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A VISIT TO THE CITIES AND CAMPS OF THE CONFEDERATE
[To the Editor of 'Blackwood's Magazine.' SIR, I have lately returned from America, after spending nearly a year in the Confederate States. During that period I visited all the principal cities and armies in the field, and was a witness of many interesting events, being present at Gettysburg, the bombardment of Charleston, Chicamauga, &c. Leaving the Confederacy in April, after a short stay at Nassau and Havana, I also visited the Northern States and Canada.
As my friends think that a little account of my travels which I have written might interest the public generally, I take the liberty of offering it to you for publication. The narrative is no doubt very defective, as I am quite unaccustomed to writing; but I believe that no one has had a more favourable opportunity of becoming thoroughly acquainted with the Southern Confederacy, under its present aspects, than myself.—I enclose my card, and am, Sir, your obedient servant,
A CAVALRY OFFICER.]
PART I.-CHAPTER I.
I CAME into this neighbourhood, which, by way of distinction, I will call a station on the Underground Railway from Yankeeland to Secessia, some time in the month of May 1863, and stopped at a road and river side inn, where I found four gentlemen, with whom I linked my fortunes for the nonce.
go by false ones, as they have informed me, with a promise to disclose their true patronymics when we reach the other side. I cannot tell you where this neighbourhood is to be found, lest I should get my friends into trouble.
The one of them of whom I see most, and with whom I cheerfully I could not tell you their names, associate, is called the Major. He even if I chose to do so; they all is very agreeable and well-informed,
VOL. XCVI.-NO. DXC.
has travelled a great deal in his own country, and seems to know everybody. I believe him to be a Virginian country gentleman, who has been run off his plantation by the Yankees. Of course he hates them most cordially.
Two others are young Marylanders going to join the army; and the fourth is, I think, going to run the blockade for commercial purposes.
I brought the latest newspapers with me, which were immediately seized, and the Major read them aloud with amusing comments.
Most Northern newspapers make it a rule never to tell the truth if they can help it, and it requires a great deal of ingenuity and practice to interpret them correctly.
The Major did so, I thought, very successfully. The reading over, we took "a drink" all round, according to the custom of the country. Conversation ensued, and it was late before we retired; the Major and the two soldiers to a deserted church near at hand, and the commercial blockade-runner and myself to our beds at the inn.
The next morning the Major pumped me a little, and finding me, I suppose," all right," he promised me his protection and services, for which I was very grateful, and indeed they proved invaluable in the sequel. I found the day tediously long, as we got up soon after daylight, and the Major left after breakfast to make some arrangement for obtaining a boat to cross the water. He returned in the evening, having purchased a boat, in which we shall embark as soon as the weather permits. I had to shut myself up in my room for some time during the day, as a Federal officer came to the inn to look at our landlord's whisky, and see that he had not too much of it rather a strange piece of duty, I thought, for a commissioned army officer. I understand that innkeepers are not allowed to keep more than a certain store of whisky, for fear they should sell it to the rebels
over the water, and thereby "aid and comfort" them. This is a very out-of-the-way place. Fancy in this "Excelsior" "go-ahead" country your being seven or eight miles from the nearest post-office, and even there the post coming in only once a-week!
Still we thought ourselves not safe from observation, and concluded" to part company, and lie about amongst the farmers and planters in the neighbourhood whilst making our preparations. I stuck to the Major, and we have been living at different houses with all sorts of people ever since.
They are all kind, hospitable, good fellows, a little depressed by the bad times, and at being obliged to keep their political sentiments entirely to themselves; for I need not say that in this part of the world all are violent Secessionists, and have forfeited all their political rights, as they will not take an oath of allegiance to the administration. They run no small risk in harbouring us too. If found out, it would go very hard with their persons, and their estates would almost certainly be confiscated. Only a few days ago, the family of a gentleman of large property in Maryland entertained two relations, soldiers in the Southern army, at their house during the absence of the owner himself. They were found out; the gentleman, who knew nothing of the matter, was sent to Fort Warren; his property was confiscated, and the ladies of the family were sent South without being allowed to take anything with them.*
Yet I never discovered the slightest hesitation on the part of the sturdy planters and farmers down here as to receiving us into their houses, and giving us the best entertainment they could afford.
This kind of life is very instructive and entertaining, as far as giving one a thorough insight into the American mode of living in the country; but it is rather hard work to get up at daylight every morn
* They subsequently earned their living by needlework at Gordonsville.
ing, and breakfast at half-past four or five. During the day-time we Occupy ourselves with walking or riding, or boating and fishing, or we visit a neighbour who invites us to make his house our next quarters. We never stop more than two nights at the same place.
Dinner is generally before twelve, and by nine in the evening we are in bed and asleep. There is always a great profusion at every meal of salt meat, fish, terrapins, hot cakes, eggs, bacon, butter, &c.; but fresh meat is very rare. I do not believe that a butcher exists nearer than the county town, twenty miles off. There are no markets anywhere except in large cities-not even in the county town, where I spent two days before I came to this part of the country.
A company of Federal soldiers was stationed there, but the "citi zens are all ardently Southern in their sentiments.
I sat one evening with a party of them before the door of the hotel, and they were talking red-hot "Secesh" politics. All regretted that the American colonies had ever separated from England; and though they professed to admire Washington personally, yet they heartily wished he had never been born. One went so far as to d- -Christopher Columbus-" What business on earth," he said, "had he to come and discover this God-forsaken country?"
"Yes, sir," said another, addressing himself to me, it was a Yankee trick, sir: they cheated us, as they have done ever since. didn't want to quarrel with England, but they did, because they had been kicked out of the country, with their Mayflower and their Puritans. D—— them, I wish they'd all been drowned at the bottom of the sea. And they didn't want to fight, sir; Yankees never do, sir; and we Southerners, like fools, went and fought it out for them, just as they're making them Dutch and Irishmen fight for them now, sir! No Yankee is ever killed in battle, sir-not
at least to speak of," he added, in modification of this rather untenable proposition.
I believe I added to the geographical knowledge of many persons there, by explaining to them the relative position of Vienna and Berlin, dissipating the idea of Prussia being governed by an emperor, &c. &c. At the same time, I have myself learnt several "facts" of which I was previously ignorant.
It seems that the Austrian FieldMarshal Giulay, after losing the battle of Magenta, was cashiered, and then re-entered the army as a private soldier, and was killed at Solferino fighting like a hero.
There was once a famine threatening to break out amongst the tailors of Paris in consequence of want of work. Upon this the Emperor Louis Napoleon suddenly appeared in a totally new and original costume, and all the fashionable young men of Paris following his example, the tailors got plenty to do, and were saved. I made great friends with several of the unsophisticated natives of that quaint little county town; and one of them said to me as we shook hands at parting-"I hope, sir, when you are here again, I'll see you at the jail."
I suppose I looked rather startled at his suggesting such a contingency, which, under the circumstances, was not quite an improbable one; for he then added in explanation that he himself was the guardian of that county institution: "I am the jailer, you know, sir."
He seemed to be a very intelligent fellow, and I hope will live to be a judge.
I mentioned before that there are no markets in this country, except in large cities; but they have a substitute for them in the shape of periodical meetings of planters and farmers in fixed places on stated days. Such a reunion takes place weekly at -; and thither I betook myself one day, having ascertained that there would be none but "right" people about.
A long line of one-horse buggies and a good many saddle-horses were fastened up to the stake-fences on one side of the road, and their owners were at the store or the wayside-inn, or walking about, buying and selling, and bargaining or talking (politics, of course), or and that very frequently-" taking a drink." This national custom never takes a solitary form, nor is it indulged in for the purpose of satisfying your thirst. To take
a drink with any one, is to accept or proffer a compliment; to refuse one would give grave offence.
Your friend takes you to the bar, and the "liquor" is concocted. Probably several of your friend's friends are there. "Mr So-and-so, will you join us? Mr So-and-so, allow me to introduce you to my friend, Mr Blank.” Mr Blank, I am very happy to meet you, sir" (an American always repeats your name, and treasures it up in his memory); "I hope you are in good health, Mr Blank." You go through the ceremony with all the friends, and in the mean time the drink is ready. Then you bow all round, saying, "My regards, gentlemen," and swallow it gravely, pretending to like it, and trying not to make a grimace. Of course all the drinks here are made of very bad whisky; and I did think it very nasty at first, but one gets used to everything.
After spending nearly a fortnight in this neighbourhood, the wind and weather suddenly became favourable, and it was determined that we should be off at dark.
There was no time to lose. It was five o'clock, and we had to collect our party, which had been increased by two gentlemen from Washington (father and son) and a young doctor. However, by ten o'clock we were on board our little boat, and were fairly off.
We passed one guardship without being perceived, and nothing disturbed us till near daylight. As it dawned, a big dark object suddenly loomed up in the distance. Nearer
and nearer it came straight towards
We strained our eyes looking through the twilight. Could it be? Yes, it was yes, it was certainlythere could be no mistake-it was a gunboat. I was excessively disgusted: if she saw us we were lost-Fort Lafayette instead of a campaign with Lee. Horrible thought!
Still she came nearer and nearer, whilst we scudded away as fast as we could. But what chance had our little boat against steam? Bigger and bigger the monster became, till hope dawned within us as we saw her swing round and turn her black broadside towards us. She had not perceived our little cockleshell. Away she steamed in an opposite direction, and as her ugly black hulk gradually receded, and began to look smaller and smaller in the distance, we recovered our spirits and laughed at our scare. The Major proposed a drink," and I thought the whisky this time really delicious.
We ran safely into a little creek on the Virginia shore, and then we soon discovered that it was all for the best that we had been detained so long. We landed in the midst of a deserted Yankee camp, and its occupants had only left this part of the country two days before, after having dispossessed the inhabitants of all the property they could lay their hands on.
Negroes, horses, mules, cattle, had been carried off; corn and hay, and even agricultural implements, had been burnt and destroyed. The poor people were in a state of despair.
This part of the country, I must remark, is entirely removed from the seat of war, and the Yankee raid had been made solely for the purpose of plundering and destroying the property of the poor unoffending inhabitants.
Landed in this desolate place, it is hard to say what we all should have done without the Major; but he, who knew everybody, of course was acquainted with the principal proprietor in the neighbourhood,
and through his influence we obtained a yoke of oxen which had been hidden in the woods during the raid, and a cart on which our baggage was put.
The Major's friend drove him over in his buggy, and we marched some fifteen miles to the banks of a river, where we met another friend of the Major's, who took us in, lodged, and fed us.
Next morning early we had engaged a boat, and had a most charming sail up the river. At three o'clock we landed on the other side; and, after a delicious bath, walked on to the house of another of the Major's friends, where again we were hospitably received, and slept the next night.
Fresh troubles about a conveyance for baggage-for the Yankees had been here too, robbing and destroying; but the Major was once more successful in getting a waggon, and, moreover, found here two horses which he had left behind some time back. They had fortunately escaped the Yankee raid, much to his satisfaction-and mine too, as for the rest of the road I had a mount.
It was a very pleasant ride through a beautiful country with magnificent trees. We got along slowly, as most of the party had to walk the whole way.
Wherever we stopped we were kindly and hospitably welcomed; you could not even ask for a glass of water at any house without their sending out a lump of ice in it, and asking you to dismount and sit in the shady porch. The country-houses are chiefly built of wood-frame-houses they call them —and all have a porch along the whole of one side, which in hot weather is the general resort of the inmates when at home.
On the last day of our journey, I rode into a yard where there were two little boys at play. They looked up, and one cried out, "Have you heard the news?" Then he looked a little frightened at my outlandish appearance, for Stoneman's cavalry
had been near lately, during the battle of Chancellorsville.
"You're not a Yankee, are you?" I reassured him on this point, and he went on eagerly
Well, Ewell has taken Winchester, and whipped Milroy, and taken him prisoner with all his folk." Then the little fellow ran up with a "Won't you get down? Pap's indoors; he's got the paper and all about it."
Pap soon came out with a hearty welcome and confirmed the news. Of course he knew the Major, who came up just then, and insisted on our stopping to take some refreshment and feed our horses, which we were glad to do, as it was an overpoweringly hot day.
At ten in the evening of Thursday, June 18th, we reached Richmond, it having taken us five days to travel not more than seventy miles, owing to the devastation of the country we had passed through. Here, then, I was at length safe in the Confederate capital, and had reached it at one of the most critical periods of the war.
It will be remembered that little more than a month previously, in the beginning of May (1863), a great battle had been fought at Chancellorsville, sixty miles to the north of Richmond.
General Hooker had crossed the Rapidan not far from Fredericksburg, and a series of battles had been fought during three days, ending in the complete rout of the Federal army, with a loss of thirty thousand men. Lee's loss on this occasion had been comparatively very small, but his triumph had been dearly purchased by the death of the brave General "Stonewall" Jackson, who was accidentally killed by a shot from one of his
Shattered as it was, the Federal army had nevertheless succeeded in recrossing the Rapidan and the Rappahannock, and occupied a position on the north bank of the latter river sufficiently strong to make it disadvantageous to attack, and the