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The Sailing of a Refugee Ship - Refugee Accounts - George B. McClellan

George Brinton McClellan, Jr., (November 23, 1865 – November 30, 1940) was an American politician, statesman, and educator. The son of American Civil War general and presidential candidate George B. McClellan, he served as Mayor of New York City from 1904 to 1909.

REFUGEE SKETCHES - Mr. McClellan's Account

Mr. George B. McClellan, formerly Mayor of New York, on being asked about the hardships he had undergone in reaching Genoa, replied that he had experienced nothing but a phenomenal streak of luck. He said:

I was at Karer See in the Tyrol when Austria's military activities forced foreigners to leave the country. Although my party suffered no hardships, we saw the devastation of war all about us. The valley in which the Karer See lies was sucked absolutely dry; the government took men, horses, oxen, goats,—everything, leaving only the feeble and the young.

The situation of the people throughout the Tyrol is heart-rending, because they depend largely on the summer visitors for their subsistence. With the departure of the guests from the hotels, went the natives' means of livelihood. One old woman, who conducted a fruit stall, said to me as she pointed first to her little son and then to some rotting pears, 'This is all they have left me. My man is gone, and I cannot get any more fruit. Even if I could, there would be no one to eat it.'

On another occasion—the day after the call for mobilization had reached the Tyrol—I met a guide on my tramp over the mountains. He was hurrying along, looking neither right nor left. I gave the customary Tyrolese greeting, 'Grüss Gott,' but he rushed by without replying; probably he had not even heard me in his preoccupation. A little later, I reached his hut where I found his wife in tears' She sobbingly answered my question as to what the trouble was by saying, 'They have taken my man away to kill him, and have left me here to die alone.'

As I said, I personally experienced nothing but luck in getting to Genoa. One morning, after the government had commandeered practically every horse in Karer See, I chanced to see an old dilapidated conveyance drawn by two thin horses pass my hotel. I put my head out of the window and asked the driver where he was going. He said to Bozen, where he was going to give up his horses.

I asked if he would take some passengers, to which he replied in the affirmative. Then, although it was only five o'clock in the morning, we packed and went away on his wagon. After we had gone, only four guests remained in the establishment which was built to accommodate 450.

From Bozen, quite by chance, we caught the last train to Riva on the Lac de Garde, where we found our hotel—a palatial edifice—conducted by one waiter and an idiot boy. The former blacked boots, cooked meals, and made beds, besides doing military ditty every other day. Then we chanced to catch a boat down the lake, although the steamship company had cut off the regular service.

Then, by more chance, we connected with an express train to Milan. Here I met Dr. Butler and Mr. Vanderbilt, who told me about boat sailings. I then purchased passages on the Principe di Udine, and here for the first time I almost encountered -difficulties, because I had to deposit fifty per cent. of the passage money, and along with other Americans,

I had been able to draw but ten pounds a day, so that I was short of cash. But my phenomenal luck did not desert me, for Mr. Vanderbilt's courier happened to be in the office at the time and he identified me, whereupon the man behind the desk took my personal check on New York. Then I went to Genoa where I enjoyed perfect comfort all the while."


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