Ben McCulloch Biography
SEPTEMBER 7, 1861.]
AMONG THE ARABS.
THE Souvenirs Intimes d'un Vieux Chasseur d'Afrique, by M. Antoine Gandon, combine solid information with entertaining narrative. They are truthful and vivid military reminiscences of an epoch—the settlement of French rule in Algeria—which is passing fast from contemporary news into the domain of history. Nearly thirty years—a generation —have slipped away since the great Arab chief submitted to the force of his European foe. But besides their historic value, the Souvenirs possess a simple, serious, and sympathetic charm of their own. We have had, M. Paul d'Ivoi observes, plenty of memoirs of courts, and to spare. Here we are offered the memoirs of a nation ; for the soldier who has subdued and who still holds Algeria is more than a mere army soldier, he is the peasant son of the energetic country who has planted her foot, in the name of agriculture and civilization, on an uncultivated and savage land. This soldier, a rustic in endurance, a cavalier at heart, a hero and a martyr when occasion requires, is painted by the Chasseur d'Afrique with all the affectionate accuracy we should bestow on the portrait of a bosom friend.
That which gives to old African soldiers their peculiar physiognomy is not their complexion bronzed by the sun, but the intelligence which illumines their countenance whenever there is danger to be foreseen or annoyance to be avoided. Warfare with the Bedouins is a rude school ; it requires of those who wage it not only the courage indispensable to every good soldier, but also an individual disposition enabling them to compete in skill and cunning with the boldest marauders and the most finished thieves in the world. Few will believe that Arabs have penetrated, during the night, into the midst of an army of ten thousand men, and have thence stolen horses that were guarded and watched by hundreds of sentinels. As these delightful tricks did not always succeed, and a culprit was occasionally caught in the fact, it afforded the means of ascertaining their modes of proceeding.
The Arab who is projecting a master-stroke, and intends selecting the handsomest out of a thousand steeds, usually comes in the course of the day to inspect the bivouac, although he is obliged to make his preliminary observations from a distance—from a very considerable distance, it may be. The natives, in fact, are allowed to penetrate easily into the middle of an encampment ; but they are almost always people of the neighborhood who form part of the expeditionary columns, such as camel-drivers, herdsmen, and pack-horse leaders, who have been hired for the transport of provisions. In the latter case, the Arab thief will be mistaken for one of the men employed ; he will take good care that no one shall see him enter.
His choice made, the rogue disappears till night. In order to return to the middle of the bivouac he habitually divests himself of every item of clothing, and retains no other arm than a well-sharpened knife in a leather sheaf slung with a strap across his body. He is also provided with a long rope of camel's hair, which is twisted round his head like a turban. As soon as he has passed the first sentries the thief is metamorphosed into a serpent; he crawls on continually, without hurry, without noise, without any perceptible rustling. With his eyes fixed on the living objects whom he wishes to avoid, he stops short if he perceives in the sentinels the slightest sign that their attention has been attracted. He will take three hours, if need be, to clear a distance of a hundred yards.
At last he gets near the coveted object, the horse intended to be stolen. There his movements are more deliberate than ever, in order not to frighten the animal, who must not be allowed, for several minutes, to perform any but very natural motions, capable of deceiving the eye of the most vigilant sentinel. At first he cuts the shackles with which the horse's fore-feet are tied together, he fastens his rope to one of the horse's feet, and retires, crawling all the while, as far as the length of the rope allows him. The distance between himself and the animal then varies from twelve to fifteen feet. If, during these preparations, the horsekeepers appear to have heard any noise, the thief again remains motionless; the horse remaining quiet and the sentinels resuming their former tranquillity, the process of stealing is continued.
The Arab slightly pulls the rope; solicited by this mute appeal, the horse rises and sets a step; but the movement is so perfectly similar to that which the animal is in the habit of making when he wants to reach a wisp of hay or a blade of grass a little way off the stake to which he is fastened, that, by night, nine sentinels out of ten would be deceived. The robber repeats the same manoeuvre as long as possible. As he has carefully studied the ground, he will continue it while no alarm is given; but generally, once out of the immediate reach of the men whose duty is to keep special watch over the stolen horse, he leaps on the animal's back and sets off at full gallop, well knowing that gunshots by night are only dangerous for the comrades of those who fire them. Sometimes the thief covers his entire person with leaves, but he will commit no such foolish act in a country denuded of shrubs and bushes. On naked ground he is as naked as a snake, in a bushy country he transforms himself into a living bush ; in short, he assimilates his person to the aspect of the country he is traversing.
From the general to the private soldier every one was so liable to these misadventures that few could laugh at the expense of their neighbors. Nobody could boast of being safe from these audacious thefts, in spite of every imaginable precaution. If you made game of your comrade who had lost his calf, you might find, next morning, that you had been robbed of your cow.
At that date the army was not yet provided with those little tents, so convenient and so easy to carry, which are now in fashion. They slept, then, with the sky for their roof ; the foot-soldier, with a modest camp coverlet ; the luckier horseman, sheltered
by his immense cloak and the vast blanket which, in the light cavalry, was placed, folded into sixteen, between the saddle and the horse's back. The police-station, placed as it is in the centre of the bivouac, guarded by the sentinels of its own regiment, and by all those of the infantry besides, ought, one would think, to have nothing to fear from thieves. Nevertheless, a station of this kind was victimized by some thieves of the province of Tlemcen one splendid summer's night of 1836.
The police-station in question, with the exception of the sentinel, snored like one man, including the quarter-master of the platoon, who, profiting by the calmness of the atmosphere and the mildness of the temperature, had taken off nearly all his clothing, in order to enjoy complete repose. Rolled up in a warm blanket, which itself was encased with a thick cloak, with his head reposing on a sack of barley, beneath which he had placed his clothes, the brave sous-officier was dreaming, perhaps, that he was carrying off one of the emir's flags— the customary dream of all Chasseurs d'Afrique in Abd-el-Kader's time—when the trumpets of the regiment sounded the ear-piercing summons to awake.
Already !" said the happy sleeper, with a yawn. " Are we never to enjoy twenty-four hours of quiet? Sentinel !"
"Here, quarter-master. Do you want any thing ?"
" Yes ; hand me my pantaloons and my boots, that I may dress myself behind the curtains. You will find them under the barley-sack."
The sentinel lifted the sack, and announced, "Neither pantaloons nor boots do I see there." "What do you mean? Neither boots nor— I say, you there, you fellows of the guard, get up a little quicker than that. What have you done with my boots ?"
" Your boots?" replied a chasseur, who had followed his quarter-master's example in relieving his feet of their casings during the night, " I can't find my own !"
" Fortunately I only took off my braces," muttered the brigadier, who sought in vain for the two leather straps so designated.
" In that case, we had best say no more about it," the quarter-master hastily replied. " While we were fast asleep, some Bedouin thief has paid us a visit. We must conceal the matter, if possible; only you will allow me to observe that you have all slept on guard, like so many logs of wood, be it said without offending you."
As usual, the chasseurs made oath that they had watched conscientiously ; but the mischief was done, and they had now only to remedy it. Some comrades, who were fortunately supplied with a change, helped to furnish the missing articles ; and the only individual on whom evil consequences fell was the chasseur, who was obliged to return unshod to his squadron, and to pass in that state before the officer of the platoon to which he belonged. That officer had not seen much service in Africa, having come there lately by exchange.
"Ah, ha !" he said to the poor chasseur. " You let your boots be stolen while you were on guard ! Villainous soldier !"
It was a villainous expression which the young officer made use of; but discipline is severe; and the chasseur, really an excellent soldier, made no other reply than by biting his mustache, on which he could not prevent a hot tear from falling.
Four days after this adventure the officer's horse was stolen, and the chasseur took no further revenge on his superior than to remark, " You now see, lieutenant, that every body is liable to these accidents—the Bedouins are such thieves !—but the parties robbed are not the more villainous soldiers for that."
Captain Cavaignac—as he then was-who was exceedingly beloved by his men, possessed a magnificent mare and foal, which were confided to the care of a Chasseur d'Afrique, who every morning took them to graze in the orchards which extend around the ramparts of Mechouar, taking good care also to keep within gunshot of the sentinels who were placed at the outposts. One day, while the brave fellow, reckoning perhaps a little too much on the neighborhood of the sentinels, had gone to sleep beneath the shade of an olive-tree, an Arab marauder. gliding like an adder through the grass, managed to secure the colt without a single human witness of the theft. On awaking, the poor fellow in charge could not believe his eyes. In vain he searched the environs, in vain he interrogated the sentinels, who had not lost sight of the mare for a single instant. They had not heard the slightest noise ; and they considered the colt's disappearance so extraordinary a fact that they assured their comrade that he must have forgotten to bring the young one in the morning with its mother. The chasseur, convinced of the contrary, as well as of the uselessness of any further search, led back the mare to Mechouar, and, with tears in his eyes, related his misadventure to Captain Cavaignac.
" They have contrived to steal my colt, Captain, but I assure you it was no fault of mine ; and I mean to catch the thief, I give you my word for it."
" I forbid you to go and meet your death for the sake of a wretched colt which is lost past recovery," replied the Captain. " One day or other, situated as we are, we might be obliged to kill and eat it ; and I had rather, ma foi ! that the poor little creature should be alive and well with the Arabs than dead with us."
" You tell me that, Captain, in order not to vex me; but I can see very well that you are vexed about it yourself. Sacre— ! It shall never be said that a thief of a Bedouin—I have a plan of my own—"
In vain did the Captain endeavor to console the disconsolate chasseur ; who promised, it is true, not to rush into danger, but who would not swear to give up the pursuit of the robber.
" Let me see," said our chasseur, as he returned to the stable, which was by no means the worst lodging in Mechouar, "how I must set about to
catch my thief. If I go pittering and pining to my comrades, they will all of them want to come with me, although I was the only one to fall asleep, like the great big imbecile that I was. I must undertake the expedition alone. The Bedouin has the colt ; he will be wanting the mother. Good; we will try and have a meeting tete-a-tete."
The day after the colt had been so cleverly conjured away, the chasseur led the mare, as usual, to graze, and lay down in the shade of the olive-tree, exactly as he had done the day before. That day nothing new occurred. Next day a repetition of the same occurrences. On the third day things took quite a different turn.
While the sentinels, believing their comrade asleep at his usual resting-place, gave a look now and then at the mare who was fastened with a long rope to a stake fixed in the ground, an Arab, almost naked, jumped on the animal's back, after cutting the rope round its foot. But, at the same instant, another individual, just as lightly clad as the former, pounced upon the robber, dashed him to the ground, and literally strangled him, without cord or lasso, with the help of nothing but his hands. The chasseur's plan had perfectly succeeded. For three days, after pretending to fall asleep beneath his favorite olive-tree, he had crawled out of his uniform, which remained on the spot to deceive the thief, and then, creeping in another direction, had crouched in a hole dug close to the mare, who served to decoy the ravisher of the colt.
GENERAL BEN McCULLOCH.
GENERAL BEN McCULL0CH, whose portrait we publish on page 565, is now the commander of the rebel forces in Southwestern Missouri. He is a Tennesseean by birth, having first seen the light in Rutherford County, Tennessee, in 1814. His father served as an officer in General Jackson's army. The son was always a wild, daring lad; most of his youth was spent in hunting bears and other wild animals. Having arrived at the age of manhood, he took to a trapper's life, and found himself in Texas when the war broke out between that State and Mexico. He served under General Houston, and commanded a gun at the battle of San Jacinto. For several years afterward he was employed by Government in surveying lands and resisting Indian forays. At the outbreak of the Mexican war he raised a company of Texans, and joined General Taylor's army after the battles of Resaca de la Palma and Palo Alto: previous to the battle of Buena Vista he rendered useful service as a scout. He was subsequently attached to General Scott's army, which he accompanied to the City of Mexico. Ever since the peace, Ben McCulloch, like the bulk of the rebel leaders, has been living on the Government he is now in arms endeavoring to destroy. For several years he served as United States Marshal in Texas—one of poor Pierce's appointments. Mr. Buchanan, whose affinity for traitors was conspicuous, sent him as Peace Commissioner to Utah--a post he was about as well qualified to fill as Mr. Elihu Burritt would be to command an army. Ben McCulloch reappeared in Virginia in January last, and was said to be at the head of a body of rebels who were to seize the capital; he was, however, distrusted by the wiser heads of the rebellion, and sent off to the West. His victory at Springfield will probably bring him into direct collision with General Fremont.
LIFE AMONG THE REBELS.
WE devote page 561 to an illustration of a scene which will be familiar to all the volunteers who have been quartered in Baltimore. It represents A FEMALE SECESSIONIST FLAUNTING HER COLORS in the face of our troops. This has been an everyday incident at Baltimore ever since the 19th April. The men dare not insult the troops, but the women of Baltimore presume upon their sex, and wear secession colors, and salute our boys with—" Hurrah for Jeff Davis!" " How about Bull Run?" " Why don't you go home ? " -vastly to the amusement of our fellows.
Another picture on page 565, from a sketch by the artist to whom we are indebted for so many life-like sketches of the rebels, represents THE BAR OF THE SPOTSWOOD HOUSE at Richmond, Virginia, where the rebel officers most congregate. It is a good spot to hear abuse of Northerners and abolitionists, and, judging from the reports of prisoners, the swearing done there beats the performance of " our army in Flanders" all to nothing.
Again, on page 569 we give a picture of THE OLD MARKET-PLACE AT WINCHESTER, VIRGINIA, which, our correspondent says, now presents a very animated appearance. It is the headquarters of the militia for half a dozen counties, and there are generally from 6000 to 8000 men there who are kept constantly at work drilling. Each regiment serves for two weeks, and is then replaced by another, and after a fortnight's furlough returns to Winchester. Late rumors, which need confirmation, however, assert that General Banks is in possession of Winchester.
With regard to the sketch of the hotel at Centerville, on page 570, our artist says he made it when not fifty people in the United States outside of Virginia had ever heard of the place. Centerville was once a village of some importance, being kept up by the stage travel on the old Warrington turnpike ; but since the opening of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad the turnpike has gone down, and Centerville has been compelled to follow it. Our artist says he stopped there one night, and, though quartered in the best chamber in the hotel, had to sleep with his head on a saddle, there being no bolsters or pillows in the house. The right name of the place is Centerville, not Centreville, as the maps have it.
The two views on the Upper Potomac, which are published on the same page, are places frequently mentioned in the newspapers. The bridge at Berlin
was destroyed by the Confederates in June last; their pickets now hold one end of it, while the United States troops occupy the other. On the top of a high rock on the Loudon heights the Secessionists formerly had a battery of rifled cannon, for the purpose of commanding the approach to Harper's Ferry, but when Johnson left the place the guns were removed. A late dispatch from General Banks's column says :
HEAD-QUARTERS, SANDY HOOK, MD. Yesterday evening the freight train from Baltimore, arriving here about four o'clock, brought intelligence that a fight was progressing at Berlin. Other rumors were else circulated that several regiments of the Confederates were approaching the river opposite Berlin from Lovettsville. for the purpose of erecting a battery to stop the trains. This and other information received at head-quarters, to the effect that Point of Rocks was threatened by a strong Confederate force, induced the General to dispatch Colonel Geary's regiment and the Rhode Island battery to Point of Rocks.
About one o'clock last night a blue rocket was thrown up by the Confederates in the rear of Loudon heights, about two miles from our camp, which was probably a signal that our reinforcements were moving down the river. An officer from Berlin this morning states that the fight of last night consisted of about twenty-five Confederates approaching the river and firing a volley into our picket-guard on the abutment of the burned bridge, and also into the town of Berlin. Major Ledlie, of the 19th New York regiment, at once dispatched a battalion of his regiment to the aid of the pickets. The enemy, however, had disappeared. No one on our side was killed or seriously wounded, nor is it known that the enemy suffered any loss.
The same authority asserts that the picket-guard at Berlin have for some days past heard a regimental band of the Confederates, apparently between the shore and Lovettsville, and also that the force at Lovettsville consists of about five hundred cavalry, supported probably by a considerable infantry force.
PRINCE NAPOLEON AND HIS
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