“The fragrant birch above him hung
Her tassels in the sky,
And many a vernal blossom sprung,
And nodded careless by.
But there was weeping far away;
And gentle eyes for him,
With watching many an anxious day,
Were sorrowful and dim.”—BRYANT.
Florida, in which state I now found myself, is divided into East, West, and Middle. It is a wild extent of country, about 300 miles from north to south. The king of Spain held possession of the territory in 1810, but it was afterwards ceded by treaty to the Federal Government. It was discovered in 1497 by Sebastian Cabot. St. Augustine is the capital of East, and Pensacola of West, Florida. This country is, for the most part, a howling wilderness, and is never likely to become thickly populated. The dreary pine-barrens and sand-hills are slightly undulating, and are here and there thickly matted with palmetto.
In pursuance of my original design, I had now to penetrate nearly a hundred miles into the interior; and, as the Indians and fugitive negroes were scouring that part of the country in hostile bands, I contemplated this part of my route with no little anxiety. I determined, however, to proceed. The journey lay through a wild country, intersected with streams and rivers, every one of which swarmed with alligators. This, although not a very pleasant reflection, did not trouble me much, as I had by this time become acquainted with the propensities of these creatures, and knew that they were not given to attacking white men, unless provoked or wounded, although a negro or a dog is never safe within their reach. They are, however, repulsive-looking creatures, and it is not easy to divest the mind of apprehension when in their vicinity.
My destination was an inlet of the sea, called Deadman’s Bay, from whence it was my intention, after transacting some business I had undertaken, to take passage by steamer to Cuba, intending to return to the continent, after a limited stay there, and on some of the adjacent islands. In this, however, I was disappointed, as I shall by-and-by show. My plan was to travel by easy stages under escort, and encamp out at night; so, having secured the services of six men, who were well armed and mounted on horseback, and having furnished ourselves with a tent and other necessaries, which were carried by individuals of the party, we left Tallahassee, on our way inland, under a scorching sun. We could proceed but slowly after reaching the pine-barrens, the soil of which is loose sand, and at every step the animals we rode sank to the fetlock, which caused them to be greatly fatigued at the close of the day.