|MISSISSIPPI STEAMBOAT MEN IN MARK TWAIN'S WRITINGS|
The spelling of the name "Absalom" is open to question. His death certificate records the spelling as "Absolom." According to Absolom Grimes's death certificate, he was born August 16, 1834. However, in his personal memoirs edited by his biographer M. M. Quaife, Grimes related he was born on August 22, 1834 in Anchorage, Jefferson County, Kentucky near Louisville.
Shortly after his birth, the family moved to St. Louis. His father
William Leander Grimes was a pilot on the WILLIAM WALLACE one of the first Upper
Mississippi steamboats. The WILLIAM WALLACE operated between Dubuque, Iowa and
St. Louis. The boat was owned by Captain Absalom Carlisle whom Ab was named
after. In 1850 Grimes became a messenger boy for the Morse Telegraph Co. in
St. Louis and actually delivered a telegram into the hands of Jenny Lind when
she was in the city to give a concert. In the fall of 1850 he became a cub pilot
under his father on the UNCLE TOBY and got his license in 1852. Grimes served
as a steamboat pilot between St. Louis and St. Paul from 1852 to 1861. He was
serving on the SUNSHINE when the war broke out in 1861.
- from Absalom Grimes, Confederate Mail Runner, edited from Captain Grimes' Own Story. By M .M. Quaife. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1926.
Grimes' autobiography CAMPAIGNING
WITH MARK TWAIN details his Civil War experiences with Sam Clemens.
|Clemens comments: The rest of my war
experience was of a piece with what I have already told of it. We kept monotonously
falling back upon one camp or another, and eating up the country. I marvel
now at the patience of the farmers and their families. They ought to have
shot us; on the contrary, they were as hospitably kind and courteous to
us as if we had deserved it. In one of these camps we found Ab Grimes, an
Upper Mississippi pilot, who afterwards became famous as a dare-devil rebel
spy, whose career bristled with desperate adventures. The look and style
of his comrades suggested that they had not come into the war to play, and
their deeds made good the conjecture later. They were fine horsemen and
good revolver-shots; but their favorite arm was the lasso. Each had one
at his pommel, and could snatch a man out of the saddle with it every time,
on a full gallop, at any reasonable distance.
- Private History of a Campaign that Failed
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