Submitted by scott on Wed, 10/13/2021 - 00:17
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On 16 February 1857 Clemens took passage for New Orleans on the packet Paul Jones. Probably the “great idea” of the Amazon journey was still alive in his mind as he later claimed , but within two weeks his old ambition to become a Mississippi pilot was rekindled. During daylight watches he began “doing a lot of steering” for Horace E. Bixby, pilot of the Paul Jones, whose sore foot made standing at the wheel painful. Bixby (1826–1912), later a noted captain as well as pilot, recalled after Clemens’s death:

I first met him at Cincinnati in the spring of 1857 as a passenger on the steamer Paul Jones. He was on his way to Central America for his health. I got acquainted with him on the trip and he thought he would like to be a pilot and asked me on what conditions he could become my assistant. I told him that I did not want any assistant, as they were generally more in the way than anything else, and that the only way I would accept him would be for a money consideration. I told him that I would instruct him till he became a competent pilot for $500. We made terms and he was with me two years, until he got his license.

Although Bixby consistently indicated that he and Clemens came to terms either at their first meeting or quite soon after, Mark Twain three times explicitly designated New Orleans as the place where he approached Bixby about becoming his steersman and where they reached an agreement. It is reasonable to assume that, before agreeing to instruct him, Bixby would have used the entire trip to New Orleans to test his ability at handling the wheel.

Sam and Horace Bixby departed New Orleans March 4, 1857 on board the Colonel Crossman with Clemens installed as the new cub and arrived in St. Louis on March 15. While in St. Louis Clemens took steps to secure the $100 that Bixby required as a down payment on his instructional fee.  Some forty years afterward, in notes for his autobiography, he reminded himself that he went to his cousin James Clemens, Jr., “to borrow the $100 to pay Bixby—before I got to the subject he was wailing about having to pay $25,000 taxes in N.Y. City—said it makes a man poor! So I didn’t ask him”. Clemens borrowed the money instead from his brother-in-law, William A. Moffett, and rejoined Bixby. 

Editorial narrative following 5 August 1856  Dates of the Paul Jones passage discussed in the editorial narrative differ from a more recent evaluation of Sam Clemens' time on the Mississippi River.

Cub Pilot Chronology:

Licensed Pilot Chronology:


Cincinnati to Cairo: On the Ohio River,

Built: 1857
Tonnage: 415
Clemens' Service: 4 March - 15 March 1857
Pilot: Horace Bixby
Captain: Patrick Yore

March 4, 1857 Wednesday – Commanded by Patrick Yore and piloted by Horace Bixby, the Colonel Crossman (415 tons) left New Orleans with Sam aboard bound for St. Louis.
March 15, 1857: Sunday – The Colonel Crossman arrived in St. Louis.

Built: 1854
Tonnage: 688
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.

Steamboat: D. A. JANUARY
• Built: 1857
• Tonnage: 440
• Clemens' Service: 16 July - early Aug 1857
• Pilot: Horace Bixby
• Captain: Patrick Yore

Steamboat: JOHN J. ROE
• Built: 1856
• Tonnage: 691
• Clemens' Service: 5 August - 24 September, 1857
• Pilot: Zebulon Leavenworth and/or Sobieski Jolly
• Captain: Mark Leavenworth

• Built: 1854
• Tonnage: 486
• Clemens' Service: 27 September - 26 November 1857
• and 17 February - 5 June 1858
• Pilot: William Brown
• Co-Pilot: George Ealer
• 1st Mate: Abner Martin
• Captain: John Klinefelter
• Fate: 13 June 1858 lost by explosion


November 27 to December 12 Saturday – Sam worked as a night watchman on the freight docks from seven in the evening until seven in the morning. He earned three dollars a night [Neider 100].n


17 February - 5 June 1858


February 6 Saturday – The Pennsylvania, now repaired and refitted, left New Orleans with William Brown as pilot, George Ealer as co-pilot, John Simpson Klinefelter (1810-1885) as Captain. Sam had procured a job for Henry as “mud clerk,” so called because the job required leaping to shore in places where there was no pavement or dock. The job did not pay, but was a way to rise in the ranks. Henry Clemens was nineteen, and would make six trips with his brother Sam [Powers, MT A Life 84].

Steamboat: ALFRED T. LACEY
• Clemens' Service: 11 - 28 July 1858
• Built: 1857
• Pilot: possibly Barton Bowen
• Co-Pilot: possibly George Ealer
• Captain: John P. Rodney
• Fate: burned April 26, 1860 with loss of sixteen lives including Captain A. T. Lacy's daughter

June 11 Friday – Two days behind Henry on the Pennsylvania, Sam left New Orleans bound for St. Louis on the Alfred T. Lacey with Captain John P. Rodney and Sam’s Hannibal friend Barton S. Bowen, pilot [MTL 1: 82n3].

Steamboat: JOHN H. DICKEY
• Built: 1857
• Tonnage: 403
• Clemens' Service: 4 August - 19 October 1858
• Pilot: possibly Samuel Bowen
• Co-Pilot: possibly Strother Wiley
• Captain: Daniel Able
• Fate: Survived the Civil War; dismantled July 8, 1865
Between St. Louis and Memphis:

Steamboat: WHITE CLOUD
• Built: 1857
• Tonnage: 345
• Clemens' Service: 20 - 26 October 1858
• Pilot: probably Samuel Bowen
• Captain: Daniel Able

October 20 Wednesday – The Dickey was laid up for repairs, so Sam and probably Sam Bowen and Captain Able, made the St. Louis to Memphis run on the White Cloud (345 tons).

October 22 Friday – Sam’s article was printed in the St. Louis Missouri Republican using the signature “C” [Branch, “Dickey” 199-200].

Note: MTPO Notes on Aug. 1, 1876 to Cist calls this “chatty river correspondence.”

• Built: 1858
• Tonnage: 880
• Clemens' Service: 30 October - 8 December 1858
• Pilot: probably Horace Bixby
• Captain: James B. Woods

October 30 Saturday – Sam left St. Louis on the New Falls City (880 tons; built in January of that year, the largest ship Sam served on. Sam took passage on the boat in January as well) Pilot Horace Bixby, Captain James B. Woods.

November 8 Monday – New Falls City arrived in New Orleans.

November 10 Wednesday – New Falls City left for St. Louis.

December 13 Monday – Sam and Horace Bixby left St. Louis on the Aleck Scott (709 tons) under Captain Robert A. Reilly. Sam remarked on the Aleck Scott: I will remark, in passing, that Mississippi steamboatmen were important in landsmen’s eyes (and in their own, too, in a degree) according to the dignity of the boat they were on.

Edgard Branch, the source for Day By Day, had originally dated Clemens' service on the RUFUS J. LACKLAND as 11 July - 3 August 1857. Further research by Michael Marleau, includes a new interpretation of Clemens' personal journals and indicates the 1859 dates are the most likely dates of service for the RUFUS J. LACKLAND.   July 9 – July 30, 1859

These dates were theorized by Branch for June 25, 1859 to July 28, 1859,  not corroborated by Marleau 

Steamboat: EDWARD J. GAY
Built: 1859
Tonnage: 823
Clemens' Service: 2 August - 1 October 1859
Captain: Barton Bowen
Fate: 1863 acquired by Confederacy and taken up Yalobusha River; later burned on 17 July 1863 to prevent capture.

Steamboat: A. B. CHAMBERS
Built: 1855
Tonnage: 410
Clemens' Service: 26 October 1859 - 24 February 1860
Co Pilots: James DeLancey and William Bowen
First mate: Grant Marsh
Captain: George Bowman
Fate: snagged and sank near St. Louis, 24 September 1860

Built: 1857
Tonnage: 865
Clemens' Service: 25 March - 1 or 2 July 1860
Co-Pilot: Wesley Jacobs
Captain: Joseph Edward Montgomery
Fate: boilers exploded May 31, 1866 with loss of eleven lives; towed to Saint Louis, MO and dismantled

Steamboat: ARAGO
Built: 1860
Tonnage: 268
Clemens' Service: 28 July - 31 August 1860
Co-Pilot: Isaiah W. "Bill" Hood
[identification of "Bill" Hood was made by researcher Michael Marleau, Nov. 2006]
Captain: George P. Sloan
Fate: Burned in Dog Tooth Bend, near Commerce, MO on Feb. 6, 1865.

Built: 1857
Tonnage: 493
Clemens' Service: 19 September 1860 - 18 November 1860
and 8 January 1861 - 8 May 1861
Co-Pilots: Horace BixbyWilliam Bowen, Sam Brown
Captains: David DeHaven and James O'Neal

Steamboat: SUNSHINE
Built: 1860
Tonnage: 354
Clemens' Service:
 6 December 1860 - 8 January 1861
Pilot: Capt. George W. Willard in 1860; Absalom Grimes in 1861
Captain: Henry G. Carson
Fate: burned 13 July 1864 in St. Louis by Confederates

May 14 Tuesday – Sam departed New Orleans as a passenger on the Nebraska. Commercial traffic was halted. This was the last boat allowed through the Union blockade at Memphis. Sam’s days as a river pilot were over, though he did not know it at the time. He would later wax nostalgic and eloquent about his idyllic career on the river. Just as his idyllic days of boyhood in Hannibal had abruptly ended, so too did his time on “the best job in the world.” Paine gives the name of the boat as the Uncle Sam: “I’ll think about it,” he said.

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