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From the Archivist:
Our bit of history for August is a letter concerning activities at the Pass in the summer of 1861 that was published in the New Orleans Daily Picayune on August 2, 1861 — 150 years ago (to the day) as we put together this newsletter. Space did not permit the reprinting of the entire letter in this month’s newsletter, so we have posted the full letter here on our website.
LETTER FROM THE PATRIARCH OF THE PASS
Pass Christian, July 26, 1861
The second grand target excursion of the Coast Guards came off a few days since in the beautiful grove of evergreens near the residence of the amiable Colonel of the Silver Grays, and was the occasion of much merriment, and a considerable amount of grand and lofty shooting.
The Guard were out in full feather and blue flannel frocks, and marching to the music of the celebrated band of the Fourth Regiment, who kindly volunteered their services for the excursion, attracted much attention by their soldierly deportment and warlike appearance.
A considerable degree of interest was manifested by numbers of spectators, among whom we noted several members of the gallant St. Helena Rifles, who were present to witness the shooting, it have been currently reported that the town members of the Company were desirous that the prizes should not be borne off again by the Bayou Portage and Tugville boys!
The target was placed at a hundred instead of, as heretofore, seventy-five yards distance, in order more fully to test the capacity of the muskets for actual service.
The first round fired was decidedly a scattering affair, the bullets flying about loosely in all directions, causing no very serious damage to the target, but plowing up the turf for yards about in somewhat of an agricultural way.
The second round was rather more of a deliberative affair and rose to a much higher altitude, the bullets lacerating the bark of tall pines frightfully, causing the pitch to flow quite freely.
The third round was evidently a great struggle for the supremacy of the leather medal, and as the shots were made the brilliantly varnished prize passed from one member of the Company to another of the Company, causing much merriment until finally it was awarded to Captain Green amidst great rejoicing and peals of laughter, the Captain acknowledging the compliment in a very graceful manner.
Not willing that the Captain should enjoy so marked an honor without still further effort, it was proposed that the commissioned and non-commissioned officers of the Company should fire one shot each, at sixty yards, which being agreed to, seven balls were placed in the target, the eighth missing.
The leather medal was at last handed over to Second Lieutenant Saucier, who fairly bore off the prize, not having hit the target at all during the day.
The out-of-town boys were again triumphant.
The first prize, a Gold medal, was won by Charles Nicase; the second, a Silver Medal, was awarded to Eugene Dubisson, both gentlemen being residents of the beautiful Bayou Portage.
Nineteen balls out of one hundred and twenty-six, were placed in the target, the bullseye being undisturbed.
The prizes being decided, the Company fell upon a cartload of watermelons, presented by a member of the Guards, and while discussing them, something was said about “devlish bad powder, overcharging, long distance.” And the like. Altogether the excursion passed off pleasantly.
A short time ago a party of gentlemen had the hardihood, in spite of the blockading squadron, war and war alarms, to indulge in a pleasure excursion on the lake by moonlight. The night was glorious. No cloud obscured the deep blue of the heavens. The moon shone in resplendent loveliness, silvering o’er the rippling waters of the great lake. The gentle waves as they parted by the prow of the “Laura,” reflected the myriad bright and burning stars that gemmed the over-arching dome of empyreal skies.
Hark! What sounds are borne on the winds? “Tis the wild air of distance music” and as it floats over the bright waters, fall upon the ear, delighting and entrancing the senses. Mingling with strains of music, merry voices may be heard.
The party consisted of the full band of the 4th Regiment under the direction of the accomplished leader, M. Bernard Moses; Lieut. S. of the Coast Guards; Lieut. S. of the St. Helena Rifles; Major C. of the Hunter Rifles; Assistant Surgeon L. of the Lake Providence Cadets; the “Governor;” and several invited gentlemen in civilian dress.
As the “Laura,” With Lieut. S. at the helm, passed from the wharf, the band struck up the inspiriting and glorious Marsellaise which was performed with wondrous effect.
Standing erect upon the deck of the “Laura,” the tall form of the gallant Lieutenant of the Rifles towered heavensward, vying in altitude with the flagstaff, and quite as rakish in appearance as the mast of the beautiful yacht. Under the inspiration of the moment, the Lieutenant broke forth in a clear and ringing tone of voice and sang with touching pathos the following stanzas:“In the long green valley By the old Kentucky shore, There I whiled many happy hours away A-sitting and a-singing By the little cottage door Where lived my darling Nelly Gray “Oh, my poor Nelly Gray They have taken her away And I’ll never see my darling anymore. I am sitting by the river, And I’m weeping all the day, For she’s gone from the old Kentucky home. “Oh, my poor Nelly Gray, Up in heaven there they say That they’ll never take her From me any more. I’m coming, coming, coming As the Angels clear the way. Farewell to the old Kentucky shore. “Oh, my poor Nelly Gray They have taken her away And I’ll never see my darling anymore. I am sitting by the river, And I’m weeping all the day, For she’s gone from the old Kentucky home.
At the conclusion of “Poor Nelly Gray,” sung with incomparable tenderness, the Lieutenant was most enthusiastically cheered, and the band, in compliment to the singers, played the beautiful air of “Gentle Annie,” in so charming a manner that the “Governor,” becoming enraptured, tossed up his hat, flung off his coat, and but for the timely interference of those around, would no doubt have plunged overboard, mingling his tears with the briny waters of the great deep.
A “shot from the locker” brought all on board up standing, wounding a few but damaging no one seriously.
Following the reveille, executed in a most masterly manner by Mr. Kelly, formerly a private in the Mexican War, Surgeon L performed a solo on the French horn, with ludicrous effect, some gentlemen of the party joining in a comic break down, to the infinite merriment of all present.
Landing, the party proceeded to the palatial residence of Major McCall, whose passionate love of music is only exceeded by his generous hospitality.
Silence most deep, rested on all around. The moonbeams, struggling through the luxuriant foliage of the trees which adorn the front of the dwelling, fell upon the earth, lighting up the greensward with magical effect.
The band repeated the Marsellaise, and ere the last lingering notes of the spirited and patriotic national hymn died in the distance, the halls of the mansion were brilliantly lighted, the doors flying open, and “Sam” announced the Major “at home.”
An hour abounding in wit, sentiment and festivity, spent under the hospitable roof of Major McCall, the rapturous music of the band, the brilliance of the night, the sail by moonlight and all will contribute in after years to render the occasion pleasantly memorable.
Enthusiastic and proper demonstrations of rejoicing were made by our citizens upon receipt of the news of the triumphant success of the Southern troops at the great battle of Manassas. It is considered that we got off scot free.
P. S. The weekly subscribers to the Picayune complain that their papers do not reach them until Tuesday evening, instead of, as formerly, on Saturday. The Weekly Delta is received here regularly by Saturday’s mail. P. D.