8th, May (Friday).—We reached Marshall at 3 A. M., and got four hours' sleep there. "We then got into a railroad for sixteen miles, after which we were crammed into another stage.
Crossed the frontier into Louisiana at 11 A. M. I have therefore been nearly a month getting through the single State of Texas. Reached Shrieveport at 3 p. M. ; and, after washing for the first time in five days, I called on Gen. Kirby Smith, who commands the whole country on this side of the Mississippi.
He is a Floridian by birth, was educated at West Point, and served in the United States cavalry. He is only thirty-eight years old; and he owes his rapid rise to a lieutenant-general to the fortunate fact of his having fallen, jus't at the very nick of time, upon the Yankee flank at the first battle of Manassas.He is a remarkably active man, and of very agreeable manners; he wears big spectacles and a black beard.His wife is an extremely pretty woman, from Baltimore, but she had cut her hair quite short like a man's. In the evening she proposed that we should go down to the river and fish for cray-fish. We did so, and were most successful, the General displaying much energy on the occasion.
He told me that M'Clellan might probably have destroyed the Southern army with the greatest ease during the first winter, and without running much risk to himself, as the Southerners were so much over-elated by their easy triumph at Manassas, and their army had dwindled away.
I was introduced to Governor Moore, of Louisiana, to the Lieutenant-governor Hyams, and also to the exiled Governor of Missouri, Reynolds.
Governor Moore told me he had been on the Red River since 1824, from which date until 1840 it had been very unhealthy. He thinks that Dickens must have intended Shrieveport by " Eden."*
Governor Reynolds, of Missouri, told me he found himself in the unfortunate condition of a potentate exiled from his dominions; but he showed me an address which he had issued to his Missourians, promising to be with them at the head of an army to deliver them from their oppressors. Shrieveport is rather a decent-looking place on the Red River. It contains about 3,000 inhabitants, and is at present the seat of the Louisianian Legislature vice Baton Rouge. But only twenty-eight members of the Lower House had arrived as yet, and business could not be commenced with less than fifty. The river now is broad and rapid, and it is navigated by large steamers; its banks are low and very fertile, but reputed to be very unhealthy.
General Kirby Smith advised me to go to Munroe, and try to cross the Mississippi from thence; he was so uncertain as to Alexandria that he was afraid to send a steamer so far.
I heard much talk at his house about the late Federal raid into the Mississippi,* which seems to be a copy of John Morgan's operations, except that the Federal raid was made in a thinly populated country, bereft of its male inhabitants.
9th May (Saturday).—Started again by stage for Munroe at 4.30 A. M. My companions were, the Mississippi planter, a mad dentist from New Orleans (called, by courtesy, doctor), an old man from Matagorda, buying slaves cheap in Louisiana, a wounded otiicer, and a wounded soldier. The soldier was a very intelligent young Missourian, who told me (as others have) that, at the commencement of these troubles, both he and his family were strong Unionists. But the Lirtcolnites, by using coercion, had forced them to take one side or the other —and there are now no more bitter Secessionists than these people. This soldier (Mr. Douglas) was on his way to rejoin Bragg's army. A Confederate soldier when wounded is not given his discharge, but is employed at such work as he is competent to perform. Mr. Douglas was quite lame; but will be employed at mounted duties or at writing.
We passed several large and fertile plantations. The negro quarters formed little villages, and seemed comfortable: Bome of them held 150 or 200 hands. We afterwards drove through some beautiful pine forests, and were ferried across a beautiful shallow lake full of cypresses, but not the least like European cypress-trees.
We met a number more planters driving their families, their slaves, and furniture, towards Texas—in fact, every thing that they could save from the ruin that had befallen them on the approach of the Federal troops.
At 5 p. M. we reached a charming little town, called Mindon, where I met an English mechanic who deplored to me that he had been such a fool as to naturalize himself, as he was in hourly dread of the conscription.I have at length become quite callous to many of the horrors of stage travelling. I no longer shrink at every random shower of tobacco-juice; nor do I shudder when good-naturedly offered a quid. I eat voraciously of the bacon that is provided for my sustenance, and I am invariably treated by my fellowtravellers of all grades with the greatest consideration and kindness. Sometimes a man remarks that it is rather " mean" of England not to recognize the South; but I can always shut him up by saying, that a nation which deserves its independence should fight and earn it for itself—a sentiment which is invariably agreed to by all.
10th May (Sunday).—I spent a very rough night in consequence of the badness of the road, the jolting of the carriage, and having to occupy a centre seat. In the morning we received news from every one we met of the fall of Alexandria. The road to-day was alive with negroes, who are being " run" into Texas out of Banks' way. We. must have met hundreds of them, and many families of planters, who were much to be pitied, especially the ladies.
On approaching Munroe, we passed through the camp of Walker's division (8,000 strong), which was on its march from Arkansas to meet Banks. The division had embarked in steamers, and had already started down the " "Wachita" towards the Red River, when the news arrived of the fall of Alexandria, and of the presence of Federal gunboats in or near the Wachita itself. This caused the precipitate return and disembarkation of Walker's division. The men were well armed with rifles and bayonets, but they were dressed in ragged civilian clothes. The old Matagorda man recognized his son in one of these regiments—a perfect boy.
Munroe is on the " Wachita" (pronounced Wadhtaw), which is a very pretty and wide stream. After crossing it we arrived at the hotel after dark.
Universal confusion reigned there; it was full of officers and soldiers of Walker's division, and no person would take the slightest notice of us.
In desperation I called on General Hebert, who commanded the post. I told him who I was, and gave him a letter of introduction, which I had fortunately brought from Kirby Smith. I stated my hard case, and besought an asylum for the night, which he immediately accorded me in his own house.
The difficulty of crossing the Mississippi appeared to increase the nearer I got to it, and General Hebert told me that it was very doubtful whether I could cross at all at this point. The Yankee gunboats, which had forced their way past Vicksburg and Port Hudson, were roaming about the Mississippi and Red River, and some of them were reported at the entrance of the "Wachita itself, a small fort at Harrisonburg being the only impediment to their appearance in front of Munroe.
On another side, the enemy's forces were close to Delhi, only forty miles distant.
There were forty or fifty Yankee deserters here from the army besieging Vicksburg. These Yankee deserters, on being asked their reasons for deserting, generally reply,—" Our government has broken faith with us. We enlisted to fight for the Union, and not to liberate the G—d d—d niggers." Vicksburg is distant from this place about eighty miles.
The news of General Lee's victory at Chancellorsville had just arrived here. Every one received it very coolly, and seemed to take it quite as a matter of course; but the wound of Stonewall Jackson was universally deplored.
11th May (Monday).—General Hebert is a goodlooking creole.* He was a West-Pointer, and served in the old army, but afterwards became a wealthy sugar-planter. He used to hold Magruder's position as commander-in-chief in Texas, but he has now been shelved at Munroe, where he expects to be taken prisoner any day; and, from the present gloomy aspect of affairs about here, it seems extremely probable that he will not be disappointed in his expectations. He is extremely down upon England for not recognizing the South.
He gave me a passage down the river in a steamer which was to try to take provisions to Harrisonburg but, at the same time, he informed me that she might very probably be captured by a Yankee gunboat.
At 1 p. M. I embarked for Harrisonburg, which is distant from Munroe by water 150 miles, and by land 15 miles. It is fortified, and offers what was considered a weak obstruction to the passage of the gunboats up the river to Munroe. The steamer was one of the curious American river boats, which rise to a tremendous height out of the water, like great wooden castles. She was steered from a box at the very top of all, and this particular one .was propelled by one wheel at her stern. The river is quite beautiful; it is from 200 to 300 yards broad, very deep and tortuous, and the large trees grow right down to the very edge of the water.
Our captain at starting expressed in very plain terms his extreme disgust at the expedition, and said he fully expected to run against a gunboat at any turn of the river.
Soon after leaving Munroe, we passed a large plantation. The negro quarters were larger than a great many Texan towns, and they held three hundred hands.
After we had proceeded about half an hour, we were stopped by a mounted orderly (called a courier), who from the bank roared out the pleasing information, " They're a-fighting at Harrisonburg." The captain on hearing this turned quite green in the face, and remarked that he'd be " dogged" if he liked running into the jaws of a lion, and he proposed to turn back; but he was jeered at by my fellow-travellers, who were all either officers or soldiers, wishing to ci'oss the Mississippi to rejoin their regiments in the different Confederate armies.
One pleasant fellow, more warlike than the rest, suggested that as we had some Enfields on board, we should make " a little bit of a fight," or at least " make one butt at a gunboat." I was relieved to find that these insane proposals were not received with any enthusiasm by the majority.
The plantations, as we went further down the river, looked very prosperous; but signs of preparations for immediate skedaddling were visible in most of them, and I fear they are all destined to be soon desolate and destroyed.We came to a courier picket every sixteen miles. At one of them we got the information, " Gunboats drove back," at which there was great rejoicing, and the captain, recovering his spirits, became quite jocose, and volunteered to give me letters of introduction to a " particular friend of his about here, called Mr. Farragut;" but the next news, " Still a-fightin'," caused us to tie ourselves to a tree at 8 p. M., off a little village called Columbia, which is half-way between Munroe and Harrisonburg.
We then lit a large fire, round which all the passengers squatted on their heels in Texan fashion, each man whittling a piece of wood, and discussing the merits of the different Yankee prisons at New Orleans or Chicago. One of them, seeing me, called out, " I reckon, Kernel, if the Yankees catch you with us, they'll say you're in d—d bad company;" which sally caused universal hilarity.
12th May (Tuesday).—Shortly after daylight three 'negroes arrived from Harrisonburg, and they describei the fight as still going on. They said they were "dreadful skeered;" and one of them told me he would " rather be a slave to his master all his life, than a white man and a soldier."
During the morning some of the officers and soldiers left the boat, and determined to cut across country to Harrisonburg, but I would not abandon the scanty remains of my baggage until I was forced to do so.
During the morning twelve more negroes arrived from Harrisonburg. It appears that three hundred of them, the property of neighboring planters, had been engaged working on the fortifications, but they all with one accord bolted when the first shell was fired. Their only idea and hope at present seemed to be to get back to their masters. All spoke of the Yankees with great detestation, and expressed wishes to have nothing to do with such " bad people."
Our captain coolly employed them in tearing down the fences, and carrying the wood away on board the steamer for firewood.
We did nothing but this all day long, the captain being afraid to go on, and unwilling to return. In the evening a new alarm seized him—viz., that the Federal cavalry had cut off the Confederate line of couriers. During the night we remained in the same position as last night, head up stream, and ready to oe off at a moment's notice.*
13th May (Wednesday).—There was a row on board last night; one of the officers having been too attentive to a lady, had to skedaddle suddenly into the woods, in order to escape the fury of her protector, and he has not thought it advisable to reappear. My trusty companion for several days, the poor young Missourian, was taken ill to-day, and told me he had a " right smart little fever on him." I doctored him with some of the physic which Mr. Maloney had given me, and he got better in the evening.
We had pickets out in the woods last night. Two of my fellow-travellers on that duty fell in with a negro, and pretending they were Yankees, asked him to join them. He consented, and even volunteered to steal his master's horses ; and he then received a tremendous thrashing, administered by the two soldiers with their ramrods.
At 9 p. M., to the surprise of all, the captain suddenly made up his mind to descend the river at all hazards, thinking, I suppose, that any thing was better than the uncertainty of the last twenty-four hours.
The further we went, the more beautiful was the scenery.
At 4 p. M. we were assured by a citizen on the bank that the gunboats really had retreated; and at 5.30 our doubts were set at rest, to our great satisfaction, by descrying the Confederate flag flying from Fort Beauregard, high above the little town of Harrisonburg. After we had landed, I presented my letter of introduction from General Hebert to Colonel Logan, who commands the fort. He introduced me to a German officer, the engineer.
They gave me an account of the attack and repulse of the four Federal gunboats under Commodore "Woodford, and supposed to hare been the Pittsburg ironclad), the General Price, the Arizona, and another.
Fort Beauregard is a much more formidable looking work than I expected to see, and its strength had evidently been much underrated at Munroe.
A hill 190 feet high, which rises just in rear of Harrisonburg, has been scarped and fortified. It is situated at an angle of the river, and faces a long " reach" of two miles.
The gunboats, after demanding an unconditional surrender, which was treated with great contempt by Colonel Logan, opened fire at 2 p. M. on Sunday, and kept it up till 6.30, throwing about one hundred and fifty 9 and 11 inch shell. The gunboats reopened again for about an hour on Monday afternoon, when they finally withdrew, the Arizona being crippled.
The fort fired altogether about forty-five 32-pound shot (smooth bore). The range was about a mile.
The garrison thought that they had loosened several of the Pittsburg's iron-plates. They felt confident they could have sunk the wooden vessels if they had attempted to force the passage; and they were naturally much elated with their success, which certainly had not been anticipated on board my steamer or at Munroe.
I had not time to visit the interior of the fort, but I saw the effect of the shell upon the outside. Those which fell in the sand did not burst. Only three men were wounded in the garrison. They told me the deck of the Pittsburg was furnished with a parapet of cotton-bales for riflemen.
The river at Harrisonburg is about 160 yards broad, and very deep, with a moderate current. The town, being between the vessels and the fort, had, of course, suffered considerably during the bombardment.
"When the works are complete they will be much more formidable.
To our great joy Colonel Logan decided that our vessel should proceed at once to Trinity, which is fifteen miles nearer Natchez (on the Mississippi) than Harrisonburg. We arrived there at 8 P. M., and found that the gunboats had only just left, after having destroyed all the molasses and rum they could find, and carried away a few negroes.
Six of us pigged in one very small room, paying a dollar each for this luxury to an old woman, who was most inhospitable, and told us " she didn't want to see no soldiers, as the Yanks would come back and burn her house for harboring rebels." I am always taken for a Confederate officer, partly from being in their company, and partly on account of my clothes,which happen to be a gray shooting-suit, almost the same color as most of the soldiers' coats.
14th May (Thursday).—The officers and soldiers, about thirty in number, who camcdown the "Wachita in my company, determined to proceed to Natchez to-day, and a very hard day's work we had of it.
As the Louisianian bank of the Mississippi is completely overflowed at this time of year, and the river itself is infested with the enemy's gunboats, which have run past Vicksburg and Port Hudson, the passage can only be made by a tedious journey in small boats through the swamps and bayous.
Our party left Trinity at 6 A. M. in one big yawl and three skiffs. In my skiff were eight persons, besides a negro oarsman named " Tucker." We had to take it in turns to row with this worthy, and I soon discovered to my cost the inconvenience of sitting in close proximity with a perspiring darkie. This negro was a very powerful man, very vain and susceptible of flattery. I won his heart by asking him if he wasn't worth 6,000 dollars. We kept him up to the mark throughout the journey by plying him with compliments upon his strength and skill. One officer declared to him that he should try to marry his mistress (a widow) on purpose to own him.
After beating up for about eight miles against one of three streams which unite at, and give its name to, Trinity, we turned off to the right, and got into a large dense swamp. The thicket was so tangled and impenetrable that we experienced the greatest difficulty in forcing our way through it; we were often obliged to get into the water up to our middles and shove, whilst most of the party walked along an embankment.
After two hours and a half of this sort of work we had to carry our boats bodily over the embankment into a bayou called Log Bayou, on account of the numerous floating logs which had to be encountered. We then crossed a large and beautiful lake, which led us into another dismal swamp, quite as tangled as the former one. Here we lost our way, and got aground several times; but at length, after great exertions, we forced ourselves through it, and reached Lake Concordia, a fine piece of water, several miles in extent, and we were landed at dusk on the plantation of a Mr. Davis. These bayous and swamps abound with alligators and snakes of the most venomous description. I saw many of the latter swimming about exposed to a heavy fire of six-shooters; but the alligators were frightened away by the leading boat.
The yawl and one of the skiffs beat us, and their passengers reached Natchez about 9 P. M., but the other skiff, which could not boast of a Tucker, was lost in the swamp, and passed the night there hi a wretched plight.
The weather was most disagreeable, either a burning sun or a downpour of rain.
The distance we did in the skiff was about twentyeight miles, which took us eleven hours to perform.
On landing we hired at Mr. Davis's a small cart for Mr. Douglas (the wounded Missourian) and our baggage, and we had to finish the day by a trudge of three miles through deep mud, until, at length, we reached a place called Vidalia, which is on the Louisianian bank of the Mississippi, just opposite Natchez.
At Vidalia I got the immense luxury of a pretty good bed, all to myself, which enabled me to take off my clothes and boots for the first time in ten days.
The landlord told us that three of the enemy's gunboats had passed during the day; and as he said their crews were often in the habit of landing at Vidalia, he cautioned the military to be ready to bolt into the woods at any time during the night.
There were two conscripts on board my skiff today, one an Irishman and the other a Pole. They confessed to me privately their extreme dislike of the military profession; but at the same time they acknowledged the enthusiasm of the masses for the war.
15th May (Friday).—I nearly slept round the clock after yesterday's exertions. Mr. Douglas and I crossed the father of rivers and landed on the Mississippi bank at 9 A. M.