“Where Will-o’-the-wisps and
In bulrush and in brake;
Where waving mosses shroud the pine,
And the cedar grows, and the poisonous vine
Is spotted like the snake.”—LONGFELLOW.
From St. Louis, on the Missouri river, I took passage to New Orleans, in one of those magnificent steamers that crowd the inland waters of the American continent, and which, sumptuously furnished as they are, have not inaptly been termed “floating palaces.” We had a prosperous passage as far as the junction of the Ohio with the Mississippi, where the boat struck the branches of a large tree, that had been washed into the bed of the stream, and was there stuck fast, root downwards. This formidable chevaux-de-frise (or snag, as it was termed by the captain) fortunately did not do much damage to the vessel, although at first an alarm was raised that she was sinking, and much confusion ensued. This apprehension was, however, soon dissipated by the report of the carpenter, whose account of the damage was so far favourable, that after extrication by backing the vessel, and a few temporary repairs, she was again got under headway.
The pellucid waters of the Ohio, as they enter the turbid rushing current of the Mississippi, which is swollen by the Illinois and other tributaries, has a remarkable effect, the clear current of the former river refusing, for a considerable distance, to mingle with the murky stream of the latter, and forming a visible blue channel in its centre—a phenomenon I thought allegorical of the slave-stained condition of the one state, and the free soil of the other, for while Ohio is free from the curse of slavery, the banks of the Mississippi have for centuries been deep dyed in the life’s blood of the oppressed African.