J. E. Chamberlain.

Cotton stealing. A novel online

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Tou are too good, too unsuspecting. You do not
know what this war has made men. How it has de-
based them ! Oh ! if I had never known ! I was once
unsuspecting. God forgive me ! What I am now he
has made me. It is the holy truth ; I declare it on
my sacred honor.


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Still Allie was unconvinced. Her ears heard these
frantic declarations, but her heart was unconscious.
A deaf and blind person in a room where the stove
habitually smokes, may be uneasy at a breath more
pungent than common, but on that account does not
imagine the house on fire. Leette had been disa-
greeable from first acquaintance, and Allie, though
uneasy, was not convinced. Between the word of a
woman she disliked, and the memory of a man she
honored, she clung to the latter^ she replied by only
one word, —

" The dogs ?"

" I saved him ; I took him from them ; he owed his
life to me, and he trifled with my honor."

" It is false ! James Manet is incapable of ingrati-
tude. I do not believe you. Let me go."

Allie left her without a look. Leette gazing on her
departure Uke a caged tigress hungry for blood, was
recalled to herself and another school of deception by
La Scheme's cutting comment, —

" Failed again !"

"1 have not failed."

"You lied."

" I did not lie. I deceived a Yankee. I do right.
In such a cause lies by the millions are blessings. I
have planted a thorn in her heart which will stab her
to death. It will go to her home and stab his mother.
I wish it would drag her grey hair in sorrow to the
grave. If it could only disgrace that old white head-
ed father-in-law, and blight the prospects of his sistei^
I should glory in it


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^^LeettOy 70U are a jewel, I knew it, I always knew
it. You have done for Sandiaon's daughter. Try
your hand on this Adjutant General, I have failed, I
cannot get even the prospect of a pass for you. I told
him of another thousand bales of cotton. He replied
that General Sherman was an old fool and had closed
the trade entirely until after Vicksburg was taken. It
is impossible for you to get through on that plea. —
Not that he personally was unwilling, but the orders
were too strict and he dare not disobey. Your pass
must come from the General commanding himself.-^-
The Adjutant General is the only man under heaven
who can do anything for you, and he tells me he can-
not. It is useless to ask.''

Allie Sandison, leaving' the alcove, found Mr.
Wirtman, her only friend, in the mixed company
who occupied the parlors. She joined him, thinking
Charlie, as was often the case, might have been
called away on business, and he was not always kind
enough to excuse himself. Mr. Wirtman, too much
of a gentleman to neglect any person — to Allie more
of a parent than her own father — cheerfully took
her under protection, and, when a message came for
him to come home, "A soldier wants to see you im-
mediately,** he said, "You, too, Allie. Perhaps it
is James."

Thus, when La Scheme sought the adjutant gen-
eral, and brought him back, he found no one save
Leette, who having accidentally overheard the mes-
sage to Mr. Wirtman, and the name James, had a


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key to open her new operations ; though she did not
use it, as she first intended to excite his jealousy,
for Charlie said, anticipating her words :

" I know what you would say. La Scheme has
told me. It is useless. I cannot give you a pass on
any consideration whatever."

" She shook her head with language which beauty
makes more eloquent than words. He smiled, but
replied :

" I moan it all. You cannot tempt me. I know
of the cotton ; but that is blocked for the present.
Besides, we ran such risks on the last, and the Gov-
ernment is watching us so closely, that the General
will do no more business in that way. We shall
never buy on our own account again."

" How is that ? " asked La Scheme.

"We shall demand our share in cash before we
• sign a permit. Not a pound can come in or go out
until its owner has paid us for his privileges. We
hold the cards, then, without risk of detection or fear
of loss. So you see I have no need of any cotton
now. You will have to wait. Miss Leette, until Gen-
eral Sherman goes away before you can get out the

"General," said Leette, "are you really in ear-
nest? I liked you so well. Why! I thought wo
were partners! I must have dreamed."

" I feel highly flattered," was Hardeners retort,
" to be a partner in your dreams. Was it a pleasant



They were interrupted by a voice saying, " You
are joking^ Miss Ledonc."


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"Mr. La Scheme !" said she haughtily, " Would
you throw discredit on my word ?'*

" By no means. Excuse me. I beg your pardon.
I will intrude no longer."

He left them alone.

" I did dream we were partners, General. Why
aren't you General in place of that fellow? You
are so much smarter than he. I wish you were. I
should be afraid of you.


" I dare not tell. You would be too vain. But
it is no use for me to wish. When are you going to
1)0 married ? Oh! do you think she loves you ?"

" Of course, why not?"

" Why ? I — I ought not to say a word ; but I am
an impulsive Southern woman, and if I like a person
I cannot hold back like those cold females who in-
habit the North, I have talked with her, and she
has no passion, no fire, no enthusiasm. She is all
hospital, and she does not care. I won't say it ; it
will hurt you. No ; you are a man. Yes ; I know
you are. You love her, and she docs not love you.
I know whom she does love, — that Corporal ! Do
not shake your head, nor turn away. I am not jeal*
ous, I would be if you loved me. Oh ! how I would—"

Charlie turned toward her, eyes wide open, and
saw her hands on her heart, while she withdrew an
expression of loving possibility from her face, assum-
ing the bashful consciousness of being surprised.

" If you do not believe me, go to Mr. Wirtman's
and see for yourself."


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Charlie knew Allic had cause against him. None
are more sensitive than the guilty. He had not
reached the point of guilt where sensitiveness be-
comes shameless. Before he had quite gone, Leette
put her soft hand on his arm and detained him.

" You are going away so soon ! Perhaps you will
die. I may never see you again."

He put bis hand on his forehead, murmuring to
himself, " Is it possible ! She does love me."
Leette*s face was covered by her handkerchief.
Kindly putting his hand on her shoulder, he said :

" Miss Leette. Leette ! I am astonished."

"1 cannot help it. I never could be calm as
Northern women. And you are going to war, and
may be killed. Whereon she drew into his arm
and put her head on his shoulder.

" But, dear Leette !— *^

" Oh ! am I dear to you ? Just a little. I felt it
in my heart. I knew you did not hate me."

"Hate! No. Oh, no ! "

" Then give me one good-bye." She raised her
lips, which on his part were met, while she drew on
a beautiful smile, and looked lovingly from eyes she
had reddened by rubbing, said, "Tou will think
of me, Charlie ? "

" Of course I will."

" And will you do me one great favor before I go? "

" Certainly, if it will make you happy. What can
I do ? "

" Come and see me when you return."

" I will do that cwtainly. And now I must go."


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" So soon ? *'

" Yes. Good-bye. What, another ? I am rich."
She held his hand — following him a little, detaining
him a little. Then said :

" Oh, Charlie ! *' [he stopped and looked at her,]
" Janie is dead."

" Not your racer, Janie? "

" Yes. I want to bury her, but cannot get out of
the city lines. dear ! I loved her. She saved'
my life."

" Is that all ! I will give you a pass to do that.
That is easily done. Come into the library."

In a few moments Leette came to La Scheme, her
eyes flashing with the fire of victory. " I have it !
I have it! It is mine! Hurrah for Leette Le-
donc I " She held up the slip of paper and waved it
in the air. He took it from her, and read :

^' Miss Leette Ledonc has permission to take the
dead body of her horse Janie through the lines, bury
it and return,

" By order of Major General Solenter.

Chas. Hardonb, Capt. & A. A. G.

"Quinine! Quinine!! Hurrah!" and without
noise she gave vent to expressions of jubilant joy.

"Janie is not dead, Leette. And if she were, you
could take out no quinine with her."

"I shall kill her and fill her with quinine. She
served the Confederacy in life, she shall serve it in
death, and be buried with its life in her keeping. —
Oh, I did cheat him. I made believe love, and took
him in. Soft fool I devil !" Here she trampled with


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her foot, and wiped ofiF her lips, and threw back her
hand, as though she tore off the kisses he had placed
there and trampled on them. " But it was worth it
all. Quinine, quinine, who woUld not cheat a Yan-
kee, even at the expense of a kia9, for the life of our



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\No wounded soldier, without strong motives, refuses
-a leave of absence. Jaraes Manet, just escaped from
the rebels, the blood hounds, the fire, was none too
well, especially as a new campaign was at hand. —
Whatever other inducements, and they were many, he
had, to visit Memphis, see his relative and hear from
home, he had this also, to aid the poor widow, who had
been goo i i nd true in his extremity. He knew of the
diflSculties connected with cotton, merely by report,
until his return to Helena, where he was foolish enough
to imagine that the story of the widow's destitution,
her guiltlessness of wrong in the war, the starving
condition of her children, and her kindness to himself
under such circumstances, would be suflScient to ob-
tain speedy relief from the authorities, especially when
corroborated by himself. Little, how very little, did
he know of the vampire appetite existing among those
in command, for blood money.
The rules and regulations of the departments w^re


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justly, honorably, wisely strict. Against thA prudent
foresight of General Grant and General Sherman not
one word can be spoken. I remember distinctly when
listening to a bargain which involved several million
dollars, which brought fifty thousand dollars worth of
goods, salt, flour, whisky, boots and shoes, planta-
tion supplies, on board a steamboat for a cotton trip
up a celebrated river. That those men who had permits
and papers from the most unexceptional authority,
united in declaring that in all their intercourse with

• military authorities, whatever they may have paid
other oflScials, these Generals were above suspicion.
Honest men do exist. Noble, glorigus examples are
found among our Generals. That which deserves con-
demnation is the exceptional instance like General
Scienter, whose turpitude was so well known among
the clerks and subaltern oflScers of his department,
that they felt secure in all minor acts of black mail
which they practiced upon every individual who was
base enough, or weak enough, or too much pressed by
business to incur the delay brought about by them ;
when under the plea of red tape, tfley hindered, block-
ed, opposed the usual course of business, that they
might be paid for doing their duty.

To make this phase of the cotton business stand
out in its clearest light, I copy the trials of a man in
a large Southern city where an honest General succeed-
ed a renowned cotton speculator, whose name ought
to descend to posterity blackened by the pity of every

just lover of country. Pity for the weakness which
was not satisfied with the honor and respect of a land


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fall of friends. Sad regret that such a man, who had
enjoyed the confidence of his native State, who had
filled offices of the highest trust in the gift of his con-
stituents, of his party ; whose name had been before
his admiring countrymen as candidate for the highest
office in the gift of a free, honest, honorable people,
should have fallen before a pecuniary temptation. —
Alas ! what treasure of gold, of rubies and precious
stones can compare with virtue lost, with honor sul-
lied, with reputation tarnished forever ! There is
one man whose name is justly despised, the traitor of
the first Revolution, Benedict Arnold. When the his-
tory of this war shall be justly written, the Greneral
Solenters of the army who have uselessly sacrificed val-
uable life on the shrine of the god Cotton, will mark
a new era of contempt, and be held up to the detesta-
tion of all the good, pure and patriotic of mankind*

Before this memorandum is transcribed, I will re-
late an incident which I will only vouch for as current
in private conversation in New Orleans.

A Texan broad brimmed hat, a long wide cape, rebel
grey overcoat, with a large bulky planter's form with-
in, applied to a certain Provost Marshal General for
a pass to go out of the lines and purchase cotton. —
This was refused as contrary to orders. The appli-
cant persisted, finally proposing to pay for the pass
in gold : and the Provost Marshal accepted the offer,
wrote the pass ; whereon Texas produced a bag of
gold telling fifteen hundred dollars in coin on the ta-
ble, which was paid. When the pass was folded and
put away, Texas unfastening his outside coat, threw


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it open and displayed the stars and buttons of a Ma-
jor General in the United States Army. The Provost
Marshal saw his position and burst in tears. Well
might he weep, for the Major General wrote an order
from the President of the United States arresting the
unworthy officer, and put him in custody of his own

This was done in the Department of a commanding
General who was beyond the shadow of suspicion, a
General who has made himself hosts of enemies by
his determined hostility to every phase of the cotton
trade. The prohibition ought to have been perfect,
final, complete. The possibility of exception opened
the door of temptation, thereby put a premium on ev-
ery chance of the trade. Less damage perhaps would
have resulted had the door been thrown wide open,
and every one permitted to get out all the cotton his
individual enterprise could reach.

Again, the lack of judgment exhibited by some of
these officials was wonderful. Whenever any steam-
boat brought cotton within the army lines, cotton
was seized, in accordance with the regulations, which
was perfectly proper ; but not this alone, the boat
which brought it was also seized, and if not confis-
cated put to an aggregate expense, causing thous-
ands of dollars of loss to the owners. Even this
might have been endured by loyal men, had there
been any certainty the cotton so seized would be sold
and its proceeds turned over to the Government.
But in many instances, if not in every instance, com-
manding officers or quartermasters found ways to put


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the proceeds into their own pockets, until steamboats
passed by hundreds and thousands of bales, laying
exposed on the river bank and afterwards burnt by
guerillas, which might have assisted to defray the
expenses of the war and diminish the taxes which
oppress and burden the land. Had the plan been
adopted of paying the steamboat's salvage, or even
freight, those millions of pounds would have been
saved, as they might have been with slight exertion.
To the truth of which statement I call steamboat
men, who have followed the river during the war, to

Often the General commanding was entirely ignor-
ant of the misdeeds of his inferiors. Then, he was
not responsible. But there were Q-enerals, like
Scienter, who received the price of blood, let them,
when known, bear their curse, unmitigated obloquy,
the detestation of every honest man and woman in
the land.

To return to the process of obtaining a permit to
get cotton. On the twenty-first of a certain Decem-
ber a man obtained permits from the Purchasing
Agent of the United States, in accordance with the
orders issued by the President, to purchase two hun-
dred bales of cotton. An honest man, who was de-
termined not to pay a bribe. This is his record :

" Hurried to Colonel S 's office. Waited most

of the day before I could obtain an audience.
Handed in my permits, and received instructions to
call to-morrow. '

<< Dec. 22d. — Called. Was told I must name vee-


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sel and crew, and give bond with security. Not
time to-day. Call Uhmorroto.

" Dec. 23d. — ^Filed bond and named vessel. Was
told all right. CaU to-morrow.

" Dec. 24th.— Office closed until the 25th.

" Dec. 25th. — Permits not ready. Had to be re-
corded in adjoining office. Come to-morrow.

" Dec. 26th. — Went and spent all day. Succeeded

in getting permits signed. Went to Gen. C *s

headquarters ; was told I could have my papers Uh

" Dec. 27th. — ^Papers not sent in. Come to-mor-

"Dec. 28th — ^Forenoon.— OSxK in the afternoon.

Afternoon got permits and hurried to Admiral P 's

office ; was not detained five or ten minutes. Then
went to Provost Marshal's office to get passes to go
through the lines to the point where the cotton is. —
Too late to do business that day. Come to-morrow.

" Dec. 29th.— Spent the day to get Col. R 's

signature. Pass sent to Gen. 11 by Orderly :

not be signed until to-morrow.

" Dec. 30th. — Was told permits and passes had
been lost ; persevered and hunted them up ; found

them too late to be signed by Gen. H . Come


" Dec. 31st. — ^New order issued ; pass to issue from

Col. S and be endorsed by Gen. EL . Went

to Col. S *s office ; waited all day and failed to

gain audience.

" Jan. 1st. — Got a hearing too late for the Gen-
eral's signature. Come to-morrow.


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"Jan. 2nd. — Col. S had failed to send pass up

to head-quarters. Come to-morrow.

" Jan. 3rd. — ^Waited nearly all day, and got my

If this ^as the process in later time, when the
President's order encouraged honest men to engage
in the cotton trade— when military detectives were
watching officials, fearing they should be detected —
what must have been the delay and detention when
Gbnerals like Scienter saw tens, hundreds and thous-
ands of dollars waiting only to be taken, ready to
drop in showers, so-ever their permits were granted ?

James Manet found cotton a hard road to travel ;
because he was unwilling to do wrong. As this is
the story, we turn back to the place where we left
Mr. Wirtman going to his rooms to meet a soldi^
who might be his wife's son ; for, already, he had
sent a letter, soliciting for him leave of absence for
a few days, and obtained the endorsement of General

The rooms of Mr. Wirtman were in a sequestered
dwelling, which had been assigned Mr. Sandison,
near headquarters. On their arrival they found
James in the parlors, engaged in close conversation
with Mr. Sandison.

Allie Sandison did not willingly accompany Mr.
Wirtman. Doubt hung over every step. Should
she believe Leette ? Which of all her represent*^
tions should be believed ? That James went to war
because he was disappointed in his love toward
her? That^ thus disappointed, he had forgotten


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patriotism so far as to be a traitor ; . thus, by impli-
cation, throwing a heavy responsibility on herself?
That he had not only been treacherous, but base ?
And if this was false, if James was all his mother
believed ; if he loved truly, and she more than half
wished — ^that is, a something which grew warm in her
heart was not sorry if it might be so ; while another
self, with all^f cultivated affection, regarded every
such emotion as treason to him who held her promise;
who, holding that sacred pledge, was, day by day,
putting affection to a test which dwarfed and more
than chect:ed its growth; the care of a gardener,
nourishing a rare and costly plant in a conservatory,
forgetting his daily attention — leaving the doors and
windows open for the chills of evening, the damps
and even frosts of neglect, — like this of to-night,
leaving her alone : forcing such a meeting as was to
come upon her unwilling. And then that other
something, the other somebody, the true Allie San-
dison springing away from the Lina Sandison of
girlhood, uneducated by war, with an instinct like an
orange-tree blooming in its own dear native soil,
drawing bashful from fear lest Allie Sandison should
be recognized.

James Manet met them unconscious of else save
joy to meet them alive, unchanged, save as the mind
and heart grow strong and old, as thousands of our
volunteers have become, from puny minded boys,
brave reliant men by the teachings of a short cam-
paign. No calumny could look in his calm, fearlessly
honest eye, and believe him untrue ; unconsciously,


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Allie Sandison became all Allie leaning on his words,
drinking them without asking for a reason, while he
simply, briefly told the saliant points of his exper-
ience, dwelling most upon what concerned others-

At length Sandison drew the attention of all to the
topic which had been interrupted when they came.

"And so La Scheme is a traitor as well as rebel. I
am sorry for it. He was my friend, ro^m mate and
classmate in College. I thought well of him, and even
now I can hardly believe what you tell, though it
must be true. Why ! I have been engaged with him,
and never have seen a dishonest act yet." .

" His pl.iris are too deep, Mr. Sandison. His fore-
sight is remarkable, more wonderful his knowledge of
human nature, most extraordinary the facility with
which he adapts himself to every one he meets. I have
seen him win slaves for the study, play with them for
amusement, when no one was by ; I unnoticed, wound-
ed, silent and-a prisoner. He was a politician before
the war; while we soldiers are fighting with powder
and balls, he is doing more fearful destruction with
the very weapons which opened the conflict termina-
ting in bloodshed. He trusts in politics. I have
heard him condemn Jeff. Davis for neglecting the pol-
itics of the North; now he has opened the cotton trad©
on his own plan, and, as he says, transferred the seat
of war to the North. I know he counts on your aid
and assistance. In his opinion every Northern poli-
tician has his price ; excuse me for thus saying, but
I do believe he thinks he can buy you. "

" Yes, James, you are in this, if not right, not far


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from right. I know La Scheme. I read him. He
never deceived me. I have made use of him when he
was using me. Politicians use each other, the wise
man, the sharp man uses his adversary against his
will if possible. Now, he has helped me in the cotton
business, I have aided him ; both have made money.
If he attempts to use his profits to the injury of the
nation, I believe I am smart enough to checkmate him

"Oh, that cotton !" exclaimed James. "I wish
there was no cotton and there had never been any."

" Not that, • not that. We must have gold to
prosecute the war, — gold to sustain the finances of
the country. While I am getting out cotton, I am
doing the nation more service than any individual
volunteer, since thereby I move the army in the field,
the people at home, and the nations abroad, who
watch the variations in the market value of our gold."
" Oh, Mr. Sandison, more than either gold or
cotton is common honesty demanded among those
who manage the finances of the war. If cotton is^
to come out at all, let every one have an equal op-
portunity. Bring its price down ; but do not per-
mit the authorized agents of the Government to mon-
opolize it themselves, at the expense of the whole
country. The widow who fed me cannot get her few
bags of cotton away, because the authorities will
give ~io permission ; while some persons obtain per-
mits every day. Oh ! I wish we had an Andrew
Jackson or a Napoleon at the head of affairs : some
one who would shoot two or three rascally Quarter-


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masters, — ^hang an incompetent, speculating two-and-

Online LibraryJ. E. ChamberlainCotton stealing. A novel → online text (page 21 of 29)