The Story of a Canadian in the American Civil War
A. C. Allenson
Who wrote “June Comes Back," “Danton of the Fleet," etc.
IT was a warm evening in July of last year. I had been out on the lake for an hour with the trout. Sport, however, was not good, so I ran the boat up on a shingly beach, below Lawyer Bateman’s orchard, and walked up to the house to smoke a pipe with my hospitable neighbor before returning to Camp. A fine, hale man of sixty-five, Mr. Bateman lived alone, save for the company of servants. His wife had been dead some years, his children had married and scattered. Fortunate investments in local mines had made him wealthy, and long since he had abandoned the practice of law.
He was fond of country life, farmed for amusement, and was an ardent fisherman, liked a day with the gun, was a lover of books and owner of a rarely fine library; and he was ready at any hour to discuss literature, politics, or dry fly fishing. I had expected to find him alone, but there was a party of young folks on the veranda
when I reached the house. Introductions followed, and I was taken into the group and made comfortable in a big, wicker chair, with one of Bateman’s justly famed cigars to add the touch of luxury..
It was mainly a family party, composed of the lawyer’s grandchildren, bright, attractive young people, whose ages ranged from grown-ups in the early twenties, to two or three quite small children. The central figure in the group was clearly young Tom Bateman, a smartly set-up young man in lieutenant’s uniform, who was paying his grandfather a farewell visit before going overseas, and the occasion had been made into a pleasant family re-union. We were chatting in groups, half a dozen voices going at once, when I noticed an old man come along the private path, separating the garden from the orchard. I had met him before on the road, and had passed the time of day with him, but I did not know him. My curiosity had been roused by the
distinctiveness of his type, as well as by an old-world dignity of manner and bearing, rare in this twentieth century. He seemed very old, and his heavily wrinkled face, that must have been strikingly handsome once, was disfigured by a wide scar that ran diagonally across the left cheek. He was lame, the left leg dragging heavily; but, in spite of this, the figure was erect. The bigness of frame showed that, in his prime, he must have been an exceptionally powerful man. He was dressed in black, his long coat buttoned closely about him; he wore an oldfashioned clerical stock, and soft, widebrimmed, black hat.
D ATEMAN rose and called him, and, in U response, the old man limped across the lawn, his figure jerking oddly up and down as he brought .forward the dragging leg. He would not take a seat as he had an appointment to attend before dark, but he stopped for a few minutes to chat.
He wanted to know who each of the young folks was, and Bateman made them known to him. This was Mary’s lad, that Alec’s girl, and so on. The old man spoke pleasantly,-with attractive Scottish intonation, to each one.
“A soldier!” and he grasped young Tom’s hand with particular cordiality. "I honor you, young gentleman! If one could turn hack the clock, and march with the brave lads ! But each to his own generation. It is heartening to us who can but look on and pray, to know that the men and women of the new generation are leal and true—leal and true. May the Godlof Battles aid and guard you, young sir!”
There was a fine, patriarchal dignity about the benediction, infinitely impressive. After a few more words he bade us good evening, and, lifting his hat, limped away.
‘‘What an ugly old man!" The thin, childish voice broke almost ludicrously upon the silence. A sharp rebuke from an elder sister reduced the over-candid little one to the verge of tears. Her grandfather took her on his knee and comforted her.
“I don’t think he is the least bit ugly, Madgie, dear,” he said. “To me he is one of the handsomest men the world possesses, and I am going to tell you why.
Once he was the best looking man in all these hills, but his face was scarred, and. his body broken in doing something that was very fine and beautiful. In the Bible you read about a man named Paul, who said that he bore in his body the marks of the Lord Jesus, and sometimes, when I think of old Mr. Grant, I believe that his scar and lameness are much the same as Paul’s marks."
The young folks settled in chairs and on verandah rails and steps, while young Tom found a corner for a pretty cousin and himself. Fresh cigars were lighted and the tale began.
IT carries me back, this 1916, more than fifty years—fifty-three years to be exact," began Mr. Bateman. “The settlement here consisted then of a score or so of farm houses, dotted in clearings of the woods along the hillside. The people were mostly Irish — Irish Protestants — the majority from Ulster, a few from round Wexford and Wicklow. There was no railway hereabouts in those days. The big asbestos mine, that now produces more than threefourths the world’s output, had not yet been discovered. Think of it, young/oiks!
No trains within thirty miles, no gas, electric light or power, téléphoné, c ible, wireless, auomobiles, flying mach nes, submarines, moving pictures! T«legraphy still in its infancy. No cl eap books. No cent newspapers bringing you daily the news of the world up to a few hours before. W’hen we wanted to si top, we went sixty odd miles to Quebec, tal ing down produce and bringing back the 1 iest part of a year’s supplies in great, he ivy teams. Sometimes, for a jaunt, we walked down, and I remember riding in on horseback with father and mothei in August of ’60 to see the Prince of Wa es, the late King Edward. There’s a lot of water gone over the falls since that d iy. In ’63, the year of which I am talld ig. Confederation was four years away, a nd two and twenty years would have to pi as before the first train ran from Montreal to Vancouver. Over the line, the great stn ggle between North and South had be»n going on for nearly two years. You kno sr, perhaps, as much about the war as I c o, how it was fought on the right of oividual States to secede from the Unio l, and, in lesser degree, it involved the libe ration of the negro slave. We had heai d much of the slave question here, sin e Canada was the terminus of the unde -Continued on page 114
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ground tunnel, as it was called, by which escaped slaves, helped by Northern Abolitionists, found freedom on Canadian soil.
The North started out, thinking its task easy, but sharp defeat at Bull Run, Ball’s Bluff, and Wilson’s Creek, opened its eyes. Voluntary enlistment failing to fill the depleted ranks in the Union armies, Lincoln and his government, in March of ; '63, resorted to the draft. All able-bodied I men between the ages of eighteen and forty-five were liable to be drafted, and
forced to serve or pay for a substitute. Down in New York and elsew’here, there were, as now, pacifists—Copperheads or Butternuts they were called—who talked high-sounding phrases to save their skins, and preached the brand of freedom that cheerfully lets the other fellow take the risky job. Thousands of Canadians fought on the side of the North, some drawn by the righteousness of the cause, others impelled by the love of adventure, and many attracted by the money offered
by wealthy slackers, with no stomach for fighting, to those who could take their places in the Draft. In this way a great many Canadians took a chance in the big game, and some returned to build fortune on the foundation of bounty money.
“ ¥ CAN recall the day and hour, as if
-1 they were but yesterday, instead of in ’63. It was a beautiful spring morning. The ice had been out of the lake two or three weeks. Sugaring was over, the snow had gone. The young leaves were on the trees, and farmers busy with spring ploughing in the warm, dry fields. Fishing was fine. I had been to the river inlet,
. and had a basket of beauties. I can see myself, a bare-legged lad, rising twelve, pants and shirt my costume, my fishing kit a pole cut from the bush, length of string and hook. I wanted to see Annie Harland, so I ran my tub of a home-made boat on the sand strip yonder.
"The old cottage you see, above the beach, was the Harland place, then as pretty a little spot as you’d wish to look on. Most of the hillside had been owned by a wealthy man named Dransfield, who lived down in the States. He had cut it up into hundred acre farms, selling them on time to a band of North of Ireland settlers who had recently come out. One of the new arrivals was James Harland, a Belfast man. He was said to come of good stock. Money, we knew', came to him every year in small sums from Ireland, and it was rumored that one day he would get quite a little fortune, when some property he was interested in was sold. We didn’t pay much attention to those tales, however, as most of the Old Country fami-
lies had traditions of wealth tied up in Chancery, or dangling tantälizingly just out of reach for want of some vital ‘papers.’ Harland’s wife died soon after he settled here, leaving him with one child,
1 a girl. Annie.
i "The huid then was not as it is now,
I cleared and fenced. Most of it was heavy bush. In a few years Harland got a fair piece cleared, house^ami barns built, and ! a tidy bit of stock accumulated, but it I was terribly hard work. He had no i money to hire help, and except for the few days a neighbor might give him, in return for like services, he and his daughter managed alone. As industrious, honest, and God-fearing a man as ever stepped in shoe leather was James Harland. Then, just as he was beginning to see the ' glimmer of daylight in his affairs he was I killed in the bush by the fall of a tree.
ANNIE 'was then a girl of twenty, a tall, . handsome lass, wfith big,
1 dark speaking Irish eyes, bright winj some face, with a glow of color under j the dusky tints that sun and air had given ; her. All the lads in the Settlement were j head and ears in love with her, I myself, —at twelve—as much as the next. Har! land had left things in a bad way, through no fault of his own, poor man ! There was ; a sum of eight hundred dollars still due ! on the land purchase and building loans.
I Old Dransfield had been a kindly, accommodating man, reasonable with mortgagors, anxious to see them prosper. He ; died, and his son, a man about thirty, was of another stamp. He knew nothing but the strict letter of his bond, called hardness ! sound business principle, and thought himself a hundred times smarter than his father had been, though the old man had more wisdom in one corner of his skull than the son had in his entire establishment.
Men came courting Annie—youngsters in their teens, likely farmers, moldy old widowers. She laughed alike at their ! clumsy or crafty lovemaking, and shoo’d them away. Neither young man’s slave nor old man’s darling was she ready to be—just yet. Young Dransfield, who j came up every few months, debt collecting, fell before her charms like the re.-a.
She did not laugh at his lovemaking, but sought to avoid him, as if she feared.
I After she was left alone he went to see her, and asked what she proposed to do about the farm, and she told nim she I meant to try and run it herself and ]iav j him off. He laughed at the notion, but } she was wonderfully sweet and pretty,
1 and all alone, so he was indulgent for a j year or so. When the first instalment i ran behind—for the year following Har1 land’s death was a very hard one—he I began to come to the house oftener, mak¡ ing the debt an excuse. He was foppish in a cheap, vulgar way, fond of displaying what he considered were city manners, and showing off his wealth before the plain folk as if he were a superior being. To those who were in his power he was a pitiless bully. I suppose he thought that a country girl like Annie would fall down and worship his magnificence, but he was mistaken, and w-hen he found he could not win her by fair means, he tried foul, bothering her about money, till she had little pleasure in life. Of course, it was his right. The money was due him. But he sought to use the power it gave him like the coward he was. At last, when he became impertinent, she pulled him up
short, and told «him to stay away, and write what he had to say about business. He laughed at her signs of fear, in his rough coarse way, and at last, as he became bolder, she came to father, and he put the laugh on the other side of the fellow’s face. A word, or a hint—father told him—to any of the lads along the hillside that he was annoying Annie, and it would be a mighty long day before he would be able to display his gold watch chain and diamond stud on the streets of New York City. And if the lads were alack, he, father, would attend to the job himself. Dransfield was wise after his kind, and courageous only with his tongue,
so he contented himself with pestering Annie with dunning letters.
IT WAS in the fall or late summer of ’62 that Peter Grant came to the Settlement. Peter was a Scotsman, a tall, dark, good-looking Highland lad, who had the Gaelic tongue, and something of the courteous Gaelic gentleness over granite ruggedness. He came to teach the little schools in this and the adjoining hamlet, spending a few months in each. In between his teaching he found work on the farms at busy times. He
could drive as straight a furrow as any man on the hillsides, and swing scythe or sickle with the best and fastest. Folks said he was saving to put hiihself through College and become a minister. He was quiet, grave beyond his years, a great reader, with a prodigious memory for poetry that he would recite, when carried out of his reserve, with a compelling, fiery eloquence I will never forget. His gentle, polite ways made the rougher lads, at first, pick him as butt for their practical jokes and clumsy fun. Then they discovered another Peter. He could use his fists. with bewildering dexterity. He fought like a whirlwind, and there wasn’t a man. big or little, in the Settlement, that the steel-and-whipcord Highlander could not put on his back and pin there. He seemed, as we came to know him, a curious blend of fire and ice and power and gentleness. There was something of the heavy claymore, and something of the fine, keen rapier in him. Poor in pocket, he had a pride and chivalry that the noblest in the land could not have outmatched.
His courtesy to women was a revelation to us then. To him they were not mortals of common clay, to be flirted with or joked about, but another, superior order of beings, to be worshipped and reverenced. His quaint politenesses, never effusive, were often ridiculed by the men, and some of the women too, who nevertheless thought no worse of Peter because he esteemed them finer and better than they really were.
HE and Annie Harland drew together like magnet and steel. Folks saw’ it, ancl expected they would marry and settle dow’n; but they didn’t, and it was the judgment of the Settlement-that they were the queerest lovers ever known. They did not go out walking together. He never went to the house, he saluted her with grave hat-lifting when he met her, and always called her Mistress Annie when he spoke of her. Some said He wished to marry Her, but she would not hear of it. She knew what life on the farm would be, one long struggle all their days with poverty, hardship, and, maybe, crushed ambition. To put Peter to wood clearing, and swamp draining, and the drudgery of farm life, w’ould be like harnessing a thoroughbred racer to a lumber wagon. He must go his way, get to college, enter the ministry, and then, if he didn’t find someone he liked better—she laughed, talking it over with my mother—they might talk about it again. They musn’t even be declared lovers, each must have full liberty, he must take his way, and, no doubt, she would be able to manage on the farm, when things began to run more smoothly”. One change there was for Annie. Drahsfield, like the rest, saw how things were going, and he weighed and estimated the young Highlander in his mind, concluding that he was not a safe man to cross, where the woman of his heart was concerned. So Annie was no more molested. The shield of Peter was over her. Dransfield even became friendly with the strange Scotsman, whose power alone he could understand.
To be Continued..