The Luck of Roaring Camp and Other Tales

Condensed Novels

Mary McGillup

A Southern Novel

after Belle Boyd

with an Introduction by G. A. S-la

Bret Harte

“WILL you write me up?”

The scene was near Temple Bar. The speaker was the famous rebel Mary McGillup,—a young girl of fragile frame, and long, lustrous black hair. I must confess that the question was a peculiar one, and, under the circumstances, somewhat puzzling. It was true I had been kindly treated by the Northerners, and, though prejudiced against them, was to some extent under obligations to them. It was true that I knew little or nothing of American politics, history, or geography. But when did an English writer ever weigh such trifles? Turning to the speaker, I inquired with some caution the amount of pecuniary compensation offered for the work.

“Sir!” she said, drawing her fragile form to its full height, “you insult me,—you insult the South.”

“But look ye here, d’ye see—the tin—the blunt—the ready—the stiff, you know. Don’t ye see, we can’t do without that, you know!”

“It shall be contingent on the success of the story,” she answered haughtily. “In the mean time take this precious gem.” And drawing a diamond ring from her finger, she placed it with a roll of MSS. in my hands, and vanished.

Although unable to procure more than £1 2s. 6d. from an intelligent pawnbroker to whom I stated the circumstances and with whom I pledged the ring, my sympathies with the cause of a downtrodden and chivalrous people were at once enlisted. I could not help wondering that in rich England, the home of the oppressed and the free, a young and lovely woman like the fair author of those pages should be obliged to thus pawn her jewels—her marriage gift—for the means to procure her bread! With the exception of the English aristocracy,—who much resemble them,—I do not know of a class of people that I so much admire as the Southern planters. May I become better acquainted with both!

Since writing the above, the news of Mr. Lincoln’s assassination has reached me. It is enough for me to say that I am dissatisfied with the result. I do not attempt to excuse the assassin. Yet there will be men who will charge this act upon the chivalrous South. This leads me to repeat a remark once before made by me in this connection, which has become justly celebrated. It is this:—

“It is usual, in cases of murder, to look for the criminal among those who expect to be benefited by the crime. In the death of Lincoln, his immediate successor in office alone receives the benefit of his dying.”

If her Majesty Queen Victoria were assassinated, which Heaven forbid, the one most benefited by her decease would, of course, be his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, her immediate successor. It would be unnecessary to state that suspicion would at once point to the real culprit, which would of course be his Royal Highness. This is logic.

But I have done. After having thus stated my opinion in favor of the South, I would merely remark that there is One who judgeth all things,—who weigheth the cause between brother and brother,—and awardeth the perfect retribution; and whose ultimate decision I, as a British subject, have only anticipated.

G. A. S.                



Every reader of Belle Boyd’s narrative will remember an allusion to a “lovely, fragile-looking girl of nineteen,” who rivaled Belle Boyd in devotion to the Southern cause, and who, like her, earned the enviable distinction of being a “rebel spy.”

I am that “fragile” young creature. Although on friendly terms with the late Miss Boyd, now Mrs. Hardinge, candor compels me to state that nothing but our common politics prevents me from exposing the ungenerous spirit she has displayed in this allusion. To be dismissed in a single paragraph after years of—But I anticipate. To put up with this feeble and forced acknowledgment of services rendered would be a confession of a craven spirit, which, thank God, though “fragile” and only “nineteen,” I do not possess. I may not have the “blood of a Howard” in my veins, as some people, whom I shall not disgrace myself by naming, claim to have, but I have yet to learn that the race of McGillup ever yet brooked slight or insult. I shall not say that attention in certain quarters seems to have turned some people’s heads; nor that it would have been more delicate if certain folks had kept quiet on the subject of their courtship, and the rejection of certain offers, when it is known that their forward conduct was all that procured them a husband! Thank Heaven, the South has some daughters who are above such base considerations! While nothing shall tempt me to reveal the promises to share equally the fame of certain enterprises, which were made by one who shall now be nameless, I have deemed it only just to myself to put my own adventures upon record. If they are not equal to those of another individual, it is because, though “fragile,” my education has taught me to have some consideration for the truth. I am done.



I was born in Missouri. My dislike for the Northern scum was inherent. This was shown, at an early age, in the extreme distaste I exhibited for Webster’s spelling-book,—the work of a well-known Eastern Abolitionist. I cannot be too grateful for the consideration shown by my chivalrous father,—a gentleman of the old school,—who resisted to the last an attempt to introduce Mitchell’s Astronomy and Geography into the public school of our district. When I state that this same Mitchell became afterward a hireling helot in the Yankee Army, every intelligent reader will appreciate the prophetic discrimination of this true son of the South.

I was eight years old when I struck the first blow for Southern freedom against the Northern Tyrant. It is hardly necessary to state that in this instance the oppressor was a pale, overworked New England “schoolmarm.” The principle for which I was contending, I felt, however, to be the same. Resenting an affront put upon me, I one day heaved a rock1 at the head of the Vandal schoolmistress. I was seized and overpowered. My pen falters as I reach the climax. English readers will not give credit to this sickening story,—the civilized world will avert its head,—but I, Mary McGillup, was publicly SPANKED!



But the chaotic vortex of civil war approached, and fell destruction, often procrastinated, brooded in storm.2 As the English people may like to know what was really the origin of the Rebellion, I have no hesitation in giving them the true and only cause. Slavery had nothing to do with it, although the violation of the Declaration of Independence, in the disregard by the North of the Fugitive Slave Law3, might have provoked a less fiery people than the Southrons. At the inception of the struggle a large amount of Southern indebtedness was held by the people of the North. To force payment from the generous but insolvent debtor—to obtain liquidation from the Southern planter—was really the soulless and mercenary object of the craven Northerners. Let the common people of England look to this. Let the improvident literary hack, the starved impecunious Grub Street debtor, the newspaper frequenter of sponging-houses, remember this in their criticisms of the vile and slavish Yankee.



The roasting of an Abolitionist, by a greatly infuriated community, was my first taste of the horrors of civil war. Heavens! Why will the North persist in this fratricidal warfare? The expulsion of several Union refugees, which soon followed, now fairly plunged my beloved State into the seething vortex.

I was sitting at the piano one afternoon, singing that stirring refrain, so justly celebrated, but which a craven spirit, unworthy of England, has excluded from some of her principal restaurants, and was dwelling with some enthusiasm on the following line:—

“Huzza! she spurns the Northern scum!”

when a fragment of that scum, clothed in that detestable blue uniform which is the symbol of oppression, entered the apartment.

“I have the honor of addressing the celebrated rebel spy, Miss McGillup?” said the Vandal officer.

In a moment I was perfectly calm. With the exception of slightly expectorating twice in the face of the minion, I did not betray my agitation. Haughtily, yet firmly, I replied,—

“I am.”

“You looked as if you might be,” the brute replied, as he turned on his heel to leave the apartment.

In an instant I threw myself before him. “You shall not leave here thus,” I shrieked, grappling him with an energy which no one, seeing my frail figure, would have believed. “I know the reputation of your hireling crew. I read your dreadful purpose in your eye. Tell me not that your designs are not sinister. You came here to insult me,—to kiss me, perhaps. You shan’t,—you naughty man. Go away!”

The blush of conscious degradation rose to the cheek of the Lincoln hireling as he turned his face away from mine.

In an instant I drew my pistol from my belt, which, in anticipation of some such outrage, I always carried, and shot him.



“Thy forte was less to act than speak, Maryland!
Thy politics were changed each week, Maryland!
With Northern Vandals thou wast meek,
With sympathizers thou wouldst shriek,
I know thee—oh, ’twas like thy cheek! Maryland! my Maryland!”

After committing the act described in the preceding chapter, which every English reader will pardon, I went upstairs, put on a clean pair of stockings, and, placing a rose in my lustrous black hair, proceeded at once to the camp of Generals Price and Mosby to put them in possession of information which would lead to the destruction of a portion of the Federal Army. During a great part of my flight I was exposed to a running fire from the Federal pickets of such coarse expressions as, “Go it, Sally Reb,” “Dust it, my Confederate Beauty,” but I succeeded in reaching the glorious Southern camp uninjured.

In a week afterwards I was arrested, by a lettre de cachet of Mr. Stanton, and placed in the Bastile. British readers of my story will express surprise at these terms, but I assure them that not only these articles but tumbrils, guillotines, and conciergeries were in active use among the Federals. If substantiation be required, I refer to the Charleston “Mercury,” the only reliable organ, next to the New York “Daily News,” published in the country. At the Bastile I made the acquaintance of the accomplished and elegant author of “Guy Livingstone,” 4 to whom I presented a curiously carved thigh-bone of a Union officer, and from whom I received the following beautiful acknowledgment:—

DEMOISELLE:—Should I ever win hame to my ain countrie, I make mine avow to enshrine in my reliquaire this elegant bijouterie and offering of La belle Rebelle. Nay, methinks this fraction of man’s anatomy were some compensation for the rib lost by the “grand old gardener,” Adam.



Released at last from durance vile, and placed on board of an Erie canal-boat, on my way to Canada, I for a moment breathed the sweets of liberty. Perhaps the interval gave me opportunity to indulge in certain reveries which I had hitherto sternly dismissed. Henry Breckinridge Folair, a consistent Copperhead, captain of the canal-boat, again and again pressed that suit I had so often rejected.

It was a lovely moonlight night. We sat on the deck of the gliding craft. The moonbeam and the lash of the driver fell softly on the flanks of the off horse, and only the surging of the tow-rope broke the silence. Folair’s arm clasped my waist. I suffered it to remain. Placing in my lap a small but not ungrateful roll of checkerberry lozenges, he took the occasion to repeat softly in my ear the words of a motto he had just unwrapped—with its graceful covering of the tissue paper—from a sugar almond. The heart of the wicked little rebel, Mary McGillup, was won!

The story of Mary McGillup is done. I might have added the journal of my husband, Henry Breckinridge Folair, but as it refers chiefly to his freights and a schedule of his passengers, I have been obliged, reluctantly, to suppress it.

It is due to my friends to say that I have been requested not to write this book. Expressions have reached my ears, the reverse of complimentary. I have been told that its publication will probably insure my banishment for life. Be it so. If the cause for which I labored have been subserved, I am content.

1. NOTE, BY G. A. S.—In the Southwest, any stone larger than a pea is termed “a rock.”    [back]

2. I make no pretension to fine writing, but perhaps Mrs. Hardinge can lay over that. Oh, of course! M. McG.    [back]

3. The Declaration of Independence grants to each subject “the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness.” A fugitive slave may be said to personify “life, liberty, and happiness.” Hence his pursuit is really legal. This is logic. G.A.S.    [back]

4. The recent conduct of Mr. Livingstone renders him unworthy of my notice. His disgusting praise of Belle Boyd, and complete ignoring of my claims, show the artfulness of some females and puppyism of some men. M. McG.    [back]

The Luck of Roaring Camp and Other Tales

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