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Up the Mississippi

Joseph Moore comes to America.

The Wayfaring Stranger (2007) is my first historical novel.  It fictionlizes the journey of my great-great-great grandfather, Joe Moore, an Irish stowaway who came to the Piney Woods of western Louisiana.

This passage tells of his ship entering the Mississippi River and America.

Enjoy!

Joe Moore, my great great great grandfather

He wondered if he would ever see or smell the ocean again. He was heading up the Mississippi River into a new world—into this land called America. For better oHe wondered if he would ever see or smell the ocean again. He was heading up the Mississippi River into a new world—into this land called America. For better or worse, this unknown land seemed to be the place of his destiny. He gave a heavy sigh; however, at the same time an excitement was building in him: This was the land of his destiny. He liked the way that sounded.

The Amelia entered the Mississippi through what was called the Main Pass. It continued for several miles until they turned northward into the main channel of the great river. Joseph stood on the deck and whispered, “Well, let’s see what this new land of destiny has to offer.” Initially, all that he could see in every direction was treeless, stark marsh. The reeds and marsh grass were filled with open spots of water. It was hard to tell where the river ended and the marsh began. As they continued upstream, a small bank appeared on each side of the river that delineated it from the surrounding wetlands.

The ship was now several miles up the Mississippi River. Joseph now spent all of that afternoon watching the land of Louisiana pass. It was hard to believe a river this large existed. Compared to the local rivers of County Mayo, this slithering brown serpent was indescribable. It seemed to stretch a mile wide and was filled with thick muddy water. The rich brown water looked thick enough to walk on. On its surface floated huge trees and other debris. The current of the river swirled, eddied, and nearly seemed to be alive. It had a strong smell that was completely different from any body of water he had been on.

Gill had earlier told him that the Indians named the big river, “The Father of Waters.” Seeing its vastness now, Joe understood that name. He whistled, “What a river!” Gill appeared on deck just before dark. He said, “Man, the river is high. I’ve never seen it this high before. I bet there is flooding upriver.” Then he pointed ahead, “That big left hand turn is called Plaquemine Bend. The Americans have two forts guarding this key spot in the river. “That one on the left is Fort Jackson. The one past it, and on the right side, is Fort St. Phillip. It’s impossible for any ship to pass this spot without coming close to the guns of one or the other.” For the first time Joseph saw an American flag. A huge red and white striped flag with a blue square in the left top corner fluttered in the wind from the rampart of Ft. Jackson.

As they neared, Joseph could see the blue square was full of white stars. Watching the flag, Joseph tried to count the stars. He could see that it had six rows across and five down. He asked Gill, “Why does that flag have what looks like thirty stars?” “I believe it’s for each of their states. Those people keep adding states all of the time so the number changes. Then those red and white stripes represent their thirteen original colonies or states.”

Joseph watched the flag as the ship moved past it. He then saw the same flag flying as they passed Fort St. Philip on the right. These flags reinforced something that was becoming more evident with every minute: he realized he was in a foreign country—a place called America. r worse, this unknown land seemed to be the place of his destiny. He gave a heavy sigh; however, at the same time an excitement was building in him: This was the land of his destiny. He liked the way that sounded.

The Amelia entered the Mississippi through what was called the Main Pass. It continued for several miles until they turned northward into the main channel of the great river. Joseph stood on the deck and whispered, “Well, let’s see what this new land of destiny has to offer.” Initially, all that he could see in every direction was treeless, stark marsh. The reeds and marsh grass were filled with open spots of water. It was hard to tell where the river ended and the marsh began. As they continued upstream, a small bank appeared on each side of the river that delineated it from the surrounding wetlands.

The ship was now several miles up the Mississippi River. Joseph now spent all of that afternoon watching the land of Louisiana pass. It was hard to believe a river this large existed. Compared to the local rivers of County Mayo, this slithering brown serpent was indescribable. It seemed to stretch a mile wide and was filled with thick muddy water. The rich brown water looked thick enough to walk on. On its surface floated huge trees and other debris. The current of the river swirled, eddied, and nearly seemed to be alive. It had a strong smell that was completely different from any body of water he had been on. Gill had earlier told him that the Indians named the big river, “The Father of Waters.”

Seeing its vastness now, Joe understood that name. He whistled, “What a river!” Gill appeared on deck just before dark. He said, “Man, the river is high. I’ve never seen it this high before. I bet there is flooding upriver.” Then he pointed ahead, “That big left hand turn is called Plaquemine Bend. The Americans have two forts guarding this key spot in the river. “That one on the left is Fort Jackson. The one past it, and on the right side, is Fort St. Phillip. It’s impossible for any ship to pass this spot without coming close to the guns of one or the other.” For the first time Joseph saw an American flag. A huge red and white striped flag with a blue square in the left top corner fluttered in the wind from the rampart of Ft. Jackson. As they neared, Joseph could see the blue square was full of white stars. Watching the flag, Joseph tried to count the stars. He could see that it had six rows across and five down. He asked Gill, “Why does that flag have what looks like thirty stars?” “I believe it’s for each of their states. Those people keep adding states all of the time so the number changes. Then those red and white stripes represent their thirteen original colonies or states.”

Joseph watched the flag as the ship moved past it. He then saw the same flag flying as they passed Fort St. Philip on the right. These flags reinforced something that was becoming more evident with every minute: he realized he was in a foreign country—a place called America.

About Curt Iles

I write to have influence and impact through well-told stories of my Louisiana and African sojourn.

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