The pursuit of David Driscoll and the fellow who was with him when Campbell was killed, is still going on with great activity. More than a hundred men are traversing the country in different directions, determined that no lurking-place shall hide them. In the mean time various persons who have the reputation of being confederates of horse-thieves, not only in Ogle county, but in the adjoining ones, even in this, have received notice from the regulators that they cannot be allowed to remain in this part of the state. Several suspicious-looking men, supposed to be fugitives from Ogle county, have been seen, within a few days past, lurking in the woods not far from this place. One of them who was seen the day before yesterday evidently thought himself pursued and slunk from sight; he was followed, but escaped in the thickets leaving a bundle of clothing behind him.
Samonok, Kane County, Illinois, July 5th.
I have just heard that another of the Driscolls has been shot by the regulators. Whether it was David, who fired at Campbell, or one of his brothers, I can not learn.
Richmond in Virginia.
Richmond, Virginia, March 2, 1843.
I arrived at this place last night from Washington, where I had observed little worth describing. The statue of our first President, by Greenough, was, of course, one of the things which I took an early opportunity of looking at, and although the bad light in which it is placed prevents the spectator from properly appreciating the features, I could not help seeing with satisfaction, that no position, however unfavorable, could impair the majesty of that noble work, or, at all events, destroy its grand general effect.
The House of Representatives I had not seen since 1832, and I perceived that the proceedings were conducted with less apparent decorum than formerly, and that the members no longer sat with their hats on. Whether they had come to the conclusion that it was well to sit uncovered, in order to make up, by this token of mutual respect, for the too frequent want of decorum in their proceedings, or whether the change has been made because it so often happens that all the members are talking together, the rule being that the person speaking must be bareheaded, or whether, finally, it was found, during the late long summer sessions, that a hat made the wearer really uncomfortable, are questions which I asked on the spot, but to which I got no satisfactory answer. I visited the Senate Chamber, and saw a member of that dignified body, as somebody calls it, in preparing to make a speech, blow his nose with his thumb and finger without the intervention of a pocket-handkerchief. The speech, after this graceful preliminary, did not, I confess, disappoint me.
Whoever goes to Washington should by all means see the Museum at the Patent Office, enriched by the collections lately brought back by the expedition sent out to explore the Pacific. I was surprised at the extent and variety of these collections. Dresses, weapons, and domestic implements of savage nations, in such abundance as to leave, one would almost think, their little tribes disfurnished; birds of strange shape and plumage; fishes of remote waters; whole groves of different kinds of coral; sea-shells of rare form and singular beauty from the most distant shores; mummies from the caves of Peru; curious minerals and plants: whoever is interested by such objects as these should give the museum a more leisurely examination than I had time to do. The persons engaged in arranging and putting up these collections were still at their task when I was at Washington, and I learned that what I saw was by no means the whole.
The night before we set out, snow fell to the depth of three inches, and as the steamboat passed down the Potomac, we saw, at sunrise, the grounds of Mount Vernon lying in a covering of the purest white, the snow, scattered in patches on the thick foliage of cedars that skirt the river, looking like clusters of blossoms. About twelve, the steamboat came to land, and the railway took us through a gorge of the woody hills that skirt the Potomac. In about an hour, we were at Fredericksburg, on the Rappahannock. The day was bright and cold, and the wind keen and cutting. A crowd of negroes came about the cars, with cakes, fruit, and other refreshments. The poor fellows seemed collapsed with the unusual cold; their faces and lips were of the color which drapers call blue-black.
As we proceeded southward in Virginia, the snow gradually became thinner and finally disappeared altogether. It was impossible to mistake the region in which we were. Broad inclosures were around us, with signs of extensive and superficial cultivation; large dwellings were seen at a distance from each other, and each with its group of smaller buildings, looking as solitary and chilly as French chateaus; and, now and then, we saw a gang of negroes at work in the fields, though oftener we passed miles without the sight of a living creature. At six in the afternoon, we arrived at Richmond.
A beautiful city is Richmond, seated on the hills that overlook the James River. The dwellings have a pleasant appearance, often standing by themselves in the midst of gardens. In front of several, I saw large magnolias, their dark, glazed leaves glittering in the March sunshine. The river, as yellow as the Tiber, its waters now stained with the earth of the upper country, runs by the upper part of the town in noisy rapids, embracing several islands, shaded with the plane-tree, the hackberry, and the elm, and prolific, in spring and summer, of wild-flowers. I went upon one of these islands, by means of a foot-bridge, and was pointed to another, the resort of a quoit-club comprising some of the most distinguished men of Richmond, among whom in his lifetime was Judge Marshall, who sometimes joined in this athletic sport. We descended one of the hills on which the town is built, and went up another to the east, where stands an ancient house of religious worship, the oldest Episcopal church in the state. It is in the midst of a burying-ground, where sleep some of the founders of the colony, whose old graves are greenly overgrown with the trailing and matted periwinkle. In this church, Patrick Henry, at the commencement of the American Revolution, made that celebrated speech, which so vehemently moved all who heard him, ending with the sentence: "Give me liberty or give me death." We looked in at one of the windows; it is a low, plain room, with small, square pews, and a sounding board over the little pulpit. From the hill on which this church stands, you have a beautiful view of the surrounding country, a gently undulating surface, closed in by hills on the west; and the James River is seen wandering through it, by distant plantations, and between borders of trees. A place was pointed out to us, a little way down the river, which bears the name of Powhatan; and here, I was told, a flat rock is still shown as the one on which Captain Smith was placed by his captors, in order to be put to death, when the intercession of Pocahontas saved his life.
I went with an acquaintance to see the inspection and sale of tobacco. Huge, upright columns of dried leaves, firmly packed and of a greenish hue, stood in rows, under the roof of a broad, low building, open on all sides—these were the hogsheads of tobacco, stripped of the staves. The inspector, a portly man, with a Bourbon face, his white hair gathered in a tie behind, went very quietly and expeditiously through his task of determining the quality, after which the vast bulks were disposed of, in a very short time, with surprisingly little noise, to the tobacco merchants. Tobacco, to the value of three millions of dollars annually, is sent by the planters to Richmond, and thence distributed to different nations, whose merchants frequent this mart. In the sales it is always sure to bring cash, which, to those who detest the weed, is a little difficult to understand.
I went afterwards to a tobacco factory, the sight of which amused me, though the narcotic fumes made me cough. In one room a black man was taking apart the small bundles of leaves of which a hogshead of tobacco is composed, and carefully separating leaf from leaf; others were assorting the leaves according to the quality, and others again were arranging the leaves in layers and sprinkling each layer with the extract of liquorice. In another room were about eighty negroes, boys they are called, from the age of twelve years up to manhood, who received the leaves thus prepared, rolled them into long even rolls, and then cut them into plugs of about four inches in length, which were afterwards passed through a press, and thus became ready for market. As we entered the room we heard a murmur of psalmody running through the sable assembly, which now and then swelled into a strain of very tolerable music.
"Verse sweetens toil—"
says the stanza which Dr. Johnson was so fond of quoting, and really it is so good that I will transcribe the whole of it—
"Verse sweetens toil, however rude the sound— All at her work the village maiden sings, Nor, while she turns the giddy wheel around, Revolves the sad vicissitudes of things."
Verse it seems can sweeten the toil of slaves in a tobacco factory.
"We encourage their singing as much as we can," said the brother of the proprietor, himself a diligent masticator of the weed, who attended us, and politely explained to us the process of making plug tobacco; "we encourage it as much as we can, for the boys work better while singing. Sometimes they will sing all day long with great spirit; at other times you will not hear a single note. They must sing wholly of their own accord, it is of no use to bid them do it."
"What is remarkable," he continued, "their tunes are all psalm tunes, and the words are from hymn-books; their taste is exclusively for sacred music; they will sing nothing else. Almost all these persons are church-members; we have not a dozen about the factory who are not so. Most of them are of the Baptist persuasion; a few are Methodists."
I saw in the course of the day the Baptist church in which these people worship, a low, plain, but spacious brick building, the same in which the sages of Virginia, a generation of great men, debated the provisions of the constitution. It has a congregation of twenty-seven hundred persons, and the best choir, I heard somebody say, in all Richmond. Near it is the Monumental church, erected on the site of the Richmond theatre, after the terrible fire which carried mourning into so many families.
In passing through an old part of Main-street, I was shown an ancient stone cottage of rude architecture and humble dimensions, which was once the best hotel in Richmond. Here, I was told, there are those in Richmond who remember dining with General Washington, Judge Marshall, and their cotemporaries. I could not help comparing it with the palace-like building put up at Richmond within two or three years past, named the Exchange Hotel, with its spacious parlors, its long dining-rooms, its airy dormitories, and its ample halls and passages, echoing to the steps of busy waiters, and guests coming and departing. The Exchange Hotel is one of the finest buildings for its purpose in the United States, and is extremely well-kept.
I paid a visit to the capitol, nobly situated on an eminence which overlooks the city, and is planted with trees. The statue of Washington, executed by Houdon for the state of Virginia, in 1788, is here. It is of the size of life, representing Gen. Washington in the costume of his day, and in an ordinary standing posture. It gratifies curiosity, but raises no particular moral emotion. Compared with the statue by Greenough, it presents a good example of the difference between the work of a mere sculptor—skillful indeed, but still a mere sculptor—and the work of a man of genius.
I shall shortly set out for Charleston, South Carolina.
A Journey from Richmond to Charleston.
Charleston, March 6, 1843.
I left Richmond, on the afternoon of a keen March day, in the railway train for Petersburg, where we arrived after dark, and, therefore, could form no judgment of the appearance of the town. Here we were transferred to another train of cars. Among the passengers was a lecturer on Mesmerism with his wife, and a young woman who accompanied them as a mesmeric subject. The young woman, accustomed to be easily put to sleep, seemed to get through the night very comfortably; but the spouse of the operator appeared to be much disturbed by the frequent and capricious opening of the door by the other passengers, which let in torrents of intensely cold air from without, and chid the offenders with a wholesome sharpness.
About two o'clock in the morning, we reached Blakely on the Roanoke, where we were made to get out of the cars, and were marched in long procession for about a quarter of a mile down to the river. A negro walked before us to light our way, bearing a blazing pine torch, which scattered sparks like a steam-engine, and a crowd of negroes followed us, bearing our baggage. We went down a steep path to the Roanoke, where we found a little old steamboat ready for us, and in about fifteen minutes were struggling upward against the muddy and rapid current. In little more than an hour, we had proceeded two miles and a half up the river, and were landed at a place called Weldon. Here we took the cars for Wilmington, in North Carolina, and shabby vehicles they were, denoting our arrival in a milder climate, by being extremely uncomfortable for cold weather. As morning dawned, we saw ourselves in the midst of the pine forests of North Carolina. Vast tracts of level sand, overgrown with the long-leaved pine, a tall, stately tree, with sparse and thick twigs, ending in long brushes of leaves, murmuring in the strong cold wind, extended everywhere around us. At great distances from each other, we passed log-houses, and sometimes a dwelling of more pretensions, with a piazza, and here and there fields in which cotton or maize had been planted last year, or an orchard with a few small mossy trees. The pools beside the roads were covered with ice just formed, and the negroes, who like a good fire at almost any season of the year, and who find an abundant supply of the finest fuel in these forests, had made blazing fires of the resinous wood of the pine, wherever they were at work. The tracts of sandy soil, we perceived, were interspersed with marshes, crowded with cypress-trees, and verdant at their borders with a growth of evergreens, such as the swamp-bay, the gallberry, the holly, and various kinds of evergreen creepers, which are unknown to our northern climate, and which became more frequent as we proceeded.
We passed through extensive forests of pine, which had been boxed, as it is called, for the collection of turpentine. Every tree had been scored by the axe upon one of its sides, some of them as high as the arm could reach down to the roots, and the broad wound was covered with the turpentine, which seems to saturate every fibre of the long-leaved pine. Sometimes we saw large flakes or crusts of the turpentine of a light-yellow color, which had fallen, and lay beside the tree on the ground. The collection of turpentine is a work of destruction; it strips acre after acre of these noble trees, and, if it goes on, the time is not far distant when the long-leaved pine will become nearly extinct in this region, which is so sterile as hardly to be fitted for producing any thing else. We saw large tracts covered with the standing trunks of trees already killed by it; and other tracts beside them had been freshly attacked by the spoiler. I am told that the tree which grows up when the long-leaved pine is destroyed, is the loblolly pine, or, as it is sometimes called, the short-leaved pine, a tree of very inferior quality and in little esteem.
About half-past two in the afternoon, we came to Wilmington, a little town built upon the white sands of Cape Fear, some of the houses standing where not a blade of grass or other plant can grow. A few evergreen oaks, in places, pleasantly overhang the water. Here we took the steamer for Charleston.
I may as well mention here a fraud which is sometimes practiced upon those who go by this route to Charleston. Advertisements are distributed at New York and elsewhere, informing the public that the fare from Baltimore to Charleston, by the railway through Washington and Richmond, is but twenty-two dollars. I took the railway, paying from place to place as I went, and found that this was a falsehood; I was made to pay seven or eight dollars more. In the course of my journey, I was told that, to protect myself from this imposition, I should have purchased at Baltimore a "through ticket," as it is called; that is, should have paid in advance for the whole distance; but the advertisement did not inform me that this was necessary. No wonder that "tricks upon travellers" should have become a proverbial expression, for they are a much-enduring race, more or less plundered in every part of the world.
The next morning, at eight o'clock, we found ourselves entering Charleston harbor; Sullivan's Island, with Fort Moultrie, breathing recollections of the revolution, on our right; James Island on our left; in front, the stately dwellings of the town, and all around, on the land side, the horizon bounded by an apparent belt of evergreens—the live-oak, the water-oak, the palmetto, the pine, and, planted about the dwellings, the magnolia and the wild orange—giving to the scene a summer aspect. The city of Charleston strikes the visitor from the north most agreeably. He perceives at once that he is in a different climate. The spacious houses are surrounded with broad piazzas, often a piazza to each story, for the sake of shade and coolness, and each house generally stands by itself in a garden planted with trees and shrubs, many of which preserve their verdure through the winter. We saw early flowers already opening; the peach and plum-tree were in full bloom; and the wild orange, as they call the cherry-laurel, was just putting forth its blossoms. The buildings—some with stuccoed walls, some built of large dark-red bricks, and some of wood—are not kept fresh with paint like ours, but are allowed to become weather-stained by the humid climate, like those of the European towns. The streets are broad and quiet, unpaved in some parts, but in none, as with us, offensive both to sight and smell. The public buildings are numerous for the size of the city, and well-built in general, with sufficient space about them to give them a noble aspect, and all the advantage which they could derive from their architecture. The inhabitants, judging from what I have seen of them, which is not much, I confess, do not appear undeserving of the character which has been given them, of possessing the most polished and agreeable manners of all the American cities.
I may shortly write you again from the interior of South Carolina.
The Interior of South Carolina. A Corn-Shucking.
Barnwell District, South Carolina, March 29, 1843.
Since I last wrote, I have passed three weeks in the interior of South Carolina; visited Columbia, the capital of the state, a pretty town; roamed over a considerable part of Barnwell district, with some part of the neighboring one of Orangeburg; enjoyed the hospitality of the planters—very agreeable and intelligent men; been out in a racoon hunt; been present at a corn-shucking; listened to negro ballads, negro jokes, and the banjo; witnessed negro dances; seen two alligators at least, and eaten bushels of hominy.
Whoever comes out on the railroad to this district, a distance of seventy miles or more, if he were to judge only by what he sees in his passage, might naturally take South Carolina for a vast pine-forest, with here and there a clearing made by some enterprising settler, and would wonder where the cotton which clothes so many millions of the human race, is produced. The railway keeps on a tract of sterile sand, overgrown with pines; passing, here and there, along the edge of a morass, or crossing a stream of yellow water. A lonely log-house under these old trees, is a sight for sore eyes; and only two or three plantations, properly so called, meet the eye in the whole distance. The cultivated and more productive lands lie apart from this tract, near streams, and interspersed with more frequent ponds and marshes. Here you find plantations comprising several thousands of acres, a considerable part of which always lies in forest; cotton and corn fields of vast extent, and a negro village on every plantation, at a respectful distance from the habitation of the proprietor. Evergreen trees of the oak family and others, which I mentioned in my last letter, are generally planted about the mansions. Some of them are surrounded with dreary clearings, full of the standing trunks of dead pines; others are pleasantly situated in the edge of woods, intersected by winding paths. A ramble, or a ride—a ride on a hand-gallop it should be—in these pine woods, on a fine March day, when the weather has all the spirit of our March days without its severity, is one of the most delightful recreations in the world. The paths are upon a white sand, which, when not frequently travelled, is very firm under foot; on all sides you are surrounded by noble stems of trees, towering to an immense height, from whose summits, far above you, the wind is drawing deep and grand harmonies; and often your way is beside a marsh, verdant with magnolias, where the yellow jessamine, now in flower, fills the air with fragrance, and the bamboo-briar, an evergreen creeper, twines itself with various other plants, which never shed their leaves in winter. These woods abound in game, which, you will believe me when I say, I had rather start than shoot,—flocks of turtle-doves, rabbits rising and scudding before you; bevies of quails, partridges they call them here, chirping almost under your horse's feet; wild ducks swimming in the pools, and wild turkeys, which are frequently shot by the practiced sportsman.
But you must hear of the corn-shucking. The one at which I was present was given on purpose that I might witness the humors of the Carolina negroes. A huge fire of light-wood was made near the corn-house. Light-wood is the wood of the long-leaved pine, and is so called, not because it is light, for it is almost the heaviest wood in the world, but because it gives more light than any other fuel. In clearing land, the pines are girdled and suffered to stand; the outer portion of the wood decays and falls off; the inner part, which is saturated with turpentine, remains upright for years, and constitutes the planter's provision of fuel. When a supply is wanted, one of these dead trunks is felled by the axe. The abundance of light-wood is one of the boasts of South Carolina. Wherever you are, if you happen to be chilly, you may have a fire extempore; a bit of light-wood and a coal give you a bright blaze and a strong heat in an instant. The negroes make fires of it in the fields where they work; and, when the mornings are wet and chilly, in the pens where they are milking the cows. At a plantation, where I passed a frosty night, I saw fires in a small inclosure, and was told by the lady of the house that she had ordered them to be made to warm the cattle.
The light-wood fire was made, and the negroes dropped in from the neighboring plantations, singing as they came. The driver of the plantation, a colored man, brought out baskets of corn in the husk, and piled it in a heap; and the negroes began to strip the husks from the ears, singing with great glee as they worked, keeping time to the music, and now and then throwing in a joke and an extravagant burst of laughter. The songs were generally of a comic character; but one of them was set to a singularly wild and plaintive air, which some of our musicians would do well to reduce to notation. These are the words:
Johnny come down de hollow. Oh hollow! Johnny come down de hollow. Oh hollow! De nigger-trader got me. Oh hollow! De speculator bought me. Oh hollow! I'm sold for silver dollars. Oh hollow! Boys, go catch de pony. Oh hollow! Bring him round de corner. Oh hollow! I'm goin' away to Georgia. Oh hollow! Boys, good-by forever! Oh hollow!
The song of "Jenny gone away," was also given, and another, called the monkey-song, probably of African origin, in which the principal singer personated a monkey, with all sorts of odd gesticulations, and the other negroes bore part in the chorus, "Dan, dan, who's de dandy?" One of the songs, commonly sung on these occasions, represents the various animals of the woods as belonging to some profession or trade. For example—
De cooter is de boatman—
The cooter is the terrapin, and a very expert boatman he is.
De cooter is de boatman. John John Crow. De red-bird de soger. John John Crow. De mocking-bird de lawyer. John John Crow. De alligator sawyer. John John Crow.
The alligator's back is furnished with a toothed ridge, like the edge of a saw, which explains the last line.
When the work of the evening was over the negroes adjourned to a spacious kitchen. One of them took his place as musician, whistling, and beating time with two sticks upon the floor. Several of the men came forward and executed various dances, capering, prancing, and drumming with heel and toe upon the floor, with astonishing agility and perseverance, though all of them had performed their daily tasks and had worked all the evening, and some had walked from four to seven miles to attend the corn-shucking. From the dances a transition was made to a mock military parade, a sort of burlesque of our militia trainings, in which the words of command and the evolutions were extremely ludicrous. It became necessary for the commander to make a speech, and confessing his incapacity for public speaking, he called upon a huge black man named Toby to address the company in his stead. Toby, a man of powerful frame, six feet high, his face ornamented with a beard of fashionable cut, had hitherto stood leaning against the wall, looking upon the frolic with an air of superiority. He consented, came forward, demanded a bit of paper to hold in his hand, and harangued the soldiery. It was evident that Toby had listened to stump-speeches in his day. He spoke of "de majority of Sous Carolina," "de interests of de state," "de honor of ole Ba'nwell district," and these phrases he connected by various expletives, and sounds of which we could make nothing. A length he began to falter, when the captain with admirable presence of mind came to his relief, and interrupted and closed the harangue with an hurrah from the company. Toby was allowed by all the spectators, black and white, to have made an excellent speech.
The blacks of this region are a cheerful, careless, dirty race, not hard worked, and in many respects indulgently treated. It is, of course, the desire of the master that his slaves shall be laborious; on the other hand it is the determination of the slave to lead as easy a life as he can. The master has power of punishment on his side; the slave, on his, has invincible inclination, and a thousand expedients learned by long practice. The result is a compromise in which each party yields something, and a good-natured though imperfect and slovenly obedience on one side, is purchased by good treatment on the other. I have been told by planters that the slave brought from Africa is much more serviceable, though more high-spirited and dangerous than the slave born in this country, and early trained to his condition.
I have been impatiently waiting the approach of spring, since I came to this state, but the weather here is still what the inhabitants call winter. The season, I am told, is more than three weeks later than usual. Fields of Indian corn which were planted in the beginning of March, must be replanted, for the seed has perished in the ground, and the cotton planting is deferred for fine weather. The peach and plum trees have stood in blossom for weeks, and the forest trees, which at this time are usually in full foliage, are as bare as in December. Cattle are dying in the fields for want of pasture.
I have thus had a sample of the winter climate of South Carolina. If never more severe or stormy than I have already experienced, it must be an agreeable one. The custom of sitting with open doors, however, I found a little difficult to like at first. A door in South Carolina, except perhaps the outer door of a house, is not made to shut. It is merely a sort of flapper, an ornamental appendage to the opening by which you enter a room, a kind of moveable screen made to swing to and fro, but never to be secured by a latch, unless for some purpose of strict privacy. A door is the ventilator to the room; the windows are not raised except in warm weather, but the door is kept open at all seasons. On cold days you have a bright fire of pine-wood blazing before you, and a draught of cold air at your back. The reason given for this practice is, that fresh air is wholesome, and that close rooms occasion colds and consumptions.
Picolata, East Florida, April 7, 1843.
As I landed at this place, a few hours since, I stepped into the midst of summer. Yesterday morning when I left Savannah, people were complaining that the winter was not over. The temperature which, at this time of the year, is usually warm and genial, continued to be what they called chilly, though I found it agreeable enough, and the showy trees, called the Pride of India, which are planted all over the city, and are generally in bloom at this season, were still leafless. Here I find every thing green, fresh, and fragrant, trees and shrubs in full foliage, and wild roses in flower. The dark waters of the St. John's, one of the noblest streams of the country, in depth and width like the St. Lawrence, draining almost the whole extent of the peninsula, are flowing under my window. On the opposite shore are forests of tall trees, bright in the new verdure of the season. A hunter who has ranged them the whole day, has just arrived in a canoe, bringing with him a deer, which he has killed. I have this moment returned from a ramble with my host through a hammock, he looking for his cows, and I, unsuccessfully, for a thicket of orange-trees. He is something of a florist, and gathered for me, as we went, some of the forest plants, which were in bloom. "We have flowers here," said he, "every month in the year."
I have used the word hammock, which here, in Florida, has a peculiar meaning. A hammock is a spot covered with a growth of trees which require a richer soil than the pine, such as the oak, the mulberry, the gum-tree, the hickory, &c. The greater part of East Florida consists of pine barrens—a sandy level, producing the long leaved pine and the dwarf palmetto, a low plant, with fan-like leaves, and roots of a prodigious size. The hammock is a kind of oasis, a verdant and luxuriant island in the midst of these sterile sands, which make about nine-tenths of the soil of East Florida. In the hammocks grow the wild lime, the native orange, both sour and bitter-sweet, and the various vines and gigantic creepers of the country. The hammocks are chosen for plantations; here the cane is cultivated, and groves of the sweet orange planted. But I shall say more of Florida hereafter, when I have seen more of it. Meantime let me speak of my journey hither.
I left Charleston on the 30th of March, in one of the steamers which ply between that city and Savannah. These steamers are among the very best that float—quiet, commodious, clean, fresh as if just built, and furnished with civil and ready-handed waiters. We passed along the narrow and winding channels which divide the broad islands of South Carolina from the main-land—islands famed for the rice culture, and particularly for the excellent cotton with long fibres, named the sea-island cotton. Our fellow-passengers were mostly planters of these islands, and their families, persons of remarkably courteous, frank, and agreeable manners. The shores on either side had little of the picturesque to show us. Extensive marshes waving with coarse water-grass, sometimes a cane-brake, sometimes a pine grove or a clump of cabbage-leaved palmettoes; here and there a pleasant bank bordered with live-oaks streaming with moss, and at wide intervals the distant habitation of a planter—these were the elements of the scenery. The next morning early we were passing up the Savannah river, and the city was in sight, standing among its trees on a high bank of the stream.
Savannah is beautifully laid out; its broad streets are thickly planted with the Pride of India, and its frequent open squares shaded with trees of various kinds. Oglethorpe seems to have understood how a city should be built in a warm climate, and the people of the place are fond of reminding the stranger that the original plan of the founder has never been departed from. The town, so charmingly embowered, reminded me of New Haven, though the variety of trees is greater. In my walks about the place I passed a large stuccoed building of a dull-yellow color, with broad arched windows, and a stately portico, on each side of which stood a stiff looking palmetto, as if keeping guard. The grim aspect of the building led me to ask what it was, and I was answered that it was "the old United States Bank," It was the building in which the Savannah branch of that bank transacted business, and is now shut up until the time shall come when that great institution shall be revived. Meantime I was pained to see that there exists so little reverence for its memory, and so little gratitude for its benefits, that the boys have taken to smashing the windows, so that those who have the care of the building have been obliged to cover them with plank. In another part of the city I was shown an African church, a neat, spacious wooden building, railed in, and kept in excellent order, with a piazza extending along its entire front. It is one of the four places of worship for the blacks of the town, and was built by negro workmen with materials purchased by the contributions of the whites.
South of the town extends an uninclosed space, on one side of which is a pleasant grove of pines, in the shade of which the members of a quoit-club practice their athletic sport. Here on a Saturday afternoon, for that is their stated time of assembling, I was introduced to some of the most distinguished citizens of Savannah, and witnessed the skill with which they threw the discus. No apprentices were they in the art; there was no striking far from the stake, no sending the discus rolling over the green; they heaped the quoits as snugly around the stakes as if the amusement had been their profession.
In the same neighborhood, just without the town, lies the public cemetery surrounded by an ancient wall, built before the revolution, which in some places shows the marks of shot fired against it in the skirmishes of that period. I entered it, hoping to find some monuments of those who founded the city a hundred and ten years ago, but the inscriptions are of comparatively recent date. Most of them commemorate the death of persons born in Europe, or the northern states. I was told that the remains of the early inhabitants lie in the brick tombs, of which there are many without any inscription whatever.
At a little distance, near a forest, lies the burial-place of the black population. A few trees, trailing with long moss, rise above hundreds of nameless graves, overgrown with weeds; but here and there are scattered memorials of the dead, some of a very humble kind, with a few of marble, and half a dozen spacious brick tombs like those in the cemetery of the whites. Some of them are erected by masters and mistresses to the memory of favorite slaves. One of them commemorates the death of a young woman who perished in the catastrophe of the steamer Pulaski, of whom it is recorded, that during the whole time that she was in the service of her mistress, which was many years, she never committed a theft, nor uttered a falsehood. A brick monument, in the shape of a little tomb, with a marble slab inserted in front, has this inscription:
"In memory of Henrietta Gatlin, the infant stranger, born in East Florida, aged 1 year 3 months."
A graveyard is hardly the place to be merry in, but I could not help smiling at some of the inscriptions. A fair upright marble slab commemorates the death of York Fleming, a cooper, who was killed by the explosion of a powder-magazine, while tightening the hoops of a keg of powder. It closes with this curious sentence:
"This stone was erected by the members of the Axe Company, Coopers and Committee of the 2nd African Church of Savannah for the purpose of having a Herse for benevolent purposes, of which he was the first sexton."
A poor fellow, who went to the other world by water, has a wooden slab to mark his grave, inscribed with these words:
"Sacred to the memory of Robert Spencer who came to his Death by A Boat, July 9th, 1840, aged 21 years.
Reader as you am now so once I And as I am now so Mus you be Shortly. Amen."
Another monument, after giving the name of the dead, has this sentence:
"Go home Mother dry up your weeping tears. Gods will be done."
Another, erected to Sarah Morel, aged six months, has this ejaculation:
"Sweet withered lilly farewell."
One of the monuments is erected to Andrew Bryan, a black preacher, of the Baptist persuasion. A long inscription states that he was once imprisoned "for preaching the Gospel, and, without ceremony, severely whipped;" and that, while undergoing the punishment, "he told his persecutors that he not only rejoiced to be whipped, but was willing to suffer death for the cause of Christ." He died in 1812, at the age of ninety-six; his funeral, the inscription takes care to state, was attended by a large concourse of people, and adds:
"An address was delivered at his death by the Rev. Mr. Johnson, Dr. Kollock, Thomas Williams, and Henry Cunningham."
While in Savannah, I paid a visit to Bonaventure, formerly a country seat of Governor Tatnall, but now abandoned. A pleasant drive of a mile or two, through a budding forest, took us to the place, which is now itself almost grown up into forest. Cedars and other shrubs hide the old terraces of the garden, which is finely situated on the high bank of a river. Trees of various kinds have also nearly filled the space between the noble avenues of live-oaks which were planted around the mansion. But these oaks—never saw finer trees—certainly I never saw so many majestic and venerable trees together. I looked far down the immense arches that overshadowed the broad passages, as high as the nave of a Gothic cathedral, apparently as old, and stretching to a greater distance. The huge boughs were clothed with gray moss, yards in length, which clung to them like mist, or hung in still festoons on every side, and gave them the appearance of the vault of a vast vapory cavern. The cawing of the crow and the scream of the jay, however, reminded us that we were in the forest. Of the mansion there are no remains; but in the thicket of magnolias and other trees, among rosebushes and creeping plants, we found a burial-place with monuments of some persons to whom the seat had belonged.
Savannah is more healthy of late years than it formerly was. An arrangement has been made with the owners of the plantations in the immediate vicinity by which the culture of rice has been abandoned, and the lands are no longer allowed to be overflowed within a mile from the city. The place has since become much less subject to fevers than in former years.
I left, with a feeling of regret, the agreeable society of Savannah. The steamboat took us to St. Mary's, through passages between the sea-islands and the main-land, similar to those by which we had arrived at Savannah. In the course of the day, we passed a channel in which we saw several huge alligators basking on the bank. The grim creatures slid slowly into the water at our approach. We passed St. Mary's in the night, and in the morning we were in the main ocean, approaching the St. John's, where we saw a row of pelicans standing, like creatures who had nothing to do, on the sand. We entered the majestic river, the vast current of which is dark with the infusion of the swamp turf, from which it is drained. We passed Jacksonville, a little town of great activity, which has sprung up on the sandy bank within two or three years. Beyond, we swept by the mouth of the Black Creek, the water of which, probably from the color of the mud which forms the bed of its channel, has to the eye an ebony blackness, and reflects objects with all the distinctness of the kind of looking-glass called a black mirror. A few hours brought us to Picolata, lately a military station, but now a place with only two houses.
St. Augustine, East Florida, April 2, 1843.
When we left Picolata, on the 8th of April, we found ourselves journeying through a vast forest. A road of eighteen miles in length, over the level sands, brings you to this place. Tall pines, a thin growth, stood wherever we turned our eyes, and the ground was covered with the dwarf palmetto, and the whortleberry, which is here an evergreen. Yet there were not wanting sights to interest us, even in this dreary and sterile region. As we passed a clearing, in which we saw a young white woman and a boy dropping corn, and some negroes covering it with their hoes, we beheld a large flock of white cranes which rose in the air, and hovered over the forest, and wheeled, and wheeled again, their spotless plumage glistening in the sun like new-fallen snow. We crossed the track of a recent hurricane, which had broken off the huge pines midway from the ground, and whirled the summits to a distance from their trunks. From time to time we forded little streams of a deep-red color, flowing from the swamps, tinged, as we were told, with the roots of the red bay, a species of magnolia. As the horses waded into the transparent crimson, we thought of the butcheries committed by the Indians, on that road, and could almost fancy that the water was still colored with the blood they had shed.
The driver of our wagon told us many narratives of these murders, and pointed out the places where they were committed. He showed us where the father of this young woman was shot dead in his wagon as he was going from St. Augustine to his plantation, and the boy whom we had seen, was wounded and scalped by them, and left for dead. In another place he showed us the spot where a party of players, on their way to St. Augustine, were surprised and killed. The Indians took possession of the stage dresses, one of them arraying himself in the garb of Othello, another in that of Richard the Third, and another taking the costume of Falstaff. I think it was Wild Cat's gang who engaged in this affair, and I was told that after the capture of this chief and some of his warriors, they recounted the circumstances with great glee. At another place we passed a small thicket in which several armed Indians, as they afterward related, lay concealed while an officer of the United States army rode several times around it, without any suspicion of their presence. The same men committed, immediately afterward, several murders and robberies on the road.
At length we emerged upon a shrubby plain, and finally came in sight of this oldest city of the United States, seated among its trees on a sandy swell of land where it has stood for three hundred years. I was struck with its ancient and homely aspect, even at a distance, and could not help likening it to pictures which I had seen of Dutch towns, though it wanted a windmill or two, to make the resemblance perfect. We drove into a green square, in the midst of which was a monument erected to commemorate the Spanish constitution of 1812, and thence through the narrow streets of the city to our hotel.
I have called the streets narrow. In few places are they wide enough to allow two carriages to pass abreast. I was told that they were not originally intended for carriages, and that in the time when the town belonged to Spain, many of them were floored with an artificial stone, composed of shells and mortar, which in this climate takes and keeps the hardness of rock, and that no other vehicle than a hand-barrow was allowed to pass over them. In some places you see remnants of this ancient pavement, but for the most part it has been ground into dust under the wheels of the carts and carriages, introduced by the new inhabitants. The old houses, built of a kind of stone which is seemingly a pure concretion of small shells, overhang the streets with their wooden balconies, and the gardens between the houses are fenced on the side of the street with high walls of stone. Peeping over these walls you see branches of the pomegranate and of the orange-tree, now fragrant with flowers, and, rising yet higher, the leaning boughs of the fig, with its broad luxuriant leaves. Occasionally you pass the ruins of houses—walls of stone, with arches and staircases of the same material, which once belonged to stately dwellings. You meet in the streets with men of swarthy complexions and foreign physiognomy, and you hear them speaking to each other in a strange language. You are told that these are the remains of those who inhabited the country under the Spanish dominion, and that the dialect you have heard is that of the island of Minorca.
"Twelve years ago," said an acquaintance of mine, "when I first visited St. Augustine, it was a fine old Spanish town. A large proportion of the houses, which you now see roofed like barns, were then flat-roofed, they were all of shell-rock, and these modern wooden buildings were not yet erected. That old fort, which they are now repairing, to fit it for receiving a garrison, was a sort of ruin, for the outworks had partly fallen, and it stood unoccupied by the military, a venerable monument of the Spanish dominion. But the orange-groves were the ornament and wealth of St. Augustine, and their produce maintained the inhabitants in comfort. Orange-trees, of the size and height of the pear-tree, often rising higher than the roofs of the houses, embowered the town in perpetual verdure. They stood so close in the groves that they excluded the sun and the atmosphere was at all times aromatic with their leaves and fruit, and in spring the fragrance of the flowers was almost oppressive."
These groves have now lost their beauty. A few years since, a severe frost killed the trees to the ground, and when they sprouted again from the roots, a new enemy made its appearance—an insect of the coccus family, with a kind of shell on its back, which enables it to withstand all the common applications for destroying insects, and the ravages of which are shown by the leaves becoming black and sere, and the twigs perishing. In October last, a gale drove in the spray from the ocean, stripping the trees, except in sheltered situations, of their leaves, and destroying the upper branches. The trunks are now putting out new sprouts and new leaves, but there is no hope of fruit for this year at least.
The old fort of St. Mark, now called Fort Marion, a foolish change of name, is a noble work, frowning over the Matanzas, which flows between St. Augustine and the island of St. Anastasia, and it is worth making a long journey to see. No record remains of its original construction, but it is supposed to have been erected about a hundred and fifty years since, and the shell-rock of which it is built is dark with time. We saw where it had been struck with cannon-balls, which, instead of splitting the rock, became imbedded and clogged among the loosened fragments of shell. This rock is, therefore, one of the best materials for a fortification in the world. We were taken into the ancient prisons of the fort—dungeons, one of which was dimly lighted by a grated window, and another entirely without light; and by the flame of a torch we were shown the half-obliterated inscriptions scrawled on the walls long ago by prisoners. But in another corner of the fort, we were taken to look at two secret cells, which were discovered a few years since, in consequence of the sinking of the earth over a narrow apartment between them. These cells are deep under ground, vaulted overhead, and without windows. In one of them a wooden machine was found, which some supposed might have been a rack, and in the other a quantity of human bones. The doors of these cells had been walled up and concealed with stucco, before the fort passed into the hands of the Americans.
"If the Inquisition," said the gentleman who accompanied us, "was established in Florida, as it was in the other American colonies of Spain, these were its secret chambers."
Yesterday was Palm Sunday, and in the morning I attended the services in the Catholic church. One of the ceremonies was that of pronouncing the benediction over a large pile of leaves of the cabbage-palm, or palmetto, gathered in the woods. After the blessing had been pronounced, the priest called upon the congregation to come and receive them. The men came forward first, in the order of their age, and then the women; and as the congregation consisted mostly of the descendants of Minorcans, Greeks, and Spaniards, I had a good opportunity of observing their personal appearance. The younger portion of the congregation had, in general, expressive countenances. Their forms, it appeared to me, were generally slighter than those of our people; and if the cheeks of the young women were dark, they had regular features and brilliant eyes, and finely formed hands. There is spirit, also, in this class, for one of them has since been pointed out to me in the streets, as having drawn a dirk upon a young officer who presumed upon some improper freedoms of behavior.
The services were closed by a plain and sensible discourse in English, from the priest, Mr. Rampon, a worthy and useful French ecclesiastic, on the obligation of temperance; for the temperance reform has penetrated even hither, and cold water is all the rage. I went again, the other evening, into the same church, and heard a person declaiming, in a language which, at first, I took to be Minorcan, for I could make nothing else of it. After listening for a few minutes, I found that it was a Frenchman preaching in Spanish, with a French mode of pronunciation which was odd enough. I asked one of the old Spanish inhabitants how he was edified by this discourse, and he acknowledged that he understood about an eighth part of it.
I have much more to write about this place, but must reserve it for another letter.
St. Augustine, April 24, 1843
You can not be in St. Augustine a day without hearing some of its inhabitants speak of its agreeable climate. During the sixteen days of my residence here, the weather has certainly been as delightful as I could imagine. We have the temperature of early June, as June is known in New York. The mornings are sometimes a little sultry, but after two or three hours, a fresh breeze comes in from the sea, sweeping through the broad piazzas and breathing in at the windows. At this season it comes laden with the fragrance of the flowers of the Pride of India, and sometimes of the orange-tree, and sometimes brings the scent of roses, now in full bloom. The nights are gratefully cool, and I have been told, by a person who has lived here many years, that there are very few nights in the summer when you can sleep without a blanket.
An acquaintance of mine, an invalid, who has tried various climates and has kept up a kind of running fight with Death for many years, retreating from country to country as he pursued, declares to me that the winter climate of St. Augustine is to be preferred to that of any part of Europe, even that of Sicily, and that it is better than the climate of the West Indies. He finds it genial and equable, at the same time that it is not enfeebling. The summer heats are prevented from being intense by the sea-breeze, of which I have spoken. I have looked over the work of Dr. Forry on the climate of the United States, and have been surprised to see the uniformity of climate which he ascribes to Key West. As appears by the observations he has collected, the seasons at that place glide into each other by the softest gradations, and the heat never, even in midsummer, reaches that extreme which is felt in higher latitudes of the American continent. The climate of Florida is in fact an insular climate; the Atlantic on the east and the Gulf of Mexico on the west, temper the airs that blow over it, making them cooler in summer and warmer in winter. I do not wonder, therefore, that it is so much the resort of invalids; it would be more so if the softness of its atmosphere and the beauty and serenity of its seasons were generally known. Nor should it be supposed that accommodations for persons in delicate health are wanting; they are in fact becoming better with every year, as the demand for them increases. Among the acquaintances whom I have made here, I remember many who, having come hither for the benefit of their health, are detained for life by the amenity of the climate. "It seems to me," said an intelligent gentleman of this class, the other day, "as if I could not exist out of Florida. When I go to the north, I feel most sensibly the severe extremes of the weather; the climate of Charleston itself, appears harsh to me."
Here at St. Augustine we have occasional frosts in the winter, but at Tampa Bay, on the western shore of the peninsula, no further from this place than from New York to Albany, the dew is never congealed on the grass, nor is a snow-flake ever seen floating in the air. Those who have passed the winter in that place, speak with a kind of rapture of the benignity of the climate. In that country grow the cocoa and the banana, and other productions of the West Indies. Persons who have explored Florida to the south of this, during the past winter, speak of having refreshed themselves with melons in January, growing where they had been self-sown, and of having seen the sugar-cane where it had been planted by the Indians, towering uncropped, almost to the height of the forest trees.
I must tell you, however, what was said to me by a person who had passed a considerable time in Florida, and had journeyed, as he told me, in the southern as well as the northern part of the peninsula, "That the climate is mild and agreeable," said he, "I admit, but the annoyance to which you are exposed from insects, counterbalances all the enjoyment of the climate. You are bitten by mosquitoes and gallinippers, driven mad by clouds of sand-flies, and stung by scorpions and centipedes. It is not safe to go to bed in southern Florida without looking between the sheets, to see if there be not a scorpion waiting to be your bed-fellow, nor to put on a garment that has been hanging up in your room, without turning it wrong side out, to see if a scorpion has not found a lodging in it." I have not, however, been incommoded at St. Augustine with these "varmint," as they call them at the south. Only the sand-flies, a small black midge, I have sometimes found a little importunate, when walking out in a very calm evening.
Of the salubrity of East Florida I must speak less positively, although it is certain that in St. Augustine emigrants from the north enjoy good health. The owners of the plantations in the neighborhood, prefer to pass the hot season in this city, not caring to trust their constitutions to the experiment of a summer residence in the country. Of course they are settled on the richest soils, and these are the least healthy. The pine barrens are safer; when not interspersed with marshes, the sandy lands that bear the pine are esteemed healthy all over the south. Yet there are plantations on the St. John's where emigrants from the north reside throughout the year. The opinion seems everywhere to prevail, and I believe there is good reason for it, that Florida, notwithstanding its low and level surface, is much more healthy than the low country of South Carolina and Georgia.
The other day I went out with a friend to a sugar plantation in the neighborhood of St. Augustine. As we rode into the inclosure we breathed the fragrance of young orange-trees in flower, the glossy leaves of which, green at all seasons, were trembling in the wind. A troop of negro children were at play at a little distance from the cabins, and one of them ran along with us to show us a grove of sour oranges which we were looking for. He pointed us to a copse in the middle of a field, to which we proceeded. The trees, which were of considerable size, were full of flowers, and the golden fruit was thick on the branches, and lay scattered on the ground below. I gathered a few of the oranges, and found them almost as acid as the lemon. We stopped to look at the buildings in which the sugar was manufactured. In one of them was the mill where the cane was crushed with iron rollers, in another stood the huge cauldrons, one after another, in which the juice was boiled down to the proper consistence; in another were barrels of sugar, of syrup—a favorite article of consumption in this city—of molasses, and a kind of spirits resembling Jamaica rum, distilled from the refuse of the molasses. The proprietor was absent, but three negroes, well-clad young men, of a very respectable appearance and intelligent physiognomy, one of whom was a distiller, were occupied about the buildings, and showed them to us. Near by in the open air lay a pile of sugar cane, of the ribbon variety, striped with red and white, which had been plucked up by the roots, and reserved for planting. The negroes of St. Augustine are a good-looking specimen of the race, and have the appearance of being very well treated. You rarely see a negro in ragged clothing, and the colored children, though slaves, are often dressed with great neatness. In the colored people whom I saw in the Catholic church, I remarked a more agreeable, open, and gentle physiognomy than I have been accustomed to see in that class. The Spanish race blends more kindly with the African, than does the English, and produces handsomer men and women.
I have been to see the quarries of coquina, or shell-rock, on the island of St. Anastasia, which lies between St. Augustine and the main ocean. We landed on the island, and after a walk of some distance on a sandy road through the thick shrubs, we arrived at some huts built of a frame-work of poles thatched with the radiated leaves of the dwarf palmetto, which had a very picturesque appearance. Here we found a circular hollow in the earth, the place of an old excavation, now shaded with red-cedars, and the palmetto-royal bristling with long pointed leaves, which bent over and embowered it, and at the bottom was a spring within a square curb of stone, where we refreshed ourselves with a draught of cold water. The quarries were at a little distance from this. The rock lies in the ridges, a little below the surface, forming a stratum of no great depth. The blocks are cut out with crowbars thrust into the rock. It is of a delicate cream color, and is composed of mere shells and fragments of shells, apparently cemented by the fresh water percolating through them and depositing calcareous matter brought from the shells above. Whenever there is any mixture of sand with the shells, rock is not formed.
Of this material the old fort of St. Mark and the greater part of the city are built. It is said to become harder when exposed to the air and the rain, but to disintegrate when frequently moistened with sea-water. Large blocks were lying on the shore ready to be conveyed to the fort, which is undergoing repairs. It is some consolation to know that this fine old work will undergo as little change in the original plan as is consistent with the modern improvements in fortification. Lieutenant Benham, who has the charge of the repairs, has strong antiquarian tastes, and will preserve as much as possible of its original aspect. It must lose its battlements, however, its fine mural crown. Battlements are now obsolete, except when they are of no use, as on the roofs of churches and Gothic cottages.
In another part of the same island, which we visited afterward, is a dwelling-house situated amid orange-groves. Closely planted rows of the sour orange, the native tree of the country, intersect and shelter orchards of the sweet orange, the lemon, and the lime. The trees were all young, having been planted since the great frost of 1835, and many of them still show the ravages of the gale of last October, which stripped them of their leaves.
"Come this way," said a friend who accompanied me. He forced a passage through a tall hedge of the sour orange, and we found ourselves in a little fragrant inclosure, in the midst of which was a tomb, formed of the artificial stone of which I have heretofore spoken. It was the resting-place of the former proprietor, who sleeps in this little circle of perpetual verdure. It bore no inscription. Not far from this spot, I was shown the root of an ancient palm-tree, the species that produces the date, which formerly towered over the island, and served as a sea-mark to vessels approaching the shore. Some of the accounts of St. Augustine speak of dates as among its fruits; but I believe that only the male tree of the date-palm has been introduced into the country.
On our return to the city, in crossing the Matanzas sound, so named probably from some sanguinary battle with the aborigines on its shores; we passed two Minorcans in a boat, taking home fuel from the island. These people are a mild, harmless race, of civil manners and abstemious habits. Mingled with them are many Greek families, with names that denote their origin, such as Geopoli, Cercopoli, &c., and with a cast of features equally expressive of their descent. The Minorcan language, the dialect of Mahon, el Mahones, as they call it, is spoken by more than half of the inhabitants who remained here when the country was ceded to the United States, and all of them, I believe, speak Spanish besides. Their children, however, are growing up in disuse of these languages, and in another generation the last traces of the majestic speech of Castile, will have been effaced from a country which the Spaniards held for more than two hundred years.
Some old customs which the Minorcans brought with them from their native country are still kept up. On the evening before Easter Sunday, about eleven o'clock, I heard the sound of a serenade in the streets. Going out, I found a party of young men, with instruments of music, grouped about the window of one of the dwellings, singing a hymn in honor of the Virgin in the Mahonese dialect. They began, as I was told, with tapping on the shutter. An answering knock within had told them that their visit was welcome, and they immediately began the serenade. If no reply had been heard they would have passed on to another dwelling. I give the hymn as it was kindly taken down for me in writing by a native of St. Augustine. I presume this is the first time that it has been put in print, but I fear the copy has several corruptions, occasioned by the unskillfulness of the copyist. The letter e, which I have put in italics, represents the guttural French e, or perhaps more nearly the sound of u in the word but. The sh of our language is represented by sc followed by an i or an e; the g both hard and soft has the same sound as in our language.
Disciarem lu dol, Cantarem anb' alagria, Y n'arem a da Las pascuas a Maria. O Maria!
Sant Grabiel, Qui portaba la anbasciada; Des nostre rey del cel Estarau vos prenada. Ya omiliada, Tu o vais aqui serventa, Fia del Deu contenta, Para fe lo que el vol. Disciarem lu dol, &c.
Y a milla nit, Pariguero vos regina; A un Deu infinit, Dintra una establina. Y a millo dia, Que los Angles van cantant Pau y abondant De la gloria de Deu sol. Disciarem lu dol, &c.
Y a Libalam, Alla la terra santa, Nu nat Jesus, Anb' alagria tanta. Infant petit Que tot lu mon salvaria; Y ningu y bastaria, Nu mes un Deu tot sol. Disciarem lu dol, &c.
Cuant d'Orien lus Tres reys la stralla veran, Deu omnipotent, Adora lo vingaran. Un present inferan, De mil encens y or, A lu beneit Seno, Que conesce cual se vol. Disciarem lu dol, &c.
Tot fu gayant Para cumpli lu prumas; Y lu Esperit sant De un angel fan gramas. Gran foc ences, Que crama lu curagia; Deu nos da lenguagia, Para fe lo que Deu vol. Disciarem lu dol, &c.
Cuant trespasa De quest mon nostra Senora, Al cel s'empugia Sun fil la matescia ora. O emperadora, Que del cel sou eligida! Lu rosa florida, Me resplanden que un sol. Disciarem lu dol, &c.
Y el tercer giorn Que Jesus resunta, Deu y Aboroma, Que la mort triumfa. De alli se balla Para perldra Lucife, An tot a seu peuda, Que de nostro ser el sol. Disciarem lu dol, &c
After this hymn, the following stanzas, soliciting the customary gift of cakes or eggs, are sung:
Ce set sois que vain cantant, Regina celastial! Dunus pan y alagria, Y bonas festas tingau. Yo vos dou sus bonas festas, Danaus dines de sus nous; Sempre tarem lus mans llestas Para recibi un grapat de ous.
Y el giorn de pascua florida Alagramos y giuntament; As qui es mort par darnos vida Ya viu gloriosament.
Aquesta casa esta empedrada, Bien halla que la empedro; Sun amo de aquesta casa Baldria duna un do. Furmagiada, o empanada, Cucutta o flao; Cual se vol cosa me grada, Sol que no me digas que no.
The shutters are then opened by the people within, and a supply of cheese-cakes, or other pastry, or eggs, is dropped into a bag carried by one of the party, who acknowledge the gift in the following lines, and then depart:
Aquesta casa esta empedrada, Empedrada de cuatro vens; Sun amo de aquesta casa, Es omo de compliment.
If nothing is given, the last line reads thus:
No es omo de compliment.
A Voyage from St. Augustine to Savannah.
Savannah, April 28, 1843.
On the morning of the 24th, we took leave of our good friends in St. Augustine, and embarked in the steamer for Savannah. Never were softer or more genial airs breathed out of the heavens than those which played around us as we ploughed the waters of the Matanzas Sound, passing under the dark walls of the old fort, and leaving it behind us, stood for the passage to the main ocean.
It is a common saying in St. Augustine, that "Florida is the best poor man's country in the world," and, truly, I believe that those who live on the shores of this sound find it so. Its green waters teem with life, and produce abundance of the finest fish,
"——— of shell or fin, And exquisitest name."
Clams are dug up on the pure sands along the beach, where the fishermen drag their boats ashore, and wherever the salt water dashes, there is an oyster, if he can find aught upon which to anchor his habitation. Along the edge of the marshes, next to the water, you see a row—a wall I should rather say—of oysters, apparently sprouting one out of another, as high as the tide flows. They are called here, though I do not know why, ratoon oysters. The abundance of fish solves the problem which has puzzled many, how the Minorcan population of St. Augustine live, now that their orange-trees, upon which they formerly depended, are unproductive.
In the steamboat were two or three persons who had visited Florida with a view of purchasing land. Now that the Indian war is ended, colonization has revived, and people are thronging into the country to take advantage of the law which assigns a hundred and sixty acres to every actual settler. In another year, the influx of population will probably be still greater, though the confusion and uncertainty which exists in regard to the title of the lands, will somewhat obstruct the settlement of the country. Before the Spanish government ceded it to the United States, they made numerous grants to individuals, intended to cover all the best land of the territory. Many of the lands granted have never been surveyed, and their situation and limits are very uncertain. The settler, therefore, if he is not very careful, may find his farm overlaid by an old Spanish claim.
I have said that the war is ended. Although the Seminole chief, Sam Jones, and about seventy of his people remain, the country is in profound peace from one end to the other, and you may traverse the parts most distant from the white settlements without the least danger or molestation from the Indians. "How is it," I asked one day of a gentleman who had long resided in St. Augustine, "that, after what has happened, you can think it safe to let these people remain?"
"It is perfectly safe," he answered. "Sam Jones professes, and I believe truly, to have had less to do with the murders which have been committed than the other chiefs, though it is certain that Dr. Perrine, whose death we so much lament, was shot at Indian Key by his men. Besides, he has a quarrel with one of the Seminole chiefs, whose relative he has killed, and if he were to follow them to their new country, he would certainly be put to death. It is his interest, therefore, to propitiate the favor of the whites by the most unexceptionable behavior, for his life depends upon being allowed to remain.
"There is yet another reason, which you will understand from what I am about to say. Before the war broke out, the Indians of this country, those very men who suddenly became so bloodthirsty and so formidable, were a quiet and inoffensive race, badly treated for the most part by the whites, and passively submitting to ill treatment without any appearance of feeling or spirit. When they at length resolved upon war, they concealed their families in the islands of the Everglades, whither they supposed the whites would never be able to follow them. Their rule of warfare was this, never to endanger the life of one of their warriors for the sake of gaining the greatest advantage over their enemies; they struck only when they felt themselves in perfect safety. If they saw an opportunity of destroying twenty white men by the sacrifice of a single Indian, the whites were allowed to escape. Acting on this principle, if their retreat had been as inaccessible as they supposed it, they would have kept up the warfare until they had driven the whites out of the territory.
"When, however, General Worth introduced a new method of prosecuting the war, following up the Indians with a close and perpetual pursuit, chasing them into their great shallow lake, the Everglades, and to its most secret islands, they saw at once that they were conquered. They saw that further hostilities were hopeless, and returned to their former submissive and quiet demeanor.
"It is well, perhaps," added my friend in a kind of postscript, "that a few Indians should remain in Florida. They are the best hunters of runaway slaves in the world, and may save us from a Maroon war."
The Indian name of the Everglades, I am told, signifies Grass-water, a term which well expresses its appearance. It is a vast lake, broader by thousands of acres in a wet than in a dry season, and so shallow that the grass everywhere grows from the bottom and overtops its surface The bottom is of hard sand, so firm that it can be forded almost everywhere on horseback, and here and there are deep channels which the traveller crosses by swimming his horse.
General Worth's success in quelling the insurrection of the Seminoles, has made him very popular in Florida, where the energy and sagacity with which the closing campaign of the war was conducted are spoken of in the highest terms. He has lately fixed his head-quarters at St Augustine.
In the afternoon, our steamer put in between two sandy points of land and we arrived at St Mary's, formerly a buccaneer settlement, but now so zealous for good order that our captain told us the inhabitants objected to his taking in wood for his steamboat on Sunday. The place is full of groves of the orange and lime—young trees which have grown up since 1835, and which, not having suffered, like those of St. Augustine, by the gale, I found beautifully luxuriant. In this place, it was my fate to experience the plague of sand-flies. Clouds of them came into the steamboat alighting on our faces and hands and stinging wherever they alighted. The little creatures got into our hair and into our eyes, and crawled up our sleeves and down our necks, giving us no rest, until late in the night the vessel left the wharf and stood out into the river, where the current of air swept most of our tormentors away.
The next morning, as we were threading the narrow channels by which the inland passage is made from St. Mary's to Savannah, we saw, from time to time, alligators basking on the banks. Some of our fellow-passengers took rifles and shot at them as we went by. The smaller ones were often killed, the larger generally took the rifle-balls upon their impenetrable backs, and walked, apparently unhurt, into the water. One of these monstrous creatures I saw receive his death-wound, having been fired at twice, the balls probably entering at the eyes. In his agony he dashed swiftly through the water for a little distance, and turning rushed with equal rapidity in the opposite direction, the strokes of his strong arms throwing half his length above the surface. The next moment he had turned over and lay lifeless, with his great claws upward. A sallow-complexioned man from Burke county, in Georgia, who spoke a kind of negro dialect, was one of the most active in this sport, and often said to the bystanders. "I hit the 'gator that time, I did." We passed where two of these huge reptiles were lying on the bank among the rank sedges, one of them with his head towards us. A rifle-ball from the steamer, struck the ground just before his face, and he immediately made for the water, dragging, with his awkward legs, a huge body of about fifteen feet in length. A shower of balls fell about him as he reached the river, but he paddled along with as little apparent concern as the steamboat we were in.
The tail of the alligator is said to be no bad eating, and the negroes are fond of it. I have heard, however, that the wife of a South Carolina cracker once declared her dislike of it in the following terms:
"Coon and collards is pretty good fixins, but 'gator and turnips I can't go, no how."
Collards, you will understand, are a kind of cabbage. In this country, you will often hear of long collards, a favorite dish of the planter.
Among the marksmen who were engaged in shooting alligators, were two or three expert chewers of the Indian weed—frank and careless spitters—who had never been disciplined by the fear of woman into any hypocritical concealment of their talent, or unmanly reserve in its exhibition. I perceived, from a remark which one of them let fall, that somehow they connected this accomplishment with high breeding. He was speaking of four negroes who were hanged in Georgia on a charge of murdering their owner.
"One of them," said he, "was innocent. They made no confession, but held up their heads, chawed their tobacco, and spit about like any gentlemen."
You have here the last of my letters from the south. Savannah, which I left wearing almost a wintry aspect, is now in the full verdure of summer. The locust-trees are in blossom; the water-oaks, which were shedding their winter foliage, are now thick with young and glossy leaves; the Pride of India is ready to burst into flower, and the gardens are full of roses in bloom.
An Excursion to Vermont and New Hampshire.
Addison County, Vermont, July 10, 1843.
I do not recollect that I ever heard the canal connecting the Hudson with Lake Champlain praised for its beauty, yet it is actually beautiful—that part of it at least which lies between Dunham's Basin and the lake, a distance of twenty-one miles, for of the rest I can not speak. To form the canal, two or three streams have been diverted a little from their original course, and led along a certain level in the valley through which they flowed to pour themselves into Champlain. In order to keep this level, a perpetually winding course has been taken, never, even for a few rods, approaching a straight line. On one side is the path beaten by the feet of the horses who drag the boats, but the other is an irregular bank, covered sometimes with grass and sometimes with shrubs or trees, and sometimes steep with rocks. I was delighted, on my journey to this place, to exchange a seat in a stage-coach, driven over the sandy and dusty road north of Saratoga by a sulky and careless driver, for a station on the top of the canal-packet. The weather was the finest imaginable; the air that blew over the fields was sweet with the odor of clover blossoms, and of shrubs in flower. A canal, they say, is but a ditch; but this was as unlike a ditch as possible; it was rather a gentle stream, winding in the most apparently natural meanders. Goldsmith could find no more picturesque epithet for the canals of Holland, than "slow;"
"The slow canal, the yellow blossomed vale—"
but if the canals of that country had been like this, I am sure he would have known how to say something better for them. On the left bank, grassed over to the water's edge, I saw ripe strawberries peeping out among the clover, and shortly afterward a young man belonging to the packet leaped on board from the other side with a large basket of very fine strawberries. "I gathered them," said he "down in the swamp; the swamp is full of them." We had them afterward with our tea.
Proceeding still further, the scenery became more bold. Steep hills rose by the side of the canal, with farm-houses scattered at their feet; we passed close to perpendicular precipices, and rocky shelves sprouting with shrubs, and under impending woods. At length, a steep broad mountain rose before us, its sides shaded with scattered trees and streaked with long horizontal lines of rock, and at its foot a cluster of white houses. This was Whitehall; and here the waters of the canal plunge noisily through a rocky gorge into the deep basin which holds the long and narrow Lake Champlain.
There was a young man on board who spoke English imperfectly, and whose accent I could not with certainty refer to any country or language with which I was acquainted. As we landed, he leaped on shore, and was surrounded at once by half a dozen persons chattering Canadian French. The French population of Canada has scattered itself along the shores of Lake Champlain for a third of the distance between the northern boundary of this state and the city of New York, and since the late troubles in Canada, more numerously than ever. In the hotel where I passed the night, most of the servants seemed to be emigrants from Canada.
Speaking of foreigners reminds me of an incident which occurred on the road between Saratoga Springs and Dunham's Basin. As the public coach stopped at a place called Emerson, our attention was attracted by a wagon-load of persons who had stopped at the inn, and were just resuming their journey. The father was a robust, healthy-looking man of some forty years of age; the mother a buxom dame; the children, some six or seven, of various ages, with flaxen hair, light-blue eyes, and broad ruddy cheeks. "They are Irish," said one of my fellow-passengers. I maintained on the contrary that they were Americans. "Git ap," said the man to his horses, pronouncing the last word very long. "Git ap; go 'lang." My antagonist in the dispute immediately acknowledged that I was right, for "git ap," and "go 'lang" could never have been uttered with such purity of accent by an Irishman. We learned on inquiry that they were emigrants from the neighborhood, proceeding to the Western Canal, to take passage for Michigan, where the residence of a year or two will probably take somewhat from the florid ruddiness of their complexions.
I looked down into the basin which contains the waters of the Champlain, lying considerably below the level on which Whitehall is built, and could not help thinking that it was scooped to contain a wider and deeper collection of waters. Craggy mountains, standing one behind the other, surround it on all sides, from whose feet it seems as if the water had retired; and here and there, are marshy recesses between the hills, which might once have been the bays of the lake. The Burlington, one of the model steamboats for the whole world, which navigates the Champlain, was lying moored below. My journey, however, was to be by land.
At seven o'clock in the morning we set out from Whitehall, in a strong wagon, to cross the mountainous country lying east of the lake. "Git ap," said our good-natured driver to his cattle, and we climbed and descended one rugged hill after another, passing by cottages which we were told were inhabited by Canadian French. We had a passenger from Essex county, on the west side of the lake, a lady who, in her enthusiastic love of a mountainous country, seemed to wish that the hills were higher; and another from the prairies of the western states, who, accustomed for many years to the easy and noiseless gliding of carriages over the smooth summer roads of that region, could hardly restrain herself from exclaiming at every step against the ruggedness of the country, and the roughness of the ways. A third passenger was an emigrant from Vermont to Chatauque county, in the state of New York, who was now returning on a visit to his native county, the hills of Vermont, and who entertained us by singing some stanzas of what he called the Michigan song, much in vogue, as he said, in these parts before he emigrated, eight years ago. Here is a sample:
"They talk about Vermont, They say no state's like that: 'Tis true the girls are handsome, The cattle too are fat. But who amongst its mountains Of cold and ice would stay, When he can buy paraira In Michigan-i-a?"
By "paraira" you must understand prairie. "It is a most splendid song," continued the singer. "It touches off one state after another. Connecticut, for example:"
"Connecticut has blue laws, And when the beer, on Sunday, Gets working in the barrel, They flog it well on Monday."
At Benson, in Vermont, we emerged upon a smoother country, a country of rich pastures, fields heavy with grass almost ready for the scythe, and thick-leaved groves of the sugar-maple and the birch. Benson is a small, but rather neat little village, with three white churches, all of which appear to be newly built. The surrounding country is chiefly fitted for the grazing of flocks, whose fleeces, however, just at present, hardly pay for the shearing.
An Excursion to Vermont and New Hampshire.
Keene, New Hampshire, July 13, 1843.
I resume my journey where I stopped short in my last, namely, on reaching Benson, in Vermont, among the highlands west of Lake Champlain. We went on through a pastoral country of the freshest verdure, where we saw large flocks of sheep grazing. From time to time we had glimpses of the summits of a long blue ridge of mountains to the east of us, and now and then the more varied and airy peaks of the mountains which lie to the west of the lake. They told me that of late years this part of the country had suffered much from the grasshoppers, and that last summer, in particular, these insects had made their appearance in immense armies, devouring the plants of the ground and leaving it bare of herbage. "They passed across the country," said one person to me, "like hail storms, ravaging it in broad stripes, with intervals between in which they were less numerous."
At present, however, whether it was the long and severe winter which did not fairly end till the close of April, or whether it was the uncommonly showery weather of the season hitherto, that destroyed these insects, in some early stage of their existence, I was told that there is now scarce a grasshopper in all these meadows and pastures. Everywhere the herbage was uncommonly luxuriant, and everywhere I saw the turf thickly sprinkled with the blossoms of the white clover, on the hill, in the valley, among rocks, by streams, by the road-side, and whenever the thinner shade of the woods allowed the plants of the field to take root. We might say of the white clover, with even more truth than Montgomery says of the daisy:—
"But this bold floweret climbs the hill, Hides in the forest, haunts the glen, Plays on the margin of the rill, Peeps o'er the fox's den."
All with whom I spoke had taken notice of the uncommon abundance of the white clover this year, and the idea seemed to prevail that it has its regular periods of appearing and disappearing,—remaining in the fields until it has taken up its nutriment in the soil, and then giving place to other plants, until they likewise had exhausted the qualities of the soil by which they were nourished. However this may be, its appearance this season in such profusion, throughout every part of the country which I have seen, is very remarkable. All over the highlands of Vermont and New Hampshire, in their valleys, in the gorges of their mountains, on the sandy banks of the Connecticut, the atmosphere for many a league is perfumed with the odor of its blossoms.
I passed a few days in the valley of one of those streams of northern Yermont, which find their way into Champlain. If I were permitted to draw aside the veil of private life, I would briefly give you the singular, and to me most interesting history of two maiden ladies who dwell in this valley. I would tell you how, in their youthful days, they took each other as companions for life, and how this union, no less sacred to them than the tie of marriage, has subsisted, in uninterrupted harmony, for forty years, during which they have shared each other's occupations and pleasures and works of charity while in health, and watched over each other tenderly in sicknesss; for sickness has made long and frequent visits to their dwelling. I could tell you how they slept on the same pillow and had a common purse, and adopted each other's relations, and how one of them, more enterprising and spirited in her temper than the other, might be said to represent the male head of the family, and took upon herself their transactions with the world without, until at length her health failed, and she was tended by her gentle companion, as a fond wife attends her invalid husband. I would tell you of their dwelling, encircled with roses, which now in the days of their broken health, bloom wild without their tendance, and I would speak of the friendly attentions which their neighbors, people of kind hearts and simple manners, seem to take pleasure in bestowing upon them, but I have already said more than I fear they will forgive me for, if this should ever meet their eyes, and I must leave the subject.
One day I had taken a walk with a farmer of the place, over his extensive and luxuriant pastures, and was returning by the road, when a well-made young fellow in a cap, with thick curly hair, carrying his coat on his arm, wearing a red sash round his waist, and walking at a brisk pace, overtook us. "Etes-vous Canadien?"—are you a Canadian? said my companion. "Un peu"—a little—was the dry answer. "Where are you going?" asked the farmer again, in English. "To Middlebury," replied he, and immediately climbed a fence and struck across a field to save an angle in the road, as if perfectly familiar with the country
"These Canadian French," said the farmer, "come swarming upon us in the summer, when we are about to begin the hay-harvest, and of late years they are more numerous than formerly. Every farmer here has his French laborer at this season, and some two or three. They are hardy, and capable of long and severe labor; but many of them do not understand a word of our language, and they are not so much to be relied upon as our own countrymen; they, therefore, receive lower wages."
"What do you pay them?"
"Eight dollars a month, is the common rate. When they leave your service, they make up their packs, and bring them for your inspection, that you may see that they have taken nothing which does not belong to them. I have heard of thefts committed by some of them, for I do not suppose that the best of the Canadians leave their homes for work, but I have always declined to examine their baggage when they quit my house."
A shower drove us to take shelter in a farm-house by the road. The family spoke with great sympathy of John, a young French Canadian, "a gentlemanly young fellow," they called him, who had been much in their family, and who had just come from the north, looking quite ill. He had been in their service every summer since he was a boy. At the approach of the warm weather, he annually made his appearance in rags, and in autumn he was dismissed, a sprucely-dressed lad, for his home.
On Sunday, as I went to church, I saw companies of these young Frenchmen, in the shade of barns or passing along the road; fellows of small but active persons, with thick locks and a lively physiognomy. The French have become so numerous in that region, that for them and the Irish, a Roman Catholic church has been erected in Middlebury, which, you know, is not a very large village.
On Monday morning, we took the stage-coach at Middlebury for this place. An old Quaker, in a broad-brimmed hat and a coat of the ancient cut, shaped somewhat like the upper shell of the tortoise, came to hand in his granddaughter, a middle-aged woman, whom he had that morning accompanied from Lincoln, a place about eighteen miles distant, where there is a Quaker neighborhood and a Quaker meeting-house. The denomination of Quakers seems to be dying out in the United States, like the Indian race; not that the families become extinct, but pass into other denominations. It is very common to meet with neighborhoods formerly inhabited by Quakers, in which there is not a trace of them left. Not far from Middlebury, is a village on a fine stream, called Quaker Village, with not a Quaker in it. Everywhere they are laying aside their peculiarities of costume, and in many instances, also, their peculiarities of speech, which are barbarous enough as they actually exist, though, if they would but speak with grammatical propriety, their forms of discourse are as commodious as venerable, and I would be content to see them generally adopted. I hope they will be slow to lay aside their better characteristics: their abhorrence of violence, and the peaceful and wholesome subjection in which, of all religious denominations, they seem to have best succeeded in holding the passions. In such remote and secluded neighborhoods as Lincoln, their sect will probably make the longest stand against the encroachments of the world. I perceived, however, that the old gentleman's son, who was with him, and, as I learned, was also a Quaker, had nothing peculiar in his garb.
Before sunset we were in sight of those magnificent mountain summits, the Pico, Killington Peak, and Shrewsbury Peak, rising in a deep ultra-marine blue among the clouds that rolled about them, for the day was showery. We were set down at Rutland, where we passed the night, and the next morning crossed the mountains by the passes of Clarendon and Shrewsbury. The clouds were clinging to the summits, and we travelled under a curtain of mist, upheld on each side by mountain-walls. A young woman of uncommon beauty, whose forefinger on the right hand was dotted all over with punctures of the needle, and who was probably a mantua-maker, took a seat in the coach for a short distance. We made some inquiries about the country, but received very brief, though good-natured answers, for the young lady was a confirmed stammerer. I thought of an epigram I had somewhere read, in which the poet complimented a lady who had this defect, by saying that the words which she wished to utter were reluctant to leave so beautiful a mouth, and lingered long about the pearly teeth and rosy lips.