Steamboat: CRESCENT CITY
Clemens' Service: 29 April - 7 July, 1857
Pilot: Horace Bixby
Co-Pilot: Strother Wiley
Captain: R. C. Young
April 29, 1857: Wednesday – Sam left St. Louis on the Crescent City (688 tons), bound for New Orleans.
May 4? Monday – The Crescent City arrived in New Orleans.
May 8–9? Saturday – The Crescent City left New Orleans bound for St. Louis.
May 16–19? Tuesday – The Crescent City arrived in St. Louis. Note: approximate dates with ? are calculated from Branch’s assertion of three round trips rather than two, and his updating of information from MTL 1: 71.
Once in St. Louis, Sam went first to cousin James Clemens, Jr., and then to brother-in-law William Moffett to secure the loan of $100 with which to pay Bixby a down payment [MTL 1: 71].
May 22, 1857: Friday – The Crescent City left St. Louis bound for New Orleans, with Sam as the official cub pilot. From this date until May 1861, Sam learned and worked his new trade as a steamboat pilot. He made exceptional pay once licensed and loved the work. Only the closing of river traffic with the Civil War cost Sam this job. It is one of the side benefits of the war that Sam was forced off the river and into the West to discover his true calling. Still, without those years on the Mississippi, Sam might never have reached his pinnacle as the “Lincoln of our literature” [MTL 1: 71].
May 27, 1857: Wednesday – Sam arrived in New Orleans on the Crescent City, cub under Horace Bixby. Nearly all of Sam’s piloting was between New Orleans and St. Louis, some 1,300 miles.
Bixby taught Sam that he must memorize every mile of the trip, that each side of the river, coming and going was different, and that at night nothing looked the same. To make it more difficult, the river was constantly shifting its banks. Sam was boggled by what was required of him [MTL 1: 71].
May 31, 1857: Sunday – Sam visited the French market in the morning. He wrote of it the next day to Annie.
June 1, 1857: Monday – In New Orleans, Sam wrote to Annie Taylor: New Orleans:
My Dear Friend Annie ... I visited the French market yesterday (Sunday) morning. I think it would have done my very boots good to have met half a dozen Keokuk girls there, as I used to meet them at market in the Gate City. But it could not be. However, I did find several acquaintances—two pretty girls, with their two beaux—sipping coffee at one of the stalls. I thought I had seen all kinds of markets before—but that was a great mistake—this being a place such as I had never dreamed of before. Everything was arranged in such beautiful order, and had such an air of cleanliness and neatness that it was a pleasure to wander among the stalls. The pretty pyramids of fresh fruit looked so delicious. Oranges, lemons, pineapples, bananas, figs, plantains, watermelons, blackberries, raspberries, plums, and various other fruits were to be seen on one table, while the next one bore a load of radishes, onions, squashes, peas, beans, sweet potatoes—well, everything imaginable in the vegetable line—and still further on were lobsters, oysters, clams—then milk, cheese, cakes, coffee, tea, nuts, apples, hot rolls, butter, etc.—then the various kinds of meats and poultry. Of course, the place was crowded (as most places in New Orleans are) with men, women and children of every age, color and nation. Out on the pavement were groups of Italians, French, Dutch, Irish, Spaniards, Indians, Chinese, Americans, English, and the Lord knows how many more different kinds of people, selling all kinds of articles—even clothing of every description, from a handkerchief down to a pair of boots, umbrellas, pins, combs, matches—in fact, anything you could possibly want—and keeping up a terrible din with their various cries. Today I visited one of the cemeteries—a veritable little city, for they bury everybody above ground here. All round the sides of the inclosure, which is in the heart of the city, there extends a large vault, about twelve feet high, containing three or four tiers of holes or tombs (they put the coffins into these holes endways, and then close up the opening with brick), one above another, and looking like a long 3- or 4-story house. The graveyard is laid off in regular, straight streets, strewed with white shells, and the fine, tall marble tombs (numbers of them containing but one corpse) fronting them and looking like so many miniature dwelling houses. You can find wreaths of flowers and crosses, cups of water, mottoes, small statuettes, etc., hanging in front of nearly every tomb. I noticed one beautiful white marble tomb, with a white lace curtain in front of it, under which, on a little shelf, were vases of fresh flowers, several little statuettes, and cups of water, while on the ground under the shelf were little orange and magnolia trees. It looked so pretty. The inscription was in French—said the occupant was a girl of 17, and finished by a wish from the mother that the stranger would drop a tear there, and thus aid her whose sorrow was more than one could bear. They say that the flowers upon many of these tombs are replaced every day by fresh ones. These were fresh, and the poor girl had been dead five years. There’s depth of affection! On another was the inscription, “To My Dear Mother,” with fresh flowers. The lady was 62 years old when she died, and she had been dead seven years. I spent half an hour watching the chameleons—strange animals, to change their clothes so often! I found a dingy looking one, drove him on a black rag, and he turned black as ink—drove him under a fresh leaf, and he turned the brightest green color you ever saw. On this date the Crescent City left for St. Louis.
June 9, 1857: Tuesday – Crescent City arrived St. Louis. Note: The following steamboat schedules are taken from [MTL 1: 387-90].
June 17, 1857: Wednesday – Crescent City left for New Orleans.
June 23, 1857: Tuesday – Crescent City arrived New Orleans.
June 28, 1857: Sunday – Crescent City left for St. Louis.
July 7, 1857: Tuesday – Crescent City arrived St. Louis.