The Trent Affair


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, December 28, 1861

This WEB site contains online, readable versions of the Harper's Weekly newspapers published during the Civil War. These old newspapers allow you to develop a unique understanding of the important events of the Civil War. This site is created to help you in your studies and your research. Check back often, as we add new material each day.


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Civil War Refugees


Burning Charleston

Trent Affair

Trent Affair

Fort Pickens

Fort Pickens Bombardment

Fire in Charleston

The Charleston Fire

Execuation of Deserter

Execution of a Deserter

Gold Pens

Gold Pens


Fort Pickens

Bombardment of Fort Pickens


Charleston, South Carolina

Firing Squad

Execution by Firing Squad

Fort Pulaski

Fort Pulaski

Winslow Homer's Great Fair









DECEMBER 28, 1861.]




GOVERNOR MORTON, of Indiana, was serenaded and made a speech a few days ago. He expressed a sentiment which has been heard elsewhere. "I am for crushing the rebellion," said the Governor, "but not by means which would make reconciliation impossible."

But, Governor, when people are pushed to war somebody must be hurt. "What is war but a mutual hurting of two parties until one yields to the other? War is meant to inflict injury. It is the argument of physical strength when the mental argument has failed.

Then if an enemy must be hurt, and will certainly hurt you, in what way may he be hurt? Clearly in every way that, without unnecessary personal torture, may compel him to submit. If a man attacks me murderously I may fairly hold his hands, or throw him down, or shoot him. So if a nation or a faction begins a war, every means that will cripple their resources and shear their strength is honorable warfare. You may blockade a port, or you may surround a fort, and starve them into surrender. You may seize the horses, carriages, and telegraphs that might convey men, means, or information. You may seize corn and crops, and unquestionably destroy them rather than that they should fall into the enemy's hands and help him. Will Governor Morton say why you must respect the labor which is the source of all these helps to the foe ?

If by any means the rebels could stop the work in the Northern factories, which are now humming night and day with the weaving of cloths and necessaries of every kind for our army, would they not do so, and have a perfect right to do it? If, although they might be beyond the Potomac, they could show the workmen that it was for their interest to stop working for us, does Governor Morton think that they might not fairly do it? Can he conceive a more disastrous blow to our cause? And if in doing so they should do an act just and desirable in itself, would that be any objection?

But he may think that, if the operatives immediately began to ravish and murder, it would be a very inhuman thing to excite them. But no people under such circumstances ever did or do such things. It is holding men in slavery which produces servile insurrections, not releasing them. And again, if there be any truth in the argument that a release of the slaves of rebels would carry terror into the rebellious section, since that is the very thing we are trying to do, the very purpose for which we have collected fleets and armies-since war is organized terror, and fear subdues men suddenly, upon what ground can we honestly refrain, in justice to the men who have taken their lives in their hands for their country, to bring the terror of this threat to bear upon the enemies of the country ? If they think it a real danger they will succumb, or deliberately risk the result. If they do not think it so, why should Governor Morton ?

Besides, does any man in his senses not see that this weapon must and will be used, rather than the destruction of the country be suffered ? Then it is simply a question of time and of necessity—a question of circumstances.

Once more. Every man ought to know that the exasperation of feeling can go no farther than it has already reached. This generation in the rebellious section has been educated in contempt of the Union and hatred of the North. The feeling is perfectly unreasonable. It can not be conciliated. Those who have it are to be, and will be, conquered. When they are conquered they will be reasonable.


THE case of Gordon, the slave-trader, has peculiar interest in the midst of the war. The general conviction undoubtedly is that he will not be hung, but that his sentence will be commuted. The reason for this view seems to be that this is the first capital conviction under an old law; and that as the slave-trade between the States is not punished as piracy, it is practically unfair to treat the African slave-trade as such.

The difference between the two is simply this, that the sufferings of the victims are naturally longer in the transport across the ocean than in the carriage from State to State. The essential meanness, inhumanity, and crime are the same in both cases. In sentencing the prisoner, the judge said : "Think of the cruelty and wickedness of seizing nearly a thousand fellow-beings who never did you harm, and thrusting them beneath the decks of a small ship, beneath a burning tropical sun, to die of disease or suffocation, or be transported to distant lands, and be consigned, they and their posterity, to a fate far more cruel than death. * * * As you are soon to pass into the presence of that God of the black man as well as the white man, who is no respecter of persons, do not indulge for a moment the thought that he hears with indifference the cry of the humblest of his children."

In these suitable and solemn words speaks the honor of the nation. How they contrast with the extraordinary words of a higher court—words which History fails to justify—that the Africans were held to be people who had no rights to be respected! Which, in time name of decency and justice, is the more respectable, the mild barbarian in his home, living after his light and his kind, or the civilized Christian who seizes him, packs him into the hold of a ship, with all the noisome attendant horrors of which the record is unquestionable, and sails with him over the sea?

What extenuating circumstances this case offers do not appear. If there be reasons why the sentence should not be executed, the President will doubtless state them. If the penalty shall seem to him too harsh for the offense, he will, in remitting it, of course recommend to Congress to modify the law. But if he does that, can he escape recommending the abolition of the death-penalty altogether? If Hicks were justly hung for killing two or three persons at a blow and without pain

upon the ocean, what shall be said of him who caused the death of scores by lingering tortures? No form of piracy is so hideous as the slave trade; and if every man in New York who is concerned in the traffic dared to put up the sign which describes his business, he would print upon it " Pirate and Murderer."


THERE is no such thing as conditional patriotism. Every citizen of this country is either for maintaining the Government and the national integrity at any cost, or else there is some price which he considers too costly to pay for it.

The question instantly occurs whether there may not be a price too high; but the answer is returned as immediately, What possible price can be extravagant for a system which secures all rights and development?

If the system be essentially and inevitably unfriendly to any human right—if justice to all men is lawfully impossible under it—why maintain it at all? This was the old ground of the Abolitionists, and they were honest disunionists, for they held that our system secured the wrongs instead of the rights of men. But those who believe that "the cause of the United States is the cause of human nature," maintain the Government at any cost, because no price is too precious for the maintenance of those rights.

If, therefore, any citizen in any border State values the Government only so long as it protects property in slaves, but renounces it when, for its own salvation, the, Government confiscates the property in slaves, he is just as patriotic as a Lowell manufacturer would be who should be unwilling to have the Government maintain itself by confiscating the mills of disloyal manufacturers.

If John Hancock had said, "I am for America, provided that you are not compelled to burn Boston and destroy my property," John Hancock would have had the same kind of immortality that Patrick Henry conferred upon Hook, the beef contractor for the army. The citizen in the border States or elsewhere who takes the conditional ground is not a Union man in the necessary sense; and, however honest he may be, he can not reasonably be trusted; for no man can be trusted in any kind of struggle who is not equal to a reverse. And the conditionally loyal man is only waiting to see which side shows the strongest. He will veer with every victory.


A ROYAL ENGRAVING BY DOO.—The Ex-King of Naples, in answer to a deputation who went through the solemn mockery of presenting him with a sword, which is about as useful to him as a razor-strop would be to a baby, said, with most facetious gravity:

"The Queen and I shall preserve, eternally engraved on our hearts, the names of you all."

How they are to be engraved we can not tell, unless it is by the process of lithography.

A SENSIBLE EXCHANGE.—"Why, my dear Mrs. Smith, what ever have you done with your Piano?"

"Oh! Mr. Smith insisted upon my disposing of it, and buying instead a Serving Machine for each of the girls. He says they would be much more useful, and would make much less noise."


To make a Will is the Wont of every prudent man.

A WELL-WISHER. —There is a man in Pennsylvania who has the power of divining the existence of an oil-spring merely by the smell. He is out to possess this penetrating faculty from having a very strongly-developed oil-factory nerve.

A TICKLISH EXPENSE.—Of ail extravagances, perhaps the habit of snuff-taking is the worst, as one can not help paying for it through the nose.


Working Bees, in summer's heat, Making honey, stock their hives, So that they have food to eat When the wintry cold arrives. By their toil the store was got,

Of it they partake their due;

Out of work with them is not

Therefore out of victuals too.

Working Men, employed, can earn Little more than bread and cheese; In a hoard they've no concern, Like the happier Working Bees.

All that they produce, beside

What their present hunger craves, Goes for others to provide;

None except the Master saves.

Now the winter is at hand,

Bees and men may work no more,

Bees can sustenance command; Men can only help implore. Masters, you will live at ease On the fruits of labor then;

They are shared by Working Bees, Give a share to Working Men.

CONCISE, IF NOT CORRECT.—An Englishman, who thought he knew every thing—as many Englishmen do-was endeavoring to prove that the French language was capable of expressing a great deal more in a few words than the English could in several, and as a convincing example he brought forward the following instance : "You see, if I wanted to state that I had lost my war-horse in battle, all I should have to say would be simply, 'Mon cheval est hors-de-combat.'"

A BILL ACCEPTOR.-A dead wall.

ANOTHER SECESSIONIST.- Should the Pope at last resolve upon yielding up his temporal power, it will obviously be an act of Papal See-cession.

Why is an apple-tree like crooked wall!— Because it isn't plumb.

The other day we threw a shell from the Rip Raps into one of the rebel batteries, but owing to some defect it did not explode. They would not accept such an imperfect piece of workmanship; they refused it, and sent it back.

Why is it unpleasant to have carrion near?— Because it makes an offal smell.

A piece of common sense that ought to be remembered by every soldier when his regiment is about leaving for the seat of war:—It is not right to be left.

Why did William Tell shudder when he shot the apple from his son's head?—Because it was an arrow escape for his child.



ON Tuesday, December 10, in the Senate, Senators Fessenden and Sumner presented petitions for emancipating slaves under the war power. A resolution to expel Waldo P. Johnson for sympathizing and acting with the rebels was laid over. Bills were introduced to authorize the President to acquire territory for the settlement of free negroes, and for the reorganization of the Medical Department of the army. Senator Hale called up his resolution instructing the Judiciary Committee to inquire into the expediency of abolishing the present judicial system of the United States and establishing another, which was agreed to. A bill to render more operative the law passed last summer relative to the sale of spirituous liquors in the District of Columbia was also presented.

-In the House, Mr. Pendleton, of Ohio, made a speech on his motion to refer back to the Judiciary Committee the memorial of the whilom Baltimore Police Commissioners, now resident at Fort Warren, Boston harbor. He was briefly replied to, in support of the course pursued by the President, to the effect that all that could be urged in favor of these and other prisoners similarly held had been already fully answered by the argument of Attorney-General Bates, and that it did not lie in the mouths of the memorialists to claim the benefit of the Constitution, every provision of which they had trampled under foot." Mr. Pendleton's motion was tabled by 108 yeas to 26 nays. The Senate resolution for a joint committee to inquire into the conduct of the war was concurred in.

On Wednesday, 11th, in the Senate, after the presentation of a petition for the emancipation of slaves, Senator Wilson offered a resolution of inquiry as to what reduction could be made in the expenses of the army. Resolutions from the Legislature of Kentucky, asking Congress to relieve the distressed people of Ireland, mere presented. Senator Chandler offered a resolution appointing a joint committee having power to retire improper officers of the army and navy. A joint resolution for the confiscation of rebel property and satisfying claims of loyal men was introduced.-In the House, a resolution was introduced to the effect that the President be respectfully requested to direct General Halleck to recall his order referring to fugitive slaves, or cause it to conform to the practice in other departments of the army. After speeches from members in support of and in opposition to the proposition, the whole subject was laid on the table by a vote of seventy-eight yeas to sixty-four nays. A bill providing for time recognition of the republics of Hayti and Liberia was introduced, but, on motion, it was voted that in lieu of this bill the Committee on Foreign Affairs be directed to inquire into the expediency of such recognition. A bill to forfeit the property and slaves of persons found in arms against the Government was introduced and referred to the Judiciary Committee. A bill for the punishment of treason, for the re-numeration of loyal citizens for losses sustained at the hands of the rebels, and to provide homesteads for soldiers, was introduced and referred to the Judiciary Committee.

On Thursday, 12th, in the Senate, a bill authorizing the President to fill the vacancies at the West Point Academy was introduced and referred to the Military Committee. A resolution making the appointments in the Naval Academy to depend entirely upon merit was adopted. A resolution for an examination into the army sutler system was agreed to. A joint resolution in favor of an exchange of prisoners was referred. The proposition to expel Senator Johnson, of Missouri, was debated and referred to the Judiciary Committee. The Senate held an executive session and then adjourned.—In the House, some further remarks passed between Messrs. Blair and Lovejoy on the subject of General Halleck's recent orders with regard to contrabands, Mr. Blair producing and reading a letter on the subject, which he had received from General H. After considerable discussion its further consideration was postponed till Monday. On the taking up of the special order—namely, the various propositions involving the emancipation of the slaves of rebels—a long and animated debate ensued, which finally led to a spirited personal altercation between Messrs. Conway, of Kansas, and Fouke, of Illinois, when the subject was dropped, and the House adjourned till Monday next.

On Monday, Dec. 16, in the Senate, petitions were presented for the unconditional abolishment of slavery, for the emancipation of the slaves of rebels, and for an exchange of prisoners. Senator Wilson introduced his bill for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia. The bill provides for the appointment of commissioners to inquire into the validity of the claims presented for compensation for manumitting such persons, providing the whole amount shall not exceed more than three hundred dollars for each person so held to service or labor, and appropriates one million of dollars for carrying the act into effect. A resolution was offered by Senator Wilkinson, to expel Jesse D. Bright from the Senate of the United States, and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. The resolution referring to the arrest of persons in the loyal States was then taken up, which raised a discussion as to the right of the President to suppress the writ of habeas corpus, in which a number of members took part. The matter was referred to the Judiciary Committee by a vote of 25 to 17. After agreeing to a resolution of inquiry as to the cause of the escape of the Sumter, an executive session was held.—In the House, a personal difficulty between Messrs. Conway and Fouke was again brought up by the former gentleman rising to a question of privilege, and some unparliamentary language indulged in by both parties. Bills were introduced providing for the relief of Union soldiers now prisoners in the rebel States, and for the establishment of branch Mint in Nevada Territory. A bill was passed striking from the pension roll the names of all persons in any manner aiding the rebellion. Mr. Vallandigham introduced a preamble and resolution sustaining the Administration in the stand it has taken respecting the action of Captain Wilkes in the arrest of Messrs. Mason and Slidell. The subject was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs. The consideration of the bill authorizing the raising of a volunteer force for the defense of Kentucky was then resumed, which called up a discussion upon nearly the whole conduct of the war. The bill passed. A joint resolution was adopted, if the Senate concur, that when the House adjourns on Thursday it be until January 6.


The United States steamer-transport Constitution, Captain A. T. Fletcher, arrived at Fortress Monroe on 15th, where she called for orders, on her return from Ship Island, Mississippi Sound, having safely landed at the latter place, December 4, the two regiments (Twenty-sixth Massachusetts, and Ninth Connecticut), which embarked on her at Boston, the 18th and 21st of November. In this southward expedition, after proceeding to Portland for the Twelfth Regiment of Maine, which did not embark on her, the Constitution proceeded to Fortress Monroe, November 23, where she arrived on the 26th. She coaled, and left on the 28th, and, after a pleasant passage, arrived at Ship Island, Mississippi Sound, December 3.

Her arrival here was as gratifying as it was unexpected by the little fleet and small garrison which have been holding the place against constant threats, and occasional attacks from the rebels. By the assistance of two large river steamers, which had been captured in Mississippi Sound only a short time previous to her arrival, the troops and material of war, and subsistence stores, were landed between the 4th and 8th of December—a single accident only occurring, by which one of the steel rifled guns belonging to Captain Manning's Light Battery was lost overboard. The two regiments were comfortably encamped on the island, near the light-house, and the Salem Battey near the fortification. On the 8th the last of the cargo was landed on the beach, and was taken charge of by Commissary Butler, brother of Major-General Butler, who will probably join the expedition in a short time with a large accession to the force.


In Kentucky the movements of the troops betoken an early engagement with the rebels. The contending forces are large on both sides, the rebels having twenty-five thousand men under General Buckner, and the Unionists a sufficient force to give them battle. General Buell, in Louisville, is in constant telegraphic communication with the advancing forces, and is employing all the rolling stock of the railway in forwarding troops and supplies. In the neighborhood of Somerset both armies are fortifying, and

at Fishing Creek, five miles west of that place, General Zollicoffer is also reported erecting rebel batteries. There are indefinite rumors in Cincinnati of an engagement between General McCook and the rebels at Mumfordsville, but they are not credited.


A report reached St. Louis last week that Generals Rains and Stein, with their rebel forces, had taken possession of Lexington, that the Union troops had engaged them there, and that a battle was then in progress. Additional Union troops were marching in that direction to meet the rebels.


The Forty-sixth New York Regiment, Colonel Rosa, has left Hilton Head and proceeded to Tybee Island. The Seventy-sixth and Sixtieth Pennsylvania Volunteers now occupy Otter Island in St. Helena Sound. The island possesses some strategic value from the fact that it commands the entrance of the South Edisto River and other important river points.

The cotton gathering by the negroes, under the direction of our troops, is progressing satisfactorily; several hundred bales have been brought down from Beaufort to Hilton Head. Over two millions of dollars' worth have already been secured.


A story is published of the state of affairs in Nashville, Tennessee, as furnished by two refugee from the rebel trap at New Orleans, who have just arrived in Cincinnati. It appears that while passing through Nashville on the 6th instant a counter-revolution of the most exciting character was going on. An effort to impress some citizens into the rebel army was resisted by the people, who rose in large numbers, and a general riot ensued. The police, who endeavored to subdue the multitude, were fiercely opposed, and four of them killed. The people then rushed toward the Capitol, to take vengeance on the rebel Governor, Harris, but that functionary fled precipitately to Memphis. This fact in itself is suggestive of a general reactionary movement in the South; but taken in connection with the accounts we have recently had of a similar spirit in North Carolina, Eastern Tennessee, the two reclaimed counties of Eastern Virginia, Arkansas, and New Orleans, there is abundant evidence that the Unionists in the rebel States, and thousands of others who are weary of the grinding despotism of Davis and his colleagues, are only waiting for protection and encouragement from the Government to put themselves once more under the folds of the old banner.


Intelligence reaches us by way of Cincinnati that a hard-fought battle came off on Friday in Pocahontas county, Western Virginia, between General Milroy, of the Union troops, and General Johnston, commanding the rebels, which lasted from daylight till three o'clock in the afternoon. The Union troops numbered 750, and the rebels over 2000. The rebels, were defeated, set fire to their camp, and retreated beyond the borders of Western Virginia. General Johnston was said to be shot in the month, while the loss of his men amounted to 200. On our side only thirty men were killed.


The rebel General Buckner recently sent a flag of truce from his camp at Bowling Green, Kentucky, to the Union lines, asking permission for his wife to pass on to Louisville with the mortal remains of their infant daughter, which they wished to inter in their family vault in that city. General Buell courteously denied the request.


General Hunter's proclamation to the Trustees of Platte City, Missouri, contains language strong and unmistakable. He names the persons he addresses, and says that, unless the rebels under a secession thief named Si. Gordon are not captured or driven out of that locality by the inhabitants themselves within ten days, he will send a force with orders to "reduce to ashes the houses of every secessionist in the country, and to carry away every negro."


Colonel C. A. Waite, of the United State Army, has been placed in command of the military posts along the Northern line. His department extends from Maine to Michigan, and the different posts are immediately to be occupied and put in a state of defense. A regiment of cavalry will be stationed at Detroit. A regiment of artillery will be located in divisions at Niagara, Lockport, and Sackett's Harbor; and Fort Montgomery, at Rouse's Point, will be occupied by two companies of United States infantry within a few days, the works put in a state of defense, and guns mounted as soon as practicable.



ON receipt of the news of the boarding of the Trent in England the popular excitement became intense. Mr. Bright had made a speech at Rochdale, in which he referred in the friendliest terms to the cause in which the North is engaged, and expressed a hope that a rupture might still be avoided. Mr. Cobden had written a letter, moderate in tone, invoking a suspension of judgment. But the entire drift of opinion appeared to be in the direction of war, the ministerial press fanning the popular flame by promising to clear the sea of the American navy in a month; acknowledge the Southern Confederacy; and, by breaking the blockade, letting out cotton, and letting in British manufactures. A blockade of the Northern ports is also on the war programme. The London Observer, the more intimate mouth-piece of the ministers, declares it would be not only proper, but easy, to cause Slidell and Mason to be delivered to a British frigate, anchored in front of Washington, with twelve other royal men-of-war attending as witnesses of the humiliating spectacle. The tone of the press generally is violent and uncompromising, and little hope is expressed that the United States will make concessions. The Louden Times, indeed, declares a war to be sought by Mr Seward through this transaction; and a remark said to have been made by General Scott since his arrival at Paris, is cited as showing the insult to have been deliberately planned by the Washington Cabinet.

The effect of the war policy of the Government upon the markets has been striking. The funds have fallen three per cent. ; American securities have fallen six, and Canadian securities ten per cent. The speculative demand for cotton has utmost ceased, in view of the early opening of the cotton ports resulting from hostilities, while bread-stuffs have advanced.


Queen Victoria had issued a proclamation forbidding the export from all ports of the United Kingdom of gunpowder, nitre, nitrate of soda, brimstone, lead, and fire-arms.


The three classes of reserve comprise eight line-of-battle ships, six frigates, five corvettes, and twelve sloops, mounting a grand total of 1861 guns. The steam gun-boats attached are not included, which are twenty-one in number, with forty-two guns. This, however, does not include the gun-boats and mortar-vessels laid up. The list is confined entirely to effective vessels at present, or could be rendered so with little delay. The ships in commission for service at Portsmouth mount 342 guns. The total number of guns in the ships enumerated above is 225, while Admiral Milne's fleet on time North American station amounts to 837 guns.



The Paris Moniteur considers a peaceful solution not impossible, and says that public opinion in the United States is very powerful, but is also very fickle, and it is best to await a solution of the question.

The Paris Journal des Debats approves the review of the Moniteur, and adds that the French Government is in no hurry to recognize the South.

Other French papers are of the same opinion.



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