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up to me with tears in her eyes,
"if I must lose you—dearly as I love you—I would rather bury you under the
daisies and in my heart; bury you, and never see you again till we meet in the
world to come, than I would have you revisiting your old fireside after the
fashion of this Dreadful Ghost."
MOTHER, CAN I GO?
A CONNECTICUT lad, employed in
this city, wrote home for his mother's permission to enlist. He is now with the
I am writing to you, mother,
knowing well what you will say,
When you read with tearful
fondness all I write to you to-day ;
Knowing well the flame of ardor
on a loyal mother's part, That will kindle with each impulse, with each
throbbing of your heart.
I have heard my country calling
for her sons that still are true;
I have loved that country,
mother, only next to God and you;
And my soul is springing forward
to resist her bitter foe: Can I go, my dearest mother? tell me, mother, can I
From the battered walls of
Sumter, from the wild waves of the sea,
I have heard her cry for succor,
as the voice of God to me; In prosperity I loved her—in her days of dark
distress, With your spirit in me, mother, could I love that country less?
They have pierced her heart with
treason, they have caused her sons to bleed,
They have robbed her in her
kindness, they have triumphed in her need;
They have trampled on her
standard, and she calls me in her woe:
Can I go, my dearest mother? tell
me, mother, can I go?
I am young and slender,
mother—they would call me yet a boy,
But I know the land I live in,
and the blessings I enjoy; I am old enough, my mother, to be loyal, proud, and
true To the faithful sense of duty I have ever learned from you. We snout
conquer this rebellion: let the doubting heart be still;
We must conquer it, or perish. We
must conquer, and we will!
But the faithful must not falter,
and shall I be wanting?—No!
Bid me go, my dearest mother !
tell me, mother, can I go?
He who led His chosen people, in
their effort to be free From the tyranny of Egypt, will be merciful to me; Will
protect me by His power whatsoe'er I undertake; Will return me home in safety,
dearest mother, for your sake.
Or should this my bleeding
country need a victim such as me,
I am nothing more than others who
have perished to be free.
On her bosom let me slumber, on
her altar let me lie;
I am not afraid, my mother, in so
good a cause to die.
There will come a day of
gladness, when the people of the Lord
Shall look proudly on their
banner, which His mercy has restored;
When the stars in perfect number,
on their azure field of blue,
Shall be clustered in a Union,
then and ever firm and true.
I may live to see it, mother,
when the patriot's work is done,
And your heart, so full of
kindness, will beat proudly for your son;
Or through tears your eyes may
see it with a sadly thoughtful view,
And may love it still more dearly
for the cost it won from you.
I have written to you, mother,
with a consciousness of right-
I am thinking of you fondly, with
a loyal heart to-night; When I have your noble bidding, which shall tell me to
I will come and see you,
mother—come and kiss you, and be gone.
In the sacred name of Freedom,
and my Country as her due-
In the name of Law and Justice, I
have written this to you. I am eager, anxious, longing to resist my country's
foe: Shall I go, my dearest mother? tell me, mother, shall
IN A WATER STREET DANCE-
WELL, I never thought they'd done
it, Sir, and I say it was a — shame! There's a many big bugs and rich,
respectable folks engaged in it in New York—folks as keep their own kerridges
and have pews at fash'nable churches, and go to waterin'-places, and spend their
money free as air -why, they'd ha' raised a million o' dollars to ha' saved the
Captain—two million, by —! you may bet your life they would! And yet he was hung
Do I think the slave-trade right,
then? Well no; not exactly. It's a bad business—most as bad as bein' a
pirate—but then they're only niggers. A white man's a white man, and a nigger's
a nigger, there's no gettin' over that. You ain't no abolitionist, are you, Sir?
I never know'd a sailor as was.
Ye see a seaman's life is the
hardest out; Jack gets monkey's allowance, more kicks than ha'-pence, all the
world over. And it pays better than any thin' goin'. Why, Sir, make one good run
in three and you've done first-rate for owners, skipper, and crew, and nary
expense but fittin' out-and layin' in rum or muskets as truck for your cargo. So
it's a great temptation. I never know'd a 'Merican as liked it exactly, but I've
know'd a many as has ben in it. Spaniards mostly thinks nothin' on it; them
fellers has no sort o' conscience or humanity.
Maybe I've seen a little of it
myself? That's tellin's! Perhaps I have and perhaps I han't; you don't catch
this child goin' back on hisself, no-how! You only inquired out o' curiosity?
Well, I suppose so. I guess you ain't the sort as gen'ally comes to such places
as this, except on a spree to see the ward. Not much of a show here to-night,
times is bad for the landlords. You should go to the "Flag" some evenin' when a
hull crew's ben paid off—see 'em raise — there sometimes.
Well, I don't mind! your health,
Sir. I've drunk worse rum and better. So you writes stories for the magazines
and newspapers? I guess I could tell you a thing or two as you might work up
into somethin'—about what we was a talkin' on,
too. Why won't I? Well, most
folks is pretty shy of ownin' up to knowing much about the Ebony Trade, though I
don't see how it could hurt a poor devil of a common sailor like me, as nobody
expects to have any kind of a character or kear for one. We lives hard, works
hard, and dies hard, and can't be expected to be very particular. I warn't to
blame for what I done either. So here goes. Put up that pencil; I don't like the
notion of having my words took down; that kinder knocks me. I guess you'll
remember well enough.
It's about six or seven year
ago—I don't recollect time good—when I came ashore arter a two-year whalin'
cruise in the Pacific Ocean, and, like a fool, went on a big spree and spent
every durned red cent I had in the world. It ended in my gettin' shanghaied and
put aboard a slaver. What's shanghaying? Why, Lord love you! don't you know
that? and you writes for the newspapers! It's crimping a man when he's
dead-drunk or hocussed with laudanum. The landlord draws his first month's pay
in advance, o' course, for bringing a hand aboard, and the first thing poor Jack
knows about it is when he's roused by the mate or skipper with the bight of a
rope's end, or a marlin-spike, or hit over the head with a ring-bolt, or any
thing that comes handy. I've seen men so knocked about, Sir—in this yere port of
New York, too-that they've jumped overboard—five or six of 'em, one arter
t'other—and swum ashore or not, as may be. That's often the meanin' of bodies
bein' found about the piers, as you reads on in the newspapers.
However, when I came to I were
all right, and so, mainly, were half a dozen others as had had the same luck.
Some sulked and give slack, others turned to and made the best of it, all of us
being pretty much cleaned out and obliged to ship somewheres. We mustered about
twenty hands strong; Yankees, Irish, English, Dutch, Spaniards, and one lubberly
Portygee—there was more Dutch and Irish than any thing else. Things looked
uncommon ship-shape aboard, and we were told we was bound to Africa to trade
with the niggers for palm-oil.
Our ship was just as pretty a
clipper-built one as was ever turned out of a New York dock-yard; most new, I
guess, and in first-rate order, from stem to starn. She were low-lying and
rakish, with one of them infernal, high, spear-looking bows; square-rigged on
the fore and main mast; fore and aft on the mizen, bark fashion, you know. She
could spank along under a ten-knot breeze with most any thing afloat. Her
Captain—well, never mind about him!—he was a'Merican and a good seaman; that's
all I kear to tell just now.
Our real business soon got
whispered about before the mast; as for me I suspicioned it from the first, from
the many water-casks on deck and the stores of rice and physic aboard. The
mates, too—both of 'em was Cubans, and one, the hardest-hearted, most
piratical-looking villain onhung, I do believe, laughed and talked kinder
curious-like with some of the hands—them as had shipped knowing what we was. So,
when the Captain had us all forrad on the third day out, and made a bit of a
speech, letting us into the secret and promisin' us a dollar a head on every
nigger landed safe in Cuba—much o' that as it turned out!—it didn't surprise us
any. Some liked the notion of makin' a big pile easy—some didn't care—and all
concluded to go—'specially as they couldn't do any thing else.
We made a fairish run to the
African coast, twenty days in all, agreein' pretty well among ourselves, though
there was a knife or two drawn, and the first mate turned out a devil incarnate.
It was a word and a blow with him allus, and the blow first often. He'd hit a
man for any thing—spiteful, too. As to swearin' and abuse, well I guess I can
pay out pretty free when I'm mad, and I've sailed under them as could cuss some,
but that feller beat all. What with his Spanish, and his French, and his furrin'
English, and the nigger-jabber he'd picked up on the coast, he'd swear the hair
of your head right on end in no time; it 'most made your flesh creep to hear
him. If that — had had his way, he'd ha' made a hell afloat of it for us; but
the Cap'n was different, and we thought better of him. You'll hear what he done
though before I come to the end of the story.
He was a good seaman, I said, and
worked the ship handsome, right to the mouth of the Congo River, the best place
to get what we wanted, for the niggers inland there are allus at war with one
another—they do say on purpose to get prisoners to sell to the traders. They has
barracoons at convenient places, and the word is passed mighty quick up country
for 'em to tote along the coffles, when the right kind o' vessel comes up the
river. It's big and broad and deep enough, and most allus fair weather in that
latitude; so one can go up a good ways. We hadn't ben there three days 'fore the
Captain had bargained for a full cargo of prime hands—a thousand men, women, and
children. He paid for 'em in rum and muskets and gunpowder.
The gettin' of 'em aboard and
stowin' em between decks—we had two decks, with jest sitting-room between 'em—was
done in double-quick time arter they had been passed as sound and likely and
branded. It didn't take an hour in all. The Cap'n stood ready as they came over
the side, and he'd just shove 'em along like so many sheep arter rippin' off the
bits o' rag some on 'em wore around their middles and heavin' 'em overboard. The
night afore there was a great feast in which the chiefs and all consarned, 'cept
us white men, got as drunk as so many devils. All bein' ready we up anchor and
away for Cuba.
Our Captain had laid his plans
smart, and knew the ropes with any body on the coast. It's the custom for ships
of the squadron—the African squadron I mean, which is allus on the look-out for
slavers—to take each a port and kinder blockade it, movin' on from one to
another at regular dates, accordin' to the orders of the Commodore on the
station. We'd slipped in safe enough, knowin' our time, and had calculated to
get out just the same. We done it too, though we run a right smart chance of
being nabbed by a blamed Yankee skipper, as you'll hear more on in good time.
you how that happened, as I larnt
it afterward aboard that very steamer.
He was the only Northern captain
on the station, and the others—all Southerners—had sorter sent him to Coventry
for a scrub as really meant business, and wouldn't make things pleasant for a
consideration. (They have a fellow-feeling, you know, for they owns niggers
themselves when they're to home, and buys and sells 'em too.) So he got mad and
determined to play 'possum. He had ben ordered away from the Congo River to a
station thirty miles to the nor'ard jest afore we arrived, as our Captain knew
well enough—I ain't going to say who told him. There he pertends to damage his
machinery, lies to for three days, and then comes right back expectin' to fetch
us, and making sure of a prize.
We knew nothin' of all this,
then; but as luck would have it, we seen the smoke of his funnel at daybreak,
when we was well under way, with a fair wind astarn. Our Captain always kept the
brightest of look-outs; he warn't goin' to risk nothin' I tell you, so he crowds
all sail and gives the stranger a wide berth. She followed, I believe, but we
showed her a clean pair of heels that time, and by eight bells we'd lost all
sight of her. So there was an end of danger for the present. It would ha' ben
better, arter all, if we had ha' ben captured by her then and there, as you'll
Of course the niggers was all
sea-sick as soon as we got out into blue water, and a dreadful moanin' and
groanin' and jabberin' the poor ignorant savages made. You could hear it right
through the main deck and up in the shrouds, even when a heavy sea was on, and
above the roarin' of the wind. We'd fixed 'em in the regular way, stark naked,
in a sittin' position, jammed into one another's laps, so's they could hardly
move any thing but their heads, for with such a crowd there warn't an inch of
room to spare, and the cries and groans and smell was horrid. When I turned in
that night—it were pretty rough and pitch dark, with now and then a streak o'
lightning and a growl o' thunder to the sou'west—if I didn't dream I was in hell
among the devils and damned people I'm a Dutchman!
It blew hard all the next day,
and the next to that, so we couldn't tend to 'em much, or have any of 'em up on
deck. Once the sea broke over us, and we had to fasten down the hatches. You may
fancy what it was like 'tween decks then! When the gale had overblown itself and
we went below —nobody liked that job, and one man turned sick and fainted dead
away with the smell—there was forty odd corpses to be chucked overboard. The bad
air, the rollin' and crowdin', and chokin' and smotherin', and want of water,
had killed 'em. They was mostly women and children.
The Captain cursed some at the
loss, which, however, made a leetle more room for the rest of the mis'able
devils. We hauled 'em on deck in squads —some on 'em was so cramped and stiff
they couldn't move—pumped on 'em, and set 'em in the sun to dry, and sarved 'em
out an allowance of boiled rice and water. Thunder! you should ha' seen them
niggers drink! the eatin was bad enough, boltin' the grub like starvin' wolves,
but the drinkin' was awful. They actually fit and struggled over the first
bucketsful so that every drop of the water was spilled, and then lapped it up
off the deck like dogs! If the mates hadn't used hand-spikes pretty free we
couldn't ha' got 'em to behave human, nohows.
Well, we did what we could for 'em
in cleanin' and physickin', and sent 'em below again. Always in fair weather
they was had up, by turns, on deck, and never put in irons except when mutinous.
The decks too, below, was swabbed out once, and sprinkled with somethin' o'
lime—I misremember the name—to prevent sickness. I mention this because folks
generally thinks as slavers hasn't got any humanity. If it warn't agin the law
the darkeys wouldn't have to be crowded up so, by fetchin' so many; that's what
makes it onpleasant.
There was one thing, however, as
that first-mate did as was downright cruel. Ye see the bigger and stronger ones
got to fightin' and strugglin' for more room, as was but natural, sittin' jammed
up in a heap like that. In consequence the weaker crowd, the women and
picaninnies, suffered. So, to make 'em all lie quiet, he jest goes below with a
case of tacks—little nails, you know-and sprinkles 'em loose among the darkeys.
The more they stirred arter that the more the tacks run into their naked bodies,
and though it hurt bad it didn't damage the niggers' value. An old hand aboard
told me this was the regular thing; before it was thought on they used to be at
no end of expense for irons.
Was you ever at sea, Sir?
Because, if so, you'll know that if there's one thing a sailor hates worse than
another it's a calm. It's worse than a storm by a long sight. To have the sails
a flappin', the ropes a frayin', every thin' creakin' and crackin' and wearin'
itself out for nothin'—the blue water all around as smooth as a pond—nothin' to
do and makin' no way—why, it's enough to set a saint swearin' at his
grandmother! Well, jest suppose a three-days' calm in the tropics, the sun
pitch-hot overhead, and us with nigh a thousand niggers on board!
I tell you it was awful; hardly a
breath of air stirring on deck, and jest like the black hole of Calcutta below.
The poor devils there sweltered, and sizzled, and briled, and moaned, and yelled
by turns and altogether, as if they'd knowed of the sharks as was a-swimmin'
alongside a-waitin' for 'em. They say the durned varmints will nose out a slaver
and follow her anywheres, on the look-out for corpses, and I believe it, for,
sartain, two stuck pretty close to us from the third day out. They weren't
mistaken either. A fever broke out among the niggers, and they began to die off
like rotten sheep; we had to throw nigh two hundred over-board in three days.
That, with the ones as had gone before, made a loss of a fourth of the cal-go,
and put our skipper in an ugly temper. One of the hands took the fever and died,
too, spite of the Captain's doctorin'. I was by his bunk when he slipped his
wind, and I wouldn't like to tell what
he said about the slave-trade
then—it warn't complimentary, you may bet your life of that. We all began to
think luck was agin us in that v'yage, and so it proved. The only man as didn't
seem to care was the first mate; he feared neither God or devil. He cursed and
swore ten times worse than ever, and knocked the niggers around jest as if it
was their fault, poor devils! for havin' the fever and dyin'.
We were seven days out, standing
to the sou'west with all sails set, a fairish wind and hazy weather, when we
spied a vessel astarn of us, nearer than our Captain liked. At first we thought
little of it, supposin' her to be bound for the West Indies, for the cruisers of
the squadron seldom troubles you when you've got clear of the coast fifty or a
hundred miles or so: all you have to look out for then is inquisitive Yankee
captains; you can laugh at the Britishers by hoisting the 'Merican flag, when
they hain't no right to search you, though they does it sometimes—their
impudence! But presently this feller comes nigher yet, and seems to be followin'
of us. Soon there's no doubt about it, and the Captain makes her out to be a
steamer with the
stars and stripes flying. So he tries to get off by virtue of
wind and canvas, and there's as pretty a chase as ever you'd wish to see for
over two hours. Slavers don't fight, you know; they allus runs, and is afeard of
nothin' but steamers.
This one gained on us at such a
rate that we should have gi'n in, on'y the haze thickened a bit and we thought
we might dodge in the fog. Instead of that it cleared up some and the wind begun
to slacken; so the Captain, arter consultin' with the first mate, resolved to
lighten the cargo. About fifty of the niggers was fetched on deck, by twos and
threes, each on 'em was lashed to a spar or plank and sent adrift. We done
this—I can't say as I liked the business—in part to get rid on 'em, part in the
hopes as the steamer would put out boats to pick 'em up, and so be hindered and
give us time to sheer off. If we'd got free we might ha' cruised round a spell
arterwards lookin' for 'em. When I see the poor black wretches floatin' off in
the mist and heard the yells of two as the sharks got, I thought it was about as
bad as could be, but I soon larnt different. The steamer came right on alter us,
stayin' for nothin', so the Captain determined to drown every nigger on board,
that they mightn't be evidence agin' him.
He had cut our heaviest
chain-cable, tied a hundred sixty of 'em to it, and then run it overboard! I
shall never forget that, Sir. Some cried and jabbered in their gibberish for
mercy, some howled, some was kinder stupefied and didn't know what was goin' to
be done to 'em, and some fought with fists and teeth, like wild beasts. The
first mate —I warn't sorry to see it—nearly had his thumb bit off by one of 'em.
When they went over the side they set up the awfullest screech you ever heard
tell on in all your born days—a sort of dreadful yell as went right through your
head and frightened you. It was horrid—horrid; I seen men turn white as death
when they heard it. The niggers went right plump down to the bottom, a great
streak of bubbles rising up arter them.
The Captain would have served the
rest the same way, but the hands had had enough of it and stood right
stock-still—almost mutinying in spite of his orders and the first mate's
cursing: I believe both on 'em would have come to mischief if they'd touched any
body. We knew that the game was pretty well played out any way, for the steamer
was a-gainin' on us fast. In less than twenty minutes she fired a gun across our
bows to bring us to, and sent a boat alongside to take possession of us as a
prize. And then—what do you think? if she didn't turn out to be the same durned
sloop as we'd given the go-by to off the Congo River, I'm—! Her skipper had got
sartain news of us, and was bound to capture us if he had to run all the way to
Cuba for it.
Well, he put a prize crew aboard
under command of a lieutenant and midshipman, took us in place of his own hands,
and sent the niggers to Monrovia to be set free by the Government agent there.
Until our Captain showed 'em, the officers didn't know how to stow or to feed
the niggers, and, do what they could, three hundred more died of the fever afore
they sighted land—they was so sick. Hardly a hundred of 'em lived to see Africa
agin; and I hearn tell as they had sores all over 'ens and could hardly stand up
We was headed for New York, and
pretty well treated, as common sailors who had shipped without any partic'lar
knowledge of the craft, or ben put aboard in the way I telled you of at the
beginnin' of the story. Some thought we'd get a month or two in prison, others
not; and they was right, as luck would have it, for they done notlin' to us, 'cept
landin' us without a red cent of pay. The Captain and mates warn't afraid, bless
you! they had plenty of friends, and we wasn't then under a — Black Republican
Government. And so it happened. They was tried once or twice and let off, and I
see the Captain, with my own eyes, six months alter, ridin' up Broadway in a
carriage, with a handsome lady, jest as grand as you please.
You'd like to know who he was,
Sir? Dare say! Well, they hung a man jest about his size at the Tombs last
BATTERIES ON THE
page 180 we publish a series
of views, from sketches by our special artist, Mr. A. R. Waud, illustrating the
REBEL BATTERIES ON THE POTOMAC which have just been taken by our troops. For
several months the Potomac has been blockaded by these batteries, and they have
annoyed vessels going up to Washington very seriously. On 9th the rebels began
to fire their tents at Cockpit Point; they burned the Page, and retired. At the
same time the batteries lower down the river were likewise evacuated, and
General Hooker occupied them, seizing a number of valuable guns.