J. E. Chamberlain.

Cotton stealing. A novel online

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some sugar, a general variety of army stores, he
would tell him where the cotton was hidden.

Now look at the temptation, cotton was worth
thirty cents per lb. The average weight of cotton
per bale is 600 lbs., more or less, and the value per
bale would be $150, the average exceeding rather
than falling short. One hundred bales at this figure
would bring $15,000.


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Tliis quartermaster could not withstand the temp-
tation. His own empty wagons could haul in the
cotton without suspicion, since seizures of cotton
were being made for the government.

How to transfer the stores without suspicion was
the next problem. It was solved in this manner, I
do not mean to insinuate the author of the sugges-
tion. The required stores were carefully selected
and placed in an army wagon. This was put in a
marked position in the train, and it was agreed, that
the Union man should at the appointed place cap-
ture the wagon and carry it off.

This might not be easily done, but a creature of
the quartermaster was employed to drive the team,
and on the attack he was to start his mules in fright
away from the road, and in the confusion his team
would not be missed, or if missed, be of too little im-
portance to be followed.

This plan would have been successful, if two honest
privates, James and his brother, had not been on
guard in the train. When firing commenced they
stood at their post. Mary's husband saw the at-
tempt to get out of the train, and drawing a bead on
the driver, too many of whom were mere creatures of
pay, ordered him to drive on, or he would shoot

James had already given one horseman liis quietus,
and was loading ; the position was a run between two
hills ; a famous spot for killing deer. The rebels had
come through the woods skirting the hill over which
the wagon road led, and seeing the right wagon, made


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a rush to head off the males into the other side of the *
run, hoping in this way to drive a half dozen teams off
on a gallop before the escort could have come up, to
secure their own wagon and more.

The teamster was too hasty, the guard too watch-
ful. On one side Mary's husband, on the other
James ; the team passed on ; Mary's husband went
over to James, but before he could reach cover, not
until he had fired, he fell shot through the head.
The click of hostile caps, the report of hostile rifles
were one, and two dead bodies, one hit by the huge
minnie ball fell ; two more offerings to the curse of
slavery passed into the sleep. Offerings to slavery !
no ! cotton was the direct cause, slavery the remote^

Six weeks after, Mary heard from her husband,
James sent a half written letter. One letter when he
left Springfield, one came after the glorious day at
Pea Ridge, and then — ^nothing — ^nothing — ^until her
father was too sad to speak or even look, to tell her
of no letter. "Nothing mother,** answered all en-
quiries. Waiting seemed forever and ever, and then
father came into the house, and the family wept
together. Jeanie and Lilly Sue seemed to take
Henry's death most to heart. Mary had no more
than a deeper eye, a longer look, a sadder quiet, and
work over, held her child more fondly, clinging
closer to it as time moved him farther away from the
present, buried ^im deeper in the alluvium of mem-
ory. This was not their only grief ; Lilly Sue was
pining, never very strong. The war was eating her


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life away. She was an seolian, every breath ex-
hausted, died away on her strung nerves.

Six weeks after ! Dead six weeks — ^in heaven six
weeks, and she did not know it. — James wrote. "We
buried him as well as we could. I put his body on
the train, and when we camped at night, one of the
teamsters, who is a friend, took his wagon, (the quar-
termaster forbade, but that made no difference) and
we went to a bam and tore down the doors, and got
nails and boards enough to make a coffin. It was
only a rough thing, but so much better than most of
our poor boys get, I was satisfied. I washed his
face and combed his hair ; I have cut some off for
Mary, and will send it home with his knapsack when
I have a chance. But I could not make him look
very natural until I tied a handkerchief over his
forehead. I put on him a clean shirt and his best
uniform, and then some of the boys helped roll
him in his blanket, and we lifted him up and laid
him in the coffin. I covered him carefully and nailed
up the box and we took him out under a big tree
where the boys had dug a grave. I felt so bad
thinking of you I did not know what to do. We had
no chaplain for ours had gone home after the battle
of Pea Ridge. I waited until the boys were all gone
and then I knelt and prayed by his grave. I do not
think you, nor I, nor any of us, will ever see it. It
was so lonesome. I thought of you all and dear
Mary. Dear Henry, I wish I had died for him.
Why couldn't I have died ? I have no wife to mourn
for me, no child to leave alone. When I saw him so


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Btill, I wished I was dead too. He was brave as a
lion, and we all loved him. I never knew him to
do an unkind act or speak an unkind word — ^he did
his whole duty and died like a soldier.''


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The last chapter contains these words :

" The one important fact which turned the head
of Charles Hardone, Lieutenant and A. A. G., and
made Colonel, afterwards Major-General, Scienter,
a cotton speculator, — ^that important fact lay in the
report that the major-general received his two hun-
dred and fifty thousand dollars for writing his own

In looking after the interests of a corporal, who
was the victim of a cotton speculation in the depart-
ment of the Missouri, the history has come upon the
political intriguant — ^a next-door-neighbor — ^who, in
the fortune of war, with more dishonesty, with less
ability, and less honor, but political partisanship,
has managed to acquire position, fame, and fortune.

Before the '^ I '' turns back to tell how a common
citizen of the United States took his first infant-step
firmly on the sacred commission-step to preferment ;
permit that '^ I " to olTer a humble tribute to the
worth of that man, who, with only the privileges
and opportunities given to every common school-


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child of this now free land, had the great gift of
comvon sense to recognize and trust the integrity,
the virtue, the holy purity and unsullied honor —
patriotic honor — of the masses, the oi poloi, — ^the
common people — from whom he sprung, and by
whom he was elected, as an honest man to be their
President : who, knowing the corruption of the office-
seekers of the capital; the venality of politicians,
influential to Judas-ize their constituents, their birth-
right of constitutional privileges, and their native
land, — paid them their price of thirty pieces of silver
from the nation's purse, and thus made them true to
their constituents and their country. If this history
is ever written ; if the brain, the heart of the nation,
can ever become strong to face the rottenness at
home; the war most terrible waged by his soul
among professed frieilds, who demanded fat places,
fat commissions, and fat contracts, — then shall that
national heart honor more, venerate more, and adore
more the sublime virtue and the spotless honor and
honesty of Abraham Lincoln.

In infinite mercy, in the hour of the nation's ex-
tremity, when liberty, freedom and progress trembled
over the brink of slavery, chains and barbarism, was
given to the common people, as a Saviour, an honest
man — ^the noblest gift of God.

The great redeemed nation and people of the
United States of America may look back on the
blood-stained years of war, now over, with joy and
gratitude to the Almighty ; for, as the French revo-
lution, drenched in blood, has been in its results a


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sraAUNG. 159

blessing to France, as the battles of old Ironsides
have been the magna charta of England, as the
American Revolution gave liberty to the Union, as
the death of the Son of God has been productive of
the highest blessings to the human race, so this la-
test, greatest struggle has blessings untold in store
for the generations of the future.

The peaceful citizens of the United States are
made a nation of warriors ; transformed from the
enjoyments, arts and ignorance of peace, to the ex-
citement, science and education of war. A new
problem has been solved : The possibility of a na-
tion of independent men volunteering of free will to
fight, to suffer, to die for a moral question ; and,
after the surplus population has been depleted, and
voluntary enlistments ceased ; the possibility of the
remainder submitting to a conscription, assisting
the strong hand of military power to take the popu-
lar idea of liberty Iby the neck ; consenting to the
suspension of the writ of ?iabeas corptts ; enduring
acts of injustice done by arrogance of brief author-
ity, or ignorance of incompetents; and after the
peace of the state has been secured, when war has
ceased, the most stupendous corrollary of the prob-
lem, the possibility of the leaders, generals, colonels,
officers of every grade, abdicating peacefully their
positions and returning voluntarily to private life :
this other, no less important corrollary, the possi-
bility of soldiers returning from war and its demor-
alization to the uniform tedium of ill-paid daily toil ;
the successful demonstration to the world that a re-
public can withstand a revolution.


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I wish I had time to paint with a true pencil the
country as it was; not as those jealous of the
opinion of the world would have it appear. I am
not of the number who shut their eyes when un-
pleasant scenes are in sight. Man is not perfect,
nor wholly evil; even followers of the Meek and
Lowly often disgrace the name of Christians. But
Jesus is no less a Saviour ; for such weak, erring
ones he died. By assuming a purity, a holiness, a
greatness not ours, we deceive the world, and dis-
courage other people anxious for the same liberty.

I am writing cotton ; but before I get at the bales
marked " C. S. A," and hidden away in the fast-
nesses, the thickets, the swamps, the cane-brakes of
the South, I must show how simple private citizens
did in some instances come up from the common
herd, step by step, until they stood above the multi-
tude, dignified by the name, the pomp and circum-
stance of power, — and became the nation's hand to
move its armies, deplete its treasury, postpone it may
be the termination of the war; in at least one case, to
disgrace the whole land by their lamentable lack of

Charlie Hardone had his hands full. His com-
pany dwindled. Political education had taught him
to manipulate his muster-roll. Success had been
partial, and Scienter, smarting under well-deserved
rebuffs, plainly told him his position as lieutenant de-
pended on the full muster-roll of actual men ready
to go into camp: told in that cautious reprimand
which mingles promise of reward with threats against


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failure. There were men in abundance, but they
would not go with him. Hours of thought strove
for a solution. Consultation and plan were frequent
with the captain. The offer of orderly, made to
James Manet, indicates the plan finally adopted. A
company has three commissioned and thirteen non-
commissioned officers. A full company must have a
complement of <5ne hundred and one men, including
one drummer, one fifer, and one wagon-master.
Twenty men were already secure, leaving seventy-
eight to be obtained. Each officer should be assured
of place, graded by the number of men obtained for
the company. Three recruits entitled to position of
corporal ; five to sergeant, — ^the sergeant who brings
most to be orderly, and rank of first, second, and
third sergeants graded in the ratio of recruits, while
the lieutenants were each to be responsible for ten
new men, or more if possible. Captain Scienter
furnished funds for office rent, board, and other ex-
penses — a most important item, as the rooms were
not distant from a beer shop.

" Come, boys, have a drink." Out of the office
into the saloon, behind the latticed screen, up to
the counter. A common shop with a huge square
ice-chest, out of which two long brass stop-cocks
drew lager or June beer ; glasses under the counter ;
a few old barrels, and a few decanters of different
colored spirits; two or three round tables, a* number
of chairs and a long bench.

The crowd is composed of some recruits, some am-
bitious privates anxious to become officers, a few


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hangers on and two or three persons from the out-
skirts, who are half decided to be soldiers. The
arguments of the office with its drum-sticks and fife
are unavailing.

" Gome boys what will you have ?" all are in-
vited, and every one drinks. Bar-keeper asks :
"Going to enlist? answer, "Can't say.*' "Oh,
yes! now's your time. The best company in the
best regiment in the State. Gapt. Scienter is a
brick ; you'll have the finest kind of times." " That's
so," echo several voices, glasses being set down
empty, convey a question as to the application. Bar-
keeper says, " Have another drink boys — I stand
treat to any man who has half a mind to fight for his
country." (Gapt. Scienter pays for all this.) " Now
I tell you, if I hadn't this shop on my hands, and a
wife and babies, I'd enlist square off. Whiskey ?
Well that's all right, take a little for your stomach's
sake. There's another thing I have got to say to
you ; perhaps I oughtn't to say it, but it's true for all
that. There never was a better fellow than that
Second Lieutenant of yourn ; he is one of your com-
mon kind of men who will take a fellow as he finds
him. You should have seen how careful he handled
Bob Roberts tother day. Gapt. Scienter, he's got
the influence, but Gharlie knows what he's about,
and is the best fellow in the world." Best follow in
the world, says every one. And when it comes to
singing he beats Jenny Lind to smash. Ilallow !
there he is — talk of the devil — Hurrah ! for you,
Gharlie; I was saying you was a tip top singer.


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Take something ? Boys you mustn't be offended,
Charlie lets other folk's opinions alone, if he is rathoF
strict, but he'll get over that by and by. Come now,
Charlie, the boys kinder don't think you can sing,
open out on 'em. Take another glass boys."

The young men gather around Charlie ; they wait
for the song — " Give us the song." He says :

" I don't think the song is of any account. I
would not give a cent for men who want to be caught
by a song. Volunteers is what we want. Men who
love their country. Those men down South have
had their way so long they think us mere cowards.
Some of them say they can lick ten Northern men.
Don't I see them doing it ! I'd like to see one man
come in here and clean us out." "So would 1!"
said half a dozen voices, and their eyes flashing, told
how powerful and vindictive emotions lay smoulder-
ing, while convulsive twitchings of fingers indicated
a readiness to fight some one instantaneously.

" They think all there is to be done is to look at
us and we'd run. You're all a parcel of poor white
trash, mud-sills, or'nary critters. When I think of
it, I can't help getting mad. I believe it is right to
swear sometimes, and I say, d — ^n them."

"Bully !" shouts the whisky ma^, "I'll fight, I'll
die for the old Union." ri

. "That is what I call the right spirit," says
Charlie. A man is only hatf a man who will stand
and tamely submit to the insults of the South. They
have some lessons to learn, and we are the boys to
teach them." ^ , , _^.-^


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" That's 80," says the saloon keeper. " For all
that, I'd like you to sing that song you gave tother
night. Don't be bashful. That, '^ Oh ! Susannah,
spank Yankee Doodle on your knee.' "
« " Oh, sing it, Charlie, sing it Charlie ; that's a
fine fellow. There's no one here but us. Sing it
old fellow."

Thus importuned, but not without hesitation, he

" I came to town the other night

When aU around was still,
I dreampt I saw old Southern rights

A coming down the hill,
A corn-cob pipe was in her mouth,

Old Bourbon in her eye,
Says she, Fm going to free the South*
Oh, Yankee, don't you cry. .
Oh, Yankee Doodle,

Don't you cry for me»
Fm going to have all rights myself
And spank you on my knee.

** Ise jumped on board the telegraph*

111 float on every river,
My cotton's Gk)d, aU magnified

And Yanks are but my nigger.
De Union's bnst, de South's ran of^

I hardly tink FU die,
Fse larf d so hard, Fse killed myselii
Oh, Yankees, don't you cry.
Oh, Yankee Doodle*

Don't you C17 for me,
Fm going to have all rights myself
And spank you on my knee.**


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"Bully ! Bully ! Hurrah, for Charlie! Hip, hip,
hurrah ! hurrah ! hurrah ! Tiger, ah ! By glory,
they shan't spank me ; I'm going — come Bill Solo-
mans, you must go with us ; all the boys are going ;
come on."

" Have another glass of beer, boys ?"

"That's enough," says Charlie.

" Just as you say," says the bar-keeper.

Come on now, come on — ^and under the furor, and
with the rush, two more recruits were brought to the
point and signed the roll and were sworn in.

But all of his men were not bought by a song.
Every town for thirty miles was scoured, and money
in the shape of expense freely lavished to supply the
requisite number.

Meantime James Manet was doing duty in the
wilderness of Missouri as eighth corporal. Obedient
to orders, which placed him as task-master over
drunken men ; called him to assist in tying, as pun-
ishment, thumbs to high limbs of trees. Think of
the mental strain on such a man, when under his
charge are thirty-six crazy, drunken, shouting nav-
ies, levee-rats and miners ! Did they suffer more,
when it became necessary to silence their bellowings
by gagging, or was his the pain and torture when
the pick-handle was run under the knees, held in the
tormenting position of bucking by the fettered wrists ?

What were his thoughts at the loosened tongue in
strong Celtic tone :

" Och, blissed Jasus ! Och, howly vargin !
Whoop ! D — ^m you for a d— d son of a .


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Whoop ! I'm a fray Amiriken ceetizan. I enlested
for the Union. Captin, I'll shoot ye. I'll be G — d
d — d to hell, 1*11 shoot ye. Jist fur a drap o'
vhishky. Whoop ! Hurrah ! I'm fray. Ye shan't
gag me. I'll die fusht ! I wont shet up. Whoop !
I'm fray!"

Kind words and soft things will not do for brutes,
and one experience of the butt of a musket, in a
drunken man's hand, closes the bowels of tender
mercies. Besides, the officer of the guard expects
every man to do his duty. The officer of the day
will curse the officer of the guard. He will heat the
swollen expletives in transmitting them to the ser-
geant of the guard; and the poor corporal of the
guard, with enough authority to excite fear without
respect from the private, has too little to demand con-
sideration from his superior ; and, in the constant and
uncontrolled, unbridled play of passion of the dis-
tant camp, removed from the restraints of female
influence or wholesome public opinion, the poor non-
commissioned officer must listen to the unchecked
flow of the language of hell, out of lips of fetid
breath, and from demonized souls, which in sober
moments will call him the best man in the world,^
and die if need be in his defence.

James was at RoUa, and saw the return of Gen-
eral Lyons' army. The ragged and shoeless First
Iowa — ^men who sprang from cottage and mansion
for their country ; who walked all the long, dusty
Northern roads until they joined the little army on
its march after the running General Price. That


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company of educated, professional .men, who, pro-
testing against the forced marches of one day and
the idleness of many succeeding days, received an-
swer from their superior, " A soldier has no right to
be a gentleman/' Who yet, at the request of that
same commander, returned to the battle-field, — ^for
their six months had already expired, and they were
forty miles on the road home, — ^returned by a forced
march and joined General Lyon — men to whom he
said when he ordered them to charge, and they, with-
out confidence in the nerve of the man in command,
asked " Who will lead us ? '* "I will lead you, my
braye boys." They followed him in the charge.
He fell.

Oh, had he lived, Wilson Creek would have been
an acknowledged victory, without retreat ; for Lyon
had the nerve of a great general, who can see his
army melt around him, and of the tattered remnants
make a fortress immovable as Gibraltar. In battles
with armies, as with prize-fighters, it is the side
which can take the most punishment and yet stand
up at the end, which comes off" victorious. He is a
wise general who, by the sacrifice of one-half or two-
thirds of his army, defeats his adversary, holds the
battle-ground, and saves the million lives of his peo-
ple. Such was Lyon.

James Manet was within reinforcing distance of
Mulligan at Lexington. Curses fell thick and fast
because no orders came for them to march. Some-
where something was wrong. He marched with
(General Fremont to Sedalia. Thmk of men taking


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the initial lesson, in soldier-life, with their guns slang
behind them, long hickory gads in their hands, with
which they warmed up the tired — ^in many instances
drunken — stragglers, and by dint of blows forced
them to keep up !

Hard as this was, it was mercy. Hovering around
were squads of rebels, who, with the guerilla spirit,
found the tired sleeper, and left him as Alexander
left the sleeping sentinel.

Oh, soldiering was hard to learn. They who
think it means simply being sick, or wounded or
dying on the field of battle, know nothing.

On that hard march to Springfield, which poUtical
jealousy rendered abortive, this incident occurred.
A burly corporal gave out. He was tired ; a soft
man, who gave up at home at imagination, ignorant
of himself as a horse of his power. His oflScers
were more exhausted, as on them fell the labor of the
march and the duty of keeping the company and the
regiment together. Price was running as no one but
Price and retreating rebels ever ran; like a long,
lean, lank hog, whom you have detected in a field
of clover. The oflficer came to the man, ordered him
into the ranks under penalty that he would fix him.
Soon after, the corporal fell out and lay down again.
The officer waited until the train came up, then he
fastened his wrists by a cord and tied him Uke a dog
to the army wagon, where he made him walk for an
hour, then loosed him and sent him to his place in
the ranks. Did the corporal shoot his officer in the
first battle ? No. A man who enforces obedience


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by such means, is not afraid of an enemy. A brave
soldier respects a braye commander. That captain is
dead, but only after rising from the line to the com-
mand of a regiment, in whose front he fell, fighting,
with more than one wound.

Have you ever been very thirsty ? James Manet
has drunk water in which swine have cooled them-
selves. But why go on through these horrors ? Be-
cause by them is tested the will of volunteers, their
submission to an idea, their willingness to suffer, to
die for their country; because hereafter officers al-
most wholly appear, and while many — the majority
let it be hoped — ^are noble as the angels of God,
some are exceptions, and as a whole, the most self-
denying patriotism is to be found among the quiet,
uncomplaining men who have for thirteen dollars a
month left happy homes, been nothing but soldiers,
and died alone, squalid, dirty, filthy, without a friend,
nothing but a private.

Charlie*8 regiment was not called into active ser-
vice until after the surrrender of Forts Henry and
Donaldson, the evacuation of Columbus, and the cap-
ture of Island 10. They arrived as raw recruits at

Online LibraryJ. E. ChamberlainCotton stealing. A novel → online text (page 10 of 29)