Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 25.djvu/128

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124 Sou//n n/ llixlui-H-til. ,S'or/V/// Papers.

"The last act in the bloody drama of the American civil war had been played. Widely different were the armies that witnessed the opening and the closing scenes. The overture was played by the thunder of artillery beneath the walls of Sumter, with the breath of Apnl fanning the cheeks of those who acted their parts while all the world looked on. The curtain finally fell amid the drifting ice of the Arctic seas. Burning vessels formed a pyrotechnic display such as the children of men have seldom looked on, while a grim and silent cruiser that had even then no government or country, and two- weather-beaten whalers, filled with despondent prisoners, were the only audience."


The 2Qth June found us inside the Arctic circle. From the time of entering the Okhotsk Sea we had been constantly meeting fields and floes of ice, which by making frequent detours we had succeeded in either passing through or around, but now it became impossible to proceed farther north. A solid barrier of ice as far as we could see arrested our progress. It was perpetual day; we were on the borders of the land of the midnight sun and had no use for either lamp or candle. South of us was Behring Straits, one of the gate- ways to the cemetery for Arctic explorers, and only a few degrees north, afterwards, in 1879, the Jeannette, under De Long, was forced to make her first halt on an expedition which resulted so disastrously to most of its participants.


As there was now but little probability of doing much more in the Arctic, Captain Waddell headed the Shenandoah to the southward, hoping to capture a California steamer between San Francisco and Panama. But on the 2d of August, when nearly west of the Sand- wich Islands, we fell in with the English bark Baracouta, thirteen days from San Francisco, bound for Liverpool, and learned for the first time of the colapse of the Confederacy. Had she been an American ship the chances are she would have been burnt, that is it would have required something more than the mere statement of the captain of an American vessel to convince us that the war was over. We had heard through some of the whalers captured in the Arctic, from San Francisco papers dated the i5th April, of the assassination of Mr. Lincoln, and of the disastrous events up to that date, but General Johnston was still in the field with his army. He did not