Edmund Ruffin's House Burned


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, August 23, 1862

Welcome to the Civil War Harper's Weekly online newspapers. These newspapers contain rich illustrations and descriptions of the key events of the Civil War. They are a critical resource that can be used to develop an in depth understanding of the key issues of the conflict.

(Scroll Down to See Entire Page, or Newspaper Thumbnails below will take you to a specific page of interest)


US Capitol

The US Capitol

Battle of Cedar Mountain

Battle of Cedar Mountain

The Battle of Culpepper

The Battle of Culpepper

Edmund Ruffin House Burned

Edmund Ruffin's House Burned

Ironclad Navy

Ironclad Navy



Abraham Lincoln Speech

Abraham Lincoln Speech

Edmund Ruffin House Burning

Edmund Ruffin's House Burning

Army of the Potomac at Harrison's Landing

Army of the Potomac Camp at Harrison's Landing

Heron Creek new Harrison's Landing

Heron Creek

Map of Richmond Virginia

Map of Richmond Virginia

Steinway Pianos

Steinway Pianos

Elisha Hinman

Elisha Hinman

Civil War Draft Cartoons

Draft Cartoons










AUGUST 23, 1862.]




SUNSET on the East River—and a lovelier stretch of sky never gladdened the eye of beauty-seeking artist! A merry little music-box of an April shower was dimpling the turbid tides like the dance of invisible fairies, and the shining sheets of rain, sweeping away to wreathe themselves about the arch of a shadowy rainbow, whose solemn splendor gleamed athwart the heavens, were transformed into so many tiny kaleidoscopes, as the level sun streamed triumphantly over the spires of the great city. Involuntarily the passengers all thronged to the rough wooden guards of the uncouth little ferry-boat—the rudest laborer of them all felt a sudden thrill at his heart as the conqueror sun threw down his golden lance across the long line of tremulous waves: if he hadn't, he would have been an iron man indeed! When Nature speaks in some intonations all her children recognize her language and bow before it!

Rachel Greenough leaned over the guards gazing earnestly at the bright sky, her lips apart, and a flush upon her generally colorless cheek. She was not a beauty, reader, our Rachel: if you had passed her in the streets you would not have cared to look twice. She was merely a nice-looking girl, rather pale, with black hair growing low on her forehead, and gray, thoughtful eyes. But the stalwart young man at her side firmly believed there was no sweeter or truer face in all the wide world; and he ought to know, for hadn't he known her ever since they sat side by side on the wooden benches of the old red school-house under the hill? Hadn't he dwelt all his life within sight of the Old Poplar Farm which Rachel's father used to own?

"Isn't this a splendid shower, Rachel! How delicious the air is!" Rachel turned her large eyes wistfully up into his face.

"Don't it remind you of the April rains that used to patter on the brook, where the wild honey-suckles and the hazel bushes grew, Charles? Oh, how I long to escape from the whirl and tumult here, and feel the sweet country winds upon my brow!"

"So do I, Rachel," he answered; "you can't imagine how beautiful it looks at the old farm—the violets are all blue upon the southern slopes, and the borders where you planted the crocuses look as if they were edged with gold!"

"I wish I could see them!" murmured Rachel, with clasped hands.

"Then, dearest," urged the young man, eagerly, "why not accept my offer at once? Why need you stay here, working brain and health away, when I would so gladly toil for both? Rachel, you know how warm a welcome my mother would give you at the old homestead. Be my wife now, and the roses of the spring-time will be brighter to me than ever blossomed before!"

"Not yet—the time is not yet, Charles," she said, in a low voice, but one which was too decided to admit of appeal. "My mission is still unaccomplished."

"Rachel," said the young man, "I won't deny that your language is beyond my comprehension. You always were too good and wise for me, darling; but I'll wait your own time, even if it should be a hundred years!"

She put her little hand in his, with a confiding gesture that made his manly heart leap with gratified pride.

"I don't wonder you are tired of the city, Rachel," he went on, talking rapidly to veil his pleased embarrassment; "for even I, who have only been here a week, feel as if I were lost in its whirlpool. And you have lived here—let me see—"

"Ten years," said Rachel, quietly. "See, Charles, the boat has stopped: we are at the New York pier. And now, good-by!"

"And when shall I see you again?"

"I don't know, dearest—in Heaven's own good time. Until then, good-by!"

Charles Harford stood on the crowded pier, heedless of hurrying passengers and shouting cartmen—stood, firm and immovable as a post, his eyes shaded from the level sunshine with one hand, watching the slender little figure in gray dress and simple straw bonnet until it had disappeared in the swaying crowd. And then he turned slowly away, feeling as if he would give uncounted worlds to be a boy again, with a boy's privilege of "crying out" his grief!

The April shower had tinkled out its brief tune, and floated away, through the golden archway of sunset, to sprinkle other lands with baptismal dew. On the narrow panes of the little city window the lingering drops yet sparkled like stray diamonds, and all along the western horizon great ridges of luminous cloud-pearl lay heaped in fantastic piles and drifts. How it had rained! and what a faint, sweet odor there was in the moist atmosphere!—a smell of springing grass, and swelling leaf-buds, and moss-patches, sending up aromatic incense through layers of brown, fallen leaves. Even in the city street old Abel Greenough felt its undefined charm, and stretched his gray head out of the window, like a captive who looks through prison bars, and vainly yearns for his native land.

"Come, father, tea's ready!" said his bustling little better-half, who, with one eye on the clock and one on the singing tea-kettle, had spread the round claw-legged table, setting forth the cups and saucers of brilliant "flowing blue" ware, and elaborately disposing the rarity of the season—a tumbler of tapering crimson radishes, immersed to their necks in clear cold water—in the centre of the small feast. "I hear Rachel's footstep on the stairs; and here's your big cushioned chair, all ready for you. And I've bought the nicest radishes, and—why, father, what's the matter?"

Mrs. Greenough's cheerful, chirping tones had changed to an accent of grieved surprise as her eye fell on her husband's face.

"Oh, wife, wife!" groaned forth Abel, limping to his chair with rheumatism-cramped limbs, "it does seem as if I couldn't live, nohow, in this shut-up hole. I don't mind it so much in the winter;

but when it comes to be this time o' year I feel as though I was perishin' for a breath of the winds that used to blow from the old pine woods under the Poplar Farm!"

Rachel's soft step, as she came into the room, with a fresh color in her cheeks and lips, interrupted him; but as she went up to give him his usual kiss of greeting he resumed:

"What's the use of all your book-learnin', and your pen-and-ink work, daughter? It can't give me back the old meadows and pasture land that was my father's afore me! I know you provide our daily bread for us, and you are a good, dutiful child, but what's the use? Livin' ain't livin' in this cooped-up swarm of houses, and a body might as well starve to death as pine to death! Why didn't you marry Charles Harford when you had a chance, and leave the poverty-stricken old folks to take care of themselves?"

Rachel pressed her cool lips on her father's burning brow. "Father, you are tired. You will feel better by-and-by."

And the old man, softened by those gentle tones, clasped his arms about his daughter's neck with a torrent of repentant words and tender apologies.

"Late that night Rachel sat at her writing, the shaded gaslight throwing its little circle of brilliance down upon the flying point of the busy pen, which had been her companion for so long.

"Rachel, dear, it's nearly midnight!" said the old lady, who was nodding in her chair, having long since laid aside the silver-bowed spectacles, and the blue woolen "knittin'-work" which had borne her company during the earlier part of the evening.

"I know it, mother, but I must work some time yet. Don't sit up for me!"

"Child, what are you so busy about?"

"Mother," said Rachel, leaving her work to come and kneel down by the old lady's side, her head resting on the lap that had been her refuge in so many childish troubles, "I am writing a book, and it is nearly completed!"

"A book? dear me, child; won't it take you forever?"

"Not quite," said Rachel, smiling; "but I particularly wish it to be a secret for the present."

"Well, then, I won't breathe a word—not even to father. But don't work yourself to death, darling!"

Rachel kissed the withered forehead, and went back with renewed vigor to her toil.

A year had passed away, more than a year, and the May days were growing longer and sweeter, when Rachel came home one evening earlier than usual.

"Father, would not you like to take a long ride to-morrow, with mother and me?"

"A ride?" repeated the old man, mechanically,

"a ride into the country? Oh yes, let us go! I believe a sight of the green grass would do my old eyes more good than all the rose-water in the world!"

The next day came, and as the carriage rolled through fragrant country roads, where the banks on either side were sprinkled with butter-cups, and the gnarled old apple-trees shook their coronals of pink blossoms overhead, Abel Greenough's heart stirred with the glad feelings he had known as a boy, long, long ago!

"Rachel, this is something like living! But isn't this the Waynesborough road we are turning into? Do you mean to visit the Old Poplar Farm?"

"Would you like to see it again, father?"

"Would I like it, daughter?" repeated Abel, almost reproachfully.

Rachel leaned over to clasp the old man's tremulous hand.

"Dear father, you shall see it!"

There it lay in the mellow noonday sunshine, the stately poplars rearing their tapering spires, as of old, in front of the portico, and the grove of dark cedars still casting cloistral shadows on the velvet grass at the north of the house. The coral honeysuckle waved its clusters of bloom around the porch-pillars, as if not a day had elapsed since Mr. Greenough passed out beneath them with a breaking heart; and the brown-breasted robins, darting in and out of the patriarchal cherry-trees, eyed the new-comers shyly, as if uncertain whether they were friends or foes. Not a patch of moss more upon the low-eaved roof—not a grayer stain on the antique well-sweep, so clearly outlined against the dazzling sky—they might almost have quitted it yesterday.

"But, Rachel," said the old man, uneasily, "why is no one stirring about the place? Why does it look so deserted?"

"Mr. Jennings sold it a few days since, father, and it has been vacated, ready for the new occupants."

"And where are they, daughter?" he questioned, as he stood on the sunshiny porch looking wistfully about him.

"Here, dearest father!" said Rachel, throwing her arms about his neck. "We are the owners of the dear old Farm once more. I bought it, and paid for it yesterday. Will you take it as a gift from your own little Rachel?"

"But where—but how—?" stammered the bewildered old man.

"Father, it is for this that I have been toiling during the last eleven years. My work is done at last—tell me that you approve it!"

But ere Abel Greenough could answer a tall figure darted from the wall of cedars, and Charles Harford caught Rachel in his arms.

"Mysterious little riddle! And I should never have known this had not Jennings accidentally revealed the name of the anonymous purchaser of the Old Poplar Farm! But, Rachel, am I right in concluding that the mission you have so often spoken of is at length fulfilled? Rachel, is the time come when I may claim you as my little wife?"

Nobody could ever assert distinctly just what Rachel answered to this appeal, but it certainly wasn't "No." For when the purple-and-gold-winged butterflies swarmed in early June around the snowy blooms of the great white rose-tree under

the southern windows, every bud was gathered to deck the dark braids of a quiet bride whose dress of moonlight-colored silk was scarcely more spotless than her heart.

Old Abel Greenough was in his glory that night, welcoming once more to his home the friends and neighbors he had known long ago, and never weary of telling how it was that he had come back to them.

"Charles," he said, as the handsome young bridegroom came to tell Rachel that the clergyman was waiting, and to arrange one last moss-rose bud in her hair, "I should almost grudge my little one to any one else than you. Take her, my boy, and if she makes half as good a wife as she has been a daughter, you've got a treasure worth all the diamond-mines of Peru!"

And so Rachel Greenough was married at last under the peaceful roof of the Old Poplar Farmhouse.


WE continue our series of illustrations of THE ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, from sketches by our artist, Mr. A. R. Waud. On page 532 we give a general view of


Mr. Waud writes: "From the top of the old Harrison Mansion a good view can be obtained of the opposite shore, from whose thickly-wooded banks peeped till recently the old Ruffin House, now destroyed by the Union troops, in retaliation for the attack made from that locality on our camp. The river is, as usual, lively with shipping of all kinds, large and small; around the clock, near the middle of the picture, the craft belonging to the Sanitary Commission is clustered, taking off the sick. On the right is the dock, formed by about twenty barges, for the distribution of forage. Here there is always an army of wagons waiting to be served; and on the barges numerous tents of all conceivable shapes are raised for the convenience of the wharfmen and contrabands. In the foreground the tents of the principal hospital of the army appear pitched in what was once the garden of the Harrison Mansion.


"Heron Creek, near Harrison's Landing [of which we give an illustration on page 533], winds through a soft, oozy marsh, covered with rank and luxuriant grass and inhabited by snakes, one of which bit a soldier last week so severely that he died. It makes a feature in the landscape quite picturesque, and renders the right of our line impregnable.


"Kimmidge's Creek [which we illustrate on page 533] forms the defense of the extreme left, and is as impassable as the creek on the right. It is a savage-looking hollow, filled with felled and burned trees, dense shrubbery, marsh and water—all commanded by the gun-boats on the James; as also is Heron Creek, on the right wing.

"Much as certain people at the North may affect to despise mud digging, it does not detract from the comforts—such as they are—of camp to know that the spade and shovel have made the position impregnable.

"This sketch will readily explain why the rebels have not found it in their hearts yet to attack M'Clellan. Frowning forts rising in embrazured tiers above the deep rifle-pits behind solid abattis, mounted with heavy guns, and defended by the Army of the Potomac—these are not the things which the Chivalry care to butt their heads against."


On page 541 we illustrate the departure of one of the Army Balloons, on board a river steamer, on a reconnoissance toward Richmond. The unwieldy mass sways gently on the breeze, and presents a very remarkable appearance as it moves up the river.


We illustrate this affair on page 540, from a sketch by an officer of the Mahaska. On 31st July the rebels opened fire upon our transports and camps at Harrison's Landing, from field batteries on the opposite side of the river. The Tribune correspondent thus describes the fight:

The river opposite the landing is narrower than at any other part opposite the ground on which our troops are encamped, being only little more than half a mile wide. More than three shots could not have been fired when I awoke, jumped on the floor, and looked through the open front of my tent across the river. Directly opposite there was to be seen the rapid flashes of the rebel guns, while overhead and on all sides came one continuous stream of shot and shell, hissing and whizzing in the most lively manner, occasionally lighting up our whole camp, and giving the enemy a "fair show" at us.

I had a good chance of observing the position of the rebel batteries, which were three in number, one being directly opposite the mail-boat landing, another about a mile further up, and the third opposite our lower forage wharf. I should think each battery consisted of about ten guns, all of which were 6 and 12 pounders. They were worked well and had the range nearly exact, but more than three-fourths of their shells did not explode.

The whole of our gun-boats except one were away up the river some miles above the head-quarters of General McClellan. The flag-ship Wachusett was the nearest boat to us in that direction; the beat that was below was the Cimerone, which was the first that came up and engaged the battery opposite the mail dock. In splendid style she poured her broadsides into the secesh. Soon after the Wachusett joined the fray, and her monster guns sent their blazing contents into the cowardly foe that never attacks us except by stealth or surprise. Now the gallant men of the First Connecticut Artillery (Colonel Tyler's siege train) arrived from their encampment, more than half a mile away. There was only a guard left over the guns, the men being encamped the above distance from them, and in a few seconds the 32-pounders and the splendid Whitworths blazed away at the rebels, producing an electric effect, and in a few rounds completely silenced the rascals, who ran for their lives miles away out of range.

On the following day two regiments of regulars from General F. J. Porter's corps, crossed the river under cover of the guns of the Mahaska. As there was no landing-place it took them a long time to effect a landing. Squads of the enemy's horse

were seen riding along the river banks some time previous, and great excitement was manifested while our troops were crossing. A landing was effected by the two regiments at six o'clock, and in a short time after dense clouds of smoke were seen issuing from the houses of the secesh, which were about one mile from the banks of the river. Ten houses—among others that of the Hon. Edmund Ruffin—were burned down by our troops. They landed under the protection of our gun-boats. Cheers rent the air as the fire was observed breaking out on the other side. When all was consumed our men returned.


ON page 536 we give illustrations of the new iron-clad frigates Ironsides, now building at Philadelphia; the Roanoke, which is being converted into an iron-clad vessel at the Navy-yard, Brooklyn; and the Whitney Battery, which has just been completed at the foot of Eleventh Street, in this city. The following descriptions will add to the value of the illustrations:


This splendid craft was launched from the yard of William Crump, Philadelphia, on the 9th ult. She is the first iron-clad vessel ever built at Philadelphia, and never was there any thing occurred at Philadelphia in ship-launching, since the launch of the Pennsylvania, to excite so much public interest as that which attended the gliding of the Ironsides into her native element. She is the first iron-plated sea-going war-steamer of large size built by the United States Government, and is constructed from plans and specifications presented to the Navy Department last September by Merrick & Sons, of Philadelphia, who are the sole contractors with the Government. They in turn contracted with Crump & Sons; also with the Bristol Forge and Bronen & Co., of Pittsburg, for the 4 1/2-inch plating, reserving to themselves the construction of the machinery and the general arrangement of the several parts. The contract is dated October 15, and the vessel it to be ready for steam July 15. Chief Engineer W. W. Wood, of the navy, superintended the machinery and plating, and Naval Constructor Henry Hoover, the hull. She is 240 feet long, 58 feet 6 inches wide, and 25 feet deep, being 3250 tons, and having a berth, gun, and spar deck, the latter being shot-proof. Her frames are of white oak, filled in solid and calked, and the average thickness of her sides is twenty inches. The iron plating commences at a point four feet below her water-line, and extends to her spar-deck. The machinery consists of two horizontal direct-action steam-engines, with cylinders of 50 inches diameter and 30 inches stroke, intended to make 85 revolutions per minute, and drive a brass 4-bladed propeller of 13 feet diameter and 18 feet pitch. The boilers are four in number (horizontal tubular), each 17 feet front, 11 feet deep, and 11 feet high, of a collective force of 1600 horses. The armament will consist of sixteen 11-inch Dahlgren guns on the gun-deck, and two 200-pounder Parrott guns on the spar-deck. The port-holes will be closed by iron shutters five inches thick, worked from the inside. As this is a sea-going steamer, intended to sail as well as steam, she will have three masts, and be bark-rigged, her topmasts and yards being so arranged that in action they are lowered, and leave simply the three lower masts in view. When in action all the men on board are protected from shot or shell, and are below the spar-deck; the commander only is above that deck, and he occupies a shot-proof iron look-out, which rises above the spar-deck, and from which he can see all surrounding objects, and by signals communicate with the officers below. Unlike the Monitor and Galena, this vessel can carry a large crew, sufficiently so to board and capture any vessel. Impenetrable to shot and shell, she will seek close action, and by means of her iron prow sink, or by her heavy guns capture her opponent. Her light draught of water, 16 feet, will enable her to enter all our Southern harbors. Even Moultrie and Sumter can be visited by her, and she may be able to make an impression on those forts before they are repossessed by the United States.


She is to be clothed amidships with iron plates ranging from three and a half to four and a half inches thick, which are to extend four feet below her water-line. She has also a couple of turrets, similar, but more formidable, to that used on the Monitor, with a powerful ram on her bow. The plates of the ram will be four and a half inches thick and twenty feet long, thus giving her a wedge on her bow nine inches thick. Each of the turrets will be twenty feet diameter inside, the plating of which will consist of eleven courses of inch iron. Each plate for a turret is nine feet in length by forty inches wide. Two courses of rivet holes are punched in each, and they are all bent, cold, in a powerful hydraulic press. The bed plate of the press is of a concave form, and the top block is of a convex form. A plate to be bent is placed upon the concave bed plate of the press, and when properly adjusted the pump forces up three rams under it, and the plate is reduced to the proper curve against the top block. The pressure to which each plate is submitted, to give it the proper curve, is three and a half million pounds. By this method of bending the turret plates cold, there are perfect uniformity and accuracy secured for the whole. The bending of the thick plates for the ram and also for the sides of this frigate is quite a different and difficult operation to perform compared with those of the gun towers. Each of these plates has to be bent to the proper curve to suit its own particular place on the vessel, and not only the broadside, but the edges also, must be bent to suit the particular curves. All these plates are hammered iron, and are furnished by several companies in Pennsylvania, New York, and Massachusetts. When they arrive they resemble huge straight iron slabs, varying in length from eleven to twenty-two feet, and in breadth front twenty-two to twenty-four inches, and their average thickness is four and a half inches. One of eleven and a half feet in length weighs about four thousand two hundred and forty pounds; one of twenty-two feet in length, for the ram, weighs over four tons. Such masses of iron are difficult to move about, and the operations connected with bending them are necessarily tedious and troublesome, and they require great care and skill to conduct properly. Of course it is impossible to bend such masses of iron cold; hence each plate is first heated to nearly a white heat its a long furnace, shaped something like a baker's oven, with a movable arched cover. The press for bending is quite different from the one used for the turret plates.


On page 537 we give a series of illustrations representing the manufacture of the guns with which the Roanoke and the new Monitors are to be armed, They are what are called Rodman guns, having been first made by Captain Rodman, of the artillery, who afterward turned traitor and is now in the rebel service. Their peculiarity consists in their size, which is far greater than that of any other guns in existence. After being cast, a stream of water is poured through the muzzle, coming out at the vent, so that the gun is cooled from the inside, thus obviating flaws. There are being cast of these guns at Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, quite a large number, some 15-inch, some 20-inch, and we hear of some even larger in the bore. The 20-inch guns will throw a solid ball weighing 1500 pounds, which would go through the side of any vessel ever constructed, or batter down almost any wall. It is intended to arm the new Monitors and all our coast fortifications with these guns.




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