Chain-pumps and lightnin’- rods

A story in a "Letter to the Editor from a Rebel Prisoner"

from Harper's New Monthly Magazine's "Editor's Drawer"

General Ben M’Culloch was in many particulars a remarkable man. Though a very common-looking person, he was very vain of his personal appearance and proud of his fame. Not long before the fatal battle of Pea Ridge I happened to fall in company with General M’Culloch when on his return from Richmond. The party consisted of the General, Captain Armstrong, his A. A. G., and Colonel Snyder, of the Missouri army, with two or three black servants, traveling in a four-mule ambulance. We had stopped for lunch by the wayside, about two days’ travel from Fort Smith, in Arkansas, and were discussing the prospects of the Confederacy and the contents of a basket and a demijohn, when a stanger rode up and inquired the way to Colonel Stone’s winter-quarters. The stranger was a perfect specimen of the genus “butternut.” He was dressed in bilious-looking jeans, with a home-made hat and coarse boots, and wore his hair and beard very long. He was mounted on a good horse, and carried on his shoulder a long, old-fashioned rifle. Before any of us had time to answer his inquiries he cast his eyes on General M’Culloch, and seemed to recognize him: Dismounting at once, he advanced eagerly to the General, with extended hand and a hearty “Bless my soul, Joel how do you do?—what on earth are you doing here I” The General saw the man was mistaken, but answered him pleasantly, and invited him to partake of our lunch, to which said lunch and demijohn aforesaid the stranger did full and ample justice. He told the General (for to him he addressed all his conversation, as to an old friend) that he was a volunteer, and had joined Colonel Stone’s regiment of Texan Rangers, and that he intended to fight with “old Ben M’Culloch until we gained our independence.” Old Ben enjoyed the man’s mistake until we were about ready to start on, when he said to his Texan co-patriot, “My friend, I reckon you are mistaken as to who you have been talking to; I don’t think you know me, and perhaps have never seen me before.”

            “You be darned” said butternut; “I would know you, Joe, if I was to meet you in Africa.”

            “Well, now,” said the General, getting tired of his new friend’s familiarity, “who do you take me for, any way I”

            “Take you for?“ retorted Texas, earnestly; “I don’t take you for any body; I know you to be Joe Baxter, what staid in the Perkins settlement, in Collins County, all last summer, a sellin’ chain-pumps and puttin’ up lightnin’- rods!

Smith, Dr. J. F., "Editor's Drawer", Harper's New Monthly Magazine, Volume 28, Issue 164, January 1864, page 282, New York: Harper and Brother's

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