May 20.—I left Mobile in the steamer Florida for New Orleans this morning at eight o’clock. She was crowded with passengers, in uniform. In my cabin was a notice of the rules and regulations of the steamer. No. 6 was as follows: “All slave servants must be cleared at the Custom House. Passengers having slaves will please report as soon as they come on board.”

A few miles from Mobile the steamer, turning to the right, entered one of the narrow channels which perforate the whole of the coast, called “Grant’s Pass.” An ingenious person has rendered it navigable by an artificial cut; but as he was not an universal philanthropist, and possibly may have come from north of the Tweed, he further erected a series of barriers, which can only be cleared by means of a little pepper-castor iron lighthouse; and he charges toll on all passing vessels. A small island at the pass, just above water-level, about twenty yards broad and one hundred and fifty yards long, was being fortified. Some of our military friends landed here; and it required a good deal of patriotism to look cheerfully at the prospect of remaining cooped up among the mosquitoes in a box, on this miserable sand-bank, which a shell would suffice to blow into atoms.

Having passed this channel, our steamer proceeded up a kind of internal sea, formed by the shore, on the right hand and on the left by a chain almost uninterrupted of reefs covered with sand, and exceedingly narrow, so that the surf of the ocean rollers at the other side could be seen through the foliage of the pine trees which line them. On our right the endless pines closed up the land view of the horizon; the beach was pierced by creeks without number, called bayous; and it wa§ curious to watch the white sails of the little schooners gliding in and out among the trees along the green meadows that seemed to stretch as an impassable barrier to their exit. Immense troops of pelicans flapped over the sea, dropping incessantly on the fish which abounded in the inner water; and long rows of the same birds stood digesting their plentiful meals on the white beach by the ocean foam.

There was some anxiety in the passengers’ minds, as it was reported that the United States’ cruisers had been seen inside, and that they had even burned the batteries on Ship Island. We saw nothing of a character more formidable than coasting craft and a return steamer from New Orleans till we approached the entrance to Pontchartrain, when a large schooner, which sailed like a witch and was crammed with men, attracted our attention. Through the glass I could make out two guns on her deck, and quite reason enough for any well-filled merchantman sailing under the Stars and Stripes to avoid her close companionship.

The approach to New Orleans is indicated by large hamlets and scattered towns along the sea-shore, hid in the piney woods, which offer a retreat to the merchants and their families from the fervid heat of the unwholesome city in summer time. As seen from the sea, these sanitary settlements have a picturesque effect, and an air of charming freshness and lightness. There are detached villas of every variety of architecture in which timber can be constructed, painted in the brightest hues—greens, and blues, and rose tints— each embowered in magnolias and rhododendrons. From every garden a very long and slender pier, terminated by a bathing-box, stretches into the shallow sea; and the general aspect of these houses, with the light domes and spires of churches rising above the lines of white railings set in the dark green of the pines, is light and novel. To each of these cities there is a jetty, at two of which we touched, and landed newspapers, received or discharged a few bales of goods, and were off again.

Of the little crowd assembled on each, the majority were blacks—the whites, almost without exception, in uniform, and armed. A nearer approach did not induce me to think that any agencies less powerful than epidemics and summer-heats could render Pascagoula, Passchristian, Mississippi City, and the rest of these settlements very eligible residences for people of an active turn of mind.

The livelong day my fellow-passengers never ceased talking politics, except when they were eating and drinking, because the horrible chewing and spitting are not at all incompatible with the maintenance of active discussion. The fiercest of them all was a thin, fiery-eyed little woman, who at dinner expressed a fervid desire for bits of “Old Abe”—his ear, his hair; but whether for the purpose of eating or as curious relics, she did not enlighten the company.

After dinner there was some slight difficulty among the military gentlemen, though whether of a political or personal character, I could not determine; but it was much aggravated by the appearance of a six-shooter on the scene, which, to my no small perturbation, was presented in a right line with my berth, out of the window of which I was looking at the combatants. I am happy to say the immediate delivery of the fire was averted by an amicable arrangement that the disputants should meet at the St. Charles Hotel at 12 o’clock on the second day after their arrival, in order to fix time, place, and conditions of a more orthodox and regular encounter.

At night the steamer entered a dismal canal, through a swamp which is infamous as the most mosquito haunted place along the infested shore; the mouths of the Mississippi themselves being quite innocent, compared to the entrance of Lake Pontchartrain.

MONDAY 20

Another cool day, a fire comfortable to sit by all day. It has rained most of the day. Troops a[re] mostly gone from the Pat office. Went down to the Parade of the 12th with wife this evening. Afterwards went on to the Ave. Was at the “National” an hour or so. People are expecting great events will take place soon. A Battle at or near Norfolk probably. Got the NY papers and came home early and read till near 11 o’clock. Accidents among the soldiers occur frequently, three or four have been shot.

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The three diary manuscript volumes, Washington during the Civil War: The Diary of Horatio Nelson Taft, 1861-1865, are available online at The Library of  Congress.

A likeness of Jones when he was editor and majority owner of the Daily Madisonian during President John Tyler's administration.

A likeness of Jones when he was editor and majority owner of the Daily Madisonian during President John Tyler’s administration.

MAY 20th. —Mr. Walker, the Secretary of War, is some forty seven or eight years of age, tall, thin, and a little bent; not by age, but by study and bad health. He was a successful lawyer, and having never been in governmental employment, is fast working himself down. He has not yet learned how to avoid unnecessary labor; being a man of the finest sensibilities, and exacting with the utmost nicety all due deference to the dignity of his official position. He stands somewhat on ceremony with his brother officials, and accords and exacts the etiquette natural to a sensitive gentleman who has never been broken on the wheel of office. I predict for him a short career. The only hope for his continuance in office is unconditional submission to the President, who, being once Secretary of War of the United States, is familiar with all the wheels of the department. But soon, if I err not, the President will be too much absorbed in the fluctuations of momentous campaigns, to give much of his attention to any one of the departments. Nevertheless Mr. Walker, if he be an apt scholar, may learn much before that day; and Congress may simplify his duties by enacting a uniform mode of filling the offices in the field. The applications now give the greatest trouble; and the disappointed class give rise to many vexations.

SURGEON-GENERAL’S OFFICE,
Washington, May 20, 1861.

In reference to the national reputation of Miss Dix as connected with objects of philanthropy and usefulness, she is authorized to exercise a general supervision of the assignment of nurses to the hospitals, general and regimental, occupied by the troops at Washington and its vicinity, subject to the advisement and control of the Surgeon-General’s Office in matters of detail, numbers, &c.: and excepting such hospitals as already have a permanent organization of nurses. This is respectfully recommended to all commanding officers and enjoined on all medical officers of the regular and volunteer forces to aid her in her benevolent views.

R. G. WOOD,

Acting Surgeon-General.

May 20.—I recited “Scott and the Veteran” to-day at school, and Mary Field recited, “To Drum Beat and Heart Beat a Soldier Marches By;” Anna recited “The Virginia Mother.” Everyone learns war poems now-a-days. There was a patriotic rally in Bemis Hall last night and a quartette sang, “The Sword of a Bunker Hill” and “Dixie” and “John Brown’s Body lies a Mouldering in the Grave,” and many other patriotic songs. We have one West Point cadet, Albert M. Murray, who is in the thick of the fight, and Charles S. Coy represents Canandaigua in the navy.

May 20th.—Lunched at Mrs. Davis’s; everything nice to eat, and I was ravenous. For a fortnight I have not even gone to the dinner table. Yesterday I was forced to dine on cold asparagus and blackberries, so repulsive in aspect was the other food they sent me. Mrs. Davis was as nice as the luncheon. When she is in the mood, I do not know so pleasant a person. She is awfully clever, always.

We talked of this move from Montgomery. Mr. Chesnut opposes it violently, because this is so central a position for our government. He wants our troops sent into Maryland in order to make our fight on the border, and so to encompass Washington. I see that the uncomfortable hotels here will at last move the Congress. Our statesmen love their ease, and it will be hot here in summer. “I do hope they will go,” Mrs. Davis said. “The Yankees will make it hot for us, go where we will, and truly so if war comes.” “And it has come,” said I. “Yes, I fancy these dainty folks may live to regret losing even the fare of the Montgomery hotels.” “Never.”

Mr. Chesnut has three distinct manias. The Maryland scheme is one, and he rushes off to Jeff Davis, who, I dare say, has fifty men every day come to him with infallible plans to save the country. If only he can keep his temper. Mrs. Davis says he answers all advisers in softly modulated, dulcet accents.

What a rough menagerie we have here. And if nice people come to see you, up walks an irate Judge, who engrosses the conversation and abuses the friends of the company generally; that is, abuses everybody and prophesies every possible evil to the country, provided he finds that denouncing your friends does not sufficiently depress you. Everybody has manias—up North, too, by the papers.

But of Mr. Chesnut’s three crazes: Maryland is to be made the seat of war, old Morrow’s idea of buying up steamers abroad for our coast defenses should be adopted, and, last of all, but far from the least, we must make much cotton and send it to England as a bank to draw on. The very cotton we have now, if sent across the water, would be a gold mine to us.

—Mrs. Judge Daly, of New York, and a number of ladies associated with her, sent to the Sixty-ninth regiment 1,260 linen havelocks—a complement sufficient to supply the whole regiment.—N. Y. Herald, May 21.

—The ship Argo, which was captured in Hampton Roads on Sunday afternoon, (May 10,) by the United States steam frigate Minnesota, arrived at New York in charge of a prize crew under command of Midshipman McCook and Clerk Elias W. Hall. The Argo was bound from Richmond, Virginia, for Bremen, and at the time of her seizure had on board $150,000 worth of tobacco.—N. Y. Journal of Commerce, May 21.

—At precisely 8 o’clock P. M., by order of the Government, a descent was made by the United States Marshals upon every considerable telegraph office throughout the Free States, and the accumulated despatches of the twelvemonth past were seized. The object was to obtain evidence of the operations of the Southern rebels with their Northern accomplices, which the confidential telegrams passing between them could most certainly furnish. The seizures in all the principal cities were made at the same time so as to prevent the destruction of evidence which might have followed the receipt of a warning from any particular point. The whole matter was managed with the greatest secrecy, and so well planned that the project was a complete success. By this bold manoeuvre the Government has obtained possession of a mass of evidence of the greatest importance. N. Y. Tribune, May 21.

—The ordinance of secession was passed by the North Carolina State Convention, together with an ordinance ratifying and assenting to the Constitution of the Confederate States.—(Doc. 179.)

—Bram S. Vosburgh, Colonel of the New York Seventy-first Regiment, died in Washington, D. C., of a pulmonary complaint.—N. Y. Express, May 20.

—Gen Butler left Washington for Annapolis. The New York Second Regiment left New York for the seat of war.—(Doc. 180.)—N. Y. Tribune, May 21.

—Gov. Magoffin, of Kentucky, issued a proclamation pretentiously in obedience to public; sentiment, by which Kentucky virtually takes a position of neutrality, and in which its citizens are bidden to “so conduct themselves that the deplorable calamity of invasion may be averted.”—(Doc. 181.)

—Military maps of Virginia made for Gov. Letcher, from special surveys, were seized in Washington by the War Department.—N. Y. Tribune, May 21.

May 19th.—The heat out of doors was so great that I felt little tempted to stir out, but at 2 o’clock Mr. Magee drove me to a pretty place, called Spring Hill, where Mr. Stein, a German merchant of the city, has his country residence. The houses of Mobile merchants are scattered around the rising ground in that vicinity; they look like marble at a distance, but a nearer approach resolves them into painted wood. Stone is almost unknown on all this seaboard region. The worthy German was very hospitable, and I enjoyed a cool walk before dinner under the shade of his grapes, which formed pleasant walks in his garden. The Scuppernung grape, which grew in profusion—a native of North Carolina — has a remarkable appearance. The stalk, which is smooth, and covered with a close grained grey bark, has not the character of a vine, but grows straight and stiff like the branch of a tree, and is crowded with delicious grapes. Cherokee plum and rose trees, and magnificent magnolias, clustered round his house, and beneath their shadow I listened to the worthy German comparing the Fatherland to his adopted country, and now and then letting out the secret love of his heart for the old place. He, like all of the better classes in the South, has the utmost dread of universal suffrage, and would restrict the franchise largely to-morrow if he could.

SUNDAY, MAY 19, 1861.

Cool today, fire in Parlor in the morning. Went with Juliet to the camp of the 12th Regt in the morning and heard Rev Mathew Hale Smith (the Chaplin of the Regt) deliver an eloquent discourse to the soldiers. Got to church in time from there and heard Doct Smith, a good many soldiers in the house. Lieut [Millward?] of the 12th called in the evening. He lives in NY, an Englishman by birth. Went down onto the Ave at 6 o’ck and saw the Mich Regt parade. Their Band of Music is very fine. Back before dark, Juliet was with me.

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The three diary manuscript volumes, Washington during the Civil War: The Diary of Horatio Nelson Taft, 1861-1865, are available online at The Library of  Congress.

MAY 19th. — The Secretary of War sent for me this morning, and said he required more assistance in his correspondence, then increasing daily; but the act of Congress limiting salaries would prevent him from offering me an adequate compensation. He could only name some ten or twelve hundred dollars. I told him my great desire was employment, and facilities to preserve interesting facts for future publication. I was installed at once, with Major Tyler, in the Secretary’s own office. It was my duty to open and read the letters, noting briefly their contents on the back. The Secretary would then indicate in pencil marks the answers to be written, which the major and I prepared. These were signed by the Secretary, copied in another room, and mailed. I was happy in the discharge of these duties, and worked assiduously day and night.

May 19th.—Mrs. Fitzpatrick says Mr. Davis is too gloomy for her. He says we must prepare for a long war and unmerciful reverses at first, because they are readier for war and so much stronger numerically. Men and money count so in war. “As they do everywhere else,” said I, doubting her accurate account of Mr. Davis’s spoken words, though she tried to give them faithfully. We need patience and persistence. There is enough and to spare of pluck and dash among us, the do-and-dare style.

I drove out with Mrs. Davis. She finds playing Mrs. President of this small confederacy slow work, after leaving friends such as Mrs. Emory and Mrs. Joe Johnston¹ in Washington. I do not blame her. The wrench has been awful with us all, but we don’t mean to be turned into pillars of salt.

Mr. Mallory came for us to go to Mrs. Toombs’s reception. Mr. Chesnut would not go, and I decided to remain with him. This proved a wise decision. First Mr. Hunter² came.  came. In college they called him from his initials, R. M. T., ” Run Mad Tom ” Hunter. Just now I think he is the sanest, if not the wisest, man in our new-born Confederacy. I remember when I first met him.  He sat next to me at some state dinner in Washington.  Mr. Clay had taken me in to dinner, but seemed quite satisfied that my “other side” should take me off his hands.

Mr. Hunter did not know me, nor I him. I suppose he inquired, or looked at my card, lying on the table, as I looked at his. At any rate, we began a conversation which lasted steadily through the whole thing from soup to dessert. Mr. Hunter, though in evening dress, presented a rather tumbled-up appearance. His waistcoat wanted pulling down, and his hair wanted brushing. He delivered unconsciously that day a lecture on English literature which, if printed, I still think would be a valuable addition to that literature. Since then, I have always looked forward to a talk with the Senator from Virginia with undisguised pleasure. Next came Mr. Miles and Mr. Jameson, of South Carolina. The latter was President of our Secession Convention; also has written a life of Du Guesclin that is not so bad. So my unexpected reception was of the most charming. Judge Frost came a little later. They all remained until the return of the crowd from Mrs. Toombs’s.

These men are not sanguine—I can’t say, without hope, exactly. They are agreed in one thing: it is worth while to try a while, if only to get away from New England. Captain Ingraham was here, too. He is South Carolina to the tips of his fingers; yet he has it dyed in the wool—it is part of his nature—to believe the United States Navy can whip anything in the world. All of these little inconsistencies and contrarieties make the times very exciting. One never knows what tack any one of them will take at the next word.

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¹ Mrs. Johnston was Lydia McLane, a daughter of Louis McLane, United States Senator from Delaware from 1827 to 1829, and afterward Minister to England. In 1831 he became Secretary of the Treasury and in 1833 Secretary of State. General Joseph E. Johnston was graduated from West Point in 1829 and had served in the Black Hawk, Seminole, and Mexican Wars. He resigned his commission in the United States Army on April 22,1861.

² Mr. Hunter was a Virginian. He had long served in Congress, was twice speaker of the House, and in 1844 was elected a United States Senator, serving until 1861. He supported slavery and became active in the secession movement. At the Charleston Convention in 1860, he received the next highest vote to Stephen A. Douglas for President.

—Shots were exchanged between the U. S. Steamers Freeborn and Monticello, and a rebel battery at Sewell’s Point north of Elizabeth River, Virginia.—(Doc. 177.)

—Two schooners with secession troops on board were taken by U. S. steamer Freeborn, in the Potomac, 10 miles below Fort Washington.—N. Y. World, May 21.

—The rebels at Harper’s Ferry, Md., were reinforced from the south. Two thousand troops arrived from Mississippi and two regiments from Alabama.—N. Y. Herald, May 21.

—A meeting of the New York Bible Society was held, in reference to supplying the Bible to all soldiers, who go to fight for the Federal Government. Wm. Allen Butler presided, and speeches were made by the president, Dr. Tyng, Dr. Hitchcock, and others.—(Doc. 178.)

—A body of 1,000 Virginians and South Carolinians from Harper’s Ferry took a position on the Virginia side of the Potomac, opposite Williamsport, a town about seven miles from Hagerstown, Md. They there were in a situation to command the ferry at that spot.—Phila. Press, May 21.

May 18th.—An exceedingly hot day, which gives bad promise of comfort for the Federal soldiers, who are coming, as the Washington Government asserts, to put down rebellion in these quarters. The mosquitoes are advancing in numbers and force. The day I first came I asked the waiter if they were numerous. “I wish they were a hundred times as many,” said he. On inquiring if he had any possible reason for such an extraordinary aspiration, he said, “because we would get rid of these darned black republicans out of Fort Pickens all the sooner.” The man seemed to infer they would not bite the Confederate soldiers.

I dined at Dr. Nott’s, and met Judge Campbell, who has resigned his high post as one of the Judges of the Supreme Court of the United States, and explained his reasons for doing so in a letter, charging Mr. Seward with treachery, dissimulation, and falsehood. He seemed to me a great casuist rather than a profound lawyer, and to delight in subtle distinctions and technical abstractions; but I had the advantage of hearing from him at great length the whole history of the Dred Scot case, and a recapitulation of the arguments used on both sides, the force of which, in his opinion, was irresistibly in favor of the decision of the Court. Mr. Forsyth, Colonel Hardee, and others were of the company.

To me it was very painful to hear a sweet ringing silvery voice, issuing from a very pretty mouth, “I’m so delighted to hear that the Yankees in Fortress Monroe have got typhus fever. I hope it may kill them all.” This was said by one of the most charming young persons possible, and uttered with unmistakable sincerity, just as if she had said, “I hear all the snakes in Virginia are dying of poison.” I fear the young lady did not think very highly of me for refusing to sympathize with her wishes in that particular form. But all the ladies in Mobile belong to “The Yankee Emancipation Society.” They spend their days sewing cartridges, carding lint, preparing bandages, and I’m not quite sure that they don’t fill shells and fuses as well. Their zeal and energy will go far to sustain the South in the forthcoming struggle, and nowhere is the influence of women greater than in America.

As to Dr. Nott, his studies have induced him to take a purely materialist view of the question of .slavery, and, according to him, questions of morals and ethics, pertaining to its consideration, ought to be referred to the cubic capacity of the human cranium— the head that can take the largest charge of snipe shot will eventually dominate in some form or other over the head of inferior capacity. Dr. Nott detests slavery, but he does not see what is to be done with the slaves, and how the four millions of negroes are to be prevented from becoming six, eight, or ten millions, if their growth is stimulated by high prices for Southern produce.

There is a good deal of force in the observation which I have heard more than once down here, that Great Britain could not have emancipated her negroes had they been dwelling within her border, say in Lancashire or Yorkshire. No inconvenience was experienced by the English people per se in consequence of the emancipation, which for the time destroyed industry and shook society to pieces in Jamaica. Whilst the States were colonies, Great Britain viewed the introduction of slaves to such remote dependencies with satisfaction, and when the United States had established their sovereignty they found the institution of slavery established within their own borders, and an important, if not essential, stratum in their social system. The work of emancipation would have then been comparatively easy; it now is a stupendous problem which no human being has offered to solve.

SATURDAY 18

Fine cool day. Very pleasant for the soldiers to drill. “Squads” being seen all over the City marching to and fro under a drill officer. Had letter today from Brother C R. Wrote him in reply after going over to the Genl P.O. Was introduced to Mr Lewis Clephane, the City P.M., by Mr Vansantvoord of the Pat office. Was down to see the Dress Parade of the 12th. From there to “Willards” Hotel and then to Kirkwoods. Saw the officers of the Mich Regt who stop there. Came home about 9 o’clock, bed at 11.

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The three diary manuscript volumes, Washington during the Civil War: The Diary of Horatio Nelson Taft, 1861-1865, are available online at The Library of  Congress.

 

Harper’s Ferry, May 18,1861.

My wife, I have no sweeter word than this to call the dear little woman at home, with whom my happiest reminiscences of the past and fondest hopes of the future have ever been associated. (You speak of dreams; I had one of you, that we were married again, and thought we had a very nice time of it.) We have moved from our station in the mountain back to town. Here we have very pleasant quarters, in which I think it likely we will remain until we have a battle. When this will be, it is impossible to say, but is not expected immediately. I received the green flannel shirt and put it on for the first time to-day. It is very comfortable and valued the more because made by the hands of my dear wife. Present my kind regards to John (the gardener) and hand him the enclosed order on Wm. White. Present my kindest regards to Jack, Jane, and Phebe (slaves). Kiss the children for me, and for yourself take a husband’s best love.

—Governor Brown, of Georgia, issued a proclamation, inhibiting the carrying of arms or accoutrements of any kind purchased by the State, beyond its limits, without his consent. This proclamation appears to relate to the informal departure of soldiers.

“Governor Brown,” says the Savannah Republican, “may be technically right in this order, but he has at least selected an unfortunate time for issuing it. From the beginning a misunderstanding seems to have existed between him and the Confederate authorities, to be found with no other State, and it is high time it had been brought to a close.”—N. Y. Commercial, May 22.

—A patriotic demonstration took place in the town of Old Saybrook, Ct., made particularly interesting by the antiquity of the place, and its various revolutionary relics and reminiscences. A fine flagstaff was raised upon the spot which had given birth to the old Saybrook platform, and but a short distance from the old fort built by the first settlers of the place.

The services were prefaced by the raising of the flag by Deacon Sill, (91 years of age) a colonel of the war of 1812, and the patriarch of the place. A prayer and addresses were then made by the Rev. Messrs. McCall, Loper and Gallup; the intervals being appropriately filled by national songs admirably given by a club from a neighboring village. In conclusion, the old men of the village were called upon, and short and telling speeches were made.—Boston Advertiser, May 21.

—The Montgomery (Ala.) Mail of to-day has the following paragraph in reference to Fort Pickens: “Having returned this morning from Pensacola, where we have been for several days, we can assure our readers that the reports going to show that a battle will soon occur at Fort Pickens are mere conjectures. Of the plans of any of those in command nothing is known outside of hbead-quarters. Our own impression, formed while in Pensacola, is that there will be no battle at all at Pickens, or at least that it is not now the intention of the Confederate authorities to attack it.”

—Arkansas was by unanimous vote admitted a State of the Southern Confederacy, and its delegates to the Southern Congress. They are R. W. Johnson, of Pine Bluff; A. Rust, of Little Rock; A. H. Garland, of Little Rock; -W. W. Watkins, of Carrollton; H. F. Thomasson, of Van Buren.—N. Y. Times, May 26.

—Three merchants of Baltimore, Jerome A. Pendergrast, James Whiteford, and George McGowan, were arrested charged with riotous conduct in obstructing the track of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad on the 19th of April, while the Massachusetts troops were en route to Washington. They were under indictment by the Grand Jury, and were admitted to bail—N. Y. Times,  May 26.

—The military department of Virginia, to embrace eastern Virginia to the summit of the Blue Ridge, and the States of North Carolina and South Carolina, was created; Major-General Benjamin F. Butler was placed in command. —Rappahannock River was blockaded, which rendered perfect the blockade of Virginia.— N. Y. Herald, May 19.

—Fourteenth Regiment N. Y. S. M. from Brooklyn departed for Washington, amid great enthusiasm.—Doc. 176.

—The Tug Yankee arrived in Philadelphia, having in tow three schooners loaded with tobacco, viz.: the Emily Ann, the Mary Willis, and the Delaware Farmer, belonging to and bound to Baltimore from Richmond. They surrendered to the Harriet Lane, and were ordered to Philadelphia by the flag officer of the Minnesota. Outside of Cape Henry the Mary Willis broke loose, and as the Yankee turned round to recover her, the Emily Ann got a lurch and sprang her mainmast. Her foremast had to be cut away to save her. The Emily Ann arrived at the wharf; leaking badly, and is being unloaded. Lieut. Bryant, of the Navy, who had the prizes in charge, stated that the ship North Carolina, in ballast, from Havre, and another ship, the Argo, had been seized and taken to New York. Twenty vessels had been detained by the fleet, including five tobacco schooners.—Phila. Ledger, May 19.

—An expedition of New York troops sent to recapture the lightship, taken by the secessionists, brought it up to the Washington Navy Yard to-day.—They were fired into, but nobody was hurt.—N. Y. Herald, May 19.

17th.—Still quiet. Mrs. J., Mrs. B., and myself, sat at the Malvern windows yesterday, spying the enemy as they sailed up and down the river. Those going up were heavily laden, carrying provisions, etc., to their troops. I think if all Virginia could see their preparations as we do, her vote would be unanimous for secession.

taft_horatio_nelsonFRIDAY 17

Another fine day. The Michigan Regt got in last night, Col Wilcox. Young Saml Androus is among them from Coldwater. He called upon me at the office this morning. The Regt is for the Present quartered at Woodwards Building. Attended the Parade of the 12th with Wife and Doct Everitt & Lady. Afterwards I went on to the Av’e, and was at Willards. Hotel full. Things are looking to an attack upon Norfolk, but nothing is known to the public. At “Drum beat” (1/2 past 9.) the soldiers must all be in quarters.

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The three diary manuscript volumes, Washington during the Civil War: The Diary of Horatio Nelson Taft, 1861-1865, are available online at The Library of  Congress.

MAY 17th. —Was introduced to the President to-day. He was overwhelmed with papers, and retained a number in his left hand, probably of more importance than the rest. He received me with urbanity, and while he read the papers I had given him, as I had never seen him before, I endeavored to scrutinize his features, as one would naturally do, for the purpose of forming a vague estimate of the character and capabilities of the man destined to perform the leading part in a revolution which must occupy a large space in the world’s history. His stature is tall, nearly six feet; his frame is very slight and seemingly frail; but when he throws back his shoulders he is as straight as an Indian chief. The features of his face are distinctly marked with character; and no one gazing at his profile would doubt for a moment that he beheld more than an ordinary man. His face is handsome, and his thin lip often basks a pleasant smile. There is nothing sinister or repulsive in his manners or appearance; and if there are no special indications of great grasp of intellectual power on his forehead and on his sharply defined nose and chin, neither is there any evidence of weakness, or that he could be easily moved from any settled purpose. I think he has a clear perception of matters demanding his cognizance, and a nice discrimination of details. As a politician he attaches the utmost importance to consistency —and here I differ with him. I think that to be consistent as a politician, is to change with the circumstances of the case. When Calhoun and Webster first met in Congress, the first advocated a protective tariff and the last opposed it. This was told me by Mr. Webster himself, in 1842, when he was Secretary of State; and it was confirmed by Mr. Calhoun in 1844, then Secretary of State himself. Statesmen are the physicians of the public weal; and what doctor hesitates to vary his remedies with the new phases of disease?

When the President had completed the reading of my papers, and during the perusal I observed him make several emphatic nods, he asked me what I wanted. I told him I wanted employment with my pen, perhaps only temporary employment. I thought the correspondence of the Secretary of War would increase in volume, and another assistant besides Major Tyler would be required in his office. He smiled and shook his head, saying that such work would be only temporary indeed; which I construed to mean that even he did not then suppose the war was to assume colossal proportions.

Abby Howland Woolsey to Eliza Woolsey Howland

Friday, May 17, 1861.

My dear Eliza: Your nice long letter of yesterday from Albany came this morning at breakfast. I say your “nice” letter in the sense of its being long and circumstantial. That anything concerning Joe’s going off is nice, I shall never be brought to say. It seems as if you both had been snatched up and swept away from us by some sudden and awful fate. No time for thought about it and no use for regrets! I hardly think he himself realized all he was pledging himself to—the bothering duties, I mean, of an Adjutant’s office, a great deal of work and no glory; a sort of upper servant to an exacting Colonel; though some people tell us that the Adjutant’s post is a highly military one, requiring fine military education — a knowledge, at least, of theories and laws, etc.  I am glad that Colonel Davies impresses you pleasantly.

Do find out from Joe’s Dr. Crandall what style of garments he thinks best for hospital wear, as we are constantly cutting them out, and may as well make them with reference to his wants. Should the nightshirts be of unbleached or canton flannel, and drawers ditto? Should the shirts be long or short? and are extra flannel shirts necessary for hospital wear? I am going to the Cooper Union today to try and get some simple pattern for calico gowns. They advertise to supply paper patterns of garments to ladies, and their published circular, a copy of which I have seen, is far more particular and satisfactory in its directions than the one we have had.

I went to Astoria day before yesterday and came back yesterday noon. Aunt E. and I spent all the time in Casina library. The women dusted the books and I checked them off on the catalogue to see if they were all right and to leave them in good order for G. G. Howland, who moves up next week. I saw the transport go up to Riders’ Island with George Betts’ Zouaves—the Hawkins’ Zouaves as they are called. We can see the barracks built for them from Casina. I thought if Robert were at home he would be flying about in his sailboat, visiting these points, and could make many a call on Joe if he were to be at Fort Schuyler. I found on coming home from Astoria that Georgy had fairly begun at the hospital — the City Hospital on Broadway—but as she has requested me not to “discuss her” with anybody I had better leave her to tell her own story. She and Mrs. Trotter go down daily at twelve o’clock, and yesterday, Mother tells me, they went before breakfast beside, at 6 a. m. Two such visits a day, when a singing lesson and a German lesson come in between, are rather too much, I think, but this insane war is making men and women insane,— Mr. ___________ of Alexandria, for instance. Mother had a letter from him this morning written in the true Southern style — so highfalutin — with abuse and melancholy, martial ardor and piety, beautifully commingled. Mother wrote the other day to find out something about them, and this letter was to say that her’s had been received and forwarded to his wife and daughters at Lexington, Va., where he had removed them “to be out of the reach of the licensed outrages of our Northern outcasts, who make up the Northern army!”

Today we are going to try and decide on our wedding presents for Jenny Woolsey. Just think of Susan Johnson, too! and now Sarah Winthrop tells us of her engagement to Mr. Weston, a friend of her brother Will’s. It reminds me of the days of Noe when there was marrying and giving in marriage and the flood came and drowned them all. Love to Joe. What is his title now? We cannot call him plain Mister!

—In behalf of the Government of the United States, and the better to secure the peace of St. Louis, and promote the tranquillity of Missouri, United States warrants were issued for the search of places suspected to contain articles contraband of war. The warrants were placed in the hands of United States Marshal Rawlings, who proceeded, accompanied by a corps of United States soldiers, under Captain Sweeney, to the State Tobacco Warehouse on Washington Avenue, and to the Central Metropolitan Police Station on Chesnut street. At the former were found several hundred rifles, muskets, cavalry pistols, holsters, small boxes of ammunition; and at the latter place, Arnot’s Building, two pieces of cannon, and several hundred rifles.—St. Louis Democrat, May 18.

—A submarine boat, or infernal machine supposed to be owned by the secessionists, was captured in Philadelphia.—(Doc. 175.)

—Suregeon-General Gibbes  of the C. S. A., reports that no serious casualty occurred in the bombardment of Sumter to the Confederate forces. “Four trifling contusions at Fort Moultrie only; none at other posts.”

The Virginia papers recommend Southerners to sing the Marseillaise.—N. Y. Express, May 20.

—The Confederate Congress authorizes the issue of $50,000,000 in bonds, payable in twenty years, at an interest not exceeding eight per centum, and in lieu of bonds to issue $20,000,000 in treasury notes, in small sums, without interest.—N. Y. Herald, May 19.

May 16th.—The reveille of the Zouaves, note for note the same as that which, in the Crimea, so often woke up poor fellows who slept the long sleep ere nightfall, roused us this morning early, and then the clang of trumpets and the roll of drums beating French calls summoned the volunteers to early parade. As there was a heavy dew, and many winged things about last night, I turned in to my berth below, where four human beings were supposed to lie in layers, like mummies beneath a pyramid, and there, after contention with cockroaches, sank to rest. No wonder I was rather puzzled to know where I was now; for in addition to the music and the familiar sounds outside, I was somewhat perturbed in my mental calculations by bringing my head sharply in contact with a beam of the deck which had the best of it; but, at last, facts accomplished themselves and got into place, much aided by the appearance of the negro cook with a cup of coffee in his hand, who asked, “Mosieu! Capitaine vant to ax vedder you take some bitter, sar! Lisbon bitter, sar.” I saw the captain on deck busily engaged in the manufacture of a liquid which I was adjured by all the party on deck to take, if I wished to make a Redan or a Malakhoff of my stomach, and accordingly I swallowed a petit verre of a very strong, intensely bitter preparation of brandy and tonic roots, sweetened with sugar, for which Mobile is famous.

The noise of our arrival had gone abroad; haply the report of the good things with which the men of Mobile had laden the craft, for a few officers came aboard even at that early hour, and we asked two who were known to our friends to stay for breakfast. That meal, to which the negro cook applied his whole mind and all the galley, consisted of an ugly-looking but well-flavored fish from the waters outside us, fried ham and onions, biscuit, coffee, iced water and Bordeaux, served with charming simplicity, and no way calculated to move the ire of Horace by a display of Persic apparatus.

A more greasy, oniony meal was never better enjoyed. One of our guests was a jolly Yorkshire farmer-looking man, up to about 16 stone weight, with any hounds, dressed in a tunic of green baize or frieze, with scarlet worsted braid down the front, gold lace on the cuffs and collar, and a felt wide-awake, with a bunch of feathers in it. He wiped the sweat off his brow, and swore that he would never give in, and that the whole of the company of riflemen whom he commanded, if not as heavy, were quite as patriotic. He was evidently a kindly affectionate man, without a trace of malice in his composition, but his sentiments were quite ferocious when he came to speak of the Yankees. He was a large slave-owner, and therefore a man of fortune, and he spoke with all the fervor of a capitalist menaced by a set of Red Republicans.

His companion, who wore a plain blue uniform, spoke sensibly about a matter with which sense has rarely anything to do—namely uniform. Many of the United States volunteers adopt the same grey colors so much in vogue among the Confederates. The officers of both armies wear similar distinguishing marks of rank, and he was quite right in supposing that in night marches, or in serious actions on a large scale, much confusion and loss would be caused by men of the same army firing on each other, or mistaking enemies for friends.

Whilst we were talking, large shoals of mullet and other fish were flying before the porpoises, red fish, and other enemies, in the tide-way astern of the schooner. Once, as a large white fish came leaping up to the surface, a gleam of something still whiter shot through the waves, and a boiling whirl, tinged with crimson, which gradually melted off in the tide, marked where the fish had been.

“There’s a ground sheark as has got his breakfast,” quoth the Skipper. “There’s quite a many of them about here.” Now and then a turtle showed his head, exciting desiderium tarn cari capitis, above the envied flood which he honored with his presence.

Far away, towards Pensacola, floated three British ensigns, from as many merchantmen, which as yet had fifteen days to clear out from the blockaded port. Fort Pickens had hoisted the stars and stripes to the wind, and Fort M’Rae, as if to irritate its neighbour, displayed a flag almost identical, but for the “lone star,” which the glass detected instead of the ordinary galaxy—the star of Florida.

Lieutenant Ellis, General Bragg’s aide-de-camp, came on board at an early hour, in order to take me round the works, and I was soon on the back of the General’s charger, safely ensconced between the raised pummel and cantle of a great brass-bound saddle, with emblazoned saddle-cloth and mighty stirrups of brass, fit for the fattest marshal that ever led an army of France to victory; but General Bragg is longer in the leg than the Duke of Malakoff or Marshal Canrobert, and all my efforts to touch with my toe the wonderful supports which, in consonance with the American idea, dangled far beneath, were ineffectual.

As our road lay by head-quarters, the aide-de-camp took me into the court and called out “Orderly;” and at the summons a smart soldier-like young fellow came to the front, took me three holes up, and as I was riding away touched his cap and said, “I beg your pardon, sir, but I often saw you in the Crimea.” He had been in the 11th Hussars, and on the day of Balaklava he was following close to Lord Cardigan and Captain Nolan, when his horse was killed by a round shot. As he was endeavoring to escape on foot the Cossacks took him prisoner, and he remained for eleven months in captivity in Russia, till he was exchanged at Odessa, towards the close of the war; then, being one of two sergeants who were permitted to get their discharge, he left the service. “But here you are again,” said I, “soldiering once more, and merely acting as an orderly!” “Well, that’s true enough, but I came over here, thinking to better myself as some of our fellows did, and then the war broke out, and I entered one of what they called their cavalry regiments—Lord bless you, sir, it would just break your heart to see them— and here I am now, and the general has made me an orderly. He is a kind man, sir, and the pay is good, but they are not like the old lot; I do not know what my lord would think of them.” The man’s name was Montague, and he told me his father lived “at a place called Windsor,” twenty-one miles from London. Lieutenant Ellis said he was a very clean, smart, well-conducted soldier.

From head-quarters we started on our little tour of inspection of the batteries. Certainly, anything more calculated to shake confidence in American journalism could not be seen; for I had been led to believe that the works were of the most formidable description, mounting hundreds of guns. Where hundreds was written, tens would have been nearer the truth.

I visited ten out of the thirteen batteries which General Bragg has erected against Fort Pickens. I saw but five heavy siege guns in the whole of the works among the fifty or fifty-five pieces with which they were armed. There may be about eighty altogether on the lines, which describe an arc of 135 degrees for about three miles round Pickens, at an average distance of a mile and one-third. I was rather interested with Fort Barrancas, built by the Spaniards long ago—an old work on the old plan, weakly armed, but possessing a tolerable command from the face of fire.

In all the batteries there were covered galleries in the rear, connected with the magazines, and called “ratholes,” intended by the constructors as a refuge for the men whenever a shell from Pickens dropped in. The rush to the rat-hole does not impress one as being very conducive to a sustained and heavy fire, or at all likely to improve the morale of the gunners. The working parties, as they were called—volunteers from Mississippi and Alabama, great long-bearded fellows in flannel shirts and slouched hats, uniformless in all save brightly burnished arms and resolute purpose—were lying about among the works, or contributing languidly to their completion.

Considerable improvements were in the course of execution; but the officers were not always agreed as to the work to be done. Captain A., at the wheelbarrows: “Now then, you men, wheel up these sandbags, and range them just at this corner.” Major B.: “My good Captain A., what do you want the bags there for? Did I not tell you, these merlons were not to be finished till we had completed the parapet on the front?” Captain A.: “Well, Major, so you did, and your order made me think you knew darned little about your business ; and so I am going to do a little engineering of my own.”

Altogether, I was quite satisfied General Bragg was perfectly correct in refusing to open his fire on Fort Pickens and on the fleet, which ought certainly to have knocked his works about his ears, in spite of his advantages of position, and of some well-placed mortar batteries among the brushwood, at distances from Pickens of 2500 and 2800 yards. The magazines of the batteries I visited did not contain ammunition for more than one day’s ordinary firing. The shot were badly cast, with projecting flanges from the mold, which would be very injurious to soft metal guns in firing. As to men, as in guns, the Southern papers had lied consumedly. I could not say how many were in Pensacola itself, for I did not visit the camp: at the outside guess of the numbers there was 2000. I saw, however, all the camps here, and I doubt exceedingly if General Bragg—who at this time is represented to have any number from 30,000 to 50,000 men under his command—has 8000 troops to support his batteries, or 10,000, including Pensacola, all told.

If hospitality consists in the most liberal participation of all the owner has with his visitors, here, indeed, Philemon has his type in every tent. As we rode along through every battery, by every officer’s quarters, some great Mississippian or Alabamian came forward with “Captain Ellis, I am glad to see you.” “Colonel,” to me, “won’t you get down and have a drink?” Mr. Ellis duly introduces me. The Colonel with effusion grasps my hand and says, as if he had just gained the particular object of his existence, “Sir, I am very glad indeed to know you. I hope you have been pretty well since you have been in our country, sir. Here, Pompey, take the colonel’s horse. Step in, sir, and have a drink.” Then comes out the great big whisky bottle, and an immense amount of adhesion to the first law of nature is required to get you off with less than half-a-pint of “Bourbon;” but the most trying thing to a stranger is the fact that when he is going away, the officer, who has been so delighted to see him, does not seem to care a farthing for his guest or his health.

The truth is, these introductions are ceremonial observances, and compliances with the universal curiosity of Americans to know people they meet. The Englishman bows frigidly to his acquaintance on the first introduction, and if he likes him shakes hands with him on leaving—a much more sensible and justifiable proceeding. The American’s warmth at the first interview must be artificial, and the indifference at parting is ill-bred and in bad taste. I had already observed this on many occasions, especially at Montgomery, where I noticed it to Colonel Wigfall, but the custom is not incompatible with the most profuse hospitality, nor with the desire to render service.

On my return to head-quarters I found General Bragg in his room, engaged writing an official letter in reply to my request to be permitted to visit Fort Pickens, in which he gave me full permission to do as I pleased. Not only this, but he had prepared a number of letters of introduction to the military authorities, and to his personal friends at New Orleans, requesting them to give me every facility and friendly assistance in their power. He asked me my opinion about the batteries and their armament, which I freely gave him quantum valeat. “Well,” he said, “I think your conclusions are pretty just; but, nevertheless, some fine day I shall be forced to try the mettle of our friends on the opposite side.” All I could say was, “May God defend the right.” “A good saying, to which I say, Amen. And drink with you to it.”

There was a room outside, full of generals and colonels, to whom I was duly introduced, but the time for departure had come, and I bade good-by to the general and rode down to the wharf. I had always heard, during my brief sojourn in the North, that the Southern people were exceedingly illiterate and ignorant. It may be so, but I am bound to say that I observed a large proportion of the soldiers, on their way to the navy yard, engaged in reading newspapers, though they did not neglect the various drinking bars and exchanges, which were only too numerous in the vicinity of the camps.

The schooner was all ready for sea, but the Mobile gentlemen had gone off to Pensacola, and as I did not desire to invite them to visit Fort Pickens— where, indeed, they would have most likely met with a refusal—I resolved to sail without them and to return to the navy yard in the evening, in order to take them back on our homeward voyage. “Now then, captain, cast loose; we are going to Port Pickens.” The worthy seaman had by this time become utterly at sea, and did not appear to know whether he belonged to the Confederate States, Abraham Lincoln, or the British navy. But this order roused him a little, and looking at me with all his eyes, he exclaimed, “Why, you don’t mean to say you are going to make me bring the Diana alongside that darned Yankee Fort!Our tablecloth, somewhat maculated with gravy, was hoisted once more to the peak, and, after some formalities between the guardians of the jetty and ourselves, the schooner canted round in the tideway, and with a fine light breeze ran down towards the stars and stripes.

What magical power there is in the colors of a piece of bunting! My companions, I dare say, felt as proud of their flag as if their ancestors had fought under it at Acre or Jerusalem. And yet how fictitious its influence! Death, and dishonor worse than death, to desert it one day! Patriotism and glory to leave it in the dust, and fight under its rival, the next! How indignant would George Washington have been, if the Frenchman at Fort Du Quesne had asked him to abandon the old rag which Braddock held aloft in the wilderness, and to serve under the very fleur-de-lys which the same great George hailed with so much joy but a few years afterwards, when it was advanced to the front at York Town, to win one of its few victories over the Lions and the Harp. And in this Confederate flag there is a meaning which cannot die—it marks the birthplace of a new nationality, and its place must know it for ever. Even the flag of a rebellion leaves indelible colors in the political atmosphere. The hopes that sustained it may vanish in the gloom of night, but the national faith still believes that its sun will rise on some glorious morrow. Hard must it be for this race, so arrogant, so great, to see stripe and star torn from the fair standard with which they would fain have shadowed all the kingdoms of the world; but their great continent is large enough for many nations.

“And now,” said the skipper, “I think we’d best lie to —them cussed Yankees on the beach is shouting to us.” And so they were. A sentry on the end of a wooden jetty sung out, “Hallo you there! Stand off or I’ll fire,” and “drew a bead-line on us.”At the same time the skipper hailed, “Please to send a boat off to go ashore.” “No, sir! Come in your own boat!” cried the officer of the guard. Our own boat! A very skiff of Charon! Leaky, rotten, lop-sided. We were a hundred yards from the beach, and it was to be hoped that with all its burthen, it could not go down in such a short row. As I stepped in, however, followed by my two companions, the water flew in as if forced by a pump, and when the sailors came after us the skipper said, through a mouthful of juice, “Deevid! pull your hardest, for there an’t a more terrible place for shearks along the whole coast.” Deevid and his friend pulled like men, and our hopes rose with the water in the boat and the decreasing distance to shore. They worked like Doggett’s badgers, and in five minutes we were out of “sheark ” depth and alongside the jetty, where Major Vogdes, Mr. Brown, of the Oriental, and an officer, introduced as Captain Barry of the United States artillery, were waiting to receive us. Major Vogdes said that Colonel Brown would most gladly permit me to go over the fort, but that he could not receive any of the other gentlemen of the party; they were permitted to wander about at their discretion. Some friends whom they picked up amongst the officers took them on a ride along the island, which is merely a sand-bank covered with coarse vegetation, a few trees, and pools of brackish water.

If I were selecting a summer habitation I should certainly not choose Fort Pickens. It is, like all other American works I have seen, strong on the sea faces and weak towards the land. The outer gate was closed, but at a talismanic knock from Captain Barry, the wicket was thrown open by the guard and we passed through a vaulted gallery into the parade ground, which was full of men engaged in strengthening the place, and digging deep pits in the centre as shell traps. The men were United States regulars, not comparable in physique to the Southern volunteers, but infinitely superior in cleanliness and soldierly smartness. The officer on duty led me to one of the angles of the fort and turned in to a covered way, which had been ingeniously contrived by tilting up gun platforms and beams of wood at an angle against the wall, and piling earth and sand banks against them for several feet in thickness. The casemates, which otherwise would have been exposed to a plunging fire in the rear, were thus effectually protected.

Emerging from this dark passage I entered one of the bomb-proofs, fitted up as a bed-room, and thence proceeded to the casemate, in which Colonel Harvey Browne has his head-quarters. After some conversation, he took me out upon the parapet and went all over the defences.

Fort Pickens is an oblique, and somewhat narrow parallelogram, with one obtuse angle facing the sea and the other towards the land. The bastion at the acute angle towards Barrancas is the weakest part of the work, and men were engaged in throwing up an extempore glacis to cover the wall and the casemates from fire. The guns were of what is considered small calibre in these days, 32 and 42 pounders, with four or five heavy columbiads. An immense amount of work has been done within the last three weeks, but as yet the preparations are by no means complete. From the walls, which are made of a hard baked brick, nine feet in thickness, there is a good view of the enemy’s position. There is a broad ditch round the work, now dry, and probably not intended for water. The cuvette has lately been cleared out, and in proof of the agreeable nature of the locality, the officers told me that sixty very fine rattle-snakes were killed by the workmen during the operation.

As I was looking at the works from the wall, Captain Vogdes made a sly remark now and then, blinking his eyes and looking closely at my face to see if he could extract any information. “There are the quarters of your friend General Bragg; he pretends, we hear, that it is an hospital, but we will soon have him out when we open fire.” “Oh, indeed.” “That’s their best battery beside the lighthouse; we can’t well make out whether there are ten, eleven, or twelve guns in it.” Then Captain Vogdes became quite meditative, and thought aloud, “Well, I’m sure, Colonel, they’ve got a strong entrenched camp in that wood behind their mortar batteries. I’m quite sure of it—we must look to that with our long-range guns.” What the engineer saw, must have been certain absurd little furrows in the sand, which the Confederates have thrown up about three feet in front of their tents, but whether to carry off or to hold rain water, or as cover for rattle-snakes, the best judge cannot determine.

The Confederates have been greatly delighted with the idea that Pickens will be almost untenable during the summer for the United States troops, on account of the heat and mosquitoes, not to speak of yellow fever; but in fact they are far better off than the troops on shore—the casemates are exceedingly well ventilated, light and airy. Mosquitoes, yellow fever, and dysentery, will make no distinction between Trojan and Tyrian. On the whole, I should prefer being inside, to being outside Pickens, in case of a bombardment; and there can be no doubt the entire destruction of the navy yard and station by the Federals can be accomplished whenever they please. Colonel Browne pointed out the tall chimney at Warrington smoking away, and said, “There, sir, is the whole reason of Bragg’s forbearance, as it is called. Do you see ?—they are casting shot and shell there as fast as they can. They know well if they opened a gun on us I could lay that yard and all their works there in ruin;” and Colonel Harvey Browne seems quite the man for the work—a resolute, energetic veteran, animated by the utmost dislike to secession and its leaders, and full of what are called “Union Principles,” which are rapidly becoming the mere expression of a desire to destroy life, liberty, property, anything in fact which opposes itself to the consolidation of the Federal government.

Probably no person has ever been permitted to visit two hostile camps within sight of each other save myself. I was neither spy, herald, nor ambassador; and both sides trusted to me fully on the understanding that I would not make use of any information here, but that it might be communicated to the world at the other side of the Atlantic.

Apropos of this, Colonel Browne told me an amusing story, which shows that cuteness is not altogether confined to the Yankees. Some days ago a gentleman was found wandering about the island, who stated he was a correspondent of a New York paper. Colonel Browne was not satisfied with the account he gave of himself, and sent him on board one of the ships of the fleet, to be confined as a prisoner. Soon afterwards a flag of truce came over from the Confederates, carrying a letter from General Bragg, requesting Colonel Browne to give up the prisoner, as he had escaped to the island after committing a felony, and enclosing a warrant signed by a justice of the peace for his arrest. Colonel Browne laughed at the ruse, and keeps his prisoner.

As it was approaching evening and I had seen everything in the fort, the hospital, casemates, magazines, bake-houses, tasted the rations, and drank the whisky, I set out for the schooner, accompanied by Colonel Browne and Captain Barry and other officers, and picking up my friends at the bake-house outside.

Having bidden our acquaintances good-by, we get on board the Diana, which steered towards the Warrington navy yard, to take the rest of the party on board. The sentries along the beach and on the batteries grounded arms, and stared with surprise as the Diana, with her tablecloth flying, crossed over from Fort Pickens, and ran slowly along the Confederate works. Whilst we were spying for the Mobile gentlemen, the mate took it into his head to take up the Confederate bunting, and wave it over the quarter. “Hollo, what’s that you’re doing?” “It’s only a signal to the gentlemen on shore.” “Wave some other flag, if you please, when we are in these waters, with a flag of truce flying.”

After standing off and on for some time, the Mobilians at last boarded us in a boat. They were full of excitement, quite eager to stay and see the bombardment which must come off in twenty-four hours. Before we left Mobile harbor I had made a bet for a small sum that neither side would attack within the next few days; but now I could not even shake my head one way or the other, and it required the utmost self-possession and artifice of which I was master to evade the acute inquiries and suggestions of my good friends. I was determined to go—they were equally bent upon remaining; and so we parted after a short but very pleasant cruise together.

We had arranged with Mr. Brown that we would look out for him on leaving the harbor, and a bottle of wine was put in the remnants of our ice to drink farewell; but it was almost dark as the Diana shot out seawards between Pickens and M’Rae; and for some anxious minutes we were doubtful which would be the first to take a shot at us. Our tablecloth still fluttered; but the color might be invisible. A lantern was hoisted astern by my order as soon as the schooner was clear of the forts; and with a cool sea-breeze we glided out into the night, the black form of the Powhattan being just visible, the rest of the squadron lost in the darkness. We strained our eyes for the Oriental, but in vain; and it occurred to us that it would scarcely be a very safe proceeding to stand from the Confederate forts down towards the guard-ship, unless under the convoy of the Oriental. It seemed quite certain she must be cruising some way to the westward, waiting for us.

The wind was from the north, on the best point for our return; and the Diana, heeling over in the smooth water, proceeded on her way towards Mobile, running so close to the shore that I could shy a biscuit on the sand. She seemed to breathe the wind through her sails, and flew with a crest of flame at her bow, and a bubbling wake of meteor-like streams flowing astern, as though liquid metal were flowing from a furnace.

The night was exceedingly lovely, but after the heat of the day the horizon was somewhat hazy. “No sign of the Oriental on our lee-bow?” “Nothing at all in sight, sir, ahead or astern.” Sharks and large fish ran off from the shallows as we passed, and rushed out seawards in runs of brilliant light. The Perdida was left far astern.

On sped the Diana, but no Oriental came in view. I felt exceedingly tired, heated, and fagged; had been up early, ridden in a broiling sun, gone through batteries, examined forts, sailed backwards and forwards, so I was glad to turn in out of the night dew and, leaving injunctions to the captain to keep a bright look out for the Federal boarding schooner, I went to sleep without the smallest notion that I had seen my last of Mr. Brown.

I had been two or three hours asleep when I was awoke by the negro cook, who was leaning over the berth, and, with teeth chattering, said, “Monsieur! nous sommes perdus! un batiment de guerre nous poursuit—il va tirer bientot. Nous serons coule! Oh, Mon Dieu! Oh, Mon Dieu!” I started up and popped my head through the hatchway. The skipper himself was at the helm, glancing from the compass to the quivering reef points of the mainsail. “What’s the matter, captain.” “Waal, sir,” said the captain, speaking very slowly, “There has been a something a running after us for nigh the last two hours, but he ain’t a gaining on us. I don’t think he’ll kitch us up nohow this time; if the wind holds this pint a leetle, Diana will beat him.”

The confidence of coasting captains in their own craft is an hallucination which no risk or danger will ever prevent them from cherishing most tenderly. There’s not a skipper from Hartlepool to Whitstable who does not believe his Maryanne Smith or the Two Grandmothers is able, “on certain pints,” to bump her fat bows, and drag her coal-scuttle shaped stern faster through the sea than any clipper afloat. I was once told by the captain of a Margate Billy Boy he believed he could run to windward of any frigate in Her Majesty’s service.

“But, good heavens, man, it may be the Oriental— no doubt it is Mr. Brown who is looking after us.”

“All! Waal, may be. Whoever it is, he creeped quite close up on me in the dark. It give me quite a sterk when I seen him. ‘May be,’ says I, ‘he is a privateering—pirating—chap.’ So I runs in shore as close as I could; gets my centre board in, and, says I, ‘I’ll see what you’re made of, my boy.’ And so we goes on. He ain’t a-gaining on us, I can tell you.”

I looked through the glass, and could just make out, half or three-quarters of a mile astern, and to leeward, a vessel, looking quite black, which seemed to be standing on in pursuit of us. The shore was so close, we could almost have leaped into the surf, for when the centre board was up the Diana did not draw much more than four feet water. The skipper held grimly on. “You had better shake your wind, and see who it is; it may be Mr. Brown.” “No, sir, Mr Brown or no, I can’t help carrying on now; there’s a bank runs all along outside of us, and if I don’t hold my course I’ll be on it in one minute.” I confess I was rather annoyed, but the captain was master of the situation. He said, that if it had been the Oriental she would have fired a blank gun to bring us to as soon as she saw us. To my inquiries why he did not awaken me when she was first made out, he innocently replied, “You was in such a beautiful sleep, I thought it would be regular cruelty to disturb you.”

By creeping close in shore the Diana was enabled to keep to windward of the stranger, who was seen once or twice to bump or strike, for her sails shivered. “There, she’s struck again.” “She’s off once more,” and the chase is renewed. Every moment I expected to have my eyes blinded by the flash of her bow gun, but for some reason or another, possibly because she did not wish to check her way, the Oriental—privateer, or whatever it was—saved her powder.

A stern chase is a long chase. It is two o’clock in the morning—the skipper grinned with delight. “I’ll lead him into a pretty mess if he follows me through the ‘Swash,’ whoever he is.” We were but ten miles from Fort Morgan. Nearer and nearer to the shore creeps the Diana.

“Take a cast of the lead, John.” “Nine feet.” “Good. Again.” “Seven feet.” “Again.” “Five feet.” “Charlie, bring the lantern.” We were now in the “Swash,” with a boiling tideway.

Just at the moment that the negro uncovered the lantern out it went, a fact which elicited the most remarkable amount of imprecations ear ever heard. The captain went dancing mad in intervals of deadly calmness, and gave his commands to the crew, and strange oaths to the cook alternately, as the mate sung out, “Five feet and a-half.” “About she goes! Confound you, you black scoundrel, I’ll teach you,” &c., &c. “Six feet! Eight feet and a-half!” “About she comes again.” ” Five feet! Four feet and a-half.” (Oh, Lord! Six inches under our keel!) And so we went, with a measurement between us and death of inches, not by any means agreeable, in which the captain showed remarkable coolness and skill in the management of his craft, combined with a most unseemly animosity towards his unfortunate cook.

It was very little short of a miracle that we got past the “Elbow,” as the most narrow part of the channel is called, for it was just at the critical moment the binnacle light was extinguished, and went out with a splutter, and there we were left in darkness in a channel not one hundred yards wide and only six feet deep. The centre board also got jammed once or twice when it was most important to lie as close to the wind as possible; but at last the captain shouted out, “It’s all right, we’re in deep water,” and calling the mate to the helm proceeded to relieve his mind by chasing Charlie into a corner and belaboring him with a dead shark or dog fish about four feet long, which he picked up from the deck as the handiest weapon he could find. For the whole morning, henceforth, the captain found great comfort in making constant charges on the hapless cook, who at last slyly threw the shark overboard at a favorable opportunity, and forced his master to resort to other varieties of Rhadamantine implements. But where was the Oriental all this time? No one could say; but Charlie, who seemed an authority as to her movements, averred she put her helm round as soon as we entered the “Swash,” and disappeared in black night.

The Diana had thus distinguished herself by running the blockade of Pensacola, but a new triumph awaited her. As we approached Fort Morgan a grey streak in the East just offered light enough to distinguish the outlines of the fort and of the Confederate flag which waved above it. A fair breeze carried us abreast of the signal station, one solitary light gleamed from the walls, but neither guard boat put off to board us, nor did sentry hail, nor was gun fired—still we stood on. “Captain, had you not better lie to? They’ll be sending a round shot after us presently.” “No, sir. They are all asleep in that fort,” replied the indomitable skipper.

Down went his helm, and away ran the Diana into Mobile Bay, and was soon safe in the haze beyond shot or shell, running towards the opposite shore. This was glory enough, for the Diana of Mobile. The wind blew straight from the North into our teeth, and at bright sunrise she was only a few miles inside the bay.

All the livelong day was spent in tacking from one low shore to another low shore, through water which looked like pea soup. We had to be sure the pleasure of seeing Mobile from every point of view, east and west, with all the varieties between northing and southing, and numerous changes in the position of steeples, sand-hills, and villas, the sun roasting us all the time and boiling the pitch out of the seams.

The greatest excitement of the day was an encounter with a young alligator, making an involuntary voyage out to sea in the tide-way. The crew said he was drowning, having lost his way or being exhausted by struggling with the current. He was about ten feet long, and appeared to be so utterly done up that he would willingly have come aboard as he passed within two yards of us; but desponding as he was, it would have been positive cruelty to have added him to the number of our party.

The next event of the day was dinner, in which Charlie outrivaled himself by a tremendous fry of onions and sliced Bologna sausage, and a piece of pig, which had not decided whether it was to be pork or bacon.

Having been fourteen hours beating some twenty-seven miles, I was landed at last at a wharf in the suburbs of the town about five o’clock in the evening. On my way to the Battle House I met seven distinct companies marching through the streets to drill, and the air was filled with sounds of bugling and drumming. In the evening a number of gentlemen called upon me to inquire what I thought of Fort Pickens and Pensacola, and I had some difficulty in parrying their very home questions, but at last adopted a formula which appeared to please them — I assured my friends I thought it would be an exceedingly tough business whenever the bombardment took place. One of the most important steps which I have yet heard of has excited little attention, namely, the refusal of the officer commanding Fort MacHenry, at Baltimore, to obey the writ of habeas corpus issued by a judge of that city for the person of a soldier of his garrison. This military officer takes upon himself to aver there is a state of civil war in Baltimore, which he considers sufficient legal cause for the suspension of the writ.