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The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 09, No. 52, February, 1862 online

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the Guard. I dismiss you." The bugler showed his bugle to his indignant
commander; - the mouth-piece of the instrument was shot away. He said,
"The mouth was shoot off. I could not bugle viz mon bugle, and so I
bugle viz mon pistol and sabre." It is unnecessary to add, the brave
Frenchman was not dismissed.

I must not forget to mention Sergeant Hunter, of the Kentucky company.
His soldierly figure never failed to attract the eye in the ranks of
the Guard. He had served in the regular cavalry, and the Body-Guard had
profited greatly from his skill as a drill-master. He lost three horses
in the fight. As soon as one was killed, he caught another from the
Rebels: the third horse taken by him in this way he rode into St. Louis.

The Sergeant slew five men. "I won't speak of those I shot," said
he, - "another may have hit them; but those I touched with my sabre I am
sure of, because I _felt_ them."

At the beginning of the charge, he came to the extreme right and took
position next to Zagonyi, whom he followed closely through the battle.
The Major, seeing him, said, -

"Why are you here, Sergeant Hunter? Your place is with your company on
the left."

"I kind o' wanted to be in the front," was the answer.

"What could I say to such a man?" exclaimed Zagonyi, speaking of the
matter afterwards.

There was hardly a horse or rider among the survivors that did not bring
away some mark of the fray. I saw one animal with no less than seven
wounds, - none of them serious. Scabbards were bent, clothes and caps
pierced, pistols injured. I saw one pistol from which the sight had been
cut as neatly as it could have been done by machinery. A piece of board
a few inches long was cut from a fence on the field, in which there were
thirty-one shot-holes.

It was now nine o'clock. The wounded had been carried to the hospital.
The dismounted troopers were placed in charge of them, - in the double
capacity of nurses and guards. Zagonyi expected the foe to return every
minute. It seemed like madness to try and hold the town with his small
force, exhausted by the long march and desperate fight. He therefore
left Springfield, and retired before morning twenty-five miles on the
Bolivar road.

Captain Fairbanks did not see his commander after leaving the column in
the lane, at the commencement of the engagement. About dusk he repaired
to the prairie, and remained there within a mile of the village until
midnight, when he followed Zagonyi, rejoining him in the morning.

I will now return to Major White. During the conflict upon the hill, he
was in the forest near the front of the Rebel line. Here his horse was
shot under him. Captain Wroton kept careful watch over him. When the
flight began he hurried White away, and, accompanied by a squad of
eleven men, took him ten miles into the country. They stopped at a
farm-house for the night. White discovered that their host was a Union
man. His parole having expired, he took advantage of the momentary
absence of his captor to speak to the farmer, telling him who he was,
and asking him to send for assistance. The countryman mounted his son
upon his swiftest horse, and sent him for succor. The party lay down by
the fire, White being placed in the midst. The Rebels were soon asleep,
but there was no sleep for the Major. He listened anxiously for the
footsteps of his rescuers. After long, weary hours, he heard the tramp
of horses. He arose, and walking on tiptoe, cautiously stepping over his
sleeping guards, he reached the door and silently unfastened it. The
Union men rushed into the room and took the astonished Wroton and his
followers prisoners. At daybreak White rode into Springfield at the head
of his captives and a motley band of Home-Guards. He found the Federals
still in possession of the place. As the officer of highest rank, be
took command. His garrison consisted of twenty-four men. He stationed
twenty-two of them as pickets in the outskirts of the village, and held
the other two as a reserve. At noon the enemy sent in a flag of truce,
and asked permission to bury their dead. Major White received the flag
with proper ceremony, but said that General Sigel was in command and the
request would have to be referred to him. Sigel was then forty miles
away. In a short time a written communication purporting to come from
General Sigel, saying that the Rebels might send a party under certain
restrictions to bury their dead, White drew in some of his pickets,
stationed them about the field, and under their surveillance the
Southern dead were buried.

The loss of the enemy, as reported by some of their working party, was
one hundred and sixteen killed. The number of wounded could not be
ascertained. After the conflict had drifted away from the hill-side,
some of the foe had returned to the field, taken away their wounded,
and robbed our dead. The loss of the Guard was fifty-three out of one
hundred and forty-eight actually engaged, twelve men having been left by
Zagonyi in charge of his train. The Prairie Scouts reported a loss of
thirty-one out of one hundred and thirty: half of these belonged to the
Irish Dragoons. In a neighboring field an Irishman was found stark and
stiff, still clinging to the hilt of his sword, which was thrust through
the body of a Rebel who lay beside him. Within a few feet a second Rebel
lay, shot through the head.

I have given a statement of this affair drawn from the testimony taken
before a Court of Inquiry, from conversations with men who were engaged
upon both sides, and from a careful examination of the locality. It was
the first essay of raw troops, and yet there are few more brilliant
achievements in history.

It is humiliating to be obliged to tell what followed. The heroism of
the Guard was rewarded by such treatment as we blush to record. Upon
their return to St. Louis, rations and forage were denied them, the men
were compelled to wear the clothing soiled and torn in battle, they were
promptly disbanded, and the officers retired from service. The swords
which pricked the clouds and let the joyful sunshine of victory into the
darkness of constant defeat are now idle. But the fame of the Guard is
secure. Out from that fiery baptism they came children of the nation,
and American song and story will carry their heroic triumph down to the
latest generation.




MASON AND SLIDELL: A YANKEE IDYLL.


_To the Editors of the_ ATLANTIC MONTHLY.

Jaalam, 6th Jan., 1862.

GENTLEMEN, - I was highly gratified by the insertion of a portion of my
letter in the last number of your valuable and entertaining Miscellany,
though in a type which rendered its substance inaccessible even to the
beautiful new spectacles presented to me by a Committee of the Parish on
New-Year's Day. I trust that I was able to bear your very considerable
abridgment of my lucubrations with a spirit becoming a Christian. My
third grand-daughter, Rebekah, aged fourteen years, and whom I have
trained to read slowly and with proper emphasis, (a practice too much
neglected in our modern systems of education,) read aloud to me the
excellent essay upon "Old Age," the authour of which I cannot help
suspecting to be a young man who has never yet known what it was to have
snow (_canities morosa_) upon his own roof. _Dissolve frigus, large
super foco ligna reponens_, is a rule for the young, whose wood-pile is
yet abundant for such cheerful lenitives. A good life behind him is the
best thing to keep an old man's shoulders from shivering at every breath
of sorrow or ill-fortune. But methinks it were easier for an old man to
feel the disadvantages of youth than the advantages of age. Of these
latter I reckon one of the chiefest to be this: that we attach a less
inordinate value to our own productions, and, distrusting daily more
and more our own wisdom, (with the conceit whereof at twenty we wrap
ourselves away from knowledge as with a garment,) do reconcile ourselves
with the wisdom of God. I could have wished, indeed, that room might
have been made for the residue of the anecdote relating to Deacon
Tinkham, which would not only have gratified a natural curiosity on the
part of the publick, (as I have reason to know from several letters of
inquiry already received,) but would also, as I think, have largely
increased the circulation of your Magazine in this town. _Nihil humani
alienum_, there is a curiosity about the affairs of our neighbours which
is not only pardonable, but even commendable. But I shall abide a more
fitting season.

As touching the following literary effort of Esquire Biglow, much might
be profitably said on the topick of Idyllick and Pastoral Poetry,
and concerning the proper distinctions to be made between them, from
Theocritus, the inventor of the former, to Collins, the latest authour I
know of who has emulated the classicks in the latter style. But in the
time of a civil war worthy a Milton to defend and a Lucan to sing, it
may be reasonably doubted whether the publick, never too studious of
serious instruction, might not consider other objects more deserving of
present attention. Concerning the title of Idyll, which Mr. Biglow has
adopted at my suggestion, it may not be improper to animadvert, that the
name properly signifies a poem somewhat rustick in phrase, (for, though
the learned are not agreed as to the particular dialect employed by
Theocritus, they are universanimous both as to its rusticity and its
capacity of rising now and then to the level of more elevated sentiments
and expressions,) while it is also descriptive of real scenery and
manners. Yet it must be admitted that the production now in question
(which here and there bears perhaps too plainly the marks of my
correcting hand) does partake of the nature of a Pastoral, inasmuch as
the interlocutors therein are purely imaginary beings, and the whole
is little better than [Greek: skias onar.] The plot was, as I believe,
suggested by the "Twa Briggs" of Robert Burns, a Scottish poet of the
last century, as that found its prototype in the "Mutual Complaint of
Plainstanes and Causey" by Fergusson, though the metre of this latter
be different by a foot in each verse. I reminded my talented young
parishioner and friend that Concord Bridge had long since yielded to the
edacious tooth of Time. But he answered me to this effect: that there
was no greater mistake of an authour than to suppose the reader had
no fancy of his own; that, if once that faculty was to be called into
activity, it were _better_ to be in for the whole sheep than the
shoulder; and that he knew Concord like a book, - an expression
questionable in propriety, since there are few things with which he
is not more familiar than with the printed page. In proof of what he
affirmed, he showed me some verses which with others he had stricken out
as too much delaying the action, but which I communicate in this place
because they rightly define "punkin-seed," (which Mr. Bartlett would
have a kind of perch, - a creature to which I have found a rod or pole
not to be so easily equivalent in our inland waters as in the books of
arithmetic,) and because it conveys an eulogium on the worthy son of an
excellent father, with whose acquaintance (_eheu, fugaces anni!_) I was
formerly honoured.

"But nowadays the Bridge ain't wut they show,
So much ez Em'son, Hawthorne, an' Thoreau.
I know the village, though: was sent there once
A-schoolin', coz to home I played the dunce;
An' I've ben sence a-visitin' the Jedge,
Whose garding whispers with the river's edge,
Where I've sot mornin's, lazy as the bream,
Whose only business is to head up-stream,
(We call 'em punkin-seed,) or else in chat
Along'th the Jedge, who covers with his hat
More wit an' gumption an' shrewd Yankee sense
Than there is mosses on an ole stone fence."

Concerning the subject-matter of the verses I have not the leisure at
present to write so fully as I could wish, my time being occupied
with the preparation of a discourse for the forthcoming bi-centenary
celebration of the first settlement of Jaalam East Parish. It may
gratify the publick interest to mention the circumstance, that my
investigations to this end have enabled me to verify the fact (of much
historick importance, and hitherto hotly debated) that Shearjashub
Tarbox was the first child of white parentage born in this town, being
named in his father's will under date August 7th, or 9th, 1662. It is
well known that those who advocate the claims of Mehetable Goings are
unable to find any trace of her existence prior to October of that year.
As respects the settlement of the Mason and Slidell question, Mr. Biglow
has not incorrectly stated the popular sentiment, so far as I can judge
by its expression in this locality. For myself, I feel more sorrow than
resentment; for I am old enough to have heard those talk of England who
still, even after the unhappy estrangement, could not unschool their
lips from calling her the Mother-Country. But England has insisted on
ripping up old wounds, and has undone the healing work of fifty years;
for nations do not reason, they only feel, and the _spretae injuria
formae_ rankles in their minds as bitterly as in that of a woman. And
because this is so, I feel the more satisfaction that our Government has
acted (as all Governments should, standing as they do between the people
and their passions) as if it had arrived at years of discretion. There
are three short and simple words, the hardest of all to pronounce in any
language, (and I suspect they were no easier before the confusion of
tongues,) but which no man or nation that cannot utter can claim to have
arrived at manhood. Those words are, _I was wrong_; and I am proud,
that, while England played the boy, our rulers had strength enough from
below and wisdom enough from above to quit themselves like men. Let us
strengthen the hands of those in authority over us, and curb out own
tongues,[A] remembering that General Wait commonly proves in the end
more than a match for General Headlong, and that the Good Book ascribes
safety to a multitude, indeed, but not to a mob, of counsellours. Let us
remember and perpend the words of Paulus Emilius to the people of Rome:
that, "if they judged they could manage the war to more advantage by any
other, he would willingly yield up his charge; but if they confided in
him, _they were not to make themselves his colleagues in his office, or
raise reports, or criticize, his actions, but, without talking, supply
him with means and assistance necessary to the carrying on of the war;
for, if they proposed to command their own commander, they would render
this expedition more ridiculous than the former." (Vide Plutarchum in
vit√Ґ P.E.)_ Let us also not forget what the same excellent authour
says concerning Perseus's fear of spending money, and not permit the
covetousness of Brother Jonathan to be the good-fortune of Jefferson
Davis. For my own part, till I am ready to admit the Commander-in-Chief
to my pulpit, I shall abstain from planning his battles. Patience is the
armour of a nation; and in our desire for peace, let us never be willing
to surrender the Constitution bequeathed us by fathers at least as wise
as ourselves, (even with Jefferson Davis to help us,) and, with those
degenerate Romans, _tuta et presentia quam vetera et periculosa malle._

With respect,
Your ob't humble serv't,
HOMER WILBUR, A.M.

[Footnote A: And not only our own tongues, but the pens of others, which
are swift to convey useful intelligence to the enemy. This is no new
inconvenience; for, under date 3rd June, 1745, General Pepperell wrote
thus to Governour Shirley from Louisbourg: - "What your Excellency
observes of the _army's being made acquainted with any plans proposed,
until really to be put in execution_, has always been disagreeable
to me, and I have given many cautions relating to it. But when your
Excellency considers that _our Council of War consists of more than
twenty members_, am persuaded you will think it _impossible for me to
hinder it_, if any of them will persist in communicating to inferiour
officers and soldiers what ought to be kept secret. I am informed that
the Boston newspapers are filled with paragraphs from private letters
relating to the expedition. Will your Excellency permit me to say I
think it may be of ill consequence? Would it not be convenient, if your
Excellency should forbid the Printers' inserting such news?" Verily, if
_tempora mutantur,_ we may question the _et nos mutamur in illis;_ and
if tongues be leaky, it will need all hands at the pumps to save the
Ship of State. Our history dates and repeats itself. If Sassycus (rather
than Alcibiades) find a parallel in Beauregard, so Weakwash, as he is
called by the brave Lieutenant Lion Gardiner, need not seek far among
our own Sachems for his antitype.]

I love to start out arter night's begun,
An' all the chores about the farm are done,
The critters milked an' foddered, gates shet fast,
Tools cleaned aginst to-morrer, supper past,
An' Nancy darnin' by her ker'sene lamp, -
I love, I say, to start upon a tramp,
To shake the kinkles out o' back an' legs,
An' kind o' rack my life off from the dregs
Thet's apt to settle in the buttery-hutch
Of folks thet foller in one rut too much:
Hard work is good an' wholesome, past all doubt;
But 't ain't so, ef the mind gits tuckered out.

Now, bein' born in Middlesex, you know,
There's certin spots where I like best to go:
The Concord road, for instance, (I, for one,
Most gin'lly ollers call it _John Bull's Run._) -
The field o' Lexin'ton, where England tried
The fastest colors thet she ever dyed, -
An' Concord Bridge, thet Davis, when he came,
Found was the bee-line track to heaven an' fame, -
Ez all roads be by natur', ef your soul
Don't sneak thru shun-pikes so's to save the toll.

They're 'most too fur away, take too much time
To visit often, ef it ain't in rhyme;
But there's a walk thet's hendier, a sight,
An' suits me fust-rate of a winter's night, -
I mean the round whale's-back o' Prospect Hill.
I love to loiter there while night grows still,
An' in the twinklin' villages about,
Fust here, then there, the well-saved lights goes out,
An' nary sound but watch-dogs' false alarms,
Or muffled cock-crows from the drowsy farms,
Where some wise rooster (men act jest thet way)
Stands to't thet moon-rise is the break o' day:
So Mister Seward sticks a three-months pin
Where the war'd oughto end, then tries agin; -
My gran'ther's rule was safer'n 't is to crow:
_Don't never prophesy - onless ye know._

I love to muse there till it kind o' seems
Ez ef the world went eddyin' off in dreams.
The Northwest wind thet twitches at my baird
Blows out o' sturdier days not easy scared,
An' the same moon thet this December shines
Starts out the tents an' booths o' Putnam's lines;
The rail-fence posts, acrost the hill thet runs,
Turn ghosts o' sogers should'rin' ghosts o' guns;
Ez wheels the sentry, glints a flash o' light
Along the firelock won at Concord Fight,
An' 'twixt the silences, now fur, now nigh,
Rings the sharp chellenge, hums the low reply.
Ez I was settin' so, it warn't long sence,
Mixin' the perfect with the present tense,
I heerd two voices som'ers in the air,
Though, ef I was to die, I can't tell where:
Voices I call 'em: 't was a kind o' sough
Like pine-trees thet the wind is geth'rin' through;
An', fact, I thought it _was_ the wind a spell, -
Then some misdoubted, - couldn't fairly tell, -
Fust sure, then not, jest as you hold an eel, -
I knowed, an' didn't, - fin'lly seemed to feel
'T was Concord Bridge a-talkin' off to kill
With the Stone Spike thet's druv thru Bunker Hill:
Whether't was so, or ef I only dreamed,
I couldn't say; I tell it ez it seemed.

THE BRIDGE.

Wal, neighbor, tell us, wut's turned up thet's new?
You're younger'n I be, - nigher Boston, tu;
An' down to Boston, ef you take their showin',
Wut they don't know ain't hardly wuth the knowin'.
There's _sunthin'_ goin' on, I know: las' night
The British sogers killed in our gret fight
(Nigh fifty year they hedn't stirred nor spoke)
Made sech a coil you'd thought a dam hed broke:
Why, one he up an' beat a revellee
With his own crossbones on a holler tree,
Till all the graveyards swarmed out like a hive
With faces I hain't seen sence Seventy-five.
Wut _is_ the news? 'T ain't good, or they'd be cheerin'.
Speak slow an' clear, for I'm some hard o' hearin'.

THE MONIMENT.

I don't know hardly ef it's good or bad, -

THE BRIDGE.

At wust, it can't be wus than wut we've had.

THE MONIMENT.

You know them envys thet the Rebbles sent,
An' Cap'n Wilkes he borried o' the Trent?

THE BRIDGE.

Wut! hev they hanged 'em? Then their wits is gone!
Thet's a sure way to make a goose a swan!

THE MONIMENT.

No: England she _would_ hev 'em, _Fee, Faw, Fum!_
(Ez though she hedn't fools enough to home,)
So they've returned 'em -

THE BRIDGE.

_Hev_ they? Wal, by heaven,
Thet's the wust news I've heerd sence Seventy-seven!
_By George_, I meant to say, though I declare
It's 'most enough to make a deacon, swear.

THE MONIMENT.

Now don't go off half-cock: folks never gains
By usin' pepper-sarse instid o' brains.
Come, neighbor, you don't understand -

THE BRIDGE.

How? Hey?
Not understand? Why, wut's to hender, pray?
Must I go huntin' round to find a chap
To tell me when my face hez hed a slap?

THE MONIMENT.

See here: the British they found out a flaw
In Cap'n Wilkes's readin' o' the law:
(They _make_ all laws, you know, an' so, o' course,
It's nateral they should understand their force:)
He'd oughto took the vessel into port,
An' hed her sot on by a reg'lar court;
She was a mail-ship, an' a steamer, tu,
An' thet, they say, hez changed the pint o' view,
Coz the old practice, bein' meant for sails,
Ef tried upon a steamer, kind o' falls;
You _may_ take out despatches, but you mus'n't
Take nary man -

THE BRIDGE.

You mean to say, you dus'n't!
Changed pint o' view! No, no, - it's overboard
With law an' gospel, when their ox is gored!
I tell ye, England's law, on sea an' land,
Hez ollers ben, "_I've gut the heaviest hand_."
Take nary man? Fine preachin' from _her_ lips!
Why, she hez taken hunderds from our ships,
An' would agin, an' swear she hed a right to,
Ef we warn't strong enough to be perlite to.
Of all the sarse thet I can call to mind,
England _doos_ make the most onpleasant kind:
It's you're the sinner ollers, she's the saint;
Wut's good's all English, all thet isn't ain't;
Wut profits her is ollers right an' just,
An' ef you don't read Scriptur so, you must;
She's praised herself ontil she fairly thinks
There ain't no light in Natur when she winks;
Hain't she the Ten Comman'ments in her pus?
Could the world stir 'thout she went, tu, ez nus?
She ain't like other mortals, thet's a fact:
_She_ never stopped the habus-corpus act,
Nor specie payments, nor she never yet
Cut down the int'rest on her public debt;
_She_ don't put down rebellions, lets 'em breed,
An' 's ollers willin' Ireland should secede;
She's all thet's honest, honnable, an' fair,
An' when the vartoos died they made her heir.

THE MONIMENT.

Wal, wal, two wrongs don't never make a right;
Ef we're mistaken, own it, an' don't fight:
For gracious' sake, hain't we enough to du
'Thout gittin' up a fight with England, tu?
She thinks we're rabble-rid - - -

THE BRIDGE

An' so we can't
Distinguish 'twixt _You oughtn't_ an' _You shan't!_
She jedges by herself; she's no idear
How 't stiddies folks to give 'em their fair sheer:
The odds 'twixt her an' us is plain's a steeple, -
Her People's turned to Mob, our Mob's turned People.

THE MONIMENT.

She's riled jes' now - - -

THE BRIDGE

Plain proof her cause ain't strong, -
The one thet fust gits mad's most ollers wrong.

THE MONIMENT.

You're ollers quick to set your back aridge, -
Though't suits a tom-cat more 'n a sober bridge:
Don't you git het: they thought the thing was planned;
They'll cool off when they come to understand.

THE BRIDGE

Ef _thet's_ wilt you expect, you'll _hev_ to wait:
Folks never understand the folks they hate:
She'll fin' some other grievance jest ez good,
'Fore the month's out, to git misunderstood.


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