The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). rn VOLUME XVII. Later National Literature, Part II.

VIII. Mark Twain

§ 4. The Far West

This chapter of his experience was ended abruptly by the outbreak of the Civil War and the closing of the river. His brief and inglorious part in the ensuing conflict he has described, with decorations, in his Private History of a Campaign that Failed, a little work which indicates that he rushed to the aid of the Confederacy without much conviction, and that two weeks later he rushed away with still less regret. Eventually, it should be remarked, General Grant became his greatest living hero, and his attitude towards slavery became as passionately Northern as that of Mrs. Stowe.

Meanwhile he went West. On 26 July, 1861, he was sitting on the mail-bags behind the six galloping horses of the overland stage headed for Carson City, Nevada, as assistant to his brother Orion, who through the good offices of a friend in Lincoln’s cabinet had been appointed Territorial secretary. On his arrival, finding himself without salary or duties, he explored the mining camps and caught the prevailing passion for huge quick wealth. First he bought “wild-cat” stock; then he located a vast timber claim on Lake Tahoe; then he tried quartz mining in the silver regions; prospected for gold in the placer country; and, in daily expectation of striking it fabulously rich, sank his brother’s salary in the most promising “leads.”