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Chapter 11: Paymaster in United States Army.

  • Reception at Galveston.
  • -- reasons for retiring from the army. -- generosity to the writer. -- his plantation, China Grove. -- Texas coast scenery. -- game. -- his family. -- occupation. -- manual labor. -- Warren D. C. Hall. -- the writer's boyish reminiscences of China Grove. -- General Johnston's relations with children. -- Irish John. -- shooting. -- close observation of the habits of animals. -- the crested Wood-Duck. -- the wounded eagle. -- General Johnston's ideas of the conduct of life; of education. -- his Love of justice and breadth of view. -- books. -- opinions on the War; of Colonel Rogers; of General Taylor. -- his view of how the Mexican War should be conducted. -- letter to Preston, giving his estimate of General Taylor. -- reserve. -- gradual isolation in his solitude. -- almost forgotten. -- exceptions. -- illustrations of his character and plantation-life from his letters. -- letters giving his views of education. -- preference for an American training. -- notions on rhetoric, mathematics-requirements for legal success. -- lessons of moderation. -- begins to lose hope and health. -- his fortitude and magnanimity. -- General Taylor's nomination and election. -- movements of General Johnston's friends to advance him. -- his unexpected conduct. -- letter on office-seeking. -- finally appointed a paymaster in the army.

General Johnston was appointed paymaster, October 31, 1849. On the 2d of December, 1849, he wrote to the adjutant-general, accepting the appointment.1 This office gave him the emoluments and the nominal rank of major in the United States Army; but, in fact, the paymaster was a mere disbursing officer and nothing more, without authority or command. On the frontier of Texas, to which he was assigned, [170] his duties were arduous and dangerous; and, as has been suggested, General Johnston accepted the office because he regarded it “as a stepping-stone to service in the line.” More than once he seemed on the point of attaining this end by exchange with a major of the line, but each time he was disappointed.

So much had his health been impaired by the malaria of the Brazos bottom, that, on the 8th of April, 1850, while waiting orders at Galveston, he was obliged, at the suggestion of his superior officers, to ask a little indulgence before reporting for duty. He availed himself of this to take his family to Kentucky. The pay district assigned to him included the military posts from the river Trinity to the Colorado. He selected Austin as his home on account of its healthfulness, natural beauty, pleasant society, and proximity to his district. Some of his old friends had settled there, which was another attraction. General Johnston, having placed his family in Kentucky for the summer, returned to Texas, and entered upon his duties. In September he proceeded to New Orleans for funds to pay the troops, when, notwithstanding his long experience in a Southern climate, he took the yellow fever on shipboard while returning. The fever, though sharp, was short, and yielded to his own treatment and simple remedies, detaining him, however, several weeks in Galveston. On November 13th he reported to the paymaster-general that he had completed the first payment of troops in his district.

At first his duty was to pay every four months the troops at Forts Croghan, Gates, Graham, and Belknap, and at Austin. This required a journey of about 500 miles each time, besides a visit to New Orleans for the funds requisite for each payment-between $40,000 and $50,000. He was usually assisted in the transportation of these funds by a clerk; but these journeys were, nevertheless, periods of great solicitude to him. The route was by steamer to Galveston, thence by steamboat to Houston, and thence by stage, a distance of 185 miles, to Austin ; and the journey was continued day and night for about a week. In addition to perils of the sea and yellow fever, the stage-road had its dangers. Passing through the boggy Brazos bottom, through wide post-oak woods, and across broad tracts of sparsely-settled prairie, there was considerable danger of robbery, and greater still from upsets which several times happened. The money was in gold and silver coin packed in a small iron chest, and always placed between the feet of its guardians, who watched in turn from New Orleans to Austin. This exhausting vigilance was happily rewarded by exemption from loss or serious accident. In 1851 General Johnston was obliged to visit New Orleans in May, in June, and in August, to obtain extra funds to pay off the Texas volunteers of 1848-49. This work, which required great care and circumspection to protect both the Government and the soldier, was completed [171] that fall. In the autumn of 1852 he was enabled to discontinue his harassing visits to New Orleans by arranging for the sale of drafts in Austin, which he had been unable to do before.

General Johnston's pay district was gradually altered and enlarged in consequence of the movements of troops, until finally it embraced Forts Belknap, Chadbourne, and McKavitt, and required a journey of 695 miles for each payment. In 1854 payments were ordered to be made every two months, thus compelling the paymaster to travel annually nearly 4,200 miles. Each journey took more than a month, of which only four or five days were spent at the posts, which were occupied in paying the soldiers. General Johnston, with his clerk, negro driver John, and negro cook Randolph, rode in a covered ambulance drawn by four mules, and carried his money-chest and baggage in the same conveyance. He was accompanied by a forage-wagon and an escort of dragoons, varying from four to twelve in number, under charge of a non-commissioned officer. The escort was usually too small to guard against outlaws or Indians who constantly menaced that region; and his escape from attack was due in great measure to his extreme wariness, and to the observance of every possible precaution against surprise.

General Johnston says, in a letter written in 1850:

Scarcely a day has passed since my arrival that a depredation has not been committed. They (the Indians) have driven off nearly all the horses and mules from the Cibolo, Salado, and other portions of of the frontier. Parties are sent in pursuit, but without success. To give peace to the frontier, and that perfect security so necessary to the happiness and prosperity of communities, the troops ought to act offensively and carry the war to the homes of the enemy.

The continued movement of these marauding parties on the border for the next five years made each of General Johnston's pay-tours a perilous expedition.

General Johnston suffered great annoyance because the transportation furnished him was never suitable to the work to be done. He had to remonstrate often, but in vain, against the tired mules and worn-out wagons supplied to him. As his circuit was made through a wilderness, he prevented detention and its ill results only by the most heedful preparation of his outfit and the utmost attention to details, so that no bolt, buckle, or horseshoe-nail, was overlooked.

The following extracts will suggest some of his difficulties. In a letter dated October 18, 1853, to Colonel A. J. Coffee, deputy paymaster-general, he writes that if his tour were increased, as was proposed, to 925 miles, a payment would occupy forty-five days, and adds:

If, after the information I have given you as to the distances to be traveled, etc., you think the public interest would be properly subserved by my including [172] Paymaster Hutter's district with my own, I will, as soon as notified, take upon myself the duties of the district, thus arranged, with pleasure. I think it my duty to say that the quartermaster at this place has not had the means to give a good team for the ambulance for a long time, and I would do no injustice to say that I have at no time had a sufficiently good team. . . . The team furnished at this point now has to work in the trains when not in the service of the pay department, a practice which makes a team totally unfit for ambulance service.

He adds:

There is no ambulance here; the one mentioned in my requisition became a wreck on a late trip of Major Woods from Phantom Hill. This is a small matter to trouble you with, and I hate grumblers so much that I dislike to make any complaint; but, if service is to be promptly and efficiently performed, the means should not be withheld.

In a letter addressed to Colonel B. F. Lamed, paymaster-general, April 8, 1852, General Johnston says:

I have the honor to report that the district to which I have been assigned has been paid to the 29th February last. It is constituted as follows: Fort Graham, Brazos River; Fort Worth, Clear Fork of the Trinity; Belknap, Salt Fork of the Brazos; and the post on the Clear Fork of the Brazos. The distance traveled in making the payment was 7830 miles; time — from 29th February to 3d April-thirty-five days, under favorable circumstances. The country is elevated, the greater portion being a succession of ranges of high hills, intersected with numerous streams, the crossing of which is always troublesome, and often produces delay in the journey. The march is commenced at daylight, and continued industriously during the day, except two hours in mid-day; and thus the journey is prosecuted without any loss of time, either on the route or at the posts. You may, therefore, fix the average time at thirty-five or forty days. This six times repeated during the year makes up an amount of travel, sleeping on the ground, privation, and exposure to heat and cold, not imagined by the framers of the law, nor encountered by a private soldier in time of war or peace, for it must be remembered that the country traversed is uninhabited.

The commanding general of this department issued an order last summer fixing the period of the payments at four months, which I thought the circumstances of the case called for, and which has been productive of no detriment whatever to the public service; since then the interior line has been established, making the travel much greater. In conclusion, I beg leave to refer you to Colonel Cooper for the best information with regard to this district, and to say that I will endeavor to execute faithfully whatever order you may deem it proper to give with regard to the period of the payment.

General Johnston, in a letter of August 10, 1854, to his daughter, gives this account of his tours of duty:

My dear daughter: I received your beautiful letter on my return from my last tour to the military posts, and have had necessarily to defer my answer until I could get off to Washington a statement of my accounts, which is [173] the first thing to be done after each payment, and cannot be dispensed with. The payments have to be made every two months; the distance to be traveled is near 700 miles; so you see, with traveling and making up accounts, I have but little leisure. Traveling in an uninhabited country, making from twenty-five to thirty miles a day, is no longer by me classed with trips of pleasure. With your modern improvements you accomplish as much in two days as we can in a month.

Although we do not travel far in a day, it is sufficiently fatiguing. We are, every morning, on our feet at the first peep of dawn; and, as the glorious orb of day discloses his radiant face, which in this sunny climate is almost every day, we begin our march. We continue till 11 A. Mr., and start again about 2 P. M., and stop for the night, about five o'clock, in some romantic spot made hospitable to us by Dame Nature; and so, on and on, as one day, so all. A first trip is delightful; all that is beautiful and charming, and much that is magnificent or sublime, in scenery, daily feasts the eye. But even this becomes tiresome and uninteresting when seen too often. I took Sid 2 with me on my last trip. It was a rich treat to him. He swam and fished in almost every stream on the route. tie is a bold, intelligent boy, with a splendid physique.

In March, 1854, the writer made one of these rounds of duty with General Johnston, taking the place of his clerk. The journey was one of lively enjoyment, and afforded a good opportunity for noting some of General Johnston's traits. The average rate of travel was about thirty miles a day. The trail over dry and treeless plains, though hardly to be called a road, offered little interruption or detention, except at the crossings of streams, where sometimes a large part of a day was spent. General Johnston's equipage has already been described; a buffalo-robe and some blankets furnished the bed; and two daily meals of cold bread, cold ham, and black coffee, with an occasional bird or wild-duck, shot by the road-side, made our simple fare. It may be remarked that he did not use spirits on the road, though, of course, he had them in case of need.

General Johnston pointed out with interest both the geological and topographical features of the country. Our route, for the most part, lay across high, wide, rolling prairies, the rich soil of which was clothed with its earliest verdure, and spangled with hyacinth, coryopsis, verbena, pink phlox, yellow primrose, and other flowers just beginning to bloom. Of course, in a circuit of 700 miles, the aspect of the country varied greatly. From Austin to Fort Belknap, after passing for miles over swelling prairies capable of the utmost productiveness under the hand of man, but then uninhabited, we would sometimes skirt a range of low hills, covered with cedar-brake, or plunge into a belt of live-oak or post-oak forest. Emerging, we would again strike across a plain overgrown with scrubby mesquite, or wind around the base of a conical hill, the frequent landmark of the region. The soil was generally [174] calcareous; and at the hill-tops a bald crown of white marl rose above the encircling sod. Though marks of volcanic action were not wanting, the strata, where visible, were commonly horizontal. In Hamilton's Valley, marble was found, pure white, pink, or drab, of fine grain and good polish. At Belknap, and along the Brazos, there was plenty of coal.

From Fort Belknap to Phantom Hill, Fort Chadbourne, Fort McKavitt, and thence to Austin, the country was bolder, wilder, more rugged and sterile. The breaks in these elevated table-lands often present the appearance of successive mountain-ranges, and the eye is often delighted with a landscape forty miles in extent, under a cloudless sky. A conical peak, sometimes called “Abercrombie's Peak,” where General Johnston often camped, he named “Bleak House,” after Dickens's fictitious mansion. There were manifold and unmistakable signs that the whole land had once been submerged, and had risen from the deep, by numerous successive elevations of the most gradual character. On the hill-sides the well-defined water-levels, beaches of a vanished ocean, resembled walled terraces, and were surmounted by summits which looked like the remains of embrasured strongholds; so that everywhere was presented the illusion of ancient fortifications on the most gigantic scale.

These high plains are the border-land of the desert. At Fort Chadbourne, we were told, by Captain Calhoun and Dr. Swift, that on the 9th of June, 1854, a terrible hailstorm had swept over them, which had drifted six or eight feet deep in the bed of the creek; twenty wagon-loads of hailstones were gathered, and a hundred more might have been, had it pleased them. Hailstorms followed for two weeks. In October, a flight of grasshoppers from the northeast was three days in passing over the place; and such was the multitude, and so constant the flitting of wings, that it resembled a snow-storm.

On this journey we were assailed by several “northers,” the peculiar wind of a Texan winter, and the dread of the pioneer. The prevailing wind is a strong sea-breeze that blows with the regularity of a tradewind, except when interrupted by the norther. On a day as balmy as spring, the thermometer perhaps at 80° in the shade, the weathercock suddenly veers, and without warning a fierce, dry, searching blast comes howling down from the northwest, accompanied by a change of temperature of as much, often, as 60° or 70° in two or three hours. The cattle flee to thickets; indeed, every living thing seeks shelter! and people exposed to it are often chilled to death. By General Johnston's direction I recorded observations and collected data as to the direction, progress, and phenomena, of the norther. From these, combined with his long experience of the characteristics of this wind, he arrived at the conclusion that it was a wind of propulsion; that is to say, that it began to blow at the more northerly points first, and was not a “caving-in [175] ” wind, commencing to blow at the Gulf, as some imagined; that its rate of progress was from thirty to forty-five miles per hour; and that it had its origin in the Rocky Mountains or on the Plains. He surmised that a great snow-fall, evolving an enormous amount of heat, produced a rising, moving column of air, with a southward tendency, which drew after it the arctic blasts that made the norther.

General Johnston's interest in animals-what might be called his friendliness to them — has been mentioned. There was along our road a tract many square miles in extent, reaching from Bluff Creek to Fort McKavitt, which was called the Prairie Dog City. Here dwelt in large communities these lively little marmots. Most of them occupied plain holes in the ground; these, General Johnston called the plebs. Others, who seemed to enjoy consideration on account of the broad, elevated terraces around their dwellings, from which they harangued the multitude with great chatter, he said were the magistrates and orators. He speculated amusingly on the analogies here to human government, and called attention to the common lot by which they fell victims to the rattlesnakes, which in turn became the prey of the owls that infested the city.

General Johnston noted closely the habits of birds. I remember well the infinite patience with which he reared a nest of red-birds for me near Shelbyville, Kentucky, when I was a boy. They had an incessant, metallic clack, and were always hungry. The same year he brought up by hand, in like manner, two orioles which became great pets. On our frontier journey, he continually called attention to the ways of the animals that we saw. A blue, swallow-tailed hawk kept near us all one day, allowing us to flush the small birds for him. General Johnston knew not which most to admire, the poise and swoop of the aerial hunter, or the intelligence that made him avail himself of our aid in getting his dinner. “That hawk,” he said, “doubtless considers himself the centre of creation, and that our place in it is to play jackal to him.”

In his study of Nature, General Johnston combined scientific exactness with aesthetic gratification. A flower was viewed by him in more than one aspect. Grouped with others it was a piece of color, or a feature in the landscape; and again, as a single study, it became in turn an index of the soil, a sign of the season, or, with its wonderful arrangement of stamen and petal, an evidence of design and a symbol of order in the universe. He showed me the distinctive features and the relative practical values of the white mesquite, the curly mesquite, and half a dozen other nutritious native grasses. His acquaintance with plants was very intimate. In the cultivation of this taste, he had the aid and encouragement of his wife, who possessed remarkable talent and skill in painting flowers. In his various tours he collected for her a large number of varieties of cactus — as many as sixty, I believe. [176]

General Johnston showed me a tract on the dividing ridge between the San Gabriel and its South Fork, where, fifteen years before, with Burleson, Tom Howard, William S. Fisher, and half a dozen others, he had hunted buffalo. Out of six that they saw they killed five. The Indians had attacked every other party that had attempted to cross the country; they, however, took the risk of meeting them, as they were all old frontiersmen; but they were not molested.

I had occasion to remark, on this visit, the great patience and unselfishness of General Johnston in attending to the wants and business of others. As he made his round from post to post, he was intrusted with a budget of commissions that might well have taxed his equanimity. To buy a horse, a gun, a pair of boots, a ribbon; to have a watch mended; to pay taxes; to adjust some entangled business-any and every sort of affair that these isolated people could not attend to in person was committed to his care and looked after with solicitude. No right or claim of a soldier was neglected; and these poor fellows little knew the amount of thought and correspondence frequently involved in enforcing their demand for some inconsiderable sum. Friends in other States availed themselves of his extended and minute topographical knowledge to obtain information in locating lands; and, ignorant that this knowledge had a fixed commercial value, accepted his services without compensation. In one instance he located for a friend 40,000 acres of land without remuneration, the fee for which would have been, according to custom, one fourth of the land. But he imparted what he knew freely and cheerfully; not seeking to engross for himself what he was aware would become a great fortune. He seemed to feel that, as a public servant, all his faculties were to be used for the benefit of others.

It has been stated that, on his tours, General Johnston's only companions were a clerk (not always congenial), negro servants, and a dragoon escort, with whom the custom of the service permitted only formal communication. Hence he was thrown much upon his own resources, and passed many days without conversation; but this was less wearisome to him than to most men, owing to a large capacity for enjoyment, to his habits of observation, and to a way he had of thinking over contingencies likely to happen. Without doubt, on these long and well-nigh solitary journeys, his meditation was fruitful. It was a study of probable, practical events, as close and compact as the solution of the difficult chess-problems for which he had so great a relish, and not at all resembling reverie, for which he felt a marked dislike. If he saw a child listlessly musing over a book, he would say: “Do not nurse your book; study it, or put it by.” It was often remarked that he was never taken by surprise, or unable to come to a prompt decision as to his course of action. Though this was undoubtedly due in part to the [177] even balance of his mind and moral nature, General Johnston explained it by saying that “what was called his presence of mind was often merely putting into action a course of conduct long determined on.” His forethought surely saved him many times from surprise and unexpected situations.

Long service on the frontier, individual aptitudes, and continued exercise of the faculty, had given General Johnston that sort of topographical knowledge and insight which, when put in practice, seems almost like an instinct. He had ample woodcraft, but the habit of prairie-travel unquestionably helped to train his eye and imagination to take in at a glance the salient features of a country. An instance illustrating this occurred during his service as paymaster. The road from Austin to Belknap followed the old Indian trail, as is usual on the frontier. As this route diverged much from a direct line, and crossed the breaks of the table-lands instead of following the water-sheds to advantage, it was thought best to establish a new wagon-road. General Johnston was consulted, and gave such accurate instructions that the road was shortened twenty or thirty miles, and avoided the chief difficulties of frontier travel; yet in many parts he had never been over the ground, and in some not within ten or fifteen miles of it. He knew, however, what its profile and characteristics must be.

Whatever concerned the honor or happiness of Texas interested General Johnston deeply. The rights of her old settlers and revolutionary patriots enlisted his warmest sympathies, and he lent his voice in behalf of those claimants for reimbursement who had suffered spoliation at the hands of their own Government and army. The productive capacity and material development of the State were constant themes in his letters. He had high hopes that the manifest superiority of the Southern route to the Pacific would secure the completion of a railroad along that line which would be the beginning of an era of wonderful progress and prosperity for the State. He predicted that its cotton, its wheat, and its beef, would then successfully compete, in New York and the markets of Europe, with the most favored rivals.

General Johnston was drawn into warmer sympathy with the Democratic party by his attitude of resistance to Know-Nothingism and to the antislavery crusade that was now beginning to become formidable. The allusions in his correspondence to these questions are few and brief, but explicit: “I am glad Kentucky came so near giving a good Democratic vote. She will yet be saved.” In another letter he alludes pointedly and with reprobation to the abolition movement.

In a letter to the author, dated October 19, 1854, General Johnston says:

Know-Nothingism will have its day, perhaps a brief triumph, and then will be denounced as an anti-republican heresy. The restriction of the right of suffrage [178] to the present population and their descendants, and to the descendants of future immigrants, can now be effected without the intervention of a secret political organization of unknown principles-perhaps menacing religious toleration, and opposed by the secrecy of its proceedings to the genius of our institutions. If our leading men would have the boldness to meet the question openly and on the grounds of its utility alone, I do not doubt that the aid of most of our naturalized citizens could be obtained for the enactment of a law that would give every security.

In 1853 General Johnston was relieved from the burden of indebtedness he had so long borne, by the sale of his plantation on terms that paid off all incumbrances and left him a free man. But, by a cruel stroke of fortune, he had hardly got rid of the heavy load that had so long weighed down his spirits and wounded his sensibilities, when a new and more severe trial befell him from an unexpected source. He found, on counting the Government funds in his possession, a deficit of several hundred dollars; and on several other occasions in 1853 he discovered similar losses, amounting to $1,700. Such was the accuracy of his accounts and payments that robbery was the only solution. The money was kept in an iron strong-box, rarely from under the eye of himself or his clerk; and, as no violence was used, access must have been had by false keys. Owing to various causes several persons succeeded each other in his office as clerk, all reputable men, who united with General Johnston in trying to detect the thief, but in vain. In 1854 about the same amount was abstracted by the same methods, but the utmost vigilance failed to furnish any sufficient clew. These mysterious robberies, and his inability to frustrate them, were not only impoverishing him, but so seriously threatened him with loss of property and reputation that he almost sunk under it, and determined to resign a position so perilous. In the mean time, being aware that to report these circumstances would be merely to undermine the confidence of his superiors and to draw unmerited suspicion upon himself, he made good the losses from his private means by appropriating in that way some old debts that came in providentially just then, and by a frugality in his expenditure amounting to privation.

When I accompanied him in March, 1855, he stated all the facts to me, and we counted the money just before starting. I asked him if he suspected no one, and he replied that he had “no right to suspect any particular person, though he did; but he wished me to watch with him, and to consider the case unbiased by his prejudice, and therefore he preferred not to state his suspicions.” During the journey the strongbox was out of our sight for only a few hours at Fort McKavitt, when it was under guard. The most scrupulous exactness in payment had been observed, and yet, on the second day after our return, on counting the money, $700 was missing. The cash had been taken as usual from [179] different bags, and this time in half-eagles with some marked coins included. My own mind had been made up before, but now I was certain of the thief. I pointed out to General Johnston that by the principle of exclusion the guilt had been narrowed down to his negro servants, and that his driver John was the man. John was a family slave, an ugly, black fellow, but handy, who had been greatly indulged. About two years before he had married a quadroon woman, whom he had supported in considerable luxury. He explained his means of extravagance by the profits of barter with the soldiers. There were certain other subtile signs of guilt that convinced my mind.

I proposed a prompt and thorough search of John's luggage, which was stowed at the house of his wife's master. General Johnston admitted that he had long suspected John, but had no proof; and he now hesitated to make the search, because, if the man was innocent, it would be a hard case indeed for such a blow to be dealt by the hand of his master, who was the one person in the world to whom he could look for protection. I insisted that where so much was at stake such extreme conscientiousness and tenderness were morbid. General Johnston yielded, and stated all the circumstances to three neighbors who made the search, the owner of the premises being one. Impunity had made the negro careless; and six hundred of the seven hundred dollars, including some of the marked coin, were found in his trunk. He afterward told me that a white gambler had furnished him the false keys.

Persons to whom the facts became known were eager to punish the crime by severely whipping the culprit, hoping thus to ascertain his accomplices, if he had any; but General Johnston would not permit it. “Such evidence is worthless,” said he. “Besides, the whipping will not restore what is lost; and it will not benefit the negro, whom a lifetime of kind treatment has failed to make honest. It would be a mere act of revenge, to which I cannot consent.” He agreed with the views of his friends, who urged that the negro should be sold out of the community, where, indeed, he was not safe. He was taken to Galveston, and allowed to select his own master. He was sold for $1,000, which went to make up in part what he had stolen from the United States Government.

Soon after, General Johnston was appointed colonel of the Second Cavalry. The report of the Second Auditor in the settlement of his accounts to the 9th of April, when he resigned, stated:

Balance due him per official statement$4.22
Balance due him per his own$0.00
Difference in his favor$4.22

It is due to General Johnston to say that not only were his trusts as paymaster executed with scrupulous fidelity, but his accounts were kept [180] with rare accuracy and beauty. The Second Auditor, construing statutes under a different light, of course often disallowed small sums paid by General Johnston; but he had in him a strenuous and punctilious correspondent, who hardly ever failed to present an argument setting forth the grounds on which the payment had been made. When I asked him why he took so much trouble for so little, he said it was due to himself to justify himself from even the appearance of carelessness.

The following was a playful reply to a letter of the author, written when he came of age, in 1852:

You have formally announced your majority, and your right to independent action. It only remains to me, as an act of comity, being convinced of your ability to maintain the attitude you have assumed, to recognize you as a man, de facto et de jure, and to invest you in good faith and with all solemnity with the toga virilis. You have, therefore, the right in your sovereign capacity to make treaties of alliance, coin money, regulate and control your own trade, and do whatever else it may seem best to you in the pursuit of happiness, always keeping in view the prohibitions of the law as to other sovereigns so situated.

You are still willing to acknowledge an allegiance to me. I have no right to demand it; and, for your own good, would not accept it. Now that you are about to pass from the sham fights of life to its real battles, your security and success will depend upon a high degree of self-reliance. It is the momentum of great confidence, regulated by sound judgment, that crushes every obstacle.

The following letter also was written during the period of his service as paymaster, and while he was under the shadow of doubt, loss, and privation, already mentioned. It is another illustration of his resolute trust and cheerfulness in trouble:

Austin, Texas, December 23, 1854.
My dear son: I send you and Rosa and Hennie the best wishes of my heart for your health and happiness always; but especially do I offer my wishes for a “happy Christmas” and a “happy New Year,” which I am reminded to do by the happy little faces around me, impatient for the arrival of those days so delightful to the beneficiaries of that merry little friend of good children, St. Nicholas. Maggie implicitly believes in his advent and good works; but Sid and Hancock are disenchanted, though the little hypocrites, like taller ones, wisely affect a belief they do not entertain, for the accruing benefits. The children are in fine health, and improving in their studies; each has earned a reward for extra work. These little cheerful faces, happy in the hopes of the future, reflect their sunshine on us; and if Brother Willie, Sister Hennie, and Sister Rosa, as these prattlers call you, were here to throw their sunlight on us, the evening of our days would be as beautiful and as full of exquisite repose as the close of day in this delicious climate.

You mentioned that you had not yet had any business to do in your profession. I was glad to see that you feel no discouragement. You should feel none. You knew well beforehand the long probation of those who are now successful, and could not reasonably expect to be an exception. Wait patiently, and prepare; your time will come. Live with economy, spend nothing for [181] appearance‘ sake, and you will be able to hold out till the harvest-time. The history of almost every successful lawyer of your State is one of hope deferred. J--, one of your very best lawyers, sat, I am told, seven long years without a case, like a huge spider spread out on his web, and like that courageous insect, in expectant attitude, waited to throw the meshes of the law around some opponent. His patience was crowned with success. Wait, but work. Do not reject business because it is not important. Be faithful over a few things, and you shall soon be steward over many ...

Sebastopol may possibly fall, though the science of war has had little to do, thus far, in the work. The great master of the art of war would have made preparation commensurate with the object to be accomplished. He would have seized the neck of the Crimea with a good army, and carried on the siege of the place, according to well-approved principles, undisturbed by a relieving army, to a certain success, with due regard to economy of life.

Affectionately your father,

A. Sidney Johnston.

The following reminiscence is from the pen of the Rev. Edward Fontaine, the Episcopal minister at Austin, a gentleman of eloquence and earnestness:

I have said that he had at all times perfect self-control. I will mention some instances in which I saw his power of self-government severely tried; but his temper stood the various tests admirably.

I was once fishing with him in the Colorado River. A large bass seized his hook, and it required all his skill to reel him to the surface of the water with a small silk line. After a contest of several minutes with the powerful fish, he succeeded in bringing his fine proportions in full view; but just as he was about landing him, with a sharp strain upon his rod, he gave an “indignant flounce,” and disappeared in the clear depths of the stream, leaving the snapped line tangled fast to a willow-limb, high above the head of the disappointed general. He gave it a gentle pull; but finding it hung fast, he walked up the bank and cut a pole with a hook to it, and pulled down the limb very cautiously; and then set to work very deliberately to untangle the Gordian knot into which he, the bass, and the limb together had tied the line.

After the patient labor of at least half an hour, he succeeded in righting his tackle, put on another hook and minnow, and “threw out” to tempt another bite. In the mean time, I watched his motions, very much amused at the mishap, but said nothing. He made no exclamation of impatience, and exhibited no emotion. I then remarked: “General, although you are not a member of the Church, I believe you are a better Christian than myself in one respect-you are more patient. If old Izaak Walton himself had lost that fish after such a tussle, and lost his hook with him, and tied up his tackle in that way, he might not have cursed the fish or his luck, but I think he would have said something spiteful, and have felt a little blasphemous.” He replied: “I have long since learned, sir, by experience, that it is best never to get excited about anything; for in a fit of excitement very sensible men are apt to do or say something rash or foolish, for which they may have to repent in a cooler moment.”

He had a valuable Newfoundland dog, which was a very great favorite with [182] the family. It guarded little Sidney, Hancock, and Maggie, his three youngest children, in their rambles about his premises, and I think it sometimes pulled the little girl in a toy carriage. But the dog one day went into the lot of a near neighbor to play with a “cur of low degree” --a proper dog for a master as mean and worthless as himself. This man, who had been kindly treated by the general and his family, but who envied and hated him with that sort of malice which the base and vulgar generally cherish toward the noble and refined, to distress the children, or show his spite against his distinguished neighbors, or from the promptings of some dirty motive which is only understood by the devils that got into the swine of Gennesaret, or by those who are instigated by them, threw a piece of meat poisoned with strychnine to the dog, which came home, and in a few minutes died with convulsions, in the presence of the children and their parents. The little children wept bitterly the loss of their favorite, and Mrs. Johnston shed tears. The general was deeply distressed, but said nothing in anger. Some one present declared that the villain who committed the deed ought to be prosecuted or shot. He replied that if he sued or killed him, it would make the man no better, and it would do himself and family no good; that he would be compelled to endure the outrage, as there was no redress for it. The dog was dead, and nothing could restore him to life, and he hoped that his family would bear their loss with fortitude.

It has been mentioned that, when General Johnston was appointed paymaster, his family spent the summer in Kentucky. On their return he met them in New Orleans, only to learn that his infant daughter had recently died. The following touching letter expresses exactly the spirit in which he habitually accepted afflictions, as well as other dispensations of Providence:

New Orleans, Saturday, December 14, 1850.
dear Hancock: My family arrived here yesterday, and I only then learned from my wife the loss of our dear little Mary. Great as our distress is, I can still thank God that my wife and my other children are left to me. It is not right to judge of his dispensations, nor do I, but bow with humble submission to decrees the wisdom of which I cannot comprehend and the justice of which I must not question.

I received Aunt Mary's letter. I cannot write to her now. I hope she will write to my poor wife as often as she can, for she needs her sympathy.

Your friend,

A. Sidney Johnston. To Mr. George Hancock, Louisville, Ky.

He spoke little of his inner life; but once in Austin he said to the writer that a minister had been urging upon him the benefits of prayer, and added: “I did not think it necessary to tell him, but it is many years since I have closed my eyes in sleep without prayer. Indeed, I feel that I cannot thank God enough for his goodness to me. Beyond that thanksgiving I almost dread to go; his care is so great, and my views so narrow, that I do not know how to ask God for anything better for me and mine than that his will be done.” On many other occasions [183] he said to me substantially the same thing. He delighted in the glories of the starry heavens, which led him, as they have so many other watchers in the desert, to contemplate the splendors and unfathomable mysteries of the universe and its Creator.

1 It is proper to state that General Johnston's legal rank while paymaster was major; but it has not been thought necessary in this or subsequent chapters to change the title by which he was generally known.

2 His son, thirteen years old.

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