108 “Georgia Theatrics” (1834) By Augustus Longstreet
IF my memory fail me not, the 10th of June, 1809, found me, at about eleven o’clock in the forenoon, ascending a long and gentle slope in what was called ” The Dark Corner” of Lincoln. I believe it took its name from the moral darkness which reigned over that portion of the county at the time of which I am speaking. If in this point of view it was but a shade darker than the rest of the county, it was inconceivably dark. If any man can name a trick or sin which had not been committed at the time of which I am speaking, in the very focus of all the county’s illumination (Lincolnton), he must himself be the most inventive of the tricky and the very Judas of sinners. Since that time, however (all humor aside), Lincoln has become a living proof ” that light shineth in darkness.” Could I venture to mingle the solemn with the ludicrous, even for the purposes of honorable contrast, I could adduce from this county instances of the most numerous and wonderful transitions from vice and folly to virtue and holiness which have ever, perhaps, been witnessed since the days of the apostolic ministry. So much, lest it should be thought by some that what I am about to relate is characteristic of the county in which it occurred.
Whatever may be said of the moral condition of the Dark Corner at the time just mentioned, its natural condition was anything but dark. It smiled in all the charms of spring; and spring borrowed a new charm from its undulating grounds, its luxuriant woodlands, its sportive streams, its vocal birds, and its blushing flowers.
Rapt with the enchantment of the season and the scenery around me, I was slowly rising the slope, when I was startled by loud, profane, and boisterous voices, which seemed to proceed from a thick covert of undergrowth about two hundred yards in the advance of me and about one hundred to the right of my road.
” You kin, kin you ?”
” Yes, I kin, and am able to do it ! Boo-oo-oo ! Oh, wake snakes, and walk your chalks ! Brim stone and — fire ! Don t hold me, Nick Stoval! The fight’s made up, and let’s go at it. —my soul if I don’t jump down his throat, and gallop every chitterling out of him before you can say ‘quit’!”
“Now, Nick, don’t hold him! Jist let the wild-cat come, and I’ll tame him. Ned’ll see me a fair fight ! Won’t you, Ned ?”
“Oh yes; I’ll see you a fair fight, blast my old shoes if I don’t !”
“That’s sufficient, as Tom Haynes said when he saw the elephant. Now let him come!”
Thus they went on, with countless oaths interspersed, which I dare not even hint at, and with much that I could not distinctly hear.
In mercy’s name! thought I, what band of ruffians has selected this holy season and this heavenly retreat for such pandemoniac riots! I quickened my gait, and had come nearly opposite to the thick grove whence the noise proceeded, when my eye caught, indistinctly and at intervals, through the foliage of the dwarf-oaks and hickories which intervened, glimpses of a man, or men, who seemed to be in a violent struggle; and I could occasionally catch those deep-drawn, emphatic oaths which men in conflict utter when they deal blows. I dismounted, and hurried to the spot with all speed. I had overcome about half the space which separated it from me, when I saw the combatants come to the ground, and, after a short struggle, I saw the uppermost one (for I could not see the other) make a heavy plunge with both his thumbs, and at the same instant I heard a cry in the accent of keenest torture, “Enough! My eye’s out!”
I was so completely horror-struck that I stood transfixed for a moment to the spot where the cry met me. The accomplices in the hellish deed which had been perpetrated had all fled at my approach — at least, I supposed so, for they were not to be seen.
“Now, blast your corn-shucking soul !” said the victor (a youth about eighteen years old) as he rose from the ground “come cutt’n your shines ’bout me agin, next time I come to the court-house, will you ? Get your owl eye in agin if you can!”
At this moment he saw me for the first time. He looked excessively embarrassed, and was moving oft , when I called to him, in a tone emboldened by the sacredness of my office and the iniquity of his crime, “Come back, you brute, and assist me in relieving your fellow – mortal, whom you have ruined forever!”
My rudeness subdued his embarrassment in an instant; and, with a taunting curl of the nose, he replied, “You needn’t kick before you re spurr’d. There a’n’t nobody there, nor ha’n’t been nother. I was jist seein’ how I could ‘a’ fout.” So saying, he bounded to his plough, which stood in the corner of the fence about fifty yards beyond the battle-ground.
And, would you believe it, gentle reader ? his report was true. All that I had heard and seen was nothing more nor less than a Lincoln re hearsal, in which the youth who had just left me had played all the parts of all the characters in a court-house fight. I went to the ground from which he had risen, and there were the prints of his two thumbs, plunged up to the balls in the mellow earth, about the distance of a man s eyes apart; and the ground around was broken up as if two stags had been engaged upon it.