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Civil War Harper's Weekly, April 26, 1862

This site presents online editions of all the Harper's Weekly newspapers published during the Civil War. These newspapers are available for your perusal and study. The information on these pages is simply not available anywhere else!

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General Halleck


Before Yorktown


Pittsburg Landing

Battle of Pittsburg Landing

Pittsburg Landing

Pittsburg Landing Battle


The Nagatuck

Island No. 10

Island No. 10



Big Bethel

Big Bethel


Battle of Yorktown

Pittsburg Landing

Pittsburg Landing

Confederate Cartoon

Confederate Cartoon





[APRIL 26, 1862.



THE regular circulation of Harper's Weekly is now between ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-FIVE and ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY THOUSAND copies. Assuming that each number of the paper is read by ten persons—a moderate estimate—a million and a quarter people derive instruction and amusement from this journal. It affords us no little satisfaction to witness this success. Certainly we may say that no effort on our part has been wanting to deserve it.

Our weekly expenses for traveling artists are alone as heavy as our total outlay for artistic labor used to be when Harper's Weekly was first established. This outlay, however, enables us to depict, week by week, the progress of our arms along the whole circumference of the Rebellion, with a fidelity and vividness seldom equaled.

We are besides enabled to lay before our readers each week several pages of the best reading of the day, including the works of Dickens, Wilkie Collins, and Bulwer. So remarkable a combination of artistic and literary excellences has never been presented in any journal, either in this country or abroad.

We think that this Number, for instance, will bear comparison with any number of any paper ever produced in the United States or in Europe.



A FAVORITE idea of many foreign critics of the United States is that this country is governed by "the mob." We are told that certain measures can not succeed because they will not suit "the mob;" that the Government can not pursue the policy it pleases in consequence of the pressure of "the mob;" that "the mob" will not hear of peace, and hence that "the golden opportunity for compromise" is being lost; that "the mob" will not pay takes, and therefore that public credit is ruined; that. "the respectable classes" in the United States are powerless, the supreme authority being vested in "the mob."

If, when foreigners use the words "the mob," they merely mean "the people," then they are undoubtedly right in stating that in the mob in this country supreme authority is vested by law. There is no class in this country which enjoys legislative authority over its fellow-citizens by virtue of birth, or rank, or wealth. In this country no descendants of the bastard children of king's mistresses are born to make laws for the legitimate offspring of honest women. This may be our misfortune: it is undoubtedly the fact. Herein the United States differ from many foreign countries, and especially from Great Britain.

But if, when foreigners employ the words "the mob," they mean gatherings of lawless and turbulent risen, unwilling to obey the mandates of the established authorities, then they are clearly in error in stating that such a class in this country exercises any appreciable control over our public policy, or is in the least feared or regarded either by the legislative or the executive branches of Government.

Such gatherings have never been seen here except at rare intervals in a few great cities. The lawless characters of which they have consisted have almost invariably been foreigners. They have never in a single instance been able to resist the power of the constituted authorities. The most remarkable mobs ever known in this country have been the Astor Place mob, which was quelled in a couple of hours by two companies of militia; the Dead Rabbit mob, which was put down by a mere demonstration without fighting; and the Municipal Police mob, which was a mere cabal, and did not disturb the peace of the city in the least. There never was an instance in this country of a mob, in the sense defined above, undertaking deliberately to resist the execution of the law, or to defy its instruments. All our mobs have grown out of petty local disputes, and have subsided on the first exhibition of purpose by the constituted authorities. An attempt was made by Fernando Wood, in 1857, to get up a mob in this city for the purpose of organizing a revolutionary resistance to the State authorities; and again, in 1860, the attempt was renewed, with the like object. On both occasions the promoters of disturbance failed signally. Even in this great city, where the "dangerous classes" are so numerous, and there are always two or three thousand loose, idle, and disorderly foreigners ready for any tumult, it has never been possible to organize any substantial resistance to the constituted authorities.

The reason is very simple. In this country every man is a maker as well as a subject of the law, and is personally responsible for its execution. In every constituency in the United States the number of persons who are interested in the preservation of law and order largely exceeds that of the persons who are interested in riot and disorder. Our system renders all citizens, jointly and severally, responsible for the welfare and peace of society at large.

In England it is different. There the governing power is confined to a small class of persons, and the benefits of government enjoyed by a still smaller class. The bulk of the British people have nothing to lose and every thing to gain by revolutionary movements. One out of every nine people in England is a pauper; and of the remaining eight only one is entitled to

vote at elections. Property is in a few hands; nineteen-twentieths of the British people own nothing, and are controlled by the aristocracy and wealthy commonalty. It is easy to see that in a society thus constituted there must be two classes: the Governing Class, which rules the country and owns the property; and the rest of the people, who have neither power nor property. These latter are called in England "the mob." It likewise follows that between this "mob" and that Governing Class there must be incessant warfare. It has always been so. No ministry in England has ever pursued a policy that was in opposition to the instincts of that unrepresented, unrecognized, but terribly feared body—the British mob—without providing large bodies of troops to protect itself. The history of England during the present century is one series of mobs and riots in London, in Liverpool, in Manchester, in Birmingham; the sandbags which to this day line the roof of the Bank of England, and the iron shutters which shield the windows of Apsley House, are visible evidences of the dread and respect which British mobs have inspired. At this very moment the news from England consists mainly of reports of mobs and riots at Sheffield and other manufacturing cities.

If the present civil war had broken out in England instead of the United States these mobs would undoubtedly have coerced the British Government from time to time. Those British writers who have written about our mob have merely confounded our condition with theirs, and given us credit for suffering from the disease which was familiar to them at home. A closer acquaintance with our system would have shown them that mobs, in their sense of the word, are an impossibility here; and a little more attention to passing events might have induced them profitably to compare our treatment of Dr. Russell of the Times with their outrage upon Haynau, and their rebellion against the Duke of Wellington with the stern calmness with which the West submitted to the removal of Fremont.



"WHEN the fighting begins," said. General McClellan in the autumn, "it will be short and sharp." He did not add, what he probably thought, that it would not begin until each side was fully prepared, so that the event must be decisive. But that is evidently the case. Every man, as he hears of the general advance, feels that we are fully ready. Nobody was seriously troubled about the result at No. 10, where the cheerful hero, Foote, told us there was "some of the most beautiful rifle practice ever seen." The siege of Yorktown is proceeding at this moment; but nobody is apprehensive of the issue, except for one reason, and that is the Merrimac—the very point for which no proper provision was made.

Nor can any good excuse ever be made for that negligence. The only thing that can be said is that we preferred to believe she was a failure. For ten or eleven months we knew she was preparing. In Harper's Weekly for Saturday, November 2, there is an admirable picture of her very much as she appeared when, four months afterward, she came out and appalled us, and the account of her construction and armament was accurate; yet we went on as if there were no Merrimac and no danger. Already we have paid dearly enough for our blunder; and at this moment of writing the national joy at the great Pittsburg triumph is overshadowed by the vague apprehension of mischance from the Merrimac. Should she steam out and push on to the relief of Yorktown by the annihilation of our boats there, she might be of signal service in checking our advance.

Yet, except for this unguarded point, the national campaign against the rebellion has proceeded according to the motto of McClellan. Nor at last will the wisdom of the general plan be disputed. To have attacked before we were fully prepared to annihilate resistance would have prolonged the war indefinitely. It was not enough merely to defeat the enemy in an occasional battle. It was essential to the final rout of his hopes of resistance that he should feel our overwhelming strength simultaneously at every point of his line.

For no student of the war must forget the essential difference between dealing with a foreign foe and domestic conspirators. And in this case, to say that if we had moved long ago the enemy could not have intrenched himself, is simply to beg the whole question; for the two prominent facts were that the enemy was organized before we began to organize, and he stood upon his own chosen ground. Besides, suppose that we might have driven him from Manassas or beaten him there last December—what then? Was it not cheaper in blood and money to wait until Halleck and the West were ready? And what the condition of the Western Department was as late as October we know from Fremont's report.

If the campaign had been opened at any one point last December, and before there could have been a general cooperation, the chance is that the war would have been dragged out, with varying success, until Europe insisted that the rebels had maintained their independence long enough to be acknowledged.

If a man remembers accurately how long this rebellion had been ripening, how deadly earnest the rebels were, how united, how able, how they had already poisoned the public mind of Europe in their favor, how doubtful we were, how bound hand and foot by Floyd and Toucey, that we had

an army to raise and equip, a navy to build, a line of a thousand miles to hold and then push back; if he remembers this, and then considers where we are to-day—that a year ago, when Sumter fell, the nation seemed lost, and to-day when its anniversary returns the rebellion is palpably annihilated, not only in its attitude of armed resistance but in its root of treason—he will surely agree that however he may have criticised details, the general design of the campaign has been most comprehensive and overwhelming. He is a very great genius or a very great fool who thinks he could have improved it.


AT this moment of writing, when our forces are gathered upon the peninsula before Yorktown and the rebels are assembled for their last desperate defense, it will be curious to put upon record a calculation of the chances.

Immediately following the great victory of our arms at Pittsburg, and involving the fate of the rebel capital, the battle of Yorktown must be considered as the decisive event of the rebellion. Should the national army conquer and the "Confederate" Government get upon wheels and begin to roll Southward, the conspiracy could hardly again gather force enough for any considerable blow. On the other hand, should the rebels defeat us, the disaster would be a serious check to us The result will be known, probably, before these words are printed. What, then, are the chances?

First, as to numbers. We are probably a hundred thousand strong in the field, with a reserve at Fortress Monroe, and McDowell's corps within cooperating distance. The rebels are probably not more than sixty thousand at Yorktown with a reserve nearer Richmond of thirty or forty thousand.

Second, as to position. We are moving across a plain, wooded country in which the rebels have strengthened every defensible point against us. We have some gun-boats to harass them from the water side, to which they oppose heavy batteries and the chances of the Merrimac. The rebels have probably two, and perhaps three, lines of defense across the peninsula upon which they have had a year's time to intrench themselves.

Third, as to arms. Ours are of the best kind and variety, and most ample in number. This has been a special point with McClellan. The rebels are near the Tredegar works at Richmond and the factories at Norfolk, and they are doubtless better appointed here than they have been at any point, although they have always been strong in artillery. The number of guns upon either side is purely conjectural. The reports of five hundred upon the rebel fortifications are only the guesses of Baltimore sympathizers.

Fourth, as to quality of men. Ours are confident of numerical superiority. They are flushed with the glory of our incessant victories. They long to mingle the splendor of their renown with that of the Western army. They are eager and enthusiastic. They have been long and carefully trained. They believe in their leaders, and feel that their victory will secure and crown the triumph of the National cause. Moreover, they are in the enemy's country upon a peninsula. A severe repulse would inevitably end disastrously for them. In a sense their ships are burned behind them. Safety as well as honor lies only before. On the other hand, the rebels are stunned and discomfited. The last two months have overwhelmed them every where with defeat at home, and the faint hope of foreign recognition and aid has at length expired. They know that success even does not save them. They are dispirited, hopeless, uncertain. But they hate us, and they stand upon their own soil, and they believe that they are defending their hearths and their honor, and the very desperation of their situation may give them a ferocious energy.

Fifth, as to leaders. We have one directing mind, General McClellan. His Generals, Keyes, Porter, Heintzelman, and the rest, are worthy of the wisest chief. McClellan has not yet commanded in a great battle as Grant, Buell, Lyon, Siegel, Curtis, and McDowell have, therefore his generalship in the field upon a large scale is to be tested. Yet the strategy of the war thus far, of which he is certainly entitled to his share of the credit, has been overwhelmingly triumphant. His troops are proud of him; the country confides in him. Should he capture Richmond, every cloud of uncertainty rolls away from his name. For their side, the rebels have Jefferson Davis, Joseph Johnston, Magruder, and Lee, neither of whom is a very noted general. The great military rebel names were Sydney Johnston, Beauregard, and Leonidas Polk. Joseph Johnson is reputed to be a good soldier. Lee is certainly not. Magruder is a Captain Bobadil, but Jefferson Davis is doubtless cool and sagacious.

The comparison of chances leaves us, then, numerically and morally, superior and better led. The rebels have the advantage of position, and the arms are equal. If the rebels stand and fight in earnest, the battle must be desperate and bloody. Should it result, as every loyal heart hopes and believes, the dramatic coincidence of this war with the Revolution would be remarkable. The first bloody battle of the Revolution was fought at Lexington and Concord on the 19th of April. On the same day, eighty-six years later, the first blood of this war was shed at Baltimore. At Yorktown was the success that assured the establishment of our national independence, and at Yorktown will have been won the victory which secures it forever.


ON the 21st and 24th of August, 1781, Lafayette wrote from his camp at the Forks of York River to Washington at Philadelphia. On the 22d Lord Cornwallis, comfortably secure, wrote from Yorktown to Sir Henry Clinton at New York offering to spare him ten or twelve hundred men. Washington instructed Lafayette to prevent any escape up

the peninsula which Cornwallis might attempt when the French fleet under De Grasses arrived. Accordingly troops were sent to the south of James River, and General Wayne was ready to cross it at Westover. Lafayette was meanwhile ready to move to Williamsburg and join the forces which might be landed from the French fleet.

On the 5th of September Washington left for the scene of operations and heard, on the way, of the arrival at the Capes on the 28th August of the French fleet of twenty-eight ships of the line. He immediately wrote to de Grasse that the van of the two armies would drop down the Chesapeake to co-operate with him and Lafayette. De Grasse immediately closed the mouth of the York River and landed 3300 men. At the same time James River was full of armed vessels to cover the transportation of our troops, and Wayne crossed. Cornwallis saw that his escape was cut off—strengthened his works, and sent to Sir Henry Clinton for aid.

De Grasse and a French General begged Lafayette to storm Yorktown and Gloucester. The young chief, humane as honorable, preferred to await the coming of the combined forces to secure a more bloodless, if less brilliant, victory. De Grasse, expecting the fleet of De Barras from Rhode Island, and hearing of the English fleet under Graves, off the Capes, sailed out with many of his ships and amused Graves for a few days, during which De Barras slipped in, De Grasse followed him, and Graves, outwitted, returned to New York.

Meanwhile Washington had reached Williamsburg, and sent to hasten the arrival of the French troops, while he begged General Lincoln to press forward to a junction. These troops were coming down the Chesapeake. On the 22d of September Washington heard of the arrival of Admiral Digby at New York with troops and six ships. De Grasse was afraid of the combined fleets, and proposed to leave a few vessels in the James and York rivers, while he put to sea to engage the English with the rest. Washington saw that if the fleet went Cornwallis had a chance of succor; if it remained he must surrender; and he entreated De Grasse to remain. The Count was persuaded, and by the 25th September the American and French troops were encamped near Williamsburg, and ready. The enemy was mainly at Yorktown, but also held Gloucester Point, opposite. On the 26th our troops were drawn out, twelve thousand strong. In the evening Cornwallis heard from Clinton that a fleet of twenty-three ships with 5000 troops would sail to his relief on the 5th October. In the night he abandoned his outworks. Our men seized them in the morning. On the 28th September our army marched from Williamsburg, and, driving in the British pickets and patrols, encamped within two miles of Yorktown. On the 1st October our lines completely invested the place, while De Grasse's fleet held the month of the river. In the evening of the 2d Tarleton and his troop crossed to Gloucester Point from Yorktown to forage; a skirmish followed, and he retreated. The next day the French General, Choisy, with a detachment of marines, cut off Gloucester Point from the rear country.

On the 6th of October General Lincoln opened our first parallel, six hundred yards from the enemy. On the 9th it was completed, and Washington fired the first gun. On the night of the 11th the second parallel was opened, within three hundred yards of the works. On the night of the 14th two redoubts were stormed and carried by the Americans and French, General Hamilton commanding. It was a most brave and brilliant achievement; and it was while watching it, intensely excited, that Washington was greatly exposed, and his aid-de-camp ventured to say so. "If you think so," said Washington, gravely, "you are at liberty to step back." Just before dawn on the 16th Cornwallis tried to carry two of the batteries in our second parallel. It was a gallant dash, but the enemy was repulsed, and had spiked our guns so poorly that by evening they were all right again. Then Cornwallis's only hope was a retreat. He projected crossing to Gloucester Point and forcing his way Northward, leaving his sick and wounded. He prepared sixteen large boats, and had carried over a large number of troops when a storm scattered the boats. Success was hopeless, and he had to recross his troops in face of our fire. At ten o'clock on the morning of the 17th he opened a parley. At two o'clock on the afternoon of the 19th his troops marched out and laid down their arms.

At the surrender of Yorktown we made 7073 prisoners. The loss of the British was 552, our loss about 300. Our combined army was estimated at 16,000, of whom 7000 were French, 5500 Continentals, and 3500 militia.

The best accounts of the siege and surrender are in Thacher's "Military Journal," Irving's "Washington," and Holmes's "Annals."


THE extreme exigency which threatens the "Confederacy" will probably develop results like those which the pressure of Europe against revolutionary France produced at the close of the last century. Jefferson Davis is probably a man who knows when he is beaten; but there are men around him who will doubtless refuse to see defeat, and whom disaster will only plunge into utter recklessness. Davis's only hope of safety at home will be in running before the wind. When a man in his position and under his circumstances falls, from whatever cause, he falls into utter contempt, and, in perilous times, into danger of personal harm. To save his life, Davis must still be a leader. When Danton paused, Robespierre called for his head. If Davis delays, some man of inferior talent and more bloody will will demand that he be put out of the way.

It is not surprising, therefore, to see by the reports from Secessia that if a final blow falls upon Virginia—like the fall of Richmond, for instance—the Davis Administration will be in danger. Some great design was supposed to be preparing a month (Next Page)




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