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Civil War Harper's Weekly, December 13, 1862

Welcome to our collection of Civil War Harper's Weekly newspapers. This site allows access to all the Harper's Weekly that were printed during the Civil War. These newspapers show incredible details of the war you wont find anywhere else.

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Generals in the Army of the Potomac

Army of the Potomac Generals

The president's Message

The President's Message

Contrcator Cartoon

Contractor Cartoon

Banks Expedition

Banks's Expedition

Union Generals

Biographies of Union Generals

Drury's Bluff

Drury's Bluff

Drury's Bluff

Drury's Bluff

Morgan Dix

Morgan Dix

Long Island

Long Island, New York

Petersburg

Petersburg, Virginia

Fredericksburg

The Road to Fredericksburg

Brother Jonathan

Brother Jonathan

 

 

 

DECEMBER 13, 1862.]

HARPER'S WEEKLY.

791

One man had seen Vivia dash past, he said, "like lightning, and had pointed his gun at her, but of course he didn't fire on a lady. He thought there could be no great mischief in a girl's having a scamper before breakfast, specially an out-andouter like this one, that had been dashing over all the country ever since she had been there."

One faint gleam only showed on Dale's horizon as he swore inwardly over the stupidity of his subordinates. Vivia had taken what was familiarly known as the Old Road; while the men scoured the country for Borden he could take a short cut leading down on the Old Road, and even fifteen minutes' start was not hopeless with such a horse as Goliffe.

So he thought, dashing recklessly across the country, looking keenly for a flowing skirt and a cap and plume set daintily over short, crisp curls; saw them presently, just before him, going at a steady, swinging pace.

"Vivia!" he called—"Vivia!"

She could hardly have heard him—it must have been instinct that made her turn—but she reined up in the instant, waiting for him with the old baffling, mocking smile.

"You ride early and fast, Captain Hamilton."

"I have need," said Dale, sternly; "your uncle (an emphasis on the noun) has escaped."

"Escaped what! the ills that flesh is heir to?" she asked, with perfect coolness.

"No; though he may have an excellent opportunity, if I can but catch him."

"Meantime you have not caught him."

"This is folly, Miss Vivia; you must ride back with me," returned Dale, with increasing irritation.

"Must! What is that? It is a word never used with me. Will you speak English that a lady can understand?"

"I will supply you with a dictionary and a grammar on reaching home, and you may study them at leisure; but I can not alter the form of my speech. To be plain, you are a suspected person. You must return with me."

"Hands off!" exclaimed Vivia, with a dangerous sparkle of the eyes, as he attempted to take her reins. "If you have a 'must,' I have a will. I will ride where I choose, and I warn you not to cross me."

"Idle and unbecoming bravado," returned Dale, scornfully drawing closer.

"Once more I warn you."

"I insist—"

"You will have it, then;" and the butt end of a pistol came crashing down on his head with a force that felled him senseless. Vivia looked down at him ruefully.

" 'Hard-head Hamilton,' that was his sobriquet at school, and he has not altered," she muttered, springing from her saddle. "Let me see if —the devil take this toggery!" as she tripped over her long skirt—"how do women ever get about in it?" And then the birds, if birds there were, must have opened eyes of astonishment; for with one pull, skirt, basque, corset, and padding went to the winds; and cap, curls, and massy coils of hair following, disclosed broad shoulders bearing the straps of a United States lieutenant, a closely shaved head, and an eagle-eyed sparkling face, that, spite of paint and penciling, looked sufficiently unfeminine—Paul Ogere, in short.

Meantime Lute was praying by her little snow-white bed: "Lord, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many or with them that have no power. Help us, O Lord our God, for we rest on thee!"

And Borden the venerable, otherwise Jack Borden, Paul's lieutenant, having prudently departed before the posting of the sentinels, had fallen in with a detachment of the Twelfth Illinois. And is not the rest written in the chronicle of the dailies—how Voss had possession of M—, totally routing the rebel troops, and mentioning the most daring reconnoissance of Lieutenant Ogere, and the capture of Captain Hamilton, omitting only the sweetest prisoner of all, one Lute, who, as she had promised long before, yielded herself prisoner, rescue or no rescue, and is at this present writing Mrs. Paul Ogere?

THE TRICK OF THE TRAPEZE.

WHEN I practiced as a boy on the gymnastic "swinging-bar," nobody ever heard of a trapeze; but under that fine name the old swinging-bar has now come into glory. Well it might, if there were truth in picture posters. Surely, methought, I have much yet to learn. Never had I been taught to stiffen myself horizontally, with arms stretched to their utmost, fingers extended, and one leg straight, with the other assuming that air of "kicking gracefulness" so much deprecated in painting, but so generally introduced into wood-cuts. Neither, when I throw a somersault, am I in the habit of projecting my chin, forcing my occiput between my shoulder-blades, and thrusting my arms forward as if about to take the first stroke in swimming. Yet, if artists really draw from life, as certain accessories would suggest they did, these are the attitudes assumed by Leotard and his followers, and all my teachings are radically false. Of course I went to see for myself, and had the satisfaction of finding that old-fashioned gymnastics were not superseded after all, and that the strange attitudes of the performer are perhaps owing to the inability of the non-gymnastic artist to resolve the rapid and ever-varying movements of the trapezist. It is simply impossible for a man to project himself horizontally through the air as if he had been shot out of a catapult. If any one will take the trouble to watch a performer while passing along the series of trapezes, he will find that the position is almost entirely perpendicular, and that when he is sweeping through the air between the trapezes the body is as upright as when he stands on the dull earth. Neither is the gymnast foolish enough to stretch out his arms after the fashion of engravings. He keeps his arms bent, with hands close to the chest, ready to dart them out and grasp it the approaching

trapeze. For it is always easier to fling the arm forward than to draw it back; and whereas too short a stroke will merely cause the performer to come to the ground, a casualty for which he is always prepared, an overshot stroke will assuredly break one arm if not both, and hurl the unfortunate gymnast on his head or flat on his back.

There is this remarkable feature in muscular, as indeed in literary and all other gymnastics, that the inexperienced public invariably mistakes the important points, fails to appreciate the really difficult part of the performance, and preserves all its applause for the simplest and easiest, but the most showy feats. As a muscular gymnast, I speak feelingly; for I have often exhibited before select assemblies, and have invariably found that really difficult achievements have been silently passed over, while easy but dashing feats, such as throwing a somersault over a horse, or dropping from a trapeze and catching by the feet, are rewarded with loud cheers. So it is with the performances of the many trapezists who have followed in the track of Leotard, the great master of his art. It is no very difficult matter to pass from one trapeze to another. It requires a certain dash and courage, but not more than a thorough course of gymnastics can impart to any ordinary pupil, the difficulty being, of course, in exact proportion to the distance between the trapezes. The real skill lies in the absolute exactness of balance, in the seizing of the bar at the precise moment when the weight of the body is brought to bear in the proper direction, and in the perfect line in which the body is "delivered" between the ropes.

It is not enough merely to catch the bar. Any one can do that who dares. The first great point is to catch it so as to preserve the original impetus, and to be able to add fresh force when required, as is always the case before the trapezist has come to the end of his swing. The necessity for such a power is evident from the fact that if a leaden mass of the same weight as the performer were fastened to the rope and launched from the elevated perch, it would not return to the point whence it started, owing to the resistance of the air (which feels to the performer like being whirled along on the outside of an express train) and the friction of the swivels whereon the ropes are suspended. The performer must therefore have a perfect command over the instrument, and be able to give to the return swing an additional force which will serve to compensate for the loss of power through resistance of the air. No one who has not personally experienced this resistance can form the least idea of its intensity, of the fierce rush of air as of a tornado, and the entire deprivation of breath which it occasions to the neophyte.

In the somewhat severe school where I learned my lessons the arrangements were so exactly balanced that the loss of a pound's weight of force or the slightest deviation from the precise line would produce inevitable and ignominious failure. After we had practiced on the trapeze for some time, and were tolerably proficient upon it, we were shifted to the single rope, without a bar for the hands, or even a knot as a resting-place. This rope hung from the centre of the building, and was long enough to reach within twenty inches of the ground. We ascended a perpendicular ladder at one end of the building, had the rope thrown to us, and were just able to catch the extremity and to hold it, with arms stretched to their utmost. The feat was to launch ourselves from the ladder, swing to the opposite end of the building, turn in the air, swing back again, and reassume our perch on the ladder. It is hardly possible to exaggerate the difficulty of this feat. The reader will observe that, owing to the length of the rope, and the very limited space which intervened between its extremity and the ground, it was necessary to gather up the body by the mere force of the arms, exactly in the spot where the strain is most terrible, to allow the body to elongate gradually as it passed the centre of the swing, to turn round in the air when at the end of the sway, there to "put on" force enough to return, and lastly to pass back to the ladder, the process of gathering up and elongating the body having to be again gone through. The force of the strain depends upon the position of the performer. When he has come to either end of the swing, there is a moment when he is suspended motionless in air, the body being balanced between the two forces. It is just that moment which is chosen for shifting from one side of the trapeze to the other, for turning in the air, or performing similar feats. Should the performer loosen his hold at that instant he would fall to the ground like a stone. As the body swings toward the centre, the strain is gradually increased until it reaches the climax, just under the spot where the ropes are suspended, appearing to a novice as if it would tear his arms out of their sockets. It may be imagined, therefore, what must have been the difficulty with the single rope, with which there was never more than an inch to spare, and where the relaxation of that single inch was sure to produce disastrous results. I have seen aspiring novices, whose ambition has over-leaped their prudence, attempt the single rope before they had subjected the muscles of the arms and loins to sufficient training, and so make of themselves a most pitiable example as a warning to the thoughtless. It is a very pleasant thing to perform the feat, to feel the fierce luxury of the sweep through the air, and the inward satisfaction of difficulties overcome. But it is not pleasant to give way just in the centre of the swing, to be ground ignominiously along the earth for several yards in a series of spiral evolutions, impossible to be checked, but causing an excruciating rasp to the skin, and grinding to bits that portion of the dress which happens to be lowest. Neither is the slow painful walk homeward agreeable, nor is it very pleasant to be debarred at all times, and in all companies, the natural use of a chair, and to be forced to rest in strange and ungainly attitudes until the superficial but very painful injuries are healed.

A second important element in the proper management of the trapeze is, that the weight shall be

thrown precisely on the centre. If the hands should grasp the bar on one side, or if the weight of the body should be thrown to the right or left, even by a single pound, the result is to force the trapeze out of the due line, and to put an immediate stop to the performance. A side weight on a trapeze is every whit as powerful as a siding on a billiard-ball, and it is quite possible for a master of the art to swing round an obstacle placed directly in his path, or even to steer his way between two objects that are only just sufficiently apart to permit the bar to pass between them.

The third element of success is the exact timing of the swing, so that the bar shall be caught just as it poises itself for the return. Of course, if the performer should be too late, he is forced either to wait for another swing, or to throw a somersault, come to the ground, and start afresh. But should he be too hasty and meet the bar as it swings toward him, the two opposing forces neutralize each other, a sharp stunning jerk ensues, and the performer either loses his hold and falls to the ground, or finds himself checked in mid-career, all out of time, and his arms strained as if they had been subjected to severe treatment on the rack.

There is not the least difficulty in passing from the first trapeze to the second; the real difficulty lies in the passage from the second to the third, and from the third to the fourth, because in order to achieve that feat it is needful that the timing should be accurate as that of a chronometer, and the weight thrown precisely in the proper place. I know few disappointments which sting so sharply at the time as "missing the tip" at this exercise. You are in full sway, feeling every thing go like clock-work, your trapezes are swinging to perfection, you get careless of your stroke, you catch your bar just a trifle on one side, and away you go out of the line in a horridly ignominious manner, having suffered a defeat that can not by any dexterity be metamorphosed into a victory. You can not conceal your misfortune by throwing a somersault and looking as if you meant it, because you are swinging diagonally, and a diagonal somersault is apt to produce very unpleasant sensations about the hips, besides the great probability of flinging the unhappy performer on his back. You can not make a dash at the next trapeze, because your little circuit has lost the time, and you would be too late. So there you swing between heaven and earth, a misery to yourself, and an object of derision to the spectators. We have certainly seen Leotard commit this error, and force himself again into the line before reaching the next trapeze, but the skill and strength required to do so are of such a nature that none but a consummate master of the art would dare to attempt so hazardous a feat. It will be seen that the error only tends to perpetuate itself. Just as a rifle-ball that misses a target by a few inches at a distance of a hundred yards will miss it by many yards at ten times that distance, so an error of a foot at the first trapeze will increase to a yard at the second.

The effect of the second mistake, namely, an error in point of time, is equally disagreeable. You meet the second trapeze too soon, and the fault instantly makes itself felt by the blow of the bar against the hands, and the succeeding jerk, which seems to dislocate half the joints in the body. Your feet get in advance of your hands; you make a frantic effort to recover the lost force; you catch the next bar; you reach the little perch from which you started, and you flatter yourself that you have just managed to smooth over the difficulty. Vain hope! No sooner have your feet touched the perch, and you give the little sway that brings you upright, than you gently tip over forward, and away you go again on a palpably bootless errand. There is no help for it, and the only plan is then to accept the position like a man, come to the ground, remount the perch, and start afresh.

It is a glorious exercise this trapeze. There is nothing like it in gymnastics for fascination or usefulness. The mystery seizes its votaries heart and soul and enlists them forever in its service, from which no deserters ever abscond, against which no traitors ever turn. I know of few sensations more soul-stirring than the exultant feeling of freedom which pulses through the frame as one sweeps through the air and hears the wind rush by. Then, to hurl one's self through space, to feel perfectly safe whether suspended by the hands or legs, whether swinging at full length or gathered up into an undistinguishable bundle of arms and legs, is a sensation that is worth feeling. Accomplished swimmers partake of a similar feeling of elation when tossing upon the lofty waves, lying coolly as the rolling billows raise their recumbent bodies aloft or lower them gently into the watery valleys, where nothing is to be seen but water around and sky above, and yet enjoying the sense that they are in perfect safety, and that they are masters of the element.

I have tried almost every gymnastic apparatus, including the slack and tight ropes, now euphuistically called by French titles, and am of opinion that the trapeze is superior to them all for the many merits which it combines. It develops exactly the very muscles in which we, as a nation, are deficient, namely, those of the chest and loins, and imparts a strength that can he obtained in no other manner. Let a man, no matter how powerful his muscular system, be put on a trapeze for the first time, and set off swinging, or even allowed to hang motionless, and then told to bring his feet over the bar, he will find the apparently simple task as practically impossible as jumping over the moon. He will kick and plunge about like a drowning man, will get very red in the face, and make himself an altogether ridiculous object: every plunge will only serve to exhaust his failing powers, and in a very short time he will be forced to loosen his hold.

Now there are continually cases where the simple ability to raise the feet to the level of the hands, or to hang by the finger-tips, will save a man's life, and possibly through him the lives of many others. In modern houses the staircases are mere fire-traps, and are built as if for the express purpose of leading the flames through the house in the

quickest way, and effectually debarring the inmates from their ordinary mode of escape. Most men, on finding their egress by the stairs cut off by a body of rushing flame, would either leap out of window and fracture their limbs, or perish miserably in the smoke. But a gymnast will instinctively put his head out of window, and with a glance take in the surrounding conditions. Should there be time, he will quietly lower himself by a rope extemporized from sheets and blankets; should there be a water-spout within reach, he will descend as easily as down a ladder; or should there be a parapet above, he will seize it with his hands, draw his feet over, and escape to another house, or at all events to the side of the house which is yet free from the flames. Or he can pass along a ledge only an inch in depth, by shifting his hands, and so transfer himself to a friendly spout, or traverse the wall until he finds a suitable place on which to drop. Failing even such slight advantages as these he can suspend himself by his hands for an almost unlimited period; for the power of grasp that enables him to cling to the swift-moving trapeze through its wide swing renders the suspension of the body a very simple feat; and if at the same time he can find a resting-place for a foot, his position will be quite easy, even though his feet should be higher than his head. A trapezist is perfectly indifferent as to the relative position of his head and feet, having been accustomed to swing by his legs, insteps, or even by a single leg hitched over the bar. He never becomes giddy at a height, or at a sudden reversal of attitude, and is happily ignorant of the inconvenience caused by the blood rushing to the head.

For instruction the trapeze is unrivaled, as it forces the pupil to apply his powers in a proper direction. If, for example, he is being taught to develop his chest by grasping the bar and lifting himself until his chin is above his hands, he can not effect the feat by a jerk or a swing, as on a fixed bar, for unless the force be exactly perpendicular the trapeze swings away and balks the irregular attempt. If, again, the loins and abdominal muscles are to be strengthened, the pupil can not injure himself by vain plunges with his legs, for no sooner does he push his feet forward than he sets the trapeze off into a circular kind of swing, and down come his feet to the ground.

When once the course of instruction has been completed, and the gymnast feels himself fairly at home on his bar, he may be assured that he has attained a skill for which he will ever feel grateful, and the benefit of which he will never lose. Even after long disuse, and in spite of the natural stiffness brought on by increasing years and a sedentary life, the power remains, though its exercise is not so easy as in the olden times, and a swing on the bar produces unpleasant stiffness the next morning. I, who write, have learned this fact from practical experience. For the space of fourteen years I was debarred from gymnastic exercises, and never even saw a trapeze, except at a circus. Yet, upon returning into country life, I hung an extemporized trapeze on the branch of a tree, and was surprised to find that I could twist about the bar as in the days of yore, though with a little more expenditure of labor, and could swing by a single leg with perfect confidence, and fling myself to the ground by a backward somersault with ease and certainty. Of course I must not be understood to imply that ordinary pupils should be taught to perform the daring and difficult feats which are achieved by professional acrobats, whose whole lives are devoted to muscular development. But a good steady working mind requires a healthy body for its lodgment, and the intellect is not only more enduring, but is keener and brighter when the body is in thorough health: a blessing which now seldom falls to the lot of those whose work is of the brain unduly more than of the hands. The present writer owes all his health to the course of gymnastics through which he passed.

GENERAL BANKS'S EXPEDITION.

ON page 788 we give a fine illustration of the camp on the Union Course, Long Island, where a large portion of the forces which are to sail under General Banks have been encamped. Many regiments have been or are still there; at one time there were something like 10,000 men in camp. At first the accommodations for so large a body of men were rather defective. Several regiments, fresh from comfortable quarters at home, were compelled to camp out on the ground without shelter, tents, or protection of any kind against the rain and cold. But we have not heard that the exposure has produced any great increase of sickness among the men. Fresh air is a very wholesome thing after all. By the time these lines are read the camp on the Union Course may be vacated, and the troops on the way to the scene of action. General Banks is working with untiring energy to complete his preparations and get into the field.

PETERSBURG, VIRGINIA.

WE publish on page 789 a view of the city of PETERSBURG, Virginia, of which our readers may hear something before long. Petersburg is a city of some 17,000 people, situated on the Appomattox River, some twelve miles above its entrance into the James. It is twenty-three miles from Richmond, and in the event of a southern attack on the rebel capital would become in some degree the key to the movement. Vessels of 100 tons can run up as far as Petersburg, and carry off large quantities of flour and tobacco. Before the war Petersburg was quite a thriving place, contained several manufactures, and did a good deal of business. Like the other cities of Virginia, it has been ruined by the atrocious folly of the leaders of the rebellion; if present indications be reliable, it may yet see a darker day than it has hitherto witnessed.


 

 

  

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