The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 66, July 1962 - April, 1963

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

of Rockbridge Baths, Virginia, loaned the editor the unpublished
autobiography from which the following selection was taken.'
My father dying early in March 1851, my brother William2
having been promoted to Captain in the United States Army, and
assigned to San Antonio, Texas, as Chief Commissary of the Depart-
ment, appointed me his clerk at the princely salary of $75 per
month-wealth beyond my fondest fancy.
But, there being no railroads hereabouts, except the R. F. S& P.
extending, through its connections, to Wilmington, N. C., and ten
miles of the R. & D.,s the question was how easiest to get to Texas.
From New York we could have taken steamer to New Orleans, and
thence, by another steamer, to the port of Indianola, but that was
too expensive, and fortunately we had a more convenient and cheap-
er route, near at hand. In those primitive days, there was a line,
consisting of one barque, known as the Major Barbour,4 trading
between Richmond and New Orleans, transporting to the latter
principally stationary engines, and bringing back raw sugar (which
is now wholly unknown), and New Orleans molasses consigned to
Dunlop, Moncure, & Co., and sold at public auction at their ware-
house--Northwest corner of Iith & Cary Streets. ...
We took ship at Rocketts,5 and a tug took the ship and left us in
Hampton Roads, where I had my first taste of mal de mer, and which
assails me whenever salt water is reached, or, I might add, whenever
lake water is tempted.
Bad weather detained us in the [Hampton] Roads, but, with the
advent of fair weather, out we glided into the blue sea, crossed the
Gulf Stream, and were well on our way to New Orleans.
Information for the above sketch of Blair was taken from his unpublished
autobiography and from Lyon G. Tyler (ed.), Men of Mark in Virginia (5 vols.;
Washington, 19o6-19o8), IV, 30-34.
2Blair's brother William was a graduate of West Point in the class of 1838.
He was breveted captain on April 18, 1847, for gallantry at Cerro Gordo. On June
14, 1861, he resigned from the United States Army and served as a major in the
quartermaster department of the Confederate Army throughout the Civil War.
He died on March 23, 1883. Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary
of the United States Army, 1789-zo3 (2 vols.; Washington, 19o3), I, 222.
sThe R. F. & P. Railroad was the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac,
while the R. & D. was the Richmond and Danville.
4The Major Barbour was a sidewheel steamer of 133 tons built in Shippingport,
Kentucky, in 1848. She was probably named for Philip N. Barbour of Kentucky,
who was breveted major in 1846 for distinguished service against the Mexican
forces. In 1852, the year following Blair's voyage, the Major Barbour was abandoned.
William M. Lytle, Merchant and Steam Vessels of the United States, z807-z868
(Mystic, Connecticut, 1952; Steamship Historical Society of America, Publication
No. 6), 119.
sRocketts was a south suburb of Richmond-the port area of the city along the
James River-frequently referred to as Rocketts Landing. Libby Prison, of Civil War
renown, was located there.


Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 66, July 1962 - April, 1963. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed February 12, 2016.