Victory Poem


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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.



RING out, O bells! a joyous peal!

Wave, Freedom's flag, o'er land and sea! Above the graves of Freedom's slain

Let living voices shout again

In honor of our victory!

'Tis but a little while ago,

Since, looking on our list of dead,

We marveled Justice should delay:

Thank God! at last has dawned her day,

The sky is in a blaze of red!


Deep, fiery clouds surround the sun,

Thrice welcome now the storm shall be;

'Twill purify our atmosphere,

Once more the pathway shall be clear

Where walk the sons of liberty.


Ours is no haughty tyrant's glee,

To chain our brothers at our feet;

Over no nation's wrongs we vaunt, Columbia saved is all we want;

For her sake is our triumph sweet.

Then ring, O bells! a joyous peal!

Wave, Freedom's flag, o'er land and sea! Above the graves of Freedom's slain

Let living voices shout again

In honor of our victory!




ON Saturday, February 22, while the Congress, Judges, and naval and military officers of the United States were assembled in the Capitol, listening to the Farewell Address of Washington, the miserable remnant of the Southern rebels were gathered in the principal square of Richmond, Virginia, listening to Mr. Jefferson Davis's last apology for his crimes.

Toward that square and to that speaker one can well imagine the ruined, heart-broken, panic-stricken, and despairing people of the South turning an eager ear, in search of consolation for the past and hope for the future.

Jefferson Davis gave them neither.

Beginning with a false statement of the causes which led to the rebellion, wholly omitting from view the chief cause, namely, the greed of the slave-owners, and the truculent ambition of the Southern aristocracy; failing likewise, for the best of reasons, to assign one single cause, or enumerate one single event which could justify the plunging of a continent into savage war; misrepresenting the history of the contest with diabolical perversity; confessing, as he could not well help doing, that "the tide of war is against" the rebels, and that the future is pregnant with more "trials and difficulties," this pretended President can find no consolation for the unhappy people whom he and his fellow-conspirators have ruined, except in the hope that the North may not be able to pay its armies much longer, and that eventually the Powers of Europe may be tempted by the proffer of Southern produce and Southern free trade to espouse the cause of the insurgents, and convert the "proud people" of the South into the bastard subjects of some foreign king!

Well may the South pronounce such a programme "a mockery," and such a government "a lamentable failure!"

There must have been many even among the ragged rabble of Richmond gathered round the orator who knew enough to tell him that if the South, in its poverty, can afford to carry on the war, the North, with its wealth, is not likely to fail from want of money; and that if, when the North was helpless and paralyzed, and the South flushed with victory, foreign nations abstained from meddling in the contest, they are not likely to do so now, when the gripe of a mighty government is clutched round the throat of the traitors, and their gurgling death-rattle is already audible.

There was an ominous fitness in the appearance, during the reading of "the inaugural," of that grim messenger who bore the news of the FALL OF NASHVILLE-Nashville, the prosperous city of the rebellion—Nashville, the safe place to which the trembling traitors proposed to fly from Richmond when that city was deemed insecure—Nashville, the centre of the vertebral artery of the rebellion. Did it not occur to Jefferson Davis that so appalling an event happening at such a moment was a warning and a judgment from that just God whose name this arch-rebel so audaciously blasphemes?


SOME of the leading journals are rendering a very doubtful service to the country by promoting a feeling of mutual jealousy among our generals, and instilling into the public mind distrust of the most distinguished among them. Two prominent newspapers in this city indulge in daily flings at General McClellan. Another is very sarcastic upon General Buell. Others have no patience with General Sherman. Others

are furious with General Lane. General Halleck has survived the storm of abuse aroused by his famous Order No. 3, and enjoys a temporary respite from newspaper criticism.

Every one who has read history must at once perceive that this sort of thing can hardly fail to do mischief, and can not possibly do any good. Soldiers are naturally apt to be jealous of each other; and in this country especially, where every leading man may fairly be suspected of having his eye upon the Presidency, the danger that our chief generals may be as anxious to kill each other off as to defeat the enemy is obvious enough. Under the circumstances, it is clearly the duty of every honest and patriotic publicist to check rather than encourage envious rivalry among them. If the friends of General Fremont succeed in shaking the confidence of the army in General McClellan, they are much more likely to ruin the national cause than to help their patron. It is possible that General Sherman may be as incompetent as his newspaper critics say; but the reiterated publication of the fact can produce no other effect than to encourage the enemy under General Lee. General Buell may have failed in his duty in permitting the peaceful evacuation of Bowling Green. But he is intrusted with the command of the most important operation of the day, and it can not but dispirit his men, and give heart to his enemy, to publish him a fool.

Generals and, politicians are only too prone, as we said, to disparage each other, and to suffer their personal spites to override their zeal for the public interest. People have read, not without regret, an order from General Halleck, in which General McClellan is quite needlessly excluded from any share of the glory resulting from the capture of Fort Donelson; and a letter from Secretary Stanton to the Tribune, making light of the plans formed by General M'Clellan when he assumed command of the army, which are now beginning to be carried out. Generals and Secretaries make a mistake if they suppose that this sort of thing injures the party against whom it is directed. The public see through it at once, and infer simply that General Halleck is envious, and that Secretary Stanton wants to be the hero of the war and President.

The American people have sense enough to understand that it is the interest of the President and the Cabinet to succeed in suppressing the rebellion as soon as possible; that their means of forming an opinion with regard to the generals are much superior to those enjoyed by the public or the newspapers; and that, whatever their wishes may be, they can not, for their own sake, afford to keep in responsible positions men who have proved themselves to be incompetent or untrustworthy.

Of General McClellan, against whom the bulk of these newspaper assaults are directed, the American people know nothing except that he has impressed every one who knows him—including President Lincoln and General Scott—with his capacity for the station he fills. He has said himself that he has done nothing yet to warrant the fame he enjoys. To hold him responsible for the slavering adulation which has been heaped upon him by ignorant flatterers is disgracefully unjust. And the least that can be said of the sneers and innuendoes which certain journals delight in printing in connection with his name is that Jefferson Davis could afford to pay handsomely for such effective endeavors to demoralize the army which McClellan will shortly lead to battle.



IN his admirable amnesty proclamation the President assumes that the rebellion has culminated, and will henceforth steadily decline; and undoubtedly the general feeling is that the heart of the difficulty has been pierced, and that nothing now remains for it but to bleed to death. Nor can any reasonable man doubt that such is the fact. It is impossible, and will long be so, to determine exactly in what time the full result will be achieved; but the same force and skill which have prevailed in Kentucky and Tennessee, at Roanoke and Port Royal, must prevail at all other points.

Sir William Napier is reported to have said that a soldier is but a slave of chance. But there is undoubtedly a certain military science and exactly calculable laws of war. A much wiser speech was that attributed to Frederick the Great, that God is on the side of the strongest battalions. The rebel General Braxton Bragg repeated it substantially last spring as applied to our war, that the rebels would beat although the rebel section was numerically smaller, because their system of slavery would enable them to bring more fighting men into the field.

The plan of our campaign evidently contemplates the inevitable overwhelming of the rebellion by superior forces. The delay was equally inevitable, for those forces had to be collected and trained. The old figure of General Scott is recalled to the public memory by the result—that the traitors would be caught and crushed in the folds of the anaconda. The coiling has begun, and with it the end is visible. Victory is logically ours. We must organize it into peace.

But no man ought to be dismayed by one thing which is now equally inevitable; and that is the apparent postponement of certain great results which a few months since, in the dark hour of national peril, we all felt were virtually secured. It

was supposed then, that to save the Government certain steps, called by Mr. Lincoln in his Message "extreme measures," would be necessary; but that necessity no longer appears. The war was, and is, waged solely for the maintenance of the Government. No other measures than those essential to that result have been or will be taken. And it is now evident that military force alone will suffice, without the full exercise of all military rights, such as general confiscation and the release of the slaves of rebels.

It must not be forgotten that for the last ten months we have been nationally lifted into the sphere of great principles. We have lived under the influence of pure emotions. But no nation can habitually hold to that height. We have been raised upon the tenth wave of a regenerating public sentiment, and it has made its prophetic mark. It has touched the point which the waters of national conviction will at last permanently and surely reach—and we must not be chagrined if the following waves are lower, knowing, as we now do, that the tide is rising.

The question of slavery will not be directly settled by the military power—and it remains to be seen whether some plan of territorial government, whereby every man upon our soil recovers his original rights as a man, will be adopted by Congress and accepted by the country.

If that also fails, those of us who are and have always been unswerving friends of the Government, because under the peaceful operations of the Constitution every question is soluble, have only to gird ourselves for the political debate which will follow the military, and in which all happy omens point to the calm and speedy triumph of Justice and of actual, not of nominal, Peace.


To suppress a rebellion is not like settling a war with a foreign power. In the latter case, after a series of decisive blows, there is an appeal for negotiation, an armistice, a consultation, a treaty, and the withdrawal of troops. But in quelling a rebellion the way of victory is not necessarily that of peace. You may drive a riot out of the street—you may restore order—quiet may reign in Warsaw; but is quiet peace?

If we follow our success—if we drive the rebels from Nashville as we have from Bowling Green—if Columbus surrenders as Fort Donelson and Fort Henry have yielded—if Memphis, and Savannah, and New Orleans fall into our hands—if Richmond is evacuated by that ghostly Congress of traitors —if the lines of the rebellion recede before our lines—even then the work is not done.

We are said to hold Kentucky and even Tennessee and Missouri; but so we have held Maryland for several months. Is that a success—is that a secure and permanent peace? If our army should leave Maryland even now, who would feel sure of her position for a month? The secret of the loyalty of Baltimore is Fort M'Henry. No, no; when we have suppressed rebellion we are to organize peace. How is that to be done?

Of course it can be done only by destroying, if possible, the occasion of rebellion. The rule in statecraft is the same as in agriculture. You must not knock off the leaves of the weeds; you must dig up their roots. If this rebellion has a root, it is our business to find it and wrench it up.

Is, then, the root slavery, or the agitation of slavery? Of course it is one of the two. The whole energy of the country must therefore be directed first to discover which it is, then to destroy it. If the difficulty be the agitation, then suppress that if you can. If the slavery, then end that.

But what does the agitation spring from? Simply from our humanity, from the fact that we are men. So long as we are human, so long we shall protest against what seems to us to be wrong. To suppress that protest requires a despotism of the sternest kind. The effectual suppression of the agitation of the question could be accomplished only by the destruction of every principle of our Government and every right of man—in other words, only at the price of an endless and ferocious civil war.

But to put an end to slavery requires only thought, care, the preservation of every principle of the Government, and the vindication of every human right; and it results in permanent peace and an actual, not a nominal, Union of the people.

It is not even necessary to invoke the question of right or wrong. We have only to see that in the nature of things so long as slavery lasts so long the agitation will continue. If, then, you can not destroy that, and since the object is peace, why not destroy the other? So long as the right of free discussion lasts the question will be debated. So long as it is debated we shall be slipping into war, because slavery can have no effective argument but brute force. The way of peace, therefore, is inevitably the final settlement of the question.

It is not an occasion for losing temper, for calling names, and for questioning motives, but for the most resolute and effective action. We have seen and are seeing what comes of the question when left to itself. Is it not nearly time we took it in hand, or shall we wait until the difficulty settles itself and us into another war?


THE great victories which appear to indicate the approaching triumph of the Government, also vindicate the sagacity of the General-in-Chief. For nearly seven months General M'Clellan has been waiting, directly and indirectly attacked for delay, for incompetency, and almost, by insinuation, for disaffection. He has been patiently maturing his plans. He had already said, upon receiving the sword from Philadelphia, that the war would be short and sharp. But he had his army to collect and discipline, he had to take care that every plan was made proof against failure, and when all was ready, the word was given and the advance began.

Unquestionably he has taken a purely military

view of the question; but he is a military man, and his political views doubtless remain unchanged. His duty as a general-in-chief is to achieve victories. To secure the permanence of the result is the duty of statesmen.

Nor is it any injury to Foote, to Burnside, to Grant, to Goldsborough, to Buell, to Halleck, to all the brave and accomplished leaders of the actual movements, that General McClellan is credited with the plan of the campaign. To execute the plan is a duty of gallantry, skill, and heroism of which the glory is all theirs. In truth, in these early days of the victories all along our line, there is no point of it from the Chesapeake to Kansas that does not challenge our admiration; and one of the singular felicities of the war is that the great advance, crowned with entire success, was made both by the army and the navy, upon the sea-board and at the West; so that every part of the loyal section and each branch of the service divide the honors of the triumph. This was all happily expressed in the congratulatory order of the day addressed to the officers, and soldiers, and sailors at the West and at the East, signed by the President as Commander-in-Chief of the army and the navy, and counter-signed by the Secretaries of both Departments.

The result, thus far, in every way vindicates the wisdom of the long delay. Impatience is a national fault, and our cause has been imperiled by it. It was desirable for all reasons that our success should not be too sudden or too easy. Had we been victors at Bull Run, we should hardly have rightly estimated the strength and desperation of the rebellion. But we have learned, and learned well, the lesson of defeat; and the victories of Roanoke, of the Tennessee, and the Cumberland have altogether another significance than a victory at Bull Run could have had.


THE year is vindicating not only the strength of our domestic Government, but the justice of our foreign system. Among our most signal victories let us not forget to remember that over Great Britain. For, without a blow struck by us, she has surrendered, and totally renounces her traditional and monstrous system of contempt of neutral rights.

In his final dispatch upon the Trent question Earl Russell writes to Lord Lyons: "Your own territory, or ships of your own country, are places of which you are yourself the master. The enemy's territory, or the enemy's ships, are places in which you have the right to exercise acts of hostility. Neutral vessels, guilty of no violation of the laws of neutrality, are places where you have no right to exercise acts of hostility."

Now if forcibly detaining a neutral ship and forcibly removing from her deck persons against whom nothing is alleged, but whom the captain of the compelling ship chooses to call subjects of the power he serves, is not an act of hostility, words have no meaning. Mr. Sumner, indeed, quotes the declaration of George Fourth, of January 9, 1813, that he can not admit such an act to be a hostile measure; but in the face of this last dispatch that declaration falls to the ground. No English statesman would claim that the captain of an English ship could seize in Broadway a person whom he asserted to be a British subject. It would be a most flagrant act of war. But by the terms of the dispatch be makes them equal. "Your own territory, or ships of your own country."


THE people of the United States, who were represented by Russell and by the London papers as a degraded mob who would force the Government to hold Mason and Slidell at any cost, have shown the essential quality of our system in nothing more than in the results of that affair.

We might have remembered, and yet it was generally forgotten, that the seventy years of our universal popular education would tell in just such an emergency as this. In reasoning upon the rebellion, in its relation to the people of the Free States, we have been naturally, but wrongly, in the habit of considering them as we should consider the people of England, or France, or Germany, forgetting the essential differences of our popular training, and the necessary differences of the results. .

If in this country every body who has a right, and who is bound by his duty to take a practical part in public affairs, does not do it, yet there is a universal knowledge of them, and a general sense of responsibility. Hence a clear appeal to that general intelligence will not often fail, if the occasion be truly commanding. And it is this which confirms the faith of every thoughtful American in the practical wisdom of our system.

We have recently had two most signal instances of this flexibility arising from the general intelligence. The first was the surrender of the two traitors. Of course a person like Mr. Russell, who had seen only the working of monarchical or modified feudal systems of society, and who had the traditional prejudices of an Englishman, or, more properly, a Briton, against America, could not understand that a whole people would forego the gratification of their just indignation upon the simple presentation of a principle. It was not surprising that a man who had misunderstood every thing in the country from the moment he landed should prove an utterly false prophet.

For although the public feeling of satisfaction was almost greater at the capture of the men-stealing traitors than at any other event of the war which had then occurred, and although the thinly-masked enmity of Great Britain had alienated entirely (Next Page)




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