Green River Skirmish


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, February 1, 1862

This WEB site features the Harper's Weekly newspapers that were published during the Civil War. These newspapers are a great source of original Civil War illustrations, and incredible stories on the key battles and people of the War. We hope that you find this collection useful. Check back often as we add new material each day.


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Navy Battle

Navy Battle

Financing the Civil War

Mill Springs

The Battle of Mill Springs


Hancock, Maryland

Army Around Green River

Events Around Green River

Mississippi Expedition

Mississippi Expedition

Mortar Flotilla

Mortar Flotilla

Steam Sloops

Steam Sloops of War

Green River

Green River, Kentucky

Loading Ships

Loading Ships

Porter's Mortar Boats

Porter's Mortar Boat's

Mason and Slidell, Trent Affair

Mason and Slidell Cartoon





[FEBRUARY 1, 1862.



WE devote page 69 to illustrations of our army on Green River, Kentucky, from sketches by our Kentucky correspondent, Mr. Henry Mosler. They need no description. Mr. Mosler says that he witnessed a very brisk skirmish with the rebels at the spot entitled "Guarding Fords." The pontoon bridge shown in the picture was built by Willich's German Regiment, Thirty-second Indiana. A letter to the Tribune from Munfordsville, dated 16th January, says:

The divisions of Generals McCook, Nelson, and Mitchell still occupy their old positions. In the course of this week mounted scouting parties of rebels appeared several times in sight of our outpost pickets, on the south bank of Green River. But as, since the attack on Willich's German Regiment by the Texan Rangers, our advance has been greatly strengthened, they kept at a safe distance.

The wooden substitute for the central portion of the iron railroad bridge over Green River, destroyed by the rebels some two months ago, was at last finished on Tuesday, and evening before last a locomotive made an experimental trip to the south bank. I had some misgivings as to the strength of the frail-looking trestle-work ; but it promises to answer until something more durable can be put in its place. Railroad facilities to the south bank of Green River were a condito sine qua non of a successful campaign in the southern part of the State, and an advance of our troops could not be thought of without them, in view of the general spoliation of the counties now under rebel control of every thing in the shape of food for man or beast, and the indispensable necessity of ready means of supplying the immense columns about moving on the enemy.

General Thomas's division, lately advanced from Lebanon to the vicinity of Columbia, in Adair County, has been more active than the troops still on the north side of Green River. Five regiments belonging to it, under command of Brigadier-General Boyle, marched on the day before yesterday, toward the Cumberland River—whether to cross and threaten the rear of Zollicoffer or merely to put a stop to rebel navigation from the north bank, I am unable to say. A small force from Thomas's division is also reported to have occupied Greensburg, in Green County, until lately held by a few hundred rebels.

From General Schoepff's brigade we hear that three regiments lately made a reconnoissance to the banks of the Cumberland, and ascertained the fact of the passage of several heavily loaded Nashville steamboats up the river with supplies of arms, ammunition, and provisions for Zollicoffer's command. The movement of General Boyle was undoubtedly made in consequence of this information. It was well known weeks ago to General Buell that the object of Zollicoffer's appearance in the Upper Cumberland Valley was to obtain control of the coal-mines in that region, which supply Nashville with fuel ; and for the purpose of preventing the shipment of such on the river, Captain Prime was ordered by him to erect a small work on time north bank, near Somerset. Unfortunately, the Captain ventured to make his preliminary surveys without an escort, and was captured by the rebels. Since then nothing appears to have been done toward stopping the navigation of the river by the rebels until this week. A small battery will effectually do it.

The bridge over Green River-the most important of the preliminary work—being completed, the three divisions encamped about and near this village would probably have moved forward ere this were it not for time terrible condition to which this part of the State has been reduced by the almost uninterrupted rains of the last few days. The surface of the ground has been softened to the depth of several feet by the superabundance of water from above, and the roads and camps are almost fathomless. Movements afoot are fraught with indescribable discomfort. In front of every house and tent yawns an abyss of mud. On horseback alone progress can be made. Teams find it extremely laborious to pass in any direction. Military exercises had to be suspended during the continuance of the wet spell. The usual gloomy effect of rainy weather is visible upon every body's countenance. All look dull and melancholy, and pray for relief by frost or sun. The unavoidable confinement for days within the narrow walls of a tent is truly one of time sorriest features of military life, and your correspondent is most heartily tired of it. When it will please Providence to render an advance possible by an improvement of the roads, I can not, of course, divine, but trust that it will be before long.



"YOU'VE lived too long at the North, Maurice ! You ought never to have left Old Kentucky !"

"Well, perhaps so. I might then have been a fellow of about six feet three (I should have grown at least five inches taller, of course), with my hair very badly in want of cutting, my teeth dyed of a good permanent yellow with tobacco, my pants thrust in my boot-tops, and my homespun suit rather out at elbows. I should be a crack shot at turkeys, deer, or 'possum, and count it a disgrace not to bring down a squirrel as dead as a hammer with the wind of my bullet. I should loaf about all day talking horse, with a whip under my arm and half a dozen dogs at my heels, or fighting cocks at Jones's tavern. At night I should chew myself sleepy by a wood fire, dream about euchre, and wake up crying out 'I'll go it alone!' as you did only last evening !"

The young man whose personal appearance and characteristics were thus described eyed his half-brother with an expression indicative of resentment at his raillery and incapacity to answer it in kind.

" You kin talk right peart, you kin, Maurice !" he said ; "on'y I wouldn't wake snakes, if I were you. It don't take much to raise a fight out here, you know."

Maurice Byrne laughed. " I don't want a fight with you, Dan," he said; "you'll get enough of that, if you're going to volunteer, which I should be sorry to see."

"Well I am, then, and Andy too; the game's made up, and there's no backing down about it !"

" Don't take the boy, Dan, whatever you do yourself. His father would rather see him dead than fighting against the Union ; besides, he's too young."

" He kin knock the head off a turkey at a hundred yards, and I reckon that's further than any of Linc'ln's niXXer-stealin' abolishioners 'll like to come within sight of a Kentuck rifle !"

" Dan ! Dan! why will you talk such nonsense ? The abolitionists, as you call them, haven't set foot on our soil, though we, under the treacherous pretext of neutrality, are organizing a 'State Guard' which, as every body knows, is Secesh to the backbone. Don't you see that invasion is threatened only from the other side ?"

" The Tennessee men are our friends, and fightin' for Southern rights. You can't rub that out, no way you kin fix it ! And me and Andy are bound to join them !"

"I'm sorry to hear it. What would you say to me if I were to join the Union men ?"

"But you won't?" And Dan Byrne looked equally' surprised, puzzled, and indignant.

"I don't know. If I acted on my convictions, I should. I was captain of a company in Illinois, and they'd be glad to get me back again, I've no doubt. Only I wouldn't like to have to fight against Kentuckians any how."

"Or to leave Harry!" added his half-brother, knowingly. The name, we may remark, notwithstanding its masculinity, designated a girl of eighteen, cousin to the speakers ; nor was it used as an abbreviation. In accordance with a practice not at all uncommon half a century ago, nor yet extinct among the rougher denizens of Kentucky and Tennessee, it had been bestowed in jocular defiance of the trammels of custom, as were not unfrequently those of women upon infants of the opposite sex.

Maurice took the remark in good part. "Well, yes," said he ; "you don't object to that, Dan, do you?"

"No! I wish you'd jes' marry the gal, and settle right down among us, as you might do for all I kin see to prevent it ; for she's as good a Union woman as any out of jail, let the next come from where she will."

" That's so, Dan Byrne; and she's not ashamed of it either!" And the person alluded to unexpectedly looked forth from the window on to the wooden piazza, the scene of the preceding dialogue. She was a brilliant brunette, with magnificent black hair and eyes, ripe scarlet lips, and a face whose bold, symmetrical beauty of feature and ruddy health seemed in part to justify her masculine appellation. Not too neatly dressed, with her fell of tangled curls put back behind her ears ; her bare, brown, handsome arms crossed on the window-sill, and a half-resentful blush upon her cheeks at what she had overheard, she stood regarding the cousin who had spoken of her with friendly defiance.

He laughed, and affectionately tried to twitch her by the ear. " I'm right, Harry, ain't I ?" he said ; "you'd stop me and Andy going if you could—wouldn't you ?"

" Father would, if he were here," she answered, emphatically.

" I have been trying to persuade Dan not to take him," put in Maurice, in whose cheek an answering flush of emotion had welcomed Harry's appearance. "The lad is altogether too young for it. Think of uncle's anger and distress if he comes to any mischief."

"He kin take care of himself; and if he can't, I'll take care of him," said the intended volunteer, doggedly ; " and he will go !"

" Can't you stop him ? I have tried my best, and the boy really seems bent on it," appealed Maurice to Harry, who, twisting one of her long tangled curls very much as an impatient or meditative man might his mustache, looked from one to the other, in sympathy with Maurice and anger at Dan, blended with apprehension for her younger brother. " Both had better remain at home, I am sure ; and I'd give every thing I have in the world to keep them there. At least let us save the boy, who will join this infernal rebellion—don't scowl, Dan, for it is a rebellion, and nothing else, as sure as you live—without a thought of the consequences."

" That for consequences!" cried Dan Byrne, with an emphatic expectoration of tobacco-juice.

"You want Andy killed, then ?" inquired Harry, with exasperated affection.

"I'd rather be killed myself, and you know it."

" I don't! If you cared for him, as you say, you'd never tempt him away from us—for it's all your doing! Father is against it, and Maurice is against it, and I am against it ; yet, because he's a boy, and knows no better, and has got his head full of nonsense about Southern rights, and Yankees, and invasion, and Heaven knows what—as all the boys around here have—you'll take him with you!"

"Listen to me once more, Dan," interposed Maurice, checking a choleric reply on the part of his cousin ; "you are going to take up arms against your country in entire misconception of the state of things. If it comes to a fight here—which God forbid !—it won't be with Yankees, but Kentuckians against Kentuckians. Our State has voted herself neutral, because there was then no alternative between that and secession. We had traitors for rulers, and loyal men could only temporize to gain time. But Kentucky is for the Union at heart; I'm sure of it. Wasn't I up at Louisville only a week ago, and don't I know what's brewing there? Here, on the borders, secesh is rampant enough, but it don't amount to any thing compared with the love for and loyalty to the Union which Harry Clay-God bless him !—taught us long ago. I wish we had all learned the lesson."

" I don't believe it !" shouted Dan Byrne, enraged at the statement, and at what he considered merely as his lack of argumentative ability to confute it; "we b'long to the South, don't we? and when she's in for a fight—for her rights by - ! for her rights !—hain't we to be counted in ? or are we to stan' roun' shivering in our boots like a lot of corn-shucking souled Yankees ? You are bound to get me mad, Maurice, so you are, though I cautioned you not to !"

"Ira furor brevis est!" quoted his cousin, who had "taught school" in Illinois among other miscellaneous employments, at which the irascible Dan sniffed and spat ; " let there be peace between us; and if you are determined to go, don't take Andy."

"You kin both talk with him if you like ; I han't persuaded him !" And the tall volunteer—he was a fine, though rough-looking fellow of three-andtwenty, Maurice's junior by five years—took his rifle from its corner behind the door, whistled to his dogs, and departed, his homely-attired but manly figure soon disappearing among time luxuriant summer foliage of the wild Kentucky woodland which surrounded the house. Maurice watched it until he was out of sight, and then turned to Harry, who, quitting her post at the window, emerged on the piazza. Tall in stature, like her race, her proportions were yet so exquisitely symmetrical,

even in their dress of blue homespun, that she could not appear otherwise than strikingly handsome, and might have sat for a model for Spenser's Britomart or Tasso's Clorinda. I have said that her arms were bare and brown : if her feet were also, their beauty and that of her ankles made their nudity a matter of congratulation to the masculine spectator. The only looker-on at present, however, had his eves bent on her face, in which frank regard for him and concern for her brother were equally manifest.

" Harry, dear," Maurice said, taking her hand, "I can't tell you how this persistence of Dan's pains me; I don't wonder at his opinions, recollecting what I was before I left home, only because I aspired to better the rough fortune into which our family has decayed, and to win her whom I loved almost as a boy—whom I find increased in beauty, yet possessing the same brave, earnest nature as ever. Loving her as I do, I would fain save her brother from this miserable rebellion if I can not rescue my own. Is there no way to effect it ?"

"If father were at home he would soon stop Andy's going. They both know that. I am afraid Dan will hurry him off before father's return."

"And I too. But you know what took him away at such a time ?"

" He didn't tell me, though I have my suspicions. You know, Maurice, of course ?"

"I do. He went to procure arms that we may be able to defend ourselves against traitors when the evil day comes. He is as loyal as he is brave, and swears that the dear old flag he fought under at New Orleans shall be hoisted over this house never to be hauled down by rebel hands while he lives to protect it. In that resolution I am with him heart and soul, failing to persuade him to remove to a place of safety. Only on his and your account do I linger here, otherwise I should be doing a man's duty in defense of the Union now."

"Never let that prevent you. If I were a man I'd shoulder a musket beside you !"


THREE months have proved the correctness of Maurice Byrne's judgment, and the Kentucky border, subjected to all the horrors and miseries of a devastating civil war by invasion from the South, seems again deserving of its ancient ominous title, "the dark and bloody ground." I resume my story toward the close of the latter part of September, when the wild woods of that wild part of the State are in all their autumnal glory, and when the hot noontide sun shines down in unclouded splendor on their leafy loveliness, lighting up time "fall fashions" of the hamadryads—their purples, reds, oranges, yellows, their necklaces of ruby sumach berries—like a veritable fairy orchard. A pity that men's evil passions should be there to desecrate it!

There is no more wind than cloud stirring in the bright blue sky, otherwise the flag surmounting the time-stained homestead of old Jasper Byrne would not hang so straight and heavily as it does. Every day since the State election in August (when Kentucky, with its "State Guard" in full operation, its power in the hands of traitors, with rebellious Virginia, Tennessee, and the worst part of Missouri inclosing her borders, yet chose, deliberately and unconditionally, to adhere to and share the fate of the Union), every day, at sunrise, has the flag been hoisted by a hand that once pulled a deadly trigger on a certain memorable Eighth of January, to be lowered only at sunset. It is the only flag of its kind within a score of miles on the soil of Kentucky; there are bastard, hostile ones all around, yet up to the present time it has flouted and defied them.

To this house, then, at noontide, on an autumn day, comes riding through the woods, over the stony road, the gaunt, wasted, cadaverous figure of a young man on a sorry hack of a horse, which has evidently traveled far, fared miserably and been used unscrupuously. But miserable as is the aspect of the animal, that of its rider far exceeds it in wretchedness. Clad in a tattered, semi-military costume, stained with mire and dust, with an empty coat-sleeve pinned to his breast, a blood-stained rag binding his brow, surmounted by a torn hat, haggard, hollow-eyed, emaciated, unshorn, unshaven, faint with wounds and exhausted with hunger and lack of sleep, so returned Dan Byrne to the family homestead.

Its appearance is unlike the careless, open-doored, open-windowed aspect familiar to him, and at once suggestive of the insecurity of the times and the resolution of its owner. Two or three trees in front have been cut down, probably as a precaution against their affording shelter to enemies; the door is shut, and the windows of the upper and lower stories are defended with strong planks, nailed perpendicularly, with interstices of the width of a rifle-barrel between them. Except a couple of dogs, sleeping under the sunny piazza, nothing living is visible. These, awakened by the arrival, come frisking about the horse's heels barking a clamorous recognition.

The rider dismounts, hesitates, and adds his voice to the din. Not, however, until he has beaten repeatedly upon the door is any reply vouchsafed. Then a footstep approaches from within, and a stern voice questions him as to his name and purpose.

" It's me, uncle! your nephew, Dan Byrne."

A surprised ejaculation from a woman follows, and an indistinctly-heard colloquy. And again the stern voice addresses him, this time in deeper tones than before :

" Go your ways, young man! You were my nephew, and are a rebel ! What have you done with my son ?"

" Open, uncle, and I will tell you." And the applicant covered his face with his one hand, shuddered all over, and leaned against the door-post as if to preserve himself from fainting. The dogs, meanwhile, caper and whine around him, some of them scratching at the portal as though seconding the wretched young man's request for admission.

Another whispered dialogue occurs—the woman's voice being heard in supplication—a heavy wooden

bar is removed, and the door opens. A tall, resolute-featured man of seventy-five, with iron-gray hair, appears on the threshold, and behind him the handsome, anxious countenance of Harry Byrne.

" Dan !" " Harry !" "Uncle, he's wounded—dying !" With these and similar expressions of pity and sympathy the sufferer is borne into the house, and the old man, after a wary glance outside, sets the door open, permitting the sunlight to stream into the darkened passage between the two main rooms of the ground-floor. Here, on a rough settle, the returned rebel volunteer addresses his anxious listeners.

"Uncle," he says, "you kin take and shoot me just as soon as you've heard what I've got to tell. You'll never see Andy again— he's dead and buried !"

His cousin clasped her hands over her breast as if to check the violent pulsations of her heart, and then hiding her face, wept aloud with all her impulsive woman's nature. Old Jasper Byrne grew deadly pale, turned aside, and, with his head against the wall, strove to hide his emotion. There was a miserable pause, broken only by the sobbing of Harry. At last her uncle spoke in a hoarse, constrained voice, curiously interrupted by a sort of tremulous quaver, inexpressibly painful to listen to:

"It's better as it is," he said; "he was my only boy and I loved him, God knows! but he turned traitor and fout agin his country—and I named him after Jackson, too ! Ah! I'm glad the old woman never lived to see this day! Dan! Dan'l ! the lad's blood cries out aginst you!"

"God forgive me if I've done wrong! I lost this arm tryin' to save him !"

"Tell us all about it. Harry, girl! quit cryin'. 'Tain't of no use. "T'won't bring back the dead or wipe out shame from the living, else you might cry on, for there's a heavy score of it come on our family. Let us hear the whole story."

It may be condensed into a paragraph. Young Andrew Byrne had met his fate in one of the many bloody fratricidal skirmishes following the invasion of Kentucky from the South, being bayoneted in a night-surprise on the part of the loyalists. His cousin, wounded, mutilated, and a prisoner, had contrived to escape and to rejoin the Tennessee regiment which both cousins had belonged to. It was now defeated, dispersed, broken, retreating in scattering handfuls toward the border. Anticipating the arrival of one of these, Dan had hurried on to tell his doleful story, to warn his uncle of the coming danger, and to afford him what protection might accrue from his presence.

"They'll be h'yar before sun-down, I reckon," he concluded. "Uncle, if you don't want to risk the house being burned over your head, you'd better haul that flag down, if but for an hour or two."

The old soldier folded his arms, knitted his brows, and smiled grimly. He was yet tremulous with suppressed grief at the tidings of his son's death, but the prospect of immediate danger seemed to relieve him. "I'll see them - first !" said he, with energy sufficient to place his determination beyond the reach of entreaty or argument. "'They've took my boy; they've got him killed in the wickedest cause that ever man shouldered a rifle for; now let 'em come and receive a father's thanks. I wish Maurice was here now."

"I hearn tell of his joinin' the abolition—the Federalists," Dan remarked. " I'm glad we didn't have to fight agin his regiment."

His uncle made no reply. He was pacing with long strides up and down the passage, nervously, expectantly. Presently he paused, and addressed Harry :

"Gal," he said, "tell Pete to hitch up the old mare and wagon, and do you clear out to Brodnax's—I reckon you'll be safe enough thar. And you may jist tell him—"

But Harry, in her turn, folded her arms with a look of resolution not inferior to that expressed in the countenance of her father.

" I'm going to stop with you," she said, briefly.

"You're better away; it's no woman's work we've got on hand, and I can't be scared with the thought of what these devils may do to you, supposin' I aren't able to beat 'em off, as I intend tryin' ! Likely they'll burn the shanty down, as Dan says, and you've got too many fair years of life before you, gal, to die like that. Go away ! take my blessing and go away, where you'll be out of danger!"

"I shall stop with you, father; I can load your rifle for you, if I can do nothing else. Don't ask me to leave you now, for I won't do it!"

He looked into her eyes, read there her determination and love stronger that death or the fear of it, bent over and kissed her, and abruptly turned away. "You're true grit, gal !" he murmured. " Now then, let's git ready to receive 'em."


SUNSET has come and gone, and darkness rests upon the wild Kentucky woods, shrouding their autumnal glories until the birth of a new day. It is a black. moonless night, threatening rain, and a strong wind has arisen, making melancholy music among the boughs and branches of the forest, driving its foliage fiercely in one direction, as if in emulation of the great wet-looking clouds which are moving rapidly and continuously athwart the face of the heavens. No sound but that of the wind and the occasional startled cry of an owl is audible, the more harmonious night-birds and forest creatures have sought covert in anticipation of the coming storm. And within the house of Jasper Byrne its inmates prepare to meet the scarcely less unreasonable and more harmful tempest of man's passions.

The old soldier has sent away the two negroes forming part of his household, bidding them secure their safety by flight, and in consequence obtained an unexpected auxiliary in the neighbor to whose dwelling he had proposed sending his daughter. Alarmed at the report of the slaves, Dave Brodnax comes to remonstrate with his ancient comrade, hoping to dissuade him front his rash, perhaps suicidal intention, but failing utterly, resolves, with characteristic Kentucky daring and hardihood, to (Next Page)




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