Before Mark Twain: A Sampler of Old, Old Times on the Mississippi

By John Francis McDermott | Go to book overview

FEVER, FATIGUE, AND DEATH

TIMOTHY FLINT

[Floating down the river, Timothy Flint noted elsewhere in his Recollections of the Last Ten Years in the Valley of the Mississippi (Boston, 1826), often seemed glamorous to those living quietly ashore, but the pain and difficulty often to be endured Flint could sum up in a few pages from his own unhappy experience (pp. 284-88).]

Soon after we left the St. Francis, both our hands were taken ill of fever and ague, and we were obliged to leave them behind. We were now left with none but my own family, in the midst of the wilderness, the heavy current of the Mississippi against us, and more than four hundred miles still before us. The river was so low, that steam-boats were scarce on it, and the few that attempted to ascend it were aground on the sand bars. In fact, no boats were seen ascending or descending, and it seemed impossible for us to procure hands in lieu of those who had left us on account of sickness. The wind generally blew up the stream, and was favourable for sailing, except in the curves, or bends of the river, which were often so deep as to cause that the wind, which was directly in favour at one point of the bend, would be directly against us at the other. We made use of our sail, when it would serve, and of our cordelle, when it would not; and in this way we went on cheerfully, though with inexpressible fatigue to myself, to the point between the first and the middle Chickasaw bluff. In arriving here, we had the most beautiful autumnal evenings that I ever witnessed. We were "a feeble folk," alone in the wilderness. The owls, forty in concert, and in every whimsical note, from the wailings of an infant babe, to the deep grunt of a drunken German, gave us their serenade. Ever and anon, a wolf would raise his prolonged and dismal howl in the forests. The gabbling of numberless water fowls of every description on the sand-bars, was

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