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John S. (John Sergeant) Wise.

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REESE LIBRARY



UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA.







v



THE END OF AN ERA



BY



JOHN S. WISE




BOSTON AND NEW YORK
HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY
rejtf, Cambub0e







COPYRIGHT, 1899, BY JOHN S. WISE.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED




PREFACE

THIS book needs this much of an apology. It is to
a great extent the autobiography of an insignificant per
son. If it were that alone, it would have no excuse for
publication, and would possess little interest for those out
side the immediate home circle. But it is not an autobio
graphy alone. It introduces views of Southern life and
feelings and civilization, prior to and during the war,
which possess an unflagging interest for the American
people ; and it tells the true story of several striking
events which preceded our civil strife, and many episodes
of the great war. Besides these, it gives accurate de
scriptions not heretofore published of the appearance and
actions and sayings of many distinguished participants on
the Confederate side.

When I first concluded to print the book, I made an
honest effort to construct it in the third person. It was
a lamentable failure, and made it appear even more egotis
tical than in its present form. Having returned to the
narrative in the first person singular, I found myself a
participant in several scenes in which I was not actually
present. How to eliminate these, and at the same time
preserve the continuity of the narrative, was a serious
problem. I solved it at last by the consent of my only
living brother that he would stand for me in several epi-



iv PREFACE

sodes, having told me all I know. 1 I will not mar the
narrative by pointing out the places in which my brother
is myself. This confession redeems the book from being
classed either as an autobiography or a romance; and
whenever anybody shall say to me, " Why, you were not
there?" I will answer, like the Israelite gentleman,
"Yes, I know. Dot vas mine brudder." The reader
gets the facts as they were, and that is all he ought to
expect.

I dedicate it to my old Confederate comrades, the
bravest, simplest, most unselfish, and affectionate friends
I ever had.

J. S. W.

NEW YORK, September 10, 1899.

1 Hon. Richard A. Wise, Williamsburg, Va.



CONTENTS

PAGB

I. A LONG WAY FROM HOME . . . ... 1

II. THE KINGDOM OF ACCAWMACKE 10

III. OUR FOLKS IN GENERAL AND IN PARTICULAR

IV. MY MOTHER : FIRST LESSONS IN POLITICS . . . 33
V. THE KNOW-NOTHING CAMPAIGN AND LIFE IN RICHMOND . 52

VI. BEHIND THE SCENES 61

VII. MY BROTHER 89

VIII. UNVEILING OF WASHINGTON S STATUE, AND REMOVAL OF

MONROE S REMAINS, 1859 . . . . . .98

IX. THE JOHN BROWN RAID 113

X. How THE "SLAVE-DRIVERS" LIVED .... 137

XL THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM THE CLOUDBURST . 152

XII. THE ROANOKE ISLAND TRAGEDY 175

XIII. THE MERRIMAC AND THE MONITOR 191

XIV. A REFUGEE 206

XV. AMONG THE MOUNTAINS . . 219

XVI. PRESBYTERIAN LEXINGTON 232

XVII. A NEW PHASE OF MILITARY LIFE 244

XVIII. A HUNT AND ALMOST A LICKING 276

XIX. THE MOST GLORIOUS DAY OF MY LIFE .... 285

XX. THE GRUB BECOMES A BUTTERFLY .... 310

XXL LIFE AT PETERSBURG 328

XXII. THE BATTLE OF THE CRATER 346

XXIII. THE CONFEDERATE RESERVES 372

XXIV. THE BEGINNING OF THE END 392

XXV. THE END IN SIGHT 412

XXVI. THE END 437

INDEX 465




THE END OF AN ERA



CHAPTER I

A LONG WAY FROM HOME



IT was the day after Christmas in the year 1846.

Near sundown, two young officers of the army of the
United States sat upon one of the benches on the pro
menade of the great reservoir which supplies the city of
Rio de Janeiro with water.

Both were lieutenants, one of engineers, the other
of artillery. Any one half acquainted with the United
States would have recognized them as West Pointers ; and
their presence in this far-away spot was easily accounted
for by a glance downward from the coign of vantage
where they sat, at a fleet of United States men-of-war and
troop ships riding at anchor in the bay.

Nowhere in all the world is there a scene more beauti
ful than that spread out before them. Below, falling
away down the mountain side to the silver sands of the
bay, were the palms and gardens, and orange and olive
groves, surrounding the residence of the Cateti suburb.
To seaward, the southern boundary of the mile-wide
entrance to the bay, loomed the bald, brown peak of the
Sugar Loaf Mountain, with the beautiful suburb of Bota-
fogo nestling near its base. Huge mountains, their dense
foliage lit by the sinking sun, ran down to the water s
edge upon the opposite or northern shore. Far beneath



2 THE END OF AN ERA

them was the Gloria landing for naval vessels. To west
ward, sweeping out into the bay with bold and graceful
curves, and spread beneath them like a map, was the pen
insula upon which the city of Kio is built, and beyond
this, gleaming in the evening sunlight, and studded with
islands of intense verdure, extended the upper bay until
it was lost in the distance, where, on the horizon, the blue
peaks of the Organ range closed in the lovely picture.

The ships bearing the commands to which the young
gentlemen were attached were bound to California around
Cape Horn. The troops were to take part in the war
then flagrant between the United States and Mexico. A
short stop had been made at Rio for water and provisions,
and these two youngsters were among the first to apply
for and obtain shore leave.

The dusty appearance of their dress, and other evidences
of fatigue, showed that they had not failed to sustain the
reputation of their countrymen as investigators of every
thing new and strange. In fact, they had, in the morning,
exhausted the sights to be seen in the city. After amusing
themselves in the shops of the Rua Direita, and replenish
ing their stock of Spanish books in the Rua do Ovidor,
and wandering through several churches and residence
streets, they had become very much interested in the re
markable aqueduct which supplies the city of Rio with
water.

Our young soldiers, in their engineering zeal, had fol
lowed the aqueduct back to its source of supply ; and
now, bound for the Gloria landing, were resting, deeply
impressed by the great work, and by the genius and skill
of its builders. But both the youths, recalling the fact
that it was the Christmas season, felt, in spite of all the
tropical novelty and strange beauty surrounding them,
as evening closed in, a yearning for an American home



A LONG WAY FROM HOME 3

and voice and face ; and their conversation naturally
enougli fell into conjecturing how the Christmas was being
spent by their own loved ones in the United States, or in
bemoaning the good things they were missing.

While thus engaged, they saw two men approaching.
One was in civilian dress ; the other wore the uniform
of assistant surgeon in the United States navy. The new
comers were engaged in animated conversation ; and,
although the civilian was a man of forty, while his com
panion was a youngster of twenty-five, there was little if
any difference in the alertness of their steps.

The faces of the young officers lit up with pleasure as,
upon the near approach of the two pedestrians, they caught
the sound of genuine United States English. They had
observed the American flag floating from a residence in
the Cateti, and had no doubt that the persons who were
now passing were in some way connected with the lega
tion. Accordingly, with that freedom which fellow coun
trymen feel in addressing each other in foreign lands, the
West Pointers arose at the approach of the two gentle
men, and, catching the eye of the elder of the two, ad
vanced, announced their rank and service, and made some
inquiry as a groundwork of further conversation. They
were not mistaken in their surmises. The gentleman
addressed was the Envoy Extraordinary and Minister
Plenipotentiary to the Empire of Brazil from the Republic
of the United States. A title like that was well calculated
to paralyze the familiarity of two young military men ;
and when they realized that, unannounced and covered
with dust, they had of their own motion ventured into
conversation with the bearer of such an august title, their
first impulse was to apologize for their temerity and to
withdraw. Even from an officer of no higher grade than
captain in their own service, they were accustomed to a




4 THE END OF AN ERA

greeting strictly formal, usually accompanied by the in
quiry, " Well, sir ? state your business ; " and, having
done so, they were generally glad enough to salute and
withdraw. Here they were, without any business, stand
ing in the presence of a high official, with nothing more
to say, and with no excuse to give for what they had said.
But before their embarrassment could grow more annoy
ing, the minister put them completely at their ease.
" Well met ! " he exclaimed ; " we are just returning
homeward from the city. Come ! The more the merrier :
you shall dine with me. I still have some Christmas
turkey and plum pudding, and we will drink the health
of the good angel who sent my countrymen to me at this
blessed season."

During the course of their walk to the American lega
tion, the young fellows had opportunity to observe their
newly found host more carefully. To them he was a
revelation. His name and position in politics were not
unknown to them ; for although still young, he had for
many years been a conspicuous figure in national politics
in the United States. The echoes of his eloquence, as
well as accounts of his game-cock courage, had penetrated
even into the isolated world of the Academy at West
Point. In fact, he had been absent from the United
States but two or three years upon this mission, which
had been accepted partly on account of failing health,
and partly from a desire to strike a blow at the infamous
African slave-trade. He had accomplished much towards
breaking up the slave-trade, and derived great benefit to
his health.

Brilliant at all times in conversation, he was, on this
occasion, unusually interesting. The sight of his coun
try s ships in the harbor, and the news of the struggle
with Mexico, so excited and elated him that he was seen



A LONG WAY FROM HOME 5

at his best by his visitors. The two boys studied him as
if he had been some great actor. Tall and thin, he was
nevertheless exceedingly active and muscular. His dress
consisted of simple black, with spotless linen. He wore
the open standing collar and white scarf affected by the
gentlemen of that period. The only ornament upon his
person was a large opal pin confining the neckerchief.
His head gear, suited to the climate, was one of those ex
quisitely wrought white Panama hats which is the envy of
men living beyond the tropics. Beneath this was a head
exquisitely moulded, with a noble brow, and large hazel
eyes, the ever-changing expression of which, coupled with
a full, rich voice, charmed and fascinated his guests. His
silken blond hair was thrown back and worn long, as was
the custom of the day. A nose too handsome to be called
Roman, yet too strong to be designated as Grecian ; a
mouth wide and mobile, filled with even, white teeth ; and
a strong chin with a decided dimple, completed the re
markable face which turned in ever-changing expression,
from time to time, towards its companions, as they strode
homeward in the twilight.

Such was the American minister ; and, according to the
mood in which one found him, he impressed the stranger
as the gentlest, the tenderest, the most loving, the most
eloquent, the most earnest, the most fearless, the most
impassioned, or the fiercest man he had ever met. No
body "who saw him ever forgot him.

They reached the legation just as it was growing dark,
and as the full-orbed moon was rising from the distant
sea. Seeking the veranda, and seating his guests in the
wicker easy-chairs with which it was well supplied, the
minister excused himself, and left them for a few minutes
to their own observations and reflections.

As the soft sea-breeze came up to them, laden with



6 THE END OF AN ERA

garden perfumes ; as they watched the golden highway of
the moon s reflection on the sea ; as they saw the twin
kling lights of the ships in the deep shadows of the bay
below them, they felt as if they had indeed discovered
an earthly paradise ; and when a fair blond girl in filmy
apparel glided through the drawing-room and joined them,
speaking pure English, it seemed as if their paradise was
being peopled by angels. Everybody here spoke in Eng
lish. Everything spoke of home. The pictures on the
walls, the books on the tables, yes, the dishes at table,
were all American.

The visitors were conducted to their apartments to
make necessary preparations for dinner. Soon after their
return to the drawing-room, the minister reappeared with
a look somewhat troubled, as he apologized for his long
absence and the non-appearance of the lady of the house.

A moment later the folding-doors rolled back, and the
English butler announced that dinner was served. Oh,
what a contrast with the ward-room of the man-of-war in
which our two lieutenants had been dining for a month or
more!

Dinner over, the company once more sought the cool
veranda, where coffee and cigars were served. There they
were joined by Baron Lomonizoff, the Russian minister,
who had called to be informed of all the recent develop
ments in the controversy with Mexico, and who spoke
English perfectly. Later, just as the baron was bidding
adieu, in fact, at what seemed to our young friends to be a
very late hour for visiting, the oddest imaginable specimen
of Brazilian humanity was introduced as Dr. Ildefonso.

His efforts at English were startling. They nearly
convulsed our two young friends, and reconciled them to
their own failures at Portuguese.

As the little doctor showed no signs of leaving, and



A LONG WAY FROM HOME 7

as, by one or two indications, the young visitors began to
suspect it was time for them to go, they reluctantly took
their departure, thanking their host a thousand times for
the pleasure he had given them, and chatting joyously, on
the route to the ship, about the good fortune which had
given them such a Merry Christmas.

The little Brazilian doctor and the surgeon in the navy
had remained because there was work on hand for them.
I entered rny name on the docket of humanity that night ;
and, as the lawyers say, my cause was continued until the
further order of the court.

How do I know it ? I will tell you.

Forty-five years later, at a great banquet in New York,
I was sitting beside an aged, grizzled general of the
armies of the Union.

Said the old general cheerily, " Did I ever tell you of
my visit to your father in Rio ? " Receiving a negative
response, he proceeded in his inimitable way to recount
every incident above set forth, omitting the hour of his
own departure from the legation. The memory of the
struggles of the little Brazilian doctor with the English
language still amused him immensely. He was recalling
some absurd mistake of Dr. Ildefonso, when I looked up,
and, with a merry twinkle in my eye, said, " General, at
what hour did you leave the Cateti that night ? " " Oh,
I should say about eleven or twelve o clock," said the
general. " Well, now, do you know, my dear general,
I deeply regret you left so early. I arrived myself that
night about two hours after your departure, and would
have been so delighted to meet you under my father s
roof." This sally was met by a hearty laugh from the
listening company, and was followed by a glass of wine
to the memory of those olden days, since when so many
things have happened.



8 THE END OF AN ERA

The young lieutenant of artillery, and the old general
above described, was no other than William Tecumseh
Sherman, commander of the armies of the Union. His
companion was the officer who afterwards became famous
as General Halleck. Neither of them ever met again
their host of that evening.

In later years, he also became a distinguished general,
but on the Confederate side. He never knew that Sher
man and Halleck, the great Union generals, were the
young officers he entertained at Rio the night I was born ;
for he died many years before the general revealed his
identity as above related.

Forty years after this meeting, when I was in Congress,
I received a letter from a dear old retired chaplain of the
navy living in Boston, Rev. Mr. Lambert, asking my
assistance in some public matter, and concluding with the
remark that this demand of a stranger sprung from the
fact that the writer had held me in his arms and baptized
me at the American legation in Rio, April 14, 1847.

In the spring of 1847, my father asked the President
for a recall ; and, his petition being granted, the United
States frigate Columbia was placed at his disposal for the
return to America.

I was a tried seaman when, for the first time, I set
foot upon the soil of my country, and took up my resi
dence where my people had lived for over two hundred
years. I was not born on the soil of the United States,
but nevertheless in the United States; for the place
where I was born was the home of a United States min
ister, and under the protection of the United States flag,
and was in law as much the soil of the United States as
any within its boundaries. Descended from a number of
people who helped to form the Union, born under the



A LONG WAY FROM HOME 9

glorious stars and stripes, rocked in the cradle of an
American man-of-war, and taught to love the Union next
to my Maker, little did I dream of the things, utterly
inconsistent with such ideas, which were to happen to
me and mine within the first eighteen years of my
existence.



CHAPTER II

THE KINGDOM OF ACCAWMACKE

OUR voyage terminated in the kingdom of Accaw-
macke, the abiding-place of my ancestors for two and a
half centuries. Although within eight hours of New
York and six hours from Philadelphia by rail, the region
and its people are as unlike those of these crowded centres
of humanity as if they were a thousand miles away.

John Smith tells us, in his memorable narrative of his
earliest American explorations, that when Captain Nelson
sailed in June, 1607, for England, in the good ship
Phoenix, he, John, in his own barge, accompanied him
to the Virginia capes ; and there, after delivering his
writings for the company, he parted with him near the
southernmost cape, which he named Cape Henry. Sail
ing northward, Captain Smith first visited the seaward
island, which he named Smith s Island, after himself. It
is still called Smith s Island, and is owned by the Lee
family. Then he returned to the northernmost cape, at
the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay, and named it Cape
Charles, in honor of the unfortunate prince afterwards
known as Charles I. Upon the point of this cape Smith
encountered an Indian chief, whom he describes as " the
most comely, proper, civil salvage " he had yet met. The
name of this chief was Kictopeke. He was called " The
Laughing King of Accomack," and Accomack means, in
the Indian tongue, " The Land Beyond the Water." He
bore in his hand a long spear or harpoon, with a sharp-



THE KINGDOM OF ACCAWMACKE 11

ened fish-bone or shell upon its point ; and he it was who
taught John Smith and his companions to spear the
sheepshead and other fish in the shallow waters hard by.
John Smith and The Laughing King have been buried
for well-nigh three centuries, but the people about Cape
Charles still spear sheepshead on the shoals in the same
old way.

Smith and his companions cruised along the western
shore of this Peninsula of Accawmacke, which is the east
ern shore of the Chesapeake Bay, until they reached what
is now called Pocomoke River, the present boundary be
tween Virginia and Maryland. The distance is probably
eighty miles. The reason assigned for the long cruise
was that they were searching for fresh water. To those
who know the abundant springs of the Peninsula, this
statement is surprising. Overtaken in the neighborhood
of Pocomoke by one of those summer thunder-storms
which are so prevalent in that region, they were driven
across the bay to the western shore, and thence they
cruised down the Chesapeake until they turned into what
is now called Hampton Roads. Passing the low sand-
spit where the ramparts of Fortress Monroe now frown
and the gay summer resorts are built, they stopped at
the Indian village Kickotan, located upon the present site
of Hampton. Obtaining there a good supply of food
from the Indians, they returned to the Jamestown settle
ment, about forty miles up the river, then called Pow-
hatan, now known as the James. In this as in all things,
the Englishman appropriated what belonged to the In
dian, and King James supplanted King Powhatan.

It was on this return voyage that Smith, while prac
ticing the art acquired from the King of Accawmacke,
impaled a fish upon his sword, in the shallow waters about
the mouth of the Rappahannock River. Unaware of the



12 THE END OF AN ERA

dangerous character of his captive, he received in his wrist
a very painful wound from the spike-like fin upon the
tail of the fish. This wound caused such soreness and
such swelling that he thought he was like to die, and his
whole party went ashore and laid Smith under a tree,
where he made his will. " But," says he, " by night time
the swelling and soreness had so abated that I had the
pleasure of eating that fish for supper." The next morn
ing the journey was resumed, and the place, in remem
brance of the incident, was named Stingaree Point. To
this day, that point at the mouth of the Rappahannock
is called Stingaree Point ; and that fish is still called
Stingaree by the people along the Chesapeake Bay.

After this famous cruise, John Smith, who was as ac
tive and restless as a box of monkeys, made his map of
Virginia, which is still extant, and a pretty good map
it is, showing his capes and his islands, and his points and
his rivers, and what not, in which map the Kingdom
of Accawmacke bears a most conspicuous part.

On that historic document, old John at certain points
printed little pictures of deer, to show where they most
abounded ; and at other points he designated where the
wild turkeys were most plentiful. The author of this
humble narrative has, in his day, hunted every variety of
game which abounds at the present time in Old Virginia ;
and just where the deer and turkeys were most abundant
in 1608, according to John Smith s map, there are they
most abundant now. In the counties of Surry and Sus
sex, upon the south side of the James, run, doubtless, the
descendants of those very deer whose pictures adorn the
map of John Smith, published three centuries ago ; and
within the past twelve months the writer has followed
the great-great-great-grandchildren of the identical tur
keys, no doubt, from whose flocks were captured, in 1616,



THE KINGDOM OF ACCAWMACKE 13

the twenty birds sent by King Powhatan to his brother
the King of England.

But to return to our Kingdom of Accawmacke.

After the Jamestown colonists had tired of poor old
John Smith, after he had blown himself up with his own
powder while smoking in his boat, upon one of his return
trips to Jamestown from the present site of Richmond ;
after he had returned to England, broken in health and
spirits, the colonists who remained found, among their
other miseries and tribulations, that they were sadly in
need of salt.

Bearing in mind stories brought back from the coast
by Smith, Sir Thomas Dale, governor, in the year 1612
detailed a party from the Jamestown settlement to go to
the Kingdom of Accawmacke and boil salt for the settlers
at Jamestown.

We may well imagine that such a task was far from
grateful to those to whom it was allotted. It was looked
forward to by them, no doubt, as the equivalent of soli
tary confinement in a dangerous locality. At Jamestown
the settlers were located upon an island. This fact and
their numbers gave them comparative security from the
savages. In Accawmacke the party assigned to salt-
boiling was placed upon the same land as the Indians ;
and its numbers were so small, and the position so iso
lated from the chief settlement by the Chesapeake Bay
between them, that their situation would have been most
perilous in case of attack. It was therefore, doubtless,
in the spirit of satire that the party named the place at
which they first located upon the eastern shore, Dale s Gift.

Thus came about the first settlement of the white man
upon the eastern shore peninsula of Virginia ; and, recog
nizing its separation from the other settlements, the kings



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