Page images
PDF
EPUB

HOLLYWOOD AND OAKWOOD CEMETERIES.

183

quietly once more in their seats; and the same colored congregation looks down from the nigger gallery. The seats are still bare, — the cushions that were carried to the Rebel hospitals, to serve as mattresses, having not yet been returned.

Within an arrow's shot from St. Paul's, in the State Capitol, on Capitol Square, were the halls of the late Confederate Congress. I visited them only once, and found them a scene of dust and confusion, - emblematical. The desks and seats had been ripped up, and workmen were engaged in sweeping out the last vestiges of Confederate rule. The furniture, as I learned, was already at an auction-room on Main Street, selling under the hammer. I reported the fact to Mr. C- , of the Union Commission, who was looking for furniture to be used in the freedmen's schools; and he made haste to bid for the relics. I hope he got them; for I can fancy no finer stroke of poetical justice than the conversion of the seats on which sat the legislators of the great slave empire, and the desks on which they wrote, into seats and desks for little negro children learning to read.

It was interesting, by the light of recent events, and in company with one who knew Richmond of yore, to make the tour of the old negro auction-rooms. Davis & Co.'s Negro Bazaar was fitting up for a concert hall. We entered a grocery store, — a broad basement room, with a low, dark ceiling, supported by two stout wooden pillars. “I've seen many a black Samson sold, standing between those posts; and many a woman too, as white as you or I.” Now sugar and rice were sold there, but no more human flesh and blood. The store was kept by a Northern man, who did not even know what use the room had served in former years.

A short ride from the city are two cemeteries worth visiting. On one side, Hollywood, where lie buried President Monroe and his doctrine. On the other side, Oak Wood, a wild, uncultivated hill, half covered with timber and brush, shading numerous Confederate soldiers' graves. Here, set apart from the rest by a rude fence, is the “Yankee Cemetery," crowded with the graves of patriot soldiers, who fell in battle, or died of slow starvation and disease in Richmond prisons; a melancholy field, which I remember as I saw it one gusty September day, when wild winds swept it, and shook down over it whirling leaves from the reeling and roaring trees.

Lieut. M- , of the Freedmen's Commission, having invited me to visit Camp Lee, about two miles from the city, came for me one afternoon in a fine large carryall, comfortably covered, cushioned, and carpeted.

“Perhaps you will not feel honored,” he remarked, as we rattled up Broad Street, “but you will be interested to know that this is General Robert E. Lee's head-quarters' wagon. You are riding on the seat he rode on through the campaigns of the last two years. Your feet are on a piece of carpet which one of the devoted secessionists of Richmond took up from his hall-floor expressly to line the General's wagonbottom, - little thinking Yankee boot-soles would ever desecrate it! After Lee's surrender, this wagon was turned over to the quartermaster's department, and the quartermaster turned it over to us." I was interested, indeed ; I was carried back to those sanguinary campaigns; and I fancied I could see the face of him sitting there where I sat, and read the thoughts of his mind, and the emotions of his heart, in those momentous nights and days. I imagined the plans he revolved in his brain, shut in by those dark curtains; what he felt after victory, and what after defeat; the weariness of body and soul; the misgivings, the remorse, when he remembered his treason and the folly of Virginia, — for he certainly remembered them in the latter gloomy periods, when he saw the black cloud of doom settling down upon a bad and failing cause.

Camp Lee, formerly a fair ground, was the conscript camp of the Confederacy. I had been told many sad stories of young men, and men of middle age, some of them loyal, seized by the conscript officers and sent thither, as it were to a reservoir of the people's blood, whose stream was necessary to keep the machinery of despotism in motion. I paced the grounds

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

where, with despairing hearts, they took their first lessons in the art by which they were to slay and be slain. I stood by the tree under which deserters were shot. Then I turned to a very different scene.

The old barrack buildings were now the happy homes of a village of freedmen. Groups of barefooted and woolly-headed negro children were at play before the doors, filling the air with their laughter, and showing all their ivory with grins of delight as I passed among them. The old men took off their caps to me, the wise old aunties welcomed me with dignified smiles, and the younger women looked up brightly from their ironing or cooking as I went by. The young men were all away at their work. It was, with few exceptions, a self-supporting community, only about a dozen old or infirm persons, out of three hundred, receiving aid from the government.

A little removed from the negro village was a cottage formerly occupied by Confederate officers.

“In that house," said the Lieutenant, " is living a very remarkable character. You know him by reputation, — , formerly one of the ablest writers on · De Bow's Review,' and considered the great champion of slavery in the South."

" What! the author of — ?” a somewhat celebrated book in its day, and in the latitude for which it was written; designed to set forth the corrupt and perishable nature of free societies and progressive ideas, and to show that slavery was the one divine and enduring institution.

“ The very man. He is now a pauper, living on the bounty of the government. The rent of that cottage is given him, and he draws rations of the Relief Commission. He will be glad to see you; and he has two accomplished daughters you will be glad to see.”

Accordingly we called upon him ; but, declining to enter the house, we sat under the stoop, where we could look across the desolate country at the sunset sky.

Mr. — , an emaciated, sallow, feeble old man, received us affably, and talked with us freely on his favorite topics. He had lived to see the one divine and enduring institution

die ; but civilization still survived ; and the race that found its welfare and happiness only in bondage seemed pretty well off, and tolerably happy, — witness the negro village close by; and the world of progressive ideas still moved on. 'Yet this great champion of slavery did not appear to have learned the first lesson of the times. All his arguments were the old arguments; he knew nothing but the past, which was gone for ever; and the future to him was chaos.

His two daughters, young and accomplished, came and sat with us in the twilight, together with a vivacious young lady from Richmond. Ort our return to the city, Miss — accomaccompanied us, with their visitor. The latter proved to be an audacious and incorrigible little Rebel, and regaled us with secesh songs. I remember a few lines.

“ You can never win us back,

Never, never,
Though we perish in the track

Of your endeavor !”

“ You have no such noble blood

For the shedding: -
In the veins of Cavaliers

Was its heading!
You have no such noble men
In your abolition den,
To march through fire and fen,

Nothing dreading!”

DOUBTFUL UNION SENTIMENT.

187

CHAPTER XXV.

PEOPLE AND POLITICS.

One day I dined at the house of a Union man of a different stamp from the twenty-one I have mentioned. He was one of the wealthy citizens of Richmond, – a man of timid disposition and conservative views, who had managed admirably to conceal his Union sentiments during the war. He had been on excellent terms with Jeff Davis and members of his cabinet; and he was now on excellent terms with the United States authorities. A prudent citizen, not wanting in kindness of heart; yet he could say of the Emancipation Act,

" It will prove a good thing for the slave-owners; for it will be quite as cheap to hire our labor as to own it, and we shall now be rid of supporting the old and decrepit servants, such as were formerly left to die on our hands.

On being asked if he considered that he owed nothing to those aged servants, he smoothed his chin, and looked thoughtful, but made no reply.

An anecdote will show of what stuff the Unionism of this class is composed. His name happened to be the same as that of one of our generals. During the war, a Confederate officer, visiting his house, said to him, — "I am told you are a near relative of General — , of the Federal army."

"It's a slander!” was the indignant reply. “He is no kin of mine, and I would disown him if he was.”

After the occupation by our troops, Union officers were welcomed at his house ; one of whom said to him, —

" Are you related to our famous General — ?”

“Very likely, very likely,” was the complacent answer ; "the — 's are all connected.”

« PreviousContinue »