View of the green Adirondacks, with a lake in the distance.

Samuel H. Hammond on the Country

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Not much appears to be written of Samuel H. Hammond — also known as S.H. Hammond — a lawyer, newspaper editor and politician from New York. Yet he is, or should be, well-noted for his contribution to hunter-conservation literature, authoring what may have been the first work in the genre.

Wild Northern Scenes or Sporting Adventures with the Rifle and Rod, published in 1857, follows Hammond on a wilderness trip with friends as they hunt, fish and camp in Upstate New York. The beautiful and nearly pristine landscape was, at that time, abundant with wildlife. Hammond visited this area, between the St. Lawrence River and Lake Champlain, often to unwind and reset in a world disconnected from society.

“I have generally gone into the woods weakened in body and depressed in mind. I have always come out of them with renewed health and strength, a perfect digestion, and a buoyant and cheerful spirit,” Hammond writes in the book’s introduction. “I visit them … because when among them, I can take off the armor which one is compelled to wear, and remove the watch which one must set over himself, in the crowded thoroughfares of life.”

In the following excerpt from Wild Northern Scenes or Sporting Adventures with the Rifle and Rod, from the chapter titled “Hurrah! For the Country!,” Hammond writes enthusiastically of the sense of awe he felt when immersed in all of the sights, sounds and smells of nature.

I have generally gone into the woods weakened in body and depressed in mind. I have always come out of them with renewed health and strength, a perfect digestion, and a buoyant and cheerful spirit.

Hurrah! Hurrah! We are in the country—the glorious country! Outside of the thronged streets; away from piled up bricks and mortar; outside of the clank of machinery; the rumbling of carriages; the roar of the escape pipe; the scream of the steam whistle; the tramp, tramp of moving thousands on the stone sidewalks; away from the heated atmosphere of the city, loaded with the smoke and dust, and gasses of furnaces, and the ten thousand manufactories of villainous smells. We are beyond even the meadows and green fields. We are here alone with nature, surrounded by old primeval things. Tall forest trees, mountain and valley are on the right hand and on the left. Before us, stretching away for miles, is a beautiful lake, its waters calm and placid, giving back the bright heavens, the old woods, the fleecy clouds that drift across the sky, from away down in its quiet depths. Beyond still, are mountain ranges, whose castellated peaks stand out in sharp and bold relief, on whose tops the beams of the descending sun lie like a mantle of silver and gold. Glad voices are ringing; sounds of merriment make the evening joyous with the music of the wild things around us. Hark! how from away off over the water, the voice of the loon comes clear and musical and shrill, like the sound of a clarion; and note how it is borne about by the echoes from hill to hill. Hark! again, to that clanking sound away up in the air; metallic ringing, like the tones of a bell. It is the call of the cock of the woods as he flies, rising and falling, glancing upward and downward in his billowy flight across the lake. Hark! to that dull sound, like blows upon some soft, hollow, half sonorous substance, slow and measured at first, but increasing in rapidity, until it rolls like the beat of a muffled drum, or the low growl of the far-off thunder. It is the partridge drumming upon his log Hark! still again, to that quavering note, resembling somewhat the voice of the tree-frog when the storm is gathering, but not so clear and shrill. It is the call of the raccoon, as he clambers up some old forest tree, and seats himself among the lowest of its great limbs. Listen to the almost human halloo, the “hoo! hohoo, hoo!” that comes out from the clustering foliage of an ancient hemlock. It is the solemn call of the owl, as he sits among the limbs, looking out from between the branches with his great round grey eyes. Listen again and you will hear the voice of the catbird, the brown thrush, the chervink, the little chickadee, the wood robin, the blue-jay, the wood sparrow, and a hundred other nameless birds that live and build their nests and sing among these old woods.

… all through the woods, all along the shore, all over the lake is a solid roar, impenetrable to any other sound, surging and swaying, rolling and swelling as if all the voices in the world were concentrated in one stupendous concert.

But go a little nearer the lake, and you will have a concert that will drown all these voices in its tumultuous roar. Compared to these feeble strains, it is the crashing of Julien’s hundred brazen instruments to the soft and sweet melody of Ole Bull’s violin. Come with me to this rocky promontory; stand with me on this moss-covered boulder, which forms the point. On either hand is a little bay, the head of which is hidden around among the woods. See! over against us, on the limb of that dead fir tree, which leans out over the water, is a bald eagle, straightening with his hooked beak the feathers of his wings, and pausing now and then to look out over the water for some careless duck of which to make prey. See! he has leaped from his perch, has spread his broad pinions, and is soaring upward towards the sky. See! how he circles round and round, mounting higher and higher at every gyration. He is like a speck in the air. But see! he is above the mountains now, and how like an arrow he goes, straight forward, with no visible motion to his wings. He has laid his course for some lake, deeper in the wilderness, beyond that range of hills, and he is there, even while we are talking of his flight. A swift bird, the swiftest of all the birds, is the eagle, when he takes his descending stoop from his place away up in the sky. He cleaves the air like a bullet, and so swift is his career that the eye can scarcely trace his flight. But, hark! all is still now, save the piping notes of the little peeper along the shore. Wait, however, a moment. There, hear that venerable podunker off to the right, with his deep bass, like the sound of a brazen serpent. Listen! another deep voice on the left has fallen in. There, another right over against us! another and another still! a dozen! a hundred! a thousand! ten thousand! a million of them! close by us! far off! on the right hand and on the left! here! there! everywhere! until above, around us, all through the woods, all along the shore, all over the lake is a solid roar, impenetrable to any other sound, surging and swaying, rolling and swelling as if all the voices in the world were concentrated in one stupendous concert.

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Alexandra Vollman
Alexandra Vollman is an experienced writer and editor with a passion for the outdoors — especially hiking. As the co-founder and editor of Modern Conservationist, she oversees editorial management for the site. She has a bachelor’s degree in media communications and a master’s degree in writing and publishing. Alexandra enjoys using her knack for reporting and storytelling to instill in others a better understanding of and appreciation for nature.

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