James Monroe Bankhead Sr. Scroll down for memoirs written by his son: James M. Bankhead Jr.
Images & memoirs were greciously contributed by:
Sarah Correia of Brighton, MA and
Nancy Burrill of San Francisco, CA
in March, 2004
Written by the eldest son of Capt. James M. Bankhead, (1783 -1857) and Ann Smith Pyne 1799-1856
JAMES MONROE BANKHEAD Jr. 1818-1856
(transcription is accurate as to spelling, punctuation and abbreviations; words in italics were crossed out by the author; indecipherable words are transcribed as best guess or indicated by xx(?) where no guess could be made.)
Baltimore March 1854 - I have frequently in my life half resolved that if ever I have an opportunity I would sit down and write a short history of a life, which if it has no other merit may at least come under the head of the eventful, for I very much doubt if there can be found in the state of Maryland anywhere another man who in the space of thirty-six years (the time that I have flourished in this world of ours) has passed through so many various scenes & vicissitudes – narrow escapes from death or worse and – but I won’t anticipate. I shall just begin at the beginning, add nothing, concoct nothing, nothing extenuate nor set down wrought in malice and let my reader or readers if I have any, judge for themselves.
The opportunity that I have been looking for (and which by the by I heartily wished might never offer) has presented itself. One that I can find no excuse for not availing myself - of and so here goes. Suffering from a severe hurt & the effects of the Yellow fever I am by the mandate of the Doctor and the influence of my usual ill luck an invalid and of course a prisoner to my room, with no other resources but those offered by a few volumes which I have read and a half a dozen guises? Of foolscap over which I have not yet scribbled a position which comes as near as possible in my opinion to that which is described as being between the Devil and the deep sea. Under these circumstances I choose the least of two evils & so taking off my coat taking a chew of tobacco and a desperate resolve here I plunge into the veritable history of a vagabond.
Every body I believe as I have heard is born under the influence of some star, by which his course through life is in a great measure regulated. If such is the case my natal star must without doubt have been in a comet, as I can trace a great similarity – between the in the his the course of the one of one through the bright planets stars &c of the other above, to that of its other in his humbler tho’ scare his rapid course over sea and land and among the two legged stars below.
However, hang comparisons somebody says they are odious and I suppose he knew, at any rate I’ll take his word for it and go on or rather begin my story.
I was born on the 27th of May in the year stop I was taught Latin, well anno Domine 1818 in the city of Charleston South Carolina – So you see that by right of birth I can claim the distinguished offer of being if I like both of being Nullifier Secessionist it ich omne genius. &c But as I left Charleston for New York at two months old in the arms of my old black nurse – Mam Crishey. (this was before the good time came for the abolitionists) and have never been back there since, my knowledge of the place of my nativity is entirely pretty much confined to what I have picked up from the geography & the newspapers. My memory tho’ a remarkable good one, is in this deficient, as to what befell me from the house of my birth until I was about five years old, and so I am necessarily compelled to trust to hearsay.
However as the persons who furnished information are people of standing and of best character for piety, charity, honesty & probity, I feel convinced that their statements may be relied on.
I am described as having been one of the finest babies ever born and without exception the sweetest child having a strong resemblance to my Father, at the same time I was the image of my mother, a striking likeness of all of my Grandparents and having a kind family expressions in my face which could be also seen in the faces of all my uncles & Aunts.
My time during the day was generally employed in lying on my back sucking my thumbs and staring at my feet, which for the sake of convenience I kept elevated just over my face – my likeness was painted about this time (I wonder in what position as regards myself the artist stood) I was never known to cry unless I was hungry, sick or a pin was accidentally stuck in me. And so from all things considered it is evident that I must have been a most extraordinary baby.
I always was always from youngest a rambler and wanderer on the face of the earth. I somehow think that I must have been originally indulged. For one of the descendants of Ishmael a Bedouin Arab, and by mistake or accident was born a yankee. My first recollections are of getting lost in New York. I wandered away from the family mansion one morning just after breakfast and was not found again until about ten o’clock that same night. During my absence without leave somebody gave me an apple and took me to see some wax figures. I remember it well. My Father found me in the street and after hugging me in his arms ‘till he hurt me, took me home and gave me a thrashing which hurt me worse. My mother acted in the same inconsistent manner, first covering my face with kisses and my other end with slaps. All the female part of the clan followed suit from my Grandmother to a cousin of twelve and old Mam Crishey followed closed the ball by nearly smothering me in the first place and afterwards spanking me ‘till I was raw before she put me to bed. And what was it all for? For an involuntary act. That miserable star of mine: that comet! I am sure it was a comet, had begun to exert its influence visibly.
I went to several day schools in the city of New York for during the next year or two, but when before I got to be eight years old. My Father thinking probably that I would be spoilt at home by over indulgence or from some theory of his own on the subject of education, determined to send me to a boarding school and so I was packed off to one at Jamaica Long Island kept at that time by a Mr. Eidebrought. Several months passes there in the usual school boy routine of grammar and thrashings, during which time I only ran away once, when from some unremembered cause I was transferred to St.John’s College Annapolis. I remained there only about six months of what took place during that time I have scarcely any recollection except that I was elected captain of a company of juvenile warriors soldiers and had the unenviable distinction of being pronounced by the masters the most incorrigible young scamps in the school.
I was transferred to a school at Garrison Forest boarding at the in company with a dozen more at the house of a gentleman farmer by the name of Lyons and attending a school kept on the premises. One Dominic was also a fellow boarder. I was here about nine months but me Father coming to reside at the home close to the establishment. I was again under home influences for a few months and that being contrary to the system which my good old Father he had laid down for my benefit I had to prepare for another journey. It was determined at this time to send me to an institution at Round Hill Northhampton, managed be MSRS Coggswell & Bancroft – the later has since been in the Cabinet and our Minister to England. It was then considered the best school in the country and certainly was the most expensive.
There were a great many lads from the southern states there besides myself and from the popularity of the establishment of course many from the neighborhood. As will almost always happen at schools under those circumstances, there were two distinct parties formed who regarded each other feelings anything but cordial. It was only on certain occasions that feeling this would not be apparent and those were when the Hill boys were engaged in one of our numerous encounters, with the town boys or as we called them the Yankees. Then the spirit de corps which animated each juvenile bosom would do away with any doctrinal difference and during the fray & for a day or two after the utmost good fellowship would exist, but as the blood grew cool & the remembrance of what heated it grew faint the old feelings of dislike woul would return and North & South. Jackson & Adams would be the leading South & North points in most of our in which many a conversation hinged.
I know I had many a hard fight in the attempt to convince some obstinate descendant of the Pilgrim that Baltimore was a better place for fun than Boston.
I remained at Round Hill for two years and improved very much in my efforts & attribute that entirely to the system pushed(?) There was no flogging. The professors were the best that could be procured and we were treated like gentlemen and Sports(?) Our table was furnished plentifully & of the best. There were very good sleighs & a fine stable of Ladino(?) horses; we were divided in to riding classes & one class rode out every afternoon. There was a gymnasium attached in which we exercised daily and no case or expense was spared to insure both the mental and bodily improvement of all. The only sad reminiscence I have connected with Round Hill is that poor old Joe Coggswell spent a fortune on it instead of making one as he deserved. I may as well remark en passant that good as the place was I ran away twice during the two years. The first time my companion & myself were brought back in a wagon in a most inglorious manner by the head waiter Newton or Fat Peter as we used to call him being caught on the road to Chesterfield & the second time in the attempt to cross the Connecticut River on the ice we broke in – having come to the conclusion that it was almost too far to walk to Boston. We very quietly came back & as we had not been missed & no one had been aware of our intention we thought it as well not to enlighten them.
There were about two hundred boarders at Round Hill at the time I was there their ages varying from eight to eighteen and to confess the truth taken on the average a hard lot they were especially the Southerners. I expect the farmers in the vicinity wished that Round Hill had been located in a place not to be mentioned to ears polite rather than where it was for a considerable portion of their fruit poultry eggs &c found a very different market from that contemplated by the owners thereof. I cannot exactly define the difference between stealing and hooking, but I know & felt at that time very strongly too that there was a very great difference; now to steal anything was mean dirty – ungentlemanly. But to hook anything from Old Fat Peter or the farmers was fine capital manly, independent of the eating it afterwards which was fine fun too. If you wished to complement a Round Hill juvenile you could not do it more effectively than by telling him he was a first rate hand to hook apples, whereas if through ignorance you were to allude to stealing the said apples a fight was just as certain to take place between you as it is at present between the Russians & English & it would depend entirely upon the disparity of yr sizes whether Round Hill made his first attack upon you with fists or brickbats but get it you certainly would in some way or another and hard at that.
Practice they say makes perfect and - the Round Hillers all fought well.
The great drawback to juvenile happiness at the Hill was the dungeon - an infernal dark place of straw & buffalo robe with three doors. There after an unsuccessful foray – a fit of idleness or some other bad luck, a gentleman might amuse himself for twenty-four hours in moralizing – repenting or planning, singing & listening to the rats without fear of the slightest interruption except an occasional short visit from Fat Peter with who would be so kind as to bring you him some bread & water and ask if you he were cold enough without ever staying long enough to hear your his answer. Stopping yr riding lesson keeping in & going to the side table where you eat your sheep meat standing and took no dessert /& sometimes took nothing but a look at every body eating except yourself / were the other models resorted to at Round Hill to check the playful exuberance of animal spirits & to tighten the intellect.
At the close of my second year at Round Hill I went home to spend the vacation
& during that time met with the first of my many narrow escapes. Oh! That was a holyer(?) My long absence I suppose made my presence doubly welcome & if the truth must be told I always was a favorite child with both my parents from the fact probably that I gave them more trouble than all the rest of their olive branches put together. I now shed my jacket & mounted my first coat, had a gun a dog a watch a pony all my own exclusive property. Didn’t turn down my first collar and began to talk to the girls I was going it with a perfect looseness as the saying is when my innocent pastimes were suddenly interrupted & my exemplary life nearly put an end to by a little occurrence which as it was the first of my narrow escapes I’ll mention.
My father was at this time living at the Arsenal at Pikesville about eight miles from Baltimore. There were only a few soldiers stationed there for the purpose of keeping the place in order but not enough for any thing like military parade. All national festivals however were celebrated by a display of fireworks. Sending up rockets &c. which were made by the various officers attached to the post. The fourth of July was approaching and great preparations making to celebrate the event in a proper manner when the accident alluded to above took place. In the rear of the Arsenal was a very large two story frame house the upper part of which was used as a storeroom – the lower as a work shop for the manufacture of the various combustibles appertaining to war & festivals.
On the day in question (the third of July) there were four persons in this lower room three of them employed in making rockets – the fourth (my worthy self) was there I suppose because it was just the last place in the world I had any business to be. Two of the numbers were making cases for the rockets out of many sheets of brown paper- they were both enlisted men, the one the principle Cyclops of the post & the other the commanding officer’s clerk. The third the Sergeant Major was loading the cases with an operation he performed with a large wooded mallet & a copper instrument something like a small gun rammer. I was sitting by his side stirring up the composition that he was ramming & pounding into the case. I don’t know what it was except that the Sergeant said it was something the same as powder only a great deal stronger - & as he had just poured a half gallon of Alcohol into the box I saw no reason to doubt him. Everything was going on finely – more than two-thirds of the rockets were finished – the rest would be done by dark.
I was in the middle of a very interesting account of a race that came off that morning between the pony Dandy ridden by self and carriage horse Pete ridden by David the co Uncle Davey the coachman, from on the turnpike from the milestone at Tarmount tavern to the Arsenal gate, Pony having one hundred yards start and in which by the way we got beat ‘tho’ I had not time to tell the Sergeant so. When from some unknown & inexplicable cause the rocket that the Sergeant he was at work at exploded. Of what happened during the next minute I have never been able to give a very clear account. This much I know, at the first flash I jumped for the door followed by the other two men (Kelly & Lambertson) several sharp flashes & explosions occurred before we reached it. I got to it first but it opened inwardly & the two men behind me were shoving madly & wildly against me prevented its being opened. There was a good deal of combustible manure in the house both in the tower – upper apartment & I knew it. I felt that the flashes we had had were only the rocket loading but that when the fire reached the stores ordnance stores, we should catch it have a flash a crash & a smash about which there would be no joke – I hadn’t long to be in suspense while tugging desperately at the tugging door in the vain hope of getting it back, a blood red fiery flame seemed to fill all space accompanied by an awful noise a kind of combination of a roar a howl & a hiss - (My blood runs cold now at the thought of it) and I felt myself moving pretty fast in some direction of the other without any act of volition on my part then all was still & dark. It couldn’t have been more than a half minute before I recovered consciousness. My first thought was am I hurt? And a thrill of delight ran thru’ me as I mentally answered myself.
Now my next idea was to get clear from the mass of rubbish under which I was buried, which seeing that as it consisted of planks rafters & shingles enough to build a tolerable sized house not beside a large Irish blacksmith. I think I accomplished in pretty good time say two minutes. Kelly stared and stared at me & I returned the complement, our faces were blacked & our clothes torn but we were both unhurt. On looking around I saw Lambertson about a hundred yards off turning going round & round like a man practicing waltzing only he turned the wrong way until he fell. He was frightened into a fit as for he was not unhurt as I discovered afterwards. A large number of planks & other lumber it laid on the scattered or lying in several places over the spot spot where the house had stood but the good old Sergeant was no where to be seen. The noise of the explosion had startled every body in the neighborhood & by this time quite a crowd had collected from of farmers idlers waggoners negroes & workmen from the arsenal the latter bringing the fire engine with them. I pointed out as near as I could where the sergeant was sitting when knocked down by the exploding rocket & by keeping the engine playing on the spot the fire was kept back from that while the crowd worked manfully to remove the rubbish. Their exertions were soon rewarded by the sight of his smock frock and soon after of himself, he was soon dragged out to the joy of everybody for over & above the satisfaction that any one would feels at having saveding a human life everybody liked old Sergeant Corbett. He had lost the skin and whiskers off his left cheek, some of his hair & had his eye banged up but otherwise he had was as sound as a dollar. After getting him out the fire was let to burn and all the pieces of the house that were scattered around some of them a hundred yards off were added to the bonfire. The worst of it was all the fireworks were burst too.
It was very near turning out a most serious matter for just just opposite to the Laboratory at the distance of not more than thirty feet there stood a small brick store house containing from fifty to a hundred barrels of combustibles. The concussion of air produced by the explosion was violent sufficiently violent to burst the doors of this house wide open. luckily no fire found entrance for had that been the case the fire would have communicated from it to the great magazine / standing about fifty yards in the rear & containing some five thousand barrels of powder. I have an idea that if that had blown up, the good people in the neighborhood would have been treated to a shower of stones & a burst of thunder not set down in the programme. Alls well that ends well & that was the sentiment prevailing in this case. I went to home to be hugged kissed washed and dressed and I’d wager & wager win that my Father considering a man that he was free white & twenty one had the blackest faced wife daughters & nurse maids that day of any man in the state of Maryland. They took it nearly all off of my face rendering washing almost superfluous. I don’t know whether it was the blow up that reminded me made me more precious than before in parental maternal eyes, but either from that or from some other cause it was decided that the dear boy should not be send such a dreadful long way off to school & so some place nearer home had to be found. and an institution called Mount Hope about five miles from home & about three from Baltimore was fixed on as the scholastic year commenced at Mount Hope three weeks before sooner than it did at Round Hill I was shamefully done out of more than half my vacation which fact did not tend to make me regard my new Alma Mater with very much cordiality.
Mount Hope had not been established very long & didn’t rate more than sixty scholars the principal and proprietor was a yankee named Hall who with two able assistants dispensed let the dead modern languages, matematks &c most scien on the most improved principle & birch rods with the most praise worthy liberality & impartiality. I did not like my new school view it in any light I would independent of the flogging there was the uniform the most hideous & uncomfortable dress ever invented. A little blue coat with three rows of bright brass buttons & not tail enough to swear by, and a bather cap with a top to it like a boy’s kite painted black, another disagreeable was the having to run a mile before daylight every morning to give us an appetite for our studies books I suppose for immediately after our race we spent two hours in the study hall immediately after before breakfasting.
I wish that somebody would explain to me why there is in all of the descendants of Adam & especially in the female & juvenile portions an impulse in most cases totally irresistible to do any one thing that they are particularly cautioned against. I am not philosopher enough to say why it is so I only know it is so. Just tell a woman that any forbidden book is not proper for her to read. My life on it she has it read thru’ before the week is out. Give a boy the run of three orchards & forbid him the fourth & then see if what I have advanced isn’t true. The forbidden fruit is the only eatable fruit to him in the country. Paddy Hall showed that he was a tolerable good judge of human nature when he drew up the code of regulations for the government of his shop. Now Mount Hope was rather(?) near the city, there were no high walls to clime no watch man at night nothing to prevent a fellow from going off to town a dozen time a week if he liked and coming back safe & sound and no body the wiser of it. It was so easy to do that scarce any body ever took the trouble to do it, but that was not the thing. One of the most prominent features in the code was a strict injunction against running away, with a list of penalties to which the fugitive rendered himself liable. For The first offence he was only flogged on his being loved least(?), but if he was so hardened as to make a second Exodus why the thing was out with him.
The Classic gates of the Institution were slammed in his face. His Alma Mater refused to open her maternal arms to receive the prodigal. In plain English if you ran away twice the second time old Paddy wouldn’t take you back. Now as his terms were six months in advance for board & tuition and as most of those who were going to run away at all did it early in the term, it was not a bad spec for him. I always gave him a great deal of credit for the idea. It was not quite equal to his country man’s wooden hams but still it was good, very good. I can answer for myself & I suppose it was the same with the rest, that none of us would ever have thought of running away had not we been reminded of it by being forbidden to do so - but as the case stood, there was scarcely a week passed but we were called on for either to console with some chum who had just taken his thrashing for his first journey, or to bid goodbye to another who had come for his books and clothes after concluding his second. Nice place this was for me with a comet for a natal star and a natural tendency to bolt. I forget exactly how long I stayed at Mount Hope but as near as I can remembercollect I finished my half year in something under ten weeks.
As to the causes that produced this result I they I will state for the benefit of the rising generation of scholars (should any read these memoirs) so that they may be enabled to avoid or follow in the footsteps of their fathers illustrious predecessors as the case may be. The first time I levitated(?) was after I had backed off a tolerably severe dose of birch. There was nothing either to gain or lose by that for I had had all the flogging I was going to get for the offense but it was fashionable to run away after having been thrashed & I always like to be in the fashion. I had a much better reason for setting off on my journey the second time for then I went to escape an interesting interview with old Hall in the flogging room in which I should have been certain to come off second best. If I had to have been arraigned for the offence with which I stood charged in an impartial court I should have waited and stood my trial conscious that my innocence my good character &c would have boosted(?) me triumphantly clear. Especially as all the evidence against me was circumstantial. But when as old Paddy was to be the judge jury & prosecuting attorney at the same time coupled with the fact that he had had it in for me for some time back & was only waiting for a good opportunity to let it out on me I thought discretion to be the better part of valor and so avoided the ordeal.
As none of my readers can be prejudiced either one way or the other I will just state the case and let them form their own conclusions. One might between the house of eleven & twelve o’clock when everyone in the establishment was or at least was supposed to be in the buried in the sweet slumber that always attends a virtuous clear conscience and a virtuous mind there arose in the long passage from which our rooms opened the most diabolical moan that ever astonished the inmates of a modern classical Academy. At first One first impression was that half the cattle in the neighborhood had chosen that sacred spot for an assembly room and were amusing themselves by a in going thro’ the hop waltz to the accompaniment of their own voices. Some doors began to open & shut slam & many voices in accents of ensuing astonishment and alarm mingled with half suppressed titterings and roars of laughter were added to the already almost overpowering hubbub. What the devil was is it? Was Nobody could or would answer that question and as it was as dark as pitch no one could discover for himself. However lights began to glimmer at the foot of the stairs – soon the assembly was augmented by the presence of the august Paddy(?). The two ushers the outdoor workmen & three female members of the faculty attached to the victualling(?) department. I never shall forget Old Hall’s look of indignant horror when the cause of the disturbance met his eye. Two large calves & a small jackass were galloping back & forward the length of the passage & baaing & braying as tho’ there had been a wager on the a prize medal dependant on the issue. He issued immediate orders for the arrest of our new visitors which was effected after considerable difficulty & some slight damage to the parties employed which consisted of the ushers the Irish workmen & some lion hearted volunteers from among the boarders. To the everlasting shame of some dozed (myself included) be it spoken, we were afraid to venture near the dangerous animals until they were fast tied. Upon investigation a long rope which had been cast off from the large bell & an open window showed clearly enough how the strangers had gained admittance, but it also showed clearly enough that they must have been aided and abetted in their ascent by some person or persons within. There must be traitors in the camp. Who were they? Nobody had the slightest idea. To judge from their expressed opinions on the subject the young gentlemen at the Mount Hope Institute were severally schocked, horrified astonished & indignant at the atrocious proceeding.
Paddy formed his own conclusions I suppose & I was inclined to think that they were not the most favorable toward some of us, for when I expressed as my opinion that a joke was well enough in its way, but that this was carrying the thing entirely too far he regarded me with an expression of countenance the very reverse of friendly. However as there seemed no chance of making any getting to the pursuing his investigation with any hope of success that night. The assembled crowd were on the point of dispersing to their several places of rest. The human portion going on their own legs & the brald(?) portion on the backs of the Irishmen when a trifling but very unfortunate occurrence changed the whole aspect of affairs.
As Dennis & Mike lifted the largest & most obstreperous of the calves on their backs, he the xxxx(?) Came more into the light that he had been while lying on the floor and something attached to his foreleg became visible.
What is that Dennis? Demanded old Hall pointing to the appendage in question. By Jakes replied Denny. It’s a handkerchief says Dennis. Take it off and hand it to me. Had any disinterested spectator been present at this time I don’t doubt but he would have been struck by the sudden & unpleasant change in countenance that was exhibited in the faces of some of the assembly. The handkerchief was with a little difficulty untied and handed to Mr. Hall. The most profound silence reigned not a word not a motion scarcely a breath could be heard as he slowly untwisted the cursed rag and looked eagerly on the corner for the number – for at Mount Hope here as at all other boarding schools that I ever was a member of each scholar had a number which served him in lieu of a name in all domestic arrangements.
As for myself I might as well state that I had recognized the wipe in question as one of my own & that the time occupies in its transit from the leg of the calf to Old Hall’s hands was buy no means the pleasantest I had spent at Mount Hope. At last his search was crowned with success & the dead silence was at length broken by his thundering out in his very sternest tomes the words twenty-six…very innocent & simple words in general but on the present very pregnant of meaning to a gentleman about my size. Stand out twenty-six and answer for yourself was the next sound that broke the silence startled those with weak nerves. To hear was to obey in this case and so twenty-six, in my innocent person accordingly stood out. Paddy Hall wasn’t the best looking man in the world even when he was clean shaved & had his Sunday coat on, but he never looked uglier (to my eyes at least) than he did on the present occasion as spectacles on nose gowned & nightcapped he I stood before him an. I don’t know why but as I looked at him I couldn’t help thinking of Pontius Pilate. He was in such a devil of a rage that he could hardly speak but when he did begin Lord didn’t I get it. You audacious vagabond You graceless scamp you you. How dare you be guilty of such an atrocious piece of villainy. I didn’t have anything to do with it sir I replied. What sir? He exclaimed do you dare to stand there and tell me such an abominable falsehood adding mendacity to the rest of your already unpardonable misdemeanors.
I am neither adding or taking away anything about it Sir I said rejoined. All I have got to say is I don’t know any thing about it. How then Sir? Did your handkerchief get on the animal’s leg. I couldn’t pretend to say, was in the habit of losing handkerchiefs. Lost one more than a fortnight ago though I’m almost sure that was it. As to the noise knew nothing about that whatever. Had been fast asleep ever since we were dismissed to our rooms at nine o’clock. Sorry Mr. Hall had such a bad opinion of me. Wouldn’t be guilty of such a thing &c. I received very unexpected aid at this moment from two quarters. One individual (a particular friend of mine) remembered distinctly my losing the handkerchief. He & I were chasing a rabbit in the swamp at the time when the loss occurred & heard me say at the time that I was always losing handkerchiefs. The other witness (my roommate a little Frenchman) named Gandry assured Mr. Hall on his honor at the same time offering to get his Greek testament and swear on it if Mr. Hall wished that I hadn’t anything to do with the calves or the donkey either. That he (Gandry) was suffering from the tooth ache & hadn’t been able to get to sleep that night.
So that there could be no doubt of the truth of what he advanced. He averred that on reaching our room I had gone immediately to bed had fallen asleep in less than two minutes had slept so soundly that he (Gandry) quite envied me. That when the uproar was at its height, it had failed to awaken me in fact that he had to shake me very roughly before I woke. He didn’t remember ever to have seen any one sleep as sound as I did.
Now here was direct evidence in my favor enough to have cleared me with any impartial jury & judge from any charge but it had no effect of the sort on Paddy the unbelieving old rascal for he very coolly intimated to the two respectable witnesses for the defense that he considered them both to be a pair of young villains to whom lying came as naturally as sleeping and that they had better save their eloquence for their own defense instead of throwing as he had every reason in the world to believe that they as well as several more, whose names for the present he would forbear mentioning, were my accomplices in the nefarious business on hand and that if upon a direct investigation they did not give him the most entire one clearest proof of their innocence they should overall receive the same punishment that he had already determined on administering to me in the morning viz. the most severe thrashing I had ever had in my life. But Mr. Hall I said its hardly ain’t fair to flog a feller for nothing and I’m innocent. Silence you audacious villain! Thundered out the professor. Don’t dare to speak again you graceless scamp your falsehoods only add to your crime & shall not be forgotten by me in the morning I have been waiting sir! Yes sir waiting sir patiently for some time back to catch you sir & I have succeeded at last sir I have had my eye on you for some time sir. You are the worst boy I ever had under my tuition perfectly incorrigible. You have unfortunately succeeded in making many here nearly as bad as yourself. Nearly as bad I said sir for to make them quite as bad would be impossible. There have been many acts of wickedness committed here latterly which were unknown among us before your advent & tho’ morally certain that you were the author of them still I could not make myself sufficiently sure of it to bring you to punishment. But now I have got you. Caught you in the very act no possible doubt as to your guilt and as sure as I am the president of this institution I’ll pay you off for the whole while I am about it. To your rooms everybody.
This last mandate had the immediate effect of dispersing the crowd crowd we poor innocents to our several rooms while Paddy the ushers & the women going downstairs to theirs while we poor injured innocents sought our respective rooms. I moved off with the rest, the particularly flattering eulogiums with which I had been favored still ringing in my ears and it was with a very left handed blessing on all calves donkies Paddy xxalls(?) & handkerchiefs & bad luck that I slammed to the door of number 26 and threw myself on my bed. My roommate was already stretched out on his, amusing himself by humming some favorite air & in anticipation of the future which to judge from the expressions of his countenance were not of of the pleasantest description in the world. Our reveries were not long uninterrupted. As soon as all was quiet downstairs visitors by twos and threes began dropping in until all the fast young men about the establishment which included about three fourths of the whole number, were congregated in my apartment.
Hello Tim old fellow says one Devil of a go this ain’t it. Lord ain’t old Paddy savage. My word but you will catch it. How could you be so d—d careless! Why I assume. Why damn it man, I replied. I hadn’t anything to do with that red one. Aleck & Bill & them were casting him adrift while Gantry & George & me were fixing the spotted fellas – All eyes were immediately turned on Aleck & Bill & co wlxxxas(?)t to clear themselves from the indirect charge for an explanation. (Aleck as being commander of the squad acted as spokesman.) I am damned sorry old feller but couldn’t help I no how you can fix it. I thought I had em all off but you know it was so dark I couldn’t tell certain and just as I was feeling all over to make sure, you let yours up & Bill & Sam let go of ours he was the biggest one too & as strong as a horse I held on as long as I could, but I thought sure thing they were all off and just then he gave me such a devil of a kick with his hind feet that I had to let go. Just look here says Aleck holding up the shirt of his only garment and exhibiting twp blue impressions on his ribs By jingo he fairly knocked the wind out of me. But I tell you what Tim he continued it was all my fault tho’ by accident and it isn’t right you should be bilked for it so I’ll go to old Paddy tomorrow and say it was us Bill & me & Sam agreed to that just now before we came in. Of course I positively vetoed any such act of devotion on the part of my allies, and after some trouble & a great deal of talking these self devoting heroes allowed themselves to be convinced the more – especially as I announced declared my intention of getting myself clear of the whole business by running away that night.
This announcement was received with unanimous applause by the whole party & preparations were set about immediately to fit me out for the road. Gandry who had gone down to see if the course was clear returned at this moment to say that old Paddy probably anticipating some such movement had locked the big door & taken the key away. All our plans were very near being knocked in the head by this piece of intelligence when I suddenly remembered the bell rope if it was strong enough to bear the weight of the donkey it was strong enough to bear me & so that difficulty was removed. My preparations were soon made a collection of all the levies & pips in the crowd had been made for my benefit & with the sum total in one pocket and about two dozen keepsakes in the shape of knives & pencil cases in the other I prepared for my descent. One end of the rope was paid down ‘till it touched the ground while half a dozen of the biggest of the party held on to the other end. I shook hands all round and letting myself slide down the rope was I was soon safe on terra firma.
On first leaving Mount Hope I had several immediate plans floating thro’ my brain of going to sea turning race rider or joining a circus company any and all all or either of which at that time was my beau(?) ideal(?) of what every thing was constituted a desirable state of existence in the world but on reflection I concluded determined to abandon the idea and go home to which conclusion I was materially aided by suddenly meeting our carriage with my mother inside of it in Baltimore street. I was The old lady was expressed herself considerably surprised at finding me looking at the fashions in the city instead of being in the pursuit of knowledge under difficulties in the country, and waited for getting me inside having got me in the carriage by the side she waited for explanations. I told her the truth, that is very nearly the truth explaining how I was to have been flogged that morning on circumstantial evidence eschewed all knowledge of the cattle and waited for the result. My dear mother bless her heart viewed the matter with very different eyes from Old Paddy. She declared it was shameful to punish that I should be punished without positive proof that I was guilty that she was rather glad that I had left as she did not think I was improving much & that I was not looking well. She added Father had gone out on to the north for a day or two but she expected him home on the morrow – that she was just going to start out for home the arsenal and as Mount Hope was on our way we would call & I could get my trunk & books, while she could convey to Mr. H her opinion of his conduct.
So far. Well – every thing was done as she planned I went to Mt. Hope got my paraphernalia bid my chums another triumphant farewell stuck my tongue in my cheek at old Paddy & arrived home to a hearty supper. I had some slight misgivings to the views my Father would take of the matter upon his arrival and time showed that my forebodings were not groundless. He reached home early the next morning to an early breakfast. Before ten o’clock I had endured the pains attached to attending a very sharp reprimand long lecture a flogging & a separation from my mother & the girls distress. Before twelve the carriage had conveyed the old gentleman and myself to Baltimore. The stage drove took us to Washington before sundown and when I went to sleep that night it was in the dormitory of the Jesuit College at Georgetown of which time honored institution I had become an unworthy member. I remained at Georgetown until the end of term (about seven months) without anything of importance occurring. I behaved myself remarkable well all things considered made a fair progress in my studies and with the exception of an occasional thrashing had nothing to complain of.
At the close of the collegiate year I went home for the holy days & found every thing body well & delighted to see me. I had injured my right hand sometime previous to this and was undergoing medical treatment for it. at the time my vacation expired and as it was thought injudicious to remove me from the care of the physician then employed it became & who resided in Baltimore it became necessary to look out for a new knowledge shop(?) & somewhere in this vicinity. Another Roman Catholic institution was fixed upon and at the proper time I became a boarder at St. Mary’s Colleges. I remained at St. Mary’s nearly two years and might probably have stayed longer had it not been for a trifling incident & that was they expelled me. It is a long time to look back now and so I won’t enter into the details concerning my career at St. Mary’s. It was a first rate place for a parent or guardian to send a youth who was born & bred with the rather hard to manage and who did not incline to literary pursuits his books. It was very hard to get up anything like a spree utterly impossible to do so without detection and We had moderately sized play grounds out of which surrounded with very high brick walls outside of which we were only allowed to go once a month and not then if anything like a black mark stood against your name in the weekly reports of the professors for the preceding month.
Here I remained under surveillance two years. It was more than my boy’s nature could endure. I felt My comet had destined me for other things and after one eventful thrashing I bolted for the sea on which strong element my subsequent life has been passed. The boy is father to the man the grain of what contains the whole stalk and ear, ---------- with all my ship-wrecks fortunes losses and loves what has been of half such significance in my life, as the fifteen minutes of reflection, when sitting on my small white bed in the dormitory of the Jesuit College I made the resolve which voiced all my former longings and determined all my future course.
This manuscript was written by my uncle James Monroe Bankhead; given to my mother, Mrs. Smith Bankhead by him in 1854.” Ada Pyne Bankhead.
James M. Bankhead died in Baltimore 1855 at age 37 years.