Port Royal Battle


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, January 18, 1862

This WEB site features online, readable versions of the Harper's Weekly newspapers published during the Civil War. These old newspapers have a variety of incredible pictures, and in depth analysis of the key people, battles, and events in the Civil War.

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


Port Royal

The Battle of Port Royal

Port Royal Battle

Trent Affair

Release of Slidell and Mason

General Burnside

General Burnside


Richmond Story

Civil War Prisoners

Richmond Prison

Trent Affair

Trent Affair Cartoon

Burnside Expedition

General Burnside's Expedition

Skating Season

Skating Season

Richmond, Virginia






[JANUARY 18, 1862.



WE publish on the preceding page a view of PORT ROYAL FERRY, where the fight took place between our troops, under General Stevens, and the rebels. The following account from the Herald explains the affair :

We have received news of a victory over the rebels on the 1st inst., in a brisk fight near Port Royal Ferry, about twenty-five miles from Hilton Head. The expedition which achieved this victory was a combined military and naval one, and was under the joint command of Brigadier-General I. I. Stevens and Captain Rogers of the flag-ship Wabash. The troops engaged consisted of the Eighth Michigan regiment, Pennsylvania Round Heads, Fiftieth Pennsylvania, Seventy-ninth New York Militia, Forty-seventh and Forty-eighth New York Volunteers. The naval vessels consisted of the gun-boats Ellen, Seneca, Pembina, and Ottawa.

General Stevens's brigade advanced on Port Royal on the 1st instant, and took possession of the rebel batteries after short resistance of the rebels. The brigade was assisted by the gun-boats, which shelled the batteries. General Stevens then followed up the blow until he arrived within six miles of the Charleston Railroad.

A flag of truce was sent by the rebels, who desired permission to collect and bury their dead, which was granted. One hour was allowed for that purpose, after which the rebels fell back upon the fortifications near the railroad, which are very extensive, leaving behind them one large gun, which they had spiked. The rebel force engaged was estimated at eight thousand men, under Generals Gregg and Pope. The Federal force engaged was four thousand five hundred men. Our loss was nine wounded—one mortally, Major Watson, of the Eighth Michigan Regiment, who has since died. The rebel loss is not positively known, but it is said to be pretty large.

We learn by telegraph, through rebel sources, that on the following day our troops advanced, drove back the rebels, and took possession of a station on the railroad.

EUROPEAN Dealers will he supplied with HARPER'S WEEKLY by John Adams Knight, Publisher of the London American, 100 Fleet Street, London, England, where Subscriptions and Advertisements will be received, and single copies of HARPER'S MONTHLY and WEEKLY furnished.



BY the time this Number of Harper's Weekly is laid before its readers the work of suppressing the rebellion will have begun in real earnest. The long period of preparation will have ended, and the final tussle will have commenced.

There have been many among us who have complained of the long stage of inaction which has succeeded the battle of Bull Run. Many well-meaning but weak-minded and limp-backed citizens would have liked to see an advance of our armies within a month after the Bull Run defeat ; and have never ceased, since August last, to deplore the inaction of the Union forces, and the apparent progress of the rebellion. The fact is, that the Bull Run defeat was followed by a general disintegration of the Union army. The bulk of the troops who fought on that disastrous day were three months' men, who went home directly after the battle. General McClellan, on assuming command of the army of the Potomac, found it to consist of raw levies, unacquainted with discipline, unprovided with arms, unable to move in masses, without military knowledge, equipments, or competent officers. It was a mere mob, in fact. His first duty was to convert this mob into an army. Jomini, quoting Napoleon, says that it takes six months to make infantry recruits fit for service in the field, and twelve months to drill cavalry. If they are taken into action before they are soldiers, he adds, they are more likely to do harm than good. General McClellan's first orders, when he took the command at Washington, were, first, a police order putting an end to the loose discipline which had previously prevailed among the volunteers ; and, secondly, an order brigading the troops as fast as they arrived at the capital. General Burnside spent several weeks in the duty of brigading the regiments which poured into Washington, and daily brigade drills were ordered. When a sufficient number of brigades had been organized they were formed into divisions, and division commanders—Buell, Porter, Franklin, Heintzelman, Hooker, McCall, Banks, McDowell, etc. —were placed in command, and directed to train the men to move by divisions. All this naturally took time. The twenty-two weeks which have elapsed since the Battle of Bull Run are if any thing too short a period to perfect the officers in their duties, and the men in the various evolutions of company, battalion, regimental, brigade, and division movement. So far from complaining of McClellan's inaction experienced soldiers would rather advise his keeping his men in training for another month or two. No man would undertake to make boots, or coats, or books, or cotton cloth, or to sell merchandise or stocks, or to cure diseases, or plead lawsuits, after an apprenticeship of only five months and a half. If McClellan has educated his mob of volunteers to the proper pitch of military discipline in that period, all that can be said is that he has done wonders.

At any rate, we are led to believe that the real work is now about to begin in earnest. Before

this paper meets the public eye, General Burnside's column will have commenced operations. It seems to be universally understood that it is to operate on the York, James, or Rappahannock rivers—being in fact a flank attack on the rebel army of the Potomac. General Magruder appears to be satisfied that it is to ascend the York River. Simultaneously with its operations, it may be expected that General Hooker will assail the rebel Batteries at Evansport, General McClellan will make a forward movement on the line of the Occoquan, and General Lander, who has taken the place of General Kelley, will move on Winchester, while General Banks moves on Leesburg. Thus assailed at all points, it is assumed that General Johnston will be compelled to give battle in the open field, and it is taken for granted that he will labor under such disadvantages that he can not but meet with defeat.

Meanwhile it may be gathered from the various contradictory reports from Kentucky and the line of the Mississippi River, that, by the time these lines are read, the bulk of the army under General Don Carlos Buell will have crossed the Green River and will either have assaulted the rebel works at Bowling Green or will have turned the position. The new bridge over the Green River was to have been completed by 1st January. General Buell's antagonist, General Albert Sydney Johnston, is a very able officer, and was the commander of our army in Utah. He has seen active service in Texas and Mexico. Still, it is known to be General McClellan's opinion that he will find his match in General Buell ; and in numbers, equipment, arms, and discipline, our army is sure to be superior to that of the rebels. General Buell can not have far short of 75,000 fighting men under his command.

We look also, during the current week, for news of movements down the Mississippi. At latest dates the whole of General Halleck's fleet of gun and mortar boats had mustered at Cairo, and a land army of some 30,000 men was there to support them. It is expected that before these lines are read this army will be nearly doubled, and the flotilla will be ready for work. Opinions differ among military men with regard to the policy General Halleck will pursue. Some authorities pretend that he will send his army in transports down the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers until a point is reached due east of Memphis, and that he will march on that city while his flotilla fights its way down the river. Others, again, look for a direct march from Cairo and Paducah upon Columbus, in conjunction with the advance of the fleet. Whichever course be adopted, it is safe to expect that within a day or two the great Mississippi expedition will have begun its work. In either event Union men count upon success as reasonably certain.

We have made no allusion, in the above brief review, to the movements of our armies at the South. They will, however, naturally exercise a potent influence upon the grand result. At the time we write the whole sea-coast, from Savannah to Charleston, is in the hands of our forces, and we hold the railroad between those two cities. No forces or news can be sent from Savannah to Charleston, or vice versa, except by making a great detour. It is in our power to take either city at any time, and doubtless one or both will be captured very shortly.

Simultaneously the Butler expedition is operating vigorously in the Gulf. General Phelps, who is an excellent soldier, though a poor proclamation-maker, has occupied Ship Island, which commands the channel between New Orleans and Mobile, and also Biloxi, on the main land. The Constitution has since sailed with reinforcements, under command of General Butler in person, and it is well understood that his arrival will be followed by movements of great interest to the rebels in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. The final operations against New Orleans will probably be deferred until Commodore Porter's flotilla, which is now rapidly fitting out, reaches the mouth of the river ; but in the mean time it is likely that other places of scarcely less importance will fall into our hands.

The fate of battles rests with God alone, and no one can tell what fortune our brave volunteers may encounter. At the same time it generally happens that the heaviest artillery and the biggest battalions carry the day, and we believe we have the advantage in this respect. A few days now will tell the tale.



ALTHOUGH the immediate occasion of collision between this country and Great Britain may have been removed, the maudlin ferocity of the British feeling, as shown in the rhodomontade of the newspapers, is quite enough to apprise every sensible man that only the occasion, and not the cause, has been removed. Still further—the attitude of the British Government from the beginning of the rebellion has been passively hostile to the United States. Before Mr. Dallas left London, Lord John Russell explained himself very vaguely and unsatisfactorily in regard to the recognition of the rebels as an independent power; and the Queen's Proclamation, issued upon the very day of Mr. Adams's arrival in London, showed beyond debate,

the intention of the British Government to prejudge the question, and to act without authorized intelligence of the views and purposes of the United States. At the same time the British and French governments came to an understanding to act together in regard to our condition ; and they informed other European states that they were expected to concur with them in whatever measures might be taken.

In the early summer began the movement of troops to Canada, and the shipping of great quantities of military stores to the same point, with the sailing of armed ships into our waters. The offer of the United States made to Great Britain and France to accede to the Treaty of Paris was simultaneously declined by both those powers, except upon condition of our assuming obligations which they declined to assume for themselves. The Mexican intervention was agreed upon by Great Britain, France, and Spain, in the development of which a large foreign fleet will be thrown into the Gulf of Mexico. Meanwhile the British Government, through an agent here, had privately, not officially, approached the rebel authorities to invite their virtual adhesion to the Treaty of Paris. The agent of this business was Robert Bunch, British Consul at Charleston. The letter proving the fact was found upon the person of Robert Mure. The removal of Bunch was instantly demanded by Mr. Seward. The matter was opened to Lord Russell by Mr. Adams ; and the secret instructions to Bunch, " which are only now acknowledged because they have come to light," as Mr. Adams remarks, were confessed by the British Government, which declined to remove Bunch. Mr. Seward, by the President's direction, thereupon instantly withdrew his exequatur, notwithstanding the declaration of Earl Russell that his Government had not authorized Bunch to say that what he did was the first step toward recognition.

The interior history of our relations with Great Britain since the outbreak of the rebellion fully authorize Mr. Seward to say, as he does in his dispatch of July 21, to Mr. Adams: " The United States and Great Britain have assumed incompatible and thus far irreconcilable positions on the subject of the existing insurrection." The total alienation of feeling which has ensued between the nations, and its bitter expression culminating upon the part of England in the ludicrous drivel of the London Times, which calls the people of the United States " a degraded mob;" the wild and wanton British hatred and insolence developed by the affair of the Trent; the steady assumption of the destruction of this Government; the open aid given to rebel ships and the common courtesies refused to ours, notwithstanding the claim of " friendly neutrality" between an allied power and a faction of its citizens seeking to overthrow it—all these things are signs no less sure than the rising cloud and the muttering thunder.

If in the year which ends in April the Government has not substantially suppressed the insurrection, or is not clearly suppressing it, Great Britain, France, and the lesser powers will recognize the independence of the rebellious section. As the rebel ministers are received at foreign courts our ministers retire. Treaties between the new nation and the old will follow. It is to be reasonably supposed that the British navy, perhaps united with the French, will try to open the blockade. That act is war between us and those powers.

Three winter months are not a long time to complete so great a work. It can be done only by the utmost effort of the nation. Every means is now a military necessity. The victory over rebellion must be overwhelming, radical, and final. Can we justly spare any effort ? The right of the Government to summon the insurgents to surrender under peril of losing the labor of their slaves is as unquestionable as that of summoning them to do so under peril of loss of property and life. If such a measure be adopted, and the nation is saved, the endangered peace of the world confirmed, and the root of all our troubles is removed, will any honest citizen regret that a great act of justice was done by the way? If such a measure be delayed, and the inevitable recognition of the rebellion leads to foreign war and domestic disunion, will the Government, legislative and executive, have done all it ought to have done to avert so tragical a disaster ?


TIME enough has now elapsed to perceive that Mr. Seward has performed one of the most difficult and delicate tasks that ever devolved upon a statesman with such calmness, dignity, and consummate ability, that there is universal national assent. There are many who think that the surrender must have been made, right or wrong, to avoid a war for which we were not prepared ; and they are glad that a humiliating necessity has been met so adroitly. There are others who think that the question was, at best, doubtful ; and they are glad that, at this time, it has been decided against ourselves. There are still others who think that the true American doctrine honorably required the surrender ; and they are glad that the nation has maintained its own principle even under the implied threat of war. " If I decide this case in favor of my own Government," says Mr. Seward, "I must disavow its most cherished principles, and reverse and forever abandon its essential policy." He therefore decides as an American statesman ought to decide. The national pride may be wounded, because pride always insists upon sticking to what has been done, right or wrong. But the national honor is entirely unstained. And the business of a statesman is to vindicate the honor of his nation, even at the expense of its pride.

We are not of those who regard Mr. Seward's letter as making the best of a bad case. On the contrary, if we were at perfect peace, and a similar case should arise, it would be the duty of the United States to take precisely the same ground. Some kind of visitation and search of neutrals by belligerents is universally conceded. That some things are contraband of war is equally recognized. That

some persons may be contraband is not disputed. But the decision of what is contraband in property must be referred to prize courts ; and if property must be so referred, how much more must persons? The judgment is too momentous to be left to a naval officer. If, therefore, in this case, the Trent had been taken into some prize port and condemned, and Slidell and Mason held to be contraband, we could not have released them without dishonor. If Mr. Seward could have answered his fifth question as easily and finally as he did the first four, his conclusion, by his own reasoning and upon our great principle, would have been, The demand of the British Government can not be granted. If war must follow, we have fought that Government before upon the same question, and not unsuccessfully. We sneer at the claim of Great Britain to make her whim maritime law ; but how could we have respected ourselves in fighting against the principle in 1862 that we fought so well for in 1812 ?

That Great Britain had always done what Captain Wilkes did, and with no provocation whatever, is true enough. But Great Britain is not our model, thank God ! in politics, in manners, or in morality.


IF we were so entirely in the right in the Trent affair as Mr. Everett and other eminent Doctors assured us, why do we consent to give up the two traitors, except because we can't help ourselves? Are Mr. Everett and the other Doctors all wrong? This is a question which a great many people are quietly asking.

Let us frankly grant, then, to begin with, that very few of us know any thing whatever about the legal right or wrong of the question. International and maritime law are definitely settled only upon certain points; and no man, without especial attention to them, can say what those points are.

Now every thing that Mr. Everett asserts as good and recognized law in this case is confirmed by Mr. Seward. They quote the same authorities, often the same words. Mr. Everett's most elaborate consideration of the case is contained in his paper of the 7th December, published in the Ledger. He there recounts the circumstances, and then considers all the points of law that establish the right of a belligerent state ship, like the San Jacinto, to stop a neutral contract merchant vessel carrying passengers and mails, like the Trent: and, in the words of Sir William Scott, " to stop the embassador of your enemy upon his passage."

Mr. Everett establishes the point beyond question. He introduces, indeed, some arguments which Mr. Seward, as Secretary of State, can not admit. Mr. Everett, for instance, lays great stress upon the Queen's proclamation of neutrality, forbidding subjects to carry dispatches, officers, etc., at their peril. Obviously the Secretary of State can not allow that mere rebels are belligerents. The English proclamation, in his view, is the declaration of an unfriendly purpose toward this Government; but this Government prefers to disregard the purpose and await the overt act of unfriendliness which is implied by the proclamation. When Great Britain follows the proclamation to its logical result, and recognizes the rebels as an independent Power, it will be time for this Government to act also. If Mr. Seward argued upon the ground of the proclamation, he would argue against the carrying of his own dispatches to our foreign ministers by English ships. Mr. Everett may use the argument for his purpose, and he uses it ably, but the Secretary of State can not.

Nevertheless, by perfectly conclusive reasoning they reach the same result—namely, that Captain Wilkes had a right to stop the ship and the embassadors. There, however, Mr. Everett's argument ends and Mr. Seward's begins. He agrees entirely with Mr. Everett, that the rebels were contraband ; that Captain Wilkes might lawfully stop the ship that he did it properly ; that having found the contraband he had a right to capture them ; but that he did not exercise the right in conformity to the law of nations.

Therefore we were right, but not entirely right, and in such cases an incomplete right is not enough. The eminent Doctors justly establish the right of stopping the ship and the embassadors; but they none of them establish, because none of them but the Secretary discusses, the right of deciding the question as Captain Wilkes decided. Therefore, also, we do not give up the traitors because we should have war if we did not, but because every part of the law is equally vital, and the act was not altogether lawful.


TIME, like Portia, is a Daniel when it comes to judgment. For years, when we had no navy, when we had twelve ships and Great Britain had nine hundred, she wantonly insulted our flag by stopping our merchantmen and taking out whatever persons the British captains might choose to call British subjects, although without any complaint against them. And this business was openly approved and supported by the British Government.

A few weeks ago a loyal and brave captain in our navy, upon his own responsibility, takes from a British merchantman two American citizens publicly known as conspirators against the existence of this Government. Great Britain trembles with rage, and roars out : " It thus appears that certain individuals have been forcibly taken from on board a British vessel, the ship of a neutral Power, while such vessel was pursuing a lawful and innocent voyage—an act of violence which was an affront to the British flag, and a violation of international law."

The demand is stern, but not in terms uncourteous. As the United States neither authorized the act nor justified the method, the certain individuals were "cheerfully liberated."

But now mark, Jew, a Daniel, a Daniel come to judgment. If at any time hereafter, in her European or other wars, British cruisers should stop (Next Page)




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