September 11

September Eleventh

Long and close association with the white race had its civilizing effect upon the negroes, and it was not long before the two races became warmly attached, both alike manifesting a keen interest in the other's welfare. Thus as economic interests had fixed the system in the laws of the people, the domestication of the race fixed it in their hearts. The abolitionist was right in his position on the ethics of slavery, but more than benighted in his conception of its condition in the South.

Dunbar Rowland

 

 

September 11, 1862

We heard heavy firing this morning, from the direction of the city, which we at first thought must be fighting going on there, but which we afterwards learned was practice for the gunners at Fort Henry, and on the gunboats, both of which lie somewhere off in that direction. We kept on cleaning up our camp ground to-day and it begins to look real nice. A running vine, which was all over the ground, has poisoned a great many, although some that handled it the most did not get any. Philip Allen's face looks like a bladder. The doctor has fixed up a wash that he says will soon cure it. We had just about enough to do to-day to give us a good appetite. A storm is brewing, and we are wondering what it will do to us with only a strip of muslin to keep it off.

Friday, September 11th.—It is said to-day that No.— is to open at Nantes immediately. That will mean, at the earliest, in a fortnight, possibly much longer. We five French speakers are again told to stand by for special orders, but I know it won't come off.

At early service yesterday among the Intercessions was one for patience in this time of trial waiting for our proper work. Never was there a more needful Intercession.

Some of us explored the salt-marshes behind this belt of pines yesterday, up to the farms and to a little old church on the other side; it was open, and had a little ship hanging over the chancel. The salt-marshes are intersected by sea walls—with sea pinks and sea lavender—that you walk along, and there are masses of blackberries round the farms.

There are rumours that all the hospitals will be getting to work soon, but I don't believe it. No.— has lost all its tent-poles, and a lot of its equipment in the move from Havre. I believe the missing stuff is supposed to be on its way to Jersey in the Welshman  with the German prisoners.

A very quiet dull day; am looking for news from the Army of the Potomac; nothing has occurred since we left; those armies watch each other, while we do what little fighting there is done. So much constant chasing of the enemy night and day, frequent brushes, laying on our arms from 3 o'clock till daylight, etc., is very wearing and I shall be glad when Early is licked, as he surely will be for Sheridan fights like a tornado—he  does things. He's getting a good ready, and we'll be heard from soon. Ta, ta, Early! Run back to Petersburg! The peace party seems to be dissatisfied with McClellan. In my opinion his stock's below par, at the same time if his party nominate a new man it will be the best thing that can happen for us; wonder if most of Company E don't sympathize with the peace party? Hope my men are not fickle politically—like Jacob's coat of many colors. It takes a strong man in these times, though, to stand up to the rack when there isn't much in it but ammunition, and it's grimly give and take with no white feather mix, and neither army will give up. Wonder if we won't be abused for all this bye and bye by other than copperheads?

September 11

September 11, 1873. (Amsterdam ).--The doctor has just gone. He says I have fever about me, and does not think that I can start for another three days without imprudence. I dare not write to my Genevese friends and tell them that I am coming back from the sea in a radically worse state of strength and throat than when I went there, and that I have only wasted my time, my trouble, my money, and my hopes....

This contradictory double fact--on the one side an eager hopefulness springing up afresh after all disappointments, and on the other an experience almost invariably unfavorable--can be explained like all illusions by the whim of nature, which either wills us to be deceived or wills us to act as if we were so.

Skepticism is the wiser course, but in delivering us from error it tends to paralyze life. Maturity of mind consists in taking part in the prescribed game as seriously as though one believed in it. Good-humored compliance, tempered by a smile, is, on the whole, the best line to take; one lends one's self to an optical illusion, and the voluntary concession has an air of liberty. Once imprisoned in existence, we must submit to its laws with a good grace; to rebel against it only ends in impotent rage, when once we have denied ourselves the solution of suicide.

Humility and submission, or the religious point of view; clear-eyed indulgence with a touch of irony, or the point of view of worldly wisdom--these two attitudes are possible. The second is sufficient for the minor ills of life, the other is perhaps necessary in the greater ones. The pessimism of Schopenhauer supposes at least health and intellect as means of enduring the rest of life. But optimism either of the stoical or the Christian sort is needed to make it possible for us to bear the worst sufferings of flesh, heart and soul. If we are to escape the grip of despair, we must believe either that the whole of things at least is good, or that grief is a fatherly grace, a purifying trial.

There can be no doubt that the idea of a happy immortality, serving as a harbor of refuge from the tempests of this mortal existence, and rewarding the fidelity, the patience, the submission, and the courage of the travelers on life's sea--there can be no doubt that this idea, the strength of so many generations, and the faith of the church, carries with it inexpressible consolation to those who are wearied, burdened, and tormented by pain and suffering. To feel one's self individually cared for and protected by God gives a special dignity and beauty to life. Monotheism lightens the struggle for existence. But does the study of nature allow of the maintenance of those local revelations which are called Mosaism, Christianity, Islamism? These religions founded upon an infantine cosmogony, and upon a chimerical history of humanity, can they bear confronting with modern astronomy and geology? The present mode of escape, which consists in trying to satisfy the claims of both science and faith--of the science which contradicts all the ancient beliefs, and the faith which, in the case of things that are beyond nature and incapable of verification, affirms them on her own responsibility only--this mode of escape cannot last forever. Every fresh cosmical conception demands a religion which corresponds to it. Our age of transition stands bewildered between the two incompatible methods, the scientific method and the religious method, and between the two certitudes, which contradict each other.

Surely the reconciliation of the two must be sought for in the moral law, which is also a fact, and every step of which requires for its explanation another cosmos than the cosmos of necessity. Who knows if necessity is not a particular case of liberty, and its condition? Who knows if nature is not a laboratory for the fabrication of thinking beings who are ultimately to become free creatures? Biology protests, and indeed the supposed existence of souls, independently of time, space, and matter, is a fiction of faith, less logical than the Platonic dogma. But the question remains open. We may eliminate the idea of purpose from nature, yet, as the guiding conception of the highest being of our planet, it is a fact, and a fact which postulates a meaning in the history of the universe.

My thought is straying in vague paths: why? because I have no creed. All my studies end in notes of interrogation, and that I may not draw premature or arbitrary conclusions I draw none.

Later on.--My creed has melted away, but I believe in good, in the moral order, and in salvation; religion for me is to live and die in God, in complete abandonment to the holy will which is at the root of nature and destiny. I believe even in the gospel, the good news--that is to say, in the reconciliation of the sinner with God, by faith in the love of a pardoning Father.

September 11, 1863

Friday. Pilot Town, in the mouth of the Mississippi. Our boat is tied up here, repairing damages. We got in early this morning after the most exciting twenty-four hours of my life, and I think many others can say the same.

Yesterday the wind kept blowing harder and the water kept getting rougher. For sea-going vessels it was nothing, but for these cockleshell river boats it was anything but fun. Wednesday night the water was rough. I got into my berth for a nap and the next thing I knew I was sprawling on the floor, where a lurch of the vessel had thrown me. There was no more sleep that night. The boat not only rolled, but it pitched and dove. The wind and the waves seemed to get up more steam every minute and I for one was glad to see daylight. But except for the light there was no improvement. We could see several of the boats, but not a quarter as many as were in sight the night before. Whether they had gone to the bottom or were just out of sight none of us knew. The Laurel Hill was near by. Both her smokestacks were gone, shaken off even with the upper deck. Another boat tried to get hold of her, but did not make out. Another one, which we could just see behind us, had a signal of distress flying and the flagship signaled us to go back to her. When we turned broadside to the wind, I surely thought we were going over, but we got around and in a short time were close to the Laundress, whose flag was flying upside down, which was the reason of our being sent back. She was loaded with men and animals, and wanted a tow. We made two turns about her trying to get a line to or from her, and then gave it up. Both boats were rolling about like chips on a mill pond, the great high smokestacks swinging first towards each other and then far apart. It did not seem as if either boat could stand it much longer. The only thing that kept my spunk up was to hear the captain and mate swear. It didn't seem possible that men could swear like that if the danger was as great as it seemed. We came on and what became of the Laundress I don't yet know. By noon the wind was at its highest. Life preservers were got out, but not distributed. There were islands, or sandbars, all along towards where the shore must have been. We could see these only a part of the time, on account of the waves. Colonel B., who went to the captain and first asked, and then ordered, him to run in between the sandbars and so get into smoother water, was told to "go to hell. I'll run this boat to the South West Pass or to the bottom of the gulf." After that no attempt was made by the landsmen to dictate to the boatmen. About noon the upper cabin seemed to be tearing itself loose. The woodwork was splintered in several places, and the groaning of the timbers added to the alarm that was felt. I went below to find a place where I could keep still, but it was worse there than above. Everything was soaked. The engines and boilers were crusted white with salt water. The live stock was in a pitiable condition, scared to death and pulling every way on the hawser to which they were tied. The lower decks of these river boats are close to the water. On them is the machinery and fuel, and freight, when any is carried. Everything, living or dead, was soaking wet, including the boxes of hard-tack. On the next floor or deck is the dining room and sleeping berths, and above that the hurricane deck, on which is the pilot house. How he made out I don't know, but the fact that we got here shows he stuck to his post. A few got drunk, so drunk they could just hang on to something and slam about with it. No one thought of eating or sleeping. Some were dreadfully seasick, and these were the only ones I envied. They just lay on the floor and didn't care whether we sank or swam. Towards night we could see the worst was over, though the pitching and diving kept up about the same. As night came on we settled down as best we could and got what rest we could. I did not think I slept any, but I must have, for the first I knew we were in smoother water and were soon tied up here. The day has been pretty warm, but we are not complaining about that.

Pilot Town is a curiosity to me. It is where the pilots live, that pilot vessels out and in the river. They go out in small boats as soon as they see a vessel, and the one that gets to her first gets the job of bringing her in over the bar, and sometimes way up the river to New Orleans. Then if they are lucky they get a boat to pilot down the river and out into deep water again. Some vessels have some particular pilot that they will take on, and so this racing out after a job amounts to nothing. Then again some captains know the river so well they only have use for a pilot while crossing the bar. It seems the bar, as they call it, shifts its position, and this the pilots keep track of, and so no vessel ventures in or out without their aid. They have a little house on poles from which some one is always looking by day, and from which a light is kept burning at night. There is no dry ground. The houses, which are only little small one-room affairs, are built on piles, high above the water, and along in front of them is a wooden sidewalk about even with the floor. Here they live and raise families. They are as ignorant as can be on all subjects except that of their trade, piloting. There is a little store, where tea, coffee and tobacco are the main stock in trade. I saw what I took to be calico on one shelf. When the tide is in they are surrounded with water, and when it is out there is nothing but mud. When I told him of the time we had had, he said "yaas, it was a bit nasty." The boatmen are cleaning up, getting the salt off the machinery and making things shipshape. The horses and mules are taking their rations and from all appearances have already forgotten the uncomfortable trip we have just had. Fish of many kinds are swimming about the boat, and with some borrowed tackle the men are having great fun catching them. I saw one that looked as big around as a barrel. My friend, whom I have kept busy answering questions, says it must have been a porpoise, and that they often come in for whatever they can find to eat. From a boat that has just gone up we learn that two gunboats, the Clifton and the Sachem, were captured. That an unknown fort, just inside the Sabine River, had crippled one, and when the other went to her assistance, that was also crippled and both crews made prisoners. That the Laurel Hill threw overboard 240 mules. So far as I can find out no other boats were lost. What become of the Laundress, which we tried to help, no one seems to know. The most of them must have got in ahead of us, for very few have passed us to-day. Franklin's expedition seems to have been a failure.

Later. Another boat says a transport, name not known, was lost with 700 men. That may have been the Laundress. We may never know any more about it. Something else will come and take our attention, and this trip will soon be forgotten.

Night. New Orleans again. We got here about 3 o'clock, after a delightful ride up the river. Colonel Bostwick tells us he doesn't know what the next move will be, but we are to be ready for it at any time. In the meantime we may enjoy ourselves in any way we please. That will be eating at a cheap boarding place and picking our teeth at the St. Charles, I suppose. I wrote nearly all the time we were at Pilot Town and have just got caught up. Good-night.