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by Everett E. Hale
Toby Keith

Back in the 1943-44 school year we studied an article from The Atlantic about a man who denied his American birthright during the American Civil War. I’ve remembered it ever since. (Years later in college I dated Hale’s great- nephew.) Today we see treason in the streets, wondering why no one seems to think of it as a crime against our fellow countrymen.


This story of Philip Nolan was written in the darkest period of the Civil War, to show what love of country is. There were persons then who thought that if their advice had been taken there need have been no Civil War. There were persons whose every-day pursuits were greatly deranged by the Civil War. It proved that the lesson was a lesson gladly received. I have had letters from seamen who read it as they were lying in our blockade squadrons off the mouths of Southern harbors. I have had

letters from men who read it soon after the Vicksburg campaign. And in

other ways I have had many illustrations of its having been of use in

what I have a right to call the darkest period of the Republic.

To-day we are not in the darkest period of the Republic.

This nation never wishes to make war. Our whole policy is a policy of

peace, and peace is the protection of the Christian civilization to

which we are pledged. It is always desirable to teach young men and

young women, and old men and old women, and all sorts of people, to

understand what the country is. It is a Being. The LORD, God of nations,

has called it into existence, and has placed it here with certain duties

in defence of the civilization of the world.

It was the intention of this parable, which describes the life of one

man who tried to separate himself from his country, to show how terrible

was his mistake.

It does not need now that a man should curse the United States, as

Philip Nolan did, or that he should say he hopes he may never hear her

name again, to make it desirable for him to consider the lessons which

are involved in the parable of his life. Any man is “without a country

who, by his sneers, or by looking backward, or by revealing his

country’s secrets to her enemy, checks for one hour the movements which

lead to peace among the nations of the world, or weakens the arm of the

nation in her determination to secure justice between man and man, and

in general to secure the larger life of her people.” He has not damned

the United States in a spoken oath.

All the same he is a dastard child.

There is a definite, visible Progress in the affairs of this world.

Jesus Christ at the end of his life prayed to God that all men might

become One, “As thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also

may be one in us.”

The history of the world for eighteen hundred and seventy years since he

spoke has shown the steady fulfilment of the hope expressed in this


Men are nearer unity–they are nearer to being one–than they were then.

Thus, at that moment each tribe in unknown America was at war with each

other tribe. At this moment there is not one hostile weapon used by one

American against another, from Cape Bathurst at the north to the

southern point of Patagonia.

At that moment Asia, Africa, and Europe were scenes of similar discord.

Europe herself knows so little of herself that no man would pretend to

say which Longbeards were cutting the throats of other Longbeards, or

which Scots were lying in ambush for which Britons, in any year of the

first century of our era.

Call it the “Philosophy of History,” or call it the “Providence of God,”

it is certain that the unity of the race of man has asserted itself as

the Saviour of mankind said it should.

In this growing unity of mankind it has come about that the Sultan of

Turkey cannot permit the massacre of Armenian Christians without

answering for such permission before the world.

It has come about that no viceroy, serving a woman, who is the guardian

of a boy, can be permitted to starve at his pleasure two hundred

thousand of God’s children. The world is so closely united–that is to

say, unity is so real–that when such a viceroy does undertake to commit

such an iniquity, somebody shall hold his hands.

The story of Philip Nolan was published in such a crisis that it met the

public eye and interest. It met the taste of the patriotic public at the

moment. It was copied everywhere without the slightest deference to

copyright. It was, by the way, printed much more extensively in England

than it was in America. Immediately there began to appear a series of

speculations based on what you would have said was an unimportant error

of mine. My hero is a purely imaginary character. The critics are right

in saying that not only there never was such a man, but there never

could have been such a man. But he had to have a name. And the choice of

a name in a novel is a matter of essential importance, as it proved to

be here.

Now I had a hero who was a young man in 1807. He knew nothing at that

time but the valley of the Mississippi River. “He had been educated on a

plantation where the finest company was a Spanish officer, or a French

merchant from Orleans.” He must therefore have a name familiar to

Western people at that time. Well, I remembered that in the preposterous

memoirs of General James Wilkinson’s, whenever he had a worse scrape

than usual to explain, he would say that the papers were lost when Mr.

Nolan was imprisoned or was killed in Texas. This Mr. Nolan, as

Wilkinson generally calls him, had been engaged with Wilkinson in some

speculations mostly relating to horses. Remembering this, I took the

name Nolan for my hero. I made my man the real man’s brother. “He had

spent half his youth with an older brother, hunting horses in Texas.”

And again:–“he was catching wild horses in Texas with his adventurous

cousin.” [Note: Young authors may observe that he is called a brother in

one place and a cousin in another, because such slips would take place

in a real narrative. Proofreaders do not like them, but they give a

plausibility to the story.] I had the impression that Wilkinson’s

partner was named Stephen, and as Philip and Stephen were both

evangelists in the Bible, I named my man Philip Nolan, on the

supposition that the mother who named one son Stephen would name

another Philip. It was not for a year after, that, in looking at Wilkinson’s

“Memoirs” again, I found to my amazement, not to say my dismay, that

Wilkinson’s partner was named Philip Nolan. We had, therefore, two

Philip Nolans, one a real historical character, who was murdered by the

Spaniards on the 21st of March, 1801, at Waco in Texas; the other a

purely imaginary character invented by myself, who appears for the first

time on the 23d of September, 1807, at a court-martial at Fort Adams.

I supposed nobody but myself in New England had ever heard of Philip

Nolan. But in the Southwest, in Texas and Louisiana, it was but

sixty-two years since the Spaniards murdered him. In truth, it was the

death of Nolan, the real Philip Nolan, killed by one Spanish governor

while he held the safe-conduct of another, which roused that wave of

indignation in the Southwest which ended in the independence of Texas.

I think the State of Texas would do well, to-day, if it placed the

statue of the real Phil Nolan in the Capitol at Washington by the side

of that of Sam Houston.

In the midst of the war the story was published in the “Atlantic

Monthly,” of December, 1863. In the Southwest the “Atlantic” at once

found its way into regions where the real Phil Nolan was known. A writer

in the “New Orleans Picayune,” in a careful historical paper, explained

at length that I had been mistaken all the way through, that Philip

Nolan never went to sea, but to Texas. I received a letter from a lady

in Baltimore who told me that two widowed sisters of his lived in that

neighborhood. Unfortunately for me, this letter, written in perfectly

good faith, was signed E. F. M. Fachtz. I was receiving many letters on

the subject daily. I supposed that my correspondent was concealing her

name, and was really “Eager for More Facts.” When in reality I had the

pleasure of meeting her a year or two afterwards, the two widowed

sisters of the real Phil Nolan were both dead.

But in 1876 I was fortunate enough, on the kind invitation of Mr. Miner,

to visit his family in their beautiful plantation at Terre Bonne. There

I saw an old negro who was a boy when Master Phil Nolan left the old

plantation on the Mississippi River for the last time. Master Phil Nolan

had then married Miss Fanny Lintot, who was, I think, the aunt of my

host. He permitted me to copy the miniature of the young adventurer.

I have since done my best to repair the error by which I gave Philip

Nolan’s name to another person, by telling the story of his fate in a

book called “Philip Nolan’s Friends.” For the purpose of that book, I

studied the history of Miranda’s attempt against Spain, and of John

Adams’s preparations for a descent of the Mississippi River. The

professional historians of the United States are very reticent in their

treatment of these themes. At the time when John Adams had a little army

at Cincinnati, ready to go down and take New Orleans, there were no

Western correspondents to the Eastern Press.

Within a year after the publication of the “Man without a Country” in

the “Atlantic” more than half a million copies of the story had been

printed in America and in England. I had curious accounts from the army

and navy, of the interest with which it was read by gentlemen on duty.

One of our officers in the State of Mississippi lent the “Atlantic” to a

lady in the Miner family. She ran into the parlor, crying out, “Here is

a man who knows all about uncle Phil Nolan.” An Ohio officer, who

entered the city of Jackson, in Mississippi, with Grant, told me that he

went at once to the State House. Matters were in a good deal of

confusion there, and he picked up from the floor a paper containing the

examination of _Philip Nolan_, at Walnut Springs, the old name of

Vicksburg. This was before the real Philip’s last expedition. The United

States authorities, in the execution of the neutrality laws, had called

him to account, and had made him show the evidence that he had the

permission of the Governor of New Orleans for his expedition.

In 1876 I visited Louisiana and Texas, to obtain material for “Philip

Nolan’s Friends.” I obtained there several autographs of the real Phil

Nolan,–and the original Spanish record of one of the trials of the

survivors of his party,–a trial which resulted in the cruel execution

of Ephraim Blackburn, seven years after he was arrested. That whole

transaction, wholly ignored by all historians of the United States known

to me, is a sad blot on the American administration of the Spanish

kings. Their excuse is the confusion of everything in Madrid between

1801 and 1807. The hatred of the Mexican authorities among our


I [Note 1] suppose that very few casual readers of the “New York Herald”

of August 13, 1863, observed, [Note 2] in an obscure corner, among the

“Deaths,” the announcement,–

“NOLAN. Died, on board U. S. Corvette ‘Levant,’ [Note 3] Lat. 2� 11′ S.,

Long. 131� W., on the 11th of May, PHILIP NOLAN.”

I happened to observe it, because I was stranded at the old Mission

House in Mackinaw, waiting for a Lake Superior steamer which did not

choose to come, and I was devouring to the very stubble all the current

literature I could get hold of, even down to the deaths and marriages in

the “Herald.” My memory for names and people is good, and the reader

will see, as he goes on, that I had reason enough to remember Philip

Nolan. There are hundreds of readers who would have paused at that

announcement, if the officer of the “Levant” who reported it had chosen

to make it thus: “Died, May 11, THE MAN WITHOUT A COUNTRY.” For it was

as “The Man without a Country” that poor Philip Nolan had generally been

known by the officers who had him in charge during some fifty years, as,

indeed, by all the men who sailed under them. I dare say there is many a

man who has taken wine with him once a fortnight, in a three years’

cruise, who never knew that his name was “Nolan,” or whether the poor

wretch had any name at all.

There can now be no possible harm in telling this poor creature’s story.

Reason enough there has been till now, ever since Madison’s [Note 4]

administration went out in 1817, for very strict secrecy, the secrecy of

honor itself, among the gentlemen of the navy who have had Nolan in

successive charge. And certainly it speaks well for the _esprit de

corps_ of the profession, and the personal honor of its members, that to

the press this man’s story has been wholly unknown,–and, I think, to

the country at large also. I have reason to think, from some

investigations I made in the Naval Archives when I was attached to the

Bureau of Construction, that every official report relating to him was

burned when Ross burned the public buildings at Washington. One of the

Tuckers, or possibly one of the Watsons, had Nolan in charge at the end

of the war; and when, on returning from his cruise, he reported at

Washington to one of the Crowninshields,–who was in the Navy Department

when he came home,–he found that the Department ignored the whole

business. Whether they really knew nothing about it, or whether it was a

“_Non mi ricordo_,” determined on as a piece of policy, I do not know.

But this I do know, that since 1817, and possibly before, no naval

officer has mentioned Nolan in his report of a cruise.

But, as I say, there is no need for secrecy any longer. And now the poor

creature is dead, it seems to me worth while to tell a little of his

story, by way of showing young Americans of to-day what it is to be A


PHILIP NOLAN was as fine a young officer as there was in the “Legion of

the West,” as the Western division of our army was then called. When

Aaron Burr [Note 5] made his first dashing expedition down to New

Orleans in 1805, at Fort Massac, or somewhere above on the river, he

met, as the Devil would have it, this gay, dashing, bright young fellow;

at some dinner-party, I think. Burr marked him, talked to him, walked

with him, took him a day or two’s voyage in his flat-boat, and, in

short, fascinated him. For the next year, barrack-life was very tame to

poor Nolan. He occasionally availed himself of the permission the great

man had given him to write to him. Long, high-worded, stilted letters

the poor boy wrote and rewrote and copied. But never a line did he have

in reply from the gay deceiver. The other boys in the garrison sneered

at him, because he lost the fun which they found in shooting or rowing

while he was working away on these grand letters to his grand friend.

They could not understand why Nolan kept by himself while they were

playing high-low jack. Poker was not yet invented. But before long the

young fellow had his revenge. For this time His Excellency, Honorable

Aaron Burr, appeared again under a very different aspect. There were

rumors that he had an army behind him and everybody supposed that he had

an empire before him. At that time the youngsters all envied him. Burr

had not been talking twenty minutes with the commander before he asked

him to send for Lieutenant Nolan. Then after a little talk he asked

Nolan if he could show him something of the great river and the plans

for the new post. He asked Nolan to take him out in his skiff to show

him a canebrake or a cotton-wood tree, as he said,–really to seduce

him; and by the time the sail was over, Nolan was enlisted body and

soul. From that time, though he did not yet know it, he lived as A MAN


What Burr meant to do I know no more than you, dear reader. It is none

of our business just now. Only, when the grand catastrophe came, and

Jefferson and the House of Virginia of that day undertook to break on

the wheel all the possible Clarences of the then House of York, by the

great treason trial at Richmond, some of the lesser fry in that distant

Mississippi Valley, which was farther from us than Puget’s Sound is

to-day, introduced the like novelty on their provincial stage; and, to

while away the monotony of the summer at Fort Adams, got up, for

spectacles, a string of court-martials on the officers there. One and

another of the colonels and majors were tried, and, to fill out the

list, little Nolan, against whom, Heaven knows, there was evidence

enough,–that he was sick of the service, had been willing to be false

to it, and would have obeyed any order to march any-whither with any one

who would follow him had the order been signed, “By command of His Exc.

A. Burr.” The courts dragged on. The big flies escaped,–rightly for all

I know. Nolan was proved guilty enough, as I say; yet you and I would

never have heard of him, reader, but that, when the president of the

court asked him at the close whether he wished to say anything to show

that he had always been faithful to the United States, he cried out, in

a fit of frenzy,–

“Damn the United States! I wish I may never hear of the United States


I suppose he did not know how the words shocked old Colonel Morgan,

[Note 6] who was holding the court. Half the officers who sat in it had

served through the Revolution, and their lives, not to say their necks,

had been risked for the very idea which he so cavalierly cursed in his

madness. He, on his part, had grown up in the West of those days, in the

midst of “Spanish plot,” “Orleans plot,” and all the rest. He had been

educated on a plantation where the finest company was a Spanish officer

or a French merchant from Orleans. His education, such as it was, had

been perfected in commercial expeditions to Vera Cruz, and I think he

told me his father once hired an Englishman to be a private tutor for a

winter on the plantation. He had spent half his youth with an older

brother, hunting horses in Texas; and, in a word, to him “United States”

was scarcely a reality. Yet he had been fed by “United States” for all

the years since he had been in the army. He had sworn on his faith as a

Christian to be true to “United States.” It was “United States” which

gave him the uniform he wore, and the sword by his side. Nay, my poor

Nolan, it was only because “United States” had picked you out first as

one of her own confidential men of honor that “A. Burr” cared for you a

straw more than for the flat boat men who sailed his ark for him. I do

not excuse Nolan; I only explain to the reader why he damned his

country, and wished he might never hear her name again.

He never did hear her name but once again. From that moment, Sept. 23,

1807, till the day he died, May 11, 1863, he never heard her name again.

For that half-century and more he was a man without a country.

Old Morgan, as I said, was terribly shocked. If Nolan had compared

George Washington to Benedict Arnold, or had cried, “God save King

George,” Morgan would not have felt worse. He called the court into his

private room, and returned in fifteen minutes, with a face like a sheet,

to say,–

“Prisoner, hear the sentence of the Court! The Court decides, subject to

the approval of the President, that you never hear the name of the

United States again.”

Nolan laughed. But nobody else laughed. Old Morgan was too solemn, and

the whole room was hushed dead as night for a minute. Even Nolan lost

his swagger in a moment. Then Morgan added,–

“Mr. Marshal, take the prisoner to Orleans in an armed boat, and deliver

him to the naval commander there.”

The marshal gave his orders and the prisoner was taken out of court.

“Mr. Marshal,” continued old Morgan, “see that no one mentions the

United States to the prisoner. Mr. Marshal, make my respects to

Lieutenant Mitchell at Orleans, and request him to order that no one

shall mention the United States to the prisoner while he is on board

ship. You will receive your written orders from the officer on duty here

this evening. The Court is adjourned without day.”

I have always supposed that Colonel Morgan himself took the proceedings

of the court to Washington city, and explained them to Mr. Jefferson.

Certain it is that the President approved them,–certain, that is, if I

may believe the men who say they have seen his signature. Before the

“Nautilus” got round from New Orleans to the Northern Atlantic coast

with the prisoner on board, the sentence had been approved, and he was a

man without a country.

The plan then adopted was substantially the same which was necessarily

followed ever after. Perhaps it was suggested by the necessity of

sending him by water from Fort Adams and Orleans. The Secretary of the

Navy–it must have been the first Crowninshield, though he is a man I do

not remember–was requested to put Nolan on board a government vessel

bound on a long cruise, and to direct that he should be only so far

confined there as to make it certain that he never saw or heard of the

country. We had few long cruises then, and the navy was very much out of

favor; and as almost all of this story is traditional, as I have

explained, I do not know certainly what his first cruise was. But the

commander to whom he was intrusted,–perhaps it was Tingey or Shaw,

though I think it was one of the younger men,–we are all old enough

now,—regulated the etiquette and the precautions of the affair, and

according to his scheme they were carried out, I suppose, till Nolan


When I was second officer of the “Intrepid,” some thirty years after, I

saw the original paper of instructions. I have been sorry ever since

that I did not copy the whole of it. It ran, however, much in this way:–

“WASHINGTON (with a date, which must have been late in 1807).

“Sir,–You will receive from Lieutenant Neale the person of Philip

Nolan, late a lieutenant in the United States army.

“This person on his trial by court-martial expressed, with an oath, the

wish that he might ‘never hear of the United States again.’

“The Court sentenced him to have his wish fulfilled.

“For the present, the execution of the order is intrusted by the

President to this Department.

“You will take the prisoner on board your ship, and keep him there with

such precautions as shall prevent his escape.

“You will provide him with such quarters, rations, and clothing as would

be proper for an officer of his late rank, if he were a passenger on

your vessel on the business of his Government.

“The gentlemen on board will make any arrangements agreeable to

themselves regarding his society. He is to be exposed to no indignity of

any kind, nor is he ever unnecessarily to be reminded that he is a


“But under no circumstances is he ever to hear of his country or to see

any information regarding it; and you will especially caution all the

officers under your command to take care, that, in the various

indulgences which may be granted, this rule, in which his punishment is

involved, shall not be broken.

“It is the intention of the Government that he shall never again see the

country which he has disowned. Before the end of your cruise you will

receive orders which will give effect to this intention.

“Respectfully yours,

“W. SOUTHARD, for the

“Secretary of the Navy”

If I had only preserved the whole of this paper, there would be no break

in the beginning of my sketch of this story. For Captain Shaw, if it

were he, handed it to his successor in the charge, and he to his, and I

suppose the commander of the “Levant” has it to-day as his authority for

keeping this man in this mild custody.

The rule adopted on board the ships on which I have met “the man without

a country” was, I think, transmitted from the beginning. No mess liked

to have him permanently, because his presence cut off all talk of home

or of the prospect of return, of politics or letters, of peace or of

war,–cut off more than half the talk men liked to have at sea. But it

was always thought too hard that he should never meet the rest of us,

except to touch hats, and we finally sank into one system. He was not

permitted to talk with the men, unless an officer was by. With officers

he had unrestrained intercourse, as far as they and he chose. But he

grew shy, though he had favorites: I was one. Then the captain always

asked him to dinner on Monday. Every mess in succession took up the

invitation in its turn. According to the size of the ship, you had him

at your mess more or less often at dinner. His breakfast he ate in his

own state-room,–he always had a state-room–which was where a sentinel

or somebody on the watch could see the door. And whatever else he ate or

drank, he ate or drank alone. Sometimes, when the marines or sailors had

any special jollification, they were permitted to invite

“Plain-Buttons,” as they called him. Then Nolan was sent with some

officer, and the men were forbidden to speak of home while he was there.

I believe the theory was that the sight of his punishment did them good.

They called him “Plain-Buttons,” because, while he always chose to wear

a regulation army-uniform, he was not permitted to wear the army-button,

for the reason that it bore either the initials or the insignia of the

country he had disowned.

I remember, soon after I joined the navy, I was on shore with some of

the older officers from our ship and from the “Brandywine,” which we had

met at Alexandria. We had leave to make a party and go up to Cairo and

the Pyramids. As we jogged along (you went on donkeys then), some of the

gentlemen (we boys called them “Dons,” but the phrase was long since

changed) fell to talking about Nolan, and some one told the system which

was adopted from the first about his books and other reading. As he was

almost never permitted to go on shore, even though the vessel lay in

port for months, his time at the best hung heavy; and everybody was

permitted to lend him books, if they were not published in America and

made no allusion to it. These were common enough in the old days, when

people in the other hemisphere talked of the United States as little as

we do of Paraguay. He had almost all the foreign papers that came into

the ship, sooner or later; only somebody must go over them first, and

cut out any advertisement or stray paragraph that alluded to America.

This was a little cruel sometimes, when the back of what was cut out

might be as innocent as Hesiod. Right in the midst of one of Napoleon’s

battles, or one of Canning’s speeches, poor Nolan would find a great

hole, because on the back of the page of that paper there had been an

advertisement of a packet for New York, or a scrap from the President’s

message. I say this was the first time I ever heard of this plan, which

afterwards I had enough and more than enough to do with. I remember it,

because poor Phillips, who was of the party, as soon as the allusion to

reading was made, told a story of something which happened at the Cape

of Good Hope on Nolan’s first voyage; and it is the only thing I ever

knew of that voyage. They had touched at the Cape, and had done the

civil thing with the English Admiral and the fleet, and then, leaving

for a long cruise up the Indian Ocean, Phillips had borrowed a lot of

English books from an officer, which, in those days, as indeed in these,

was quite a windfall. Among them, as the Devil would order, was the “Lay

of the Last Minstrel,” [Note 7] which they had all of them heard of, but

which most of them had never seen. I think it could not have been

published long. Well, nobody thought there could be any risk of anything

national in that, though Phillips swore old Shaw had cut out the

“Tempest” from Shakespeare before he let Nolan have it, because he said

“the Bermudas ought to be ours, and, by Jove, should be one day.” So

Nolan was permitted to join the circle one afternoon when a lot of them

sat on deck smoking and reading aloud. People do not do such things so

often now; but when I was young we got rid of a great deal of time so.

Well, so it happened that in his turn Nolan took the book and read to

the others; and he read very well, as I know. Nobody in the circle knew

a line of the poem, only it was all magic and Border chivalry, and was

ten thousand years ago. Poor Nolan read steadily through the fifth

canto, stopped a minute and drank something, and then began, without a

thought of what was coming,–

     “Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,

     Who never to himself hath said,”–

It seems impossible to us that anybody ever heard this for the first

time; but all these fellows did then, and poor Nolan himself went on,

still unconsciously or mechanically,–

     “This is my own, my native land!”

Then they all saw that something was to pay; but he expected to get

through, I suppose, turned a little pale, but plunged on,–

     “Whose heart hath ne’er within him burned,

     As home his footsteps he hath turned

     From wandering on a foreign strand?–

     If such there breathe, go, mark him well,”–

By this time the men were all beside themselves, wishing there was any

way to make him turn over two pages; but he had not quite presence of

mind for that; he gagged a little, colored crimson, and staggered on,–

     “For him no minstrel raptures swell;

     High though his titles, proud his name,

     Boundless his wealth as wish can claim,

     Despite these titles, power, and pelf,

     The wretch, concentred all in self,”–

and here the poor fellow choked, could not go on, but started up, swung

the book into the sea, vanished into his state-room, “And by Jove,” said

Phillips, “we did not see him for two months again. And I had to make up

some beggarly story to that English surgeon why I did not return his

Walter Scott to him.”

That story shows about the time when Nolan’s braggadocio must have

broken down. At first, they said, he took a very high tone, considered

his imprisonment a mere farce, affected to enjoy the voyage, and all

that; but Phillips said that after he came out of his state-room he

never was the same man again. He never read aloud again, unless it was

the Bible or Shakespeare, or something else he was sure of. But it was

not that merely. He never entered in with the other young men exactly as

a companion again. He was always shy afterwards, when I knew him,–very

seldom spoke, unless he was spoken to, except to a very few friends. He

lighted up occasionally,–I remember late in his life hearing him fairly

eloquent on something which had been suggested to him by one of

Fl�chier’s sermons,–but generally he had the nervous, tired look of a

heart-wounded man.

When Captain Shaw was coming home,–if, as I say, it was Shaw,–rather

to the surprise of everybody they made one of the Windward Islands, and

lay off and on for nearly a week. The boys said the officers were sick

of salt-junk, and meant to have turtle-soup before they came home. But

after several days the “Warren” came to the same rendezvous; they

exchanged signals; she sent to Phillips and these homeward-bound men

letters and papers, and told them she was outward-bound, perhaps to the

Mediterranean, and took poor Nolan and his traps on the boat back to try

his second cruise. He looked very blank when he was told to get ready to

join her. He had known enough of the signs of the sky to know that till

that moment he was going “home.” But this was a distinct evidence of

something he had not thought of, perhaps,–that there was no going home

for him, even to a prison. And this was the first of some twenty such

transfers, which brought him sooner or later into half our best vessels,

but which kept him all his life at least some hundred miles from the

country he had hoped he might never hear of again.

It may have been on that second cruise,–it was once when he was up the

Mediterranean,–that Mrs. Graff, the celebrated Southern beauty of those

days, danced with him. They had been lying a long time in the Bay of

Naples, and the officers were very intimate in the English fleet, and

there had been great festivities, and our men thought they must give a

great ball on board the ship. How they ever did it on board the “Warren”

I am sure I do not know. Perhaps it was not the “Warren,” or perhaps

ladies did not take up so much room as they do now. They wanted to use

Nolan’s state-room for something, and they hated to do it without asking

him to the ball; so the captain said they might ask him, if they would

be responsible that he did not talk with the wrong people, “who would

give him intelligence.” So the dance went on, the finest party that had

ever been known, I dare say; for I never heard of a man-of-war ball that

was not. For ladies, they had the family of the American consul, one or

two travellers who had adventured so far, and a nice bevy of English

girls and matrons, perhaps Lady Hamilton herself.

Well, different officers relieved each other in standing and talking

with Nolan in a friendly way, so as to be sure that nobody else spoke to

him. The dancing went on with spirit, and after a while even the fellows

who took this honorary guard of Nolan ceased to fear any _contretemps_.

Only when some English lady–Lady Hamilton, as I said, perhaps–called

for a set of “American dances,” an odd thing happened. Everybody then

danced contra-dances. The black band, nothing loath, conferred as to

what “American dances” were, and started off with “Virginia Reel,” which

they followed with “Money-Musk,” which, in its turn in those days,

should have been followed by “The Old Thirteen.” But just as Dick, the

leader, tapped for his fiddles to begin, and bent forward, about to say,

in true negro state, “‘The Old Thirteen,’ gentlemen and ladies!” as he

had said “‘Virginny Reel,’ if you please!” and “‘Money-Musk,’ if you

please!” the captain’s boy tapped him on the shoulder, whispered to him,

and he did not announce the name of the dance; he merely bowed, began on

the air, and they all fell to,–the officers teaching the English girls

the figure, but not telling them why it had no name.

But that is not the story I started to tell. As the dancing went on,

Nolan and our fellows all got at ease, as I said,–so much so, that it

seemed quite natural for him to bow to that splendid Mrs. Graff, and


“I hope you have not forgotten me, Miss Rutledge. Shall I have the honor

of dancing?”

He did it so quickly, that Fellows, who was with him, could not hinder

him. She laughed and said,–

“I am not Miss Rutledge any longer, Mr. Nolan; but I will dance all the

same,” just nodded to Fellows, as if to say he must leave Mr. Nolan to

her, and led him off to the place where the dance was forming.

Nolan thought he had got his chance. He had known her at Philadelphia,

and at other places had met her, and this was a Godsend. You could not

talk in contra-dances, as you do in cotillions, or even in the pauses of

waltzing; but there were chances for tongues and sounds, as well as for

eyes and blushes. He began with her travels, and Europe, and Vesuvius,

and the French; and then, when they had worked down, and had that long

talking time at the bottom of the set, he said boldly,–a little pale,

she said, as she told me the story years after,–

“And what do you hear from home, Mrs. Graff?”

And that splendid creature looked through him. Jove! how she must have

looked through him!

“Home!! Mr. Nolan!!! I thought you were the man who never wanted to hear

of home again!”–and she walked directly up the deck to her husband, and

left poor Nolan alone, as he always was.–He did not dance again. I

cannot give any history of him in order; nobody can now; and, indeed, I

am not trying to.

These are the traditions, which I sort out, as I believe them, from the

myths which have been told about this man for forty years. The lies that

have been told about him are legion. The fellows used to say he was the

“Iron Mask;” and poor George Pons went to his grave in the belief that

this was the author of “Junius,” who was being punished for his

celebrated libel on Thomas Jefferson. Pons was not very strong in the

historical line.

A happier story than either of these I have told is of the war. That

came along soon after. I have heard this affair told in three or four

ways,–and, indeed, it may have happened more than once. But which ship

it was on I cannot tell. However, in one, at least, of the great

frigate-duels with the English, in which the navy was really baptized,

[Note 8] it happened that a round-shot from the enemy entered one of our

ports square, and took right down the officer of the gun himself, and

almost every man of the gun’s crew. Now you may say what you choose

about courage, but that is not a nice thing to see. But, as the men who

were not killed picked themselves up, and as they and the surgeon’s

people were carrying off the bodies, there appeared Nolan, in his

shirt-sleeves, with the rammer in his hand, and, just as if he had been

the officer, told them off with authority,–who should go to the

cock-pit with the wounded men, who should stay with him,–perfectly

cheery, and with that way which makes men feel sure all is right and is

going to be right. And he finished loading the gun with his own hands,

aimed it, and bade the men fire. And there he stayed, captain of that

gun, keeping those fellows in spirits, till the enemy struck,–sitting

on the carriage while the gun was cooling, though he was exposed all the

time,–showing them easier ways to handle heavy shot,–making the raw

hands laugh at their own blunders,–and when the gun cooled again,

getting it loaded and fired twice as often as any other gun on the ship.

The captain walked forward by way of encouraging the men, and Nolan

touched his hat and said,–

“I am showing them how we do this in the artillery, sir.”

And this is the part of the story where all the legends agree; the

commodore said,–

“I see you do, and I thank you, sir; and I shall never forget this day,

sir, and you never shall, sir.”

And after the whole thing was over, and he had the Englishman’s sword,

in the midst of the state and ceremony of the quarter-deck, he said,–

“Where is Mr. Nolan? Ask Mr. Nolan to come here.”

And when Nolan came, he said,–

“Mr. Nolan, we are all very grateful to you to-day; you are one of us

to-day; you will be named in the despatches.”

And then the old man took off his own sword of ceremony, and gave it to

Nolan, and made him put it on. The man told me this who saw it. Nolan

cried like a baby, and well he might. He had not worn a sword since that

infernal day at Fort Adams. But always afterwards on occasions of

ceremony, he wore that quaint old French sword of the commodore’s.

The captain did mention him in the despatches. It was always said he

asked that he might be pardoned. He wrote a special letter to the

Secretary of War. But nothing ever came of it. As I said, that was about

the time when they began to ignore the whole transaction at Washington,

and when Nolan’s imprisonment began to carry itself on because there was

nobody to stop it without any new orders from home.

I have heard it said that he was with Porter when he took possession of

the Nukahiwa Islands. Not this Porter, you know, but old Porter, his

father, Essex Porter,–that is, the old Essex Porter, not this Essex.

[Note 9] As an artillery officer, who had seen service in the West,

Nolan knew more about fortifications, embrasures, ravelins, stockades,

and all that, than any of them did; and he worked with a right good-will

in fixing that battery all right. I have always thought it was a pity

Porter did not leave him in command there with Gamble. That would have

settled all the question about his punishment. We should have kept the

islands, and at this moment we should have one station in the Pacific

Ocean. Our French friends, too, when they wanted this little

watering-place, would have found it was preoccupied. But Madison and the

Virginians, of course, flung all that away.

All that was near fifty years ago. If Nolan was thirty then, he must

have been near eighty when he died. He looked sixty when he was forty.

But he never seemed to me to change a hair afterwards. As I imagine his

life, from what I have seen and heard of it, he must have been in every

sea, and yet almost never on land. He must have known, in a formal way,

more officers in our service than any man living knows. He told me once,

with a grave smile, that no man in the world lived so methodical a life

as he. “You know the boys say I am the Iron Mask, and you know how busy

he was.” He said it did not do for any one to try to read all the time,

more than to do anything else all the time; and that he used to read

just five hours a day. “Then,” he said, “I keep up my notebooks, writing

in them at such and such hours from what I have been reading; and I

include in these my scrap-books.” These were very curious indeed. He had

six or eight, of different subjects. There was one of History, one of

Natural Science, one which he called “Odds and Ends.” But they were not

merely books of extracts from newspapers. They had bits of plants and

ribbons, shells tied on, and carved scraps of bone and wood, which he

had taught the men to cut for him, and they were beautifully

illustrated. He drew admirably. He had some of the funniest drawings

there, and some of the most pathetic, that I have ever seen in my life.

I wonder who will have Nolan’s scrapbooks.

Well, he said his reading and his notes were his profession, and that

they took five hours and two hours respectively of each day. “Then,”

said he, “every man should have a diversion as well as a profession. My

Natural History is my diversion.” That took two hours a day more. The

men used to bring him birds and fish, but on a long cruise he had to

satisfy himself with centipedes and cockroaches and such small game. He

was the only naturalist I ever met who knew anything about the habits of

the house-fly and the mosquito. All those people can tell you whether

they are _Lepidoptera_ or _Steptopotera_; but as for telling how you can

get rid of them, or how they get away from you when you strike them,

–why Linnaeus knew as little of that as John Foy the idiot did. These

nine hours made Nolan’s regular daily “occupation.” The rest of the time

he talked or walked. Till he grew very old, he went aloft a great deal.

He always kept up his exercise; and I never heard that he was ill. If

any other man was ill, he was the kindest nurse in the world; and he

knew more than half the surgeons do. Then if anybody was sick or died,

or if the captain wanted him to, on any other occasion, he was always

ready to read prayers. I have said that he read beautifully.

My own acquaintance with Philip Nolan began six or eight years after the

English war, on my first voyage after I was appointed a midshipman. It

was in the first days after our Slave-Trade treaty, while the Reigning

House, which was still the House of Virginia, had still a sort of

sentimentalism about the suppression of the horrors of the Middle

Passage, and something was sometimes done that way. We were in the South

Atlantic on that business. From the time I joined, I believe I thought

Nolan was a sort of lay chaplain,–a chaplain with a blue coat. I never

asked about him. Everything in the ship was strange to me. I knew it was

green to ask questions, and I suppose I thought there was a

“Plain-Buttons” on every ship. We had him to dine in our mess once a

week, and the caution was given that on that day nothing was to be said

about home. But if they had told us not to say anything about the planet

Mars or the Book of Deuteronomy, I should not have asked why; there were

a great many things which seemed to me to have as little reason. I first

came to understand anything about “the man without a country” one day

when we overhauled a dirty little schooner which had slaves on board. An

officer was sent to take charge of her, and, after a few minutes, he

sent back his boat to ask that some one might be sent him who could

speak Portuguese. We were all looking over the rail when the message

came, and we all wished we could interpret, when the captain asked who

spoke Portuguese. But none of the officers did; and just as the captain

was sending forward to ask if any of the people could, Nolan stepped out

and said he should be glad to interpret, if the captain wished, as he

understood the language. The captain thanked him, fitted out another

boat with him, and in this boat it was my luck to go.

When we got there, it was such a scene as you seldom see, and never want

to. Nastiness beyond account, and chaos run loose in the midst of the

nastiness. There were not a great many of the negroes; but by way of

making what there were understand that they were free, Vaughan had had

their handcuffs and ankle-cuffs knocked off, and, for convenience’ sake,

was putting them upon the rascals of the schooner’s crew. The negroes

were, most of them, out of the hold, and swarming all round the dirty

deck, with a central throng surrounding Vaughan and addressing him in

every dialect, and patois of a dialect, from the Zulu click up to the

Parisian of Beledeljereed. [Note 10]

As we came on deck, Vaughan looked down from a hogshead, on which he had

mounted in desperation, and said:–

“For God’s love, is there anybody who can make these wretches understand

something? The men gave them rum, and that did not quiet them. I knocked

that big fellow down twice, and that did not soothe him. And then I

talked Choctaw to all of them together; and I’ll be hanged if they

understood that as well as they understood the English.”

Nolan said he could speak Portuguese, and one or two fine-looking

Kroomen were dragged out, who, as it had been found already, had worked

for the Portuguese on the coast at Fernando Po.

“Tell them they are free,” said Vaughan; “and tell them that these

rascals are to be hanged as soon as we can get rope enough.”

Nolan “put that into Spanish,”–that is, he explained it in such

Portuguese as the Kroomen could understand, and they in turn to such of

the negroes as could understand them. Then there was such a yell of

delight, clinching of fists, leaping and dancing, kissing of Nolan’s

feet, and a general rush made to the hogshead by way of spontaneous

worship of Vaughan, as the _deus ex machina_ of the occasion.

“Tell them,” said Vaughan, well pleased, “that I will take them all to

Cape Palmas.”

This did not answer so well. Cape Palmas was practically as far from the

homes of most of them as New Orleans or Rio Janeiro was; that is, they

would be eternally separated from home there. And their interpreters, as

we could understand, instantly said, “_Ah, non Palmas_,” and began to

propose infinite other expedients in most voluble language. Vaughan was

rather disappointed at this result of his liberality, and asked Nolan

eagerly what they said. The drops stood on poor Nolan’s white forehead,

as he hushed the men down, and said:–

“He says, ‘Not Palmas.’ He says, ‘Take us home, take us to our own

country, take us to our own house, take us to our own pickaninnies and

our own women.’ He says he has an old father and mother who will die if

they do not see him. And this one says he left his people all sick, and

paddled down to Fernando to beg the white doctor to come and help them,

and that these devils caught him in the bay just in sight of home, and

that he has never seen anybody from home since then. And this one says,”

choked out Nolan, “that he has not heard a word from his home in six

months, while he has been locked up in an infernal barracoon.”

Vaughan always said he grew gray himself while Nolan struggled through

this interpretation: I, who did not understand anything of the passion

involved in it, saw that the very elements were melting with fervent

heat, and that something was to pay somewhere. Even the negroes

themselves stopped howling, as they saw Nolan’s agony, and Vaughan’s

almost equal agony of sympathy. As quick as he could get words, he


“Tell them yes, yes, yes; tell them they shall go to the Mountains of

the Moon, if they will. If I sail the schooner through the Great White

Desert, they shall go home!”

And after some fashion Nolan said so. And then they all fell to kissing

him again, and wanted to rub his nose with theirs.

But he could not stand it long; and getting Vaughan to say he might go

back, he beckoned me down into our boat. As we lay back in the

stern-sheets and the men gave way, he said to me: “Youngster, let that

show you what it is to be without a family, without a home, and without

a country. And if you are ever tempted to say a word, or to do a thing

that shall put a bar between you and your family, your home, and your

country, pray God in His mercy to take you that instant home to His own

heaven. Stick by your family, boy; forget you have a self, while you do

everything for them. Think of your home, boy; write and send, and talk

about it. Let it be nearer and nearer to your thought, the farther you

have to travel from it; and rush back to it when you are free, as that

poor black slave is doing now. And for your country, boy,” and the words

rattled in his throat, “–and for that flag,” and he pointed to the ship,

“never dream a dream but of serving her as she bids you, though the

service carry you through a thousand hells. No matter what happens to

you, no matter who flatters you or who abuses you, never look at another

flag, never let a night pass but you pray God to bless that flag.

Remember, boy, that behind all these men you have to do with, behind

officers, and government, and people even, there is the Country Herself,

your Country, and that you belong to Her as you belong to your own

mother. Stand by Her, boy, as you would stand by your mother, if those

devils there had got hold of her to-day!”

I was frightened to death by his calm, hard passion; but I blundered out

that I would, by all that was holy, and that I had never thought of

doing anything else. He hardly seemed to hear me; but he did, almost in

a whisper, say: “O, if anybody had said so to me when I was of your


I think it was this half-confidence of his, which I never abused, for I

never told this story till now, which afterward made us great friends.

He was very kind to me. Often he sat up, or even got up, at night, to

walk the deck with me, when it was my watch. He explained to me a great

deal of my mathematics, and I owe to him my taste for mathematics. He

lent me books, and helped me about my reading. He never alluded so

directly to his story again; but from one and another officer I have

learned, in thirty years, what I am telling. When we parted from him in

St. Thomas harbor, at the end of our cruise, I was more sorry than I can

tell. I was very glad to meet him again in 1830; and later in life, when

I thought I had some influence in Washington, I moved heaven and earth

to have him discharged. But it was like getting a ghost out of prison.

They pretended there was no such man, and never was such a man. They

will say so at the Department now! Perhaps they do not know. It will not

be the first thing in the service of which the Department appears to

know nothing!

There is a story that Nolan met Burr once on one of our vessels, when a

party of Americans came on board in the Mediterranean. But this I

believe to be a lie; or, rather, it is a myth, _ben trovato_, involving

a tremendous blowing-up with which he sunk Burr,–asking him how he

liked to be “without a country.” But it is clear from Burr’s life, that

nothing of the sort could have happened; and I mention this only as an

illustration of the stories which get a-going where there is the least

mystery at bottom.

Philip Nolan, poor fellow, repented of his folly, and then, like a man,

submitted to the fate he had asked for. He never intentionally added to

the difficulty or delicacy of the charge of those who had him in hold.

Accidents would happen; but never from his fault. Lieutenant Truxton

told me that, when Texas was annexed, there was a careful discussion

among the officers, whether they should get hold of Nolan’s handsome set

of maps and cut Texas out of it,–from the map of the world and the map

of Mexico. The United States had been cut out when the atlas was bought

for him. But it was voted, rightly enough, that to do this would be

virtually to reveal to him what had happened, or, as Harry Cole said, to

make him think Old Burr had succeeded. So it was from no fault of

Nolan’s that a great botch happened at my own table, when, for a short

time, I was in command of the George Washington corvette, on the South

American station. We were lying in the La Plata, and some of the

officers, who had been on shore and had just joined again, were

entertaining us with accounts of their misadventures in riding the

half-wild horses of Buenos Ayres. Nolan was at table, and was in an

unusually bright and talkative mood. Some story of a tumble reminded him

of an adventure of his own when he was catching wild horses in Texas

with his adventurous cousin, at a time when he mast have been quite a

boy. He told the story with a good deal of spirit,–so much so, that the

silence which often follows a good story hung over the table for an

instant, to be broken by Nolan himself. For he asked perfectly


“Pray, what has become of Texas? After the Mexicans got their

independence, I thought that province of Texas would come forward very

fast. It is really one of the finest regions on earth; it is the Italy

of this continent. But I have not seen or heard a word of Texas for near

twenty years.”

There were two Texan officers at the table. The reason he had never

heard of Texas was that Texas and her affairs had been painfully cut out

of his newspapers since Austin began his settlements; so that, while he

read of Honduras and Tamaulipas, and, till quite lately, of California,

–this virgin province, in which his brother had travelled so far, and,

I believe, had died, had ceased to be to him. Waters and Williams, the

two Texas men, looked grimly at each other and tried not to laugh.

Edward Morris had his attention attracted by the third link in the chain

of the captain’s chandelier. Watrous was seized with a convulsion of

sneezing. Nolan himself saw that something was to pay, he did not know

what. And I, as master of the feast, had to say,–

“Texas is out of the map, Mr. Nolan. Have you seen Captain Back’s

curious account of Sir Thomas Roe’s Welcome?”

After that cruise I never saw Nolan again. I wrote to him at least twice

a year, for in that voyage we became even confidentially intimate; but

he never wrote to me. The other men tell me that in those fifteen years

he aged very fast, as well he might indeed, but that he was still the

same gentle, uncomplaining, silent sufferer that he ever was, bearing as

best he could his self-appointed punishment,–rather less social,

perhaps, with new men whom he did not know, but more anxious,

apparently, than ever to serve and befriend and teach the boys, some of

whom fairly seemed to worship him. And now it seems the dear old fellow

is dead. He has found a home at last, and a country.

Since writing this, and while considering whether or no I would print

it, as a warning to the young Nolans and Vallandighams and Tatnalls of

to-day of what it is to throw away a country, I have received from

Danforth, who is on board the “Levant,” a letter which gives an account

of Nolan’s last hours. It removes all my doubts about telling this

story. The reader will understand Danforth’s letter, or the beginning of

it, if he will remember that after ten years of Nolan’s exile every one

who had him in charge was in a very delicate position. The government

had failed to renew the order of 1807 regarding him. What was a man to

do? Should he let him go? What, then, if he were called to account by

the Department for violating the order of 1807? Should he keep him?

What, then, if Nolan should be liberated some day, and should bring an

action for false imprisonment or kidnapping against every man who had

had him in charge? I urged and pressed this upon Southard, and I have

reason to think that other officers did the same thing. But the

Secretary always said, as they so often do at Washington, that there

were no special orders to give, and that we must act on our own

judgment. That means, “If you succeed, you will be sustained; if you

fail, you will be disavowed.” Well, as Danforth says, all that is over

now, though I do not know but I expose myself to a criminal prosecution

on the evidence of the very revelation I am making.

Here is the letter:–

LEVANT, 2� 2′ S. @ 131� W.

“DEAR FRED:–I try to find heart and life to tell you that it is all

over with dear old Nolan. I have been with him on this voyage more than

I ever was, and I can understand wholly now the way in which you used

to speak of the dear old fellow. I could see that he was not strong, but

I had no idea the end was so near. The doctor has been watching him very

carefully, and yesterday morning came to me and told me that Nolan was

not so well, and had not left his state-room,–a thing I never remember

before. He had let the doctor come and see him as he lay there,–the

first time the doctor had been in the state-room,–and he said he should

like to see me. Oh, dear! do you remember the mysteries we boys used to

invent about his room in the old ‘Intrepid’ days? Well, I went in, and

there, to be sure, the poor fellow lay in his berth, smiling pleasantly

as he gave me his hand, but looking very frail. I could not help a

glance round, which showed me what a little shrine he had made of the

box he was lying in. The stars and stripes were triced up above and

around a picture of Washington, and he had painted a majestic eagle,

with lightnings blazing from his beak and his foot just clasping the

whole globe, which his wings overshadowed. The dear old boy saw my

glance, and said, with a sad smile, ‘Here, you see, I have a country!’

And then he pointed to the foot of his bed, where I had not seen before

a great map of the United States, as he had drawn it from memory, and

which he had there to look upon as he lay. Quaint, queer old names were

on it, in large letters: ‘Indiana Territory,’ ‘Mississippi Territory,’

and ‘Louisiana Territory,’ as I suppose our fathers learned such things:

but the old fellow had patched in Texas, too; he had carried his western

boundary all the way to the Pacific, but on that shore he had defined


“‘O Captain,’ he said, ‘I know I am dying. I cannot get home. Surely you

will tell me something now?–Stop! stop! Do not speak till I say what I

am sure you know, that there is not in this ship, that there is not in

America,–God bless her!–a more loyal man than I. There cannot be a man

who loves the old flag as I do, or prays for it as I do, or hopes for it

as I do. There are thirty-four stars in it now, Danforth. I thank God

for that, though I do not know what their names are. There has never

been one taken away: I thank God for that. I know by that that there has

never been any successful Burr, O Danforth, Danforth,’ he sighed out,

‘how like a wretched night’s dream a boy’s idea of personal fame or of

separate sovereignty seems, when one looks back on it after such a life

as mine! But tell me,–tell me something,–tell me everything, Danforth,

before I die!’

“Ingham, I swear to you that I felt like a monster that I had not told

him everything before. Danger or no danger, delicacy or no delicacy, who

was I, that I should have been acting the tyrant all this time over this

dear, sainted old man, who had years ago expiated, in his whole

manhood’s life, the madness of a boys treason? ‘Mr. Nolan,’ said I, ‘I

will tell you everything you ask about. Only, where shall I begin?’

“Oh, the blessed smile that crept over his white face! and he pressed my

hand and said, ‘God bless you! ‘Tell me their names,’ he said, and he

pointed to the stars on the flag. ‘The last I know is Ohio. My father

lived in Kentucky. But I have guessed Michigan and Indiana and

Mississippi,–that was where Fort Adams is,–they make twenty. But where

are your other fourteen? You have not cut up any of the old ones, I


“Well, that was not a bad text, and I told him the names in as good

order as I could, and he bade me take down his beautiful map and draw

them in as I best could with my pencil. He was wild with delight about

Texas, told me how his cousin died there; he had marked a gold cross

near where he supposed his grave was; and he had guessed at Texas. Then

he was delighted as he saw California and Oregon;–that, he said, he had

suspected partly, because he had never been permitted to land on that

shore, though the ships were there so much. ‘And the men,’ said he,

laughing, ‘brought off a good deal besides furs.’ Then he went back

–heavens, how far!–to ask about the Chesapeake, and what was done to

Barron for surrendering her to the Leopard, [Note 11] and whether Burr

ever tried again,–and he ground his teeth with the only passion he

showed. But in a moment that was over, and he said, ‘God forgive me, for

I am sure I forgive him.’ Then he asked about the old war,–told me the

true story of his serving the gun the day we took the Java,–asked about

dear old David Porter, as he called him. Then he settled down more

quietly, and very happily, to hear me tell in an hour the history of

fifty years.

“How I wished it had been somebody who knew something! But I did as well

as I could. I told him of the English war. I told him about Fulton and

the steamboat beginning. I told him about old Scott, and Jackson; told

him all I could think of about the Mississippi, and New Orleans, and

Texas, and his own old Kentucky. And do you think, he asked who was in

command of the ‘Legion of the West.’ I told him it was a very gallant

officer named Grant and that, by our last news, he was about to

establish his head-quarters at Vicksburg. Then, ‘Where was Vicksburg?’ I

worked that out on the map; it was about a hundred miles, more or less,

above his old Fort Adams; and I thought Fort Adams must be a ruin now.

‘It must be at old Vick’s plantation, at Walnut Hills,’ said he: ‘well,

that is a change!’

“I tell you, Ingham, it was a hard thing to condense the history of half

a century into that talk with a sick man. And I do not now know what I

told him,–of emigration, and the means of it,–of steamboats, and

railroads, and telegraphs,–of inventions, and books, and literature,

–of the colleges, and West Point, and the Naval School,–but with the

queerest interruptions that ever you heard. You see it was Robinson

Crusoe asking all the accumulated questions of fifty-six years!

“I remember he asked, all of a sudden, who was President now; and when I

told him, he asked if Old Abe was General Benjamin Lincoln’s son. He

said he met old General Lincoln, when he was quite a boy himself, at

some Indian treaty. I said no, that Old Abe was a Kentuckian like

himself, but I could not tell him of what family; he had worked up from

the ranks. ‘Good for him!’ cried Nolan; ‘I am glad of that. As I have

brooded and wondered, I have thought our danger was in keeping up those

regular successions in the first families.’ Then I got talking about my

visit to Washington. I told him of meeting the Oregon Congressman,

Harding; I told him about the Smithsonian, and the Exploring Expedition;

I told him about the Capitol, and the statues for the pediment, and

Crawford’s Liberty, and Greenough’s Washington: Ingham, I told him

everything I could think of that would show the grandeur of his country

and its prosperity; but I could not make up my mouth to tell him a word

about this infernal rebellion!

“And he drank it in and enjoyed it as I cannot tell you. He grew more

and more silent, yet I never thought he was tired or faint. I gave him a

glass of water, but he just wet his lips, and told me not to go away.

Then he asked me to bring the Presbyterian ‘Book of Public Prayer’ which

lay there, and said, with a smile, that it would open at the right

place,–and so it did. There was his double red mark down the page; and

I knelt down and read, and he repeated with me, ‘For ourselves and our

country, O gracious God, we thank These, that, notwithstanding our

manifold transgressions of Thy holy laws, Thou hast continued to us Thy

marvellous kindness,’–and so to the end of that thanksgiving. Then he

turned to the end of the same book, and I read the words more familiar

to me: ‘Most heartily we beseech Thee with Thy favor to behold and bless

Thy servant, the President of the United States, and all others in

authority,’–and the rest of the Episcopal collect. ‘Danforth,’ said he,

‘I have repeated those prayers night and morning, it is now fifty-five

years.’ And then he said he would go to sleep. He bent me down over him

and kissed me; and he said, ‘Look in my Bible, Captain, when I am gone.’

And I went away.

“But I had no thought it was the end: I thought he was tired and would

sleep. I knew he was happy, and I wanted him to be alone.

“But in an hour, when the doctor went in gently, he found Nolan had

breathed his life away with a smile. He had something pressed close to

his lips. It was his father’s badge of the Order of the Cincinnati.

“We looked in his Bible, and there was a slip of paper at the place

where he had marked the text.–

“‘They desire a country, even a heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed

to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them a city.’

“On this slip of paper he had written:

“‘Bury me in the sea; it has been my home, and I love it. But will not

some one set up a stone for my memory [Note 12] at Fort Adams or at

Orleans, that my disgrace may not be more than I ought to bear? Say on


“‘_In Memory of_


“‘_Lieutenant in the Army of the United States_.

“‘He loved his country as no other man has

loved her; but no man deserved less

at her hands.'”


[Note 1:] – Frederic Ingham, the “I” of the narrative, is supposed to be

a retired officer of the United States Navy.

[Note 2:] – “_Few readers . . . observed_.” In truth, no one observed

it, because there was no such announcement there. The author has,

however, met more than one person who assured him that they had seen

this notice. So fallible is the human memory!

[Note 3:] – _The “Levant_.” The ” Levant ” was a corvette in the

American navy, which sailed on her last voyage, with despatches for an

American officer in Central America, from the port of Honolulu in 1860.

She has never been heard of since, but one of her spars drifted ashore

on one of the Hawaiian islands. I took her name intentionally, knowing

that she was lost. As it happened, when this story was published, only

two American editors recollected that the “Levant” no longer existed. We

learn from the last despatch of Captain Hunt that he intended to take a

northern course heading eastward toward the coast of California rather

than southward toward the Equator. At the instance of Mr. James D.

Hague, who was on board the “Levant” to bid Captain Hunt good bye on the

day when she sailed from Hilo, a search has been made in the summer of

1904 for any reef or islands in that undiscovered region upon which she

may have been wrecked. But no satisfactory results have been obtained.

[Note 4:] – _Madison_. James Madison was President from March 4, 1809,

to March 4, 1817. Personally he did not wish to make war with England,

but the leaders of the younger men of the Democratic party–Mr. Clay,

Mr. Calhoun, and others–pressed him against his will to declare war in

1812. The war was ended by the Treaty of Peace at Ghent in the year

1814. It is generally called “The Short War.” There were many reasons

for the war. The most exasperating was the impressment of American

seamen to serve in the English navy. In the American State Department

there were records of 6,257 such men, whose friends had protested to the

American government. It is believed that more than twenty thousand

Americans were held, at one time or another, in such service. For those

who need to study this subject, I recommend Spears’s “History of our

Navy,” in four volumes. It is dedicated “to those who would seek Peace

and Pursue it.”

[Note 5:] – Aaron Burr had been an officer in the American Revolution.

He was Vice-President from 1801 to 1805, in the first term of

Jefferson’s administration. In July, 1804, in a duel, Burr killed

Alexander Hamilton, a celebrated leader of the Federal party. From this

duel may be dated the indignation which followed him through the next

years of his life. In 1805, after his Vice-Presidency, he made a voyage

down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, to study the new acquisition of

Louisiana. That name was then given to all the country west of the

Mississippi as far as the Rocky Mountains. The next year he organized a

military expedition, probably with the plan, vaguely conceived, of

taking Texas from Spain. He was, however, betrayed and arrested by

General Wilkinson,–then in command of the United States army,–with

whom Burr had had intimate relations. He was tried for treason at

Richmond but acquitted.

[Note 6:] – Colonel Morgan is a fictitious character, like all the

others in this book, except Aaron Burr.

[Note 7:] – The “Lay of the Last Minstrel” is one of the best poems of

Walter Scott. It was first published in 1805.

The whole passage referred to in the text is this:–

   Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,

   Who never to himself hath said,

      This is my own, my native land!

   Whose heart hath ne’er within him burn’d,

   As home his footsteps he hath turn’d

      From wandering on a foreign strand?

   If such there breathe, go, mark him well!

   For him no minstrel raptures swell;

   High though his titles, proud his name,

   Boundless his wealth as wish can claim,

   Despite those titles, power, and pelf,

   The wretch, concentred all in self,

   Living, shall forfeit fair renown,

   And, doubly dying, shall go down

   To the vile dust, from whence he sprung,

   Unwept, unhonour’d, and unsung.

   O Caledonia! stern and wild,

   Meet nurse for a poetic child!

   Land of brown heath and shaggy wood;

   Land of the mountain and the flood.

[Note 8:] – “_Frigate-duels with the English, in which the navy was

really baptized_.” Several great sea fights in this short war gave to

the Navy of the United States its reputation. Indeed, they charged the

navies of all the world. The first of these great battles is the fight

of the “Constitution” and “Guerri�re,” August 19, 1812.

[Note 9:] – The frigate “Essex,” under Porter, took the Marquesas

Islands, in the Pacific, in 1813. Captain Porter was father of the

more celebrated Admiral Porter, who commanded the United States naval

forces in the Gulf of Mexico in 1863, when this story was written.

[Note 10:] – _Beledeljereed_. An Arab name. Beled el jerid means “The

Land of Dates.” As a name it has disappeared from the books of

geography. But one hundred years ago it was given to the southern part

of the Algeria of to-day, and somewhat vaguely to other parts of the

ancient Numidia. It will be found spelled Biledelgerid. To use this

word now is somewhat like speaking of the Liliput of Gulliver.

[Note 11:] Page 40.-The English cruisers on the American coast, in the

great war between England and Napoleon, claimed the right to search

American merchantmen and men of war, to find, if they could, deserters

from the English navy. This was their way of showing their contempt for

the United States. In 1807 the “Chesapeake,” a frigate of the United

States, was met by the “Leopard,” an English frigate. She was not

prepared for fighting, and Barron, her commander, struck his flag. This

is the unfortunate vessel which surrendered to the “Shannon” on June

3, 1813.

[NMan Withour A Countryote 12:] – No one has erected this monument. Its proper place would

be on the ruins of Fort Adams. That fort has been much worn away by the

Mississippi River.

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