Charles Carleton Coffin Part 8

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Whither now should Carleton go? There were but few fields to conquer, for the slaveholders' rebellion was swiftly nearing its end, and Carleton felt his work with armies and amid war would soon and happily be over. He knew it was now time for Grant to deliver his blows, and make the anvil at Petersburg ring. Eager to be in at the death of treason, he hastened home, shortened his stay with wife and friends, and hurried on to City Point. As usual, he was present in the nick of time. He was able to write his first letter from the Army of the Potomac, descriptive of the attack on Fort Steadman, March 25th. On the 26th he saw again the sparkling-eyed Sheridan. Once more he began to use his whip of scorpions upon the editors and people who were bestowing all praises upon the Army of the West, with only criticism or n.i.g.g.ardly commendation for the Armies of the Potomac and the James, with many a sneer and odious comparison. He witnessed the tremendous attack of the rebel host upon the Ninth Corps, hearing first the signal gun, next the rebel yell, then the rattling fire of musketry deepening into volleys, and finally the roar of the cannonade.

Carleton, within three minutes after the firing of the first gun, took position with his gla.s.s and note-book, upon a hill. One hundred guns and mortars were in full play, surpa.s.sing in beauty and grandeur all other night scenes ever witnessed by him. In some moments he could count thirty at once in the air, which was filled with fiery arcs crossing each other at all angles. Between the flaming bases, at the muzzle and the explosion, making two ends of an arch, there were thousands of muskets flas.h.i.+ng over the entrenchments. Yet, despite the awful noise and the spectacle so magnificent to the eye, there were few men hurt within the Union lines.

After forty hours of rain, the wind blew from the northwest, and the mud rapidly disappeared. Then Carleton began to look out for the great event, in which such giants as Lee and Johnston on one hand, and Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, Thomas, and Hanc.o.c.k on the other, were to finish the game of military mathematics which had been progressing during four years. Carleton wrote, March 31, 1865, "How inspiring to watch the close of such a game." He expected a great battle. "The last flicker of a candle is sometimes its brightest flame."

He was not disappointed. On mid-afternoon of April 1st, Carleton was at Sheridan's headquarters witnessing the battle of Five Forks, and the awful bombardment of night. Then went out Grant's order to "attack along the whole line." Now began the bayonet war. At 4 o'clock on that eventful Sunday, like a great tidal wave, the Union Army rolled over the rebel entrenchments. This is the way Carleton describes it in _Putnam's Magazine_:

"Lee attempted to retrieve the disaster on by depleting his left and centre, to reinforce his right. Then came the order from Grant, 'Attack vigorously all along the line.' How splendidly it was executed! The Ninth, the Sixth, the Second, the Twenty-fourth Corps, all went tumbling in upon the enemy's works, like breakers upon the beach, tearing away chevaux-de-frise, rus.h.i.+ng into the ditches, sweeping over the embankments, and das.h.i.+ng through the embrasures of the forts. In an hour the C. S. A.,--the Confederate _Slave Argosy_,--the s.h.i.+p of State launched but four years ago, which went proudly sailing, with the death's-head and cross-bones at her truck, on a cruise against Civilization and Christianity, hailed as a rightful belligerent, furnished with guns, ammunition, provisions, and all needful supplies, by England and France, was thrown a helpless wreck upon the of time."

On April 2d, he wrote from Petersburg Heights telling of the movements of Sheridan's cavalry and the Ninth, Second, and Twenty-fourth Corps.

On the 3d, he was in Richmond, writing, "There is no longer a Confederacy."

He had been awakened by the roar of the Confederate blowing up of ironclads in the James River. A few minutes later he was in the Petersburg entrenchments. He rode solitary and lone from City Point to Richmond, entering the city by the Newmarket road, and overtaking a division of the Twenty-fifth Corps. Dismounting at the Spottswood House, he registered his name on the hotel book, so thickly written with the names of Confederate generals, as the first guest from a "foreign country," the United States. The clerk bade him choose any room, and even the whole house, adding that he would probably be burned out in a few minutes. Parts of the city had already become a sea of flame, but Richmond was saved, and the fire put out by Union troops. Military order soon reigned, and plundering was stopped. He met President Lincoln, and helped to escort him through the streets lined with the black people whom he had set free. Later, Carleton saw and talked with Generals Weitzel and Devens in the capitol, shaking hands also with Admiral Farragut. From the top of the capitol building, he reflected on the fall of Secession. He saw Libby Prison inside and out, as well as the old slave-mart, holding the key of the slave-pen in his hand. He has told the story of his Richmond experiences in lectures, magazine articles, and in his book, "Freedom Triumphant." His verbal descriptions enabled Thomas Nast to paint his famous picture of Lincoln in Richmond.

Carleton's last letter, completing his war correspondence, is dated April 12th, 1865. It depicts the scene of the surrender, thus completing a series of about four hundred epistles, not counting the ten or a dozen lost in transmission. In these he not only wrote history and furnished material for it, but he kept in cheer the heart of the nation.

Finally the great rebellion was crushed by the navy and army. Foote, Farragut, Dupont, and Porter, with their men on blockade and battle-deck duty, made possible the victories of Grant, Thomas, Sheridan, and Sherman. Carleton as witness and historian on the s.h.i.+ps, in water fresh and salt, as well as in the camps and field, appreciated both arms of the service. His letters were read by thousands far beyond the Eastern States, and often his telegrams were the only voice crying out of the wilderness of suspense, and first heard at Was.h.i.+ngton and throughout the country, proclaiming victory.



After four years of strenuous activity of body and brain, it was not easy for Carleton to settle down at once to commonplace routine.

Having exerted every nerve and feeling in so glorious a cause as our nation's salvation, every other cause and question seemed trivial in comparison. Succeeding such a series of excitements, it was difficult to lessen the momentum of mind and nerve in order to live, just like other plain people, quietly at home. One could not be drinking strong coffee all the time, nor could battle shocks come any longer every few weeks. The sudden collapse of the Confederacy, and the ending of the war, was like clapping the air-brakes instantaneously upon the Empire State Express while at full speed. While the air pressure might stop the wheels, there was danger of throwing the cars off their trucks.

It took Carleton many months, and then only after strong exertion of the will, careful study of his diet and physical habits, to get down to the ordinary jog-trot of life and enjoy the commonplace. He occupied himself during the latter part of 1865 in completing his first book, which he ent.i.tled "My Days and Nights upon the Battle Field." This was meant to be one in a series of three volumes. He had written most of this, his first book, in camp and on the field. In form, it was an ill.u.s.trated duodecimo of 312 pages, and was published by Ticknor and Fields, and later republished by Estes and Lauriat.

It carries the story of the war, and of Carleton's personal partic.i.p.ation in it in the Potomac and Mississippi River regions, down to the fall of Memphis in the summer of 1862.

After this, followed another volume, ent.i.tled "Four Years of Fighting," full of personal observation in the army and navy, from the first battle of Bull Run to the fall of Richmond. This was a more ambitious work, of five hundred and fifty-eight, with an introduction of fifteen, pages. It contained a portrait and figure of the war correspondent, with pencil and note-book in hand. Published by Ticknor and Fields, it was reissued in 1882, by Estes and Lauriat, under the t.i.tle of "Boys of '61." Carleton completed a careful revision of this work about a fortnight before his golden wedding, for another edition which appeared posthumously in October, 1896.

Meanwhile, Mr. Coffin had reentered the work of journalism in Boston.

This, with his books and public engagements, as a lecturer and platform speaker, occupied him fully. In the summer of 1866 the shadows of coming events in Europe began to loom above the horizon of the future. The great Reform movement in England was in progress. The triumph of the American war for internal freedom, the vindication of Union against the pretensions of State sovereignty, the release of four million slaves, the implied honor put upon work, as against those who despised workmen as "mudsills," had had a powerful reaction upon the people of Great Britain. These now clamored for the rights of man, as against privileged men. British liberty was once more "to broaden down from precedent to precedent." In France, the World's Exposition was being held. Prussia and Austria had rushed to arms.

The evolution of a modern German empire had begun. Austria and Hungary were being drawn together. Should Prussia humble her Austrian foe, then Italy would throw off the yoke, and the Italians, once more united as a nation, would see the temporal power of the Pope vanish.

Victor Emmanuel's troops would enter Venice and perhaps even the Eternal City.

To tell the story of storm and calm, of war and peace, Carleton was again summoned by the proprietors of the Boston _Journal_, and at a salary double that received during the war. This time his wife accompanied him, to aid him in his work and to share his pleasure. On one of the hottest days of the summer, they sailed on the Cunard steamer _Persia_, from New York. This was to be Carleton's first introduction to a foreign land. The chief topic of conversation during the voyage was the Austro-Prussian War, which, it was generally believed, would involve all Europe. The storm-cloud seemed to be vast and appalling.

They arrived in Liverpool, the cloud had burst and disappeared, and the sky was blue again. The battle of Sadowa had been fought. Prussian valor and discipline in handling the needle-gun had won on the field.

Bismarck and diplomacy were soon to settle terms of peace, and change the map of Europe.

Carleton hastened on to London to hear the debate in Parliament on the extension of the suffrage, to see the uprising of the people, and to notice how profoundly the great struggle in America and its results had affected the English people. Great Britain's millions were demanding cheaper government, without so many costly figureheads, both temporal and spiritual, and manhood suffrage. The long period of nearly constant war from 1688 to 1830 had pa.s.sed. In area of peace, men were thinking of, and discussing openly, the relation of the middle and the laboring men to the n.o.bility and landed estates. Agitated crowds thronged the streets, singing "John Brown's Soul is Marching on."

Mr. Gladstone's bill was defeated. Earl Russell was swept out of office, and Disraeli was made chancellor. It was a field-day in the House of Commons when Carleton heard Gladstone, Bright, Lowe, and the Conservative and Liberal leaders. These were the days when such men as Governor Eyre, after incarnating the most brutish principle of that worse England, which every American and friend of humanity hates, could be defended, lauded, and glorified. Indeed, Eyre's b.l.o.o.d.y policy in Jamaica was approved of by such men as John Ruskin, Charles Kingsley, and other literary men, to the surprise and pain of Americans who had read their books. On the other hand, the men of science and thinking people in the middle and laboring condemned the red-handed apostle of British brutishness. All through this, his first journey in Great Britain, as in other countries years afterward, Carleton clearly distinguished between the Great Britain which we love, and the Great Britain which we do not love,--the one standing for righteousness, freedom, and progress; the other allied with cruelty, injustice, and bigotry.

After studying British finance, political corruption, the army, and the system of purchasing commissions then in vogue, and visiting the homes of the Pilgrims in Lincolns.h.i.+re, and the county fairs, the land of Burns, and the manufactures of Scotland, Carleton turned his face towards Paris. Before leaving the home land of his fathers, he dined and spent an afternoon with the great commoner, John Bright. Mrs.

Coffin accompanied him and enjoyed Mrs. Bright, who was as modest, una.s.suming, kind, and genial as her husband. John Bright listened with intense interest and profound emotion to Carleton's personal reminiscences of Mr. Lincoln, and of his entrance into Richmond.

Before leaving for France, on the 5th of September, Carleton wrote:

"The thunder of Gettysburg is shaking the thrones of Europe. English workmen give cheers for the United States. The people of Germany demand unity. Louis Napoleon, to whom Maximilian had said, 'Mexico and the Confederacy are two cherries on one stalk,' was already sending steamers to Vera Cruz, to bring back his homesick soldiers. Monarchy will then be at an end in North America." Maximilian's wife was in France, expecting soon to see her husband. In a few weeks, the corpse of the bandit-emperor, sustained by French bayonets and shot by Mexican republicans, and an insane widow startled Carleton, as it startled the world.

The _Journal_ correspondent pa.s.sed over to Napoleon's realm, spending a few weeks in Paris, Dijon, and other French cities. In Switzerland he enjoyed mightily the home of Calvin and its eloquent memories, Mont Blanc and its a.s.sociated splendors, the mountains, the glaciers, the, and valleys, and, above all, his study of the politics of "The freest people of Europe." How truly prophetic was Carleton, when he wrote, "This republic, instead of being wiped off from the map, ...

will more likely become a teacher to Europe,"--a truth never so large as now. He rode over the Splugen pa.s.s, and saw Milan and Verona. From the city of Romeo and Juliet, he took a carriage in order to visit and study, with the eye of an experienced engineer and veteran, the details of the battle of Custozza, where, on June 24th, 1866, the Archduke Albert gained the victory over the Italian La Marmora.

He reached Venice October 13th. In the old city proudly called the Queen of the Adriatic, and for centuries a republic, until ground under the heel of Austrian despotism, Carleton arrived in time to see the people almost insane with joy. The Austrian garrison was marching out and the Italian troops were moving in. The red caps and s.h.i.+rts of the Garibaldians brightened the throng in the streets, and the old stones of Venice, bathed in salt water at their bases, were deluged with bunting, flags, and rainbow colors. When King Victor Emmanuel entered, the scenes of joy and gladness, the sounds of music, the gliding gondolas, the illuminated marble palaces and humble homes, the wors.h.i.+pping hosts of people in the churches, and the singing bands in the streets, taxed to the utmost even Carleton's descriptive powers.

The burden of joy everywhere was "Italy is one from the Alps to the Adriatic, and Venice is free."

Turning his attention to Rome, where French bayonets were still supporting the Pope's temporal throne, Carleton discussed a question of world-wide interest,--the impending loss of papal power and its probable results. Within a fortnight after his letter on this subject, the last echoes of the French drum-beat and bugle-blast had died away.

The red trousers of the Emperor's servants were numbered among Rome's mighty list of things vanished. In the Eternal City itself, Carleton attended ma.s.s at St. Peter's, and then re-read and retold the story of both the Roman and the Holy Roman Empire. Some of his happiest days were pa.s.sed in the studios of American artists and sculptors. There he saw, in their beginning of outlines and color, on canvas or in clay, some of the triumphs of art which now adorn American homes and cities.

Fascinated as he was in Pompeii and in Rome with the relics and revelations of ancient life, he was even more thrilled by the rapid strokes of destiny in the modern world. The separation of church and state was being accomplished while Italy was waking to new life. The Anabaptists were avenged and justified.

About the middle of February, Carleton was again in Paris, seeing the Exposition and the Emperor of the French and his family. Then crossing to England, he heard a great debate over the Reform measures, in which Disraeli, Lowe, Bright, and Gladstone spoke. The results were the humiliation of Disraeli, and the break-up of the British ministry.

Re-crossing the channel to Paris, he spent eight weeks studying the Exposition and the country, writing many letters to the _Journal_.

After examination of the great fortresses in the Duchy of Luxembourg, he went into Germany, tarrying at Heidelberg, Nuremberg, Munich, and Vienna. He then pa.s.sed down "the beautiful blue Danube" to Buda-Pesth, where, having been given letters and commendations from J. L. Motley, the historian of the Netherlands and our minister at Vienna, he saw the glittering pageant which united the crowns of Austria and Hungary.

This was performed in the parish church in Buda, an edifice built over six hundred years ago. It had been captured by the Turks and made into a mosque, where the muezzin supplanted the priest in calls of prayer.

After the great victory won by John Sobieski, cross and altar were restored. Here, amid all the glittering and bewildering splendor of tapestry, banners, dynastic colors, national flags, jewels, and innumerable heraldic devices, "the iron crown of Charlemagne," granted by Pope Sylvester II. in the year 1000, and called "the holy and apostolic crown," was placed by Count upon the head of the Emperor Francis Joseph. The ruler of Austria practically acknowledged the righteousness of the revolution of 1849, and his own mistake, when he accepted the crown from the once rebel militia-leader and then exiled, having already given to the Hungarians the popular rights which they clamored for. Most gracious act of all, Francis Joseph contributed, with the Empress (whom Mrs. Coffin thought the handsomest woman in Europe), 100,000 ducats ($200,000) to the widows and children of those who were killed in 1849, while fighting against the empire. At this writing, December, 1896, we read of the unveiling, at Kormorn, of a monument to Klapka, the insurgent general of 1849.

In Berlin, Carleton saw a magnificent spectacle,--the review of the Prussian army in welcome to the Czar. He studied the battle-fields of Leipsig and Lutzen, and the ever continuing gamblers' war at Weisbaden. Then sailing down the Rhine, he revisited Paris to see the distribution of prizes at the Exposition, the array of Mohammedan and Christian princes, and the grand review of the French troops in honor of the Sultan. In England once more, he looked upon the great naval review of the British fleets of iron and wood. He studied the ritualistic movement. He attended the meeting of anti-ritualists at Salisbury, where, midway between matchless spire and preancient Cromlech, one can meditate on the evolution of religion. He was at the Methodist Conference of Great Britain in the city of Bristol, whence sailed the Cabots for the discovery of America, now four centuries ago. He read the modern lamentations of Thomas Carlyle, who, in his article, "Shooting the Niagara and After," foretold the death of good government and religion in the triumph of democracy.

At the British Scientific a.s.sociation's gathering in Dundee, he heard Murchison, Baker, Lyell, Thomson, Tyndall, Lubbock, Rankine, Fairbairn, and young Professor Hersch.e.l.l. He was at the Social Science Congress held in Belfast, meeting Lord Dufferin, Dr. James McCosh, Goldwin Smith, and others. Two months more were given to study and observation in the countries Ireland, England and Scotland, Holland and Belgium. Of his frequent letters to the _Journal_ a score or so were written especially to and for young people, though all of them interested every cla.s.s of readers. He kept a keen watch upon movements in Italy and in Spain, where the Carlists' uprising had begun.

In this manner, nearly sixteen months slipped away in parts of Europe, and amid scenes so remote as to require hasty journeys and much travelling. Carleton received further directions to continue his journey around the world. He was to visit the Holy Land, Egypt, India, China, and j.a.pan, to cross the Pacific, and to traverse the United States as far as possible on the Pacific railway, then in course of construction. This was indeed "A New Voyage Around the World," not exactly in the sense of Defoe; but was, as Carleton called it in the book describing it, which he afterwards wrote, "Our New Way Around the World." No one before his time, so far as known, had gone around the globe, starting eastward from America, crossing continents, and using steam as the motor of transportation on land and water all the way.

Making choice of three routes to the Orient, Carleton left Paris December 9th, 1867, for Ma.r.s.eilles. He found much of the country thitherward nearly as forbidding as the hardest regions of New Hamps.h.i.+re. The climate was indeed easier than in the Granite State, but from November to March the people suffered more from cold than the Yankees. They lived in stone houses and fuel was dear. At Ma.r.s.eilles the vessels were packed so closely in docks, that the masts and spars reminded him of the slopes of the White Mountains after fire had swept the foliage away. Although innumerable tons of grain were imported here, he saw no elevators or labor saving appliances like those at Buffalo, which can load or empty s.h.i.+ps' holds in a few half hours.

Many of the imports were labelled "Service Militaire," and were for the support of that army of eight hundred thousand men, which the impoverished French people, even with a decreasing population, were so heavily taxed to support. Carleton noticed that merchants of France were planning to lay their hands on the East and win its trade.



It was "blowing great guns," and the sea was white with foam, when on the ninety-eighth anniversary of Was.h.i.+ngton's birthday into another world, December 14th, 1867, the steamer _Euphrates_, of the M. I.

Company, left Ma.r.s.eilles. The iron s.h.i.+p was staunch, though not overclean. On the deck were boxed up eight carriages for Turks who had been visiting Paris. The captain amused himself, in hours which ought not to have been those of leisure, with embroidery. After a run through the Sardinian straits, they had clear sea room to Sicily.

Stromboli was quiet, but Vesuvius was lively. At Messina they took on coal, oranges, five Americans, and one Englishman. On learning Carleton's plan to travel eastward to San Francisco, the Queen's subject remarked, with surprise:

"There was a time when we Englishmen had the routes of travel pretty much all to ourselves, but I'll be hanged if you Americans haven't crowded us completely off the sidewalk. We can't tie your shoe-strings."

Charles Carleton Coffin Part 8

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Charles Carleton Coffin Part 8 summary

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