When they reached the home of Col. Bill Splawn it was night and the family had gone to bed. So the hungry army camped in the barn-yard and crept into the hay-loft to sleep. Presently somebody yelled "Fire!" One of the boys had been smoking and had ignited the hay.

Lieutenant Clemens, suddenly wakened, made a quick rotary movement away from the blaze, and rolled out of a big hay-window into the barn-yard below. The rest of the brigade seized the burning hay and pitched it out of the same window. The lieutenant had sprained his ankle when he struck, and his boil was still painful, but the burning hay cured him-- for the moment. He made a spring from under it; then, noticing that the rest of the army, now that the fire was out, seemed to think his performance amusing, he rose up and expressed himself concerning the war, and military life, and the human race in general. They helped him in, then, for his ankle was swelling badly.

In the morning, Colonel Splawn gave the army a good breakfast, and it moved on. Lieutenant Clemens, however, did not get farther than Farmer Nuck Matson's. He was in a high fever by that time from his injured ankle, and Mrs. Matson put him to bed. So the army left him, and presently disbanded. Some enlisted in the regular service, North or South, according to preference. Properly officered and disciplined, that "Tom Sawyer" band would have made as good soldiers as any.

Lieutenant Clemens did not enlist again. When he was able to walk, he went to visit Orion in Keokuk. Orion was a Union Abolitionist, but there would be no unpleasantness on that account. Samuel Clemens was beginning to have leanings in that direction himself.

[5] In an earlier day, barrel hoops were made of small hickory trees, split and shaved. The hoop-pole was a very familiar article of commerce, and of household defense.



He arrived in Keokuk at what seemed a lucky moment. Through Edward Bates, a member of Lincoln's Cabinet, Orion Clemens had received an appointment as territorial secretary of Nevada, and only needed the money to carry him to the seat of his office at Carson City. Out of his pilot's salary his brother had saved more than enough for the journey, and was willing to pay both their fares and go along as private secretary to Orion, whose position promised something in the way of adventure and a possible opportunity for making a fortune.

The brothers went at once to St. Louis for final leave-taking, and there took boat for "St. Jo," Missouri, terminus of the great Overland Stage Route. They paid one hundred and fifty dollars each for their passage, and about the end of July, 1861, set out on that long, delightful trip, behind sixteen galloping horses, never stopping except for meals or to change teams, heading steadily into the sunset over the billowy plains and snow-clad Rockies, covering the seventeen hundred miles between St. Jo and Carson City in nineteen glorious days.

But one must read Mark Twain's "Roughing It" for the story of that long- ago trip--the joy and wonder of it, and the inspiration. "Even at this day," he writes, "it thrills me through and through to think of the life, the gladness, and the wild sense of freedom that used to make the blood dance in my face on those fine overland mornings."

It was a hot dusty, August day when they arrived, dusty, unshaven, and weather-beaten, and Samuel Clemens's life as a frontiersman began. Carson City, the capital of Nevada, was a wooden town with an assorted population of two thousand souls. The mining excitement was at its height and had brought together the drift of every race.

The Clemens brothers took up lodgings with a genial Irishwoman, the Mrs. O'Flannigan of "Roughing It," and Orion established himself in a modest office, for there was no capitol building as yet, no government headquarters. Orion could do all the work, and Samuel Clemens, finding neither duties nor salary attached to his position, gave himself up to the study of the life about him, and to the enjoyment of the freedom of the frontier.

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

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