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Robert E. Lee Portrait
These words were a revelation.
The General pressed my elbow. "They're horse-thieves, mister."
This announcement of the quality
of our unconscious hosts was by no means calculated to dissipate my
apprehensions. I listened nervously enough to an animated debate which now
ensued among the members of the gang as to the propriety of hurrying over the
stolen horses to the Missouri shore, or of lying concealed for some days, until
the first fury of the pursuers should be baffled and spent. Opinions varied. The
only person of the male sex who took no part in the argument was the old
farmer-looking man whom I had heard addressed as Mr. Stone. He sat quiet, having
finished his meal and resumed his pipe, and we could see nothing but his
respectable-looking gray head and the silvery wreaths from his soap-stone
meerschaum, inasmuch as his face was toward the outer door. Mrs. Stone, his
better half, took an active part in council, urging a stay on the island, since
there had been "nothing but scurrying here and stampeding there for weeks, and
her darters were worrited and worn out with it." It was curious, but this
notable woman's character appeared little if at all changed by lawless
companionship and outlaw life. In the midst of robbers she was still the
shrewish, hard-working housewife, and I could see no remorse written on her
parchment cheeks. With her daughters it was different. The eldest was evidently
melancholy and ill at ease. She sat a little apart, never replied save with a
monosyllable to any remark or rough compliment, and her downcast eyes and
colorless face told of regrets and scruples that her mother did not share. The
younger girl showed the same mental condition, but in a minor degree. Her
answers were short, but pert, and she occasionally exploded into a giggle at
some jocular sally of the Massachusetts man or the German, who were the wits of
the assembly. But one glance from her sister's sad, dark eyes checked her rising
spirits, and she subsided into gloom again. We listened with considerable
interest to a discussion which materially affected our safety; but over which we
could exercise no influence whatever. We gathered from the discourse that
another hut existed not far off, which was assigned to the Stone family, but
that the rest of the association had no residence on the island save the
log-house in which we were concealed, and no couches but those heaps of brush
and flowering grasses on which we were growing fearfully uneasy. The horses, we
also learned, were hidden hard by, in a cache dug where the scrub grew thickest,
and which was effectually masked from careless eyes by a sort of broad trap-door
of osier work and sassafras boughs. Here it was customary to conceal them—they
were all stolen from owners in Tennessee-until an opportunity occurred for
transporting them to Bollvar or Greenville, in Missouri, where certain
accomplices of the band resided, and whence they were sent to St. Louis to be
sold to emigrants bound for California.
Very unwillingly did we thus
acquire possession of the secrets of those desperate men, every fresh admission
or unguarded word serving to increase our danger, until at last we heard with
dismay the final award of Black Dave, the captain.
"We'll jest stop. This location's
good, and nobody knows of it [we trembled], and, as Marm Stone says, the gals
are tired some, and we'd all be the better of rest. So we'll jest keep close for
a few days, and then absquatilate with the bosses, and scurry for Bolivar."
There was a growl of assent,
overtopped by the shrill voice of Mrs. Stone, who clamorously expressed her
approval. I glanced at the General's face. It was white but firm; and the
compressed lips and brightening eye told of a new resolve.
"It's a bitter pill, Sir, 'tis,
but we must gulp it," he whispered; "we must give ourselves up, and the sooner
the better. It will go harder with us if we were found cached than if we come
This was logical, but startling.
I demurred for an instant, suggesting the possibility of our making our way out
at the back of the cabin by cutting a hole with our knives in the comparatively
thin roof. But our deliberations were unexpectedly cut short. Up to this time
the party had contented themselves with eating and reposing, but now a huge can
of water and some lemons and sugar, and some fresh sprigs of mint were produced,
and a cry was set up for whisky.
"Where did you stow away the
stone jars with the Monongahela, Marm Stone?"
Mrs. Stone replied that the jars
were "under the brush of the beds," and bade the Massachusetts man fetch them.
He rose at once, took up a pine torch, lighted it, and advanced. "Now," cried
Jeremiah, rising to his feet, and we both stepped out into the lighted circle,
causing the startled bearer of the torch to drop the blazing brand in his
"Dog-gon it all," yelled one of
the gang, "the Philistines are on us!"
With wild shouts and curses the
ruffians scrambled up and clutched their weapons.
"Hurroo, boys, it's only two spy
varmints!" thundered Black Dave, who was really a bold villain; "kim back, you
down-East coward, you! And you Dutch cur (for the Massachusetts man and the
German were already in full retreat); they air but two, and without weapons."
When they were certain of this
last reassuring fact, the more timorous of the robbers became almost beyond
restraint in their blood-thirsty fury. Pistols and bowie-knives menaced us on
every side, and it was with some trouble that the Captain prevented our summary
extermination. Black Dave, however, was firm. By his orders our wrists were
tightly bound together with handkerchiefs, and we were placed in the centre of a
circle of hostile faces and threatening revolvers, and bidden to confess.
"Speak up, ye skunks, who air
In answer to this query, the
General gave a succinct and graphic account of the steamboat accident,
of our escape and immersion, of
our landing on the island, and of how we happened to fall asleep in the
log-house and become the involuntary auditors of the robbers' council, though
this point was rather lightly touched upon. A fellow of fierce incredulity
answered this statement.
"Cut out the lyin' snake's
tongue!" bawled one. .
"Murder 'em both, the oily
spoken, slippy-skinned Yankee eels!" cried another, flourishing his glittering
knife within an inch of my nose, while two pistol barrels were pressed to the
forehead of the unflinching Jeremiah.
"Hold a bit, gentlemen," said
Black Dave. "Out with the truth, ye skulking crawlers! Who sent you? Air ye
State police, or mere informers? You, specially, with the Connecticut phiz and
satin waistcoat. Hevn't I seen your ugly features before? What's your name?"
"I dare say you have seen me
before. I am General Jeremiah Flint, of New England, and I ain't ashamed of
parentage nor raising," replied the General.
There was a murmur. Three or four
of those present knew the General by repute or by sight. The Massachusetts man
observed that "Flint was a hypocrite, that passed for doing things on the
square." The German abused him for a "schelm," who had ill-treated an
acquaintance of his at Memphis; which accusation afterward resolved itself into
the fact that Flint had broken the arm of a bully who tried to gouge him. Two
other men had heard that Flint was "a cute chap," and had been soft-hearted
enough to help more than one person they had known, and who had been ruined and
half-starved in the South.
All this time Black Dave, with an
ominous frown on his dark brows, had stood toying with the lock of his revolver,
making the hammer play up and down between his strong fingers, and tapping the
bullets that lay in each charged chamber. Presently he fixed his keen eyes on
the steady eyes of the principal captive. I say principal, because I attracted
little or no attention, being quite unknown.
"Last time we met," said Dave,
deliberately, "you and me, Jeremiah Flint, you sat on the bench along with the
sheriff and the squires, and I stood in the dock. Now times all altered. I am
judge now, and by all that's airthly I'll hev justice. You say you're no spy.
That meb be true; but how if we let you go to the next town—"
"You'll never be such a 'tarnal
fool, Captain," said a by-stander.
I took the opportunity of eagerly
and solemnly assuring the outlaw that he had nothing to fear from our
indiscretion. We would be silent, until silence could no longer be necessary.
"Shut your mouth," said Dave,
roughly, and instantly resumed. "General, you must die. It goes agin me to kill
in cold blood, but it's our law, and unless we'd all be strung up to trees by
the Reg'lators of Tennessee, we must silence you for sartin." Dave lifted his
pistol, and pointed it at the forehead of poor Flint, who gave a slight shudder,
and then stood firm.
"I'll settle the other sneak,"
said a brawny boatman, cocking his revolver, and grasping my collar. "I'll count
twenty, slow," said Dave. "If you've got religion, you can mumble a prayer; and
you, too, young chap, for when I get to twenty I crook my claw."
The boatman's pistol was pressed
to my ear. The muzzle felt icy cold, like the touch of Death's hand. My arms
were bound, and all resistance impossible.
"One," began Dave.
The face of old Stone was
contorted for a moment, as by a twinge of pain, and he let his pipe go out,
unheeded, but said nothing. The girls were sobbing in a corner, and Mrs. Stone
was apparently urging them, in a whisper, to withdraw.
The robber Captain continued to
count, "two, three, four, five."
Such a scream! Mary Stone broke
from her mother who sought to detain her, threw herself on her knees at Black
Dave's feet, and began to beg our lives with an incoherent energy and a
passionate sobbing and outpouring of words that it was painful to hear. This
girl, usually so quiet and depressed, was now fully roused by the horror of the
cruel deed about to be done. She wept and clung to Dave's brawny arm, and
supplicated for mercy; mixing her entreaties with broken Scriptural phrases and
incautious censures on the lawless life and pursuits of the band. But the chief,
though startled, was not softened. He shook off the weak hands that grasped his.
"Marm Stone, take off your
darter, and leave me to settle accounts with the spy. Men ain't to be twisted
round, like milksops, by a useless screechin' gal. You've made me lose my count,
young one, but I'll pick it up by guess. Twelve!"
But scarcely had he leveled the
weapon when Mrs. Stone advanced and boldly beat it down.
" I've been a puzzlin' my
brains," said the virago, "to recklect the man, and if he's him I think, he
sha'n't die. None of your ugly frowns at me, Cap.; Bessy Stone's not the woman
to be frit by black looks. Warn't you, Jeremiah Flint, once the actuary chap of
the Boston Argus Life and Fire Company?"
"Yes I was," said Flint.
"Of course!" sneered the German,
maliciously. "We'll prove that," returned Mrs. Stone. "'Tis long years agone,
but can you remember going to a village, nigh Lexington, to see a farm-house and
barns belonging to a farmer that had been burned out, and the comp'ny suspected
'twar done a purpose, and were shy to pay the policy thing?"
"Stay a moment," said Flint,
pondering; "the farmer's name was Burke, and the village was Brentsville,
"All right!" screamed the
audacious virago, positively wrenching the revolver from between Dave's
murderous fingers; "one good turn deserves as good, and as sure as my name's
Bessy Stone, and was Bessy Burke, the man that saved my old dad from being
ruined, root and branch,
sha'n't be shot dog fashion—and
you, Stone, if you're a man, you'll say so too."
The old farmer, who had evidently
the highest reverence for his wife's judgment, rose from his seat, picked up the
rifle that had lain beside him, and composedly sounded the barrel with the tough
"The bit of lead's in its place!"
he said, in his phlegmatic way, and stood still, but ready for action. A violent
quarrel ensued; oaths, threats, and hard words were freely bandied to and fro;
but four of the least villainous-looking of the gang took the side of mercy, and
Mrs. Stone's dictum obviously carried great weight with it. Her bitter tongue
and the masculine energy of her character had made her a potentate in the
association; while her husband, though slow of wit, was known to be a brave man
and a first-rate judge of a horse. The end of the matter was, that our lives
were spared, but that it was decided that we should be kept prisoners until the
evacuation of the island. We were accordingly placed in a sort of underground
magazine, where forage was stored, and within a few inches of the pit in which
the horses were concealed, and to which access was obtained by a drawbridge of
Our bonds were slackened, but not
removed, and we were made to give our parole not to attempt to escape until the
horse-thieves should quit the island. Mrs. Stone, to whose capricious gratitude
we owed our lives, was not unkind to us in her rugged way, and she and her
daughters supplied us with food and blankets, and sometimes deigned to descend
and converse with us, besides lending us one or two well-thumbed books, which
constituted the family library. In the course of these conversations the
apparent enigma of the connection between the Stones, who seemed decent folks,
and the utter villains who composed the gang, was solved. Old Stone had been a
hard-working farmer in Illinois, illiterate, but respectable and honest in deed
and thought. Unluckily he had invested his hard-earned savings and the price of
his own farm in the purchase of a tempting bargain of landed property, with a
fatal flaw in the title. The knavish vendor had fled, and the honest dupe,
assailed by a lawsuit, had been stripped of all, and had found himself a beggar.
Unhappily Mrs. Stone was a woman of strong will and a warped and one-sided
judgment. She passionately declared that as the law had robbed them of their
earnings, the law was their enemy, and a. mere device for oppression. Anger
blinded her; she was ashamed to live poor where she had been well to do, and in
the cities of the South the exiled family soon picked up associates whose whole
life was one war with society.
It was impossible to make Mrs.
Stone comprehend that she was really a transgressor in sharing the perils and
profits of wholesale plunder. She had got to regard all judges, governors,
lawyers, and men of reputed honesty, as rogues, in league to pillage the simple;
and she considered the work in which the horse-thieves were engaged as reprisals
and warfare. Her husband, long used to obey the shrewd and violent woman who had
attained such dominion over him, only saw through his wife's eyes. I believe the
couple had some vague idea of buying land in Oregon or California, and setting
up "on the square," when they should be rich enough—a hope which has lured on
many a half reluctant criminal. The daughters, on the other hand, less
prejudiced and better taught, since they had picked up some instruction in a
tolerable school in Chicago, saw nothing but misery and degradation in the
companionship to which they were condemned. They passed their lives in sighing
over the old days and the innocence of their life in Illinois, and never
willingly exchanged a word with the outlaws.
"I'll tell you what, Mr. Barham,"
said the General to me one day, "I'd like to give a lift out of the mire to them
Stones. They've saved the lives of us both, for gospel truth, and my head aches
to think of their bein' caught one day, the old man hung, the woman locked up
for life, and the daughters driven out to come to want, or worse. I'm not rich,
no more, I suspect, air you; but land's not dear up in Oregon, nor yet in
Californey, and between us we might buy 'em a farm, and let 'em live honest, and
repent when grace was borne in upon 'em. A farm would be jest heaven to 'em, and
three thousand dollars would buy and stock it in a small way."
I willingly agreed, and we
quietly settled with Mary Stone, who was wild with joy at the idea, that a
certain sum should be lodged, two months hence, in a certain bank, in her name.
She agreed that it was best to communicate this to her mother after the
migration of the band. This was soon to occur. We had been prisoners for a
fortnight, when one morning we were informed that a general flitting was at
hand, and our release imminent.
With much snorting and trampling
the horses were led up from the cadre, and embarked on board two flat-boats,
which were to be towed across by two broadhorns, while a third followed with the
rest of the party. Dawn was just breaking, no steamer was in sight, no wreath of
filmy wood-smoke was on the horizon. Once on the Missouri bank, safety would be
easily secured, since the depredations had been confined to Tennessee. We were
allowed to come out of our prison, and found ourselves, blinking like owls in
the daylight, on the margin of the turbid water. The first flat-boat, full of
horses, was towed off by a broadhorn pulling six oars. The two girls and their
father were in the stern-sheets, but Mrs. Stone lingered, lest the German or
Black Dave might do us, as she said, "a mischief at parting." But the Captain
was in good-humor. He patted us on the back, laughing heartily, and advised us
to "stick to Broadway pavement and Philadelphy park, onst we got there."
The last horses were embarked,
and the rowers of the broadhorn settled themselves on the benches and grasped
their oars. "All aboard, quick, boys!"
"Stay," said Black Dave, looking
round, "where's that Massachusetts bird?"
Nobody knew. One said he was in
the first boat. Another denied this. No one had seen him since the previous
evening. Black Dave ground his teeth, and muttered a deep curse.
"He's deserted, the cur! To git
the reward them Reg'lators offered!"
"He's stole the third broadhorn.
It's gone!" cried a panting scout, running up. There was a moment of suspense,
then a rush, and the remaining boat was so crowded that it was sunk gunwale deep
in the water. The Captain, rifle in hand, stood up in the stern-sheets.
"Pull all! I hear the dip of
Flash! went the six oars into the
water, and off went the heavily-laden boat, towing the flat with the horses. The
progress was necessarily slow. But a few yards had been gained before a loud
out-cry proved that the island was invaded. We were still standing on the shore,
waving our hands to Mrs. Stone, whose hard face had relaxed into a smile, and
who seemed heedless of the danger.
"Hurrah! Bang at 'em, boys—there
the villains air!" bawled fifty voices, and a crowd of armed men in gayly-fringed
hunting-shirts or homespun suits, well armed, came at a run through the bushes.
"Down!" cried Flint, throwing me to my knees and stooping himself, just in time
to escape death, as the rifle-balls whizzed over us. I looked up. I saw Black
Dave drop on his knees, fire his gun, rise again, stagger, and finally roll over
into the river mortally wounded by the discharge. No one else was hit. Cutting
the towrope and crouching down as much as possible, the outlaws managed to
escape further harm, and, abandoning their plunder, reached the Missouri shore.
We were at first roughly handled,
and were even in some danger of being promptly hanged or shot by order of Judge
Lynch, when two witnesses to character came forward. One, on whom we looked with
disgust, was the treacherous scoundrel who had betrayed the rest of the gang for
gold; the other, wonder of wonders, was—Ned Granger, who caught me in his arms
and hugged me like a bear!
"Dear Ned, I thought you were
"That's exactly what I thought of
you, Barham, dear old boy, and of the General there. No, I was very little hurt,
and was able to help the other uninjured passengers in caring for those poor
creatures who were scalded or torn by the explosion. Every house is like a
hospital. Ah! it was a shocking business. But though unhurt, you see, I had lost
my luggage and money in the crash, and this honest farmer here has taken care of
me these last weeks. So I came to help him to get back his stolen nags, little
thinking whom I should find on Island Number Ten."
Flint and I kept our word with
JEFF DAVIS'S COACHMAN.
WE publish on
page 365 a portrait
of WILLIAM A. JACKSON, EX-COACHMAN OF
JEFF DAVIS, who recently entered our lines
Fredericksburg. Jackson is an extremely intelligent man, reads and writes (as
his signature shows), and converses in a manner which shows that he has been
used to good society. He seems well posted in regard to the events of the past
year, and to the condition of affairs at the South. He says that the negroes at
Richmond and throughout the South have long foreseen the present state of
things, and look anxiously for the coming of the Union armies. He says that the
rebels dare not trust the negroes with arms; and as to relying upon their
fidelity, they are well aware that every negro at the South prays earnestly for
the success of the Union armies. He adds that notwithstanding the care taken by
the slave-owners to conceal the news from the negroes, and to deceive them as to
the purposes of the Northern men, they are generally well acquainted with the
course of events. Jackson represents Davis, in whose service he remained several
months, as much disheartened and querulous: fond of complaining of the want of
popular support, and very downhearted about the future. When Jackson first came
into our lines he made a statement to
General McDowell, which was published in
all the papers. We subjoin the following summary:
The coachman overheard a
conversation between Davis and Dr. Gwin, formerly United States Senator from
California. Davis said he had sent General J. R. Anderson from North Carolina to
resist the march of the Nationals from Fredericksburg, and to delay them long
enough for him to see the probable result of the contest before
that if that was likely to be unsuccessful he would have time to extricate his
army from the peninsula and get them into Richmond and out of Virginia; that
otherwise they would all be caught. The coachman represents that Mrs. Davis said
"the Confederacy was about played out," and "that if
New Orleans was really
taken she had no longer any interest in the matter, as all she had was there;
that it was a great pity they had ever attempted to hold Virginia and the other
non-growing cotton States;" and that she said to Mrs. D. R. Jones, daughter of
Colonel James Taylor, United States Commissary-General of Subsistence, who was
very anxious to get to
Washington, where she has one of her children, "not to
give herself any trouble, but to stay where she was, and when the Yankees came
to Richmond she could go."
The coachman says that Mr. and
Mrs. Davis have all their books, clothing, and pictures packed up ready to move
off; that there is much outspoken Union feeling in Richmond; that, having been a
waiter in a hotel there, he knows all the Union men of the place, and that the
Yankees are looked for with much pleasure, more by the whites than even the
colored people. Confederate money is not taken when it can be avoided.
Miss Davis herself was refused,
when she offered a $10 Confederate note, which she did in payment for something
purchased for Mrs. Brown.
Many of the Richmond people wish
the Union troops to come, as they are half starved out.
The bank and Government property
are all packed up for removal to Danville, near the North Carolina line.
Jackson is a man of thirty years
of age. He is or was owned in Richmond, but was hired out by the year by his
owner. For some years he was a messenger in one of the courts; he drove a hack
for a couple of years, and latterly, as we said, he drove the rebel President.
He has a wife and three children, all
slaves, in Richmond. It is a misdemeanor
at law in Virginia to teach William Jackson's children to read.