Voyage up the Mississippi (continued)—Grand Gulph and Big Black River—Snags—“I belong to myself, Sir”—Vicksburg and Lynch Law—A Man Overboard—“Drove of Horses, Mules, and Niggers”—Character of Fellow-Passengers—The Sabbath—Disobedience to Conscience.
We came on the 12th of February to the Grand Gulph and “Big Black River.” The former is situated at the base of a bold and solitary “bluff.” Here, a few years ago, “a negro man was condemned by the mob to be burned alive over a slow fire, which was put into execution, for murdering a black woman and her master Mr. Green, a respectable citizen of that place, who attempted to save her from the clutches of this monster.” Such is the newspaper version of the affair. Had the real truth been stated, it would have appeared that this Green was the “monster,” who had seduced the wretched negro’s wife!
The “Big Black River” is not so very “big” after all. It is extremely narrow, although navigable for some hundreds of miles.
Besides the danger of explosion—which, I apprehend, arises from “racing” and carelessness more than from any other cause—steam-boats on the “father of waters” are exposed to “snags.” These snags are trunks of large trees that have become fastened in the bed of the river, and are often found lying against the stream at angles of from 30 to 40 degrees. As the river varies much with regard to the quantity of water in its channel,—frequently rising or falling from 6 to 12 feet in a few hours,—these snags are sometimes so deep in the water that they can be passed over with safety; at other times, however, they are but just covered. If a boat coming—especially down the stream—with high pressure and at full speed, making between twenty and thirty miles an hour, runs against one of these firmly-fixed, immoveable snags, it sustains a fearful shock. Not unfrequently a large hole is thus made in the bottom; and boat, cargo, crew, passengers, and all, sink in an instant. The danger is greatly increased by fogs, often so dense that the helmsman, though situated on the hurricane-deck and over the fore part of the vessel, can see nothing before him. In such a case, wise and cautious men “lie to,” and wait till the mist has cleared off.
May not these “snags” serve to remind us of certain characters and circumstances with which we meet on the voyage of life? Who cannot call to mind many snags—men, rugged, stubborn, and contentious,—snags by all means to be avoided? D’Israeli was the snag of Peel—Russia was the snag of Napoleon—Slavery is the snag of the Evangelical Alliance.