The old air has a wonderful influence over me. I heard it in western camp-meetings and negro-cabins when I was a boy; I saw the 22d Massachusetts march down Broadway, singing the same air during the rush to the front during the early days of the war; I have heard it sung by warrior tongues in nearly every Southern State; I heard it roared by three hundred good old Hunker Democrats as they escorted New York's first colored regiment to their place of embarkation; my old brigade sang it softly, but with a swing that was terrible in its earnestness, as they lay behind their stacks of arms just before going to action; I have heard it played over the grave of many a dead comrade; the semi-mutinous the cavalry became peaceful and patriotic again as their band-master played the old air after having asked permission to try HIS hand on them; it is the same that burst forth spontaneously in our barracks, on that glorious morning when we learned that the war was over, and it was sung, with words adapted to the occasion, by some good rebel friends of mine, on our first social meeting after the war.
From the summit of the last of these, a splendid sweep of farm country was revealed, dotted with quaint Virginia dwellings, stackyards, and negro-cabins, and divided by miles of tortuous worm-fence.
The storm-wind which brought this great news across the ocean to Martinique scattered it into the negro-cabins, and at first they listened to it with wondrous delight. Then the delirium of joy came over them; jubilant they broke their chains, and in wild madness anticipated their human rights, their personal freedom.
But it has been done many times in the fertile Valley of the Tennessee. There is that in the Saxon race that makes it discontented, even with success. There was cotton everywhere; it lay piled up around the gin-houses and screws and negro-cabins and under the sheds and even under the trees.
The soft rock cannot preserve its outlines beneath all these influences; its thin covering of soil is carried off to make the river-silt, and then it crumbles away beneath the weather. Great ruts are scored through the forests where the rock has let whole acres of trees and rubbish slip; they sometimes cover the negro-cabins and the coffee-walks below.
We passed sugar-plantations with their wide cane-fields, the sugar-houses with tall chimneys, and the balconied house of the administrador, keeping a sharp look out over the village of negro-cabins, arranged in double lines. In the houses near the stations where we stopped, cigar-making seemed to be the universal occupation. Men, women, and children were sitting round tables hard at work.