Slave Trade


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, March 8, 1862

This Site features online versions of all the Harper's Weekly newspapers published during the Civil War. This online collection serves as a treasure trove of images and information for students and Civil War Buffs.

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


Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant

Victory Poem

Victory Poem

Willie Lincoln's Death

Death of Lincoln's Son, Willie

The Slave Trade

The Slave Trade

Grant Biography

General Grant's Biography

Nashville Capitol


Slave Trader

Execution of Slave Trader

Hand to Hand Combat

Hand to Hand Combat

Searching for Wounded

After the Battle


Nashville, Tennessee

General Grant Cartoon

General Grant Cartoon

Rebel Flags

Rebel Flags









[MARCH 8, 1862.




WE publish on page 148 a picture of the FIGHT OVER SCHWARTZ'S BATTERY (Union) on the last day of the siege of Fort Donelson. The contest began, as our readers will remember, on Thursday, 13th, and the fort was surrendered on Sunday morning, 16th. On Saturday the enemy made a successful sortie, and succeeded for a time in seizing one or two of our batteries. The event which our artist commemorates is thus described in the correspondence of the World:


Early in the morning a large rebel force, admitted to be twelve thousand strong by themselves, which had lain in the trenches all night, were ordered outside of the rifle-pits. The men, it appears, were uncertain whether it was a retreat, and resolved to fight with desperation.

The rebel force was, as nearly as can be ascertained, composed of First Mississippi, Third Mississippi, Fourth Mississippi, Fourteenth Mississippi, and Twentieth Mississippi, under General Johnson.

Forty-first Tennessee, Forty-first Virginia, Fifteenth Arkansas, Second Texas, and an Alabama regiment, under General J. B. Floyd.

Forrest's Cavalry, 1200 strong.

They had posted their batteries inside of the breast-works, ready to open fire so soon as our troops advanced to meet them. At six o'clock a shot was sent over to the rebel ranks just leaving their lines. In a few minutes the whole column was in motion. Col. Oglesby, who held the position menaced by the enemy, got his troops in line as rapidly as possible, and had Schwartz's Battery of four pieces in readiness to receive them. The announcement had hardly been made that the enemy was upon us than they were fairly engaged with our troops. The position of our troops during the first assault may be expressed as follows:


Ninth, Eighth, and       Thirty-first Illinois

Thirtieth Illinois. Schwartz's Battery.


Fourteenth Mississippi. Second Mississippi.

Twentieth Mississippi.

Third Mississippi

Fifty-first Virginia.

Batteries in Intrenchments.

In this order was the fight—which proved to be a very severe one—begun. Col. Oglesby, being hardly pressed, sent back for reinforcements. Col. W. H. L. Wallace was sent forward with his brigade, consisting of the Eleventh, Twentieth, Forty-eighth, and Forty-ninth Illinois regiments, who came up to find the Mississippi regiments heavily engaged with the Illinoisians of Col. Oglesby. After several desperate volleys our men were flanked by an overpowering force of the rebels, and were driven back, and for a few minutes overpowered. The timely arrival of Col. Wallace turned the day. One of his regiments was cut off from the rest by the cavalry force and a regiment of rebel infantry. They gallantly cut their way through, and drove the enemy back from the hill.

The firing was excessive and well sustained. The Eighth Illinois sustained the brunt of the charge, as did also the Fourteenth Mississippi. The men on both sides behaved with characteristic intrepidity. The Southerners, rash, impetuous, daring, and soon spent, fought bravely for a short time. The Western men, stubborn, resolute, daring, and full of fortitude, standing almost unmoved amidst the storm of buck and ball which poured from the rifles and muskets of the rebels, only breaking after they had seen their comrades falling by their sides.


By dint of rapid firing from the two batteries of Taylor and Schwartz, the enemy was driven back. The regiments of our line which had suffered so much were withdrawn. The enemy had by this time concentrated their broken troops for another attack. General MClernand had already prepared for the emergency. Anticipating that an attempt would be made to force a passage through, he ordered a brigade to the rear and extreme right to form behind the regiments then in front.

Possibly an hour had elapsed when the enemy returned in a dense mass to the attack. The battery of Captain Schwartz seemed to be the object of their attack. On they came pell-mell, with deafening volleys of fire. Our batteries, well-nigh exhausted of canister, poured shell into them with all possible dispatch. Ammunition caissons were sent back in haste to get a fresh supply of canister. The Ninth, Eighteenth, Thirtieth, and Forty-first were the next regiments to be brought up. The crest of the hill was contested with variable success for a full hour, when the enemy was finally driven back. The line of battle was so much confused that no connected account of the movements can be detailed. The utmost bravery was displayed on both sides until the struggle degenerated into a larger sort of skirmish, in which a great deal of powder and lead was expended without much effect. The rebels finally retired a third time.

Our men had by this time expended their quantum of ammunition (forty rounds). It was during this lull, and before our men could realize the fact that they had driven the enemy before them, that the fourth and last attempt was made to seize the battery. The horses being shot, the enemy succeeded in gaining possession of the battery of Captain Schwartz, and were on the point of turning them upon our troops, when Captain Willett's Chicago battery, which had just toiled up fresh from Fort Henry, arrived on the ground and poured in a perfect storm of canister just in time to save the day. The rebels fell back in disorder, pulling the guns of Schwartz with them down the hill, and gained entrance to the fort before our troops could overtake them. Our regiments followed them to the embankments, some of them climbing over, and were driven 

back for want of support.

We publish on this page a PLAN OF FORT DONELSON. The following very good description of the fort is from the correspondent of the Times:

The first thing that strikes one upon entering Fort Donelson is its immense strength. Fort Henry was thought to be almost a Gibraltar, but its strength is weakness when compared to that of Donelson. Along Dover the Cumberland River runs nearly north. A half mile or so below it makes a short bend to the west for some hundred yardsor so, and then turns again and pursues its natural course due north. Right in this bend, on the left bank of the river, and commanding it to the north, are two water batteries, side by side, and nearly down to the water's edge.

The main battery has nine guns, all looking straight down the river. The left-hand gun is a 10-inch Columbiad—the rest are 32-pounders. The other battery has three guns—the middle one a formidable rifled 64-pound Columbiad — the others 64-pound howitzers. All these guns are protected by breast-works of immense thickness, the tops of which are composed of coffee-sacks filled with earth. Back of these batteries the shore rises with a pretty steep ascent till it forms a hill, whose top is nearly or quite 100 feet above the water. On the top of this hill is Fort Donelson—an irregular work, which incloses about 100 acres. The only guns in the fort are four light siege guns, a 12-pound howitzer, two 24-pound guns, and one 64-pound howitzer. West of the fort, in the direction of the place occupied by General Grant, and south towards General McClernand's position, the country is a succession of hills. For several hundred yards around the fort the timber has all been cut down so as to afford a fair sweep for the Confederate guns. Surrounding the whole fort and town, and distant from the former about a mile, is a trench for riflemen, which runs completely around from the river bank above Dover almost to a point near the river some distance below the water batteries. Directly west of the fort, and within the rifle-pit, are formidable abattis, which would render an advance from that direction almost an impossibility.


NOT the least important among the changes which are taking place in the current of national policy and public opinion is evidenced by the fact that on Friday, 21st February, in this city, NATHANIEL GORDON was hung for being engaged in the slave-trade. For forty years the slave-trade has been pronounced piracy by law, and to engage in it has been a capital offense. But the sympathy of the Government and its officials has been so often on the side of the criminal, and it seemed so absurd to hang a man for doing at sea that which, in half the Union, is done daily without censure on land, that no one has ever been punished under the Act. The Administration of Mr. Lincoln has turned over a new leaf in this respect. Henceforth the slave-trade will be abandoned to the British and their friends. The hanging of Gordon is an event in the history of our country.

He was probably the most successful and one of the worst of the individuals engaged in the trade. A native of Maine, he had engaged in the business many years since, and had always eluded justice. The particular voyage which proved fatal to him was undertaken in 1860. The following summary of the case we take from the Times:

It was in evidence (given by Lieutenant Henry D. Todd, U.S.N.) that the ship Erie was first discovered by the United States steamer Mohican, on the morning of the 8th day of August, 1860; that she was then about fifty miles outside of the River Congo, on the West Coast of Africa, standing to the northward, with all sail set; that she was flying the American flag, and that a gun from the Mohican brought her to.

It was shown by Lieutenant Todd that he went on board himself about noon, and took command of the prize. He found on board of the Erie, which our readers will remember was but 500 tons burden, eight hundred and ninety-seven (897) negroes, men, women, and children, ranging from the age of six months to forty years. They were half children, one-fourth men, and one-fourth women, and so crowded when on the main deck that one could scarcely put his foot down without stepping on them. The stench from the hold was fearful, and the filth and dirt upon their persons indescribably offensive.

At first he of course knew nothing about them, and until Gordon showed him, he was unable to stow them or feed them—finally he learned how, but they were stowed so closely that during the entire voyage they appeared to be in great agony. The details are sickening, but as fair exponents of the result of this close stowing, we will but mention that running sores and cutaneous diseases of the most painful as well as contagious character infected the entire load. Decency was unthought of; privacy was simply impossible — nastiness and wretchedness reigned supreme. From such a state of affairs we are not surprised to learn that, during the passage of fifteen days, twenty-nine of the sufferers died, and were thrown overboard.

It was proved by one of the seamen that he, with others, shipped on the Erie, believing her to be bound upon a legitimate voyage, and that, when at sea they suspected, from the nature of the cargo, that all was not right, which suspicion they mentioned to the Captain (Gordon), who satisfied them by saying that he was on a lawful voyage, that they had shipped as sailors, and would do better to return to their duties than to talk to him.

Subsequently they were told that they had shipped on a slaver, and that for every negro safely landed they should receive a dollar.

The negroes were taken on board the ship on the 7th day of August, 1860, and the entire operation of launching and unloading nearly nine hundred negroes, occupied but three quarters of an hour, or less time than a sensible man would require for his dinner. As the poor creatures came over the side Gordon would take them by the arm, and shove them here or there, as the case might be, and if by chance their persons were covered from entire exposure by a strip of rag, he would, with his knife, cut it off, fling it overboard, and send the wretch naked with his fellows.

Several of the crew testified, all agreeing that Gordon acted as Captain; that he engaged them; that he ordered them; that he promised them the $l per capita; that he superintended the bringing on board the negroes; and that he was, in fact, the master-spirit of the entire enterprise.

For this crime Gordon was arrested, tried, and, mainly through the energy of District-Attorney Smith, convicted, and sentenced to death. Immense exertions were made by his friends and the slave-trading interest to procure a pardon, or at least a commutation of his sentence, from President Lincoln, but without avail. He was sentenced to die on 21st. We abridge the following account of his last hours and execution [which we illustrate on page 157] from the Herald and Times:


Nothing worthy of note occurred until about three o'clock A.M. on Friday morning, when the keepers were alarmed by the prisoner being suddenly seized with convulsions. At first it was supposed that he was trying to strangle himself; but on a close examination it was evident that he was suffering from the effects of poison. Dr. Simmons, the prison physician, was immediately sent for, and stimulants were freely administered for the purpose of producing a reaction. For the first half hour or so the efforts of the physician appeared to have but little effect. The patient became quite rigid under the influence of the poison, his pulse could scarcely be felt, and it was thought that after all the gallows would be cheated of its victim. Drs. James R. Wood and Hodgman, who were also in attendance upon the prisoner, labored hard to resuscitate the dying man, and finally, by means of the stomach-pump and the use of brandy, the patient was sufficiently recovered to be able to articulate. It was not until eight o'clock, however, that the physicians had any hope of saving Gordon's life. From that hour, however, the prisoner gradually recovered, although he was subject to fainting fits for hours afterward. When sensible he begged of the doctors to let him alone, preferring, he said, to die by his own hand rather than suffer the ignominy of a public execution.

It has not been satisfactorily ascertained how or in what manner the unfortunate man procured the poison with which he contemplated self-destruction. The symptoms were evidently those of strychnine, and the only way in which the keepers can account for the presence of the poison is its introduction in the cigars which Gordon had smoked so freely the night before. On Thursday the prisoner was compelled to undergo a rigid search, his clothing was changed entirely, and he was placed in a new cell, so that it would seem impossible almost for him to have procured the poison in any other way than that suggested by his keepers.

A few minutes after eleven o'clock, when it was apparent to Gordon that the execution would certainly take place, notwithstanding his attempt at suicide, he sent for Marshal Murray, and said he had something of a private nature to communicate. The Marshal repaired to the bedside of the culprit and asked if any thing could be done to alleviate his sufferings. Gordon raised himself slowly from his cot, and with much difficulty, said: "Cut a lock of hair from my head and give it to my wife." Then taking a ring from his finger, he requested that that also should be sent to his wife in remembrance of her husband. The request was cheerfully complied with, and the official, quite overcome with emotion, left the unhappy man to his fate.


At 12 o'clock, Marshal Murray notified Gordon, through Mr. Draper, that the hour had arrived. At this he expressed great surprise, and said he thought he had two hours more in which to live. The clergyman entered the cell and prayed with him, or rather for him. Deputy Marshal Borst aided him in dressing and gave him a large drink of clear whisky, when his arms were tied, the black cap was put carelessly on one side of his head, and he was

carried on the deputy's shoulders to a chair in the corridor. The sight was simply shocking.

The man was not sober—that is, so powerful had been the effect of the poison that, in order to keep him alive till the necessary moment, they had been obliged to give him whisky enough to make an ordinary man drunk three times over. He sat lollingly in the chair, gazing listlessly around, while the Marshal, with unaffected emotion, read the former reprieve to him. That done, he was helped to his feet, and held there while the Marshal read to him. the death-warrant.

After this he looked around with a senseless smile, asked for some more whisky, which was kindly given him. The procession was then formed, Gordon stalking with a bravadoish air, upheld by the Marshals, toward the scaffold.

To a casual spectator it would appear that, exhausted by mental or physical suffering, Gordon was making a great effort to walk manfully to his fate. As it was, however, he had just sense enough left to endeavor to follow out the suggestion of the well-meaning deputy, who told him to die like a man, and to walk to the rope, so that no one could accuse him of fear. When he reached the scaffold, he said, "Well, a man can't die but once; I'm not afraid." The cap was drawn over the whitened, meaningless features, the noose-knot was carefully adjusted under his ear, and he stood, an unthinking, careless, besotted wretch waiting for he knew not what, when with a jerk he went high in air, and fell to the length of the rope, still senseless, still unfeeling, still regardless of pain or pleasure.

The body swayed hither and thither for a few moments, and all was quiet. No twitchings, no convulsions, no throes, no agonies. His legs opened once, but closed again, and he hung a lump of dishonored clay.


WE publish herewith a plan of the BATTLE OF MILL SPRING, KENTUCKY, fought on 19th January, and won by Generals Thomas and Schoepff. The following interesting letter explains the plan:


VOLUNTEERS, MILL SPRING, Feb. 7, 1862. DEAR SIR,—We left Lebanon on the 31st day of December, and marched to Campbellsville; from there we made a forced march to Greensburg, twelve miles, in less than four hours, and returned the next day in about the same time. The expedition turned out to be a goose chase. On or about the 7th we started for Columbia, where we arrived in two days. After resting three or four days we struck tents and started for Zollicoffer's intrenchments. After some six or eight days' hard traveling we arrived at Logan's Cross Roads, where the fun commenced. Friday afternoon we sent out as pickets Company A, Captain Hamilton; at night Company N, Captain Carroll, and Company G, Captain Hogiland. About twelve o'clock that night the enemy's pickets and Company E met and exchanged shots; the regiment was in less than five minutes in line of battle, but as the enemy retreated we retired to bed again. The next morning Company C, Captain Boyl, and Company D, Captain Joseph F. Taylor, were sent out to relieve Companies N and G. During Saturday nothing of importance occurred. At night Company I, Captain Perkins, and Company K, Captain Shortie, relieved Companies C and D. During the night, which was very stormy, every thing was quiet. At six o'clock Sunday morning Captain Perkins came in and reported every thing quiet. Hardly had he got away from the tent when one of Wolford's cavalry rode up and said our pickets were firing. The long roll was instantly beat, and the boys started at double-quick: the regiment took the position marked (2), which they held until the enemy had completely outflanked us. We fought over 3000 for over half an hour. We then retreated to (3). In the mean time the Fourth Kentucky came up. We then pushed forward to (4), with the Fourth Kentucky at our right (8). We fought here for nearly an hour, when finding the enemy's cavalry trying a flanking movement on us, we moved, by General Thomas's orders, to (5), where we fought desperately at least an hour. At this time Colonel Manson saw that the enemy were again trying a flank movement to our right; ordered that M'Cook should bring his men to our relief The Second Minnesota (9) moved forward and took position at (10), from thence forward to (11), driving the left flank of the enemy in. The Ninth Ohio (12) came up and drove the right flank in. Our regiment then went forward to (6), when Colonel Kise ordered "Charge bayonets!" which was done with a will, and every thing went before us. Our next position was at (7); it was here that the old Tenth did the best execution with the guns they (Next Page)


Map of the Battle of Fort Donelson
Map of the Battle of Mill Spring




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