Life on the Mississippi

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johan_steele

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<u>Life on the Mississippi</u> by Mark Twain first published in the 1896. While not strictly about the Civil War it has some very interesting looks at the War along the Mississippi and the pilots who ran the boats. A wonderful look at the views of the men of the time. Full of his satire and wit, something I failed to appreciate the first time I read the book back in HS.

THis is a must read for any who are interested in life along the Mississippi from the 1850's to the 1880's.
 

jules

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I'm probably one of the few people left on the planet who hasn't read Life on the Mississippi, but I have a copy of Twain's "A Failed Campaign" which is a hysterically funny account of his own experience as a Civil War soldier. It may be part of the "Life" book you referred to.
 

raywilson

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Shane and Julia,

it just so happens that a copy of Life on the Mississippi is sitting in the backseat of my van. It's one of the books I'm reading now, and it sure seems to be a good one.

Regards,
Ray
 
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gary

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Julia - thanks for the tip. I'm going to see if our public library has "A Failed Campaign." I hope it's as good as "How Pvt. George Peck Put Down the Rebellion."
 

jules

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Gary,
What I have isn't big enough to be a book...more like a chapter out of a book. It's printed in "The Civil War Archive," a book edited by Henry Steele Commager. The full title listed in the book is "The Private History of a Campaign That Failed." About it, Commager says:

...he (Twain) joined a volunteer company of a dozen or so, which, according to his own story, was ready to fight on either side. "Out West," he wrote, " there was a good deal of confusion in men's minds during the first months of the great trouble...it was hard for us to get our bearings." His campaign came to an inglorious end when he sprained an ankle falling out of a barn hayloft. One of the "Marion Rangers," Absalom Grimes, later became a famous Confederate scout. As Mark Twain himself says, this is not an unfair picture of what went on in the border states during the early months of the war."

Twain remarks about the great trouble: "I was piloting on the Mississippi when the news came that South Carolina had gone out of the Union on 20th December, 1860. My pilot-mate was a New Yorker. He was strong for the Union; so was I. But he would not listen to me with any patience; my loyalty was smirched, to his eye, because my father had owned slaves. I said, in palliation of this dark fact, that I had heard my father say, some years before he died, that slavery was a great wrong, and that he would free the solitary Negro he then owned if he could think it right to give away the property of the family when he was so straitened in means. My mate retorted that a mere impulse was nothing -- anybody could pretend to a good impulse; and went on decrying my Unionism and libeling my ancestry. A month later the secession atmosphere had considerably thickened on the Lower Mississippi, and I became a rebel; so did he. We were together in New Orleans, the 26th of January, when Louisiana went out of the Union. He did his full share of the rebel shouting, but was bittely opposed to letting me do mine. He said that I came of bad stock--of a father who had been willing to set slaves free. In the following summer he was piloting a Federal gun-boat and shouting for the Union again, and I was in the Confederate army. I held his note for some borrowed money. He was one of the most upright men I ever knew; but he repudiated that note without hesitation, because I was a rebel, and the son of a man who owned slaves."

Twain goes on to tell how he and other young men from Missouri formed the "Marion Rangers," and of their well-intentioned but decidedly clumsy attempts to be soldiers.
 

mobile_96

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"The Private History of a Campaign That Failed" was also done as a movie sometime back, but, for the life of me, can't remember if it was made under the same title. Someone else might find out, but if not, I'll check for it when I go rent movies on Sat.
"Absalom Grimes, later became a famous Confederate scout." I wonder if this was a different one? Or maybe he became a scout after doing the mail gig for a while.)
I recently picked up a book titled "Abasalom Grimes Confederate Mail Runner" which was edited from Captain Grimes'Own Story by M.M.Quaife. This book was reprinted by Two Trails Publishing, in 1997.
Anyway, title of the first chapter is "Campaigning With Mark Twain".
From skimming thru, this book is a hoot. It covers some captures and escapes from the US troops, and more adventures in caring the Confederate Mail thru the lines.
 
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mobile_96

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The Private History of a Campaign That Failed
Peter H. Hunt, director. Video, 1980.
This well-made TV adaptation of Mark Twain's account of his short stint as a soldier during the Civil War sticks pretty closely to Twain's essay but it generalizes the story by removing the Clemens name and adds a reading of Twain's later anti-imperialist story, "The War Prayer," at the conclusion. Twain biographer Justin Kaplan was the scholarly consultant on this film.
 
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