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Civil War Harper's Weekly, March 22, 1862

This site features online versions of all the Harper's Weekly newspapers published during the Civil War. These newspapers will help you develop a more complete understanding of the Civil War.

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

 

Monitor and Merrimac

Battle of the Monitor and Merrimac

Compromise

Lincoln Offers Slavery Compromise

Terror in the South

Terror in the South

Newport News Battle

Newport News

Flag Poem

Flag Poem

Merrimac and Monitor

Battle of Monitor and Merrimac

Rebel Batteries

Story on Rebel Batteries

Wilkie Collins

Wilkie Collins

Cockpit Point

Cockpit Point

Monitor and the Merrimac

Monitor and the Merrimac

Fort Donelson

interior of Fort Donelson

 

Cartoon

Cartoon

 

 

 

MARCH 22, 1862.]

HARPER'S WEEKLY.

187

up to me with tears in her eyes, "if I must lose you—dearly as I love you—I would rather bury you under the daisies and in my heart; bury you, and never see you again till we meet in the world to come, than I would have you revisiting your old fireside after the fashion of this Dreadful Ghost."

MOTHER, CAN I GO?

A CONNECTICUT lad, employed in this city, wrote home for his mother's permission to enlist. He is now with the Burnside Expedition:

I am writing to you, mother, knowing well what you will say,

When you read with tearful fondness all I write to you to-day ;

Knowing well the flame of ardor on a loyal mother's part, That will kindle with each impulse, with each throbbing of your heart.

I have heard my country calling for her sons that still are true;

I have loved that country, mother, only next to God and you;

And my soul is springing forward to resist her bitter foe: Can I go, my dearest mother? tell me, mother, can I go?

From the battered walls of Sumter, from the wild waves of the sea,

I have heard her cry for succor, as the voice of God to me; In prosperity I loved her—in her days of dark distress, With your spirit in me, mother, could I love that country less?

They have pierced her heart with treason, they have caused her sons to bleed,

They have robbed her in her kindness, they have triumphed in her need;

They have trampled on her standard, and she calls me in her woe:

Can I go, my dearest mother? tell me, mother, can I go?

I am young and slender, mother—they would call me yet a boy,

But I know the land I live in, and the blessings I enjoy; I am old enough, my mother, to be loyal, proud, and true To the faithful sense of duty I have ever learned from you. We snout conquer this rebellion: let the doubting heart be still;

We must conquer it, or perish. We must conquer, and we will!

But the faithful must not falter, and shall I be wanting?—No!

Bid me go, my dearest mother ! tell me, mother, can I go?

He who led His chosen people, in their effort to be free From the tyranny of Egypt, will be merciful to me; Will protect me by His power whatsoe'er I undertake; Will return me home in safety, dearest mother, for your sake.

Or should this my bleeding country need a victim such as me,

I am nothing more than others who have perished to be free.

On her bosom let me slumber, on her altar let me lie;

I am not afraid, my mother, in so good a cause to die.

There will come a day of gladness, when the people of the Lord

Shall look proudly on their banner, which His mercy has restored;

When the stars in perfect number, on their azure field of blue,

Shall be clustered in a Union, then and ever firm and true.

I may live to see it, mother, when the patriot's work is done,

And your heart, so full of kindness, will beat proudly for your son;

Or through tears your eyes may see it with a sadly thoughtful view,

And may love it still more dearly for the cost it won from you.

I have written to you, mother, with a consciousness of right-

I am thinking of you fondly, with a loyal heart to-night; When I have your noble bidding, which shall tell me to press on,

I will come and see you, mother—come and kiss you, and be gone.

In the sacred name of Freedom, and my Country as her due-

In the name of Law and Justice, I have written this to you. I am eager, anxious, longing to resist my country's foe: Shall I go, my dearest mother? tell me, mother, shall

I go?

February, 1862.

IN A WATER STREET DANCE-
HOUSE.

WELL, I never thought they'd done it, Sir, and I say it was a — shame! There's a many big bugs and rich, respectable folks engaged in it in New York—folks as keep their own kerridges and have pews at fash'nable churches, and go to waterin'-places, and spend their money free as air -why, they'd ha' raised a million o' dollars to ha' saved the Captain—two million, by —! you may bet your life they would! And yet he was hung arter all!

Do I think the slave-trade right, then? Well no; not exactly. It's a bad business—most as bad as bein' a pirate—but then they're only niggers. A white man's a white man, and a nigger's a nigger, there's no gettin' over that. You ain't no abolitionist, are you, Sir? I never know'd a sailor as was.

Ye see a seaman's life is the hardest out; Jack gets monkey's allowance, more kicks than ha'-pence, all the world over. And it pays better than any thin' goin'. Why, Sir, make one good run in three and you've done first-rate for owners, skipper, and crew, and nary expense but fittin' out-and layin' in rum or muskets as truck for your cargo. So it's a great temptation. I never know'd a 'Merican as liked it exactly, but I've know'd a many as has ben in it. Spaniards mostly thinks nothin' on it; them fellers has no sort o' conscience or humanity.

Maybe I've seen a little of it myself? That's tellin's! Perhaps I have and perhaps I han't; you don't catch this child goin' back on hisself, no-how! You only inquired out o' curiosity? Well, I suppose so. I guess you ain't the sort as gen'ally comes to such places as this, except on a spree to see the ward. Not much of a show here to-night, times is bad for the landlords. You should go to the "Flag" some evenin' when a hull crew's ben paid off—see 'em raise — there sometimes.

Well, I don't mind! your health, Sir. I've drunk worse rum and better. So you writes stories for the magazines and newspapers? I guess I could tell you a thing or two as you might work up into somethin'—about what we was a talkin' on,

too. Why won't I? Well, most folks is pretty shy of ownin' up to knowing much about the Ebony Trade, though I don't see how it could hurt a poor devil of a common sailor like me, as nobody expects to have any kind of a character or kear for one. We lives hard, works hard, and dies hard, and can't be expected to be very particular. I warn't to blame for what I done either. So here goes. Put up that pencil; I don't like the notion of having my words took down; that kinder knocks me. I guess you'll remember well enough.

It's about six or seven year ago—I don't recollect time good—when I came ashore arter a two-year whalin' cruise in the Pacific Ocean, and, like a fool, went on a big spree and spent every durned red cent I had in the world. It ended in my gettin' shanghaied and put aboard a slaver. What's shanghaying? Why, Lord love you! don't you know that? and you writes for the newspapers! It's crimping a man when he's dead-drunk or hocussed with laudanum. The landlord draws his first month's pay in advance, o' course, for bringing a hand aboard, and the first thing poor Jack knows about it is when he's roused by the mate or skipper with the bight of a rope's end, or a marlin-spike, or hit over the head with a ring-bolt, or any thing that comes handy. I've seen men so knocked about, Sir—in this yere port of New York, too-that they've jumped overboard—five or six of 'em, one arter t'other—and swum ashore or not, as may be. That's often the meanin' of bodies bein' found about the piers, as you reads on in the newspapers.

However, when I came to I were all right, and so, mainly, were half a dozen others as had had the same luck. Some sulked and give slack, others turned to and made the best of it, all of us being pretty much cleaned out and obliged to ship somewheres. We mustered about twenty hands strong; Yankees, Irish, English, Dutch, Spaniards, and one lubberly Portygee—there was more Dutch and Irish than any thing else. Things looked uncommon ship-shape aboard, and we were told we was bound to Africa to trade with the niggers for palm-oil.

Our ship was just as pretty a clipper-built one as was ever turned out of a New York dock-yard; most new, I guess, and in first-rate order, from stem to starn. She were low-lying and rakish, with one of them infernal, high, spear-looking bows; square-rigged on the fore and main mast; fore and aft on the mizen, bark fashion, you know. She could spank along under a ten-knot breeze with most any thing afloat. Her Captain—well, never mind about him!—he was a'Merican and a good seaman; that's all I kear to tell just now.

Our real business soon got whispered about before the mast; as for me I suspicioned it from the first, from the many water-casks on deck and the stores of rice and physic aboard. The mates, too—both of 'em was Cubans, and one, the hardest-hearted, most piratical-looking villain onhung, I do believe, laughed and talked kinder curious-like with some of the hands—them as had shipped knowing what we was. So, when the Captain had us all forrad on the third day out, and made a bit of a speech, letting us into the secret and promisin' us a dollar a head on every nigger landed safe in Cuba—much o' that as it turned out!—it didn't surprise us any. Some liked the notion of makin' a big pile easy—some didn't care—and all concluded to go—'specially as they couldn't do any thing else.

We made a fairish run to the African coast, twenty days in all, agreein' pretty well among ourselves, though there was a knife or two drawn, and the first mate turned out a devil incarnate. It was a word and a blow with him allus, and the blow first often. He'd hit a man for any thing—spiteful, too. As to swearin' and abuse, well I guess I can pay out pretty free when I'm mad, and I've sailed under them as could cuss some, but that feller beat all. What with his Spanish, and his French, and his furrin' English, and the nigger-jabber he'd picked up on the coast, he'd swear the hair of your head right on end in no time; it 'most made your flesh creep to hear him. If that — had had his way, he'd ha' made a hell afloat of it for us; but the Cap'n was different, and we thought better of him. You'll hear what he done though before I come to the end of the story.

He was a good seaman, I said, and worked the ship handsome, right to the mouth of the Congo River, the best place to get what we wanted, for the niggers inland there are allus at war with one another—they do say on purpose to get prisoners to sell to the traders. They has barracoons at convenient places, and the word is passed mighty quick up country for 'em to tote along the coffles, when the right kind o' vessel comes up the river. It's big and broad and deep enough, and most allus fair weather in that latitude; so one can go up a good ways. We hadn't ben there three days 'fore the Captain had bargained for a full cargo of prime hands—a thousand men, women, and children. He paid for 'em in rum and muskets and gunpowder.

The gettin' of 'em aboard and stowin' em between decks—we had two decks, with jest sitting-room between 'em—was done in double-quick time arter they had been passed as sound and likely and branded. It didn't take an hour in all. The Cap'n stood ready as they came over the side, and he'd just shove 'em along like so many sheep arter rippin' off the bits o' rag some on 'em wore around their middles and heavin' 'em overboard. The night afore there was a great feast in which the chiefs and all consarned, 'cept us white men, got as drunk as so many devils. All bein' ready we up anchor and away for Cuba.

Our Captain had laid his plans smart, and knew the ropes with any body on the coast. It's the custom for ships of the squadron—the African squadron I mean, which is allus on the look-out for slavers—to take each a port and kinder blockade it, movin' on from one to another at regular dates, accordin' to the orders of the Commodore on the station. We'd slipped in safe enough, knowin' our time, and had calculated to get out just the same. We done it too, though we run a right smart chance of being nabbed by a blamed Yankee skipper, as you'll hear more on in good time. I'll tell

you how that happened, as I larnt it afterward aboard that very steamer.

He was the only Northern captain on the station, and the others—all Southerners—had sorter sent him to Coventry for a scrub as really meant business, and wouldn't make things pleasant for a consideration. (They have a fellow-feeling, you know, for they owns niggers themselves when they're to home, and buys and sells 'em too.) So he got mad and determined to play 'possum. He had ben ordered away from the Congo River to a station thirty miles to the nor'ard jest afore we arrived, as our Captain knew well enough—I ain't going to say who told him. There he pertends to damage his machinery, lies to for three days, and then comes right back expectin' to fetch us, and making sure of a prize.

We knew nothin' of all this, then; but as luck would have it, we seen the smoke of his funnel at daybreak, when we was well under way, with a fair wind astarn. Our Captain always kept the brightest of look-outs; he warn't goin' to risk nothin' I tell you, so he crowds all sail and gives the stranger a wide berth. She followed, I believe, but we showed her a clean pair of heels that time, and by eight bells we'd lost all sight of her. So there was an end of danger for the present. It would ha' ben better, arter all, if we had ha' ben captured by her then and there, as you'll soon hear.

Of course the niggers was all sea-sick as soon as we got out into blue water, and a dreadful moanin' and groanin' and jabberin' the poor ignorant savages made. You could hear it right through the main deck and up in the shrouds, even when a heavy sea was on, and above the roarin' of the wind. We'd fixed 'em in the regular way, stark naked, in a sittin' position, jammed into one another's laps, so's they could hardly move any thing but their heads, for with such a crowd there warn't an inch of room to spare, and the cries and groans and smell was horrid. When I turned in that night—it were pretty rough and pitch dark, with now and then a streak o' lightning and a growl o' thunder to the sou'west—if I didn't dream I was in hell among the devils and damned people I'm a Dutchman!

It blew hard all the next day, and the next to that, so we couldn't tend to 'em much, or have any of 'em up on deck. Once the sea broke over us, and we had to fasten down the hatches. You may fancy what it was like 'tween decks then! When the gale had overblown itself and we went below —nobody liked that job, and one man turned sick and fainted dead away with the smell—there was forty odd corpses to be chucked overboard. The bad air, the rollin' and crowdin', and chokin' and smotherin', and want of water, had killed 'em. They was mostly women and children.

The Captain cursed some at the loss, which, however, made a leetle more room for the rest of the mis'able devils. We hauled 'em on deck in squads —some on 'em was so cramped and stiff they couldn't move—pumped on 'em, and set 'em in the sun to dry, and sarved 'em out an allowance of boiled rice and water. Thunder! you should ha' seen them niggers drink! the eatin was bad enough, boltin' the grub like starvin' wolves, but the drinkin' was awful. They actually fit and struggled over the first bucketsful so that every drop of the water was spilled, and then lapped it up off the deck like dogs! If the mates hadn't used hand-spikes pretty free we couldn't ha' got 'em to behave human, nohows.

Well, we did what we could for 'em in cleanin' and physickin', and sent 'em below again. Always in fair weather they was had up, by turns, on deck, and never put in irons except when mutinous. The decks too, below, was swabbed out once, and sprinkled with somethin' o' lime—I misremember the name—to prevent sickness. I mention this because folks generally thinks as slavers hasn't got any humanity. If it warn't agin the law the darkeys wouldn't have to be crowded up so, by fetchin' so many; that's what makes it onpleasant.

There was one thing, however, as that first-mate did as was downright cruel. Ye see the bigger and stronger ones got to fightin' and strugglin' for more room, as was but natural, sittin' jammed up in a heap like that. In consequence the weaker crowd, the women and picaninnies, suffered. So, to make 'em all lie quiet, he jest goes below with a case of tacks—little nails, you know-and sprinkles 'em loose among the darkeys. The more they stirred arter that the more the tacks run into their naked bodies, and though it hurt bad it didn't damage the niggers' value. An old hand aboard told me this was the regular thing; before it was thought on they used to be at no end of expense for irons.

Was you ever at sea, Sir? Because, if so, you'll know that if there's one thing a sailor hates worse than another it's a calm. It's worse than a storm by a long sight. To have the sails a flappin', the ropes a frayin', every thin' creakin' and crackin' and wearin' itself out for nothin'—the blue water all around as smooth as a pond—nothin' to do and makin' no way—why, it's enough to set a saint swearin' at his grandmother! Well, jest suppose a three-days' calm in the tropics, the sun pitch-hot overhead, and us with nigh a thousand niggers on board!

I tell you it was awful; hardly a breath of air stirring on deck, and jest like the black hole of Calcutta below. The poor devils there sweltered, and sizzled, and briled, and moaned, and yelled by turns and altogether, as if they'd knowed of the sharks as was a-swimmin' alongside a-waitin' for 'em. They say the durned varmints will nose out a slaver and follow her anywheres, on the look-out for corpses, and I believe it, for, sartain, two stuck pretty close to us from the third day out. They weren't mistaken either. A fever broke out among the niggers, and they began to die off like rotten sheep; we had to throw nigh two hundred over-board in three days. That, with the ones as had gone before, made a loss of a fourth of the cal-go, and put our skipper in an ugly temper. One of the hands took the fever and died, too, spite of the Captain's doctorin'. I was by his bunk when he slipped his wind, and I wouldn't like to tell what

he said about the slave-trade then—it warn't complimentary, you may bet your life of that. We all began to think luck was agin us in that v'yage, and so it proved. The only man as didn't seem to care was the first mate; he feared neither God or devil. He cursed and swore ten times worse than ever, and knocked the niggers around jest as if it was their fault, poor devils! for havin' the fever and dyin'.

We were seven days out, standing to the sou'west with all sails set, a fairish wind and hazy weather, when we spied a vessel astarn of us, nearer than our Captain liked. At first we thought little of it, supposin' her to be bound for the West Indies, for the cruisers of the squadron seldom troubles you when you've got clear of the coast fifty or a hundred miles or so: all you have to look out for then is inquisitive Yankee captains; you can laugh at the Britishers by hoisting the 'Merican flag, when they hain't no right to search you, though they does it sometimes—their impudence! But presently this feller comes nigher yet, and seems to be followin' of us. Soon there's no doubt about it, and the Captain makes her out to be a steamer with the stars and stripes flying. So he tries to get off by virtue of wind and canvas, and there's as pretty a chase as ever you'd wish to see for over two hours. Slavers don't fight, you know; they allus runs, and is afeard of nothin' but steamers.

This one gained on us at such a rate that we should have gi'n in, on'y the haze thickened a bit and we thought we might dodge in the fog. Instead of that it cleared up some and the wind begun to slacken; so the Captain, arter consultin' with the first mate, resolved to lighten the cargo. About fifty of the niggers was fetched on deck, by twos and threes, each on 'em was lashed to a spar or plank and sent adrift. We done this—I can't say as I liked the business—in part to get rid on 'em, part in the hopes as the steamer would put out boats to pick 'em up, and so be hindered and give us time to sheer off. If we'd got free we might ha' cruised round a spell arterwards lookin' for 'em. When I see the poor black wretches floatin' off in the mist and heard the yells of two as the sharks got, I thought it was about as bad as could be, but I soon larnt different. The steamer came right on alter us, stayin' for nothin', so the Captain determined to drown every nigger on board, that they mightn't be evidence agin' him.

He had cut our heaviest chain-cable, tied a hundred sixty of 'em to it, and then run it overboard! I shall never forget that, Sir. Some cried and jabbered in their gibberish for mercy, some howled, some was kinder stupefied and didn't know what was goin' to be done to 'em, and some fought with fists and teeth, like wild beasts. The first mate —I warn't sorry to see it—nearly had his thumb bit off by one of 'em. When they went over the side they set up the awfullest screech you ever heard tell on in all your born days—a sort of dreadful yell as went right through your head and frightened you. It was horrid—horrid; I seen men turn white as death when they heard it. The niggers went right plump down to the bottom, a great streak of bubbles rising up arter them.

The Captain would have served the rest the same way, but the hands had had enough of it and stood right stock-still—almost mutinying in spite of his orders and the first mate's cursing: I believe both on 'em would have come to mischief if they'd touched any body. We knew that the game was pretty well played out any way, for the steamer was a-gainin' on us fast. In less than twenty minutes she fired a gun across our bows to bring us to, and sent a boat alongside to take possession of us as a prize. And then—what do you think? if she didn't turn out to be the same durned sloop as we'd given the go-by to off the Congo River, I'm—! Her skipper had got sartain news of us, and was bound to capture us if he had to run all the way to Cuba for it.

Well, he put a prize crew aboard under command of a lieutenant and midshipman, took us in place of his own hands, and sent the niggers to Monrovia to be set free by the Government agent there. Until our Captain showed 'em, the officers didn't know how to stow or to feed the niggers, and, do what they could, three hundred more died of the fever afore they sighted land—they was so sick. Hardly a hundred of 'em lived to see Africa agin; and I hearn tell as they had sores all over 'ens and could hardly stand up from weakness.

We was headed for New York, and pretty well treated, as common sailors who had shipped without any partic'lar knowledge of the craft, or ben put aboard in the way I telled you of at the beginnin' of the story. Some thought we'd get a month or two in prison, others not; and they was right, as luck would have it, for they done notlin' to us, 'cept landin' us without a red cent of pay. The Captain and mates warn't afraid, bless you! they had plenty of friends, and we wasn't then under a — Black Republican Government. And so it happened. They was tried once or twice and let off, and I see the Captain, with my own eyes, six months alter, ridin' up Broadway in a carriage, with a handsome lady, jest as grand as you please.

You'd like to know who he was, Sir? Dare say! Well, they hung a man jest about his size at the Tombs last Friday.

THE REBEL BATTERIES ON THE
POTOMAC.

ON page 180 we publish a series of views, from sketches by our special artist, Mr. A. R. Waud, illustrating the REBEL BATTERIES ON THE POTOMAC which have just been taken by our troops. For several months the Potomac has been blockaded by these batteries, and they have annoyed vessels going up to Washington very seriously. On 9th the rebels began to fire their tents at Cockpit Point; they burned the Page, and retired. At the same time the batteries lower down the river were likewise evacuated, and General Hooker occupied them, seizing a number of valuable guns.


 

 

  

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