"American Tour 1871"

 Nov 3rd to Dec 13th

3rd Nov.

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 New Orleans.

4th Nov.

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’.

15th Nov.

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.

16th Nov.

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.

16th Nov.

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 attention.

17th Nov

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.

18th Nov.

Arrived at Savannah at 6 am and met with a hearty welcome from Captain & Mrs Harley and Sister Hilda whom they brought from New York.

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 George.

19th Nov.

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.

23rd Nov.

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).

26th Nov.

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.

29th Nov.

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 critters’

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.

30th Nov.

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

1st Dec.

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’.

2nd Dec.

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 very fine.

3rd Dec

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.

5th Dec.

Took our places in the cars and arrived in New York across the Hudson River by ferryboat.

6th Dec.

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.

9th Dec 

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 the 13th.

10th Dec.

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.

12th Dec.

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"

13th Dec.

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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