Southwestern Historical Quarterly
we were to take steamship for New Orleans, and, while sleeping on
deck that night, I had somewhat the experience of the miller who
was awakened by the stopping of his mill-I was awakened by the
darkness caused by the total eclipse of the moon:24 my first experience
with an event of that kind.
In those days, Mississippi steamers were spacious and palatial:
boarding one-the Robert J. Ward25-we steamed up the muddy
and turbulent stream into the Ohio, a most ladylike stream compared
with the one we had just left-and then, past Louisville and Cin-
cinnati, to Wheeling. Entering a Baltimore 8 Ohio train, we were
whirled by Washington, and thence to Richmond, which we reached
nearly four and a half years after leaving it in early March 1851.26
24Total eclipses of the moon occurred twice in 1855-on May 1 and October 24.
The first one was visible in the eastern and southern United States, while the
second one was visible throughout North America. Blair could have witnessed
either one of them. He was probably describing the first eclipse, that of May i,
1855, however, inasmuch as he recorded that nearly four and one-half years had
elapsed between his departure from Richmond, Virginia, in early March, 1851,
and his return sometime in 1855. If he had been describing the second eclipse,
that of October 24, nearly four and three-quarters years would have elapsed. The
American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac for the Year 1855 (Washington, 1852),
25The Robert J. Ward was a sidewheel vessel of 731 tons. She was built at New
Albany, Indiana, in 1852, and was abandoned and dismantled in 186o. It is not
known for whom she was named. Lytle, Merchant and Steam Vessels of the United
States, x807-x868, p. 20o4.
26The above selection was taken from pp. 26-38 of the unpublished autobiography
of Lewis Harvie Blair.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 66, July 1962 - April, 1963. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101196/. Accessed May 31, 2016.