All hail! the Confederated States. All honour to gallant South Carolina, who gave the first impulse to the Revolution which brought the new nation into being. All gratitude to the benign Providence that darkened the understandings of men in power and converted seeming obstacles into tremendous agencies for hastening and perfecting the great and good work consummated at Montgomery. Wisely, nobly have the Confederated States chosen their leaders. Valour and Statesmanship are at the helm. The new keel cuts the waters of a glorious sea. It is morning. Angry clouds are near at hand, and soon the thunder of battle will be bellowing in the skies. But the not distant azure is all serene and fair; resplendent with fresh light and the dewy tints of roses and of gold. The ship will outride the storm. Already we catch the balmy breath of the tropics. There is our haven.
Pity and shame! that the Border States prefer not to share the proud destiny of the new Republic. But they have chosen. They would be slaves. Virginia grovels in the dust at SEWARD’S feet. The sons of patriots lick the coarse hand of an ill-bred, foul-mouthed fanatical tyrant. The children of ANDREW JACKSON clutch tremblingly the knees of ANDREW JOHNSON. The descendants of DANIEL BOONE are pleading like frightened women for peace. It is their right. Let no one disturb them.
The Confederate States remain a fixed, unalterable fact. Civil liberty has found a house of refuge, a home, safe forever alike from the tyranny of kings and from the despotism of agrarian mobs and lawless democracies! The eyes fill and the heart swells with exceeding joy at the thought. ‘Tis a grand achievement, a mighty Revolution. Humanity is exalted by this bold and unparalleled stroke for freedom. Man’s capability of self-government is vindicated by this daring exercise of the right of that government. Henceforth the name of Southerner shall be the synonym of liberty. To the Confederate States, as to the last and only permanent abode of Republican institutions, the best and bravest blood, the loftiest spirits, and the most cultivated intellects on this continent, will surely repair. The very cream and excellence of American life will be compacted in the new nation. For highminded independent people, for fertile soil, for genial climate, for magnificent destiny, the peer of this youthful nation will not be found in all the world. God speed it!
— Southern Literary Messenger, Volume 32, Issue 3, Mar 1861; p. 340.
After riding about a mile and a quarter, we came to the point beyond which horses cannot be taken, and dismounting our steeds, commenced ascending on foot. The way was very steep, and the day so warm, that we had to halt often to take breath. As we approached the summit, the trees were all of a dwarfish growth, and twisted and gnarled by the storms of that high region. There were, also, a few blackberry bushes, bearing their fruit long after the season had passed below. A few minutes longer brought us to where the trees ceased to grow; but a huge mass of rocks, piled wildly on the top of each other, finished the termination of the peak. Our path lay for some distance around the base of it, and under the overhanging battlements; and rather descending for awhile until it led to a part of the pile, which could with some effort be scaled. There was no ladder, nor any artificial steps—and the only means of ascent was by climbing over the successive rocks. We soon stood upon the wild platform of one of nature’s most magnificent observatories—isolated, and apparently above all things else terrestrial, and looking down upon, and over, a beautiful, variegated, and at the same time grand, wild, wonderful, and almost boundless panorama. Indeed, it was literally boundless; for there was a considerable haze resting upon some parts of “the world below;” so that, in the distant horizon, the earth and sky seemed insensibly to mingle with each other.
I had been there before. I remember when a boy of little more than ten years old, to have been taken to that spot, and how my unpractised nerves forsook me at the awful sublimity of the scene. On this day it was as new as ever; as wild, wonderful, and sublime, as if I had never before looked from those isolated rocks, or stood on that lofty summit. On one side, towards eastern Virginia, lay a comparatively level country, in the distance, bearing a strong resemblance to the ocean; on the other hand, were ranges of high monntains, interspersed with cultivated spots, and then terminating in piles of mountains, following in successive ranges, until they were lost also in the haze. Above and below, the Blue Ridge and the Alleghanies ran off in long lines; sometimes relieved by knolls and peaks, and in one place above us making a graceful curve, and then again running off in a different line of direction. Very near us stood the rounded top of the other peak, looking like a sullen sentinel for its neighbor. We paused in silence for a time. We were there almost cut off from the world below, standing where it was fearful even to look down. It was more hazy than at the time of my last visit, but not too much so to destroy the in-
terest of the scene.
There was almost a sense of pain, at the stillness which seemed to reign. We could hear the flapping of the wings of the hawks and buzzards, as they seemed to be gathering a new impetus after sailing through one of their circles in the air below us. North of us, and on the other side of the Valley of Virginia, were the mountains near Lexington, just as seen from that beautiful village—the Jump, North, and House Mountains succeeding each other; they were familiar with a thousand associations of our childhood, seeming mysteriously, when away from the spot, to bring my early home before me—not in imagination, such as had often haunted me when I first left it to find another in the world, but in substantial reality. Further on down the valley, and at a great distance, was the top of a large mountain, which was thought to be the great North Mountain, away down in Shenandoah county—I am afraid to say how far off. Intermediate between these mountains, and extending opposite and far above us, was the Valley of Virginia, with its numerous and highly cultivated farms. Across this valley, and in the distance, lay the remotest ranges of the Alleghany and the mountains about; and I suppose beyond the White Sulphur Springs. Nearer us, and separating eastern and western Virginia, was the Blue Ridge, more than ever showing the propriety of its cognomen of the “backbone;” and on which we could distinctly see two zigzag turnpikes, the one leading to Fincastle, and the other to Buchanan; and over which latter we had travelled a few days before. With the spyglass we could distinguish the houses in the village of Fincastle, some twenty-five or thirty miles off, and the road leading to the town.
Turning towards the direction of our morning’s ride, we had beneath us Bedford county, with its smaller mountains, farms and farm-houses—the beautiful village of Liberty, the county roads, and occasionally a mill-pond, reflecting the sun like a sheet of polished silver. The houses on the hill at Lynchburg, twenty-five or thirty miles distant, are distinctly visible on a clear day, and also Willis’ Mountain away down in Buckingham county.
I had often visited Bedford, and had been more or less familiar with it from childhood; but at our elevation, distances were so annihilated, and appearances so changed, that we could scarcely recognise the most familiar objects. After some difficulty, we at length made out the residence of Dr. M., we had that morning left, and at that moment rendered more than usually interesting, by containing, in addition to the other very dear relatives, two certain ladies, who sustained a very interesting connexion with the doctor and myself, and one of whom had scarcely laid aside the blushes of her bridal hour.
I then saw it from the Peaks of Otter: but it touched a thousand tender cords; and I almost wept when I thought, that those I once there loved were far away, and that the scenes of my youthful days could not return.
A little beyond this, I recognised the former residence of a beloved sister, now living in a distant southern state. It was the same steep hill ascending to the gate, the same grove around the house, as when she lived there, and the same as when I played there in my boyhood. And it was the first time I had seen it since the change of owners. I then saw it from the Peaks of Otter: but it touched a thousand tender cords; and I almost wept when I thought, that those I once there loved were far away, and that the scenes of my youthful days could not return.
Myself and companions had, some time before, gotten on different rocks, that we might not interrupt each other in our contemplations. I could not refrain, however, from saying to one of them, “What little things we are! how factitious our ideas of what is extensive in territory and distance!” A splendid estate was about the size I could step over; and I could stand and look at the very house whence I used often to start in days gone by, and follow with my eye my day’s journey to the spot where, wearied and worn down, I dismounted with the setting sun. Yet I could look over what seemed so great a space, with a single glance. I could also look away down the Valley of Virginia, and trace the country, and, in imagination, the stage-coach, as it slowly wound its way, day and night for successive days, to reach the termination of what I could throw my eye over in a moment. I was impressively reminded of the extreme littleness with which these things of earth would all appear, when the tie of life which binds us here is broken, and we shall be able to look back and down upon them from another world. The scene and place are well calculated to excite such thoughts.
It is said that John Randolph once spent the night on these elevated rocks, attended by no one but his servant; and that, when in the morning he had witnessed the sun rising over the majestic scene, he turned to his servant, having no other to whom he could express his thoughts, and charged him, “never from that time to believe any one who told him there was no God.”
I confess, also, that my mind was most forcibly carried to the judgment-day; and I could but call the attention of my companions to what would, probably, then be the sublime terror of the scene we now beheld, when the mountains we saw and stood upon, should all be melted down like wax; when the flames should be driving over the immense expanse before us; when the heavens over us should be “passing away with a great noise;” and when the air beneath and around us should be filled with the very inhabitants now dwelling and busied in that world beneath us.
— A Ride to the Peaks of Otter, in Bedford County, Virginia, Southern Literary Messenger, December, 1841.
Now that the tide of summer absentees is returning, the following racy burlesque upon the leading Springs, taken from the Southern Literary Messenger, will be keenly relished:
White Sulphur.–Tie a roll of brimstone under your nose, and drink freely of thick warm water. Break some doubtful eggs in your pocket, and run round till you are exhausted. Procure a second-hand diabetes, change your linen six times a day, and strut loftily under a tree.
Old Sweet.–Get a large tub, and put some white pebbles in the bottom. Sit down in it and blow soap-bubbles. Dress your best, and don’t know anybody.
Red Sweet.–Obtain some iron fillings, paint ’em red, put ’em in a tin-pan or pitcher, and look at ’em in solitary silence. Eat much mutton, and go to bed early. Whisky julep eight times a day.
Salt Sulphur.–Call yourself a South Carolinian, and take things easy. Live well. Stay in one place a long time. Tincture of brimstone occasionally.
Montgomery White.–Wear a loose sack coat and look at mulattos frequently. Eat a great variety of raw meats and undone vegetables. Play at faro and draw poker.
Yellow Sulphur.–Get good living on the top of a hill, where you can’t see anything whatever. Dominoes, draughts and backgammon.
Alleghany.–Sit down in a hard chair in a deep, hot hole, and drink citrate of magnesia and epsom salts. Gamble some with dyspeptics.
Coyner’s.–Take the Lynchburg papers, and gaze with melancholy pertinacity at the side of a naked hill. Whist and religious tracts.
Rockbridge Allum.–Select some cases of cancer on the face, with a few necks scrofulously raw, and dine with them daily on indifferent victuals. Then catch the drippings of the caves of a very old house, in a tin cup with a long handle, thicken the drippings with powdered nutgalls, and drink three times a day.
All Healing Springs.–Throw a green blanket in a shallow pond, and wallow on it. Cut off a strip of blanket and clap it to your ribs. Read old novels and talk to pious old ladies about deaths and chronic diseases of the digestive tube.
Warm Springs.–Diet yourself on the unadulterated juice of the tea-kettle.
Hot Springs.–Wear a full suit of mustard plasters, and walk about in the sunshine at noon day, swearing you have got the rheumatism.
Berkley Springs.–Keep your shin [skin?] clear, and know nothing but Baltimore ten pins.
Peaks of Otter.–Climb a high pole on a cold day at sunrise. Shut your eyes and whistle.
Weir’s Cave.–Go into the cellar at midnight–feel the edges of things, and skin your shins against the coal scuttle. Sit down on a pile of anthracite, with a tallow candle, and wonder.
Old Point Comfort.–Build a hog pen in a mud-puddle; fill it with cockle-burs and thistles, and call it surf-bathing. Drink bad brandy. Don’t sleep. Lie down with your windows wide open, and no clothing on. Come home with a fishbone in your throat, and oyster shell in your head, a pain in your stomach, and ten thousand mosquito bites in your body.
Cape May.–Penetrate an immense crowd of male and female rowdies, drop some salt water in both eyes. Shoot pistols. Eat some ice cream and claret, and send up one sky rocket every night. Have yourself insulted often by niggers. At mid-day smell of an oven with a dead pig in it. Fill your pockets with cut glass broken into minute fragments.
Yankee Watering Places Generally.–Keep a stale codfish under each arm, live on onions and pumpkins, go in strong for the Union and freesoil, and dance the round dances in big breeches.
No one can tell us, we verily believe, why vocal music ought not to be a branch of common school education in Virginia, just as much as in Prussia. A resolution that it should be so, entered into this day, by those who have power to carry their resolutions into execution, would be a greater blessing to the State, we verily believe, than either of the railroads which have been chartered, or have received legislative donation this winter. It would be a direct contribution to the children of the land, of a large mass of solid enjoyment, of an innocent character, and worth more to them than an ingot to each, massy as they could bear home, of Californian gold. But we know our country too well to hope that such is going to be case very soon. It will probably be long, before that very obvious idea, very obvious when distinctly looked at, that music is a branch of common education, and one of the most valuable branches, will be admitted into the craniums of the old-world people, — health and long life to their honours! — who yet linger among us, and who are averse to one-half the means and instrumentalities of a genuine civilization, either as sinful things, or as new and proud inventions. In default of a regular and general musical education, such as ought to be given to both sexes, let us try diligently the best practical means — singing schools — if the teacher be not a stray Yankee — singing societies, singing classes of all descriptions. There are no happier re-unions of young people than such.