Charleston — its people, its Hospitality, its ladies — Treatment of the soldiers, &c.
[special correspondence of the Dispatch.]
Charleston, 16th February, 1862.
It were well worth one's while, if for no other purpose than to enjoy the contrast, to leave the odious mud, the shrouds of damp, the days of gloom and nights of darkness, which you of Richmond
are now experiencing, and come to this land of balmy sunshine, budding flowers, odoriferous smells, excellent hearts, and cultivated understandings.
It is like escaping from an Egyptian pyramid into a crystal grotto, and exchanging the goblins of the mist, for the fairies of ‘"an ampler other — a diviner air."’
The trees are in blossom, the clover fields rich in fragrant bloom, the birds carolling as if the merry spring time of the year were upon us, and all Nature wears a drapery of loveliness, opulent in tints that would cool an August noon.
You can easily imagine, under these circumstances, the luxury of a soldier's life on the Southern
No mud knee deep and rising, as at Manassas
; no log huts and India
rubber coats; no long-top boots and barbarous roads; no nothing which has made the camps of the army of the Potomac the Golgotha of the volunteer's existence.
Has the soldier here to keep step to the rhythm of his thoughts on the solitary midnight beat, the quiet stars look down upon him from the deep blue of the Heavenly dome, and the breezes are as mild as Italian
Is it necessary to build entrenchments, big ditches, or do such drudgery of a campaign, a host of negroes relieve him of the task.--Is he hungry, his servants prepare superb repasts.
Is he ragged, the ladies of the State
supply fresh garments.
Is he ill, a score of homes and hospitals invite him to enter and receive the tender nursing and watchful sympathy to which noble woman has here devoted herself.
Is anything required to alleviate his wants, add to his comforts, or sweeten the bitter potions of life, he has only to utter a word and the measure is full.
The soldiers of the grand army now in Virginia
must not suppose, however, that because these blessings are poured out with such bountiful hands here, hearts are not beating and hands are not working for them.
The interest which the women of the South
are taking in the war — and it is, in truth, the women who are carrying on this contest and smoothing the rugged pathway which leads to success — is bounded by no geographical limits.
The man who fights for his country any where, whether it be on the mountains of Western Virginia
, in the forests of the West
, on the banks of the Potomac
, or on the sea-beard, occupies the same warm place in their hearts.
Here, soldiers can receive anything they desire, because they are at home.--Transportation is good, and communication is uninterrupted.
Abroad the case is reversed.
there are now piled up in the depot two or three car loads of boxes and packages destined for the army, which have been detained there for weeks because of a lack of enterprise necessary to forward them to their destination.
How much comfort is contained in that pile of parcels, eloquent with the sympathy and memory of distant friends!
What a world of suffering might be relieved if railroad officials would only one day forget the almighty dollar and transmit these needful articles to their owners!
It is my intention on some future occasion to devote a chapter to the consideration of hospitals, and the efforts of women, in connection with the sanitary welfare of the army.
To-day, however, there are other matters pressing on my pen of equal interest, and which, with equal grace, may be embodied in the first of a series of letters from this now attractive section of the Confederacy
Few people can visit Charleston
without being struck by the extraordinary oneness of sentiment which everywhere exists.
With all the drawbacks the people have experienced — the blockade, the fire, the depopulation of homes, and other misfortunes incident to the war — there is a union of fortune and sympathy manifested in every relation of life which indicates that the great heart of the public is beating in grand accord with the march of passing events.
Everything has been reduced to a war standard.
While cheerfulness and confidence is written on all faces, the name of gaiety has been almost forgotten.
An evening party has not been held since the opening tocsin of the war. Houses have become factories.
Women, whose hands never knew toil before, now ply the needle and the loom from morning till night — the tottering grand dame and the little child are alike devoted to the work of mercy.
The silks and the satins which were wont to be seen on the daily promenade have given place to the plainer garbs of homespun, while the pleasures of visiting and sociability are exchanged for the tender charities which flow in loving streams at the bedside of the sick.
The men are all in arms — even the aged, whom the law has exempted from military duty, have formed themselves into corps de reserves,
and await the moment of action when they may be called upon to defend their homes.
The young men are in camp at various points in the State
--come on the coast and some in the interior, but all armed, drilled, and ready for the foe. A few, a very few from the grand mass are at their homes discharged or on furlough, but the first note of alarm will carry them into the ranks of the army again, to do battle wherever danger calls.
Of sick, there are, alas!
too many.--As in the incipiency of the army of the Potomac, measles, typhoid fever, mumps, pneumonia, and other camp diseases, have their victims, and, notwithstanding the admirable sanitary regulations of the State
, the best of nursing, good weather, and all the comfortable surroundings with which it is sought to encompass the volunteers, both hospitals and private houses present a sad array of humanity suffering from the worst of ‘"ills that flesh is heir to."’ So much for the social aspect of Charleston
, and, indeed, of South Carolina
Physically, the city wears a garb of mourning.
The fire-fiend which a few weeks ago passed over the fairest portion of the town has left the trail of the serpent behind, and bright as may be the contrast afforded elsewhere, still the old thought comes back to you that the dark hand of affliction is lying heavily upon our dearest friends; that the rich have been made poor; the associations clustered around their homesteads have been destroyed, and that the existence of hundreds of individuals, once bright with the how of promise, has been set backward at least a score of years.
It is a sad sight to pass through the burned district and see the ravages of the angry conflagration.
From river to river its blackened monuments still stand, marking the savage fury with which it swept everything before it — the magnificent edifice and the humble cottage, church and warehouse, factory and workshop, all alike prostrate before the fiery blast, and nought left behind but irregular lines of cracked and crumbling walls, chimneys, plies of debris,
‘ "High towers, fair temples, goodly theatres,
Strong walls rich porches, princely palaces,
Fine streets, brave houses, sacred sepulchres,
All these turned to dust,"
And overcome with conflagration's fiery rust.
Workmen have removed portions of the ruins dangerous to the public and obstructing the streets, and are still engaged in rescuing such articles of building material as have escaped destruction; but many months, if not years, will elapse, before the city will wear the same aspect it presented before the great event.
Some of the ruins are beautiful in the most picturesque sense of the term--two especially.
I refer to what is called the Circular Church
and the Catholic Cathedral
— the first with its high walls, rows of tall brown pillars in front, circular shape, and grass-covered church-yard in the year, looking not unlike a miniature edition of the Coliseum at Rome
; the last, resembling in its Gothic grotesqueness, its pointed arches, square steeple, tall windows, and artistic beauty, the rare old Abbeys which have come down to us preserved on the Kicher
Every one with an artistic eye is struck by the beauty to which I have alluded, but unfortunately, there is a luck of either disposition or artists to save the picture.
Speaking of grave-yards, it is a remarkable fact that although three of these ‘"gloomy mansions of the dead"’ were embraced in the circle of fire, not a tombstone has been defaced nor an obituary notice terated.
ers, and charity so generally dispensed to the poorer classes as to place them effectually beyond the teach of want.
A remarkable instance of the preservation of property was afforded in the Mills House
, one of the splendid hotels of Charleston
With fire in front, fire on the side, and fire behind, the air filled with a storm of flakes large as your hand, the streets so thick with the burning rain that one could not walk in it unless wrapped in a wet blanket, such was the coolness and energy displayed by the proprietors, a few friends, and the servants of the house, that the flames were beaten back, and the entire square, and probably the portion of the city behind it, saved.
During this perilous hour, while hundreds of thousands of dollars were at stake, and men were rushing wildly in all directions, seeking to preserve their property it is a noble tribute to manhood, that Mr. Purcell
, forgetting himself and his valuable interests, sent his servants and a wagon to the house of an aged lady and saved, nearly every article she owned.
Then returning to his hotel in the midst of the fire, he directed his attention to the salvation of what belonged to himself and partners.
Another instance of the noble character of both Messrs. Purcell
, of the Mills
Souse, is that, after the conflagration had subsided, they tendered to several families the use of their apartments or furniture free of charge, until the unfortunates could provide for themselves.
The fiery ordeal through which the house passed is indelibly impressed upon its front and sides.--Great pieces of stucco have been lapped off by the fiery tongues that forked out from the opposite side of the street, paint is blistered, windows scorched and blackened — in a word, had the hotel been subjected to a severe attack of the small pox, the eruption on the epidermis could not have been more complete than is evident upon the pitted face of the building.
But I have already transgressed the prudent longitude of a letter.
Pens are like locomotives, however; they always required a mile or two of track to stop in, and a switching point is not presented at every paragraph.--Coming into the depot, however, let me add that everything here and on the coast is comparatively quiet.
make an occasional foray on the coast with their gunboats.
A few thousand — three or four, probably — have landed on Edisto Island
; nobody knows for what.
A few tugs are at work pulling spiles in the approaches to Savannah
, and an attack is apprehended there.
A bombardment may possibly result and the city may be destroyed; but the Yankees
can no more land in the face of our troops under arms in the vicinity, than they can take a comet.Persimmons.