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Englishman's Travels in America, AnHis Observations of Life and Manners in the Free and Slave States
Personal narrative and adventure has, of late years, become so interesting a subject in the mind of the British public, that the author feels he is not called upon to apologize for the production of the following pages.
It was his almost unremitting practice, during the four years he resided on the North American continent, to keep a record of what he considered of interest around him; not with a view to publishing the matter thus collected, for this was far from his thoughts at the time, but through a long contracted habit of dotting down transpiring events, for the future amusement, combined, perhaps, with instruction, of himself and friends. It therefore became necessary, to fit it for publication, to collate the accumulated memoranda, and select such portions only as might be supposed to prove interesting to the general reader. In doing this he has been careful to preserve the phraseology as much as possible, with a view to give, as far as he could, something like a literal transcript of the sentiments that gave rise to the original minutes, and avoid undue addition or interpolation.
It was the wish and intention of the writer, before leaving England, to extend his travels by visiting some of the islands in the Caribbean Sea, a course which he regrets not having been able to follow, from unforeseen circumstances, which are partially related in the following pages. He laments this the more, as it would have added considerably to the interest of the work, and enabled him to enlarge upon that fertile subject, the relative position at the time of the negro race in those islands, and the demoralized condition of their fellow-countrymen, under the iniquitous system of slavery, as authorized by statute law, in the southern states of America. As it was, he was enabled to travel through the most populous parts of the states of New York and Ohio, proceeding, _via_ Cincinnati, to the Missouri country; after a brief stay at St. Louis, taking the direct southern route down the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, to New Orleans in Louisiana, passing Natchez on the way. The whole tour comprising upwards of three thousand miles.
From New Orleans he crossed an arm of the Gulf of Mexico to the Floridas, and after remaining in that territory for a considerable time, and taking part under a sense of duty in a campaign (more to scatter than annihilate), against the Seminole and Cherokee tribes of Indians, who, in conjunction with numberless fugitive slaves, from the districts a hundred miles round, were devastating the settlements, and indiscriminately butchering the inhabitants, he returned to Tallahassee, taking stage at that town to Macon in the state of Georgia, and from thence by the Greensborough Railway to Charleston in South Carolina, sailing after rather a prolonged stay, from that port to England.
Some of the incidents related in the following pages will be found to bear upon, and tend forcibly to corroborate, the miseries so patiently endured by the African race, in a vaunted land of freedom and enlightenment, whose inhabitants assert, with ridiculous tenacity, that their government and laws are based upon the principle, "That all men in the sight of God are equal," and the wrongs of whose victims have of late been so touchingly and truthfully illustrated by that eminent philanthropist, Mrs. Stowe, to the eternal shame of the upholders of the system, and the fearful incubus of guilt and culpability that will render for ever infamous, if the policy is persisted in, the nationality of America.
Well may the benevolent Doctor Percival in his day have said, when writing on the iniquitous system of slave holding and traffic, that "Life and liberty with the powers of enjoyment dependent on them are the common and inalienable gifts of bounteous heaven. To seize them by force is rapine; to exchange for them the wares of Manchester or Birminghan is improbity, for it is to barter without reciprocal gain, to give the stones of the brook for the gold of Ophir."
Considering it unsafe to remain longer in this infected city, from the reports that the fever was gaining ground, I now made preparations for leaving New Orleans, and as I had made an engagement to manage the affairs of a gentleman in Florida, during his absence at Washington, I determined to proceed thither with the least possible delay. In furtherance of this object I made inquiries for a conveyance by water to St. Marks, giving the preference to steam. In this object I was, however, disappointed, and was obliged to take a passage on board a brig, about to sail for that obscure port. The vessel was towed down to the balize or mouth of the Mississippi, in company with two others, by a departing steamer, which had on board the mail for Bermuda and St. George's Island. Arrived at the balize, whose banks for several miles are overflowed by the sea, I saw a small fleet of vessels, some outward and some inward bound. Amongst these was a United States ship of war, of great beauty, carrying heavy guns. A boat from this vessel, in charge of an officer, boarded us, and delivered to the captain a sealed packet, which I understood to be a dispatch, addressed to General Taylor, the officer in command of the troops operating against the Indians in Florida.
The coast about the balize is low and swampy, and everywhere abounds in rush and cane brakes which give its sea-beach a desolate appearance. These morasses harbour thousands of alligators, whose roar had a singular effect as it rose above the breeze. Flocks of aquatic birds were to be seen on every side, the most numerous being the pelican, and a bird of the cotinga species, about the size of an English throstle, the plumage of which, being jet black and flamingo red, had a beautiful effect in the sunshine, as they flew or settled in thousands on the canes.
Our passage across the Gulf of Mexico was a favourable one, but when within forty miles of our destination, the vessel struck on a hidden sand-bank. The fog was so dense, that the captain had been mistaken in his reckoning, and had taken a wrong course. For a considerable time we were in great jeopardy, and every attempt to get the ship again afloat was unavailing; and, had not the weather been moderate, there is little doubt but that she would have been lost, and our lives placed in great peril. After some hours' exertion, during which an anchor was lost, and a quantity of iron thrown overboard, we had the satisfaction to find that the vessel was adrift. This was a great relief to us, for had a gale sprung up in the night, which was closing in, we must have taken to the boat, and abandoned the vessel, a perilous undertaking, from which we all felt too happy to have escaped. I was told by the captain that the coast here abounds with hidden sand-banks of the description we had encountered. This, perhaps, together with the poor harbour accommodation in Florida, accounts for the small size of the vessels which generally trade there.
The desolate look of the coast from the deck of the vessel, did not convey to my mind a very favourable impression of the country, and the hostile disposition of the Indians tended not a little to excite forebodings of evil, that at one time almost induced me to abandon my intention, and return to the north. These apprehensions were, however, allayed by the representations of the captain of the vessel, who stated that the Indians seldom attempted to molest armed parties, and that an understanding with the government was daily expected, through the recent capture of some important sachems or chiefs, under whose influence and leadership hostilities had been carried on. This information reassured me, and I determined to proceed, although I found afterwards that it was almost entirely a misrepresentation, which, however, I cannot believe was wilful, as the captain would have had me for a passenger on the return voyage.
I soon after landed in a boat from the shore. The bay or harbour of St. Marks is not attractive, neither is the town, which presents a desolate appearance. The houses or stores are chiefly of wood, painted white, the venetian blinds of the houses being green, as in most parts of the United States. The hotel-entrances were crowded with loungers, in snow-white clothing, large Leghorn or palmetto hats, and fancy-coloured shirts, who smoked cigars incessantly, and generally discussed with energy the inroads of the Indians, or other leading topics of the day. The houses are low and irregularly built, and the appearance of the whole place and its inhabitants, as far as I could see, wore a forbidding aspect, and was indicative of anything but prosperity.
My next stage was to Tallahassee by railroad, through a desolate-looking country, whose soil was sand, and whose vegetation looked stunted, presenting little to cheer the senses, or call forth remark; in fact, everything around told of a country whose centre is flourishing, but whose frontiers are a wilderness. Just before we started, a well-dressed negro, apparently a footman or butler, applied for a seat in the carriage. He was told by the station-keeper, that there was no conveyance for "niggers" this train, and he must wait for the following one. He at first disputed his right to refuse him a passage in the carriage, which roused the ire of the station-keeper, who threatened to kick him if he was not soon off. This seemed to awe him, for he quietly left the station, muttering, however, as he went, his intention of reporting the circumstance to Colonel Gambole. This caused me to make some inquiry about the colonel whose name he had mentioned, and who I learned was his master. I was also informed that no negroes in that district were so insolent, owing to the indulgence with which all his hands were treated. I could see, however, that the negro had different men to deal with here, and if he had not taken his departure, he would, without a doubt, have been kicked or felled to the ground, on the least further provocation—a course pursued without hesitation in cases where a negro assumes anything like equality in the south.
"The fragrant birch above him hung
Her tassels in the sky,
And many a vernal blossom sprung,
And nodded careless by.
But there was weeping far away;
And gentle eyes for him,
With watching many an anxious day,
Were sorrowful and dim."—BRYANT.
Florida, in which state I now found myself, is divided into East, West, and Middle. It is a wild extent of country, about 300 miles from north to south. The king of Spain held possession of the territory in 1810, but it was afterwards ceded by treaty to the Federal Government. It was discovered in 1497 by Sebastian Cabot. St. Augustine is the capital of East, and Pensacola of West, Florida. This country is, for the most part, a howling wilderness, and is never likely to become thickly populated. The dreary pine-barrens and sand-hills are slightly undulating, and are here and there thickly matted with palmetto.
In pursuance of my original design, I had now to penetrate nearly a hundred miles into the interior; and, as the Indians and fugitive negroes were scouring that part of the country in hostile bands, I contemplated this part of my route with no little anxiety. I determined, however, to proceed. The journey lay through a wild country, intersected with streams and rivers, every one of which swarmed with alligators. This, although not a very pleasant reflection, did not trouble me much, as I had by this time become acquainted with the propensities of these creatures, and knew that they were not given to attacking white men, unless provoked or wounded, although a negro or a dog is never safe within their reach. They are, however, repulsive-looking creatures, and it is not easy to divest the mind of apprehension when in their vicinity.
My destination was an inlet of the sea, called Deadman's Bay, from whence it was my intention, after transacting some business I had undertaken, to take passage by steamer to Cuba, intending to return to the continent, after a limited stay there, and on some of the adjacent islands. In this, however, I was disappointed, as I shall by-and-by show. My plan was to travel by easy stages under escort, and encamp out at night; so, having secured the services of six men, who were well armed and mounted on horseback, and having furnished ourselves with a tent and other necessaries, which were carried by individuals of the party, we left Tallahassee, on our way inland, under a scorching sun. We could proceed but slowly after reaching the pine-barrens, the soil of which is loose sand, and at every step the animals we rode sank to the fetlock, which caused them to be greatly fatigued at the close of the day.
At night-fall, after selecting our ground adjacent to a river, we pitched our tent, and supper was prepared. This consisted of jerked venison (dried by a slow fire), broiled turkey, two of which we had shot upon our way, bread, and coffee. One of our party walked round our position as a sentinel, and was relieved every two hours; it being necessary to keep a vigilant look out, on account of the Indian and runaway negro marauders, who roam through these wilds in bands, and subsist chiefly in plundering farms and small parties. A huge fire of resinous pine branches (which are plentiful in these solitudes, and strew the ground in all directions, blackened with fire and age) was blazing to keep off the wolves and catamounts, whose terrific yells, in conjunction with other beasts, prevented our sleeping. They did not, however, venture within rifle shot. The Indians, on attacking small parties, have a practice of imitating the cry of the wolf, and this circumstance being known to us, tended not a little to raise our suspicions on hearing the fearful howlings that rang through the wilderness.
In the morning, we proceeded through barren sand-plains, skirted with dense hammocks (jungles) and forests. We were much annoyed by mosquitoes and sand-flies, which kept the whole party in discomfort from their attacks. Dusky-looking deer-flies constantly alighted on our faces and hands, and made us jump with the severity of their bites, as did also a large fly, of brilliant mazarine blue colour, about the size of a humble bee, the name of which I have forgotten.
In crossing one of the numerous streams, we had to wade or swim our horses over, an incident occurred which rather alarmed me. I was on a horse of that Arabian blood, build, and spirit, so common in saddle-horses in America, and a little in advance of the party, when I reached a river that intersected our track, and which we had to cross. After allowing the animal to quench its thirst, I applied spurs and urged it into the stream; it being averse from some cause to take the water. The stream was, however, deeper than I anticipated, and the horse immediately began to stumble and flounder in an alarming manner, showing that the river bed was uneven and rocky. About half-way across was a small island, that divided the stream, which after much difficulty he reached; resting here about a minute, I again urged him forward, but the animal seemed very reluctant to go. He wheeled short round, snorted loudly as if in fear, and was evidently in unusual alarm. After some coaxing, he, however, plunged into the water, and I expected to be able to gain the opposite shore in advance of my companions, but just as we were half-way between the little island and the opposite bank, which was very steep, the horse again became restive, rearing as if dreadfully frightened. I had the greatest difficulty to keep the saddle, which was a high Mexican one, covered with bear-skin, and as easy to ride in as a chair. I now began to suspect the cause of his alarm. The stream was one of those black-looking currents that flow noiselessly along, and which in Florida always harbour the largest-sized alligators. When I first came to it, I remembered this, and thinking to frighten off any of these lurkers that might be in the vicinity, I had dashed precipitately into the stream. This practice, or shouting loudly and firing a pistol into the water, usually succeeds. I soon found out, however, that the presence of one of the ugly creatures was the cause of the horse's trepidation, for, within six feet of us, I discerned a pair of eyes, set in huge brown excrescences, fixed intently on me and my horse, with malicious gaze. I knew they belonged to a veteran, and dreading lest its snout might be within two feet of my leg, for the old alligators boast enormous length of jaw, I sat tailor-wise in my saddle, and levelled my rifle at the horrid object; the reptile had, however, observed my movements, and disappeared beneath the surface; I instantly discharged my piece in the direction he had taken, and certainly gave him a lesson, for the water around me was directly after tinged with blood; he was probably hurt severely, or he might have resented my temerity. I soon after reached the shore in safety, where I was speedily joined by the escort, who saw nothing of the reptile in their way across, and who, being men bred amongst such scenes, and totally divested of fear, at once took the water, although they had witnessed the encounter.
The cayman of South America is very ferocious, and is popularly styled the hyena of the alligator tribe. This savage creature will instantly attack a man or a horse, and on this account the Indians of Chili, before wading a stream, take the precaution of using long poles, to ascertain its presence or to drive it away. Naturalists assert that the cayman is not found in the North American rivers, and I should imagine this to be correct, for, although engaged in many alligator hunts, I found from personal experience and minute inquiry that the species found in North America is harmless if unmolested.
After a laborious ride we arrived at Fort Andrews, where we found a military station of U.S. Infantry. We halted here for several days, I having business requiring my attention, and ourselves and our beasts needing to recruit our strength, before continuing our route to the Bay. The forest scenery here almost defies description. Immense cedars, and other lordly trees, rear their gigantic and lightning-scathed heads over their smaller and less hardy but graceful neighbours; cactuses, mimonias, and tropical shrubs and flowers, which at home are to be seen only in conservatories or green-houses are here in profusion,
"And plants, at whose name the verse feels loath,
Fill the place with a monstrous undergrowth,
Prickly, and pulpous, and blistering, and blue,
Livid, and starred with a lurid hue,"
while innumerable forms of insect and reptile life, from the tiny yellow scorpion to the murky alligator of eighteen feet in length, give a forbidding aspect to the scene. Racoons, squirrels, wild turkeys, pelicans, vultures, quails, doves, wild deer, opossums, chickmuncks, white foxes, wild cats, wolves,—are ever and anon to be seen among the high palmetto brakes, and the alligators in the bayous arid swamps, "make night hideous" with their discordant bellowings and the vile odour which they emit. The _tout ensemble_ of the place brings to recollection those striking lines of Hood,
"O'er all there hung the shadow of a fear,
A sense of mystery the spirit daunted,
And said, as plain as whisper in the ear,
The place is haunted."
During my stay at Fort Andrews, a large detachment of U.S. troops arrived, continuing a campaign against the recreant Indians and negroes. The appearance of the men and officers was wretched in the extreme; they had for weeks been beating through swamps and hammocks, thickly matted with palmetto bush, which had torn their undress uniforms in tatters, searching for an invisible enemy, who, thoroughly acquainted with the everglades, defied every attempt at capture. The whole party looked harassed, disappointed, and forlorn. General Taylor was with and had command of this detachment, which was about 400 strong. As I had heard this man vauntingly spoken of in the north, as the brave cotemporary of Scott, I felt no little curiosity to see him. His appearance surprised me. He was a burly, unmilitary-looking man, of most forbidding aspect, and much more like a yeoman than a soldier. A sword, much out of place, dangled awkwardly by his side, and was the only badge of his profession about him, except a black leathern cap; otherwise, he was habited as a private citizen. His small army encamped below the fort; and, as I thought, in most un-general style, he superintended the erection of his own marquee. He had with him several negroes, who were his body servants; and the coarse epithets he applied to them during the operation did not prepossess me in his favour, or, I thought, reflect much credit on his refinement.
At nightfall cries of distress arose from the marquee, and as I approached it I could distinctly hear one of the bondsmen earnestly pleading for mercy. Listening for a moment, I heard this distinguished general exclaiming vociferously, and belabouring the poor negro heavily with a raw-hide whip; most likely venting the spleen he felt at his non-success against the Indians, the expedition having hitherto been unsuccessful. The poor negro had offended his master, by some trivial act, no doubt, and in southern style he was correcting him, without much regard, it is true, to publicity. This, in southern latitudes, is so common, that it is thought little of; and the occurrence caused on this occasion only a passing remark from those present. The negro was his own, and he had a right, it was stated, to correct him, as and when he pleased; who could dispute it? For my own part, I entertained the most abhorrent feelings towards a man, who, without sense of shame, or decent regard for his station, thus unblushingly published his infamy amongst strangers, and this man a would-be patriot, too, and candidate for the Presidential chair, which, it will be remembered, he afterwards obtained. I was told that flogging his negroes was a favourite pastime with this eminently-distinguished general, and that he was by no means liked by his officers or men. His appearance bespoke his tyrannical disposition; and this, coupled with incapacity, there is little doubt, conduced to make it necessary for him to relinquish his command of the army of the south, which he did not long after, being succeeded, I believe, by General Armstead.
As I mentioned before, the force that accompanied him was in forlorn case, reminding me strongly of Shakspere's description of Falstaff's ragged regiment. It consisted chiefly of raw, undrilled troops, quite unused to discipline, but, perhaps, as effective as veterans in the service in which they were employed, the adroitness of the enemy, accustomed to the interminable swamps, hammocks, and cane-brakes which abound in this country, quite paralyzing the energies of the men, and destroying that _esprit du corps_ without which no success can be expected in an army.
Several Indian sachems or chiefs accompanied the command; these were fine-looking fellows, but appeared exhausted from long marching through the wilderness One of these, named Powell, particularly attracted my notice; he was a very interesting young man, of feminine aspect, and little resembling his stalwart companions. He had originally been captured, but by kind treatment had been brought over to friendly views, and was now acting as a guide. It was stated that his father was much incensed against him, and had employed emissaries to despatch him secretly. A few months after this campaign I heard that he was shot while out hunting; no doubt, at the instigation of his unnatural parent, who preferred his death to his continuing in league with white men.
Leaving Fort Andrews, I now pushed onward to Deadman's Bay. The country we passed through was much the same as I have before described; the journey took us the better part of two days. On the way we saw a herd of wild cattle, which scoured the plain in consternation on espying our party; urging on our horses, we tried to bring one down, but they outstripped us. Some miles farther on, and near a thick hammock, about a quarter of a mile a-head, a huge black bear stood snuffing the air; we again put spurs to our horses to try to intercept his retreat, but he was too quick for us, and made at his utmost speed (a sort of shambling trot) for the coppice or jungle, which he soon entered, and disappeared from our sight. At nightfall, a pack of ravenous wolves, headed by a large white one, serenaded us, and came near enough to our camp-fire to seize a small terrier belonging to one of the party. The poor animal, unused to the dangers around, had the temerity to run out and bark at the pack—he soon after gave one agonizing yelp, and we never saw him again. As a reprisal, three of the party fired, and brought one of the wolves to the ground; he was of great size, and, I should say, could have carried away a sheep, or a good sized hog (of which they are very fond), with ease. We could not, however, skin him—he was so infested with fleas. In the settlements they often seize and carry off children, but they do not molest adults.
As we proceeded, we kept a vigilant look-out for Indians, a number of whom, we had heard at Fort Andrews, had been driven in the direction we were travelling. We fortunately escaped molestation, but saw in several places human bones, probably the relics of a former combat between the United States troops, or travellers like ourselves, and Indians or negroes. One skull I picked up had been split with a tomahawk, besides having a bullet-hole in it about the region of the left ear. Our situation was one of great peril, but I had made up my mind to proceed at all hazards, despite the opposition shown by two or three of the settlers composing my escort, who, on more than one occasion, pointed out Indian camp-grounds of only a few days' age. At one of these we found a quantity of Indian flour or arrowroot, part of a bridle, and the offal of a calf; but we left the former, imagining it might be poisoned, the latter was of no use, our only dog having been devoured by the wolves. Passing through a dense hammock, of a quarter of a mile in width, through which the pioneers of the American army had recently cut a rough road, I dismounted, to take a view of these sombre shades on either hand. The solemn stillness around seemed to me like the shadow of death—especially so, from the peril we were in through the deadly feud existing at the time between the Indians and white men. I penetrated for full a quarter of a mile into this fastness in a lateral direction, and, in doing so, suddenly startled two immense white birds of the adjutant species, which were standing in a swamp surrounded by majestic cedar trees. I could easily have brought one down with my rifle, but I thought it wanton cruelty to do so. They were, I should think, quite six feet high, and beautifully white, with a yellow tinge. The head of one, which, I suppose, was the male bird, was surmounted by a golden crest. They sailed quietly away over my head, not appearing much alarmed by the intrusion.
In these primeval shades, where, perhaps, the foot of man never before trod (for I looked in vain for such traces), are many beasts, birds, and reptiles, which live in perfect security; for, although the Indian dwells here, and subsists by hunting, yet the territory is so vast, and the red men are so few in proportion, that there can be little doubt that many places are untraversed.
Emerging on the open sand-plain somewhat unexpectedly, I caused my party no little alarm; they instinctively grasped their rifles, imagining the approach of a party of hostile Indians.
The constant dread of molestation causes the traveller here to be ever on the _qui-vive_, the precaution being highly necessary, to prevent surprise. The least movement in a coppice excites apprehension, and fills the soul of both the resolute and the timorous with anticipations of danger. Nor are these fears groundless, for the treacherous Indian crawls stealthily to the attack, and, without a moment's warning, two or three of a party may fall to the earth, pierced by rifle-balls, or rearing horses may throw the riders, and leave them at the mercy of these ruthless assassins.
Arriving at length at the Bay in safety, I was accommodated in the officers' quarters of a temporary fort or stockade, erected there. The steamer had left, so that I was compelled to remain here longer than I had intended, awaiting the arrival of the next boat. To beguile the time, I went for miles into the forests, looking for game, often coming back disappointed and weary; at others rewarded by, perhaps, a racoon, or, what I valued more, a fawn or wild turkey. There was, however, plenty of sport on the river, and thousands of wild ducks, gannet, and pelicans, inhabited the little islands in the vicinity, and reared their young there; some of these islands being covered with their eggs. Large numbers of alligators infested the streams adjacent, and their bellowings, in concert with bull-frogs and other reptiles, often banished sleep for nights together, although I was pretty well accustomed to such annoyances. Snakes were often to be met with, although harmless if unmolested; amongst these, the moccason, hoop, and garter snakes, of which I procured several specimens, were the most common to be met with. Rattle-snakes exist in rocky districts, but I saw none of them here.
The steamer not arriving as I anticipated, after remaining for a considerable time, and getting tired of so solitary a life, I determined to retrace my steps to Tallahassee.
While remaining at this post, a party of mounted volunteers arrived from Georgia. These men were mostly sons of farmers, who had suffered from the unceasing attacks of the Indians on their farms, in many instances accompanied by the butchery of some members of their families. It was arranged that a company of U.S. Infantry, stationed at the fort, should act in concert with these men, and scour the country for twenty miles round, to search for Indians, traces of whom had been seen, and who, it was very certain, were encamped not many miles off. As I felt desirous of observing the operations of these little campaigns against so wily a foe, I intimated to a major, my intention of accompanying the expedition. He was pleased with the proposal, and furnished me with a splendid rifle and other equipments, from the stores of the depot. After a short delay, owing to the non-arrival of some waggons that were intended to accompany the expedition, the whole force mustered in front of the stockade enclosure, and being furnished with ten days' provisions for man and horse, started under command of the major aforesaid, across the sand-plains, in order to reach a dense cedar and cypress swamp, ten miles distant, where it was suspected the enemy was concealed. After a tedious march through a wild country, so overgrown with saw palmetto and underbrush, that our horses had great difficulty to get through it, we arrived at the skirts of the swamp; here a consultation took place between the officers present, and it was arranged that an Indian guide whom we had with us, should go in and hold a parley with the Indians, to induce them if possible, to surrender. The guide went into the hammock, which extended along the edge of the swamp as far as the eye could reach, right and left. I should have mentioned, that this man, with the usual Indian acuteness, had discovered indubitable signs that the enemy was in the vicinity, long before we reached the spot. After an absence of about an hour, during which time we refreshed ourselves, and made preparations for an expected struggle, our guide returned, bringing with him a bow and quiver of arrows, as proofs of his interview with the secreted Indians. The account he gave, which was interpreted by a half-bred Indian who accompanied the expedition for the purpose, was, that after penetrating some distance into the fastness, he came to the encampment of the enemy, and was instantly surrounded by warriors, who seized him, but after parleying for a considerable time, let him go, presenting him with a bow and arrows, as a symbol of their unflinching resolve to continue the war.
On hearing this, it was at once determined by the officer in command that the whole force (except a guard for the horses and waggons) should go in and surprise them. The guide shook his head at this, and, pointing towards the swamp, said, "That is the way. I have shown it to you; follow it if you will; I do not go." It was, however, of no use to dally, and orders were given for all hands to follow into the swamp. For my own part, I wished to stay behind, but was told that such a course was attended with danger, as the Indians would most likely emerge from another part of the hammock, and endeavour to seize the horses, and ransack the waggons. This decided my adopting the least of the two evils, although I fully expected we should have a battle. After penetrating for I should think upwards of two miles, sometimes up to our knees in miry clay, and often stopped by impassable barriers of wild vines and other prehensile plants, which annoyed us greatly, and made me regret a thousand times that I had courted such dangers and inconveniences, the sound of two rifle-shots threw the whole party into indescribable commotion. Supposing we were attacked, all hands flew as quick as thought to the trees around, where each one, peeping from behind the trunks which were sought as a shelter against the rifle-balls of the expected foe, waited for a few moments in great suspense, when, suddenly, a loud cheer from the party in advance, followed by several rifle-shots, told us they had come upon the encampment. As the firing ceased, I knew the Indians had fled; this seemed also the opinion of the volunteers near me, who simultaneously left their hiding-place, and pushed forward to the scene. On arriving at the spot, I found the soldiers around a large Indian fire, over which was suspended a boiling cauldron, filled with venison, the Indians having been, no doubt, preparing a meal when disturbed by us; by the side, and not far from the fire, was a large trough, made out of a fallen tree, in which was a quantity of arrowroot in course of preparation. This plant grows plentifully in this latitude, and is the principal fare of the Indians, their squaws superintending the management of it. The remains of a fine buck lay near, and also some moccasons, leggings, and other Indian gear.
The enemy we had so unceremoniously disturbed had, as usual, taken flight; but we found traces of blood, and the advanced party stated that they had fired on two warriors, who, with a woman and two children, were on the spot when they came up.
As it was deemed quite useless to pursue them, from their being, no doubt, well acquainted with the intricacies of the fastness, and, therefore, sure to evade us, we regaled ourselves on the venison, of which some refused to partake, lest it should be poisoned. It was decided that the force should emerge from the swamp to the open plain about a mile above the spot where we had left the waggons, by a circuitous route; this was accordingly done, but our progress was so difficult, that the Indians had ample opportunity to fly before us, and we saw no further traces of them.
On reaching the waggons, we found, to our great satisfaction, that all was safe, and as night was approaching, it was decided to encamp there, a spring of turbid water being in the vicinity A cordon of sentinels was accordingly placed around our resting-place, and some tents were pitched for a portion of the party; the remainder, wrapped in blankets, sleeping on the sand. After the whiskey had passed round, the jocular little major in command proposed a song, and as one of the infantry soldiers was an adept at the art, he was invited to our marquee. Although in the very midst of danger, for we knew not how formidable in number the Indians were, we passed a merry evening.
Soon after this affair, the party returned to the bay, and in a day or two I started on my return to Tallahassee. About twenty miles from Deadman's Bay, we overtook a fugitive negro, and as we came upon him unexpectedly, when turning the edge of a hammock, he had not time to retreat, being within rifle-range, or he would doubtless have done so. He threw up his arms, and gave a piercing shriek (an unvariable custom of Indians when in danger), expecting to be instantly shot. He had, however, nothing to fear, having fallen in with friends and not foes. As I saw he was without a rifle, I dashed forward and accosted him first. He was soon assured, by my manner of addressing him, and begged earnestly that we would not detain or hurt him. This I at once promised, if he would inform us whether Indians were near. He said no, they had left that country two suns (days) ago, taking an easterly direction, and we might proceed to Fort Andrews in safety.
After putting several other questions to him, I inquired if the Indians would cross our path to Tallahassee from that post. He said no, they were far off in another direction, having gone to East Florida, eighty miles distant. The fellow was in poor case, and begged for food, saying he was starving. I, therefore, desired the men to supply him with some dried venison and bread, which he ate with avidity. He refused to tell me his master's name, but said there were hundreds of negroes fighting with the Indians, six from the same plantation as himself. My companions were at first intent upon securing him, but being averse to that course, I dared them to do it; when, seeing I was fully determined on this point, they did not insist. Pointing to the hammock, after giving him a dram of brandy, I bid him be off, when he darted like a deer into the thicket, and disappeared from our view, with a loud shout of exultation.
About ten miles further on, as we passed the edge of a dense hammock, we heard the bay of an Indian dog, and fearing the proximity of a party of marauders, we were instantly on the alert. The dog did not, however, come out of the wood, and we rode from the dangerous vicinity with all dispatch. Arrived again at Fort Andrews, without any further adventure worth recording, we found a party of volunteers about to proceed to Fort Pleasant, in the direction we were going. After recruiting my now almost exhausted strength by a refreshing sleep, I went down to their encampment, by the river's edge. They had the day before encountered a strong party of Indians, whom they repulsed with loss. Some of the party showed me several bloody scalps of warriors they had killed. I could not help remarking the beauty of the hair, which was raven-black, and shone with a beautiful gloss. They had several captured Indian women with them, and half-a-dozen children; the former were absorbed in grief, and one in particular, whose young husband had been shot in the fray, and whose scalp was one of those I have just mentioned, was quite overwhelmed. The children, little conscious of the misery of their parents, swam about and dived in the river like amphitrites; they each carried a small bow and quiver of arrows. There is no doubt the Indians these volunteers had fallen in with and routed, were the identical party referred to by the negro we had met some forty-eight hours before.
I had made up my mind to stay at Fort Andrews for a time, partly to fulfil an engagement with a friend whom I had arranged to meet here, and to whom I shall shortly have to refer more at length, and partly to recruit my strength, a tertian ague having seized me, which much debilitated my frame, and made travelling very irksome. My accommodation was indifferent, but medical assistance, which I needed most, was not wanting, and I shall never forget the courtesy of the officers.
I employed my time chiefly in rambling the woods, when health would permit, and had a boat lent to me, with which, in company, I several times penetrated the tortuous river, Esteenahatchie, to the bay, some miles distant. At night the boats were all sunk, or they would have been stolen or destroyed by the Indians, who hovered round and committed petty depredations at every opportunity. Below the fort, was a ruinous mill, in a gloomy dell, through which the river wended its silent course. This had once been tenanted, but the inhabitants were murdered some years before by the Indians, who afterwards (as is their almost unvarying custom), added to the atrocity by setting fire to the building.
Sitting one day, after a lengthened ramble, in solitary meditation on my position and the surrounding scenery, I saw a fine Indian, who appeared greatly fatigued, emerge from the adjoining hammock, and walk to the edge of the stream, and there, after glancing round him with eager eye and air, he laid down his rifle, and stepping on to a tree which debouched into the stream (lying as it had been struck down by a tornado), he crouched down at the end of it, and commenced laving himself with the water. His appearance was romantic, and there is no doubt, from his dress, he was a warrior of some note, probably following his wife, one of the squaws captured by the volunteers I have before mentioned, and who were still at Fort Andrews, awaiting orders from General Taylor. I could have shot him to a certainty, had I been armed, which was not the case. Had it been so, however, I was predetermined never, unless in self-defence, to imbrue my hands in Indian or negro blood while in the territory, neither was I disposed to betray him, for I deeply sympathized with the misfortunes of his race, and well knew that an inexcusable spirit of aggrandizement on the part of the Federal Government had in the first place roused the indignation of both negroes and red men, and provoked hostilities. After performing his ablution, the Indian stalked like a deer into the recesses of the forest, I having in the mean time, as a matter of policy, moved out of danger, for he was no doubt animated with feelings of dire revenge, and in a very different mood from that in which I have described myself to have been at the time.
During my visit to Deadman's Bay, I had become acquainted with a Scotch gentleman, who was employed on the medical staff of the U.S. army, I believe, as a supernumerary, or candidate for a commission as a surgeon. He was a most agreeable companion, of good natural parts, fluent in conversation, intelligent in remark, free from egotism, and well educated, I believe, at Cambridge, in England. We soon became attached to each other. He accompanied me in my rambles, and we were almost inseparable companions during my stay. He was one of those beings, in fine, who seem to be sent at times to cheer the darkened highway of existence under gloomy circumstances; and I fondly hoped to enjoy with him a lengthened period of virtuous intimacy, and close, unalloyed friendship, on more propitious soil.
But the decrees of Providence are inscrutable, and "his ways," indeed, "past finding out." This was certainly strikingly exemplified by the catastrophe I am about to relate, which deprived me for ever of my friend.
When at the bay, he expressed a wish to visit St. Marks, Tallahassee, and Apalachicola, and stated his intention, as soon as his engagements permitted, to proceed thither by steamer, if opportunity offered—or failing this, to go overland, availing himself of some escort which might be proceeding in that direction. As I felt desirous to have his company, on my route to South Carolina, I arranged to halt at Fort Andrews, as before stated, that he should join me there in a week, and then proceed in company with me to Fort Pleasant, forty miles distant, and thence to Tallahassee.
The time having now come at which I was expecting his arrival, I was one morning anxiously looking out through the long vista of pine trees and barrens, when I descried in the distance two horsemen approaching at their greatest speed; I at first imagined them to be, as they indeed proved, an advanced party of my friend's escort—but, on their coming up, I could see, from the agitation they were in, and the foaming state of their horses, which were quite white and in a dreadfully exhausted state, that something alarming had happened.
The tale was soon told:—It appeared, that about midway between the two settlements, or stations, a party of Indians in ambush had fired upon the party, and my friend had been treacherously murdered. I was much affected by this intelligence, and, after some consultation with a gentleman there, determined to get up a pretty strong party, and proceed to the scene of the murder, to collect the remains of my poor friend, whose bones would otherwise be left, as I had seen others in those regions, to bleach on the sand hills. We soon started, the party consisting of fourteen men, well armed with rifles, bowie knives, and pistols, accompanied by a waggon, drawn by four stout mules and driven by a negro, to convey back the remains. The expedition was attended with no little danger, from the proximity of a newly-discovered party of Indians, who were committing dreadful ravages in the district—but whether in large or small force, was uncertain; they were, probably, the party I have before adverted to, lingering about the vicinity.
After a melancholy journey, during which we were so absorbed by our feelings, that little was said; we reached the fatal spot, it being pointed but by one of the party who formed my friend's escort.' It was on the edge of a dense hammock, by the skirts of which lay some enormous trees, which had been levelled by a recent tornado. From behind this barricade the Indians had unexpectedly fired on the party—the attack was so sudden, that they appeared to have been quite taken by surprise. This was the more extraordinary, as the whole neighbourhood was of a description likely to be chosen by the red men for an ambuscade. The party attacked must have been in great trepidation, for, from what I could glean, the survivors put spurs to their horses' flanks, and galloped off to Fort Andrews, leaving my poor friend entirely at the mercy of the enemy. The survivor, who accompanied us, stated, that they were riding in Indian file, as is customary there; that poor H--- was in front of him; and that, directly the Indians gave their fire, he saw him fall backwards from his horse, at the same time raising his left hand to his head. He could tell no more, the horse he was on having wheeled round suddenly, and been urged on in retreat by its rider, who was in the greatest imaginable terror. Had the party halted, and returned the fire, for they were well armed, in all probability some of the marauders would have been laid low, or, if the Indians were but few, they might at least have rescued my poor friend.
We found footmarks of Indians, which we traced; by these it appeared that they were in small force, and that when H---- fell from his horse he recovered his feet, and ran from the enemy, in the direction of the plain, for about two hundred yards—here it was evident he had been overtaken, and his skull cloven with a tomahawk from behind. We soon discovered his remains in the sand, denuded of every particle of flesh and muscle by the vultures and the ravenous wolves. We collected the bones with reverential care, and placed them in the waggon, for transit to Fort Andrews.
On the bones of the little finger of the left hand was an emerald ring, which I had often seen the murdered man wear, and which, being covered with blood and sand at the time of the catastrophe, no doubt escaped the attention of the villians who perpetrated the atrocious act. The left jaw was fractured by a rifle-bullet, which knocked him off his horse backwards, as described by one of the survivors.
In the pines opposite the place of ambush, we found several balls imbedded, and one had lodged in the pummel of the saddle of the man who was present, and who formed one of our party. It appeared probable that there were not more than four or five Indians engaged in the attack; a force which might easily have been repelled and annihilated with ordinary courage, but formidable enough to men wanting the presence of mind which is necessary under such circumstances.
After a fatiguing journey, for which I was at the time almost totally unfitted by ill-health, our party reached Fort Andrews, with the mangled remains of the victim. A short time afterwards these were committed to the sand, a military salute being fired over the grave by some soldiers at the garrison. On an elevated slab of wood, to the north of Fort Andrews, may be seen a zinc plate, erected by me to the memory of my friend, with his name, the date of his death, and an epitome of the circumstances attending it. This memento of regard has, in all probability, escaped the cupidity of the Indians, for I took the precaution to have it placed as much out of sight as possible, and the place of burial was off the beaten track.
Thus perished miserably, one whose generous openness and manly virtues rendered him dear to all who had the privilege of his acquaintance. He was a native of somewhere near Arbroath in Scotland, but his accent did not betray his nativity.
In traversing the sandy deserts of West Florida, I had frequent opportunities of tracing the devastating effects of those awful visitations in tropical climates—hurricanes, or tornadoes; and, notwithstanding I had the good fortune to escape the danger of being exposed to one, I more than once prepared for the worst. One of these was accompanied with phenomena so unusual and striking to a native of Europe, that I must not omit some notice of it, if for no other purpose than to convey to the mind of the reader one of the many unpleasant but wonderful accompaniments of a residence in these latitudes, so poetically, and indeed so truthfully, apostrophized as "the sunny south."
It was while on a journey (accompanied by two yeomen from East Florida, who were proceeding to join an expedition against the Indians to defend their hearths, and by the friend whose melancholy loss I have adverted to) from Deadman's Bay towards Tallahassee, that the occurrence I am about to mention took place It was in the height of summer, and for several days Fahrenheit's barometer had ranged from 84 to 90 degrees, the temperature being occasionally even higher, by some degrees, than this. We started soon after eight in the morning, and had ridden all day under a scorching sun, from the effects of which we were but ill-defended by our palm-leaf hats, for our heads were aching intensely—my own being, in common parlance, "ready to split," not an inapt simile, by the way, as I often experienced in the south. Towards evening, the sultriness increased to a great degree, and respiration became painful, from the closeness of the atmosphere. A suspicious lull soon after succeeded, and we momentarily expected the storm to overtake us. It was not, however, one that was to be relieved by an ordinary discharge of thunder, lightning, and rain—deeper causes being evidently at work. The denseness of the air was accompanied by a semi-darkness, similar to that which prevails during an eclipse of the sun, which luminary, on the occasion I refer to, after all day emitting a lurid glare, was so shrouded in vapour as to be scarcely discernible, even in outline—while a subterranean noise added to the terrors of our situation, which strongly called to mind the accounts we read of earthquakes and similar phenomena.
We moved slowly on, as people naturally would who were about to be overwhelmed in a calamity that threatened their annihilation, while an indefinable sensation of sleepiness and inertia seized the whole of the party. Vultures and other birds of prey screamed dismally, as they hovered round our heads in the greatest excitement, arising either from terror or the anticipation of a rich repast, we could not tell which. These voracious creatures, with great audacity, often descended to within a few feet of the heads of our horses, which seemed terror-stricken at their near approach. I took aim at one of the largest of them with my rifle, and it fell a little to my left, with an impetus I can only compare to the fall of a human being. Directly it touched the ground, it vomited carrion and died. It was many feet in breadth from tip to tip of wing, but we were too perturbed to stop and measure it. When I discharged the rifle, the report was unusually faint, owing to the state of the air; so much so, that my companions, who were not fifty yards behind, scarcely heard it. The wild animals in the jungle which skirted the road, and which, in general, skulk in silence and secresy in their haunts, rent the air with their howlings. The very order of nature seemed about to be reversed, while the long streamers of grey moss swayed backwards and forwards mournfully from the trees, adding to the solemnity of the scene. As the party slowly wended its way through the wilderness, each individual looked round with suspicion, exchanging furtive glances, or now and then uttering some exclamation of alarm—their manner and bearing indicating minds ill at ease.
This dismal state of things lasted nearly an hour, after which time nature seemed to recover herself by a sudden throe, for a brisk breeze, which was highly refreshing to our senses, and which was attended by the loud hollow subterranean sound I have before referred to, unexpectedly sprang up, and swept off, as if by magic, the inertia of nature. What made the phenomenon more extraordinary, was the total absence of thunder or lightning. My companions shouted for joy when the hollow moan of the embryo tempest was heard to move off to the eastward (for, as they informed me, it told of deliverance from peril); I felt a sensation of delight I cannot describe, and heartily responded to the noisy demonstration of satisfaction raised by my companions.
Our horses, apparently participating in our delight, pricked up their ears, and snorted, fairly prancing with pleasure, tired and jaded as they were after thirty miles' travel through sand, into which they sank at every step fetlock deep, often groaning pitifully.
I noticed that, during the impending storm, they hung down their heads in a listless manner, and sighed heavily, a circumstance that to our minds presaged calamity, and which, I may add, was altogether unlike the usual indication of fatigue in animals which have travelled a great distance. Had the tornado burst upon us, instead of passing off as it did, it is very doubtful whether the hand that writes this would not have been mingled with its native dust, in the arid sands of Florida; for, as we rode on, we saw gigantic pine, cedar, and hiccory trees, torn up by the roots, and scattered over the surrounding country, by by-gone hurricanes, many of them hundreds of yards from the spot that nurtured their roots—while the gnarled branches lying across our track, scorched black-with the lightning, or from long exposure to a burning sun, impeded our advance, and made the journey anything but pleasant.
The occurrence I have mentioned formed a topic of conversation for some miles as we journeyed to our destination; and one of my companions stated, that a few months before, when in the neighbourhood of Pensacola, a hurricane came on unexpectedly, and caused great devastation, unroofing the houses, tearing up trees, and filling the air with branches and fragments of property. He happily escaped, although his little estate, situated at Mardyke Enclosure, some short distance from the town, was greatly injured, and some six or eight people were crushed to death by the falling trees and ruins of houses.
"Before us visions come
Of slave-ships on Virginia's coast,
Of mothers in their childless home,
Like Rachel, sorrowing o'er the lost;
The slave-gang scourged upon its way.
The bloodhound and his human prey."—WHITTIER.
Florida produces oranges, peaches, plums, a species of cocoa-nut, and musk and water-melons in abundance. The more open portions of the country are dotted over with clumps of gnarled pines, of a very resinous nature, white and red oak, hiccory, cedar, and cypress, and is in general scantily clad with thin grass, fit only for deer to browse upon. The dreary sameness of the interior of this desolate country is distressing to the traveller; and the journey from one settlement to another, through pine-forests, seems almost interminable.
One morning, a short time prior to my intended departure for Tallahassee, I was roused before daybreak by a rifle-shot, which was instantly followed by the cry of "Guard, turn out!" and much hubbub. As this was no unusual occurrence, from the constant apprehension we were in of an attack by the Indians on the stockade, and as it had several times occurred before during my stay, I resolved to lie and listen awhile before I rose. The earnest conversation and the noise of horses soon after satisfied me it was only a friendly arrival. I, however, felt anxious to obtain intelligence as to the success of a treaty then pending between the United States Government and the Indians; the favourable termination of which would not only render my return to Tallahassee more safe, but put a stop, perhaps for ever, to those constant scenes of blood and depredation that were by this time become quite sickening to me. This feeling was much enhanced at the time by the express between Fort Andrews and Deadman's Bay, being shot by a party of the common enemy. The body of this poor fellow was never found, but traces of blood were to be seen near the spot where he had been attacked; and the saddle and bridle of his horse were found cut into a thousand pieces; the probability being that he was wounded and taken prisoner, doubtless to be tortured to death, a practice common with all Indian tribes in time of war.
On my proceeding to a house used as officers' quarters, outside the stockade, I found the stir had been caused by the arrival of two companies of light-horse soldiers from St. Marks, escorting several couples of bloodhounds, to aid the army, operating in that part of Florida, to exterminate the Indians. These dogs were very ferocious, and, on approaching the leashmen, who had them in charge, they opened in full yell, and attempted to break loose. The dogs had just arrived from Cuba with their keepers, their importation having been caused by the supposition, that, like the Maroons in Jamaica, who, for nearly thirty years, defied the colonists there, the Indians would be terrified into submission. This, however, turned out to be erroneous; for, on their first trial, the Indians killed several, and the scheme was very properly abandoned a short time after.
Such barbarous means were very unjustifiable, although many (to use the language of the Earl of Chatham, when deprecating a similar course in the English House of Lords) considered that every means that God and nature had placed in their hands, were allowable in the endeavour to bring to a close a war that had cost the Federal Government an immense amount of blood and treasure. I am of opinion, however, from what I afterwards heard, that the step was not an altogether popular one in the eastern and northern states, although it certainly was so in the southern; it being argued in the public prints there, that as dogs had been used in hunting down fugitive negroes from time immemorial, the mere fact of bloodhounds being used instead of mastiffs was a peccadillo unworthy of name.
The tobacco plant, though growing in many parts of Florida spontaneously, like the broad-leafed dock in England, is often cultivated in garden-ground for domestic use, some of the finer kinds being as aromatic as those of Cuba. The soil in such places is rich; indeed, the plant will not thrive in many parts where this is not the case. The method of propagation, generally followed by the large growers, is that recommended by Loudon, in his incomparable _Encyclopedia of Agriculture,_ and is as follows:—The soil selected is in general loamy and deep; this is well broken up before planting, and frequently stirred to free it from the rich growth of weeds that, in Florida in particular, choke the growth of all plants if neglected. The seeds being small, they are lightly covered with earth, and then the surface is pressed down with a flat instrument used for the purpose. In two months after, the seedlings are ready to transplant, and are placed in drills, three feet apart every way. These are frequently watered, if there happens to be but little rain, which, in that arid climate, is often the case for weeks together, and the plants regularly looked over, to destroy a species of worm winch, if not removed, plays great havoc with the young buds. When four inches high, the plants are moulded up like potatoes in England; when they have six or seven leaves, and are just putting out a stalk, the top is nipped off, to make the leaves stronger and more robust. After this, the buds, which show themselves at the joints of the leaves, are plucked, and then the plants are daily examined, to destroy a caterpillar, of a singular form and grey in colour, which makes its appearance at this stage, and is very destructive to narcotic plants. When fit for cutting, which is known by the brittleness of the leaves, the plants are cut close to the ground, and allowed to lie some time. They are then put in farm-houses, in the chimney-corner, to dry; or, if the crop is extensive, the plants are hung upon lines in a drying-house, so managed that they will not touch each other. In this state, they are left to sweat and dry. When this takes place, the leaves are stripped off and tied in bundles; these are put in heaps, and covered with a sort of matting, made from the cotton-fibre or seaweed, to engender a certain heat to ripen the aroma, care being taken lest a fermentation should occur, which injures the value of the article; to avoid which the bundles are exposed and spread about now and then in the open air. This operation is called ventilating by the planters, and is continued until there is no apparent heat in the heaps. The plant is quite ornamental, and its blossoms form a pleasing feature in a garden of exotic productions.
After a brief stay at Fort Andrews, subsequent to the last sad offices for my deceased friend, I left that spot on horseback for Tallahassee, in company with four settlers. We soon reached the more populated districts, without being molested by the Indians. Here they had committed sad devastations; we saw many farms without occupants, the holders having been either murdered by midnight assassins, or having fled in alarm. Adjoining these habitations, we found line peach orchards, teeming with fruit of the richest description, which lay in bushels on the ground, and with which we regaled ourselves. Enclosed maize fields overgrown with brambles, and cotton fields with the gins and apparatus for packing the produce in bales for the market, presented to the eye the very picture of desolation.
Owing to cross roads we were at one time completely at fault, and there being no house in sight, I volunteered to ride off to the right and endeavour to obtain the information we were in need of. After riding about half-a-mile, I heard voices through a road-side coppice, which I took to be those of field-hands at work; going farther on I dismounted, and climbing the zigzag rail fence approached a negro at work in the field. I inquired if he could put me on the road to Tallahassee; he appeared much frightened at the intrusion, but stated he did not know, but his mas'r did, at the same time pointing to the plantation-house, situate the greater part of a mile distant; being averse to going there, for fear of impudent interrogation, I offered him money to go with me to the point where I had left my companions, and show us the way to the next house; he did not even know what it was I offered him, and in apparent amazement inquired what that was for; I explained, buy tobacco, buy whiskey; he appeared totally ignorant of its use, and I have no doubt he had never had money in his possession, or learned its use. Still, he refused to leave the field, a wise precaution, as I afterwards found, both for himself and me. The negro being resolute, there was now no alternative but to go to the house, on arriving at which, I met with such a reception as I had feared and anticipated. Three fierce dogs of the mastiff breed, regularly trained to hunting fugitive negroes, rushed out upon me. I had only a small riding whip with me, having left my fire-arms with a friend at Fort Andrews, and much dreaded laceration. Their noise soon brought out a ferocious, lank-visaged-looking man, about forty years of age, who immediately called off the dogs; but before I had time to make the inquiry that brought me there, he began in about the following strain,
"What dye yer waunt up yar, stranger? Arter no good, I guess; you'd better put it 'bout straight. I see'd yer torking to the hands yonder—none o' yer 'mancipator doctrines yar."
The fellow's address "struck me all of a heap," as he would himself have said, had he been in my situation; he spoke so fast, that I could not edge in a word; at last I stated the cause of my intrusion, but he would not believe a word, ordered me to quit the plantation or he would set the dogs on me, and was getting into such an ungovernable rage, that I thought it would be wise to follow his advice. So I slowly retreated to the yard entrance by which I had come in. Returning to my companions at the cross-roads, I found that, in my absence, a passer-by had given them the wished-for information, and we pushed on to a house of call, a few miles distant.
As the ride was a long one, we halted at this house for refreshment, and, after baiting our horses, regaled ourselves upon some choice ham and eggs. At the table, three little negroes, one girl and two boys, under fourteen years of age, served as waiters. Their clothing was supplied by nature, being solely the primitive habiliments worn in Eden before the fall. This is quite customary in the south, where the rules of decency are commonly set at defiance, as if the curse of Adam's transgression applied not in this respect to the African race. The little creatures did not seem to be in the least aware of their degraded state; they were as agile as fawns, and their tact in administering to the wants of the company was quite remarkable.
Just as we were about to proceed on our journey, a party of some half-a-dozen planters or overseers of neighbouring estates, mounted on fine mules, who had been searching for fugitive field-hands, rode up. I could see they were greatly excited, and one of them had a negro lassoed by the neck, one end of the rope being fastened to his high Spanish saddle. On coming up to the entrance gate, the one most in advance dismounted to open it; the mule, eager, perhaps, to get to a crib, or, what is more likely, to evade a brutal kick or blow, trotted through; this did not please its owner, who bellowed loudly to it to stop. The mule, however, still kept on, when the ruffian, in demoniac anger, drew from his belt a long bowie knife, and darting after the animal, hurled it at him with all his force. The blade of the weapon, which was six or seven inches long, entered and stuck fast in the abdomen of the agonized creature, which, for about twenty yards, ran on furiously, with the murderous knife in its vitals. It then fell-with a deep groan, while the fiend who had perpetrated this wanton act of barbarity and his companions watched its fall, and loudly exulted in it. I noticed that there was a deep scowl of hatred on the countenance of the negro prisoner as this drama was being enacted, and when the knife struck the poor mule he cried out, "Oh, mas'r, mas'r!" Societies for the suppression of cruelty to animals, are, as might be supposed, unknown in such remote situations, nor do they exist in any of the slave States and territories of America; so that redress in such a case was out of the question. I therefore consoled myself that the outrage had brought its own punishment in the loss of the mule, which was at least worth from eighty to one hundred dollars.
Passing onwards, we reached Tallahassee by rather a circuitous route, _via_ Mount Pleasant. Although in an indifferent state of health, from exposure to the poisonous miasma of the country, I, on the whole, felt pleased with my journey, now that its dangers were over, and grateful to the great Dispenser of all good, who had safely conducted me through them. At Tallahassee I saw in the streets, in charge of a ruffianly-looking fellow, two negroes, with heavy iron collars round their necks. These were captured run-aways; the collars, which must have weighed seven or ten pounds, had spikes projecting on either side. One of the poor creatures had hold of the spikes as he walked along to ease the load that pressed painfully on his shoulders.
General Murat resided at the time in this neighbourhood; he is the brother of Jehoiachin, ex-king of Naples, and owns a large plantation, and, I was told, upwards of two hundred negroes, who were described as being humanely treated by him. This, however, is a very indefinite term, where all slave-owners profess to do the same, though the poor wretches over whom by law they impiously assume God's heritage, in ninety cases out of every hundred, are scantily clothed, worse fed than horses or mules, and worked to the utmost extent of human endurance, the humanity being, in most cases, left to the tender mercies of a brutal overseer, who exacts all he can. If the poor, tattered, squalid-looking beings I saw in Tallahassee be a fair specimen of the "humane treatment" I have referred to, heaven help them.
General Murat, some years ago, married an American lady, who delighted in being called the "princess," a little piece of vanity quite in keeping with the aristocratical prejudices of American females in the south, who are devoted worshippers of lordly institutions and usages. I did not see the general myself, but was told he was often to be met lounging about the bars of the principal hotels (being quite Americanized in this respect). He was described as a very garrulous old gentleman, extremely fond of recounting his adventures, particularly his escape when the allied troops entered Paris, about the year of Bonaparte's subjugation.
After remaining a few days in Tallahassee, I took the conveyance to Macon in Georgia, intending to pursue my route overland to Charleston in South Carolina. In the diligence (a clumsy apology for a coach) from Tallahassee to Macon, were several loquacious passengers. One of these amused and disgusted us by turns; for, after giving an epitome of his career, which was a chequered one, he related an incident that had recently occurred on a plantation he had been visiting, and, as it presents a novel feature in the asserted rights of slave-holders—how profane, I will not stop to inquire—I think it worth recording. After a recital of a drunken debauch, in which he had taken a part, described by him as a frolic, and which had been kept up for several days, his host, he said, anxious to show the high sense he entertained of the honour of the visit by making almost any sacrifice (this was said with great conceit), proposed to put a negro up with an apple on his head, in imitation of the ordeal imposed on William Tell, the Swiss patriot, declaring that he who divided the apple, or perforated it with a rifle-ball, should own the slave. This proposal, the gentleman very facetiously observed, the party jumped at, expecting some good sport; but added, "The fellow spoilt it, for he refused to stand still, although we 'used up' a cowhide over him for his obstinacy." The frivolous manner in which this intended outrage was related, filled me and my fellow-passengers with disgust. I thought it was not safe to remark on the proceeding, for I could see he was a very strenuous upholder of that disgraceful system of oppression, which stigmatizes and degrades the Americans as a people, and will continue to do so, until it is utterly abrogated, and their characters retrieved.
Excerpt from Benwell, J., "An Englishman's Travels in America" His Observations of Life and Manners in the Free and Slave States, 1857.
Keywords: colonial america, recorded travels, slavery
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