"Vicksburg," I repeated, blandly, but authoritatively, endeavoring, as
zealously as one of Christy's Minstrels, to assimilate my speech to any
supposed predilection of the Ethiop vocal organs.
"Halt dar! Countersign not correck," was the only answer.
The bayonet still maintained a position which, in a military point of
view, was impressive.
I tried persuasion, orthography, threats, tobacco, all in vain. I could
not pass in. Of course my pride was up; for was I to defer to an
untutored African on a point of pronunciation? Classic shades of
Harvard, forbid! Affecting scornful indifference, I tried to edge away,
proposing to myself to enter the camp at some other point, where my
elocution would be better appreciated. Not a step could I stir.
"Halt!" shouted my gentleman again, still holding me at his bayonet's
point, and I wincing and halting.
I explained to him the extreme absurdity of this proceeding, called his
attention to the state of the weather, which, indeed, spoke for itself
so loudly that we could hardly hear each other speak, and requested
permission to withdraw. The bayonet, with mute eloquence, refused the
There flashed into my mind, with more enjoyment in the retrospect than I
had experienced at the time, an adventure on a lecturing tour in other
years, when I had spent an hour in trying to scramble into a country
tavern, after bed-time, on the coldest night of winter. On that occasion
I ultimately found myself stuck midway in the window, with my head in a
temperature of 80 degrees, and my heels in a temperature of -10degrees, with a heavy
window-sash pinioning the small of my back. However, I had got safe out
of that dilemma, and it was time to put an end to this one.
"Call the corporal of the guard," said I, at last, with dignity,
unwilling either to make a night of it or to yield my incognito.
"Corporal ob de guard!" he shouted, lustily,--"Post Number Two!" while I
could hear another sentinel chuckling with laughter. This last was a
special guard, placed over a tent, with a prisoner in charge. Presently
he broke silence.
"Who am dat?" he asked, in a stage whisper. "Am he a buckra [white
"Dunno whether he been a buckra or not," responded, doggedly, my
Cerberus in uniform; "but I's bound to keep him here till de corporal ob
de guard come."
Yet, when that dignitary arrived, and I revealed myself, poor Number Two
appeared utterly transfixed with terror, and seemed to look for nothing
less than immediate execution. Of course I praised his fidelity, and the
next day complimented him before the guard, and mentioned him to his
captain; and the whole affair was very good for them all. Hereafter, if
Satan himself should approach them in darkness and storm, they will take
him for "de Cunnel," and treat him with special severity.
_January 13._--In many ways the childish nature of this people shows
itself. I have just had to make a change of officers in a company which
has constantly complained, and with good reason, of neglect and improper
treatment. Two excellent officers have been assigned to them; and yet
they sent a deputation to me in the evening, in a state of utter
wretchedness. "We's bery grieved dis evening, Cunnel; 'pears like we
couldn't bear it, to lose de Cap'n and de Lieutenant, all two togeder."
Argument was useless; and I could only fall back on the general theory,
that I knew what was best for them, which had much more effect; and I
also could cite the instance of another company, which had been much
improved by a new captain, as they readily admitted. So with the promise
that the new officers should not be "savage to we," which was the one
thing they deprecated, I assuaged their woes. Twenty-four hours have
passed, and I hear them singing most merrily all down that