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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 203 [01-31-1863]

                   In Lower Louisiana

[newspaper clipping continued: first column]
  Not to exaggerate, I should say we accomplished
at least six miles an hour.  The locomotive�called
St. Bernard, after the Parish�was controlled by
two lads, and fed with billets of wood from the
tender, which resembled a large open sardine box,
with the near end removed, on the edges of which
we were perched.  Beside fuel, it contained a supply
of water for our propulsive saint, as was evidenced
by sundry jets and spiritings proceeding from the
leaky fore part.  I think it must have been of this
identical locomotive and railroad that the historical
pedestrian declined to avail himself, because he was
in a hurry.  Before we had journeyed half a mile, I
fully comprehended Capt. Sawyer�s preference for
  It was very pleasant, however, jogging easily
along over the irregularly laid and indifferently re-
paired sleepers (many of which had settled down
into the permanent repose of rottenness) under the
bright, frosty, breezy morning.  Our road lay
through perfectly level country, with the Mississippi
to the right and a succession of sugar plantations 
on the left, most of them under cultivation.  The
fan-like palmetto brush grew profusely about the
little frozen pools bordering th railroad, the frost-
bitten leave of the shrubs and vegetation glared
blood-red in the sunlight, and not a tree that we
passed but had more than its quota of long gray, 
bearded moss dependent from its branches and wav-
ing in the wind.  Southerners profess to consider this
beautiful; I cannot think so; to me, it has an ex-
tremely dreary, weired effect, and is irresistibly
suggestive of the old woman whose task in the nur-
sery legend is �to sweep the cobwebs out of the
sky,� having performed it in a thorough but slovenly
  On most of the plantations the sugar crop had
been got in, though in some cases we saw the cane
lying awaiting removal; here and there �killed�
by the frost.  This parish and those adjacent are, as
you know, exempted by President Lincoln from the
operation of his Emancipation Proclamation, hence
the negroes are supposed to remain in Slavery.
Some have, however, run away, others continue to
labor well or ill according to their relations with
their owners.  It fares badly now with a cruel or
mercenary master; he is fain to sleep with a double-
barreled gun at his bed-head and a revolver under
his pillow; to gnash his teeth ineffectually at the
desertion of his serfs, or to bribe our soldiers to be-
come slave-catchers.  I wish I could add that they
never disgraced themselves by consenting.
  We observed some negroes at work in the fields,
but not many, oddly attired in old great-coats or
blankets, with their heads swathced, hood fashion,
insomuch that they looked like so many sable monks
of La Trappe, engaged in digging their own graves
�not too industriously.  No overseer was precepti-
be, which might account or the last characteristic.
  The planters� houses stood generally at some hun-
dred yards distance from the railroad, a long garden
set out with ornamental or fruit trees intervening.
They were of no pretentious character, consisting for
the most part of plain wooden tenements, never more
than two stories in hight, and formally utilitarian of
aspect.  Adjacent are beheld the negro cabins and
outhouses, and prominent in the flat landscape, the
sugar-mill with its tall chimney.  The appearance
of neglect so universal in the South that its inhabit-
ants are really unconscious of it, was visible in all 
these buildings.

[newspaper clipping continued: second column]
  We have passed Camp Chalmette�an ex-Rebel
one, displaying a long trench or so and some earth
works�when our locomotive becomes short-winded;
so we stop to �wood-up� at a sawing apparatus
conveniently placed on the track, at which half a
dozen men are working.  They do not pause in their
labor or attempt to get out of the way on our ap-
pearance�knowing that St. Bernard is perfectly
harmless; that he wouldn�t (and couldn�t) run over
them on any account.  Indeed, this railroad may
claim to be unique, if but for the fact that no acci-
dent has occurred upon it.  When a train gets off
the rail, the passengers alight and stop it�that is all.
I account for the presence of an old rusty wreck of
a castaway locomotive which I observed lying by
the roadside by believing that it must have been
purchased at considerable expense and transported
thither, just to contrast the hazards of other lines
with that of the Gulf Railroad for the gratification
of its passengers.
  St. Bernard stopped, of course, the wood-sawyers
continued their labors, the special artist of Cherry�s
Pictorial got off to sketch the same, our firemen
passed himself, ax in hand for illustrated immor-
taility, and there occurred an agreeable little pause
of about twenty minutes.  By that time the sardine-
box was filled, the sawing apparatus obligingly
moved aside, and we went on again.
  Shall I speak of Andrew Jackson and the Battle
of New-Orleans? for we are now nearing historical
localities.  I think not, for this letter promises to be
long enough without them.  Only they show you
the place where Packenham fell, and the trees form-
ing the headquarters of the British surgeons during
the fight.  Let me mention something more pertinent
to the present generation:
  Considerable smuggling was done across the
river and Lake Borgue�the terminus of the rail-
road at seven miles distance�to the aid and com-
fort of the enemy, and the equal exasperation of
Gen. Butler during his time.  I doubt if it has
ceased, for quinine, clothing, &c., bring enormously
remunerative profits in Dixie, and planters and
merchants are not ill-disposed toward its people, nor
Northern speculators, in and out of uniform, averse
to turning a penny by them.  Could the blockade
be strictly, sharply maintained, this war might have
a less bloody solution; a reflection particularly im-
pressed on sojourners in Southern departments.
  We pass the 12-mile station�a collection of ricket-
ty houses, tumble-down sheds, and a tavern�and
alight a mile beyond it, in an open field, where we
bid good-by to the St. Bernard, who steams back to
New Orleans, leaving us to plod our way to a large
plantation, the buildings of which constitute quite a
little village.  Its sugar crop is now rented by a
shrewd Bostonian from the owner, a wealthy but
illiterate person, who would find it easier to raise
$10,000 than to write a sentence of correctly-spelt
English; who has two colored mistresses (a town
and country one,) and daughters described as edu-
cated and accomplished young ladies, notwithstand-
ing which they might be sold on the auction-block
for the paternal emolument did their father so choose
unless he has already accorded them their manu[mis-]
sion papers.  The relations between the gen[words cut off]
and his Massachusetts tenant are not, how[words cut off]
monious, the latter accusing the form[words cut off]
attempts to damage and invalidate the [words cut off]
including the bribing a slave belonging to [words cutt off]
tation to break the machinery of the [words cut off]               
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