"American Tour 1871"
Nov 3rd to Dec 13th
Left Memphis and my friends by rail for New Orleans. The
greater part of the journey was thro forests towards the last it was dismal
swamps, the cypress moss that covered the trees looked very graceful, alligators
could be seen lurking about. The concluding part of the track is wonderfully
built on trestles laid deep down in the swamp, made of cypress wood. The train
had to turn and even then the oscillation was severe. The conductor of the train
was very friendly and in comparing notes as to the prices of clothes he amused
me very much, I must say rather touched me by his trust in me by offering and
asking if I could invest it for him in clothes 135 dollars! Of course I
declined. After an uneasy night on a sleeping shelf I found myself at 11 am in
Took the bus to the St Charles Hotel, beautifully
appointed and well conducted but alas very expensive 6 dollars per drive.
Weather fiercely hot, yellow fever still prevails, trees in full bright beauty
of summer. Called on my friend Herbert Dobele and it was no slight gratification
to clasp his hand. Afterwards dined with Mr Ranger who has a beautiful house and
a true specimen of New York belle for a wife. On another occasion dined alone
with my comrades now returned to my company with Mr Musgrove, Mr M is of Spanish
descent their eldest son gave an account of some tiring scenes he had witnessed
in the wars of succession, what hardship the Southerners had endured! Their
heroism was worthy of a nobler end than the upholding of slavery.
A real thunderstorm broke out just as we left and
drenched us through. The shell roads here are splendid, thousands of tons are
brought up from the Gulf of Mexico. Bought 500 bales of cotton saw it shipped in
the ‘Argus Fire Queen’.
Left New Orleans with L Lees took the train across the
swamps to Pouchartican Lake a great bathing resort of the New Orleans citizens,
embarked on the ‘Mary ‘and sailed up the lake, a railway draw bridge opening
to let us through.
A splendid sunrise as we entered the Gulf of Mexico,
soon after we ran aground on a mud bank at the entrance of the Bay of Mobile.
Our steamer remained hard and fast in spite of every known effort being made to
release her. Shall soon have a very poor opinion of American steam boats and
their officers never having yet travelled in one without delay at some point, in
the present case the ‘Mary was out of her course the co’s steamer
‘Laura’ passed us but did not offer the slightest assistance to her sister
‘Mary’ in her unfortunate plight.
I had seen ‘Old Sol’ rise from his morning bath and
now saw him dip his fiery head into the blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico. At
length after 5pm (high water) our engine, after gigantic efforts, got us clear
of our difficulties and we steam up the bay.
It is a splendid star light night and a sensible change is felt in the atmosphere. The Bay of Mobile is beset with numerous obstructions placed there by the confederates when the Yankees sought to enter the Bay, we were guided by small lamps placed on the obstructions and by a small pilot boat, closely in the wake of which we followed. The engineer gave me the monster butterfly caught in the engine room that I enclose.
Left Mobile did not observe anything of notable
interest. About 8 am we embarked on the huge double ferry boat (paddle wheel
centre) ‘Sumpter’ ( high pressure) and enjoyed the sail down the beautiful
Alabama River, the land on each side well cleared.
and beautifully cultivated the sharp bends giving us
splendid peeps. Stayed the night at Montgomery and visited the Exchange, natives
very affable, had 5 niggers watching our ‘feeding’ with the most ludicrous
Up early en route for Savannah just before entering the
Opelica junction, a car was detached and we saw all the others run off the
track, our conductor being a very spruce fellow was rolled into a small lake of
mud injuring his wrist – a nigger had forgotten to turn the switches. Changed
cars at Macon, the cool frosty air is quite delicious.
Arrived at Savannah at 6 am and met with a hearty
welcome from Captain & Mrs Harley and Sister Hilda whom they brought from
Savannah is a lovely place. But for its extensive public
buildings, one might take it for a village or rather score of villages rolled
into one. Its site is a sandy terrace about 40ft above low water, there are no
paved streets but endless avenues of magnificent trees, Broad St and Bay St have
each 4 grand avenues of trees there being a double carriage way and broad walks
on the outsides and a promenade between. Opposite our hotel (Pulaski House) is a
fine obelisk to the memories of Pulaski and Greece. One part of Savannah reminds
me of the Champs Elysee minus the bustle. Had a lovely drive to the cemetery of
Bonaventure that was originally a private estate in the possession of the
proprietor of this house. It is laid out in broad avenues which cross each
other, these avenues are now grand forest aisles the oaks being of immense age,
their dense foliage meeting overhead, some of the branches trailing to the
ground, with their own and the super added weight of the heavy festoons of the
pendant Spanish Moss which gives a very graceful appearance to the trees. A more
graceful place for the dead cannot be imagined.
We continued the drive thro the pretty village of
Thunderbolt that is a great place for picnics. Our horses were quietly jogging
back when we were rapidly overtaken by a buggy driven by a young lady as fast as
two spirited horses could take her, the poor animals seemed to have haf a hard
time of it and were covered with foam, she pulled up soon after passing us to
allow our more sober … to get up
so as to speak to Mrs Harley. The lady is Miss Madge Lewis the greatest madcap
in Savannah if not in Georgia. She seemed very much struck with one of our party
who sat on the box seat judging by the looks she gave him. The Harleys have been
very kind to Sister Hilda or Miss Jones as we now call her. It appears that she
is the daughter of the late Sir David Jones bart and sister of the present Sir
Dined with Mr Muir. He lent us his phaeton and fast
trotting cobs. It is a treat to handle the ribbons of the high mettled steeds,
the phaeton seemed to fly like ‘greased lightning’ on the magnificent shell
roads to Bonaventure ‘Bonny Venture’ as the Americans call it.
Saw some performances of by the Southern ‘Sabre
Club’ many of its members having lately been confed officers, they were
splendidly mounted the horsemen were in line at the further end of the course,
at the bugle call they dashed at the heads and rings, pieces of hardwood, placed
at distances of 80ft on top of posts, cuts being closely delivered at full
speed. The taking of a ring 4 inches in diameter was a difficult feat as it had
to be taken on the point of the sword dropped securely on the hilt all at full
speed. Handsome prizes were given. In the evening there was a ball in connection
with this club Mrs Harley insisted on my chaperoning her, but she could not
prevail on me to dance in spite of the many partners she was anxious to provide
me with. The ‘Union Jack’ was prominent in the ballroom and the confeds
growled at the presence of the ………. Gridiron (stars and stripes).
Charleston South Carolina has a clean almost venerable
appearance for America having been founded in 1670. The weather beaten tower of
St Michael’s has witnessed some changes and some fierce struggles. Along the
Battery are the town residences of the merchants. The Battery is a long flagged
promenade overlooking the sea. Fort Sumpter looking grim and formidable even in
its ruins. We hired a smart yacht and after a delightful hours sail were
assisted up the slippery rocky side of the fortress by two stalwart Negroes. How
battered its walls are what a hailstorm of shot must the Yanks have poured in
from the ships, hundreds of tons of conical shell lay piled up in the centre. We
got some relics of shot walked completely round the fort (it being low water)
and got a splendid view of Charleston.
Left Charleston 6 pm and were much delayed by a train
preceding ours having been in collision – the line being blocked up – we
owed our safety to the vigilance of our engine driver for it was a foggy night.
We took in our train the seriously wounded freight train driver, as a Negro said
there had been a collision the two colliding trains had telescoped, a poor Negro
woman remarked to me ‘God help those who are hurt and God help us all poor
At midnight we were bought to a stop in the middle of a
dense forest a few wooden huts being as we were informed, the City of Florence.
We made our way under the guidance of an ebony specimen of humanity to our hotel
and found ourselves in most wretchedly furnished bedrooms, crept into a rickety
dilapidated bed, shivering and supper less. We feel now that we are heading to
the chilly north.
Left at noon on our 17 hours journey to Richmond
Virginia where we touched the first frost, the sudden change from Charleston
where it was fiercely hot, is very trying. Saw much to admire in the beautiful
suburbs. Left Richmond by way of Aquia Creek
Arrived at Washington at 4 am, thanks to the kindness of Sambo we were permitted to sleep until 6 am when we trudged to our hotel where we had a short snooze and after breakfast looked round this ‘City of Magnificent Distances’ as Dickens facetiously styled it. It presents rather a rambling, straggling appearance, there being great want of concentration. The large wide streets begin everywhere and nowhere, there seems a great want of commercial activity. The public buildings the Capitol especially with its stupendous dome present an inspiring appearance for miles around and the view from the gallery of the dome is very fine indeed. The Post Office, Treasury and Patent Office are splendid buildings. Indeed a European can scarcely understand the largeness of American cities until he has seen such buildings as these. Went to the ‘White House’ residence of the President saw the green red and blue rooms, just as they were when the Grand Duke Alexis was here, a short time ago.
A visit to the Navy Yard did not interest me much, the
yards seem deserted and there were few objects of interest beyond a formidable
collection of so called ‘Anglo rebel guns’.
Baltimore. This city presents an appearance of extreme
activity and the people are more English like than I have seen in the States.
The docks present a very animated appearance and the buildings and monuments are
Philadelphia. We are staying at the Continental Hotel,
where Prince Alexis is now and I was amused to see the chambermaids quarrelling
over the combings of his brush. The streets here take their names from trees.
The cold here is intense. A visit to the Sate House in Chestnut St was very
interesting from its historical associations.
Took our places in the cars and arrived in New York
across the Hudson River by ferryboat.
Went by magnificent steamer ‘Bristol’ for the Fall
River en route for Boston. Were roused at an untimely hour by an unfeeling
‘Blackie’ and took our place in the cars. The morning was bitterly cold and
an hour’s drive brought us to Boston.
The streets here are peculiarly narrow and very crooked,
but these defects they have remedied by a plan of moving large blocks of
buildings to their required places by means of screw jacks and rollers. Called
on Platt’s agent Mr Wood with whom we visited Lowell and went thro a New
England cotton mill. These mills are driven by turbines and the power is
distributed thro the mills by bands of great width, no gearing being required. I
think we have no reason to be jealous of them as spinners, there is much that an
Englishman practically acquainted with this branch of industry might teach them.
A visit to the worsted department for stocking knitting was highly interesting,
all is done by knitting machines of wonderful ingenuity. The girls at work here
seem very well clothed, healthy and clean. The Yankees have no scruples in
committing piracies on English copyright machines and poor Ireland has her
celebrity trampled on by the well known name ‘Balbriggan’ being marked on
Lowell made stockings. The cotton spinning and manufacturing interest of the
district is very extensive and the mills are very large and handsomely built.
The young Russian Prince Alexis is visiting Boston,
great excitement was visible for in spite of their republican ideas the Yankees
delight in seeing Royalty on a visit to their shores. I was greatly amused at
the ludicrous and grotesque appearance presented by a squadron of United States
Cavalry and could scarcely withhold my comments on the appearance of men and
horses and so got sundry angry glances from the natives.
Arrived New York. Holden and I took the many baggage of
our party and saw it safely stowed in the Cunard Wharf Jersey City, looked
through the staterooms of the ‘Russia’ in which we have taken our berths for
Crossed over to Brooklyn to attend service at Henry Ward
Beechams Church, Mr B has no pulpit only a long platform, on which is a table,
couch and chair, vases and beautiful flowers were on the platform. The service
was very impressive, his prayer for the Queen and Prince of Wales (at this time
anxiety for the Prince was most touching thro its earnestness and beauty of
expression). His sermon was characteristic at times moving to tears and then to
smile, at some comically pointed expression.
Visited a museum and in my solitary position (it being
very early in the morning) was startled by the sudden appearance of a living
skeleton of most awful appearance who came marching towards me. He was dressed
in black silk tights and scarcely looked anything more than skull and framework.
I very politely and in the most conciliatory tone I could assume bade him
‘Good morning’ to which he returned a sepulchral groan. I hastened away from
so undesirable a companion and on my way to the door encountered a living giant
of some 8 ft stature, but I did not feel any fear of him.
Much kindly sympathy expressed at our hotel touching the critical state fo the Prince of Wales. I was half amused at the Yankee assumption that in the event of his death and that of the Queen a republic in England was certain!
"Boarding the Russia"
Left our hotel at 6.30 am, breakfast less took the
tramway to the New Jersey Ferry, over which we crossed, casting our glances to
the ‘Russia’ whose stately appearance we much admired, soon made our way to
her and were cruelly disappointed to hear that there would be no breakfast! So
ordered bread and cheese and stout, which made us all ill.
Made a splendid voyage 9 days 9 hours.
We would like to thank Mr & Mrs W Owen, for lending us this unique bit of history.
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