J. E. Chamberlain.

Cotton stealing. A novel online

. (page 11 of 29)
Online LibraryJ. E. ChamberlainCotton stealing. A novel → online text (page 11 of 29)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Pittsburg Landing and awoke to a knowledge of war,
on the early morning, when the pickets were driven
into the camp, and the long roll hardly beat, before
the skirmishers of Beauregard were firing vollies on
the line of battle. There was nothing for them to
do but lay on the ground and fight until that position
became too hot, when they withdrew to form a new
line of battle, from which they were again driven,



Digitized



by Google



170 OOTTON STSALINa.

not to reform that day, but to renew the fight in de-
tached squads as their nerves or fears permitted.
Charlie was not a coward, neither was Scienter, bat
their colonel showed himself a coward, and for
cowardice his place was given to the braver man.
And now remains but one step between Scienter, the
lawyer and politician, and the brigadier generalship.

At this point cotton properly begins. It only re-
mains to say a word of Lina Sandison and leave her
at home.

After James Manet went to war, a fair, unob-
structed field remained for Charlie. Events waited
not. New combinations drove old acts, even of evil,
far from thought, almost from memory. Every
day had new excitement so absorbing as to preclude
backward glances, hardly admitting the anticipations
of the future.

The company was full at last. Then through
some turn of fortune's wheel, the colonel of the regi-
ment was transferred. By political and other influ-
ence Capt. Scienter succeeded in obtaining the
lieutenant colonelcy over the head of the captain of
Co A. and the major of his own regiment, uniting his
forces with the old lieutenant colonel, who was pro-
moted to a full colonel.

This gave promotion to Charlie, who became first
lieutenant, and through Solenter's influence, adjutant
of the regiment. Scienter, already in conjunction
with others, laid wires for the removal of his colonel
and his own necessary succession to the vacant post
Thus, before the adjutant had more than a theoreti-



Digitized



by Google



COTTON STBALIN0. ITl

enly Hardee-Tactic knowledge of his duty, he was in
a fair way to be assistant adjutant general.

Of this Charlie was proud. He was smart, he
was successful, praise fell gratefully on his ear, and
flattery wa5 to him delicious. Yet this would have
been tame had not success with Lina Sandison also
been granted.

Lina Sandison, to do her full justice, had that some-
thing which at times receives the name of presenti-
ment, the inward instinct forbidding to do what was
soon to be done. A combination of circumstances
hemmed her in, their pressure directed, and acting
with perfect freedom, still this indistinct impression
came occasionally to haunt, to suggest danger in the
future. A disturbing force had entered her mind.
What ? She did not know. Often it happens that
the heart goes out, nor does the owner know it has
gone. Up to that moment such a thing as heart,
love in this sense was unknown, nor is it yet dis-
covered; a want is the sensation; something has
gone. Who has it ? The poor child does not know.
Home was happy, morning was lovely, noon was
glorious, evening was perfect. Now what is the
matter ? The heart has missed something. The
heart wants something. How many thousand thou-
sand hearts have wakened on a morning since the
war began, wanting something ! weary, knowing not
why I Ask Lina if she loved James Manet. She
will answer, no. But when he went to the war, she
missed something. Her thoughts turned to him
alone, might have solved the mystery without mis-



Digitized



by Google



172 COTTON STEALING.

ery. But Charlie came with varied attractions,
and his great store of animal magnetism. Some
men, as also some women, have power to attract, to
influence and control others, as a gift. Charlie, so
far as a strong will can, compelled Lina to love him.
Look at his advantages. Young, not bad looking,
genteel, self-possessed, forward, self-confident, ma-
king the most of every gift and advantage, and he
had both. Then he was a star in their beau-firma-
ment, and other girls envied her, — tried to catch him.
Besides, he was successful ; he was an officer ; he had
been promoted. And then he was fascinating. Every
advantage was skilfully used ; for Charlie played for
the stake of Llna Sandison as shrewdly, as persist-
ently, as energetically, as for a full company or an
adjutant's position. Politics had taught him to look
far ahead for the main chance. And, when he left
for the war, she was engaged to him, — ^trying to feed
her hungry heart on his love, — ^trying to satisfy her
great imagination of her Adam on him, — ^thinking
how kind, how good, how smart, how elegant, how
beautiful, — ^making him radiant in the rays of what
she knew she could love, of what she believed him to
be, of what he had made her believe him to be.

/ . ... -



Digitized



by Google



CHAPTER XV.

Genius, talent and capacity are governed by no
law of primogeniture; nor can be transmitted from
father to son as an entailed estate. The Union
army was composed of as smart, energetic business
men as the world can produce. Men left the pulpit,
left the bar, left the dissecting room to fight as com-
mon soldiers for their country. Clerks, head-clerks,
and book-keepers, left the largest houses of the great
cities of America to become privates or non-commis-
sioned officers ; individuals who possess in the germ
the ability of an Astor, a Gerard, a Baring, a Pea-
body or a Lawrence. The officers also were capable
far-seeing business men. These with half an eye
caught distinct views of fortunes possible. The sig-
nature of a Provost Marshal, a quartermaster, a
general compasses a district, enforces an order which
makes a monopoly, whereby any individual can
realize a profit of thousands daily.

The first consignment of beer admitted to Yioks-
biirg cleared (20,000 in one month.



Digitized



by Google



174 COTTON STEALING.

Charlie Hardone was no fool. Sandison had given
him instructions. Solenter was equally sharp. The
commander of a post, he possessed power to make
monopolies by special orders. Applications were
made almost daily to him by individuals for privi-
leges. These he turned over to his post adjutant
Hardone, saying,

" By the writing of my name I give a permit which
enables a man to make his fortune. What good does
it do me ? None. I tell you I shall do it no longer.
Whoever wants me to help him, must help me. Now
Charlie if you can arrange it to make something
yourself and cover me up, all right, go ahead.*'

Charlie replied, " I will fix it."

Hereupon Charlie worked out his plan which is
explained in the following letter :
" Mr. Sandison :

Dear Sir — Enclosed you will find letters of
recommendation from Col. Solenter to Bankers in
New York, friends of his in whom you can confidently
rely. They will do your business for you and
recommend you to other parties.

" Immediately on receipt of this, you will, if you
know what is best for yourself, let your store go to
the devil ; realise as much ready money as you can
beg, borrow, steal or .compass in any other way ;
go to Solenter's father and get him to endorse for
you ; then start for New York, where you will buy up
all the Tennessee, North and South Carolina and
Georgia money you can come at, and then come
down here and start a bank.



Digitized



by Google



COTTON STBALIK0. 175

" I will guarantee $100,000 — as your ehare of the
profits. There is almost an unlimited field of opera-
tions. Cotton can be bought here fo/ten and fifteen
cents in gold, greenbacks will do, but the people pre-
fer Southern money, which you will be able to buy,
if you are expert, at fifty per cent, discount in New
York.

" You have no time to loose, for other sharp men
are on the track. Go at once and let usual business
take its own course.

"Scienter will furnish you all the permits and
necessary documents for the army lines.

" You had better while you are East go to Wash-
ington and see the Secretary of War and the Treasury.

" I also recommend, this is my own responsibility,
you to secure the co-operation of your state senator or
representative to aid in case of any complication with
the authorities. I have no definite plan to suggest.
You know more of such things than I. But it seems
to me the offer of a share of the profits of the busi-
ness would be fair. He being on the ground at
Washington, would be able to keep us posted and
could cover up whenever necessary.

" I think in carrying out the plan, it would be
well to get Col. Scienter appointed Brigadier Gen-
eral, and then if he shows himself at all in our next
fight, by a judicious manipulation of our home
organs, we can bring him so fully before the country
as to demand his i^pointment as Major-General.
This will entitle him to the command of a district
and then we will have all things our own way.



Digitized



by Google



176 COTTON STEALING.

" I wish only to give you these suggestions. You
will need no aid from me. On your arrival here and
during our intercourse, it may become advisable to
play off on you ; Solenter knows that to perfection.
All you do must be done through me, and he must
never be involved in any transaction.

" In regard to division of profits, it must be by
thirds. And, if necessary, we will each give a por-
tion, which shall be made satisfactory to our agent
in Washington.

" The profits on a bale of cotton will rarely be less
than one hundred dollars, and, with the facilities we
can compass, I have no doubt we can get out ten
thousand bales.

" Now T have a thousand things to manage besides
this, and of course cannot give my mind to this specu-
lation at all. You can easily understand that you
will have to do all the business ; be the beginning,
middle, end, first, last, — everything connected with
it. We know you, have confidence in you, and you
must go ahead. You shall be backed up.

^^ One word is as good as a thousand.

" I am, as ever, yours, etc., etc.,

" Charlie."

Cotton goods, once twelve and one-half cents per
yard, had gone up as high as twenty-five and thirty
cents, — ^afterwards, higher than half a dollar. Why ?
Because raw cotton was scarce. What made it
scarce ? War. What made war ? Slavery. Un-
paid labor of black men has clothed our whole
people. Has not the low price of cotton goods



Digitized



by Google



COTTON STBALINe. 177

reduced the demand for, the value of, all others
regulated by the demand? Who, of all our men,
women, and children, has not sacrificed moral res-
ponsibility when cheapening sheeting, shirting, or
prints, over the counter ? The whole world has par-
taken of the American sin of slavery. Because the
sub-divisions have been so minute, responsibility has
been assumed unhesitatingly, and the slave-holder
been encouraged in his crime. The demand for
cheap goods encouraged him to rebel, — to establish,
by rebellion, the institution which reduces the cost
of this staple.

In those early days cotton could be bought for ten
dollars per bale, — ^the consideration being, in some
instances, a pair of boots, or a few gallons of whisky,
or any of the many indispensable necessaries of life.
The cotton supply diminishing, people thought it
must be obtained at any sacrifice. The Treasury
granted permits, subject only to the control of the
general commanding in the field, to whose judgment
the whole trade was confided. The few individuals
first engaged were extraordinarily successful.

Mr. Sandison had anticipated some opening of
this kind; and, on receipt of Charlie's letter, was
ready to embrace its propositions instantly. Excus-
ing himself by the tale of sudden call to Washing-
ton, he went East and secured a large amount of
currency at rebellion prices ; the bankers and bro-
kers being very willing to dispose of it at any price.
He also secured his agent in Washington. Sandison
was the man, of all others, to accomplish any deli-
12



Digitized



by Google



178 COTTON STBALma.



cate mission. Knowing men, he knew what to leave
unsaid ; susceptible of pecuniary influences, he knew
how to exert such influence on others ; being an in-
fluential party man of long standing, he knew the
character, quantity, and quality of influence he could
rely upon. His peculiar genius and usefulness con-
sisted in knowing exactly how little taken from
different sources of power would unite in accom-
plishing something unsuspected by any of his many
assistants,— causing them to raise their hands in as-
tonishment, exclaiming, ^^Is it possible? What a
man that Sandison is ! "

This being so, none need be surprised that Sandi-
son left Washington for home with papers, to which
the autographs of the Secretary of the Treasury,
the Secretary of War, and the President himself, were
attached. These documents were the more readily
granted because their intrinsic value was not appa-
rent ; because, alone, they amounted to only a
seeming endorsement, which no one deserved more
than he, who, by judiciously preferring his claim, and
withdrawing in favor of those in power at the exact
moment, had put the party under obligations not
easily ignored. The surprise lay not in asking too
much, but asking so little, while the favoring auth(Hr-
ities would have been astonished at the effect of these
documents when united each to each, together with
good fellowship, good wine, good cigars, and part of
the profits.

When Sandison arrived at home, for the first time
his wife and family were informed of his intention to



Digitized



by Google



COTTON STEAMNO. 179

go South. His relations at home were of that inde-
pendent character that acquiescence was of course.
Self-sacrifice had been taught in his household by
the insatiable hand of party-spirit. In many res-
pects he was a politician in his own family ; shrewdly
governing without anger dr Solomon's rod. They
loved him. It was hard at any time to let him go.
Whenever he said, " I go," they never thought to
hinder or oppose, — ^they wept.

Lina has been learning her lessons. You see it in
her face. Childhood has given way to the earnest
woman. Self-forgetfulness has worked into her act-
ive life, making her foremost in labor for the sol-
diers. What no one else will attempt because it is
hard, she passes not by : careless for the light gos-
sip of little minds and diminutive souls: seeking
forgetfulness in doing something for the heroes who
have given life for us. The faint hungry look of
her girlish eye, is more distinct in that of the woman,
who, in her heart of hearts, is getting grey with emo-
tion. There is a fire there, a passion, which restless,
and fitful, goads her to something, makes her wish to
do— and asks from morning until evening, ^'What
shall I do? " — and when it is all done, it seems so
little !

She is beginning to be the smallest degree disap-
pointed in Charlie. His letters lack what she seeks,
the invisible assurance of entire devotion. Some
words are trivial, some expressions, whose words
are unexceptionable, seem to have no meaning.
She is learning her capacity for suffering. She is be-



Digitized



by Google



180 OOTTON STBALINa.

ginning to know how much she can love, and desire
to be loved by a man whom she can honor in the
same degree. She is hungry. Father goes away with
only a kiss. Mother does not understand or appre-
ciate her. She turns to Charlie, and is hungry
still.

Just before her father goes away, that sad letter
from James tells of Henry's death. How awful to
die, so suddenly, and send no good-bye to his wife
and child !

James writes, " Only the night before he died, as
we sat beside the camp-fire, we talked of all at home.
Soon after we went on picket. Then, for some rea-
son, Henry seemed sad and lonely, and recalled the
sad funeral of Capt. Esmons. He said, since he
had seen war and fighting, he was glad our good cap-
tain had found a grave among his friends. ^' You and
I, James, God knows where we'll be buried. I wish
that at sometime, Mary and my child could come to
my grave." And he spoke of mother and Jeanie,
Lilly Sue, leaving not out Lina, for she seemed as
near as one of us, and then he seemed burdened to
know what would become of his wife and child when
he was gone,"

Those words! That remembrance! Hearts are
traveling hither, thither, backward, forward, all over
our land. This binds us closer to the living, closer
to the hillock in the sun-baked clay of Arkansas, and
Lina felt ties of relationship, the great, common bond
of grief. How much closer after Lilly Sue went
away ! Sue was very near to Lina, and when the
eyes slept, Lina closed them.



Digitized



by Google



COTTON STEALINO. 181

Mr. Sandison had no sooner reached his new post,
than he sent for George Washington Wirtman to
be his cashier. At home he had hired him to carrj
on his business for five hundred dollars per year and
store privileges. He now oflfered him one thousand
dollars and expenses all paid.

Wirtman was a thorough book keeper, having
spent his life at the desk. A man of sterling integ-
rity and unbounded confidence in his fellow men ; of
the number who think every man honest, even after
they have cast a shade on themselves. At this junc-
ture, he was the man for Sandison's purpose. His
honesty, his unsullied purity, would cover any trans-
actions in the office. He should never know the nsr
ture and character of the secret business, and his ig-
norance would assist in preserving it intact and
hidden.

The offer was too good to be refused, especially, as
Sandison proposed to break up house keeping, and
have Mrs. Wirtman take his residence, reserving only
a suite of rooms for his wife and family. Wirtman
was in debt for his house, and this seemed to present
an opportunity of earning the means of payment and
removing the mortgage. He accepted the offer, and
was on the point of closing out the store to Sandi-
son*s partner, when Lina insisted on taking the store
herself, and carry it on. She would hire a clerk to
represent her interest. This would realize more
than such a sale. Lina was successful, and immedi-
ately installed Mary Wirtman as clerk, while she was
mother to the fatherless babe at home.



Digitized



by Google



CHAPTER XVI.

When La Scheme returned from New Orleans
and New York, he came by way of Memphis, — ^re- .
maining only so long as was absolutely necessary.
Whilst absent, individual cotton trade had prosper^.
Small lots of ten and twenty bales, secreted by
planters, had reached the Federal lines. These, in
every instance, ran the gauntlet of guerillas, who
burned all the private cotton they intercepted. This
cotton trade soon attracted the attention of military
and naval authorities. A certain proportion of sup-
plies always passed through the lines when the
proprietors returned home. It became evident that
a large proportion — sometimes the whole — ^was di-
rectly or indirectly applied to the use of the rebel
army.

Whenever guerillas were parties, of course the
profits accrued to the prosperity of the Confederacy.
So, also, if any son, brother, husband, or father was
in the Confederate army, — the absent loved one is
dearer than self; if not dearer, is only second, — ^the



Digitized



by Google



COTTON STSAUNG. 188

extra pair of shoes, the warm blanket, the cloth for
pants or coat, or the articles themselves, bought and
worn through the lines by a rebel, who came in rags,
were forwarded to the army. The cases of desti-
tution among real Union men, who, positively in
want, unfolded the harrowing recital of their trials,
wrongs and persecutions, only aided the contraband
trade, and a faithful officer found great difficulty in
distinguishing real from bogus Unionism. There
was an amount of haggard poverty clinging to all
within the state, that the soul of every true man
was moved. When not twice, nor thrice, but a hun-
dred times, this was proved a treacherous cloak for a
hostile spirit, bowels of mercy were dried, and there
was no pity nor compassion. General, Provost Mar-
shal,— every officer, even to the sergeant on picket,
became a relentless avenger ; a rule invariable, save
when there was a bribery of cotton. The Treasury
made its regulations for legitimate trade. To the
War Department, through the generals in the field,
the control of individual cases was entrusted. The
navy, by its gun-boats, were concerned in the trans-
portation upon the river, and in the enforcement of
the prohibition placed on articles contraband of war.
In a short time these forces arrayed themselves in
antagonism. Any person who complied with the
letter of the Treasury regulations, was entitled to a
permit to engage in the cotton trade. A Jew, a
semi-union man, a squelched secessionist, knowing
where cotton was hid, came for a permit,— obtained
the sanction of one department of government, and



Digitized



by Google



184 COTTON STEALIITG.

then proceeded to get out his cotton. When the War
Department forbade, means were used to remove
their opposition. In suspicious cases the navy inter-
fered; and here again forces were required which
sometimes had arms long enough to touch the Wash-
ington center of power ; giant connections represent
giant capital, and when pecuniary arguments are
used, power is measured by depth of pocket.

Instances can be named where pecuniary tempta-
tions, too powerful for the moral stamina of all the
oflScers appointed to protect the interests of Govern-
ment, had been applied ; where Treasury, Army and
Navy had been bought for a consideration. Each
man, excusing his delinquency, salving his con-
science with the argument, " I am not bribed ; for I
only grant a privilege which this cotton speculator
values enough to pay for. Government is benefited
in no way, and is injured not at all. I might as well
make something as have this man acquire fortune by
the use (5f my permit, by the aid of my protection.'

This was all clearly comprehended by Kendal La
Scheme, — as well before as after his return from
New York. Leette Ledonc was to be a key upon his
finger-board, to aid him in his plans, — plans which
embraced the Confederacy in success, and his own
safety and wealth in its failure. His return was di-
rect to Leette. Coming upon Leette and her prisoner
unexpectedly, the impression upon his mind was of
distrust; fear lest the test imposed had been too
great ; lest mind and heart had been captured ; lest
he had lost power ; lest his plans should fail by the
very means he had chosen.



Digitized



by Google



COTTON STEALING. 1^6

" Leette ! " She started. He had come into the
room like a thief. She had waited and watched, yet
he had taken her by surprise. " You are getting on
well. Have you forgotten your country ? "

She took his hand, went into her room, and said :

" Oh, Kendal, I am glad you have come.** Leette
threw herself into his arms with the abandon of a
woman who has a right, who does no wrSig. " You
can persuade him. I know you can. If he was
only convinced we were right, he would fight no
longer. I cannot answer his arguments ; but you
can. You know so much ; you understand the cause
of the war so well.*'

" What have you learned from him ? Have you
won his love?"

"No. He has been disappointed. I think so.
He will not acknowledge it.*'

" Been disappointed and loves yet. That is the
worst kind."

** I taunted him, but he denied. I challenged his
motives, called him love-cracked. I do not believe
that ; he still loves."

"What is her name?"

" He has never told me ; but I believe it is Allie
Sandison."

" Is it possible ! It may be the daughter of my
old friend. If so, she is in Memphis. Leette, con-
gratulate me, I am in luck. Who would have
thought circumstances could produce such a combin-
ation ! I forgive your interest in your prisoner. I
would like to see more of him, y|lry him a little.



[Wed by Google



186 COTTON STBALINO.

Then again the two went into the prisoner's room ;
not at first directing their conversation to the corpo-
ral, but talking over him until he involved himself.
First, however, Leette acknowledged she had not at-
tempted to deceive him by pretending Unionism.
'^ We agreed to be enemies and immediately became
better friends."

La Sch Ae complimented her on her honesty and
humanity, congratulated her on the corporal's im-
proved appearance, wished she could be nurse for
the whole army, and carelessly asked :

" Is he an abolitionist ? "

" No," answers Leette for him. And her prompt-
ness of reply indicates a depth of interest which La



Online LibraryJ. E. ChamberlainCotton stealing. A novel → online text (page 11 of 29)