Memoirs of Asbury Coward part two, circa 1835-1855

Title

Memoirs of Asbury Coward part two, circa 1835-1855

Description

This journal, written by Coward in 1910 for his children, chronicles approximately the first two decades of his life. In part two, he describes his time at The Citadel and after graduation, the opening of the King's Mountain Military School in Yorkville, SC. This journal is broken up into two parts.

Source

A2009.6

Publisher

The Citadel Archives and Museum

Rights

Materials in The Citadel Archives & Museum Digital Collections are intended for educational and research use. The user assumes all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any claimants of copyright. For more information contact The Citadel Archives & Museum, The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina, 29409.

Format

application/pdf

Language

English

Type

Text

Identifier

https://citadeldigitalarchives.omeka.net/items/show/1339

Coverage

Charleston (S. C.)

Text

[Page 1]

be able to help her, prevailed on sister to visit Cousin Eugenia (Mrs. Octavius F. Folker) in Charleston. She consented to go, and, therefore, a few days after my arrival we carried her to the steamboat for Charleston and my painful parting with her there was the last I saw of her in life. After three or four days of apparent improvement, a severe hemorrhage came on and her sweet spirit took its flight to the longed for spirit home. We laid her by her mother’s side, near by her father’s still fresh grave.

My uncle kept me busy gathering up my father’s cattle, and attending to plantation matters, for there was no under overseer on Quimby plantation, as on the others under my father’s superintendence, because it was his place of winter residence, and, therefore, immediately under his personal over-sight. About the first of December, Uncle Solomon came to visit Uncle James, and it was suggested that I go back with him to Williamsburg to visit my Grandmother and other kindred around the old home place. My thoughtful Uncle no doubt saw that the household gloom was pressing heavily upon me and that this was a good way to give my spirit a change to reach, or at least to recover some of its normal tone. You can readily understand, my dears, that every thing animate and inanimate about the house and

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and the plantation had some association with one or both of the loved ones who had so recently left me.

It was a long journey of about eighty-five miles across the country. Uncle Solomon rode in his own buggy, and I in a new buggy he was taking home for his son, drawn by my own horse which I was to ride back after the visit. - I found my grand-mother to be a tall, rather spare old lady about eighty years of age, still clear eyed, self-reliant and active. She lived on a small farm to which a grist mill was attached; and she had for a companion an old lady who was called by everybody, Aunt Clarkie. I think she was my grandfather’s widowed sister. Of course, Grand Mother was greatly affected on seeing me and had me tell her all about my father and sister. Every now then she would fix her clear blue grey eyes on my face and say, as if to herself, “And this is my dear boy, Jesse’s child”. She had not seen my father in several years, and his children she had never seen. I spent a week visiting among among my relatives and then set out alone on horseback for home. As my pony was strong, active and easy going I ended my journey by mid-day the second day. and that During my absence my step-mother

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and the servants and household belongings had been moved to Windsor plantation. This plantation had been owned and planted jointly by Uncle James and my father during the previous three or four years. The services of a Miss Martha Margaret Johnson of the neighborhood had been secured as nurse and companion; The overseer, an old white man, named Donnerly, had a shed-room in the house, where he slept and had his meals served to him. My step-mother was now confined to bed, and continued so for several weeks.

Uncle James who had taken letters of Administration for my father’s estate and had been made guardian of James and myself, now expressed his preference for my completing my education at the Citadel, the Military College of the state, on account of its being located in Charleston, and of the practical character of its course of studies. That it was his wish and judgment was sufficient for me; boys of fifteen in those days had not advanced to the idea that their judgment was sounder than that of their elders. He calculated that the wages of my share of of slaves would be ample to defray my expenses

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barring reckless extravagance. - All the formalities for my admission as a pay cadet having been completed, I presented myself as directed to the Superintendent at the Citadel at 9 o’clock of the morning of January 1st, 1851. An outline of my experiences at the Citadel is given in an impersonal way in an Article in the Sphinx, the Citadel Annual, of 1910, headed “Cadet Life at the Citadel before the War”. For the sake of historical continuity, as Dr. Shepherd used to say, it would be well for you to read that article just here. Of course knowing that it was written by me, you will have no difficulty in reading between the lines what relates to my personal experiences of the Citadel. (See Appendix). But there were some other experiences not common to all cadets of my class or time. I visited ad libitum on leave hours Cousin Eugenia’s family, also that of Mr. Leman. At the latter, I met the family of your grand-father, Mr. Andrew Blum, and received invitation to call upon them. As the daughters of this family were all music loving, i naturally found the society quite congenial and spent many happy hours there in their company. The youngest daughter, two years younger than I, was

[Page 5]

studying under private tutors in English studies, under Mr. Guinebault in French, and under the best teachers in vocal and instrumental music in the city. In going to the French and the vocal lessons she had to pass by or through, the Citadel Green, now Marion Square, and I felt it incumbent on me to join her as far as my limits would allow. This practice did not long escape the observations of my cadet cronies; who made it their business to notify me whenever the “little pink mantle” was in sight. As she had become a member of the Philharmonic Society, I shortly after became a member also, and together we assisted in the chorus packs of such Oratories, as Mendelsohn’s “Spring,” and “Athalie,” Handel’s “Messiah,” Haydn’s “Creation” Rossini’s “Stabat Mater,” and choruses of the most popular operas of the day. The musical standard in Charleston was then very high, as was also its literary culture. It was the day of Sims, Grayson, Hayne, Pettigru, Memminger, - of Mrs. King, Catherine Poyas and others. The decade from 1850 to 1860, was the brilliant, beautiful sunset that preceded the night of storms and

[Page 6]

and overwhelming sorrows.

The “little pink mantle” came into the last two years of my cadet life. The first two years, my leave nights were usually spent in browsing in the Apprentice’s Library; then kept on the ground floor of the Hibernian hall. I have often felt that this free, discursive reading in that library gave me quite as valuable a scope of knowledge as my subsequent more formal studies. - In the Sphinx article you will note that the two events credited to my class are barely mentioned. This is due to the fact that the article had already exceeded the limit suggested by the Editor, and the propriety prompted the avoidance of personal allusion. The first event came about in this way: one afternoon in April Jenkins, Haskell, DuBose and I were discussing Citadel affairs, especially the little information concerning it that was apparent throughout the State. I expressed the opinion that if the Board of Visitors would order us to make a moving or touring encampment through the State instead of giving us the usual holiday, it would give the people

[Page 7]

the very best opportunity of knowing what the Citadel really was, and would be of inestimable benefit to the cadets themselves. The idea was promptly caught up by the others. Jenkin’s always enthusiastic and impulsive proposed that a letter making the suggestion in the form of an application or petition, should be immediately sent in. To this all agreed, and as I was the proposer of the scheme they insisted that I must write the letter. I wrote the letter and had it placed in the Superintendent’s office box that evening. At office hours the next morning I was summoned to the Superintendent’s office. “What do you mean, Sir, by presuming to dictate to the administration of this institution?” was the rather discomposing question the Superintendent threw at me with an air of affected anger. I began an apologetic explanation which he interrupted by a peal of laughter, and slapping me on the shoulder exclaimed, “Why Coward, that is the best idea in the world, I shall forward your letter to the Chairman Bd. Visitors this very day and urgently recommend the scheme”. He did so, and by return mail, Gen. Jones the Chair.

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B.d of V’s., who was a man of prompt decision, sent his hearty approval and ordered the Superintendent to take at once all needed steps to carry out the scheme. About the 10th of May we took the train to Columbia where the Arsenal contingent would join us, and then we were to learn something of what real soldiership [sic] meant. We spent one day at the Arsenal in this already beautiful little city Columbia, to make necessary arrangements and then took up the line of March for Winnsboro. We made the march in two days and in spite of blistered feet and sore muscles we spent a most enjoyable day there, for after a parade through the town we had a most beautiful al fresco feast, and wound up the day with an elaborate dress parade. From Winnsboro we marched in succession to Chester, York, and to beautiful, restful, rose crowned Yorkville. Here we were also given an elaborate pic-nic, and a delightful dance. There was a female college here and it was a question with the cadets which were the more numerous and beautiful, the girls or the roses of Yorkville. At Limestone Springs, where there was another flourishing Female College, Dr. Curtis the President, “let down the bars” as he expressed it, and the

[Page 9]

the girls became our entertainers. To Spartanburg next, and then to Greenville, Lauren’s and Newbury, - every where, pic-nics, dances and scrumptuous dinings, we were welcome guests. It is well that Mitchell’s colored band which we had brought with us from Charleston, gave us at least three times a day “The girl I left behind me”; otherwise, many a cadet would have lost [illegible] with the girls of Charleston. For my single self, the “little pink silk mantle” would always flight flit before my mortal eyes as a kind of shield and buckles, whenever sparkling eyes, ruby lips, rosy cheeks and sportive wit would threaten to overwhelm me. - I got a week’s furlough at Newberry to spend with my room-mate W.F. Nance (Class 1855) and therefore, did not take the trip from Newberry back to Columbia and Charleston. - The beneficial effect of this tour can scarcely be overestimated. The Citadel and its work was made known and understood as it had never been before, and the cadets had enjoyed the opportunity to test their physical powers and endurance, to refine their social crudities [sic], and to feel the expansion

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resulting from a wider acquaintance with people, places and conditions of the State. Work was resumed with energy.

Shortly after our return I was notified that I had been chosen to make the Fourth of July oration. With reluctance I consented to attempt the duty, and, at once proceeded to write it. After much brain swish I concocted an elaborate allegorical and Sophomorical [sic] introduction to a somewhat tame and unimpressive thesis, and submitted the performance, as required by the Regulations of the Academy, to the professor of belles-lettres. It was returned to me the next day with the professor’s characteristic curt remark endorsed: “The porch dwarfs the temple. Cut it out”; and sure enough there were the condemnitory [sic] lines drawn from top to bottom of the first four or five pages. Of course, I was furious, “What, smother the offspring of so much mental travail?” - “It is brutality”. “The man hasn’t a poetical fiber in his body”, etc, etc. - and such like exclamations broke from me as I threw the manuscript into my table-drawer. It was now the first day of July and there was no time for anybody to get up

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a formal speech and have it criticized and memorized by the fourth. The next morning I took up the now hateful thing and soon recognized the justness of the criticism. It was a rather body-less head, - shaped like a tadpole, and this last conceit made me laugh and I set to work to improve it so that it might pass the critic’s caustic judgment. The “glorious Fourth” came on with full sunshine and all the usual concomitants of cannon salutes, military sunrise parades, civic celebrations, ice-cream and lemonade stands at every street corner, and band music everywhere. At the appointed hour the Citadel quadrangle and the galleries were fairly well filled with dainty muslin costumes. Our program went through without a hitch and I think I said my say without a break. Pink Mantel [sic] with mother and sister was there, and as soon as I left the platform I started to greet them, having in view an invitation to a Fourth of July dinner. But, alas, before I could reach them, two effusive ladies of any acquaintance caught me and began to congratulate me in their most effusive manner. Before I could decently disembarrass myself of them

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“Pink Mantle” and her companions had disappeared and I could not chase after them, as I did not know whether they had gone up town or down, so I lost my Fourth of July dinner of okra-soup, watermelon and ice-cream and had to content myself with Black Simon’s Citadel menu of hash, irish potatoes and rice. However, I unwillingly survived the mishap.

Some time in August it was found that an epidemic of Yellow Fever was again upon the city. The second and third classes - the whole of the fourth was at the Arsenal in Columbia - were nearly all furloughed. My class, with the exception of JD Radcliffe and myself, with some six or seven Charleston boys, were sent to the Arsenal with three of the professors, to complete the year’s work of studies. The excepted ones, being considered immune, were left as a guard for the Citadel which was then a depot of State arms and munitions. It was reported to me by one of the cadets, that in discussing the detailing of Radcliffe and myself to remain at the Citadel while our class continued studies at Columbia, one of the professors said that of course we would have to get as a matter of form. This stung my pride to the quick and I determined to show the Faculty

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and my class-mates that I would pass the final examination with maximum marks, or otherwise refuse to accept a diploma. Under the impulse of this sting I began the only hard studying of my life. From sixteen to eighteen hours a day found me pouring over my books. I began by reviewing all the studies of the year already gone over and then attacked those outlined as the work that would be covered by the final examinations. I had also two addresses to prepare, namely my academic graduating address and a valedictory address for the Calliopean Society. But “Yellow Jack”, as the fever was called, and of which I had no dread, determined to assert his powers. Learning that Tom [illegible], one of my boy friends in the city, had just died of the fever, I called at the his home; was admitted to the death chamber, and I placed my hand on his cold, yellow tinted forehead in token of farewell. Three or four days thereafter I was seized with a fierce fever, and Dr. Hume, the professor of Chemistry and Science, and then in charge of the Citadel, sent at once for Dr. Jervey who had attended me in the attack I had in 1850. They visited me two or three times a day for several days and seemed quite solicitous while the fever was running its three or four day course. About the

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fifth day your grand-mother, Mrs. J. A. Blum, having heard of my illness and of my rather forlorn condition with only a colored hospital servant to wait on me, visited me, and being well experienced in nursing, sent me every day such nourishment as was proper for me to take during convalescence. This attention touched me very deeply, for all through my Citadel life up to that time, I felt very much as a waif. The closely occurring deaths of my father and sister just before my coming to the Citadel, and, about two years later, of my dear Aunt Sarah, had seemed to cut loose all ties of family kindred interest and those coercive influences of family affections that guide and stimulate a youth in the development of his manhood. It is true, there remained my half-brother, James, but because he was over six years my junior, and I had seen but little of him there had not been an opportunity for the growth of such companionship as engenders brotherly affection. Of course, I was sensible of my obligation to care for him, to be interested in his welfare; but it was not of such a nature as so to react upon me to lift me to highest efforts for achievement for his sake, as would have probably been the case if my father or my sister been spared. Innate pride and self-respect kept me from

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degenerating; but the ambition to excel others never affected me. Failure of anything brought the string of mortification, - a zero for a lesson recitation was to me the seal of a numbscull [sic], and I scrupulously avoided it. I could never consent to stand at the foot of a class; but I never cared to be at the head of one, as there seemed to be nobody, but myself to be pleased; and I cared too little to take the trouble to excel. Your grandmother’s unexpected kindness, therefore, gave me the idea that people outside of kindred bonds might take an interest in me and that I might put more ambition in my efforts of every kind in order to please them.

Having lost two weeks of study through my sickness, I began resolutely to prepare for graduation. I must say that for the first time in my life I felt a joy in studying. By the first of November, I had thoroughly gone over all the work required, - and had even supplemented, or expanded some of them; so that I felt ready to challenge the most critical examination for graduation. My graduation address, however, was the cause of much embarrassment to me through no fault of mine. I had been given the subject “Woman’s Rights,” and told

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to write freely so as to allow for elision and compression, as the delivery must not exceed twelve minutes. I had just completed the composition and the copying of it to submit for criticism, when Maj. Capers made a visit of a few hours to the Citadel. On inquiring about my address I told him that I had it just then ready to send to Capt. Tew. He insisted on taking it home with him, to read, and that he would return it by mail or bring it back with him the next week. I told him Capt. Tew had written the day before for me to forward it to him at once. His answer was “Make another copy to-night and send by mail tomorrow.” Well, this meant work all night; and by day-light I had it copied and ready for mailing. In a few days Captain Tew returned the speech with his remarks and condemnations. The pages were a sight to behold. I had expected much elision and compression; but I found it almost impossible to tie together the fragments together so as to make a shapely whole. However, I rewrote the speech the best I could, according to his direction and forwarded it for final approval. A day or two after this Maj. Capers made another short visit to the Citadel and gave me the original speech with his advice as to cur-

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tailment needed to bring it approximately to the time limit for delivery. By way of compliment he told that his father, the venerable Bishop Wm Capers, to whom he read it, had enjoyed it very much. I showed him Capt. Tew’s criticisms and my effort to follow his directions. He said it would not do, and that I must prepare the speech as he, Maj. Capers, wanted it, and that he would make it right with Captain Tew. A day or two after class returned to the Citadel, Capt. Tew called on me to rehearse the speech. Upon asking which speech his wished me to recite, he answered in a cold, precise and somewhat sarcastic manner, “I know of but one speech, and that is the one I approved and returned to you a week ago.” Here was a predicament. Maj. Capers had failed to make things right. I could not brook a zero, or demerits for neglect of duty: so I started off the best I could. Alas, like Buttercup in Pina-fore, “I mixed those babies up”, for though the two speeches had much in common, the differences in many passages completely changed their tone and general effect. I made at once a frank explanation of the circumstances to Capt. Tew, and then had an interview with Maj. Capers, and begged him to exonerate me from any intentional or even seeming disrespect to Capt. Tew -

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whom I sincerely admired. He acknowledged that in the press of affairs in getting the work resumed at the Citadel he had overlooked the matter, and he promised to attend to it the matter that night. He told me to send him both speeches, and that he would return the one decided on the next morning. This he did, and it proved to be the one he preferred, changed only by a short paragraph interchanged. Naturally all this fuss took away all relish for the unfortunate speech.

The second event mentioned in the Sphinx article had its origin in the following way. About a week after my class returned from the Arsenal, several of us were discussing our plans for the future. I stated that while I would enjoy the study of Medicine, I would not like the practice of it, and that I would probably take up the study of Law. But I thought that two or three years of experience in teaching in a school, while slowly taking up the professional studies, would be the best thing a graduate could do for himself; for my experience in making a review of studies for the past year had convinced me that the larger part of a school-boys life was wasted in going over lessons he does not thoroughly comprehend, and most of which he straightaway forgets. Moreover, by introducing the feature of military discipline and methods into the schools

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it would make it much easier for our plebes to pull through their first year. As things now prevail, a boy on coming to the Citadel is dazed and discouraged by the asperities into which he is suddenly thrown, by the uncompromising requirements of discipline, and by the everlasting persecution of the Why’s. While I was thus talking, I noticed that Jenkins seemed to be restless, and finally catching my eye he beckoned me to join him on the gallery. I followed him out, - he took my arm and said “Look here; - how did you get that idea about teaching school and preparing boys for the Citadel? Why only last night Capt. Tew mentioned something of the sort to me. He is in his room now, let’s have a talk with him”. As Jenkins was then Capt. Tew’s Assistant in the Belles Lettres department and free to visit him often, I consented to go. The captain received us [illegible], and Jenkins asked me to state to him the views I had just put forth in our little conclave. Capt. Tew seemed highly pleased as he had entertained similar views as to the beneficial effects of teaching on the teacher himself, and the faculty methods employed in the average schools of the State. He was doubtful as to the practicability of en-

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forcing military discipline without the machinery or authority of State law behind it, but he admitted that much could be done by force of character, earnestness and tact on the part of the teacher or principal. Of course, we thought we could bring all these to bear, for as Fénelon makes Menton say to Telemachus, “La jenesse est toujous presomplacuse; elle se promet tout d'ellemême.” When we left Capt. Tew, our minds were pretty well made up to undertake the scheme. After receiving approval and promises of cooperation from our home authorities, we had other interviews with Capt. Tew who gave us many practical suggestions that contributed largely towards the maturing of our plans. The pleasing impression made on us during our visit to Yorkville in May, its nearness to North Carolina and its accessibility by railway, determined the question of location for our enterprise. - And now the last week of November, bringing Commencement day, was at hand; and everything was astir. An undefined sense of impending change came over me. From every nook and corner of the old Citadel, from the halyards of the flagstaff, from the several class-rooms I had occupied, from the class-room in which, as Mr Gauthier’s assistant, I

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had guided the clumsy fingers of beginners in copying drawing models; - the society halls where I had enjoyed intellectual competitive flights with my comrades; - even from old Motte’s drum and Mitchell’s fife, came flocking associations, each one tugging at some fibre [sic] of my heart. I became haunted by the plaintive melody of “Eve’s Lament- “Must I leave thee - Must I leave thee, Paradise?” While the Citadel was not exactly a Paradise, it had been my home for four years and I had grown to love it and to have a lively interest in its welfare. The day after Commencement I would be outside its gates, seeking another home which I must build for myself. Where, and when, shall I be at home again? This was the momentous question which only the Future could answer.

We went through all the usual graduation ceremonies; I said my speech, got a share of applause, and joined Pink Mantle and party in the lobby of Hibernian Hall. I was cordially invited to dine that day and to stay with them until I left the city. I accepted very gratefully, but had to excuse myself from dinner as I had to hurry back to the Citadel to finish and memorize my valedictory address from the Calliopean Society and to pack up my belongings. The evening came at last, and with it came Pink Mantle and party.

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I made the usual touching adieus to class-mates, comrades and Alma Mater, received my Society diploma and with my two diplomas (Academic and Society) under one arm and the timid fingers of Pink Mantle resting quietly on the other, I slowly walked away from the Citadel - my cadet life ended, - no other life yet begun. - The varied emotions of the day, the bright November stars, the light hand resting on my arm, all conspired to shake off the trammels [sic] of prudence and lure me into the pleasant field of romantic sentiment. We were met at the house with the expressions - “We have been in the house a quarter of an hour”. - “We were wondering what had become of you”. I could only protest that we had come straight home. My coy companion and I knew very well what had become of us; we had become - engaged. Yes, Pink Mantle had agreed to take me, waiting conditions and all. To her mother, I made a clean breast of the matter, whereupon she gave me a most solemn homily on the sacredness of a betrothal. If that homily could be rehearsed to all engaged couples and its wise principles conscientiously carried out, there would be but few broken engagements and fewer divorces heard about.

I carried to bed with me the dread of facing the

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father next morning. I think he must have been about as uneasy about the interview as I was; for he slipped off from the breakfast table before the rest of us and was not seen on the premises until near dinner time. As soon as I met him alone in the parlor, I began to in a very hesitating way to get off my spiel; It was too much for the softhearted old gentleman; so gulping down his emotion he extended his hand, and I knew that it was all right with him. - There still remained the announcement of my engagement to my guardian, Uncle James. I knew he was fond of me, but I knew also his firmness and strong practical common sense, and I looked forward with some uneasiness to his view on the matter. As I had to see him to perfect financial arrangements for our enterprise, I took the first steamer for Cooper River. I spent two whole days with him arranging all the details for money supplies &c. but kept shy of the important subject. On the third day he drove me to the steamboat landing himself and thus forced the opportunity. As soon as we cleared the avenue I began my argument, detailing all the advantages of an early engagement to a young man at the outset of his career, dwelling upon his freedom from social

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embarrassments; - upon his stimulation to highest endeavor; etc, etc. and after nearly an hour of continuous talking, I announced the fact of my engagement. Becoming conscious of a silence, he he [sic] looked seriously at me and said, “Well, Asbury, I have only one word to say, - Get your cage before you catch your bird”. That was all, - my mountain of dread had disappeared, and I had now a clear atmosphere to work in.

As Jenkins had been called home by the sudden death of his father a few days before Commencement and had to return to the Citadel in time to get his diploma, it was necessary for him to go back to his home on Edisto Island, in order to arrange his affairs. I had to go at once to Yorkville to look after all matters preliminary to opening our school on the first of January. On arriving at Yorkville, I was most cordially met by Col. W. B. Wilson, and introduced by him to his brother-in-law, Dr. J. M. Lowry, Mr. John Starr Moore, Mr. W. A. [illegible], Col. R. B. McCaw, Mr. H. F. [illegible], - in fact, to all the prominent and influential gentlemen of the town. Then a lot of land containing about

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nine and ⅝ acres was selected, a school-room rented in the town, and boarding arrangement for ourselves and such pupils as we might bring with us, advertisements ordered in several newspapers, and a short prospectus printed for distribution, were the matters attended to. I then stopped in Columbia a week during the session of the Legislature, ostensibly to canvass for pupils, but in reality, doing nothing but watch watch the wheels of affairs “go round.”

It was pleasanter to go to Charleston, and to spend my last Christmas on Cooper River. - The first of January 1855 found Jenkins and myself in Yorkville, ready to start our great scheme. We started began with twelve pupils, - six or seven from abroad, the others, day pupils from the town. - A rather discouraging outlook, surely, but we started as earnestly as if we had forty. By the end of the first month our numbers reached twenty seven or eight, and by the end of the first session of five months we had forty-seven. The opening of the next session with some sixty pupils determined the success of the scheme and led us to plan for the erection of a building permanent in its character and sufficiently capacious for our purposes. Capt. Tew kindly sent to us a plan for

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such a building, and I drew up another. Jenkins carried both plans to Columbia to submit to Mr. Kay, the architect of the State Capitol. Considering the question of cost and other conditions Mr. Kay decided in favor of my plan, and he was engaged to make out all the working plans and specifications and to supervise the construction. As soon as the specifications were in hand bids were advertised for and the contract drawn. As neither of us was of legal age, it became necessary for us to have guardians ad litem appointed in order to make valid contracts. Col. Wilson, our legal advisor, and Dr. Lowry cheerfully consented to undertake this responsibility. So here we two infants in the eyes of the law were going like full grown men into a ten-thousand dollar contract. Oh, the audacity of self-confident youth! The contract was awarded to Messrs. Hare and Cranford of Yorkville, - the former taking all the brick and stone masonry work, and the latter, all the wood work, and priming.

The second decade of my life ended Sept. 19th 1855. Before entering upon the occurrence,

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the third decade of my life, it may not be amiss for me to say something of one phase of influences in the development of character that has not been specifically given thus far, and this by way of postscript, or inter-mezzo. - The objective influences that go to the making up of the individual man are generally observable and their effects more or less discernible by himself and also by others. The subjective influences, however, are never seen by others, and are not always recognized or appreciated by himself. Intuitional flashes break in upon the consciousness of the inner man which he can seldom analyze, or account for; some of them lasting in effects, others merely evanescent. Sudden unbidden impulses seize his will and set free the springs of action, and thus in a wayward, haphazard manner produce results that may be either good or bad. Again, unutterable, unprompted, unrelated yearnings come upon him; - he knows not whence they come, and yet, they some how fascinate him and bring either pleasure or pain. Why do they come? We know not why, or whence. It may be that they are the means of soul-training;- the soul’s opportunities for acquiring strength and growth and fitness for its ultimate destiny. We will leave it at that.

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Very early in my life, I might say in my baby-hood, it was discovered that I was “possessed of a devil”. Doubtless this statement will shock you; but it is literally true. It was in the form of a paroxysm of Anger, sudden, overwhelming, quick as a flash of lightning and almost as distinctive, which a sharp blow on hurtful ridicule would throw me into, and which, while it lasted, would blind me and render me savagely reckless as to consequences. Fortunately, these paroxysms were of short duration. While I was a little child I was too weak to injure others; but as I increased in age and strength, these fits gave much concern to my father and my sister. They were constantly urging me to practice self control. - A few instances that I now recall will give you some idea of my infirmity. - When I was about four years old, I was trying to fix a little wagon with my sister’s assistance and had great trouble with a little broken nail I was endeavoring to drive. After repeated failures, sister warned me to disist [sic]. But the rising devil was in full possession. Seizing the nail with thumb and forefinger, I brought the hammer down with all my might. The nail dodged again and my thumb and finger caught the blow.

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“Aha. I told you so” said my sister, and immediately she got a blow of the hammer on her forehead. Her piercing screams as she fell backward, brought me to my senses, and brought Aunt Sarah to the scene. My Aunt brought with her the family regulator - a strap with five tails - but the regulator did not produce anything like the effect of the lecture she gave me about Cain and his black mark. That black mark, though it was on my sister’s forehead, haunted me for months - for years, but did not wholly cast out that devil. Often I would run a hundred or more yards to get an axe to destroy a nettle that had stung my bare feet, or a tree root that had snubbed my toe. There would be nothing left of the nettle but a green stain on the sand, or of the root not a chip left large enough to be hit with the axe. - I will mention only one more instance of this devil’s manifestation, not because it was in any wise the last, but because it came within a half inch of fixing the Cain brand on me for the rest of my life. Cousin Sam Lynes being on a visit to us, I bantered him for a race in chopping through a log of firewood. My piece had a hard, black knot in it which so diverted my axe, as to make it give me a fearful

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whack on the side of my foot. With a yell I dropped the axe and grasped my foot with both hands. Sam laughed boisterously. Grabbing up the axe I started for him, and he, knowing my infirmity, started to run around the house. At the second corner I swung the axe at his neck with all my might. The edge missed his neck by a bare quarter of inch, but clipped his coat collar and buried itself in the corner sheath of the house. Just then the brand of Cain came before my mind, I dropped the axe and went in deep contrition to my room. - How could this thing be overcome I was now eleven or twelve years old, and had physical strength enough to do incalculable harm, -even to commit homicide. Shall I, with a disposition to love everybody, and even the animals, around me, consent to become an object of dread, and perhaps end my life as a convicted murderer? These thoughts gave me great distress, as you may readily conceive. I wrestled with it many days and finally resolved to try the following plan: - Whenever the provocation that would arouse the demon came, or threatened to come fix the eyes earnestly on some distant object and count ten. Whether the plan was suggested by something I had heard or read, or was self-evolved, I do not recall, I know it seemed to work [illegible]

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especially when the provocation could be anticipated; in many other cases it failed. In all boxing matches it always failed, because it was inapplicable, for to look anywhere except at your opponent would soon close both eyes so that they could not look at all. Consequently, after I entered the Citadel I had to “cut out” boxing altogether. About this time I read Poe’s Ligeia in which he quotes from Joseph Glanvill the following: “Man doth not yield himself unto the Angels, nor unto death utterly save only through the weakness of his feeble will”. This set me to pondering on the nature and the functions of the human will. I soon reasoned it out that the will could, and should, be trained so as to control absolutely all human actions, - even those movements of the body that are classified as involuntary. With my plan or expedient for checking my violent demon, the will had to direct the eyes and start the counting. Why not the will act directly and control the impulse? Does not a man’s accountability rest ultimately and properly in his Will? Motived [sic] by an enlightened conscience, his will should dominate his whole being. Thereafter, I gave thought to the training of my Will.

Citation

Coward, Asbury, 1835-1925, “Memoirs of Asbury Coward part two, circa 1835-1855,” The Citadel Archives Digital Collections, accessed July 13, 2024, https://citadeldigitalarchives.omeka.net/items/show/1339.