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2,900 strong, but only 900 came out; they had been



40 First Impressions of America.

six weeks without rations, and lived as they could ;
they fought up the Shenandoah valley, then had to
retreat, and many died of starvation ; then, reinforced,
they returned and cleared the valley out ; he had
gone to the front with the colours, when they got
riddled with shot, while he was not scratched ; he got
tipsy, and stayed away fourteen days, then returned
and reported himself, but was tried as a deserter, and
had thirty dollars pay stopped ; there was no flogging
in the army, but they sometimes tied offenders up by
the thumbs, the toes just touching the ground, for
about twenty minutes ; it was great suffering ; he had
heard strong men shriek and beg to be let down ; a very
stout man in their regiment, when tied up, begged
very hard, and when let down, died within the hour.
Very few people are left who defend flogging in time
of peace ; but if this account is correct, it may be a
question whether, if some short, sharp discipline is
needed in the open field during war, this thumb-tying
is less objectionable. Our coachman had also been a
soldier, and had taken part in several battles. I heard
tales of the bears that haunt the mountains, and the
copper-head snakes, and how the rattlesnakes coil and
spring several yards, and then coil again, and anec-



First Impressions of America. 41



dotes were given of the virulence of their poison. We
were four hours going the twelve miles, a continual
climb along a very rough road, over which the coach
occasionally reeled and jumped. Nearly all the way
was through a grand old forest. In a sort of amphi-
theatre a small house of refreshment is ensconced,
named after Rip Van Winkle, this being the supposed
scene of his long slumber. It was late when, through the
densely dark shadows of the forest, we emerged on an
open space, and found ourselves at the door of the
" Mountain House," where, to our astonishment, we
were greeted by a number of friends whom we had
never seen, but who had somehow heard we were
coming, and whose cordial welcome, with that of the
generous landlord and his wife, made us feel at once
that we were at home.

Our first Sunday in America was a most pleasant
one. I was up very early to see the sun rise over the
vast landscape before us. From an elevation of
several thousand feet we looked down over the valley
of the Hudson. Thick forests clothed the sides of the
mountains. The cultivated plain was well wooded,
and studded everywhere with farms and villages. In
the centre was the noble river, seen for many miles till



42 First Impressions of America.

it lost itself in the defiles of the Highlands, now far
away on our right. We were told we could see 150
miles from East to West, and 70 towards the North,
where the view was bounded by the mountains of
Vermont. We stood on a precipitous ridge of pud-
ding-stone rocks, bearing marks of glacier action.
Never to be forgotten was the effect of the morning
light gradually stealing over the vast expanse. Now a
village, now a farm came out of shadow into sunshine ;
now a wooded hill caught the glory, now the noble
river sparkled into new life, and the white sails of its
many vessels shone again. Words of mine are vain
to give an idea of the scene. What a vast region
so recently rescued from barbarism ; the abode of law,
civilization, industry, freedom, and religion ! a minute
portion though of that vast inheritance of the Anglo-
Saxon race, where the English nation have a second
home in which to develop their institutions, and re-
joice in the gifts of Providence.

Nature around was a grand sermon, and testified of
God. But it was considered by the landlord and his
guests that the admiration of Nature should be a
stimulant to worship, not a substitute. There was
" family prayer " before breakfast. In the forenoon,



First Im pressions of America. 43

church was held in the drawing-room, when Dr.
Budington, of Brooklyn, preached a sermon of elabo-
rate beauty to a large congregation of visitors. In the
evening my friend and myself were invited to conduct
the service. The text was " The Mountain of the
Lord's House." The day closed with sacred music.
The congregation comprised clergymen and members
of the various sections of the Church, but there is no
such thing as " Church v. Dissent " in America ; for
as there is no Establishment, there are no Dissenters.
Whatever other differences might have existed, they
were held in abeyance, and all united in harmonious
and happy worship of the same God and Saviour.

The next morning, being pressed to prolong our
stay to join a picnic, we started with a large party in
waggonettes to visit a famous " clove," the appro-
priate name given to the ravines or clefts of this moun-
tain-range. After several hours' drive along a very
narrow road through the thick forest, we enjoyed our
repast on the brink of a mountain torrent, up the
course of which we then climbed to a considerable
height, whence we had a superb prospect. Among
the trees the fir and maple chiefly abounded, and wild
vines and other creeping-plants hung in rich profusion



44 First Impressions of America.

from the branches. Among the ferns I noticed the
oak, holly, beech-tree, fragilis, osmunda, and other
still more familiar varieties. The ladies were habited
suitably for mountaineering, and with their coloured
skirts, scarlet jackets, and climbing-poles, formed a
cheerful foreground to many a grand picture.

We talked of bears. One gentleman had lately fol-
lowed a bear's track two miles. Another had come sud-
denly upon one in his walk, and was prudent enough
to turn back without attracting the creature's notice,
though bears will seldom attack a human being. We
saw one chained up that had been recently caught. The
preceding week one was captured near the spot where
we had our picnic. There is a bounty on bears and
wolves. One of our party lately saw three young wolves
which were well fed by their owner. "Why don't
you kill them and get the bounty?" "Because they
only give half-price for little ones : so I'm feeding
them up that they may grow big, and then I shall get
double." An illustration of Yankee 'cuteness. One
of our party told of an adventure in Maine, when
hunting the Moose-deer. He got separated from his
party, lost his way in the forest, and rambled on for
thirty miles over snow and ice, followed by several



First Impressions of America. 45

wolves howling on his track. He had no food and
was nearly exhausted, but resolved to sell his life dear.
Suddenly he heard the joyful sound of a woodman's
axe, and found himself at a small settlement. Round
the hut in which he was lodged, the baffled wolves
howled all the night.

Patriotic songs were enthusiastically sung, including
the inevitable —

John Brown's body lies sleeping in the grave,
But his soul goes marching on.

Mr. M., the hero of the wolf-adventure, gave us
the following original anecdote of this pioneer of
emancipation — "When I was a youth of nineteen,
John Brown worked for my father as surveyor,
steward, and butler. I one day reproved him for
coming into the room with naked arms, but I noticed
that they were very fine ones, and I passed a com-
pliment on his muscular development, adding, " You
have arms, I have skill; I should like a turn with
you." Brown warned me, saying, " I should give you
a black eye in one minute." " Do," said I ; "I
should like to see you." So we went outside, and I
put myself into a first-rate position, thinking of my
coming victory. In one moment Brown put out his



4.6 First Impressions of America.

arm like a battering-ram, and passing all my defences,
planted his fist on my eye. Then he quietly said,
" Go and get a bit of raw meat at once, and place it
on your eye ; it will lessen the inflammation." Mr.
M. said that Brown was a very devout and sincere
man ; spent much time in prayer ; was a fanatic, but
his death was a martyrdom in stirring the national
sympathy, and that many a negro regiment had charged
while singing " John Brown."

It was very late and pitch-dark when we got back.
How the horses found their way without upsetting us
was a mystery ; for we had no lamps, the trees over-
shadowed the road, which was very narrow, rough,
and sometimes precipitous, and we could not see a
yard in advance ; but they were Yankee cattle, and I
presume " used their intellects."

The next morning we applied for our account, but
the host and his wife persisted in saying, " It is all
arranged ; " and urged us to repeat our visit and stay
a week on the same terms. If some American hotels
imitate some English ones in high charges, I fear few
English hotels imitate American ones in such hospi-
tality and generous " arrangements." The guests
turned out to wish us adieu. Seldom, in so brief a



First Impi'cssions of America. 47

period, had we made so many friends. We left them
with much regret ; only to find everywhere a repetition
of similar open-hearted kindness ; but we could seldom
expect to experience a repetition of such enjoyments ;
for America has few scenes to compare with the Cat-
skill Mountains. A month might easily be spent
here in making excursions to the various cloves, sum-
mits, and cascades. And we were leaving after two
short days ! But we had America to see in three
short months, and so we were compelled to hurry for-
ward.

We spent a few hours at Saratoga, the Harrogate of
America, and saw its enormous hotels and mineral
springs. I went here chiefly to see, as I thought, on
his death-bed, my friend Mr. John Tappan, the
venerable philanthropist, who has spent a long
life in doing good : and here I was greeted with all
his large heart's enthusiasm by Dr. Cuyler, known by
his words of Christian wisdom in most American
homes.

On our way from Saratoga to Niagara we left the
train at Utica for the purpose of visiting Trenton,
about fifteen miles off, on West Canada Creek, a tribu-
tary of the Mohawk river. We engaged a capital



48 First Impressions of America.

"waggon," (all carriages seemed to be so called),
with a pair of spanking trotters, for ten dollars,
or about thirty shillings currency. We made our
first experience of plank -roads. Sometimes we
rolled along with delicious smoothness. Some-
times, where the planks had become uneven, we en-
joyed some delightful tossings and jumpings. The
country was gently undulating and well cultivated in
farms from ioo to 300 acres, each farmer being pro-
prietor as well as cultivator. We passed through se-
veral villages, the smallest of which had its church
and school-house, the larger having several. Our
driver told us that from December to April the whole
country is covered with snow, and that the "waggons"
are laid up, and sleighs alone employed. The lati-
tude is that of Cannes, or Nice, about 500 miles
south of London. The Falls extend about two miles
through a forest. The trees overhang the narrow
trench through which the swift stream has cut its way.
The water, clear and transparent, was of that rich
dark brown tint which artists love so well. The sides
of the limestone channel vary from 50 to 150 feet in
depth. There are several falls, one of them of about
100 feet. I was reminded of the falls of the Clyde,



First Inipressio7is of America. 49

though Trenton is on a smaller scale. I shall never
forget the beauty of this river-scene at sunset — the
narrow gorge, the various-coloured rocks, the water
rushing, pausing, plunging, reposing, dreaming, awak-
ing, sighing, murmuring, roaring, now sparkling in the
sun, now all white with foam, now black beneath the
overhanging rocks — and always above, a gorgeous can-
opy of forest foliage. Yet there were sad and recent
associations connected with it ; for only a day or two
before, a young married couple had been suddenly
separated there. The bride, on going up the ledge of
rock at the side of the principal Fall, turned to look
down, became dizzy, slipped, and in the sight of her
husband was whirled away by the torrent.

Willis speaks of Trenton as the most " enjoyable
beautiful " spot amongst the romantic scenes of his
country. " Niagara is too much, as a roasted ox is a
thing to go and look at, though one retires to dine on
something smaller." " Trenton is a sort of alcove
aside — a side-scene out of earshot of the crowd — a
recess in a window, whither you draw a friend by the
button, for the sake of chit-chat at ease." An Ame-
rican guide-book says, in its own peculiar style : ." It
seems a river in some inner world, coiled within ours,

E



50 First Impressions of America.

as we in the outer circle of the firmament, and laid
open by some Titanic throe, that had cracked clear
asunder the crust of this shallow earth. The idea is
assisted if you happen to see below you, on its abys-
mal shore, a party of adventurous travellers ; for at
that vast depth " (rarely ioo feet), "and in contrast
with the gigantic trees and rocks, the same number of
well-dressed pismires, dressed in the last fashion, and
philandering upon your parlour-floor, would be about
of their apparent size and distinctness " ! ! !

I was somewhat amused to find myself, in this
part of our journey, amongst many places of classic
renown. Within a comparatively short distance of
Utica are the towns of Troy, Rome, Syracuse, Corinth,
Macedon, Palmyra, Attica, Ilion. There are other
towns, bearing the distinguished names of Cato, Han-
nibal, Cicero, Tully, Fabius, Manlius, Pompey, Junius,
Ovid, Aurelius, Marcellus, Camillus. You might fancy
time had rolled back, only you are happily reminded,
at intermediate places, of the names of Knox, Byron,
La Fayette, Adams, Clarkson, Nelson, and others ;
and that you may not deceive yourself by fancying
you are on the shores of the Mediterranean, or, in
fact, that you are anywhere in particular, you come to



First Impressions of A merica. 5 1

such places as Greenwich, Geneva, Cambridge, Chili,
Walworth, Lima, Bristol, Moscow, Wales, Warsaw,
Northampton, Norway, Edinboro', Berlin, York, Pekin,
Albion, «S:c. The reader must bear in mind that these
are the names of places in a single and limited dis-
trict.

We went on by train from Utica, through Rome,
Syracuse, Jordan, Lyons, Arcadia, and Macedon to Ro-
chester ; though, as it was night, I lost the chance of
seeing those renowned places. It was still dark when
I left the station, hoping to get a sight of the Falls 'of
the Genesee and save the next train to Niagara. A soli-
tary fruit-store was open, and its bright light attracted
me in. I made an early breakfast on a fine peach,
and asked the proprietor of the establishment the way
to see the waterfall. " Waterfall ? why you can't get
a waterfall at this time of day — the stores ain't
open ! " " Perhaps not," I replied, " but I want you
to tell me the way to go and see the waterfall."
" Well, stranger, I tell you again, if you want to buy
a waterfall you must wait till the stores open." At
length, my brain, full of one idea, awoke to the mer-
cantile and fashionable idea of chignon, of which my
store-keeping friend evidently thought more than of



52 First Impressions of America.

the Falls of the Genesee. I loitered about for an
hour, when the earliest gleam of dawn enabled me to
grope my way towards what ought to have been the
Falls. And truly, with abundance of water, the Ge-
nesee might claim to be a miniature Niagara. The
river is broad and falls over a rock of about ioo feet
perpendicular, in the very midst of a town of 100,000
inhabitants. But what little water there was now in
the river had been diverted for manufacturing pur-
poses, and was coming down the hill-side in several
streams, after having done its work about half a mile
lower down the river and on the opposite side. The
man. was right in telling me I should find no water-
fall.



CHAPTER III.

NIAGARA — THE FALLS.

First Impressions — View Point — The Roar — Goat Island — The
Three Sisters — Horse-shoe Fall — Nature's Great Temple —
Intelligent Negroes — Tragedies of Niagara — Benediction of a
Negress — Indians — Cave of the Winds — Sunrise — Crossing
over — Midnight Stroll — The Rainbow.

RATHER than attempt to view imperfectly all
the scenes worthy of notice which might lie
within our reach, we resolved to devote as many days
as possible to the one surpassing natural glory of
America. For, like all things really great, Niagara
cannot be known and appreciated by a hurried visit.
It will not reveal its glories to those who do not
sufficiently honour it to linger reverentially and
lovingly on its banks. You must make your home
there for awhile, and let your entire body and soul be
free and at leisure to receive the impressions it is
adapted to produce. You must see it in the blaze of
noon, when its mist-clouds are all radiant with rainbows ;
and at night, when darkness shrouds it with mystery



54 Niagara.



and the quiet stars look down upon its roaring tumult ;
you must watch it when the first rays of dawn trans-
figure it with glory, and when the setting sun lingers
on the blushing summit of its majestic pillar of foam ;
you must view it in all aspects j you must view it again
and again ; you must sit and gaze on it hour by hour,
and listen with a disengaged mind to the solemn music
of its mighty voice, if you would in any worthy degree
feel its fascination and comprehend its greatness.

My first view was from the Suspension Bridge, about
two miles below the Falls. Every one had warned
me that I should at first be disappointed. I was not
surprised at this. Small things and small minds show
best on first acquaintance, while what is great continu-
ally increases in its impressiveness, because it cannot
be all seen at once, and the first view is therefore
necessarily a partial one. Who, on his first visit, ever
understood the vastness of St. Peter's? Who, on
first perusal, ever appreciated the majesty of Milton
or the genius of Shakespeare ? Who, at the first be-
holding, ever understood the grandeur of the ocean or
of the Alps ? So with Niagara. The true concep-
tion is composed of a multitude of impressions, which
can only be received one by one, and therefore the first



The Falls. 55



must needs be inadequate. I had, however, been so
emphatically warned of disappointment, that no such
feeling was experienced. That long line of snow-white
foam stretching from bank to bank, with the lofty pillar
of cloud soaring above it, has left an impression on
my mind never to be effaced.

When I reached the hotel on the American side of
the cataract, I restrained myself from rushing at once
to the scene I had come so far to behold. No, there
was a still greater attraction, for letters from home
vere awaiting me. Then, my heart relieved by know-
ing all was well with those I had left behind, I thought
tiat due attention to bodily wants would fit me for my
first introduction. And I had an absurd notion that
it was scarcely respectful to Niagara to be presented
a5 I was, dusty, and jaded with a long night of rail-
way travelling. So I took a bath, changed my attire,
"breakfasted, and then — with body and mind refreshed
—sallied forth to the celebrated " View Point."

It would be easy to fill pages with rhapsody and
notes of admiration. But it is not easy to express in
vords the feelings produced by gazing on scenes of
"beauty or grandeur ; and it is quite impossible to com-
municate those feelings to a reader by the mere utter-



56 Niagara.



ance of them. This is a frequent error in descriptions
of scenery. It is better to show the reader what you
saw, leaving it to produce in him what feelings it may.
In endeavouring to do this I must be pardoned if
some particulars are introduced familiar to most of my
readers, but which — as essential elements in the pic-
ture — could not well be omitted.

We are standing on the extreme edge of a perpen-
dicular precipice about 200 feet deep, over which
a river, half a mile wide, is plunging. The vast sheet
of water, as it descends, throws out innumerable jets
of spray, and is then lost in the clouds of foam which
roll up from below. The stream is shallow near the
bank, and we see the form and colour of the rocks
through its clear, smooth surface, as it curls over.
We can hold our walking-stick in the current, and let
our nerves vibrate with the pulsations of the great
cataract. The fall is divided by Goat Island, whidi
rises about fifty feet from the upper level of the river,
and is luxuriant with various forest trees. The lowfcr
side of the island — a perpendicular cliff — is in a lire
with the descending cataract. The stream nearest us
forms the " American Fall," and is about 800 feet in
width. The width of the Canadian or Horse-shoe



The Falls. 57



Fall, is about 1,800 feet, or the third of a mile. Both,
in an unbroken vertical mass, descend about 160 feet,
and at once reunite their waters. Above the great
Fall arises a column of mist to an immense height,
swaying about with the wind. I once saw this when
thirty miles distant. On the opposite side, the
Canadian shore also rises perpendicularly from the
bed of the river. The country is flat in every direc-
tion, the river above the Falls being level with the
forests, whose branches hang over the whirling tide.
Below the Falls the river runs through a trench-like
channel from 200 to 300 feet deep, and varying from
600 to T,ooo feet wide, obviously cut by the action of
the water. About two miles down I see the Suspen-
sion Bridge, which carries the railway across, high
above the stream. Looking over the precipice I am
surprised that the water is not more disturbed. The
lower part of the Fall itself is always hidden in a
cloud of foam, immediately outside of which the sur-
face of the river is comparatively smooth. A boat,
containing a dozen passengers, is being pulled across
by a single oarsman, within drenching distance of the
spray ; but about half a mile further down, the waters
are much agitated, great waves tossing themselves



5 8 Niagara.



from the surface. It is supposed that the mass of the
falling stream plunges to a vast depth, and then gradu-
ally rises to the service as it flows on. This is most
likely the case, since, in a course of several miles, the
only place where the river can be safely and easily
crossed is where, on first thought, this might be
deemed utterly impossible.

As the roar of the Fall has been heard at a distance
of forty miles, I expected that it would have been
overpowering and painful. This was by no means the
case. It was grand, but not noisy. It seemed a uni-
versally pervading presence, making all things vibrate
with it, and the very ground itself to tremble ; but
there was no clatter, no hurry, no disturbance. The
whirl of a cotton-mill, the scream of an engine, even
the rattle of a cab, are much more distracting. It
was the deep bass of a grand organ rolling through
cathedral aisles. It was thunder reverberating with
subdued tone amongst the mountains. It did not
force itself on our notice ; it did not clamour to be
heard. We could speak to each other in an ordinary
tone of voice. We might forget the roar, for a time,
while our attention was engaged by some other object.
But when not consciously listening we still felt its in-



The Falls. 59



fluence, not disturbing but calming the mind — a fit-
ting accompaniment to the scene, ever increasing its
grandeur and beauty. I tried the experiment of clos-
ing both ears and then suddenly opening them. The
sound was then, for a moment, like the discharge of
artillery, and I was fully ready to admit that Niagara's
appeal was not less emphatic to the ear than to
the eye.

We walked back towards the hotel along the bank
of the river, watching its wild energy, whirling, plung-
ing, roaring onward; its waves of indigo, green,
amber, flinging about their snow-white crests of spray ;
and every drop of water, and every particle of foam,
hurrying with mad impetuosity towards the awful gulf
below. The river-bed sinks about sixty feet in the
space of half a mile, from the beginning of the Rapids
to the Fall. By an iron bridge of nearly four hundred
feet long and thirty wide, supported by four arches,
we crossed the Rapids to Bath Island, which is separ-
ated from Goat Island by a very narrow channel.
Here a small fee is demanded, and the names of
visitors registered. A large paper-mill, utilizing the
water-power, somewhat detracts from the surrounding


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Online LibraryNewman HallFrom Liverpool to St. Louis → online text (page 4 of 16)