Historical Tales, Vol. 2 (of 15) - The Romance of Reality
by Charles Morris
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This signal defeat ended forever the power of the Cree nation, once the leading Indian power of the Gulf region. Such of the chiefs as survived surrendered. Among them was Weathersford, their valiant half-breed leader. Mounted on his well-known gray horse, famed for its speed and endurance, he rode to the door of Jackson's tent. The old soldier looked up to see before him this famous warrior, tall, erect, majestic, and dignified.

"I am Weathersford," he said; "late your enemy, now your captive."

From without the tent came fierce cries of "Kill him! kill him!"

"You may kill me if you wish," said the proud chief; "but I came to tell you that our women and children are starving in the woods. They never did you any harm and I came to beg you to send them food."

Jackson looked sternly at the angry throng outside, and said, in his vigorous way, "Any man who would kill as brave a man as this would rob the dead."

He then invited the chief into his tent, where he promised him the aid he asked for and freedom for himself. "I do not war with women and children," he said.

So corn was sent to the suffering women, and Weathersford was allowed to mount his good gray steed and ride away as he had come. He induced the remaining Creeks to accept the terms offered by the victorious general, these being peace and protection, with the provision that half their lands should be ceded to the United States.

As may well be imagined, a triumphant reception was given Jackson and his men on their return to Nashville. Shortly afterward came the news that he had been appointed Major-General in the army of the United States, to succeed William Henry Harrison, resigned. He had made his mark well against the Indians; he was soon to make it as well against the British at New Orleans.


On the coast of Louisiana, westward from the delta of the Mississippi, there lies a strange country, in which sea and land seem struggling for dominion, neither being victor in the endless contest. It is a low, flat, moist land, where countless water-courses intertwine into a complex net-work; while nearer the sea are a multitude of bays, stretching far inland, and largely shut off from the salt sea waves by barriers of long, narrow islands. Some of these islands are low stretches of white sand, flung up by the restless waters which ever wash to and fro. Others are of rich earth, brought down by lazy water-ways from the fertile north and deposited at the river outlets. Tall marsh grasses grow profusely here, and hide alike water and land. Everywhere are slow-moving, half-sleeping bayous, winding and twisting interminably, and encircling multitudes of islands, which lie hidden behind a dense growth of rushes and reeds, twelve feet high.

It was through this region, neither water nor land, that the hapless Evangeline, the heroine of Longfellow's famous poem, was rowed, seeking her lover in these flooded wilds, and not dreaming that he lay behind one of those reedy barrens, almost within touch, yet as unseen as if leagues of land separated them.

One of the bays of this liquid coast, some sixty miles south of New Orleans, is a large sheet of water, with a narrow island partly shutting it off from the Gulf. This is known as Grande Terre, and west of it is another island known as Grande Isle. Between these two long land gates is a broad, deep channel which serves as entrance to the bay. On the western side lies a host of smaller islands, the passes between them made by the bayous which straggle down through the land. Northward the bay stretches sixteen miles inland, and then breaks up into a medley of bayous and small lakes, cutting far into the land, and yielding an easy passage to the level of the Mississippi, opposite New Orleans.

Such is Barataria Bay, once the famous haunt of the buccaneers. It seems made by nature as a lurking-place for smugglers and pirates, and that is the purpose to which it was long devoted. The passages inland served admirably for the disposal of ill-gotten goods. For years the pirates of Barataria Bay defied the authorities, making the Gulf the scene of their exploits and finding a secret and ready market for their wares in New Orleans.

The pirate leaders were two daring Frenchmen, Pierre and Jean Lafitte, who came from Bordeaux some time after 1800 and settled in New Orleans. They were educated men, who had seen much of the world and spoke several languages fluently. Pierre, having served in the French army, became a skilled fencing-master. Jean set up a blacksmith shop, his slaves doing the work. Such was the creditable way in which these worthies began their new-world career.

Their occupation changed in 1808, in which year the slave-trade was brought to an end by act of Congress. There was also passed an Embargo Act, which forbade trade with foreign countries. Here was a double opportunity for men who placed gain above law. The Lafittes at once took advantage of it, smuggling negroes and British goods, bringing their illicit wares inland by way of the bayous of the coastal plain and readily disposing of them as honest goods.

Not long after this time the British cruisers broke up the pirate hordes which had long infested the West Indies. Their haunts were taken and they had to flee. Some of them became smugglers, landing their goods on Amelia Island, on the coast of Florida. Others sought the bays of Louisiana, where they kept up their old trade.

The Lafittes now found it to their advantage to handle the goods of these buccaneers, in which they posed as honest merchants. Later on they made piracy their trade, the whole fleet of the rovers coming under their control. Throwing off the cloak of honesty, they openly defied the laws. Prize goods and negroes were introduced into New Orleans with little effort at secrecy, and were sold in disregard of the law and the customs. It was well known that the Baratarian rovers were pirates, but the weak efforts to dislodge them failed and the government was openly despised.

Making Barataria Bay their head-quarters and harbor of refuge, the pirates fortified Grande Terre, and built on it their dwellings and store-houses. On Grande Isle farms were cultivated and orange-groves planted. On another island, named the Temple, they held auctions for the sale of their plunder, the purchasers smuggling it up the bayous and introducing it under cover of night into New Orleans, where there was nothing to show its source, though suspicion was rife. Such was Barataria until the war with England began, and such it continued through this war till 1814, the Lafittes and their pirate followers flourishing in their desperate trade.

We might go on to tell a gruesome story of fearful deeds by these bandits of the sea; of vessels plundered and scuttled, and sailors made to walk the plank of death; of rich spoil won by ruthless murder, and wild orgies on the shores of Grande Terre. But of all this there is little record, and the lives of these pirates yield us none of the scenes of picturesque wickedness and wholesale murder which embellish the stories of Blackbeard, Morgan, and other sea-rovers of old. Yet the career of the Lafittes has an historical interest which makes it worth the telling.

It was not until 1814, during the height of the war with England, that the easy-going Creoles of New Orleans grew indignant enough at the bold defiance of law by the Lafittes to make a vigorous effort to stop it. It was high time, for the buccaneers had grown so bold as to fire on the revenue officers of the government. Determined to bear this disgrace no longer, Pierre Lafitte was seized in the streets of New Orleans, and with one of his captains, named Dominique Yon, was locked up in the calaboosa.

This step was followed by a proclamation from Governor Claiborne, offering five hundred dollars for the arrest of Jean Lafitte, the acting pirate chief. Lafitte insolently retorted by offering five thousand dollars for the head of the governor. This impudent defiance aroused Claiborne to more decisive action. A force of militia was called out and sent overland to Barataria, with orders to capture and destroy the settlement of the buccaneers and seize all the pirates they could lay hands on.

The governor did not know the men with whom he had to deal. Their spies kept them fully informed of all his movements. Southward trudged the citizen soldiers, tracking their oozy way through the water-soaked land. All was silent and seemingly deserted. They were near their goal, and not a man had been seen. But suddenly a boatswain's whistle sounded, and from a dozen secret passages armed men swarmed out upon them, and in a few minutes had them surrounded and under their guns. Resistance was hopeless, and they were obliged to surrender at discretion. The grim pirates stood ready to slaughter them all if a hand were raised in self-defence, and Lafitte, stepping forward, invited them to join his men, promising them an easy life and excellent pay. Their captain sturdily refused.

"Very well," said Lafitte, with disdainful generosity. "You can go or stay as you please. Yonder is the road you came by. You are free to follow it back. But if you are wise you will in future keep out of reach of the Jolly Rovers of the Gulf."

We are not sure if these were Lafitte's exact words, but at any rate the captain and his men were set free and trudged back again, glad enough to get off with whole skins. Soon after that the war, which had lingered so long in the North, showed signs of making its way to the South. A British fleet appeared in the Gulf in the early autumn of 1814, and made an attack on Mobile. In September a war-vessel from this fleet appeared off Barataria Bay, fired on one of the pirate craft, and dropped anchor some six miles out. Soon a pinnace, bearing a white flag, put off from its side and was rowed shoreward. It was met by a vessel which had put off from Grande Terre.

"I am Captain Lockyer, of the 'Sophia,'" said the British officer. "I wish to see Captain Lafitte."

"I am he," came a voice from the pirate bark.

"Then this is for you," and Captain Lockyer handed Lafitte a bulky package.

"Will you come ashore while I examine this?" asked Lafitte, courteously. "I offer you such humble entertainment as we poor mariners can afford."

"I shall be glad to be your guest," answered the officer.

Lafitte now led the way ashore, welcomed the visitors to his island domain, and proceeded to open and examine the package brought him. It contained four documents, their general purport being to threaten the pirates with utter destruction if they continued to prey on the commerce of England and Spain, and to offer Lafitte, if he would aid the British cause, the rank of captain in the service of Great Britain, with a large sum of money and full protection for person and property.

The letters read, Lafitte left the room, saying that he wished time to consider before he could answer. But hardly had he gone when some of his men rushed in, seized Captain Lockyer and his men, and locked them up as prisoners. They were held captive all night, doubtless in deep anxiety, for pirates are scarcely safe hosts, but in the morning Lafitte appeared with profuse apologies, declaring loudly that his men had acted without his knowledge or consent, and leading the way to their boat. Lockyer was likely glad enough to find himself on the Gulf waters again, despite the pirate's excuses. Two hours later Lafitte sent him word that he would accept his offer, but that he must have two weeks to get his affairs in order. With this answer, the "Sophia" lifted anchor, spread sails, and glided away.

All this was a bit of diplomatic by-play on the part of Jean Lafitte. He had no notion of joining the British cause. The "Sophia" had not long disappeared when he sent the papers to New Orleans, asking only one favor in return, the release of his brother Pierre. This the authorities seem to have granted in their own way, for in the next morning's papers was an offer of one thousand dollars reward for the capture of Pierre Lafitte, who had, probably with their connivance, broken jail during the night.

Jean Lafitte now offered Governor Claiborne his services in the war with the British. He was no pirate, he said. That was a base libel. His ships were legitimate privateers, bearing letters of marque from Venezuela in the war of that country with Spain. He was ready and anxious to transfer his allegiance to the United States.

His sudden change of tone had its sufficient reason. It is probable that Lafitte was well aware of a serious danger just then impending, far more threatening than the militia raid which had been so easily defeated. A naval expedition was ready to set out against him. It consisted of three barges of troops under Commander Patterson of the American navy. These were joined at the Balize by six gunboats and a schooner, and proceeded against the piratical stronghold.

On the 16th of September the small fleet came within sight of Grande Terre, drew up in line of battle, and started for the entrance to Barataria Bay. Within this the pirate fleet, ten vessels in all, was in line to receive them. Soon there was trouble for the assailants. Shoal water stopped the schooner, and the two larger gunboats ran aground. But their men swarmed into boats and rowed on in the wake of the other vessels, which quickly made their way through the pass and began a vigorous attack on its defenders.

Now the war was all afoot, and we should be glad to tell of a gallant and nobly contested battle, in which the sea-rovers showed desperate courage and reddened the sea with their blood. There might be inserted here a battle-piece worthy of the Drakes and Morgans of old, if the facts only bore us out. Instead of that, however, we are forced to say that the pirates proved sheer caitiffs when matched against honest men, and the battle was a barren farce.

Commander Patterson and his men dashed bravely on, and in a very short time two of the pirate vessels were briskly burning, a third had run aground, and the others were captured. Many of the pirates had fled; the others were taken. The battle over, the buildings on Grande Terre and Grande Isle were destroyed and the piratical lurking-place utterly broken up. This done, the fleet sailed in triumph for New Orleans, bringing with them the captured craft and the prisoners who had been taken. But among the captives was neither of the Lafittes. They had not stood to their guns, but had escaped with the other fugitives into the secret places of the bay.

Thus ends the history of Barataria Bay as a haunt of pirates. Since that day only honest craft have entered its sheltered waters. But the Lafittes were not yet at the end of their career, or at least one of them, for of Pierre Lafitte we hear very little after this time. Two months after their flight the famous British assault was made on New Orleans. General Jackson hurried to its defence and called armed men to his aid from all quarters, caring little who they were so they were ready to fight.

Among those who answered the summons was Jean Lafitte. He called on Old Hickory and told him that he had a body of trained artillerymen under his command, tried and capable men, and would like to take a hand in defence of the city. Jackson, who had not long before spoken of the Lafittes as "hellish banditti," was very glad now to accept their aid. We read of his politely alluding to them as "these gentlemen," and he gave into their charge the siege-guns in several of the forts.

These guns were skilfully handled and vigorously served, the Baratarians fighting far more bravely in defence of the city than they had done in defence of their ships. They lent important aid in the defeat of Packenham and his army, and after the battle Jackson commended them warmly for their gallant conduct, praising the Lafittes also for "the same courage and fidelity."

A few words more and we have done. Of the pirates, two only made any future mark. Dominique Yon, the captain who had shared imprisonment with Pierre Lafitte, now settled down to quiet city life, became a leader in ward politics, and grew into something of a local hero, fighting in the precincts instead of on the deck.

Jean Lafitte, however, went back to his old trade. From New Orleans he made his way to Texas, then a province of Mexico, and soon we hear of him at his buccaneering work. For a time he figured as governor of Galveston. Then, for some years, he commanded a fleet that wore the thin guise of Columbian privateers. After that he threw off all disguise and became an open pirate, and as late as 1822 his name was the terror of the Gulf. Soon afterward a fleet of the United States swept those waters and cleared it of all piratical craft. Jean Lafitte then vanished from view, and no one knows whether he died fighting for the black flag or ended his life quietly on land.


On a day in the year 1835 the people of Nacogdoches, Texas, were engaged in the pleasant function of giving a public dinner to one of their leading citizens. In the midst of the festivities a person entered the room whose appearance was greeted with a salvo of hearty cheers. There seemed nothing in this person's appearance to call forth such a welcome. He was dressed in a half-Indian, half-hunter's garb, a long-barrelled rifle was slanted over his shoulder, and he seemed a favorable specimen of the "half-horse, half-alligator" type of the early West. But there was a shrewd look on his weather-beaten face and a humorous twinkle in his eyes that betokened a man above the ordinary frontier level, while it was very evident that the guests present looked upon him as no every-day individual.

The visitor was, indeed, a man of fame, for he was no less a personage than the celebrated Davy Crockett, the hunter hero of West Tennessee. His fame was due less to his wonderful skill with the rifle than to his genial humor, his endless stories of adventure, his marvellous power of "drawing the long bow." Davy had once been sent to Congress, but there he found himself in waters too deep for his footing. The frontier was the place made for him, and when he heard that Texas was in revolt against Mexican rule, he shouldered his famous rifle and set out to take a hand in the game of revolution. It was a question in those days with the reckless borderers whether shooting a Mexican or a coon was the better sport.

The festive citizens of Nacogdoches heard that Davy Crockett had arrived in their town on his way to join the Texan army, and at once sent a committee to invite him to join in their feast. Hearty cheers, as we have said, hailed his entrance, and it was not long before he had his worthy hosts in roars of laughter with his quaint frontier stories. He had come to stay with them as a citizen of Texas, he said, and to help them drive out the yellow-legged greasers, and he wanted, then and there, to take the oath of allegiance to their new republic. If they wanted to know what claim he had to the honor, he would let Old Betsy—his rifle—speak for him. Like George Washington, Betsy never told a lie. The Nacogdochians were not long in making him a citizen, and he soon after set out for the Alamo, the scene of his final exploit and his heroic death.

The Alamo was a stronghold in the town of San Antonio de Bexar, in Western Texas. It had been built for a mission house of the early Spaniards, and though its walls were thick and strong, they were only eight feet high and were destitute of bastion or redoubt. The place had nothing to make it suitable for warlike use, yet it was to win a great name in the history of Texan independence, a name that spread far beyond the borders of the "Lone Star State" and made its story a tradition of American heroism.

Soon after the insurrection began a force of Texans had taken San Antonio, driving out its Mexican garrison. Santa Anna, the president of Mexico, quickly marched north with an army, breathing vengeance against the rebels. This town, which lay well towards the western border, was the first he proposed to take. Under the circumstances the Texans would have been wise to retreat, for they were few in number, they had little ammunition and provisions, and the town was in no condition for defence. But retreat was far from their thoughts, and when, on an afternoon in February, 1836, Santa Anna and his army appeared in the vicinity of San Antonio, the Texans withdrew to the Alamo, the strongest building near the town, prepared to fight to the death.

There were less than two hundred of them in all, against the thousands of the enemy, but they were men of heroic mould. Colonel Travis, the commander, mounted the walls with eight pieces of artillery, and did all he could besides to put the place in a state of defence. To show the kind of man Travis was, we cannot do better than to quote his letter asking for aid.

"FELLOW-CITIZENS AND COMPATRIOTS,—I am besieged by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna. The enemy have commanded a surrender at discretion; otherwise the garrison is to be put to the sword if the place is taken. I have answered the summons with a cannon-shot, and our flag still waves proudly from the walls. I shall never surrender or retreat. Then I call on you in the name of liberty, of patriotism, and of everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid with all despatch. The enemy are receiving reinforcements daily, and will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. Though this call may be neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible, and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor or that of his country. Victory or death!"

"W. BARRETT TRAVIS, Lieutenant-Colonel Commanding."

"P.S.—The Lord is on our side. When the enemy appeared in sight we had not three bushels of corn. We have since found, in deserted houses, eighty or ninety bushels, and got into the walls twenty or thirty head of beeves."


The only reinforcements received in response to this appeal were thirty-two gallant men from Gonzales, who made the whole number one hundred and eighty-eight. Colonel Fannin, at Goliad, set out with three hundred men, but the breaking down of one of his wagons and a scarcity of supplies obliged him to return. Among the patriot garrison were Davy Crockett and Colonel James Bowie, the latter as famous a man in his way as the great hunter. He was a duelist of national fame, in those days when the border duels were fought with knife instead of pistol. He invented the Bowie knife, a terrible weapon in the hands of a resolute man. To be famed as a duelist is no worthy claim to admiration, but to fight hand to hand with knife for weapon is significant of high courage.

Small as were their numbers, and slight as were their means of defence, the heroes of the Alamo fought on without flinching. Santa Anna planted his batteries around the stronghold and kept up a steady bombardment. The Texans made little reply; their store of ammunition was so small that it had to be kept for more critical work. In the town a blood-red banner was displayed in lurid token of the sanguinary purpose of the Mexican leader, but the garrison showed no signs of dismay. They were the descendants of men who had fought against the Indians of the South under like conditions, and they were not likely to forget the traditions of their race.

On the 3d of March a battery was erected within musket-shot of the north wall of the fort, on which it poured a destructive fire. Travis now sent out a final appeal for aid, and with it an affecting note to a friend, in which he said,—

"Take care of my boy. If the country should be saved I may make him a splendid fortune; but if the country should be lost and I should perish, he will have nothing but the proud recollection that he is the son of a man who died for his country."

The invading force increased in numbers until, by the 5th of March, there were more than four thousand of them around the fort, most of them fresh, while the garrison was worn out with incessant toil and watching. The end was near at hand. Soon after midnight on the 6th the Mexican army gathered close around the fort, prepared for an assault. The infantry carried scaling-ladders. Behind them were drawn up the cavalry with orders to kill any man who might fly from the ranks. This indicated Santa Anna's character and his opinion of his men.

The men within the walls had no need to be driven to their work. Every one was alert and at his post, and they met with a hot fire from cannon and rifles the Mexican advance. Just as the new day dawned, the ladders were placed against the walls and the Mexicans scrambled up their rounds. They were driven back with heavy loss. Again the charge for assault was sounded and a second rush was made for the walls, and once more the bullets of the defenders swept the field and the assailants fell back in dismay.

Santa Anna now went through the beaten ranks with threats and promises, seeking to inspire his men with new courage, and again they rushed forward on all sides of the fort. Many of the Texans had fallen and all of them were exhausted. It was impossible to defend the whole circle of the walls. The assailants who first reached the tops of the ladders were hurled to the ground, but hundreds rushed in to take their places, and at a dozen points they clambered over the walls. It was no longer possible for the handful of survivors to keep them back.

In a few minutes the fort seemed full of assailants. The Texans continued to fight with unflinching courage. When their rifles were emptied they used them as clubs and struggled on till overwhelmed by numbers. Near the western wall of the fort stood Travis, in the corner near the church stood Crockett, both fighting like Homeric heroes. Old Betsy had done an ample share of work that fatal night. Now, used as a club, it added nobly to its record. The two heroes at length fell, but around each was a heap of slain.

Colonel Bowie had taken no part in the fight, having been for some days sick in bed. He was there butchered and mutilated. All others who were unable to fight met the same fate. It had been proposed to blow up the magazine, but Major Evans, the man selected for this duty, was shot as he attempted to perform it. The struggle did not end while a man of the garrison was alive, the only survivors being two Mexican women, Mrs. Dickenson (wife of one of the defenders) and her child, and the negro servant of Colonel Travis. As for the dead Texans, their bodies were brutally mutilated and then thrown into heaps and burned.

Thus fell the Alamo. Thus did the gallant Travis and his men keep their pledge of "victory or death." Like the Spartans at Thermopylae, the heroes of the Alamo did not retreat or ask for quarter, but lay where they had stood in obedience to their country's commands. And before and around them lay the bodies of more than five hundred of their enemies, with as many wounded. The Texans had not perished unavenged. The sun rose in the skies until it was an hour high. In the fort all was still; but the waters of the aqueduct surrounding resembled in their crimson hue the red flag of death flying in the town. The Alamo was the American Thermopylae.


We have told the story of the Alamo. It needs to complete it the story of how Travis and his band of heroes were avenged. And this is also the story of how Texas won its independence, and took its place in the colony of nations as the "Lone Star Republic."

The patriots of Texas had more to avenge than the slaughter at the Alamo. The defenders of Goliad, over four hundred in number, under Colonel Fannin, surrendered, with a solemn promise of protection from Santa Anna. After the surrender they were divided into several companies, marched in different directions out of the town, and there shot down in cold blood by the Mexican soldiers, not a man of them being left alive.

Santa Anna now fancied himself the victor. He had killed two hundred men with arms in their hands, and made himself infamous by the massacre of four hundred more, and he sent despatches to Mexico to the effect that he had put down the rebellion and conquered a peace. What he had really done was to fill the Texans with thirst for revenge as well as love of independence. He had dealt with Travis and Fannin; he had Sam Houston still to deal with.

General Houston was the leader of the Texan revolt. While these murderous events were taking place he had only four hundred men under his command, and was quite unable to prevent them. Defence now seemed hopeless; the country was in a state of panic; the settlers were abandoning their homes and fleeing as the Mexicans advanced; but Sam Houston kept the field with a spirit like that which had animated the gallant Travis.

As the Mexicans advanced Houston slowly retreated. He was manoeuvring for time and place, and seeking to increase his force. Finally, after having brought up his small army to something over seven hundred men, he took a stand on Buffalo Bayou, a deep, narrow stream flowing into the San Jacinto River, resolved there to strike a blow for Texan independence. It was a forlorn hope, for against him was marshalled the far greater force of the Mexican army. But Houston gave his men a watchword that added to their courage the hot fire of revenge. After making them an eloquent and impassioned address, he fired their souls with the war-cry of "Remember the Alamo!"

Soon afterward the Mexican bugles rang out over the prairie, announcing the approach of the vanguard of their army, eighteen hundred strong. They were well appointed, and made a showy display as they marched across the plain. Houston grimly watched their approach. Turning to his own sparse ranks, he said, "Men, there is the enemy; do you wish to fight?" "We do," came in a fierce shout. "Well, then, remember it is for liberty or death! Remember the Alamo!"

As they stood behind their light breastworks, ready for an attack, if it should be made, a lieutenant came galloping up, his horse covered with foam. As he drew near he shouted along the lines, "I've cut down Vince's bridge." This was a bridge which both armies had used in coming to the battle-field. General Houston had ordered its destruction. Its fall left the vanquished in that day's fight without hope of escape.

Santa Anna evidently was not ready for an immediate assault. His men halted and intrenched themselves. But Houston did not propose to delay. At three in the afternoon, while many of the Mexican officers were enjoying their siesta in perfect confidence, Santa Anna himself being asleep, the word to charge passed from rank to rank along the Texan front, and in a moment the whole line advanced at double-quick time, filling the air with vengeful cries of "Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!"

The Mexican troops sprang to their arms and awaited the attack, reserving their fire until the patriots were within sixty paces. Then they poured forth a volley which, fortunately for the Texans, went over their heads, though a ball struck General Houston's ankle, inflicting a very painful wound. Yet, though bleeding and suffering, the old hero kept to his saddle till the action was at an end.

The Texans made no reply to the fire of the foe until within pistol-shot, and then poured their leaden hail into the very bosoms of the Mexicans. Hundreds of them fell. There was no time to reload. Having no bayonets, the Texans clubbed their rifles and rushed in fury upon the foe, still rending the air with their wild war-cry of "Remember the Alamo!" The Mexicans were utterly unprepared for this furious hand-to-hand assault, and quickly broke before the violent onset.

On all sides they gave way. On the left the Texans penetrated the woodland; the Mexicans fled. On the right their cavalry charged that of Santa Anna, which quickly broke and sought safety in flight. In the centre they stormed the breastworks, took the enemy's artillery and drove them back in dismay. In fifteen minutes after the charge the Mexicans were in panic flight, the Texans in mad pursuit. Scarce an hour had passed since the patriots left their works, and the battle was won.

Such was the consternation of the Mexicans, so sudden and utter their rout, that their cannon were left loaded and their movables untouched. Those who were asleep awoke only in time to flee; those who were cooking their dinner left it uneaten; those who were playing their favorite game of monte left it unfinished. The pursuit was kept up till nightfall, by which time the bulk of the Mexican army were prisoners of war. The victory had been won almost without loss. Only seven of the Texans were killed and twenty-three wounded. The Mexican loss was six hundred and thirty, while seven hundred and thirty were made prisoners.

But the man they most wanted was still at large. Santa Anna was not among the captives. On the morning of the following day, April 22, the Texan cavalry, scouring the country for prisoners, with a sharp eye open for the hated leader of the foe, saw a Mexican whom they loudly bade to surrender. At their demand he fell on the grass and threw a blanket over his head. They had to call on him several times to rise before he slowly dragged himself to his feet. Then he went up to Sylvester, the leader of the party, and kissed his hand, asking if he was General Houston.

The man was evidently half beside himself with fright. He was only a private soldier, he declared; but when his captors pointed to the fine studs in the bosom of his shirt he burst into tears and declared that he was an aide to Santa Anna. The truth came out as the captors brought him back to camp, passing the prisoners, many of whom cried out, "El Presidente." It was evidently Santa Anna himself. The President of Mexico was a prisoner and Texas was free! When the trembling captive was brought before Houston, he said, "General, you can afford to be generous,—you have conquered the Napoleon of the West." Had Houston done full justice to this Napoleon of the West he would have hung him on the spot. As it was, his captors proved generous and his life was spared.

The victory of San Jacinto struck the fetters from the hands of Texas. No further attempt was made to conquer it, and General Houston became the hero and the first president of the new republic. When Texas was made a part of the United States, Houston was one of its first senators, and in later years he served as governor of the State. His splendid victory had made him its favorite son.


The Mexican War, brief as was its period of operations in the field, was marked by many deeds of daring, and also was the scene of the first service in the field of various officers who afterward became prominent in the Civil War. Chief among these were the two great leaders on the opposite sides, General Lee and General Grant. Lee's services in the campaign which Scott conducted against the city of Mexico were especially brilliant, and are likely to be less familiar to the reader than any incident drawn from his well-known record in the Civil War. The most striking among them was his midnight crossing of the lava-fields before Contreras.

On the 19th of August, 1847, Scott's army lay in and around San Augustin, a place situated on a branch of the main road running south from the city of Mexico. This road divided into two at Churubusco, the other branch running near Contreras. Between these two roads and a ridge of hills south of San Augustin extended a triangular region known as the Pedregal, and about as ugly a place to cross as any ground could well be.

It was made up of a vast spread of volcanic rock and scoriae, rent and broken into a thousand forms, and with sharp ridges and deep fissures, making it very difficult for foot-soldiers to get over, and quite impassable for cavalry or artillery. It was like a sea of hardened lava, with no signs of vegetation except a few clumps of bushes and dwarf trees that found footing in the rocks. The only road across it was a difficult, crooked, and barely passable pathway, little better than a mule track, leading from San Augustin to the main road from the city of Mexico.

On the plateau beyond this sterile region the Mexicans had gathered in force. Just beyond it General Valencia lay intrenched, with his fine division of about six thousand men and twenty-four guns, commanding the approach from San Augustin. A mile or more north of Contreras lay General Santa Anna, his force holding the main city road.

Such was the situation of the respective armies at the date given, with the Pedregal separating them. Captain Lee, who had already done excellent engineering service at Vera Cruz and Cerro Gordo, assisted by Lieutenants Beauregard and Tower of the engineers, had carefully reconnoitred the position of the enemy, and on the morning of the 19th the advance from San Augustin began, Captain Lee accompanying the troops in their arduous passage across the Pedregal. One of those present thus describes the exploit:

"Late in the morning of the 19th the brigade of which my regiment was a part (Riley's) was sent out from San Augustin in the direction of Contreras. We soon struck a region over which it was said no horses could go, and men only with difficulty. No road was available; my regiment was in advance, my company leading, and its point of direction was a church-spire at or near Contreras. Taking the lead, we soon struck the Pedregal, a field of volcanic rock like boiling scoria suddenly solidified, pathless, precipitous, and generally compelling rapid gait in order to spring from point to point of rock, on which two feet could not rest and which cut through our shoes. A fall on this sharp material would have seriously cut and injured one, whilst the effort to climb some of it cut the hands.

"Just before reaching the main road from Contreras to the city of Mexico we reached a watery ravine, the sides of which were nearly perpendicular, up which I had to be pushed and then to pull others. On looking back over this bed of lava or scoria, I saw the troops, much scattered, picking their way very slowly; while of my own company, some eighty or ninety strong, only five men crossed with me or during some twenty minutes after.

"With these five I examined the country beyond, and struck upon the small guard of a paymaster's park, which, from the character of the country over which we had passed, was deemed perfectly safe from capture. My men gained a paymaster's chest well filled with bags of silver dollars, and the firing and fuss we made both frightened the guard with the belief that the infernals were upon them and made our men hasten to our support.

"Before sundown all of Riley's, and I believe of Cadwallader's, Smith's, and Pierce's brigades, were over, and by nine o' clock a council of war, presided over by Persifer Smith and counselled by Captain R. E. Lee, was held at the church. I have always understood that what was devised and finally determined upon was suggested by Captain Lee; at all events, the council was closed by his saying that he desired to return to General Scott with the decision of General Smith, and that, as it was late, the decision must be given as soon as possible, since General Scott wished him to return in time to give directions for co-operation.

"During the council, and for hours after, the rain fell in torrents, whilst the darkness was so intense that one could move only by groping. To illustrate: my company again led the way to gain the Mexican rear, and when, after two hours of motion, light broke sufficiently to enable us to see a companion a few feet off, we had not moved four hundred yards, and the only persons present were half a dozen officers and one guide."

Much is said of the perils of war and of the courage necessary to face them. But who would not rather face a firing-line of infantry in full daylight than to venture alone in such a dark and stormy night as was this upon such a perilous and threatening region as the Pedregal, in which a misstep in the darkness would surely lead to wounds and perhaps to death. Its crossing, under such conditions, might well be deemed impossible, had not Captain Lee succeeded, borne up by his strong sense of duty, in this daring enterprise.

General Scott, who was very anxious to know the position of the advance forces, had sent out seven officers about sundown with instructions to the troops at Contreras, but they had all returned, completely baffled by the insuperable difficulties of the way. Not a man except Robert E. Lee had the daring, skill, and persistence to cross this region of volcanic knife-blades on that night of rain and gloom.

The writer above quoted from says, "History gives him the credit of having succeeded, but it has always seemed incredible to me when I recollect the distance amid darkness and storm, and the dangers of the Pedregal which he must have traversed. Scarcely a step could be taken without danger of death; but that to him, a true soldier, was the willing risk of duty in a good cause."

General Scott adds his testimony to this by saying, after mentioning the failure of the officers sent out by him, "But the gallant and indefatigable Captain Lee, of the engineers, who has been constantly with the operating forces, is just in from Shields, Smith, Cadwallader, etc., to report, and to request that a powerful diversion be made against the centre of the intrenched camp to-morrow morning."

Scott subsequently gave the following testimony to the same effect: "Captain Lee, engineers, came to me from the hamlet (Contreras) with a message from Brigadier-General Smith, about midnight. He, having passed over the difficult ground by daylight, found it just possible to return to San Augustin in the dark,—the greatest feat of physical and moral courage performed by any individual, in my knowledge, pending the campaign."

This praise is certainly not misapplied, when we remember that Lee passed over miles of the kind of ground above described in a pitch-dark night, without light or companion, with no guide but the wind as it drove the pelting rain against his face, or an occasional flash of lightning, and with the danger of falling into the hands of Valencia or Santa Anna if he should happen to stray to the right or the left. It is doubtful if another man in the army would have succeeded in such an enterprise, if any one had had the courage to attempt it. It took a man of the caliber which Robert E. Lee afterward proved himself to possess to perform such a deed of daring.

We may briefly describe Lee's connection with the subsequent events. He bore an important part in the operations against the Mexicans, guiding the troops when they set out about three o'clock in the morning on a tedious march through darkness, rain, and mud; an elevation in the rear of the enemy's forces being gained about sunrise. An assault was at once made on the surprised Mexicans, their intrenchments were stormed, and in seventeen minutes after the charge began they were in full flight and the American flag was floating proudly above their works.

Thus ended the battle of Contreras. Captain Lee was next sent to reconnoitre the well fortified stronghold of Coyacan, while another reconnaissance was made towards Churubusco, one mile distant. After Lee had completed his task, he was ordered to conduct Pierce's brigade by a third road, to a point from which an attack could be made on the enemy's right and rear. Shields was ordered to follow Pierce closely and take command of the left wing.

The battle soon raged violently along the whole line. Shields, in his exposed position, was hard pressed and in danger of being crushed by overwhelming forces. In this alarming situation Captain Lee made his way to General Scott to report the impending disaster, and led back two troops of the Second Dragoons and the Rifles to the support of the left wing. The affair ended in the repulse of the enemy and victory for the Americans. Soon after a third victory was won at the Molino del Rey.

Scott's army was now rapidly approaching the city of Mexico, the central point of all these operations, and the engineer officers, Captain Lee, Lieutenant Beauregard, and others, were kept busy in reconnaissances, which they performed with daring and success. Then quickly followed the boldest and most spectacular exploit of the war, the brilliant charge up the steep heights of Chapultepec, a hill that bristled with walls, mines, and batteries, and whose summit was crowned with a powerful fortress, swarming with confident defenders.

Up this hill went the American infantry like so many panthers, bounding impetuously onward in face of the hot fire from the Mexican works, scaling crags, clambering up declivities, all with a fiery valor and intrepidity which nothing could check, until the heights were carried, the works scaled, and the enemy put to flight. In this charge, one of the most brilliant in American history, Captain Lee took an active part, till he was disabled by a severe wound and loss of blood. General Scott again speaks of his service here in complimentary words, saying that he was "as distinguished for felicitous execution as for science and daring," and also stating that "Captain Lee, so constantly distinguished, also bore important orders from me, until he fainted from a wound and the loss of two nights' sleep at the batteries."

Scott, indeed, had an exalted opinion of Lee's remarkable military abilities, and Hon. Reverdy Johnson has stated that he "had heard General Scott more than once say that his success in Mexico was largely due to the skill, valor, and undaunted energy of Robert E. Lee." In later years Scott said, "Lee is the greatest military genius in America."

Lee's services were not left without reward. He received successively the brevet rank of major, lieutenant-colonel, and colonel, the latter for his service at Chapultepec. The victory at this point was the culminating event of the war. Shortly afterward the Mexican capital was occupied, and the Mexicans soon gave up the contest as hopeless. A new Cortez was in their streets, who was not to be got rid of except at a heavy sacrifice.

As to how Lee occupied himself during this period, we may quote an anecdote coming from General Magruder.

"After the fall of Mexico, when the American army was enjoying the ease and relaxation which it had bought by toil and blood, a brilliant assembly of officers sat over their wine discussing the operations of the capture and indulging hopes of a speedy return to the United States.

"One among them rose to propose the health of the Captain of Engineers who had found a way for the army into the city, and then it was remarked that Captain Lee was absent. Magruder was despatched to bring him to the hall, and, departing on his mission, at last found the object of his search in a remote room of the palace, busy on a map. Magruder accosted him and reproached him for his absence. The earnest worker looked up from his labors with the calm, mild gaze which was so characteristic of the man, and, pointing to his instruments, shook his head.

"'But,' said Magruder, in his impetuous way, 'this is mere drudgery. Make somebody else do it, and come with me.'

"'No,' was the reply; 'no, I am but doing my duty.'"

This is very significant of Lee's subsequent character, in which the demands of duty always outweighed any thought of pleasure or relaxation, and in which his remarkable ability as an engineer was of inestimable advantage to the cause he served.


Shall we not break for a time from our record of special tales and let fall on our pages a bit of winter sunshine from the South, the story of a Christmas festival in the land of the rose and magnolia? It is a story which has been repeated so many successive seasons in the life of the South that it has grown to be a part of its being, the joyous festal period in the workday world of the year. The writer once spent Christmas as a guest in the manor house of old Major Delmar, "away down South," and feels like halting to tell the tale of genial merrymaking and free-hearted enjoyment on that gladsome occasion.

On the plantation, Christmas is the beginning and end of the calendar. Time is measured by the days "before Christmas" or the days "since Christmas." There are other seasons of holiday and enjoyment, alike for black and white, but "The Holidays" has one meaning only: it is the merry Christmas time, when the work of the year past is ended and that of the year to come not begun, and when pleasure and jollity rule supreme.

A hearty, whole-souled, genial host and kindly, considerate master was the old major, in the days of his reign, "before the war," and fortunate was he who received an invitation to spend the midwinter festival season under his hospitable roof. It was always crowded with well-chosen guests. The members of the family came in from near and far; friends were invited in wholesome numbers; an atmosphere of good-will spread all around, from master and mistress downward through the young fry and to the dusky-faced house-servants and plantation hands; everybody, great and small, old and young, black and white, was glad at heart when the merry Christmas time came round.

As the Yule-tide season approached the work of the plantation was rounded up and everything got ready for the festival. The corn was all in the cribs; the hog-killing was at an end, the meat salted or cured, the lard tried out, the sausage-meat made. The mince-meat was ready for the Christmas pies, the turkeys were fattened, especially the majestic "old gobbler," whose generous weight was to grace the great dish on the manor-house table. The presents were all ready,—new shoes, winter clothes, and other useful gifts for the slaves; less useful but more artistic and ornamental remembrances for the household and guests. All this took no small thought and labor, but it was a labor of love, for was it not all meant to make the coming holiday a merry, happy time?

I well remember the jolly stir of it all, for my visit spread over the days of busy preparation. In the woods the axe was busy at work, cutting through the tough hickory trunks. Other wood might serve for other seasons, but nothing but good old hickory would do to kindle the Christmas fires. All day long the laden wagons creaked and rumbled along the roads, bringing in the solid logs, and in the wood-yards the shining axes rang, making the white chips fly, as the great logs were chopped down to the requisite length.

From the distant station came the groaning ox-cart, laden with boxes from the far-off city, boxes full of mysterious wares, the black driver seeking to look as if curiosity did not rend his soul while he stolidly drove with his precious goods to the store-room. Here they were unloaded with mirthful haste, jokes passing among the laughing workers as to what "massa" or "mistis" was going to give them out of those heavy crates. The opening of these boxes added fuel to the growing excitement, as the well-wrapped-up parcels were taken out, in some cases openly, in others with a mysterious secrecy that doubled the curiosity and added to the season's charm.

There was another feature of the work of preparation in which all were glad to take part, the gathering of the evergreens—red-berried holly, mistletoe with its glistening pearls, ground-pine, moss, and other wood treasures—for the decoration of parlor, hall, and dining-room, and, above all, of the old village church, a gleeful labor in which the whole neighborhood took part, and helpers came from miles away. Young men and blooming maidens alike joined in, some as artists in decoration, others as busy workers, and all as merry aids.

Days rolled on while all this was being done,—the wood chopped and heaped away in the wood-sheds and under the back portico; the church and house made as green as spring-tide with their abundant decorations, tastefully arranged in wreaths and folds and circles, with the great green "Merrie Christmas" welcoming all comers from over the high parlor mantel. All was finished in ample time before the day of Christmas Eve arrived, though there were dozens of final touches still to be made, last happy thoughts that had to be worked out in green, red, or white.

On that same day came the finish which all had wished but scarcely dared hoped for, a fleecy fall of snow that drifted in feathery particles down through the still atmosphere, and covered the ground with an inch-deep carpet of white. I well remember old Delmar, with his wrinkled, kindly face and abundant white hair, and his "By Jove, isn't that just the thing!" as he stood on the porch and looked with boyish glee at the fast-falling flakes. And I remember as well his sweet-faced wife, small, delicate, yet still pretty in her old age, and placidly sharing his enjoyment of the spectacle, rare enough in that climate, in spite of the tradition that a freeze and a snow-fall always came with the Christmas season.

Christmas Eve! That was a time indeed! Parlor and hall, porch and wood-shed, all were well enough in their way, but out in the kitchen busy things were going on without which the whole festival would have been sadly incomplete. The stoves were heaped with hickory and glowing with ardent heat, their ovens crammed full of toothsome preparations, while about the tables and shelves clustered the mistress of the place and her regiment of special assistants, many of them famous for their skill in some branch of culinary art, their glistening faces and shining teeth testifying to their pride in their one special talent.

Pies and puddings, cakes and tarts, everything that could be got ready in advance, were being drawn from the ovens and heaped on awaiting shelves, while a dozen hands busied themselves in getting ready the turkey and game and the other essentials of the coming feast that had to wait till the next day for their turn at the heated ovens.

As the day moved on the excitement grew. Visitors were expected: the boys from college with their invited chums; sons and grandsons, aunts and cousins, and invited guests, from near and far. And not only these, but "hired out" servants from neighboring towns, whose terms were fixed from New Year to Christmas, so that they could spend the holiday week at home, made their appearance and were greeted with as much hilarious welcome in the cabins as were the white guests in the mansion. In the manor house itself they were welcomed like home-coming members of the family, as, already wearing their presents of new winter clothes, they came to pay their "respecs to massa and mistis."

As the day went on the carriages were sent to the railroad station for the expected visitors, old and young, and a growing impatience testified to the warmth of welcome with which their arrival would be greeted. They are late—to be late seems a fixed feature of the situation, especially when the roads are heavy with unwonted snow. Night has fallen, the stars are out in the skies, before the listening ears on the porch first catch the distant creak of wheels and axles. The glow of the wood-fires on the hearths and of candles on table and mantel is shining out far over the snow when at length the carriages come in sight, laden outside and in with trunks and passengers, whose cheery voices and gay calls have already heralded their approach.

What a time there is when they arrive, the boys and girls tumbling and leaping out and flying up the steps, to be met with warm embraces or genial welcomes; the elders coming more sedately, to be received with earnest handclasps and cordial greetings, Never was there a happier man than the old major when he saw his house filled with guests, and bade the strangers welcome with a dignified, but earnest, courtesy. But when the younger comers stormed him, with their glad shouts of "uncle" or "grandpa" or other titles of relationship, and their jovial echo of "Merry Christmas," the warm-hearted old fellow seemed fairly transformed into a boy again. Guest as I was, I felt quite taken off my feet by the flood of greetings, and was swept into the general overflow of high spirits and joyful welcomes.

The frosty poll of the major and the silvery hair of his good wife were significant of venerable age, but there were younger people in the family, and with them a fair sprinkling of children. Of these the diminutive stockings were duly hung in a row over the big fireplace, waiting for the expected coming of Santa Claus, while their late wearers were soon huddled in bed, though with little hope of sleep in the excitement and sense of enchantment that surrounded them. Their disappearance made little void in the crowd that filled the parlor, a gay and merry throng, full of the spirit of fun and hearty enjoyment, and thoroughly genuine in their mirth, not a grain of airiness or ostentation marring their pleasure, though in its way it was as refined as in more showy circles.

Morning dawned,—Christmas morning. Little chance was there for sleepy-heads to indulge themselves that sunny Yule-tide morn. The stir began long before the late sun had risen, that of the children first of all; stealing about like tiny, white-clad spectres, with bulging stockings clasped tightly in their arms; craftily opening bedroom doors and shouting "Christmas gift!" at drowsy slumberers, then scurrying away and seeking the hearth-side, whose embers yielded light enough for a first glance at their treasures.

Soon the opening and closing of doors was heard, and one by one the older inmates of the mansion appeared, with warm "Merry Christmas" greetings, and all so merry-hearted that the breakfast-table was a constant round of quips and jokes, and of stories of pranks played in the night by representatives of Santa Claus. Where all are bent on having a good time, it is wonderful how little will serve to kindle laughter and set joy afloat.

Aside from the church-going,—with the hymns and anthems sung in concert and the reading of the service,—the special event of the day was the distribution of the mysterious contents of the great boxes which had come days before. There were presents for every one; nobody, guest or member of the family, was forgotten, and whether costly, or homely but useful, the gifts seemed to give equal joy. It was the season of good-will, in which the kindly thought, not the costliness of the gift, was alone considered, and when all tokens of kindliness were accepted in the same spirit of gratefulness and enjoyment.

A special feature of a Christmas on the plantation, especially "before the war," was the row of shining, happy black faces that swarmed up to the great house in the morning light, with their mellow outcry of "Merry Christmas, massa!" "Merry Christmas, missis!" and their hopeful looks and eyes bulging with expectation. Joyful was the time when their gifts were handed out,—useful articles of clothing, household goods, and the like, all gladly and hilariously received, with a joy as childlike as that of the little ones with their stockings. Off they tripped merrily through the snow with their burdens, laughing and joking, to their cabins, where dinners awaited them which were humble copies of that preparing for the guests at the master's table. Turkey was not wanting, varied here and there by that rare dish of raccoon or "'possum" which the Southern darky so highly enjoys.

The great event of the mansion house was the dinner. All day till the dinner-hour the kitchen was full of busy preparation for this crowning culmination of the festival. Cooks there were in plenty, and the din of their busy labor and the perfume of their culinary triumphs seemed to pervade the whole house.

When the dinner was served, it was a sight to behold. The solid old mahogany table groaned with the weight laid upon it. In the place of honor was the big gobbler, brown as a berry and done to a turn. For those who preferred other meat there was a huge round of venison and an artistically ornamented ham. These formed the backbone of the feast, but with and around them were every vegetable and delicacy that a Southern garden could provide, and tasteful dishes which it took all the ingenuity of a trained mistress of the kitchen to prepare. This was the season to test the genius of the dusky Southern cooks, and they had exhausted their art and skill for that day's feast. On the ample sideboard, shining with glass, was the abundant dessert, the cakes, pies, puddings, and other aids to a failing appetite that had been devised the day before.

That this dinner was done honor to need scarcely be said. The journey the day before and the outdoor exercise in that day's frosty air had given every one an excellent appetite, and the appearance of the table at the end of the feast showed that the skill of Aunt Dinah and her assistants had been amply appreciated. After dinner came apple-toddy and eggnog, and the great ovation to the Christmas good cheer was at an end.

But the festival was not over. Games and dances followed the feast. The piano-top was lifted, and light fingers rattled out lively music to which a hundred flying feet quickly responded. Country-dances they were, the lancers and quadrilles. Round dances were still looked upon in that rural locality as an improper innovation. The good old major, in his frock coat and high collar, started the ball, seizing the prettiest girl by the hand and leading her to the head of the room, while the others quickly followed in pairs. Thus, with the touch of nimble fingers on the ivory keys and the tap of feet and the whirl of skirts over the unwaxed floor, mingled with jest and mirth, the evening passed gayly on, the old-fashioned Virginia reel closing the ball and bringing the day's busy reign of festivity to an end.

But the whites did not have all the fun to themselves. The colored folks had their parties and festivities as well, their mistresses superintending the suppers and decorating the tables with their own hands, while ladies and gentlemen from the mansion came to look on, an attention which was considered a compliment by the ebon guests. And the Christmas season rarely passed without a colored wedding, the holidays being specially chosen for this interesting ceremony.

The dining-room or the hall of the mansion often served for this occasion, the master joining in matrimony the happy couple; or a colored preacher might perform the ceremony in the quarters. But in either case the event went gayly off, the family attending to get what amusement they could out of the occasion, while the mistress arranged the trousseau for the dusky bride.

But it is with the one Christmas only that we are here concerned, and that ended as happily and merrily as it had begun, midnight passing before the festivities came to an end. How many happy dreams followed the day of joy and how many nightmares the heavy feast is more than we are prepared to put on record.


The outbreak of the Civil War, the most momentous conflict of recent times, was marked by a wave of fervent enthusiasm in the States of the South which swept with the swiftness of a prairie fire over the land. Pouring in multitudes into the centres of enlistment, thousands and tens of thousands of stalwart men offered their services in defence of their cause, gathering into companies and regiments far more rapidly than they could be absorbed. This state of affairs, indeed, existed in the North as well as in the South, but it is with the extraordinary fervor of patriotism in the latter that we are here concerned, and especially with the very interesting experience of General John B. Gordon, as related by him in his "Reminiscences of the Civil War."

When the war began Gordon, as he tells us, was practically living in three States. His house was in Alabama, his post-office in Tennessee, and he was engaged in coal-mining enterprises in the mountains of Georgia, the locality being where these three States meet in a point. No sooner was the coming conflict in the air than the stalwart mountaineers of the mining district became wild with eagerness to fight for the Confederacy, and Gordon, in whom the war spirit burned as hotly as in any of them, needed but a word to gather about him a company of volunteers. They unanimously elected him their captain, and organized themselves at once into a cavalry company, most of them, like so many of the sons of the South, much preferring to travel on horseback than on foot.

As yet the war was only a probability, and no volunteers had been called for. But with the ardor that had brought them together, Gordon's company hastened to offer their services, only to be met with the laconic and disappointing reply, "No cavalry now needed."

What was to be done? They did not relish the idea of giving up their horses, yet they wanted to fight still more than to ride, and the fear came upon them that if they waited till cavalry was needed they might be quite lost sight of in that mountain corner and the war end before they could take a hand in it. This notion of a quick end to the war was common enough at that early day, very few foreseeing the vastness of the coming conflict; and, dreading that they might be left out in the cold, the ardent mountaineers took a vote on the question, "Shall we dismount and go as infantry?" This motion was carried with a shout of approval, and away went the stalwart recruits without arms, without uniform, without military training, with little beyond the thirst to fight, the captain knowing hardly more of military tactics than his men. They had courage and enthusiasm, and felt that all things besides would come to them.

As for arms suitable for modern warfare, the South at that time was sadly lacking in them. Men looked up their old double-barrelled shot-guns and squirrel rifles, and Governor Brown, of Georgia, set men at work making what were called "Joe Brown's pikes," being a sort of steel-pointed lances or bayonets on poles, like those used by pikemen in mediaeval warfare. In modern war they were about as useful as knitting-needles would have been. Governor Brown knew this well enough, but the volunteers were coming in such numbers and were so eager to fight that the pikes were made more to satisfy them than with hope of their being of any service in actual war.

Gordon's company was among the earliest of these volunteers. Reluctantly leaving their horses, and not waiting for orders, they bade a quick adieu to all they had held dear and set off cheerily for Milledgeville, then the capital of Georgia. They were destined to a sad disappointment. On reaching Atlanta they were met by a telegram from the governor, who had been advised of their coming, telling them to go back home and wait until advised that they were wanted.

This was like a shower of cold water poured on the ardor of the volunteers. Go home? After they had cut loose from their homes and started for the war? They would do nothing of the kind; they were on foot to fight and would not consent to be turned back by Governor Brown or any one else. The captain felt very much like his men. He too was an eager Confederate patriot, but his position was one demanding obedience to the constituted authorities, and by dint of much persuasion and a cautious exercise of his new authority he induced his men to board the train heading back for their homes.

But the repressed anger of the rebellious mountaineers broke forth again when the engine-bell rang and the whistle gave its shrill starting signal. Some of the men rushed forward and tore out the coupling of the foremost car, and the engine was left in condition to make its journey alone. While the trainmen looked on in astonishment the mountaineers sprang from the train, gathered round their captain, and told him that they had made up their minds on the matter and were not going back. They had enlisted for the war and intended to go to it; if Governor Brown would not take them, some other governor would.

There was nothing left for the young captain but to lead his undisciplined and rebellious company through Atlanta in search of a suitable camping-place. Their disregard of discipline did not trouble him greatly, for in his heart he sympathized with them, and he knew well that in their rude earnestness was the stuff of which good soldiers are made.

Gordon gives an interesting and amusing description of the appearance his men made and the interest they excited in Atlanta's streets. These were filled with citizens, who looked upon the motley crew with a feeling in which approval was tempered by mirth. The spectacle of the march—or rather the straggle—of the mountaineers was one not soon to be forgotten. Utterly untrained in marching, they walked at will, no two keeping step, while no two were dressed alike. There were almost as many different hues and cuts in their raiment as there were men in their ranks. The nearest approach to a uniform was in their rough fur caps made of raccoon skins, and with the streaked and bushy tail of the raccoon hanging down behind.

The amusement of the people was mingled with curiosity. "Are you the captain of this company?" some of them asked Gordon, who was rather proud of his men and saw nothing of the grotesque in their appearance.

"I am, sir," he replied, in a satisfied tone.

"What company is it, captain?"

As yet the company had no name other than one which he had chosen as fine sounding and suitable, but had not yet mentioned to the men.

"This company is the Mountain Rifles," said the captain, proudly.

His pride was destined to a fall. From a tall mountaineer in the ranks came, in words not intended for his ears, but plainly audible, the disconcerting words,—

"Mountain hell! We are no Mountain Rifles. We are the Raccoon Roughs."

And Raccoon Roughs they continued through all the war, Gordon's fine-spun name being never heard of again. The feeble remnant of the war-scarred company which was mustered out at Appomattox was still known as Raccoon Roughs.

Who would have them, since Governor Brown would not, was now the question. Telegrams sped out right and left to governors of other States, begging a chance for the upland patriots. An answer came at length from Governor Moore, of Alabama, who consented to incorporate the Raccoon Roughs and their captain in one of the new regiments he was organizing. Gordon gladly read the telegram to his eager company, and from their hundred throats came the first example of the "rebel yell" he had ever heard,—a wild and thrilling roar that was to form the inspiration to many a mad charge in later years.

No time was lost by the gallant fellows in setting out on their journey to Montgomery. As they went on they found the whole country in a blaze of enthusiasm. No one who saw the scene would have doubted for a moment that the South was an ardent unit in support of its cause. By day the troop trains were wildly cheered as they passed; at night bonfires blazed on the hills and torchlight processions paraded the streets of the towns. As no cannon were at hand to salute the incoming volunteers, blacksmith anvils took their place, ringing with the blows of hammers swung by muscular arms. Every station was a throng of welcoming people, filling the air with shouts and the lively sound of fife and drum, and bearing banners of all sizes and shapes, on which Southern independence was proclaimed and the last dollar and man pledged to the cause. The women were out as enthusiastically as the men; staid matrons and ardent maids springing upon the cars, pinning blue cockades on the lapels of the new soldiers' coats, and singing the war-songs already in vogue, the favorite "Dixie" and the "Bonnie Blue Flag," in whose chorus the harsh voices of the Raccoon Boughs mingled with the musical tones of their fair admirers.

Montgomery was at length reached to find it thronged with shouting volunteers, every man of them burning with enthusiasm. Mingled with them were visiting statesmen and patriotic citizens, for that city was the cradle of the new-born Confederacy and the centre of Southern enthusiasm. Every heart was full of hope, every face marked with energy, a prayer for the success of the cause on every lip. Never had more fervent and universal enthusiasm been seen. On the hills and around the capital cannon boomed welcome to the inflowing volunteers, wagons rumbled by carrying arms and ammunition to the camps, on every street marched untrained but courageous recruits. As for the Raccoon Roughs, Governor Moore kept his word, assigning them to a place in the Sixth Alabama Regiment, of which Captain Gordon, unexpectedly and against his wishes, was unanimously elected major.

Such were the scenes which the coming war excited in the far South, such the fervid enthusiasm with which the coming conflict for Southern independence was hailed. So vast was the number of volunteers, in companies and in regiments, each eager to be accepted, that the Hon. Leroy P. Walker, the first Secretary of War of the Confederacy, was fairly overwhelmed by the flood of applicants that poured in on him day and night. Their captains and colonels waylaid him on the streets to urge the immediate acceptance of their services, and he was obliged to seek his office by roundabout ways to avoid the flood of importunities. It is said that before the Confederate government left Montgomery for Richmond, about three hundred and sixty thousand volunteers, very many of them from the best element of the Southern population, had offered to devote their lives and fortunes to their country's cause.

Many striking examples of this outburst of enthusiasm and patriotic devotion might be adduced, but we must content ourselves with one, cited as an instance in point by General Gordon. This was the case of Mr. W. C. Heyward, of South Carolina, a West Point graduate and a man of fortune and position. The Confederate government was no sooner organized than Mr. Heyward sought Montgomery, tendering his services and those of a full regiment enlisted by him for the war. Such was the pressure upon the authorities, and so far beyond the power of absorption at that time the offers of volunteers, that Mr. Heyward sought long in vain for an interview with the Secretary of War. When this was at last obtained he found the ranks so filled that it was impossible to accept his regiment. Returning home in deep disappointment, but with his patriotism unquenched, this wealthy and trained soldier joined the Home Guards and died in the war as a private in the ranks.

Such was the unanimity with which the sons of the South, hosts of them armed with no better weapons than old-fashioned flint and steel muskets, double-barrelled shot-guns, and long-barrelled squirrel rifles, rushed to the defence of their States, with a spontaneous and burning enthusiasm that has never been surpassed. The impulse of self-defence was uppermost in their hearts. It was not the question of the preservation of slavery that sustained them in the terrible conflict for four years of desolating war. It was far more that of the sovereignty of the States. The South maintained that the Union formed under the Constitution was one of consent and not of force; that each State retained the right to resume its independence on sufficient cause, and that the Constitution gave no warrant for the attempt to invade and coerce a sovereign State. It was for this, not to preserve slavery, that the people sprang as one man to arms and fought as men had rarely fought before.


Of all the minor operations of the Civil War, the one most marked at once by daring and success was the pioneer invasion of the Northern States, the notable Chambersburg raid of the most famous cavalry leader of the Confederacy, General J. E. B. Stuart. This story of bold venture and phenomenal good fortune, though often told, is worth giving again in its interesting details.

The interim after the battle of Sharpsburg or Antietam was one of rest and recuperation in both the armies engaged. During this period the cavalry of Lee's army was encamped in the vicinity of Charlestown, some ten miles to the southward of Harper's Ferry. Stuart's head-quarters were located under the splendid oaks which graced the lawn of "The Bower," whose proprietor, Mr. A. S. Dandridge, entertained the officers with an open-hearted and genial hospitality which made their stay one of great pleasure and enjoyment.

There were warriors in plenty who would not have been hasty to break up that agreeable period of rest and social intercourse, but Stuart was not of that class. He felt that he must be up and doing, demonstrating that the Army of Northern Virginia had not gone to sleep; and the early days of October, 1862, saw a stir about head-quarters which indicated that something out of the ordinary was afoot. During the evening of the 8th the officers were engaged in a lively social intercourse with the ladies of "The Bower," the entertainment ending in a serenade in which the banjo and fiddle took chief part. Warlike affairs seemed absent from the thoughts of all, with the exception that the general devoted more time than usual to his papers.

With the morning of the 9th a new state of affairs came on. The roads suddenly appeared full of well-mounted and well-appointed troopers, riding northward with jingling reins and genial calls, while the cheery sound of the bugle rang through the fresh morning air. There were eighteen hundred of these horsemen, selected from the best mounted and most trustworthy men in the corps, for they were chosen for an expedition that would need all their resources of alertness, activity, and self-control, no less a one than an invasion of Pennsylvania, a perilous enterprise in which the least error might expose them all to capture or death.

On reaching the appointed place of rendezvous, at Darksville, Stuart issued an address in which he advised his followers that the enterprise in which they were to engage demanded the greatest coolness, decision, and courage, implicit obedience to orders, and the strictest order and sobriety. While the full purpose of the expedition must still be kept secret, he said, it was one in which success would reflect the highest credit on their arms. The seizure of private property in the State of Maryland was strictly prohibited, and it was to be done in Pennsylvania only under orders from the brigade commanders, individual plundering being strongly forbidden.

These preliminaries adjusted, the march northward began, the command being divided into three detachments of six hundred men each, under the direction of General Wade Hampton, Colonel W. H. F. Lee, and Colonel W. E. Jones. A battery of four guns accompanied the expedition. It was with high expectations that the men rode forward, the secrecy of the enterprise giving it an added zest. Most of them had followed Stuart in daring rides in the earlier months of that year, and all were ready to follow wherever he chose to lead.

Darkness had fallen when they reached Hedgesville, the point on the Potomac where it was designed to cross. Here they bivouacked for the night, a select party of some thirty men being sent across the river, their purpose being to capture the Federal picket on the Maryland side. In this they failed, but the picket was cut off from its reserve, so that the fugitives were not able to report the attack. Day had not dawned when all the men were in their saddles, and as soon as word of the result of the night's enterprise was received, the foremost troops plunged into the river and the crossing began. It was completed without difficulty, and Colonel Butler, leading the advance, rode briskly forward to the National turnpike which joins Hancock and Hagerstown.

Along this road, a few hours before, General Cox's division of Federal infantry had passed, Butler coming so close to his rear that the stragglers were captured. But a heavy fog covered the valley and hid all things from sight, so that Cox continued his march in ignorance that a strong body of Confederate cavalry was so close upon his track. On Fairview Heights, near the road, was a Federal signal-station, which a squad was sent to capture. The two officers in charge of it escaped, but two privates and all its equipments were taken.

Yet, despite all efforts at secrecy, the march had not gone on unseen. A citizen had observed the crossing and reported it to Captain Logan of the Twelfth Illinois Cavalry, and the news spread with much rapidity. But there was no strong force of cavalry available to check the movement, and Stuart's braves passed steadily forward unopposed. Their line of march was remote from telegraph or railroad, and the Pennsylvania farmers, who did not dream of the war invading their fields, were stricken with consternation when Stuart's bold riders crossed Mason and Dixon's line and appeared on their soil.

It was hard for them to believe it. One old gentleman, whose sorrel mare was taken from his cart, protested bitterly, saying that orders from Washington had forbidden the impressment of horses, and threatening the vengeance of the government on the supposed Federal raiders. A shoe merchant at Mercersburg completely equipped Butler's advance guard with foot-wear, and was sadly surprised when paid with a receipt calling on the Federal government to pay for damages. While nothing was disturbed in Maryland, horses were diligently seized in Pennsylvania, the country on both sides of the line of march being swept clean of its farm animals. Ladies on the road, however, were not molested, and the men were strictly prohibited from seizing private property—even from taking provisions for themselves.

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