Fairoaks Battle Description


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, July 5, 1862

This site contains an online archive of all Harper's Weekly newspapers published during the Civil War. These newspapers will allow you to develop unique insights into the events that made up the Civil War. The illustrations present eye-witness records of this important period in American History.

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Cumberland Gap

Cumberland Gap

Before Richmond

Before Richmond

Emancipation Bill

Emancipation Bill

Memphis Post Office

Memphis Post Office

Joe Hooker

General Joe Hooker

Memphis, Tennessee

Affairs in Memphis Tennessee

Silas Casey

General Silas Casey

Fairoaks Battle

Fairoaks Battle Description





Cavalry Charge

Cavalry Charge


Charleston Approach

Charleston Approach

Captain Clitheroe

Captain Clitheroe

Negro Cartoon

Negro Cartoon









[JULY 5, 1862.



WE publish this week several illustrations of the Army of the Potomac from sketches by Mr. Mead of Vermont. One of them, on page 428, represents the desperate struggle which took place, during the battle of Fairoaks, around Ricketts, now Kirby's Battery. The Herald correspondent wrote:

While Lieutenant Kirby's battery was being placed in position, the enemy came out in force and made a desperate attempt to capture it. It was the same artillery company which Captain Ricketts commanded at Bull Run when the pieces were captured.

It was formerly the now rebel General Magruder's battery. He evidently recognized the colors of the company, and the prisoners we have captured say he swore he would have that battery. He ordered an immediate and desperate charge. The rebels came within twenty yards, when they poured a destructive fire into our ranks. The fire and the effect for a few moments were terrific. The cannoneers were driven from their pieces; horses plunged and reared, while some fell in the traces, killed or wounded; others dashed off with caissons, but the generals present at this critical moment and exciting scene dashed forward, swords in hand, the gunners sprang forward also, and, "quick as lightning," manned their pieces. The supporting regiment, which had for a moment wavered, though its colonel and other valuable officers had fallen, now rallied, and they were greeted with a tremendous shower of fire, which caused them to fall back in great disorder. It was at that latest fire from the enemy that Colonel Riker, of the Sixty-second New York, was killed. As he was advancing he said, "We have some cold steel to give them, boys," and then he fell mortally wounded in the body. The Thirty-first Pennsylvania and the Chasseurs were doing excellent service on the right, and had already performed their share in driving the enemy away from our artillery. Before our deadly fire the enemy fell back, and General Magruder did not get his battery.

Another picture, on page 421, from a sketch by the same hand, represents the rebel cavalry firing into a train of cars containing wounded men near Tunstall's Station. This deed was done by that band of rebel cavalry, who, under General Stuart, made a daring swoop on the rear of General McClellan's army on the night of 13th, killed a number of teamsters and horses, stole and burned some stores and a couple of schooners, and made good their retreat without loss. General McClellan's account of the affair is as follows:

The rebels, after driving from Old Church a squadron of the Fifth Cavalry, proceeded to Garlick's Landing, on the Pamunky River, about four miles above the White House, where they burned two schooners and some wagons, and drove off the mules. Here their conduct is represented as barbarous, having killed several of our teamster's without any necessity. Those who failed to make their escape were taken prisoners. From here they proceeded to Tunstall's Station, four miles from White House, with a view of burning the railroad bridge. A train which was passing down at the time was fired into, killing two and wounding several. A colonel belonging to the Excelsior Brigade was there taken prisoner, but succeeded in making his escape during the night. A paymaster jumped from the train and hid himself in the woods until morning, leaving $125,000 in the cars. The train never stopped, but passed on to the White House. After destroying the telegraph wire at this point, they proceeded to Baltimore Cross Roads, near New Kent Court House on their way to Richmond, crossing the Chickahominy, between Bottom's Bridge and the James River, about two o'clock this morning. The force that accomplished this was composed of fifteen hundred cavalry and six pieces of artillery, under General Stuart, most of whom were residents of this locality.

The rebel account of the affair, from the Richmond Dispatch, reads thus:

Upon approaching the railroad, cars were heard advancing and the whistle sounded. By orders every man was instantly dismounted and ranged beside the track. Again the whistle blew, and thinking the force to be a friendly one perhaps, the steam was stopped, when the Caroline troop opening fire, disclosed the ruse, and, putting on steam again, on sped the train toward the Chickahominy, and despite heavy logs placed on the track, made good its escape; but the carriages being but uncovered freight trucks, and having soldiers on them, the slaughter that ensued was frightful. Many of the enemy jumped from the train and were afterward captured or killed, to the number of twenty or more. The engineer was shot dead by Lieutenant Robinson.

ON page 428 we reproduce a sketch by Mr. Mead, representing a very remarkable accident which lately took place in the Army of the Potomac. Mr. Mead writes:

"A very sad and singular accident occurred in Captain Wheeler's Battery, General Smith's Division, near Richmond, about two o'clock on the morning of the 3d of June. A heavy thunder-storm had been raging from the west for some time, and had apparently almost spent its force. The tents of time men consisted of paulins or gun-covers stretched on sticks and rails, and were placed on a line between the guns and caissons. The sentries perceived a dark cloud sweeping from the west at a very low elevation, and as it passed over the park a terrific discharge of the electric fluid took place. The whole battery seemed enveloped in a sheet of flame. All of the sentries but one, the corporal of the guard, and the horses were knocked down. The flame seemed to strike one of the guns, leaped from thence to the supports of the tent, passing downward, and stunning and burning or partially paralyzing a whole platoon of twenty men. One, Corporal James Bryant, of Bath, New York, gunner of the left piece, an intelligent and brave young man, was instantly killed; the others in that tent, although rendered senseless for a time being, with the exception of three or four, were able to do duty the next day. The electric fluid passed under the rubber blanket of one man, lifting him several inches from the ground. Some had legs and arms partially paralyzed. Providentially the ammunition chests were not touched.

Captain Wheeler's battery belongs to the First New York Artillery, organized by the lamented Colonel G. D. Bailey, and was engaged at Dam No. 1 before Yorktown, where a shell from the enemy exploded one of the ammunition chests, at Lee's Mills, at Williamsburg with Hancock's brigade, and at Mechanicsville with General Davidson. The men are unanimous in the belief that lightning is harder to beat than the rebels.


THE soft, clear notes of the French horns began toning out one of Chopin's wild mazurkas, sounds like a lark's song, thrilling and sweet; and presently rang in the reedy vibrant harp threads, the fine carol of the flute, the gay greeting of the viol, then the clang of the cymbals, and "the kettle-drums throbbed proudly."

It was the night of Mrs. Shannon Grey's famous fete. All the world was there; that is, all the world of Mrs. Shannon Grey—a gay, great world enough indeed on that night even for that lady's ambition.

A famous fete given in honor of her son—in honor and happy jubilation, for Shannon Grey was a hero at Shannon Hill. And he deserved it. Wounded at Manassas, taken prisoner at Leesburg, released, and returned again to share in the victory of Roanoke: he shared, too, in its suffering, and came

home unwillingly, with honorable mention and discharge, to nurse a shattered limb and a wasted body back to life, if not to health again. A splendid natural physique had worked the wonder which no one had dared to expect; and on the first of May he found himself once more an able man, and by all indications on the road to the old perfection of strength.

And this recovery Mrs. Shannon Grey was now celebrating while the month was yet in its first days of May-bloom. For this she had decked Shannon Hill with triumphal banners and fluttering flags, turning the lawns and garden into a fairy land of illumination, and invoking the presence of the lovely and the brave.

A hero! Perhaps you don't think he carries out the idea very forcibly as you see him now—a tall, slight-looking young man, rather superb in his air, slowly pulling off a violet-colored glove from a white hand, and the hand sending forth an amethystine glitter where a ring of strange device is lurking. And all the time he is talking the lightest nonsense in the most graceful though self-assured manner to a lady by his side. Perhaps you think him a trifle supercilious. Perhaps under that charm of grace you fancy you see a cool, unpromising disregard, and a lordly sort of indifference which verges on self-love. This may be the indication; and supposing it a true one, is it very strange that constant adulation from his cradle up, the world's pomp and glory should have the effect of self-centring at first, and then of weariness and disgust? Yet perhaps the indication is all astray.

But while we speculate the horns steal out into that wild mazurka.

"Hark!" And Shannon Grey actually has the audacity to lift a finger of silence to the pretty lady's talk there.

"Hark!—that's a wonderful thing—beads of dropping water and distant bells. Don't you hear them?"

The lady patted a little foot impatiently, beat time to the music with a black fan on a white snow-drift of an arm, and—wished that Shannon Grey would remember what mazurka measures meant. She heard no beads of water, nor distant bells in the swelling sounds.

At last he remembers. A long sigh, a gaze that comes back from some invisible field of fancy, and he puts out a hand.


Slightly autocratical you think, and your impressions return with full force; but see how the lady takes it. A brilliant smile, a ready hand to meet his, and they go whirling off into the circling mazes.

If he is spoiled, who spoiled him? Who made him autocratical and self-centred?

And while you ponder this question on this suggestion, Mrs. Shannon Grey comes up with an anxious face, in which is a gleam of anger.

"That Clara Snyder to set him dancing on that weakened limb!" and, breaking her indignant soliloquy short, she sent out a flutter of handkerchief for a signal of distress. So on the second round the young gentleman slid into a walk, with the words,

"Dear Lady Clara, my good mamma is in some dire perplexity, which only her graceless son can settle, evidently. She has been hanging out flags of distress for the last three minutes. You know it breaks my heart to leave you!" And he relinquished the "dear Lady Clara," with the most beaming smile, to a glittering young officer who stood conveniently near.

And the good mamma fell upon him with caution and reproof, all of which he turned a heedless ear to—listening, instead, to the beads of dropping water and the distant bells in that wild mazurka of Chopin's. The lady caught the heedless look. A little shake of the arm she held and a sharper tone brought him back.

"Shannon, why will you not listen? Dr. Belmont says that the knee is yet weak, and that you must not use it needlessly; and there you were whirling round with that romp of a Clara Snyder! How could you?"

"My dear little mamma"—Mrs. Grey's avoirdupois was a long break into the second hundred, and the stateliest woman in the room—"my dear little mamma, how could you invite such a vulgar personage as a grown-up romp?"

"What ever are you thinking of, Shannon? She is Rensselaer Snyder's daughter! There isn't better blood, you know."

"Oh! I beg pardon. I forgot for a moment. Of course, whatever she does is fine!"

"Now, Shannon, you are sneering. I know that innocent air."

"Innocent! Is it innocent? Three young ladies told me to-night that they thought I was a delightfully-wicked fellow."


"They really did, mamma. 'Delightfully-wicked'—that was the phrase; and they said it with a series of little giggles, and a flirting of little red fans. Now isn't it a temptation for any young fellow to forswear innocence when such charming creatures declare for wickedness in this hilarious manner?"

"Come, Shannon, leave your sarcasm and those silly girls; by-the-way, they spoil you, Shan—"

"To be sure they do—make me conceited and vain—an insolent, insufferable, young puppy; and they think it's very fine. There isn't better blood, you know, than the Shannon Greys! Then the taxes, mamma. Bah, how vulgar I am." And with a sudden real look—a look of disgust and disdain—he flung the flower Miss Snyder had decked his button-hole with out of an open window.

And then his mother returned to the point of attack. "Now, Shannon, do remember. You run great risks, you know; don't trifle with your coming strength. I should so hate to see you limping round all your life! It would quite ruin your splendid figure. You're a perfect Shannon!—all my family have just that tall, erect figure. I can't bear to think of its becoming any thing less. You

are the only son, you know—the last of the name; and you must be careful that you don't do it discredit."

The look of disdain settled into something inscrutable. No anger, but a tired, haggard expression, as it were; and the eyes went searching off again into invisible distances, listening to the beads of dropping water, the distant bells.

"Remember"—came the motherly caution once more, as they neared a group of girls—" remember that by one waltz, perhaps, to-night you lose your chance of waltzing forever."

"And my chance of serving nay country too," he said, in a low voice.

"How absurd you are, Shannon! Why can't you be serious?"

What could Mrs. Grey want? There couldn't well be a graver face, a more serious air, than her son's presented then; but perhaps she knew "his ways," and this was one of them.

The wild mazurka had changed by this into a soft sliding waltz—one of the Weber wonders: close clinging chords and clustered semitones, the flute-tones rising in a species of single harmony, aloft and clear and lonely, while the harp-strings threaded passionate notes of wailing, and the winding horns sobbed meaningly between.

Leaving the gay group of girls with a wordless apology of smile and bow, the young host hurried on, and rested at last underneath the spreading banners which hung from the wide arms of an elm in the garden-grounds. There, where the colored lamps rocked resplendently in the branches of the trees, making a mimic paradise out of the "leafy tide of greenery," he seated himself more like a man who was hunted down by cruel circumstances than a young lord in his domain.

And the horns and harps, the flutes and viols, the silver shocks of cymbals, and the melodious roll of the kettle-drums wafted out to him in softened cadences. Perhaps as he listened he heard again the beads of dropping water, the distant bells, for the face smoothed itself into placid calm.

Beads of dropping water and distant bells. Hark! This was not it. He listens, and hears a fine, sweet undertone weaving words into the flute-tones—a voice like a bird on bough, singing solely for its own pleasure; words sweet as the music changes—a dulcet flow of soft syllables, strung liquidly together—a perfect dryad's song, suited to the hour.

The listener kept breathless silence. The night was still; not a leaf stirred; not a branch or blade rustled: only the distant clangor of the musicians, and the near trill of this wood-nymph strain. It ceased with the last winding flute-notes; and then, from some dainty perch, the nymph alighted on the smooth sward—a dark, slight figure, in a mantle of green.

The concealed watcher laughed inaudibly, with secret glee. Clearly it was a veritable dryad; the color was orthodox—a mantle of green. From what tree did she slip? He had half a fancy to call out to her, but changing his mind, followed softly in her fleet footsteps. Entering the door of a side-hall, he saw her disappear up the broad stairway, and turned himself away by a shrouding curtain-fall to wait.

A moment, and she came again, the mantle of green laid aside—a dark, slight figure in her attire—floating lace of black—but a white lily in flesh-tints. He let her pass in, and then following closely, sought his mother. The stately lady stood talking blandly with the best blood in the country, Rensselaer Snyder.

The son put his head down at the back of her ear with a whisper,

"Who and what is she, little mamma?"

The bland sentences arrested in surprise.

"We were talking of Mr. Snyder's niece, Mrs. Dupont, Shannon," was the warning answer; and Mrs. Grey thought the boy had been taking too much wine.

The "boy" shook his black locks with impatient merriment.

"No, no; I mean the dryad—the small white elf there, in black, with a diamond star at her throat."

"Oh! some one that came with the Lovells—their cousin, I believe, a Miss Dane."

He drew her hand over his arm in his willful way, and said, for apology to Mr. Snyder,

"You must come and present me to the young lady, mother. I ran against her just now in the hall, and must make my excuses."

"If you had been at your post earlier in the evening, Shannon, you would not have missed her. But where have you been all this time?"

"Listening to a nightingale — a bird on the bough, mamma. And I saw it fly down from its perch in a plumage of green and flutter in at your door. It was either that or a dryad. Do dryads sing, mamma?"

"You've been drinking Champagne, Shannon."

"No, on my honor, nothing but the dew from the wood. The wine of time dryads. Yes, she has fed upon lilies and dew, I perceive—nothing else."

"My son, Miss Dane," and the gracious lady, with a word or two of affable courtesy, moved away, leaving the "son" to "make his excuses" —mythical excuses!

To the self-possessed young autocrat a new feeling had come—half embarrassment and half uncertainty. And all because the small white elf in black bowed to his rather elaborate greeting with a simple, slow bend of honest indifference. He had made not the least impression on her. She looked at him as blankly as if he had been a block of wood. Then she had one of those provoking exteriors which seem by air and expression to signify an unconscious self-isolation. Her very naturalness was sure evidence.

Shannon Grey had met a new experience. Where should he begin with her?

His native audacity at length came to his aid.

"Did you wet your feet in the grass?" he asked, demurely.

She waited a moment to wonder, then remembrance came, and with it a little low laugh like a tinkle of bells.

"No, I ran quickly," she answered. "How did you see me?"

"I was wrapped in a banner out there, and heard a song. A dryad slipped its bark and came forth. I knew it by its mantle of green," he replied, gravely.

The cool face began to wake to enjoyment. These fancies suited the girl's nature.

"Yes, it was an ash," she answered, slyly. "'Young ashes pirouetted down,

Coquetting with young beeches.'

I didn't find my beech, however."

"He followed you in," was the swift, smiling response.

"Oh, is that it ?"

He didn't half like the laughing ease with which she took his fine speeches, but she had an odd charm for him for her very singularity.

And here again the band began that same Weber waltz, and she broke out archly with the sweet humming words she had sung in the garden—just the lowest thread of a voice, yet clear and intelligible; and ceasing, she beat her foot upon the floor in rhythmic measure. Was she thinking, as Clara Snyder had thought, and wishing he would remember what dance music meant? There was hardly impatience in the beating foot, or in the listening face. He bent down to look in it, and said.

"I wish I could ask you to waltz with me, but I am not quite sound of limb yet, and my good mother gets into a fever of alarm if I try it."

She glanced up questioningly. "Oh, you have been ill—my cousins told me. Wounded, were you not?"


Her manner changed now; from impassible she became eager, earnest.

"I don't care for the waltzing!" she exclaimed; "but if you are not tired of telling the story, talk to me about the battle. I am so interested!" And her eyes lit, and her cheek kindled color.

"Which battle?"

"Which? How many have you seen, Mr. Grey?"

"I was at Manassas, at Leesburg, and at Roanoke."

She clapped her hands together applaudingly, and with a real gesture of delight.

Half an hour ago Shannon Grey would have fled from the "pretty interest" of the young ladies of his acquaintance in disdain. But this interest was so real, so intense, that he went back to the old scenes with a thrilling pulse. Her clear, intelligent questions, her magnetic sympathy led him freely on; and he told his last and largest experience—the battle at Roanoke, with its splendid victory—in accents of enthusiasm, which roused all the slumbering fire in those watchful, eager eyes upturned to his.

"And it was here I got my worst wound," he went on. "It was just at the last, when I was leading my men on to the final attack, and they were already shouting with triumph, when I felt a shock, a trickle of something icy and stinging, no pain at first, nor until long after—then another shot, and my horse fell under me, carrying me down. There I got the ugly crush which made the wound ten times worse; but I'm all right now," he added, with a blush and a laugh at the personalities he had been betrayed into by the swift sympathy of his companion.

"Ah, but you should have seen the endurance, the uncomplaining courage of our men on that campaign," he proceeded, with glistening eyes. "One poor fellow falling near me, I stooped to give him aid if I could, and he cried out, 'Never mind me, Captain, turn me on my side and go on. I shall soon be where it's all right, and our men will make it all right here.' Another had lost his cap, shot off by a musket-ball, which inflicted a flesh wound, and with his head bound up with his handkerchief, which was dripping blood, he pressed on with undaunted courage."

As he paused, she said:

"And you went again, and yet again to these bloody fields. I like that—it shows persistence, earnestness, determination. I believe in the meaning of those men who return after their first battle, and you were wounded on that first, too. It does you honor, Captain Grey."

A color like a girl's came into his cheek at this simple, honest praise. It touched him because it was simple and honest—not a particle of flattery; she regarded him not as a young gentleman who reveled in the sunshine of worldly prosperity, but a man who had done his duty. Then again, she goes on:

"Why did you go at all—tell me, will you? Was it zeal, patriotism, real earnest belief in the need of you? But pardon me, I have no right to ask."

He hesitated only a moment, then answered: "Yes, Miss Dane, I will tell you why I went, though I am afraid it will not satisfy your idea of earnestness."

"When that first call came for troops a year ago, I will do myself the justice to say that my heart thrilled at the need. Then the long want was filled for me. Here was unending excitement, real life, for the false one I had lived daily; for I had no vocation for polities, literature, or any of the million interests wherein other men flung themselves readily, and since my college days I had sunk into that detestable timing—an idle man, without an aim. I can not say that the present crisis gave me a decided aim. It gave me occupation, excitement, which roused, and did not pall. And if you will pardon the egotism, Miss Dane, I think I have been a more earnest man since the experience."

"I do not doubt it, Captain Grey. Ah!" and she shook her head with a wistful look of pain, "you think we women know nothing of that feeling—the want of reality—the purposeless existence in trifles. I know it fully, and have yearned to do something that my heart thrilled to do. Very selfish, we may argue, when there is so much to be done in the world; but it's nevertheless a stubborn fact." Then in a lighter way, "Yes, we may do




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