Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 33.djvu/175

This page needs to be proofread.

Confederate Drug Conditions. 171

town of nearly 3,000 people, well built with brick business houses, and contained a large United States marine hospital, built of brick; and situated as it was on the Mississippi, at the mouth of the Ar- kansas river, it was at one time a rival of Memphis for trade. This village was entirely destroyed by flood in 1869 or 1870; the last vestige of the large marine hospital was carried into the Mississippi river in 1874, and to-day there is not a human habitation to show where Napoleon once flourished.

One of my Alabama lawyer friends, an ex-Confederate, famous for learning, for valor as a soldier, and for delightful humor as a reconteur, once related to me the following reminiscences:

To supply the trying necessities of the drug demand, he said he had heard of many amusing plans that were resorted to by the gov- ernment itself, and by persons who were mainly prompted by neither impulses of humanity nor patriotism, but by the simple desire of gain. He said he heard of a woman who went into the Northern lines four times, returning always with a considerable quantity of the more costly drugs concealed beneath her skirts. On her return from the fifth trip, however, some portion of her paraphernalia, while on a ferry boat, was caught in a way to put too great a strain on some string or buckle, so that it gave way, and the walking drugstore was brought down to "dire combustion."

A Mr. Berg, a merchant of middle Alabama, says my Alabama friend, at the beginning of the war found himself with empty shelves and counters and no market from which to replenish his stock. He had some experience in the sale of drugs and medicines, so he de- termined to occupy his genius, being too old to go to the war, by carrying on a contraband trade in this profitable direction. He started on a dangerous enterprise as the South had interdicted trade in cotton and the North had placed the ban on drugs espe- cially on stimulating liquors. Mr. Berg selected Memphis as the base of his operations, and proceeded up to the northern part of Mississippi, a country alternately in the hands of the Confederates and the Federals. Here he purchased a common road wagon and four mules, and loaded the wagon with cotton. In a few days he arrived, with an assistant, within the Federal lines at Memphis, where he disposed of his cotton at war figures, for United States money. His wagoner, having received his reward, deserted, and Berg could find no one to go back with him to the South. He was about to abandon his enterprise of investing in drugs and medicines