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Excursions to Villages and Towns
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I visited Bayou la Fourche, Huma, Barataria Bay, Thibodeaux, Franklin, Donaldsonville, St. Martins, Jackson, La., (where I became acquainted with Major Dunn, and family,) Vermillionville, Opelouza, Bayou Plaquemine, Point Cupee, St Francisville, Point Hudson, Baton Rouge, Layfayette, Algiers, &c., thus making myself somewhat acquainted with the people and country. Also visited Madison across lake Ponchartrain, and I really must not forget my kind old friend, Mr. Bell, who kept the Washington Hotel on the Ponchartrain Lake; who always made me at home in his pleasant house. Also I cheerfully tender my humble thanks to the directors of the Ponchartrain and Nashville railroad; also the Carrolton railroad who have all acted a brotherly part towards me. Also the captains and crews of various steamers. In this pleasant manner Autumn and Winter came and passed, and in the Spring as I had been pretty regular at my business.
I easily obtained permission to take a little trip up the Mississippi. I had often been invited to Nashville Ten., and now determined to go and pay the place a visit. I accordingly took some cigars and candy, a few of my instruments, and went aboard Capt. John Russell’s boat, who went however, only as far as Memphis; then went aboard the Cumberland, (the Captain’s name I am sorry to say I have forgotten.) The boat was heavily laden and a large number of passengers were on board her. All was pleasant and quiet; sold all my cigars at the bar of the boat. In order to give the keeper of the bar a little respite, I had attended to his affairs for one day. At night after the captain and passengers had all retired, the boat being just at the mouth of the Cumberland River, all at once the boat trembled and stopped short, as if some mighty hand had arrested her progress. The roof fell in, the partitions were broken down, the drawers were dislodged from their places, and the passengers from their berths, some were almost frightened out of their senses. Ladies were running in all directions, some screaming some praying, while now and then came deep groans from someone greatly distressed. All was confusion. It was soon ascertained that a large snag had passed through the boat about midway, forcing its way through the captain’s berth, where he was asleep, injuring his spine so much that his recovery was deemed hopeless. The boat seemed fast filling with water. The skiff was loosed and filled with passengers. Many jumped overboard and swam ashore; some who could swim well, taking with them some poor helpless female; for those who were left were nearly frantic with fear. I by chance got hold of one of the planks used in forming the stage to bring freight aboard. I told them that I thought I could manage to get two of them ashore; immediately three of them jumped in and were clinging to the plank. I succeeded in getting them safe to the shore and then went back to the boat. But they had found that the snag could be taken out, which was done, and the hole partially stopped and the boat carefully and quickly steered to the shore. I then assisted to search out the skiff. They had left the oars and had floated on to a sand bar where they were awaiting daylight, from whence we took them to Smithland where we all succeeded in getting quarters. The most of the lives and property were saved, and it certainly might have been much worse, but to see, as I saw my fellow mortals begging for help was a scene I never wish to witness again.
This completely turned my mind from Nashville, and I went with Captain Montgomery up the Ohio. I however changed boats several times at Cincinnati and Wheeling, I believe. I visited the band in Pittsburg. My acquaintance was somewhat limited. Having sold out, I took stage across the country to
Cleveland, Ohio. While at Cleveland, I visited the Sandusky Indians. From Cleveland I went to Painesville and Chardon; and returning to Cleveland, sailed to Detroit. I then started homeward by way of Columbus, Dayton, and Cincinnati. At Cincinnati I became acquainted with Captain Summons and family. I reached home in safety, and was ever glad to get home and see my old friends.
I made frequent excursions during the last years of my stay in New Orleans. On one occasion I took passage on board the steamer George Washington, Mr. Egerton, Captain. And I take the liberty of saying that he was on the eve of being married to the accomplished Miss Catharine Oldam, of Louisville, Ky. I was introduced to the family, and many of the first families of that city. The day for the marriage to take place was fixed, and I played now and then for the Captain and his lady love, to while away the time, which seemed to hang heavy on their hands; but the wedding day at length arrived, and a bright affair it was too; afterwards they went down to the George Washington and had a ball; here my music was just the thing. During this time I saw the Hon. Henry Clay, for the first time. I knew nothing of politics but I was much pleased with the man himself. I went to a convention of the Whig party; Mr. Clay was the hero of the day. I often played at different political gatherings, without distinction of party.
I visited Bay St. Louis and was welcomed by the citizens. When I visited a city I was lucky enough to find those whom I could esteem as friends, by playing some of their favorite melodies. Thus wherever I roamed, with this unseen key did I unlock the heart of the stranger, and find the priceless treasure of a friend, O, where and what should I have been, had not nature implanted within me this clue to that changeable organ, the human heart. With it I could disarm envy, avert the eye of suspicion, and although not able, even yet, to clip the tongue of scandal, yet have I trudged side by side with it, and gained more friends than it could make me enemies. When I returned, all of my acquaintances were very glad to see me; it was near the hour for reviewing, and as I was riding through the city, I met a carriage full of friends, who being the first people of the united States, were at liberty to act as to them seemed best, without the fear of enemies; they alighted from their carriage, and crowned me with a wreath of flowers, thus testifying their regard for me in honor of my uncultivated talents. This touched a tender chord in my bosom, and I mentally exclaimed, what am I! As I remembered the crown of thorns, it melted me even unto tears, and I feared that I had murmured withal; a strange foreboding crept into my heart, and I felt to resign myself into the hands of God, with confidence to believe that he in his own time would deliver me froth this dreadful uncertainty.
There was much said at about the close of the Florida war that excited my compassion for the Indians of that country. I felt that they would at length be overpowered, inasmuch that they would be obliged to remove to the far West, or suffer themselves to be exterminated. I knew that they abhorred the very idea of removing from their hunting-ground which they considered theirs only. Their fore-fathers had held undisputed sway there, for many thousand moons. There they had lived, and there they had died, bequeathing their all to their children, which they left behind them. Those simple children of the woods were content with their lot, and had not sought to enrich themselves in any wise, but were satisfied to live as their forefathers had lived and die as they had died, without name or knowledge to extend beyond the limits of their own tribe, except their traditions and predilections. But when their removal was insisted upon, the very demon of evil seemed to have taken possession of their hearts, destroying in his dangerous course, every feeling of a gentle or friendly nature. I was somewhat acquainted with some of those with whom they were contending. I had had an opportunity of associating with the whites from childhood. I foresaw that they were determined and would never surrender, or in other words, give up the chase until the Indian was no longer an inhabitant of that soil. I heard even my own friends condemn the poor Indian for trying to defend what he believed to be his and his alone. Would not my friend do the same? Yes, more. Oh, why do we mortals overlook on our enemies’ faults through magnifying glasses.
As I pondered these things over again and again, a secret desire to visit that tribe soon had grown into a resolute determination, to use my endeavors to show them the hopelessness of their efforts, to impress upon their minds that at the most they would only have blood and revenge, for blood of their kindred; and in the end shame and disgrace, all the loss of their lands besides. Full of these feelings I set off for Florida. I had scarce ever felt more solemnity in my mind at any other period of my chequered existence. When once there my plan was not so easily put into execution I found that the least word in favor of a removal was dangerous to the peace and life of the individual who dared to give utterance to such council, and still claim to be the Indian’s friend. Such I claimed to be, and felt that I really was. I could make myself understood in French and Spanish, as some of them spoke a little of each language. I had said nothing of my name or blood, but ventured a few suggestions to them, which I soon learned had caused all to regard me with an unfriendly and suspicious eye. I felt ill at ease in my own mind at first, but then I reflected on the purity of my motives, and determined to hide all traces of such feelings; to mix in their company bold and fearlessly, trusting the event with God, believing he would open the way to their hearts, though they were now led with the deadly passions of hatred and strife; that they would yet be able to understand and appreciate my motives.
The warriors were preparing to bury one of their number. It was indeed a solemn scene. The wail of the women in mourning, ever and anon reached my ears. At length the body was taken and all his blankets and war equipments, his gun, tomahawk, scalping-knife, &c., with many things which designated his honorable achievements. All was silent as the grave itself, while the funeral ceremonies were performing. He was then wrapped in his blankets, and borne to his grave. He had many friends, and was deeply mourned; and then the impending trouble, the grief of the whole nation served to heighten the solemnity of the occasion. Many people were gathered together to follow him to his final resting spot; but before the ceremonies were concluded; many of the women cast themselves upon the ground, as if they wished thus to give publicity to the hopelessness of their grief, and the despair which had as it were, taken full possession of their souls. As the corpse was borne away, the sound of their wild lamentations as it gushed forth from their stricken hearts, fell heavily on the ear, carrying sadness to the liveliest bosom in the ranks. When they arrived at the grave, some of the wives of the warriors, and maidens were still in the ranks. The people were prepared to perform the last office, to pay the last tribute of respect, and fulfill the last duty, in the consignment of the mortal remains of their friend and brother to their destined and final abode. Some of the women were kneeling, covering their faces with their hands, weeping most bitterly, while others lay extended and disconsolate upon the ground, seemingly impressed with grief too overpowering to be expressed.
The men turned from each other for a moment, as they seemed silently consulting the Great Spirit in the chamber of their own hearts; some leaning against trees, others on their guns, while some had unstrung their bows and placed one end on the ground, supporting the other in their hand, at the same lime suffering the head to droop listlessly there, while some were engaged in placing the body in the right position. Nothing could exceed the precious care with which each article was consigned to its respective place. Then they one and all seemed to arouse from the stupor of grief and went through with the ceremony of taking leave of the dead. The men all locking their hands behind their heads and walking off, and the women uniting in a kind of funeral dirge retired from the grave.
When we were preparing to return to our homes, temporary as they really were, I found I had several friends here, although I was unconscious of the presence of any, save Chief Walker, and Lightfoot. Then stepped forth a man called chief Alligator. This curious name was given him from the following circumstances:
He having unexpectedly started out hunting one morning found out that he had neglected to supply himself with bullets for the day. He had used the last one, and was returning home when a track arrested his attention, and be carelessly followed it along merely to see where it might go, and he became engaged, and ere he was aware, had advanced into the swamp. He stopped, whishing in the meantime he could precede and yet he was conscious that his best way was to back track. As he thus stood, he observed an alligator making more than common speed towards him, form the direction in which he had entered; but a little way before him lay some old logs, towards whe he made his way, yet doubtful how affairs would turn, for his enemy was close in pursuit and he was without his accustomed means of defense.
The logs proved to be lying on a bank of a bayou of the Mississippi. He climbed over them, but his foe though unwieldy in his proportions, was close at his heels. The Indian knew by his movements that he was oppressed with hunger, and consequently would attack him. He was a monster, the largest of his kind, and light defense seemed likely to aggravate and rouse him to anger, rather than to stay him from his purpose. The Indian quickly tore a branch from an old tree, broke it a little shorter than what he supposed to be the width of the animal’s mouth when open; he then stretched himself full length on the log, shut his eyes, and pretended to sleep soundly. His enemy approached, and as he had hoped, placed his jaws close to the log, and opened his mouth; no sooner did the Indian hear that, than he jammed into it the stick he held. Thus as the animal endeavored to seize upon him, be propped his mouth wide open which entirely disarmed his opponent, who rolled and pitched, snorted wild anger, settling the stick, (which the Indian had pointed at each end) far into his jaws, which now seemed to cause him great pain; but he could not extricate himself there from. It was now the Indian’s turn. He fought his monster enemy and he was just on the brink of the water. He bad wearied himself from his own exertions so much, that the Indian pushed him into the water, and easily drowned him. He saved and sold the oil, which amply paid him for his time and trouble; so to use the Indian’s own words, he caught the Alligator napping, and beat him at bis own game.’ He tells the ‘story, then adds, ‘Me! when you see me sleep, you look sharp; eyes shut, then me wide awake; ears open, me hear all you say, see all you do; if eyes open, then me fast asleep heap; ears shut, me no hear, me no see; do all you like, me no know it.’ So they called him sleeping Alligator; a fine noble fellow he was too. We were happy in each other’s friendship, and I was truly glad to find him here.
There was also a Creek Chief here, with whom I had a slight acquaintance; but who went altogether by his Indian name. I have forgotten the exact pronunciation, though I have by no means forgotten my friend. Some of the red men and pale faced names have slipped my memory, as I could not write and never really thought of having even the out-lines of my life written down. I only kept the memorandum in my head. I know the Chief, of whom I have last spoken, had a sister married to a white man, whose name I believe was Walker.
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