You Ain’t Worth the Whiskey!
By Morgan Gates
I’ve been reading the 19th century classic Life Along the Mississippi by Mark Twain. If you’re not familiar with this book Mark Twain a.k.a. Samuel Clemens was a renowned author and famous humorist of that era. Much of the first half of the book recounts his adventures as a young Mississippi riverboat pilot in training in the antebellum period. Leaving the profession at the outbreak of the Civil War he returns some twenty years later as a writer and finds the river and the cities along it much changed. The book although based on fact is full of hyperbole and exaggeration, it is first and foremost a book designed to entertain, and Twain’s famously dry wit translates surprisingly well even today.
As he travels from Saint Louis to New Orleans, he recounts his observations and conversations with people along the way. Of course, he visits Vicksburg in this voyage and records his observations and conversations. So, allow me to recount a story of a conversation he had with a Vicksburg citizen, the conversation allegedly happened some twenty years after the siege:
“…we had church Sundays, not many there along at first but by and by pretty good turnouts. I’ve seen service stop a minute and everybody sit quiet. No voice heard, pretty funeral like, then even more so because of the awful boom and crash going on outside and overhead and pretty soon when a body could be heard service would go on again… coming out of church one Sunday we had an accident, the only one that happened around me on a Sunday. I was just having a hearty handshake with a friend I haven't seen for a while and said drop into our cave tonight after bombardment, we got hold of a pint of prime whisky… I was gonna say you know but a shell interrupted. A chunk of it cut the mans arm off and left It dangling in my hand… and you know the thing that is gonna stick the longest in my memory and outlast everything else little and big I reckon… the mean thought I had then, it was “the whisky is saved” and don’t ya know it was kind of excusable because it was as scarce as diamonds and we had only just that little never had another taste during the siege…”
Now keep in mind the by his own words Mark Twain was not a man to let the truth get in the way of a good story but this story syncs quite well with historical accounts of life in Vicksburg that awful summer. So, until next time keep your friends close and your whiskey closer!
Life Along the Mississippi by Mark Twain available from Audio Books published by Mission Audio.