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" Did they fire on you, Captain, after you had hauled
down your colors ? "

"Most assuredly; they poured several broadsides
into the Alabama after we had surrendered. A num
ber of our gallant seamen were killed and wounded by
this murderous fire."

"When it became evident that the Alabama was
sinking, did they make an honest effort to save your
men who had leaped overboard?"

"By no means. They did pick up a few, but the
loss of life would have been much greater if it had not
been for the magnanimous conduct of the English
yacht, the Deerhound, which had come out of Cher
bourg to witness the engagement.



AN HOUR S TALK WITH A SEA CAPTAIN.

"Mr. Seward demanded of the English Government
the extradition of the rescued officers and crew, but
Lord John Russell met the demand with a prompt
refusal.

"Distinguished officers of the British army and navy
presented Admiral Semmes with a splendid sword as
some compensation for the loss of the one that went
down with the Alabama."

After a breathing spell, I said to Captain Kell :
"What and where was your roughest experience with
storms?"

The veteran thought a moment and answered :

"The worst storm I ever encountered was off the
banks of Newfoundland, where the Yankees and the
Kanucks catch cod. In the East it would have been
called a typhoon. It belonged to the same class of
rotary storms that are named tornadoes, cyclones, etc.,
in different parts of the world. This one held us in its
grasp for six or seven hours, and beat and battered us
most unmercifully. It so happened, however, that the
center or vortex of the storm passed over us, and then
we were suddenly becalmed. When in this vortex the
mercury in the barometer, which just before the storm
had sunk nearly to twenty-eight inches, immediately
began to rise. During this lull Admiral Semmes
ordered a storm sail to be set, as we knew we would
catch the storm in a few minutes from the opposite
quarter. It would be impossible to convey an adequate
idea of the fury of this terrible typhoon. Our main-



I6O HISTORICAL AND BIOGRAPHICAL.

yard was snapped like a pipestem and our sails were
rent into ribbons.

"We estimated that this vast revolving atmospheric
cylinder had a radius of about fifty miles. Eolus, or
the satan of the book of Job, or whoever else is 'the
prince of the powers of the air,' fairly churned the sea
into a blinding and almost stifling spray."

"I find," said I to the Captain, "that in Semmes' vol
ume, 'Memoirs of Service Afloat,' you were once court-
martialed for mutiny and disobedience to orders."

" Thereby, " said our interlocutor, " hangs a tale. At
the time referred to I held the rank of passed midship
man on the war sloop Albany, Captain Victor Ran
dolph, of Virginia, commanding. Lieutenant Randolph
ordered me, in a rather peremptory manner, to light a
candle and carry it to the cabin. Now, you must
remember, that I was not only, as a youngster would be,
a little proud of my rank, but I had in my veins also a
little of the rebel blood that made my ancestors, the
Mclntoshes, fight against the house of Hanover at Pres
ton Paus and Culloden. The military disaster that fol
lowed the latter event led some of them to come to
Darien, in this State, shortly before our revolutionary
troubles began. I refused to obey the Lieutenant's
order because I esteemed it a menial service. In spite,
however, of Lieutenant Raphael Semmes' able defense
of me before the court-martial, I was dismissed from the
navy. A year afterwards, through the influence of
Senator Berrien and Mr. Toombs, I was reinstated with
my former rank, with only the loss of my year's pay,.



AN HOUR'S TALK WITH A SEA CAPTAIN. l6l

which, in those days, was to me a mere bagatelle. I
feel it due to myself to say that I had the full sympathy
of my brother passed midshipmen, and, indeed, most of
the officers and all the crew."

" I think, Captain," I continued, " that you took
part ir the capture of California during the Mexican
war."

"Yes," he rejoined, "I was a Lieutenant on board
the frigate Savannah, the flagship of Commodore Slote,
of the Pacific squadron. We landed at Monterey and
in a solemn manner unfurled the American flag, and by
this imposing ceremony took possession of the country.
This, in the parlance of the lawyers, was a kind of
wholesale livery of seizin. Of course the affair would
have been farcical, but for the fact, that we were backed
by the whole power, military and naval, of the govern
ment."

"Were you not," we asked, "with Commodore Per
ry when he negotiated the first treaty of commerce with
the Japanese ?"

" Yes," he replied, " I was on board of the Susque-
hanna, one of the best ships of our East India squad
ron. It was an historical occasion, when we landed
over 1,000 marines on the coast of Jeddo, one of the
largest islands of the Japanese group. Hard by, with
heavy guns bearing on the island, was our fleet, com
posed of seven of the best ships of the old navy. In a
unique building, elevated for the purpose, Commodore
Perry, with his staff, met the representatives of the

Tycoon the brother of the sun, the first cousin of the
11



l62 HISTORICAL AND BIOGRAPHICAL.

moon, and the near kinsman of innumerable stars, with
a few comets thrown in for good measure. There was
about that affair but little of the red-tapism of Downing
street. Our gallant Perry being a plain, blunt man, with
an eye for business, it did not require much diplomatic
palaver to break the seal of seclusion that had for so
long a time isolated Japan from western civilization.
The little Dutch trading port at Nagasaki was lost sight
of, and the best ports of the empire were henceforth
open to American commerce.

' 'We begin now to reap the reward of that naval enter
prise in the vast increase of commercial exchanges, and
in the rapid growth of Christianity in a country where, a
half century ago, children were taught to trample on the
cross, the despised symbol of the Christian faith."

"What about the superstitions of the sailor and the
crossing of the line, concerning which we formerly read
so much in the old story books of the nursery?"

"Well," replied the Captain, "these are passing
away as the years go by. Old Neptune, armed with
his trident, rarely comes up the ship's side as in former
times, to the consternation of the fresh water sailors and
the younger middies. The a\erage sailor, however,
has not yet overcome his aversion to leaving port on
Friday, nor his dislike to carrying a dead body on ship
board."

"What have you to say about the qualities of the
American sailor?"

" Only this that the thoroughbred downeaster is the
best seaman that sails the ocean. He is handy and



AN HOUR'S TALK WITH A SEA CAPTAIN. 163

trusty, and has little dread of storms or shells. Next
to him, and in special directions superior to him, is the
British tar, who followed Nelson and Collingwood in
their great ocean victories. Comparatively few sailors
are of Southern birth or blood, but some of the best
men on the Sumter and Alabama were shipped at
Charleston and Savannah. Not a few of the best naval
officers in the Yankee service during the late war were
Southern men. Of these we name Farragut and Hewitt.
Indeed, the great body of our Southern born naval offi
cers, from Maryland to Texas, followed the leader
ship of Rollins and Raphael Semmes, and that ' old
sea dog,' Tatnall, who cast their lot with their native
Southland. The record they made with the Merrimac,
the Sumter, the Shenandoah, and, above all, with the
peerless and ill-fated Alabama, is one of which their
countrymen need not be ashamed."

But the noble old sea-fighter must hurry off to Sun-
nyside, where his noble wife and only son, the future
admiral, await his coming.

At the risk of incurring Captain Kell's displeasure we
reproduce, without his knowledge, a letter from his old
commander addressed to his godson, the little boy
already referred to in the foregoing sentence. It pre
sents Admiral Semmes in a new role, and shows that a
great man may have on occasion the simplicity and gen
tleness of a little child :

MOBILE, ALA., May 6, 1870.

MY DEAR LITTLE GODSON : I have received your little let
ter, together with your likeness. You have grown to be quite



164 HISTORICAL AND BIOGRAPHICAL.

a little man since I saw you. You are no doubt acquiring to
learn to spell, and by-and-by you will be a "big boy" and go
to school. I am sorry to hear that your papa is not very well.
Tell mamma to take good care of him. In the meantime you
must be a good little boy and do all papa and mamma tell you r
so that you may grow up to be a man like your papa.
Your affectionate godfather,

R. SEMMES.



PARAGRAPHIC PENCILINGS.



PARAGRAPHIC PENCILINGS,



The telescope was the first optical instrument to
familiarize us with the vastness of the universe. In the
presence of such immense distances and incomprehen
sible magnitudes as it reveals we stand awe-struck and
almost paralyzed. But a later invention, the micro
scope, has brought within the range of human vision a
countless multitude of vegetable and animal organisms
that overwhelm us by their minuteness.

A solitary blade of grass is the abode of a vast bacte
rial population, and a single raindrop from a summer
cloud has stored up in it the potencies of a thunder
storm. A small cake of yeast will develop millions of
fermentative cells, nor would there be any assignable
limit to their reproduction, were it not arrested by the
heat of the baker's oven. These infinitesimal forces are
at work everywhere. Those tiny insects, the corals,
that build up continents and islands from such depths
as the plummet of the Challenger never reached, are
of mammoth-like proportions compared with the bacilli
which wield such an influence on human health and
happiness.

This remark brings us face to face with the greatest
medical discovery since the days of Edward Jenner.
Of course, we refer to Dr. Koch's discovery of the



l68 PARAGRAPHIC PENCILINGS.

bacillus which produces lupus, tuberculosis and kindred
diseases. It has been achieved in spite of criticism and
personal discomfort Not only has it been sneered at
by fae ptofanttm vulgus, but by jealous scientists, and
yet it will solve important problems and both promote
health and prolong life. As yet the treatment is in its
infancy, but coming generations will honor the memory
of that illustrious German, wheat one time expatriated
himself and at another immured himself in the labora
tory that he might prosecute his researches. Thus one
by one the storehouse of nature is yielding its precious
secrets, and this widening of the domain of knowledge
will go forward tor centuries. Who can measure the
results of the recent exploration of the dark continent?
Hitherto its material products have been chiefly gold
and ivory. But now that the higher races have under
taken its development, we may look for marvelous dis
coveries that may make it the richest, as it is the oldest,
of the five great continents. Here we might call a halt,
and still we have said nothing of electricity, that Ariel
of the chemist's laboratory. What strides it has made
since Franklin was flying his kite over Boston Common !
Already it seems destined to supplant steam as a motor.
Even now it lights our streets and dwellings, and very
soon will warm our bedchambers and cook our meals.
It has revolutionized, in a degree, some of the useful
arts, and is stretching forth its Briarean hands to new
conquests in other industrial fields. Only that Omnis
cient Eye that sees the end from the beginning can fore
cast the possibilities of its future.



PARAGRAPHIC PENCILINGS. 169

At one period of his life, David, the valiant son of
Jesse, was not less an outlaw than Robin Hood, of
Sherwood Forest. For months he was hunted like a
partridge on the mountains by Saul and his soldiery.
But he was reserved to a kingly destiny and became the
Napoleon of his age.

It was in the earlier days of his eventful life that
an incident occurred which gives us a glimpse of his
nobility of character. On one occasion he was seized
with a passionate longing for a drink of water from the
well of Bethlehem, then garrisoned by the Philistines.
He spoke of this yearning, and, without waiting to be
bidden, three of his bravest liegemen possibly the sons
of Zeruiah broke through the Philistine array and
fetched him the coveted draught.

David, realizing that it had been obtained at the
peril of the lives of these gallant men, refused the
draught and poured it out as a kind of drink-offering to
the Lord.

This was but one of the many striking displays of his
magnanimity. But his life was marred by some grievous
faults, which he laments in the seven penitential psalms.
For some of these pronounced transgressions he was
sorely punished by the insubordination of Joab, the bad
faith of his trusted counselor, Ahithophel, and the rebel
lion and death of Absalom, his favorite son and the
heir of his throne. How true the saying of William
Jay, the prince of preachers, that "the best of men are
but men at the best. " Abraham's dissimulation, Noah's
drunkenness, Jacob's sharp practice, Solomon's lechery,



I/O PARAGRAPHIC PENCILINGS.

and so on to the end of the chapter. The perfect can
dor of the writers of these historical books of the Old
Testament utterly refutes the infidel notion that they
were in any sense pious frauds. And how do these
sacred biographies, and profane history as well, teach us
that the grandest men of universal history fall infinitely
below Jesus of Nazareth, who after the flesh was both
the root and the offspring of David, but who likewise
in no dubious sense was the "only begotten of the
Father, full of grace and truth !"



Of late years very much stress has been laid on the
law of heredity, but recently Professor Weismann, of
Germany, has made a vigorous fight against the trans
mission of culture from parent to offspring. Some lead
ing scientists, amongst them Alfred Russell Wallace,
have indorsed his views, and the contest will be sharp,
if not decisive. The probability is that after a period
of disputation a compromise will be reached. What is
known as ativism is measurably true both in anatomy
and psychology, but the exceptions are so many and
the intervals are so wide that the law is of little practi
cal benefit. Some diseases, notably phthisis and insan
ity, are now regarded as of doubtful transmissibility.
At least it is not so much the disease itself that is trans
mitted as certain susceptibilities to the disease. The
uniform tendency in nature is to repair injuries of every
sort and thus to prevent their recurrence in offspring.

It was John Randolph, I believe, who said that moral
monsters could not propagate. The same conservatism



PARAGRAPHIC PENCILINGS. I/ 1

holds in regard to physical degeneracy. "Margaret,
the gutter-snipe," was no less exceptional in the mat
ter of motherhood than are the parents of double-headed
calves or three-legged chickens. Whether we admit or
deny a Divine Providence in these and other matters,
there is a uniformity of sequence in the processes of the
universe that denote both a law and a law-giver.

These facts which are being brought to the front by
scientific research are worth all the metaphysics of the
Bridgewater treatises and of the Bampton lectures.



John Wesley is reported to have said that if he died
worth more than enough to pay his debts and funeral
expenses, he wanted to be considered a thief and a rob
ber. These may not be his exact words, but this is the
substance of several of his deliverances. This great
man was equally averse to the increase of wealth
amongst the Methodist people. He forewarned them
that affluence would bring luxury and its attendant
irregularities. In this way the church would lose its
spirituality and its hold on the masses. As a pre
ventive, he resolved for himself to make all he could
and give all he could, and enjoined the same line of
policy on his people. Mr. Wesley, however, lived to
see a vast change in the social and financial condition
of his followers. The sixty dollar salary of Bishop
Asbury has grown to some thousands, and there are
now on the American continent single Methodist
churches that pay more money than the old Georgia
Conference did in the early days of the Pierces and



1/2 PARAGRAPHIC PENCILINGS.

Arnold and Hull and others of the fathers. Has the
spiritual decay followed the fear of which disquieted
the mind of the immortal founder ? We might answer
both yes and no. There is, nowadays, less of the hal
lelujah feature the amen corner, when not wholly
deserted, responds feebly to the good points of the
pulpit. The general rule touching gold and costly
apparel is in many quarters a nullity. There is less
simplicity in Methodist worship less closet devotion ;
less Bible study outside of the Sunday-schools. In
some directions, however, there has been manifest
improvement. The church is expending large sums,
compared with other periods of its history ; immense
amounts indeed for church literature, home and foreign
missions, church building and extension and current
church expenses. Now, as aforetime, there are drones that
neither pay nor pray. There is room for improvement
in both directions, especially in the latter. After all,
Methodism has been a grand religious movement.
Despite the shortcomings of its ministry and member
ship, it has not been a whit behind its older sister
churches in evangelical piety and ecclesiastical aggres
siveness. It has compassed the earth by its missionary
enterprises, and whereas in its infancy it was a feeble
and despised sect, worshipping in barns and groves, it
now has its splendid churches, its well-endowed col
leges and spacious hospitals. Thousands of the most
cultured people, and, what is better, many more of the
saintliest men and women worship at its altars. With
its present moral and financial resources, it only needs



PARAGRAPHIC PENCILINGS. 173

to "walk in the old paths, wherein is the good way,'' and
her growth before the close of the twentieth century
will make her the joy of the angels and the glory of
our common Christendom.



Shelley was never at any pains to conceal his atheistic
sentiments. When an undergraduate at Oxford he
published a pamphlet denouncing Christianity as a fraud
and a failure. In after years, when he should have
learned the folly of this collegiate blunder, he wrote his
name on the register of the Hospice St. Gothard Percy
Bysshe Shelley, atheist. There, in the midst of the
great mountains, which were striking emblems of God's
majesty and righteousness, he exhibited that impiety
that in his case bordered on insanity. How else could
it have been that Shelley would start with seeming affright
and break out into blasphemous utterances at the men
tioning of the name of Jesus? I know of nothing par
allel to it, except in the case of Julian, the apostate,
whose dying utterance, "Oh, Galilean, thou hast con
quered!" was the outcry of baffled hate and concen
trated bitterness.

Few persons of this generation read much of Shelley.
Indeed, except his lines "To a Skylark," and parts of
his " Cenci," a tragedy, there is little of his poetry that
will abide.

Early in life I was greatly enamored of Shelley, and
it is possible the reaction of later years has swung the
pendulum too far in the opposite direction.



174 PARAGRAPHIC PENCILINGS.

Few men who meet Colonel R. F. Maddox, the
banker, and first-class Atlantian, would ever infer that
he was once the champion bugler of Western Georgia.
When as yet he had not reached his legal majority he
was the bugler of the Harris County Cavalry company.
This company was composed of the solid men of those
parts, and it was a treat to watch their maneuverings
when on parade. Judge Crawford, of the Supreme
Court, at one time commanded the company, and by
his efforts brought them to a good state of drill and dis
cipline. On review days and other special occasions,
Bob Maddox rode at the head of the cavalry and played
his bugle for all it was worth. He was of good stock,
for his ancestry were Methodists of a school nearly
extinct, except in the outlying rural districts. They
belonged to that "bold peasantry" whom Goldsmith
called "their country's pride," from whom are recruited
our best city population. Colonel Maddox and myself
often meet and talk over the old times, and both of us
have pleasant memories of "old Harris" and its excel
lent people. Since these arcadian days we have both
had our trials and successes, but we often think, and
perchance dream by day and night, of Pine mountain
and its picturesque views, and of the charming valleys
through which murmur the beautiful streams along
whose banks we fished and frolicked in boyhood.



Dr. Lafferty, of the Richmond Advocate, alludes to
Rev. Dr. R. L. Dabney, the distinguished Presbyte
rian divine, as one of the giants of the century. He



PARAGRAPHIC PENCILINGS. 175

further commends him for a vigorous article in a late
church paper on the subject of " Hell Fire Preaching."
This is the sort of pulpit teaching that is greatly needed
at the present day. Too many of our pulpits are con
verted into lecture platforms, and have consequently lost
the old-time force that "turned the world upside down."
Less German philosophy, with more evangelical fervor,
is " mighty through God to the pulling down of strong
holds." For a man "to court a smile where he should
win a soul" is a species of ministerial trifling that
deserves to be scouted from the temple of the Most
High.



Not everybody will remember how, that many years
ago, one Bullock defaulted as cashier of the Central
Railroad Bank at Savannah. The offender belonged to
one of the best families, and his trial and conviction pro
duced quite an uproar in social, as well as commercial
circles. His bondsmen suffered heavily, and the atmos
phere of the Forest City was for quite awhile fairly lurid
with curses, both loud and deep. Amongst these
bondsmen were Dr. Arnold, and a Presbyterian deacon,
Albert Lewis, whose behavior was sharply contrasted.
The latter, in conversation with Dr. Arnold^ said that
the loss hurt him worse than anybody. "Why so?"
asked Dr. Arnold ; "my money is worth as much to me
as yours is to you." "But," replied the deacon, "you
get rid of your bad feelings by cursing, but I am a mem
ber of the church and am debarred from the use of that
remedy." Whereupon Dr. Arnold rejoined that he was



1/6 PARAGRAPHIC PENCILINGS.

thankful that he could exercise the rights of an Ameri
can democrat, without let or hindrance. It is well
known that an explosion of expletives, even of a
wicked sort, does lessen the nervous tension and rid the
system of its surplus bile. Nor need we go far to find
the philosophy of the matter. But it is better under all
provocations to obey the precept of St. James, "Swear
not at all."



" Before and after taking " is a favorite illustration of
the patent medicine vendor. In these crude etchings
the difference between the physical appearance of the
same man at two periods of his life are exaggerated for
purposes of gain. " Before taking" he looks as though
he had just escaped from a cemetery, minus the grave
clothes. " After taking' 1 he seems robust and ready
for the prize ring. This difference is not more striking
than between the popular estimate of some poets, living
and dead. Only the other day an appreciative New
Yorker endowed the cottage at Fordham, which was
for some years occupied by Edgar Allan Poe, with the
handsome sum of $50,000, the cottage to be held and
perpetuated as a memorial of our greatest American
poet. It was there that the girl-wife, variously called
the "lost Lenore, " the "beautiful Anabel Lee," so
beautiful indeed that even "the angels envied her fa
vored lover, ''the saintly Ulalume," was buried in

The ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.
It was there, we repeat, she sickened and died in the



PARAGRAPHIC PENCILINGS. 1 77

arms of her frantic lover. It was there also that Poe,
half crazed with grief in that bleak December night,
wrought out that marvelous poem, ' ' The Raven. " For
that work he received from the American (whig) Review
the beggarly sum of $10, the weekly wages of a vulgar
hireling. What recks the dead literary demigod, as he
lies now in his neglected grave at Baltimore, of these
post-mortem honors? Verily we Americans are also
given to stoning the prophets, and as some amends to
their outraged majesty we garnish their sepulchres.



Gladstone seems to have a standing quarrel with Pro


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Online LibraryW. J. (William J.) ScottHistoric eras and Paragraphic pencilings → online text (page 10 of 14)