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    Chapter 20

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    Chapter 21
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    PRIZE-FIGHT AMONG THE N'YAARKERS--A GREAT MANY FORMALITIES, AND LITTLE
    BLOOD SPILT--A FUTILE ATTEMPT TO RECOVER A WATCH--DEFEAT OF THE LAW AND
    ORDER PARTY.

    One of the train-loads from Richmond was almost wholly made up of our old
    acquaintances--the N'Yaarkers. The number of these had swelled to four
    hundred or five hundred--all leagued together in the fellowship of crime.

    We did not manifest any keen desire for intimate social relations with
    them, and they did not seem to hunger for our society, so they moved
    across the creek to the unoccupied South Side, and established their camp
    there, at a considerable distance from us.

    One afternoon a number of us went across to their camp, to witness a
    fight according to the rules of the Prize Ring, which was to come off
    between two professional pugilists. These were a couple of
    bounty-jumpers who had some little reputation in New York sporting
    circles, under the names of the "Staleybridge Chicken" and the "Haarlem
    Infant."

    On the way from Richmond a cast-iron skillet, or spider, had been stolen
    by the crowd from the Rebels. It was a small affair, holding a half
    gallon, and worth to-day about fifty cents. In Andersonville its worth
    was literally above rubies. Two men belonging to different messes each
    claimed the ownership of the utensil, on the ground of being most active
    in securing it. Their claims were strenuously supported by their
    respective messes, at the heads of which were the aforesaid Infant and
    Chicken. A great deal of strong talk, and several indecisive knock-downs
    resulted in an agreement to settle the matter by wager of battle between
    the Infant and Chicken.

    When we arrived a twenty-four foot ring had been prepared by drawing a
    deep mark in the sand. In diagonally opposite corners of these the
    seconds were kneeling on one knee and supporting their principals on the
    other by their sides they had little vessels of water, and bundles of
    rags to answer for sponges. Another corner was occupied by the umpire,
    a foul-mouthed, loud-tongued Tombs shyster, named Pete Bradley.
    A long-bodied, short-legged hoodlum, nick-named "Heenan," armed with a
    club, acted as ring keeper, and "belted" back, remorselessly, any of the
    spectators who crowded over the line. Did he see a foot obtruding
    itself so much as an inch over the mark in the sand--and the pressure
    from the crowd behind was so great that it was difficult for the front
    fellows to keep off the line--his heavy club and a blasting curse would
    fall upon the offender simultaneously.

    Every effort was made to have all things conform as nearly as possible to
    the recognized practices of the "London Prize Ring."

    At Bradley's call of "Time!" the principals would rise from their
    seconds' knees, advance briskly to the scratch across the center of the
    ring, and spar away sharply for a little time, until one got in a blow
    that sent the other to the ground, where he would lie until his second
    picked him up, carried him back, washed his face off, and gave him a
    drink. He then rested until the next call of time.

    This sort of performance went on for an hour or more, with the knockdowns
    and other casualities pretty evenly divided between the two. Then it
    became apparent that the Infant was getting more than he had storage room
    for. His interest in the skillet was evidently abating, the leering grin
    he wore upon his face during the early part of the engagement had
    disappeared long ago, as the successive "hot ones" which the Chicken had
    succeeded in planting upon his mouth, put it out of his power to "smile
    and smile," "e'en though he might still be a villain." He began coming
    up to the scratch as sluggishly as a hired man starting out for his day's
    work, and finally he did not come up at all. A bunch of blood soaked
    rags was tossed into the air from his corner, and Bradley declared the
    Chicken to be the victor, amid enthusiastic cheers from the crowd.

    We voted the thing rather tame. In the whole hour and a-half there was
    not so much savage fighting, not so much damage done, as a couple of
    earnest, but unscientific men, who have no time to waste, will frequently
    crowd into an impromptu affair not exceeding five minutes in duration.

    Our next visit to the N'Yaarkers was on a different errand. The moment
    they arrived in camp we began to be annoyed by their depredations.
    Blankets--the sole protection of men--would be snatched off as they slept
    at night. Articles of clothing and cooking utensils would go the same
    way, and occasionally a man would be robbed in open daylight. All these,
    it was believed, with good reason, were the work of the N'Yaarkers, and
    the stolen things were conveyed to their camp. Occasionally depredators
    would be caught and beaten, but they would give a signal which would
    bring to their assistance the whole body of N'Yaarkers, and turn the
    tables on their assailants.

    We had in our squad a little watchmaker named Dan Martin, of the Eighth
    New York Infantry. Other boys let him take their watches to tinker up,
    so as to make a show of running, and be available for trading to the
    guards.

    One day Martin was at the creek, when a N'Yaarker asked him to let him
    look at a watch. Martin incautiously did so, when the N'Yaarker snatched
    it and sped away to the camp of his crowd. Martin ran back to us and
    told his story. This was the last feather which was to break the camel's
    back of our patience. Peter Bates, of the Third Michigan, the Sergeant
    of our squad, had considerable confidence in his muscular ability.
    He flamed up into mighty wrath, and swore a sulphurous oath that we would
    get that watch back, whereupon about two hundred of us avowed our
    willingness to help reclaim it.

    Each of us providing ourselves with a club, we started on our errand.
    The rest of the camp--about four thousand--gathered on the hillside to
    watch us. We thought they might have sent us some assistance, as it was
    about as much their fight as ours, but they did not, and we were too
    proud to ask it. The crossing of the swamp was quite difficult. Only
    one could go over at a time, and he very slowly. The N'Yaarkers
    understood that trouble was pending, and they began mustering to receive
    us. From the way they turned out it was evident that we should have come
    over with three hundred instead of two hundred, but it was too late then
    to alter the program. As we came up a stalwart Irishman stepped out and
    asked us what we wanted.

    Bates replied: "We have come over to get a watch that one of your fellows
    took from one of ours, and by --- we're going to have it."

    The Irishman's reply was equally explicit though not strictly logical in
    construction. Said he: "We havn't got your watch, and be ye can't have
    it."

    This joined the issue just as fairly as if it had been done by all the
    documentary formula that passed between Turkey and Russia prior to the
    late war. Bates and the Irishman then exchanged very derogatory opinions
    of each other, and began striking with their clubs. The rest of us took
    this as our cue, and each, selecting as small a N'Yaarker as we could
    readily find, sailed in.

    There is a very expressive bit of slang coming into general use in the
    West, which speaks of a man "biting off more than he can chew."

    That is what we had done. We had taken a contract that we should have
    divided, and sub-let the bigger half. Two minutes after the engagement
    became general there was no doubt that we would have been much better off
    if we had staid on our own side of the creek. The watch was a very poor
    one, anyhow. We thought we would just say good day to our N'Yaark
    friends, and return home hastily. But they declined to be left so
    precipitately. They wanted to stay with us awhile. It was lots of fun
    for them, and for the four thousand yelling spectators on the opposite
    hill, who were greatly enjoying our discomfiture. There was hardly
    enough of the amusement to go clear around, however, and it all fell
    short just before it reached us. We earnestly wished that some of the
    boys would come over and help us let go of the N'Yaarkers, but they were
    enjoying the thing too much to interfere.

    We were driven down the hill, pell-mell, with the N'Yaarkers pursuing
    hotly with yell and blow. At the swamp we tried to make a stand to
    secure our passage across, but it was only partially successful. Very
    few got back without some severe hurts, and many received blows that
    greatly hastened their deaths.

    After this the N'Yaarkers became bolder in their robberies, and more
    arrogant in their demeanor than ever, and we had the poor revenge upon
    those who would not assist us, of seeing a reign of terror inaugurated
    over the whole camp.
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