Sunday, June 17, 2012

Another Letter From Orpheus C. Kerr

(From the N. Y. Sunday Mercury.)

Yesterday, as I sat sipping the oath in my room, and attentively examining a mirror which reflected with life-like accuracy the young woman doing up her back hair in a room across the street, my page Mr. Mortimer Montague, introduced a fascinating youth, whose serpentine locks, big bouquet, and perishable gloves, made me think of a barber confounded with a tailor under pledge of compromise with a ladies shoemaker.

“Your name, sir?” says I, with a slight cough.

“Wykoff,” says he.

“Why cough?” says I; “why now can I help coughing, when my visitor puts on airs enough to give anybody a cold?”

“Joke,” says he, smiling like a Miss. gambler when he steps ashore at New Orleans with his pockets full of winnings.  “I come,” says he, “to sell you some information concerning McClellan’s plan for an advance to Manassas.”

“How did you get it, my Adonis?” says I.

“I am acquainted with one of the chambermaids at the White House,” says he, and she divulged the plan.”

The Beautiful stranger cleared his throat with a lozenge, and says he:

“The plan is this:  A secret circular is to be immediately issued to all the Brigadiers on the Potomac, informing them that a new bar-room has just been opened at Manassas with free lunch every day.  It is calculated that this exciting document will produce an immediate advance of the whole Potomac army to the point named, as the Brigadiers are all such strict temperance men that they would consider it their religious duty to immediately put the liquor out of the way.  Nothing, in fact, could prevent an immediate and irresistible advance under such circumstances.”

“Admirable young man!” says I, “If what you say be true, Manassas is doomed.  The South is destined to be speedily humiliated; for our Brigadiers will pitch’er and tumble’er about so, that whatever peace we may offer her she will be but too glad to goblet  up while she can.”

From this conversation, my boy, you can infer what you choose; but it seems sound.  The South will be whipped at her stronghold, even if it be the strong h’old ale.  A Britisher ventured to tell the General of the Mackerel Brigade the other day that he didn’t think the South could be beaten.

“The South,” says the General, suffering a bit of the lemon-peel to come to the front of his mouth, “The South! why my dear old Rosbif, we can liquor with out trying.”

I went down to Accomac early in the week my boy, having heard that Capt. Villiam Brown and the conic section of the Mackerel Brigade where about to march upon Fort Muggins, where Jeff. Davis, Beauregard, Mason, Slidell, Yancey and the whole rebel Congress were believed to be entrenched.  Mounted on my gothic steed Pegasus, who only blew down once in the whole journey, I repaired to Villiam’s department, and was taking notes of the advance, upon a sheet of paper spread on the ground, when the commander of the Accomac approached me, and says he:

“What are you doing, my bantam?”

“I’m taking notes,” says I, “for a journal that has such an immense circulation among our gallant troops that when they begin to read it in the camps, it looks, from a distance, as if there had just been a heavy snow storm.”

“Ah, says Villiam, thoughtfully, “newspapers and snow storms are somewhat alike, for both make black appear white.”  “But,” says Villiam, philosophically, “the snow is the more moral; for you can’t lie in that with safety, as you can in a newspaper.”  In the language of Gen. Grant at Donelson, says Villiam, sternly,  “I propose to move upon your works immediately.”

And with that he planted one of his boots right in the middle of my paper.

“Read this ere Napoleonic dockyment,” says Villiam, handing me a scroll.  It was as follows:


Having noticed that the press of the United States of America is making a ass of itself, by giving information to the enemy concerning the best methods of carrying on the strategy of war, I do hereby assume control of all special correspondents, forbidding them to transact anything but private business, neither they, nor their wives, nor their children, to the third and fourth generation.

I.       It is ordered that all advice from editors to the War Department, to the General commanding, or the Generals commanding the armies in the field, be absolutely forbidden; as such advice is calculated to make the United states of America a idiot.

II.     Any Newspaper publishing any news whatever, however obtained shall be excluded from all railroads and steamboats, in order that country journals, which receive the same news during the following year, may not be injured in cirkylation.

III.    This control of special correspondents does not include the correspondent of the London Times, who wouldn’t be believed if he published all the news of the next Christian era. –

By order of
Capt. Conic Section Mackerel Brigade.

I had remounted Pegasus while reading this able State paper, my boy, and had just finished it, when a nervous member of the advance guard accidentally touched off a cannon, whose report was almost immediately answered by one from the dense fog before us.

“Ha!” says Captain Villiam Brown, suddenly leaping from his steed, and creeping under it – to examine if the saddle girth was all right – “The fort is right before us in the fog, and the rebels are awake.  Let the Orange County Company advance with their howitzers, and fire to the northeast.”

The Orange County Company, my boy, instantly wheeled their howitzers into position, and sent some pounds of grape towards the meredian, the roar of their weapons of death being instantaneously answered by a thunderous crash in the fog.

Compnay 5, regiment 3, Mackerel brigade, now went forward six yards at double quick, and poured in a rattling volley of musketry, dodging fearlessly, when exactly the same kind of volley was heard in the fog, and wishing that they might have a few rebels for supper.

“Ha!” says captain Villiam Brown, when he noticed that nobody seemed to be killed yet, “Providence is on our side, and the unnatural rebellion is squelched.  Let the Anatomical Cavalry charge into the fog into the fog, and demand the surrender of Fort Muggins,” continued Villiam, compressing his lips with mad valor, “while I repair to that tree back there, and see if there is not a fiendish secessionist lurking behind it.”

The Anatomical Cavalry immediately dismounted from their horses, which were too old to be used in a charge, and gallantly entered the fog, with their sabers between their teeth, and their hands in their pockets – it being a part of their tactics to catch a rebel before cutting his head off.

In the meantime, my boy, the Orange County howitzers and the Mackerel muskets were hurrying a continuous fire into the clouds, stirring up the angels, and loosening the smaller planets.  Sturdily answered the rebels from the fog begirt fort; but not one of our men had yet fallen.

Captain Villiam Brown was just coming down from the top of a very small tree, whither he had gone to search for masked batteries, when the fog commenced lifting, and disclosed the anatomical Cavalry returning at a double quick.

Instantly our fire ceased, and so did that of the rebels.

“Does the fort surrender to the United States of America?” says Villiam to the captain of the Anatomicals.

The gallant dragoon sighed, and says he:

“I used my magnifying glass, but could find no fort.”

“At this moment, my boy, a sharp sunbeam cleft the fog as a sword does a vail, and the mist rolled away from the scene in two volumes, disclosing to our view a fine cabbage patch, with a dense wood beyond.

Villiam deliberately raised a bottle to his face and gazed through it upon the unexpected prospect.

“Ha!” says he, sadly, “the garrison has cut its way through the fog and escaped, but Fort Muggins is ours!  Let the flag of our Union be planted on the ramparts,” says Villiam, with much perspiration, “and I will immediately issue a proclamation to the people of the United States.”

Believing that Villiam was somewhat too hasty in his conclusions, my boy, I ventured to insinuate that what he had taken for a fort in the fog, was really nothing but a cabbage enclosure, and that the escaped rebels were purely imaginary.

“Imaginary!” says Villiam, hastily, placing his canteen in his pocket.  “Why, didn’t you hear the roar of their artillery?”

“Do you see that thick wound yonder?” says I.

Says he, “It is visible to the undressed eye.”

“Well,” says I, “What you took for the sound of a rebel firing, was only the echo of your own firing, in that wood.”

Villiam pondered for a few moments, my boy, like one who was considering the propriety of saying nothing in as few words as possible, and then he looked angularly at me, and says he: –

“My proclamation to the press will cover all this, and the news of this here engagement will keep until the war is over.  Ah!” says Villiam, “I would not have the news of this affair published on any account; for if the Government thought that I was trying to cabbage in my Department it would make me the Minister to Russia immediately.”

As the Conic Sections of the Mackerel Brigade returned slowly to headquarters, my boy, I thought to myself:  How often does a man after making something his particular forte, discover at last that it is only a cabbage patch, and hardly large enough at that for a big hog like himself.

Yours, philanthropically,

Orpheus C. Kerr

– Published in The Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Saturday, March 15, 1862, p. 2

No comments: