I can hardly imagine a situation of greater helplessness, than a place on board a Western passenger-steamer under the guns of a hostile battery. A battle-field is no comparison. On solid earth the principal danger is from projectiles. You can fight, or, under some circumstances, can run away. On a Mississippi transport, you are equally in danger of being shot. Added to this, you may be struck by splinters, scalded by steam, burned by fire, or drowned in the water. You cannot fight, you cannot run away, and you cannot find shelter. With no power for resistance or escape, the sense of danger and helplessness cannot be set aside.
A few weeks after the occurrence just narrated, the steamer Brazil, on her way from Vicksburg to Natchez, was fired upon by a Rebel battery near Rodney, Mississippi. The boat was struck a half-dozen times by shot and shell. More than a hundred rifle-bullets were thrown on board. Three persons were killed and as many wounded.
Among those killed on the Brazil, was a young woman who had engaged to take charge of a school for negro children at Natchez. The Rebel sympathizers at Natchez displayed much gratification at her death. On several occasions I heard some of the more pious among them declare that the hand of God directed the fatal missile. They prophesied violent or sudden deaths to all who came to the South on a similar mission.
The steamer Black Hawk was fired upon by a Rebel battery at the mouth of Red River. The boat ran aground in range of the enemy’s guns. A shell set her pilot-house on fire, and several persons were killed in the cabin.
Strange to say, though aground and on fire under a Rebel battery, the Black Hawk was saved. By great exertions on the part of officers and crew, the fire was extinguished after the pilot-house was burned away. A temporary steering apparatus was rigged, and the boat moved from the shoal where she had grounded. She was a full half hour within range of the Rebel guns.
THE ARMY CORRESPONDENT.
The Beginning and the End.—The Lake Erie Piracy.—A Rochester Story.—The First War Correspondent,—Napoleon’s Policy.—Waterloo and the Rothschilds.—Journalistic Enterprise in the Mexican War.—The Crimea and the East Indian Rebellion.—Experiences at the Beginning of Hostilities.—The Tender Mercies of the Insurgents.—In the Field.—Adventures in Missouri and Kentucky.—Correspondents in Captivity.—How Battle-Accounts were Written.—Professional Complaints.
Having lain aside my pen while engaged in planting cotton and entertaining guerrillas, I resumed it on coming North, after that experiment was finished. Setting aside my capture in New Hampshire, narrated in the first chapter, my adventures in the field commenced in Missouri in the earliest campaign. Singularly enough, they terminated on our Northern border. In the earlier days of the Rebellion, it was the jest of the correspondents, that they would, some time, find occasion to write war-letters from the Northern cities. The jest became a reality in the siege of Cincinnati. During that siege we wondered whether it would be possible to extend our labors to Detroit or Mackinaw.