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Civil War Harper's Weekly, May 3, 1862

We have made our extensive collection of original Civil War Harper's Weekly newspapers available to you by posting them on this WEB site. These newspapers serve as an invaluable tool in your research into this important conflict.

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Island Number 10

Island Number Ten

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MAY 3, 1862.]

HARPER'S WEEKLY.

283

between them a secret. She could do this, but she could not provide against the results of accident. Hardly three months had passed when a chance disclosure exposed the life she had led before her marriage. But one alternative was left to her husband—the alternative of instantly separating from her.

The effect of the discovery on the unhappy boy—for a boy in disposition he still was—may be judged by the event which followed the exposure. One of Andrew's superior officers found him in his quarters writing to his father a confession of the disgraceful truth with a loaded pistol by his side. That officer saved the lad's life from his own hand, and hushed up the scandalous affair by a compromise. The marriage being a perfectly legal one, and the wife's misconduct prior to the ceremony giving her husband no claim to his release from her by divorce, it was only possible to appeal to her sense of her own interests. A handsome annual allowance was secured to her, on condition that she returned to the place from which she had come, that she never appeared in England, and that she ceased to use her husband's name. Other stipulations were added to these. She accepted them all, and measures were privately taken to have her well looked after in the place of her retreat. What life she led there, and whether she performed all the conditions imposed on her, I can not say. I can only tell you that she never, to my knowledge, came to England; that she never annoyed Mr. Vanstone; and that the annual allowance was paid her, through a local agent in America, to the day of her death. All that she wanted in marrying him was money, and money she got.

"In the mean time Andrew had left the regiment. Nothing would induce him to face his brother officers after what had happened. He sold out and returned to England. The first intelligence which reached him on his return was the intelligence of his father's death. He came to my office in London before going home, and there learned from my lips how the family quarrel had ended.

"The will which Mr. Vanstone the elder had destroyed in my presence had not been, so far as I knew, replaced by another. When I was sent for, in the usual course, on his death, I fully expected that the law would be left to make the customary division among his widow and his children. To my surprise a will appeared among his papers, correctly drawn and executed, and dated about a week after the period when the first will had been destroyed. He had maintained his vindictive purpose against his eldest son, and had applied to a stranger for the professional assistance which I honestly believe he was ashamed to ask for at my hands.

"It is needless to trouble you with the provisions of the will in detail. There were the widow and three surviving children to be provided for. The widow received a life-interest only in a portion of the testator's property. The remaining portion was divided between Andrew and Selina—two-thirds to the brother, one-third to the sister. On the mother's death, the money from which her income had been derived was to go to Andrew and Selina, in the same relative proportions as before—five thousand pounds having been first deducted from the sum and paid to Michael as the sole legacy left by the implacable father to his eldest son.

"Speaking in round numbers, the division of property, as settled by the will, stood thus: Before the mother's death Andrew had seventy thousand pounds; Selina had thirty-five thousand pounds; Michael had nothing. After the mother's death Michael had five thousand pounds, to set against Andrew's inheritance augmented to one hundred thousand, and Selina's inheritance increased to fifty thousand. Do not suppose that I am dwelling unnecessarily on this part of the subject. Every word I now speak bears on interests still in suspense, which vitally concern Mr. Vanstone's daughters. As we get on from past to present, keep in mind the terrible inequality of Michael's inheritance and Andrew's inheritance. The harm done by that vindictive will is, I greatly fear, not over yet.

"Andrew's first impulse, when he heard the news which I had to tell him, was worthy of the open, generous nature of the man. He at once proposed to divide his inheritance with his elder brother. But there was one serious obstacle in the way. A letter from Michael was waiting for him at my office when he came there, and that letter charged him with being the original cause of estrangement between his father and his elder brother. The efforts which he had made—bluntly and incautiously I own, but with the purest and kindest intentions, as I know—to compose the quarrel before leaving home, were perverted by the vilest misconstruction to support an accusation of treachery and falsehood which would have stung any man to the quick. Andrew felt, what I felt, that if these imputations were not withdrawn before his generous intentions toward his brother took effect the mere fact of their execution would amount to a practical acknowledgment of the justice of Michael's charge against him. He wrote to his brother in the most forbearing terms. The answer received was as offensive as words could make it. Michael had inherited his father's temper, unredeemed by his father's better qualities: his second letter reiterated the charges contained in the first, and declared that he would only accept the offered division as an act of atonement and restitution on Andrew's part. I next wrote to the mother to use her influence. She was herself aggrieved at being left with nothing more than a life-interest in her husband's property; she sided resolutely with Michael; and she stigmatized Andrew's proposal as an attempt to bribe her eldest son into withdrawing a charge against his brother, which that brother knew to be true. After this last repulse nothing more

could be done. Michael withdrew to the Continent, and his mother followed him there. She lived long enough, and saved money enough out of her income to add considerably at her death to her elder son's five thousand pounds. He had previously still further improved his pecuniary position by an advantageous marriage; and he is now passing the close of his days either in France or Switzerland—a widower with one son. We shall return to him shortly. In the mean time I need only tell you that Andrew and Michael never again met—never again communicated even by writing. To all intents and purposes they were dead to each other from those early days to the present time.

"You can now estimate what Andrew's position was when he left his profession and returned to England. Possessed of a fortune, he was alone in the world; his future destroyed at the fair outset of life; his mother and brother estranged from him; his sister lately married, with interests and hopes in which he had no share. Men of firmer mental calibre might have found refuge from such a situation as this in an absorbing intellectual pursuit. He was not capable of the effort; all the strength of his character lay in the affections he had wasted. His place in the world was that quiet place at home, with wife and children to make his life happy, which he had lost forever. To look back was more than he dare. To look forward was more than he could. In sheer despair he let his own impetuous youth drive him on, and cast himself into the lowest dissipations of a London life.

"A woman's falsehood had driven him to his ruin. A woman's love saved him at the outset of his downward career. Let us not speak of her harshly—for we laid her with him yesterday in the grave.

"You, who only knew Mrs. Vanstone in later life, when illness and sorrow and secret care had altered and saddened her, can form no adequate idea of her attractions of person and character when she was a girl of seventeen. I was with Andrew when he first met her. I had tried to rescue him, for one night at least, from degrading associates and degrading pleasures by persuading him to go with me to a ball given by one of the great City Companies. There they met. She produced a strong impression on him the moment he saw her. To me, as to him, she was a total stranger. An introduction to her, obtained in the customary manner, informed him that she was the daughter of one Mr. Blake. The rest he discovered from herself. They were partners in the dance (unobserved in that crowded ball-room) all through the evening.

"Circumstances were against her from the first. She was unhappy at home. Her family and friends occupied no recognized station in life: they were mean, underhand people, in every way unworthy of her. It was her first ball—it was the first time she had ever met with a man who had the breeding, the manners, and the conversation of a gentleman. Are these excuses for her which I have no right to make? If we have any human feeling for human weakness, surely not!

"The meeting of that night decided their future. When other meetings had followed, when the confession of her love had escaped her, he took the one course of all others (took it innocently and unconsciously) which was most dangerous to' them both. His frankness and his sense of honor forbade him to deceive her: he opened his heart and told her the truth. She was a generous, impulsive girl; she had no home-ties strong enough to plead with her; she was passionately fond of him—and he had made that appeal to her pity, which, to the eternal honor of women, is the hardest of all appeals for them to resist. She saw, and saw truly, that she alone stood between him and his ruin. The last chance of his rescue hung on her decision. She decided, and saved him.

"Let me not be misunderstood; let me not be accused of trifling with the serious social question on which my narrative forces me to touch. I will defend her memory by no false reasoning—I will only speak the truth. It is the truth that she snatched him from mad excesses which must have ended in his early death. It is the truth that she restored him to that happy home-existence which you remember so tenderly—which he remembered so gratefully that, on the day when he was free, he made her his wife. Let strict morality claim its right, and condemn her early fault. I have read my New Testament to little purpose indeed if Christian mercy may not soften the hard sentence against her—if Christian charity may not find a plea for her memory in the love and fidelity, the suffering and the sacrifice, of her whole life.

"A few words more will bring us to a later time, and to events which have happened within your own experience.

"I need not remind you that the position in which Mr. Vanstone was now placed could lead in the end to but one result—to a disclosure, more or less inevitable, of the truth. Attempts were made to keep the hopeless misfortune of his life a secret from Miss Blake's family; and, as a matter of course, those attempts failed before the relentless scrutiny of her father and her friends. What might have happened if her relatives had been what is termed 'respectable' I can not pretend to say. As it was, they were people who could (in the common phrase) be conveniently treated with. The only survivor of the family at the present time is a scoundrel calling himself Captain Wragge. When I tell you that he privately extorted the price of his silence from Mrs. Vanstone to the last; and when I add that his conduct presents no extraordinary exception to the conduct, in their lifetime, of the other relatives—you will understand what sort of people I had to deal with in my client's interests, and how their assumed indignation was appeased.

"Having, in the first instance, left England for Ireland, Mr. Vanstone and Miss Blake remained there afterward for some years. Girl as she was, she faced her position and its necessities without flinching. Having once resolved to sacrifice her life to the man she loved; having quieted her conscience by persuading herself that his marriage was a legal mockery, and that she was 'his wife in the sight of Heaven,' she set herself from the first to accomplish the one foremost purpose of so living with him, in the world's eye, as never to raise the suspicion that she was not his lawful wife. The women are few indeed who can not resolve firmly, scheme patiently, and act promptly, where the dearest interests of their lives are concerned. Mrs. Vanstone—she has a right now, remember, to that name—Mrs. Vanstone had more than the average share of a woman's tenacity and a woman's tact; and she took all the needful precautions, in those early days, which her husband's less ready capacity had not the art to devise—precautions to which they were largely indebted for the preservation of their secret in later times.

"Thanks to these safeguards, not a shadow of suspicion followed them when they returned to England. They first settled in Devonshire, merely because they were far removed there from that northern county in which Mr. Vanstone's family and connections had been known. On the part of his surviving relatives they had no curious investigations to dread. He was totally estranged from his mother and his elder brother. His married sister had been forbidden by her husband (who was a clergyman) to hold any communication with him from the period when he had fallen into the deplorable way of life which I have described as following his return from Canada. Other relations he had none. When he and Miss Blake left Devonshire their next change of residence was to this house. Neither courting nor avoiding notice; simply happy in themselves, in their children, and in their quiet rural life; unsuspected by the few neighbors who formed their modest circle of acquaintance to be other than what they seemed—the truth, in their case, as in the cases of many others, remained undiscovered until accident forced it into the light of day.

"If in your close intimacy with them it seems strange that they should never have betrayed themselves, let me ask you to consider the circumstances, and you will understand the apparent anomaly. Remember that they had been living as husband and wife, to all intents and purposes (except that the marriage service had not been read over them), for fifteen years before you came into the house; and bear in mind at the same time that no event occurred to disturb Mr. Vanstone's happiness in the present, to remind him of the past, or to warn him of the future, until the announcement of his wife's death reached him, in that letter from America which you saw placed in his hand. From that day forth—when a past which he abhorred was forced back to his memory; when a future which she had never dared to anticipate was placed within her reach—you will soon perceive, if you have not perceived already, that they both betrayed themselves time after time; and that your innocence of all suspicion, and their children's innocence of all suspicion, alone prevented you from discovering the truth.

"The sad story of the past is now as well known to you as to me. I have had hard words to speak. God knows I have spoken them with true sympathy for the living, with true tenderness for the memory of the dead."

He paused, turned his face a little away, and rested his head on his hand in the quiet undemonstrative manner which was natural to him. Thus far Miss Garth had only interrupted his narrative by an occasional word or by a mute token of her attention. She made no effort to conceal her tears; they fell fast and silently over her wasted cheeks as she looked up and spoke to him. "I have done you some injury, Sir, in my thoughts," she said, with a noble simplicity. "I know you better now. Let me ask your forgiveness; let me take your hand."

Those words and the action which accompanied them touched him deeply. He took her hand in silence. She was the first to speak, the first to set the example of self-control. It is one of the noble instincts of women that nothing more powerfully rouses them to struggle with their own sorrow than the sight of a man's distress. She quietly dried her tears; she quietly drew her chair round the table so as to sit nearer to him when she spoke again.

"I have been sadly broken, Mr. Pendril, by what has happened in this house," she said, "or I should have borne what you have told me better than I have borne it to-day. Will you let me ask one question before you go on? My heart aches for the children of my love—more than ever my children now. Is there no hope for their future? Are they left with no prospect but poverty before them?"

The lawyer hesitated before he answered the question.

"They are left dependent," he said, at last,

"on the justice and mercy of a stranger."

"Through the misfortune of their birth?" "Through the misfortunes which have followed the marriage of their parents."

With that startling answer he rose, took up the will from the floor, and restored it to its former position on the table between them.

"I can only place the truth before you," he resumed, "in one plain form of words. The marriage has destroyed this will, and has left Mr. Vanstone's daughters dependent on their uncle."

As he spoke the breeze stirred again among the shrubs under the window.

"On their uncle?" repeated Miss Garth. She considered for a moment, and laid her hand suddenly

on Mr. Pendril's arm. "Not on Michael Vanstone!"

"Yes: on Michael Vanstone."

OUR ARMY BEFORE YORKTOWN.

ON pages 280 and 281 we publish a series of pictures of OUR ARMY BEFORE YORKTOWN, from sketches by our artists, Messrs. Waud and Homer. Most of these pictures need no explanation, and the less said about our works the better. But of the skirmish of 16th, at Lee's Mills, in which the gallant Vermont brigade won such glory, we take the following description from the Tribune:

At 6 1/2 o'clock Companies E, F, D, and K of the 3d Vermont began the work as skirmishers, Mott's Battery supporting them with a very accurate fire of shot and shell. The Vermonters skirmished until noon, when they were relieved. Their fire had been very accurate. The rebel braggarts, who began dancing on their rampart, and swinging their hats, and defying our troops in the customary Southern military fashion, were dropped so rapidly by the sharp-shooters as to be soon cured of this style of warfare. The four companies of the 3d laid down after dinner and thoroughly rested themselves.

At 4 o'clock in the afternoon they were called up, formed into line, and told by their Colonel in a pithy speech that the work expected of them was to charge across the creek and take the enemy's intrenchments. Ayres's guns—all of the batteries, numbering 22 pieces, were under the command of their accomplished artillery officer—covered the Vermonters' advance. They marched steadily at the quick to the edge of the creek, and plunged in on the run. The water deepened unexpectedly. The men were soon wading to their breasts, their cartridge-boxes slung up un their shoulders, and their muskets held up high. The moment they entered the stream the rebels swarmed un the edge of their rifle-pit, and rained a fire of bullets on the advancing line.

The stream, as dammed, was about twelve rods wide. The Vermonters loaded and fired as the y waded. Their killed and wounded began to fall from the instant of entering the water. Many of the latter were sustained by their arms and the collars of their coats, and so helped across, and laid down on the opposite side. The 3d, as soon as they emerged and got foothold, received time order to "Charge!" With a yell, with true Green Mountain ring in it, they dashed at the extended rifle-pit. At least a regiment of rebels broke from behind it, and ran into the redoubt in the rear, leaving the Vermonters in the pit.

For at least an hour they fought from here against overwhelming numbers, receiving reinforcements in that thus, first of four companies of the 6th Vermont, and afterward of four companies of the 4th Vermont. They shot their foe principally through the head, and so superior was their fire, and their pluck so impressive, that the rebels moved two additional regiments into the fort, and into a flanking position on the left of the rifle-pit. Exposed now to a cross-fire as well as an increased fire in front, the Vermonters, though they wanted to stay, had to go. In good order, covering themselves behind trees, and figttiug as they went, they recrossed the stream, carrying with them all their wounded whose condition at all promised survival of their hurts.

Many were now shot in the water, and drowned beyond all possibility of help. The language of a Lamoille County boy, not 16 years old, "Why, Sir, it was just like sap-boiling in that stream—the bullets fell so thick," is so expressive that I use it as a measure of intensity. These brave men having backed out of the deep water, formed on the dry land and began the fight anew, while many, not detailed, but volunteering through impulses of soldierly devotion and personal affection, dashed into the stream again and dragged out the wounded, who were clinging to the trees, and sitting with their heads just out of water.

ISLAND NUMBER TEN.

WE publish on page 285 a view of ISLAND NUMBER TEN, which was surrendered by the rebels on April 7 to Commodore Foote. Our picture is from a sketch by our artist, Mr. Alexander Simplot. The following account of the place will be read with interest:

Arriving at No. 10 I found more than space will allow me to write. Sixty-one large guns, mounted upon a dozen batteries, would have commanded the river had it not been for the fact that they were spiked by the discomfited and surrendered rebels with rat-tail files, and the Grampus and other rebel gun-boats lay sunk in the river between the island and Tennessee shore. Great piles of provisions were stored upon the bank, which the Confederates, in their haste to evacuate, had failed to destroy, and tent of all descriptions, with camp paraphernalia, occupied the positions and places assigned to them at the commencement of the siege. The Hickman wharf-boat, which the rebels had stolen, lay on the inside of the island, laden with some forty thousand dollars' worth of stores of all kinds, and all in good order. Our own transports were busy taking care of the abandoned property, while our troops were engaged in securing trophies of the victory.

The works upon the island are of less extent than those upon the main land, and, with the exception of the upper battery, are not so strong. The island is very high, affording fine positions for long ranges, but rendering their guns useless when closely approached, as in the instance of the gun-boats running the blockade, when they hugged the shore closely, causing the enemy's shots to pass over their decks.

No. 1. The walls of this battery are two hundred and fifty feet in length, fifteen in thickness, and eight in height. It is divided into four apartments or divisions by three gabions, square in shape, beneath which are magazines. The ends of the walls are also brought into double requisition by furnishing housing for the gunners, whose quarters were beneath. The armament consists of one eight-inch Columbiad, two thirty-two pounders, one sixty-four, one thirty-two, and one ten-inch Columbiad. The three last mentioned are spiked—being the only guns on the island that have been thus tampered with.

No. 2. This work is seventy-five feet long, with walls of the same nature and strength as those of No. 1. It is divided in the centre by a single gabion, which is also made to answer the purpose of a magazine. The armament is one eight-inch rifled Dahlgren, one thirty-two pounder, and two sixty-fours.

No. 3 is another angular fortification similar to the No. 6 land battery. Its walls are ten feet high and two hundred feet in extreme length. It is furnished with gabions between each gun, of which there are five mounted—viz., two sixty-fours, smooth; one eight-inch rifled Columbiad, one ten-inch Columbiad, and one, eight-inch, rifled. The last gun is exploded. Back of the works are four eight-inch guns not mounted.

No. 4 is a new battery thrown up since the Carondelet run the blockade. It is yet incomplete, and mounts but two guns—one thirty-two pounder, rifled, and one eight-inch Columbiad. Another eight-inch gun is in readiness for mounting.

Adjacent to this and the other island batteries are a number of singular habitations for the gunners, composed of cellars sunk in the sandy soil and roofed over with logs, sand, and turf. Burrows for human habitations are also formed against heavy logs, composed of partial excavations, with a most of logs and turf sloping from the ground to the top of the main log. There are other holes and burrows excavated in the banks of the island, and other safe places testify to the terrible fire of shot and shell to which the island was exposed.

On the same page we give a picture—also from a sketch by Mr. Simplot—of the REBEL STEAMERS SUNK OPPOSITE ISLAND NUMBER TEN. They have since been raised, and are now at Fort Wright, in our employ.


 

 

  

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