Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Melville's Moredock in the newspapers

via The Digital Research Library of Illinois History Journal
Herman Melville's portrayal of the committed "Indian hater" John Moredock, retouched from some version of the popular frontier narrative by James Hall, was reprinted from chapter 27 of The Confidence-Man in the Boston Saturday Evening Gazette (April 4, 1857) and other newspapers.

Saturday Evening Gazette (Boston, MA) - April 4, 1857 via GenealogyBank
Of those found so far, most reprintings of "The Indian Hater" cite The Confidence-Man and acknowledge Herman Melville as the author. The Illinois State Chronicle published the extract anonymously, without credit to Melville or any source.
  •  Boston, MA Saturday Evening Gazette, April 4, 1857. Excerpt titled "THE INDIAN HATER," introduced as
    An Extract from "THE CONFIDENCE-MAN: HIS MASQUERADE, by Herman Melville," Author of "Typee," etc. Just published by Dix, Edwards & Co., New York.
  • White Plains, NY Eastern State Journal, April 17, 1857. Excerpt titled "The Indian Hater" with this editorial introduction:
    "The following account of Colonel John Moredock, a celebrated Indian fighter, is from Herman Melville's latest work, "The Confidence Man," just published by Dix, Edwards & Co., New York."
  • Philadelphia Saturday Evening Post [April 25, 1857--inferred from New York ad, not yet verified]. "THE INDIAN HATER. By Herman Melville" announced in New-York Daily Tribune ad on Thursday, April 23, 1857 as forthcoming, along with many other selections from recently published works of popular literature.  
Ad for Saturday Evening Post in the New York Daily Tribune - April 23, 1857
via Chronicling America: Historic American NewspapersLibrary of Congress.
        We copy the following account of Col. John Moredock, the Indian fighter, from Herman Melville's latest work, 'The Confidence Man,' just published by Dix, Edwards & Co....

      In England, as Hershel Parker observes in volume 2 of Herman Melville: A Biography (Johns Hopkins UP, 2002), Reynolds's Newspaper gave two selections from the matter of John Moredock in "tardily" reviewing The Confidence-Man on June 14, 1857.

      Sun, Jun 14, 1857 – 2 · Reynolds's Newspaper (London, Greater London, England) ·
      The notice of The Confidence-Man in another London publication, The Saturday Review (May 23, 1857), found "the story of Colonel John Moredock, the Indian hater" appealing as a horror story.
      "We likewise recommend to those readers who like tales of terror the story of Colonel John Moredock, the Indian hater. It opens up a dark page in American history, and throws some light on the feelings with which the backwoodsmen and red men mutually regard each other, and apparently with very good reason." 
      Back in 1829, when the National Gazette gave Hall's tale from the Illinois Intelligencer, the editor made a point of disavowing the moral virtues imputed to Moredock in the original narrative:
      The sketch is curious and valuable as the portrait of a species. We can hardly acquiesce in the assertion that a man who loved to kill Indians, and in whose breast the spirit of revenge could so long and powerfully predominate, was not "cruel by nature," but "kind, generous, and benevolent."   --Editorial preface to "COLONEL JOHN MOREDOCK" as reprinted in the New-York American, for the country on December 4, 1829; found at  Fulton History.

      Fri, Nov 27, 1829 – 2 · The National Gazette (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America) ·
      Fri, Nov 27, 1829 – 2 · The National Gazette (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America) ·
      Transcribed below, the entire article as reprinted in the Philadelphia National Gazette on November 27, 1829.
      We take the following notice from the Illinois Intelligencer. The sketch is curious and valuable as the portrait of a species. We can hardly acquiesce in the assertion that a man who loved to kill Indians, and in whose breast the spirit of revenge could so long and powerfully predominate, was not "cruel by nature," but "kind, generous, and benevolent."

      From the Illinois Intelligencer.

      In our last paper we had the melancholy duty to perform of announcing the death of Col. John Moredock--a man who was particularly distinguished in the early history of this country, and whose name deserves a more special mention than the brief obituary which we then published.-- This gentleman came to Illinois more than forty years ago, when the only white inhabitants in this Territory were comprised in the French settlements on the Mississippi. The French having lived peaceably with the Indians, a few American families came out about the time we have mentioned, and, being more enterprising than the old inhabitants, began to spread out into the interior. The Indians resisted these encroachments, and the barbarities which had been acted in Kentucky and Ohio, began to be perpetrated in Illinois.

      Among the emigrants was the mother of Col. Moredock. She had been married four times, and all her husbands had been murdered by the Indians, in Kentucky and in Indiana; yet, strange to tell, this undaunted woman, who seemed destined to suffer all the cruelties of border warfare, left Vincennes in her fourth widowhood, with the purpose of proceeding to Illinois with her children. Pursuing the circuitous route then usually travelled, and the only one that was then practicable, she descended the Wabash and Ohio rivers, and was ascending the Mississippi, when the whole party was surprised and murdered by the Indians.-- Mrs. M'Fall, for that was her name, perished with all her children, except John Moredock, then about 15 years old, who was not with his mother, having gone with another company.

      Moredock thus found himself in the situation so pathetically described by the celebrated Logan--not a drop of his blood ran in the veins of any human creature; and being by nature generous and ardent, all his tenderness for these who were dear to him was awakened; and turned into revenge against their brutal destroyers. He became emphatically an Indian hater, and continued through life to consider it a virtue to make war upon the savages. The Indians who massacred his mother were known to be part of a tribe who resided near New Madrid, and to that place they were traced by a party sent out to revenge the murder, but being secreted by the Spanish commander stationed there, they at that time escaped the vengeance of the whites. But they could not escape the vigilance of Moredock, who having learned that they came up every season to hunt in the neighbourhood of Kaskaskia, watched for them from year to year.

      Two or three years after the murder, having heard that this party was in the neighborhood, he raised a small company, and gave chase to them, but the Indians escaped. On the following year they came to their old hunting ground again, and Moredock surprised them as they lay hid on an island in the Mississippi, and the parties being nearly equal, a bloody battle ensued, in which the whole of the Indians, who were 17 or 19 in number, were slain, except three, who escaped by plunging into the river. A year or two after he surprised seven of the same tribe, and slew them, and felt gratified in the belief that he had now sacrificed all the murderers of his mother and her infants.

      He continued to make war upon the Indians, and is supposed to have never lost an opportunity of gratifying this master passion of his soul. Yet he was not cruel by nature; on the contrary, he was kind, generous, and benevolent, sincere and warm in his friendships, punctual in his engagements, and possessed of a more than ordinary degree of calm deliberate courage. He excelled in all the manly exercises incident to a frontier life, and had few equals in strength, activity or hardihood. He was a mighty hunter; skilled in all the artifices of the chase, fond of roaming through the woods and sleeping by his campfire, and delighted in all the vicissitudes of these adventurous scenes. In the woods, his prudence was as great as his skill, and the best woodsmen loved to hunt in company with one who was so watchful, so expert, and in the worst emergencies so true to his friend--but woe to the Indian who crossed his path.

      During the last war with Great Britain, a law was passed by Congress in 1812-13, for raising ten companies of rangers for the protection of the frontiers of Indiana and Illinois, and Moredock was immediately pointed out by common consent as the person best qualified to command that portion of the force destined for Illinois. The Territorial Legislature accordingly recommended him for the appointment of Major; and Samuel Whitesides, James B. Moore, and Moses Short, for captains. It turned out, that the law did not provide for any field officers; the gentlemen recommended for captains, lieutenants, and so on, were appointed, and Moredock enlisted as a private, and served cheerfully in that capacity until on the occurrence of a vacancy, his company elected him to the office of Ensign, which he accepted.

      This conduct of Mr. Moredock, in serving in the lowest capacity, after being led to expect the highest, speaks more in praise of his patriotism, and goodness of heart, than any thing we could write. He served with the Rangers through the whole war; and the oldest settlers of Illinois, who recollect those things, know well how much the country owes to the gallantry of those brave men. These troops were formed out of the inhabitants of the country--they were woodsmen, mounted, and armed with rifles, and enlisted for one year. They scoured the frontier in small parties, rallying upon the stations built by the inhabitants and keeping a continued watch upon the Indians. Their services were arduous and valuable, and deserve to be held in grateful remembrance by the people of Illinois.

      Mr. Moredock was afterwards Colonel of the Militia of Monroe county, and represented his fellow citizens in the Territorial Legislature. He was a that time one of the most popular men in the Territory, and might have aspired to its highest offices, had he been ambitious; but he loved his rifle, and his comfort, better than power and office, and after serving his country faithfully in the day and hour of trial, was content to enjoy in a private station the respect and confidence of his fellow citizens.

      In the course of his life Moredock is said to have slain thirteen Indians with his own hand, and perhaps the truth rather exceeds than falls short of this statement. Those who have passed their lives in security, by the domestic fire-side, blessed with the kind protection of Providence and the comforts of social life, may shudder at the recital of such adventures; but let no one condemn the subject of this hasty sketch, unless like him he has seen the vital spark extinguished by the hand of violence, from every heart that beat in alliance with his own. Let it be remembered, too, that he slew only the enemies of his country; and while ye crown with laurels the heroes who have commanded our ships and led our armies, let us not forget to honour the ranger who has defended the female and the infant from all the dreadful atrocities of savage warfare.  --The National Gazette, November 27, 1829; reprinted with the Gazette preface included in the New York American for the country (December 4, 1829); and, without the added preface, in the New York Evening Post (December 4, 1829) and New York Spectator (December 10, 1829).

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