Real Soldiers of Fortune
by Richard Harding Davis
MAJOR-GENERAL HENRY RONALD DOUGLAS MACIVER
ANY sunny afternoon, on Fifth Avenue, or at night in the table
d'hote restaurants of University Place, you may meet the soldier
of fortune who of all his brothers in arms now living is the most
remarkable. You may have noticed him; a stiffly erect,
distinguished-looking man, with gray hair, an imperial of the
fashion of Louis Napoleon, fierce blue eyes, and across his
forehead a sabre cut.
This is Henry Ronald Douglas MacIver, for some time in India an
ensign in the Sepoy mutiny; in Italy, lieutenant under Garibaldi; in
Spain, captain under Don Carlos; in our Civil War, major in the
Confederate army; in Mexico, lieutenant-colonel under the
Emperor Maximilian; colonel under Napoleon III, inspector of
cavalry for the Khedive of Egypt, and chief of cavalry and general
of brigade of the army of King Milan of Servia. These are only a
few of his military titles. In 1884 was published a book giving the
story of his life up to that year. It was called "Under Fourteen
Flags." If to-day General MacIver were to reprint the book, it
would be called "Under Eighteen Flags."
MacIver was born on Christmas Day, 1841, at sea, a league off the
shore of Virginia. His mother was Miss Anna Douglas of that
State; Ronald MacIver, his father, was a Scot, a Rossshire
gentleman, a younger son of the chief of the Clan MacIver. Until
he was ten years old young MacIver played in Virginia at the home
of his father. Then, in order that he might be educated, he was
shipped to Edinburgh to an uncle, General Donald Graham. After
five years his uncle obtained for him a commission as ensign in the
Honorable East India Company, and at sixteen, when other boys
are preparing for college, MacIver was in the Indian Mutiny,
fighting, not for a flag, nor a country, but as one fights a wild
animal, for his life. He was wounded in the arm, and, with a
sword, cut over the head. As a safeguard against the sun the boy
had placed inside his helmet a wet towel. This saved him to fight
another day, but even with that protection the sword sank through
the helmet, the towel, and into the skull. To-day you can see the
scar. He was left in the road for dead, and even after his wounds
had healed, was six weeks in the hospital.
This tough handling at the very start might have satisfied some
men, but in the very next war MacIver was a volunteer and wore
the red shirt of Garibaldi. He remained at the front throughout that
campaign, and until within a few years there has been no campaign
of consequence in which he has not taken part. He served in the
Ten Years' War in Cuba, in Brazil, in Argentina, in Crete, in
Greece, twice in Spain in Carlist revolutions, in Bosnia, and for
four years in our Civil War under Generals Jackson and Stuart
around Richmond. In this great war he was four times wounded.
It was after the surrender of the Confederate army, that, with other
Southern officers, he served under Maximilian in Mexico; in
Egypt, and in France. Whenever in any part of the world there was
fighting, or the rumor of fighting, the procedure of the general
invariably was the same. He would order himself to instantly
depart for the front, and on arriving there would offer to organize a
foreign legion. The command of this organization always was
given to him. But the foreign legion was merely the entering
wedge. He would soon show that he was fitted for a better
command than a band of undisciplined volunteers, and would
receive a commission in the regular army. In almost every
command in which he served that is the manner in which
promotion came. Sometimes he saw but little fighting, sometimes
he should have died several deaths, each of a nature more
unpleasant than the others. For in war the obvious danger of a
bullet is but a three hundred to one shot, while in the pack against
the combatant the jokers are innumerable. And in the career of the
general the unforeseen adventures are the most interesting. A man
who in eighteen campaigns has played his part would seem to have
earned exemption from any other risks, but often it was outside the
battle-field that MacIver encountered the greatest danger. He
fought several duels, in two of which he killed his adversary;
several attempts were made to assassinate him, and while on his
way to Mexico he was captured by hostile Indians. On returning
from an expedition in Cuba he was cast adrift in an open boat and
for days was without food.
Long before I met General MacIver I had read his book and had
heard of him from many men who had met him in many different
lands while engaged in as many different undertakings. Several of
the older war correspondents knew him intimately; Bennett
Burleigh of the Telegraph was his friend, and E. F. Knight of the
Times was one of those who volunteered for a filibustering
expedition which MacIver organized against New Guinea. The
late Colonel Ochiltree of Texas told me tales of MacIver's bravery,
when as young men they were fellow officers in the Southern
army, and Stephen Bonsal had met him when MacIver was United
States Consul at Denia in Spain. When MacIver arrived at this
post, the ex-consul refused to vacate the Consulate, and MacIver
wished to settle the difficulty with duelling pistols. As Denia is a
small place, the inhabitants feared for their safety, and Bonsal,
who was our charge d'affaires then, was sent from Madrid to
adjust matters. Without bloodshed he got rid of the ex-consul, and
later MacIver so endeared himself to the Denians that they begged
the State Department to retain him in that place for the remainder
of his life.
Before General MacIver was appointed to a high position at the St.
Louis Fair, I saw much of him in New York. His room was in a
side street in an old-fashioned boarding-house, and overlooked his
neighbor's back yard and a typical New York City sumac tree; but
when the general talked one forgot he was within a block of the
Elevated, and roamed over all the world. On his bed he would
spread out wonderful parchments, with strange, heathenish
inscriptions, with great seals, with faded ribbons. These were
signed by Sultans, Secretaries of War, Emperors, filibusters. They
were military commissions, titles of nobility, brevets for
decorations, instructions and commands from superior officers.
Translated the phrases ran: "Imposing special confidence in," "we
appoint," or "create," or "declare," or "In recognition of services
rendered to our person," or "country," or "cause," or "For bravery
on the field of battle we bestow the Cross----"
As must a soldier, the general travels "light," and all his worldly
possessions were crowded ready for mobilization into a small
compass. He had his sword, his field blanket, his trunk, and the tin
despatch boxes that held his papers. From these, like a conjurer, he
would draw souvenirs of all the world. From the embrace of faded
letters, he would unfold old photographs, daguerrotypes, and
miniatures of fair women and adventurous men: women who now
are queens in exile, men who, lifted on waves of absinthe, still,
across a cafe table, tell how they will win back a crown.
Once in a written document the general did me the honor to
appoint me his literary executor, but as he is young, and as healthy
as myself, it never may be my lot to perform such an unwelcome
duty. And to-day all one can write of him is what the world can
read in "Under Fourteen Flags," and some of the "foot-notes to
history" which I have copied from his scrap-book. This scrap-book
is a wonderful volume, but owing to "political" and other reasons,
for the present, of the many clippings from newspapers it contains
there are only a few I am at liberty to print. And from them it is
difficult to make a choice. To sketch in a few thousand words a
career that had developed under Eighteen Flags is in its very
Here is one story, as told by the scrap-book, of an expedition that
failed. That it failed was due to a British Cabinet Minister; for had
Lord Derby possessed the imagination of the Soldier of Fortune,
his Majesty's dominions might now be the richer by many
thousands of square miles and many thousands of black subjects.
On October 29, 1883, the following appeared in the London
Standard: "The New Guinea Exploration and Colonization
Company is already chartered, and the first expedition expects to
leave before Christmas." "The prospectus states settlers intending
to join the first party must contribute one hundred pounds toward
the company. This subscription will include all expenses for
passage money. Six months' provisions will be provided, together
with tents and arms for protection. Each subscriber of one hundred
pounds is to obtain a certificate entitling him to one thousand
The view of the colonization scheme taken by the Times of
London, of the same date, is less complaisant. "The latest
commercial sensation is a proposed company for the seizure of
New Guinea. Certain adventurous gentlemen are looking out for
one hundred others who have money and a taste for buccaneering.
When the company has been completed, its share-holders are to
place themselves under military regulations, sail in a body for New
Guinea, and without asking anybody's leave, seize upon the island
and at once, in some unspecified way, proceed to realize large
profits. If the idea does not suggest comparisons with the large
designs of Sir Francis Drake, it is at least not unworthy of Captain
When we remember the manner in which some of the colonies of
Great Britain were acquired, the Times seems almost
In a Melbourne paper, June, 1884, is the following paragraph:
"Toward the latter part of 1883 the Government of Queensland
planted the flag of Great Britain on the shores of New Guinea.
When the news reached England it created a sensation. The Earl of
Derby, Secretary for the Colonies, refused, however, to sanction
the annexation of New Guinea, and in so doing acted contrary to
the sincere wish of every right-thinking Anglo-Saxon under the
"While the subsequent correspondence between the Home and
Queensland governments was going on, Brigadier-General H. R.
MacIver originated and organized the New Guinea Exploration
and Colonization Company in London, with a view to establishing
settlements on the island. The company, presided over by General
Beresford of the British Army, and having an eminently
representative and influential board of directors, had a capital of
two hundred and fifty thousand pounds, and placed the supreme
command of the expedition in the hands of General MacIver.
Notwithstanding the character of the gentlemen composing the
board of directors, and the truly peaceful nature of the expedition,
his Lordship informed General MacIver that in the event of the
latter's attempting to land on New Guinea, instructions would be
sent to the officer in command of her Majesty's fleet in the
Western Pacific to fire upon the company's vessel. This meant that
the expedition would be dealt with as a filibustering one.
In Judy, September 21, 1887, appears:
"We all recollect the treatment received by Brigadier-General
MacI. in the action he took with respect to the annexation of New
Guinea. The General, who is a sort of Pizarro, with a dash of
D'Artagnan, was treated in a most scurvy manner by Lord Derby.
Had MacIver not been thwarted in his enterprise, the whole of
New Guinea would now have been under the British flag, and we
should not be cheek-by-jowl with the Germans, as we are in too
Society, September 3, 1887, says:
"The New Guinea expedition proved abortive, owing to the
blundering shortsightedness of the then Government, for which
Lord Derby was chiefly responsible, but what little foothold we
possess in New Guinea, is certainly due to General MacIver's
Copy of statement made by J. Rintoul Mitchell, June 2, 1887:
"About the latter end of the year 1883, when I was editor-in-chief
of the Englishman in Calcutta, I was told by Captain de Deaux,
assistant secretary in the Foreign Office of the Indian Government,
that he had received a telegram from Lord Derby to the effect that
if General MacIver ventured to land upon the coast of New Guinea
it would become the duty of Lord Ripon, Viceroy, to use the naval
forces at his command for the purpose of deporting General MacI.
Sir Aucland Calvin can certify to this, as it was discussed in the
Just after our Civil War MacIver was interested in another
expedition which also failed. Its members called themselves the
Knights of Arabia, and their object was to colonize an island much
nearer to our shores than New Guinea. MacIver, saying that his
oath prevented, would never tell me which island this was, but the
reader can choose from among Cuba, Haiti, and the Hawaiian
group. To have taken Cuba, the "colonizers" would have had to
fight not only Spain, but the Cubans themselves, on whose side
they were soon fighting in the Ten Years' War; so Cuba may be
eliminated. And as the expedition was to sail from the Atlantic
side, and not from San Francisco, the island would appear to be the
Black Republic. From the records of the times it would seem that
the greater number of the Knights of Arabia were veterans of the
Confederate army, and there is no question but that they intended
to subjugate the blacks of Haiti and form a republic for white men
in which slavery would be recognized. As one of the leaders of this
filibustering expedition, MacIver was arrested by General Phil
Sheridan and for a short time cast into jail.
This chafed the general's spirit, but he argued philosophically that
imprisonment for filibustering, while irksome, brought with it no
reproach. And, indeed, sometimes the only difference between a
filibuster and a government lies in the fact that the government
fights the gun-boats of only the enemy while a filibuster must
dodge the boats of the enemy and those of his own countrymen.
When the United States went to war with Spain there were many
men in jail as filibusters, for doing that which at the time the
country secretly approved, and later imitated. And because they
attempted exactly the same thing for which Dr. Jameson was
imprisoned in Holloway Jail, two hundred thousand of his
countrymen are now wearing medals.
The by-laws of the Knights of Arabia leave but little doubt as to its
By-law No. II reads:
"We, as Knights of Arabia, pledge ourselves to aid, comfort, and
protect all Knights of Arabia, especially those who are wounded in
obtaining our grand object.
"III--Great care must be taken that no unbeliever or outsider shall
gain any insight into the mysteries or secrets of the Order.
"IV--The candidate will have to pay one hundred dollars cash to
the Captain of the Company, and the candidate will receive from
the Secretary a Knight of Arabia bond for one hundred dollars in
gold, with ten per cent interest, payable ninety days after the
recognition of (The Republic of----) by the United States, or any
"V--All Knights of Arabia will be entitled to one hundred acres of
land, location of said land to be drawn for by lottery. The products
are coffee, sugar, tobacco, and cotton."
A local correspondent of the New York Herald writes of the
arrest of MacIver as follows:
"When MacIver will be tried is at present unknown, as his case has
assumed a complicated aspect. He claims British protection as a
subject of her British Majesty, and the English Consul has
forwarded a statement of his case to Sir Frederick Bruce at
Washington, accompanied by a copy of the by-laws. General
Sheridan also has forwarded a statement to the Secretary of War,
accompanied not only by the by-laws, but very important
documents, including letters from Jefferson Davis, Benjamin, the
Secretary of State of the Confederate States, and other personages
prominent in the Rebellion, showing that MacIver enjoyed the
highest confidence of the Confederacy."
As to the last statement, an open letter I found in his scrap-book is
an excellent proof. It is as follows: "To officers and members of all
camps of United Confederate Veterans: It affords me the greatest
pleasure to say that the bearer of this letter, General Henry Ronald
MacIver, was an officer of great gallantry in the Confederate
Army, serving on the staff at various times of General Stonewall
Jackson, J. E. B. Stuart, and E. Kirby Smith, and that his official
record is one of which any man may be proud.
"Respectfully, MARCUS J. WRIGHT,
"Agent for the Collection of Confederate Records.
"War Records office, War Department, Washington, July 8, 1895."
At the close of the war duels between officers of the two armies
were not infrequent. In the scrap-book there is the account of one
of these affairs sent from Vicksburg to a Northern paper by a
correspondent who was an eye-witness of the event. It tells how
Major MacIver, accompanied by Major Gillespie, met, just outside
of Vicksburg, Captain Tomlin of Vermont, of the United States
Artillery Volunteers. The duel was with swords. MacIver ran
Tomlin through the body. The correspondent writes:
"The Confederate officer wiped his sword on his handkerchief. In
a few seconds Captain Tomlin expired. One of Major MacIver's
seconds called to him: 'He is dead; you must go. These gentlemen
will look after the body of their friend.' A negro boy brought up the
horses, but before mounting MacIver said to Captain Tomlin's
seconds: 'My friends are in haste for me to go. Is there anything I
can do? I hope you consider that this matter has been settled
"There being no reply, the Confederates rode away."
In a newspaper of to-day so matter-of-fact an acceptance of an
event so tragic would make strange reading.
From the South MacIver crossed through Texas to join the Royalist
army under the Emperor Maximilian. It was while making his way,
with other Confederate officers, from Galveston to El Paso, that
MacIver was captured by the Indians. He was not ill-treated by
them, but for three months was a prisoner, until one night, the
Indians having camped near the Rio Grande, he escaped into
Mexico. There he offered his sword to the Royalist commander,
General Mejia, who placed him on his staff, and showed him some
few skirmishes. At Monterey MacIver saw big fighting, and for his
share in it received the title of Count, and the order of Guadaloupe.
In June, contrary to all rules of civilized war, Maximilian was
executed and the empire was at an end. MacIver escaped to the
coast, and from Tampico took a sailing vessel to Rio de Janeiro.
Two months later he was wearing the uniform of another emperor,
Dom Pedro, and, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel, was in
command of the Foreign Legion of the armies of Brazil and
Argentina, which at that time as allies were fighting against
MacIver soon recruited seven hundred men, but only half of these
ever reached the front. In Buenos Ayres cholera broke out and
thirty thousand people died, among the number about half the
Legion. MacIver was among those who suffered, and before he
recovered was six weeks in hospital. During that period, under a
junior officer, the Foreign Legion was sent to the front, where it
On his return to Glasgow, MacIver foregathered with an old friend,
Bennett Burleigh, whom he had known when Burleigh was a
lieutenant in the navy of the Confederate States. Although today
known as a distinguished war correspondent, in those days
Burleigh was something of a soldier of fortune himself, and was
organizing an expedition to assist the Cretan insurgents against the
Turks. Between the two men it was arranged that MacIver should
precede the expedition to Crete and prepare for its arrival. The
Cretans received him gladly, and from the provisional government
he received a commission in which he was given "full power to
make war on land and sea against the enemies of Crete, and
particularly against the Sultan of Turkey and the Turkish forces,
and to burn, destroy, or capture any vessel bearing the Turkish
This permission to destroy the Turkish navy single-handed strikes
one as more than generous, for the Cretans had no navy, and
before one could begin the destruction of a Turkish gun-boat it was
first necessary to catch it and tie it to a wharf.
At the close of the Cretan insurrection MacIver crossed to Athens
and served against the brigands in Kisissia on the borders of
Albania and Thessaly as volunteer aide to Colonel Corroneus, who
had been commander-in-chief of the Cretans against the Turks.
MacIver spent three months potting at brigands, and for his
services in the mountains was recommended for the highest Greek
From Greece it was only a step to New York, and almost
immediately MacIver appears as one of the Goicouria-Christo
expedition to Cuba, of which Goicouria was commander-in-chief,
and two famous American officers, Brigadier-General Samuel C.
Williams was a general and Colonel Wright Schumburg was chief
In the scrap-book I find "General Order No. 11 of the Liberal Army
of the Republic of Cuba, issued at Cedar Keys, October 3, 1869."
In it Colonel MacIver is spoken of as in charge of officers not
attached to any organized corps of the division. And again:
"General Order No. V, Expeditionary Division, Republic of Cuba,
on board Lilian," announces that the place to which the
expedition is bound has been changed, and that General Wright
Schumburg, who now is in command, orders "all officers not
otherwise commissioned to join Colonel MacIver's 'Corps of
The Lilian ran out of coal, and to obtain firewood put in at
Cedar Keys. For two weeks the patriots cut wood and drilled upon
the beach, when they were captured by a British gun-boat and
taken to Nassau. There they were set at liberty, but their arms,
boat, and stores were confiscated.
In a sailing vessel MacIver finally reached Cuba, and under
Goicouria, who had made a successful landing, saw some "help
yourself" fighting. Goicouria's force was finally scattered, and
MacIver escaped from the Spanish soldiery only by putting to sea
in an open boat, in which he endeavored to make Jamaica.
On the third day out he was picked up by a steamer and again
landed at Nassau, from which place he returned to New York.
At that time in this city there was a very interesting man named
Thaddeus P. Mott, who had been an officer in our army and later
had entered the service of Ismail Pasha. By the Khedive he had
been appointed a general of division and had received permission
to reorganize the Egyptian army.
His object in coming to New York was to engage officers for that
service. He came at an opportune moment. At that time the city
was filled with men who, in the Rebellion, on one side or the
other, had held command, and many of these, unfitted by four
years of soldiering for any other calling, readily accepted the
commissions which Mott had authority to offer. New York was not
large enough to keep MacIver and Mott long apart, and they soon
came to an understanding. The agreement drawn up between them
is a curious document. It is written in a neat hand on sheets of
foolscap tied together like a Commencement-day address, with
blue ribbon. In it MacIver agrees to serve as colonel of cavalry in
the service of the Khedive. With a few legal phrases omitted, the
document reads as follows:
"Agreement entered into this 24th day of March, 1870, between
the Government of his Royal Highness and the Khedive of Egypt,
represented by General Thaddeus P. Mott of the first part, and H.
R. H. MacIver of New York City.
"The party of the second part, being desirous of entering into the
service of party of the first part, in the military capacity of a
colonel of cavalry, promises to serve and obey party of the first
part faithfully and truly in his military capacity during the space of
five years from this date; that the party of the second part waives
all claims of protection usually afforded to Americans by consular
and diplomatic agents of the United States, and expressly obligates
himself to be subject to the orders of the party of the first part, and
to make, wage, and vigorously prosecute war against any and all
the enemies of party of the first part; that the party of the second
part will not under any event be governed, controlled by, or submit
to, any order, law, mandate, or proclamation issued by the
Government of the United States of America, forbidding party of
the second part to serve party of the first part to make war
according to any of the provisions herein contained, it being,
however, distinctly understood that nothing herein contained
shall be construed as obligating party of the second part to bear
arms or wage war against the United States of America.
"Party of the first part promises to furnish party of the second part
with horses, rations, and pay him for his services the same salary
now paid to colonels of cavalry in United States army, and will
furnish him quarters suitable to his rank in army. Also promises, in
the case of illness caused by climate, that said party may resign his
office and shall receive his expenses to America and two months'
pay; that he receives one-fifth of his regular pay during his active
service, together with all expenses of every nature attending such
It also stipulates as to what sums shall be paid his family or
children in case of his death.
To this MacIver signs this oath:
"In the presence of the ever-living God, I swear that I will in all
things honestly, faithfully, and truly keep, observe, and perform
the obligations and promises above enumerated, and endeavor to
conform to the wishes and desires of the Government of his Royal
Highness, the Khedive of Egypt, in all things connected with the
furtherance of his prosperity, and the maintenance of his throne."
On arriving at Cairo, MacIver was appointed inspector-general of
cavalry, and furnished with a uniform, of which this is a
description: "It consisted of a blue tunic with gold spangles,
embroidered in gold up the sleeves and front, neat-fitting red
trousers, and high patent-leather boots, while the inevitable fez
completed the gay costume."
The climate of Cairo did not agree with MacIver, and, in spite of
his "gay costume," after six months he left the Egyptian service.
His honorable discharge was signed by Stone Bey, who, in the
favor of the Khedive, had supplanted General Mott.
It is a curious fact that, in spite of his ill health, immediately after
leaving Cairo, MacIver was sufficiently recovered to at once
plunge into the Franco-Prussian War. At the battle of Orleans,
while on the staff of General Chanzy, he was wounded. In this war
his rank was that of a colonel of cavalry of the auxiliary army.
His next venture was in the Carlist uprising of 1873, when he
formed a Carlist League, and on several occasions acted as bearer
of important messages from the "King," as Don Carlos was called,
to the sympathizers with his cause in France and England.
MacIver was promised, if he carried out successfully a certain
mission upon which he was sent, and if Don Carlos became king,
that he would be made a marquis. As Don Carlos is still a
pretender, MacIver is still a general.
Although in disposing of his sword MacIver never allowed his
personal predilections to weigh with him, he always treated
himself to a hearty dislike of the Turks, and we next find him
fighting against them in Herzegovina with the Montenegrins. And
when the Servians declared war against the same people, MacIver
returned to London to organize a cavalry brigade to fight with the
Of this brigade and of the rapid rise of MacIver to highest rank and
honors in Servia, the scrap-book is most eloquent. The cavalry
brigade was to be called the Knights of the Red Cross.
In a letter to the editor of the Hour, the general himself speaks
of it in the following terms:
"It may be interesting to many of your readers to learn that a select
corps of gentlemen is at present in course of organization under
the above title with the mission of proceeding to the Levant to take
measures in case of emergency for the defense of the Christian
population, and more especially of British subjects who are to a
great extent unprovided with adequate means of protection from
the religious furies of the Mussulmans. The lives of Christian
women and children are in hourly peril from fanatical hordes. The
Knights will be carefully chosen and kept within strict military
control, and will be under command of a practical soldier with
large experience of the Eastern countries. Templars and all other
crusaders are invited to give aid and sympathy."
Apparently MacIver was not successful in enlisting many Knights,
for a war correspondent at the capital of Servia, waiting for the
war to begin, writes as follows:
"A Scotch soldier of fortune, Henry MacIver, a colonel by rank,
has arrived at Belgrade with a small contingent of military
adventurers. Five weeks ago I met him in Fleet Street, London, and
had some talk about his 'expedition.' He had received a
commission from the Prince of Servia to organize and command
an independent cavalry brigade, and he then was busily enrolling
his volunteers into a body styled 'The Knights of the Red Cross.' I
am afraid some of his bold crusaders have earned more distinction
for their attacks on Fleet Street bars than they are likely to earn on
Servian battle-fields, but then I must not anticipate history."
Another paper tells that at the end of the first week of his service
as a Servian officer, MacIver had enlisted ninety men, but that they
were scattered about the town, many without shelter and rations:
"He assembled his men on the Rialto, and in spite of official
expostulation, the men were marched up to the Minister's four
abreast--and they marched fairly well, making a good show. The
War Minister was taken by storm, and at once granted everything.
It has raised the English colonel's popularity with his men to fever
This from the Times, London:
"Our Belgrade correspondent telegraphs last night:
"'There is here at present a gentleman named MacIver. He came
from England to offer himself and his sword to the Servians. The
Servian Minister of War gave him a colonel's commission. This
morning I saw him drilling about one hundred and fifty remarkably
fine-looking fellows, all clad in a good serviceable cavalry
uniform, and he has horses."'
Later we find that:
"Colonel MacIver's Legion of Cavalry, organizing here, now
numbers over two hundred men."
"Prince Nica, a Roumanian cousin of the Princess Natalie of
Servia, has joined Colonel MacIver's cavalry corps."
Later, in the Court Journal, October 28, 1876, we read:
"Colonel MacIver, who a few years ago was very well known in
military circles in Dublin, now is making his mark with the
Servian army. In the war against the Turks, he commands about
one thousand Russo-Servian cavalry."
He was next to receive the following honors:
"Colonel MacIver has been appointed commander of the cavalry of
the Servian armies on the Morava and Timok, and has received the
Cross of the Takovo Order from General Tchemaieff for gallant
conduct in the field, and the gold medal for valor."
Later we learn from the Daily News:
"Mr. Lewis Farley, Secretary of the 'League in Aid of Christians of
Turkey,' has received the following letter, dated Belgrade, October
"'DEAR SIR: In reference to the embroidered banner so kindly
worked by an English lady and forwarded by the League to
Colonel MacIver, I have great pleasure in conveying to you the
following particulars. On Sunday morning, the flag having been
previously consecrated by the archbishop, was conducted by a
guard of honor to the palace, and Colonel MacIver, in the presence
of Prince Milan and a numerous suite, in the name and on behalf
of yourself and the fair donor, delivered it into the hands of the
Princess Natalie. The gallant Colonel wore upon this occasion his
full uniform as brigade commander and chief of cavalry of the
Servian army, and bore upon his breast the 'Gold Cross of Takovo'
which he received after the battles of the 28th and 30th of
September, in recognition of the heroism and bravery he displayed
upon these eventful days. The beauty of the decoration was
enhanced by the circumstances of its bestowal, for on the evening
of the battle of the 30th, General Tchernaieff approached Colonel
MacIver, and, unclasping the cross from his own breast, placed it
upon that of the Colonel.
"'(Signed.) HUGH JACKSON,
"'Member of Council of the League."
In Servia and in the Servian army MacIver reached what as yet is
the highest point of his career, and of his life the happiest period.
He was general de brigade, which is not what we know as a
brigade general, but is one who commands a division, a
major-general. He was a great favorite both at the palace and with
the people, the pay was good, fighting plentiful, and Belgrade gay
and amusing. Of all the places he has visited and the countries he
has served, it is of this Balkan kingdom that the general seems to
speak most fondly and with the greatest feeling. Of Queen Natalie
he was and is a most loyal and chivalric admirer, and was ever
ready, when he found any one who did not as greatly respect the
lady, to offer him the choice of swords or pistols. Even for Milan
he finds an extenuating word.
After Servia the general raised more foreign legions, planned
further expeditions; in Central America reorganized the small
armies of the small republics, served as United States Consul, and
offered his sword to President McKinley for use against Spain. But
with Servia the most active portion of the life of the general
ceased, and the rest has been a repetition of what went before. At
present his time is divided between New York and Virginia, where
he has been offered an executive position in the approaching
Jamestown Exposition. Both North and South he has many friends,
many admirers. But his life is, and, from the nature of his
profession, must always be, a lonely one.
While other men remain planted in one spot, gathering about them
a home, sons and daughters, an income for old age, MacIver is a
rolling stone, a piece of floating sea-weed; as the present King of
England called him fondly, "that vagabond soldier."
To a man who has lived in the saddle and upon transports,
"neighbor" conveys nothing, and even "comrade" too often means
one who is no longer living.
With the exception of the United States, of which he now is a
naturalized citizen, the general has fought for nearly every country
in the world, but if any of those for which he lost his health and
blood, and for which he risked his life, remembers him, it makes
no sign. And the general is too proud to ask to be remembered.
To-day there is no more interesting figure than this man who in
years is still young enough to lead an army corps, and who, for
forty years, has been selling his sword and risking his life for
presidents, pretenders, charlatans, and emperors.
He finds some mighty changes: Cuba, which he fought to free, is
free; men of the South, with whom for four years he fought
shoulder to shoulder, are now wearing the blue; the empire of
Mexico, for which he fought, is a republic; the empire of France,
for which he fought, is a republic; the empire of Brazil, for which
he fought is a republic; the dynasty in Servia, to which he owes his
greatest honors, has been wiped out by murder. From none of the
eighteen countries he has served has he a pension, berth, or billet,
and at sixty he finds himself at home in every land, but with a
home in none.
Still he has his sword, his blanket, and in the event of war, to
obtain a commission he has only to open his tin boxes and show
the commissions already won. Indeed, any day, in a new uniform,
and under the Nineteenth Flag, the general may again be winning
fresh victories and honors.
And so, this brief sketch of him is left unfinished. We will mark
it--To be continued.
BARON JAMES HARDEN-HICKEY
THIS is an attempt to tell the story of Baron Harden-Hickey, the
Man Who Made Himself King, the man who was born after his
If the reader, knowing something of the strange career of
Harden-Hickey, wonders why one writes of him appreciatively
rather than in amusement, he is asked not to judge Harden-Hickey
as one judges a contemporary.
Harden-Hickey, in our day, was as incongruous a figure as was the
American at the Court of King Arthur; he was as unhappily out of
the picture as would be Cyrano de Bergerac on the floor of the
Board of Trade. Judged, as at the time he was judged, by writers of
comic paragraphs, by presidents of railroads, by amateur
"statesmen" at Washington, Harden-Hickey was a joke. To the
vacant mind of the village idiot, Rip Van Winkle returning to
Falling Water also was a joke. The people of our day had not the
time to understand Harden-Hickey; they thought him a charlatan,
half a dangerous adventurer and half a fool; and Harden-Hickey
certainly did not under stand them. His last words, addressed to his
wife, showed this. They were: "I would rather die a gentleman than
live a blackguard like your father."
As a matter of fact, his father-in-law, although living under the
disadvantage of being a Standard Oil magnate, neither was, nor is,
a blackguard, and his son-in-law had been treated by him
generously and with patience. But for the duellist and soldier of
fortune it was impossible to sympathize with a man who took no
greater risk in life than to ride on one of his own railroads, and of
the views the two men held of each other, that of John H. Flagler
was probably the fairer and the more kindly.
Harden-Hickey was one of the most picturesque, gallant, and
pathetic adventurers of our day; but Flagler also deserves our
For an unimaginative and hard-working Standard Oil king to have
a D'Artagnan thrust upon him as a son-in-law must be trying.
James A. Harden-Hickey, James the First of Trinidad, Baron of the
Holy Roman Empire, was born on December 8, 1854. As to the
date all historians agree; as to where the important event took
place they differ. That he was born in France his friends are
positive, but at the time of his death in El Paso the San Francisco
papers claimed him as a native of California. All agree that his
ancestors were Catholics and Royalists who left Ireland with the
Stuarts when they sought refuge in France. The version which
seems to be the most probable is that he was born in San
Francisco, where as one of the early settlers, his father, E. C.
Hickey, was well known, and that early in his life, in order to
educate him, the mother took him to Europe.
There he was educated at the Jesuit College at Namur, then at
Leipsic, and later entered the Military College of St. Cyr.
James the First was one of those boys who never had the
misfortune to grow up. To the moment of his death, in all he
planned you can trace the effects of his early teachings and
environment; the influences of the great Church that nursed him,
and of the city of Paris, in which he lived. Under the Second
Empire, Paris was at her maddest, baddest, and best. To-day under
the republic, without a court, with a society kept in funds by the
self-expatriated wives and daughters of our business men, she
lacks the reasons for which Baron Haussmann bedecked her and
made her beautiful. The good Loubet, the worthy Fallieres, except
that they furnish the cartoonist with subjects for ridicule, do not
add to the gayety of Paris. But when Harden-Hickey was a boy,
Paris was never so carelessly gay, so brilliant, never so
overcharged with life, color, and adventure.
In those days "the Emperor sat in his box that night," and in the
box opposite sat Cora Pearl; veterans of the campaign of Italy, of
Mexico, from the desert fights of Algiers, sipped sugar and water
in front of Tortoni's, the Cafe Durand, the Cafe Riche; the
sidewalks rang with their sabres, the boulevards were filled with
the colors of the gorgeous uniforms; all night of each night the
Place Vendome shone with the carriage lamps of the visiting
pashas from Egypt, of nabobs from India, of rastaquoueres from
the sister empire of Brazil; the state carriages, with the outriders
and postilions in the green and gold of the Empress, swept through
the Champs Elysees, and at the Bal Bulier, and at Mabile the
students and "grisettes" introduced the cancan. The men of those
days were Hugo, Thiers, Dumas, Daudet, Alfred de Musset; the
magnificent blackguard, the Duc de Morny, and the great, simple
Canrobert, the captain of barricades, who became a marshal of
Over all was the mushroom Emperor, his anterooms crowded with
the titled charlatans of Europe, his court radiant with countesses
created overnight. And it was the Emperor, with his love of
theatrical display, of gorgeous ceremonies; with his restless
reaching after military glory, the weary, cynical adventurer, that
the boy at St. Cyr took as his model.
Royalist as was Harden-Hickey by birth and tradition, and Royalist
as he always remained, it was the court at the Tuileries that filled
his imagination. The Bourbons, whom he served, hoped some day
for a court; at the Tuileries there was a court, glittering before his
physical eyes. The Bourbons were pleasant old gentlemen, who
later willingly supported him, and for whom always he was equally
willing to fight, either with his sword or his pen. But to the last, in
his mind, he carried pictures of the Second Empire as he, as a boy,
had known it.
Can you not imagine the future James the First, barelegged, in a
black-belted smock, halting with his nurse, or his priest, to gaze up
in awestruck delight at the great, red-breeched Zouaves lounging
on guard at the Tuileries?
"When I grow up," said little James to himself, not knowing that
he never would grow up, "I shall have Zouaves for my palace
And twenty years later, when he laid down the laws for his little
kingdom, you find that the officers of his court must wear the
mustache, "a la Louis Napoleon," and that the Zouave uniform
will be worn by the Palace Guards.
In 1883, while he still was at the War College, his father died, and
when he graduated, which he did with honors, he found himself his
own master. His assets were a small income, a perfect knowledge
of the French language, and the reputation of being one of the most
expert swordsman in Paris. He chose not to enter the army, and
instead became a journalist, novelist, duellist, an habitue of the
Latin Quarter and the boulevards.
As a novelist the titles of his books suggest their quality. Among
them are: "Un Amour Vendeen," "Lettres d'un Yankee," "Un
Amour dans le Monde," "Memoires d'un Gommeux,"
"Merveilleuses Aventures de Nabuchodonosor, Nosebreaker."
Of the Catholic Church he wrote seriously, apparently with deep
conviction, with high enthusiasm. In her service as a defender of
the faith he issued essays, pamphlets, "broadsides." The opponents
of the Church in Paris he attacked relentlessly.
As a reward for his championship he received the title of baron.
In 1878, while only twenty-four, he married the Countess de
Saint-Pery, by whom he had two children, a boy and a girl, and
three years later he started Triboulet. It was this paper that made
him famous to "all Paris."
It was a Royalist sheet, subsidized by the Count de Chambord and
published in the interest of the Bourbons. Until 1888
Harden-Hickey was its editor, and even by his enemies it must be
said that he served his employers with zeal. During the seven years
in which the paper amused Paris and annoyed the republican
government, as its editor Harden-Hickey was involved in forty-two
lawsuits, for different editorial indiscretions, fined three hundred
thousand francs, and was a principal in countless duels.
To his brother editors his standing interrogation was: "Would you
prefer to meet me upon the editorial page, or in the Bois de
Boulogne?" Among those who met him in the Bois were Aurelien
Scholl, H. Lavenbryon, M. Taine, M. de Cyon, Philippe Du Bois,
In 1888, either because, his patron the Count de Chambord having
died, there was no more money to pay the fines, or because the
patience of the government was exhausted, Triboulet ceased to
exist, and Harden-Hickey, claiming the paper had been suppressed
and he himself exiled, crossed to London.
From there he embarked upon a voyage around the world, which
lasted two years, and in the course of which he discovered the
island kingdom of which he was to be the first and last king.
Previous to his departure, having been divorced from the Countess
de Saint-Pery, he placed his boy and girl in the care of a
fellow-journalist and very dear friend, the Count de la Boissiere, of
whom later we shall hear more.
Harden-Hickey started around the world on the Astoria, a British
merchant vessel bound for India by way of Cape Horn, Captain
When off the coast of Brazil the ship touched at the uninhabited
island of Trinidad. Historians of James the First say that it was
through stress of weather that the Astoria was driven to seek
refuge there, but as, for six months of the year, to make a landing
on the island is almost impossible, and as at any time, under stress
of weather, Trinidad would be a place to avoid, it is more likely
Jackson put in to replenish his water-casks, or to obtain a supply of
Or it may have been that, having told Harden-Hickey of the
derelict island, the latter persuaded the captain to allow him to
land and explore it. Of this, at least, we are certain, a boat was sent
ashore, Harden-Hickey went ashore in it, and before he left the
island, as a piece of no man's land, belonging to no country, he
claimed it in his own name, and upon the beach raised a flag of his
The island of Trinidad claimed by Harden-Hickey must not be
confused with the larger Trinidad belonging to Great Britain and
lying off Venezuela.
The English Trinidad is a smiling, peaceful spot of great tropical
beauty; it is one of the fairest places in the West Indies. At every
hour of the year the harbor of Port of Spain holds open its arms to
vessels of every draught. A governor in a pith helmet, a cricket
club, a bishop in gaiters, and a botanical garden go to make it a
prosperous and contented colony. But the little derelict Trinidad,
in latitude 20 degrees 30 minutes south, and longitude 29 degrees
22 minutes west, seven hundred miles from the coast of Brazil, is
but a spot upon the ocean. On most maps it is not even a spot.
Except by birds, turtles, and hideous land-crabs, it is uninhabited;
and against the advances of man its shores are fortified with cruel
ridges of coral, jagged limestone rocks, and a tremendous towering
surf which, even in a dead calm, beats many feet high against the
In 1698 Dr. Halley visited the island, and says he found nothing
living but doves and land-crabs. "Saw many green turtles in sea,
but by reason of the great surf, could catch none."
After Halley's visit, in 1700 the island was settled by a few
Portuguese from Brazil. The ruins of their stone huts are still in
evidence. But Amaro Delano, who called in 1803, makes no
mention of the Portuguese; and when, in 1822, Commodore Owen
visited Trinidad, he found nothing living there save cormorants,
petrels, gannets, man-of-war birds, and "turtles weighing from five
hundred to seven hundred pounds."
In 1889 E. F. Knight, who in the Japanese-Russian War
represented the London Morning Post, visited Trinidad in his
yacht in search of buried treasure.
Alexander Dalrymple, in his book entitled "Collection of Voages,
chiefly in the Southern Atlantick Ocean, 1775," tells how, in 1700,
he "took possession of the island in his Majesty's name as knowing
it to be granted by the King's letter patent, leaving a Union Jack
So it appears that before Harden-Hickey seized the island it
already had been claimed by Great Britain, and later, on account of
the Portuguese settlement, by Brazil. The answer Harden-Hickey
made to these claims was that the English never settled in
Trinidad, and that the Portuguese abandoned it, and, therefore,
their claims lapsed. In his "prospectus" of his island,
Harden-Hickey himself describes it thus:
"Trinidad is about five miles long and three miles wide. In spite of
its rugged and uninviting appearance, the inland plateaus are rich
with luxuriant vegetation.
"Prominent among this is a peculiar species of bean, which is not
only edible, but extremely palatable. The surrounding seas swarm
with fish, which as yet are wholly unsuspicious of the hook.
Dolphins, rock-cod, pigfish, and blackfish may be caught as
quickly as they can be hauled out. I look to the sea birds and the
turtles to afford our principal source of revenue. Trinidad is the
breeding-place of almost the entire feathery population of the
South Atlantic Ocean. The exportation of guano alone should
make my little country prosperous. Turtles visit the island to
deposit eggs, and at certain seasons the beach is literally alive with
them. The only drawback to my projected kingdom is the fact that
it has no good harbor and can be approached only when the sea is
As a matter of fact sometimes months pass before it is possible to
effect a landing.
Another asset of the island held out by the prospectus was its great
store of buried treasure. Before Harden-Hickey seized the island,
this treasure had made it known. This is the legend. In 1821 a great
store of gold and silver plate plundered from Peruvian churches
had been concealed on the islands by pirates near Sugar Loaf Hill,
on the shore of what is known as the Southwest Bay. Much of this
plate came from the cathedral at Lima, having been carried from
there during the war of independence when the Spanish residents
fled the country. In their eagerness to escape they put to sea in any
ship that offered, and these unarmed and unseaworthy vessels fell
an easy prey to pirates. One of these pirates on his death-bed, in
gratitude to his former captain, told him the secret of the treasure.
In 1892 this captain was still living, in Newcastle, England, and
although his story bears a family resemblance to every other story
of buried treasure, there were added to the tale of the pirate some
corroborative details. These, in twelve years, induced five different
expeditions to visit the island. The two most important were that
of E. F. Knight and one from the Tyne in the bark Aurea.
In his "Cruise of the Alerte," Knight gives a full description of
the island, and of his attempt to find the treasure. In this, a
landslide having covered the place where it was buried, he was
But Knight's book is the only source of accurate information
concerning Trinidad, and in writing his prospectus it is evident that
Harden-Hickey was forced to borrow from it freely. Knight
himself says that the most minute and accurate description of
Trinidad is to be found in the "Frank Mildmay" of Captain
Marryat. He found it so easy to identify each spot mentioned in the
novel that he believes the author of "Midshipman Easy" himself
After seizing Trinidad, Harden-Hickey rounded the Cape and made
north to Japan, China, and India. In India he became interested in
Buddhism, and remained for over a year questioning the priests of
that religion and studying its tenets and history.
On his return to Paris, in 1890, he met Miss Annie Harper Flagler,
daughter of John H. Flagler. A year later, on St. Patrick's Day,
1891, at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, Miss Flagler
became the Baroness Harden-Hickey. The Rev. John Hall married
For the next two years Harden-Hickey lived in New York, but so
quietly that, except that he lived quietly, it is difficult to find out
anything concerning him. The man who, a few years before, had
delighted Paris with his daily feuilletons, with his duels, with his
forty-two lawsuits, who had been the master of revels in the Latin
Quarter, in New York lived almost as a recluse, writing a book on
Buddhism. While he was in New York I was a reporter on the
Evening Sun, but I cannot recall ever having read his name in
the newspapers of that day, and I heard of him only twice; once as
giving an exhibition of his water-colors at the American Art
Galleries, and again as the author of a book I found in a store in
Twenty-second Street, just east of Broadway, then the home of the
Truth Seeker Publishing Company.
It was a grewsome compilation and had just appeared in print. It
was called "Euthanasia, or the Ethics of Suicide." This book was
an apology or plea for self-destruction. In it the baron laid down
those occasions when he considered suicide pardonable, and when
obligatory. To support his arguments and to show that suicide was
a noble act, he quoted Plato, Cicero, Shakespeare, and even
misquoted the Bible. He gave a list of poisons, and the amount of
each necessary to kill a human being. To show how one can depart
from life with the least pain, he illustrated the text with most
unpleasant pictures, drawn by himself.
The book showed how far Harden-Hickey had strayed from the
teachings of the Jesuit College at Namur, and of the Church that
had made him "noble."
All of these two years had not been spent only in New York.
Harden-Hickey made excursions to California, to Mexico, and to
Texas, and in each of these places bought cattle ranches and
mines. The money to pay for these investments came from his
father-in-law. But not directly. Whenever he wanted money he
asked his wife, or De la Boissiere, who was a friend also of
Flagler, to obtain it for him.
His attitude toward his father-in-law is difficult to explain. It is not
apparent that Flagler ever did anything which could justly offend
him; indeed, he always seems to have spoken of his son-in-law
with tolerance, and often with awe, as one would speak of a clever,
wayward child. But Harden-Hickey chose to regard Flagler as his
enemy, as a sordid man of business who could not understand the
feelings and aspirations of a genius and a gentleman.
Before Harden-Hickey married, the misunderstanding between his
wife's father and himself began. Because he thought
Harden-Hickey was marrying his daughter for her money, Flagler
opposed the union. Consequently, Harden-Hickey married Miss
Flagler without "settlements," and for the first few years supported
her without aid from her father. But his wife had been accustomed
to a manner of living beyond the means of the soldier of fortune,
and soon his income, and then even his capital, was exhausted.
From her mother the baroness inherited a fortune. This was in the
hands of her father as executor. When his own money was gone,
Harden-Hickey endeavored to have the money belonging to his
wife placed to her credit, or to his. To this, it is said, Flagler, on
the ground that Harden-Hickey was not a man of business, while
he was, objected, and urged that he was, and that if it remained in
his hands the money would be better invested and better expended.
It was the refusal of Flagler to intrust Harden-Hickey with the care
of his wife's money that caused the breach between them.
As I have said, you cannot judge Harden-Hickey as you would a
contemporary. With the people among whom he was thrown, his
ideas were entirely out of joint. He should have lived in the days of
"The Three Musketeers." People who looked upon him as working
for his own hand entirely misunderstood him. He was absolutely
honest, and as absolutely without a sense of humor. To him, to pay
taxes, to pay grocers' bills, to depend for protection upon a
policeman, was intolerable. He lived in a world of his own
imagining. And one day, in order to make his imaginings real, and
to escape from his father-in-law's unromantic world of Standard
Oil and Florida hotels, in a proclamation to the powers he
announced himself as King James the First of the Principality of
The proclamation failed to create a world crisis. Several of the
powers recognized his principality and his title; but, as a rule,
people laughed, wondered, and forgot. That the daughter of John
Flagler was to rule the new principality gave it a "news interest,"
and for a few Sundays in the supplements she was hailed as the
When upon the subject of the new kingdom Flagler himself was
interviewed, he showed an open mind.
"My son-in-law is a very determined man," he said; "he will carry
out any scheme in which he is interested. Had he consulted me
about this, I would have been glad to have aided him with money
or advice. My son-in-law is an extremely well-read, refined,
well-bred man. He does not court publicity. While he was staying
in my house he spent nearly all the time in the library translating
an Indian book on Buddhism. My daughter has no ambition to be a
queen or anything else than what she is--an American girl. But my
son-in-law means to carry on this Trinidad scheme, and--he will."
From his father-in-law, at least, Harden-Hickey could not complain
that he had met with lack of sympathy.
The rest of America was amused; and after less than nine days,
indifferent. But Harden-Hickey, though unobtrusively, none the
less earnestly continued to play the part of king. His friend De la
Boissiere he appointed his Minister of Foreign Affairs, and
established in a Chancellery at 217 West Thirty-sixth Street, New
York, and from there was issued a sort of circular, or prospectus,
written by the king, and signed by "Le Grand Chancelier,
Secretaire d'Etat pour les Affaires Etrangeres, M. le Comte de la
The document, written in French, announced that the new state
would be governed by a military dictatorship, that the royal
standard was a yellow triangle on a red ground, and that the arms
of the principality were "d'Or chape de Gueules." It pointed out
naively that those who first settled on the island would be naturally
the oldest inhabitants, and hence would form the aristocracy. But
only those who at home enjoyed social position and some private
fortune would be admitted into this select circle.
For itself the state reserved a monopoly of the guano, of the turtles,
and of the buried treasure. And both to discover the treasure and to
encourage settlers to dig and so cultivate the soil, a percentage of
the treasure was promised to the one who found it.
Any one purchasing ten $200 bonds was entitled to a free passage
to the island, and after a year, should he so desire it, a return trip.
The hard work was to be performed by Chinese coolies, the
aristocracy existing beautifully, and, according to the prospectus,
to enjoy "vie d'un genre tout nouveau, et la recherche de
To reward his subjects for prominence in literature, the arts, and
the sciences, his Majesty established an order of chivalry. The
official document creating this order reads:
"We, James, Prince of Trinidad, have resolved to commemorate
our accession to the throne of Trinidad by the institution of an
Order of Chivalry, destined to reward literature, industry, science,
and the human virtues, and by these presents have established and
do institute, with cross and crown, the Order of the Insignia of the
Cross of Trinidad, of which we and our heirs and successors shall
be the sovereigns.
"Given in our Chancellery the Eighth of the month of December,
one thousand eight hundred and ninety-three, and of our reign, the
There were four grades: Chevalier, Commander, Grand Officer,
and Grand Cross; and the name of each member of the order was
inscribed in "The Book of Gold." A pension of one thousand francs
was given to a Chevalier, of two thousand francs to a Commander,
and of three thousand francs to a Grand Officer. Those of the grade
of Grand Cross were content with a plaque of eight
diamond-studded rays, with, in the centre, set in red enamel, the
arms of Trinidad. The ribbon was red and yellow.
A rule of the order read: "The costume shall be identical with that
of the Chamberlains of the Court of Trinidad, save the buttons,
which shall bear the impress of the Crown of the Order."
For himself, King James commissioned a firm of jewelers to
construct a royal crown. In design it was similar to the one which
surmounted the cross of Trinidad. It is shown in the photograph of
the insignia. Also, the king issued a set of postage-stamps on
which was a picture of the island. They were of various colors and
denominations, and among stamp-collectors enjoyed a certain sale.
To-day, as I found when I tried to procure one to use in this book,
they are worth many times their face value.
For some time the affairs of the new kingdom progressed
favorably. In San Francisco, King James, in person, engaged four
hundred coolies and fitted out a schooner which he sent to
Trinidad, where it made regular trips between his principality and
Brazil; an agent was established on the island, and the construction
of docks, wharves, and houses was begun, while at the chancellery
in West Thirty-sixth Street, the Minister of Foreign Affairs was
ready to furnish would-be settlers with information.
And then, out of a smiling sky, a sudden and unexpected blow was
struck at the independence of the little kingdom. It was a blow
from which it never recovered.
In July of 1895, while constructing a cable to Brazil, Great Britain
found the Island of Trinidad lying in the direct line she wished to
follow, and, as a cable station, seized it. Objection to this was
made by Brazil, and at Bahia a mob with stones pelted the sign of
the English Consul-General.
By right of Halley's discovery, England claimed the island; as a
derelict from the main land, Brazil also claimed it. Between the
rivals, the world saw a chance for war, and the fact that the island
really belonged to our King James for a moment was forgotten.
But the Minister of Foreign Affairs was at his post. With
promptitude and vigor he acted. He addressed a circular note to all
the powers of Europe, and to our State Department a protest. It
read as follows:
"GRANDE CHANCELLERIE DE LA PRINCIPAUTE DE
27 WEST THIRTY-SIXTH STREET,
NEW YORK CITY, U. S. A.,
"NEW YORK, July 30, 1895.
"To His Excellency Mr. the Secretary of State of
the Republic of the United States of North
America, Washington, D. C.:
"EXCELLENCY.--I have the honor to recall to your memory:
"1. That in the course of the month of September, 1893, Baron
Harden-Hickey officially notified all the Powers of his taking
possession of the uninhabited island of Trinidad; and
"2. That in course of January, 1894, he renewed to all these Powers
the official notification of the said taking of possession, and
informed them at the same time that from that date the land would
be known as 'Principality of Trinidad'; that he took the title of
'Prince of Trinidad,' and would reign under the name of James I.
"In consequence of these official notifications several Powers have
recognized the new Principality and its Prince, and at all events
none thought it necessary at that epoch to raise objections or
"The press of the entire world has, on the other hand, often
acquainted readers with these facts, thus giving to them all
possible publicity. In consequence of the accomplishment of these
various formalities, and as the law of nations prescribes that
'derelict' territories belong to whoever will take possession of
them, and as the island of Trinidad, which has been abandoned for
years, certainly belongs to the aforesaid category, his Serene
Highness Prince James I was authorized to regard his rights on the
said island as perfectly valid and indisputable.
"Nevertheless, your Excellency knows that recently, in spite of all
the legitimate rights of my august sovereign, an English war-ship
has disembarked at Trinidad a detachment of armed troops and
taken possession of the island in the name of England.
"Following this assumption of territory, the Brazilian Government,
invoking a right of ancient Portuguese occupation (long ago
outlawed), has notified the English Government to surrender the
island to Brazil.
"I beg of your Excellency to ask of the Government of the United
States of North America to recognize the Principality of Trinidad
as an independent State, and to come to an understanding with the
other American Powers in order to guarantee its neutrality.
"Thus the Government of the United States of North America will
once more accord its powerful assistance to the cause of right and
of justice, misunderstood by England and Brazil, put an end to a
situation which threatens to disturb the peace, re-establish concord
between two great States ready to appeal to arms, and affirm itself,
moreover, as the faithful interpreter of the Monroe Doctrine.
"In the expectation of your reply please accept, Excellency, the
expression of my elevated consideration.
"The Grand Chancellor, Secretary for Foreign Affairs,
"COMTE DE LA BOISSIERE."
At that time Richard Olney was Secretary of State, and in his
treatment of the protest, and of the gentleman who wrote it, he
fully upheld the reputation he made while in office of lack of good
manners. Saying he was unable to read the handwriting in which
the protest was written, he disposed of it in a way that would
suggest itself naturally to a statesman and a gentleman. As a
"crank" letter he turned it over to the Washington correspondents.
You can imagine what they did with it.
The day following the reporters in New York swept down upon the
chancellery and upon the Minister of Foreign Affairs. It was the
"silly season" in August, there was no real news in town, and the
troubles of De la Boissiere were allowed much space.
They laughed at him and at his king, at his chancellery, at his
broken English, at his "grave and courtly manners," even at his
clothes. But in spite of the ridicule, between the lines you could
read that to the man himself it all was terribly real.
I had first heard of the island of Trinidad from two men I knew
who spent three months on it searching for the treasure, and when
Harden-Hickey proclaimed himself lord of the island, through the
papers I had carefully followed his fortunes. So, partly out of
curiosity and partly out of sympathy, I called at the chancellery.
I found it in a brownstone house, in a dirty neighborhood just west
of Seventh Avenue, and of where now stands the York Hotel.
Three weeks ago I revisited it and found it unchanged. At the time
of my first visit, on the jamb of the front door was pasted a piece
of paper on which was written in the handwriting of De la
Boissiere: "Chancellerie de la Principaute de Trinidad."
The chancellery was not exactly in its proper setting. On its
door-step children of the tenements were playing dolls with
clothes-pins; in the street a huckster in raucous tones was offering
wilted cabbages to women in wrappers leaning from the fire
escapes; the smells and the heat of New York in midsummer rose
from the asphalt. It was a far cry to the wave-swept island off the
coast of Brazil.
De la Boissiere received me with distrust. The morning papers had
made him man-shy; but, after a few "Your Excellencies" and a
respectful inquiry regarding "His Royal Highness," his confidence
revived. In the situation he saw nothing humorous, not even in an
announcement on the wall which read: "Sailings to Trinidad." Of
these there were two; on March 1, and on October 1. On the
table were many copies of the royal proclamation, the
postage-stamps of the new government, the thousand-franc bonds,
and, in pasteboard boxes, the gold and red enamelled crosses of
the Order of Trinidad.
He talked to me frankly and fondly of Prince James. Indeed, I
never met any man who knew Harden-Hickey well who did not
speak of him with aggressive loyalty. If at his eccentricities they
smiled, it was with the smile of affection. It was easy to see De la
Boissiere regarded him not only with the affection of a friend, but
with the devotion of a true subject. In his manner he himself was
courteous, gentle, and so distinguished that I felt as though I were
enjoying, on intimate terms, an audience with one of the
prime-ministers of Europe.
And he, on his part, after the ridicule of the morning papers, to
have any one with outward seriousness accept his high office and
his king, was, I believe, not ungrateful.
I told him I wished to visit Trinidad, and in that I was quite
serious. The story of an island filled with buried treasure, and
governed by a king, whose native subjects were turtles and
seagulls, promised to make interesting writing.
The count was greatly pleased. I believe in me he saw his first
bona-fide settler, and when I rose to go he even lifted one of the
crosses of Trinidad and, before my envious eyes, regarded it
Perhaps, had he known that of all decorations it was the one I most
desired; had I only then and there booked my passage, or sworn
allegiance to King James, who knows but that to-day I might be a
chevalier, with my name in the "Book of Gold"? But instead of
bending the knee, I reached for my hat; the count replaced the
cross in its pasteboard box, and for me the psychological moment
Others, more deserving of the honor, were more fortunate. Among
my fellow-reporters who, like myself, came to scoff, and remained
to pray, was Henri Pene du Bois, for some time, until his recent
death, the brilliant critic of art and music of the American. Then
he was on the Times, and Henry N. Cary, now of the Morning
Telegraph, was his managing editor.
When Du Bois reported to Cary on his assignment, he said: "There
is nothing funny in that story. It's pathetic. Both those men are in
earnest. They are convinced they are being robbed of their rights.
Their only fault is that they have imagination, and that the rest of
us lack it. That's the way it struck me, and that's the way the story
ought to be written."
"Write it that way," said Cary.
So, of all the New York papers, the Times, for a brief period,
became the official organ of the Government of James the First,
and in time Cary and Du Bois were created Chevaliers of the
Order of Trinidad, and entitled to wear uniforms "Similar to those
of the Chamberlains of the Court, save that the buttons bear the
impress of the Royal Crown."
The attack made by Great Britain and Brazil upon the
independence of the principality, while it left Harden-Hickey in
the position of a king in exile, brought him at once another crown,
which, by those who offered it to him, was described as of
incomparably greater value than that of Trinidad.
In the first instance the man had sought the throne; in this case the
throne sought the man.
In 1893 in San Francisco, Ralston J. Markowe, a lawyer and a
one-time officer of artillery in the United States army, gained
renown as one of the Morrow filibustering expedition which
attempted to overthrow the Dole government in the Hawaiian Isles
and restore to the throne Queen Liliuokalani. In San Francisco
Markowe was nicknamed the "Prince of Honolulu," as it was
understood, should Liliuokalani regain her crown, he would be
rewarded with some high office. But in the star of Liliuokalani,
Markowe apparently lost faith, and thought he saw in
Harden-Hickey timber more suitable for king-making.
Accordingly, twenty-four days after the "protest" was sent to our
State Department, Markowe switched his allegiance to
Harden-Hickey, and to him addressed the following letter:
"SAN FRANCISCO, August 26, 1895.
BARON HARDEN-HICKEY, LOS ANGELES, CAL.:
"Monseigneur--Your favor of August 16 has been received.
"1. I am the duly authorized agent of the Royalist party in so far as
it is possible for any one to occupy that position under existing
circumstances. With the Queen in prison and absolutely cut off
from all communication with her friends, it is out of the question
for me to carry anything like formal credentials.
"2. Alienating any part of the territory cannot give rise to any
constitutional questions, for the reason that the constitutions, like
the land tenures, are in a state of such utter confusion that only a
strong hand can unravel them, and the restoration will result in the
establishment of a strong military government. If I go down with
the expedition I have organized I shall be in full control of the
situation and in a position to carry out all my contracts.
"3. It is the island of Kauai on which I propose to establish you as
an independent sovereign.
"4. My plan is to successively occupy all the islands, leaving the
capital to the last. When the others have fallen, the capital, being
cut off from all its resources, will be easily taken, and may very
likely fall without effort. I don't expect in any case to have to
fortify myself or to take the defensive, or to have to issue a call to
arms, as I shall have an overwhelming force to join me at once, in
addition to those who go with me, who by themselves will be
sufficient to carry everything before them without active
cooperation from the people there.
"5. The Government forces consist of about 160 men and boys,
with very imperfect military training, and of whom about forty are
officers. They are organized as infantry. There are also about 600
citizens enrolled as a reserve guard, who may be called upon in
case of an emergency, and about 150 police. We can fully rely
upon the assistance of all the police and from one-quarter to
one-half of the other troops. And of the remainder many will under
no circumstances engage in a sharp fight in defense of the present
government. There are now on the island plenty of men and arms
to accomplish our purpose, and if my expedition does not get off
very soon the people there will be organized to do the work
without other assistance from here than the direction of a few
leaders, of which they stand more in need than anything else.
"6. The tonnage of the vessel is 146. She at present has berth-room
for twenty men, but bunks can be arranged in the hold for 256
more, with provision for ample ventilation. She has one complete
set of sails and two extra spars. The remaining information in
regard to her I will have to obtain and send you to-morrow. I think
it must be clear to you that the opportunity now offered you will be
of incomparably greater value at once than Trinidad would ever
be. Still hoping that I may have an interview with you at an early
date, respectfully yours,
"RALSTON J. MARKOWE."
What Harden-Hickey thought of this is not known, but as two
weeks before he received it he had written Markowe, asking him
by what authority he represented the Royalists of Honolulu, it
seems evident that when the crown of Hawaii was first proffered
him he did not at once spurn it.
He now was in the peculiar position of being a deposed king of an
island in the South Atlantic, which had been taken from him, and
king-elect of an island in the Pacific, which was his if he could
This was in August of 1895. For the two years following,
Harden-Hickey was a soldier of misfortunes. Having lost his island
kingdom, he could no longer occupy himself with plans for its
improvement. It had been his toy. They had taken it from him, and
the loss and the ridicule which followed hurt him bitterly.
And for the lands he really owned in Mexico and California, and
which, if he were to live in comfort, it was necessary he should
sell, he could find no purchaser; and, moreover, having quarrelled
with his father-in-law, he had cut off his former supply of money.
The need of it pinched him cruelly.
The advertised cause of this quarrel was sufficiently characteristic
to be the real one. Moved by the attack of Great Britain upon his
principality, Harden-Hickey decided upon reprisals. It must be
remembered that always he was more Irish than French. On paper
he organized an invasion of England from Ireland, the home of his
ancestors. It was because Flagler refused to give him money for
this adventure that he broke with him. His friends say this was the
real reason of the quarrel, which was a quarrel on the side of
And there were other, more intimate troubles. While not separated
from his wife, he now was seldom in her company. When the
Baroness was in Paris, Harden-Hickey was in San Francisco; when
she returned to San Francisco, he was in Mexico. The fault seems
to have been his. He was greatly admired by pretty women. His
daughter by his first wife, now a very beautiful girl of sixteen,
spent much time with her stepmother; and when not on his father's
ranch in Mexico, his son also, for months together, was at her side.
The husband approved of this, but he himself saw his wife
infrequently. Nevertheless, early in the spring of 1898, the
Baroness leased a house in Brockton Square, in Riverside, Cal.,
where it was understood by herself and by her friends her husband
would join her. At that time in Mexico he was trying to dispose of
a large tract of land. Had he been able to sell it, the money for a
time would have kept one even of his extravagances contentedly
rich. At least, he would have been independent of his wife and of
her father. Up to February of 1898 his obtaining this money
Early in that month the last prospective purchaser decided not to
There is no doubt that had Harden-Hickey then turned to his
father-in-law, that gentleman, as he had done before, would have
opened an account for him.
But the Prince of Trinidad felt he could no longer beg, even for the
money belonging to his wife, from the man he had insulted. He
could no longer ask his wife to intercede for him. He was without
money of his own, with out the means of obtaining it; from his
wife he had ceased to expect even sympathy, and from the world
he knew, the fact that he was a self-made king caused him always
to be pointed out with ridicule as a charlatan, as a jest.
The soldier of varying fortunes, the duellist and dreamer, the
devout Catholic and devout Buddhist, saw the forty-third year of
his life only as the meeting-place of many fiascos.
His mind was tormented with imaginary wrongs, imaginary slights,
This young man, who could paint pictures, write books, organize
colonies oversea, and with a sword pick the buttons from a
waistcoat, forgot the twenty good years still before him; forgot that
men loved him for the mistakes he had made; that in parts of the
great city of Paris his name was still spoken fondly, still was
famous and familiar.
In his book on the "Ethics of Suicide," for certain hard places in
life he had laid down an inevitable rule of conduct.
As he saw it he had come to one of those hard places, and he
would not ask of others what he himself would not perform.
From Mexico he set out for California, but not to the house his
wife had prepared for him.
Instead, on February 9, 1898, at El Paso, he left the train and
registered at a hotel.
At 7.30 in the evening he went to his room, and when, on the
following morning, they kicked in the door, they found him
stretched rigidly upon the bed, like one lying in state, with, near
his hand, a half-emptied bottle of poison.
On a chair was pinned this letter to his wife:
"My DEAREST,--No news from you, although you have had
plenty of time to write. Harvey has written me that he has no one
in view at present to buy my land. Well, I shall have tasted the cup
of bitterness to the very dregs, but I do not complain. Good-by. I
forgive you your conduct toward me and trust you will be able to
forgive yourself. I prefer to be a dead gentleman to a living
blackguard like your father."
And when they searched his open trunk for something that might
identify the body on the bed, they found the crown of Trinidad.
You can imagine it: the mean hotel bedroom, the military figure
with its white face and mustache, "a la Louis Napoleon," at rest
upon the pillow, the startled drummers and chambermaids peering
in from the hall, and the landlord, or coroner, or doctor, with a
bewildered countenance, lifting to view the royal crown of gilt and
The other actors in this, as Harold Frederic called it, "Opera
Bouffe Monarchy," are still living.
The Baroness Harden-Hickey makes her home in this country.
The Count de la Boissiere, ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs, is still a
leader of the French colony in New York, and a prosperous
commission merchant with a suite of offices on Fifty-fourth Street.
By the will of Harden-Hickey he is executor of his estate, guardian
of his children, and what, for the purpose of this article, is of more
importance, in his hands lies the future of the kingdom of
Trinidad. When Harden-Hickey killed himself the title to the
island was in dispute. Should young Harden-Hickey wish to claim
it, it still would be in dispute. Meanwhile, by the will of the First
James, De la Boissiere is appointed perpetual regent, a sort of
"receiver," and executor of the principality.
To him has been left a royal decree signed and sealed, but blank.
In the will the power to fill in this blank with a statement showing
the final disposition of the island has been bestowed upon De la
So, some day, he may proclaim the accession of a new king, and
give a new lease of life to the kingdom of which Harden-Hickey
But unless his son, or wife, or daughter should assert his or her
rights, which is not likely to happen, so ends the dynasty of James
the First of Trinidad, Baron of the Holy Roman Empire.
To the wise ones in America he was a fool, and they laughed at
him; to the wiser ones, he was a clever rascal who had evolved a
new real-estate scheme and was out to rob the people--and they
respected him. To my mind, of them all, Harden-Hickey was the
Granted one could be serious, what could be more delightful than
to be your own king on your own island?
The comic paragraphers, the business men of "hard, common
sense," the captains of industry who laughed at him and his
national resources of buried treasure, turtles' eggs, and guano, with
his body-guard of Zouaves and his Grand Cross of Trinidad,
certainly possessed many things that Harden-Hickey lacked. But
they in turn lacked the things that made him happy; the power to
"make believe," the love of romance, the touch of adventure that
plucked him by the sleeve.
When, as boys, we used to say: "Let's pretend we're pirates," as a
man, Harden-Hickey begged: "Let's pretend I'm a king."
But the trouble was, the other boys had grown up and would not
For some reason his end always reminds me of the closing line of
Pinero's play, when the adventuress, Mrs. Tanqueray, kills herself,
and her virtuous stepchild says: "If we had only been kinder!"
WINSTON SPENCER CHURCHILL
IN the strict sense of the phrase, a soldier of fortune is a man who
for pay, or for the love of adventure, fights under the flag of any
In the bigger sense he is the kind of man who in any walk of life
makes his own fortune, who, when he sees it coming, leaps to
meet it, and turns it to his advantage.
Than Winston Spencer Churchill to-day there are few young
men--and he is a very young man--who have met more varying
fortunes, and none who has more frequently bent them to his own
advancement. To him it has been indifferent whether, at the
moment, the fortune seemed good or evil, in the end always it was
As a boy officer, when other subalterns were playing polo, and at
the Gaiety Theatre attending night school, he ran away to Cuba
and fought with the Spaniards. For such a breach of military
discipline, any other officer would have been court-martialled.
Even his friends feared that by his foolishness his career in the
army was at an end. Instead, his escapade was made a question in
the House of Commons, and the fact brought him such publicity
that the Daily Graphic paid him handsomely to write on the
Cuban Revolution, and the Spanish Government rewarded him
with the Order of Military Merit.
At the very outbreak of the Boer war he was taken prisoner. It
seemed a climax of misfortune. With his brother officers he had
hoped in that campaign to acquit himself with credit, and that he
should lie inactive in Pretoria appeared a terrible calamity. To the
others who, through many heart-breaking months, suffered
imprisonment, it continued to be a calamity. But within six weeks
of his capture Churchill escaped, and, after many adventures,
rejoined his own army to find that the calamity had made him a
When after the battle of Omdurman, in his book on "The River
War," he attacked Lord Kitchener, those who did not like him, and
they were many, said: "That's the end of Winston in the army. He'll
never get another chance to criticise K. of K."
But only two years later the chance came, when, no longer a
subaltern, but as a member of the House of Commons, he
patronized Kitchener by defending him from the attacks of others.
Later, when his assaults upon the leaders of his own party closed to
him, even in his own constituency, the Conservative debating
clubs, again his ill-wishers said: "This is the end. He has
ridiculed those who sit in high places. He has offended his cousin
and patron, the Duke of Marlborough. Without political friends,
without the influence and money of the Marlborough family he is a
political nonentity." That was eighteen months ago. To-day, at the
age of thirty-two, he is one of the leaders of the Government party,
Under-Secretary for the Colonies, and with the Liberals the most
popular young man in public life.
Only last Christmas, at a banquet, Sir Edward Grey, the new
Foreign Secretary, said of him: "Mr. Winston Churchill has
achieved distinction in at least five different careers--as a soldier, a
war correspondent, a lecturer, an author, and last, but not least, as
a politician. I have understated it even now, for he has achieved
two careers as a politician--one on each side of the House. His first
career on the Government side was a really distinguished career. I
trust the second will be even more distinguished--and more
prolonged. The remarkable thing is that he has done all this when,
unless appearances very much belie him, he has not reached the
age of sixty-four, which is the minimum age at which the
politician ceases to be young."
Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was born thirty-two years ago,
in November, 1874. By birth he is half-American. His father was
Lord Randolph Churchill, and his mother was Jennie Jerome, of
New York. On the father's side he is the grandchild of the seventh
Duke of Marlborough, on the distaff side, of Leonard Jerome.
To a student of heredity it would be interesting to try and discover
from which of these ancestors Churchill drew those qualities
which in him are most prominent, and which have led to his
What he owes to his father and mother it is difficult to
overestimate, almost as difficult as to overestimate what he has
accomplished by his own efforts.
He was not a child born a full-grown genius of commonplace
parents. Rather his fate threatened that he should always be known
as the son of his father. And certainly it was asking much of a boy
that he should live up to a father who was one of the most
conspicuous, clever, and erratic statesmen of the later Victorian
era, and a mother who is as brilliant as she is beautiful.
For at no time was the American wife content to be merely
ornamental. Throughout the political career of her husband she
was his helpmate, and as an officer of the Primrose League, as an
editor of the Anglo-Saxon Review, as, for many hot, weary
months in Durban Harbor, the head of the hospital ship Maine,
she has shown an acute mind and real executive power. At the
polls many votes that would not respond to the arguments of the
husband, and later of the son, were gained over to the cause by the
charm and wit of the American woman.
In his earlier days, if one can have days any earlier than those he
now enjoys, Churchill was entirely influenced by two things: the
tremendous admiration he felt for his father, which filled him with
ambition to follow in his orbit, and the camaraderie of his mother,
who treated him less like a mother than a sister and companion.
Indeed, Churchill was always so precocious that I cannot recall the
time when he was young enough to be Lady Randolph's son;
certainly, I cannot recall the time when she was old enough to be
When first I knew him he had passed through Harrow and
Sandhurst and was a second lieutenant in the Queen's Own
Hussars. He was just of age, but appeared much younger.
He was below medium height, a slight, delicate-looking boy;
although, as a matter of fact, extremely strong, with blue eyes,
many freckles, and hair which threatened to be a decided red, but
which now has lost its fierceness. When he spoke it was with a
lisp, which also has changed, and which now appears to be merely
an intentional hesitation.
His manner of speaking was nervous, eager, explosive. He used
many gestures, some of which were strongly reminiscent of his
father, of whom he, unlike most English lads, who shy at
mentioning a distinguished parent, constantly spoke.
He even copied his father in his little tricks of manner. Standing
with hands shoved under the frock-coat and one resting on each
hip as though squeezing in the waist line; when seated, resting the
elbows on the arms of the chair and nervously locking and
unclasping fingers, are tricks common to both.
He then had and still has a most embarrassing habit of asking
many questions; embarrassing, sometimes, because the questions
are so frank, and sometimes because they lay bare the wide
expanse of one's own ignorance.
At that time, although in his twenty-first year, this lad twice had
been made a question in the House of Commons.
That in itself had rendered him conspicuous. When you consider
out of Great Britain's four hundred million subjects how many live,
die, and are buried without at any age having drawn down upon
themselves the anger of the House of Commons, to have done so
twice, before one has passed his twenty-first year, seems to
promise a lurid future.
The first time Churchill disturbed the august assemblage in which
so soon he was to become a leader was when he "ragged" a brother
subaltern named Bruce and cut up his saddle and accoutrements.
The second time was when he ran away to Cuba to fight with the
After this campaign, on the first night of his arrival in London, he
made his maiden speech. He delivered it in a place of less dignity
than the House of Commons, but one, throughout Great Britain
and her colonies, as widely known and as well supported. This was
the Empire Music Hall.
At the time Mrs. Ormiston Chant had raised objections to the
presence in the Music Hall of certain young women, and had
threatened, unless they ceased to frequent its promenade, to have
the license of the Music Hall revoked. As a compromise, the
management ceased selling liquor, and on the night Churchill
visited the place the bar in the promenade was barricaded with
scantling and linen sheets. With the thirst of tropical Cuba still
upon him, Churchill asked for a drink, which was denied him, and
the crusade, which in his absence had been progressing fiercely,
was explained. Any one else would have taken no for his answer,
and have sought elsewhere for his drink. Not so Churchill. What
he did is interesting, because it was so extremely characteristic.
Now he would not do it; then he was twenty-one.
He scrambled to the velvet-covered top of the railing which
divides the auditorium from the promenade, and made a speech. It
was a plea in behalf of his "Sisters, the Ladies of the Empire
"Where," he asked of the ladies themselves and of their escorts
crowded below him in the promenade, "does the Englishman in
London always find a welcome? Where does he first go when,
battle-scarred and travel-worn, he reaches home? Who is always
there to greet him with a smile, and join him in a drink? Who is
ever faithful, ever true--the Ladies of the Empire Promenade."
The laughter and cheers that greeted this, and the tears of the
ladies themselves, naturally brought the performance on the stage
to a stop, and the vast audience turned in the seats and boxes.
They saw a little red-haired boy in evening clothes, balancing
himself on the rail of the balcony, and around him a great crowd,
cheering, shouting, and bidding him "Go on!"
Churchill turned with delight to the larger audience, and repeated
his appeal. The house shook with laughter and applause.
The commissionaires and police tried to reach him and a
good-tempered but very determined mob of well-dressed
gentlemen and cheering girls fought them back. In triumph
Churchill ended his speech by begging his hearers to give "fair
play" to the women, and to follow him in a charge upon the
The charge was instantly made, the barricades were torn down,
and the terrified management ordered that drink be served to its
Shortly after striking this blow for the liberty of others, Churchill
organized a dinner which illustrated the direction in which at that
age his mind was working, and showed that his ambition was
already abnormal. The dinner was given to those of his friends and
acquaintances who "were under twenty-one years of age, and who
in twenty years would control the destinies of the British Empire."
As one over the age limit, or because he did not consider me an
empire-controlling force, on this great occasion, I was permitted to
be present. But except that the number of incipient empire-builders
was very great, that they were very happy, and that save the host
himself none of them took his idea seriously, I would not call it an
evening of historical interest. But the fact is interesting that of all
the boys present, as yet, the host seems to be the only one who to
any conspicuous extent is disturbing the destinies of Great Britain.
However, the others can reply that ten of the twenty years have not
When he was twenty-three Churchill obtained leave of absence
from his regiment, and as there was no other way open to him to
see fighting, as a correspondent he joined the Malakand Field
Force in India.
It may be truthfully said that by his presence in that frontier war he
made it and himself famous. His book on that campaign is his best
piece of war reporting. To the civilian reader it has all the delight
of one of Kipling's Indian stories, and to writers on military
subjects it is a model. But it is a model very few can follow, and
which Churchill himself was unable to follow, for the reason that
only once is it given a man to be twenty-three years of age.
The picturesque hand-to-hand fighting, the night attacks, the
charges up precipitous hills, the retreats made carrying the
wounded under constant fire, which he witnessed and in which he
bore his part, he never again can see with the same fresh and
enthusiastic eyes. Then it was absolutely new, and the charm of the
book and the value of the book are that with the intolerance of
youth he attacks in the service evils that older men prefer to let lie,
and that with the ingenuousness of youth he tells of things which
to the veteran have become unimportant, or which through usage
he is no longer even able to see.
In his three later war books, the wonder of it, the horror of it, the
quick admiration for brave deeds and daring men, give place, in
"The River War," to the critical point of view of the military
expert, and in his two books on the Boer war to the rapid
impressions of the journalist. In these latter books he tells you of
battles he has seen, in the first one he made you see them.
For his services with the Malakand Field Force he received the
campaign medal with clasp, and, "in despatches,"
Brigadier-General Jeffreys praises "the courage and resolution of
Lieutenant W. L. S. Churchill, Fourth Hussars, with the force as
correspondent of the Pioneer."
From the operations around Malakand, he at once joined Sir
William Lockhart as orderly officer, and with the Tirah Expedition
went through that campaign.
For this his Indian medal gained a second clasp.
This was in the early part of 1898. In spite of the time taken up as
an officer and as a correspondent, he finished his book on the
Malakand Expedition and then, as it was evident Kitchener would
soon attack Khartum, he jumped across to Egypt and again as a
correspondent took part in the advance upon that city.
Thus, in one year, he had seen service in three campaigns.
On the day of the battle his luck followed him. Kitchener had
attached him to the Twenty-first Lancers, and it will be
remembered the event of the battle was the charge made by that
squadron. It was no canter, no easy "pig-sticking"; it was a fight to
get in and a fight to get out, with frenzied followers of the Khalifa
hanging to the bridle reins, hacking at the horses' hamstrings, and
slashing and firing point-blank at the troopers. Churchill was in
that charge. He received the medal with clasp.
Then he returned home and wrote "The River War." This book is
the last word on the campaigns up the Nile. From the death of
Gordon in Khartum to the capture of the city by Kitchener, it tells
the story of the many gallant fights, the wearying failures, the
many expeditions into the hot, boundless desert, the long, slow
progress toward the final winning of the Sudan.
The book made a distinct sensation. It was a work that one would
expect from a lieutenant-general, when, after years of service in
Egypt, he laid down his sword to pen the story of his life's work.
From a Second Lieutenant, who had been on the Nile hardly long
enough to gain the desert tan, it was a revelation. As a contribution
to military history it was so valuable that for the author it made
many admirers, but on account of his criticisms of his superior
officers it gained him even more enemies.
This is a specimen of the kind of thing that caused the retired army
officer to sit up and choke with apoplexy:
"General Kitchener, who never spares himself, cares little for
others. He treated all men like machines, from the private soldiers,
whose salutes he disdained, to the superior officers, whom he
rigidly controlled. The comrade who had served with him and
under him for many years, in peace and peril, was flung aside as
soon as he ceased to be of use. The wounded Egyptian and even
the wounded British soldier did not excite his interest."
When in the service clubs they read that, the veterans asked each
other their favorite question of what is the army coming to, and to
their own satisfaction answered it by pointing out that when a
lieutenant of twenty-four can reprimand the commanding general
the army is going to the dogs.
To the newspapers, hundreds of them, over their own signatures,
on the service club stationery, wrote violent, furious letters, and
the newspapers themselves, besides the ordinary reviews, gave to
the book editorial praise and editorial condemnation.
Equally disgusted were the younger officers of the service. They
nicknamed his book "A Subaltern's Advice to Generals," and
called Churchill himself a "Medal Snatcher." A medal snatcher is
an officer who, whenever there is a rumor of war, leaves his men
to the care of any one, and through influence in high places and for
the sake of the campaign medal has himself attached to the
expeditionary force. But Churchill never was a medal hunter. The
routine of barrack life irked him, and in foreign parts he served his
country far better than by remaining at home and inspecting
awkward squads and attending guard mount. Indeed, the War
Office could cover with medals the man who wrote "The Story of
the Malakand Field Force" and "The River War" and still be in his
In October, 1898, a month after the battle of Omdurman, Churchill
made his debut as a political speaker at minor meetings in Dover
and Rotherhithe. History does not record that these first speeches
set fire to the Channel. During the winter he finished and
published his "River War," and in the August of the following
summer, 1899, at a by-election, offered himself as Member of
Parliament for Oldham.
In the Daily Telegraph his letters from the three campaigns in
India and Egypt had made his name known, and there was a
general desire to hear him and to see him. In one who had attacked
Kitchener of Khartum, the men of Oldham expected to find a
stalwart veteran, bearded, and with a voice of command. When
they were introduced to a small red-haired boy with a lisp, they
refused to take him seriously. In England youth is an unpardonable
thing. Lately, Curzon, Churchill, Edward Grey, Hugh Cecil, and
others have made it less reprehensible. But, in spite of a vigorous
campaign, in which Lady Randolph took an active part, Oldham
decided it was not ready to accept young Churchill for a member.
Later he was Oldham's only claim to fame.
A week after he was defeated he sailed for South Africa, where
war with the Boers was imminent. He had resigned from his
regiment and went south as war correspondent for the Morning
Later in the war he held a commission as Lieutenant in the South
African Light Horse, a regiment of irregular cavalry, and on the
staffs of different generals acted as galloper and aide-de-camp. To
this combination of duties, which was in direct violation of a rule
of the War Office, his brother officers and his fellow
correspondents objected; but, as in each of his other campaigns he
had played this dual role, the press censors considered it a
traditional privilege, and winked at it. As a matter of record,
Churchill's soldiering never seemed to interfere with his writing,
nor, in a fight, did his duty to his paper ever prevent him from
mixing in as a belligerent.
War was declared October 9th, and only a month later, while
scouting in the armored train along the railroad line between
Pietermaritzburg and Colenso, the cars were derailed and
Churchill was taken prisoner.
The train was made up of three flat cars, two armored cars, and
between them the engine, with three cars coupled to the
cow-catcher and two to the tender.
On the outward trip the Boers did not show themselves, but as
soon as the English passed Frere station they rolled a rock on the
track at a point where it was hidden by a curve. On the return trip,
as the English approached this curve the Boers opened fire with
artillery and pompoms. The engineer, in his eagerness to escape,
rounded the curve at full speed, and, as the Boers had expected, hit
the rock. The three forward cars were derailed, and one of them
was thrown across the track, thus preventing the escape of the
engine and the two rear cars. From these Captain Haldane, who
was in command, with a detachment of the Dublins, kept up a
steady fire on the enemy, while Churchill worked to clear the
track. To assist him he had a company of Natal volunteers, and
those who had not run away of the train hands and break-down
"We were not long left in the comparative safety of a railroad
accident," Churchill writes to his paper. "The Boers' guns, swiftly
changing their position, reopened fire from a distance of thirteen
hundred yards before any one had got out of the stage of
exclamations. The tapping rifle-fire spread along the hills, until it
encircled the wreckage on three sides, and from some high ground
on the opposite side of the line a third field-gun came into action."
For Boer marksmen with Mausers and pompoms, a wrecked
railroad train at thirteen hundred yards was as easy a bull's-eye as
the hands of the first baseman to the pitcher, and while the engine
butted and snorted and the men with their bare bands tore at the
massive beams of the freight-car, the bullets and shells beat about
"I have had in the last four years many strange and varied
experiences," continues young Churchill, "but nothing was so
thrilling as this; to wait and struggle among these clanging,
rending iron boxes, with the repeated explosions of the shells, the
noise of the projectiles striking the cars, the hiss as they passed in
the air, the grunting and puffing of the engine--poor, tortured
thing, hammered by at least a dozen shells, any one of which, by
penetrating the boiler, might have made an end of all--the
expectation of destruction as a matter of course, the realization of
powerlessness--all this for seventy minutes by the clock, with only
four inches of twisted iron between danger, captivity, and shame
on one side--and freedom on the other."
The "protected" train had proved a deathtrap, and by the time the
line was clear every fourth man was killed or wounded. Only the
engine, with the more severely wounded heaped in the cab and
clinging to its cow-catcher and foot-rails, made good its escape.
Among those left behind, a Tommy, without authority, raised a
handkerchief on his rifle, and the Boers instantly ceased firing and
came galloping forward to accept surrender. There was a general
stampede to escape. Seeing that Lieutenant Franklin was gallantly
trying to hold his men, Churchill, who was safe on the engine,
jumped from it and ran to his assistance. Of what followed, this is
his own account:
"Scarcely had the locomotive left me than I found myself alone in
a shallow cutting, and none of our soldiers, who had all
surrendered, to be seen. Then suddenly there appeared on the line
at the end of the cutting two men not in uniform. 'Plate-layers,' I
said to myself, and then, with a surge of realization, 'Boers.' My
mind retains a momentary impression of these tall figures, full of
animated movement, clad in dark flapping clothes, with slouch,
storm-driven hats, posing their rifles hardly a hundred yards away.
I turned and ran between the rails of the track, and the only
thought I achieved was this: 'Boer marksmanship.'
"Two bullets passed, both within a foot, one on either side. I flung
myself against the banks of the cutting. But they gave no cover.
Another glance at the figures; one was now kneeling to aim. Again
I darted forward. Again two soft kisses sucked in the air, but
nothing struck me. I must get out of the cutting--that damnable
corridor. I scrambled up the bank. The earth sprang up beside me,
and a bullet touched my hand, but outside the cutting was a tiny
depression. I crouched in this, struggling to get my wind. On the
other side of the railway a horseman galloped up, shouting to me
and waving his hand. He was scarcely forty yards off. With a rifle I
could have killed him easily. I knew nothing of the white flag, and
the bullets had made me savage. I reached down for my Mauser
pistol. I had left it in the cab of the engine. Between me and the
horseman there was a wire fence. Should I continue to fly? The
idea of another shot at such a short range decided me. Death stood
before me, grim and sullen; Death without his light-hearted
companion, Chance. So I held up my hand, and like Mr. Jorrock's
foxes, cried 'Capivy!' Then I was herded with the other prisoners in
a miserable group, and about the same time I noticed that my hand
was bleeding, and it began to pour with rain.
"Two days before I had written to an officer at home: 'There has
been a great deal too much surrendering in this war, and I hope
people who do so will not be encouraged.'"
With other officers, Churchill was imprisoned in the State Model
Schools, situated in the heart of Pretoria. It was distinctly
characteristic that on the very day of his arrival he began to plan to
Toward this end his first step was to lose his campaign hat, which
he recognized was too obviously the hat of an English officer. The
burgher to whom he gave money to purchase him another
innocently brought him a Boer sombrero.
Before his chance to escape came a month elapsed, and the
opportunity that then offered was less an opportunity to escape
than to get himself shot.
The State Model Schools were surrounded by the children's
playgrounds, penned in by a high wall, and at night, while they
were used as a prison, brilliantly lighted by electric lights. After
many nights of observation, Churchill discovered that while the
sentries were pacing their beats there was a moment when to them
a certain portion of the wall was in darkness. This was due to
cross-shadows cast by the electric lights. On the other side of this
wall there was a private house set in a garden filled with bushes.
Beyond this was the open street.
To scale the wall was not difficult; the real danger lay in the fact
that at no time were the sentries farther away than fifteen yards,
and the chance of being shot by one or both of them was excellent.
To a brother officer Churchill confided his purpose, and together
they agreed that some night when the sentries had turned from the
dark spot on the wall they would scale it and drop among the
bushes in the garden. After they reached the garden, should they
reach it alive, what they were to do they did not know. How they
were to proceed through the streets and out of the city, how they
were to pass unchallenged under its many electric lights and before
the illuminated shop windows, how to dodge patrols, and how to
find their way through two hundred and eighty miles of a South
African wilderness, through an utterly unfamiliar, unfriendly, and
sparsely settled country into Portuguese territory and the coast,
they left to chance. But with luck they hoped to cover the distance
in a fortnight, begging corn at the Kaffir kraals, sleeping by day,
and marching under cover of the darkness.
They agreed to make the attempt on the 11th of December, but on
that night the sentries did not move from the only part of the wall
that was in shadow. On the night following, at the last moment,
something delayed Churchill's companion, and he essayed the
adventure alone. He writes: "Tuesday, the 12th! Anything was
better than further suspense. Again night came. Again the dinner
bell sounded. Choosing my opportunity, I strolled across the
quadrangle and secreted myself in one of the offices. Through a
chink I watched the sentries. For half an hour they remained stolid
and obstructive. Then suddenly one turned and walked up to his
comrade and they began to talk. Their backs were turned.
I darted out of my hiding-place and ran to the wall, seized the top
with my hands and drew myself up. Twice I let myself down again
in sickly hesitation, and then with a third resolve scrambled up.
The top was flat. Lying on it, I had one parting glimpse of the
sentries, still talking, still with their backs turned, but, I repeat,
still fifteen yards away. Then I lowered myself into the adjoining
garden and crouched among the shrubs. I was free. The first step
had been taken, and it was irrevocable."
Churchill discovered that the house into the garden of which he
had so unceremoniously introduced himself was brilliantly lighted,
and that the owner was giving a party. At one time two of the
guests walked into the garden and stood, smoking and chatting, in
the path within a few yards of him.
Thinking his companion might yet join him, for an hour he
crouched in the bushes, until from the other side of the wall he
heard the voices of his friend and of another officer.
"It's all up!" his friend whispered. Churchill coughed tentatively.
The two voices drew nearer. To confuse the sentries, should they
be listening, the one officer talked nonsense, laughed loudly, and
quoted Latin phrases, while the other, in a low and distinct voice,
said: " I cannot get out. The sentry suspects. It's all up. Can you get
To go back was impossible. Churchill now felt that in any case he
was sure to be recaptured, and decided he would, as he expresses
it, at least have a run for his money.
"I shall go on alone," he whispered.
He heard the footsteps of his two friends move away from him
across the play yard. At the same moment he stepped boldly out
into the garden and, passing the open windows of the house,
walked down the gravel path to the street. Not five yards from the
gate stood a sentry. Most of those guarding the school-house knew
him by sight, but Churchill did not turn his head, and whether the
sentry recognized him or not, he could not tell.
For a hundred feet he walked as though on ice, inwardly shrinking
as he waited for the sharp challenge, and the rattle of the Mauser
thrown to the "Ready." His nerves were leaping, his heart in his
throat, his spine of water. And then, as he continued to advance,
and still no tumult pursued him, he quickened his pace and turned
into one of the main streets of Pretoria. The sidewalks were
crowded with burghers, but no one noticed him. This was due
probably to the fact that the Boers wore no distinctive uniform,
and that with them in their commandoes were many English
Colonials who wore khaki riding breeches, and many Americans,
French, Germans, and Russians, in every fashion of semi-uniform.
If observed, Churchill was mistaken for one of these, and the very
openness of his movements saved him from suspicion.
Straight through the town he walked until he reached the suburbs,
the open veldt, and a railroad track. As he had no map or compass
he knew this must be his only guide, but he knew also that two
railroads left Pretoria, the one along which he had been captured,
to Pietermaritzburg, and the other, the one leading to the coast and
freedom. Which of the two this one was he had no idea, but he
took his chance, and a hundred yards beyond a station waited for
the first outgoing train. About midnight, a freight stopped at the
station, and after it had left it and before it had again gathered
headway, Churchill swung himself up upon it, and stretched out
upon a pile of coal. Throughout the night the train continued
steadily toward the east, and so told him that it was the one he
wanted, and that he was on his way to the neutral territory of
Fearing the daylight, just before the sun rose, as the train was
pulling up a steep grade, he leaped off into some bushes. All that
day he lay hidden, and the next night he walked. He made but little
headway. As all stations and bridges were guarded, he had to make
long detours, and the tropical moonlight prevented him from
crossing in the open. In this way, sleeping by day, walking by
night, begging food from the Kaffirs, five days passed.
Meanwhile, his absence had been at once discovered, and, by the
Boers, every effort was being made to retake him. Telegrams
giving his description were sent along both railways, three
thousand photographs of him were distributed, each car of every
train was searched, and in different parts of the Transvaal men
who resembled him were being arrested. It was said he had
escaped dressed as a woman; in the uniform of a Transvaal
policeman whom he had bribed; that he had never left Pretoria,
and that in the disguise of a waiter he was concealed in the house
of a British sympathizer. On the strength of this rumor the houses
of all suspected persons were searched.
In the Volksstem it was pointed out as a significant fact that a
week before his escape Churchill had drawn from the library Mill's
"Essay on Liberty."
In England and over all British South Africa the escape created as
much interest as it did in Pretoria. Because the attempt showed
pluck, and because he had outwitted the enemy, Churchill for the
time became a sort of popular hero, and to his countrymen his
escape gave as much pleasure as it was a cause of chagrin to the
But as days passed and nothing was heard of him, it was feared he
had lost himself in the Machadodorp Mountains, or had
succumbed to starvation, or, in the jungle toward the coast, to
fever, and congratulations gave way to anxiety.
The anxiety was justified, for at this time Churchill was in a very
bad way. During the month in prison he had obtained but little
exercise. The lack of food and of water, the cold by night and the
terrific heat by day, the long stumbling marches in the darkness,
the mental effect upon an extremely nervous, high-strung
organization of being hunted, and of having to hide from his
fellow men, had worn him down to a condition almost of collapse.
Even though it were neutral soil, in so exhausted a state he dared
not venture into the swamps and waste places of the Portuguese
territory; and, sick at heart as well as sick in body, he saw no
choice left him save to give himself up.
But before doing so he carefully prepared a tale which, although
most improbable, he hoped might still conceal his identity and aid
him to escape by train across the border.
One night after days of wandering he found himself on the
outskirts of a little village near the boundary line of the Transvaal
and Portuguese territory. Utterly unable to proceed further, he
crawled to the nearest zinc-roofed shack, and, fully prepared to
surrender, knocked at the door. It was opened by a rough-looking,
bearded giant, the first white man to whom in many days Churchill
had dared address himself.
To him, without hope, he feebly stammered forth the speech he
had rehearsed. The man listened with every outward mark of
disbelief. At Churchill himself he stared with open suspicion.
Suddenly he seized the boy by the shoulder, drew him inside the
hut, and barred the door.
"You needn't lie to me," he said. "You are Winston Churchill, and
I--am the only Englishman in this village."
The rest of the adventure was comparatively easy. The next night
his friend in need, an engineer named Howard, smuggled Churchill
Into a freight-car, and hid him under sacks of some soft
At Komatie-Poort, the station on the border, for eighteen hours the
car in which Churchill lay concealed was left in the sun on a
siding, and before it again started it was searched, but the man who
was conducting the search lifted only the top layer of sacks, and a
few minutes later Churchill heard the hollow roar of the car as it
passed over the bridge, and knew that he was across the border.
Even then he took no chances, and for two days more lay hidden at
the bottom of the car.
When at last he arrived in Lorenzo Marques he at once sought out
the English Consul, who, after first mistaking him for a stoker
from one of the ships in the harbor, gave him a drink, a bath, and a
As good luck would have it, the Induna was leaving that night
for Durban, and, escorted by a body-guard of English residents
armed with revolvers, and who were taking no chances of his
recapture by the Boer agents, he was placed safely on board. Two
days later he arrived at Durban, where he was received by the
Mayor, the populace, and a brass band playing: "Britons Never,
Never, Never shall be Slaves!"
For the next month Churchill was bombarded by letters and
telegrams from every part of the globe, some invited him to
command filibustering expeditions, others sent him woollen
comforters, some forwarded photographs of himself to be signed,
others photographs of themselves, possibly to be admired, others
sent poems, and some bottles of whiskey.
One admirer wrote: "My congratulations on your wonderful and
glorious deeds, which will send such a thrill of pride and
enthusiasm through Great Britain and the United States of
America, that the Anglo-Saxon race will be irresistible."
Lest so large an order as making the Anglo-Saxon race irresistible
might turn the head of a subaltern, an antiseptic cablegram was
also sent him, from London, reading:
"Best friends here hope you won't go making further ass of
One day in camp we counted up the price per word of this
cablegram, and Churchill was delighted to find that it must have
cost the man who sent it five pounds.
On the day of his arrival in Durban, with the cheers still in the air,
Churchill took the first train to "the front," then at Colenso.
Another man might have lingered. After a month's imprisonment
and the hardships of the escape, he might have been excused for
delaying twenty-four hours to taste the sweets of popularity and the
flesh-pots of the Queen Hotel. But if the reader has followed this
brief biography he will know that to have done so would have been
out of the part. This characteristic of Churchill's to get on to the
next thing explains his success. He has no time to waste on
postmortems, he takes none to rest on his laurels.
As a war correspondent and officer he continued with Buller until
the relief of Ladysmith, and with Roberts until the fall of Pretoria.
He was in many actions, in all the big engagements, and came out
of the war with another medal and clasps for six battles.
On his return to London he spent the summer finishing his second
book on the war, and in October at the general election as a
"khaki" candidate, as those were called who favored the war, again
stood for Oldham. This time, with his war record to help him, he
wrested from the Liberals one of Oldham's two seats. He had been
defeated by thirteen hundred votes; he was elected by a majority of
two hundred and twenty-seven.
The few months that intervened between his election and the
opening of the new Parliament were snatched by Churchill for a
lecturing tour at home, and in the United States and Canada. His
subject was the war and his escape from Pretoria.
When he came to this country half of the people here were in
sympathy with the Boers, and did not care to listen to what they
supposed would be a strictly British version of the war. His
manager, without asking permission of those whose names he
advertised, organized for Churchill's first appearance in various
cities, different reception committees.
Some of those whose names, without their consent, were used for
these committees, wrote indignantly to the papers, saying that
while for Churchill, personally, they held every respect, they
objected to being used to advertise an anti-Boer demonstration.
While this was no fault of Churchill's, who, until he reached this
country knew nothing of it, it was neither for him nor for the
success of his tour the best kind of advance work.
During the fighting to relieve Ladysmith, with General Buller's
force, Churchill and I had again been together, and later when I
joined the Boer army, at the Zand River Battle, the army with
which he was a correspondent had chased the army with which I
was a correspondent, forty miles. I had been one of those who
refused to act on his reception committee, and he had come to this
country with a commission from twenty brother officers to shoot
me on sight. But in his lecture he was using the photographs I had
taken of the scene of his escape, and which I had sent him from
Pretoria as a souvenir, and when he arrived I was at the hotel to
welcome him, and that same evening three hours after midnight he
came, in a blizzard, pounding at our door for food and drink. What
is a little thing like a war between friends?
During his "tour," except of hotels, parlor-cars, and "Lyceums," he
saw very little of this country or of its people, and they saw very
little of him. On the trip, which lasted about two months, he
cleared ten thousand dollars. This, to a young man almost entirely
dependent for an income upon his newspaper work and the sale of
his books, nearly repaid him for the two months of "one night
stands." On his return to London he took his seat in the new
It was a coincidence that he entered Parliament at the same age as
did his father. With two other members, one born six days earlier
than himself, he enjoyed the distinction of being among the three
youngest members of the new House.
The fact did not seem to appall him. In the House it is a tradition
that young and ambitious members sit "below" the gangway; the
more modest and less assured are content to place themselves
"above" it, at a point farthest removed from the leaders.
On the day he was sworn in there was much curiosity to see where
Churchill would elect to sit. In his own mind there was apparently
no doubt. After he had taken the oath, signed his name, and shaken
the hand of the Speaker, without hesitation he seated himself on
the bench next to the Ministry. Ten minutes later, so a newspaper
of the day describes it, he had cocked his hat over his eyes, shoved
his hands into his trousers pockets, and was lolling back eying the
veterans of the House with critical disapproval.
His maiden speech was delivered in May, 1901, in reply to David
Lloyd George, who had attacked the conduct of British soldiers in
South Africa. Churchill defended them, and in a manner that from
all sides gained him honest admiration. In the course of the debate
he produced and read a strangely apropos letter which, fifteen
years before, had been written by his father to Lord Salisbury. His
adroit use of this filled H. W. Massingham, the editor of the Daily
News, with enthusiasm. Nothing in parliamentary tactics, he
declared, since Mr. Gladstone died, had been so clever. He
proclaimed that Churchill would be Premier. John Dillon, the
Nationalist leader, said he never before had seen a young man, by
means of his maiden effort, spring into the front rank of
parliamentary speakers. He promised that the Irish members would
ungrudgingly testify to his ability and honesty of purpose. Among
others to at once recognize the rising star was T. P. O'Connor,
himself for many years of the parliamentary firmament one of the
brightest stars. In M. A. P. he wrote: "I am inclined to think that
the dash of American blood which he has from his mother has
been an improvement on the original stock, and that Mr. Winston
Churchill may turn out to be a stronger and abler politician than
It was all a part of Churchill's "luck" that when he entered
Parliament the subject in debate was the conduct of the war.
Even in those first days of his career in the House, in debates
where angels feared to tread, he did not hesitate to rush in, but this
subject was one on which he spoke with knowledge. Over the
older men who were forced to quote from hearsay or from what
they had read, Churchill had the tremendous advantage of being
able to protest: "You only read of that. I was there. I saw it."
In the House he became at once one of the conspicuous and
picturesque figures, one dear to the heart of the caricaturist, and
one from the strangers' gallery most frequently pointed out. He was
called "the spoiled child of the House," and there were several
distinguished gentlemen who regretted they were forced to spare
the rod. Broderick, the Secretary for War, was one of these. Of him
and of his recruits in South Africa, Churchill spoke with the awful
frankness of the enfant terrible. And although he addressed them
more with sorrow than with anger, to Balfour and Chamberlain he
daily administered advice and reproof, while mere generals and
field-marshals, like Kitchener and Roberts, blushing under new
titles, were held up for public reproof and briefly but severely
chastened. Nor, when he saw Lord Salisbury going astray, did he
hesitate in his duty to the country, but took the Prime Minister by
the hand and gently instructed him in the way he should go.
This did not tend to make him popular, but in spite of his
unpopularity, in his speeches against national extravagancies he
made so good a fight that he forced the Government, unwillingly,
to appoint a committee to investigate the need of economy. For a
beginner this was a distinct triumph.
With Lord Hugh Cecil, Lord Percy, Ian Malcolm, and other clever
young men, he formed inside the Conservative Party a little group
that in its obstructive and independent methods was not unlike the
Fourth Party of his father. From its leader and its filibustering,
guerilla-like tactics the men who composed it were nicknamed the
"Hughligans." The Hughligans were the most active critics of the
Ministry and of all in their own party, and as members of the Free
Food League they bitterly attacked the fiscal proposals of Mr.
Chamberlain. When Balfour made Chamberlain's fight for fair
trade, or for what virtually was protection, a measure of the
Conservatives, the lines of party began to break, and men were no
longer Conservatives or Liberals, but Protectionists or Free
Against this Churchill daily protested, against Chamberlain,
against his plan, against that plan being adopted by the Tory Party.
By tradition, by inheritance, by instinct, Churchill was a Tory.
"I am a Tory," he said, "and I have as much right in the party as has
anybody else, certainly as much as certain people from
Birmingham. They can't turn us out, and we, the Tory Free
Traders, have as much right to dictate the policy of the
Conservative Party as have any reactionary Fair Traders." In 1904
the Conservative Party already recognized Churchill as one
working outside the breastworks. Just before the Easter vacation of
that year, when he rose to speak a remarkable demonstration was
made against him by his Unionist colleagues, all of them rising
and leaving the House.
To the Liberals who remained to hear him he stated that if to his
constituents his opinions were obnoxious, he was ready to resign
his seat. It then was evident he would go over to the Liberal Party.
Some thought he foresaw which way the tidal wave was coming,
and to being slapped down on the beach and buried in the sand, he
preferred to be swept forward on its crest. Others believed he left
the Conservatives because he could not honestly stomach the taxed
food offered by Mr. Chamberlain.
In any event, if he were to be blamed for changing from one party
to the other, he was only following the distinguished example set
him by Gladstone, Disraeli, Harcourt, and his own father.
It was at the time of this change that he was called "the best hated
man in England," but the Liberals welcomed him gladly, and the
National Liberal Club paid him the rare compliment of giving in
his honor a banquet. There were present two hundred members.
Up to that time this dinner was the most marked testimony to his
importance in the political world. It was about then, a year since,
that he prophesied: "Within nine months there will come such a
tide and deluge as will sweep through England and Scotland, and
completely wash out and effect a much-needed spring cleaning in
When the deluge came, at Manchester, Mr. Balfour was defeated,
and Churchill was victorious, and when the new Government was
formed the tidal wave landed Churchill in the office of
Under-Secretary for the Colonies.
While this is being written the English papers say that within a
month he again will be promoted. For this young man of thirty the
only promotion remaining is a position in the Cabinet, in which
august body men of fifty are considered young.
His is a picturesque career. Of any man of his few years speaking
our language, his career is probably the most picturesque. And that
he is half an American gives all of us an excuse to pretend we
share in his successes.
CAPTAIN PHILO NORTON McGIFFIN
IN the Chinese-Japanese War the battle of the Yalu was the first
battle fought between warships of modern make, and, except on
paper, neither the men who made them nor the men who fought
them knew what the ships could do, or what they might not do. For
years every naval power had been building these new engines of
war, and in the battle which was to test them the whole world was
interested. But in this battle Americans had a special interest, a
human, family interest, for the reason that one of the Chinese
squadron, which was matched against some of the same vessels of
Japan which lately swept those of Russia from the sea, was
commanded by a young graduate of the American Naval Academy.
This young man, who, at the time of the battle of the Yalu, was
thirty-three years old, was Captain Philo Norton McGiffin. So it
appears that five years before our fleet sailed to victory in Manila
Bay another graduate of Annapolis, and one twenty years younger
than in 1898 was Admiral Dewey, had commanded in action a
modern battleship, which, in tonnage, in armament, and in the
number of the ships' company, far outclassed Dewey's Olympia.
McGiffin, who was born on December 13, 1860, came of fighting
stock. Back in Scotland the family is descended from the Clan
MacGregor and the Clan MacAlpine.
"These are Clan-Alpine's warriors true,
And, Saxon--I am Roderick Dhu."
McGiffin's great-grandfather, born in Scotland, emigrated to this
country and settled in "Little Washington," near Pittsburg, Pa. In
the Revolutionary War he was a soldier. Other relatives fought in
the War of 1812, one of them holding a commission as major.
McGiffin's own father was Colonel Norton McGiffin, who served
in the Mexican War, and in the Civil War was Lieutenant-Colonel
of the Eighty-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers. So McGiffin inherited
his love for arms.
In Washington he went to the high school and at the Washington
Jefferson College had passed through his freshman year. But the
honors that might accrue to him if he continued to live on in the
quiet and pretty old town of Washington did not tempt him. To
escape into the world he wrote his Congressman, begging him to
obtain for him an appointment to Annapolis. The Congressman
liked the letter, and wrote Colonel McGiffin to ask if the
application of his son had his approval. Colonel McGiffin was
willing, and in 1877 his son received his commission as cadet
midshipman. I knew McGiffin only as a boy with whom in
vacation time I went coon hunting in the woods outside of
Washington. For his age he was a very tall boy, and in his
midshipman undress uniform, to my youthful eyes, appeared a
most bold and adventurous spirit.
At Annapolis his record seems to show he was pretty much like
other boys. According to his classmates, with all of whom I find he
was very popular, he stood high in the practical studies, such as
seamanship, gunnery, navigation, and steam engineering, but in all
else he was near the foot of the class, and in whatever escapade
was risky and reckless he was always one of the leaders. To him
discipline was extremely irksome. He could maintain it among
others, but when it applied to himself it bored him. On the floor of
the Academy building on which was his room there was a pyramid
of cannon balls--relics of the War of 1812. They stood at the head
of the stairs, and one warm night, when he could not sleep, he
decided that no one else should do so, and, one by one, rolled the
cannon balls down the stairs. They tore away the banisters and
bumped through the wooden steps and leaped off into the lower
halls. For any one who might think of ascending to discover the
motive power back of the bombardment they were extremely
dangerous. But an officer approached McGiffin in the rear, and,
having been caught in the act, he was sent to the prison ship. There
he made good friends with his jailer, an old man-of-warsman
named "Mike." He will be remembered by many naval officers
who as midshipmen served on the Santee. McGiffin so won over
Mike that when he left the ship he carried with him six charges of
gunpowder. These he loaded into the six big guns captured in the
Mexican War, which lay on the grass in the centre of the Academy
grounds, and at midnight on the eve of July 1st he fired a salute. It
aroused the entire garrison, and for a week the empty window
frames kept the glaziers busy.
About 1878 or 1879 there was a famine in Ireland. The people of
New York City contributed provisions for the sufferers, and to
carry the supplies to Ireland the Government authorized the use of
the old Constellation. At the time the voyage was to begin each
cadet was instructed to consider himself as having been placed in
command of the Constellation and to write a report on the
preparations made for the voyage, on the loading of the vessel, and
on the distribution of the stores. This exercise was intended for the
instruction of the cadets; first in the matter of seamanship and
navigation, and second in making official reports. At that time it
was a very difficult operation to get a gun out of the port of a
vessel where the gun was on a covered deck. To do this the
necessary tackles had to be rigged from the yard-arm and the yard
and mast properly braced and stayed, and then the lower block of
the tackle carried in through the gun port, which, of course, gave
the fall a very bad reeve. The first part of McGiffin's report dealt
with a new method of dismounting the guns and carrying them
through the gun ports, and so admirable was his plan, so simple
and ingenious, that it was used whenever it became necessary to
dismount a gun from one of the old sailing ships. Having,
however, offered this piece of good work, McGiffin's report
proceeded to tell of the division of the ship into compartments that
were filled with a miscellaneous assortment of stores, which
included the old "fifteen puzzles," at that particular time very
popular. The report terminated with a description of the joy of the
famished Irish as they received the puzzle-boxes. At another time
the cadets were required to write a report telling of the suppression
of the insurrection on the Isthmus of Panama. McGiffin won great
praise for the military arrangements and disposition of his men,
but, in the same report, he went on to describe how he armed them
with a new gun known as Baines's Rhetoric and told of the havoc
he wrought in the enemy's ranks when he fired these guns loaded
with similes and metaphors and hyperboles.
Of course, after each exhibition of this sort he was sent to the
Santee and given an opportunity to meditate.
On another occasion, when one of the instructors lectured to the
cadets, he required them to submit a written statement embodying
all that they could recall of what had been said at the lecture. One
of the rules concerning this report provided that there should be no
erasures or interlineations, but that when mistakes were made the
objectionable or incorrect expressions should be included within
parentheses; and that the matter so enclosed within parentheses
would not be considered a part of the report. McGiffin wrote an
excellent resume of the lecture, but he interspersed through it in
parentheses such words as "applause," "cheers," "cat-calls," and
"groans," and as these words were enclosed within parentheses he
insisted that they did not count, and made a very fair plea that he
ought not to be punished for words which slipped in by mistake,
and which he had officially obliterated by what he called oblivion
He was not always on mischief bent. On one occasion, when the
house of a professor caught fire, McGiffin ran into the flames and
carried out two children, for which act he was commended by the
Secretary of the Navy.
It was an act of Congress that determined that the career of
McGiffin should be that of a soldier of fortune. This was a most
unjust act, which provided that only as many midshipmen should
receive commissions as on the warships there were actual
vacancies. In those days, in 1884, our navy was very small. To-day
there is hardly a ship having her full complement of officers, and
the difficulty is not to get rid of those we have educated, but to get
officers to educate. To the many boys who, on the promise that
they would be officers of the navy, had worked for four years at
the Academy and served two years at sea, the act was most unfair.
Out of a class of about ninety, only the first twelve were given
commissions and the remaining eighty turned adrift upon the
uncertain seas of civil life. As a sop, each was given one thousand
McGiffin was not one of the chosen twelve. In the final
examinations on the list he was well toward the tail. But without
having studied many things, and without remembering the greater
part of them, no one graduates from Annapolis, even last on the
list; and with his one thousand dollars in cash, McGiffin had also
this six years of education at what was then the best naval college
in the world. This was his only asset--his education--and as in his
own country it was impossible to dispose of it, for possible
purchasers he looked abroad.
At that time the Tong King war was on between France and China,
and he decided, before it grew rusty, to offer his knowledge to the
followers of the Yellow Dragon. In those days that was a hazard of
new fortunes that meant much more than it does now. To-day the
East is as near as San Francisco; the Japanese-Russian War, our
occupation of the Philippines, the part played by our troops in the
Boxer trouble, have made the affairs of China part of the daily
reading of every one. Now, one can step into a brass bed at
Forty-second Street and in four days at the Coast get into another
brass bed, and in twelve more be spinning down the Bund of
Yokohama in a rickshaw. People go to Japan for the winter months
as they used to go to Cairo.
But in 1885 it was no such light undertaking, certainly not for a
young man who had been brought up in the quiet atmosphere of an
inland town, where generations of his family and other families
had lived and intermarried, content with their surroundings.
With very few of his thousand dollars left him, McGiffin arrived in
February, 1885, in San Francisco. From there his letters to his
family give one the picture of a healthy, warm-hearted youth,
chiefly anxious lest his mother and sister should "worry." In our
country nearly every family knows that domestic tragedy when the
son and heir "breaks home ties," and starts out to earn a living; and
if all the world loves a lover, it at least sympathizes with the boy
who is "looking for a job." The boy who is looking for the job may
not think so, but each of those who has passed through the same
hard place gives him, if nothing else, his good wishes. McGiffin's
letters at this period gain for him from those who have had the
privilege to read them the warmest good feeling.
They are filled with the same cheery optimism, the same slurring
over of his troubles, the same homely jokes, the same assurances
that he is feeling "bully," and that it all will come out right, that
every boy, when he starts out in the world, sends back to his
"I am in first-rate health and spirits, so I don't want you to fuss
about me. I am big enough and ugly enough to scratch along
somehow, and I will not starve."
To his mother he proudly sends his name written in Chinese
characters, as he had been taught to write it by the Chinese
Consul-General in San Francisco, and a pen-picture of two
elephants. "I am going to bring you home two of these," he
writes, not knowing that in the strange and wonderful country to
which he is going elephants are as infrequent as they are in
He reached China in April, and from Nagasaki on his way to
Shanghai the steamer that carried him was chased by two French
gunboats. But, apparently much to his disappointment, she soon
ran out of range of their guns. Though he did not know it then,
with the enemy he had travelled so far to fight this was his first
and last hostile meeting; for already peace was in the air.
Of that and of how, in spite of peace, he obtained the "job" he
wanted, he must tell you himself in a letter home:
TIEN-TSIN, CHINA, April 13, 1885.
"MY DEAR MOTHER--I have not felt much in the humor for
writing, for I did not know what was going to happen. I spent a
good deal of money coming out, and when I got here, I knew,
unless something turned up, I was a gone coon. We got off Taku
forts Sunday evening and the next morning we went inside; the
channel is very narrow and sown with torpedoes. We struck
one--an electric one--in coming up, but it didn't go off. We were
until 10.30 P.M. in coming up to Tien-Tsin--thirty miles in a
straight line, but nearly seventy by the river, which is only about
one hundred feet wide--and we grounded ten times.
"Well--at last we moored and went ashore. Brace Girdle, an
engineer, and I went to the hotel, and the first thing we heard
was--that peace was declared! I went back on board ship, and I
didn't sleep much--I never was so blue in my life. I knew if they
didn't want me that I might as well give up the ghost, for I could
never get away from China. Well--I worried around all night
without sleep, and in the morning I felt as if I had been drawn
through a knot-hole. I must have lost ten pounds. I went around
about 10 A.M. and gave my letters to Pethick, an American U. S.
Vice-Consul and interpreter to Li Hung Chang. He said he would
fix them for me. Then I went back to the ship, and as our captain
was going up to see Li Hung Chang, I went along out of
desperation. We got in, and after a while were taken in through
corridor after corridor of the Viceroy's palace until we got into the
great Li, when we sat down and had tea and tobacco and talked
through an interpreter. When it came my turn he asked: 'Why did
you come to China?' I said: 'To enter the Chinese service for the
war.' 'How do you expect to enter?' 'I expect you to give me a
commission!' 'I have no place to offer you.' 'I think you have--I
have come all the way from America to get it.' 'What would you
like?' 'I would like to get the new torpedo-boat and go down the
Yang-tse-Kiang to the blockading squadron.' 'Will you do that?' 'Of
"He thought a little and said: 'I will see what can be done. Will you
take $100 a month for a start?' I said: 'That depends.' (Of course I
would take it.) Well, after parley, he said he would put me on the
flagship, and if I did well he would promote me. Then he looked at
me and said: 'How old are you ?' When I told him I was
twenty-four I thought he would faint--for in China a man is a
boy until he is over thirty. He said I would never do--I was a
child. I could not know anything at all. I could not convince him,
but at last he compromised--I was to pass an examination at the
Arsenal at the Naval College, in all branches, and if they passed
me I would have a show. So we parted. I reported for examination
next day, but was put off--same the next day. But to-day I was told
to come, and sat down to a stock of foolscap, and had a pretty stiff
exam. I am only just through. I had seamanship, gunnery,
navigation, nautical astronomy, algebra, geometry, trigonometry,
conic sections, curve tracing, differential and integral calculus. I
had only three questions out of five to answer in each branch, but
in the first three I answered all five. After that I only had time for
three, but at the end he said I need not finish, he was perfectly
satisfied. I had done remarkably well, and he would report to the
Viceroy to-morrow. He examined my first
papers--seamanship--said I was perfect in it, so I will get
along, you need not fear. I told the Consul--he was very well
pleased--he is a nice man.
"I feel pretty well now--have had dinner and am smoking a good
Manila cheroot. I wrote hard all day, wrote fifteen sheets of
foolscap and made about a dozen drawings--got pretty tired.
"I have had a hard scramble for the service and only got in by the
skin of my teeth. I guess I will go to bed--I will sleep well
"I did not hear from the Naval Secretary, Tuesday, so yesterday
morning I went up to the Admiralty and sent in my card. He came
out and received me very well--said I had passed a 'very splendid
examination'; had been recommended very strongly to the Viceroy,
who was very much pleased; that the Director of the Naval College
over at the Arsenal had wanted me and would I go over at once? I
would. It was about five miles. We (a friend, who is a great rider
here) went on steeplechase ponies--we were ferried across the Pei
Ho in a small scow and then had a long ride. There is a path--but
Pritchard insisted on taking all the ditches, and as my pony jumped
like a cat, it wasn't nice at first, but I didn't squeal and kept my seat
and got the swing of it at last and rather liked it. I think I will keep
a horse here--you can hire one and a servant together for $7 a
month; that is $5.60 of our money, and pony and man found in
"Well--at last we got to the Arsenal--a place about four miles
around, fortified, where all sorts of arms--cartridges, shot and
shell, engines, and everything--are made. The Naval College is
inside surrounded by a moat and wall. I thought to myself, if the
cadet here is like to the thing I used to be at the U. S. N. A. that
won't keep him in. I went through a lot of yards till I was ushered
into a room finished in black ebony and was greeted very warmly
by the Director. We took seats on a raised platform--Chinese style
and pretty soon an interpreter came, one of the Chinese professors,
who was educated abroad, and we talked and drank tea. He said I
had done well, that he had the authority of the Viceroy to take me
there as 'Professor' of seamanship and gunnery; in addition I might
be required to teach navigation or nautical astronomy, or drill the
cadets in infantry, artillery, and fencing. For this I was to receive
what would be in our money $1,800 per annum, as near as we can
compare it, paid in gold each month. Besides, I will have a house
furnished for my use, and it is their intention, as soon as I show
that I know something, to considerably increase my pay. They
asked the Viceroy to give me 130 T per month (about $186) and
house, but the Viceroy said I was but a boy; that I had seen no
years and had only come here a week ago with no one to vouch for
me, and that I might turn out an impostor. But he would risk 100 T
on me anyhow, and as soon as I was reported favorably on by the
college I would be raised--the agreement is to be for three years.
For a few months I am to command a training ship--an ironclad
that is in dry dock at present, until a captain in the English Navy
comes out, who has been sent for to command her.
"So Here I am--twenty-four years old and captain of a
man-of-war--a better one than any in our own navy--only for a
short time, of course, but I would be a pretty long time before I
would command one at home. Well--I accepted and will enter on
my duties in a week, as soon as my house is put in order. I saw
it--it has a long veranda, very broad; with flower garden, apricot
trees, etc., just covered with blossoms; a wide hall on the front, a
room about 18x15, with a 13-foot ceiling; then back another rather
larger, with a cupola skylight in the centre, where I am going to
put a shelf with flowers. The Government is to furnish the house
with bed, tables, chairs, sideboards, lounges, stove for kitchen. I
have grates (American) in the room, but I don't need them. We
have snow, and a good deal of ice in winter, but the thermometer
never gets below zero. I have to supply my own crockery. I will
have two servants and cook; I will only get one and the cook
first--they only cost $4 to $5.50 per month, and their board
amounts to very little. I can get along, don't you think so? Now I
want you to get Jim to pack up all my professional works on
gunnery, surveying, seamanship, mathematics, astronomy, algebra,
geometry, trigonometry, conic sections, calculus, mechanics, and
every book of that description I own, including those
paperbound 'Naval Institute' papers, and put them in a box,
together with any photos, etc., you think I would like--I have none
of you or Pa or the family (including Carrie)--and send to me.
"I just got in in time--didn't I? Another week would have been too
late. My funds were getting low; I would not have had anything
before long. The U. S. Consul, General Bromley, is much pleased.
The interpreter says it was all in the way I did with the Viceroy in
"I will have a chance to go to Peking and later to a tiger hunt in
Mongolia, but for the present I am going to study, work, and
stroke these mandarins till I get a raise. I am the only instructor
in both seamanship and gunnery, and I must know everything,
both practically and theoretically. But it will be good for me and
the only thing is, that if I were put back into the Navy I would be
in a dilemma. I think I will get my 'influence' to work, and I want
you people at home to look out, and in case I am--if it were
represented to the Sec. that my position here was giving me an
immense lot of practical knowledge professionally--more than I
could get on a ship at sea--I think he would give me two years'
leave on half or quarter pay. Or, I would be willing to do without
pay--only to be kept on the register in my rank.
"I will write more about this. Love to all."
It is characteristic of McGiffin that in the very same letter in which
he announces he has entered foreign service he plans to return to
that of his own country. This hope never left him. You find the
same homesickness for the quarterdeck of an American
man-of-war all through his later letters. At one time a bill to
reinstate the midshipmen who had been cheated of their
commissions was introduced into Congress. Of this McGiffin
writes frequently as "our bill." "It may pass," he writes, "but I am
tired hoping. I have hoped so long. And if it should," he adds
anxiously, "there may be a time limit set in which a man must
rejoin, or lose his chance, so do not fail to let me know as quickly
as you can." But the bill did not pass, and McGiffin never returned
to the navy that had cut him adrift. He settled down at Tien-Tsin
and taught the young cadets how to shoot. Almost all of those who
in the Chinese-Japanese War served as officers were his pupils. As
the navy grew, he grew with it, and his position increased in
importance. More Mexican dollars per month, more servants,
larger houses, and buttons of various honorable colors were given
him, and, in return, he established for China a modem naval
college patterned after our own. In those days throughout China
and Japan you could find many of these foreign advisers. Now, in
Japan, the Hon. W. H. Dennison of the Foreign Office, one of our
own people, is the only foreigner with whom the Japanese have
not parted, and in China there are none. Of all of those who have
gone none served his employers more faithfully than did McGiffin.
At a time when every official robbed the people and the
Government, and when "squeeze" or "graft" was recognized as a
perquisite, McGiffin's hands were clean. The shells purchased for
the Government by him were not loaded with black sand, nor were
the rifles fitted with barrels of iron pipe. Once a year he celebrated
the Thanksgiving Day of his own country by inviting to a great
dinner all the Chinese naval officers who had been at least in part
educated in America. It was a great occasion, and to enjoy it
officers used to come from as far as Port Arthur, Shanghai, and
Hong-Kong. So fully did some of them appreciate the efforts of
their host that previous to his annual dinner, for twenty-four hours,
they delicately starved themselves.
During ten years McGiffin served as naval constructor and
professor of gunnery and seamanship, and on board ships at sea
gave practical demonstrations in the handling of the new cruisers.
In 1894 he applied for leave, which was granted, but before he had
sailed for home war with Japan was declared and he withdrew his
application. He was placed as second in command on board the
Chen Yuen, a seven-thousand-ton battleship, a sister ship to the
Ting Yuen, the flagship of Admiral Ting Ju Chang. On the
memorable 17th of September, 1894, the battle of the Yalu was
fought, and so badly were the Chinese vessels hammered that the
Chinese navy, for the time being, was wiped out of existence.
From the start the advantage was with the Japanese fleet. In heavy
guns the Chinese were the better armed, but in quick-firing guns
the Japanese were vastly superior, and while the Chinese
battleships Ting Yuen and Chen Yuen, each of 7,430 tons,
were superior to any of the Japanese warships, the three largest of
which were each of 4,277 tons, the gross tonnage of the Japanese
fleet was 36,000 to 21,000 of the Chinese. During the progress of
the battle the ships engaged on each side numbered an even dozen,
but at the very start, before a decisive shot was fired by either
contestant, the Tsi Yuen, 2,355 tons, and Kwan Chiae, 1,300
tons, ran away, and before they had time to get into the game the
Chao Yung and Yang Wei were in flames and had fled to the
nearest land. So the battle was fought by eight Chinese ships
against twelve of the Japanese. Of the Chinese vessels, the
flagship, commanded by Admiral Ting, and her sister ship, which
immediately after the beginning of the fight was for four hours
commanded by McGiffin, were the two chief aggressors, and in
consequence received the fire of the entire Japanese squadron.
Toward the end of the fight, which without interruption lasted for
five long hours, the Japanese did not even consider the four
smaller ships of the enemy, but, sailing around the two ironclads in
a circle, fired only at them. The Japanese themselves testified that
these two ships never lost their
formation, and that when her sister ironclad was closely pressed
the Chen Yuen, by her movements and gun practice, protected
the Ting Yuen, and, in fact, while she could not prevent the
heavy loss the fleet encountered, preserved it from annihilation.
During the fight this ship was almost continuously on fire, and was
struck by every kind of projectile, from the thirteen-inch Canet
shells to a rifle bullet, four hundred times. McGiffin himself was
so badly wounded, so beaten about by concussions, so burned, and
so bruised by steel splinters, that his health and eyesight were
forever wrecked. But he brought the Chen Yuen safely into Port
Arthur and the remnants of the fleet with her.
On account of his lack of health he resigned from the Chinese
service and returned to America. For two years he lived in New
York City, suffering in body without cessation the most exquisite
torture. During that time his letters to his family show only
tremendous courage. On the splintered, gaping deck of the Chen
Yuen, with the fires below it, and the shells bursting upon it, he
had shown to his Chinese crew the courage of the white man who
knew he was responsible for them and for the honor of their
country. But far greater and more difficult was the courage he
showed while alone in the dark sick-room, and in the private wards
of the hospitals.
In the letters he dictates from there he still is concerned only lest
those at home shall "worry"; he reassures them with falsehoods,
jokes at their fears; of the people he can see from the window of
the hospital tells them foolish stories; for a little boy who has been
kind he asks them to send him his Chinese postage stamps; he
plans a trip he will take with them when he is stronger, knowing he
never will be stronger. The doctors had urged upon him a certain
operation, and of it to a friend he wrote: "I know that I will have to
have a piece about three inches square cut out of my skull, and this
nerve cut off near the middle of the brain, as well as my eye taken
out (for a couple of hours only, provided it is not mislaid, and can
be found). Doctor ------ and his crowd show a bad memory for
failures. As a result of this operation others have told me--I forget
the percentage of deaths, which does not matter, but--that a large
percentage have become insane. And some lost their sight."
While threatened with insanity and complete blindness, and hourly
from his wounds suffering a pain drugs could not master, he
dictated for the Century Magazine the only complete account of
the battle of the Yalu. In a letter to Mr. Richard Watson Gilder he
writes: "...my eyes are troubling me. I cannot see even what I am
writing now, and am getting the article under difficulties. I yet
hope to place it in your hands by the 21st, still, if my eyes grow
"Still, if my eyes grow worse------"
The unfinished sentence was grimly prophetic.
Unknown to his attendants at the hospital, among the papers in his
despatch-box he had secreted his service revolver. On the morning
of the 11th of February, 1897, he asked for this box, and on some
pretext sent the nurse from the room. When the report of the pistol
brought them running to his bedside, they found the pain-driven
body at peace, and the tired eyes dark forever.
In the article in the Century on the battle of the Yalu, he had
"Chief among those who have died for their country is Admiral
Ting Ju Chang, a gallant soldier and true gentleman. Betrayed by
his countrymen, fighting against odds, almost his last official act
was to stipulate for the lives of his officers and men. His own he
scorned to save, well knowing that his ungrateful country would
prove less merciful than his honorable foe. Bitter, indeed, must
have been the reflections of the old, wounded hero, in that
midnight hour, as he drank the poisoned cup that was to give him
And bitter indeed must have been the reflections of the young
wounded American, robbed, by the parsimony of his country, of
the right he had earned to serve it, and who was driven out to give
his best years and his life for a strange people under a strange flag.
GENERAL WILLIAM WALKER, THE KING OF THE FILIBUSTERS
IT is safe to say that to members of the younger generation the
name of William Walker conveys absolutely nothing. To them, as
a name, "William Walker" awakens no pride of race or country. It
certainly does not suggest poetry and adventure. To obtain a place
in even this group of Soldiers of Fortune, William Walker, the
most distinguished of all American Soldiers of Fortune, the one
who but for his own countrymen would have single-handed
attained the most far-reaching results, had to wait his turn behind
adventurers of other lands and boy officers of his own. And yet
had this man with the plain name, the name that to-day means
nothing, accomplished what he adventured, he would on this
continent have solved the problem of slavery, have established an
empire in Mexico and in Central America, and, incidentally, have
brought us into war with all of Europe. That is all he would have
In the days of gold in San Francisco among the "Forty-niners"
William Walker was one of the most famous, most picturesque
and popular figures. Jack Oakhurst, gambler; Colonel Starbottle,
duellist; Yuba Bill, stage-coach driver, were his contemporaries.
Bret Harte was one of his keenest admirers, and in two of his
stories, thinly disguised under a more appealing name, Walker is
the hero. When, later, Walker came to New York City, in his
honor Broadway from the Battery to Madison Square was
bedecked with flags and arches. "It was roses, roses all the way."
The house-tops rocked and swayed.
In New Orleans, where in a box at the opera he made his first
appearance, for ten minutes the performance came to a pause,
while the audience stood to salute him.
This happened less than fifty years ago, and there are men who as
boys were out with "Walker of Nicaragua," and who are still active
in the public life of San Francisco and New York.
Walker was born in 1824, in Nashville, Tenn. He was the oldest
son of a Scotch banker, a man of a deeply religious mind, and
interested in a business which certainly is removed, as far as
possible, from the profession of arms. Indeed, few men better than
William Walker illustrate the fact that great generals are born, not
trained. Everything in Walker's birth, family tradition, and
education pointed to his becoming a member of one of the
"learned" professions. It was the wish of his father that he should
be a minister of the Presbyterian Church, and as a child he was
trained with that end in view. He himself preferred to study
medicine, and after graduating at the University of Tennessee, at
Edinburgh he followed a course of lectures, and for two years
travelled in Europe, visiting many of the great hospitals.
Then having thoroughly equipped himself to practise as a
physician, after a brief return to his native city, and as short a stay
in Philadelphia, he took down his shingle forever, and proceeded
to New Orleans to study law. In two years he was admitted to the
bar of Louisiana. But because clients were few, or because the red
tape of the law chafed his spirit, within a year, as already he had
abandoned the Church and Medicine, he abandoned his law
practice and became an editorial writer on the New Orleans
Crescent. A year later the restlessness which had rebelled
against the grave professions led him to the gold fields of
California, and San Francisco. There, in 1852, at the age of only
twenty-eight, as editor of the San Francisco Herald, Walker
began his real life which so soon was to end in both disaster and
Up to his twenty-eighth year, except in his restlessness, nothing in
his life foreshadowed what was to follow. Nothing pointed to him
as a man for whom thousands of other men, from every capital of
the world, would give up their lives.
Negatively, by abandoning three separate callings, and in making it
plain that a professional career did not appeal to him, Walker had
thrown a certain sidelight on his character; but actively he never
had given any hint that under the thoughtful brow of the young
doctor and lawyer there was a mind evolving schemes of empire,
and an ambition limited only by the two great oceans.
Walker's first adventure was undoubtedly inspired by and in
imitation of one which at the time of his arrival in San Francisco
had just been brought to a disastrous end. This was the De
Boulbon expedition into Mexico. The Count Gaston Raoulx de
Raousset-Boulbon was a young French nobleman and Soldier of
Fortune, a chasseur d'Afrique, a duellist, journalist, dreamer,
who came to California to dig gold. Baron Harden-Hickey, who
was born in San Francisco a few years after Boulbon at the age of
thirty was shot in Mexico, also was inspired to dreams of conquest
by this same gentleman adventurer.
Boulbon was a young man of large ideas. In the rapid growth of
California he saw a threat to Mexico and proposed to that
government, as a "buffer" state between the two republics, to form
a French colony in the Mexican State of Sonora. Sonora is that part
of Mexico which directly joins on the south with our State of
Arizona. The President of Mexico gave Boulbon permission to
attempt this, and in 1852 he landed at Guaymas in the Gulf of
California with two hundred and sixty well-armed Frenchmen. The
ostensible excuse of Boulbon for thus invading foreign soil was his
contract with the President under which his "emigrants" were hired
to protect other foreigners working in the "Restauradora" mines
from the attacks of Apache Indians from our own Arizona. But
there is evidence that back of Boulbon was the French
Government, and that he was attempting, in his small way, what
later was attempted by Maximilian, backed by a French army corps
and Louis Napoleon, to establish in Mexico an empire under
French protection. For both the filibuster and the emperor the end
was the same; to be shot by the fusillade against a church wall.
In 1852, two years before Boulbon's death, which was the finale to
his second filibustering expedition into Sonora, he wrote to a
friend in Paris: "Europeans are disturbed by the growth of the
United States. And rightly so. Unless she be dismembered; unless
a powerful rival be built up beside her (i .e., France in Mexico),
America will become, through her commerce, her trade, her
population, her geographical position upon two oceans, the
inevitable mistress of the world. In ten years Europe dare not fire a
shot without her permission. As I write fifty Americans prepare to
sail for Mexico and go perhaps to victory. Voila les Etats-Unis."
These fifty Americans who, in the eyes of Boulbon, threatened the
peace of Europe, were led by the ex-doctor, ex-lawyer, ex-editor,
William Walker, aged twenty-eight years. Walker had attempted
but had failed to obtain from the Mexican Government such a
contract as the one it had granted De Boulbon. He accordingly
sailed without it, announcing that, whether the Mexican
Government asked him to do so or not, he would see that the
women and children on the border of Mexico and Arizona were
protected from massacre by the Indians. It will be remembered that
when Dr. Jameson raided the Transvaal he also went to protect
"women and children" from massacre by the Boers. Walker's
explanation of his expedition, in his own words, is as follows. He
writes in the third person: "What Walker saw and heard satisfied
him that a comparatively small body of Americans might gain a
position on the Sonora frontier and protect the families on the
border from the Indians, and such an act would be one of humanity
whether or not sanctioned by the Mexican Government. The
condition of the upper part of Sonora was at that time, and still is
[he was writing eight years later, in 1860], a disgrace to the
civilization of the continent...and the people of the United States
were more immediately responsible before the world for the
Apache outrages. Northern Sonora was in fact, more under the
dominion of the Apaches than under the laws of Mexico, and the
contributions of the Indians were collected with greater regularity
and certainty than the dues of the tax-gatherers. The state of this
region furnished the best defence for any American aiming to
settle there without the formal consent of Mexico; and, although
political changes would certainly have followed the establishment
of a colony, they might be justified by the plea that any social
organization, no matter how secured, is preferable to that in which
individuals and families are altogether at the mercy of savages."
While at the time of Jameson's raid the women and children in
danger of massacre from the Boers were as many as there are
snakes in Ireland, at the time of Walker's raid the women and
children were in danger from the Indians, who as enemies, as
Walker soon discovered, were as cruel and as greatly to be feared
as he had described them.
But it was not to save women and children that Walker sought to
conquer the State of Sonora. At the time of his expedition the great
question of slavery was acute; and if in the States next to be
admitted to the Union slavery was to be prohibited, the time had
come, so it seemed to this statesman of twenty-eight years, when
the South must extend her boundaries, and for her slaves find an
outlet in fresh territory. Sonora already joined Arizona. By
conquest her territory could easily be extended to meet Texas. As a
matter of fact, strategically the spot selected by William Walker
for the purpose for which he desired it was almost perfect.
Throughout his brief career one must remember that the spring of
all his acts was this dream of an empire where slavery would be
recognized. His mother was a slave-holder. In Tennessee he had
been born and bred surrounded by slaves. His youth and manhood
had been spent in Nashville and New Orleans. He believed as
honestly, as fanatically in the right to hold slaves as did his father
in the faith of the Covenanters. To-day one reads his arguments in
favor of slavery with the most curious interest. His appeal to the
humanity of his reader, to his heart, to his sense of justice, to his
fear of God, and to his belief in the Holy Bible not to abolish
slavery, but to continue it, to this generation is as amusing as the
topsy-turvyisms of Gilbert or Shaw. But to the young man himself
slavery was a sacred institution, intended for the betterment of
mankind, a God-given benefit to the black man and a God-given
right of his white master.
White brothers in the South, with perhaps less exalted motives,
contributed funds to fit out Walker's expedition, and in October,
1852, with forty-five men, he landed at Cape St. Lucas, at the
extreme point of Lower California. Lower California, it must be
remembered, in spite of its name, is not a part of our California,
but then was, and still is, a part of Mexico. The fact that he was at
last upon the soil of the enemy caused Walker to throw off all
pretence; and instead of hastening to protect women and children,
he sailed a few miles farther up the coast to La Paz. With his
forty-five followers he raided the town, made the Governor a
prisoner, and established a republic with himself as President. In a
proclamation he declared the people free of the tyranny of Mexico.
They had no desire to be free, but Walker was determined, and,
whether they liked it or not, they woke up to find themselves an
independent republic. A few weeks later, although he had not yet
set foot there, Walker annexed on paper the State of Sonora, and to
both States gave the name of the Republic of Sonora.
As soon as word of this reached San Francisco, his friends busied
themselves in his behalf, and the danger-loving and adventurous of
all lands were enlisted as "emigrants" and shipped to him in the
Two months later, in November, 1852, three hundred of these
joined Walker. They were as desperate a band of scoundrels as
ever robbed a sluice, stoned a Chinaman, or shot a "Greaser."
When they found that to command them there was only a boy, they
plotted to blow up the magazine in which the powder was stored,
rob the camp, and march north, supporting themselves by looting
the ranches. Walker learned of their plot, tried the ringleaders by
court-martial, and shot them. With a force as absolutely
undisciplined as was his, the act required the most complete
personal courage. That was a quality the men with him could fully
appreciate. They saw they had as a leader one who could fight, and
one who would punish. The majority did not want a leader who
would punish so when Walker called upon those who would
follow him to Sonora to show their hands, only the original
forty-five and about forty of the later recruits remained with him.
With less than one hundred men he started to march up the
Peninsula through Lower California, and so around the Gulf to
From the very start the filibusters were overwhelmed with disaster.
The Mexicans, with Indian allies, skulked on the flanks and rear.
Men who in the almost daily encounters were killed fell into the
hands of the Indians, and their bodies were mutilated. Stragglers
and deserters were run to earth and tortured. Those of the
filibusters who were wounded died from lack of medical care. The
only instruments they possessed with which to extract the
arrow-heads were probes made from ramrods filed to a point.
Their only food was the cattle they killed on the march. The army
was barefoot, the Cabinet in rags, the President of Sonora wore
one boot and one shoe.
Unable to proceed farther, Walker fell back upon San Vincente,
where he had left the arms and ammunition of the deserters and a
rear-guard of eighteen men. He found not one of these to welcome
him. A dozen had deserted, and the Mexicans had surprised the
rest, lassoing them and torturing them until they died. Walker now
had but thirty-five men. To wait for further re-enforcements from
San Francisco, even were he sure that re-enforcements would
come, was impossible. He determined by forced marches to fight
his way to the boundary line of California. Between him and safety
were the Mexican soldiers holding the passes, and the Indians
hiding on his flanks. When within three miles of the boundary line,
at San Diego, Colonel Melendrez, who commanded the Mexican
forces, sent in a flag of truce, and offered, if they would surrender,
a safe-conduct to all of the survivors of the expedition except the
chief. But the men who for one year had fought and starved for
Walker, would not, within three miles of home, abandon him.
Melendrez then begged the commander of the United States troops
to order Walker to surrender. Major McKinstry, who was in
command of the United States Army Post at San Diego, refused.
For him to cross the line would be a violation of neutral territory.
On Mexican soil he would neither embarrass the ex-President of
Sonora nor aid him; but he saw to it that if the filibusters reached
American soil, no Mexican or Indian should follow them.
Accordingly, on the imaginary boundary he drew up his troop, and
like an impartial umpire awaited the result. Hidden behind rocks
and cactus, across the hot, glaring plain, the filibusters could see
the American flag, and the gay, fluttering guidons of the cavalry.
The sight gave them heart for one last desperate spurt. Melendrez
also appreciated that for the final attack the moment had come. As
he charged, Walker, apparently routed, fled, but concealed in the
rocks behind him he had stationed a rear-guard of a dozen men. As
Melendrez rode into this ambush the dozen riflemen emptied as
many saddles, and the Mexicans and Indians stampeded. A half
hour later, footsore and famished, the little band that had set forth
to found an empire of slaves, staggered across the line and
surrendered to the forces of the United States.
Of this expedition James Jeffrey Roche says, in his "Byways of
War," which is of all books published about Walker the most
intensely and fascinatingly interesting and complete: "Years
afterward the peon herdsman or prowling Cocupa Indian in the
mountain by-paths stumbled over the bleaching skeleton of some
nameless one whose resting-place was marked by no cross or
cairn, but the Colts revolver resting beside his bones spoke his
country and his occupation--the only relic of the would-be
conquistadores of the nineteenth century."
Under parole to report to General Wood, commanding the
Department of the Pacific, the filibusters were sent by sailing
vessel to San Francisco, where their leader was tried for violating
the neutrality laws of the United States, and acquitted.
Walker's first expedition had ended in failure, but for him it had
been an opportunity of tremendous experience, as active service is
the best of all military academies, and for the kind of warfare he
was to wage, the best preparation. Nor was it inglorious, for his
fellow survivors, contrary to the usual practice, instead of in
bar-rooms placing the blame for failure upon their leader, stood
ready to fight one and all who doubted his ability or his courage.
Later, after five years, many of these same men, though ten to
twenty years his senior, followed him to death, and never
questioned his judgment nor his right to command.
At this time in Nicaragua there was the usual revolution. On the
south the sister republic of Costa Rica was taking sides, on the
north Honduras was landing arms and men. There was no law, no
government. A dozen political parties, a dozen commanding
generals, and not one strong man.
In the editorial rooms of the San Francisco Herald, Walker,
searching the map for new worlds to conquer, rested his finger
In its confusion of authority he saw an opportunity to make
himself a power, and in its tropical wealth and beauty, in the
laziness and incompetence of its inhabitants, he beheld a greater,
fairer, more kind Sonora. On the Pacific side from San Francisco
he could re-enforce his army with men and arms; on the Caribbean
side from New Orleans he could, when the moment arrived, people
his empire with slaves.
The two parties at war in Nicaragua were the Legitimists and the
Democrats. Why they were at war it is not necessary to know.
Probably Walker did not know; it is not likely that they themselves
knew. But from the leader of the Democrats Walker obtained a
contract to bring to Nicaragua three hundred Americans, who were
each to receive several hundred acres of land, and who were
described as "colonists liable to military duty." This contract
Walker submitted to the Attorney-General of the State and to
General Wood, who once before had acquitted him of
filibustering; and neither of these Federal officers saw anything
which seemed to give them the right to interfere. But the rest of
San Francisco was less credulous, and the "colonists" who joined
Walker had a very distinct idea that they were not going to
Nicaragua to plant coffee or to pick bananas.
In May, 1855, just a year after Walker and his thirty-three
followers had surrendered to the United States troops at San
Diego, with fifty new recruits and seven veterans of the former
expedition he sailed from San Francisco in the brig Vesta, and
in five weeks, after a weary and stormy voyage, landed at Realejo.
There he was met by representatives of the Provisional Director of
the Democrats, who received the Californians warmly.
Walker was commissioned a colonel, Achilles Kewen, who had
been fighting under Lopez in Cuba, a lieutenant-colonel, and
Timothy Crocker, who had served under Walker in the Sonora
expedition, a major. The corps was organized as an independent
command and was named "La Falange Americana." At this time
the enemy held the route to the Caribbean, and Walker's first
orders were to dislodge him.
Accordingly, a week after landing with his fifty-seven Americans
and one hundred and fifty native troops, Walker sailed in the
Vesta for Brito, from which port he marched upon Rivas, a city
of eleven thousand people and garrisoned by some twelve hundred
of the enemy.
The first fight ended in a complete and disastrous fiasco. The
native troops ran away, and the Americans surrounded by six
hundred of the Legitimists' soldiers, after defending themselves for
three hours behind some adobe huts, charged the enemy and
escaped into the jungle. Their loss was heavy, and among the
killed were the two men upon whom Walker chiefly depended:
Kewen and Crocker. The Legitimists placed the bodies of the dead
and wounded who were still living on a pile of logs and burned
them. After a painful night march, Walker, the next day, reached
San Juan on the coast, and, finding a Costa Rican schooner in port,
seized it for his use. At this moment, although Walker's men were
defeated, bleeding, and in open flight, two "gringos " picked up on
the beach of San Juan, "the Texan Harry McLeod and the Irishman
Peter Burns," asked to be permitted to join him.
"It was encouraging," Walker writes, "for the soldiers to find that
some besides themselves did not regard their fortunes as altogether
desperate, and small as was this addition to their number it gave
increased moral as well as material strength to the command."
Sometimes in reading history it would appear as though for
success the first requisite must be an utter lack of humor, and
inability to look upon what one is attempting except with absolute
seriousness. With forty men Walker was planning to conquer and
rule Nicaragua, a country with a population of two hundred and
fifty thousand souls and as large as the combined area of
Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and
Connecticut. And yet, even seven years later, he records without a
smile that two beach-combers gave his army "moral and material
strength." And it is most characteristic of the man that at the
moment he was rejoicing over this addition to his forces, to
maintain discipline two Americans who had set fire to the houses
of the enemy he ordered to be shot. A weaker man would have
repudiated the two Americans, who, in fact, were not members of
the Phalanx, and trusted that their crimes would not be charged
against him. But the success of Walker lay greatly in his stern
discipline. He tried the men, and they confessed to their guilt. One
got away; and, as it might appear that Walker had connived at his
escape, to the second man was shown no mercy. When one reads
how severe was Walker in his punishments, and how frequently
the death penalty was invoked by him against his own few
followers, the wonder grows that these men, as independent and as
unaccustomed to restraint as were those who first joined him,
submitted to his leadership. One can explain it only by the
personal quality of Walker himself.
Among these reckless, fearless outlaws, who, despising their allies,
believed and proved that with his rifle one American could
account for a dozen Nicaraguans, Walker was the one man who
did not boast or drink or gamble, who did not even swear, who
never looked at a woman, and who, in money matters, was
scrupulously honest and unself-seeking. In a fight, his followers
knew that for them he would risk being shot just as unconcernedly
as to maintain his authority he would shoot one of them.
Treachery, cowardice, looting, any indignity to women, he
punished with death; but to the wounded, either of his own or of
the enemy's forces, he was as gentle as a nursing sister and the
brave and able he rewarded with instant promotion and higher pay.
In no one trait was he a demagogue. One can find no effort on his
part to ingratiate himself with his men. Among the officers of his
staff there were no favorites. He messed alone, and at all times
kept to himself. He spoke little, and then with utter lack of
self-consciousness. In the face of injustice, perjury, or physical
danger, he was always calm, firm, dispassionate. But it is said that
on those infrequent occasions when his anger asserted itself, the
steady steel-gray eyes flashed so menacingly that those who faced
them would as soon look down the barrel of his Colt.
The impression one gets of him gathered from his recorded acts,
from his own writings, from the writings of those who fought with
him, is of a silent, student-like young man believing religiously in
his "star of destiny"; but, in all matters that did not concern
himself, possessed of a grim sense of fun. The sayings of his men
that in his history of the war he records, show a distinct
appreciation of the Bret Harte school of humor. As, for instance,
when he tells how he wished to make one of them a drummer boy
and the Californian drawled: "No, thanks, colonel; I never seen a
picture of a battle yet that the first thing in it wasn't a dead
drummer boy with a busted drum."
In Walker the personal vanity which is so characteristic of the
soldier of fortune was utterly lacking. In a land where a captain
bedecks himself like a field-marshal, Walker wore his trousers
stuffed in his boots, a civilian's blue frock-coat, and the slouch hat
of the period, with, for his only ornament, the red ribbon of the
Democrats. The authority he wielded did not depend upon braid or
buttons, and only when going into battle did he wear his sword. In
appearance he was slightly built, rather below the medium height,
smooth shaven, and with deep-set gray eyes. These eyes
apparently, as they gave him his nickname, were his most marked
His followers called him, and later, when he was thirty-two years
old, he was known all over the United States as the "Gray-Eyed
Man of Destiny."
From the first Walker recognized that in order to establish himself
in Nicaragua he must keep in touch with all possible recruits
arriving from San Francisco and New York, and that to do this he
must hold the line of transit from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific.
At this time the sea routes to the gold-fields were three: by sailing
vessel around the Cape, one over the Isthmus of Panama, and one,
which was the shortest, across Nicaragua. By a charter from the
Government of Nicaragua, the right to transport passengers across
this isthmus was controlled by the Accessory Transit Company, of
which the first Cornelius Vanderbilt was president. His company
owned a line of ocean steamers both on the Pacific side and on the
Atlantic side. Passengers en route from New York to the
gold-fields were landed by these latter steamers at Greytown on
the west coast of Nicaragua, and sent by boats of light draught up
the San Juan River to Lake Nicaragua. There they were met by
larger lake steamers and conveyed across the lake to Virgin Bay.
From that point, in carriages and on mule back, they were carried
twelve miles overland to the port of San Juan del Sud on the
Pacific Coast, where they boarded the company's steamers to San
During the year of Walker's occupation the number of passengers
crossing Nicaragua was an average of about two thousand a
It was to control this route that immediately after his first defeat
Walker returned to San Juan del Sud, and in a smart skirmish
defeated the enemy and secured possession of Virgin Bay, the
halting place for the passengers going east or west. In this fight
Walker was outnumbered five to one, but his losses were only
three natives killed and a few Americans wounded. The
Legitimists lost sixty killed and a hundred wounded. This
proportion of losses shows how fatally effective was the rifle and
revolver fire of the Californians. Indeed, so wonderful was it that
when some years ago I visited the towns and cities captured by the
filibusters, I found that the marksmanship of Walker's Phalanx was
still a tradition. Indeed, thanks to the filibusters, to-day in any part
of Central America a man from the States, if in trouble, has only to
show his gun. No native will wait for him to fire it.
After the fight at Virgin Bay, Walker received from California fifty
recruits--a very welcome addition to his force, and as he now
commanded about one hundred and twenty Americans, three
hundred Nicaraguans, under a friendly native, General Valle, and
two brass cannon, he decided to again attack Rivas. Rivas is on the
lake just above Virgin Bay; still further up is Granada, which was
the head-quarters of the Legitimists.
Fearing Walker's attack upon Rivas, the Legitimist troops were
hurried south from Granada to that city, leaving Granada but
Through intercepted letters Walker learned of this and determined
to strike at Granada. By night, in one of the lake steamers, he
skirted the shore, and just before daybreak, with fires banked and
all lights out, drew up to a point near the city. The day previous the
Legitimists had gained a victory, and, as good luck or Walker's
"destiny" would have it, the night before Granada had been
celebrating the event. Much joyous dancing and much drinking of
aguardiente had buried the inhabitants in a drugged slumber. The
garrison slept, the sentries slept, the city slept. But when the
convent bells called for early mass, the air was shaken with sharp
reports that to the ears of the Legitimists were unfamiliar and
disquieting. They were not the loud explosions of their own
muskets nor of the smooth bores of the Democrats. The sounds
were sharp and cruel like the crack of a whip. The sentries flying
from their posts disclosed the terrifying truth. "The Filibusteros!"
they cried. Following them at a gallop came Walker and Valle and
behind them the men of the awful Phalanx, whom already the
natives had learned to fear: the bearded giants in red flannel shirts
who at Rivas on foot had charged the artillery with revolvers, who
at Virgin Bay when wounded had drawn from their boots glittering
bowie knives and hurled them like arrows, who at all times shot
with the accuracy of the hawk falling upon a squawking hen.
There was a brief terrified stand in the Plaza, and then a complete
rout. As was their custom, the native Democrats began at once to
loot the city. But Walker put his sword into the first one of these
he met, and ordered the Americans to arrest all others found
stealing, and to return the goods already stolen. Over a hundred
political prisoners in the cartel were released by Walker, and the
ball and chain to which each was fastened stricken off. More than
two-thirds of them at once enlisted under Walker's banner.
He now was in a position to dictate to the enemy his own terms of
peace, but a fatal blunder on the part of Parker H. French, a
lieutenant of Walker's, postponed peace for several weeks, and led
to unfortunate reprisals. French had made an unauthorized and
unsuccessful assault on San Carlos at the eastern end of the lake,
and the Legitimists retaliated at Virgin Bay by killing half a dozen
peaceful passengers, and at San Carlos by firing at a transit
steamer. For this the excuse of the Legitimists was, that now that
Walker was using the lake steamers as transports it was impossible
for them to know whether the boats were occupied by his men or
neutral passengers. As he could not reach the guilty ones, Walker
held responsible for their acts their secretary of state, who at the
taking of Granada was among the prisoners. He was tried by
court-martial and shot, "a victim of the new interpretation of the
principles of constitutional government." While this act of
Walker's was certainly stretching the theory of responsibility to the
breaking point, its immediate effect was to bring about a hasty
surrender and a meeting between the generals of the two political
parties. Thus, four months after Walker and his fifty-seven
followers landed in Nicaragua, a suspension of hostilities was
arranged, and the side for which the Americans had fought was in
power. Walker was made commander-in-chief of an army of
twelve hundred men with salary of six thousand dollars a year. A
man named Rivas was appointed temporary president.
To Walker this pause in the fight was most welcome. It gave him
an opportunity to enlist recruits and to organize his men for the
better accomplishment of what was the real object of his going to
Nicaragua. He now had under him a remarkable force, one of the
most effective known to military history. For although six months
had not yet passed, the organization he now commanded was as
unlike the Phalanx of the fifty-eight adventurers who were driven
back at Rivas, as were Falstaff's followers from the regiment of
picked men commanded by Colonel Roosevelt. Instead of the
undisciplined and lawless now being in the majority, the ranks
were filled with the pick of the California mining camps, with
veterans of the Mexican War, with young Southerners of birth and
spirit, and with soldiers of fortune from all of the great armies of
In the Civil War, which so soon followed, and later in the service
of the Khedive of Egypt, were several of Walker's officers, and for
years after his death there was no war in which one of the men
trained by him in the jungles of Nicaragua did not distinguish
himself. In his memoirs, the Englishman, General Charles Frederic
Henningsen, writes that though he had taken part in some of the
greatest battles of the Civil War he would pit a thousand men of
Walker's command against any five thousand Confederate or
Union soldiers. And General Henningsen was one who spoke with
authority. Before he joined Walker he had served in Spain under
Don Carlos, in Hungary under Kossuth, and in Bulgaria.
Of Walker's men, a regiment of which he commanded, he writes:
"I often have seen them march with a broken or compound
fractured arm in splints, and using the other to fire the rifle or
revolver. Those with a fractured thigh or wounds which rendered
them incapable of removal, shot themselves. Such men do not turn
up in the average of everyday life, nor do I ever expect to see their
like again. All military science failed on a suddenly given field
before such assailants, who came at a run to close with their
revolvers and who thought little of charging a gun battery, pistol in
Another graduate of Walker's army was Captain Fred Townsend
Ward, a native of Salem, Mass., who after the death of Walker
organized and led the ever victorious army that put down the
Tai-Ping rebellion, and performed the many feats of martial glory
for which Chinese Gordon received the credit. In Shanghai, to the
memory of the filibuster, there are to-day two temples in his honor.
Joaquin Miller, the poet, miner, and soldier, who but recently was
a picturesque figure on the hotel porch at Saratoga Springs, was
one of the young Californians who was "out with Walker," and
who later in his career by his verse helped to preserve the name of
his beloved commander. I. C. Jamison, living to-day in Guthrie,
Oklahoma, was a captain under Walker. When war again came, as
it did within four months, these were the men who made Walker
President of Nicaragua.
During the four months in all but title he had been president, and
as such he was recognized and feared. It was against him, not
Rivas, that in February, 1856, the neighboring republic of Costa
Rica declared war. For three months this war continued with
varying fortunes until the Costa Ricans were driven across the
In June of the same year Rivas called a general election for
president, announcing himself as the candidate of the Democrats.
Two other Democrats also presented themselves, Salazar and
Ferrer. The Legitimists, recognizing in their former enemy the real
ruler of the country, nominated Walker. By an overwhelming
majority he was elected, receiving 15,835 votes to 867 cast for
Rivas. Salazar received 2,087; Ferrer, 4,447.
Walker now was the legal as well as the actual ruler of the country,
and at no time in its history, as during Walker's administration,
was Nicaragua governed so justly, so wisely, and so well. But in
his success the neighboring republics saw a menace to their own
independence. To the four other republics of Central America the
five-pointed blood-red star on the flag of the filibusters bore a
sinister motto: "Five or None." The meaning was only too
unpleasantly obvious. At once, Costa Rica on the south, and
Guatemala, Salvador, and Honduras from the north, with the
malcontents of Nicaragua, declared war against the foreign
invader. Again Walker was in the field with opposed to him
21,000 of the allies. The strength of his own force varied. On his
election as president the backbone of his army was a magnificently
trained body of veterans to the number of 2,000. This was later
increased to 3,500, but it is doubtful if at any one time it ever
exceeded that number. His muster and hospital rolls show that
during his entire occupation of Nicaragua there were enlisted, at
one time or another, under his banner 10,000 men. While in his
service, of this number, by hostile shots or fever, 5,000 died.
To describe the battles with the allies would be interminable and
wearying. In every particular they are much alike: the long silent
night march, the rush at daybreak, the fight to gain strategic
positions either of the barracks, or of the Cathedral in the Plaza,
the hand-to-hand fighting from behind barricades and adobe walls.
The out-come of these fights sometimes varied, but the final result
was never in doubt, and had no outside influences intervened, in
time each republic in Central America would have come under the
In Costa Rica there is a marble statue showing that republic
represented as a young woman with her foot upon the neck of
Walker. Some night a truth-loving American will place a can of
dynamite at the foot of that statue, and walk hurriedly away.
Unaided, neither Costa Rica nor any other Central American
republic could have driven Walker from her soil. His downfall
came through his own people, and through an act of his which
When Walker was elected president he found that the Accessory
Transit Company had not lived up to the terms of its concession
with the Nicaraguan Government. His efforts to hold it to the
terms of its concession led to his overthrow. By its charter the
Transit Company agreed to pay to Nicaragua ten thousand dollars
annually and ten per cent. of the net profits; but the company,
whose history the United States Minister, Squire, characterized as
"an infamous career of deception and fraud," manipulated its
books in such a fashion as to show that there never were any
profits. Doubting this, Walker sent a commission to New York to
investigate. The commission discovered the fraud and demanded
in back payments two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. When
the company refused to pay this, as security for the debt Walker
seized its steamers, wharves, and storehouses, revoked its charter,
and gave a new charter to two of its directors, Morgan and
Garrison, who, in San Francisco, were working against Vanderbilt.
In doing this, while he was legally in the right, he committed a
fatal error. He had made a powerful enemy of Vanderbilt, and he
had shut off his only lines of communication with the United
States. For, enraged at the presumption of the filibuster president,
Vanderbilt withdrew his ocean steamers, thus leaving Walker
without men or ammunition, and as isolated as though upon a
deserted island. He possessed Vanderbilt's boats upon the San Juan
River and Nicaragua Lake, but they were of use to him only
His position was that of a man holding the centre span of a bridge
of which every span on either side of him has been destroyed.
Vanderbilt did not rest at withdrawing his steamers, but by
supporting the Costa Ricans with money and men, carried the war
into Central America. From Washington he fought Walker through
Secretary of State Marcy, who proved a willing tool.
Spencer and Webster, and the other soldiers of fortune employed
by Vanderbilt, closed the route on the Caribbean side, and the
man-of-war St. Marys, commanded by Captain Davis, was
ordered to San Juan on the Pacific side. The instructions given to
Captain Davis were to aid the allies in forcing Walker out of
Nicaragua. Walker claims that these orders were given to Marcy
by Vanderbilt and by Marcy to Commodore Mervin, who was
Marcy's personal friend and who issued them to Davis. Davis
claims that he acted only in the interest of humanity to save
Walker in spite of himself. In any event, the result was the same.
Walker, his force cut down by hostile shot and fever and desertion,
took refuge in Rivas, where he was besieged by the allied armies.
There was no bread in the city. The men were living on horse and
mule meat. There was no salt. The hospital was filled with
wounded and those stricken with fever.
Captain Davis, in the name of humanity, demanded Walker's
surrender to the United States. Walker told him he would not
surrender, but that if the time came when he found he must fly, he
would do so in his own little schooner of war, the Granada,
which constituted his entire navy, and in her, as a free man, take
his forces where he pleased. Then Davis informed Walker that the
force Walker had sent to recapture the Greytown route had been
defeated by the janizaries of Vanderbilt; that the steamers from
San Francisco, on which Walker now counted to bring him
re-enforcements, had also been taken off the line, and finally that it
was his "unalterable and deliberate intention" to seize the
Granada. On this point his orders left him no choice. The
Granada was the last means of transportation still left to Walker.
He had hoped to make a sortie and on board her to escape from the
country. But with his ship taken from him and no longer able to
sustain the siege of the allies, he surrendered to the forces of the
United States. In the agreement drawn up by him and Davis,
Walker provided for the care, by Davis, of the sick and wounded,
for the protection after his departure of the natives who had fought
with him, and for the transportation of himself and officers to the
On his arrival in New York he received a welcome such as later
was extended to Kossuth, and, in our own day, to Admiral Dewey.
The city was decorated with flags and arches; and banquets, fetes,
and public meetings were everywhere held in his honor. Walker
received these demonstrations modestly, and on every public
occasion announced his determination to return to the country of
which he was the president, and from which by force he had been
driven. At Washington, where he went to present his claims, he
received scant encouragement. His protest against Captain Davis
was referred to Congress, where it was allowed to die.
Within a month Walker organized an expedition with which to
regain his rights in Nicaragua, and as, in his new constitution for
that country, he had annulled the old law abolishing slavery,
among the slave-holders of the South he found enough money and
recruits to enable him to at once leave the United States. With one
hundred and fifty men he sailed from New Orleans and landed at
San del Norte on the Caribbean side. While he formed a camp on
the harbor of San Juan, one of his officers, with fifty men,
proceeded up the river and, capturing the town of Castillo Viejo
and four of the Transit steamers, was in a fair way to obtain
possession of the entire route. At this moment upon the scene
arrived the United States frigate Wabash and Hiram Paulding,
who landed a force of three hundred and fifty blue-jackets with
howitzers, and turned the guns of his frigate upon the camp of the
President of Nicaragua. Captain Engel, who presented the terms of
surrender to Walker, said to him: "General, I am sorry to see you
here. A man like you is worthy to command better men." To which
Walker replied grimly: "If I had a third the number you have
brought against me, I would show you which of us two commands
the better men."
For the third time in his history Walker surrendered to the armed
forces of his own country.
On his arrival in the United States, in fulfilment of his parole to
Paulding, Walker at once presented himself at Washington a
prisoner of war. But President Buchanan, although Paulding had
acted exactly as Davis had done, refused to support him, and in a
message to Congress declared that that officer had committed a
grave error and established an unsafe precedent.
On the strength of this Walker demanded of the United States
Government indemnity for his losses, and that it should furnish
him and his followers transportation even to the very camp from
which its representatives had torn him. This demand, as Walker
foresaw, was not considered seriously, and with a force of about
one hundred men, among whom were many of his veterans, he
again set sail from New Orleans. Owing to the fact that, to prevent
his return, there now were on each side of the Isthmus both
American and British men-of-war, Walker, with the idea of
reaching Nicaragua by land, stopped off at Honduras. In his war
with the allies the Honduranians had been as savage in their
attacks upon his men as even the Costa Ricans, and finding his old
enemies now engaged in a local revolution, on landing, Walker
declared for the weaker side and captured the important seaport of
Trujillo. He no sooner had taken it than the British warship
Icarus anchored in the harbor, and her commanding officer,
Captain Salmon, notified Walker that the British Government held
a mortgage on the revenues of the port, and that to protect the
interests of his Government he intended to take the town. Walker
answered that he had made Trujillo a free port, and that Great
Britain's claims no longer existed.
The British officer replied that if Walker surrendered himself and
his men he would carry them as prisoners to the United States, and
that if he did not, he would bombard the town. At this moment
General Alvarez, with seven hundred Honduranians, from the land
side surrounded Trujillo, and prepared to attack. Against such odds
by sea and land Walker was helpless, and he determined to fly.
That night, with seventy men, he left the town and proceeded
down the coast toward Nicaragua. The Icarus, having taken on
board Alvarez, started in pursuit. The President of Nicaragua was
found in a little Indian fishing village, and Salmon sent in his
shore-boats and demanded his surrender. On leaving Trujillo,
Walker had been forced to abandon all his ammunition save thirty
rounds a man, and all of his food supplies excepting two barrels of
bread. On the coast of this continent there is no spot more
unhealthy than Honduras, and when the Englishmen entered the
fishing village they found Walker's seventy men lying in the palm
huts helpless with fever, and with no stomach to fight British
blue-jackets with whom they had no quarrel. Walker inquired of
Salmon if he were asking him to surrender to the British or to the
Honduranian forces, and twice Salmon assured him, "distinctly
and specifically," that he was surrendering to the forces of her
Majesty. With this understanding Walker and his men laid down
their arms and were conveyed to the Icarus. But on arriving at
Trujillo, in spite of their protests and demands for trial by a British
tribunal, Salmon turned over his prisoners to the Honduranian
general. What excuse for this is now given by his descendants in
the Salmon family I do not know.
Probably it is a subject they avoid, and, in history, Salmon's
version has never been given, which for him, perhaps, is an
injustice. But the fact remains that he turned over his white
brothers to the mercies of half-Indian, half-negro, savages, who
were not allies of Great Britain, and in whose quarrels she had no
interest. And Salmon did this, knowing there could be but one end.
If he did not know it, his stupidity equalled what now appears to
be heartless indifference. So far as to secure pardon for all except
the leader and one faithful follower, Colonel Rudler of the famous
Phalanx, Salmon did use his authority, and he offered, if Walker
would ask as an American citizen, to intercede for him. But
Walker, with a distinct sense of loyalty to the country he had
conquered, and whose people had honored him with their votes,
refused to accept life from the country of his birth, the country that
had injured and repudiated him.
Even in his extremity, abandoned and alone on a strip of glaring
coral and noisome swamp land, surrounded only by his enemies,
he remained true to his ideal.
At thirty-seven life is very sweet, many things still seem possible,
and before him, could his life be spared, Walker beheld greater
conquests, more power, a new South controlling a Nicaragua
canal, a network of busy railroads, great squadrons of merchant
vessels, himself emperor of Central America. On the gunboat the
gold-braided youth had but to raise his hand, and Walker again
would be a free man. But the gold-braided one would render this
service only on the condition that Walker would appeal to him as
an American; it was not enough that Walker was a human being.
The condition Walker could not grant.
"The President of Nicaragua," he said, "is a citizen of Nicaragua."
They led him out at sunrise to a level piece of sand along the
beach, and as the priest held the crucifix in front of him he spoke
to his executioners in Spanish, simply and gravely: "I die a Roman
Catholic. In making war upon you at the invitation of the people of
Ruatan I was wrong. Of your people I ask pardon. I accept my
punishment with resignation. I would like to think my death will
be for the good of society."
From a distance of twenty feet three soldiers fired at him, but,
although each shot took effect, Walker was not dead. So, a
sergeant stooped, and with a pistol killed the man who would have
made him one of an empire of slaves.
Had Walker lived four years longer to exhibit upon the great board
of the Civil War his ability as a general, he would, I believe, to-day
be ranked as one of America's greatest fighting men.
And because the people of his own day destroyed him is no reason
that we should withhold from this American, the greatest of all
filibusters, the recognition of his genius.
MAJOR BURNHAM, CHIEF OF SCOUTS
AMONG the Soldiers of Fortune whose stories have been told in
this book were men who are no longer living, men who, to the
United States, are strangers, and men who were of interest chiefly
because in what they attempted they failed.
The subject of this article is none of these. His adventures are as
remarkable as any that ever led a small boy to dig behind the barn
for buried treasure, or stalk Indians in the orchard. But entirely
apart from his adventures he obtains our interest because in what
he has attempted he has not failed, because he is one of our own
people, one of the earliest and best types of American, and
because, so far from being dead and buried, he is at this moment
very much alive, and engaged in Mexico in searching for a buried
city. For exercise, he is alternately chasing, or being chased by,
In his home in Pasadena, Cal., where sometimes he rests quietly
for almost a week at a time, the neighbors know him as "Fred"
Burnham. In England the newspapers crowned him "The King of
Scouts." Later, when he won an official title, they called him
"Major Frederick Russell Burnham, D. S. O."
Some men are born scouts, others by training become scouts. From
his father Burnham inherited his instinct for wood-craft, and to this
instinct, which in him is as keen as in a wild deer or a mountain
lion, he has added, in the jungle and on the prairie and mountain
ranges, years of the hardest, most relentless schooling. In those
years he has trained himself to endure the most appalling fatigues,
hunger, thirst, and wounds; has subdued the brain to infinite
patience, has learned to force every nerve in his body to absolute
obedience, to still even the beating of his heart. Indeed, than
Burnham no man of my acquaintance to my knowledge has
devoted himself to his life's work more earnestly, more honestly,
and with such single-mindedness of purpose. To him scouting is as
exact a study as is the piano to Paderewski, with the result that
to-day what the Pole is to other pianists, the American is to all
other "trackers," woodmen, and scouts. He reads "the face of
Nature" as you read your morning paper. To him a movement of
his horse's ears is as plain a warning as the "Go SLOW" of an
automobile sign; and he so saves from ambush an entire troop. In
the glitter of a piece of quartz in the firelight he discovers King
Solomon's mines. Like the horned cattle, he can tell by the smell of
it in the air the near presence of water, and where, glaring in the
sun, you can see only a bare kopje, he distinguishes the muzzle of
a pompom, the crown of a Boer sombrero, the levelled barrel of a
Mauser. He is the Sherlock Holmes of all out-of-doors.
Besides being a scout, he is soldier, hunter, mining expert, and
explorer. Within the last ten years the educated instinct that as a
younger man taught him to follow the trail of an Indian, or the
"spoor" of the Kaffir and the trek wagon, now leads him as a
mining expert to the hiding-places of copper, silver, and gold, and,
as he advises, great and wealthy syndicates buy or refuse tracts of
land in Africa and Mexico as large as the State of New York. As
an explorer in the last few years in the course of his expeditions
into undiscovered lands, he has added to this little world many
thousands of square miles.
Personally, Burnham is as unlike the scout of fiction, and of the
Wild West Show, as it is possible for a man to be. He possesses no
flowing locks, his talk is not of "greasers," "grizzly b'ars," or
"pesky redskins." In fact, because he is more widely and more
thoroughly informed, he is much better educated than many who
have passed through one of the "Big Three" universities, and his
English is as conventional as though he had been brought up on the
borders of Boston Common, rather than on the borders of
In appearance he is slight, muscular, bronzed; with a finely formed
square jaw, and remarkable light blue eyes. These eyes apparently
never leave yours, but in reality they see everything behind you
and about you, above and below you. They tell of him that one
day, while out with a patrol on the veldt, he said he had lost the
trail and, dismounting, began moving about on his hands and
knees, nosing the ground like a bloodhound, and pointing out a
trail that led back over the way the force had just marched. When
the commanding officer rode up, Burnham said:
"Don't raise your head, sit. On that kopje to the right there is a
commando of Boers."
"When did you see them?" asked the officer.
"I see them now," Burnham answered.
"But I thought you were looking for a lost trail?"
"That's what the Boers on the kopje think," said Burnham.
In his eyes, possibly, owing to the uses to which they have been
trained, the pupils, as in the eyes of animals that see in the dark,
are extremely small. Even in the photographs that accompany this
article this feature of his eyes is obvious, and that he can see in the
dark the Kaffirs of South Africa firmly believe. In manner he is
quiet, courteous, talking slowly but well, and, while without any of
that shyness that comes from self-consciousness, extremely
modest. Indeed, there could be no better proof of his modesty than
the difficulties I have encountered in gathering material for this
article, which I have been five years in collecting. And even now,
as he reads it by his camp-fire, I can see him squirm with
Burnham's father was a pioneer missionary in a frontier hamlet
called Tivoli on the edge of the Indian reserve of Minnesota. He
was a stern, severely religious man, born in Kentucky, but
educated in New York, where he graduated from the Union
Theological Seminary. He was wonderfully skilled in wood-craft.
Burnham's mother was a Miss Rebecca Russell of a well-known
family in Iowa. She was a woman of great courage, which, in those
days on that skirmish line of civilization, was a very necessary
virtue; and she was possessed of a most gentle and sweet
disposition. That was her gift to her son Fred, who was born on
May 11, 1861.
His education as a child consisted in memorizing many verses of
the Bible, the "Three R's," and wood-craft. His childhood was
strenuous. In his mother's arms he saw the burning of the town of
New Ulm, which was the funeral pyre for the women and children
of that place when they were massacred by Red Cloud and his
On another occasion Fred's mother fled for her life from the
Indians, carrying the boy with her. He was a husky lad, and
knowing that if she tried to carry him farther they both would be
overtaken, she hid him under a shock of corn. There, the next
morning, the Indians having been driven off, she found her son
sleeping as soundly as a night watchman. In these Indian wars, and
the Civil War which followed, of the families of Burnham and
Russell, twenty-two of the men were killed. There is no question
that Burnham comes of fighting stock.
In 1870, when Fred was nine years old, his father moved to Los
Angeles, Cal., where two years later he died; and for a time for
both mother and boy there was poverty, hard and grinding. To
relieve this young Burnham acted as a mounted messenger. Often
he was in the saddle from twelve to fifteen hours, and even in a
land where every one rode well, he gained local fame as a hard
rider. In a few years a kind uncle offered to Mrs. Burnham and a
younger brother a home in the East, but at the last moment Fred
refused to go with them, and chose to make his own way. He was
then thirteen years old, and he had determined to be a scout.
At that particular age many boys have set forth determined to be
scouts, and are generally brought home the next morning by a
policeman. But Burnham, having turned his back on the cities, did
not repent. He wandered over Mexico, Arizona, California. He met
Indians, bandits, prospectors, hunters of all kinds of big game; and
finally a scout who, under General Taylor, had served in the
Mexican War. This man took a liking to the boy; and his influence
upon him was marked and for his good. He was an educated man,
and had carried into the wilderness a few books. In the cabin of
this man Burnham read "The Conquest of Mexico and Peru" by
Prescott, the lives of Hannibal and Cyrus the Great, of Livingstone
the explorer, which first set his thoughts toward Africa, and many
technical works on the strategy and tactics of war. He had no
experience of military operations on a large scale, but, with the aid
of the veteran of the Mexican War, with corn-cobs in the sand in
front of the cabin door, he constructed forts and made trenches,
redoubts, and traverses. In Burnham's life this seems to have been
a very happy period. The big game he hunted and killed he sold for
a few dollars to the men of Nadean's freight outfits, which in those
days hauled bullion from Cerro Gordo for the man who is now
Senator Jones of Nevada.
At nineteen Burnham decided that there were things in this world
he should know that could not be gleaned from the earth, trees,
and sky; and with the few dollars he had saved he came East. The
visit apparently was not a success. The atmosphere of the town in
which he went to school was strictly Puritanical, and the
townspeople much given to religious discussion. The son of the
pioneer missionary found himself unable to subscribe to the
formulas which to the others seemed so essential, and he returned
to the West with the most bitter feelings, which lasted until he was
"It seems strange now," he once said to me, "but in those times
religious questions were as much a part of our daily life as to-day
are automobiles, the Standard Oil, and the insurance scandals, and
when I went West I was in an unhappy, doubting frame of mind.
The trouble was I had no moral anchors; the old ones father had
given me were gone, and the time for acquiring new ones had not
arrived." This bitterness of heart, or this disappointment, or
whatever the state of mind was that the dogmas of the New
England town had inspired in the boy from the prairie, made him
reckless. For the life he was to lead this was not a handicap. Even
as a lad, in a land-grant war in California, he had been under
gunfire, and for the next fifteen years he led a life of danger and of
daring; and studied in a school of experience than which, for a
scout, if his life be spared, there can be none better. Burnham
came out of it a quiet, manly, gentleman. In those fifteen years he
roved the West from the Great Divide to Mexico. He fought the
Apache Indians for the possession of waterholes, he guarded
bullion on stage-coaches, for days rode in pursuit of Mexican
bandits and American horse thieves, took part in county-seat
fights, in rustler wars, in cattle wars; he was cowboy, miner,
deputy-sheriff, and in time throughout the the name of "Fred"
Burnham became significant and familiar.
During this period Burnham was true to his boyhood ideal of
becoming a scout. It was not enough that by merely living the life
around him he was being educated for it. He daily practised and
rehearsed those things which some day might mean to himself and
others the difference between life and death. To improve his sense
of smell he gave up smoking, of which he was extremely fond, nor,
for the same reason, does he to this day use tobacco. He
accustomed himself also to go with little sleep, and to subsist on
the least possible quantity of food. As a deputy-sheriff this
educated faculty of not requiring sleep aided him in many
important captures. Sometimes he would not strike the trail of the
bandit or "bad man" until the other had several days the start of
him. But the end was the same; for, while the murderer snatched a
few hours' rest by the trail, Burnham, awake and in the saddle,
would be closing up the miles between them.
That he is a good marksman goes without telling. At the age of
eight his father gave him a rifle of his own, and at twelve, with
either a "gun" or a Winchester, he was an expert. He taught
himself to use a weapon either in his left or right hand and to
shoot, Indian fashion, hanging by one leg from his pony and using
it as a cover, and to turn in the saddle and shoot behind him. I once
asked him if he really could shoot to the rear with a galloping
horse under him and hit a man.
"Well," he said, "maybe not to hit him, but I can come near enough
to him to make him decide my pony's so much faster than his that
it really isn't worth while to follow me."
Besides perfecting himself in what he tolerantly calls "tricks" of
horsemanship and marksmanship, he studied the signs of the trail,
forest and prairie, as a sailing-master studies the waves and clouds.
The knowledge he gathers from inanimate objects and dumb
animals seems little less than miraculous. And when you ask him
how he knows these things he always gives you a reason founded
on some fact or habit of nature that shows him to be a naturalist,
mineralogist, geologist, and botanist, and not merely a seventh son
of a seventh son.
In South Africa he would say to the officers: "There are a dozen
Boers five miles ahead of us riding Basuto ponies at a trot, and
leading five others. If we hurry we should be able to sight them in
an hour." At first the officers would smile, but not after a
half-hour's gallop, when they would see ahead of them a dozen
Boers leading five ponies. In the early days of Salem, Burnham
would have been burned as a witch.
When twenty-three years of age he married Miss Blanche Blick, of
Iowa. They had known each other from childhood, and her
brothers-in-law have been Burnham's aids and companions in
every part of Africa and the West. Neither at the time of their
marriage nor since did Mrs. Burnham "lay a hand on the bridle
rein," as is witnessed by the fact that for nine years after his
marriage Burnham continued his career as sheriff, scout, mining
prospector. And in 1893, when Burnham and his brother-in-law,
Ingram, started for South Africa, Mrs. Burnham went with them,
and in every part of South Africa shared her husband's life of travel
In making this move across the sea, Burnham's original idea was to
look for gold in the territory owned by the German East African
Company. But as in Rhodesia the first Matabele uprising had
broken out, he continued on down the coast, and volunteered for
that campaign. This was the real beginning of his fortunes. The
"war" was not unlike the Indian fighting of his early days, and
although the country was new to him, with the kind of warfare
then being waged between the Kaffirs under King Lobengula and
the white settlers of the British South Africa Company, the
chartered company of Cecil Rhodes, he was intimately familiar.
It does not take big men long to recognize other big men, and
Burnham's remarkable work as a scout at once brought him to the
notice of Rhodes and Dr. Jameson, who was personally conducting
the campaign. The war was their own private war, and to them, at
such a crisis in the history of their settlement, a man like Burnham
The chief incident of this campaign, the fame of which rang over
all Great Britain and her colonies, was the gallant but hopeless
stand made by Major Alan Wilson and his patrol of thirty-four
men. It was Burnham's attempt to save these men that made him
known from Buluwayo to Cape Town.
King Lobengula and his warriors were halted on one bank of the
Shangani River, and on the other Major Forbes, with a picked
force of three hundred men, was coming up in pursuit. Although at
the moment he did not know it, he also was being pursued by a
force of Matabeles, who were gradually surrounding him. At
nightfall Major Wilson and a patrol of twelve men, with Burnham
and his brother-in-law, Ingram, acting as scouts, were ordered to
make a dash into the camp of Lobengula and, if possible, in the
confusion of their sudden attack, and under cover of a terrific
thunder-storm that was raging, bring him back a prisoner.
With the king in their hands the white men believed the rebellion
would collapse. To the number of three thousand the Matabeles
were sleeping in a succession of camps, through which the
fourteen men rode at a gallop. But in the darkness it was difficult
to distinguish the trek wagon of the king, and by the time they
found his laager the Matabeles from the other camps through
which they had ridden had given the alarm. Through the
underbrush from every side the enemy, armed with assegai and
elephant guns, charged toward them and spread out to cut off their
At a distance of about seven hundred yards from the camps there
was a giant ant-hill, and the patrol rode toward it. By the aid of the
lightning flashes they made their way through a dripping wood and
over soil which the rain had turned into thick black mud. When the
party drew rein at the ant-hill it was found that of the fourteen
three were missing. As the official scout of the patrol and the only
one who could see in the dark, Wilson ordered Burnham back to
find them. Burnham said he could do so only by feeling the
hoof-prints in the mud and that he would like some one with him
to lead his pony. Wilson said he would lead it. With his fingers
Burnham followed the trail of the eleven horses to where, at right
angles, the hoof-prints of the three others separated from it, and so
came upon the three men. Still, with nothing but the mud of the
jungle to guide him, he brought them back to their comrades. It
was this feat that established his reputation among British, Boers,
and black men in South Africa.
Throughout the night the men of the patrol lay in the mud holding
the reins of their horses. In the jungle about them, they could hear
the enemy splashing through the mud, and the swishing sound of
the branches as they swept back into place. It was still raining. Just
before the dawn there came the sounds of voices and the welcome
clatter of accoutrements. The men of the patrol, believing the
column had joined them, sprang up rejoicing, but it was only a
second patrol, under Captain Borrow, who had been sent forward
with twenty men as re-enforcements. They had come in time to
share in a glorious immortality. No sooner had these men joined
than the Kaffirs began the attack; and the white men at once
learned that they were trapped in a complete circle of the enemy.
Hidden by the trees, the Kaffirs fired point-blank, and in a very
little time half of Wilson's force was killed or wounded. As the
horses were shot down the men used them for breastworks. There
was no other shelter. Wilson called Burnham to him and told him
he must try and get through the lines of the enemy to Forbes.
"Tell him to come up at once," he said; "we are nearly finished."
He detailed a trooper named Gooding and Ingram to accompany
Burnham. "One of you may get through," he said. Gooding was but
lately out from London, and knew nothing of scouting, so
Burnham and Ingram warned him, whether he saw the reason for it
or not, to act exactly as they did. The three men had barely left the
others before the enemy sprang at them with their spears. In five
minutes they were being fired at from every bush. Then followed a
remarkable ride, in which Burnham called to his aid all he had
learned in thirty years of border warfare. As the enemy rushed
after them, the three doubled on their tracks, rode in triple loops,
hid in dongas to breathe their horses; and to scatter their pursuers,
separated, joined again, and again separated. The enemy followed
them to the very bank of the river, where, finding the "drift"
covered with the swollen waters, they were forced to swim. They
reached the other bank only to find Forbes hotly engaged with
another force of the Matabeles.
"I have been sent for re-enforcements," Burnham said to Forbes,
"but I believe we are the only survivors of that party." Forbes
himself was too hard pressed to give help to Wilson, and Burnham,
his errand over, took his place in the column, and began firing
upon the new enemy.
Six weeks later the bodies of Wilson's patrol were found lying in a
circle. Each of them had been shot many times. A son of
Lobengula, who witnessed their extermination, and who in
Buluwayo had often heard the Englishmen sing their national
anthem, told how the five men who were the last to die stood up
and, swinging their hats defiantly, sang "God Save the Queen."
The incident will long be recorded in song and story; and in
London was reproduced in two theatres, in each of which the man
who played "Burnham, the American Scout," as he rode off for
re-enforcements, was as loudly cheered by those in the audience as
by those on the stage.
Hensman, in his "History of Rhodesia," says: "One hardly knows
which to most admire, the men who went on this dangerous
errand, through brush swarming with natives, or those who
remained behind battling against overwhelming odds."
For his help in this war the Chartered Company presented
Burnham with the campaign medal, a gold watch engraved with
words of appreciation; and at the suggestion of Cecil Rhodes gave
him, Ingram, and the Hon. Maurice Clifford, jointly, a tract of land
of three hundred square acres.
After this campaign Burnham led an expedition of ten white men
and seventy Kaffirs north of the Zambesi River to explore
Barotzeland and other regions to the north of Mashonaland, and to
establish the boundaries of the concession given him, Ingram, and
In order to protect Burnham on the march the Chartered Company
signed a treaty with the native king of the country through which
he wished to travel, by which the king gave him permission to pass
freely and guaranteed him against attack.
But Latea, the son of the king, refused to recognize the treaty and
sent his young men in great numbers to surround Burnham's camp.
Burnham had been instructed to avoid a fight, and was torn
between his desire to obey the Chartered Company and to prevent
a massacre. He decided to make it a sacrifice either of himself or
of Latea. As soon as night fell, with only three companions and a
missionary to act as a witness of what occurred, he slipped through
the lines of Latea's men, and, kicking down the fence around the
prince's hut, suddenly appeared before him and covered him with
"Is it peace or war?" Burnham asked. "I have the king your father's
guarantee of protection, but your men surround us. I have told my
people if they hear shots to open fire. We may all be killed, but
you will be the first to die."
The missionary also spoke urging Latea to abide by the treaty.
Burnham says the prince seemed much more impressed by the
arguments of the missionary than by the fact that he still was
covered by Burnham's rifle. Whichever argument moved him, he
called off his warriors. On this expedition Burnham discovered the
ruins of great granite structures fifteen feet wide, and made
entirely without mortar. They were of a period dating before the
Phoenicians. He also sought out the ruins described to him by F. C.
Selous, the famous hunter, and by Rider Haggard as King
Solomon's Mines. Much to the delight of Mr. Haggard, he brought
back for him from the mines of his imagination real gold
ornaments and a real gold bar.
On this same expedition, which lasted five months, Burnham
endured one of the severest hardships of his life. Alone with ten
Kaffir boys, he started on a week's journey across the dried-up
basin of what once had been a great lake. Water was carried in
goat-skins on the heads of the bearers. The boys, finding the bags
an unwieldy burden, and believing, with the happy optimism of
their race, that Burnham's warnings were needless, and that at a
stream they soon could refill the bags, emptied the water on the
The tortures that followed this wanton waste were terrible. Five of
the boys died, and after several days, when Burnham found water
in abundance, the tongues of the others were so swollen that their
jaws could not meet.
On this trip Burnham passed through a region ravaged by the
"sleeping sickness," where his nostrils were never free from the
stench of dead bodies, where in some of the villages, as he
expressed it, "the hyenas were mangy with overeating, and the
buzzards so gorged they could not move out of our way." From this
expedition he brought back many ornaments of gold manufactured
before the Christian era, and made several valuable maps of
hitherto uncharted regions. It was in recognition of the information
gathered by him on this trip that he was elected a Fellow of the
Royal Geographical Society.
He returned to Rhodesia in time to take part in the second
Matabele rebellion. This was in 1896. By now Burnham was a
very prominent member of the "vortrekers" and pioneers at
Buluwayo, and Sir Frederick Carrington, who was in command of
the forces, attached him to his staff. This second outbreak was a
more serious uprising than the one of 1893, and as it was evident
the forces of the Chartered Company could not handle it, imperial
troops were sent to assist them. But with even their aid the war
dragged on until it threatened to last to the rainy season, when the
troops must have gone into winter quarters. Had they done so, the
cost of keeping them would have fallen on the Chartered
Company, already a sufferer in pocket from the ravages of the
rinderpest and the expenses of the investigation which followed
the Jameson raid.
Accordingly, Carrington looked about for some measure by which
he could bring the war to an immediate end.
It was suggested to him by a young Colonial, named Armstrong,
the Commissioner of the district, that this could be done by
destroying the "god," or high priest, Umlimo, who was the chief
inspiration of the rebellion.
This high priest had incited the rebels to a general massacre of
women and children, and had given them confidence by promising
to strike the white soldiers blind and to turn their bullets into
water. Armstrong had discovered the secret hiding-place of
Umlimo, and Carrington ordered Burnham to penetrate the
enemy's lines, find the god, capture him, and if that were not
possible to destroy him.
The adventure was a most desperate one. Umlimo was secreted in
a cave on the top of a huge kopje. At the base of this was a village
where were gathered two regiments, of a thousand men each, of
his fighting men.
For miles around this village the country was patrolled by roving
bands of the enemy.
Against a white man reaching the cave and returning, the chances
were a hundred to one, and the difficulties of the journey are
illustrated by the fact that Burnham and Armstrong were unable to
move faster than at the rate of a mile an hour. In making the last
mile they consumed three hours. When they reached the base of
the kopje in which Umlimo was hiding, they concealed their
ponies in a clump of bushes, and on hands and knees began the
Directly below them lay the village, so close that they could smell
the odors of cooking from the huts, and hear, rising drowsily on
the hot, noonday air, voices of the warriors. For minutes at a time
they lay as motionless as the granite bowlders around or squirmed
and crawled over loose stones which a miss of hand or knee would
have dislodged and sent clattering into the village. After an hour of
this tortuous climbing the cave suddenly opened before them, and
they beheld Umlimo. Burnham recognized that to take him alive
from his stronghold was an impossibility, and that even they
themselves would leave the place was equally doubtful. So,
obeying orders, he fired, killing the man who had boasted he
would turn the bullets of his enemies into water. The echo of the
shot aroused the village as would a stone hurled into an ant-heap.
In an instant the veldt below was black with running men, and as,
concealment being no longer possible, the white men rose to fly a
great shout of anger told them they were discovered. At the same
moment two women, returning from a stream where they had gone
for water, saw the ponies, and ran screaming to give the alarm.
The race that followed lasted two hours, for so quickly did the
Kaffirs spread out on every side that it was impossible for
Burnham to gain ground in any one direction, and he was forced to
dodge, turn, and double. At one time the white men were driven
back to the very kopje from which the race had started.
But in the end they evaded assegai and gunfire, and in safety
reached Buluwayo. This exploit was one of the chief factors in
bringing the war to a close. The Matabeles, finding their leader
was only a mortal like themselves, and so could not, as he had
promised, bring miracles to their aid, lost heart, and when Cecil
Rhodes in person made overtures of peace, his terms were
accepted. During the hard days of the siege, when rations were few
and bad, Burnham's little girl, who had been the first white child
born in Buluwayo, died of fever and lack of proper food. This with
other causes led him to leave Rhodesia and return to California. It
is possible he then thought he had forever turned his back on South
Africa, but, though he himself had departed, the impression he had
made there remained behind him.
Burnham did not rest long in California. In Alaska the hunt for
gold had just begun, and, the old restlessness seizing him, he left
Pasadena and her blue skies, tropical plants, and trolley-car strikes
for the new raw land of the Klondike. With Burnham it has always
been the place that is being made, not the place in being, that
attracts. He has helped to make straight the ways of several great
communities--Arizona, California, Rhodesia, Alaska, and Uganda.
As he once said: "It is the constructive side of frontier life that
most appeals to me, the building up of a country, where you see
the persistent drive and force of the white man; when the place is
finally settled I don't seem to enjoy it very long."
In Alaska he did much prospecting, and, with a sled and only two
dogs, for twenty-four days made one long fight against snow and
ice, covering six hundred miles. In mining in Alaska he succeeded
well, but against the country he holds a constant grudge, because it
kept him out of the fight with Spain. When war was declared he
was in the wilds and knew nothing of it, and though on his return
to civilization he telegraphed Colonel Roosevelt volunteering for
the Rough Riders, and at once started south, by the time he had
reached Seattle the war was over.
Several times has he spoken to me of how bitterly he regretted
missing this chance to officially fight for his country. That he had
twice served with English forces made him the more keen to show
his loyalty to his own people.
That he would have been given a commission in the Rough Riders
seems evident from the opinion President Roosevelt has publicly
expressed of him.
"I know Burnham," the President wrote in 1901. "He is a scout and
a hunter of courage and ability, a man totally without fear, a sure
shot, and a fighter. He is the ideal scout, and when enlisted in the
military service of any country he is bound to be of the greatest
The truth of this Burnham was soon to prove.
In 1899 he had returned to the Klondike, and in January of 1900
had been six months in Skagway. In that same month Lord Roberts
sailed for Cape Town to take command of the army, and with him
on his staff was Burnham's former commander, Sir Frederick, now
Lord, Carrington. One night as the ship was in the Bay of Biscay,
Carrington was talking of Burnham and giving instances of his
marvellous powers as a "tracker."
"He is the best scout we ever had in South Africa!" Carrington
"Then why don't we get him back there?" said Roberts.
What followed is well known.
From Gibraltar a cable was sent to Skagway, offering Burnham the
position, created especially for him, of chief of scouts of the
British army in the field.
Probably never before in the history of wars has one nation paid so
pleasant a tribute to the abilities of a man of another nation.
The sequel is interesting. The cablegram reached Skagway by the
steamer City of Seattle. The purser left it at the post-office, and
until two hours and a half before the steamer was listed to start on
her return trip, there it lay. Then Burnham, in asking for his mail,
received it. In two hours and a half he had his family, himself, and
his belongings on board the steamer, and had started on his
half-around-the-world journey from Alaska to Cape Town.
A Skagway paper of January 5, 1900, published the day after
Burnham sailed, throws a side light on his character. After telling
of his hasty departure the day before, and of the high compliment
that had been paid to "a prominent Skagwayan," it adds: "Although
Mr. Burnham has lived in Skagway since last August, and has been
North for many months, he has said little of his past, and few have
known that he is the man famous over the world as 'the American
scout' of the Matabele wars."
Many a man who went to the Klondike did not, for reasons best
known to himself, talk about his past. But it is characteristic of
Burnham that, though he lived there two years, his associates did
not know, until the British Government snatched him from among
them, that he had not always been a prospector like themselves.
I was on the same ship that carried Burnham the latter half of his
journey, from Southampton to Cape Town, and every night for
seventeen nights was one of a group of men who shot questions at
him. And it was interesting to see a fellow-countryman one had
heard praised so highly so completely make good. It was not as
though he had a credulous audience of commercial tourists.
Among the officers who each evening gathered around him were
Colonel Gallilet of the Egyptian cavalry, Captain Frazer
commanding the Scotch Gillies, Captain Mackie of Lord Roberts's
staff, each of whom was later killed in action; Colonel Sir Charles
Hunter of the Royal Rifles, Major Bagot, Major Lord Dudley, and
Captain Lord Valentia. Each of these had either held command in
border fights in India or the Sudan or had hunted big game, and the
questions each asked were the outcome of his own experience and
Not for a single evening could a faker have submitted to the
midnight examination through which they put Burnham and not
have exposed his ignorance. They wanted to know what difference
there is in a column of dust raised by cavalry and by trek wagons,
how to tell whether a horse that has passed was going at a trot or a
gallop, the way to throw a diamond hitch, how to make a fire
without at the same time making a target of yourself,
And what made us most admire Burnham was that when he did not
know he at once said so.
Within two nights he had us so absolutely at his mercy that we
would have followed him anywhere; anything he chose to tell us,
we would have accepted. We were ready to believe in flying foxes,
flying squirrels, that wild turkeys dance quadrilles--even that you
must never sleep in the moonlight. Had he demanded: "Do you
believe in vampires?" we would have shouted "Yes." To ask that a
scout should on an ocean steamer prove his ability was certainly
placing him under a severe handicap.
As one of the British officers said: "It's about as fair a game as
though we planted the captain of this ship in the Sahara Desert,
and told him to prove he could run a ten-thousand-ton liner."
Burnham continued with Lord Roberts to the fall of Pretoria, when
he was invalided home.
During the advance north he was a hundred times inside the Boer
laagers, keeping Headquarters Staff daily informed of the enemy's
movements; was twice captured and twice escaped.
He was first captured while trying to warn the British from the
fatal drift at Thaba'nchu. When reconnoitring alone in the morning
mist he came upon the Boers hiding on the banks of the river,
toward which the English were even then advancing. The Boers
were moving all about him, and cut him off from his own side. He
had to choose between abandoning the English to the trap or
signalling to them, and so exposing himself to capture. With the
red kerchief the scouts carried for that purpose he wigwagged to
the approaching soldiers to turn back, that the enemy were
awaiting them. But the column, which was without an advance
guard, paid no attention to his signals and plodded steadily on into
the ambush, while Burnham was at once made prisoner. In the
fight that followed he pretended to receive a wound in the knee
and bound it so elaborately that not even a surgeon would have
disturbed the carefully arranged bandages. Limping heavily and
groaning with pain, he was placed in a trek wagon with the officers
who really were wounded, and who, in consequence, were not
closely guarded. Burnham told them who he was and, as he
intended to escape, offered to take back to head-quarters their
names or any messages they might wish to send to their people. As
twenty yards behind the wagon in which they lay was a mounted
guard, the officers told him escape was impossible. He proved
otherwise. The trek wagon was drawn by sixteen oxen and driven
by a Kaffir boy. Later in the evening, but while it still was
moonlight, the boy descended from his seat and ran forward to
belabor the first spans of oxen. This was the opportunity for which
Burnham had been waiting.
Slipping quickly over the driver's seat, he dropped between the two
"wheelers" to the disselboom, or tongue, of the trek wagon. From
this he lowered himself and fell between the legs of the oxen on
his back in the road. In an instant the body of the wagon had
passed over him, and while the dust still hung above the trail he
rolled rapidly over into the ditch at the side of the road and lay
It was four days before he was able to re-enter the British lines,
during which time he had been lying in the open veldt, and had
subsisted on one biscuit and two handfuls of "mealies," or what we
call Indian corn.
Another time when out scouting he and his Kaffir boy while on
foot were "jumped" by a Boer commando and forced to hide in
two great ant-hills. The Boers went into camp on every side of
them, and for two days, unknown to themselves, held Burnham a
prisoner. Only at night did he and the Cape boy dare to crawl out
to breathe fresh air and to eat the food tablets they carried in their
pockets. On five occasions was Burnham sent into the Boer lines
with dynamite cartridges to blow up the railroad over which the
enemy was receiving supplies and ammunition. One of these
expeditions nearly ended his life.
On June 2, 1901, while trying by night to blow up the line between
Pretoria and Delagoa Bay, he was surrounded by a party of Boers
and could save himself only by instant flight. He threw himself
Indian fashion along the back of his pony, and had all but got away
when a bullet caught the horse and, without even faltering in its
stride, it crashed to the ground dead, crushing Burnham beneath it
and knocking him senseless. He continued unconscious for
twenty-four hours, and when he came to, both friends and foes had
departed. Bent upon carrying out his orders, although suffering the
most acute agony, he crept back to the railroad and destroyed it.
Knowing the explosion would soon bring the Boers, on his hands
and knees he crept to an empty kraal, where for two days and
nights he lay insensible. At the end of that time he appreciated that
he was sinking and that unless he found aid he would die.
Accordingly, still on his hands and knees, he set forth toward the
sound of distant firing. He was indifferent as to whether it came
from the enemy or his own people, but, as it chanced, he was
picked up by a patrol of General Dickson's Brigade, who carried
him to Pretoria. There the surgeons discovered that in his fall he
had torn apart the muscles of the stomach and burst a blood-vessel.
That his life was saved, so they informed him, was due only to the
fact that for three days he had been without food. Had he
attempted to digest the least particle of the "staff of life " he would
have surely died. His injuries were so serious that he was ordered
On leaving the army he was given such hearty thanks and generous
rewards as no other American ever received from the British War
Office. He was promoted to the rank of major, presented with a
large sum of money, and from Lord Roberts received a personal
letter of thanks and appreciation.
In part the Field-Marshal wrote: "I doubt if any other man in the
force could have successfully carried out the thrilling enterprises
in which from time to time you have been engaged, demanding as
they did the training of a lifetime, combined with exceptional
courage, caution, and powers of endurance." On his arrival in
England he was commanded to dine with the Queen and spend the
night at Osborne, and a few months later, after her death, King
Edward created him a member of the Distinguished Service Order,
and personally presented him with the South African medal with
five bars, and the cross of the D. S. 0. While recovering his health
Burnham, with Mrs. Burnham, was "passed on" by friends he had
made in the army from country house to country house; he was
made the guest of honor at city banquets, with the Duke of Rutland
rode after the Belvoir hounds, and in Scotland made mild
excursions after grouse. But after six months of convalescence he
was off again, this time to the hinterland of Ashanti, on the west
coast of Africa, where he went in the interests of a syndicate to
investigate a concession for working gold mines.
With his brother-in-law, J. C. Blick, he marched and rowed twelve
hundred miles, and explored the Volta River, at that date so little
visited that in one day's journey they counted eleven
hippopotamuses. In July, 1901, he returned from Ashanti, and a
few months later an unknown but enthusiastic admirer asked in the
House of Commons if it were true Major Burnham had applied for
the post of Instructor of Scouts at Aldershot. There is no such post,
and Burnham had not applied for any other post. To the Timer he
wrote: "I never have thought myself competent to teach Britons
how to fight, or to act as an instructor with officers who have
fought in every corner of the world. The question asked in
Parliament was entirely without my knowledge, and I deeply regret
that it was asked." A few months later, with Mrs. Burnham and his
younger son, Bruce, he journeyed to East Africa as director of the
East African Syndicate.
During his stay there the African Review said of him: "Should
East Africa ever become a possession for England to be proud of,
she will owe much of her prosperity to the brave little band that
has faced hardships and dangers in discovering her hidden
resources. Major Burnham has chosen men from England, Ireland,
the United States, and South Africa for sterling qualities, and they
have justified his choice. Not the least like a hero is the retiring,
diffident little major himself, though a finer man for a friend or a
better man to serve under would not be found in the five
Burnham explored a tract of land larger than Germany, penetrating
a thousand miles through a country, never before visited by white
men, to the borders of the Congo Basin. With him he had twenty
white men and five hundred natives. The most interesting result of
the expedition was the discovery of a lake forty-nine miles square,
composed almost entirely of pure carbonate of soda, forming a
snowlike crust so thick that on it the men could cross the lake.
It is the largest, and when the railroad is built--the Uganda
Railroad is now only eighty-eight miles distant--it will be the most
valuable deposit of carbonate of soda ever found.
A year ago, in the interests of John Hays Hammond, the
distinguished mining engineer of South Africa and this country,
Burnham went to Sonora, Mexico, to find a buried city and to open
up mines of copper and silver.
Besides seeking for mines, Hammond and Burnham, with Gardner
Williams, another American who also made his fortune in South
Africa, are working together on a scheme to import to this country
at their own expense many species of South African deer.
The South African deer is a hardy animal and can live where the
American deer cannot, and the idea in importing him is to prevent
big game in this country from passing away. They have asked
Congress to set aside for these animals a portion of the forest
reserve. Already Congress has voted toward the plan $15,000, and
President Roosevelt is one of its most enthusiastic supporters.
We cannot leave Burnham in better hands than those of Hammond
and Gardner Williams. Than these three men the United States has
not sent to British Africa any Americans of whom she has better
reason to be proud. Such men abroad do for those at home untold
good. They are the real ambassadors of their country.
The last I learned of Burnham is told in the snapshot of him which
accompanies this article, and which shows him, barefoot, in the
Yaqui River, where he has gone, perhaps, to conceal his trail from
the Indians. It came a month ago in a letter which said briefly that
when the picture was snapped the expedition was "trying to cool
off." There his narrative ended. Promising as it does adventures
still to come, it seems a good place in which to leave him.
Meanwhile, you may think of Mrs. Burnham after a year in
Mexico keeping the house open for her husband's return to
Pasadena, and of their first son, Roderick, studying woodcraft with
his father, forestry with Gifford Pinchot, and playing right guard
on the freshman team at the University of California.
But Burnham himself we will leave "cooling off " in the Yaqui
River, maybe, with Indians hunting for him along the banks. And
we need not worry about him. We know they will not catch him.