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Stories Of Georgia by Joel Chandler Harris

Sacred to the memory of William Longstreet

My not reducing my scheme to practice has been a little unfortunate for me, I confess, and perhaps for the people in general, but until very lately I did not think that either artists or material could be had in the place sufficient. However, necessity, that grand science of invention, has furnished me with an idea of perfecting my plans almost entirely with wooden materials, and by such workmen as may be got here, and from a thorough confidence of its success, I have presumed to ask your assistance and patronage.

Should it succeed agreeable to my expectations, I hope I shall discover that source of duty which such favors always merit, and should it not succeed, your reward must lay with other unlucky adventurers.

For me to mention to you all the advantages arising from such a machine would be tedious, and, indeed, quite unnecessary, Therefore I have taken the liberty to state in this plain and humble manner my wish and opinion, which I hope you will excuse, and I will remain, either with or without approbation,

Your Excellency's most obedient and very humble servant,

William Longstreet.

There are two features of this letter that ought to attract attention. One is that William Longstreet has the name of

"steamboat" as pat as if the machine were in common use. The second is his allusion to the fact that his conception of a boat to be propelled by steam was so well known as to be noised abroad.

Credit is sometimes given to John Fitch, who, it is said, invented a boat propelled by steam, that carried passengers on the Delaware River in 1787. An Englishman named Symington is said to have run a steamboat in 1801, while Robert Fulton's success was delayed until 1806. All these men have received credit for their efforts to benefit humanity, but history is silent in regard to William Longstreet. In one book about Georgia the remark is made that "James Longstreet is said to have invented the steamboat in 1793," but in this instance neither the name nor the date is correct.

In old St. Paul's churchyard in Augusta there is a tombstone which bears the inscription, "Sacred to the memory of William Longstreet, who departed this life September 1, 1814, aged 54 years, 10 months, and 26 days." Below this runs the pleasant legend, "All the days of the afflicted are evil, but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast." We are thus left to infer that William Longstreet was a man of a merry heart; and that fact is certified to by the cleverness with which his son, the author of "Georgia Scenes," has preserved for us some of the quaint characters that lived and moved and had their being on the borders of Georgia society directly after the Revolution.

[Illustration: William Longstreet and his Steamboat 172]

Being an inventor, a man of ingenious ideas, and somewhat ambitious of serving the public in that way, William Long-street certainly had need of a merry heart; for, as he himself says, the way of the projector is hard. The term itself is used in Georgia to this day to express a certain sort of good-natured contempt. Go into the country places and ask after some acquaintance who has not prospered in a worldly way, and the answer will be, "Oh, he's just a prodjikin around."

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