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The Vault at PfaffsAn Archive of Art and Literature by the Bohemians of Antebellum New York
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Text for Page 124 [12-21-1862]

              113
                    Letter to the Tribune.

[newspaper clipping continued: first column]
formation as to the locality of cotton were tried for
their lives, and many minor outrages perpetrated.
Considering that Baton Rouge had the reputation of
being a semi-loyal place�people say that it cast a
majority of 500 votes against Secession�I think it
has paid pretty dearly for its whistle.  To be sure,
what patriotism it had��a tolerably good egg� at
best�grew very musty and objectionable on the
withdrawal of our troops by Gen. Butler, even to
[unclear word] the firing on our vessels.  If the
opinion of the Essex were taken on the subject�
and she is very well acquainted with the river here-
about�I am advised that she would like to �wipe
out� Louisiana�s capital, not leaving �a grease
spot� to mark the locality.
  That would be a pity, certainly.  The city is a
neat one, not at all dingy and dilapidated, like most
Southern towns.  Built entirely of wood, its houses
painted white, with trim green blinds, it is rather
New-Englandish than otherwise, plus china trees,
magnolias, and stray samples of tropical vegetation,
and minus all business.  It never can have had
much of the latter, and now the exceptional store-
keeper stands at the door of his empty shop and tells
you, either in French or in English (whichever you
prefer), that he �has nothing.�  Perseverance may
perhaps discover a little cheap tobacco, a few pre-
posterous straw hats, a sweet potato pie, or a jar of
over-ripe persimmons, but little else vendible.  I
strolled into the market early one morning�a long,
cool, covered building, in an airy street�but the
butcher�s blocks, the benches, the meat-hooks were
all unused and preternaturally free from gore of
grease, and the only person who had anything to 
sell was a solitary negro, who wanted a dollar for
three small fishes.  In the foreground, with a per-
spective of empty stalls on either side, he looked
desolate; his solitude was that of Balclutha�s.  The
last surviving British bustard upon Salisbury plain,
or a do-do in a lone island begirt with Southern seas,
were what I compared him to, as thoughtfully I en-
tered the adjacent grounds of the capitol.
  The building is a handsome one, almost stately,
Tudor in style, and constructed of brick, with a
store front and facings, the latter a little damaged
by cannon and grape-shot, the abrasions from which
show markedly on the light-clored material.  It
stands aloft, in a pleasant square, laid out in excel-
lent taste, presenting a conspicuous landmark to
passing voyagers.  Its grounds were ornamented
with a statue of Washington by Powers, but that,
I am sorry to say has been removed, and I am told,
sent North.  Without being particularly sensitive,
and fully indorsing the propriety of seizing and sell-
ing embryo Rebel cannon, in the shape of bell-metal,
one may suggest that the stealing of works of art,
as of public libraries, is a despicable business, per-
haps appropriate to the rapacious Gallic eagle of the
first Napoleon, but shameful in ours.
  At the door of the State House I find a sentinel 
and a handful of soldiers, keeping guard in one of
the rooms.  And for the next hour I ramble through-
out the building, pronouncing it to have been wor-
thy of a proud, rich, magnificent State.  Senate
Chamber, House of Representatives, Governor�s
room, Auditor�s room, official apartments of all
degrees�all, are handsome and spacious, but deserted
and littered with their contents.  One goes stamping
in one�s heavy boots, from room to room, awaking
unaccustomed echoes, amid maps, surveys, reports,
licenses, tax-books, registers, poll-books, plans,
legal and official documents of all sorts, in French
and English, discovering dusty safes (of Northern

[newspaper clipping continued: second column]
make) crammed with heavy rolls of paper, desks
empty and full, but invariably disordered in all the
mute confusion consequent on abrupt disuse and mil-
itary occupation.  In such a place, generally the
perfection of order, the reverse is at once suggestive
and melancholy.  Descend to the lower hall and
you shall trace the origin of it.  On a kind of marble
altar in the middle of the central rotunda, lies a pon-
derous, heavily-bound volume�the State Record of
Louisiana.  The latter portion of its contents has
been ruthlessly torn away, but in the early half you
may read the ordinance of Secession, with a special
preamble setting forth the particular importance and
position of the great sugar State, as affected by the
impending struggle.
  From the summit of the two towers on the facade, 
a good view is obtained of the surrounding country.
Below lies Baton Rouge, its idle, sunny streets laid
out in squares, the foundations of a huge abortive
bank on the outskirts, and beyond, a lever tract of
country, dotted with deserted houses, ending in dis-
tant woods.  On the other side, the western bank
of the river, a lonely shore, flat country and trees.
Altogether, but for the bright morning, the steam-
boats on the river, the busy scenes on its banks and
the adjacent camps, a monotonous and depressing
landscape.  The Father of Waters, by the way, oc-
cupies a contracted bed at this season of the year; he
will extend it by some thirty feet on either side in a 
month or so.  Sometimes he ascends the sloping
acclivity on which Baton Rouge is situated, and
swamps a square or two of houses.
  I leave the State House and stroll to Gen. Grover�s
headquarters, a branch bank of that of the State of
Louisiana.  I find the General busy enough�not
even his namesake, Cristoval Colon, could have
found more to do upon his historical occupation of
San Salvador or Cat Island; for all the incidentals
to his and our position are crowding upon him.  Let
me enumerate some of them:
  In the first place any amount of contrabands keep 
coming in, with more or less of dubiously indefinite
information.  Then, in occasional instances, their ex-
owners come after them.  Yesterday, a �Secesh
lady� (so described to your correspondent), drove
upward of 12 miles to claim, at the hands of our
Provost Marshal, two interesting twins, who de-
cidedly declined to return with her, being under no
restraint to do so, which fact provoked vituperative
language from said �lady,� as she departed, indig-
nant and twinless, to her bereaved habitation.  In
another case, an attempt at escape by negroes re-
sulted more tragically: one lad was shot dead in an
open corn-field, within three miles of our camp, his 
comrade escaping to the woods, with a bullet in his
shoulder.  He came in, bleeding and faint, at day-
break, to tell the story.
  We have between three and four hundred contra-
bands already.  We welcome them, and give them
rations, and put them to work.  There is plenty for
them to do, in unlading vessels, porterage, and labor-
ing on intrenchments.  With a white man superin-
tending, they work capitally.
  In the mean time, our pickets occasionally fire upon
one another, give false alarms, and capture equivo-
cal stragglers.  Gen. Grover has extemporized a
small body of cavalry, by mounting infantry on ar-
tillery horses and captured beasts, for the purpose 
of scouring the country.  The men might ride bet-
ter, of course, and they look rough enough, but do
all that is required.  Every find morning you will
see a dozen or so of them riding into Baton Rouge,               
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