- Historic Sites
The Tour Of Prince Napoleon
A FRENCH VISIT TO CIVIL WAR AMERICA Selections from the letters of Lieutenant Colonel Camille Ferri Pisani, who accompanied Prince Napoleon on his state visit, touring the fronts, both North and South, visiting the West and meeting Lincoln and the men around him during the Union’s darkest days
August 1957 | Volume 8, Issue 5
We travelled upstream about 5 to 6 leagues, to the junction with the Missouri. It is impossible to imagine a more wonderful spectacle than the one unfolding in front of us—an emerald-like plain as far as the eye can see, cut here and there by black bunches of huge trees; a wide river filled to the brim, carrying in its muddy waters the wrecks extracted from the ancient forests of the North. Sometimes the trees, intertwined together, form large islands which float downstream to clog the shores. There they are soon covered by green and luxurious vegetation until they resemble huge baskets delicately floating on the river. Often huge pine trees are stopped by the slime, where one of their roots sticks while the trunk rises like a threatening spear above the water or at water level.
The junction of the two rivers is splendid. The rivers meet opposite the little town of Alton, on the left bank of the Mississippi. We embrace the huge Missouri valley stretching westward amidst a nature wilder still than the one we have just crossed. Beyond Saint Joseph, about 100 leagues from where we are, the Missouri ceases to belong to the civilized world. Between Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa, it disappears amidst huge plains bordering the Rockies on the West. There, in this endless steppe, the lost buffaloes and the remnants of the Indians of the North, driven away from their ancient homeland, have taken refuge. The latter follow the movements and the destiny of the former. When the ground, slowly taken over by civilization, disappears from beneath the feet of the last buffalo, the last Indian will likewise disappear.
Back in Saint Louis, General Sigel showed the Prince the camps and fortifications being built around the city. We did not expect to find, at the boundary of the Union and so far from the stimulating influence of Washington, an army so numerous and so well organized. This organization pays tribute to General Frémont, and it would be a tour de force even in the most military-minded countries of Europe.
In witnessing with what power and success the Americans—Unionist as well as Confederate—improvised, in a few months, volunteer armies of close to a million men, and how they are now in the process of giving them all the characteristics and qualities of the best regular armies, one cannot help but think about what goes on today on the other side of the Alps. What changes could occur in the politics of Europe, if Italy were capable of only half the military effort accomplished by Unionists and Confederates alike!