[ FROM BULL'S BAY, SOUTH CAROLINA, TO ST. SIMON'S SOUND, GEORGIA ]
FROM CHARLESTON TO SAVANNAH, GEORGIA.
THE INTERIOR WATER ROUTE TO JEHOSSEE ISLAND. -- GOVERNOR AIKEN'S MODEL RICE PLANTATION. -- LOST IN THE HORNS. -- ST. HELENA SOUND. -- LOST IN THE NIGHT. -- THE PHANTOM SHIP. -- A FINLANDER'S WELCOME. -- A NIGHT ON THE EMPEROR S OLD YACHT. -- THE PHOSPHATE MINES. -- COOSAW AND BROAD RIVERS. -- PORT ROYAL SOUND AND CALIBOQUE SOUND. -- CUFFY 'S HOME. -- ARRIVAL IN GEORGIA. -- RECEPTIONS AT GREENWICH SHOOTING-PARK.
Ex-Governor William Aiken, whose rice plantation on Jehossee Island was considered, before the late war, the model one of the south, invited me to pass the following Sunday with him upon his estate, which was about sixty-five miles from Charleston, and along one of the interior water routes to Savannah. He proposed to leave his city residence and travel by land, while I paddled my canoe southward to meet him. The genial editor of the "News and Courier" promised to notify the people of my departure, and have the citizens assembled to give me a South Carolina adieu. To avoid this publicity, -- so kindly meant, -- I quietly left the city from the south side on Friday, February 12th, and ascended the Ashley to Wappoo Creek, on the opposite bank of the river.
A steamboat sent me a screaming salute as the mouth of the Wappoo was reached, which made me feel that, though in strange waters, friends were all around me. I was now following one of the salt-water, steamboat passages through the great marshes of South Carolina. From Wappoo Creek I took the "Elliot Cut" into the broad Stono River, from behind the marshes of which forests rose upon the low bluffs of the upland, and rowed steadily on to Church Flats, where Wide Awake, with its landing and store, nestled on the bank.
A little further on the tides divided, one ebbing through the Stono to the sea, the other towards the North Edisto. "New Cut" connects Church Flats with Wadmelaw Sound, a sheet of water not over two miles in width and the same distance in length. From the sound the Wadmelaw River runs to the mouth of the Dahoo. Vessels drawing eight and a half feet of water can pass on full tides from Charleston over the course I was following to the North Edisto River.
Leaving Wadmelaw Sound, a deep bend of the river was entered, when the bluffs of Enterprise Landing, with its store and the ruins of a burnt saw-mill, came into view on the left. Having rowed more than thirty miles from the Ashley, and finding that the proprietor of Enterprise, a Connecticut gentleman, had made preparations to entertain me, this day of pleasant journeying ended.
The Cardinal-bird was carolling his mating song when the members of this little New England colony watched my departure down the Wadmelaw the next morning. The course was for the most part over the submerged phosphate beds of South Carolina, where the remains of extinct species were now excavated, furnishing food for the worn-out soils of America and Europe, and interesting studies and speculations for men of science. The Dahoo River was reached soon after leaving Enterprise. Here the North Edisto, a broad river, passes the mouth of the Dahoo, in its descent to the sea, which is about ten miles distant.
For two miles along the Dahoo the porpoises gave me strong proof of their knowledge of the presence of the paper canoe by their rough gambols, but being now in quiet inland waters, I could laugh at these strange creatures as they broke from the water around the boat. At four o'clock P. M. the extensive marshes of Jehossee Island were reached, and I approached the village of the plantation through a short canal. Out of the rice-fields of rich, black alluvium rose an area of higher land, upon which were situated the mansion and village of Governor Aiken, where he, in 1830, commenced his duties as rice-planter. A hedge of bright green casino surrounded the well-kept garden, within which magnolias and live-oaks enveloped the solid old house, screening it with their heavy foliage from the strong winds of the ocean, while flowering shrubs of all descriptions added their bright and vivid coloring to the picturesque beauty of the scene.
The governor had arrived at Jehossee before me, and Saturday being pay-day, the faces of the negroes were wreathed in smiles. Here, in his quiet island home, I remained until Monday with this most excellent man and patriot, whose soul had been tried as by fire during the disturbances caused by the war.
As we sat together in that room where, in years gone by, Governor Aiken had entertained his northern guests, with Englishmen of noble blood, a room full of reminiscences both pleasant and painful, -- my kind host freely told me the story of his busy life, which sounded like a tale of romance. He had tried to stay the wild storm of secession when the war-cloud hung gloomily over his state. It broke, and his unheeded warnings were drowned in the thunders of the political tempest that swept over the fair South. Before the war he owned one thousand slaves. He organized schools to teach his negroes to read and write. The improvement of their moral condition was his great study.
The life he had entered upon, though at first distasteful, had been forced upon him, and he met his peculiar responsibilities with a true Christian desire to benefit all within his reach. When a young man, having returned from the tour of Europe, his father presented him with Jehossee Island, an estate of five thousand acres, around which it required four stout negro oarsmen to row him in a day. "Here," said the father to the future governor of South Carolina, as he presented the domain to his son, -- "here are the means; now go to work and develop them."
William Aiken applied himself industriously to the task of improving the talents given him. His well-directed efforts bore good fruit, as year after year Jehossee Island, from a half submerged, sedgy, boggy waste, grew into one of the finest rice-plantations in the south. The new lord of the manor ditched the marshes, and walled in his new rice-fields with dikes, to keep out the freshets from the upland and the tides from the ocean, perfecting a complete system of drainage and irrigation. He built comfortable quarters for his slaves, and erected a church and schoolhouse for their use. From the original two hundred and eighty acres of cultivated rice land, the new proprietor developed the wild morass into sixteen hundred acres of rice-fields, and six hundred acres of vegetable, corn, and provender producing land.
For several seasons prior to the war, Jehossee yielded a rice crop which sold for seventy thousand dollars, and netted annually fifty thousand dollars income to the owner. At that time Governor Aiken had eight hundred and seventy three Slaves on the island, and about one hundred working as mechanics, &c., in Charleston. The eight hundred and seventy-three Jehossee slaves, men, women, and children, furnished a working force of three hundred for the rice-fields.
Mr. Aiken would not tolerate the loose matrimonial ways of negro life, but compelled his slaves to accept the marriage ceremony; and herein lay one of his chief difficulties, for, to whatever cause we attribute it, the fact remains the same, namely, that the ordinary negro has no sense of morality. After all the attempts made on this plantation to improve the moral nature of these men and women, Governor Aiken, during a yellow-fever season in Savannah after the war, while visiting the poor sufferers, intent upon charitable works, found in the lowest quarter of the city, sunk in the most abject depths of vice, men and women who had once been good servants on his plantations.
In old times Jehossee was a happy place for master and for slave. The governor rarely locked the door of his mansion. The family plate, valued at fifteen thousand dollars, was stored in a chest in a room on the ground-floor of the house, which had for its occupants, during four months of the year, two or three negro servants. Though all the negroes at the quarters, which were only a quarter of a mile from the mansion, knew the valuable contents of the chest, it was never disturbed. They stole small things, but seemed incapable of committing a burglary.
When the Union army marched through another part of South Carolina, where Governor Aiken had buried these old family heirlooms and had added to the original plate thirty thousand dollars' worth of his own purchasing, the soldiers dug up this treasure-trove, and forty-five thousand dollars' worth of fine silver went to enrich the spoils of the Union army. Soon after, three thousand eight hundred bottles of fine old wines, worth from eight to nine dollars a bottle, were dug up and destroyed by a Confederate officer's order, to prevent the Union army from capturing them. Thus was plundered an old and revered governor of South Carolina -- one who was a kind neighbor, a true patriot, and a Christian gentleman.
The persecutions of the owner of Jehossee did not, however, terminate with the war; for when the struggle was virtually ended, and the fair mansion of the rice-plantation retained its heirlooms and its furniture, Beaufort, of South Carolina, was still under the influence of the Freedman's Bureau; and when it was whispered that Aiken's house was full of nice old furniture, and that a few faithful servants of the good old master were its only guards, covetous thoughts at once stirred the evil minds of those who were the representatives of law and order. This house was left almost without protection. The war was over. South Carolina had bent her proud head in agony over her burned plantations and desolate homes. The victorious army was now proclaiming peace, and generous treatment to a fallen foe. Then to what an almost unimaginable state of demoralization must some of the freedmen's protectors have fallen, when they sent a gunboat to Jehossee Island, and rifled the old house of all its treasures!
To-day, the governor's favorite sideboard stands in the house of a citizen of Boston, as a relic of the war. O, people of the north, hold no longer to your relics of the war, stolen from the firesides of the south! Restore them to their owners, or else bury them out of the sight of your children, that they may not be led to believe that the war for the preservation of the Great Republic was a war for plunder; -- else did brave men fight, and good women pray in vain. Away with stolen pianos, "captured" sideboards, and purloined silver! What but this petty plundering could be expected of men who robbed by wholesale the poor negro, to protect whose rights they were sent south?
The great political party of the north became the pledged conservator of the black man's rights, and established a Freedman's Bureau, and Freedman's banks to guard his humble earnings. All know something of the workings of those banks; and to everlasting infamy must be consigned the names of many of those conducting them, -- men who robbed every one of these depositories of negro savings, and left the poor, child-like freedman in a physical state of destitution, and in a perfect bewilderment of mind as to who his true friend really was.
A faithful negro of Jehossee Island was but one among thousands of such cases. While the tumult of war vexed the land, the faithful negro overseer remained at his post to guard his late master's property, supporting himself by the manufacture of salt, and living in the most frugal manner to be able to "lay by" a sum for his old age. Having saved five hundred dollars, he deposited them in the nearest Freedman's bank, which, though fathered by the United States government, failed; and the now destitute negro found himself stripped in the same moment of his hard-earned savings, and his confidence in his new protectors.
As the war of the rebellion was slowly drawing to its close, Mr. Lincoln's kind heart was drawn towards his erring countrymen, and he made a list of the names of the wisest and best men of the south, who, not having taken an active part in the strife, might be intrusted with the task of bringing back the unruly states to their constitutional relations with the national government. Governor Aiken was informed that his name was upon that list; and he would gladly have accepted the onerous position, and labored in the true interests of the whole people, but the pistol of an assassin closed the life of the President, whose generous plans of reconstruction were never realized.
In the birth of our new Centennial let us eschew the political charlatan, and bring forward our statesmen to serve and govern a people, who, to become a unit of strength, must ever bear in mind the words of the great southern statesman, who said he knew "no north, no south, no east, no west; but one undivided country."
On Monday, at ten A. M., two negroes assisted me to launch my craft from the river's bank at the mouth of the canal, for the tide was very low. As I settled myself for a long pull at the oars, the face of one of the blacks was seemingly rent in twain, as a huge mouth opened, and a pair of strong lungs sent forth these parting words: "Bully for Massachusetts!"
"How did you know I came from Massachusetts?" I called out from the river.
"I knows de cuts ob dem. I suffered at Fort Wagner. Dis chile knows Massachusetts."
Two miles further on, Bull Creek served me as a "cut-off," and half an hour after entering it the tide was flooding against me. When Goat Island Creek was passed on the left hand, knots of pine forests rose picturesquely in places out of the bottom-lands, and an hour later, at Bennett's Point, on the right, I found the watercourse a quarter of a mile in width.
The surroundings were of a lovely nature during this day's journey. Here marshes, diversified by occasional hammocks of timber dotting their uninteresting wastes; there humble habitations of whites and blacks appearing at intervals in the forest growth. As I was destitute of a finished chart of the Coast Survey, after rowing along one side of Hutchinson's Island I became bewildered in the maze of creeks which penetrate the marshes that lie between Bennett's Point and the coast.
Making a rough topographical sketch of the country as I descended Hutchinson's Creek, or Big River, -- the latter appellation being the most appropriate, as it is a very wide watercourse, -- I came upon a group of low islands, and found upon one of them a plantation which had been abandoned to the negroes, and the little bluff upon which two or three rickety buildings were situated was the last land which remained unsubmerged during a high tide between the plantation and the sea.
I was now in a quandary. I had left the hospitable residence of Governor Aiken at ten o'clock A. M., when I should have departed at sunrise in order to have had time to enter and pass through St. Helena Sound before night came on. The prospect of obtaining shelter was indeed dismal. Just at this time a loud shout from the negroes on shore attracted my attention, and I rested upon my oars, while a boat-load of women and children paddled out to me.
"Is dat de little boat?" they asked, viewing my craft with curious eyes. "And is dat boat made of paper?" they continued, showing that negro runners had posted the people, even in these solitary regions, of the approach of the paper canoe. I questioned these negro women about the route, but each gave a different answer as to the passage through the Horns to St. Helena Sound. Hurrying on through tortuous creeks, the deserted tract called "the Horns" was entered, and until sunset I followed one short stream after another, to its source in the reedy plain, constantly retracing the route, with the tide not yet ebbing strong enough to show me a course to the sound. Presently it ebbed more rapidly, and I followed the tide from one intricacy to another, but never found the principal thoroughfare.
While I was enveloped in reeds, and at a loss which way to go, the soft ripple of breaking waves struck my ear like sweet music. The sea was telling me of its proximity. Carefully balancing myself, I stood up in the cranky canoe, and peering over the grassy thickets, saw before me the broad waters of Helena Sound. The fresh salt breeze from the ocean struck upon my forehead, and nerved me to a renewal of my efforts to get within a region of higher land, and to a place of shelter.
The ebbing tide was yet high, and through the forest of vegetation, and over the submerged coast, I pushed the canoe into the sound. Now I rowed as though for my life, closely skirting the marshes, and soon entered waters covered by a chart in my possession. My course was to skirt the coast of the sound from where I had entered it, and cross the mouths of the Combahee and Bull rivers to the entrance of the broad Coosaw. This last river I would ascend seven miles to the first upland, and camp thereon until morning. The tide was now against me, and the night was growing darker, as the faithful craft was forced along the marshes four miles to the mouth of the Combahee River, which I had to ascend half a mile to get rid of a shoal of frisky porpoises, who were fishing in the current.
Then descending it on the opposite shore, I rowed two miles further in the dark, but for half an hour previous to my reaching the wide debouchure of Bull River, some enormous blackfish surged about me in the tideway and sounded their nasal calls, while their more demonstrative porpoise neighbors leaped from the water in the misty atmosphere, and so alarmed me and occupied my attention, that instead of crossing to the Coosaw River, I unwittingly ascended the Bull, and was soon lost in the contours of the river. As I hugged the marshy borders of the stream to escape the strong current of its channel, and rowed on and on in the gloom, eagerly scanning the high, sedge-fringed flats to find one little spot of firm upland upon which I might land my canoe and obtain a resting-spot for myself for the night, the feeling that I was lost was not the most cheerful to be imagined. In the thin fog which arose from the warm water into the cool night air, objects on the marshes assumed fantastical shapes. A few reeds, taller than the rest, had the appearance of trees twenty feet high. So real did these unreal images seem, that I drove my canoe against the soft, muddy bank, repeatedly prompted to land in what seemed a copse of low trees, but in every instance I was deceived. Still I pulled up that mysterious river, ignorant at the time of even its name, praying only for one little spot of upland where I might camp.
While thus employed, I peered over my shoulder into the gloom, and beheld what seemed to be a vision; for, out of a cloud of mist rose the skeleton lines of a large ship, with all its sails furled to the yards. "A ship at anchor, and in this out-of-the-way place!" I ejaculated, scarcely believing my eyes; but when I pointed the canoe towards it, and again looked over my shoulder, the vision of hope was gone.
Again I saw tall masts cutting through the mists, but the ship's hull could not be distinguished, and as I rowed towards the objects, first the lower masts disappeared, then the topmasts dissolved, and later, the topgallant and royal masts faded away. For half an hour I rowed and rowed for that mysterious vessel, which was veiled and unveiled to my sight. Never did so spectral an object haunt or thwart me. It seemed to change its position on the water, as well as in the atmosphere, and I was too busily employed in trying to reach it to discover in the darkness that the current, which I could not distinguish from smooth water, was whirling me down stream as fast as I would approach the weird vessel.
Drawing once more from the current, I followed the marsh until the canoe was opposite the anchorage of a real ship; then, with hearty pulls, I shot around its stern, and shouted: "Ship ahoy!"
No one answered the hail. The vessel looked like a man-of-war, but not of American build. Not a light gleamed from her ports, not a footfall came from her decks. She seemed to be deserted in the middle of the river, surrounded by a desolate waste of marshes. The current gurgled and sucked about her run, as the ebbtide washed her black hull on its way to the sea. The spectacle seemed now even more mysterious than when, mirage-like, it peered forth from a cloud of mist. But it was real, and not fantastic. Another hail, louder than the first, went forth into the night air, and penetrated to the ship's forecastle, for a sailor answered my call, and reported to the captain in the cabin the presence of a boat at the ship's side.
A quick, firm tread sounded upon the deck; then, with a light bound, a powerfully-built young man landed upon the high rail of the vessel. He peered down from his stately ship upon the little speck which floated upon the gurgling current; then, with a voice "filled with the fogs of the ocean," he thundered forth, as though he were hailing a man-of-war: "What boat's that?"
"Paper canoe Maria Theresa," I replied, in as foggy a voice as I could assume.
"Where from, and where bound?" again roared the captain.
"From Quebec, Canada, and bound to sleep on board your vessel, if I can ever get up there," I politely responded, in a more subdued voice, for I soon discovered that nature had never intended me for a fog-trumpet.
"Ah, is it you?" cheerily responded the captain, suddenly dispensing with all his fogginess; "I've been looking for you this long time. Got a Charleston paper on board; your trip all in it. Come up, and break a bottle of wine with me."
"All hands" came from the forecastle, and Finland mates and Finland sailors, speaking both English and Russian, crowded to the rail to receive the paper canoe, which had first been described to them by English newspapers when the vessel lay in a British port, awaiting the charter-party which afterwards sent them to Bull River, South Carolina, for a load of phosphates.
The jolly crew lowered buntlines and clewlines, to which I attached my boat's stores. These were hoisted up the high sides of the ship, and, after bending on a line to the bow and stern rings of the canoe, I ascended by the ladder, while Captain Johs. Bergelund and his mates claimed the pleasure of landing the paper canoe on the deck of the Rurik. The tiny shell looked very small as she rested on the broad, white decks of the emperor of Russia's old steam yacht, which bore the name of the founder of the Russian empire. Though now a bark and not a steamer, though a freighter and not a royal yacht, the Rurik looked every inch a government vessel, for her young captain, with a sailor's pride, kept her in a thorough state of cleanliness and order. We went to supper. The captain, his mates, and the stranger gathered around the board, while the generous sailor brought out his curious bottles and put them by the side of the still more curious dishes of food.
All my surroundings were those of the country of the midnight sun, and I should have felt more bewildered than when in the fog I viewed and chased this spectral-looking ship, had not Captain Bergelund, in most excellent English, entertained me with a flow of conversation which put me at my ease. He discoursed of Finland, where lakes covered the country from near Abo, its chief city, to the far north, where the summer days are "nearly all night long."
Painting in high colors the delights of his native land, he begged me to visit it. Finally, as midnight drew near, this genial sailor insisted upon putting me in his own comfortable stateroom, while he slept upon a lounge in the cabin.
One mile above the Rurik's anchorage was the phosphate-mill of the Pacific Company, which was supplying Captain Bergelund, by lighters, with his freight of unground fertilizer.
The next morning I took leave of the Rurik, but, instead of descending the Bull River to the Coosaw, I determined to save time by crossing the peninsula between the two rivers by means of two short creeks which were connected at their sources by a very short canal near "the mines" of the Phosphate Company. When I entered Horse Island Creek, at eleven o'clock, the tide was on the last of the ebb, and I sat in the canoe a long time awaiting the flood to float me up the wide ditch, which would conduct me to the creek that emptied into the Coosaw. Upon the banks of the canal three hours were lost waiting for the tide to give me one foot of water, when I rowed into the second watercourse, and late in the afternoon entered the wide Coosaw. The two creeks and the connecting canal are called the Haulover Creek.
As I turned up the Coosaw, and skirted the now submerged marshes of its left bank, two dredging-machines were at work up the river raising the remains of the marine monsters of antiquity. The strong wind and swashing seas being in my favor, the canoe soon arrived opposite the spot of upland I had so longed to reach the previous night.
This was Chisolm's Landing, back of which were the phosphate works of the Coosaw Mine Company. The inspector of phosphates, Mr. John Hunn, offered me the hospitality of Alligator Hall, where he and some of the gentlemen employed by the company resided in bachelor retirement. My host described a mammal's tooth that weighed nearly fourteen pounds, which had been taken from a phosphate mine; it had been sent to a public room at Beaufort, South Carolina. A fossil shark's tooth, weighing four and a half pounds, was also found, and a learned ichthyologist has asserted that the owner of this remarkable relic of the past must have been one hundred feet in length.
Beaufort was near at hand, and could be easily reached by entering Brickyard Creek, the entrance of which was on the right bank of the Coosaw, nearly opposite Chisolm's Landing. It was nearly six miles by this creek to Beaufort, and from that town to Port Royal Sound, by following Beaufort River, was a distance of eleven miles. The mouth of Beaufort River is only two miles from the sea. Preferring to follow a more interior water route than the Beaufort one, the canoe was rowed up the Coosaw five miles to Whale Branch, which is crossed by the Port Royal railroad bridge. Whale Branch, five miles in length, empties into Broad River, which I descended thirteen miles, to the lower end of Daw Island, on its right bank. Here, in this region of marshy shores, the Chechessee River and the Broad River mingle their strong currents in Port Royal Sound. It was dusk when the sound was entered from the extreme end of Daw Island, where it became necessary to cross immediately to Skull Creek, at Hilton Head Island, or go into camp for the night.
I looked down the sound six miles to the broad Atlantic, which was sending in clouds of mist on a fresh breeze. I gazed across the mouth of the Chechessee, and the sound at the entrance of the port of refuge. I desired to traverse nearly three miles of this rough water. I would gladly have camped, hut the shore I was about to leave offered to submerge me with the next high water. No friendly hammock of trees could be seen as I glided from the shadow of the high rushes of Daw Island. Circumstances decided the point in debate, and I rowed rapidly into the sound. The canoe had not gone half a mile when the Chechessee River opened fully to view, and a pretty little hammock, with two or three shanties beneath its trees, could be plainly seen on Daw's Island.
It was now too late to return and ascend the river to the hammock, for the sound was disturbed by the freshening breeze from the sea blowing against the ebb-tide, which was increased in power by the outflowing flume of water from the wide Chechessee. It required all the energy I possessed to keep the canoe from being overrun by the swashy, sharp-pointed seas. Once or twice I thought my last struggle for life had come, but a merciful Power gave me the strength and coolness that this trying ordeal required, and I somehow weathered the dangerous oyster reefs above Skull Creek, and landed at "Seabrook Plantation," upon Hilton Head Island, near two or three old houses, one of which was being fitted up as a store by Mr. Kleim, of the First New York Volunteers, who had lived on the island since 1861. Mr. Kleim took me to his bachelor quarters, where the wet cargo of the Maria Theresa was dried by the kitchen fireplace.
The next day, February 18, I left Seabrook and followed Skull Creek to Mackay's Creek, and, passing the mouth of May River, entered Calibogue Sound, where a sudden tempest arose and drove me into a creek which flowed out of the marshes of Bull Island. A few negro huts were discovered on a low mound of earth. The blacks told me their hammock was called Bird Island.
The tempest lasted all day, and as no shelter could be found on the creek, a darky hauled my canoe on a cart a couple of miles to Bull Creek, which enters into Cooper River, one of the watercourses I was to enter from Calibogue Sound. Upon reaching the wooded shores of Bull Creek, my carter introduced me to the head man of the settlement, a weazened-looking little old creature called Cuffy, who, though respectful in his demeanor to "de Yankee-mans," was cross and overbearing to the few families occupying the shanties in the magnificent grove of live-oaks which shaded them.
Cuffy's cook-house, or kitchen, which was a log structure measuring nine by ten feet, with posts only three feet high, was the only building which could be emptied of its contents for my accommodation. Our contract or lease was a verbal one, Cuffy's terms being "whateber de white man likes to gib an ole nigger." Cuffy cut a big switch, and sent in his "darter," a girl of about fourteen years, to clean out the shanty. When she did not move fast enough to suit the old man's wishes, he switched her over the shoulders till it excited my pity; but the girl seemed to take the beating as an every-day amusement, for it made no impression on her hard skull and thick skin.
After commencing to "keep house," the old women came to sell me eggs and beg for "bacca." They requested me never to throw away my coffee-grounds, as it made coffee "good 'nuf for black folks." I distributed some of my stores among them, and, after cutting rushes and boughs for my bed, turned in for the night.
These negroes had been raising Sea-Island cotton, but the price having declined to five cents a pound, they could not get twenty-five cents a day for their labor by cultivating it.
The fierce wind subsided before dawn, but a heavy fog covered the marshes and the creek. Cuffy's "settlement" turned out before sunrise to see me off; and the canoe soon reached the broad Cooper River, which I ascended in the misty darkness by following close to the left bank. Four miles up the Cooper River from Calibogue Sound there is a passage through the marshes from the Cooper to New River, which is called Ram's Horn Creek. On the right of its entrance a well-wooded hammock rises from the marsh, and is called Page Island. About midway between the two rivers and along this crooked thoroughfare is another piece of upland. called Pine Island, inhabited by the families of two boat-builders.
While navigating Cooper River, as the heavy mists rolled in clouds over the quiet waters, a sail-boat, rowed by negroes, emerged from the gloom and as suddenly disappeared. I shouted after them: "Please tell me the name of the next creek." A hoarse voice came back to me from the cloud: "Pull and be d---d." Then all was; still as night again. To solve this seemingly uncourteous reply, so unusual in the south I consulted the manuscript charts which the Charleston pilots had kindly drawn for my use, and found that the negroes had spoken geographically as well as truthfully, for Pine Island Creek is known to the watermen as "Pull and be d---d Creek," on account of its tortuous character, and chiefly because, as the tides head in it, if a boat enters it from one river with a favorable tide, it has a strong head current on the other side of the middle ground to oppose it. Thus pulling at the oars at some parts of the creek becomes hard work for the boatmen; hence this name, which, though profane, may be considered geographical.
After leaving the Cooper River, the watercourses to Savannah were discolored by red or yellow mud. From Pine Island I descended New River two miles and a half to Wall's Cut, which is only a quarter of a mile in length, and through which I entered Wright's River, following it a couple of miles to the broad, yellow, turbulent current of the Savannah.
My thoughts now naturally turned to the early days of steamboat enterprise, when this river, as well as the Hudson, was conspicuous; for though the steamer Savannah was not the first steam-propelled vessel which cut the waves of the Atlantic, she was the first steamer that ever crossed it. Let us examine historical data. Colonel John Stevens, of New York, built the steamboat Phoenix about the year 1808, and was prevented from using it upon the Hudson River by the Fulton and Livingston monopoly charter.
The Phoenix made an ocean voyage to the Delaware River. The first English venture was that of the steamer Caledonia, which made a passage to Holland in 1817. The London Times of May 11, 1819, printed in its issue of that date the following item:
"GREAT EXPERIMENT. -- A new vessel of three hundred tons has been built at New York for the express purpose of carrying passengers across the Atlantic. She is to come to Liverpool direct."
This ship-rigged steamer was the "Savannah," and the bold projector of this experiment of sending a steamboat across the Atlantic was Daniel Dodd. The Savannah was built in New York, by Francis Ficket, for Mr. Dodd. Stephen Vail, of Morristown, New Jersey, built her engines, and on the 22d of August, 1818, she was launched, gliding gracefully into the element which was to bear her to foreign lands, there to be crowned with the laurels of success. On May 25th this purely American-built vessel left Savannah, and glided out from this waste of marshes, under the command of Captain Moses Rogers, with Stephen Rogers as navigator. The port of New London, Conn., had furnished these able seamen.
The steamer reached Liverpool June 20th, the passage having occupied twenty-six days, upon eighteen of which she had used her paddles. A son of Mr. Dodd once told me of the sensation produced by the arrival of a smoking vessel on the coast of Ireland, and how Lieutenant John Bowie, of the king's cutter Kite, sent a boat-load of sailors to board the Savannah to assist her crew to extinguish the fires of what his Majesty's officers supposed to be a burning ship.
The Savannah, after visiting Liverpool, continued her voyage on July 23d, and reached St. Petersburg in safety. Leaving the latter port on October 10th, this adventurous craft completed the round voyage upon her arrival at Savannah, November 30th.
I pulled up the Savannah until within five miles of the city, and then left the river on its south side, where old rice-plantations are first met, and entered St. Augustine Creek, which is the steamboat thoroughfare of the inland route to Florida. Just outside the city of Savannah, near its beautiful cemetery, where tall trees with their graceful drapery of Spanish moss screen from wind and sun the quiet resting-places of the dead, my canoe was landed, and stored in a building of the German Greenwich Shooting Park, where Mr. John Hellwig, in a most hospitable manner, cared for it and its owner.
While awaiting the arrival of letters at the Savannah post-office, many of the ladies of that beautiful city came out to see the paper canoe. They seemed to have the mistaken idea that my little craft had come from the distant Dominion of Canada over the Atlantic Ocean. They also looked upon the voyage of the paper canoe as a very sentimental thing, while the canoeist had found it an intensely practical affair, though occasionally relieved by incidents of romantic or amusing character. As the ladies clustered round the boat while it rested upon the centre-table of Mr. Hellwig's parlor, they questioned me freely.
"Tell us," they said, "what were your thoughts while you rowed upon the broad ocean in the lonely hours of night?"
Though unwilling to break their pleasing illusions, I was obliged to inform them that a sensible canoeist is usually enjoying his needed rest in some camp, or sleeping in some sheltered place, -- under a roof if possible, -- after it is too dark to travel in safety; and as to ocean travelling, the canoe had only once entered upon the Atlantic Ocean, and then through a mistake.
"But what subjects occupy your thoughts as you row, and row, and row all day by yourself; in this little ship?" a motherly lady inquired.
"To tell you honestly, ladies, I must say that when I am in shallow watercourses, with the tides usually ebbing at the wrong time for my convenience, I am so full of anxiety about getting wrecked on the reefs of sharp coon-oysters, that I am wishing myself in deep water; and when my route forces me into the deep water of sounds, and the surface becomes tossed into wild disorder by strong currents and stronger winds, and the porpoises pay me their little attentions, chasing the canoe, flapping their tails, and showing their sportive dispositions, I think longingly of those same shoal creeks, and wish I was once more in their shallow waters."
"We ladies have prayed for your safety," said a kind-looking German lady, "and we will pray that your voyage may have a happy and successful end."
When the ladies left, two Irish laborers, dressed in sombre black, with high hats worn with the air of dignity, examined the boat. There was an absence of the sparkle of fun usually seen in the Irish face, for this was a serious occasion. They did not see any romance or sentiment in the voyage, but took a broad, geographical view of the matter. They stood silently gazing at the canoe with the same air of solemnity they would have given a corpse. Then one addressed the other, as though the owner of the craft was entirely out of the hearing of their conversation.
Said No. 1, "And what did I tell ye, Pater?" "And so ye did," replied No. 2. "And didn't I say so?" continued No. 1. "Of course ye did; and wasn't me of the same mind, to be sure?" responded No.2. "Yes, I told ye as how it is the men of these times is greater than the men of ould times. There was the great Coolumbus, who came over in three ships to see Americky. What did he know about paper boats? Nothing at all, at all. He cum over in big ships, while this young feller has cum all the way from Canada. I tell ye the men of ould times was not up to the men of these times. Thin there's Captain Boyton, who don't use any boat or ship at all, at all, but goes aswimming in rubber clothes to keep him dry all over the Atlantic Oshin. Jis' look, man, how he landed on the shores of ould Ireland not long since. Now what's Coolumbus, or any other man of the past ages, to him? Coolumbus could not hold a candle to Boyton! No, I tell ye agen that the men of this age is greater than the men of the past ages." "And," broke in No.2, "there's a Britisher who's gone to the River Niles in a canoe." "The River Niles!" hotly exclaimed No. 1; "don't waste your breath on that thing. It's no new thing at all, at all. It was diskivered a long time a go, and nobody cares a fig for it now." "Yet," responded No.2, "some of those old-times people were very enterprising. There was that great traveller Robinson Crusoe: ye must confess he was a great man for his time." "The same who wint to the South Sea Islands and settled there?" asked the first biographer. "The "very same man," replied No.2, with animation.
This instructive conversation was here interrupted by a party of ladies and gentlemen, who in turn gave their views of canoe and canoeist.