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- Frank on the Lower Mississippi - 1/23 -


FRANK ON THE LOWER MISSISSIPPI.

BY

HARRY CASTLEMON

CONTENTS

CHAPTER I.--THE NEW PAYMASTER

CHAPTER II.--A NIGHT EXPEDITION

CHAPTER III.--ARCHIE IN A PREDICAMENT

CHAPTER IV.--A MARK FOR THE UNION

CHAPTER V.--A RUN FOR LIFE

CHAPTER VI.--FRANK TURNS DETECTIVE

CHAPTER VII.--FRANK'S FIRST COMMAND

CHAPTER VIII.--AN UNLUCKY FLIGHT

CHAPTER IX.--UP THE WASHITA

CHAPTER X.--THE PROMOTION

CHAPTER XI.--THE RIVAL SPIES

CHAPTER XII.--A SCOUTING PARTY

CHAPTER XIII.--TOM THE COXSWAIN

CHAPTER XIV.--A REBEL TRICK

CHAPTER XV.--HONORABLY DISCHARGED

FRANK ON THE LOWER MISSISSIPPI.

CHAPTER I.

The New Paymaster.

Vicksburg had fallen, and the army had marched in and taken possession of the city. How Frank longed to accompany it, that he might see the inside of the rebel stronghold, which had so long withstood the advance of our fleet and army! He stood leaning against one of the monster guns, which, at his bidding, had spoken so often and so effectively in favor of the Union, and for two hours watched the long lines of war-worn soldiers as they moved into the works. At length a tremendous cheer arose from the city, and Frank discovered a party of soldiers on the cupola of the court-house, from which, a few moments afterward, floated the Stars and Stripes. Then came faintly to his ears the words of a familiar song, which were caught up by the soldiers in the city, then by those who were still marching in, and "We'll rally round the flag, boys," was sung by an immense choir. The rebels in the streets gazed wonderingly at the men on the spire, and listened to the song, and the triumphant shouts of the conquering army, which proclaimed the beginning of the downfall of their confederacy.

To Frank, it was one of the proudest moments of his life--a sight he would not have missed to be able to float at the mast-head of his vessel the broad pennant of the admiral. All he had endured was forgotten; and when the Old Flag was unfurled in the air which had but a short time before floated the "stars and bars," he pulled off his cap and shouted at the top of his lungs.

Having thus given vent to his feelings of exultation, in obedience to orders, he commenced the removal of his battery on board the Trenton. It was two days' work to accomplish this, but Frank, who was impatient to see the inside of the fortifications worked with a will, and finally the battery was mounted in its old position. On the following day, the Trenton moved down the river, and came to anchor in front of Vicksburg. Shore liberty was granted, and Frank, in company with several of his brother officers, strolled about the city. On every side the houses bore the marks of Union shot and shell, and the streets were blocked with fortifications, showing that had the city been taken by storm, it was the intention of the rebels to dispute every inch of the ground. Every thing bore evidence to the fact that the fight had been a most desperate one; that the rebels had surrendered only when they found that it was impossible to hold out longer.

In some places the streets ran through deep cuts in the bank, and in these banks were the famous "gopher holes." They were [ca]ves dug in the ground, into which a person, if he happened to hear a shell coming, might run for safety. Outside the city, the fortifications were most extensive; rifle-pits ran in every direction, flanked by strong forts, whose battered walls attested the fury of the iron hail that had been poured upon them. It was night before Frank was aware of it, so interested was he in every thing about him, and he returned on board his vessel, weary with his long walk, but amply repaid by seeing the inside of what its rebel occupants had called "the Gibraltar of America."

During the next two days, several vessels of the squadron passed the city, on their way to new fields of action further down the river. One of them--the Boxer, a tin-clad, mounting eight guns--had Frank on board. He had been detached from the Trenton, and ordered to join this vessel, which had been assigned a station a short distance below Grand Gulf. As usual, he had no difficulty in becoming acquainted with his new messmates, and he soon felt perfectly at home among them. He found, as he had done in every other mess of which he had been a member, that there was the usual amount of wrangling and disputing, and it amused him exceedingly. All the mess seemed to be indignant at the caterer, who did not appear to stand very high in their estimation. The latter, he learned, had just made an "assessment" upon the mess to the amount of ten dollars for each member; and as there was no paymaster on board, the officers had but very little ready money, and were anxious to know where all the funds paid into the treasury went to. He also found that the caterer's authority was not as much respected as he had a right to claim, for during the very first meal Frank ate in the mess, a dispute arose which threatened for a time to end in the whole matter being carried before the captain.

One of the members of the mess, who was temporarily attached to the vessel, was a pilot who had been pressed into the service. He was a genuine rebel, and frequently said that he was called a traitor because he was in favor of allowing the South to "peaceably withdraw from the Union." The doctor, a little, fat, jolly man, and a thorough Unionist, who believed in handling all rebels without gloves, took up the sword, and the debate that followed was long and stormy. The pilot, as it proved, hardly knew the reasons why the South had attempted to secede, and was constantly clinching his arguments by saying, "Men who know more, and who have done more fighting during this war than you, Doctor Brown, say that they have a right to do so." The debate waxed hotter and hotter, until some of the other members of the mess joined in with the doctor against the pilot, and the caterer, thinking that the noise the disputants made was unbecoming the members of a well-regulated mess, at length shouted:

"Silence! Gentlemen, hereafter talking politics in this wardroom is strictly prohibited."

"Eh?" ejaculated the doctor, who was thoroughly aroused, "Do you expect us to sit here and listen to a conscript running down the Government--a man who never would have entered the service if he had not been compelled to do so? No, sir! I wouldn't hold my tongue under such circumstances if all the six-foot-four caterers in the squadron should say so. You are not a little admiral, to come down here and hoist your broad pennant in this mess-room."

The caterer was astounded when he found his authority thus set at defiance, and without further parley he retired to his room; and in a few moments returned with the books, papers, and the small amount of money that belonged to the mess; laying them on the table, he said:

"Gentlemen, you will please elect another caterer."

The debate was instantly hushed, for not one member of the mess, besides the caterer just resigned, could have been hired to take the responsibility of managing affairs. When the officers had finished their dinner, they walked carelessly out on deck, as if the question of where the next meal was to come from did not trouble them in the least. Nothing was done toward an election; no one took charge of the books or papers, and when the table was cleared away they were thrown unceremoniously under the water-cooler. The money, however, was taken care of by the doctor. Dinner-time came, and when Frank, tired and hungry, was relieved from the deck, he inquired what was to be had to eat.

"There's nothing been done about it yet," answered the officer who relieved him. "The steward went to several of the members of the mess, and asked what they wished served up; but they told him that they had nothing to do with the caterer's business, and the consequence is, if you want any thing to eat, you will have to go into the pantry and help yourself."

Frank was a good deal amused at the obstinacy displayed by the different members of the mess, and wondered how the affair would end. The mess could not long exist without some one to take charge of it; but for himself he was not at all concerned. He had paid no initiation fee, because no one had asked him for it, and he knew that as long as there were provisions in the paymaster's store-rooms, there was no danger but that he would get plenty to eat. He found three or four officers in the pantry making their dinner on hard-tack, pickles, and raw bacon. They were all grumbling over the hard fare, but not one of them appeared willing to assume the office of caterer.

Things went on in this way for nearly a week, (during which time they had arrived at their station,) and the doctor, who was fond of good living, could stand it no longer. He went to the caterer who had resigned, and, after considerable urging, and a solemn promise that politics should not again be discussed in the mess, the latter was persuaded to resume the management of affairs. The change from hard crackers and pickles to nice warm meals was a most agreeable one, and the jolly doctor, according to promise, was very careful what questions


Frank on the Lower Mississippi - 1/23

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