and not far off the huts of the slaves, almost a town by themselves, all deserted by its Rebel owner,—I thought of stories I had read of explorers descending great rivers in savage lands, and finding on the banks the relics of a civilization which had passed away into oblivion.
Is this, perhaps, the very process which is going on here under our eyes?
I do not think it is, and yet on the river I could well imagine it.
On his return he plunged again into the details of his office business, and toiled on at a task which, so far as the planters were concerned, was at least a thankless one.
Through all difficulties and perplexities, he saw the great end at hand.
‘The men,’ he writes,
who carried Louisiana out of the Union have much to answer for, I believe; and yet I hope and trust that they and others who brought on this war will prove in the end to have been the unconscious instruments of Providence for doing away with what I regard as the greatest social evil of the age. I do not doubt that slavery is gone here.
No power on earth can make regular, permanent slaves of these people again, I think.
The planters do not know it, but they seem to me about as crazy still as when they let Louisiana be drawn out of the Union.
And now the end of his service was approaching.
He had exhausted, in the confinement of his office, the small stock of strength which he had brought from home.
The shattered health, which he had hoped to restore by bodily exercise, had sunk irretrievably beneath the constant wear of mental labor and anxiety.
When the opportunity to take the field came, it was too late.
He accompanied our military and naval forces when they went, March 8, 1863, to make a demonstration against Port Hudson
, and was present at the first reconnoissance and bombardment of the fortifications there.
He performed his duties on the General's staff
until about the 20th of the month, and then returned to New Orleans, convinced that he was too feeble for campaigning.
Speaking of the expedition, he says:—
I have drawn some lessons from it which I think cheaply bought at the expense of a pretty good attack of my old enemy.
The most important is, that, in my present state of health, it is the height of folly for me to attempt to go into the field; in fact, an impossibility.