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[222] in this region is a narrow and shallow stream, fringed with a dense growth of heavy forest-trees, and bordered by low marshy bottom-lands, varying from half a mile to a mile in width. A heavy rain would swell the narrow rivulet into a broad and shallow flood, and the work of days would be swept away in a single night. When the waters were low, a child might ford it; when they were high, a horse and his rider might be drowned in it. The labors of our engineers were

Quench'd in a boggy syrtis, neither sea
Nor good dry land.

The elements, too, seemed to have conspired against us. So rainy a season had never been known within the memory of man: the pitiless floods fell upon us without intermission. The petulant and rebel stream seemed to take a perverse pleasure in breaking the fetters with which patriot hands essayed to bind it. And then these rains turned the wretched narrow roads of the Peninsula into tracks of impassable and heart-breaking mire in which horses sank to their knees and wagons stuck hopelessly fast.1

1 “Unfortunately, every thing dragged with us. The roads were long in drying, the bridges were long in building. ‘Never have we seen so rainy a season,’ said the oldest inhabitant. ‘Never did we see bridges so difficult to build,’ said the engineers. The abominable river laughed at all their efforts. Too narrow for a bridge of boats, too deep and too muddy for piers, here a simple brook some ten yards wide, flowing between two plains of quicksand, in which the horses sank up to the girths, and which offered no bearings,--there divided into a thousand tiny rivulets spread over a surface of three hundred yards, and traversing one of those wooded morasses which are peculiar to tropical countries,--changing its level and its bed from day to day, the river, in its capricious and uncertain sway, annulled and undid to-day the labors of yesterday, carried on under a burning sun and often under the fire of the enemy. And so went by days upon days,--precious, irrecoverable days.” --Prince de Joinville.

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De Joinville (1)
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