CHAPTER IV. WASHINGTON TO ST. LOUIS.
I will allude to a charge made against one member of the cabinet, because the circumstances of the case were all acknowledged and proved. This gentleman employed his wife's brother-in-law to buy ships, and the agent so employed pocketed about 20,000l. by the transaction in six months. The excuse made was that this profit was in accordance with the usual practice of the ship-dealing trade, and that it was paid by the owners who sold, and not by the government which bought. But in so vast an agency the ordinary rate of profit on such business became an enormous sum; and the gentleman who made the plea must surely have understood that that 20,000l. was in fact paid by the government. It is the purchaser, and not the seller, who in fact pays all such fees. The question is this: Should the government have paid so vast a sum for one man's work for six months? And if so, was it well that that sum should go into the pocket of a near relative of the minister whose special business it was to protect the government?
American private soldiers are not pleasant fellow-travelers. They are loud and noisy, and swear quite as much as the army could possibly have sworn in Flanders. They are, moreover, very dirty; and each man, with his long, thick great-coat, takes up more space than is intended to be allotted to him. Of course I felt that if I chose to travel in a country while it had such a piece of business on its hands, I could not expect that everything should be found in exact order. The matter for wonder, perhaps, was that the ordinary affairs of life were so little disarranged, and that any traveling at all was practicable. Nevertheless, the fact remains that American private soldiers are not agreeable fellow-travelers.
It was my present intention to go due west across the country into Missouri, skirting, as it were, the line of the war which had now extended itself from the Atlantic across into Kansas. There were at this time three main armies - that of the Potomac, as the army of Virginia was called, of which McClellan held the command; that of Kentucky, under General Buell, who was stationed at Louisville on the Ohio; and the army on the Mississippi, which had been under Fremont, and of which General Halleck now held the command. To these were opposed the three rebel armies of Beauregard, in Virginia; of Johnston, on the borders of Kentucky and Tennessee; and of Price, in Missouri. There was also a fourth army in Kansas, west of Missouri, under General Hunter; and while I was in Washington another general, supposed by some to be the "coming man," was sent down to Kansas to participate in General Hunter's command. This was General Jim Lane, who resigned a seat in the Senate in order that he might undertake this military duty. When he reached Kansas, having on his route made sundry violent abolition speeches, and proclaimed his intention of sweeping slavery out of the Southwestern States, he came to loggerheads with his superior officer respecting their relative positions.
On my arrival at Baltimore, I found the place knee-deep in mud and slush and half-melted snow. It was then raining hard, - raining dirt, not water, as it sometimes does. Worse weather for soldiers out in tents could not be imagined - nor for men who were not soldiers, but who, nevertheless, were compelled to leave their houses. I only remained at Baltimore one day, and then started again, leaving there the greater part of my baggage. I had a vague hope - a hope which I hardly hoped to realize - that I might be able to get through to the South. At any rate I made myself ready for the chance by making my traveling impediments as light as possible, and started from Baltimore, prepared to endure all the discomfort which lightness of baggage entails. My route lay over the Alleghenies, by Pittsburg and Cincinnati, and my first stopping place was at Harrisburg, the political capital of Pennsylvania. There is nothing special at Harrisburg to arrest any traveler; but the local legislature of the State was then sitting, and I was desirous of seeing the Senate and Representatives of at any rate one State, during its period of vitality.