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Loreta’s Civil War: The desolation of the great city

Throughout 2016 and 2017, Stillness of Heart shared edited excerpts from the extraordinary memoir of Loreta Janeta Velazquez, who chronicled her adventures throughout the Civil War — either as herself, as a Confederate spy, or in disguise as Confederate Lt. Harry T. Buford. She fought and led men in terrible battles, fell in love, bore and lost children, and traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe, ultimately fulfilling her childhood dream of a rich and adventurous life.

You can read the entire 1876 memoir online here. Learn more about Velazquez (and the incredible documentary film Maria Agui Carter made about her) here.

Read previous chapters of her incredible story here.

Part 57: Velazquez tours Richmond, the Carolinas, and New Orleans. The scale of destruction horrifies her.

******

Finding that there was nothing to be done in Washington, I went on to Richmond, where I took up my quarters at the Exchange Hotel. The news of my arrival soon spread around, and I received ample attentions from many old Confederate friends who seemed disposed to treat me with all possible kindness.

The Richmond I beheld, however, was a very different place from the beautiful city I had visited for the first time in the summer of 1861, just before the Battle of Bull Run. A four years’ siege, ending in a fire which had consumed a large portion of the city, had destroyed its beauty as well as its prosperity, while the inhabitants wore such forlorn faces that I felt sick at heart at beholding them.

I hastened away, therefore, and passed through Charlotte, N.C., and Columbia, S.C., where the same dismal changes were visible. Charleston was badly battered and burned but was not in quite as bad a plight as the other places named. The finest portion of the city was destroyed, however, and it looked very desolate.

I went to the Charleston Hotel, where I met an old friend from Columbia, who invited me to accompany him and some others on an excursion. His married daughter and several intimate acquaintances, who were of the party, were introduced to me, among them a Yankee captain, who had married a fair daughter of South Carolina, who, with all her relatives, were strong secessionists.

This officer attached himself particularly to me and urged me to give my views about the war and the present condition of affairs in the way of an argument with him. We accordingly had a very animated conversation for some time, and he was obliged, finally, to retire from the contest, saying that he could not quarrel with me as I was a lady, and, moreover, had everybody on my side. I did not think him a very brilliant genius, but he was quite a good fellow in his way, and to show that there were no hard feelings between us, we shook hands and declared ourselves friends.

The next day one of the officers had the audacity to call on me simply out of curiosity. He had heard about my serving in the Confederate army in male attire, and he wished to see what kind of a looking woman I was. I thought it a rather impudent proceeding but concluded to gratify him. I accordingly walked into the drawing-room where he was, and after some little conversation, which was conducted with considerable coolness on my side, he invited me to take a ride with him.

I was astounded that he should make such a proposition, knowing who I was and I being where I was, surrounded by the friends of the cause I had served, while he, of course, expected to figure in his Federal uniform by my side.

I scarcely knew what to say but finally told him that I could not go, as I had an engagement. This, however, was a mere pretense and was intended to gain time for consultation with my friends. Some of these, however, suggested that I should accept the invitation and give him a genuine specimen of my abilities as a horsewoman.

I accordingly went to every livery stable in the city until I at length found a very swift horse that I thought would suit my purpose. This being secured, I wrote a challenge for him to ride a race with me. We were to ride down the main street. He, without being aware of what was on foot, accepted, and the next afternoon, therefore, we mounted our steeds and started. When we arrived at the appointed place, I said, “Let us show these people what good equestrians we are.”

He gave his horse a lash, but I reined mine in, telling him that I would give him twenty feet. When he had this distance, I gave my steed a cut with the whip and flew past my cavalier like the wind, saying, loud enough for everyone to hear me, “This is the way we caught you at Blackburn’s Ford and Bull Run.”

This was enough for him, and, turning his horse, he rode back to the hotel to find that a large party there [was] interested in the race and that there were some heavy bets on the result, the odds being all against him. This gentleman, apparently, did not desire to continue his acquaintance with me, for I saw no more of him.

A few days after this occurrence I said farewell to my Charleston friends and went to Atlanta, where I was very warmly received. The surgeons who had been attached to the hospital and many others called, and a disposition to show me every attention was manifested on all sides.

The Federal Gen. Wallace and his staff were stopping at the same hotel as myself, as was also Capt. B., one of the officers whom I had met in Washington and whom I had used for the purpose of getting acquainted and of furthering my plans in that city. I met this gentleman in the hall and passed friendly greetings with him, and shortly after he came into the parlor for the purpose of having a friendly chat. The captain, up to this time, had never suspected in the least that I was not and had not been an adherent of the Federal cause, and not supposing that I had any special interest in the war, our conversation turned chiefly upon other topics. I knew that he must shortly be undeceived, but I did not care to tell him about the part I had taken in the contest or the advantages I had taken of his acquaintance with me.

While we were talking. Confederate Gen. G.T. Anderson came in and called me “lieutenant.” The astonishment of the captain was ludicrous. He could not understand what the general meant at first and thought it was a joke. The truth, however, came out at last, and he learned not only that I was a rebel, but that when I met him in Washington I was endeavoring to gain information for the Confederates.

The captain, being somewhat bewildered, took his departure soon after, and at the invitation of Gen. Anderson I went out to visit the entrenchments. “When we got back, I found that Gen. Wallace had been informed as to who I was and that he was anxious to see me. I said that I would be very glad to meet him, and the general and a number of his officers accordingly came into the parlor to see me. Gen. Wallace was very pleasant, and, as we shook hands, he complimented me with much heartiness upon having played a difficult part so long and so well, and with having distinguished myself by my valor. I thanked him very sincerely for his good opinion of me and then fell into a lively conversation with him and his officers.

One of the officers asked me to ride with him but I begged to be excused, as I did not think it would look well, especially in Atlanta, where everybody knew me, to be seen riding out with an escort wearing a Federal uniform. He understood and appreciated my feelings on the subject and said no more about it.

The next evening I started for New Orleans and passed over a good deal of my old campaigning ground before I reached my destination.

My journey through the South had disclosed a pitiable state of things. The men of intellect and the true representatives of Southern interests were disfranchised and impoverished, while the management of affairs was in the hands of ignorant negroes just relieved from slavery and white “carpetbaggers,” who had come to prey upon the desolation of the country. On every side were ruin and poverty, on every side disgust of the present and despair of the future. The people, many of them, absolutely did not know what to do, and it is no wonder that at this dismal time certain ill-advised emigration schemes found countenance with those who saw no hope for themselves or their children but either to go out of the country, or to remove so far away from their old homes that they would be able to start life anew under better auspices than were then possible within the limits of the late Confederacy.

New Orleans, once a great, wealthy, and populous city, was in a pitiful plight. The pedestal of [Andrew] Jackson’s statue in the public square was disfigured by inscriptions such as those who erected it never intended should go there, which were cut during the occupancy of the Federal army, while the once pretty flower-beds were now nothing but masses of weeds and dead stalks.

Along the levee, matters were even worse. Instead of forests of masts or the innumerable chimneys of the steamboats, belching forth volumes of smoke, or huge barricades of cotton, sugar, and other produce, or thousands of drays, carts, and other vehicles such as thronged the levee in olden times, the wharves were now silent and served merely as promenades for motley groups of poor men, women, and children who looked as if they did not know where the next meal was to come from.

The desolation of the great city sickened me, and I was the more indignant at what I saw, for I knew that this general prostration of business and impoverishment of all classes was not one of the legitimate results of warfare but that ambitious and unscrupulous politicians were making use of the forlorn condition of the South for the furtherance of their own bad ends.

I longed to quit the scene of so much misery and fully sympathized with those who preferred to fly from the country of their birth and to seek homes in other lands rather than to remain and be victimized, as they were being, by the wretches who had usurped all control of the affairs of the late rebel states.

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Amerikan Rambler: Writing a First Book, Part I: ABD

My book took more than ten years to research, write, and edit. It began as a doctoral dissertation at LSU, which I began in the late fall of 2000, just after I had passed my general exams. I will speak for many graduate students in saying that being ABD (All But Dissertation) is the best time you will ever spend in an academic environment. Course work is over. You have perhaps more time per day than you ever will to read, write, and research a topic of your own choosing.

via Marching Masters: Thoughts on Writing a First Book, Part I (Grad School) — Amerikan Rambler: Everybody Has a Story

Loreta’s Civil War: The sensations of pleasure

Throughout 2016 and 2017, Stillness of Heart shared edited excerpts from the extraordinary memoir of Loreta Janeta Velazquez, who chronicled her adventures throughout the Civil War — either as herself, as a Confederate spy, or in disguise as Confederate Lt. Harry T. Buford. She fought and led men in terrible battles, fell in love, bore and lost children, and traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe, ultimately fulfilling her childhood dream of a rich and adventurous life.

You can read the entire 1876 memoir online here. Learn more about Velazquez (and the incredible documentary film Maria Agui Carter made about her) here.

Read previous chapters of her incredible story here.

Part 56: Velazquez asks Confederate veterans about that one woman who disguised herself as an army officer, and she relishes their responses.

******

From Rheims, we passed on and made a flying visit to Hamburg, the famous watering-place, and from there went to Frankfort on the Main. On one side of the city are to be seen the mountains, while on the other extends a rich, fertile plain. I almost wished that I was the wife of one of those good-natured, honest, industrious German farmers we were constantly meeting so that I might live and die in a snug, home-like little farm-house, half hidden by the grain, and surrounded by flowering shrubs and vines, such as were to be seen on all sides. Nowhere have I beheld more evidences of solid comfort and downright good living than in the vicinity of Frankfort, and there are no people on the earth happier than these hard-working but contented Germans, who know how to enjoy life in right honest fashion. …

Having exhausted the sights of Frankfort, we prepared to move on, and there was considerable debate as to whether we should next go to Italy or to Russia. I was most anxious to visit Poland, and so it was finally determined that we should go there. I was sorry for having taken this trip afterwards, for there was nothing in Krakow — a city ruined and desolated by war — that could give me pleasure. Indeed, the whole land looked as if it was under a blight. I took advantage, however, of the occasion to renew my acquaintance with M. Koskalosky, a young Pole, whom I had met in Paris just before the close of the war. He was a very pleasant, cultivated gentleman and a sincere friend of the South. I hope that the time will come when the people of Poland will be able to regain their independence. They are cruelly oppressed now, and their beautiful country is a waste and desolation.

Instead of going to Italy, we now returned to Paris, having seen much to interest and delight us, but having, after all, found no country that was the equal of America, towards which my heart turned with increasing fondness the longer I was absent from it.

In Paris we met Mr. Dayton, the minister from the United States, and were quite cordially received by him. I had carefully avoided going near this gentleman on my former visit because I was aware that he knew me and thought that, perhaps, he might bear me some ill will. He was pleasant enough, however, and I sincerely regretted not having met him sooner.

At the Hotel de Louvre, where we stopped, there was quite a list of old Confederates, some of whom had been my army companions. I had the advantage of them, for they had only known me as Lt. Harry T. Buford, and they did not recognize me in female attire. Being extremely anxious to know what they thought of me, I obtained introductions to most of them and began to try and get them to commit themselves.

Col. M. was the first one I spoke to on this delicate subject. After inquiring about the condition of affairs in America, I asked him if he knew what had become of that female officer who figured so extensively during the greater part of the war.

“Oh,” said the colonel, “I knew her very well. She was in my corps for a time, but afterwards she went West, and I do not know how she finished her career.”

“What do you think of her?”

“She is a very fine woman and made a good officer. She was very popular indeed.”

“Do you think that it was proper for a woman to do as she did?”

“Well, no, not exactly but she did so much good for the Cause that she can well be excused. If the men had all been as plucky, things would have turned out very different. She always bore an excellent name, and I would fight for her in a moment if I heard any one traducing her. I would like very much to see her again and would be willing to travel all the way back to America to have that pleasure.”

The reader may imagine the sensations of pleasure which this enthusiastic opinion of myself caused me. I was aching to tell him who I was, but there were others whom I desired to question and so concluded to preserve my secret a little longer.

While I was talking with Col. M., a servant in livery appeared with a card on a silver waiter from Col. D. and Maj. C. I did not recognize the names but said I would receive them and so shook hands with Col. M., giving him a hearty request to call on me again. The two gentlemen appeared, and the colonel said, “You do not appear to remember me.”

“No, sir,” I replied. “I think I recollect your face but I cannot recall where I have met you.”

“Do you not recollect meeting me in Cuba, at So-and-so’s house?”

“Oh, certainly I do. I must ask that you will excuse my forgetfulness.”

“I was looking over the list of arrivals, and seeing your name thought that I would take the liberty of calling to inquire after your health.”

I asked whether he had met my brother’s family, and on his saying that he had not, I conducted him and his friend to their parlor. Leaving the major for my brother and his wife to entertain, I took the colonel to a remote part of the room, and after some preliminary conversation, asked him the same questions that I had Col. M.

He expressed admiration of my valor but was so bitter in denouncing me for assuming male attire that I was thoroughly disgusted with him.

A few days after this, I returned with my brother and family to London and immediately on my arrival in that city wrote two letters, one to Col. M. and the other to Col. D., telling them who I was. Col. M. replied, expressing great gratification at having met me and a wish that I had made known to him that I was the heroine of whom he had such a decided admiration. Col. D. did not reply but his friend Maj. C wrote me a letter in French, in which he endeavored to apologize for him and expressed a wish, for his own sake, that I would return to Paris, as he was anxious to be better acquainted with a lady who had performed so many valorous exploits.

We remained about fifteen days in London, stopping at the house of a friend, Mr. T., a right jolly fellow who had resided in England for many years. Shortly after our arrival we visited Hyde Park, a very beautiful pleasure-ground, but not to be compared with the Parisian parks. This event was a source of much gratification to me, as it gave me an opportunity to see her majesty Queen Victoria, who drove by in a carriage with six horses. For this lady I always had a great admiration, esteeming her a model queen and a model mother. She was dressed with great neatness and simplicity, and there was nothing showy or ostentatious about her. …

Our decision to return [to America] … was far from pleasing to my sister-in-law, who desired to reside in Spain. She blamed me for influencing my brother contrary to her wishes and was jealous of my affection for him. The result was that a coolness sprang up between us that made our intercourse with each other anything but a pleasure to either.

On our arrival in New York, my brother was persuaded by his wife to go to Mexico, where her sister resided. I was not willing to go with them, and the result was that we parted company with many regrets on my side at the prospect of a long separation from a brother whom I loved dearer than myself and with whom I had only recently been reunited, after having scarcely seen each other during many years.

It could not be helped, however, and I felt that it was best he should go with his wife and children, leaving me to make my own way in the world, as I had been doing for so long a time. When they were once off, I turned my attention to my own affairs and began to make plans for the future. Before determining, however, on any particular course, I concluded that I would make a trip through the South for the purpose of observing the condition of the country and of finding out whether there was anything I could do to advance the interest of the people among whom my lot had been cast for so many years. …

My first stopping-place was Baltimore, where I met many old friends who expressed themselves as very glad to see me again but who represented the condition of things at the South as most deplorable. What I learned from them made me more than ever resolved to continue my journey, for, although the war was over, I was still anxious to do something, so far as my power extended, for the Southern people. …

I was advised in the strongest manner not to visit Washington at this time and was assured that it would be a very perilous thing to do. Naturally a little obstinate and self-willed, the opposition of my friends only made me the more desirous of carrying out my original intention, no matter what the hazard might be. To Washington, accordingly, I proceeded, and called on some acquaintances, who received me with the utmost cordiality.

The person whom I particularly wished to see — an official in the War Department — had, however, gone South. My friend Col. Baker was also out of the city. I did not know whether to congratulate myself or not at missing a meeting with him. I was resolved, on going to Washington, not to fight shy of him and to give him an opportunity to pay off old scores if he wished. Baker was certainly the person of all others who had a right to have a grudge against me, and yet I had an ardent desire to meet him again, just to hear what he would have to say about the tricks I so successfully played upon him. As the colonel was out of the city, however, I did not have the pleasure of exchanging notes with him, and I do not know to this day whether he ever discovered that I was a Confederate secret-service agent.

Loreta’s Civil War: The elegantly attired woman

Throughout 2016 and 2017, Stillness of Heart shared edited excerpts from the extraordinary memoir of Loreta Janeta Velazquez, who chronicled her adventures throughout the Civil War — either as herself, as a Confederate spy, or in disguise as Confederate Lt. Harry T. Buford. She fought and led men in terrible battles, fell in love, bore and lost children, and traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe, ultimately fulfilling her childhood dream of a rich and adventurous life.

You can read the entire 1876 memoir online here. Learn more about Velazquez (and the incredible documentary film Maria Agui Carter made about her) here.

Read previous chapters of her incredible story here.

Part 55: Velazquez escapes post-Civil War America and heads for what she hopes will be a relaxing tour of Europe.

******

It was not many days before my brother arrived with his wife, two children, and a nurse. It was a most joyful reunion, and I tried to be as affectionate as I knew how to my sister-in-law and the pretty little babes, one of whom was a namesake of my own. It was impossible for me, however, to feel towards her as I did towards my brother, and I fancied that she was not as well disposed towards me as she might have been.

Once together, our arrangements were soon made, and we left New York on board of one of the Cunard steamers. I wondered what my friend Col. Baker would think of my disappearance and could not help laughing at the neat trick I had played upon him.

Despite the reasons I had for being glad to find myself speeding towards a foreign shore, it was not without a pang of regret that I watched those of America fading in the distance. This, after all, was my country, where dwelt my friends. Here was the scene of the great events in which I had taken a not altogether unimportant part; and it was like separating from a portion of myself to sail away from such a land, and to feel that, probably, I might never return.

Before we had been long at sea, however, I had something else to think of than sentimental regrets. Both my brother and myself were compelled to succumb to seasickness, which, although it did not affect us as violently as it did some of the other passengers, was sufficiently unpleasant to absorb all our thoughts. My sister-in-law, being a hardened traveler, escaped, but the negro girl who acted as nurse for the children was taken very badly, and between her agony and her fright she was a most ludicrous object.

In a couple of days, I was well enough to enjoy myself, and my brother, who had made the acquaintance of the doctor, introduced him to me. This gentleman was a fair-haired Anglo Saxon, and he appeared to think it incumbent upon him to pay me particular attention. I was quite willing to cultivate his acquaintance, and he was so much encouraged by my amiable demeanor towards him that he very speedily began to be even unpleasantly polite, and I was anxious to devise some means of getting rid of him. I did at length succeed in finding a rival to him in a somewhat odd fashion.

Among the passengers were two quite handsome young Spaniards, who kept pretty much to themselves, apparently for the reason that no one was able to talk to them. I noticed that one of them followed me a good deal with his eyes, and resolved, if a favorable opportunity offered, to strike up an acquaintance with him.

One morning, after breakfast, I and my friends came up on deck, and the doctor, who had been acting as my escort, excused himself to go and make his sick calls. The two young Spaniards stood leaning on the guards, and from the way they looked at me I judged that I was the subject of their conversation.

Leaving my brother and his wife, I went and seated myself near them but gave no indication that I was noticing them particularly. They had heard me speak English to my brother and sister and the others with whom I had engaged in conversation, and had no reason to think that I understood any other language.

I had scarcely taken my seat when they commenced to talk about me in Spanish, commenting upon my elegant dress and the sparkling diamonds which adorned my person, and expressing a desire to know who I was. At length one of them said, “Oh, how I would like to speak the American language. She is a handsome senorita and evidently very rich. If I could converse with her I would soon have an introduction.”

“Yes,” said the other, “I should like to know who she is.”

“Oh, there is something the matter with me,” said the first, putting his hand to his breast.

“You are in love. You had better get somebody to act as interpreter for you.”

Just then the doctor came up and interfered with my amusement. He said, as he seated himself beside me, “If it is not impertinent, may I ask how long you have been a widow?”

“About two years,” I replied.

One of the young Spaniards who could understand a little English said to his companion, “She is a young widow.”

“That makes no difference,” said the other.

I said to the doctor, “I wonder if we can see any fish?” and walked to the side and looked overboard.

I stood quite close to Pablo, the young man whom I supposed to be falling in love with me, and as we turned away, after looking into the water for a few moments, I dropped my handkerchief on purpose.

The Spaniard picked it up, and, touching my arm, handed it to me, raising his sombrero politely as he did so.

I smiled and thanked him in his native tongue. It was most amusing to see the expression of horror that overspread his countenance as he heard me, and thus discovered that I must have understood the conversation he had been holding with his friend.

So soon as the doctor left me, he advanced, and, taking off his hat, asked me if I was a Spaniard. I replied that I was of Spanish descent, whereupon he began the most profuse apologies and hoped that my ladyship was not offended at the remarks that had passed between himself and friend. I said that so far from being offended, I felt highly complimented by the flattering opinions that had been expressed with regard to me, and thereupon the young gentleman and I started a flirtation that lasted for the balance of the voyage, and that, in addition to being agreeable enough in itself, had the effect of keeping the doctor somewhat at a distance. He was most solicitous for us to visit Spain and was not satisfied until he extorted from my brother a promise to do so.

This young gentleman continued his attentions to myself after we got to London, and on account of some sightseeing, in which he had planned to have my company, he and his friend missed the steamer in which they expected to have sailed for Spain and were obliged to remain for a number of days beyond their appointed time. I do not think that either of them regretted this very much. I am sure one of them did not. My brother did not like my friend Pablo, thinking him proud and haughty but this was merely a Castilian reserve of manner, and I thought it rather an attractive characteristic than otherwise.

At length, our young Spaniards left us, and we began to plan our future movements. My brother was very anxious to go to the Continent immediately. He did not like the English climate or the English people, saying that they had always been our enemies, and that during the late war they had acted treacherously to both parties. The French, he contended, were the true friends of America, while their beautiful country was far better worth visiting than this damp, foggy England.

I had no great preference, being willing to go almost anywhere, and consequently, although there was much in England that I desired to see, acceded to my brother’s wishes without hesitation and consented to try France first and to keep England in reserve, to be explored after we had visited the Continent.

Crossing the Channel, we entered France at Cherbourg, the great naval depot. At this place were several vessels which had been negotiated for by the Confederates, and which, if they could have been obtained, would greatly have strengthened our little navy. Without stopping, however, to examine these or other objects of interest, we sped on to Paris, where we took rooms at the Grand Hotel.

We were more fortunate than Mark Twain represents himself to have been and were not bothered with guides. My brother had been educated in Paris, while I had seen a little of it, and we both could speak French. My brother was well acquainted with the city, and he was anxious to show his wife and myself all that was worth seeing in it. We accordingly hired a handsome private livery and prepared to enjoy ourselves in the best style.

The magnificence with which I was surrounded was in great contrast to what I had been accustomed to in America, and it was difficult for me to appreciate the fact that I, the elegantly attired woman, who was enjoying or endeavoring to enjoy the manifold pleasures of Parisian life, had but a short time before been wearing a uniform of gray and living the roughest kind of a life in camp and on the battlefield. I could not honestly say to myself, however, that I preferred the luxury and splendors of the great French capital to the woods and fields of my dear South, and I have had as blissful sleep, wrapped in my soldier’s blanket out under the stars as I could get in the most expensive apartments of the Grand Hotel.

Our days and nights in Paris were spent in sight-seeing, theater-going, and in endeavoring to find all the enjoyment that money could buy. We did enjoy ourselves, for there is no city in the world that is better worth seeing or that presents greater attractions to the visitor than Paris.

The Louvre, the Tuileries, the Arc de I’Etoile, the ancient Cathedral of Notre Dame, with its grand architecture and its many associations, with a visit to the Jardin de Mabille in the evening, employed our first day. It was all very interesting, but I could have had greater satisfaction in investigating into matters that represented more particularly the industries and resources of the country. As for the famous Mabille, it is nothing more than a beer-garden, while the doings that are permitted there and at the Cloiserie de Lilas are such that they are not fit places for decent people to visit. I was heartily disgusted with both of these gardens — disgusted with what I saw and more disgusted with people who looked like ladies and gentlemen, gazing with approval and applause at performances that had no attractions except their indecency.

A drive on the Bois de Boulogne, which was on our program for the next day, I really enjoyed greatly, as I did also a visit to the Lyrique Theatre, where I saw finished acting and elegant stage setting such as I had never been accustomed to in America. In the course of our stay in Paris we visited nearly all the principal theaters, and although I never was much of a play-goer, everything was done in such finished style that it was a real gratification to attend these performances.

The College de France, where my brother had been educated, and the Medical School in which he had studied interested him greatly, but I was satisfied with looking at them from the outside. I was not curious, either, to visit the Catacombs. My brother persuaded me to go to this city of the dead but when about to descend into the dark caverns, filled with the moldering remains of poor humanity, I shrunk back and refused to enter. I had too much reverence for the sleepers to make their last resting-place a resort for the curious. I feared not the dead but to have gone among these skeletons would have revived memories of the past that were anything but pleasant ones. It made me shudder to think how many poor souls I had seen launched into eternity without a moment’s warning, some of them, perhaps, by my hand. The idea of such a thing was horrible, although in the excitement of a great battle the slaughter that is going on is as little thought of as are the dangers to one’s self.

At the Invalides we saw the magnificent Tomb of Napoleon I., the most imposing monument that has, perhaps, ever been erected to any monarch. As we were leaving, we were gratified with a sight of the emperor and empress, who were visiting the building. The empress was a very handsome woman and looked as if she was a very amiable one. She was dressed in a silk robe, of a light lavender color, which was very elaborately trimmed with lace. Her bonnet was of the same lavender tint and was trimmed with white. A pair of white kid gloves and a point-lace scarf fastened with a brooch of emeralds and diamonds completed the toilet. The emperor was in uniform. He was a rather diminutive man, with a keen eye, and he reminded me not a little of Gen. Beauregard. Anyone who could have seen the two would have said, unhesitatingly, that they were relatives.

Sight-seeing in Paris was an agreeable enough employment, but I very soon had enough of it and was not sorry to leave for Rheims, the great wine mart. This city is distant between three and four hours from Paris by the railroad and is a very interesting place, as well because of its historical associations as because it is a great industrial center.

The great cathedral is a magnificent building, which I took particular pleasure in visiting, for the reason that in it all the old kings of France were crowned. It was here that Joan of Arc, clad in full armor, and with her consecrated banner in hand, witnessed the coronation of the king for whom she fought so well, and whose dominion she was mainly instrumental in securing. I almost imagined, as I stood in the cathedral, that I could behold the splendid scene that was presented on that occasion.

At the time of my visit to Rheims, however, I was of a more practical turn of mind than I had been a few years before. The romance had been pretty well knocked out of me by the rough experience of real life, and although I was better able to appreciate the performances of Joan of Arc at their true value, somehow they did not interest me to the extent they once did. I took more pleasure in watching the processes of manufacturing the famous champagne wines and in speculating as to whether such a profitable industry could not be introduced into the United States.

I have every reason to believe that wines, as fine in flavor as any of the European brands, can be, and in time will be, made in America. They will not be the same and will have a peculiar flavor of their own, for the flavors of wines depend upon the soil where the grapes are grown to such an extent that very different kinds are manufactured from grapes growing but a short distance from each other. Our American wines, even if of a somewhat different flavor, ought, however, to be just as good, in their way, as are the European. The fact is, that some of our wines will already compare very favorably with those brought from abroad. We cannot as yet, however, produce anything equal to the very finest brands, but we will do that in time, when we learn some of the delicate points about cultivation and manufacture which the Europeans have been for centuries acquiring. Viticulture is a business that is particularly well suited for many portions of our Southern States, and it is to be hoped that the people may be induced to take it up much more largely than they have ever yet done.

In this part of France, it is possible to travel for miles through a highly-cultivated country and not see the sign of a building of any kind. The people congregate in small villages, which is certainly more social than living in isolated farm-houses. The houses in these villages are mostly small, are built of stone, and reminded me not a little of some huts in the Kaw Indian reservation. They are made very attractive, however, by being surrounded by neat little gardens, filled with flowers, which are tended with great care.

There was one thing I saw in Rheims which pleased me very much. It was a troop of round, rosy-faced girls, who came running, laughing, and singing out of a factory, at evening, as full of sport as if they had been playing all day instead of earning their bread and butter. They were so fresh and wholesome-looking and apparently enjoyed life so much that I could not but admire them. Such people as these are the real wealth of a country, and it is no wonder France is rich and prosperous when she has such citizens.

Mmmmmm from Monticello

KS16

Every week, the Library of America sends me their Story of the Week, usually a minor piece from the 19th or early 20th century included in their special reprinted editions. Recently, they sent me A Virginia Barbecue by John M. Duncan. Sometime in 1818, the Glasgow publisher was invited to a barbecue at Mount Vernon, George Washington’s estate, and he wrote a short and charming piece about what he saw.

However, what really caught my eye was the extra piece Library of America included in that week’s email: Thomas Jefferson’s recipe for ice cream. I’m not sure how they can assert that “Jefferson was the first American to write a recipe for ice cream.”

Thanks, Jefferson. I’m finally down to 171 lbs., and then you come along with your “spatula” and “sabotierre” and “2 bottles of good cream.”

Amerikan Rambler: Paul Fussell’s ‘Doing Battle’

I recently finished reading Paul Fussell’s memoir, “Doing Battle,” about his experiences growing up in Pasadena, California, as an officer in Europe during World War II, and as a teacher and scholar at Rutgers and Princeton. Fussell received his doctorate in English from Harvard, and he is best known for two books that combine history and literature — “The Great War in Modern Memory” and “Wartime,” the latter of which is about WWII.

via Paul Fussell’s “Doing Battle” — Amerikan Rambler: Everybody Has a Story

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: The mayoral presidency / Make yourself charming / Turkey and Kurdish culture / The new intellectual / Celebrating ‘The Sopranos’

Most of these great items come from my social media networks. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Facebook for more fascinating videos, photos, articles, essays, and criticism.

1. America’s Mayor
By Jack Shafer | Politico | July/August 2017
“The 45th president is trying to run the White House like it’s city hall.”

2. Volcano Forecast? New Technique Could Better Predict Eruptions
By Annie Sneed | Scientific American | June 29
“Taking a cue from weather forecasters, researchers combine satellite measurements and models in attempt to predict volcanic activity”

3. The tricks to make yourself effortlessly charming
By Tiffanie Wen | Capital :: BBC News | June 28
“From the first moment you walk into a room people are making judgements about how much they like you. Fortunately, there are ways to improve your chances”

4. Amid Turkey’s Purge, a Renewed Attack on Kurdish Culture
By Patrick Kingsley | The New York Times | June 29
“Since the founding of the Turkish republic in 1923, which enshrined a monocultural national identity, the country’s sizable Kurdish minority — around 20 percent of the population — has often been banned from expressing its own culture or, at times, from speaking the Kurdish language.”

5. The Rise of the Thought Leader
By David Sessions | The New Republic | June 28
“How the superrich have funded a new class of intellectual.”

6. How Frank Lloyd Wright changed architecture
By Anthony Paletta | 1843 :: The Economist | June 28
“A gripping exhibition in New York unearths fresh insights into his work”

7. The Sopranos: 10 years since it finished, it’s still the most masterful show ever
By David Stubbs | The Guardian | June 8
“It’s been a decade since that final, agonisingly tense Soprano sitdown — and TV is still in thrall to this remarkably human, and inhuman, drama”

8. Why is One Hundred Years of Solitude Eternally Beloved?
By Scott Esposito | LitHub | June 6
“At 50 Years Old, García Márquez’s Masterpiece is as Important As Ever”

9. Will Trump’s presidency finally kill the myth of the special relationship?
By Geoffrey Wheatcroft | The Guardian | February 2017
“Ever since Winston Churchill invented it in 1946, successive prime ministers have discovered that the bond between the US and UK is anything but sacred. So, why does this absurd idea refuse to go away?”

10. Q&A: ‘Honey badger’ Brian Karem on taking a stand in White House press room
By Justin Ray | Columbia Journalism Review | June 28
“We talked to Karem about his experiences inside the White House press corps, reactions to his interjection, and the lesson he hopes journalists learn from the confrontation.”

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