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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 205 [01-31-1863]

              189
                            A Crevasse.

[newspaper clipping continued: first column]
just in time to prevent the grinding of the cane, for
which said negro was soundly flogged�the only in-
stance of personal chastisement, says the renter�s
son, that has occurred on the place since his father�s
occupation, though such were common enough pre-
vious to it.  He adds that a lawsuit at present in
progress will probably define the positions of the in-
terested parties.
  By the young gentlemen (who once belonged to the
naval service, and has been all round the world) we
are accorded a friendly reception, in a small, cleanly
house, formerly occupied by the overseer, for the
planter�s mansion is untenanted.  He presently escorts
us through the sugar-mill, a large and really hand-
some building, the best, I should say, in the vicinity,
not, however, in operation, most of the crop having
been housed, though a great pile of the cane remains
stacked in the rear, awaiting its multifold transfor-
mations into the final one contained in the large bar-
rels within.  That done, we proceed to the main ob-
ject of our journey�the crevasse�passing through
the negro village, where dozens of picanninies gaze
in white-eyed astonishment at the strangers, or
gather familiarly round the two or three United
States soldiers keeping idle guard over the quarters.
  The crevasse is at two fields distance, the ground
laid out regularly in rows and drained by bordering
ditches.  As we progress, rather muddily, towards
it our guide tells us some particulars about the vi-
cinity and his neighbors, representing their average
loyalty as graduated by the breeches pocket.  They
hate �Yankees,� of course, and chiefly those of
the speculative order.  Without wasting any super-
fluous sympathy in behalf of a class of men, one of
whom keeps bloodhounds to this day, and has used
them, since our advent ot hunt down runaway ne-
groes, abetted by a former Provost-Marshal�I must
say that I think the detestation perfectly natural and
justifiable.
  At the crevasse, at last.  It is a busy scene, for
over a score of negroes are at work repairing it,
with white men superintending and sentinels keep-
ing guard, that the former may not run away.  They 
do not belong to the plantations, but are fugitives
from various localities, laboring under the direction
of Capt. Sawyer, for their food and clothing.
Ascending the barrier of newly-piled earth with 
which they are attempting to confine the rapacious
Father of Waters to his wonted channel, and along
the planked top of which they trudge with spade and
wheelbarrow, after the manner of Irish bricklayers
in the North, we look about us.
  The top of the mound is hardly two feet above
the level of, the river, which must be twice the
hight above the fields we have just traversed.
Beneath us, and all along the margin of new shore,
covering the surface of the turbid water for
many yards, floats a debris of drift-wood, sugar-
cane, weeds, boughs and broken timber.  Beyond,
at about three hundred yards distance, is a long
reach of earth stretching crescent-wise into the
stream and denoting its former boundary, the sub-
merged and broken leavee, over which the waves
are rippling, rushing and eddying like the breakers
of a mill-dam.  All within is water, broken fences,
damaged trees with their branches rising forlornly
above the aqueous element, and ragged, abrupt earthy
banks confining the �monstrous castle� abruptly
scooped out of the yielding shore by the treacherous
and aggressive Mississippi.  On either side, within 
the damaged levee can be perceived what was once

[newspaper clipping continued: second column]
a road, now resembling a canal, also the remains
of an inner levee, broken like the outer one.  By
working day and night the slaves have limited the
damage to the circle described, but the river is ris-
ing, steadily and rapidly, and much continuous labor
is yet to be performed before the adjacent lowlands
shall be pronounced safe.  Indeed, the long stretch
of land recently alluded to many disappear at any
moment; there are ominous cracks in it, and the
river is full a hundred feet deep beneath; twenty
below the outer side of the levee on which we stand.
Were the crevasse anything beyond a mere trifle, an
ordinary occurrence, such as every planter as ac-
customed to, we should hardly venture upon our
present elevation; we might be undermined and
sudden precipitated downward.
  But trifling as it is�involving merely an expense
of some thousands of dollars�it affords us an excel-
lent idea, in miniature, of a real, formidable cre-
vasse, such as might inundate an entire parish and
require the sinking of two or three ships to stop it.
So we stand on the summit of the mound, in the
sharp, sunny morning, and are edified.  The river,
a mile and a half wide in front of us, looks bright
and pleasant, with a white sail shimmering down it
(may it not be speeding on a contraband voyage!)
and its level opposite bank crowned with rich, um-
brageous trees.  While thus engaged or grouped
round the fire of sticks which a sentinel has built to
warm his hands, our guide relates the circumstances
attendant on the beginning of the crevasse, he hav-
ing accidentally been a witness of them.
  He was riding along the road on a windy after-
noon when he heard a sharp report, suggestive of
the idea that a steamer or flat-boat had drifted into
violent collision against the bank and there found-
ered�loud enough, indeed, to have proeeded from a
cannon.  Then he looked and saw that the outer
levee had disappeared�that there was no obstruct-
tion between him and the opposite bank of the Mis-
sissippi, only the tumbling, rushing waters.  Then
he �put� for home and raised the neighbors.
  Nothing more important diversified our return to
New-Orleans than the aggravating appearance of
the train, just as we were sitting down to a very
much-needed repast of �creole eggs,� as they are
denominated in this portion of Louisiana�I don�t
know why.  This necessitated a hungry and ex-
haustive run for a mile or two before we caught up
with the train, which was obligingly detained for
us by our good friend Capt. Sawyer, at the twelve
mile station, by which time I suppose that the sable
matron, who had taken only two hours to prepare
said creole eggs, found herself very much comforted
by them.
  I began this letter with an allusion to Col. Thorpe.
I will end with an item respecting that gentleman.
Last night I attended the presentation of a hand-
some silver pitcher and two goblets to him, the 
offering of the workingmen of New Orleans, em-
-loyed under Gen. Butler�s Special Order No. 244.
By it from 1,200 to 1,300 persons were relieved from
the indigence and misery attendant upon this atro-
cious rebellion, and stimulated to earn an honest,
self-respecting livelihood on the levees, streets, and
canals in the front, center, and rear of this city [words cut off]
pay them, Gen. Butler muleted rich trait[words cut off
portion to their contributions to the �C[words cut off]
of Jeff. Davis.  The result is, that du[words cut off]
the hottest of Summers New [words cut off]
preserved from its general scourge of [words cut off]               
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