The Great South - Down the Mississippi

The "Great Republic"

The “Great Republic “ is the largest steamer on the Mississippi river—literally a floating palace. The luxuriantly furnished cabin is as long and as ample as the promenade hall in the Hombourg Kursaal, and has accommodations for two hundred guests. Standing on the upper deck or in the pilot house, one fancies the graceful structure to be at rest, even when going at full speed.
The "Great Republic"
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The "Great Republic" pilot house

 This is the very luxury of travel. An army of servants come and go. As in an ocean voyage, breakfast, dinner and tea succeed each other so quickly that one regrets the rapid flight of the hours. In the evening there is the blaze of the chandeliers, the opened piano, a colored band grouped about it and playing tasteful music while the youths and maidens dance. If the weather is warm, there are trips about the moonlit wilderness of decks—and flirtations.

The two score negro “roustabouts” on the boat were sources of infinite amusement to the passengers. At the small landings the “Great Republic “ would lower her gang-planks, and down the steep levees would come kaleidoscopic processions of negroes and flour barrels.

The pilots, perched in their cosy cage, twisted the wheel and told us strange stories. Romantic enough were their accounts of the adventures of steamers in war time—how they ran the gauntlet here, and were seized there; and how, now and then, Confederate shells came crashing uncomfortably near the pilots themselves.

The pilots on the Western rivers have an association, with head-quarters at St. Louis, and branches at Louisville, Pittsburg and Cincinnati. Each of the seventy-four members, on his trip, makes a report of changes in the channel, or obstructions, which is forwarded from point to point to all the others. They are men of great energy, of quaint, dry humor, and fond of spinning yarns. The genial “Mark Twain” served his apprenticeship as pilot, and one of his old companions and tutors, now on the “Great Republic,” gave us reminiscences of the humorist. One sees, on a journey down the Mississippi, where Mark found many of his queerest and seemingly impossible types.

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Last updated 10/07/2009.