General Banks Biography


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, December 6, 1862

Welcome to our archive of Harper's Weekly newspapers. This collection allows you to study source material formerly only available to professional historians and researchers. We hope you find this information useful.

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General Banks

General Banks

French Mediation Proposal

Habeas Corpus

Habeas Corpus Cartoon

Aquia Creek

Aquia Creek

Richmond Map

Richmond Map

General Banks Biography

General Banks Biography



Confederate Cartoon

Confederate Cartoon

The Passaic

The "Passaic"

Iron Clad Interior

Iron Clad Interior

Prince of Wales

The Prince of Wales


Fredericksburg, Virginia




[DECEMBER 6, 1862.



"WHAT have soldiers in hospital, writhing in pain, or tossing in fever, to be thankful for? The day is a humbug. Keep it? No, I've not kept it."

A strong man shorn of his strength spoke, but it was no Delilah answering.

"Many a poor soldier weary with pain and agony has found cause for thankfulness; some trifling deed of pity or word of sympathy has stirred his heart to gratefulness. Suffering generally humbles men to recognize and accept what they disdain in the pride and glory of health."

"Yes, you women get us in your power and then crow."

"Victor, what malice!"

"It is true; then tell us to be thankful. For what? for maimed, crippled bodies, for useless arms, for paralytic legs?"

The pale face grew paler, and a scornful smile gleamed out of restless, eager eyes.

"Oh, Victor! Victor! the battle is but half fought, the glory only half won when you utter these thoughts."

Victor partially raised himself, leaning on one arm and speaking haughtily.

"If you think I implied regret at giving my mite to this war you are wholly mistaken, Margaret."

"No, no! I did not mean that, believe me; but it is right for all to be thankful, and I meant you had not gained one of the direct purposes of suffering."

"Pray what is that?"

Margaret's head drooped as she answered,

"Gratitude for having shared in even the least degree that which was endured for us all by our Master."

Victor's voice had lowered before he replied,

"I am no Carmelite, Margaret, nor one of those who believe that mere bodily pain can make us like the Divine One."

"But it can help—it can indeed."

She was so afraid to speak of these things that she dared not say all she was thinking. She wanted to assure him that a better appreciation of the great sacrifice lay in his power than in hers, rejoicing as she was in health and vigor; but different leaven had been working in his mind, for he suddenly resumed again in his cutting, ironical tone:

"Ah, it is easy to preach of thankfulness in purple and fine linen to the ragged, beggarly horde! You have heard the sermon to-day, you have given thanks devoutly, and now—stand a little farther off that I may look at you—you are going to the sumptuous dinner; but you do not care for the viands, your esthetic palate is to be cajoled. I wonder who will whisper the most tasteful, delicate flatteries; who will offer the most poetic draughts, spiced carefully for such dainty lips! Let me see. The sheen of your silk dazzles—I must shade my weak vision—it is very beautiful; and the lace at your throat, how soft and downy—you call it a ruche, I believe; the rose, too, in your hair is red, rosier than your fair face, red as the blood I have seen on battle-fields—"

"Madge! Madge! where are you? Come out of this dungeon. We are waiting for you. What are you two crooning over? Victor, you look as sour as green grapes. Look at me; am I not bewitching? See, I am en militaire."

The fairiest little being, robed in pink tarlatan, danced in and thrust her curly pate down on her brother's arm, chattering all the while.

"You have kept Madge ever so long; isn't she a darling?"

"What is that she wears on her necklace, Josey?"

"A cross, a pearl cross; Madge, let him see it!"

"Don't ask her, Josey. She is angry with me. Is that the way you women wear crosses made of pearls and hung on a golden chain? How heavy they must be!"

"Stop, Victor, stop, you are outrageous. Madge has gone, and I shall go too; but look at the buttons in my ears."

"Petite sauvage! why make holes in such little pink sea-shells of auriculas?"

"I don't know what you mean. I wear army button ear-rings to match this army button bracelet, and they are lovely. But, Vic, I wish you had your dear old leg again so we could have a redowa —and how splendidly you used to lead the German! Oh, it is too bad! I shall just cry."

"And make your eyes red. Oh no, Josey; come, dance off with yourself. Who's to be there?"

"Every body."

"Tell me who Margaret dances with."

"She won't dance in war times, she says. Isn't she old fogy? She came up to me the other night and said the music ought to be funeral marches instead of giddy waltzes."

"Was that after I came home?"

"No, before; and you know how magnificently she plays. Well, she would not touch the piano except to give us the adagio of one of Beethoven's symphonies, or something else so sad that we could hardly keep from tears; but I must go, Vic. Good-by; don't get blue here all alone. I suppose you would rather have a book than my delectable society?"

"Oh yes, chatter-box; adieu!"

The light steps danced down the hall; other steps and other voices echoed, died away; the carriage wheels rolled off, and silence reigned.

Victor took up his book: the print was too fine: so he was obliged to relinquish it, wishing he had some one to read aloud to him. Margaret had so often read to him that the words began to bear more clearness and power from her voice than any other, but he had provoked her now. It was not a pleasant reverie in which he was indulging; alone, crippled, feverish, restless; he who had prided himself on his independence and manly strength. But he did not regret having spoken as he did to Margaret; it rather satisfied him to resent kindness and patience with cool sarcasm; it was his masculine protest against forbearance and gentleness. "Thankful, grateful—I have no need,

I wish to have no need for such words. Has she not left me all alone here to gnash my teeth at fate, to ponder over my uselessness and miserable good-for-nothingness, while she dances off to a dinner—a Thanksgiving dinner? And why should she not go? What does she owe me that she should deny herself any pleasure? Nothing. To be sure I once told her—I was fool enough then—that no other woman in the world had so great a sway over my actions; confound it! She has tightened the rein till the bit cuts at every pull; but I am revenging myself. I hurt her nicely tonight. She's a good little Christian, and does not like to be thought a Pharisee."

A little table stood near with convenient trifles. A book of larger type caught his eye, Mrs. Browning's "Last Poems." It opened of itself, as if it knew the hand accustomed to hold it (not Victor's), at the hundred and seventy-eighth page. Down the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth verses was scored lightly a pencil mark. For one vivid moment he knew what one woman had suffered in all the dreary time of his silent imprisonment in Richmond, and like an avenging weapon those verses cut in deeply. He tried to shake it off; he tried to think some other hand had opened these pages so often that the leaves fell apart at this one place. He knew better; and knowing it, self-reproach added to his dreariness. His bell rang so furiously that the servant feared some accident and rushed breathlessly in.

"Did the ladies say when they would return, Joanna?"

"No, Sir; but not until late I'm sure, Sir."

"Ask them when they come—no, you need not either. Bring me a glass of water."

"Yes, Sir."

He was very restless and feverish, and lay with closed eyes as quick steps indicated Joanna's return. But the step was lighter, and a cool hand laid softly on his brow made him start.

A quiet figure in gray merino, with only a blue bow knotted under the linen collar, stood near him —thick, drooping, wavy curls hid her eyes.

"I thought you had gone!" was the half-impatient exclamation.

"I changed my mind at the last moment."

"To heap coals of fire on my head, I suppose."

"Victor, drink this water; you have fever; don't talk."

"I must."

"Not now; let me read." She had opened a book, and crouched down on a low ottoman, her face shaded by her hand, began to read. The voice was like a chime of low, sweet bells, but they seemed to jangle in Victor's ears. He tossed and turned, and finally put out his hand and grasped the book.

"Pardon me, Margaret."

"Shall I go away, Victor?"


There was not a tinge of sentiment or sadness in her words, but they were very calm and low.

"I only came because I saw you were worse and needed recreation," rising as she spoke.

"Do you call this recreation?"

"No, it is very evident I have done harm."

"More than you can repair, Margaret."

He was not now speaking satirically, and she looked at him with amazement.

"You have made me break a resolution so strong that it was nearly a vow."

"I, Victor?"

"Yes, you, with your calmness and womanly gentleness, your terrible malignity."

She knew not what he meant; and though she had determined not to be weak, tears would come; just one passionate outburst, which she quelled proudly the moment they were shed. But he saw them, and drew her toward his couch.

"This is the way I have to sue for pardon, lying helpless, maimed for life. I had rather you had killed me, Margaret, than force me so to love you that I can not longer hide it. Oh, Margaret, Margaret, it was cruel! I, who shall never ask any woman to be my wife."

Margaret put out her hand very coolly.

"Good-night, Victor."

"Must you go? Then I am mistaken. I hoped you cared for me, Margaret, in spite of my detestable behavior."

"Yes, I must go, Victor."

"It has been very tiresome for you here, Margaret, listening to my folly."

"No, I did not care to go out."

Her perfect indifference at last enraged him, as she knew it would.

"You seem to be in no way moved at my misery. I did not know you were so cold and heartless."

"What would you have me say?"

"Drop some delicious grains of pity; sweeten the bitter pill with honeyed phrases."

"I am very sorry this has happened."

"But that is a cant expression. You are generally original."

She was silent again, and moved toward the door. He detained her, grasping her passive hand.

"Among all your thanks to-day can you spare a little forgiveness?"

"For what?"

"For my rudeness and harshness." His voice was gentle again.

"There is more to forgive than that."

"I dare say; but I am in earnest. Don't go yet. Do you forgive me?"

"No!"—firmly, softly, but emphatically.

"And why not? Is my sin so heinous?"

"The man is not a brave one who tells a woman he loves her but will not ask her to be his wife."


She went on as indifferently and coolly as if discussing some novel.

"It is not brave, nor is it honest, for he may have won her love in some strange way."

"But she should let him know," said Victor, half amazed and half amused.

"A true woman's self-respect is a barrier to that." Victor bit his lip.

"A cripple, doomed to drag a footless stump after him all his life, has no right to ask a young and beautiful, no, nor an old and ugly, woman to be his wife."

"Who has laid down that law?"

"A true man's self-respect is the barrier."

Margaret glanced up, a very sunbeam of a smile playing over her features.

"It is a dead-lock, Victor."

"It shall not be, Margaret, if you will just stoop down here a moment."

"What for?"

"Now I have both your hands; tell me, do you, dare you love me?"

There was no answer, and her curls drooped over her face. He repeated the question, but she would not reply.

For a moment or two his pale face worked. It was hard for him to make the attempt he had almost sworn not to do—so hard, that for a moment he faltered.

But the temptation was irresistible, and he saw that nothing else would compel Margaret to answer, so he spoke:

"Margaret, will you be my wife?"

"Yes, Victor," came the answer, clearly spoken.

"The wife of a cripple?"

She crushed the words with a kiss.

For a long while there was stillness, Victor clasping tightly Margaret's hands as if afraid she would elude them, but in place of the pain and feverish irritability on his features was a look of very expressive content.

Margaret's tears were so nearly falling that it was some time before she could ask Victor what he was thinking of, so unusual was his silence.

"Keeping my Thanksgiving at last," was the reply.


How sleep the brave? Oh! not as cowards sleep,

Whose hands no labor bore;

Over their graves no loving one shall weep—

They shall be named no more.

No ringing voice above the tomb shall break,

Proclaiming truth more boldly for their sake.

Not so they sleep who for their country die—

On their name rests no blot;

Through the world's changes, as the years roll by,

They never are forgot.

Earth's greatest soul may know no greater pride

Than to be called to die as they have died.


When Freedom's sons assemble to relate

The deeds that they have done,

Each telling of some victory, made more great

Being so nobly won;

There RICHARDSON and MITCHELL shall be seen-

One bronzed and scarred, with a true soldier's mien;

The other, with his calm and steady eyes

Turned upward to the stars,

Seeking new inspiration from the skies,

'Neath the red planet Mars.

Upon the roll of fame their names are traced

In golden letters, ne'er to be effaced!


ON page 769 we give a portrait of NATHANIEL P. BANKS, Major-General in the Army of the United States, and commander of the Great Southern Expedition which is now on its way to its destination. Our likeness is from a photograph by Brady.

General Banks was born at Waltham, Massachusetts, on 30th January, 1816. His parents were poor operatives who worked in the mills; young Nathaniel went barefoot to the common school, and there obtained all the education he ever enjoyed as a lad. He was soon called upon to take his place in a factory to earn his living, and for several years he worked regularly with the other operatives. Simultaneously he assisted in the establishment of a debating society, and contributed to the columns of the local paper. He subsequently became editor of this paper, and in 1842 was brought forward as Democratic candidate for Assembly from Waltham. He was defeated. He ran again in 1843, and in each of the following four years, with equal non-success. At length, in 1848, just as he was thinking of seeking fortune in California, he was elected, and remained a member of the Massachusetts Legislature until he was sent to Congress, voting and acting with the Democratic party. In 1850 he was chosen Speaker of the House; and in 1852 was sent to Congress, and became Speaker of that body too, after one of the most memorable contests in our Congressional history. As Speaker of the House Mr. Banks won high fame by his Parliamentary skill, firmness, and fairness. It was well said of him, at the close of his term, by a political opponent, that he "stood so straight that he almost leaned over to the other side."

At the close of Mr. Banks's term in Congress he withdrew from public life, and after spending some time in retirement at Waltham, accepted the post of Superintendent of the Illinois Central Railway, which had just been vacated by General M'Clellan. He was discharging the duties of this post when the rebellion broke out. It found him neither unprepared nor astonished. He went to Washington in February, 1861; foretold the secession of Virginia and the outbreak of the civil war, and created quite a commotion in the ranks of those who pinned their faith to Mr. Seward's honeyed phrases and rose-color visions. When war actually broke out, and troops were called for, Mr. Banks was at once designated by the public voice for a military command, and he was accordingly appointed Major-General by the President. With his usual foresight he had been studying strategy for some time, and when he took the field was thoroughly competent to command. He was given a division of the Army of the Potomac, and set to watch the upper fords of the river. Many months were spent in training his army. At length, early in 1862, he crossed the river and advanced up the Shenandoah Valley. He was driving Jackson before him, and doing his work well and faithfully,

when the War Department began to withdraw his troops. First a brigade, then a regiment, then a whole division were ordered to the defense of posts which were supposed to be in danger; so that at last General Banks was left with only about 4000 men, while Jackson lay opposite him with 15,000. The circumstance soon became known to the wily rebel, and the attack on Front Royal followed. Banks's retreat to the north side of the Potomac, without the loss of a gun and with a very small loss in men, is rightly accounted one of the most brilliant military operations of the war. Jackson's disappointment at the escape of the prey he already deemed secured was severe. It was on the occasion of this retreat that the incident of the little slave girl, whom Banks carried out of Virginia "on the national cannon," took place: nothing in his career has made him more popular than this.

When McClellan commenced his retreat from the Peninsula, Banks was ordered forward to the Rappahannock under Pope. He fought the battle of Cedar Mountain with very inferior forces to the enemy, and with Sigel's aid held him in check until McClellan had retreated safely to Yorktown. He did not take part in the battles of Centreville or Bull Run the second: wounded at the Rappahannock, he was doing duty at Washington as military commander.

General Banks has now been appointed to the command of a Great Southern Expedition, part of which has already sailed. That he will be heard from in a manner which will rejoice the Northern heart no one who knows his lucky star can doubt.


THE turret of the Passaic is unquestionably the greatest engineering achievement of the time. The successful operation of this structure with its monster guns marks an era in the history of naval warfare.

Our engraving on page 773 represents the turret cut in two, through the vertical plane, the nearest half supposed to be removed in order to afford a full view of the interior. The enormous guns, Dahlgren's 15-inch, each weighing 42,000 pounds, are seen in perspective resting on light elegant carriages made of wrought iron. By means of very simple mechanism within the carriages, the constructor enables three men of moderate strength to handle these ponderous pieces with great facility. To the left of the muzzle of the nearest gun will be seen the port stopper, a bent block of wrought iron supported by a pivot, on which it turns so readily that one man can bring its broad face before the port-hole in less than five seconds, thereby effectually shutting out the enemy's projectiles.

The enormous balls, of 425 pounds weight, will be seen conveniently arranged within curved guides round the base of the turret, a broad jointed ring for handling these terrific projectiles being also represented.

Our readers can form a good idea of the size of the guns, 4 feet diameter, by comparison with the gunners standing on the left. The turret, composed of plate iron, is 23 feet outside diameter, 9 feet high, 11 inches thick, the entire weight being 240 tons. It might be supposed that such a ponderous mass could only be turned round by being placed on friction rollers; yet this expedient has not been resorted to. The constructor, deeming such complication incompatible with the solidity necessary to withstand the shocks of modern projectiles, boldly places the turret with its smooth lower edge on a broad ring in the deck, and trusts to his powerful mechanism within to cause the stupendous mass to rotate on its base. The gunner, placed behind the breech when the gun is to be aimed, simply raises or depresses a light handle and the gun instantly moves in the direction he wishes. The exact point being attained, a retrograde half movement of the handle at once arrests the rotation of the turret and leaves the gun directed to the desired object.

But the result of Captain Ericsson's bold conception does not stop here. A still greater triumph has attended his labors. Our readers will observe on the engraving that the port-hole of the turret is far less in width than the diameter of the muzzle of the gun, and that, consequently, the gun must be fired within the turret. The proposition to discharge the largest cannon afloat within the narrow space of this cylindrical iron chamber without putting the muzzle through—not even into the port-hole—is so startling that nothing short of positive practical demonstration could prove its soundness. It is a flattering comment on the judgment of Admiral Gregory, and the other naval officers super-intending the construction of our iron-clads, that they did not oppose, but on the contrary warmly seconded, Captain Ericsson's plan. The result of two careful trials, the second and final one made on the 15th, has realized every expectation. The smoke is effectually kept out, and the noise from the discharge of the monster guns within the turret is less than that of an ordinary field-piece.

Captain Ericsson, to whose genius the country is indebted for this master-piece, has been so kind as to inspect our artist's picture, and writes us that it is very accurate.

The engraving on page 772 represents the Passaic as she will appear at sea, and needs no description.


WE devote pages 776 and 777 to illustrations of FREDERICKSBURG, which is at present the centre of interest in Virginia. Our pictures, with one exception, are from sketches by Mr. H. Didiot, of the Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers. The exception is the picture of the Broken Bridge, which is from a sketch by our old correspondent, Adjutant Cope.

The following description of the place was published in Harper's Weekly some time since:

Fredericksburg is the chief town of Spottsylvania County, in Virginia, and is situated on the right bank of the (Next Page)




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