No Extra Charge for Fleas, Mosquitoes and Dirt
By STEVE HATHCOCK
Special to the PRESS
In her book, “Following the Drum”, (Budd & Carleton New York, 1858) Teresa Viele’ tells of her experiences on the Texas Frontier shortly after the end of the War with Mexico. A recent graduate of West Point, Lieutenant Egbert Viele’ had been given the command of Ringgold Barracks on the frontier along the Rio Grande River. (Near Rio Grande City). The young Lt. and his bride made the perilous journey by sea, sailing aboard the schooner, Globe from New York City to the army depot at Brazos Santiago. (Just across the channel from the southern tip of Padre Island). In sight of their destination, the Globe ran aground on a sand bar that lie about a mile off the coast of Texas. The waves and current were so treacherous that no rescue attempt could be made.
“The Globe was in great danger of capsizing,” the author wrote; for six hours we lay in the breakers, with the calm blue, sunlit heavens, smiling down upon us, singular accompaniments for a wreck at sea, and yet we knew full well that half the devastations around us had taken place under the same circumstances, and not in the midnight storm or under a clouded sky. The waves, as if from a whirlpool beneath, dashed upon the ship, striking us fearfully each time against the bar, producing a terrible shock, that seemed like warning from heaven of our coming fate. The captain and crew labored most manfully at their duties, but every other voice was hushed with eager anxiety.”
Further on, Teresa Viele’ describes a scene where she and her husband procured a telescope with the intention of surveying their surroundings: “We sat all those hours upon the deck mechanically watching the gulls dipping their wings in the water, and the porpoise, as it gave a leap into the air to plunge again, in an instant, into the wave. When death comes face to face with us unexpectedly, no matter what our horror of it may be, it is strange how indifferently we can look it in the face.”
Teresa continued, “During those frightful hours, we traced with a glass, countless wrecks that lay in the nearby waters. Every imaginable vestige of wreck lay around, from the giant mast of some enormous ship to that of the smallest trading schooner. All this gave to the barren, sandy shores, an air of gloom and desolation that words cannot describe.”
Six hours later, the tide changed, and the Globe floated free. Later, in her description of the trip to the new city of Brownsville, Viele’ would describe a journey over the mud flats to a hotel she and her husband stayed at that night.
“It was formed of the wrecked hull of an enormous ship that had been cast ashore in a storm, and was firmly wedged in the sand. It had been repaired and rendered weather-proof by the mud and mortar generally made use of for building purposes in these primitive regions. A bar-room and eating-room formed the principal apartments, with several sleeping rooms of limited area adjoining, which were the accommodations of the boarders. It was kept by an old woman and her pretty little granddaughter about twelve years old, who was receiving an education to fit her for the responsible position of bar-maid to this “Hotel Texian.”
(Viele was probably referring to a beached Mississippi steamboat that bore the name “Greenwood Hotel”. According to an article in the volume 26, 1850 edition of the United States Magazine and Democrat Review lodgings cost “four dollars a day with no extra charge for fleas, mosquitoes and dirt!)
For a brief biography of Viele: Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. “VIELE, TERESA GRIFFIN,” http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/view/VV/fvi18.html
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