Necessity of War


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, August 17, 1861

This original 1861 newspaper has a cover illustration showing an injured Civil War soldier. The issue also has a nice illustration of the Battle of Bull Run. The paper includes news of the day, and illustrations of Boston's Faneuil Hall.

(Scroll Down to See Full Page, or Thumbnails below will take you to the specific page of interest)



Civil War Medicine

Necessity of War

Slave Question

Fugitive Slaves

Mansfield McDowell

General Mansfield and McDowell

Monroe Battle

Battle of Monroe Missouri

Bull Run Zouave

Zouave from the Battle of Bull Run

Rebel Atrocities

Rebel Atrocities at Bull Run


Napoleon's Yacht

Faneuil Hall

Boston's Faneuil Hall


Slave Stampede

wounded Bull run

Bull Run Battlefield

Civil War Ballad


Contractor Cartoon




[AUGUST 17,  1861.





BEFORE this paper reaches its readers Congress will have adjourned, after a brief session of rather more than a month. It has been, in many respects, the most momentous session of Congress in our history; and, we are happy to add, it has been one to which every patriotic citizen can look back with satisfaction and pride.

By a very proper resolution, adopted shortly after the organization, the business of the session was restricted to the subject which obliged the President to convene Congress in July. No time has been wasted in irrelevant discussions, and no measures have been passed but those bearing on the war.

In the first place, the unauthorized acts performed by the President with a view of preventing the spread of the rebellion and the capture of Washington by the rebels, have been duly confirmed and ratified. This, perhaps, was hardly necessary. Though ours is a Government of delegated powers, and we have a written charter limiting the authority of the President, still it would be absurd to urge that, in a case of vital and instant necessity, the President ought rather to allow the Government to go to pieces than assume powers not expressly delegated to him. The letter must sometimes yield to the spirit of the law. Every one can see that if Mr. Lincoln had not exceeded his authority, Jefferson Davis would have fulfilled his boast of ruling in Washington by the middle of May, and the nation would have gone to pieces. Is any further justification needed for Mr. Lincoln's conduct ? Leading members of Congress thought not, and voted a bill of ratification—not because it was necessary, or because Congress had any power to make that legal which was in itself illegal ; but simply in order to share Mr. Lincoln's honorable responsibility.

The President has been authorized, by each of two concurrent Acts, to call into the field an army of 500,000 men, and various important Acts have been passed to promote the efficiency of this army. We have not space to discuss these in detail ; we may mention, however, that the President has been authorized to remove incompetent officers, and that a judicious scheme has been adopted for securing the retirement of officers who are superannuated. Five hundred thousand Northern men ought to suffice to crush out treason and rebellion in a far shorter period of time than three years, which is the term of service for most of the volunteers called into the field. In all probability the work will be done in a year, and with less than three-fourths of the authorized force. But Congress has been wisely prodigal of resources.

Appropriations have been made for building twenty-three gun-boats, twelve side-wheel steamers of light draught, and four first-class sloops of war ; besides which the President has been authorized to buy or hire as many merchant vessels as may be necessary to perfect the blockade and put down piracy. Acts have been passed directing the enlistment of the proper number of seamen and marines for this naval force. Here again the wise liberality of Congress is to be commended. There is no stint to the power conferred upon the President in regard to the navy. He may have a thousand vessels in commission by November if he needs them. If a deficiency should arise either in our land or our naval force, the fault will not rest with Congress.

To provide for the expenses of the war various Acts have been passed : one authorizing a loan of $250,000,000, to be obtained by issuing either 7 per cent. bonds or Treasury Notes bearing 7 3/10 per cent. interest, and an issue of $20,000,000 of Treasury Notes bearing no interest ; another authorizing the issue of $20,000,000 of 6 per cent. Treasury Notes convertible into 6 per cent. stock ; another imposing a direct tax on incomes and various kinds of property ; another increasing customs duties, etc., etc. At the time we write it is impossible to state accurately what aggregate amount of money will be raised by these various Acts. But it can not fall short of $350,000,000, and it may amount to $400,000,000. So far, therefore, as money is concerned, Congress has been lavish. Opinions differ with regard to the wisdom of some provisions in the Loan Act. But there is no doubt that, under it, Mr. Lincoln will obtain ample present means for the prosecution of the war, and this being secured, matters of detail may for the present be dismissed from consideration.

Acts have been passed providing for the punishment of conspiracy against the Government ; for the collection of duties on shipboard where collectors can not perform their duties ashore; for the closing of rebel ports ; and for the confiscation of property—including slaves—employed by rebels in the war against the Government. This last measure is the only one which refers in any way to the original cause of the

war. A resolution passed the House declaring that it was no part of the duty of United States soldiers to recapture fugitive slaves; but another resolution also passed, declaring that the war is prosecuted solely for the re-establishment of the authority of the Government—thus tacitly admitting that our troops are not designed to interfere with the slave institution. The subject of the future relations of the Government with slavery was by general consent deferred till the winter session. When we have added that resolutions passed the Senate expelling the senators from the seceded States, while a resolution passed the House expelling a member now in arms against the Government, we shall have enumerated all the leading measures of the extra session.

It has been eminently a fruitful and a satisfactory session. With few exceptions, members have been animated by hearty patriotism and sound common sense. No time has been wasted in idle debate. Never was there less speech-making for buncombe. It is pleasant, too, to remember that, even at this crisis, members showed a sufficiently keen sense of the value of liberty of speech to refrain from gagging the traitors who were insolent enough to parade their treason in the halls of Congress. Mr. Benjamin Wood, the member whose political and commercial career reflect such honor on this city, has not favored the country with his views, except by his votes, which have always been against his country : but Messrs. Breckinridge, Vallandigham, Burnett, and a few others have talked treason to their heart's content without let or hindrance. It is better so. To have expelled Vallandigham or Burnett would have made martyrs of them, and might have kept them alive. Now they will go back to their people with the brand of treason on their brow, and a record which will sink them to the lowest depth of shame and contempt. In bright contrast with them stand the new members from Virginia and a majority of the delegations from Kentucky and Maryland. The day is not far distant, we trust, in which such men as Mr. Carlile and his followers in Congress will control the destiny of the States from which they come ; they have shown, during this Extra Session, that they are worthy of the trust.



IN Napier's " History of the Peninsular War" there is a short sentence which shall serve us as a text for a short sermon. "Napoleon now changed the system of the war." He had been taught by circumstances as every general is, and as we have been in our present struggle.

Up to the day at Bull Run our policy was naturally indicated by the word that describes the enemy's position. It is a rebellion. The Government is suppressing an insurrection ; at first, therefore, it naturally dealt with the difficulty as with a riot upon a great scale. It naturally sought rather to sustain the Union men at the South than to strike the rebels. It permitted, in that view, a certain freedom of intercourse. It accepted battle when and where the enemy chose. It was forbearing and reluctant, and even possibly hoped to restore its authority without much fighting. So many men, so much money, were at its command, that it may even have hoped to tire out or intimidate the rebellion.

The day at Bull Run showed that this policy was impracticable. "Napoleon now changed the system of the war."

The movement is still a rebellion, but the method of the rebels is war, and a war of desperation and vindictiveness. The Government must now—and its recent steps show that it will—also treat the suppression as a matter of war. The object is by military force to restore the supremacy of the Government. The rebels are in complete command of the section they possess. They are earnest, resolute, devoted ; and much more united against the Government than the Colonies were against England. But, for all that, they are only a faction of citizens aiming to destroy the Government of the whole.

Their section will, therefore, doubtless be treated like the country of an enemy. It will be absolutely blockaded by land and sea. All communication with the loyal part of the country will be cut off. Instead of allowing the rebels to hold their great force in Virginia, where they wish to be and where they prefer to fight us, we shall decline to allow them to choose the battle-field and take position upon it; but by sudden descents along their coast, by threatening and destroying their cities and towns, incessantly harass them in the rear, and compel a retreat, or insure the demoralization of their army in Virginia. If the men from the Gulf States know that their homes are in danger they will leave Virginia to defend herself and fly homeward.

The rebels have appealed to war against the Government of the whole people: let them abide the result of their appeal. Their rebellion is to be suppressed at every cost. If the landing of our soldiers upon their coasts agitates their slaves—it is they who have done it, for they can not suppose that in appealing to war they were to have all of its advantages and none of its pains. They have made this war that they might extend slavery. Should their slaves rise, they would understand one of many reasons why the people would not suffer this nation to be at the mercy of such a system. If what they boast as their strength shall prove to be their weakness, it is not the fault of

the people who did not raise their hands until they were compelled. If their crops are destroyed, if their trade is ruined, if their homes are laid desolate—they have only themselves to accuse and curse. We wanted no war—we asked for no war —we disbelieved in the necessity of war—and up to the day of Bull Run we secretly supposed that still the worst of war might be avoided.

They have opened our eyes fully at last. Let no man grieve that it was done so slowly. Let no man regret that his Government refused to believe in the total, bloody, mad treachery of so many citizens. From the fearful day at Bull Run dates war. Not polite war, not incredulous war, not conciliatory war, but war that breaks hearts and blights homes; war that by bloody and terrible blows teaches causeless rebellion that it shall suffer in mind, body, and estate. and that wherever it can be harmed there the blow shall fall, until, in absolute submission, it shall sue for peace.

And for the security of the men still loyal among the traitors this course will be the swiftest and surest. War can make no discrimination. The shell that bursts in the city streets destroys alike the life and the property of the rebel and the true man ; and every Union man in the rebellious section will see and approve the sharp necessity.

He will say as John Hancock said when Boston was to be bombarded—" All that I have is in that city—but I give it willingly." He will say what John Jay said, all of whose property was in Westchester. " I wish our army well stationed in the Highlands, and all the lower country desolated." The times demand the same spirit in patriots now as then.

For since the appeal is to war, war must decide. There is not a loyal man in the country whose indignation with the rebels would not be mingled with pity, if he could truly say " they have been greatly wronged." That no man can truly say. He can only exclaim as Lander makes Washington say in one of the Imaginary Conversations: "Such at last is become the audacity of Power, from a century or more of holidays and riot, it now complains that you deprive it of its prerogative if you limit the exercise of its malignity. I lament that there are those who can learn no lesson of humanity, unless we write it broadly with the point of the sword."


THE Journal of Commerce, the Bourbon of newspapers, which thinks that the Government of the United States ought not to defend itself against treason, which is smitten with horror if a man is arrested who is notoriously engaged in measures to overthrow the Government, and which looks serenely upon the seizure of United States property and the outrage of the United States flag by armed rebels, suggests that a convention should be held to save the Union by promising Mr. Jeff Davis that, if he will only stop trying to destroy it, he shall have his own way, and all that he wants in it. In other words, the Journal of Commerce thinks that the country ought to satisfy "the South" by assuring it that its rights will not be assailed.

It happens that the case is precisely the other way. " The North," by which is meant the majority of the people of this country, is the party which is to be "satisfied" by any arrangement that may follow this war. "The South" knows, and the Journal knows, that the Government of this country has been always controlled by " the South" and its "rights," by which it means slavery. They all know that the Government has never assailed those " rights," and the last Congress very unnecessarily tied up its hands in the matter as much as it could. They were not assailed. They were not threatened. They knew perfectly well that there was no cause for a revolution, and therefore Mr. Davis very cunningly insisted that it was not a revolution at all, but merely a "peaceful secession;" not a step against the Constitution, but under it or within it. That Mr. Stephens said precisely the opposite was not surprising, for he is a shrewder man than his chief, and knew that while "secession" is simple folly, revolution may always hope to gain dignity by success.

" The South" having shown what respect it has for constitutional government, for national honor, and for private faith ; having plunged the country into desperate war because it could no longer control the Government for its own interest; having smitten all prosperity, and struck a deadly blow at every mechanic, merchant, and laborer in the country, now announces through its organ in New York that it will consent to forgive us upon condition of our guarantee that it shall have its old control of national affairs.

To state the thing is to settle it. But " the South" might as well understand now as later, that "the North," after conquering this rebellion, means to have guarantees for its rights. Those rights are the constitutional privileges of every American citizen ; his right of going freely every where in the country, and of freely expressing every where his opinion : the same right that "the South" has always enjoyed, and as the Journal of Commerce daily proves, does still enjoy at "the North." Those rights are symbolized by the flag, and to their protection the Government is pledged by its very existence, any thing in any State law to the contrary notwithstanding.

After this war is over, "the South," and the Journal of Commerce, and Messrs. Breckinridge, Burnett, Vallandigham, Wood, & Co., will find that the rights of the people, of liberty, and of a firm government, will be considered and secured before the "right" of a faction to break up the Government when they are defeated in an election.


CHURCH'S little picture, which Goupil & Co. have printed in colors, is a visible image of the American mind at this moment. Faith, symbolized by our flag, flames in the forehead of the morning sky. It is a lovely and pardonable conceit of the painter to hint in this way the justice of our

cause. With stars and gleaming vapor he writes our story on the sky. The heavens approve. Good men applaud. We fight the good fight of our fathers and the freedom they have left us, against a monstrous despotism and causeless rebellion, which, wages a bloody and inhuman war. And mad ambition might as well hope to steal those stars and stripes of light from the heavens as to pluck from the great heroic heart and hand of this nation the triumph and the peace that the stars and stripes prefigure.


DR. JOHN EDWARD GRAY writes a reply to Mr. John Murray, on the 6th of July, reaffirming the " many inaccuracies" and "extraordinary contradictions" which he thinks he has found in M. Du Chaillu's book ; and the Athenoeum, in which so much of the war has been waged, declares that it can not allow the contest to go on longer in its pages.

Captain Burton, meanwhile, himself an eminent African traveler and member of the Ethnological Society, at the meeting of which the exasperated Du Chaillu was so entirely mastered by his feelings, writes to the Times that he hopes "the persons excluded from the future meetings of the Society will be, not M. Du Chaillu, but the gentleman who;. after taking undue advantage of our protection, insulted a foreigner and a guest, and received (and quietly pocketed) his punishment."

Despite Dr. Gray and Mr. Morton, M. Du Chaillu has established his name as that of one of the most daring of modern travelers, whose story of adventure is singularly simple and fascinating. If, in the mean time, it should be asked whether he is ever likely to be mistaken for Lord Chesterfield, it might be answered that he will probably be so whenever Mr. Morton shall be confounded with Professor Owen.


WAR is among the oldest historical facts. The world has always been fighting more or less. It is the final appeal when ignorant men quarrel or when grave men differ. It is not necessary to hate your enemy, but it may be necessary to kill him. If a man sincerely thinks that he ought to cut your throat, he can not complain if you think with equal sincerity that he ought not. And if he persist, he can not quarrel with your persistence.

The principle of war is always the same. And however science may improve the means of war, it will leave its principle untouched. And however. civilization and the moral sentiments may abolish war, so long as it remains any where unabolished, it will there be founded upon the same principle. War aims to compel, either by the force of terror or by bodily injury. It aims to fall with irresistible force upon the foe, that he may be either morally or physically conquered.

To the success of war, therefore, whether in the half-fabulous early era of Rome, or the latest year of the Christian era, certain points are cardinal and essential. Two of them, and after the grand one of adequate force, the most essential are secrecy and unanimity. You can not fight so well if the enemy knows how and where you are going to strike, or if you own counsels are distracted, or if you have a Board of Generals instead of one leader.

These two conditions have always been forcibly secured by every nation which undertook war. War is in its nature despotic, and must therefore be directed absolutely. When the Roman Republic was in peril, it named a Dictator pro hac vice. The French Revolution was quelled only by the will and word of one man, Napoleon Bonaparte. In the troubles of '48 in France, peace was restored only by putting the supreme military power into, the hands of Cavaignac. In our Revolution the most serious impediment in the path of Washington was not the enemy so much as the Congress which criticised, doubted, and questioned his conduct of the war.

What then ? Shall we have a Dictator? Certainly not; for the danger with him would be greater than the chance of delay and defeat without him. Let us pass on to another paragraph to answer the question, what then ?  


NEITHER our system, our education, nor our common sense would allow us to desire or accept a dictator or any supreme, irresponsible management of public affairs. The contest we wage is for free, popular institutions, which are confessedly based upon the rights of men. The most absolute freedom of discussion is one of the chief of those rights. By consequence, another of them is immunity from legal pursuit, except for overt acts of treason. Properly speaking, our Constitution takes no cognizance of thoughts or words. A man may openly think and say that he considers a Republic a failure, and that he heartily desires a King. But he is still not a traitor, under the Constitution. He is defended to the last his full right of saying so if he wishes : and he is justly defended.

But when we engage in war, or in the suppression of a sectional rebellion upon so great a scale that it is virtually war, we undertake to use a machine whose efficiency depends, as it has always depended, upon the same things—adequate force, secrecy, and unanimity. The force is supplied by the glad enthusiasm of the people. It is, as becomes our system, voluntary. And so must the other two be. They must be entirely voluntary. And since we can not have, and ought not to have a law restraining the expression of opinion—it must be left to the patriotic good sense of the people. Neither to please the enemy nor embarrass ourselves by an incessant carping and quibbling at the management of our affairs. What is carping and quibbling is precisely the point to be left to the general common sense.

Our system presupposes enough discretion in the citizens not to destroy itself. It implies in its very nature that liberty does not necessarily decline into licentiousness. Its very claim is that (Next Page)



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