The siege being raised, I returned to the plantation. From Waterproof, during the fight, I could see our buildings with perfect distinctness. I had much fear that some Rebel scouting party might pay the plantation a visit while the attack was going on. I found, on my return, that Colburn had taken the matter very coolly, and prevented the negroes becoming alarmed. He declared that he considered the plantation as safe as Waterproof, and would not have exchanged places with me during the fight. The negroes were perfectly quiet, and making preparations for plowing. While the fight was in progress, my associate was consulting with the drivers about the details of work for the ensuing week, and giving his orders with the utmost sang froid. In consideration of the uncertainty of battles in general, and the possibility of a visit at any moment from a party of Rebel scouts, my partner’s conduct was worthy of the highest commendation.
Before leaving Waterproof I had arranged for a steamer to call for our cotton, which was lying on the river bank. Waterproof lay at one side of the neck of a peninsula, and our plantation was at the other side. It was two miles across this peninsula, and sixteen miles around it, so that I could start on horseback, and, by riding very leisurely, reach the other side, long in advance of a steamboat. The steamer came in due time. After putting our cotton on board, I bade Mr. Colburn farewell, and left him to the cares and perplexities of a planter’s life. I was destined for New Orleans, to sell our cotton, and to purchase many things needed for the prosecution of our enterprise.
On my way down the river, I found that steamboat traveling was not an entirely safe amusement. The boat that preceded me was fired upon near Morganzia, and narrowly escaped destruction. A shell indented her steam-pipe, and passed among the machinery, without doing any damage. Had the pipe been cut, the steam would have filled every part of the boat.
I was not disturbed by artillery on the occasion of my journey, but received a compliment from small-arms. On the morning after leaving Natchez, I was awakened by a volley of musketry from the river-bank. One of the bullets penetrated the thin walls of the cabin and entered my state-room, within two inches of my head. I preserved the missile as a souvenir of travel.
On the next day the Rebels brought a battery of artillery to the spot. A steamer received its greeting, but escaped with a single passenger wounded.
A gentleman who was on this boat had a very narrow escape. He told me that he was awakened by the first shot, which passed through the upper works of the steamer. He was occupying the upper berth in a state-room on the side next the locality of the Rebels. His first impulse was to spring from his resting-place, and throw himself at full length upon the floor. He had hardly done so, when a shell entered the state-room, and traversed the berth in the exact position where my friend had been lying.