escaped me and of which I was first informed by Father Larnaudie about 1868. She had been for years sinking with consumption, at Grand Coteau, La., and wasted to the very door of death, given up by physicians. The good sisters of the Convent of Grand Coteau offered for her recovery a novena to Blessed John Berchman, since, I believed, canonized. On the last day of the novena, the sick girl instantaneously recovered her health and strength. Good Father Larnaudie at the time sent me a full official account of the miracle, with the affidavits of the attending (non-Catholic) physicians, and also his own statement of his personal knowledge of the case, which last alone would have convinced me. I loaned these papers to a clerical friend at the time, who died before their return, and I would give a great deal to have them again. Archbishop Janssens was thoroughly familiar with the details of the case, as are also all of the old residents of Grand Coteau.
March 13, I spent some hours at the Archbishop’s library, copying the decision in the Cronin case, decided in the district court at Richmond, Va., the important point being the privilege of communications made to a priest in the confessional. Father Prim of the Bishop’s household kindly relieved me of the labor, by taking the record to a typewriter, who provided me with full duplicate copies before my final departure from the city. After dinner with Father DeBruycker I went to Algiers and after visiting the Fathers at St. Mary’s church, we called on Captain Moxam, now in command of one of the Morgan line of steamers and formerly of Mystic, Conn., whose pleasant home is in Algiers. On the way we met Mrs. Bassett of New Britain, Conn., who, with her daughter, Mrs. Sage, had been my fellow travelers from Hartford to New Orleans. The Mississippi river looked black and angry, and it’s rising, turbid waters seemed to already predict the havoc they were intending in the coming April and May. In the evening we again visited the winter school and again heard Henry Adams, who certainly is an orator, and made a deep impression on the people of New Orleans. But after all I had rather hear Bishop Janssens, Bishop Tierny or Father Quinn. Henry Adams appeals to our pride while there latter appeal to our Catholicity. Possibly he, as well as they, has his usefulness. On Sunday, March 14, I went after mass to make a farewell call on Mrs. Summer, widow of my old comrade Joe of the 25th, but found none of the family at home. I then called on that prince among men, Captain Wright, little dreaming that a few more days, and he would have passed away from this world. The captain’s home was beautifully located and he showed me with pride his bed of Irish shamrock growing among the grass on his lawn. Inside, his house was filled with memories of Connecticut and his service in Connecticut 9th. His albums were full of photographs of Connecticut friends, his scrap-book full of clippings from The Times, Courant and Post. On the walls were views of noted localities in this state, especially in Hartford. Later in the day Rev. Father DeBruycker and I visited St. Joseph’s church and convent, called on Father Spillard and spent our evening indoors. On Monday, after mass, which was said by Father DeBruycker, at St. Mary’s chapel, we, accompanied by Father Prim, obtained our tickets via Richmond for Washington, and then made a call at St. Joseph’s school at Tulane avenue, where Sister Veronica Sceerey, formerly of Meriden, Conn., is a teacher.
I spent the afternoon (which was very hot) in making some little purchases—views of New Orleans and of “Mardi Gras” packages of “Perique” tobacco, etc., and in making a call on Rev. Fathers Khippins and Delaney, two clerical friends of Father DeBruycker, at St. Cecelia’s church on Erato street. After our return to the city and supper at the Archbishop’s we took the train for Richmond at 7:50 p. m.
The two Fathers Thebaud accompanied us to the depot. The courtesy of these two young men was beyond description, and I could not help feeling that I was imposing on their good nature. I little thought, however, that I was parting for the last time with Archbishop Janssens, who was then looking the picture of good health. Three months later, June 17th, he died on the steamer in the Mexican Gulf on his way to New York, and in his death Catholicity in America suffered an irreparable loss.
After a hot and uncomfortable night, we arose on March 16th from our berths, our train then approaching Montgomery, Ala. Upon looking out our window we found the Alabama river on a tear.
In the toilet room were two chaps from Western Louisiana, who had been up all night playing poker, one of whom was entitled to the berth opposite the two occupied by Rev. Father DeBruycker and myself. This fellow occasionally loped into the car to pay a visit to his grip-sack which contained a quart bottle of whiskey, and a box of cigars, and he invariably struck his first shot at Father DeBruycker’s gripsack, which resembled his externally, and his look of surprise when he saw a breviary, cassock and rosary, instead of the expected q. b. of w. and box of cigars was amusing. Father DeBruycker, with his inimitable continental politeness piloted him regularly across the aisle to his own grip-sack, and our Louisiana friend with profuse apologies always tendered us the hospitality of his q. b. and cigar box, both of which we politely declined. At Auburn we saw scores of young men in cadet gray uniforms, evidently students of the military school there. The appearance of the place indicated prosperity. All along the route the land was cultivated for cotton, corn and the vine. The low conical shaped hills were terraced, the furrows running horizontally around them from base to apex.
We passed through Atlanta at noon, and by 3 p. m. we were in sight of the southern peaks of the Blue Ridge towering way above Toccoa near the boundary between South Carolina and Georgia. The road lies much of the way against the eastern breast of a mountainous ridge, and looking off to the southeast shows the most beautiful of landscapes with a variety of form softly bewildering in its succession of hill, vale, ravine, plain, open fields and masses of forest, all fair as a garden of the Lord, and all indicative of a growing and vigorous prosperity, notwithstanding the fact that the omnipresent wandering Willies are found on the roofs and trucks of nearly every train. Our own was relieved of a score or more of these unfortunates soon after midnight, but without doubt as many more rode with us all the way to Richmond.
Late at night we reached Danville and our car was here switched off for Richmond, where we arrived at 6 a. m. March 17. Before reaching the city the track runs alongside the James river, which at this time was swollen by the spring freshets and was turbid, turbulent and tumbling over the rocks and stones. On arriving we took a carriage for the Episcopal residence and were guests of Bishop Vandervyver during our stay, which was only for the day. I was anxious to see what I could of this historic city, which I had never visited before. After breakfast we saw the capitol, the city hall, the cemeteries, and monuments. The location of the city itself surpasses that of any city I have ever seen. It is on a cluster of high hill tops and affords from scores of different points bird’s-eye views of the winding river and the adjacent country. The Lost Cause has certainly no reason to criticize this city as having been forgetful. In the capitol, while the heroes and statesmen of Colonial Revolutionary days have not been unremembered, since their portraits look down upon you from every wall, it is easy to see that the affections of the people are chained to the Confederate leaders of the Civil war.
General Lee greets you at every turn, in marble, and on canvas and in bronze, in bas relief, and engraving, and next in frequency to his are portraits and busts of that phenomenal warrior of whom (as a soldier) any country and any age would be proud—Stonewall Jackson.
This man’s features have always had, for me, a peculiar fascination. He belongs to the crusaders, his cause to him was a religion. In his character were mingled all the most excelling elements of the Christian hero. Had General Charles P. Stone of our Federal army been fortunate enough to have escaped the hostility of a Northern senator I believe he would have given to our Union army the counterpart of this popular Southern idol. On one of the city’s highest plateaus, in the midst of an unfinished park stands a lofty monument to General Lee. As we walked towards it my ear caught the sweet melodious tinkle of distant bells, that seemed to fill the air above and around, and I, for the first time in my life realized the significance of that most musical wood aeolian. I stopped and listened. It was as if the air were filled with an almost inaudible yet loftily keyed “Vere dignum et justum est,” an irregularly regular “tintinnabulation that so musically swells, from the bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, bells.” Away off in the fields that are soon to become transformed into the Lee park were herds of cows grazing. Each cow with a rustic bell of sheet brass suspended from her neck, as she grazed over the scant herbage, and lifted her head and swung from side to side, sounded irregular tinkles to the musical chorus that with its notes modified by distance from near and far blended into the most melodious and softest harmony that I had ever heard. The sweetest sounds of peace, under the bronze gaze of one of earth’s most illustrious warriors.
Bishop Vandervyver took us to the Hollywood cemetery on the bank of the James, where lie among many other celebrities, Jefferson, Monroe, and Davis. New England has few burial grounds to compare with this in beauty. It is cliff, slope and plain, ravine, glen, and valley skirted by the river James, partly in placid pool and partly in rock broken rapids. We visited St. John’s church, formerly the Virginia hall of delegates, and stood on the very spot where Patrick Henry hurled to the world his blazing speech that fused together the insurrectionary colonies. In the cemetery is every variety of tree, shrub and flower that can possibly live in these temperate latitudes and all grouped according to the laws of perfect taste.
We went through the Hotel Jefferson, which rivals Irving’s description of the halls of Alhambra. My pen cannot describe it. I remember it with its interior court, filled with the fragrant and brilliant flowers and fruits of the tropics that seem to declare it almost a desecration that under the same roof should be such purely secular things as kitchen, laundry and the bar. The roof is furnished with an audience plateau and stage, where the guests may enjoy opera, drama and concert, and may look off over the surrounding country that is to-day the most replete with thrilling history of any in the world. Close around you is the city itself. No American should presume to visit Paris, London, Naples or Rome until he has first seen Washington, New York, New Orleans, Richmond and Hartford.
I spent the evening at Murphy’s hotel near the Cathedral, and expected to find in Murphy, the proprietor, the typical Irishman, a general association of all the virtues, and he has them all, and I almost said many more. Murphy is an old (yet not very aged) Confederate, who fought to the last and when vanquished turned to look for the next best way of living in honor, through honesty. His hotel is to Richmond what Heublein’s is to Hartford, and he himself is one of the honored institutions of the old Confederate capital.
During our ride in the afternoon, March 17, the telegraphic dispatches began to come in, from the grand prize fight, and several times we found it impossible to get our carriage through the crowd which was respectful and good tempered, but oh how interested. Personally we did not care which had whipped, Corbett or Fitzsimmons, but not so with the crowd, most of whom had money—from nickels to fat checks—on the result. Even to-day I do not know who was the winner. Next morning at 7:30 we took the train for Washington and for three hours rolled through the region that thirty-four years before was a tract of war and desolation. We crossed the Rappahannock at Petersburg, where imagination evoked from bluff, river and plain, countless specters in blue and grey—and so I came home.