Waking up the
by Jonathan F.
In comparing notes with a travelled friend, I glean from his stock
of information, gathered South-west, a few incidents in the life of a
somewhat extensively famed Boston panoramic artistone of which
incidents, at least, is worth rehearsing. Some years ago, the
South-west was beset by an organized coalition of desperadoes, whose
daring outrages kept travellers and the dwellers in the Mississippi
valley in continual fear and anxiety. Running niggers was one of the
most popular and profitable branches of the business pursuits of these
gentlemen freebooters, and, next to horse-stealing, was the most
At length, the citizens measured swords with the freebooters, or
land pirates, more properly; forming themselves into committees, the
citizens opened Court and practised Judge Lynch's code
upon a multitude of just occasions. At the time of which we write,
Mill's Point, on the Mississippi, was no great shakes of a town,
but a spot where a very considerable amount of whiskey was drank, and a
corresponding quantity of crime and desperate doings were enacted;
indeed, some of the worst scenes in Southern Kentucky's tragic dramas
were performed there. It so fell out, that some of the land pirates had
been actively engaged in levying upon the negroes and mules around
Mill's Point, and the protective committee were on the alert to capture
and administer the law upon these fellows. It was discovered, one
evening, as the shades of a black and rather tempestuous night were
closing upon the mighty father of waters and his ancient banks, that
a mysterious voyageur, or sort of piratical vidette, was
seen in his light canoe, hugging the shore, either for shelter or some
The canoe and its navigator were diligently watched; but the coming
storm and darkness soon closed observation, and the parties noticing
the transaction hurried forward to the Point, and announced one
or more of the land pirates in the neighborhood! Of course, the
townof some four houses, six groceries, a store and
blacksmitherywas aroused, indignant! Impatient for a victim, the
posse comitatus fired up, armed to the teeth with pistol,
bludgeon, blunderbuss, gun, bowie-knife, andwhiskey, started up the
river to reconnoitre and intercept the pirate and his crew.
Each nook and corner along shore, for some three miles, was
carefullyas much so as the darkness would admitscoured. The
Storm-King rode by, the stars again twinkled in the azure-arched
heavens, and soon, too, the bright silver moon beamed forth, and
suddenly one of the vigilant committee espies the land-pirate and his
canoe noiselessly floating down the rapid stream! No time was to be
lost; the committee man, rather pleased with the fact of his being the
first to make the discovery, apprised a comrade, and the two hurried
back to the Point, to get a canoe and start out to capture the enemy.
The canoe was obtained, three courageous men, armed to the teeth, as
the saying goes, paddled off, and indeed they had not far to paddle,
for right ahead they saw the mysterious canoe of the enemy! Where was
the pirate? Asleep! Lying down in his frail vessel; either asleep, or
playing possum. At all events, the Mills-Pointers gave the enemy but
a brief period to sleep or act; for, dashing alongside, a brawny arm
seized the victim in the strange canoe by the breast and throat, with
such a rush and fierceness that both canoes were upon the apex of
Don't move! Don't budge an inch, or you're a case for eels, you
Make catfish bait of him at once! yelled the second.
Don't move, cried the third, don't move, you possum, or you're
But these injunctions scarcely seemed necessary, for, even had the
captive been so inclined, he neither possessed the power nor
opportunity to move a limb.
Haul him out, cried one.
Yes, lug him into our boat, said another; so now, you skunk, lay
still; don't open your trap, or I'll brain you on sight!
Having transferred the body of the captive from his own canoe to
theirs, the Mills-Pointers made fast the stranger's dug-out, and
then paddled for the landing. The pirate was duly hauled ashore, or on
to the wharf-boat, and left under guard of one of the captorsa
dreadful ugly-looking customer, a cross between a whiskey-cask,
bowie-knife, and a Seminole Indian or bull-dog, and armed equal to an
arsenalwhile the other two went up to the nearest grocery, reported
the capture, took a drink, and sent out word for Court to meet.
The poor victim was deposited on his back across some barrels, with his
hands tied behind him. Recovering his scattered senses, the pirate
Look here, my virtuous friend, said he to his body-guard, who sat
on an opposite barrel, with a heavy pistol in his hand, what's all
Shet up! responded the guard; shet up your gourd. You'll know
what's up, pooty soon, you ugly cuss, you!
Well, that's explicit, anyhow! coolly continued the captive. But
all I want to know, isam I to be robbed, killed off, or only
initiated into the mysteries of your craft?
Shet up, you piratin' cuss, you; shet up, or I'll give you a
settler! was the reply.
[Illustration: Shet up, you piratin' cuss you; shet up or I'll give
you a settler!Page 305.]
Well, really, you are accommodating, cavalierly replied the but
little daunted captive. One thing consoling I glean, my virtuous
friend, from your scraps of informationyou are not a pirate yourself,
or in favor of that science! But I should like to know, old fellow,
where I am, and what the deuce I'm here for.
Well, you'll soon diskiver the perticklers, for here comes the
Court, and they'll have you dancin' on nothin' and kickin' at the
wind, pooty soon; you kin stake your pile on that!
And with this, a hum was heard, and soon a mob of a dozen well-
stimulated citizens, and strangers about the Point, came rushing and
yelling on to the wharf-boat and were quite as immediately gathered
around the captive. The first impulse of the posse comitatus
appeared to manifest itself in a desire to hang the victimstraight
up! A second (how sober we know not) thought induced them to ask
a question or two, and for this purpose the presiding judge drew
up before the still prostrate captive, and said
Who are you? What have you got to say for yourself, anyhow?
The sunburnt, ragged, and rather romantic-looking prisoner turned
his face towards the judge, and replied
I have nothing of consequence to say, neighbor. I would like to
know, however, what all this means!
Where's your crew, you villain? said the judge.
Crew? I have never found it necessary to have any, neighbor;
navigation never engrossed a great deal of my attention, but I get
along down here very wellwithout a crew!
You do? responded the judge; well, we're going to hang you
You are, eh? was the cool reply; well, I have always been opposed
to capital punishment, neighbor, and I know it would be unpleasant to
The quiet manner of his reply rather won upon the Court, and
says the judge
Who are you, and where are you from?
My name is BanvardJohn Banvard, from Boston!
It is, eh? What are you doing along here, alone in a canoe?
Taking a panorama of the Mississippi, neighbor, that's all.
The Court adjourned sine die; the clever artist was
untied, treated to the best the market afforded, that night; his canoe,
rifle, &c., restored next day, and John went on his way rejoicing in
his narrow escapefinished his sketches, and the first great panorama
got up in our country, and which he took to Europe, after making a
fortune by it in America.