The scene of Verne's adventure tale is laid in Florida, and the book is full of thrilling adventures and marvellous escapes by land and water. The hero, Mr. Burbank, a Northerner, for some years settled in the South, is a fine manly fellow, who scorns to tell anything but the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, when confronted by his enemies who had usurped authority in Jacksonville during those troublous times. The attack on Castle House is well told, and the excitement is great when it seems as though the tide will not admit the passage of the Federal gunboats over the river bar, and that our hero and his son will be sacrificed to the vengeance of their enemies. However, a fortunate gale carries the boats over the bar, and father and son are set at liberty, to begin what looks like almost a hopeless search amongst the creeks and islets of the St. John's River for the missing child who, with her attendant, has been kidnapped by the same villain who had plotted the murder of her father and brother. We have an exciting voyage up the river nearly to its source, and a subsequent journey through forest and morass, with at last a rescue, though not before the faithful attendant has received a savage, though not mortal, wound. The whole story is well told, and the interest is sustained to the end. There are more than eighty illustrations of the different critical events recorded, showing, too, the lovely scenery of Florida with its luxuriant vegetation.
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North Against South
Jules Verne – A Biographical Primer
North Against South
Part I - Burbank, The Northerner
Chapter I - On Board The Shannon
Chapter II - Camdless Bay
Chapter III - The War Of Secession
Chapter IV - The Burbank Family
Chapter V - Black Creek
Chapter VI - Jacksonville
Chapter VII - Before The Court
Chapter VIII - The Last Slave
Chapter IX - Waiting
Chapter X - The Morning Of The 2nd Of March
Chapter XI - The Evening Of The 2nd Of March
Chapter XII - The Six Days That Followed
Chapter XIII – A Few Hours
Chapter XIV - On The St. John’s
Chapter XV - Sentence
Part II - Texar, The Southerner
Chapter I - After The Capture
Chapter II - A Strange Operation
Chapter III - The Day Before
Chapter IV - A Gale From The North-East
Chapter V - A Prisoner
Chapter VI - St. Augustine
Chapter VII - Last Words And A Last Sigh
Chapter VIII - From Camdless Bay To Lake Washington
Chapter IX - The Great Cypress Forest
Chapter X - A Meeting
Chapter XI - The Everglades
Chapter XII - What Zermah Overheard
Chapter XIII - A Double Life
Chapter XIV - Zermah At Work
Chapter XV - The Two Brothers
Chapter XVI - Conclusion
North Against South, J. Verne
Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck
86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9
Frontcover: © Can Stock Photo Inc. / Angelique
Jules Verne (1828–1905), French author, was born at Nantes on the 8th of February 1828. After completing his studies at the Nantes lycée, he went to Paris to study for the bar. About 1848, in conjunction with Michel Carré, he wrote librettos for two operettas, and in 1850 his verse comedy, Les Pailles rompues, in which Alexandre Dumas fils had some share, was produced at the Gymnase. For some years his interests alternated between the theatre and the bourse, but some travellers’ stories which he wrote for the Musée des Familles seem to have revealed to him the true direction of his talent—the delineation, viz., of delightfully extravagant voyages and adventures to which cleverly prepared scientific and geographical details lent an air of versimilitude. Something of the kind had been done before, after kindred methods, by Cyrano de Bergerac, by Swift and Defoe, and later by Mayne Reid. But in his own particular application of plausible scientific apparatus Verne undoubtedly struck out a department for himself in the wide literary genre of voyages imaginaires. His first success was obtained with Cinq semaines en ballon, which he wrote for Hetzel’s Magazin d’Éducation in 1862, and thenceforward, for a quarter of a century, scarcely a year passed in which Hetzel did not publish one or more of his fantastic stories, illustrated generally by pictures of the most lurid and sensational description.The most successful of these romances include: Voyage au centre de la terre (1864); De la terre à la lune (1865); Vingt mille lieues sous les mers (1869); Les Anglais au pôle nord (1870); and Voyage autour du monde en quatre-vingts jours, which first appeared in Le Temps in 1872.The adaptation of this last (produced with success at the Porte St Martin theatre on the 8th of November 1874) and of another excellent tale, Michael Strogoff (at the Châtelet, 1880), both dramas being written in conjunction with Adolphe d’Ennery, proved the most acceptable of Verne’s theatrical pieces. The novels were translated into the various European languages—and some even into Japanese and Arabic—and had an enormous success in England. But after 1877, when he published Hector Servadac, a romance of existence upon a comet, the writer’s invention began to show signs of fatigue (his kingdom had been invaded in different directions and at different times times by such writers as R. M. Ballantyne, Rider Haggard and H. G. Wells), and he even committed himself, somewhat unguardedly, to very gloomy predictions as to the future of the novel. Jules Verne’s own novels, however, will certainly long continue to delight readers by reason of their sparkling style, their picturesque verve—apparently inherited directly from Dumas—their amusing and good-natured national caricatures, and the ingenuity with which the love element is either subordinated or completely excluded. M. Verne, who was always extremely popular in society, divided his time for the most part between Paris, his home at Amiens and his yacht. He was a member of the Legion of Honour, and several of his romances were crowned by the French Academy, but he was never enrolled among its members. He died at Amiens on the 24th of March 1905. His brother, Paul Verne, contributed to the Transactions of the French Alpine Club, and wrote an Ascension du Mont Blanc for his brother’s collection of Voyages extraordinaires in 1874.
Florida was annexed to the American federation in 1819; it was organized into a state a few years afterwards. By the annexation the area of the republic was increased by some 67,000 square miles. But the star of Florida shines with second-rate brilliancy in that constellation of thirty-eight which spangle the banner of the United States of America.
Florida, throughout, is a low, narrow tongue of land, and its rivers, with one exception—the St. John’s—owing to the narrowness of the country, are of no importance. From such a slight rise, there is not sufficient fall for the watercourses to be of any rapidity; there are no mountains, only a few lines of “bluffs” or low hills such as are numerous in the central and southern regions of the Union. In form the peninsula is not unlike the tail of a beaver dipping into the ocean between the Atlantic on the east and the Gulf of Mexico on the west.
Florida’s nearest neighbor to the north is Georgia, the frontier running a little above the isthmus which joins the peninsula to the continent.
Florida seems to be a country apart, with its people half Spaniards, half Americans, and its Seminole Indians so different to their congeners in the west. In the south it is arid, sandy, almost entirely bordered by sand-hills formed by successive irruptions of the Atlantic; but in the north its plains are of marvelous fertility. Its name is justified, to the letter. The flora is superb, vigorous, and of exuberant variety, more especially in that portion watered by the St. John’s. This river is a broad stream flowing from south to north, over a course of some two hundred and fifty miles, of which one hundred and seventeen, up to Lake George, are navigable. The rivers flowing east and west have no room for length; but the St. John’s, from its central course to the north, suffers from no such hindrance, and numerous branches run into it or rather into the multitudinous creeks along its banks. The St. John’s is in fact the chief artery of the country, which receives its life from its waters, for water is the blood of the earth.
It was the 7th of February, 1862. The steamboat Shannon was running down the St. John’s. At four o’clock in the afternoon she was due at Picolata, after calling at the piers higher up the river, and the forts in St. John’s and Putnam counties. A few miles beyond she would enter Duval county, which is bordered by Nassau county and cut off from it by the river bearing that name.
Picolata itself is not of much importance, but its neighborhood is rich in indigo plantations, sugar plantations, rice fields, cotton fields, and vast cypress groves. For some distance round the population is numerous, and it is an important center for trade and travelers. It is the landing-place for St. Augustine, one of the chief towns of eastern Florida, situated some dozen miles away on that part of the sea-coast sheltered by the long island of Anastasia. An almost straight road leads from the river port to the town.
On the pier at Picolata there are today many more travelers than usual. Some speedy vehicles known as stages, each seating eight persons, drawn by four or six mules galloping like mad along the road across the marsh, had brought them from St. Augustine. It was important for them not to miss the steamboat; to do so would be to risk a delay of at least forty-eight hours in getting back to the towns and villages down the river. For the Shannon made only one passage up or down each day, and she was the only means of transport. It was therefore necessary to be at Picolata when she called; and the vehicles had unloaded their passengers an hour before she was due.
There were about fifty men on the gangway at Picolata. While they waited they were talking excitedly. They had divided into two groups not at all anxious to mix with each other. What had brought them from St. Augustine? Was it some serious matter, some political contest? It was obvious that there was no chance of their agreeing. Enemies they had come and enemies they would return. That could be seen clearly enough from the angry looks they exchanged, from the marked division between the groups, from several ill-sounding words whose defiant meaning no one could mistake.
A prolonged whistling began to be heard above stream.
The Shannon soon appeared at the bend of the right bank half a mile above Picolata. Thick clouds of smoke escaped from her two funnels, and crowned the large trees which the sea breeze was shaking on the opposite bank. The moving mass grew larger rapidly. The tide had just turned; and the current, which for three or four hours had been against her, was now in her favor and taking the waters of the St. John’s towards the sea.
At length the bell was heard. The wheels going astern stopped the Shannon, and her hawsers brought her alongside the pier.
The passengers went on board somewhat hastily. One of the groups went first; the other did not move. It looked as though they were waiting for one or several travelers who ran a chance of being late. Two or three men went up the pier to the place where the road from St. Augustine came in; and then they looked towards the east, evidently with impatience.
And not without reason; for the captain of the Shannon, who was on the bridge, shouted to them,—
“Now then! come on!”
“In a minute or two,” answered one of the men in the group that remained on the gangway.
“I can’t wait, gentlemen.”
“A few minutes!”
“No! not one!”
“Only a moment!”
“Impossible! The tide is running out, and I may have no water over the bar at Jacksonville.”
“And besides,” said one of those on board, “there is no reason why we should put up with their fancies.”
“That is what I think, Mr. Burbank,” said the captain. “Duty first. Now then, gentlemen, come on board; I am off.”
And the sailors began to push away the steamboat from the pier, while sonorous jets escaped from the steam-whistle. A shout stopped the maneuver.
“There is Texar! There is Texar!”
A carriage came rattling along at full speed and dashed round the turning up to the pier. The four mules, which formed the team, stopped at the gate. A man got down. Those of his companions who had gone up the road rejoined him at a run. Then all of them went on board the boat.
“A moment more, Texar, and you could not have gone. That would have been awkward for you,” said one of the group.
“Yes! It would have been two days before you got back to—where?—We shall know when you choose to tell us!” added another.
“And if the captain had listened to that rascal Burbank,” said a third, “the Shannon would have been a quarter of a mile down stream by now.”
Texar had just stepped onto the fore deck-house, accompanied by his friends. He contented himself with a look at James Burbank from where he was only separated from him by the bridge. Although he said not a word, the look he gave was sufficient to show the implacable hatred that existed between the two men. Burbank looked Texar straight in the face, turned his back on him, and went to sit on the after deck-house, where his friends had already seated themselves.
“Burbank is not happy!” said one of Texar’s companions. “And no wonder! He lost by his lies, and the recorder did justice to his false witness—”
“But not to himself,” interrupted Texar, “and that justice I will undertake.”
The Shannon had slacked off the hawsers. Her bow pushed off by the long poles, took the line of the current, and driven by her powerful wheels, helped by the ebbing tide, she glided rapidly between the banks of the St. John’s.
American river steamboats are well known. They are many-storied houses crowned with wide terraces, and dominated by the two funnels and the flagstaffs which support the ironwork of the awnings. On the Hudson as on the Mississippi, these steamboats are floating palaces, and can hold the population of a small town. But there was no need for such grandeur on the St. John’s. The Shannon was only a floating hotel, although in its interior and exterior arrangements it was similar to the Kentucky and the Dean Richmond.
The weather was magnificent. The very blue sky was spotted with light freckles of vapor that thinned off towards the horizon. In the thirtieth parallel of latitude the month of February is almost as warm in the New World as it is in the old on the confines of the Sahara; but a gentle breeze blown in from the sea tempers its excess.
Most of the passengers on the Shannon stopped on the deck-house to breathe the fresh air that the wind brought them from riverside forests. The slanting rays of the sun could not reach them beneath the awnings which were shaken like punkahs by the speed of the steamboat.
Texar and the five or six companions who had embarked with him, had thought well to go below to one of the boxes in the dining-room. There, with throats seasoned to the strongest drinks of American bars, they tossed off whole glasses of gin and Bourbon whiskey. They were indeed a rough lot, rude in habit and speech, wearing more leather than cloth, and more accustomed to live in the woods than in cities. Texar appeared to have some right of superiority over them, due, doubtless, to the energy of his character as well as to his position and means. When Texar did not talk, his comrades remained silent and spent the time in drinking.
Texar, after carelessly running his eye over one of the newspapers which littered the dining-room tables, had just thrown it aside, saying,—
“That is all old news.”
“I believe you,” said one of his companions, “the paper is three days old.”
“And a good many things happen in three days,” added another.
“What is the latest about the war?” asked Texar.
“As far as we are concerned, the latest is that the Federals are preparing an expedition against Florida, and that means we may expect an invasion of northerners!”
“Is that true?”
“I don’t know, but I heard of it at Savannah, and I heard of it again at St. Augustine.”
“Well, let these Federals come!” exclaimed Texar, striking his fist on the table so as to make the glasses and bottles shake. “Yes! let them come! and we shall see if the Florida slave-owners will allow themselves to be robbed by the abolitionist thieves.”
Texar’s reply will have told two things to those readers who are unacquainted with what was then happening in America. First, that the war of Secession, declared really by the gun fired on Fort Sumter on the 11th April, 1861, was then in its most critical phase, for it had extended almost to the farthest limits of the Southern States; and secondly, that Texar, a supporter of slavery, made common cause with the immense majority of the people in the slave states. On board the Shannon were representatives of both parties. One—to use the different appellations bestowed on them during the long struggle—consisting of northerners, anti-slavery men, abolitionists or federals; the other of southerners, slavery men, secessionists or confederates.
An hour afterwards Texar and his comrades, having had quite enough to drink, appeared on the upper deck of the Shannon. She had already passed Trent Creek and Six Mile Creek on the right bank, Trent Creek coming in from a vast cypress grove. Six Mile Creek bringing its waters down from the Twelve Mile Marsh, of which the name tells the extent. The steamboat’s course lay between borders of magnificent trees, tulip-trees, magnolias, pines, cypresses, yuccas, and many others, whose trunks were hidden by the wild undergrowth of azaleas and serpentarias. Occasionally, at the mouths of the creeks leading up to the marshy plains of St. John and Duval counties, a strong odor of musk impregnated the atmosphere, coming not from the shrubs, whose emanations are so penetrating in this climate, but from the alligators hurrying under the bushes at the noisy passage of the Shannon. Then there were birds of all sorts, woodpeckers, herons, jacamars, bitterns, white-headed pigeons, mocking-birds, and a hundred others differing in form and plumage, while the cat bird reproduced all the sounds of the forest with his ventriloquial voice.
As Texar mounted the last of the steps on to the upper deck, a woman met him on her way down to the interior of the saloon. When she found herself face to face with him, she stepped back. She was a half-breed in the service of the Burbank family; her first movement had been one of unconquerable repulsion at finding herself suddenly face to face with the declared enemy of her master.
Texar gave her an evil look as she stepped back, and then shrugging his shoulders, he joined his companions.
“Yes, it is Zermah,” he said, “one of the slaves of Mr. James Burbank, who says he does not approve of slavery.”
Zermah made no reply. When the way to the saloon was clear, she went down it without turning to take any notice of the observation.
Texar strolled towards the bow of the steamboat; thereafter lighting a cigar, he apparently dismissed from his notice the friends who had followed him, and began to watch with some attention the left bank of the St John’s along the border of Putnam county.
Meanwhile, on the after-deck of the Shannon, the conversation had run on the war. When Zermah went, Burbank had remained with two of his friends, who had accompanied him to St. Augustine. One was his brother-in-law, Edward Carrol, the other was Mr. Walter Stannard, a Floridan living at Jacksonville. They were talking with considerable animation of the sanguinary strife of which the issue was a question of life or death to the United States. But, as we shall see, Burbank’s opinion of the issue differed considerably from Texar’s.
“I am anxious,” said he, “to get back to Camdless Bay. We have been two days away. Perhaps some news of the war has arrived. Perhaps Dupont and Sherman are now masters of Port Royal and the islands of South Carolina.”
“Anyhow, it will not be long before they are,” said Carrol, “and I shall be much astonished if President Lincoln does not carry the war into Florida.”
“And it will not be before it is time!” said Burbank. “It is quite time that the will of the Union should be imposed on these southerners of Georgia and Florida, who fancy they are too far off to be reached! See to what a degree of insolence vagabonds like Texar are led! He feels that he is supported by the slaveholders, and excites them against us northerners, whose position, which gets more and more difficult every day, lays us open to the back-wash of the war.”
“You are right, James,” said Edward Carrol. “It is of consequence that Florida should return as soon as possible to the authority of the Washington Government. If the Federal army does not come quickly we shall have to abandon our plantations.”
“It may be only a question of days, Burbank,” said Stannard. “When I left Jacksonville the day before yesterday, people were getting uneasy at the news of Commodore Dupont’s supposed plans for opening up the St. John’s, and that would give a pretext for threatening those who do not think with the slave-owners. I am afraid that a rising would turn out the authorities of the town in favor of fellows of the worst description.”
“I should not be surprised if it did,” said Burbank. “We shall have a bad time of it till the Federal army comes; but it cannot be helped.”
“What can we do?” asked Walter Stannard. “Supposing there exist at Jacksonville and other places a few brave colonists who think as we do on this slave question; they are not strong enough to withstand the Secessionists. We can only reckon for safety on the arrival of the Federals, and wish that when intervention is decided on it will take place without delay.”
“Yes. Would they were here,” exclaimed Burbank, “to deliver us from these blackguards!”
And we shall soon see that these Northerners, who, on account of family or other interests, were obliged to live amid a slave-holding population and conform to the usages of the country, were fully justified in their fears and the language they held concerning them.
The news discussed by Burbank and his friends was true. The Federal Government was preparing an expedition for the subjugation of Florida; not so much, however, for the military occupation of the State as the closing of the outlets against the blockade-runners, who took away local productions and brought in arms and munitions of war. It was in consequence of this blockade that the Shannon no longer plied up the southern coast of Georgia, which was then in the power of the Northern generals. For prudential reasons she stopped a little beyond the mouth of the St. John’s, towards the north of Amelia Island, at the port of Fernandina, the terminus of the Cedar Keys railway, which crosses the Florida peninsula obliquely to the Gulf of Mexico. Higher than Amelia Island and the river St. Mary the Shannon would have risked capture from the Federal cruisers which were constantly on the coast.
It follows that the passengers were chiefly Floridans, whose business did not require their crossing the frontier. All of them were dwellers in the towns or villages on the St. John’s and its affluents, and for the most part lived at St. Augustine or Jacksonville. At the different places they landed, and embarked either by the gangways from the wharves, or by piers built out in the English fashion.
One of the passengers intended, however, to quit the steamer in mid-stream. His plan was to leave her at a part of the river where there was no wharf or pier, nor village, nor isolated house, nor even a hunting or fishing hut in sight.
The passenger was Texar.
About six o’clock the Shannon gave three sharp screams from her steam whistle. Her wheels were almost immediately stopped, and she began to drift along with the stream, which hereabouts runs slowly. She was then off the entrance to Black Creek.
This creek is a deep gash in the left bank, into which flows a small river of the same name, which runs by the foot of Fort Heilman, almost on the boundary between Putnam and Duval counties. Its narrow opening is entirely hidden beneath an arch of boughs and foliage matted together, as close as the woof of some close tissue. This gloomy lagoon was almost unknown to the people of the country. No one knew that Texar had there his dwelling. The opening of the creek seemed in no way to break into the line of bank, and as night was falling rapidly, it would require a very skillful boatman to take a boat into such a place.
At the first whistle of the Shannon, a shout had come in answer—three times. A light burning among the trees on the bank was put in motion, showing that a canoe was coming out to meet the steamer.
It was only a skiff—a little bark boat, driven by one paddle. Soon the skiff was half a cable-length from the Shannon.
Texar stepped up to the front of the fore-deck and making a speaking-trumpet with his hands, shouted,—
“Ahoy!” came back in answer.
“Is that you, Squambo?”
The skiff came alongside. By the light of the lantern attached to its bow, the man could be seen who was paddling it. He was an Indian, black-headed, naked to the waist, and sturdily built, to judge from the torso revealed in the fitful light.
Texar returned towards his companions and shook hands with them, bidding them a significant au revoir. Then giving a threatening look towards Mr. Burbank, he descended the ladder from the sponson, and stepped into the skiff. In a few turns of the paddle-wheels the steamer was out of sight, and no one on board could suspect that the little craft was about to vanish under the dark thickets on the bank.
“One scoundrel the less on board,” said Carrol, without caring if he were heard by Texar’s companions.
“Yes,” said James Burbank, “and at the same time, a dangerous scoundrel. I have no doubt of it myself, although he has always been able to escape conviction.”
“Anyway,” said Stannard, “if a crime is committed tonight in the neighborhood of Jacksonville, they cannot accuse him, for he has left the Shannon.”
“I don’t know that,” said Burbank, “if they told me he had been stealing or assassinating this very moment fifty miles off in the north of Florida, I should not be surprised. And if he managed to prove that he was not the author of the crime, I should not be surprised after what has happened. But it is not worth while to worry ourselves about such a man. You are going back to Jacksonville, Stannard?”
“Is your daughter expecting you?”
“Yes, I am going to meet her.”
“I understand,” said Burbank; “and when are you coming to Camdless Bay?”
“In a day or so.”
“Then come as soon as you can, my dear fellow. We are on the eve of very important events, and matters will get worse as the Federal troops come nearer. And I fancy your daughter Alice and you would be in greater safety at Castle House than in the town, where the Southerners are capable of any excess.”
“Am I not a Southerner, Burbank?”
“Certainly, but you think and act as if you belonged to the North.”
An hour afterwards the Shannon, carried along by the ebb which became stronger and stronger, passed the little village of Mandarin, placed on its green hill. Then five or six miles farther she stopped on the right bank of the river. A quay had been built there for ships to load and discharge at. A little above was an elegant pier, with a light wooden bridge suspended from two chains. This was the landing-place for Camdless Bay.
At the end of the pier were two blacks with lanterns, for the night was now very dark.
Burbank took leave of Stannard, and followed by Edward Carrol stepped off on to the pier.
Behind him went the half-breed Zermah, who answered from a distance to a child’s voice.
“I am here, Dy! I am here!”
“Father is here too!”
The lights receded, and the Shannon continued her voyage, crossing obliquely to the left bank.
Three miles beyond Camdless Bay, on the other side of the river, she stopped at the pier of Jacksonville to put ashore most of her passengers.
There Walter Stannard went off with three or four of the men whom Texar had left an hour and a half before. Only half a dozen passengers were left on board, some for Pablo, a little town near the lighthouse at the mouth of the St. John’s, others for Talbot Island, off the coast at the opening of the channels of the same name, and others for the port of Fernandina.
The Shannon continued to beat the waters of the river, and cleared the bar without accident. An hour afterwards she disappeared at the turn of Trout Creek, where the St. John’s mingles its already rough waters with the waves of the ocean.
Camdless Bay was the name of the plantation that belonged to James Burbank. There he lived with his family. The name of Camdless comes from one of the creeks of the St. John’s, which runs in a little above Jacksonville, and on the opposite side of the river. Communication with the city was thus easy. A good boat, a north or south wind, and the ebb for going and the flood for returning, and in an hour the three miles could be sailed between Camdless Bay and the chief town of Duval county.
Burbank owned one of the finest properties in the country. He was rich himself, and his family was rich, and in addition to the Florida estate he held important landed property in the state of New Jersey, which adjoins the state of New York.
The site on the right bank of the St. John’s had been very happily chosen for the foundation of a wealthy establishment. To its natural conveniences man had little to add. The land itself was adapted for all the requirements of extensive works, and the plantation of Camdless Bay, managed by an intelligent man, active and in the prime of life, well helped by his staff, and with no want of capital, was in a most flourishing state.
The plantation was twelve miles round, and had an area of four thousand acres. There were larger plantations in the Southern States, but there were none better managed. Dwelling-house, outbuildings, stables, cattle-sheds, huts for the slaves, farm-buildings, stores for the products of the soil, yards for handling them, workshops and mills, railways converging to the landing-place and carriage roads,—everything was marvelously arranged from a practical point of view; that it was a Northerner who had conceived, organized, and executed these works could be seen at the first glance. It was only plantations of the first class in Virginia or the Carolinas that could rival Camdless Bay. Besides, the ground consisted of “high hummocks,” adapted for the culture of cereals, “low hummocks,” specially fitted for coffee-shrubs and cocoa-trees, and marshes, or salt savannahs, where rice and sugar-cane fields could flourish.
It is well known that the cotton of Georgia and Florida is the most appreciated in the different markets of Europe and America, owing to the length and quality of its fibers, and the cotton-fields, with their plants in long, regularly-spaced lines, their leaves of tender green and their yellow flowers, were among the chief sources of revenue. At harvest-time these fields, for an acre or an acre and a half, would be covered with huts in which lived the slaves, women and children, whose duty it was to collect the capsules and take out the tufts—a very delicate operation, for the fibers must not be disturbed. The cotton, dried in the sun, was cleaned in a mill by means of toothed wheels and rollers, squeezed in a hydraulic press, done up in bales, hooped with iron, and so packed for exportation; and sailing-ships or steamers could load alongside the wharf at Camdless Bay.
James Burbank also devoted much attention to large fields of coffee-shrubs and sugar-canes. Here were plantations of from a thousand to twelve hundred trees, from fifteen to twenty feet high, resembling Spanish jasmine in their flowers, and with fruits as big as a cherry containing the two grains, which it was only necessary to extract and dry. There were large fields, we might say marshes, bristling with thousands of those long reeds, nine to eighteen feet high, with their crests shaking like the plumes of a troop of cavalry on the march. This crop, which was the subject of special care at Camdless Bay, yielded the sugar in the form of a liquor, which the refinery transformed into refined sugar, and then, as derived products the syrups used in the manufacture of tafia and rum, and cane wine, a mixture of saccharine liquor with pineapple and orange juice. Although the crop was less important than that from the cotton, the cultivation was there a very profitable one. A few enclosures of cocoa-trees, fields of maize, yams, potatoes, tobacco, and two or three hundred acres under rice, brought in a large amount of additional profit.
But James Burbank had another enterprise on hand which produced at least equal profit to that of the cotton industry. This was the clearing of the forest which covered much of the estate. To say nothing of the products of the cinnamons, pears, oranges, citrons, olives, figs, mangoes, and bread fruits, or of all the fruit trees of Europe acclimatized so splendidly in Florida, the forests were regularly and constantly thinned. And great was the value of the logwoods, gazumas or Mexican elms, now used for so many purposes, baobabs, coral woods, with twigs and flowers as red as blood, buckeyes, a kind of yellow-flowered chestnut, black walnuts, oaks, southern pines, which yield such admirable specimens for the carpenter and shipwright, pachiriers whose seeds the sun at noon explodes like so many petards, parasol pines, tulip-trees, firs, cedars, and above all cypresses, the most widely extended tree in the peninsula, with its forests from sixty to a hundred miles in length. James Burbank had erected several sawmills in different parts of the plantation. Dams had been placed in several of the tributaries of the St. John’s, and the peaceful streams broken into falls, which gave the mechanical power required to produce the beams, joists and planks of which the ships each year took entire cargoes.
There was, besides, a considerable stretch of prairie, on which flourished the horses, mules, and cattle in numbers enough to supply every agricultural want.
There are birds of all species in the woods or on the fields or plains of every part of Florida, and it can be imagined how they swarmed at Camdless Bay. Above the trees soared the white-headed eagles with great spread of wing, whose shrill call resembles the fanfare of a cracked trumpet, vultures of extraordinary ferocity, giant bitterns, with a pointed beak like a bayonet. On the banks of the river among the reeds and beneath the interlacement of gigantic bamboos were flamingoes, pink or scarlet, white ibises looking as if they had been stolen from some Egyptian monolith, pelicans of colossal stature, myriads of terns, sea-swallows of all kinds, crab-catchers with tuft and green pelisse, purple-plumaged curlews, with brown down spotted with white, jacamars, kingfishers with golden reflections, a whole world of divers, waterhens, widgeons of the whistling species, quails, plovers, to say nothing of the petrels, puffins, scissorbeaks, seacrows, gulls, and tropic-birds which the wind would bring into the St. John’s, and occasionally even flying-fish, beloved of epicures. On the prairies swarmed snipe, woodcock, curlews, marbled godwits, sultan-fowls with plumage of red, blue, green, yellow and white, like a flying palette, partridges, and white-headed, red-winged pigeons; among the eatable quadrupeds, gray squirrels, long-tailed rabbits, half-way between the hare and rabbit of Europe, and herds of deer, and besides these, racoons, turtle, ichneumons, and unfortunately a good many serpents of venomous species. Such was the representation of the animal kingdom at Camdless Bay, without reckoning the Negros, male and female, employed on the plantation. And if these were human beings, what excuse was there for the monstrous custom of slavery, by which they were bought and sold like cattle?
How was it that James Burbank, a partisan of the anti-slavery cause, a Northerner, hoping for the triumph of the North, had not been able to free the slaves on his plantation? Would he hesitate to do it when circumstances became favorable? Certainly not! And it was now only a question of weeks, of days perhaps, before the Federal army, which already occupied the outposts, would advance into Florida.
Already Burbank had done all he could to improve the lot of his slaves. There were about seven hundred blacks, of both sexes, properly lodged in the large barracoons, well looked after and kindly treated, and worked well within their powers. The overseer had orders to treat them all with justice and consideration; and the duties were done none the worse for corporal punishment having for some time been abandoned at Camdless Bay. This was a striking contrast with the custom of the generality of Floridan plantations, and the system was not looked on with favor by James Burbank’s neighbors. And, as may be imagined, this made matters somewhat embarrassing, particularly now the fortune of arms had come to the solution of the slavery question.
The slaves dwelt in healthy, comfortable huts. Grouped in fifties, these huts formed a dozen villages, otherwise called barracoons, by the side of a running stream. There the blacks lived with their wives and children. Each family was as much as possible employed in the same work in the fields, the forests or the workshops, so that its members were not scattered during working hours. At the head of these villages was a sub-overseer, acting as mayor practically, with his head-quarters in the private grounds of Camdless Bay. These grounds were enclosed by a high palisade, of which the pointed stakes rose vertically, half-hidden beneath the verdure of the exuberant vegetation. Inside the palisade rose the private house of the Burbank family. Half house and half castle, it had appropriately been called Castle House.
For many years Camdless Bay had belonged to the ancestors of James Burbank. When there was a fear of Indian depredations, the owners had fortified the principal house. The time was not very distant when General Jessup defended Florida against the Seminoles. The colonists had suffered much from these nomads. Not only did the Indians rob them, but they added murder to the burning of their homes. Even the towns were threatened with invasion and pillage. In many a spot rose the ruins that the bloodthirsty Indians left smoking behind them. Less than fifty miles from Camdless Bay there was still to be seen “the house of blood” in which Mr. Motte and his wife and three daughters had been scalped and massacred by the Seminoles. But the war of extermination between the white man and the red man is practically over; the Seminoles were conquered, and sought refuge to the west of the Mississippi. People spoke of them no more, though a few bands still roamed among the marshes of Southern Florida.
It will therefore be understood that the houses of the colonists were built so as to defy a sudden attack of the Indians, and hold out until the arrival of battalions of volunteers, enrolled in the towns or neighboring villages. And on this plan Castle House had been designed.
It stood on a slight rise of the ground, in the center of a small park of about three acres, situated a few hundred yards from the St. John’s. A rather deep watercourse ran round the park, and the palisading on its inner bank completed the defense. The only entrance was by a little bridge thrown across the circular moat. Behind the rise, a mass of beautiful trees covered the slopes of the park. An avenue of young bamboos, with the stems crossing in pointed arches, formed a long nave, leading from the lawn to the landing-place. Beyond, among the trees, were green lawns and wide paths with white borders, ending in a sandy terrace along the principal front of Castle House.
The castle was irregularly built, and offered much of the unexpected in its grouping and of the capricious in its details. But should its assailants ever break through the park palisades, it would remain defensible, and could maintain a siege of some hours. Its windows on the ground-floor were protected by iron bars. The main door in the front face was as strong as a portcullis. At certain points along the walls, which were built of a sort of marble, were a few turrets, which rendered the defense easier, as they allowed of the aggressors being taken in flank. In short, with its openings reduced to such only as were strictly necessary, the central tower, on which flew the standard of the United States, its lines of battlements along some of the ridges, the slope of its wall at the foot, its high roof, many pinnacles, the thickness of its inner walls, which here and there were loop holed, the place resembled a fortress much more than a dwelling house.
As we have said, it had been necessary to build it so for the security of its inhabitants at the time of the Indian troubles in Florida. There was even in existence a sort of subterranean tunnel which, after passing under the palisade and circular moat, put Castle House in communication with a little creek of the St. John’s called Marine Creek. This tunnel could serve as a means of secret escape in case of extreme danger.
At the time in question, the Seminoles, having been driven out of the peninsula twenty years before, were no longer to be feared. But who could say what was reserved for the future? and might not the danger James Burbank had no reason to fear from the Indians, come from his compatriots? Was he not an isolated Northerner at the end of the Southern States, exposed to all the changes of a civil war, which had been hitherto most sanguinary and fertile in reprisals?
But the necessity of providing for the safety of Castle House had in no way interfered with its interior comfort. The rooms were large and luxuriantly and superbly furnished. The Burbank family were blessed with every comfort and every satisfaction fortune can give when it is united to artistic feeling on the part of its possessor.
Behind the house, in the private park, were splendid gardens, extending to the palisade. The stakes were hidden beneath climbing shrubs and passion-flowers, amid which humming-birds hopped in myriads. Orange-trees, olive-trees, fig-trees, pomegranate-trees, and pontederias with blue bouquets, and magnolias with calices of old ivory perfuming the air, palm-trees waving their fans in the breeze, garlands of violet-shaded cobœas, clumps of green rosetted tupeas, yuccas with their sharp clicking sabres, rosy rhododendrons, clumps of myrtle and shaddocks—in fact everything produced by the flora of a zone which touches the Tropics and could be gathered in its parterres to perfume the air or please the eye.
At the extremity of the palisading, under the cypresses and baobabs, were the stables, coach-houses, kennels, dairy, and poultry-yard. Under the thick foliage of these fine trees, impenetrable by the sun, the domestic animals had nothing to fear from the heat of summer, and the running water brought in from the streams close by gave an agreeable and healthy freshness to all.
This private domain was, it will be seen, a marvelously well-arranged nook in the center of James Burbank’s establishment. No rattle from the cotton-mills, roar from the saw-mills, ring of the axes on the tree-trunks, nor any of the sounds which are inseparable from such an important concern, could be heard beyond the palisades.
The thousands of birds of the Floridan fauna would pass and flutter from tree to tree. But these winged songsters, whose plumage rivaled the brilliancy of the flowers, were as welcome as the perfumes which the breeze bore with it as it swept over the neighboring woods and prairies.
Such was Camdless Bay, the plantation of James Burbank, one of the richest in eastern Florida.
And now for a few words on the war of secession, with which this history is intimately connected.
And in the first place let this be understood, as has been well said, in his remarkable “History of the Civil War in America,” by the Comte de Paris, who was formerly one of General McClellan’s aide-de-camps, this war was not caused by any question of tariffs, nor of a difference of origin between the North and the South. The Anglo-Saxon race reigns over the whole territory of the United States. The commercial question was never entertained in this terrible fratricidal strife. “It was slavery, which, prospering in one half of the Republic and abolished in the other, created two hostile societies. It had profoundly modified the manners of those where it prevailed, while leaving untouched the outward forms of government. It was not the pretext or the occasion, but the cause, and the only cause, of the antagonism which inevitably resulted in civil war.”
In the slave states there were three classes. The lowest consisted of four millions of enslaved Negros, a third of the population. The highest was the caste of the slaveholders, comparatively uneducated, rich, scornful, who kept the direction of public affairs completely in their hands. Between these classes was the lower class of whites, turbulent, idle and miserable, ardent advocates for the maintenance of slavery for fear of seeing the freed Negros elevated to their level.
The Northerners had against them not only the rich proprietors, but also those whites who lived, especially in the country, among the slave population. The strife was consequently frightful. In families such dissensions were produced that brothers fought against each other, some under the Federal, some under the Confederate flag. But a great nation could not hesitate to destroy slavery to its roots. In the last century the illustrious Franklin had demanded its abolition. In 1807 Jefferson had recommended Congress to “prohibit a traffic of which the morality, honor, and dearest interests of the country had long required the disappearance.” The North was therefore in the right to march against the South and subdue it. And to follow that with a closer union between the elements of the Republic, and the destruction of that fatal, threatening illusion that the citizen owed obedience first to his own state, and in the second place to the federation.
It was in Florida that the first question as to slavery had arisen. At the commencement of the century a half-breed Indian chief, named Osceola, had for his wife a maroon slave born in the marshy part of Florida known as the Everglades. One day the woman was recaptured as a slave and taken away by force. Osceola raised the Indians, began an anti-slavery campaign, and was taken prisoner and died in his prison. But the war continued, and, says the historian Thomas Higginson, “the money it cost was three times as much as that paid to Spain for the purchase of Florida.”
And now for the beginnings of the war of secession, and the state of affairs in the month of February, 1862, when James Burbank and his family were to experience such terrible counter-blows that it has appeared interesting to us to make them the subject of this history.
On the 16th October, 1859, the heroic Captain John Brown, at the head of a small band of fugitive slaves, had seized on Harper’s Ferry in Virginia. His object was to free the men of color. He proclaimed it loudly. Beaten by the militia, he was taken prisoner, condemned to death, and hanged at Charleston on the 2nd of December, 1859, with six of his companions.
On the 20th of December, 1860, a convention assembled in South Carolina and adopted with enthusiasm the proposal of secession. The following year, on the 4th of March, 1861, Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the Republic. The Southern States regarded his election as a menace to the institution of slavery. On the 11th of April, Fort Sumter, one of the forts defending Charleston harbor, fell into the power of the Southerners commanded by General Beauregard. North Carolina, Virginia, Arkansas, and Tennessee at once threw in their lot with the Separatists.
Seventy-five thousand volunteers were raised by the Federal Government. At the outset Washington, the capital of the United States of America, was prepared against a sudden attack, the arsenals of the North which were empty were revictualled—those of the South had been well provisioned by President Buchanan. War material was got together with extraordinary effort. Then Abraham Lincoln declared the Southern ports in a state of blockade.
Active hostilities broke out in Virginia. McClellan repulsed the rebels in the west; but on the 21st of July, at Bull Run, the Federal troops, under the orders of MacDowell, were routed, and fled to Washington. The Southerners feared no longer for the safety of Richmond, but the Northerners had much to fear for the capital of the American Republic. A few months afterwards, the Federals were again defeated at Bull’s Bluff. These misfortunes were compensated for by the expeditions that put into the hands of the Unionists Fort Hatteras and Port Royal Harbor, which the Separatists never retook. At the end of 1861, the command-in-chief of the armies of the Union was given to Major-General George McClellan.
During this year the Confederate corsairs swept the seas of both worlds. They were welcomed in the ports of France, England, Spain, and Portugal—a great mistake which, by giving the Secessionists the rights of belligerents, resulted in encouraging and prolonging the civil war.
The naval events, which caused so much stir, were the appearance of the Sumter and her famous Captain Semmes; the appearance of the ram Manassas; on the 12th of October the sea-fight at the mouth of the Mississippi; on the 8th of November, the stoppage of the Trent, an English ship, on which Captain Wilkes captured the Confederate envoys—and which nearly brought on a war between Great Britain and the States.
Meanwhile Abolitionists and Slaveholders were engaged in sanguinary combats, with alternating success and defeat in the State of Missouri. One of the chief generals of the North, Lyon, was killed, and this necessitated the retreat of the Federals to Rolla, and the march of Price and his Confederates towards the North. There was a fight at Frederictown on the 21st of October, and at Springfield on the 25th, and on the 27th, Fremont occupied the latter town with his Federals. On the 19th of December, the fight at Belmont between Grant and Polk was indecisive. At length winter, which is always severe in North America, put an end to the operations.
In the first months of the year 1862, truly prodigious efforts were made by both sides.
In the North, Congress voted a levy of 500,000 volunteers—there were a million before the end of the struggle—and sanctioned a loan of 500 millions of dollars. Huge armies were created, the chief being that of the Potomac. Their generals were Banks, Butler, Sherman, McClellan, Meade, Thomas, Kearny, Halleck, to mention only the most famous. Infantry, cavalry, artillery, engineers, were formed and organized. War material was manufactured at express speed, Minie and Colt carbines, rifled cannon on the Parrott and Rodman systems, smooth bore cannon and Dahlgren columbiads, howitzers, revolver-cannons, siege artillery, and shrapnel shell. They organized army telegraphs and army balloons, the reporting service of the large newspapers, the transport service employing 20,000 carts, drawn by 84,000 mules. Provisions of all kinds were got in under the direction of the chief of the commissariat. New ships of the ram type were built on the plan of Colonel Ellet, and armored gunboats were built on the plan of Commodore Foote, to make their first appearance in maritime war.
In the South equal zeal was shown. The cannon foundries of New Orleans and Memphis, and the forges of Tredegar, near Richmond, turned out their Parrotts and Rodmans. But that was not enough. The Confederate Government sent across to Europe. Liege and Birmingham sent shiploads of arms, and cannon on the Armstrong and Whitworth systems. Blockade-runners brought the war material into the ports, and took away cotton in exchange. Then the army was organized. Its generals were Johnston, Lee, Beauregard, Jackson, Crittenden, Floyd, and Pillow. Irregular troops, militia and guerillas, were raised in addition to the four hundred thousand volunteers enrolled for three years at the most, or one year at the least, voted by the Secessionist Congress on the 8th of August.
The preparations did not hinder the strife from beginning before the winter was half over. Of the slaveholding territory, the Federal Government occupied only Maryland, Western Virginia, some part of Kentucky, most part of Missouri, and a few points on the sea coast.
Hostilities first broke out again in the east of Kentucky. On the 7th of January, Garfield fought the Confederates at Middle Creek, and on the 25th they were beaten again at Logan Cross or Mill Springs. On the 2nd of February Grant embarked with two divisions on some of the large Tennessee steamboats, to support Foote’s cuirassed flotilla. On the 6th, Fort Henry fell into his power. Thus was broken a link of the chain “on which,” said the historian of this civil war, “rested the whole system of his adversary Johnston’s defense.” Cumberland and the capital of Tennessee were thus threatened, and were within easy reach of the Federal troops; and Johnston endeavored to concentrate on Fort Donelson, so as to regain a surer base for the defensive.
At this time, another expedition, consisting of six thousand men, under the orders of Burnside, and a flotilla of twenty-four armed steamers and fifty transports, descended the Chesapeake and assembled in Hampton Roads on the 12th of January. In face of violent storms it started on the 24th of January for Pimlico Sound, to capture Roanoke Island, and reduce the coast of North Carolina. But the island was fortified. On the west the channel was defended by a barrier of sunken ships. Batteries and field works made access difficult. Five or six thousand men with a flotilla of seven gunboats, were ready to withstand any attempt at landing. Nevertheless, notwithstanding the bravery of the defenders, on the 7th and 8th of February the island surrendered to Burnside, with twenty guns and more than two thousand prisoners. Next day the Federals were masters of Elizabeth City and the coast of Albemarle Sound, that is to say, the north of this inland sea.
But to conclude this description of the position of affairs up to the 6th of February, it is necessary to speak of the Confederate general, the old professor of chemistry, Jackson the puritan soldier who defended Virginia. After the recall of Lee to Richmond he commanded the army. He left Winchester on the 13th of January, with his 10,000 men, then he crossed the Alleghanies, to advance on Bath on the Ohio railroad. Defeated by the climate, overwhelmed by the snowstorms, he was forced to return to Winchester, without having attained his object.
And now for that which concerns us more specially, on the southern coast from Carolina to Florida.
During the second half of 1861, the Northerners possessed sufficient swift vessels to police the seas, although they could not catch the famous Sumter which in January, 1862, put in at Gibraltar, before beginning her cruise in European waters. The Jefferson Davis endeavoring to escape from the Federals had fled to St. Augustine in Florida, and sunk as she entered the channel. Almost at the same time the Anderson, one of the cruisers off the Florida coast,captured the privateer Beauregard. But in England new ships were fitting out for the fray. It was then that President Lincoln’s proclamation extended the blockade, a fictitious blockade of 2800 miles. To watch them only two squadrons were available: one to blockade the Atlantic, the other the Gulf of Mexico.
On the 12th of October, for the first time, the Confederates endeavored to clear the mouth of the Mississippi with the Manassas—the first ship plated with iron used in the war—and a flotilla of fire-ships. The attempt did not succeed, and the corvette Richmond escaped from capture, safe and sound, on the 29th of December, though a small steamer, the Seabird, carried off a Federal schooner in sight of Fort Monroe.
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