He was not a mountaineer, but lived a few miles from the base of the hills, where he owned thousands of acres of fat bottom and fair upland. He was a man, I suppose, of fifty, but in some respects he did not seem over forty. His beard of a day’s growth showed grizzly, but his long dark brown hair had scarcely a trace of silver. Unlike the majority of the lengthy-limbed population of the Alleghany slopes, he was short and broadly built. His face was very red, and his eves a little bloodshot. He bore unmistakable signs of being a regular and by no means stingy drinker of his own excellent white whisky.. But he was an honest, worthy, generous, hospitable, honorable nature. I had heard of him, and of his tribe and set, as determined Unionists. Loopers and Durhams. “Gualandi con Sismondi e Lanfranchi.” Yet, stubborn as they were, the Confederacy had known how to make them bend.
“My son went into their army,” he said to me. “It was go in or be shot. I never went in. I furnished a substitute, and did every thing under God's heaven to escape it. Yet they were always after me. I was open-mouthed. Every body knew what Looper thought.
“They took every cow that I had, curse me if they didn’t! One day a party of twenty came, with a lieutenant at their head. I saw them at my barn, and went out to meet them. Said they, ‘Have you any claims on these cattle?’ Says I,’ By ____, they are mine.’ Says they, ‘We are going to take them for the Government to help carry on the war. What are your opinions of the war?’ Says I,’ It’s a dam wicked war, and you are a dam set of fools for trying it.’ Says the Lieutenant, ‘You say another word, and we’ll hang you to the next tree.’ ‘By ______ , you may hang me,’ says I; ‘but as long as I live you can’t shut my mouth.’ I tell you I cursed them as long as they staid. If you doubt what sort of a man I am ask any body in Pickens District. Every body knows me. Every body knows what Looper is.
“Ah those dam scoundrels have robbed me cruelly! Every one of my cattle, and every horse except an old broken-down critter! But it can’t be helped now. My son never went into your army, but he has done service for your side; he has helped your runaways through the lines. There was Adjutant Johnson; write to him if you don’t believe it. Write to Captain Bray; he knows us.
“And now they’ve got my son, just for killing a dam rebel named Miller, who was passing himself off for the bushwhacker Largent, and insulting our women and children—just for shooting that dam scoundrel they’ve got him shut up in the penitentiary, curse me if they haven’t! Why, Sir, that Miller had been threatening to plunder me and kill me for harboring your men. He knew about my ways; every body knows Looper. My door had been broken in by the bushwhackers two nights before. I suppose I came near being shot. That was a way they had: make a noise at your door, perhaps call you to it; then if you opened it, fire! Off rides the bushwhacker in the dark, and nobody ever knows who he is. More than a dozen men in our district had been killed that way.
“I’ve got up a petition for my son’s release. He ought not to be shut up there with thieves and rascals. He’s as amiable and good and gentlemanly a boy of his age as there is, I don’t care where. I’ll show you the paper.’
The document had a long list of signers, many of them, to my surprise, leading secessionists. But Looper was a man of property, influence, energy, and courage; and when Southern public feeling does not forcibly rid itself of such an antagonist it will treat him fairly. If it does not blow his brains out, it will subscribe his petitions. It has a certain martial respect for a courageous opponent.
The case of young Looper, a lad of only eighteen, by-the-way, was as follows: A North Carolinian named Miller, said to be one of the desperadoes who were set loose by the surrender of the Confederate armies, came to the house of one of the Durhams of Pickens District, and was entertained there. On his departure the son of the family sought out young Looper and an uncle of his own, named Andrew Durham, informed them that Miller was Largent, and induced them to join in an attempt to arrest him. When they found the North Carolinian he had fallen from his horse intoxicated, and was lying in the road. It was dusk; none of them knew Largent well; the drunken man raised himself on his elbow; the younger Durham whispered, “Take care!” Looper, aware of Largent’s quickness with the pistol, fired, as he supposed, in self-defense, and with fatal effect.
Will it be credited that Largent visited Pickens jail to look at the two men who had sought to kill him, and that the jailer was so polite as to show him about the establishment without broaching the idea of arresting him? Young Durham stared in alarm through his grated door at the renowned desperado, and pacifically, meekly, humbly asked him for a chew of tobacco, as a vanquished Indian might request the pipe of peace.
“No,” replied Largent; “I don’t mean to be stingy of my tobacco, but d—d if I give chaws to men who try to bushwhack mc
Such is the sublime indignation of injured innocence—in Pickens District!
On the trial it appeared that young Durham knew Miller, and could not have mistaken him for Largent; also that he had seen a roll of currency in Miller’s possession, and had subsequently transferred it to his own pockets, whence it was inferred that he had instigated the assassination for the sake of robbery. He was found guilty of murder, and condemned to death; young Looper was found guilty of manslaughter, and condemned to seven years in the penitentiary; Andrew Durham was acquitted. After a few months Governor Orr pardoned Looper, and commuted the punishment of Durham to imprisonment for life.
De Forest, J.W., “Chivalrous and Semi-Chivalrous Southrons” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, Volume 38, Issue 225, February 1869; New York: Harper & Bros.
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