Having ended our breakfast, we decided to remain at that place until late in the afternoon, for the purpose of writing up our accounts. With a small table, and other accommodations of the worst character, we busied ourselves for several hours. To the persona of the household we were a curiosity. They had never before seen men who could write with a journalist’s ordinary rapidity, and were greatly surprised at the large number of pages we succeeded in passing over. We were repeatedly interrupted, until forced to make a request to be let alone. The negroes took every opportunity to look at us, and, when none but ourselves could see them, they favored us with choice bits of local information. When we departed, late in the afternoon, four stout negroes ferried us across the river.
A hotel known as the California House was our stopping-place, ten miles from the Gasconade. As an evidence of our approaching return to civilization, we found each bed at this house supplied with two clean sheets, a luxury that Springfield was unable to furnish. I regretted to find, several months later, that the California House had been burned by the Rebels. At the time of our retreat, the landlord was unable to determine on which side of the question he belonged, and settled the matter, in conversation with me, by saying he was a hotel-keeper, and could not interfere in the great issue of the day. I inclined to the belief that he was a Union man, but feared to declare himself on account of the dubious character of his surroundings.
The rapidity with which the Secessionists carried and received news was a matter of astonishment to our people. While on that ride through the Southwest, I had an opportunity of learning their modus operandi. Several times we saw horsemen ride to houses or stables, and, after a few moments’ parley, exchange their wearied horses for fresh ones. The parties with whom they effected their exchanges would be found pretty well informed concerning the latest news. By this irregular system of couriers, the Secessionists maintained a complete communication with each other. All along the route, I found they knew pretty well what had transpired, though their news was generally mixed up with much falsehood.
Even in those early days, there was a magnificence in the Rebel capacity for lying. Before the war, the Northern States produced by far the greatest number of inventions, as the records of the Patent Office will show. During the late Rebellion, the brains of the Southern States were wonderfully fertile in the manufacture of falsehood. The inhabitants of Dixie invent neither cotton-gins, caloric engines, nor sewing-machines, but when they apply their faculties to downright lying, the mudsill head is forced to bow in reverence.