« PrejšnjaNaprej »
commander of the post, Capt. Judd, warmly complimented Burnside in despatches, and recommended him for promotion.
In the winter of 1850-51, Lieutenant Burnside acceptably filled the office of Quartermaster of the Boundary Commission, then engaged in running the line between the United States and Mexico, as established by the treaty of peace negotiated by the two nations. In September, 1851, he was ordered from the Gila River, where the Commission was then en-. camped, to proceed across the vast plains of the West to Washington, as bearer of despatches to the government of the United States. It was a duty which required the utmost vigilance, prudence, and persistence. It was necessary
that the despatches should reach Washington at the earliest possible moment. With an escort of three men-one of whom was his faithful negro servant, whom he had found in New Mexico, and who has since followed his fortunes with a singular devotion-he started on his difficult enterprise. Twelve hundred miles of wilderness, occupied by wild beasts and Indians, many of whom were hostile, lay between him and civilization. He accomplished the distance in seventeen days, meeting with many adventures and hair-breadth escapes upon the way. At one time, a party of Indians was upon his trail for more than twenty-four hours, and he only escaped by taking advantage of the darkness of the night to double upon his pursuers. He fully attained the object of his mission, and was commended by the authorities for his fidelity and success.
During his time of service in New Mexico, Lieutenant Burnside had ascertained that the carbine then generally in use among our mounted soldiers, was wholly unsuitable and inadequate for the peculiar warfare of that region. While upon his journey to Washington, he occupied his mind with an attempt to supply the deficiency. He revolved the subject in his thoughts, and when further opportunities were given him, elaborated his plans, until, as the result of his reflection and study, he was enabled to produce a new arm. He invented a breech-loading rifle, which was vastly superior to any arm of the kind then in the service. It was distinguished for the facility with which it could be loaded, discharged, and cleansed, for its endurance as a serviceable weapon, its accuracy of aim, and its length of range. Other breech-loading rifles have been invented since that time, the excellencés of which have somewhat obscured the merit of this arm. But at the time of its invention, it was beyond question the best of its kind. The inventor was especially desirous that his own country should receive the benefit of his labors, and that our soldiers upon the frontiers should enjoy the protection which a really superior weapon would afford. He offered to contract with the Government for the manufacture of the rifle, and was encouraged by the War Department to feel that his offers would be accepted. Meanwhile, he returned to his former post at Newport. While here, on the 27th of April, 1852, he was married to Miss Mary Richmond Bishop, of Providence.
The expectation of a contract for the manufacture of the newly invented weapon, and the flattering encouragement which he received from the War Department and the authorities at Washington, his marriage, and the peaceful state of the country induced Lieutenant Burnside to leave the service, and accordingly, on the 1st of November, 1853, he resigned his commission. Removing to Bristol, Rhode Island, he built a large manufactory, entered into business arrangements with some of the leading capitalists of the State, and prepared to complete his negotiations with the National Government. Unfortunately for him, the contract was not consummated, and after a few years of struggle and loss, Mr. Burnside became so deeply involved as to prevent any further progress in his adopted occupation. He was still more embarrassed by the action of John B. Floyd, who became Secretary of War in 1857, and who held out promises, encouragements, and inducements, only to disappoint their object. Mr. Burnside therefore soon found himself compelled to withdraw entirely from the manufacture of arms. With characteristic high mindedness and honorable feeling, he gave up everything which he
possessed, including his patent, to his creditors ; and, selling even his uniform and sword, sought to retrieve his fortunes at the West.
The city of Chicago invited the efforts of the embarassed but still hopeful young man.
His old friend and schoolmate, Captain George B. McClellan, had resigned his commission, and now occupied an honorable position in that place as Vice President of the Illinois Central Railroad. Mr. Burnside went to Chicago in the latter part of April, 1858, and there met Mr. William H. Osborn, the President of the road, who proved himself a fast and valued friend. Upon Mr. Osborn's recommendation, Mr. Burnside obtained the situation of cashier in the Land Department of the road. He made his quarters with Captain McClellan, and around a common fireside the two friends renewed the intimacy of former days. Mr. Burnside, limiting his expenses to a certain amount, devoted the remainder of his salary to the payment of his debts; and, when afterwards he was enabled to free himself entirely from the claims of his creditors, his unblemished integrity in business was as conspicuous as his fidelity in the field. In June, 1860, he had won the confidence of the Directors of the Railroad Company to such an extent as to receive the appointment of Treasurer of the Corporation.
By these vicissitudes of fortune, thus hastily sketched, was the early character of General Burnside trained. He had known what it was to struggle against poverty, disappointment, and failure. He had so conducted himself-he had manifested such courage and persistence through all the contest as to attract attention to his true and manly, qualities. The people of Rhode Island had made him the Major General of their State Militia. He had also stood through one political canvass as a candidate for a seat in Congress, and was defeated only by his connection with an unpopular party. In Chicago, he had been widely and favorably known for his energy and his skill in affairs, his geniality in social intercourse, his high sense of honor, and his honest simplicity. By the proper exercise of such qualities he had won his way through all difficulties, till at last he had secured an honorable and lucrative position. Always patriotic, he could not endure the idea of the secession of the Southern States, which had begun to be seriously discussed in the latter part of President Buchanan's administration,
A few months before the war broke out, Mr. Burnside happened to be in New Orleans, and of course the conversation among those he met turned upon the all-absorbing question. * There will be no war,” said his friends.
66 Northern men will not fight. The South will separate herself from the Union, will set up an independent government, and will draw to her the Middle and Western States. We shall do whatever we please, and give laws and government to the continent. The North will not fight, and the South will have an easy triumph.”
“You entirely mistake the character of the Northern people,” said Burnside. They will fight. They never will allow the Union to be broken, and a free government to be thus destroyed without a contest. If you persist in your purpose of secession, there will be war, a bloody' and cruel war. Not only will the North fight, but she will also triumph. The experiment of secession will fạil, and the South, in ruin and desolation, will bitterly repent the day when she attempted to overthrow a wise and beneficent government. Why do you seek redress for what you call your wrongs, in civil war? The first gun that you fire will unite us all-whatever our political opinions may be—in opposition to your attempt. The government will he sustained, and you will suffer a disastrous defeat."
He spoke in sadness, for he deplored war. But he spoke earnestly, for he was thoroughly loyal, and he knew, better than his Southern friends, the spirit of the North. He little thought, at that time, of the extent and severity of the struggle, nor did he expect to become one of the most conspicuous actors in its scenes.
THE FIRST RHODE ISLAND REGIMENT.
HE memorable 13th of April came upon the country not
Fort Sumter was bombarded by South Carolina troops, and the whole North--as Mr. Burnside had predicted—was aroused to arms. Preceding events had prepared the country, in some degree, for the struggle. But it was hardly supposed that the challenge which the South had offered would be so promptly accepted, or that the gage of battle which it had thrown down would be so readily taken up. The North was peaceful. Northern men were engaged in industrial pursuits, and did not seek the excitement, the danger, or the glory of war. But throughout the North there was a deep-seated sentiment of loyalty to free institutions, and
determination that such institutions should not be rudely and needlessly overthrown. Northern men were not pusillanimous, as the South had supposed. They were not, and never have been, quarrelsome. But they had a reverence for order and law, and though they might not at times be willing to resent a personal injury, they would not permit the national integrity to be assailed with impunity. A personal enemy they might not punish. But a public enemy would meet with no favor at their hands.
Mr. Burnside shared in the general feeling. His ardent temperament and his devotion to a principle of duty led him to adopt, with the whole force of his nature, the cause of the government as his own. He was not, politically, a friend of the administration of Mr. Lincoln. But he was a lover of his country. Mr. Lincoln was the constitutionally elected Presi