Camp-Fire and Cotton-Field eBook

Thomas W. Knox
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 377 pages of information about Camp-Fire and Cotton-Field.

During its lowest stages, the Mississippi is often forty feet “within its banks;” in other words, the surface is forty feet below the level of the land which borders the river.  It rises with the freshets, and, when “bank full,” is level with the surrounding lowland.

It does not always stop at this point; sometimes it rises two, four, six, or even ten feet above its banks.  The levees, erected at immense cost, are designed to prevent the overflowing of the country on such occasions.  When the levees become broken from any cause, immense areas of country are covered with water.  Plantations, swamps, forests, all are submerged.  During the present year (1865) thousands of square miles have been flooded, hundreds of houses swept away, and large amounts of property destroyed.

During the freshet of ’63, General Grant opened the levee at Providence, Louisiana, in the hope of reaching Bayou Mason, and thence taking his boats to Red River.  After the levee was cut an immense volume of water rushed through the break.  Anywhere else it would have been a goodly-sized river, but it was of little moment by the side of the Mississippi.  A steamboat was sent to explore the flooded region.  I saw its captain soon after his return.

“I took my boat through the cut,” said he, “without any trouble.  We drew nearly three feet, but there was plenty of water.  We ran two miles over a cotton-field, and could see the stalks as our wheels tore them up.  Then I struck the plank road, and found a good stage of water for four miles, which took me to the bayou.  I followed this several miles, until I was stopped by fallen trees, when I turned about and came back.  Coming back, I tried a cornfield, but found it wasn’t as good to steam in as the cotton-field.”

A farmer in the Eastern or Middle States would, doubtless, be much astonished at seeing a steamboat paddling at will in his fields and along his roads.  A similar occurrence in Louisiana does not astonish the natives.  Steamers have repeatedly passed over regions where corn or cotton had been growing six months before.  At St. Louis, in 1844, small boats found no difficulty in running from East St. Louis to Caseyville, nine miles distant.  In making these excursions they passed over many excellent farms, and stopped at houses whose owners had been driven to the upper rooms by the water.

Above Cairo, the islands in the Mississippi are designated by names generally received from the early settlers.  From Cairo to New Orleans the islands are numbered, the one nearest the former point being “One,” and that nearest New Orleans “One Hundred and Thirty-one.”  Island Number Ten is historic, being the first and the last island in the great river that the Rebels attempted to fortify.  Island Number Twenty-eight was the scene of several attacks by guerrillas upon unarmed transports.  Other islands have an equally dishonorable reputation.  Fifty years ago several islands were noted as the resorts of robbers, who conducted an extensive and systematic business.  Island Number Sixty-five (if I remember correctly) was the rendezvous of the notorious John A. Murrell and his gang of desperadoes.

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Camp-Fire and Cotton-Field from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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