General Dix


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, August 2, 1862

This site contains online editions of the Harper's Weekly newspapers published during the Civil War. These newspapers contain rich content related to the war, and the people who fought it. We are hopeful you find this archive beneficial to your study and research.

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Vicksburg Description

Description of Vicksburg

Morgan's Kentucky Raids

General Couch

Fort Powhatan

Fort Powhatan

New Orleans

New Orleans Flag Presentation

General Dix

General Dix

California Joe

California Joe


City of Vicksburg

Harrison's Landing

Harrison's Landing

Ladies of New Orleans

Ladies of New Orleans

Army Cartoon

Army Cartoon






[AUGUST 2, 1862.



FIBRE by fibre, shred by shred,

It falls from her delicate hand

In feathery films, as soft and slow

As fall the flakes of a vanishing snow

In the lap of a summer land.

There are jewels of price in her roseate ears,

And gold round her white wrist coils

There are costly trifles on every hand,

And gems of art from many a land

In the chamber where she toils.

A rare bird sings in a gilded cage

At the open casement near;

A sunray glints through a swaying bough,

And lights with a diamond radiance now

The dew of a falling tear!

A sob floats out to the summer air

'With the song-bird's latest trill;

The gossamer folds of the drapery

Are waved by the swell of a long, low sigh,

And the delicate hands are still.


"Ah! beauty of earth is naught, is nought!

And a gilded youth is vain!

I have seen a sister's scarred face shine

With a youth and beauty all divine

By the soldier's couch of pain!"

"I have read of another whose passing shade

On their pillows the mangled kissed

In the far Crimea!"—There are no more tears,

But she plucks the gems from her delicate ears,

And the gold from her slender wrist.


The bird still sings in his gilded cage;

But the Angel in her heart

Hath stung her soul with a noble pain;

And beauty is naught, and youth is vain,

While the Patriot's wounds still smart!

*   *   *   *   * Fibre by fibre, shred by shred,

Still fall from her delicate hand

The feathery films, as soft and slow

As fall the flakes of a vanishing snow

In the lap of a summer land.


There are crimson stains on breasts and brows,

And fillets in ghastly coils;

The walls are lofty, and white, and bare,

And moaning echoes roll ever there

Through the chamber where she toils.


No glitter of gold on her slender wrist,

Nor gem in her roseate ears;

But a youth and a beauty all divine

In the face of the Christian maiden shine,

And her gems are the soldier's tears!


MAJOR-GENERAL JOHN A. Dix, whose portrait we give on page 485, was born in Boscawen, New Hampshire, July 24, 1798. His fattier was the late Colonel Timothy Dix, whose services and death in the last war with Great Britain are matters of history.

In December, 1812, young Dix was appointed' to a cadetship at the West Point Military Academy; but he never went as pupil to that institution. His father was then in the army, and being stationed in Baltimore, sent for his son, who joined him there, and very soon (March, 1813) received the commission of Ensign, and marched with his father's command to Sackett's Harbor, the youngest officer in the American army.

In June, 1813, he was appointed Acting-Adjutant of Major Timothy Upham's independent battalion of nine companies at Sackett's Harbor. He accompanied his father in the expedition down the St. Lawrence, and was with him when he died on board one of the transports near French Mills, in November, 1813, after the battle of Chrystler's Fields. He was then transferred from the infantry to the artillery, and attached to the staff of Colonel Walbach. At the close of the war he remained in the army, part of the time on garrison duty at various stations, from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to Fort Washington and Old Point Comfort, Virginia, and six years as aid-de-camp to Major-General Brown while he was Commander-in-Chief of the army. He finally left the service in 1828.

He read law with William Wirt, then United States Attorney-General, was admitted to the New York bar in 1828, and afterward to the United States bar in Washington.

In 1826 he married the adopted daughter of the Hon. John J. Morgan, of New York, by whom he has had four sons and two daughters.

From 1828 to 1831 he practiced law in Cooperstown, New York. In 1831, on being appointed Adjutant-General of the State, he removed to Albany. In 1833 he was chosen Secretary of State and Regent of the University.

In 1841 and 1812 General Dix was a member of the New York Assembly from Albany County, and took an active and influential part in the most important legislative measures of that period—such as the liquidation of the State debt by taxation, and the establishment of single Congressional Districts.

On the election of Silas Wright as Governor of New York General Dix was chosen to complete his unexpired term of five years in the United States Senate, and took his seat in that body January 27, 1845, where he remained until March 4,

1849. He was Chairman of the Committee on Commerce, and an active member of the Committee on Military affairs. He was the author of the warehousing system as it was adopted by Congress.

General Dix acted with that portion of the New York Democracy known as "the Free-Soil Democracy" in 1848-'49, and was their candidate for Governor in 1848. But when the delegation of New York became legitimately connected with the nomination of General Pierce for the Presidency in 1852, General Dix sustained that nomination.

On the election of General Pierce to the Presidency he first selected General Dix for his Secretary of State. But, as is well known, the leaders of the Southern democracy, of the Mason and Slidell school, protested so violently against his appointment that it was never made. The same influence prevented his appointment as Minister to France, which had been offered to him as an inducement for him to accept for a while the local office of Assistant-Treasurer of the United States in the city of New York. On the appointment of Mr. John Y. Mason, of Virginia, to the French embassy Mr. Dix resigned the office of Assistant-Treasurer, and withdrew almost wholly from politics.

Early in 1859 enormous defalcations having been discovered in the New York City Post-office, and the defaulting Postmaster having absconded, President Buchanan appointed General Dix to that office, and urged its acceptance on the ground that the public interests required the appointment of some man of the highest character and reputation for integrity and administrative ability. Mr. Dix yielded to these representations, and accepted the office. In January, 1861, the treachery and dishonesty of Floyd, Cobb, & Co., of the first Buchanan Cabinet, having reached their climax, and ended in the withdrawal or flight of those traitors from Washington, and the financial embarrassments of the Government requiring the appointment of a Secretary of the Treasury in whose probity, patriotism, skill, and efficiency the whole country could and would confide, General Dix was called to that high office, and entered on its duties January 15, 1861.

On the 18th January, 1861, three days after General Dix took charge of the Treasury Department, he sent a special agent to New Orleans and Mobile for the purpose of saving the revenue vessels at those ports from seizure by the rebels. The most valuable of these vessels, the Robert McClelland, at New Orleans, was commanded by Captain John G. Breshwood, with S. B. Caldwell as his lieutenant. Breshwood refused to obey the orders of General Dix's agent, Mr. Jones; and on being informed of this refusal, the Secretary telegraphed as follows; "If any man pulls down the American flag, shoot him on the spot!"

This dispatch, evidently thrown off fervido animo, and with a pen too hasty to pause for blot or literal correction, was intercepted by the Governor of Alabama, and did not reach Mr. Jones until the joint villainy of Captain Breshwood and the authorities of Louisiana had been consummated by stealing the cutter. It found its way very soon into the newspapers, and it flew over the land like the Highland cross of fire, setting the hearts of the people every where ablaze.

General Dix has since taken the field. He commanded at Baltimore for some months, and is now in command at Fortress Monroe, doing his duty manfully and well.



THE mare swerved, dashing the high, lightly built gig against a stump by the side of the narrow road; off flew the spidery wheel; down came the fast-trotting chestnut; and out like a brace of rockets were flung the driver and myself. There was a moment of scuffling, floundering, and general entanglement, while a thousand sparks of fire danced before my eyes, and then I was creeping away from the broken wreck, when I heard Ben, the driver, cry suddenly, " J'hoshaphat, mister, mind her heels, or you're a gone coon!" And I have an indistinct remembrance of receiving two or three stunning blows from what seemed to be a blacksmith's sledge-hammer, and of hearing a loud shout of human voices as I fainted.

When I again opened my eyes I found myself lying on a bank, a few yards from the spot where the accident had occurred. The smashed gig lay in the roadway, but the mare had long since kicked herself free, and was gone. Ben, my careless or unlucky charioteer, stood dolefully whistling, with the whip in his hand. His face was scratched, and his garments were muddy, but he seemed uninjured, though dismayed. Six or seven men in working clothes were lounging about, and apparently conversing on the subject of the recent upset, but only one seemed to concern himself about my personal condition. He was a tall, muscular young fellow, with a fine, handsome face, and a rich, bronzed complexion. He was better dressed, as well as better looking, than the others, though he wore homespun cloth, while the rest of the party were in patched and discolored suits of black. Kneeling beside me on the bank, this young farmer—for it was easy to guess his rank in life—was supporting my head with a gentleness that seemed wonderful for one of his thews and sinews.

"Labor lost, Joe," observed one shabby smoker from his seat; which, by-the-way, was on the very stump that had occasioned the accident. "The Britisher, or Dutchman, or whatever he be, air as dead as Julep Caesar."

Weak and ill as I was, there was something in this conversion of the Dictator's name into a Yankee idiom which tickled my risible nerves, and I gave a feeble chuckle.

"He's alive, I tell you," answered Joe; "though it does sicken a chap, a few, to git such a pounding as that. I'd like to see you, Zack Brown, after such a dose of cold iron. You'd sing a trifle less positive, or I ain't Joe Mallory."

There was a laugh, which Joe cut short by asking which of the by-standers had some "whisky medicine" about. him? A bottle of this potent cordial having been produced, the farmer put it to my lips, and with arbitrary kindness forced me to swallow as much of the fiery liquor as I could imbibe without actual suffocation.

"I know'd," said Joe, in a dogmatic way, "what puts new life into a man in such a case as this, though I ain't overfond of the Monongahela in gin'ral. Do ye feel to be stronger, Sir, now?"

This was addressed to me, and I contrived to answer by some feeble acknowledgment of his Samaritan kindness.

"No bones bruk?" inquired Joe, adding, as I shook my head, "then mebbe you could make a shift to walk, leanin' on me? Sparta ain't above a big mile off."

I tried to rise, and with the help of the young farmer I did contrive to reach my feet, but I could not keep them. One ankle was smartly sprained, the foot having been awkwardly twisted under me as I fell; and I sank down with a groan, as helpless as a rag effigy of a man. It became incumbent to carry me; and the by-standers, now they were quite satisfied that I was alive, volunteered with a pretty good grace to assist in my removal. A light iron gate that gave admission into a field hard by, and which contrasted oddly with the rough worm fence of unbarked wood, was taken off its hinges to form a litter, and I was borne away on this impromptu palanquin.

Ben the driver had by this time set off in plodding pursuit of the truant mare; but before starting he halloed out a stentorian request to know "wheer they were takin' his stranger tew, because Major Staines might like to action him in county court for the gig."

I could hardly help laughing again, though my bones ached cruelly, at the suggestion of suing a man for the damage done in half killing him; but I felt a thrill of languid pleasure when my protector rejoined,

"Darn the Major and his actions! He won't cl'ar many dollars that way, for 'tain't fust time that tearin' chestnut brute have made a smash of wood and iron, let alone humans. That mare's unpopular in the county, and no jury would give a red cent if her neck was bruk. Any how, if the Major wants a dose of law, tell him the stranger's under Joe Mallory's roof."

The other men gave a growl of surprise.

"Why, Joe," said he who was called Zach Brown, "I reckoned we'd jest drop the chap at Dan Hunt's, the taverner's. You oughter hev more wrinkles by this than to lumber up your house with a critter that wants a deal of waitin' on, and mebbe hasn't shinplasters enough to pay for his board."

I made some answer to this, or rather I began to assure my hearers that I was better provided with money than they perhaps guessed from my scanty luggage and plain dress; but Joe Mallory pressed his broad hand on my mouth to silence me, and angrily told Zach that "when he sent in a bill for food and shelter to a hurt traveler he hoped niXXers would trample on him."

Zach said no more, and before long I was carried into the young farmer's house, and laid on a bed. The men were going at once after taking a dram of whisky, but I insisted on remunerating each of them with a dollar, which, after some hesitation, they consented to receive for "loss of time." Very odd fellows they were—honest, I am sure; proud in their way, as Hoosiers almost always are; and not willfully unkind, but blunt of feelings themselves, and coarsely indifferent to the feelings of others. Before they departed I heard one of them ask Joe in no smothered tone, "What whim made him have the stranger up there?" To which Joe made answer, in a more subdued tone, that "Dan's tavern was no place for a delicate town-raised critter to be ill in, and that it was plain I felt the banging more than I said."

When the men were gone the master of the house callers aloud the respective names of "Aunty!" "Phillis!" and "Terence!" but no answer was returned. Muttering that he would soon return, my new friend strode out into the yard, whence issued the familiar sounds produced by gobbling turkeys, lowing calves, and grumbling pigs. The house was a long, low structure, mainly composed of timber, with chimneys of brick; but it was very substantial and roomy. The chamber in which I had been placed was one of a nest of similar rooms opening into a passage, at the end of which was the great kitchen, decorated with dangling hams, smoked venison, corn cobs, barrels of pickled pork, huge yellow pumpkins, and sundry shelves of pewter and New England crockery. At the other end was a door, seldom opened, leading into the best parlor, where stood the smart furniture, the china, fine linen, and so forth, never used but at wedding, funeral, or christening. The quilt on which I lay was of a coarse quality, but scrupulously clean; the brown, rough sheets of the bed were very clean too; the pine planks of the floor, thanks to soap and water, were as white as the glaring walls on which hung a few cheap colored prints of Bonaparte's battles and the Queen of Sheba's visit to Solomon. The house was that of a tolerably well-to-do Western farmer: rather neater than the majority, but with no luxury or ostentation. While I was musing on the strange quarters in which I found myself, my host returned, accompanied by a negro girl and an old white woman, dressed pretty much alike in common cotton prints of Lowell make. There was a great difference in their behavior, however; for while the negress, whom I shrewdly guessed to be the Phillis so often called in vain, merely grinned a salutation, the old woman bustled up to my bedside in a moment.

"You're welcome, stranger," said she, "but we can talk 'nother time, I guess. A nasty tumble! What a bruise that is on your temple—I'll jest fix that—Phillis, the bottle off the shelf in my room, third from the end—jump and get it, and be spry, do. That gal moves as if she'd lead in her shoes. All them darkeys do. Sprained your foot, eh, mister?

Let me turn it about—so, does that hurt you? Then run, Joe, and git the black box. I've got somethin' there, woundy good for sprains."

Joe good-humoredly hurried off to fetch the rude medicine chest, saying with a pleasant laugh that "he knowed Aunty be glad of the job. She was a nurse if ever any woman was."

Certainly Miss Esther Mallory, Joe's aunt, was a born nurse as well as a born gossip. She could do any thing and every thing that was required in a sick-room, except hold her tongue. Talk she must, and while with real kindness and untiring skill she applied bandages and lotions to my bruised head and arm, and my sprained ankle; while she brewed me tea and barley-water; while she adjusted the pillows under my head, and superintended Phillis in the boiling of a chicken for my supper, she never seemed to intermit the rapid flow of her discourse.

From this notable female, in the course of the evening, I heard all the family history. How the Mallorys had migrated west from their original abode in New Jersey, where they had been, my hostess rather boastfully said, since William and Mary. How she, Esther Mallory, had been induced, sorely against her will, to accompany her two brothers, Joe's uncle and father, to the then half known wilds of Ohio. How she had been there a long time, and didn't half like it, and had seen great changes, and didn't half like them, and thought New Jersey the true Eden upon earth.

Further, the good old maid related how Joe's uncle had died of fever, and how Joe had succeeded his father in the property two years before, while she had staid to keep house for him till he got a wife, being fully determined to go back as soon as her nephew's marriage should take place, and live on her savings, or, as she called them, "money-scrapes," in her native village.

Miss Esther was about sixty; angular, raw-boned, with a hard-featured face puckered into as many wrinkles as a withered apple, with keen time eyes and brisk, active movements. I had seen many women in New England who might have been her twin-sisters, and I knew the race well—thrifty, clean, bristling busybodies, with a supreme contempt for the dawdlers and slatterns down South. A good cook was Miss Esther, a good manager, a skilled seamstress, but a better nurse. If she could do any one thing better than another it was tending the sick, and I believe she felt personally grateful to me for giving her an occasion of exhibiting her knowledge and adroitness. At any rate she was very affable and chatty, and took the opportunity of Joe's absence to sing her nephew's praises; adding,

"Poor lad! poor lad! He's a heavy heart, for all he tries to keep up a smilin' face. Drat love and sentiment, sez I!"

I started. Sure enough, my kind young host had a melancholy look, unaccountable in one in robust health, tolerably well off, and evidently respected by his neighbors. I had noticed it before, but my bruised limbs and throbbing temples had put the matter out of court, until Miss Esther's remark aroused my curiosity and sympathy. Little pressing was needed to elicit from the garrulous aunt what, after all, was no secret. Joe Mallory had been for some time the accepted lover of Susan Boone, only daughter of Deacon Gabriel Boone, one of the most comfortable farmers in the district, and who, as Miss Esther said, was "rather uppish" about family, being own cousin to the renowned General Daniel Boone, the explorer of Kentucky. The marriage had been unluckily postponed—a circumstance due, I fancy, to Miss Esther's own obstructiveness, since it was her desire that "a good chist full of linen web" should be spun at home previous to the establishment of the young bride as mistress of the house. In the interval a new discovery had subverted the old order of things. This was no other than the discovery of the petroleum, or, as Miss Esther called it, the "ile." It had been found; its value had been greedily appreciated by a population not very apt to let any source of profit slip through their fingers; and the favored tract of country, Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania, as well as Canada West, had ever since been in a fever of speculation. Here were diggings, not indeed auriferous, but of a substance capable of transmutation into five-dollar notes, brought home to the very doors of the people. Of course property maintained its rights; there was no scramble; but some grew rich by finding wealth bubbling up at their very thresholds, and among this number was Deacon Boone, Susan's father.

One of the two "flowing wells" of rock-oil which had come to light in the parish of Sparta was on Deacon Boone's land. Luckier than most of his neighbors, almost all of whom had oil beneath their fields, but oil only to be raised by expensive pumping, after the spade and mattock had done their work the old deacon was proprietor of an absolute spring of the odoriferous fluid, which seemed inexhaustible. Thousands of gallons, every drop of which had its market value, daily spouted and splashed into the air, and an immense per-centage of the produce was lost for lack of barrels and labor. Under these circumstances it is not wonderful that Deacon Boone, always a weak, vain man, lost his head, and grew, as Miss Esther quaintly said, "most too proud to dirty his shoes walkin'." This elation was accompanied by coldness of demeanor toward his old friends, whom he was loth any longer to regard in the light of equals, and by an ominous coldness of bearing toward his intended son-in-law. Besides this, he had dropped hints of the brilliant prospects in store for his family—hints that struck poor Joe with dismay, since his position was altered now. A little while before, Joe, with a tidy farm and a little sum in bank, had been a reasonably good match for the daughter of a corn and cattle factor; but he was become relatively poor when compared with the fortunate owner of a flowing well of wealth.

"And the young lady herself?" asked I, with some interest; "is she as mercenary as her father? As ready to give up a poor suitor in hopes of a better match afterward, I mean?"




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